Tag Archives: Rex Tillerson

What does Kim Jong Un want? Part 2

Donald J. Trump has complicated what ought to be the simplest of Kim Jong Un’s reported demands of the United States of America.

He wants guarantees that he can keep his job as North Korea’s strongman. 

In other words, no “regime change.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sounded semi-conciliatory in that regard the other day when he said that United States has no interest in overthrowing Kim and seeks a “diplomatic solution” to the growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

Then the president chimed in with comments threatening “fire and fury” and saying that U.S. military is “locked and loaded” in case Kim decides to make any “overt threats” against the United States or its allies.

The term “locked and loaded” means, in military terms, that your weapon is loaded and that you’ve put the first round in the chamber. You’re set to fire said weapon. Is that what the commander in chief meant? Are we now set to launch a first strike against the North Koreans?

Kim is thought to be mindful of past U.S. military actions, providing him with cause to make the demand that he not be tossed out by an invading force.

I present you the March 2013 U.S. invasion of Iraq , which was launched for the expressed purpose of ridding Iraq of its own dictator, the late Saddam Hussein.

President George W. Bush and his national security team told us Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction,” which became the primary selling point for launching the invasion. Our military launched a full frontal assault. It got to Baghdad. We scoured the country from stem to stern looking for WMD. We found none. Nothin’, man.

Oh, we eventually pulled Saddam out of that spider hole. The Iraqis put him on trial, convicted him of crimes against humanity — and hanged him.

Kim doesn’t want that to happen to himself or his closest sycophants.

The secretary of state is trying to sound a reasoned, rational tone. The president, though, keeps pre-empting him with talk of an entirely different nature. What’s more, the secretary of state does serve at the pleasure of the president.

Tillerson gets tossed under the bus … but why?

Rex Tillerson deserves a good word for sounding like a serious adult.

The U.S. secretary of state has declared that Americans should “sleep well at night,” even in the wake of the bellicosity coming from the North Korean dictator and the president of the United States.

What does he get from a member of Donald Trump’s national security team? Sebastian Gorka, a key member of the National Security Council, said that Tillerson is a diplomat and has no authority to talk about military matters.

There you go. A key NSC adviser tosses Tillerson under the bus. For what reason? For suggesting that the North Koreans aren’t about to launch missiles at the United States or that the United States is about to go to war with the rogue regime.

I tend to think of Tillerson as one of the grownups with whom the president has surrounded himself.

Gorka, on the other hand, provides another bullying voice for the president, as if Donald Trump needs any assistance in rattling nerves around the world. The president has done plenty of that all by himself with his “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded” rhetoric.

As for Tillerson, I’m going to presume he’s opened all the back channels he can find between Washington and Pyongyang. Perhaps he’s able to pass along to some North Korean functionary about the grave danger that can result from a foolish act of aggression.

More confusion from POTUS … about war!

The president of the United States blusters about raining “fire and fury” on North Korea if it continues to threaten this country.

Then the secretary of state weighs in with more measured rhetoric, saying that Americans should “sleep well at night” even though North Korea keeps blabbing about hitting the United States with nukes.

Which is it? Fire and fury or diplomacy and negotiation?

Donald J. Trump has flown off the rails with his fiery rhetoric. Meanwhile, Rex Tillerson is seeking to calm the fears of an anxious world.

I am reminded of how past presidents have handled these so-called threats. Did they bluster and bloviate about what awaits potential adversaries? No. They went about their business quietly and left the nuts-and-bolts of diplomacy up to their senior aides and officials.

Two previous Republican presidents — Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower — famously adhered to more restrained postures in the face of potential or actual conflict.

They knew that loud-mouthed threats do nothing to advance the cause of peace. Donald Trump doesn’t know any of that — or anything else, for that matter. He instead yaps and yammers without considering the consequences of his words.

The man has no understanding or appreciation that as president of the United States — and the commander in chief of the world’s pre-eminent military machine — his words echo around the world.

When he threatens a budding nuclear power with “fire and fury,” he sends the rest of the planet into a state of, um, heightened anxiety.

Is that helpful to anyone? Not in the least.

‘On behalf of the American people … ‘

The parsing has begun.

Donald J. Trump sat down with Vladimir Putin today and said, according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, that he wanted to raise an issue of “concern to the American people.”

The issue is Russian hacking and alleged interference in our 2016 presidential election. The president apparently didn’t raise any personal concerns with Putin about what intelligence agencies have determined, that Russia sought to influence the election outcome.

He was speaking “on behalf of Americans” who are concerned.

It’s fair, in my view, to wonder whether Trump’s equivocation somehow weakens his standing with regard to Putin even more.

Tillerson insisted that Trump “pressed” Putin on the election hacking matter. He raised the issue with him more than once during their longer-than-scheduled meeting, according to Tillerson.

Fine. I get it. Good for the president for “pressing” Putin, if that’s what he really did.

If the secretary of state is correct, that the president was demanding answers to questions on the minds of the Americans back home, then I have to wonder whether Donald Trump expressed any personal dismay/anger/outrage over what occurred during this past year’s election.

