Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Assuming that Mr. Trump continues his project to dismantle what is usually referred to as the liberal world order, the security, trade, environment, and a range of international agreements to encourage international cooperation on matters of common concern, at least two options will emerge for his presidential successor.  One is restoration of the multi-national agreements that Mr. Trump has abandoned or sought to destroy.  The other is the invention of a new approach to common problems that lie ahead.

The first approach may be as straightforward, although not simple, as rejoining agreements and arrangements from which he seeks to withdraw the United States.  The Group of Seven, whose La Malbaie meeting he unaccountably and petulantly disrupted, is an instance of a new, more rational president simply saying “sorry, folks, we’re back in the club and looking for ways to work together.”

Although candidate Trump disparaged NATO, though seeming not to grasp what it has been about for almost eight decades, he seems to have been persuaded by U.S. senior military leadership that it is the backbone of U.S. national security, a bulwark against terrorism, and a much more effective security approach to his preferred go-it-alone strategy.

Also, as Mr. Trump is finding out, his simplistic unilateralism concerning trade in Asia, Europe, and the North American continent and belief that trade wars “are easy to win” is slightly more complicated than early 21st century Smoot-Hawleyism.  His self-vaunted negotiating skills seem not to be working in this arena either.

After a current binge of nationalism, xenophobia, and wall building, reality must set in and saner leaders will conclude that there is more to be gained in security, trade, environment, and much else by cooperation and international agreement.

The real issue is whether Americans can find a new generation of statesmen of the caliber of George Marshall, Dean Acheson, and Harry Truman who can convince our democratic allies and others such as China and Russia that maturity has returned to the United States, that we wish to return to an intricate system of international institutions, and even more search for new cooperative ways to address new common problems.

Statesmanship flourishes only in rational eras.

The reality is this.  Globalization is here to stay.  New rules must be devised to make it work fairly.  Nuclear weapons must be constrained.  It is easy to condemn the Iran nuclear agreement for what it did not achieve.  We have yet to see how the Great Negotiator comes up with something better.  The climate is changing.  Polar ice is melting.  Sea levels are rising and will do so more rapidly.  Mass migrations will result.  It is a race between the Trumpian term of office ending and seriousness in limiting carbon emissions returning in time.

The drama of the next few decades resides in the clash of nationalism against these realities, none of which can be resolved by unilateralism in single nations.

The saddest lesson of politics is that those responsible for chaos, catastrophe, and ignorance rarely have to pay the price for their mistakes.  When the wave of unaddressed new realities crash down upon us, Mr. Trump and those who empower him or protect their careers by preserving their silence will be ending their days at a golf course in Mar a Lago or perhaps a few miles outside of Moscow.

Idealism in Hiding

Author: Gary Hart

“I am an idealist, without illusions.”  John Kennedy

The era of the assassin, at least those who use bullets, came to a close, praise God, fifty years ago.  To say that much has changed since is a massive understatement.  Whether the rise of the petty tyrant and the destruction of governing norms and behavior is here to stay or is a detour and frolic remains to be seen.  At the least it is safe to say that the idealistic tendency to see government as an instrument of fairness and justice is in hiding.

During the very brief Kennedy days the ideal of public service as a means to right society’s injustices (“ask what you can do..”) opened the way to the era of civil rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, worker safety, a war on poverty, and much else.  Today, priests of the right dismiss all this as “liberal big government” and applaud around the bonfire of its destruction.

This period of social progress, a better society, was less liberal than it was idealistic.  Now, idealism is being crushed everywhere it may be found.  The closest we have come to its return is tragically the cause of high school students appealing to their parents and the politicians they elect to save them from being killed in their schools.

The paleological media’s demented effort to crush any semblance of liberalism silently carries with it the deeper effort to crush idealism.  Any appeal to social justice is derided as a sinister cover for internationalism, world government, collectivism, and a plot against America.

Even as idealism, the struggle for a better society, is forced to hide, conservatism itself is being reinterpreted.  In its post-Rooseveltian period, that is much of the 20th century, it relied on a simple, bumper-strip doctrine: less government, lower taxes, and a big military.  This reliance on simplicity all the way through Reagan has given way to a much denser, and more dangerous mantra: nationalism, racism, consolidated wealth and power, unilateralism, and isolationism.

