Category Archives: Foreign Policy

Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 6 of 6)

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

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A Leader in the World

Asia-Pacific

Ignoring for a moment that the platform calls India “an important Pacific power”–Geography Check: Google Maps has the minimum distance from India to the Pacific Ocean as about 750 miles–the focus of this section is on improving relations with India while getting China to play fairly. I do sense a disconnect between the standard–since Woodrow Wilson–party policy of self-determination and the mention of supporting the “One China” policy regarding Taiwan. I’m also not happy that they ignored the current problems with border disputes in the region.

Middle East

Most of this section talks about Israel, and the Democratic platform is solidly pro-Israel. I know, for many reasons, that this has to be the default U.S. position, but I would like to see at least some trivial pushback Israel’s role in the stalled negotiations with the Palestinians. (I am hopeful that Netanyahu’s recent meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister is a sign of long overdue process.) The main thing missing in the platform is a call for more direct U.S. involvement in negotiations.

Europe

Essentially, all this is a statement of how important NATO is to U.S. security. I think they really missed an opportunity to talk about fighting against growing sectarianism and xenophobia in many European countries.

Americas

Besides emphasizing the anti-Trump position of opposing the wall that will never work, the message here is pretty good. I think reestablishing relations with Cuba was the right thing to do and continuing to move forward on that front is important. Venezuela is paying the price for its policies, and there is nothing in the platform that indicates a willingness to help them recover, just a call for their government to respect human rights and democracy. I would like to see more emphasis on helping to improve the economies of the Americas through strategic investments and infrastructure improvements, as I feel this is one of the best ways to control illegal immigration: People won’t want to leave home if they can find good jobs.

Africa

I would like to see an effort for the U.S. to emulate some methods of Chinese aid to Africa–notably, adding more commercial development–while pushing back against Chinese aid that ignores environmental concerns. Overall, it would be best if we could find some middle ground between traditional Western aid and Chinese aid and cooperate while competing. As in the rest of the world, I think we should focus charitable assistance on making sure all girls have an opportunity for an education.

Global Economy and Institutions

“Stay the course,” while (correctly) slamming Trump.

I am not happy with the way global economic institutions–namely the World Bank and International Monetary Fund–handled Greece. Yes, Greece did a horrible job of managing its finances, but the World Bank and IMF made the problem worse by calling for cuts without calling for the right cuts. Greece needed to maintain spending on infrastructure and cut spending on entitlements, but due to public pressure they initially cut infrastructure spending. This made bad economic problems much worse.

The World Bank and IMF need to shift focus from money to the larger economy. It’s better for banks to fail than for businesses to fail because the transportation and communications infrastructures in a country fail.


The main message of the Democratic platform, in my opinion, is that we are on the right track, but we need some tweaks. There is a lack of innovation and creativity. There’s nothing here that would make me excited to become a Democrat.

Frankly, the platform is boring. There are places where some imagination would go a long way toward engaging voters. Targeting Wall Street directly would help. Recommending some changes to the education system–besides adopting the NEA talking points–might attract more voters. Heck, even pumping up the Peace Corps and Job Corps would show young voters that the party wants to create more opportunities for them while helping the world.

I hope Bernie Sanders can shake things up a bit before this platform is finalized, but I am not hopeful.

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Democratic Party Platform – 2016 Draft (Part 5 of 6)

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4

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Confront Global Threats

Terrorism

As I see it, the Democratic platform addresses half of the problem. Yes, we need to assemble and maintain an international coalition to defeat ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups. Yes, it would be nice to end the Syrian Civil War in a manner that gets Assad out of power. Yes, we need to work with the international community to help the refugees in and around Syria.

The last of these is particularly important. We need to show those who currently hate the U.S. and Western culture that we aren’t the bad guys. We shouldn’t be known primarily as the ones dropping bombs and guiding drones. We should be known as the ones opening hospitals and schools, as helping farmers and small businesses, and as the ones making them feel safe.

The big picture is that too many people in the world feel hopeless. Hopeless people don’t see a problem with blowing themselves up, because they don’t think they have any reason to live. So, we should invest in schools, making especially sure that girls are getting educated. Make sure teenage girls have pads so they don’t miss several days of school every month. If girls are educated, they have fewer children, if for no other reason than they know where babies come from. Fewer children means more opportunity and resources for the children that are born. And, most importantly, hope. This isn’t a problem that can be fixed overnight, but it could be fixed in one generation.

