civics, current events, democracy, government, history, politics

The Theater of International Treaties

The last year and a half has seen the Executive Branch moving quickly to leave, threaten to leave, modify, and/or disregard treaties and “deals” made by previous administrations. So much so that it became apparent that I understand neither the role of the President plays in making treaties nor the ramifications of decisions to unilaterally enter or leave them. In this essay I don’t want to explore the details of any specific treaty – I just want to better understand the mechanics of how they are created or destroyed.

The first obvious question is to define exactly what a treaty is.

Essentially a treaty is a type of contract. A more formal definition – “A treaty is an agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an (international) agreement, protocol, covenant, convention, pact, or exchange of letters, among other terms. Regardless of terminology, all of these forms of agreements are, under international law, equally considered treaties and the rules are the same.” (1)

The United States bases its treaty making authority of Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution which states –

“[the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur” (2)

The Senate is charged with 1. Giving the president the benefit of the Senate’s advice and counsel, 2. Checking presidential power, and 3. Safeguarding the sovereignty of the states by giving each state an equal vote in the treatymaking process.” (3)

The Senate does not actually ratify treaties, they simply approve or reject the treaty to move forward into ratification. If the treaty is approved by the Senate (requiring a 2/3 majority vote), once it is signed by the treaty partners it becomes ratified.

In its first 200 years, the US Senate approved more than 1500 treaties, denying only 21. (4) A more common way for the Senate to show its disapproval of a treaty is to simply not hold a vote on it, which it has done 85 times. (5)

Of note, the Constitution does not indicate how treaties are to be terminated.

All of this information, while interesting, seems to have little impact on the landscape of American treaty making and its impact on foreign relations post-World War II.

Enter – the Executive Agreement.

Executive Agreements are essentially politically binding international agreements done without getting Senate approval. The US Supreme Court held that validly made executive agreements held the same status as Senate approved and ratified international treaties. (United States vs. Pink, 1942) (6)

This has given presidents a great amount of leeway to implement their agendas without the need to get mired down in debate in Congress. In theory, Congress would ultimately have the ability to defund a president’s Executive Agreement, thereby giving some power to the checks and balances of our Republic. To give you a sense of how prevalent these Executive Agreements are, a US Senate study conducted in 1984 found that of all the international agreements conducted by the US between 1946 and 1972, only 6.2 % of it was done via treaty.

Not that treaties are any guarantee of the US actually doing the right thing, or in fact, even doing the thing they say they are going to do.

From 1778 to 1871, the US entered into more than 500 treaties with Native American tribes – the US violated each one of them. (7) If you want to take a tour of sadness and tears check out this NPR story “Broken Promises on Display at Native American Treaties Exhibit (8). The exploration of how the US has been faithless in the execution of its treaties is outside of the scope of this essay, but worth keeping in mind when people talk about “American exceptionalism”.

Although US treaties are fairly easy to research, other types of deals made by the Executive Branch are much more difficult to learn about. There is no single source for this material that I could find.

In addition to specifying that their own records should not be considered a primary source for treaty information, the State Department does not maintain a list of them, and gives this guidance as to why you may have trouble find them (9) –

 

  • The treaty or agreement has only recently entered into force or been concluded and is not yet posted or published.
    • The treaty or agreement is not in force.
    • The treaty or agreement is not in force for the United States.
    • The document is not, in fact, a binding international agreement for the United States.
    • The treaty or agreement has not been filed with the Treaty Office.
    • Disclosure is restricted.

 

There have been some important international agreements that have been in the spotlight in the last couple of decades and are in fact the reason I wanted to look more deeply into the mechanics of how they work.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is one such deal – ending this was one of Trump’s first moves as President. The TPP was a President Obama era trade deal that was not approved by Congress. As such, it was simple to pull out of it.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is another well known trade agreement. The idea for this treaty was germinated with President Reagan, bolstered by President Bush, and finally signed into law with President Clinton (10). Trump has indicated numerous times that he wants to pull out of this deal, but so far, nothing has been done. Because this was approved by Congress, it’s not clear from my research that Trump can unilaterally withdraw without Congressional approval.

The Iran Nuclear Deal, or more correctly the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a landmark agreement intended to limit the proliferation of Iran’s nuclear weapons. This deal was not approved by Congress, so Trump was able to simply walk away from it.