Conservatives of yesteryear find this theft of conservative doctrine bewildering.  They are at least as confused by the highjacking of their dogma as the rest of us are.  For they, at least as much as liberals, helped to create the post-World War II international order by which Western democracy would defend itself against any doctrine that would threaten it.

All this is brought to mind by the 50th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s death.  By most accounts he came to his idealism later in life, shortly before his tragic death.  It was seen as both an inheritance of his brother’s slowly expanding torch and his own pilgrimage towards social justice.

On this occasion we are witnessing a nostalgic longing for those days again, especially under current political conditions where any hint of idealism becomes grounds for denunciation.

Even the most serious students of American political history find it difficult to identify a similar conundrum, one in which the executive is at war with its own government’s legal systems, unilaterally abandons international security and trade agreements, and obsessively seeks to dismantle any legacy of his immediate predecessor.

Even as conservatism seeks to redefine itself by recapturing its commitment to international order and respect for law and order at home, liberalism is largely seeking redefinition through progressivism.  But, even during the Clinton and Obama years there was little appeal to the sense of idealism and civic duty that the Kennedy brothers resurrected from ancient republicanism.

Regardless of the nonsensical effort to make America great again by making it smaller, it may be that the means by which we restore our republican form of government is through appeal to citizen duty, civic virtue, and citizen participation.

Woodrow Wilson said that he knew he was an American because of his idealism.  And Justice Louis Brandeis said that “There is in most Americans some spark of idealism, which can be fanned into a flame.”

In short, the idealism hidden in the hearts of many Americans and most young people must be restored to American political life.  That was the belief of our Founders: we are a great Republic if we can keep it.

 

 

Intelligence

Author: Gary Hart

With multiple-meaning words, it is always necessary to designate which meaning is intended.  In everyday usage intelligence means knowledge, understanding, appreciation, ability to mentally process, and much else.  In official circles, especially since World War II, it means collection and processing of information necessary to make wise political and military judgments in the national interest.

The first is produced by education and study.  The second is produced by a constantly expanding network of official agencies and some unofficial collection sources.

Whether through cognitive processes or street-smart common sense, most Americans who bother to vote assume that public officials up to and including the president have the innate intelligence to understand and appreciate the significance of national security intelligence.

There is always the chance, remote as it may seem, that a president might not have the intelligence or even interest to appraise and evaluate the national security intelligence he is tasked with receiving on a daily basis.

This scenario, as frightening as it is, may result from lackadaisical schooling, self-chosen illiteracy, impatience, deficient attention span, or, worst of all, a sense that he or she possesses an intellect superior to the processed information/intelligence produced constantly by cadres of trained and experienced analysts.

The baseline attitude is: Don’t bore me with the facts.

Regardless of the reason, this is a danger to our security.  Security intelligence is focused not only on military deployments, nuclear and missile tests, troop strengths, and scenario evaluations.  It also provides crucial economic analyses, impending pandemics, climate data (yes), migration information, behind the scenes political information, leadership character studies, and much more crucial but not military information.

Reliance on intelligence requires the intelligence to be reliable and not the product of an effort to bolster or sway wrong-headed policy.  Then CIA Director George Tenet infamously told President George W. Bush that invasion of Iraq would be a “slam dunk”.  We are still in Iraq 16 years later.  True intelligence professionals resist the lure of pleasing power.

In addition to the mind-closing factors listed above that may impede intelligence about intelligence, the current administration seems to be made up of cabinet level officials who share one disturbing characteristic—conscious rejection of science and the scientific method.

Here we have entered the portal of the post-Enlightenment era.  If science that disproves ideological bias is systematically rejected, then rules do not apply.  The autocrat’s mantra is: “Who are you going to trust, me or your lying eyes.  Truth is what we say it is.  Truth is not in books or education; it is in our doctrine.

Thus, I as commander-in-chief do not need daily intelligence briefings, especially those that run counter to my own beliefs or that challenge my convictions.  I can take or leave the entire intelligence community and, by the way, the law enforcement community and the rule of law if they call into question my behavior and conduct.”

The long history of autocratic behavior repeatedly follows this model.  It succeeds when no political institutions question this pattern.  The majority in both Houses of Congress remain dumb to this threat and fearful of political reprisals from the “base”.

Civil servants, bound by oaths to protect and defend the Constitution, are daily tasked with following the laws or bowing to the agency heads out to undermine the very legal structures Congresses have erected over decades for them to administer.

