Who is Betraying America?: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2018 — Did US President Donald Trump commit treason in Helsinki when he met Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin? Should he be impeached?
NATO has Weaknesses, and Trump Right to Prod It: Marc A. Thiessen, Washington Post, July 15, 2018 — As President Trump put Germany and other allies on notice for the harm they are doing to NATO with their failure to spend adequately on our common defense, Democrats in Washington came to Germany’s defense.
Pivots and Pitfalls as President Trump Eyes New Mideast Peace Push Through Gaza: Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, The Hill, July 12, 2018 — Gifting an Elton John CD to “Little Rocket Man,” pulling the plug on the Iran nuclear deal, slapping billions of dollars in tariffs on China, shaking up NATO’s status quo, downsizing the State Department.
Is Donald Trump the Oscar Wilde of Our Degraded Digital Age?: Dominic Green, CapX, July 16, 2018— Observers of the diplomatic tour that sacked Brussels, laid waste to Britain, and then ended on a nuclear-tipped grand finale in Helsinki know that, like Oscar Wilde, Donald Trump travels the world with nothing to declare but his genius.
On Topic Links
Listening to the Prophetic Voice: Tisha B’Av 5778: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Press, July 21, 2018
What, If Anything, Did Trump and Putin Agree On in Helsinki?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2018
After Brussels, Trump Will Have Few Offerings for Putin: Aurel Braun, Globe and Mail, July 12, 2018
Donald Trump and the Carl Schmitt Spectrum: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 22, 2018
WHO IS BETRAYING AMERICA?
Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2018
Did US President Donald Trump commit treason in Helsinki when he met Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin? Should he be impeached? That is what his opponents claim. Former president Barack Obama’s CIA director John Brennan accused Trump of treason outright. Brennan tweeted, “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki [with Putin] rises to and exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous.”
Fellow senior Obama administration officials, including former FBI director James Comey, former defense secretary Ashton Carter, and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates parroted Brennan’s accusation. Almost the entire US media joined them in condemning Trump for treason. Democratic leaders have led their own charge. Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee insinuated the US military should overthrow the president, tweeting, “Where are our military folks? The Commander-in-Chief is in the hands of our enemy!”
Senate minority leader Charles Schumer said that Trump is controlled by Russia. And Trump’s Republican opponents led by senators Jeff Flake and John McCain attacked him as well. Trump allegedly committed treason when he refused to reject Putin’s denial of Russian interference in the US elections in 2016 and was diffident in relation to the US intelligence community’s determination that Russia did interfere in the elections.
Trump walked back his statement from Helsinki at a press appearance at the White House Tuesday. But it is still difficult to understand what all the hullaballoo about the initial statement was about. AP reporter John Lemire placed Trump in an impossible position. Noting that Putin denied meddling in the 2016 elections and the intelligence community insists that Russia meddled, he asked Trump, “Who do you believe?”
If Trump had said that he believed his intelligence community and gave no credence to Putin’s denial, he would have humiliated Putin and destroyed any prospect of cooperative relations. Trump tried to strike a balance. He spoke respectfully of both Putin’s denials and the US intelligence community’s accusation. It wasn’t a particularly coherent position. It was a clumsy attempt to preserve the agreements he and Putin reached during their meeting. And it was blindingly obviously not treason.
In fact, Trump’s response to Lemire, and his overall conduct at the press conference, did not convey weakness at all. Certainly he was far more assertive of US interests than Obama was in his dealings with Russia. In Obama’s first summit with Putin in July 2009, Obama sat meekly as Putin delivered an hour-long lecture about how US-Russian relations had gone down the drain.
As Daniel Greenfield noted at Frontpage magazine Tuesday, in succeeding years, Obama capitulated to Putin on anti-missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, on Ukraine, Georgia and Crimea. Obama gave Putin free rein in Syria and supported Russia’s alliance with Iran on its nuclear program and its efforts to save the Assad regime. He permitted Russian entities linked to the Kremlin to purchase a quarter of American uranium. And of course, Obama made no effort to end Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.
Trump in contrast has stiffened US sanctions against Russian entities. He has withdrawn from Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. He has agreed to sell Patriot missiles to Poland. And he has placed tariffs on Russian exports to the US. So if Trump is Putin’s agent, what was Obama? Given the nature of Trump’s record, and the context in which he made his comments about Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, the question isn’t whether he did anything wrong. The question is why are his opponents accusing him of treason for behaving as one would expect a president to behave? What is going on?