I want to highlight that fact that these agreements (and many, many others like them) are essentially being entered into and abandoned with regularity based on the whims of the Executive Branch. In spite of the Constitutions seemingly clear instructions to have Congress approve such acts, all of the presidents since World War II have felt empowered to ignore it.

What is the ultimate outcome of a US political climate dominated by hyper partisanship and a woefully uneducated electorate? Trump is a symptom of a severe disease that has infected the United States. We have put the future of humanity into the hands of an amoral nationalist buffoon.

I have explored other features of the office of the president in previous essays, and with each kernel of information that I learn I become more dismayed than ever with the current office holder. I am only now beginning to understand the full implications of electing an unqualified and ignorant con man to the most powerful position on the planet. His power to affect things, although not unlimited, is profound. I only wish that Congress and the deplorables that put him into power understood this too.

 

Daniel Cashman, EAMP

 

 

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty
  2. https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/articles/article-ii
  3. https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Treaties.htm
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/315/203
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_treaties
  8. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/01/18/368559990/broken-promises-on-display-at-native-american-treaties-exhibit
  9. https://www.state.gov/s/l/treaty/text/
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Free_Trade_Agreement
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First Quarter 2018 Roundup of Current US Conflicts (Part 1)

Here is the most recent installment of my irregularly scheduled roundup of US conflicts with some commentary on their relevance. The US has military forces deployed across the globe, with real consequences – soldiers and civilians die, cities and infrastructure are destroyed, and unbelievable amounts of money are spent in pursuit of unclear objectives and half-assed political schemes.

This list includes conflicts that I believe are well known to the average American, in Part 2, I will look at some that are just as significant but perhaps are less well known.

The Council of Foreign Relations conflict tracker lists the following as current conflicts that have or potentially have, an impact the United States (1).

War Against the Islamic State in Iraq – Name of the current military operation – Operation Inherent Resolve – Currently being fought by elements of the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division (2). Not much time is spent discussing this conflict in the news, but it is a very active combat zone. Contrary to Trumps claims that we’ve “won in Iraq” (3), the Department of Defense still lists this as a conflict zone. As of Aug. 9, 2017, the Coalition has conducted 13,331 strikes in Iraq, and 11,235 strikes in Syria, for a total of 24,566 strikes total in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, with a cost of nearly $14 million per day. (4) Moreover, in 2018 alone the Department of Defense lists 12 airstrikes against ISIS. (5) Lots of folks have erroneously declared victory in Iraq – George Bush declared it won in 2003 (6), President Obama declared it won in 2011 (7), the American Conservative declared it won in 2017 (8). Hard to fathom what they are defining as “winning”.

The Trump administration won’t declare how many troops are serving in Iraq, so we don’t know the true extent of the conflict, and we don’t know how badly we are losing. (9)

I was in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and I can not believe that we are still there 15 years later.

War in Afghanistan – Scholars may quibble about whether Vietnam or Afghanistan deserves the dubious honor of being the longest running war in American history, but Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (10) is currently being conducted by the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and is now in its 17th year. The Army’s own Inspector General, in his quarterly report last year, bragged that Afghanistan is now 66% under control of the Afghan government (11). This war has cost $1.07 trillion dollars (12), and all we have gotten for it is 66% of the country under Afghan control. (Well, for what it’s worth 150,000 people have died in the conflict as well (13).) Not to mention we have about 14,000 troops deployed there (14).

North Korea Crisis – 3rd Infantry Division has just redeployed to South Korea (15), bringing the troop levels there to about 35,000 (16). There are another 40,000 or so stationed in Japan. I feel that the dangers of conflict on the Korean Peninsula have been well described by the news, so I won’t go into it here.

Conflict in Ukraine – This conflict I believe is not well publicized to Americans. Our mission in Europe is called Operation Atlantic Resolve (17) and it is spearheaded by elements of the US Army’s 1st Cav Division (18). Ostensibly undertaken to show NATO unity against potential Russian aggression, these would be the first troops to see combat in the event of a war with Russia in Europe. Troop levels aren’t clear, but in 2017 there were about 3500 US ground forces there. This is a clear example of actions being taken that may have disastrous effects with neither a clear political nor military objective. Unlike Korea and the Middle East, at least we have some diplomatic representation with Russia, NATO, and Ukraine.

