Tag Archives: Cold War

Senators concerned about POTUS and the nukes

More than 40 years ago, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked some tough questions about the president of the United States’ fitness to be in command of the nuclear launch codes.

President Richard Nixon was being swallowed up by the Watergate crisis. Questions arose about whether the president would do something foolish in a moment of intense political anguish.

Concerns arise once again

Flash forward. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee of today is now concerned, apparently, with the current president’s ability to handle this awesome responsibility. Senators didn’t come to any conclusions or seek any substantial change in the policy, but they got to air their concerns on the record about Donald John Trump.

As Politico reports: “We are concerned that the president of the United States is so unstable, is so volatile, has a decision-making process that is so quixotic that he might order a nuclear weapons strike that is wildly out of step with U.S. national security interests,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said during a Foreign Relations Committee hearing that yielded few clear answers about checks on the commander in chief’s power. “Let’s just recognize the exceptional nature of this moment.”

Though Republicans were not as vocal about their concern, some did express worry that one person alone can make the decision to launch a nuclear war.

The president hasn’t yet demonstrated the complete understanding of command and control. He keeps popping off via Twitter, threatening North Korea with destruction.

And oh yes, the president has virtually sole authority to launch nuclear weapons. The policy was designed during the Cold War when the United States need a quick response in case the Soviet Union decided to launch missiles against us.

The Cold War is over, although the peril of a nuclear strike remains acute, given the enormous number of nuclear-armed nations around the world.

Which requires a U.S. president to be of sound temperament and judgment. The Senate panel today sought to explore those issues today as it relates to the current commander in chief.

Given the president’s behavior and the goofiness of his public pronouncements, senators have ample reason to wonder out loud about the commander in chief’s ability to keep us safe.

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 4

The United States of America has followed a nuclear policy that, so far, has worked pretty well.

Call it a policy of “containment and deterrence.”

Thus, is it possible for the United States to get North Korea to toss its budding nuclear stockpile into the crapper? Hardly.

Which brings me to one of Kim Jong Un’s demands: He wants to keep his nuclear arsenal. USA Today’s list of five demands contains this one, which might be central to the current tensions that have escalated between the United States and North Korea.

Check it out here.

You’ve heard of “mutually assured destruction,” aka MAD. It kept the United States and the Soviet Union from nuking each other during the Cold War. The world is full of trouble spots occupied by nuclear-powered nations: India and Pakistan; Israel has them, too; South Africa has been thought to possess nuclear weapons.

Yes, we negotiated an agreement designed to rid Iran of its nuclear weapon capability and the jury is still out on whether that will work ultimately.

North Korea presents a tremendously different situation for us. Donald Trump is blustering, bellowing and bloviating about what he intends to do if Kim’s regime keeps making “overt threats” against the United States and our allies. A “threat” doesn’t constitute military action, so the president is treading on some highly dangerous ground if he intends to hit the North Korean’s first.

My advice to the president — which he won’t ever see, let alone heed — would be to dial back the fiery and furious rhetoric and possibly accept the notion that North Koreans are going to do what they intend to do, no matter how many threats we level against them.

However, the commander in chief can make it known — through back channels — what Kim knows already: Don’t even think about using those nukes.

Has the dictator gone MAD?

Kim Jong Un certainly must know why they called it “mutually assured destruction” back during the Cold War.

Surely he understands that MAD means what it assures, that anyone who launches a nuclear missile at a nuclear power is going to get wiped off the face of the planet.

The MAD policy prevented a nuclear holocaust when the world comprised just two superpowers. U.S. presidents and Soviet dictators knew the consequences of such foolishness.

But … here we are. The North Korean dictator/fruitcake/goofball keeps making some, oh, so very provocative statements about how he would respond to U.S. attempts to prevent him from developing a nuclear-strike capability.

Kim Jong Un said he would launch a missile at the USS Carl Vinson carrier battle group that is steaming (finally!) toward the Korean Peninsula. He keeps arguing that his nukes are for “defensive purposes only,” meant to deter some perceived aggression from South Korea.

It’s all just so much MADness coming out of the mouth of the son and grandson of two prior North Korean dictators.

This brings me to my point. All the bluster and bravado that pours out of Kim Jong Un’s pie hole cannot actually mean he would he do what he says he would do. Or can it?

Military rivalries are nothing to trifle with. I recall vividly a statement I received from a Taiwanese government official with whom I was discussing the tense standoff that exists between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China.

