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Ed Webb

State Department report will trim language on women's rights, discrimination - POLITICO - 0 views

  • State Department officials have been ordered to pare back passages in a soon-to-be-released annual report on global human rights that traditionally discuss women’s reproductive rights and discrimination, according to five former and current department officials.

    The directive calls for stripping passages that describe societal views on family planning, including how much access women have to contraceptives and abortion.

    Story Continued Below

    A broader section that chronicles racial, ethnic and sexual discrimination has also been ordered pared down, the current and former officials said.

  • The annual human rights document is the product of a long and painstaking process of compiling information from U.S. embassies. An often dryly written explanation of conditions in dozens of nations, it can nonetheless cast a harsh light on governmental and societal practices.
  • While coercive measures by governments are expected to continue to be chronicled in this year’s report, the current and former officials said, many other elements on reproductive rights will likely not be.
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  • The revisions could force State officials to miss the statutory deadline of Feb. 25 to release the report.
  • the late request is evidence of ongoing managerial problems at State, where many top positions remain unfilled and a small group of aides to Tillerson have centralized power while slowing decision-making. The human rights bureau is one of several still lacking an assistant secretary more than a year into Tillerson’s tenure
  • The human rights bureau also has been directed to cut back a broader section in the various country reports generally called “discrimination, societal abuses and trafficking in persons.” Along with women’s reproductive rights, that section touches on topics such as anti-Semitism or pressures on the gay and lesbian community. It also includes discrimination that's not necessarily government-sponsored.
  • Last year, Tillerson broke with tradition and chose not to personally unveil his department’s human rights report — dismaying activists and lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who believe human rights should be a pillar of U.S. foreign policy.
Ed Webb

Avalon Project - Truman Doctrine - 0 views

  • At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one.

    One way of life is based upon the will of the majority, and is distinguished by free institutions, representative government, free elections, guarantees of individual liberty, freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from political oppression.

    The second way of life is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio; fixed elections, and the suppression of personal freedoms.

    I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

    I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.

    I believe that our help should be primarily through economic and financial aid which is essential to economic stability and orderly political processes.

Ed Webb

Donald Trump's Year of Living Dangerously - POLITICO Magazine - 0 views

  • One year in, Trump’s much-vaunted national security team has not managed to tame the president or bring him around to their view of America’s leadership role in the world. Instead, it’s a group plagued by insecurity and infighting, publicly undercut by the president and privately often overruled by him. Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, is regularly reported by White House sources to be on his way out, with his demoralized, depleted State Department in outright rebellion. Meanwhile, the brawny military troika of White House chief of staff John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general; Defense Secretary James Mattis, another retired four-star Marine general; and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, a serving Army three-star general, has managed to stop the chaos of the administration’s early days while crafting a national security policy that gets more or less solid marks from establishment types in both parties. The problem is, no one’s sure Trump agrees with it.
  • sanctions remain in place despite, not because of, the White House, and sources tell me Trump personally is not on board with many of the more hawkish measures his team proposes to counter Putin, a fact underscored by his eyebrow-raising signing statement in December objecting to several tough-on-Russia provisions in a defense bill
  • The language of "principled realism" put forward by McMaster is so un-Trumpian that a top adviser who received a copy told a reporter it was simply “divorced from the reality” of the Trump presidency. “It’s the first time, maybe in history, key advisers have gone into the administration to stop the president, not to enable him,” says Thomas Wright, a Brookings scholar who has emerged as one of the most insightful analysts of Trump’s foreign policy
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  • One leading European official who came to town last January looking for answers told me that, at the time, the establishment types urged him to have “strategic patience”—not coincidentally the same phrase foreign policy hands used to use about North Korea’s nuclear program.

    By December, he was tired of waiting for Trump to improve. “When, finally, will this strategic patience pay off?” he asked.