Civil War in Syria – I’m not even sure where to start. We are in theory, fighting ISIL and al-Nusra, and perhaps the Assad regime as well. Although, the US government’s policy and actions in Syria are schizophrenic at best. One of the first things the Trump administration did was to launch a bunch of Tomahawk missiles into the Syrian desert, the effects of which aren’t clear. We appear to have about 2000 troops stationed there at the moment – US Marines, and Special Forces (19). Just a week ago Trump said we were pulling out (20) and then yesterday threatens “imminent attacks” (21).

 

Daniel Cashman, EAMP

(1) https://www.cfr.org/interactives/global-conflict-tracker#!/global-conflict-tracker

(2) https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/01/10/army-announces-deployments-for-about-10000-soldiers/

(3) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-12/trump-says-u-s-has-won-against-islamic-state-in-syria-iraq

(4) https://www.defense.gov/OIR/

(5) https://www.defense.gov/OIR/Airstrikes/

(6) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2989459.stm

(7) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/dec/14/barack-obama-iraq-war-success

(8) http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/this-year-the-iraq-wars-truly-came-to-an-end-iran-kurds-isis-is/

(9) http://www.businessinsider.com/how-many-us-troops-are-in-middle-east-confusion-trump-2017-11

(10) https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/01/10/army-announces-deployments-for-about-10000-soldiers/

(11) https://oig.state.gov/system/files/lig_oco_ofs_jun17_508.pdf

(12) https://www.thebalance.com/cost-of-afghanistan-war-timeline-economic-impact-4122493

(13) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/06/03/149000-people-have-died-in-war-in-afghanistan-and-pakistan-since-2001-report-says/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.eeef86c1e306

(14) http://www.newsweek.com/trumps-afghanistan-troop-surge-complete-raising-total-number-us-servicemen-714588

(15) https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/01/10/army-announces-deployments-for-about-10000-soldiers/

(16) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/09/what-is-the-us-militarys-presence-in-south-east-asia

(17) http://www.eur.army.mil/AtlanticResolve/

(18) https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2018/01/10/army-announces-deployments-for-about-10000-soldiers/

(19) https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2018/04/04/u-s-troops-syria-and-what-they-doing-there/486763002/

(20) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/world/middleeast/trump-syria-troops.html

(21) https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/us/politics/trump-syria.html

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GOP – Not Just Violent, Also Chock-Full of Sexual Predators

By his own admission, Trump is a sexual assaulter who has also walked into the dressing room of young girls at the Miss USA contest while they were naked. He has also been accused of rape and bragged about trying to sleep with married women. There are even allegations of paying of a porn star that he slept with.

There was enough documentation that he shouldn’t have made it out of the Primary.  But here we are.

I have written at length of the violence that is the hallmark characteristic of conservatives. With the growing number of accounts of sexual assaults and domestic violence being reported during the last year, I thought I would look into it as well.

In the interest of full disclosure, know that I have limited my research to only what has been reported in the last two years. And because I am partisan, I have focused solely on the Republican party.

All that bullshit about Clinton running a pedophile ring in the basement of a pizza joint and they have no problem with the actual deplorable behaviors in their own party. Delusional conservatives would rather vote for a pedophile in Alabama and a rapist for president than a woman or a Person of Color.

I’m still pissed that the Democrats forced Al Franken out. I’m not defending his actions, but I don’t understand what was served by taking the moral high ground. The republicans don’t give a shit and all we’ve done is lost one of our warriors. It’s the fatal flaw of the Left – ethics.

Anyway. Knowledge is power. Please use the following data points to shame republicans.

Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) – Sexual harassment allegations. Resigned.  (1)

Candidate for AL Senate Roy Moore (R-AL) – Multiple accusations of sexual assault on underage women. (2).

President Donald Trump (R) – Multiple accusations of sexual assault, as well as rape and harassment. (3)

Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) – Urged a woman he was having an affair with to get an abortion of his kid. Resigned (4)

Governor Eric Greitens (R-KS) – Accused of blackmailing a woman in an effort to keep her quiet about an extramarital affair he was having. Under investigation. (5)

Representative Blake Farenthold (R-AZ) – Sexual harassment allegations, claim settled with taxpayer dollars. Will not run for re-election. (6)

Representative Wes Goodman (R-OH) – Caught having sex with a man in his office at the state capital (These secret sexual hookups came as news to his wife). Also accused of groping an 18 year old college student in 2015. Resigned. (7)