Putin denies meddling … what now?

Donald J. Trump shook hands with Vladimir Putin today and then got right to the heart of the matter.

Did you meddle in our 2016 presidential election? Did your government try to influence the outcome to ensure that I would get elected? So it was that the president possibly asked his Russian colleague.

Putin’s response? I deny any involvement. My government did not meddle in your election.

OK, then. That settles it, yes? Hardly.

Obviously, I wasn’t in the room. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was there, though, and he said that Trump “pressed” Putin on the election meddling matter. I guess we might need to ask the secretary of state what “press” means to him, if not to the president.

What we don’t know yet is whether the president stood up for the intelligence agencies that have concluded that Russia did interfere with our 2016 electoral process. Nor we do know what the president might have said to Putin about what the United States would do in response, given what he intelligence experts have said to this point.

This kind of summit diplomacy is brand new to Donald Trump. Putin’s got a lengthy record of face-to-face meetings/confrontations with U.S. presidents as well as with other world leaders. Time will tell us soon whether Putin pushed Trump around in that meeting room.

That all said, I am heartened that the world leaders struck a cease fire deal in part of Syria. Time will tell us — probably very soon — whether the cease fire will stick. A previous one lasted only hours before falling apart.

Are we to believe Putin — the former KGB spy chief — when he denies Russian government efforts to meddle in our election?

Umm. I don’t think so.

Tillerson’s ‘loyalty’ has its limits on Paris accord

Donald John Trump’s version of loyalty seems to have gotten lost on the secretary of state.

To which I say to Rex Tillerson, you go, Mr. Secretary!

Tillerson told a U.S. Senate committee today that he respects the president’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate change accord, but that he disagrees with him.

I disagree with Trump, too. That’s no surprise to those who read this blog. What does surprise me is that Tillerson, given his business background as CEO of ExxonMobil, would support the Paris accord.

It’s a pleasant surprise, to say the very least.

I also will give the president props as well for finding a secretary of state who would have the courage to challenge Trump’s infamous penchant for total loyalty among his senior administration officials.

I believe Tillerson qualifies as one of the president’s top hands.

Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he still supports the climate change accord hammered out and signed by more than 190 nations. Trump blathers about “lost American jobs” and regulations that force fossil fuel companies to reduce their payrolls. What he never discusses are the jobs created by alternative energy endeavors.

I don’t expect Tillerson’s testimony to persuade Trump to change his mind. It does give me hope that reasonable minds at least can have a voice in an administration that that seems to have too few of them.

Climate change, Mr. President?

Let’s take a breather from “negative press covfefe” for a moment or two and zero in on something of considerably more significance.

That would be climate change and the future of Planet Earth — and whether the world’s most powerful nation will take part in a worldwide effort to protect the planet.

Reports have surfaced that Donald J. Trump is leaning toward pulling the United States out of the Paris Accord, which was signed by virtually every nation on Earth to battle climate change.

It’s a measure, according to the media, for the president to “put America first.” Good grief!

Two nations didn’t sign the accord: Syria and Nicaragua. The rest of the world signed on. It is meant to signal a global commitment to mitigate the consequences of what the vast majority of pertinent scientific minds have concluded: that humankind’s activity has contributed to the changing climate. Carbon emissions and deforestation are products of industrial development and all of it has taken a devastating toll on the world’s ecosystem.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/335838-climate-change-drama-grips-the-white-house

If the president goes through with this effort to yank the United States out of the agreement, most of us can predict worldwide outrage. A Trump decision to pull out of the Paris Accord would be nothing more than a sop to the Republican Party base that got him elected in 2016.

It also would be a bow to the nationalist wing of his inner circle, led by Stephen Bannon, the former Breitbart editor and spokesman for the far right wing of the Republican Party. Trump pledged to “make American great again.” How in the world does a “great” nation refuse to lead the world in fighting a global crisis?

It’s fascinating in the extreme, though, that other senior Trump administration officials want the United States to adhere to the Paris Accord. They include, and get a load of this list of heavy hitters: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, for crying out loud; Energy Secretary Rick Perry; son-in-law/senior policy adviser Jared Kushner; economic adviser Gary Cohn; and national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Can there be anything more that the president can do to infuriate our nation’s allies? He seems to be working overtime to find methods of angering our closest allies. Canada, Mexico, Germany, the UK, Australia and France all have felt the sting of Trump barbs; meanwhile, the president remains stunningly silent about Russia and that nation’s effort to meddle in our 2016 presidential election.

Trump says he’ll announce his Paris Accord decision “in a few days.” This ongoing story has tossed yet another crisis element into the stew that’s brewing inside the White House.

Here’s one more plea to the president from Flyover Country: Don’t pull us out of these accords.

Good vs. evil ‘has nothing to do with religion’

Great day in the morning! Could it be that the Trump administration finally is awakening to the reality of what this “global war on terrorism” is all about?

Donald J. Trump stood before a large room full of Muslim heads of state, potentates, kings and crown princes and spoke for 35 minutes without uttering the words “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Instead, he framed the fight against international terror in much the same language used by his two immediate predecessors — Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Barack H. Obama — as a war of “good vs. evil.”