The PRC has long threatened to use military force to “take back” the island nation formed in 1949 at the end of a bloody civil war on the Chinese mainland. Would the PRC actually risk nuclear confrontation with the United States, which has a mutual defense treaty with Taiwan?

The Taiwanese official said his government takes any threat from China “very seriously” and was prepared to respond accordingly.

So should the United States be prepared to respond to the rantings of the North Korean MADman.

They call it “MAD” for a damn good reason, Mr. Dictator.

Political leanings turned upside-down

I am listening to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters rail, rant and ramble about a dastardly human being, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The California Democrat — so help me — is sounding like a 1950s Republican! She is not alone among congressional Democrats who are calling Putin a war criminal, a monster and no friend of the United States of America.

Meanwhile, we have the nation’s leading Republican — the president-elect — continuing to bite his tongue as it regards Putin. Donald J. Trump just won’t — or cannot — bring himself to say what Democrats are saying. Which is that Putin is a seriously bad guy.

What’s going on here?

Republicans traditionally have hated the Russians, especially when they were governed by the communists who created the Soviet Union. Indeed, Putin is a creature of the monstrous Soviet era, the KGB, the notorious and ruthless spy agency he once ran.

These days, though, we’re mired in debate over what role the Russians played in influencing our 2016 presidential election. Democrats are enraged. Republicans, well, are not … generally.

Sure, some GOP senators have spoken out against the Russians. Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio are three harsh critics of Putin and they all have openly challenged Trump’s relationship with him and the rest of the Russian government.

The president-elect? He’s keeping quiet.

Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, the traditional enemy of Russia. Democrats used to be accused of being squishy-soft on the Russians.

Talk about a reversal of roles.

From major threat to potential ally?

putin_trump_and_i_are-a2fab9090657f98b004db89c40af5dfd

It seems like yesterday. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for president of the United States, said Russia had emerged as the most dangerous “global geopolitical threat” to the United States.

Many of us scoffed at that notion. It seemed so, oh, Cold War-ish. I mean, c’mon, Mitt! We won the Cold War. The Soviet Union vanished in 1991. Democracy was returning, albeit in dribs and drabs, to a new Russia. Isn’t that what many of us said and/or thought?

Well, it turns out Mitt was right. His critics were wrong. Russia has sought to do a lot of harm to the world and, quite possibly, to the U.S. electoral process.

But wait! This new Republican Party is being led by someone with an entirely different view of the Big Bear. Donald J. Trump is about to become president. He is forming his government. He is building his Cabinet.

Who is the new president apparently about to select as the nation’s secretary of state, its top diplomat, its foreign policy vicar? It appears to be a fellow named Rex Tillerson, head of Exxon Mobil — and a close ally of the nation Mitt ID’d as America’s top threat.

Exxon Mobil has extensive business ties in Russia. Tillerson is said to be friends with Putin.

For that matter, let’s recall that Trump has said some flattering things about the man who once ran the Soviet Union’s spy agency, the hated KGB. He called him a “strong leader”; he accepted Putin’s praise with gratitude; he invited Russia to find some missing e-mails that Hillary Clinton had deleted from her personal server while she was working as secretary of state; he suggested that Russian forces should enter Syria and take on the Islamic State; he said “wouldn’t it be great?” if we got along better with Russia.

You’ve heard the term “identity politics,” yes? It’s meant to pigeonhole certain groups and political affiliations into categories. Democrats once were identified as the party that was “soft on communism” and, thus, soft on the Soviet Union. Republicans were identified as the opposite of that squishy label.

Communism officially has died in Russia. What has emerged in its place, though, appears to be its oppressive equal.

Democrats now are alarmed at the budding U.S.-Russia coziness. Republicans — with a few notable exceptions — seem somewhat OK with it.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee and one-time Vietnam War prisoner, has expressed “concern” about Tillerson’s relationship with Putin. You would expect McCain to raise those questions; he dislikes the president-elect and he damn sure detests the Russians, given what their former agents — the North Vietnamese — did to him for more than five years in that POW cell in Hanoi.

Frankly, I am beginning to long for the good old days that, in the grand scheme, were just a little while ago.

I also am thinking the reason Mitt likely won’t get the State job has less to do with what he said about Trump — the “fraud” and “phony” stuff — and more to do with what he said about the Russians.

Former hawk sees hope in Russia

zbig

Zbigniew Brzezinski has evolved.

He’s a former Cold War hawk who detested the Soviet Union. And with good reason. He fled his native Poland for a new life in the United States when Poland was controlled by the Evil Empire.