When they choose to obey the laws and mandates laid down by Congress, they become the “deep state”.  The “deep state” is nothing more than civil servants performing duties required by law when the president and those around him command them not to.

It is one thing to empower a leader who “tells it like it is”.  It is another to empower a leader who “does it like he isn’t supposed to do it”.

Willful ignorance of information, facts, science, and the truth is not leadership.  It is unconstitutional autocracy.  Whether Americans realize it or not, we are in a day to day struggle over the soul of our nation.

[Credentials: Appellate lawyer, National Security Division, U.S. Department of Justice; member, U.S. Senate Commission to Investigate the Intelligence Agencies of the U.S. Government; charter member, Senate Permanent Intelligence Oversight Committee; co-chair, U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century; chair, Threat Reduction Advisory Committee, U.S. Department of Defense; chair, International Security Advisory Board, U.S. Department of State]

The Deep State Revealed

Author: Gary Hart

It would be interesting to know who schooled Donald Trump on what he calls “the deep state.”  When he first began to allude to it he made it sound like a cabal inside the U.S. Government, a secret cult that managed the complex institutions of government regardless of party or administration in office according to its own evil designs.  For any of us with experience in everyday governance, this was delusional at best and wacky at worst.

Now it is beginning to emerge that Mr. Trump was actually referring to the senior civil service in our Government, the people who rose through the ranks of one agency or another to management level positions.  They may not be the exact equivalent of the professional civil servants in the British Government, but a somewhat more casual version of that.

As individuals and as a collective group the senior civil service remains through changes of Congresses and shifts in political parties.  These men and women know their departments, agencies, and bureaus.  They are versed in laws enacted by Congress and often write the regulations those laws required to be administered.

They are, in short, the day to day glue that keeps our Government working.  And, though administrations may tilt liberal or conservative, by and large the laws are the laws and the regulations, though sometimes revised, are the regulations.

This is the “deep state” Trump sees as his enemy.  Because he does not want the Government to work.  Or, better stated, he wants the Government to work his way when he orders it.  So, his quarrel with the “deep state” is that it does the job that many Congresses and many administrations over many decades have given it.  And he does not want that to happen.

What we have here is authoritarianism pure and simple.

This accounts for the massive refusal throughout the Trump administration to appoint officials at the State Department and key domestic departments and to sideline career foreign service officers and career bureau chiefs into meaningless jobs well beneath their respective levels of competence.  Civil service legal protections prevent mass firings.  But they do not protect against arbitrary diminishment.

If, as president, you wish to bypass established structures and procedures, those created by a long series of Congresses before you, you dismiss those historic precedents as a “deep state”, an obstructionist system which will not and cannot permit you to rule by whim, ego, or arbitrariness.  That is what is meant by the rule of law and that is what Trump’s war on the “deep state” is all about.

Others have noted the comparison to the rise of right-wing authoritarianism in European democracies.  We are now seeing it in America with conservative packing of courts, attacks on the free press, dismissal of opposition parties, destruction of the civil service, disregard for the career foreign service, and arbitrary authoritarian rule.  And of challenges from the Republican controlled Congress there is none.

The “deep state” is the last bastion of American democracy because it refuses to disobey the laws, dismantle legally enacted programs based on science and reason, and tear apart the fabric of programs and policies lawfully enacted over the years by both parties.

Trump’s program is to personally run all aspects of government, domestic and foreign, from the White House.  This is the essence of authoritarianism, nowhere now seen more clearly that his war on his own Department of Justice, FBI, and law enforcement agencies.  This accounts for the now routine shuffling in and out of cabinet officers, White House staff, and advisors in an effort to have layers of insulation from question or criticism.

Most presidents have sought continuity and reliability.  This president revels in chaos.  Few think this is a healthy attribute.

Authoritarianism historically is associated with xenophobia, ultra-nationalism, economic insecurity, and social instability, none of which characterized America before Trump.  He manufactured it by making Mexican and Muslim immigrants criminals, decrying a level of urban crime that did not exist, imagining nuclear developments in Iran not taking place, and ridiculing even our closest allies.

He would solve all these threats…if it were not for the “deep state” which surrounded him and frustrated all his unilateral actions.

We now have a clearer picture of what we face: a senior civil service doing its Constitutional job and a president out to destroy it.  The outcome of this struggle will determine what America will remain or what it will become for decades to follow.

