The Killing of Soleimani and the Democrats- opinion piece from Joe Liberman

Wall Street Journal January 6, 2020
Joe Liberman

OPINION | COMMENTARY
The Democrats and Iran
Why can’t the party’s candidates simply admit Qasem Soleimani’s death makes Americans safer?

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with a photo of Qasem Soleimani in Tehran, Jan. 3. PHOTO: -/AGENCE
FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

President Trump’s order to take out Qasem Soleimani was morally,
constitutionally and strategically correct. It deserves more bipartisan
support than the begrudging or negative reactions it has received thus far
from my fellow Democrats.
The president’s decision was bold and unconventional. It’s understandable
that the political class should have questions about it. But it isn’t
understandable that all the questions are being raised by Democrats and all
the praise is coming from Republicans. That divided response suggests the
partisanship that has infected and disabled so much of U.S. domestic policy
now also determines our elected leaders’ responses to major foreign-policy
events and national-security issues, even the killing of a man responsible
for murdering hundreds of Americans and planning to kill thousands more.
After World War II, Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, a Michigan Republican who
was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, formed a bipartisan
partnership with President Truman that helped secure the postwar peace
and greatly strengthened America’s position in the Cold War. “Politics stops
at the water’s edge,” said Vandenberg when asked why he worked so closely
with a Democratic president. He added that his fellow Americans
undoubtedly had “earnest, honest, even vehement” differences of opinion
on foreign policy, but if “we can keep partisan politics out of foreign affairs,
it is entirely obvious that we shall speak with infinitely greater authority
abroad.”
In their uniformly skeptical or negative reactions to Soleimani’s death,
Democrats are falling well below Vandenberg’s standard and, I fear, creating
the risk that the U.S. will be seen as acting and speaking with less authority
abroad at this important time.
No American can dispute that Soleimani created, supported and directed a
network of terrorist organizations that spread havoc in the Middle East. In
Syria he made it possible for the Assad regime to respond with brutality to
its own people’s demands for freedom. More than 500,000 Syrians have
died since 2011 and millions more have been displaced from their homes.
During the Iraq war, Soleimani oversaw three camps in Iran where his elite
Quds Force trained and equipped Iraqi militias. According to the U.S.
government, these fighters have killed more than 600 American soldiers
since 2003. In another time, this would have been a just cause for an
American war against Iran, and certainly for trying to eliminate Soleimani.
Within Iran, the Quds Force has worked with the supreme leader to
suppress freedom and economic opportunity, jail dissident politicians and
journalists, and kill protesters in the streets.

From the perspective of American values and interests, it’s impossible to
mourn the death of such a man, and Democrats haven’t. Their response thus
far has been “Yes, but . . .,” adding worries that Soleimani’s death will
provoke a violent response from Iran. Democrats have also suggested that
the Trump administration has no coherent strategy toward Iran or that Mr.
Trump shouldn’t have acted without notice to and permission from
Congress.
Yet if we allow fear of a self-declared enemy like Iran to dictate our actions,
we will only encourage them to come after us and our allies more
aggressively. Some Democrats have said that killing Soleimani will lead us
into war with Iran. In fact, Soleimani and the Quds Force have been at war
with the U.S. for years. It is more likely that his death will diminish the
chances of a wider conflict because the demonstration of our willingness to
kill him will give Iranian leaders (and probably others like Kim Jong Un )
much to fear.
Some Democrats have also refused to appreciate Soleimani’s elimination
because they say it isn’t part of an overall strategy for the region. But based
on the public record, there is a strategy, beginning with the Trump
administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, the shift to
maximum economic pressure, and now adding a demonstrated willingness
to respond with military force to Iran’s provocations. The goal is to bring the
Iranian government back into negotiations to end its nuclear weapons
program and rejoin the world’s economy.
The claim by some Democrats that Mr. Trump had no authority to order this
attack without congressional approval is constitutionally untenable and
practically senseless. Authority to act quickly to eliminate a threat to the
U.S. is inherent in the powers granted to the president by the Constitution.
It defies common sense to argue that the president must notify Congress or
begin a formal process of authorization before acting on an imminent
threat.
On many occasions President Obama sensibly ordered drone strikes on
dangerous terrorist leaders, including U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki. He did so
without specific congressional authorization, and without significant
Democratic opposition. Mr. Obama also “brought justice” to Osama bin
Laden without prior, explicit congressional approval.

It is possible that anti-Trump partisanship isn’t behind Democrats’
reluctance to say they’re glad Soleimani is dead. It may be that today’s
Democratic Party simply doesn’t believe in the use of force against
America’s enemies in the world. I don’t believe that is true, but episodes like
this one may lead many Americans to wonder whether it is. If enough voters
decide that Democrats can’t be trusted to keep America safe, Mr. Trump
won’t have much trouble winning a second term in November. That’s one
more reason Democrats should leave partisan politics at “the water’s edge”
and, whatever their opinion of President Trump on other matters, stand
together against Iran and dangerous leaders like Qasem Soleimani.
Mr. Lieberman, a Democrat, was a U.S. senator from Connecticut, 1989-
2013, and is chairman of No Labels, a national organization working to
revive bipartisanship.

Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Mr. Lieberman, a Democrat, was a U.S. senator from Connecticut, 1989-2013, and is chairman of No Labels, a national organization working to revive bipartisanship.

President Trump’s remarks on Killing of Qasem Soleimani

Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 3, 2020

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-killing-qasem-soleimani/

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP
ON THE KILLING OF QASEM SOLEIMANI
Mar-a-Lago
Palm Beach, Florida
3:13 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Well, thank you very much. And good afternoon.

As President, my highest and most solemn duty is the defense of our nation and its citizens.

Last night, at my direction, the United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike that killed the number-one terrorist anywhere in the world, Qasem Soleimani.

Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him.

Under my leadership, America’s policy is unambiguous: To terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American, we will find you; we will eliminate you. We will always protect our diplomats, service members, all Americans, and our allies.

For years, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its ruthless Quds Force — under Soleimani’s leadership — has targeted, injured, and murdered hundreds of American civilians and servicemen.

The recent attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq, including rocket strikes that killed an American and injured four American servicemen very badly, as well as a violent assault on our embassy in Baghdad, were carried out at the direction of Soleimani.

Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion, contributing to terrorist plots as far away as New Delhi and London.

Today we remember and honor the victims of Soleimani’s many atrocities, and we take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over.

Soleimani has been perpetrating acts of terror to destabilize the Middle East for the last 20 years. What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved.

Just recently, Soleimani led the brutal repression of protestors in Iran, where more than a thousand innocent civilians were tortured and killed by their own government.

We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.

I have deep respect for the Iranian people. They are a remarkable people, with an incredible heritage and unlimited potential. We do not seek regime change. However, the Iranian regime’s aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbors, must end, and it must end now.

The future belongs to the people of Iran — those who seek peaceful coexistence and cooperation — not the terrorist warlords who plunder their nation to finance bloodshed abroad.

The United States has the best military by far, anywhere in the world. We have best intelligence in the world. If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all of those targets already fully identified, and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary. And that, in particular, refers to Iran.

Under my leadership, we have destroyed the ISIS territorial caliphate, and recently, American Special Operations Forces killed the terrorist leader known as al-Baghdadi. The world is a safer place without these monsters.

America will always pursue the interests of good people, great people, great souls, while seeking peace, harmony, and friendship with all of the nations of the world.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless our great military. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

END 3:18 P.M. EST

United States National Security and Aid for Israel

Democratic Frontrunners Are Wrong About Aid for Israel

Putting America’s annual $3.8 billion of military assistance to Israel on the chopping block makes for good politics.

But it makes no sense for U.S. national security.

 BY JOHN HANNAH

DECEMBER 11, 2019

 https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/12/11/democratic-frontrunners-are-wrong-about-aid-for-israel/

In a jarring moment during last month’s Democratic primary debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, asked about Washington’s complicated relationship with Riyadh, lit into the Saudis for the murder of the U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, condemning the kingdom as a brutal, misogynistic dictatorship that “is not a reliable ally.” Then, without skipping a beat, he pivoted to an attack on Israel for its mistreatment of the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza—a tack that won a spontaneous outburst of applause from the attending audience. Seamlessly lumping together the Middle East’s only stable democracy with its most reactionary absolute monarchy, Sanders concluded, “we need to be rethinking who our allies are around the world.”

Of course, harsh criticism of Israel has long been a staple of the Sanders playbook. A tad more disconcerting was the apparent approval it triggered in the crowd. Condemnations by other candidates earlier in the evening of dangerous U.S. adversaries such as China, North Korea, and Russia didn’t seem to elicit nearly the same level of enthusiasm. Also hard not to notice was the fact that none of Sanders’s nine rivals on the stage rose to push back against the suggestion that the long-standing U.S. alliance with Israel should be up for reassessment. This was especially striking because in the days leading up to the debate, the Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist group Islamic Jihad had fired close to 500 rockets at Israeli population centers, sending tens of thousands of civilians into bomb shelters and shutting down schools and businesses in Tel Aviv, the country’s most important commercial hub.

In fairness, it’s possible that the format and rhythm of the debate simply didn’t allow for that type of intervention. On the other hand, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that, when it comes to Israel, a shift is indeed afoot in the Democratic Party—at least among its more progressive and activist base.

That trend was most visible in October, when several Democratic candidates in succession—including leading contenders such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg—joined Sanders in advocating for the position that the United States should consider withholding military aid if Israel pursued policies that undermined a two-state solution. Only one of the top-tier candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden, spoke out forcefully against the idea, calling it “absolutely outrageous” and a “gigantic mistake.”

Biden is right. It may increasingly be the case in today’s Democratic Party that putting America’s annual $3.8 billion of military assistance to Israel on the chopping block in service to the peace process makes for good politics. But it makes no sense as national security policy. The fact is that Israel’s recent emergence as one of the world’s most powerful industrial democracies has never been more important to the United States. And the value to U.S. interests of Israel’s world-class military, intelligence prowess, and cutting-edge science and technology sector is only likely to grow in the future.