He became a national security expert and joined President Carter’s inner circle as national security adviser. He feuded with doves within the president’s Cabinet, most notably Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who then quit because he’d grown tired of the internal strife.

What is Brzezinski’s take on Russia these days? He’s less wary of the Russians and sees them a possible partners.

There once was time when Zbig would have counseled reprisal against Russia for encroaching on the airspace of a U.S. ally, such as Turkey. The Turks shot down a Russian warplane recently and the Russians have responded with some economic sanctions against the Turks.

Brzezinski doesn’t see that as a deal-breaker with the Russians.

Politico asked the former cold warrior about how worried he is about the shooting down of the plane.

He responded: “These tensions are serious but not fatal. In some ways, if good sense and intelligence prevail, they could even prove to be salutary, not only for dealing with a nasty regional problem but addressing the potentially more generally destructive consequences of a global system dominated by three superpowers. ”

Man, he sounds rational and reasonable.

There’s more. He was asked to define “salutary.” He said: “I don’t think anyone thinks that escalating this dispute is worth a major conflict with truly destructive consequences. In early October, in a piece I wrote for the Financial Times, I urged an effort to engage Russia in serious negotiations about the future of the region. I think perhaps we may now be doing what needs to be done [in talks in Vienna], given the common threat inherent in the delicacy of the relations between the nuclear powers.”

Advancing years — and profound change in the world alignment of power — does produce wisdom.

The Cold War is over! We won!

President Barack Obama has declared victory, finally, in the on-going Cold War with Marxism.

On Wednesday, he is going to announce the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana, the capital city of Cuba.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/us-and-cuba-to-re-open-embassies-119609.html?hp=l1_3

Let the healing continue.

A 50-plus year estrangement with a dirt-poor island nation that has been governed by communists is about to end. Good thing, too. Because Cuba no longer poses a threat to the United States of America, the world’s remaining superpower.

Why? Cuba’s major benefactor, the Soviet Union, vaporized into history more than two decades ago. Russia has re-emerged and while the Russians are strong, they do not pose a worldwide threat to take over the world the way the Soviet Union declared publicly it intended to do.

The Soviets once used Cuban territory as a potential launching pad for offensive missiles. But a steely U.S. president, John F. Kennedy, clamped a quarantine on Cuba, intercepting Soviet ships taking missile parts to the island. The Soviets blinked, took down the missile installations and the threat of nuclear war was averted.

Cuba has languished in poverty during entire regime of the communists.

And yet some Republicans in Congress continue to harp on the idea that Cuba’s human rights record doesn’t entitle it to enjoy full diplomatic relations with the United States. Fine. Then let’s bring our ambassadors home from, say, China, Zimbabwe and Sudan.

At least two leading GOP lawmakers, Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, have Cuban ancestry. They also are running for president. They say Cuba must remain estranged from the United States until it cleans up its human-rights act.

Come on, fellas.

Let’s get real.

The time has come to end the Cold War. We’re not going to give the Cubans a pass on whatever human rights abuses they still commit against their citizens.

We are, though, going to restore relations with a neighbor. Perhaps some added exposure to what we enjoy here will rub off on the Cubans.

 

End of Cold War brought disarray

Joe Scarborough asks a compelling question about the state of U.S. foreign policy.

How did it get so messed up?

The one-time Republican congressman from Florida wonders how the world’s pre-eminent military and economic power can get in such a muddled mess.

I think I have a partial answer. Or perhaps just some food for thought: The end of the Cold War.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/03/history-scarborough-obama-bush-isil-israel-116495.html?hp=l3_3

Geopolitical relationships have gotten incredibly complex since the days when the Soviet Union sought to control the world and the United States kept pushing back the Big Ol’ Bear.

Our adversary was a clearly defined nuclear power. It covered 8 million or so square miles of territory across two continents. They were fearsome. Then again, so were we.

Then the Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1989. Two years later, the Evil Empire imploded.

Just like that, our Enemy No. 1 was gone.

In its place a lot of other enemies have arisen to rivet our attention. Scarborough thinks two American presidents — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — have presided over this turmoil. Granted, the Soviet Union disappeared on George H.W. Bush’s watch and his successor, Bill Clinton, managed to keep the assortment of new enemies at bay.

Here’s part of what Scarborough writes: “Bush’s ideological foreign policy was tragically followed by Obama’s delusional belief that America could erase the sins of the Bush-Cheney era by simply abdicating the U.S.’s role as indispensable nation.”