On This Day

Author: Gary Hart

In 1992, a journalist named Richard Ben Cramer published a book entitled What It Takes.  It contained profiles of seven candidates for the presidency in 1988, became a best-seller, and is still used in political science classrooms.  A year or two later, as one of those profiled in the book, I asked Richard if the seven of us had anything in common.  “Oh, yes,” he said.  “You all had strong mothers.”  “They told each of you that you could be anything you chose to be.”

This story is a tribute to mothers everywhere.  God bless you all.

Gary Hart

Let Us Now Praise a Famous Man

Author: Gary Hart

Captain John McCain was the U.S. Navy liaison officer to the United States Senate when we first met in 1977.  Thereafter, he was escort officer on a number of Senate delegation trips and my escort on board two aircraft carriers underway in the Indian Ocean.  The most notable delegation included Senators John Glenn, Sam Nunn, William Cohen, and myself on a tour of Asian nations ending in South Korea.  Our report urged President Jimmy Carter not to carry out his proposed withdrawal of U.S. troops in South Korea and the President reluctantly conceded.

The solo aircraft carrier visits, thanks to John McCain’s arrangements, enabled me to fly off the decks in the radar operators back seat in high performance combat aircraft.  For anyone who has shared that experience, it is one that is never forgotten.

Thereafter, in 1980, John persuaded the Navy to commission me as an officer (Lt. j.g.) in the U.S. Naval Reserves.  My purpose was to gain insights on naval operations not otherwise available to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on which I served.  I never put the commission on my bio and never referred to it for political gain.

Along with Bill Cohen, I was invited to be one of John’s groomsmen in his wedding to Cindy Hensley in 1980 in Arizona.  Following his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, we served in Congress together until my departure in 1987.

Over the subsequent years I tried to maintain contact with John and Cindy and once was invited to speak to a weekend retreat they maintained for friends and supporters at their home in Sedona, Arizona.

The story of John’s bravery as a prisoner in North Vietnam for five and a half years is well known.  He refused early release if he would endorse a statement that he believed the war to be wrong and received special punishment when his captors discovered his father, Admiral John McCain, was commander of fleet forces off Vietnam.

When John referred to his experiences in jail it was with an amazing degree of candor and lack of bitterness.  Some stories he would tell were in fact humorous and humane.

The world knows that John is ill.  The outcome is apparently not in doubt.  With Cindy’s help, I managed to speak with him yesterday and did so through my tears.

John is a hero to me and millions of others.  He ran for and could have been President.  He has lived an abundant and remarkable life.  With no provocation he was pilloried by a man who did become President, a man without an ounce of his courage, bravery, and service.  It was one of the ugliest moments in our current ugly times.  It is a mark of these times that it should have disqualified that man from holding any public office, but it did not.  That is how far down we have descended.

It is the mark of a coward that he seeks to bring anyone above him down to his level.  He cannot stand to see anyone respected when he himself is not respected and does not respect the high office that he holds.  One has only to look at those around that man to know why he could not acknowledge John McCain’s patriotism, service, and honors.

Those of us who know John McCain pray for him and his family.  Like most of us, John is not a man without faults.  He is very human and the first to admit it.  Despite those faults, though, he is an extraordinary human being.

He emerged from prison with broken bones badly set, walked with a limp, and saluted awkwardly.  Those were marks of distinction and honor.  Despite his afflictions, he laughed often and saw humor in the ridiculousness of the human folly we call politics.

Like many, many others, I am a better man for knowing John.  I consider it a privilege to have had the honor.

When John enters the next life, his flight will be straight and level…and very fast.  His laugh will be light, but he will mourn for the political chaos that is not his fault but that he could not cure.  The rest of us left here have no choice but to try.

Anchors aweigh, John.  Set your course for the horizon and your friends will join you soon.

 

 

Status Regained

Author: Gary Hart

Conventional political wisdom is being challenged once again.  Insider pundits concluded months ago that Trump voters were motivated by economic anxiety.  The tide is beginning to turn, however, and the new wisdom has to do with that troublesome notion called identity.

A thoughtful recent New York Times piece proposes the “fear of losing status” as the principal underlying motivation of those who voted for Trump.  One political science professor who has studied the question says: “It’s much more of a symbolic threat that people feel.  It’s not the threat to their economic well-being; it’s a threat to their group’s domination in our country over all.”