The answer to that is clear enough. Brennan signaled it explicitly when he tweeted that Trump’s statements “exceed the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’” The unhinged allegations of treason are supposed to form the basis of impeachment hearings. The Democrats and their allies in the media use the accusation that Trump is an agent of Russia as an elections strategy. Midterm elections are consistently marked with low voter turnout. So both parties devote most of their energies to rallying their base and motivating their most committed members to vote.
To objective observers, the allegation that Trump betrayed the United States by equivocating in response to a rude question about Russian election interference is ridiculous on its face. But Democratic election strategists have obviously concluded that it is catnip for the Democratic faithful. For them it serves as a dog whistle. The promise of impeachment for votes is too radical to serve as an official campaign strategy. For the purpose of attracting swing voters and not scaring moderate Democrats away from the party and the polls, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer say they have no interest in impeaching Trump. Impeachment talk, they insist, is a mere distraction.
But by embracing Brennan’s claim of treason, Pelosi, Hoyer, Schumer and other top Democrats are winking and nodding to the progressive radicals now rising in their party. They are telling the Linda Sarsours and Cynthia Nixons of the party that they will impeach Trump if they win control of the House of Representatives. The problem with playing domestic politics on the international scene is that doing so has real consequences for international security and for US national interests…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
NATO HAS WEAKNESSES, AND TRUMP RIGHT TO PROD IT
Marc A. Thiessen
Washington Post, July 15, 2018
As President Trump put Germany and other allies on notice for the harm they are doing to NATO with their failure to spend adequately on our common defense, Democrats in Washington came to Germany’s defense. “President Trump’s brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement.
Sorry, Trump is right. The real embarrassment is that Germany, one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, spends just 1.24 percent of its gross domestic product on defense — in the bottom half of NATO allies. (The U.S. spends 3.5 percent of GDP on its military.)
A study by McKinsey & Co. notes that about 60 percent of Germany’s Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and about 80 percent of its Sea Lynx helicopters are unusable. According to Deutsche Welle, a German parliamentary investigation found that “at the end of 2017, no submarines and none of the air force’s 14 large transport planes were available for deployment due to repairs,” and “a Defense Ministry paper revealed German soldiers did not have enough protective vests, winter clothing or tents to adequately take part in a major NATO mission.”
To meet its promised NATO commitments, Germany needs to spend $28 billion more on defense annually. Apparently Germany can’t come up with the money, but it can send billions of dollars to Russia — the country NATO was created to protect against — for natural gas and support a new pipeline that will make Germany and Eastern European allies even more vulnerable to Moscow.
Sadly, Germany is not alone. Belgium, where NATO is headquartered, spends just 0.9 percent of GDP on defense — and fully one-third of its meager defense budget is spent on pensions. European NATO allies have about 1.8 million troops, but less than a third are deployable and just 6 percent for any sustained period. When Trump says NATO is “obsolete,” he is correct — literally. This is not a new problem. I was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and vividly recall how, when it came time to take military action in Afghanistan, only a handful of allies had any useful war-fighting capabilities they could contribute during the critical early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom.
At NATO’s 2002 Prague summit, allies pledged to address these deficiencies by spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense and investing that money in more usable capabilities. Instead, defense investments by European allies declined from 1.9 percent of GDP in 2000-2004 to 1.7 percent five years later, dropping further to 1.4 percent by 2015.
Little surprise that when NATO intervened in Libya a decade after 9/11, The Washington Post reported, “Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other European countries in sustaining even a relatively small military action over an extended period of time.” An alliance whose founding purpose is to deter Russian aggression could not sustain a limited bombing campaign against a far weaker adversary.
President Barack Obama called NATO allies “free riders,” and President George W. Bush urged allies to “increase their defense investments,” both to little effect. But when Trump refused to immediately affirm that the United States would meet its Article 5 commitment to defend a NATO ally, NATO allies agreed to boost spending by $12 billion last year. That is a drop in the bucket: McKinsey calculated that allies need to spend $107 billion more each year to meet their commitments.
Since polite pressure by his predecessors did not work, Trump is digging in on a harder line: Last week in Brussels, he suggested NATO members double their defense spending targets to 4 percent of GDP. This is not a gift to Russia, as his critics have alleged. The last thing Putin wants is for Trump to succeed in getting NATO to spend more on defense. And if allies are concerned about getting tough with Russia, there is an easy way to do so: invest in the capabilities NATO needs to deter and defend against Russian aggression.
