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Monday, November 20, 2017

The Trump Doctrine: Making Nuclear Weapons Usable Again

















By Michael T. Klare
TomDispatch

Nov 19, 2017 - Maybe you thought America’s nuclear arsenal, with its thousands of city-busting, potentially civilization-destroying thermonuclear warheads, was plenty big enough to deter any imaginable adversary from attacking the U.S. with nukes of their own. Well, it turns out you were wrong.

The Pentagon has been fretting that the arsenal is insufficiently intimidating.  After all -- so the argument goes -- it’s filled with old (possibly unreliable) weapons of such catastrophically destructive power that maybe, just maybe, even President Trump might be reluctant to use them if an enemy employed smaller, less catastrophic nukes on some future battlefield.  Accordingly, U.S. war planners and weapons manufacturers have set out to make that arsenal more “usable” in order to give the president additional nuclear “options” on any future battlefield.  (If you’re not already feeling a little tingle of anxiety at this point, you should be.)  While it’s claimed that this will make such assaults less likely, it’s all too easy to imagine how such new armaments and launch plans could actually increase the risk of an early resort to nuclear weaponry in a moment of conflict, followed by calamitous escalation.

That President Trump would be all-in on making the American nuclear arsenal more usable should come as no surprise, given his obvious infatuation [1] with displays of overwhelming military strength.  (He was thrilled [2] when, last April, one of his generals ordered, for the first time, the most powerful nonnuclear weapon the U.S. possesses dropped [3] in Afghanistan.)  Under existing nuclear doctrine, as imagined by the Obama administration back in 2010, this country was to use nuclear weapons [4] only “in extreme circumstances” to defend the vital interests of the country or of its allies.  Prohibited was the possibility of using them as a political instrument to bludgeon weaker countries into line.  However, for Donald Trump, a man who has already threatened [5] to unleash on North Korea “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” such an approach is proving far too restrictive. He and his advisers, it seems, want nukes that can be employed at any potential level of great-power conflict or brandished as the apocalyptic equivalent of a giant club to intimidate lesser rivals.

Making the U.S. arsenal more usable requires two kinds of changes in nuclear policy: altering existing doctrine to eliminate conceptional restraints on how such weapons may be deployed in wartime and authorizing the development and production of new generations of nuclear munitions capable, among other things, of tactical battlefield strikes.  All of this is expected to be incorporated into the administration’s first nuclear posture review (NPR), to be released by the end of this year or early in 2018.

Its exact contents won’t be known until then -- and even then, the American public will only gain access to the most limited version of a largely classified document.  Still, some of the NPR’s features are already obvious from comments made by the president and his top generals.  And one thing is clear: restraints on the use of such weaponry in the face of a possible weapon of mass destruction of any sort, no matter its level of destructiveness, will be eliminated and the planet’s most powerful nuclear arsenal will be made ever more so. 

Altering the Nuclear Mindset

The strategic guidance provided by the administration’s new NPR is likely to have far-reaching consequences.  As John Wolfsthal, former National Security Council director for arms control and nonproliferation, put it [6] in a recent issue of Arms Control Today, the document will affect “how the United States, its president, and its nuclear capabilities are seen by allies and adversaries alike.  More importantly, the review establishes a guide for decisions that underpin the management, maintenance, and modernization of the nuclear arsenal and influences how Congress views and funds the nuclear forces.”

With this in mind, consider the guidance [7] provided by that Obama-era nuclear posture review.  Released at a moment when the White House was eager to restore America’s global prestige in the wake of George W. Bush’s widely condemned invasion of Iraq and just six months after the president had won [8] the Nobel Prize for his stated determination to abolish such weaponry, it made nonproliferation the top priority.  In the process, it downplayed the utility of nuclear weapons under just about any circumstances on just about any imaginable battlefield.  Its principal objective, it claimed, was to reduce “the role of U.S. nuclear weapons in U.S. national security.”

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Explained: Alt-right, Alt-light and US Militias

 














A white supremacist wearing symbols of the Traditionalist Worker Party bangs marches in Charlottesville on August 12 [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

By Al-Jazeera News

Oct 13, 2017 -With the rising prominence of groups such as the alt-right throughout US President Donald Trump's campaign and election, differentiating between the various currents that comprise the American far right has become challenging.