Thus, the rise of anti-immigration xenophobia, the Wall, bans on Muslims, demonization of Mexican immigrants particularly, and, of course, America First and Make America Great Again.  All targeted to the rising tide of white American nationalism.  We built it, we own it, the rest of you get out of here.

And, by the way, wasn’t it clever of the internationalists to give us a President born in Kenya.

Rather than lost jobs from foreign competition, the Times story concludes that “Mr. Trump’s appeal could better be explained by a fear of cultural displacement.”

This rings truer.  As farmers and exporters generally are discovering, trade barriers work both ways and other nations, particularly China, retaliate against our tariffs.  It is less foreign products that make Americans unhappy, it is the foreigners themselves.  They will move in and take over.

We are not alone.  Great Britain has Brexit which is turning out to be a whole lot more complicated than its xenophobic sponsors promised.  Viktor Orban is inventing authoritarian democracy for the Hungarians.  Right wing xenophobic political parties are springing up across Europe, including ominously Germany.

Mass South-North migrations that a few of us forecast some years back have fueled movements of national identity.  Pretty predictable.

You shouldn’t read the papers unless you are prepared for massive hypocrisy.  Corporate executives may join the business ranks supporting Trump but quietly urge members of Congress to let in enough workers from the South to take low wage jobs in agriculture and food services.

One of the solutions that has been available and needed for the past thirty or more years is serious and mature immigration reform that established reasonable, enforceable quotas and that opened doors to seasonal workers as well as technical geniuses.  That will not happen under the present political make-up in Washington.

But laws will not solve deep sociological grievances.  If a substantial number of Americans, mostly older, think they have lost dominant status in their own country, there is no quick political fix.

We have ridden out anti-immigrant, nationalistic movements in the past and we will simply have to ride this one out as well.  Generational change will solve part of the identity problem.  Young people, especially those fortunate enough to have traveled abroad, are more open minded, tolerant, and accepting of international trends and tides than their grandparents.  The danger there is that they will lose a reasonable and thoughtful notion of patriotism.

Asking what we can do for our country must not become a cliché`.  It is possible to love America and still be good citizens of the world.  This is particularly true of climate protection, arms control, and disease prevention.

White Americans, by themselves, may not dominate our future.  American may no longer dominate the globe.  These changes need not lead to destructive measures to retain national identity.  We do not have to dominate to retain the status offered by maturity and thoughtfulness.

Trump’s bombastic notion of separating ourselves from the rest of the world was doomed before he uttered it.  He may not care about global matters, but global matters care about him.

 

We Are Better Than This

Author: Gary Hart

These are the times that try Americans’ souls.  For more than a year now we have tolerated a small group in national leadership who have little or no government experience, who seem not to have studied our nation’s history, who disdain the bedrock of our culture, and who do not value the truth.

This is not the government uniquely devised by our Founders.  It is not based on the principles we were taught to hold dear in our classrooms.  It is not the government hundreds of thousands of young Americans fought and died for.  In terms of demeanor, maturity, and even good breeding it is a disgrace.

Decent Americans turn away when asked to justify the behavior of our leaders by foreign friends.  This is not the shining city on a hill, or the statue in our harbor with its torch of welcome raised, or the refuge of those seeking a better life that have been our symbol and our glory.

Overwhelmingly, Americans are decent, caring, and benevolent people.  But our current leadership buries those characteristics in a daily sea of turmoil, chaos, and blatant falsehoods.  There are no adults in charge here anymore.

To a person, the president’s party has lost all moral authority.  It has sold its courage to the highest bidder.  It is terrified of its own voters, or at least a militant minority of them.  The opposition party cannot decide whether to return to the age of Franklin Roosevelt, at a time when people are distrustful of government, or mill around in an undefined “centrism” undistinguished by hard-won principles of justice, fairness, and inclusion.

We as Americans are better than this.  If statesmen and women do not rise up and reclaim their beliefs founded in four thousand years of republican democracy, we will be washed away by the relentless tides of history.  We are better than this.  But it is up to all of us to show that we are better than childish and petulant occupants of high office and those too cowardly to confront them.

If not, we will sacrifice our self-respect and the lingering respect of friends around the world.