I am not certain anyone quite yet is capable of juggling so many balls at the same time. President Bush took dead aim at al-Qaeda immediately after 9/11, but then expanded that effort into a war against Iraq. Then came Barack Obama — and the world has just kept on getting more unstable.

But we still haven’t yet figured out how to manage crises that keep cropping up throughout the Middle East and northern Africa. The result has been, as Scarborough notes, a vast explosion of crises involving ISIL, Syria, Turkey, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria … and even Venezuela in our own hemisphere. Let’s not forget North Korea and the immigration crisis emanating from Latin America.

We’ve got to keep our eyes on many balls all at once.

 

Let's ask: Did Putin play a part in this killing?

It’s easy for peanut-gallery observers far away from the action to ask questions those closer to the scene might not ask. So, I’ll ask it: Did Russian strongman/president Vladimir Putin have a hand in the assassination of a leading critic of his government?

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/surveillance-video-appears-to-show-nemtsov-killing/vi-BBi6dTs

I’m not sure if the Russian criminal justice system has a presumed-innocent clause in its framework, but having watched Putin from a great distance over many years, and knowing of his background, my darker side tells me something just doesn’t smell right in Moscow.

Boris Nemtsov was gunned down on a Moscow street — in the shadow of the Kremlin — this past week. Who is this fellow? He was considered perhaps Putin’s leading critic. He had a huge political following in Russia and was seen by some as a serious political threat to the Russian president. Many thousands of them marched in tribute to the slain leader.

http://news.yahoo.com/russians-march-memory-murdered-critic-putin-101910307.html

Now, what about Putin?

His background is worth examining. In his previous life, Putin fellow led the KGB, the intelligence agency of the Soviet Union, the one-time “Evil Empire” made infamous by its known practice of eliminating critics of the communist regime. The KGB’s name went away when the Soviet Union vaporized in 1991, but its infrastructure has remained pretty much in place, even as the agency was split into two parts.

Putin has served a couple of non-consecutive tours of duty as Russia’s president. Each one has demonstrated the hallmark of this individual’s makeup.

He is as ruthless as ruthless gets. He took over a portion of Ukraine, a supposedly sovereign country bordering Russia. The term “bully” doesn’t even come close to describing Putin.

I have this terrible feeling in my gut that Vladimir Putin — at the very least — just might have a good idea as to who killed Nemtsov. If he does — and I believe that’s the case — let’s not expect Putin to give up whoever did the deed.

 

Paying tribute to Bush 41

Lanny Davis and I have something in common.

We’re both reading the same book, “41,” the biography of the 41st president of the United States written by his son, the 43rd president of the United States.

http://thehill.com/opinion/lanny-davis/230351-lanny-davis-bush-41-and-the-credit-he-is-due

Davis is a much bigger hitter than I am. He once served as special White House counsel in the Clinton administration. However, he and I share the same respect for the 41st president, George H.W. Bush.

Davis perhaps has finished reading his copy of “41,” the volume written by former President George W. Bush. I’m still in the middle of it. I’m enjoying it immensely.

“W” makes no apologies about this book. He calls it a “love story” written to and about the man he admires most. Davis shares George W.’s affection for the elder Bush.

Davis writes in The Hill: “To me, the most important — and perhaps least generally recognized — is Bush 41’s role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.”

Indeed, President Bush didn’t spike the ball, so to speak, when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, nor did he do a victory jig in the Oval Office when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. He chose to mark those dates quietly. Indeed, he barely said a thing when both events occurred.

Davis recounts how Bush 43 writes that congressional Democrats urged Bush 41 to go to Berlin when the wall came down.

Then the Evil Empire dissolved. When it did, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev sent Bush 41 a “thank you” note. Davis writes: “Gorbachev had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall had fallen peacefully. Perhaps if the Nobel Peace Prize Committee had known at the time about Bush 41’s crucial but virtually invisible role helping Gorbachev reach this result with dignity, he would have shared that prize.”

Bush 41 is ailing these days. He isn’t quite so vibrant, even though he jumped out of an airplane on his 90th birthday.

His humility — one of his most endearing personal traits — shows through in the story written by his son.

Davis believes — as I do — that historians will rank Bush 41’s presidency as a consequential time in our history: “I believe that some day, history will judge this humble, self-effacing man as one of America’s most important presidents, if for no other reason than he helped achieve, as his son wrote, ‘one of the most stunning diplomatic achievements in history: a peaceful end to the Cold War.’”