In the last three presidential elections, the U.S. public—frustrated and weary from fighting so-called endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—has consistently supported the candidate (Barack Obama twice, Donald Trump once) who exhibited the greatest enthusiasm for reducing the country’s military commitments in the Middle East.Especially as the United States’ own dependence on oil exports from the region continues to decline, the long-term trajectory of U.S. retrenchment seems almost certain to continue. For its part, the U.S. military is also looking to draw back from the Middle East so it can divert more of its capabilities and energies to higher-priority missions, in particular the need to counter increasingly aggressive great-power competitors, China and Russia.

Yet even as it seeks to reduce its burdens, the United States still has important interests in the Middle East that need defending. It wants the region to be more stable. It wants to avoid significant disruptions in oil supplies that could wreak havoc on the economies of key trading partners. It wants to contain Iranian aggression, combat Islamist terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, deter the outbreak of major war, and ensure Israel’s security. Logic dictates that doing all that with less U.S. involvement means someone else will have to step up to help fill the void. That, in turn, puts a premium on reliable local allies that have both the will and the capability not just to defend themselves without the United States riding to the rescue but also to act effectively on their own across the Middle East to help advance major U.S. interests. With all due respect to Washington’s other longtime partners in the region and even Europe, it’s patently obvious that only one country comes close to meeting those criteria today: Israel.

Israel has, by an order of magnitude, the most powerful and operationally effective military in the Middle East. Its intelligence services rank among the world’s best, far outpacing any regional rival. It’s a technological superpower with leading research and development capabilities in priority national security areas for the United States, including cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, missile defense, space, and anti-terrorism. Israel’s assessment of the most serious threats to Middle East security is nearly identical to Washington’s. And its government and population are unwaveringly pro-American, ready and willing to lend Israel’s full support to countering shared threats and securing key U.S. objectives.

With little fanfare, Israel in recent years has taken on sustained military missions that extend well beyond its historical preoccupation with the defense of its immediate borders. As Washington’s stomach for wielding hard power against the Middle East’s most dangerous challenges recedes, the new reality is that Israel has become a major exporter of security and extended deterrence to the broader region. Since at least 2017, it has been the only power in the world conducting regular military operations to push back successfully against Iranian forces and their expansionist designs. A kind of de facto division of labor has emerged whereby the United States restricts itself to punishing Iran and its regional proxies with harsh economic sanctions while Israel does the more difficult and dangerous work of directly confronting and containing Iranian power on the ground.

In Syria, probably the Middle East’s most strategically consequential battlefield of the past decade, Israel has reportedly attacked more than 1,000 targets affiliated with Iran. Almost singlehandedly, in fact, Israel has foiled Iran’s ambition to entrench itself militarily in Syria. Iran’s far-reaching plan to establish a series of land and naval bases, command a force of up to 100,000 pro-Iran fighters, and stockpile and deploy thousands of highly accurate rockets and missiles in Syria has been stillborn. Though garnering little attention, Israel has over the past four years inflicted one of the worst defeats ever suffered by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its imperial project to dominate the Middle East’s northern tier from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea. The IRGC’s goal of replicating in Syria the same level of military power and threat that it built in Lebanon through Hezbollah has been almost completely thwarted by a sustained campaign of discreet Israeli military attacks and intelligence activities—all without triggering a larger war and conflagration. The United States—not to mention Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and much of the rest of the region threatened by rising Iranian hegemony—has quietly applauded from the sidelines without having to put any of its own forces at risk.

Though on a far lesser scale, Israel has over the last year extended its targeting campaign against Iran to Lebanon and Iraq as well, as the IRGC seeks to adjust for its failure in Syria by further building up its capabilities in those countries, especially by giving precision missiles to Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias. In Egypt, an under-the-radar but extensive program of Israeli military and intelligence support has proved essential to preventing extremist groups loyal to the Islamic State from taking over the strategically vital Sinai Peninsula. Israel has long played a similarly critical role in bolstering the security of neighboring Jordan. Meanwhile, in the eastern Mediterranean, as the region’s massive gas reserves become an increasingly important factor in global energy markets, Israeli defense capabilities will play a leading role in securing the area’s critical infrastructure, in cooperation with other stakeholders including Cyprus, Egypt, and Greece.

There’s every reason to believe that the demand for Israeli security assistance will only increase as U.S. disengagement continues apace. Already, it seems a near certainty that Israel is engaged in unprecedented, albeit covert, cooperation with several Gulf states, including the Saudis, to help them counter Iran and other extremist threats. Given the direct impact on its own interests, it’s easy to imagine Israel taking on much greater responsibilities for policing the Red Sea, or ensuring that Houthi rebels in Yemen don’t become the next repository of long-range Iranian missiles and drones capable of accurately striking strategic targets not only in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, but in Tel Aviv and Haifa as well.

In the 1970s, the administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon, preoccupied with the war in Vietnam, developed a “twin pillars” strategy for the Middle East. It relied on two local allies, the shah’s Iran and Saudi Arabia, to help counter Soviet meddling and enforce regional security. The strategy quickly crumbled when the shah was overthrown and the Saudis proved both unwilling and for the most part incapable of fulfilling their assigned role.