Iran, North Korea, and Russia

Decent sections, but essentially all they really say is “stay the course.” The position on Iran is to strengthen “our Gulf partners,” which I fear only exacerbates the Sunni-Shi’a conflict. The platform complains about human rights in Iran while ignoring the horrible human rights record of Saudi Arabia. It complains about Iran contributing to terrorist organizations while ignoring Saudi Arabia doing the same. Unfortunately, the Saudis are instrumental in our anti-Russia strategy: By keeping the supply of oil high, we have severely injured Putin’s economy. So, it’s complex, as usual.

Cybersecurity

Democrats will protect our industry, infrastructure, and government from cyberattacks. We will strengthen our cybersecurity, seek to establish global norms in cyberspace, and impose consequences on those who violate the rules. We will do all this while protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the American people.

No, you won’t. Until the Democratic Party realizes that privacy and encryption are two sides of the same coin, they cannot be trusted to defend the online “privacy and civil liberties of the American people.” Effective encryption is one of the best ways to protect from cyberattacks, and the recently defeated Feinstein-Burr bill would have crippled encryption, making U.S. industry and the government more vulnerable to attack.

Elect some people who know technology. Hire some people who know technology. Don’t have technophobic senior citizens draft technology legislation.

Non-proliferation

The U.S. has made no progress toward nuclear disarmament since the 2010 New START, but relations with Putin would have made any progress difficult at best. The world is under 4,000 deployed warheads, and is on a downward track. It looks like proliferation is under control, with the exception of North Korea, as most countries with nuclear weapons, besides the U.S., Russia, United Kingdom, and France, do not have deployed nuclear weapons. It would take a while to activate and use those warheads.

I think we are getting to the point where the majority–90%+–of nuclear weapons could be secured to make them unusable without advance notice. For example, we could create a locking system that operates on a seven-day timer, where when the lock is started to be opened, the United Nations is notified. This, at least, would give countries a chance to come down from the brink prior to launch. I would suggest that a small number of warheads would remain unlocked as a deterrent to the one nuclear rogue state (North Korea), but if the North Koreans come into compliance, even that might not be needed.

I haven’t had coursework in nuclear proliferation in twenty-five years, so I am rusty on the subject.

Protect Our Values

By values, they mean inclusion and tolerance, which makes sense, to a point. I’m a fan of reciprocity: If you’re intolerant, I’m not terribly interested in tolerating your intolerance. If you or your group doesn’t believe that others should have the same rights and privileges that you have, I’m not terribly interested in protecting your advantage. My primary value is fairness. Without fairness, inclusion and tolerance don’t mean very much.

Women and Girls

As I said above, education is key here. I get why the platform puts such great importance on safe abortion for women abroad, as the restrictions currently in place are heavy-handed, but I’m not sure this is where I choose to fight my battles this election cycle.

Trafficking and Modern Slavery

There isn’t anything controversial here. I can’t see the Republicans thinking much differently.

Young People

I am cynical enough to believe this is self-serving, as younger people are generally more progressive. Having said that, this agrees with what I said above about the importance of education.

Religious Minorities

The difference between the Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans are mostly interested in protecting Christian religious minorities, and are fairly heartless toward Muslims.

Refugees

If your neighbors are in trouble, you help them. Republican policy toward Syrian refugees has been “Help yourselves–not our problem”…or worse. The Democrats are right on this one.

Civil Society

Democrats support progress towards more accountable governance and universal rights.

No argument there.

Anti-Corruption

I like what they say, but I don’t trust them to back up words with actions. Too many Wall Street people love their offshore tax havens for me to believe that the Democratic Party will make reasonable progress toward shutting them down.

Prove me wrong. Please.

Torture

The platform is unequivocal in its opposition to torture, and I agree. When I researched this issue years ago, I managed to find one case where torture actually worked: A carjacker stole a car with a baby in the back and abandoned the car in the summer sun. The carjacker was caught shortly thereafter and the police beat him until he told them where the car was, allowing them to save the baby. Having said that, most information acquired via torture is unreliable, so it should never be an official government policy. Even in the case I found, the police were willing to pay the price for torturing the carjacker, because it was worth it to save the baby (as it turned out, the carjacker took a plea bargain to avoid the kidnapping charge, so the police weren’t charged).

