Blogs: The Skeptics

Boltonism: A Terrible Negotiating Strategy toward North Korea

What George Washington Can Teach Donald Trump

The Skeptics

Even the most outrageous events have lost their power to shock Washington. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince—a supposed reformer who jails opponents, shakes down wealthy countrymen and prolifically kills civilians in an aggressive war—claimed that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, was “in his pocket.” Indeed, Kushner supposedly turned over the names of the de facto Saudi ruler’s critics, who were later arrested and jailed.

That’s not treason, exactly. But it is shameful, disgusting and grotesque—and, if true, should result in Kushner’s defenestration from any position of responsibility in the Trump administration. There is no obvious personal financial interest at stake, though questions have been raised whether he supported Riyadh’s blockade against Qatar because the latter refused to provide financial support for his real-estate firm. More likely, his stance reflects an unseemly friendliness toward a particular dictator, a warped belief that the two governments are uniquely linked.

Which actually is more dangerous than personal corruption.

It is a danger about which outgoing President George Washington warned in his 1796 farewell address. His words reflected the highly volatile and hostile politics of his day. And his advice obviously reflected America’s relatively weak international power position.

Still, Washington’s message had broader import, and offers important lessons for today. He argued that “nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another a habitual hatred, or a habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”

Both sides of the equation are important. Explained the nation’s first president, “Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy.”

As a result, the federal government sometimes “adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.”

A number of states might fit into this category: Iraq, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Syria, to start. None are innocent; all have acted badly. However, there is no inherent reason for constant confrontation and conflict between the United States and any of them. Yet more than a few American policymakers seem determined to treat them as enemies, almost irrespective of interest or behavior.

Indeed, America’s official enemies list is in part determined by its “passionate attachments” for other states. And Washington warned us that “likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification.”

Out of that come “concessions to the favorite Nation.” Moreover, “it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; guiding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.”

Many countries fit this description. Saudi Arabia, and its companion, the United Arab Emirates. Israel, Turkey and Greece. States across central and eastern Europe. In fact, the description applies to almost any nation that enjoys the loyalty of a large and active domestic population whose ancestors came from afar.

Washington emphasized the danger to domestic institutions. He warned: “As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.”

Policy today bears out Washington’s fears. The Obama and Trump administrations both have essentially sacrificed America’s interests to those of Saudi Arabia. The American government has adopted Riyadh’s antipathy toward Iran as its own. Yet despite Tehran’s odious regime, Iran long has been a more liberal society, with greater, if reluctant, social freedom; tolerance of non-Muslim faiths; and elections that, though imperfect, actually affect government policy.

Pages

The Real Problem with Gina Haspel's CIA Nomination

The Skeptics

Even the most outrageous events have lost their power to shock Washington. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince—a supposed reformer who jails opponents, shakes down wealthy countrymen and prolifically kills civilians in an aggressive war—claimed that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, was “in his pocket.” Indeed, Kushner supposedly turned over the names of the de facto Saudi ruler’s critics, who were later arrested and jailed.

That’s not treason, exactly. But it is shameful, disgusting and grotesque—and, if true, should result in Kushner’s defenestration from any position of responsibility in the Trump administration. There is no obvious personal financial interest at stake, though questions have been raised whether he supported Riyadh’s blockade against Qatar because the latter refused to provide financial support for his real-estate firm. More likely, his stance reflects an unseemly friendliness toward a particular dictator, a warped belief that the two governments are uniquely linked.

Which actually is more dangerous than personal corruption.

It is a danger about which outgoing President George Washington warned in his 1796 farewell address. His words reflected the highly volatile and hostile politics of his day. And his advice obviously reflected America’s relatively weak international power position.

Still, Washington’s message had broader import, and offers important lessons for today. He argued that “nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another a habitual hatred, or a habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”

Both sides of the equation are important. Explained the nation’s first president, “Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy.”

As a result, the federal government sometimes “adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.”

A number of states might fit into this category: Iraq, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Syria, to start. None are innocent; all have acted badly. However, there is no inherent reason for constant confrontation and conflict between the United States and any of them. Yet more than a few American policymakers seem determined to treat them as enemies, almost irrespective of interest or behavior.

Indeed, America’s official enemies list is in part determined by its “passionate attachments” for other states. And Washington warned us that “likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification.”

Out of that come “concessions to the favorite Nation.” Moreover, “it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; guiding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.”

Many countries fit this description. Saudi Arabia, and its companion, the United Arab Emirates. Israel, Turkey and Greece. States across central and eastern Europe. In fact, the description applies to almost any nation that enjoys the loyalty of a large and active domestic population whose ancestors came from afar.

Washington emphasized the danger to domestic institutions. He warned: “As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.”

Policy today bears out Washington’s fears. The Obama and Trump administrations both have essentially sacrificed America’s interests to those of Saudi Arabia. The American government has adopted Riyadh’s antipathy toward Iran as its own. Yet despite Tehran’s odious regime, Iran long has been a more liberal society, with greater, if reluctant, social freedom; tolerance of non-Muslim faiths; and elections that, though imperfect, actually affect government policy.