By contrast, Israel today is the real deal, a stable democracy and longtime ally that has consistently demonstrated the will, power, and operational effectiveness to do more to secure the Middle East from common threats, so the United States can do less. From countering Iranian imperialism and Islamist terrorism to protecting energy resources and vulnerable regional allies, Israel’s role in the region has become critically important for the United States. At a time when war fatigue and other global priorities are driving Washington to reduce its involvement in the Middle East, it’s increasingly apparent that Israeli power will be indispensable if the United States hopes to maintain a regional order that favors its interests.

In other words, Israel is America’s new pillar in the Middle East. Truth be told, it’s the only pillar. To jeopardize such a strategic asset on the altar of a Palestinian conflict that has dragged on chronically for decades, with no resolution in sight and the issue’s relative geopolitical significance in steep decline, would be a huge unforced error. Many of Washington’s most important Arab partners are now moving systematically to deepen their security cooperation with Israel, refusing to allow their national interests to be subjugated to one of the world’s most intractable disputes any longer. It would be an odd time for the United States to start moving in the opposite direction, as several of the Democratic candidates suggest, and throw into question its own tremendously beneficial defense relationship with Israel. That’s precisely the kind of strategic indulgence that a superpower bent on retrenchment can ill afford.

John Hannah is a senior counselor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, focusing on U.S. strategy. During the presidency of George W. Bush, he served for eight years on the staff of Vice President Cheney, including as the vice president’s national security advisor.

 

 

 

Factually Weak Impeachment Will Alter The Nature Of Our Government

Factually weak impeachment will alter the nature of our government
Peter J. Wallison
October 30, 2019

The current effort to impeach President Trump is not only factually weak, but if it results in a
House impeachment vote it will endanger the functioning of our government in the future. First,
the Constitution is clear, as Professor Alan Dershowitz has argued, that an impeachable offense
must be a serious crime. Second, if Congress chooses to act without finding such a crime, it will
have created a precedent for removal of a president on a purely partisan basis, weakening the
stability of the presidency and changing the nature of the U.S. government in the future. And
third, Congress will have to overcome the fact that President Trump actually delivered the
requested weapons to Ukraine without any of the actions by Ukraine’s government that he
purportedly sought. In other words, he did not carry through the act for which he is being
charged.
High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Professor Dershowitz makes several arguments for his position. The most powerful and
persuasive is simply that the Constitution’s words exclude actions that are not crimes. In
outlining when an officer can be impeached, the Constitution requires “Treason, Bribery, or
other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” No one doubts that treason or taking bribes are crimes,
but the important fact is that these two very serious crimes suggest the serious nature of the
words that follow: “High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
In dealing with statutory language, lawyers often refer to the canons of statutory interpretation,
which describe how statutes or other texts should be interpreted. One of these is: “where general
words follow an enumeration of two or more things, they apply only to persons or things of the
same general kind or class specifically mentioned.” Thus, the meaning of “High Crimes and
Misdemeanors is informed by the earlier use of the terms “Treason” and “Bribery.” The Framers,
who were lawyers, knew that by preceding “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” with the serious
crimes treason and bribery, they were unambiguously signaling that impeachable offenses must
be of equivalent gravity.
This excludes the notion that President Trump can be impeached for withholding weapons from
Ukraine until the newly elected president promises to investigate something. That might have
been a supremely dumb act by the president — properly characterized as using U.S. foreign
policy for his own political advancement — but it is not a crime.
Occasionally one hears the argument that what Trump did was a crime under campaign finance
law, because it is illegal to receive “anything of value” from a foreign source in connection with
a political campaign. “Dirt” on former Vice President Biden would be “something of value,” this
argument posits, but it runs up against the problem that presidents and candidates for president
do this all the time and are not charged with a crime. Let’s consider the benefit that President
Obama received from the German government in 2008, when he was allowed to make a speech
in Berlin (the one about the Earth cooling in the future). Was that “something of value” received
from a foreign source? Yes. Did anyone imagine it was a crime? No. Or when the US
government supports Israel’s position in the UN and the president is then visited and highly
praised as a friend of Israel by the Israeli prime minister. Was this sought by the president? Yes.
Is that something of value from a foreign source? Certainly. A crime? No.
Anyway, even if President Trump’s actions were a technical crime under the campaign finance
laws, they would not rise to the “High Crimes” level the Constitution demands for an
impeachment. If it’s a crime at all, it is one of a very low and technical character, not something
that Congress should be able to use to overturn an election.
The Danger of a Political Impeachment
The Framers’ care in describing the gravity of the offenses necessary for impeachment was
clearly intended to prevent what is happening today — the possible impeachment of the
president by the opposing political party. If Congress could remove a president from office — in
other words, overturn an election — for insubstantial reasons, it will destroy the stability of the
presidential office in the future. Any time that Congress is controlled by an opposing political
party, the president will be in danger of impeachment for some minor offense. Think of what
would have happened if the Benghazi events had occurred after the precedent that Congress now
seems determined to set. The deaths of four Americans, including the US ambassador, and a
clearly flimsy excuse by the Obama administration that this was all caused by a film. An
impeachment effort by the Republicans would have been virtually certain.
Given the precedent the Democrats seem ready to set by continuing the impeachment process on
the basis of a presidential offense of such low quality, cooler heads in Congress, the public and
the media should step in. Most observers, left and right, seem to take it as a given that the House
will eventually impeach President Trump, simply because the House is controlled by the
Democrats. But this is more than a political game; what is actually at stake is the future of the
government structure that has steered this country through innumerable crises for over 200 years.
In his book “Profiles in Courage,” former President John F. Kennedy recognized as heroic the
act of a single senator that prevented the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, the president who
succeeded Abraham Lincoln. There was much wrong with Johnson’s rule, but Kennedy
recognized that if this impeachment succeeded it would set a devastating precedent for the
future. The Democrats should recognize this today, and act accordingly. Holding hearings and
criticizing President Trump for what he did makes great political sense as we enter an election
year, but impeaching him for bad or mistaken judgments or policies would be a grave disservice
to the country.
The Weakness of the Impeachment Case
The argument for impeachment is that President Trump, by withholding a shipment of badly
needed weapons for Ukraine, tried to force the president of Ukraine to investigate that country’s
interference with the 2016 US election and the circumstances associated with then-Vice
President Biden’s son receiving significant compensation from a Ukrainian firm during the
Obama administration. The idea is that the president sought political benefits for himself by
using the lever of US foreign policy.
There is no question that the second of these allegations, if it occurred, is unworthy of someone
holding the highest office in the United States, but at least in its current form it is a fatally weak
argument for impeachment — simply because the president actually delivered the weapons
Ukraine wanted, without receiving the investigations on which he was supposedly insisting.
The telephone conversation between the two leaders occurred in late July 2019, and the arms
were delivered in late September. In other words, there was plenty of time for the Ukrainian
government to start the requested investigations if it thought that President Trump was serious,
but the investigations never occurred and eventually the arms were shipped.
This raises questions about exactly what was in the president’s mind. It doesn’t matter how many
current and former members of the US foreign policy establishment insist that the president was
trying to get the new Ukrainian leader to start an investigation in exchange for the weapons. The
fact is that the president delivered the weapons without receiving what he had allegedly
bargained for.
We should know by now that President Trump is impulsive; he talks about wanting to get a lot of
things done, but he changes his mind frequently. He expresses ideas to advisers, who inevitably
tell others what the president says, and then changes his mind and does something else, or
nothing. In the case of the alleged effort to obtain political benefits from Ukraine, he didn’t get
them, but is on the verge of being impeached simply for allegedly wanting them.
This is no foundation for the House to vote impeachment, or for serious people — who
understand the terrible precedent such a vote will produce — to stand idly by.