Representative Dan Johnson (R-KY) – Accused of sexually abusing a girl in his church, among other misdeeds. (8) I know this piece is supposed to focus on sexual assault types of resignations but, FWIW – he also has posted pictures portraying President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as monkeys, a cartoon car running over Black Lives Matter protestors, and has called for states to ban Islam. Committed suicide in December 2017. (9)

White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter – accused by two ex-wives of physical and emotional abuse. Resigned 7 Feb 2018 (10)

Steve Wynn Republican National Committee finance chair – accused of sexually abusing employees for decades. Resigned.  (11)

Trump administration speech writer David Sorenson – accused of domestic violence by his wife. Resigned 9 Feb 2018. (12)

Representative Don Shooter (R-AZ) – accused of sexual harassment. Expelled from the Arizona House of Representatives 2 Feb 18 (13)

Brandon Hixon R-(ID) – accused of sexual abuse on a child, committed suicide. (14)

Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA) – used taxpayer money to settle sexual misconduct claims. Removed from the House Intelligence Committee. Under investigation. (15)

Jeff Hoover (R-KY) – Accused of sexual harassment. Resigned. (16)

 

Daniel Cashman, EAMP

 

  1. https://nypost.com/2017/12/07/republican-congressman-expected-to-resign-over-sexual-misconduct-claims/
  2. https://mashable.com/2017/12/07/franken-resigns-gop-hypocrites/#SCWCZIelTPq0
  3. Ibid
  4. http://thehill.com/homenews/house/354116-rep-tim-murphy-to-resign
  5. http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article194918889.html
  6. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/mia-love-blake-farenthold-resign_us_5a2a99cfe4b073789f691ac6
  7. https://www.gq.com/story/ohio-anti-gay-republican-resigns
  8. http://wfpl.org/state-rep-dan-johnson-accused-of-molestation-and-more-democrats-call-for-resignation/
  9. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/12/14/a-lawmaker-accused-of-molesting-a-teen-killed-himself-his-widow-calls-it-a-high-tech-lynching/?utm_term=.8c4a3cb36be2
  10. http://www.businessinsider.com/who-has-trump-fired-so-far-james-comey-sean-spicer-michael-flynn-2017-7
  11. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/26/16936970/steve-wynn-sexual-assault-misconduct-republican
  12. https://www.axios.com/trump-white-house-david-sorensen-jessica-corbett-9e0b68a8-8516-4756-b72a-fad021c52701.html
  13. https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/02/politics/arizona-state-lawmaker-expelled-harassment-report/index.html
  14. http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article193732204.html
  15. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/20/us/politics/patrick-meehan-sexual-harassment.html
  16. https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/joseph-gerth/2018/01/09/jeff-hoover-sexual-harassment-scandal-victim/1016367001/

 

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The Demise of American Exceptionalism

What is it about the character of Americans that we cling to ideologies that are patently and demonstrably false? A culture that embraces ignorance, racism, institutionalized violence against its own citizens, and a climate of subservient capitalism where the state has turned its people into serfs.

In this essay I will not be exploring the historical roots that brought us to this place. I will not be highlighting the good the America does for the world, although I believe that we have done some things right in the past and if we recover from the kakistocracy that has taken over our government, we may do so again.

No, this paper is to show how far away from the “American Dream” we really are. It is to expose the lies that we tell ourselves about our false exceptionalism.

I joined the Army in 1990, not with altruistic ideas but to escape from a dismal future that clinging to the expected normalcy would have led me. Over the next 10 years I began to see myself as the heroic “good guy” fighting the forces of evil like I was in a comic book. I eventually ended up in Iraq in 2003 and the cocoon of lies I had created around my identity fell apart. No longer the good guy, I saw the disastrous consequences of American foreign policy in front of my eyes and had to reevaluate the direction my life was taking.

Even with that epiphany I was still able to use my privilege to stay apart from the politics that led us there. I took myself out of the equation thinking that would be enough to fix the problem. 2017 proved that was false.

I had simply been able to ignore the disease that had been quietly invading the American political landscape for decades because it had little obvious detriment to me. I’m white, male, and straight.