Trump’s hard line also does not signal that he considers NATO irrelevant. If Trump thought NATO was useless, he would not waste his time on it. But if allies don’t invest in real, usable military capabilities, NATO will become irrelevant. An alliance that cannot effectively join the fight when one of its members comes under attack or runs out of munitions in the middle of a military intervention is, by definition, irrelevant. NATO needs some tough love, and Trump is delivering it. Thanks to him, the alliance will be stronger as a result.
PIVOTS AND PITFALLS AS PRESIDENT TRUMP
EYES NEW MIDEAST PEACE PUSH THROUGH GAZA
Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper
The Hill, July 12, 2018
Gifting an Elton John CD to “Little Rocket Man,” pulling the plug on the Iran nuclear deal, slapping billions of dollars in tariffs on China, shaking up NATO’s status quo, downsizing the State Department. Forget tweets. When it comes to foreign policy, President Donald Trump continues to shake well and stir, often shocking friend and foe alike. Now there are signs the Trump administration is about to nudge the Middle East’s Richter scale with a push for peace that focuses on … Gaza?
Yes, Gaza. Led by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, it appears the United States, with the support or understanding of Israel and key Gulf states, will seek ways to improve the daily lives of Gaza’s people, starting with their electrical grid and water services. Yes, the same Gaza that is ruled with an iron fist by Hamas, a duly-elected terrorist organization whose genocidal, Jew-hating charter calls for Israel’s destruction and invokes the classic anti-Semitic screed, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The same Hamas that has barred Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from setting foot in the Gaza Strip since his election more than a decade ago.
Is there a method to this new madness? Actually, yes. The Abbas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) never liked President Trump’s views on the Middle East; Abbas and the PA heaped scorn on the U.S. ambassador to Israel even before the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Furthermore, Hamas has made clear it considers any Trump peace plan dead on arrival. Finally, the PA’s ambassador to Tehran has declared President Trump “is a tool of international Zionism.” So, instead of following the well-trodden path of previous U.S. presidents and many European leaders, who have sweetened the PA coffers every time that Abbas cried wolf, the Trump team has decided to bypass Abbas’ West Bank-based regime and instead offer long-suffering Gaza residents hope for a better future.
Israelis would welcome a quiet southern border without having to launch a major military incursion. Gulf states, already pouring millions of dollars into Gaza, would welcome some stability for Palestinians and the region. Working closely with Israel to confront the existential threats from Iran, the United States also could set the stage for open economic and diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and, ultimately, Saudi Arabia. The Trump team believes such seismic developments would force the PA into the game, or sideline it permanently.
This represents a visionary approach, but the Trump administration should keep in mind a few words of caution. First, Team Trump will discover there is no reliable interlocutor on the ground in Gaza. Qatar, a major donor in Gaza, is unlikely to be a reliable partner; it is openly playing a double game, cozying up to Washington and Tehran simultaneously. Second, the administration should not expect any meaningful support from the United Nations. If ever there was an opportunity for the United Nations to live up to its charter, this is it. But, sadly, abject failure to pave the way for long-term peace that recognizes the Jewish state’s right to security and sovereignty is part of the United Nations’ DNA.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency is the largest single employer in Gaza but, rather than playing a moderating influence, UNRWA is de facto controlled by Hamas’ diktats. Witness UNRWA schools closing on May 14-15, the bloodiest days of Hamas-driven riots at the Israeli border; Hamas wanted as many kids at the border, with the hope of driving up the death toll beyond Hamas’ members. Meanwhile UNRWA’s alleged new peace curriculum is actually a war curriculum; not a single map in its new textbooks mentions Israel but there’s still mention of “martyrs” (read “killers of Israelis”).
Every international drive to help the people of Gaza rebuild homes after the last war with Israel resulted in building materials diverted by Hamas to its network of underground terror tunnels. Major humanitarian donors, from the Gulf States to the European Union to Japan, acknowledge there is precious little transparency on how funds are actually spent. So, while it may be worthwhile for President Trump and his team to think out of the box to create new paths toward peace, a good place to start is by acting out of the box. The worst thing America can do is to write another “trust me” check to Hamas. Suits and ties do not transform terrorists into statesmen.
If Hamas really wants to play ball, it must return Israelis — dead and alive — still held hostage in Gaza. And the dropping of its charter must precede any involvement of Hamas in the U.S. plan. If Hamas won’t act in good faith, then the United States should find and empower Palestinians who’ve had enough of terrorist rule. Bolstering Gaza with huge funds could backfire, not only by reversing Israeli success in degrading Hamas’ paramilitary capability, but also by allowing Hamas to emerge the big winner in the West Bank. By swapping an enfeebled Abbas with the Hamas-aligned Muslim Brotherhood, we would enable terrorists to threaten Israel’s heartland…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
IS DONALD TRUMP THE OSCAR WILDE OF OUR DEGRADED DIGITAL AGE?