Peter Wallison is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was White House
counsel in the Reagan administration. His latest book is “Judicial Fortitude: The Last Chance to
Rein the Administrative State.

Top 10: President Trump’s first year in office

The 10 best things Trump has done in his first year in office

President Trump exits Air Force One as he arrives at Palm Beach International Airport on Dec. 22. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)
By Marc A. Thiessen
Columnist
December 27, 2017

As we approach the end of President Trump’s first year in office, the list of extraordinary things he has done — for both good and ill — is nothing short of remarkable. Trump inspires such deep emotions in his critics and supporters that many have struggled to objectively assess his presidency. Some are so blinded by their hatred of Trump that they refuse to acknowledge the good he has done, while others are so blinded by devotion that they overlook almost any transgression.

In my columns, I’ve tried to give Trump the credit he deserves when he does the right thing, while calling him out when he does the wrong thing. So, here is my list of the 10 best things Trump has done in his first 11 months. (On Friday, I will give you my list of the 10 worst.) (Update: Here it is.)

10. He enforced President Barack Obama’s red line against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. When the regime of Bashar al-Assad used a toxic nerve agent on innocent men, women and children, Trump didn’t wring his hands. He acted quickly and decisively, restoring America’s credibility on the world stage that Obama had squandered.
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9. He has taken a surprisingly tough line with Russia. Trump approved a $47 million arms package for Ukraine, sent troops to Poland’s border with Russia and imposed new sanctions on Moscow for violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

8. He recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Four American presidents promised to do it, but only one actually did. This is why the American people elected Trump. He does what he promises to do, for better or for worse — in this case, definitely for the better. Even Jeb Bush tweeted his approval.

7. He withdrew from the Paris climate agreement. After George W. Bush pulled out of the disastrous Kyoto treaty, U.S. emissions went down faster than much of Europe. The same will be true for Trump’s departure from the Paris accord. Combined with his approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration, Trump is helping usher in a new age of American energy development.

6. He got NATO allies to kick in $12 billion more toward our collective security. Decades of pleading by the Bush and Obama administrations failed to get NATO allies to meet their financial commitments to the alliance, but Trump’s tough talk and reticence to affirm America’s Article V commitment did the trick. NATO is stronger as a result.

5. He has virtually eliminated the Islamic State’s physical caliphate. Trump removed the constraints Obama placed on our military and let it drive the terrorists from their strongholds.