Media outlets and political commentators have struggled to define the parameters, often inaccurately labelling high-profile far-right figures as part of the alt-right.

Al Jazeera has broken down some of the factions of the American far right, explaining their similarities and differences. 


Alt-right


The alt-right is a loosely knit coalition of far-right groups that includes populists, white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates and neo-Nazis. Many alt-rightists promote various forms of white supremacy, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

The term "alt-right" was first coined by US white supremacist Richard Spencer in 2008 to provide an alternative to the neoconservative politics that dominated the Republican Party establishment in recent decades.

Shortly after Trump's November 2016 victory in the presidential elections, the movement became a household name in the US when Spencer led an audience in chants as they performed Nazi-like salutes. Spencer roared: "Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!"
Richard Spencer's appearance at Texas A&M University in December prompted counter-protests.


The movement promotes what it calls "white identitarianism", a worldview that advocates European racial and cultural hegemony. Alt-rightists often cite racial science as vindication for their views.

Researchers and experts note that sexism is as integral to the alt-right as racism, pointing out that there are few females among the cadres of the movement. One exception is Brittany Pettibone, a contributor at AltRight.com and Red Ice, a Sweden-based white nationalist video and podcast platform.

Among the groups involved in the movement are: Spencer's think tank, the National Policy Institute; the National Socialist Movement; the neo-Confederate League of the South; Identity Evropa, the white supremacist group and, among others, the neo-Nazi organisation Vanguard America.

Online organising made the alt-right's success possible.

The key websites are: AltRight.com; the Occidental Dissent blog; the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website; Radix Journal; the Counter-Currents website and the Right Stuff blog, among others.

The alt-right has many connections to groups in Europe, many of which predate the movement.

Some prominent figures within the alt-right are: Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin; the Right Stuff's Mike Peinovich; Identity Evropa's Nathan Damigo; former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke; Traditional Worker Party's Matthew Heimbach and Swedish businessman Daniel

The alt-light is a term used to describe a comparably moderate group of far-right figures, organisations and websites.

Unlike the alt-right's call for a white ethnostate, the alt-light promotes a hardline version of American nationalism and often eschews the openly racist and white supremacist politics advocated by the alt-right. Much of the alt-light's positions are predicated on support for President Trump.

The most prominent website on the alt-light is Breitbart News, a far-right blog headed by Steve Bannon, who briefly served as Trump's top strategist. Another increasingly important alt-light publication is Rebel Media, a Canada-based website founded by right-wing media figure Ezra Levant.

Some of the most important personalities within the alt-light include: provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos; media personality Gavin McInnes; journalist and activist Lauren Southern; social media figure Mike Cernovich; media personality Alex Jones and conspiracy theorist Jack Prosobiec.

Yiannopoulous used to be the technology editor at Breitbart News, but he was fired after public uproar over comments he made defending pedophilia. Recently, he has hosted anti-Muslim rallies and "free speech" events. He often verbally attacks immigrants, trans people and feminists.

McInnes co-founded Vice Media and later left the company in 2008. Most recently, he hosted a Rebel Media online programme. He also founded the Proud Boys, a far-right group that describes itself as "Western chauvinist" and opposes feminism. The Proud Boys often brag about seeking out physical confrontations with anti-fascists, known as Antifa.

There are also several conspiracy theory websites that fall within the sphere of the alt-light. The most well-known is InfoWars, hosted by Alex Jones. In 2015, Trump, who was a presidential candidate at the time, appeared on InfoWars and was interviewed by Jones.

Many alt-light groups argue against the alt-right, while others have participated in the same rallies and events as alt-rightists.


Militia groups

Most militia organisations describe themselves as "patriot" groups. The largest and most active of the militia groups are the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters. Member of these groups often attend rallies armed with assault rifles and wearing bullet proof vests.

While it is difficult to know the exact number of people involved in these organisations, the Oath Keepers claims to have tens of thousands of members nationwide.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Military Times Poll: What You Really Think about Trump



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By Leo Shane III
Military Times


Oct. 24, 2017 -  Trump enjoys far stronger support among members of the military than the American public at large, according to the latest scientific Military Times poll.