Pages

Why Trump Can't Trick Kim Jong Un into a Peace Deal

The Skeptics

Even the most outrageous events have lost their power to shock Washington. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince—a supposed reformer who jails opponents, shakes down wealthy countrymen and prolifically kills civilians in an aggressive war—claimed that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, was “in his pocket.” Indeed, Kushner supposedly turned over the names of the de facto Saudi ruler’s critics, who were later arrested and jailed.

That’s not treason, exactly. But it is shameful, disgusting and grotesque—and, if true, should result in Kushner’s defenestration from any position of responsibility in the Trump administration. There is no obvious personal financial interest at stake, though questions have been raised whether he supported Riyadh’s blockade against Qatar because the latter refused to provide financial support for his real-estate firm. More likely, his stance reflects an unseemly friendliness toward a particular dictator, a warped belief that the two governments are uniquely linked.

Which actually is more dangerous than personal corruption.

It is a danger about which outgoing President George Washington warned in his 1796 farewell address. His words reflected the highly volatile and hostile politics of his day. And his advice obviously reflected America’s relatively weak international power position.

Still, Washington’s message had broader import, and offers important lessons for today. He argued that “nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another a habitual hatred, or a habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”

Both sides of the equation are important. Explained the nation’s first president, “Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy.”

As a result, the federal government sometimes “adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.”

A number of states might fit into this category: Iraq, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Syria, to start. None are innocent; all have acted badly. However, there is no inherent reason for constant confrontation and conflict between the United States and any of them. Yet more than a few American policymakers seem determined to treat them as enemies, almost irrespective of interest or behavior.

Indeed, America’s official enemies list is in part determined by its “passionate attachments” for other states. And Washington warned us that “likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification.”

Out of that come “concessions to the favorite Nation.” Moreover, “it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; guiding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.”

Many countries fit this description. Saudi Arabia, and its companion, the United Arab Emirates. Israel, Turkey and Greece. States across central and eastern Europe. In fact, the description applies to almost any nation that enjoys the loyalty of a large and active domestic population whose ancestors came from afar.

Washington emphasized the danger to domestic institutions. He warned: “As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.”

Policy today bears out Washington’s fears. The Obama and Trump administrations both have essentially sacrificed America’s interests to those of Saudi Arabia. The American government has adopted Riyadh’s antipathy toward Iran as its own. Yet despite Tehran’s odious regime, Iran long has been a more liberal society, with greater, if reluctant, social freedom; tolerance of non-Muslim faiths; and elections that, though imperfect, actually affect government policy.

Pages

John Bolton Is Back. And So Are His Dangerous Ideas.

The Skeptics

Even the most outrageous events have lost their power to shock Washington. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince—a supposed reformer who jails opponents, shakes down wealthy countrymen and prolifically kills civilians in an aggressive war—claimed that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, was “in his pocket.” Indeed, Kushner supposedly turned over the names of the de facto Saudi ruler’s critics, who were later arrested and jailed.

That’s not treason, exactly. But it is shameful, disgusting and grotesque—and, if true, should result in Kushner’s defenestration from any position of responsibility in the Trump administration. There is no obvious personal financial interest at stake, though questions have been raised whether he supported Riyadh’s blockade against Qatar because the latter refused to provide financial support for his real-estate firm. More likely, his stance reflects an unseemly friendliness toward a particular dictator, a warped belief that the two governments are uniquely linked.

Which actually is more dangerous than personal corruption.

It is a danger about which outgoing President George Washington warned in his 1796 farewell address. His words reflected the highly volatile and hostile politics of his day. And his advice obviously reflected America’s relatively weak international power position.

Still, Washington’s message had broader import, and offers important lessons for today. He argued that “nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another a habitual hatred, or a habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”

Both sides of the equation are important. Explained the nation’s first president, “Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy.”

As a result, the federal government sometimes “adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.”

A number of states might fit into this category: Iraq, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Syria, to start. None are innocent; all have acted badly. However, there is no inherent reason for constant confrontation and conflict between the United States and any of them. Yet more than a few American policymakers seem determined to treat them as enemies, almost irrespective of interest or behavior.

Indeed, America’s official enemies list is in part determined by its “passionate attachments” for other states. And Washington warned us that “likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification.”

Out of that come “concessions to the favorite Nation.” Moreover, “it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; guiding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.”

Many countries fit this description. Saudi Arabia, and its companion, the United Arab Emirates. Israel, Turkey and Greece. States across central and eastern Europe. In fact, the description applies to almost any nation that enjoys the loyalty of a large and active domestic population whose ancestors came from afar.

Washington emphasized the danger to domestic institutions. He warned: “As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.”

Policy today bears out Washington’s fears. The Obama and Trump administrations both have essentially sacrificed America’s interests to those of Saudi Arabia. The American government has adopted Riyadh’s antipathy toward Iran as its own. Yet despite Tehran’s odious regime, Iran long has been a more liberal society, with greater, if reluctant, social freedom; tolerance of non-Muslim faiths; and elections that, though imperfect, actually affect government policy.

Pages

Pages