4. He admitted he was wrong on Afghanistan and reversed Obama’s disastrous withdrawal. In a rare admission, Trump declared: “My original instinct was to pull out . . . But all my life, I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. . . . A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists.”

3. He enacted historic tax and regulatory reform that has unleashed economic growth. Trump signed the first comprehensive tax reform in three decades and removed the wet blanket of Obama-era regulations smothering our economy. We are now heading into our third consecutive quarter of above 3 percent growth.

2. He is installing conservative judges who will preside for decades. With his appointment of Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump secured a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, and he is moving at record pace to fill the federal appeals courts with young conservative judges.

1. He, not Hillary Clinton, was inaugurated as president. Trump delivered the coup de grace that ended the corrupt, dishonest Clinton political machine.

There are many other significant achievements that did not make the top 10. Trump has taken a clear, strong stand against the narco-dictatorship in Venezuela, and he renamed the “Asia-Pacific” the “Indo-Pacific” to include India in the larger task of preventing Chinese hegemony in Asia. Trump has made clear that he is willing to use force to stop North Korea from deploying nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of destroying U.S. cities — which has prompted China to finally put real pressure on Pyongyang. We’ll see if it works.

The record of achievement suggests that, despite the noxious tweets and self-inflicted wounds emanating from the White House, Trump has the potential to become one of the most consequential conservative presidents in modern American history. The question is: Does all this good outweigh the bad? We’ll review the 10 worst things Trump has done in Friday’s column.

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Where Did “Maximum Pressure” Go? WSJ

Where Did ‘Maximum Pressureʼ Go? –

WSJ 9/9/19, 2’57 PM https://www.wsj.com/articles/where-did-maximum-pressure-go-11567969572

OPINION | COMMENTARY Where Did ‘Maximum Pressure’ Go? The Trump administration has let its early momentum in foreign policy dissipate. It’s time to turn back. Sept. 8, 2019 3:06 pm ET By Seth G. Jones and Tom Karako

The Trump presidency started by reorienting America’s national-security focus from counterterrorism to long-term, geopolitical competition— particularly against major powers such as China and Russia. Despite the promise of this new approach, the results have been mixed. It’s now time for the Trump administration to reinvigorate its posture of “maximum pressure,” which has come to look more like one of maximum patience. The Obama administration’s attitude of “strategic patience” produced frustrating results. While the U.S. waited, China improved its military capabilities and continued its unfair trade practices. Russia orchestrated cyber and intelligence operations against the U.S. and violated nearly every arms-control agreement on file. Iran expanded its missile program and its influence in the Middle East. North Korea’s nuclear program marched along. The Trump administration began by recognizing these developments and responding. President Trump deserves praise for arming Ukraine, calling out Russian violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and withdrawing from it, and ejecting Russian diplomats after the Skripal poisonings in the U.K. The administration also reimposed sanctions on Iran, imposed tariffs on China, denounced Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and pressured allies in Europe and East Asia to do more for collective

Early actions tended to match the tough talk. Whereas President Obama blinked after Syria crossed his “red line” by using chemical weapons against its own people, the Trump administration responded to chemical attacks in April 2017 by firing 59 cruise missiles against Syrian targets. But that early momentum and pressure seem to be dissipating. China is the most significant national-security threat to the U.S., yet the White House is now missing opportunities to pressure Beijing. It has been reluctant to criticize China’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. This silence is reminiscent of Mr. Obama’s approach to the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran—and very different from President Reagan’s support for democratic movements in the Eastern bloc and his demand that Mikhail Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall. Despite two years of talk about missile defenses against Chinese hypersonic glide vehicles, little is being done. The story is similar in Iran. The administration’s initial sanctions have stoked about 50% inflation and a minus-6% growth this year for Iran. But since the U.S. walked away from the nuclear deal and sidelined its European allies, Iran has lifted limits on its development of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. The number of Iranian-linked militia fighters has grown to more than 180,000 in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, and Iran continues to improve the largest and most diverse missile arsenal in the region. This demands a better response. So do Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf, especially the downing of a U.S. surveillance aircraft in international airspace. Iran knew what it was doing and surely expected the U.S. to strike back. Such an operation was under way, before the president canceled it at the last minute. That decision may embolden Tehran. With North Korea, the administration merits praise for pursuing the dismantlement of nuclear and missile programs. But after an 18-month moratorium, Pyongyang has resumed testing a new batch of missiles. Mr. Trump now plays down the tests, calling them “very standard.” This plays into Kim Jong Un ’s hands by normalizing his missile programs and his regime. It seems as if the president’s photo-op summitry in June 2018 effectively took off the table his “bloody nose” threats.