Resistance to the current childish anarchy begins with refusal to remain silent.  It begins with polite but strong response to media demagogues.  In every church and synagogue, in every school, in the coffee shops and civic groups, voices must be heard proclaiming America’s historic principles.

To remain silent in the face of daily assault upon those principles and the common decency derived from centuries of evolution of common civilities is not American.  It is the beginning of the silence of fear that welcomes in authoritarianism and eventually fascism.

Demand a free press but equally an honest press.  Insist on the right of public assembly and debate.  Respond to the demagogic barbarians who have entered our gates and emerged from under the rocks where they have been hiding from the bright light of decency and civility.

We must restore honor to our nation.  The events of this past year are unprecedented in our history.  They must not, for the sake of our nation’s honor, become the new and degraded norm that threatens to replace the highest aspirations for which generations gone by struggled to uphold.

We are better than this.  That must be our watchword.  We are more decent than the man seeking to destroy the office he now holds.

We must not privatize our nation’s schools.  We must not hand our natural inheritance, which we hold in trust for future generations, to robber coal barons.  We must not permit the wholesale destruction of our diplomacy.  We must not turn over the keys to the nation’s treasury to those who need tax giveaways the least.

We are better than this.

We must not let our Congress, the representatives of all our people, be owned lock, stock, and barrel by thousands of special interest lobbyists, too many of whom were previously elected to office.

We are better than this.

What do we say to our children, who look to us for instruction and guidance, in the wake of corruption and deceit in our nation’s capitol?  Is this our political legacy to them?

We are better than this.

One thing must now guide us.  It is the rule of law.  No one, including a lawless president, is above the law.

We must hold up the banner of truth, of justice, of honor, of decency.  These are not just political jargon.  They are the pillars of this society and nation.  They either reflect what America is and believes in, or we are doomed.

In the face of a growing open sewer running through the highest offices, we must resist, and we must be heard.  To be silent today is to be complicit.

At its very best, there is a nobility running through the American ideal.  It is our duty to recapture that nobility.

Let the voices of millions of decent, honest, caring American citizens be heard and increase in volume.  Let justice ring.  Let us restore our dignity and self-respect.  Let us restore our nation’s honor.

We have no choice.  We are better than this.

Diplomacy versus Delusion

Author: Gary Hart

Effort is required to sort through a patternless brief history of the current U.S. administration for any clues as to its foreign policy principles.  Despite the challenge this presents, certain factors do seem to reoccur: reversal of virtually all initiatives of the previous Obama administration; rejection of cooperative trade and security agreements, including those negotiated by previous Republican Presidents; adoption of policies that favor the United States even at the cost of trusted allies; and adopting what was known several decades ago as an “I’m alright, Jack” attitude toward the rest of the world.

[Based on a British movie that placed Great Britain first and sought to make it great again.  “We’re the best and to hell with everyone else.”]

But even these xenophobic and nationalistic attitudes (they cannot be called principles) fail to begin to explain what quite possibly, if not probably, could motivate the current administration to turn its back on the Iran nuclear agreement of 2015 (JCPOA for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

This agreement, to which Great Britain, France, and Germany are signatories and which Russia and China support, severely limits Iran’s ability to produce fissile material necessary to make a nuclear weapon for at least fifteen years but the agreement goes further.  The first paragraph of the JCPOA reads: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire nuclear weapons.”

The agreement provides for ongoing inspections for compliance with its terms by expert investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with special focus on the Arak and Natanz nuclear facilities.  One, among many, expert states; “The IAEA has certified that-some minor violations aside—the Iranians have implemented the agreement.”

An overwhelming number of experienced diplomats and scientists of both political parties have endorsed and strongly supported the agreement as manifestly in America’s and the world’s security interests.  In addition to its merits, it is also a symbol of the faithfulness and dependability of the United States to its international commitments.

Now comes a new Secretary of State and National Security Advisor who adamantly oppose the JCPOA but have no alternative plan to replace it except direct military confrontation. For without the agreement, “the IAEA inspectors would leave Iran and the [nuclear weapons] program would restart at full bore.”