CapX, July 16, 2018
Observers of the diplomatic tour that sacked Brussels, laid waste to Britain, and then ended on a nuclear-tipped grand finale in Helsinki know that, like Oscar Wilde, Donald Trump travels the world with nothing to declare but his genius. And, like the divine Oscar, the less-than-divine Donald is a comedian who mistakes himself for a philosopher, and who knows that if you want to tell people the truth, you should make them laugh. None of the leaders of NATO laughed when Trump told them to raise their defence budgets to 2 per cent of GDP.
Neither did Theresa May double up when Trump mused on an open mike in the garden of Chequers about Boris Johnson’s suitability for her job. Nor did the collective heads of the chuckle fest that is the European Union surrender to a spontaneous outburst of collective jollity when Trump described the EU as an American “foe” when it came to trade. But these are the jokes, folks. There is much truth to all these statements, and much more truth than the professional politicians dare to admit. The laughs, unfortunately, are on us, and all of them are rather bitter. Trump lies in the gutter press, while looking up at the stars and the autocrats.
Trump was accurate when he said that Theresa May’s latest proposals for Brexit aren’t really the Brexit for which her public voted in 2016 and elected her in 2017. Trump is accurate in noting that the EU’s trade regulations do not create a level playing field; African farmers might well agree with him. And Trump is right that most NATO members, and European states in general, have been passing the tab for their security to the US for decades. That includes “you, Angela”, as Trump referred to Angela Merkel, who presides over a massive budget surplus but last year spent only 1.25 per cent of GDP on defence.
This week, when NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg crawled from the smoking rubble of NATO’s headquarters, he protested that eight NATO states are on course to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence this year—an increase from three states in 2014. Those eight were Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, the UK and the US. Stoltenberg didn’t mention Turkey, which spent 3.1 per cent of GDP on defence last year. But then, every else would prefer it if Turkey spent a bit less.
The truth is that five of those eight states have raised their defence budgets because of Russian expansionism. And while Greece spends a lot on defence because it fears Turkey, Turkey in part spends a lot on defence because it fears Russia. Which brings us and The Donald to today’s meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin.
Before the summit, Trump deployed his usual tactics. First he lowered expectations: there wasn’t a fixed agenda, and maybe nothing was going to come of it. Then he raised the ante, by warning that “NATO, I think, has never been stronger” since his recent dose of tough love. And then he raised it further by tweet, while changing the subject: “Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”
This was a classic piece of Trump truth-telling. It started with a feeling of truthiness, but it wasn’t really true in objective terms, and it ended with raging subjectivity. It’s true that US-Russian relations have declined steadily since Putin came to power in 2000, and declined sharply since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. It’s true that they are now as bad as at any point since the end of the Cold War. But they’re nowhere near as bad as relations between Khrushchev and Kennedy, who came close to war over the Cuban Missile Crisis…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
On Topic Links
Listening to the Prophetic Voice: Tisha B’Av 5778: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Jewish Press, July 21, 2018—At this time, as we recall the destruction of our two Temples, we read three of the most searing passages in prophetic literature, from the beginnings of Jeremiah and Isaiah.
What, If Anything, Did Trump and Putin Agree On in Helsinki?: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, July 17, 2018—US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed Israel, Syria and Iran at their meeting in Helsinki on Monday and in subsequent comments to the press. The public comments provide some insight into their view of the future Middle East. With the Syrian regime conducting a major offensive in the south, the US deeply involved in eastern Syria and Israel demanding that the Iranians leave, these were central topics of concern.
After Brussels, Trump Will Have Few Offerings for Putin: Aurel Braun, Globe and Mail, July 12, 2018—Despite a most inauspicious start, this year’s NATO summit in Brussels turned out to be neither the train wreck that many feared nor an unalloyed success. All the members, it appears, can derive a degree of comfort from what essentially remains a difficult work in progress.
Donald Trump and the Carl Schmitt Spectrum: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 22, 2018—Has Donald Trump been reading Carl Schmitt in secret? The thought came to mind the other day when the US president was concluding his two-day “working visit” to the United Kingdom with a series of impromptu statements before flying to Scotland to play golf. It was by using the term “foe” to describe Russia, China and even the European Union that Trump reminded me of Schmitt.