All posts by Jerrod A. Laber

Donald Trump has given too much power to his generals

President Trump has been a wildcard president so far — easily irritable, unpredictable and often openly defying norms of governance. But, his foreign policy has largely continued the status quo.

Writing in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues the Trump regime is “not a revolutionary administration.” In fact, he believes, “The broad lines of its policy fits easily within the last few decades […] his foreign policy has been remarkably unremarkable.” Everything from his cabinet appointments and his backtracking on NATO, to his attitude on China and his missile strike in Syria, points to an abandonment of his anti-establishment rhetoric from the campaign.

But there’s another trend at work in the Trump administration, too: decision-making at the Pentagon has been pushed further down the chain of command to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the military commanders below him. In a break from liberal tradition, power is actually being shifted away from the president. This not only has bad practical consequences, but risks setting a precedent that could change the nature of our institutions. The military could end up as essentially an autonomous agent, setting policy without public debate. This means military actions would be free of any political accountability.

Read the rest at Rare

Strong politicians and experts can’t solve all our country’s problems

Yascha Mounk, a fellow at the Transatlantic Academy and lecturer at Harvard University, appeared on the Ezra Klein Show podcast last week, where he discussed how support for democracy has consistently gone down over the last 30 years. Mounk’s research finds that Americans are growing increasingly cynical about democracy and liberal institutions. Explicit support for authoritarian alternatives is on the rise.

President Trump was able to exploit this tendency in the last election, as voters opted for a strongman who made bold promises that no president has the ability to keep. But support for Trump’s populism is driven by misunderstandings of economic policy and overestimations of what government is actually capable of in the economic realm.

Continue reading at the Washington Examiner

‘The Rock’ For President?

On the season finale of Saturday Night Live this past weekend, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson faux-announced that he would run for president in 2020, with actor Tom Hanks as his running mate. This came after an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon—a few days before his hosting of SNL—where he talked about the possibility of running for president. The idea has been making the rounds recently because of a profile in GQ, in which he was asked by the writer if he would consider ever running –– to which he answered yes.

Continue reading on The American Conservative

Worsening Somalia’s Drought: Blowback From US Policy

The eastern African country of Somalia is currently suffering from a drought that has lasted for more than two years. A drought in an underdeveloped agrarian country that also lacks basic sanitation systems means further complications stemming from a lack of food production, subsequent malnourishment, and outbreaks of bacterial diseases such as cholera.

In fact, Somalia is currently reporting 200-300 cases of cholera a day. It’s a treatable condition, but aid agencies are consistently stifled in getting affected Somalis the care they need because the worst areas hit by the outbreak are in the southern part of the country––areas controlled by a group called Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab is a radical Islamist militia that arose as a response to American covert operations in the country, as well as the US backed invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian forces in 2006.

Read more in CounterPunch

McCain’s Foreign Policy Record Not Representative of ‘American Values’

Arizona senator John McCain recently criticized Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for statements about sometimes setting aside American values in foreign policy. Tillerson said in an address to the State Department on March 3rd, that “if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values…it really creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests, our economic interests.” McCain responded in the New York Times by writing that “we are a country with a conscience….our values are our strength and greatest treasure. We have long believed moral concerns must be an essential part of our foreign policy, not a departure from it.”

McCain is absolutely right that all of our foreign policy decisions should be based on universal values of liberalism – freedom, equality, and a belief in the inherent dignity of all people. The problem is that McCain himself represents the worst in American foreign policy, and has championed some of the most inhumane foreign policy decisions of the last 30 years.


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