Finally, the administration remains too conciliatory with Russia. Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush helped win the Cold War by highlighting the moral differences between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. At the July 2018 Helsinki summit and on several other occasions, however, Mr. Trump refrained from calling out Vladimir Putin ’s abuses, even accepting his explanations of Russian interference in the U.S. election over those of America’s intelligence community. A few weeks ago Mr. Trump suggested that Russia might rejoin the Group of Seven, from which it was ejected after invading Ukraine. The White House hasn’t imposed sanctions against Turkey for buying Russia’s S-400 air defenses, despite a legal requirement to do so. And Russian security aid to Venezuela continues unabated. Mr. Obama said Mr. Assad in Syria must go, and Mr. Trump has said the same of Mr. Maduro. Both dictators may outlast this U.S. president. In the beginning, the Trump administration recognized the renewed strategic competition, showed early resolve, and matched word and deed. That focus must return. U.S. adversaries don’t deserve more patience than allies; strategic competition requires global partners. But if recent trends are uncorrected, the Trump administration’s national-security legacy will be as lackluster as that of its predecessor.

Mr. Jones is director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Mr. Karako is director of CSIS’s Missile Defense Project.

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The Socialist That Could……..

The Socialist That Could

By Kimberley A. Strassel……

The Re­pub­li­can Party has a se­cret weapon for 2020. It’s es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive be­cause it’s stealthy: The De­moc­rats seem obliv­i­ous to its power. And the GOP needn’t lift a fin­ger for it to work. All Re­pub­li­cans have to do is sit back and watch 29-year-old Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez . . . ex­ist.

AOC, as she’s bet­ter known, to­day ex­ists largely in front of the cam­eras. In a few months she’s gone from an un­known New York bar­tender to the de­mo­c­ra­tic so­cial­ist dar­ling of the left and its me­dia hordes. Her mega­phone is so loud that she ri­vals Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the face of the De­mo­c­ra­tic Party. Re­pub­li­cans don’t know whether to ap­plaud or laugh. Most do both.
For them, what’s not to love? She’s set off a frat­ri­ci­dal war on the left, with her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, this week slam­ming the “rad­i­cal con­ser­v­a-tives” among the De­moc­rats hold­ing the party “hostage.” She’s made friends with Je­remy Cor­byn, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, who has been ac­cused of anti-Semi­tism. She’s called the Amer­i­can sys­tem of wealth cre­ation “im­moral” and be­lieves gov­ern­ment has a duty to pro­vide “eco­nomic se­cu­rity” to peo­ple who are “un­will­ing to work.” As a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of New York, she’s mak­ing Cal­i­for­nia look sen­si­ble.

On Thurs­day Ms. Oca­sio-Cortez un­veiled her vaunted Green New Deal, com­plete with the de­tails of how De­moc­rats plan to reach cli­mate nir­vana in a mere 10 years. It came in the form of a res­o­lu­tion, spon­sored in the Sen­ate by Mass­achusetts’ Ed­ward Markey, on which AOC is de­ter-mined to force a full House vote. That means every De­mo­c­rat in Wash­ing­ton will get to go on the record in fa­vor of abol­ish­ing air travel, out­law­ing steaks, forc­ing all Amer­i­can home­own­ers to retro­fit their houses, putting every miner, oil rig­ger, live­stock rancher and gas-sta­tion at­ten-dant out of a job, and spend­ing tril­lions and tril­lions more tax money. Oh, also for gov­ern­ment-run health care, which is some-how a pre­req­ui­site for a clean econ­omy.

It’s a GOP dream, es­pe­cially be­cause the me­dia pre­sented her plan with a straight face—as a le­git­i­mate pro­posal from a le­git­i­mate leader in the De­mo­c­ra-tic Party. Re­pub­li­cans are thrilled to treat it that way in the march to 2020, as their set-piece ex­am­ple of what De­moc­rats would do to the econ­omy and av­er­age Amer­i­cans if given con­trol. The Green New Deal en­cap­su­lates every­thing Amer­i-cans fear from gov­ern­ment, all in one bonkers res­o­lu­tion.

It is for starters, a mas­sive plan for the gov­ern­ment to take over and mi­cro­man­age much the econ­omy. Take the cen­tral plank, its dik­tat of pro­duc­ing 100% of U.S. elec­tric­ity “through clean, re­new­able, and zero-emis­sion en­ergy sources” by 2030. As Ron Bai­ley at Rea­son has noted, a 2015 plan from Stan­ford en­vi­sion­ing the goal called for the in­stal­la­tion of 154,000 off­shore wind tur-bines, 335,000 on­shore wind tur­bines, 75 mil­lion res­i­den­tial pho­to­voltaic (so­lar) sys­tems, 2.75 mil­lion com­mer­cial so­lar sys­tems, and 46,000 util­ity-scale so­lar fa­cil­i­ties. AOC has been clear it will be gov­ern­ment build­ing all this, not the pri­vate sec­tor.

And that might be the easy part. Ac­cord­ing to an ac­com­pa­ny-ing fact sheet, the Green New Deal would also get rid of com­bus­tion en­gines, “build charg­ing sta­tions every­where,” “up­grade or re­place every build­ing in U.S.,” do the same with all “in­frastructure,” and criss­cross the na­tion with “high-speed rail.”

Buried in the de­tails, the Green New Deal also promises gov­ern­ment con­trol of the most fun­da­men­tal as­pects of pri­vate life. The fact sheet ex­plains why the res­o­lu­tion doesn’t call for “ban­ning fos­sil fu­els” or for “zero” emis­sions across the en­tire econ­omy—at least at first. It’s be­cause “we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of fart­ing cows and air­planes that fast” (em­pha­sis mine).