  • Over their year of living dangerously with Trump, foreign leaders and diplomats have learned this much: The U.S. president was ignorant, at times massively so, about the rudiments of the international system and America’s place in it, and in general about other countries. He seemed to respond well to flattery and the lavish laying out of red carpets; he was averse to conflict in person but more or less immovable from strongly held preconceptions. And given the chance, he would respond well to anything that seemed to offer him the opportunity to flout or overturn the policies endorsed by his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

  • Another conversation, with Jared Kushner, the presidential son-in-law who had been given an expansive international portfolio ranging from restarting Middle East peace talks to dealing with Mexico and China, was just as troubling. Kushner was “very dismissive” about the role of international institutions and alliances and uninterested in the European’s recounting of how closely the United States had stood together with Western Europe since World War II. “He told me, ‘I’m a businessman, and I don’t care about the past. Old allies can be enemies, or enemies can be friends.’ So, the past doesn’t count,” the official recalled. “I was taken aback. It was frightening.”
  • The president really does see the world differently than his own national security adviser
  • “At least the first several months all of us in the building, we thought, ‘We’ve seen this movie before, it’s growing pains, we get it.’ But eventually it seemed clear this was no longer about transition, and this seemed to be about intent rather than incompetence and lack of staffing,” she says. By fall, the word in the Foggy Bottom halls was unequivocal: “The secretary has absolutely lost the building.”
  • for many the rebellion is just to quit, as Bennett has done, on the brink of serving as an ambassador for the first time in her career. On the day she left this fall, she was one of four acting assistant secretaries—all women in a field in which that is still rare—to resign. “I felt like half of my life was probably enough to serve given the climate within the department,” she says, “and given what appears to be such limited respect for expertise gained over long decades of service.”
  • disruptions with the NSC team, where McMaster grew to resent what he saw as Tillerson’s disdain for the interagency process the national security adviser oversees, and by the time the strains on Tillerson’s relationship with Trump became publicly evident over the summer, the secretary of state was losing his remaining internal defenders. The two, said an outside adviser, are now fundamentally at odds. “McMaster and Tillerson are in a death struggle,” he said, “each of them trying to get rid of the other.”
  • I recently met a senior general of a U.S. ally at a conference. What was it like to deal with Trump’s government, I asked? “It’s a vacuum, a void,” he said. “There’s a complete inability to get answers out of American counterparts who don’t know what policy is.” An international diplomat who has worked extensively on hot spots such as Afghanistan and Iraq told me he has been to Washington five or six times in recent months. His normal contacts at the State Department were so out of the loop, “Frankly, they were asking me, ‘What do you think the White House thinks?’”
  • Trump’s national security team and his allies are engaged in a silent conspiracy of sorts to guide and constrain him. America’s enemies in China and Russia have taken their measure of the man and are preparing to test him more decisively than they have yet ventured. Opportunists in the Middle East and elsewhere are taking what they can get. War talk with North Korea grows ever louder. And in Washington, the America Firsters have been purged from the White House staff—but not from the Oval Office itself.
  • “Nobody speaks for Trump,” he said. “He speaks for himself. The question is, are they allowed to do things notwithstanding? And the answer is yes, until he decides to pull the rug out from under them. Well, that’s the reality. That’s how this man works.”

    Isn’t that, I asked, an extraordinary statement of no confidence in the presidency they are supposed to serve?

    “It’s amazing,” he responded. “Look, the whole thing is amazing. We’ve never been here. But that’s where it is. So, at some point you have to sort of stop saying, you know, ‘This is terrible, it shouldn’t be this way.’ It is this way.”

Ed Webb

Marine Leaders Highlight Norway Unit's Role as Deterrent to Russia | Military.com - 0 views

  • Neller emphasized to the Marines that they should remain ready to fight at all times, predicting a "big-ass fight" on the horizon.

    "I hope I'm wrong, but there's a war coming," Neller said. " ... You're in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence."

    Neller later told the Marines that he expects the Pacific and Russia to be the service's operational points of focus as the nation looks beyond the fights in the Middle East that have stretched into the better part of two decades.

  • Russian officials, for their part, have been outspoken in opposing the presence of Marines in Norway and warning of diplomatic repercussions.