Leading the charge against American exceptionalism and morality is Donald Trump. He isn’t the cause, but he has certainly embraced the role of leadership of our downward spiral. He has allowed the worst elements of our society – conservatives, neo-Nazi’s, evangelicals – to have a powerful voice in the deconstruction of American values.  He has empowered their racism and hatred; he has legitimized their awful agenda and weaponized their message to terrorize tens of millions of Americans and smear Americas reputation on the world stage.

Nearly everywhere you look you see our country on fire. We spend more money on healthcare than any other country in the world and we get terrible results. (1) Even with the massive investment in dollars on our healthcare we rank #32 on life expectancy (2). We also share the distinction of being the only wealthy country on the planet without a universal healthcare system.

In 2013, more people died from preventable diseases in the US than in 12 other high-income countries (3).

A study done by the World Health Organization on Health outcomes found our overall health efficiency to be #37 of 191 countries.  (This study looked at five factors – health, health inequality, responsiveness-level, responsiveness-distribution, and fair-financing –  that influence the overall health of a population.) (4).

The CIA tracks infant mortality as a marker for the overall health of a country. Compared to 19 other wealthy countries American babies are 3 times more likely to die from extreme immaturity (5) and 2.3 times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (6)

America is also the most obese country in the world (7), with adult obesity levels at 38.2% (8). Obesity leads to an increase in all causes of death, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and a host of other health problems (9)

The list of deficiencies in the health of American’s is long and depressing. Everywhere you look the statistics are shocking. All of these outcomes are made worse if you are poor.

So let’s talk about poverty.

Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, after investigating the state of poverty in America said “The American Dream is an American illusion” (10). He reports that more than 40 million Americans live in poverty and that the US has the lowest degree of social mobility of all the wealthy countries on earth. (11)

In terms of wealth inequality, the gap is huge and growing. The median upper-income family holds 75 times the wealth of the median low-income family (12). (Compare this to 2007 where they held a mere 40 times the wealth of the low-income family). The top 1% now holds 38.6% of the nation’s wealth (13).  The Republican tax cut will exacerbate this. The massive corporate tax cut will disproportionately benefit the wealthiest (14). This new law creates new loopholes for the rich to avoid tax on their labor income and cuts taxes on inheritance (15). In 2019, a person in the bottom 10 percent of incomes gets a $50 tax cut while those in the top 1% get a $34,000 tax cut.

Another economic lie perpetuated by the current government relates to the stock market. Most folks have heard of the stock market milestones of the last couple of months. Only 52% of Americans own stock (16). Of those that own stock, it is the wealthiest of Americans that get the most benefit. The top 10% of Americans own an average of $969,000 in stocks (17); for the bottom half that number is $54,000.

Moreover, the stock market is not the economy. The stock market is a measure of the perceived value of companies (18). The relative strength or weakness of the economy is based on the principles of supply and demand (19), not the expected worth of corporate shares.

The current economic reality is bad, and the trend is getting worse. The top 20% of American households own 90% of all the “stuff” in America. (20). Among the other rich nations on the planet, the US stands out in terms of its inequality.  The top 1% in America own more than twice what the top 1% own in the UK, France, and Canada (21).

Let’s take a quick look at crime and justice.

The US imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid (22). The US has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners. One in 28 American children has a parent in prison (23).

According to the FBI 73.5 million people in the US have a criminal record (24).

There are more than 2.3 million people in prison in America (25) in 5961 facilities. Its big business. In 2012 a private prison company called MTC had a contract that generated $18,000 per year per prisoner. (26). My math tells me that is an industry with an income of more than $40 billion dollars per year. This is something to think about when people like the Attorney General are reported to hold stocks in private prisons.

Another area that the US spends more on than any other country is education (27). Just like our abysmal healthcare results, our education system isn’t any better.

In particular the disparities between whites and people of color is shameful. Black students are more likely to be held back in school, are more likely to be enrolled in low-quality day care, have higher high school drop out rates, and have lower test scores in every category tested. (28)

The US ranks 38th in math and 24th in science (measured against 71 other countries) (29)

America also leads the world in violence.

Even though overall crime rates remain low, 2015 and 2016 both saw an increase in violent crime (30). 2016 was the most violent year on record for the LGBTQ community (31). In the first 25 days of 2018, there have been 11 school shootings (32), and since 2013 there have been over 300 (33).

We’ve had 1516 mass shootings in a span of 1735 days (34). There are more guns in the hands of private American citizens than there are private American citizens. (35)

So tell me where the exceptionalism is.