No cogent argument as to how ending the JCPOA and a consequent Iranian nuclear weapons arsenal makes America, the Middle East, and the world safer.  That is because there is none.  For those who really want confrontation with Iran, the agreement is a hindrance.  Do not let a Western security alliance, they seem to say, get in the way of bringing American military might down on Iran and risking a very wide war in the Middle East, another one to join Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

In a recent article summing up the case for the agreement by a noted theoretical physicist, Jeremy Bernstein, he concludes: “One cannot say with any certainty whether the countries that will remain in the agreement will be able to constrain the Iranians, who have made absolutely clear that they will not agree to any modification of it.  The notion that President Trump has of somehow getting a ‘better deal’ is delusional.  There is no better deal.  The Iranians have everything they need to make nuclear weapons—including uranium. The JCPOA is our best, and perhaps our only, chance of preventing Iran from getting the bomb.”

If the president is delusional about something as important as the Iranian nuclear agreement, about how many other significant matters is he delusional?

 

Identity

Author: Gary Hart

Scholars and practitioners are investing much effort these days searching for the root cause or causes of the tidal wave of nationalism, xenophobia, and right-wing politics throughout much of Western democracy.  Early victims of this wave are immigrants, trade and security agreements, and abandonment of much of the post-World War II international order.  Spokesmen, not leaders, of this historic shift—Trump, Bannon, Orban, Five Star, and others—stir up a stew of hostility, resentment, racism, and an occasional dose of fascism to feed the rising tribes

A recent assignment in Northern Ireland on behalf of the U.S. Government helped provide some clues to the causes of this wave.  There the division between Protestant unionism, the desire to remain part of Great Britain, and largely Catholic republicanism, the desire to be part of the Republic of Ireland, has plagued the province since it was carved out of the new Republic following the Irish civil war in the 1920s.

To say that feelings run deep is a gross understatement.  After power sharing arrangements associated with the Good Friday Agreement gave way to these tensions last year, there has been a stalemate over standing up Stormont, the Northern Ireland parliament, once again and how to resolve the impact on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic brought on by Brexit.  With exception for the on-going stalemate in the Middle East, it is as complex a nightmare as exists anywhere in the world.

One of the canny party leaders in Northern Ireland boiled it down to this: identity.  The unionists see themselves as British, the more ardent as English.  The republicans see themselves as Irish.

Recent re-immersion in early American history suggests there was a struggle then over whether Founders and various constituencies saw themselves as Virginians or New Yorkers or as citizens of a new nation called America.  The history, and particularly the Federalist, largely skirted confronting the identity issue directly.  But the issue underlay all the debates over North and South, finance and trade versus agriculture, small states and large states, and the slave question.

They were in the process of creating a new nation and much of the debate across the board was over where power was located and who would possess it.

A century and a half later, Americans had clearly become Americans and thought of themselves as such, but the world of nation-states, with decades of war over territory and then war over fascism, required U.S. leadership to create an international order, one that would provide collective security, a managed international trade structure, and international institutions to help manage mass migration, failed states, post-colonial transfers of power, arms control, and emerging threats from climate change and much else summarized as globalization.

Four decades ago, as a young parliamentarian and ardent internationalist, I was a small voice of warning against assuming all aspects of globalization were benign and beneficial.  Too many U.S. factory workers lost their jobs overnight, mass south-north migrations across the globe were altering political landscapes, and more nations were joining the nuclear club.

There are huge economic reasons for the revolt against the international order.  But for the everyday citizen, it is changing demographics that threaten their identity.  It was as predictable as sunrise.  When did Americans become dark-skinned?  Why are most of the products I buy made in China?  Because “liberals” are also internationalists, aren’t they to blame?

Right now, we are in the midst of an historic struggle over identity.  To preserve my identity as an American, many now think, I must erect walls—against immigrants, foreign products, the world’s troubles, and all these agreements and treaties.  We will become great America again by returning to some wonderful time that never was, except in some nostalgic recollection.

Western democracy is now trying to recreate a 19th century world of the nation-state with rigid borders against movement and commerce.  Any clear reading of that century’s history makes it less than ideal.  It may have seemed grand in retrospect as we grew into America as a nation, but it was much less than grand in fractious, colonizing Europe.

Thus, the challenge to us all is to imagine a new American identity that truly does comport with out best principles and ideals, those in our Founding documents that brought 13 and eventually 37 more states into a nation.

This will not be easy or quick.  It will not be achieved in one national election.  It will require leaders who know how to combine international collaboration with a renewed national identity.  If we achieve this, other democratic nations will follow.  But it means understanding that national identity is not the preserve of right-wing authoritarians.