Then up stepped Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to say that the conflict between our side and the other side “has nothing to do with religion.”

Really! He said that. He echoed the long-awaited and much-belated message the president delivered.

I hope hell hasn’t frozen over. I hope Earth will continue to spin on its axis. I trust the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning — and beyond.

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/334474-tillerson-in-saudi-arabia-this-is-a-fight-of-good-against-evil

“And I think the context of all of this where the President begins his journey here at the home of the Muslim faith under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque – this great faith, the Muslims – then to travel to the home of Judaism and then to the great leader of Christianity, that the President is clearly indicating that this fight of good against evil has nothing to do with religion,” Tillerson said in a press conference after the president’s speech.

Trump and his team have sounded alarmingly bellicose ever since the billionaire business mogul entered politics by running for the presidency. He once pledged to ban “all Muslims” from entering the United States. While running for office, Trump said “Islam hates America.” Once elected, he sought to impose a travel ban on refugees fleeing certain Muslim countries; that effort is tied up in the federal court system that has ruled it unconstitutional.

Today, the president sounded quite different as it regards this war against terror.

The religious perversion that has overcome the monsters who purport to be Muslim too often gets lost in the United States. Too many Americans have taken the bait that “Islam” is the enemy. It is no such thing. The enemy are those who commit these heinous acts around the world — mostly against Muslims — in the name of a great religion.

President Bush made that point immediately after 9/11. President Obama continued to recite that mantra, often to criticism that he was a “Muslim terrorist sympathizer.”

I doubt we’ll hear any such fecal matter coming from those who continue to support Donald John Trump. Nor should we ever have heard it.

What about our allies, Mr. Secretary?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has put Iran “on notice” yet again.

He also put several of our nation’s key allies on notice, too, by suggesting that the United States’ commitment to negotiated agreements isn’t as rock-solid as it must be.

Tillerson put the world on notice this week that the United States no longer thinks much of a deal meant to deny Iran the ability to develop a nuclear weapon. It’s part of Donald John Trump’s vow to renegotiate agreements that he says are worst in the history of humankind.

The Iran nuke deal falls into that category, according to the president.

The deal was brokered by former Secretary of State John Kerry in conjunction with foreign ministers from Great Britain, China, France, Germany and, oh yes, Russia. What would a U.S. withdrawal from the agreement mean to our partners?

This is just me, but perhaps it would mean that the United States isn’t a trustworthy partner. It well could fracture our international alliances, particularly as it regards the Brits, French and the Germans, who are critical players in our nation’s ongoing geopolitical struggle with forces that seek to undermine us at every turn.

I’m not going to assert that the Iran nuke deal is perfect in every single way. But it does allow for careful monitoring of the Islamic Republic’s intentions and it gives the United States plenty of room to re-impose economic sanctions if it’s determined that Iran isn’t complying with the terms of the agreement.

Tillerson’s comments centered on Iran’s continued support of international terrorism. OK, then. Deal with that separately, Mr. Secretary.

Although the secretary didn’t say directly that the Trump administration would back out of the nuke deal, he did sound a dire warning. According to Politico: “Apparently referencing a failed 1994 nuclear deal with North Korea, which now has nuclear weapons, Tillerson said Wednesday that the Iran agreement is ‘another example of buying off a power who has nuclear ambitions. We just don’t see that that’s a prudent way to be dealing with Iran.’”

Our partners are watching with great interest. I believe it would foolish to renege on a deal that took a long time to craft. After all, the United States isn’t the only actor in this drama.

North Korea: most dangerous worldwide threat?

Let’s turn our attention for a moment or two to North Korea and its lunatic leader, Kim Jong Un.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the other day that military action against North Korea is “on the table” if Kim decides to do something foolish, such as launch a missile in the direction of the United States or one of our allies, such as, say, Japan or South Korea.

I guess it’s always been understood that military action would be an option for the United States. However, for the secretary of state to tell Kim Jong Un out loud and to put this guy on alert seems to me to be a dangerous potential gambit.

I’ve noted already that Kim may be nuts, but he ain’t stupid.

It’s the nuttiness that should cause us all grave concern.

North Korea has more than a million of its citizens in the military. The country has a total population of around 25 million. It spends far more than it can afford on its military apparatus.

Do you wonder what a guy like Kim would do to avoid a war with the United States? Look at this way: A leader who would allow his people to starve to death, to subject them to famine and to deny them health care just so he can build a military machine is capable of just about any act of idiocy imaginable.

Yeah, this guy is a frightening individual.

I am not sure whether Tillerson thinks his talk about the “military option” is going to persuade Kim Jong Un that a fight against the United States is not winnable.

My hope would be that it would give Kim pause. My fear is quite different. I fear he might conclude that a U.S. attack would finish the destruction of his country that he and his communist forebears have begun.

How in the world does one analyze what goes through what passes for this individual’s mind?

My next question is this: Does the president of the United States and his national security team have the moxie and savvy to contain this guy?