We are violent, uneducated, and poverty stricken. We get terrible returns on our investments into health and education.

I have in my previous papers outlines the terrible effects of our shortsighted foreign policies and the terrible decisions being made by the current administration.

Something to think about next time someone tells you that they are proud to be an American.

 

Daniel Cashman, EAMP, MS (AOM)

 

 

  1. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-healthcare-comparison-20170715-htmlstory.html
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. http://www.who.int/healthinfo/paper30.pdf
  5. http://time.com/5090112/infant-mortality-rate-usa/
  6. Ibid
  7. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-us-is-the-most-obese-nation-in-the-world-just-ahead-of-mexico-2017-05-19
  8. Ibid
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html
  10. https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/12/21/572043850/u-n-investigator-on-extreme-poverty-issues-a-grim-report-on-the-u-s
  11. Ibid
  12. http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/03/news/economy/wealth-gap-america/index.html
  13. Ibid
  14. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/12/2/16720952/senate-tax-bill-inequality
  15. Ibid
  16. https://www.npr.org/2017/03/01/517975766/while-trump-touts-stock-market-many-americans-left-out-of-the-conversation
  17. Ibid
  18. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/moneytips/the-stock-market-versus-t_b_8078470.html
  19. Ibid
  20. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/12/06/the-richest-1-percent-now-owns-more-of-the-countrys-wealth-than-at-any-time-in-the-past-50-years/?utm_term=.2315c56d8c5c
  21. Ibid
  22. https://mic.com/articles/86519/19-actual-statistics-about-america-s-prison-system#.8F7tcrTGR
  23. Ibid
  24. http://www.politifact.com/new-york/statements/2017/aug/18/andrew-cuomo/yes-one-three-us-adults-have-criminal-record/
  25. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017.html
  26. https://www.romper.com/p/how-much-money-do-private-prisons-make-theyre-earning-thousands-per-inmate-16680
  27. https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/01/28/us-education-still-separate-and-unequal
  28. Ibid
  29. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/
  30. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/us/violent-crime-murder-chicago-increase-.html
  31. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/06/12/2016-deadliest-year-lgbtq-pulse/373840001/
  32. http://www.king5.com/article/news/11-school-shooting-incidents-have-occurred-in-the-us-so-far-in-2018/281-511306237
  33. Ibid
  34. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/oct/02/america-mass-shootings-gun-violence
  35. Ibid

 

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The American Legacy of War Without End – Supplemental

  US Interventionist Report Card

  I accept that this list is over simplifying what are very complex issues, but in general, I believe my evaluation is accurate.

What better argument could there be to intervene less and more intelligently than through analysis of the actual results of our interventions.

Korean War 1950-1953 -Objective: 1. Prevent North Korea from taking over South Korea – Result: Success. 2. Stop the spread of Communism  – Result: Failure.

Laotian Civil War 1953-1975 – Objective – Stop the spread of Communism into Laos – Result: Failure.

Iran Operation Ajax – Objective: Install Pro-West regime – Result: Initially success, ultimately failure. Secondary failure was giving terrorists a great recruiting tool for decades.

Lebanon 1958, and again from 1982-1984 – 1958 Objective Check the spread of Communism – Result: Success. 1982 Objective – Stability in region – result: failure.

Bay of Pigs 1961 – Objective overthrow Cuban government – result: failure.

Vietnam 1965-1973 – Objective: Stop the spread of Communism to Vietnam – result: failure.

Dominican Civil War 1965 – Objective: Protect US interests in region – result: success.

Bolivian Insurgency 1966-67 Objective: Unknown. “Protect US interests”? – result: unkown.

Cambodian Civil War 1967-75 – Objective: Stop the spread of Communism into Cambodia – result: failure.

War in South Zaire/Angola 1978 – Objective: stabilize region – result: failure.

Operation Eagle Claw 1980 – Objective: Rescue hostages – result: failure.

Granada 1983 – Objective: rescue students -result: success.

Invasion of Panama 1989-1990 – Objective: Protect US interests in the Canal Zone – result: success.

Invasion of Haiti Objective: Stability and humanitarian aid – result: unknown.

Bosnian War 1994-1995 – Objective: end war – result: success.

Kosovo War 1998-1999 – Objective: end war – result: success.

Operation Infinite Reach 1998 – Objective: punish and degrade al-Qaida – result: failure.