Closing Guantánamo Bay

Imprisoning people without charges for over a decade is wrong. Period. There is no declared war, and we have pulled most troops out of Afghanistan. If they are still a threat, charge them and move them to American prisons. If not, release them and let them go home.

Development Assistance

Yes! Americans routinely overestimate how much of the budget is spent on foreign aid: Most people think it is 25%, as opposed to the actual 1% of the budget. Money spent on foreign aid makes people like us, and, in most cases, it really doesn’t cost us anything, as there is a solid return on investment. For non-military aid, every dollar spent in aid results in seven dollars of economic activity in the U.S. economy. If this is taxed at the lowest standard rate of 15%, we break even.

International Labor

Democrats are right on this one as well. We need to make sure American companies aren’t exploiting lax foreign labor and environmental regulations to increase profits.


Tomorrow, I will cover the last section, “A Leader in the World,” as international relations is one of my strongest subjects.

Last night, I went to the Chattanooga FC match where they won the conference championship. The best thing about the night is that I let my daughter go where she wanted in the stadium, under my standard directive “Go talk to strangers!” People are good. She made new friends, and we had a great time. Get out of your bubbles and meet new people–especially those who are different from your current friends. Make the world a better place, one friend at a time.

CFC

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Isolationism or Globalism? Fear or Friendship?

Yesterday morning I heard a story on the BBC about how people in emerging countries tended to identify as global citizens, while people in industrialized countries were more nationalist. At the time I heard the story, I thought this was a positive story, but now I am not so sure. First, a little background…

I got my bachelor’s degree in international relations, which required me to spend years studying foreign policy. I focused on studying negotiations and decision-making strategies, which also required me to study people. One safe assumption to make in most negotiations is to assume that both parties are selfish. Most of the time, when someone is acting in a manner that makes them appear altruistic, they are simply trading short-term selflessness for long-term selfishness. This is most easily seen in environmental negotiations: Countries sacrifice short-term economics for a long-term ecological gain.

People in industrialized countries, like the U.S. and in Europe, tend to be nationalist because they want to keep what they have and not divide their wealth with the rest of the world. People in emerging countries are willing to share what they have in the hope to get a larger slice of the pie from the industrialized world. Both viewpoints are selfish–but both are important.

Industrialized countries should give more to emerging countries to help them grow, but there is a limit. If you have a working car, you shouldn’t give away a wheel to help a friend make a wheelbarrow, because that cripples your personal economy. You are both better off using your car to help your friend. Industrialized countries should use their economic might to help emerging countries, but many of these ways are unpopular with their citizens, again, because of selfishness. People don’t want to see their companies opening factories in other countries. They don’t want them buying from suppliers in other countries. Unfortunately, it’s usually a case of shortsightedness. If you build their economies today, they become better customers tomorrow.

Yesterday, Donald Trump gave his first foreign policy speech. He starts by setting his guiding principle:

“My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else. It has to be first. Has to be.”

He then goes into military spending, saying that we need to “rebuild our military.” The U.S. does spend over one-third of the global military budget, more than the next eleven countries combined. Personally, I think that’s enough. He then complains that only 4 of 28 NATO countries meet their spending obligations.

“The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.”

He almost immediately follows this with:

“(O)ur friends are beginning to think they can’t depend on us.”

You threaten to abandon them one moment then claim that they can’t depend on us? Really? The speech is a rambling mess of inconsistencies. One moment he’s wanting more use of power, the next he’s an isolationist. There really aren’t any specifics, which leads me to believe he will be shooting from the hip. Brilliant.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a globalist. I believe the best thing we can do for the American economy is to grow the global economy. The best way to turn enemies into friends is to engage them, not isolate them. You can disagree with your neighbor about his dog coming into your yard without banning him from the block party. Yes, we will always have disagreements with people, and some people, like ISIS, simply are immune to reason. The overwhelming majority of the world wants the same thing: A safe, comfortable life.

If we work together, we can all have that.

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