Yet while Trump is especially popular among enlisted troops, officers have a much lower opinion of him.

And women and minorities in the ranks share similar skepticism.
Overall, about 44 percent of all troops surveyed in the Military Times poll have a favorable view of Trump, while roughly 40 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. That’s a stark contrast to opinion polls of the general public, which have shown Trump’s popularity at less than 40 percent and an unfavorable rating as high as 56 percent.

Yet, the poll of more than 1,100 active-duty troops, conducted in September, shows a deep divide over service members’ opinions of the commander in chief, whose first nine months in office have been marked by military policies that have drawn both praise and concern from Pentagon leaders.

While almost 48 percent of enlisted troops approve of Trump, only about 30 percent of officers say the same, the poll shows.

When asked specifically about Trump’s handling of military policies, about 55 percent of all troops surveyed rated Trump’s policies as favorable, versus 26 percent unfavorable.
The poll was conducted before the latest controversy surrounding Trump’s handling of phone calls to the families of fallen service members.

Troops’ views on Trump have changed very little since he was elected last year.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The U.S. is Ready to ‘Fight Tonight’ but South Koreans Reject War as the Solution to North Korean Threats

Endless tension and the threat of conflict may make politicians sound tough and boost defense stocks, but many in South Korea are deeply tired of all this.

By Jon Letman
The Daily Beast

July 12, 2017 - SEOUL— Strolling the gingko tree-lined side streets of central Seoul it’s easy to see why the prospect of war with North Korea is so unappealing. Generations of hard-working South Koreans have transformed theirs into a nation nothing short of remarkable. Koreans have overcome 35 years of Japanese colonialism, the devastating Korean War, dictatorships, and episodic political violence to build a hyper-modern nation with thriving arts, education, science, and hi-tech industries that rival anywhere in East Asia.

After surviving one of democracy’s greatest tests—the peaceful but forced removal of a corrupt head of state—the Republic of Korea (ROK) emerged from its candlelight revolution with a new liberal president and a sense of hope: a shining yang to the isolated North’s yin.
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To ponder war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is to consider the destruction of all the South has built in spite of 70 years of division. A military conflict between the two would be, even by U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ own admission, “catastrophic... the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”

But even as Pyongyang accelerates the pace of testing increasingly deadly weapons and the means to deliver them and as Washington refuses to budge on provocative U.S.-ROK war games that include “decapitation strikes” and responds to North Korean threats with long-range heavy bomber flyovers, a significant number of South Koreans are militantly anti-military, and want their leaders to flex their diplomatic muscles, not their missiles.

Although largely under-reported in Western media, South Korea has a highly energized peace movement that continues to push back against the U.S.-ROK military alliance preparing for war.

On May 24, International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, five South Korean NGOs organized a women’s peace symposium in Seoul that drew around 80 (mostly Korean) women and a handful of men together to discuss alternatives to war and how to shift the paradigm away from permanent war footing.

In 2015, an international peace group, Women Cross DMZ, held similar symposia in Pyongyang and in Seoul and again in Seoul in 2016. The 2017 symposium was followed by a march of around 800 people along a barbed wire-lined trail following the Imjin River which flows through the DMZ north of Seoul. “This event [was] for Korean unification—life, peace, and co-existence,” said organizer Ahn-Kim Jeong-ae.

Aiyoung Choi, a member of Women Cross DMZ, who has participated all three years, said the primary goal of the march was to raise awareness of “the increasingly urgent need for peace on the Peninsula through a genuine peace treaty.” Dressed in symbolic all white, Choi added, “Where [there] is no peace, you begin to think you are being threatened all the time.”

Saturday, June 10, 2017

‘Borderfree Scarves’ and Courage for Peace

 

Report from Kathy Kelly

Beaver County Peace Links via Z Communications
 
When activists like me return from visiting the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul, Afghanistan, young seamstresses there often entrust each of us with about fifty sky-blue scarves. The word “Borderfree” is carefully embroidered, in English, on one end of each scarf; on the opposite side, they’ve stitched the translation in Dari, the language they speak. The scarves express their yearning to end four decades of war in Afghanistan, a land dominated by ruthless warlords. 