Iraq Gulf War 1990-91, No Fly Zone Enforcement 1991-2003, Iraq War 2003- Objective: unknown.

Libya 1981, 1986, 1989, 2011, 2016-present – Objective: unknown.

Afghanistan 2001- present – Objective: unknown.

War in North-West Pakistan 2004- present – Objective: unknown.

Somali Civil War 1992-1995, 2009- present – Objective: unknown.

Syrian Civil War 2014- present – Objective: unknown.

Yemen Civil War 2015-present – Objective: unknown.

 

Daniel Cashman, EAMP, MS (AOM)

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The American Legacy of War Without End Part 2

Part 1 was my attempt to very briefly outline an American history drenched in blood and religion. I think that it is important to have an understanding of that history to contextualize the post WW2 era of American interventionism.

Below is a list of recent conflicts that the United States has been involved in, with a summary and a short commentary. I have endeavored to include everything that involved combat, but I can’t guarantee that it is comprehensive. The US military is engaged in these kinds of operations year-round in every part of the globe, and many operations involve a handful of personnel and are secret. I leave it to the reader to decide the success or failure of each.

As you read through this list, consider that more U.S. troops have died in war zones this year than in 2016 — the first time in six years that the number of service members killed overseas has increased over the previous year. (13)

Korean War 1950-1953 – Ostensibly we were there to help South Korea repel an invasion by North Korea, what we were really doing was trying to stop the so called “Domino Effect” and prevent the spread of Communism. With the most positive interpretation of the results of this war, we fought to a stalemate. In a more realistic reading, what we did was set up North Korea to be the rogue regime that exists currently, isolated and threatening to launch nuclear missiles at the US.

Laotian Civil War 1953-1975 – Fought between the Communists and the Royal Lao Government, overshadowed by the Vietnam War, it is often forgotten that the CIA, US Special Forces, and regular military forces fought here for years. If the goal of this war was to stop the spread of Communism, well, Laos is a Marxist-Leninist one party Socialist Republic currently.

Iran Operation Ajax – 1953 where the US supported the successful overthrow of Prime Minister Mosaddegh, giving a monarchy power over an elected government to establishing a pro-America regime. Out actions there created decades of discontent among Iranians and led to the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Remember that next time you hear this administration say something about how Iran is the enemy. Not only were our efforts ultimately unsuccessful, in that we ended up with an anti-American regime in power, but we also gave terrorist recruiters a bounty of ammunition to use in their recruitment campaigns.

Lebanon 1958, and again from 1982-1984 – The first intervention in ’58 was the first application of the so-called Eisenhower Doctrine the stated purpose of which was to protect regimes threatened by Communism.  The US sent about 14,000 troops to Lebanon to prop up a pro-Western government. The result was a moderate government and a peaceful transition. But it also set a precedent for US involvement in internal Arab disputes.  Later, in ’82 we found ourselves back for the Lebanese Civil War.  Some scholars suggest that our involvement may have hastened the demise of the Soviet Union and the ending of the Cold War. It also led to the death of 241 US servicemembers in a barracks suicide bombing. It caused additional problems with Syria as shooting exchanged happened between Syrian batteries and patrolling American warships. All told the US lost 265 servicemembers during the conflict.

Bay of Pigs 1961 – This was just a straight-up failed CIA sponsored invasion of Cuba. Not sure how you could swing this any other way.

Vietnam 1965-1973 – Long, costly war to stop the spread of Communism, interestingly known as the “Resistance War Against America” inside Vietnam. Total estimated cost of the war in 2015 dollars over 1 Trillion. (14) If the purpose of the war was to stop the spread of Communism, well, today Vietnam is a Marxist-Leninist one party Socialist Republic.

Dominican Civil War 1965 – Allegations of foreign support to the civil war led to US involvement, ostensibly to protect 3500 US citizens and US interests in the country.  5 US Killed in Action, another 31 wounded. End result? A bunch of US citizens were evacuated safely, but its not clear what the further ramifications were.

Bolivian Insurgency 1966-67 All through the 1960’s the CIA gave Bolivian dictators money, and the US actively supported these dictators against local rebels. This resulted in thousands of deaths and promoted political instability across Central and South America that is still being felt today. The US famously helped track down the guerilla leader Che Guevara, turning him over to be murdered by the Bolivian government.