This is an ac­knowl­edg­ment that planes don’t run on any­thing but fos­sil fuel. No jet fuel, no trips to see granny. It’s also an ac­knowl-edg­ment that live­stock pro­duce meth­ane, which has led cli­mate alarmists to en­gage in “meat­less Mon­days.” AOC may not prove able to erad­i­cate “fully” every fam­ily Christ­mas or strip of ba­con in a decade, but that’s the goal.

Fi­nally, the res­o­lu­tion is De­mo­c­ra­tic math at its best. It leaves out a price tag, and is equally vague on what kind of taxes would be needed to cover the cost. But it would run to tens of tril­lions of dol­lars. The fact sheet as­serts the cost shouldn’t worry any­one, since the Fed­eral Re­serve can just “ex­tend credit” to these projects! And “new pub­lic banks can be cre­ated to ex­tend credit,” too! And Amer­i-cans will get lots of “shared pros­per­ity” from their “in­vest-ments.” À la Solyn­dra.

At least some De­moc­rats seem to be aware of what a dan­ger this is, which is why Ms. Pelosi threw some cold wa­ter on the Green New Deal this week. They should be scared. Ms. Oca­sio-Cortez is a freight train gain­ing speed by the day—and help­ing Re­pub­li­cans with every pass­ing minute.

It’s Time to End Unclassified Threat Briefings

It’s Time to End Unclassified Threat Briefings
January 31, 2019Fred Fleitz

Originally published by National Review:

Headlines are in the news today stating that top U.S. intelligence officials “contradicted” President Trump at yesterday’s briefing of the intelligence community’s annual worldwide threat report to the Senate Intelligence Committee. The intelligence chiefs differed with President Trump and his senior officials in finding that North Korea does not plan to give up its nuclear weapons, that Iran is technically in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, and that ISIS has not been defeated. The intelligence chiefs offered other assessments that matched Trump administration policies such as stating that Russia, Iran and China plan to meddle in the 2020 elections and a strong warning that China is growing as a cyber and intelligence threat.

Since Congress is an independent branch of government and is responsible for oversight of the executive, it is entirely appropriate for our intelligence agencies to provide Congress with annual worldwide threat briefings. The problem is, when these briefings are unclassified and public, they tend to interfere with presidential foreign-policy decision-making and provide valuable information to America’s adversaries on U.S. intelligence assessments.

When the unclassified worldwide threat report said that North Korea is “unlikely to give up” its nuclear weapons, the intelligence community was not just repeating the view of the foreign-policy establishment it was telling the world that it believes the president’s North Korea policy will likely fail. This violates the U.S. intelligence community’s mandate to inform but not prescribe presidential policy. Moreover, such a public assessment is inappropriate while U.S. diplomats are engaged in negotiations with North Korea and in the run-up to a second Trump-Kim summit.
The worldwide threat briefing’s findings on Iran’s nuclear program, meanwhile, were blatantly political and misleading. For example, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said: “We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.” CIA Director Gina Haspel claimed concerning the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran: “At the moment technically they [Iran] are in compliance.”

These findings reflect the Intelligence Community’s record of bias in its assessments of rogue-state WMD programs after the Iraq War and a refusal to objectively assess Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. To reach these findings, the intelligence community had to pretend that Iran’s ongoing uranium enrichment and its efforts to develop advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges have nothing to do with nuclear-weapons development. Iran also clearly is not in compliance with the nuclear deal since it refuses to allow the IAEA to inspect military bases where it likely is engaged in nuclear-weapons work.

Haspel and Coats (and the threat report) also failed to mention that Israel found a warehouse of nuclear equipment and radioactive materials in Tehran earlier this year — that the IAEA refused to inspect so it would not have to find Iran in noncompliance with the nuclear deal.

In fact, classified and unclassified evidence that Iran has not given up its nuclear weapons program and is violating the nuclear deal is very strong. As national-security adviser John Bolton told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month: “Despite getting out of the Iran nuclear deal, despite the sanctions, we have little doubt that Iran’s leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons.”

America’s intelligence agencies were not created to publicly criticize or offer rebuttals to the president’s foreign-policy initiatives. They are not supposed to be a “check” on presidential decision-making — that is Congress’s role. For the U.S. intelligence community to effectively perform its role informing presidential national-security decision-making, it has to be credible and trustworthy. Public spectacles like yesterday’s worldwide threat briefing make America less safe: They undermine the president’s trust in his intelligence agencies and make him less willing to listen to or consult with intelligence officials.

Public, unclassified worldwide threat briefings by U.S. intelligence officials to Congress therefore must end. Congress could still perform its responsibility overseeing U.S. intelligence agencies by holding classified worldwide threat hearings, provided that members of Congress do not leak information from these briefings to the press.

General Mattis Resignation Letter

Here’s Exactly What Mattis Said to Trump
GOP Presidential Staff December 21, 2018 Government

Dear Mr. President:

I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.

I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.

I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.

I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.