    Though Green did not name Russia, he referred to its displeasure at the Marines' presence nearby.

    "They don't like the fact that we oppose them, and we like the fact that they don't like the fact that we oppose them," Green said. "Three hundred of us, surrounded by them, we've got them right where we wanted, right? We've done this before."

Ed Webb

Tell me how Trump's North Korea gambit ends - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • Trump officials working on North Korea have developed the odd consensus that Pyongyang will use its nuclear arsenal to attempt a forcible reunification with South Korea. And if that is the goal, then time is running out for military options that would stop that from happening.
  • The Trump national security team seems convinced that North Korea cannot be deterred, and war is the inevitable outcome.
  • With the administration’s leading spokesman for diplomacy doing nothing but occupying negative space, that leaves the hawks planning a military option. This is disturbing, for two reasons. First, there is still a lot of room for coercive diplomacy, as Michael McFaul noted a few weeks ago.

    Second, for the life of me, I cannot conceive of a military option that would not lead to a catastrophic loss of life

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  • Maybe Trump’s national security team is trying to bluff its way into getting North Korea to back down. But having seen this White House shoot itself in the foot repeatedly, I now worry that Trump, Kelly and McMaster actually think there is a military solution.

    Someone smarter and better-informed than me needs to tell me how this ends. Because every time I try to game it out, a Trump-Kim confrontation ends with hell on Earth.

Ed Webb

The North Korea Debate Sounds Eerily Familiar - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • The Trump White House talking about North Korea sounds eerily and increasingly like the George W. Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq War. Officials make similar arguments about the necessity of acting against a gathering storm; proudly claim understanding of the adversary’s motivations; express frustration at countries that should be likewise alarmed at the problem not supporting American policy; and believe the sand is running out in the hourglass before military attacks are required. They admit no alternative interpretation of the facts. They are blithely dismissing enormous damage their policy would incur for regional allies. They seem innocent of understanding the disastrous and isolating consequences for America’s role in the world to choose preventive war rather than the moral heights of restraint in the face of threats.
  • Since administration policy treats North Korean leadership statements as actionable, that same rule ought to apply also to the American side. The administration’s statements strongly prejudice policy toward military action: They have not only drawn a red line, they’ve attached a countdown clock to it. President Trump will either fight a preventive war to disarm North Korea, or will be forced in humiliation fashion to dismantle a scaffold of his own construction, calling into question American security guarantees
  • Neither President Trump nor his Cabinet have done anywhere near the kind of spadework necessary to bring Americans along for a war that will require calling up reserve military forces, kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of South Koreans, reshape how the world views America, and consume all the political energy of the Trump presidency
Ed Webb

America's Forever Wars - The New York Times - 0 views

  • it’s time to take stock of how broadly American forces are already committed to far-flung regions and to begin thinking hard about how much of that investment is necessary, how long it should continue and whether there is a strategy beyond just killing terrorists. Which Congress, lamentably, has not done. If the public is quiet, that is partly because so few families bear so much of this military burden, and partly because America is not involved in anything comparable to the Vietnam War, when huge American casualties produced sustained public protest. It is also because Congress has spent little time considering such issues in a comprehensive way or debating why all these deployments are needed
  • President Trump, like his predecessor, insists that legislation passed in 2001 to authorize the war against Al Qaeda is sufficient. It isn’t. After the Niger tragedy, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee, has agreed to at least hold a hearing on the authorization issue.
  • “a collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.”
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  • 6,785 Afghan security force members died in 2016 and 2,531 died in the first five months this year, according to the United States and Afghan governments. Tens of thousands of civilians also perished at the hands of various combatants, including in 2017, but the figures get little publicity. Most Americans tend not to think about them.
  • Senators who balk at paying for health care and the basic diplomatic missions of the State Department approved a $700 billion defense budget for 2017-18, far more than Mr. Trump even requested.

    Whether this largess will continue is unclear. But the larger question involves the American public and how many new military adventures, if any, it is prepared to tolerate.