“We are the generation who must try to put an end to all war and violence,” wrote Nematullah, an Afghan Peace Volunteers member who teaches children from internally displaced families. His students, most of them displaced by war, live in a wretched refugee camp. 

Nematullah wrote in response to my anxious inquiry following a truck bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 31, which killed more than 150 people. Pictures from Kabul’s “Emergency Surgical Center for Victims of War” showed the staff ministering to hundreds of survivors, people who suffered burns, lacerations, wounds, and amputations.
Happily, the letter brought good news. “We’re all safe,” wrote Hakim, who mentors the Afghan Peace Volunteers. “Yet we don’t want to ‘get used’ to life in a war zone. War is brutal, and begets more war, again and again.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Don’t Fall for the Washington War Hawks’ Iranophobia



Their demands for war and regime change should be ignored.


By Danny Sjursen
The Nation

“Everywhere you look, if there is trouble in the region,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters on a mid-April visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, “you find Iran.”

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.

I must admit that when I stumbled across that quote it brought up uncomfortable personal memories.

East Baghdad, January 25, 2007: My patrol had missed a turn and so we swung onto the next grimy avenue instead. As platoon leader, I rode shotgun in the second of our four vehicles, yakking away on the radio. The ensuing explosion rocked the senses: the sound, the blinding dust, and the smell—a mix of burnt metal and, well… I still can’t bring myself to describe it.

Our lead HMMWV, a military utility vehicle, aimlessly swerved right and came to rest beside a telephone pole. Only then did the screams begin.

The “cost” would be two wounded and two dead: my then-unborn son’s namesakes, Spc. Michael Balsley and Sergeant Alexander Fuller. These were our first, but not last, fatalities. Nothing was ever the same again. I’m reminded of poet Dylan Thomas’s line: “After the first death, there is no other.”

The local militia had shredded our truck with an advanced type of improvised explosive device that was then just hitting the streets of Baghdad—an explosively formed projectile, or EFP. These would ultimately kill hundreds of American troops. Those EFPs and the requisite training to use them were provided to Iraqi militias by the Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s a detail I’m not likely to forget.

Still, there’s one major problem with bold, sweeping pronouncements (laced with one’s own prejudices) of the sort Secretary of Defense Mattis recently offered on Iran: They’re almost always wrong. It’s the essential flaw of “lumping”—that is, of folding countless events or ideas into one grand theory. But, boy, does it sound profound! The truth is that Iran is simply not behind most of the turmoil in the Middle East, and until Washington’s policymakers change their all-Iran-all-the-time mental model, they are doomed to failure. One thing is guaranteed: They are going to misdiagnose the patient and attack the wrong disease.

Look, I’m emotionally invested myself. After all, I fought Iranian-trained militiamen, but a serious, workable national strategy shouldn’t rely on such emotion. It demands a detached, rational calculus. With that in mind, perhaps this is the moment—before the misdiagnosis sets in further—to take a fresh look at the nature of America’s thorny relationship with Iran and the Islamic Republic’s true place in the pantheon of American problems in the Greater Middle East.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trump’s Budget Expands Global War on the Backs of the American Poor



By Benjamin Dangl
Common Dreams

May 23, 2017 - The U.S. defense budget is already roughly the size of the next eleven largest national military budgets combined.
It is fitting that while President Trump is traveling the world, sealing a weapons deal with Saudi Arabia, he would drop his own kind of bomb on the American people: his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, titled, of course, “The New Foundation for American Greatness.”

“This Budget’s defining ambition is to unleash the dreams of the American people,” Trump writes in his 62-page plan, released today.

Trump’s dream for America is a nightmare for the working class.

The budget proposes deep cuts to government support for the poor, including slashing over $800 billion from Medicaid, $192 billion from food assistance, $272 billion from welfare programs, $72 billion from disability benefits, and ending programs that provide financial support for poor college students.

While cutting government assistance for working class Americans, the budget notably beefs up annual military spending by 10%, to the tune of $639 billion.
The US defense budget is already roughly the size of the next eleven largest national military budgets combined.