Ed Webb

Rex Tillerson Is Running the State Department Into the Ground - POLITICO Magazine - 0 views

  • over the past few months, I’ve watched as more and more of the brightest, most dedicated up-and-coming officers I know resign from their posts. The U.S. government is quietly losing its next generation of foreign policy leaders—an exodus that could undermine our institutions and interests for decades to come
  • Among the career officers who spoke most passionately in that Nov. 10 meeting about the importance of staying in government were people for whom the rhetoric of the Trump campaign felt personally searing, like some of my Muslim and African-American colleagues. And yet, on the day after the election, I watched those same individuals walk across the street to the U.N. to continue representing our country. It was one of the most patriotic acts I’ve ever seen
  • According to the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, of 148 senior positions at the State Department, only 28 officials have been confirmed, and in 80 of those positions, the Trump administration has not even put forward a nominee
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  • Under Haley, senior staff meetings are mostly limited to political appointees, several people who have left the U.S. Mission told me. The same pattern that holds across much of the State Department—when meetings are held at all
  • Experts on complex issues and regions have repeatedly found themselves left out of policy debates and drafting processes, as when Haley gave a speech in early September at the American Enterprise Institute that panned the Iran nuclear deal. Iran experts in the State Department, including those who had helped craft the agreement and knew its inner workings, were never even given a chance to review the speech, which contained multiple inaccuracies and whose arguments—in the words of the libertarian Cato Institute—“carefully skirted around the actual facts.”

  • as more people leave, fewer are coming in. In June 2017, the number of Americans who took the Foreign Service exam fell by 26 percent compared with June 2016, the lowest number in nearly a decade. So not only is the Trump administration losing some of the best diplomats from our current generation, but it is also failing to attract top talent from the next generation
  • it would be a mistake not to recognize their mounting departures for the serious problem it is. What makes our nation’s institutions strong is not just the core principles that have evolved over the course of our history, but the individuals who put those principles into practice, no matter who the president is. Our institutions will be effective in advancing our interests only if they can continue to attract and retain the public servants who represent what is best in us and in our country. That more and more of those individuals do not see a place for themselves in the Trump administration should concern us all
Ed Webb

Diplomats now laughing at Trump over leaked Mexico transcript | McClatchy Washington Bu... - 0 views

  • Seven months into the Trump administration, the world’s diplomatic community has gone from throwing its hands in the air to now leaning back in their chairs and laughing, albeit morosely, at Trump’s cringe-worthy display of diplomacy during the infancy of his presidency.
  • Since Trump took over, diplomats from the two countries have had so many meetings trying to smooth over their leaders differences that other Latin American and European governments are looking to Mexico for advice on dealing with the Trump administration.
  • the reality is that people expect more from the United States and any leader with a “shred of dignity” is not going to allow themselves to be spoken to in that way.
Ed Webb

President Trump's thoroughly confusing Fox Business interview, annotated - The Washingt... - 0 views

  • When you see that, I immediately called General Mattis.

    I said, what can we do?

    And they came back with a number of different alternatives.  And we hit them very hard.

    Now, are we going to get involved with Syria?

    No.  But if I see them using gas and using things that — I mean even some of the worst tyrants in the world didn't use the kind of gases that they used.  And some of the gases are unbelievably potent.

    So when I saw that, I said we have to do something.

  • people just don't see this, the level of brutality, the level of viciousness.
  • I was sitting at the table.  We had finished dinner.  We're now having dessert.  And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it.

    And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded, what do you do?

    And we made a determination to do it, so the missiles were on the way.  And I said, Mr. President, let me explain something to you.  This was during dessert.

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  • So what happens is I said we've just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq and I wanted you to know this. And he was eating his cake. And he was silent.
  • But I think he understood the message and I understood what he was saying to me.
Ed Webb

New Putin Doctrine Says U.S. Pressure 'Undermining' Global Stability - 1 views

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    UK and Netherlands no longer considered important in Russian strategy. Harsher language on US policy as threat to global security.
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