Cambodian Civil War 1967-75 – This is a complicated event; a civil war between the Khmer Rouge supported by the North Vietnamese against the Khmer Republic supported by the South Vietnamese and the United States. The US was there primarily to help the war effort in Vietnam, although it fit into the rubric of stopping Communist aggression as well. A couple of hundred thousand people died in the war, the Khmer Rouge won, and it led to the Killing Fields genocide perpetrated by Pol Pot.

War in South Zaire/Angola 1978 – I don’t even know if I can unpack this one. Starting in 1975 Angola underwent a civil war, that really didn’t end until 2002. It was a power struggle between two former liberation movements – the MPLA and UNITA. It also was a surrogate battle ground for the US and Russia during the Cold War. In spite of opposition from the State Department and the CIA, President Ford pushed for US involvement. We ended up giving millions of dollars to factional groups the results of which were millions dead and displaced, an intensification of the Cold War, and the trashing of US reputation as we once again foolishly intervene in a foreign conflict that ultimately did not benefit anyone.

Operation Eagle Claw 1980 – Another straight up disaster. This was a rescue operation aimed at freeing US Embassy workers taken hostage in Iran, ordered by President Carter. This was actually one of Delta Forces first missions. Essentially, due to lack of communication, poor planning, and bad luck, the operation failed, it was discovered by Iran, and led to the US being humiliated. (A helicopter landed on an airplane at the rendezvous point in Iran.) No hostages were rescued as a result and I can’t image there is any way to spin this except failure. (15)

Granada 1983 – In the early 80’s there were about a thousand US students studying medicine in Grenada. There had been a coup, and a curfew put into place. There were rumors of unrest and President Reagan used this opportunity to send in US troops. (There was no actual indications that any US civilians were in danger (16)). The US had 19 servicemembers killed and 116 wounded in the conflict, ultimately rescuing the students and restoring the previous government. Conventional wisdom says that more than any other factor. Reagan was looking for an opportunity to fight the Cold War on another front. We did however, accomplish our stated mission. But consider this, a group of teenagers with World War I era rifles took on the most highly trained army in the world and gave it a bloody nose. This event is very interestingly described in David Hackworth’s book “About Face”.

Invasion of Panama 1989-1990 – This is another conflict that will be hard to summarize in a short paragraph.  President Bush stated that we were protecting US citizens and US interested in the Canal Zone, as well as combatting drug trafficking. We were successful, albeit with about 1000 casualties to include 23 dead US servicemembers and 325 wounded. The operation also left about 300 dead civilians and 20,000 civilians displaced by the fighting. One of the things that came out during this conflict was that the enemy leader, Manuel Noriega, had been working for the CIA since 1967. This fact further bolstered the degradation of US influence and an increase in mistrust of the US across Central and South America.

Invasion of Haiti 1915-1934, and again 1994-1995 – Another country where the US has a long history of intervention and violence. The US first invaded Haiti in 1915 ostensibly to quell a nationwide strike and an ongoing local rebellion. (17). But really, US Marines were sent there because President Wilson “…feared that European interests might reduce American commercial and political influence in Haiti and the region surrounding the Panama Canal.” (18). One of the first actions carried out by the US after the invasion was to seize Haiti’s financial reserves and rewrite its Constitution so that US citizens could own land there. For the next 19 years we occupied Haiti and told the world we were engaged in nation building, during which time 15,000 Haitians were killed and forced labor gangs were used to build roads and schools. The most recent invasion was done to remove a dictator, which was done with minimal casualties. We eventually turned control of this operation over to the UN and it became a humanitarian mission.

Bosnian War 1994-1995 – Part of the break up of Yugoslavia. A horrific civil war took place that saw genocide and murder on a wide scale. The United Nations went in to try and stabilize the region and the US supported that effort. After 3 and a half years of fighting, the Dayton peace accords were signed. The US has been involved for many years – both in the conduct of stability operations and with the tracking down of suspected war criminals.

Kosovo War 1998-1999 – Another casualty of the breakup of Yugoslavia. The US was once again involved under the auspices of the UN and NATO.

Operation Infinite Reach 1998 – This is the name given to the mission that launched cruise missiles into Sudan and Afghanistan, ordered by President Clinton to attack al-Qaida. Of interest as it marks the first time the US engaged in a pre-emptive strike against a non-state actor. Although it appears that we did successfully strike one or more al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan, the results from the missiles launched into Sudan are not as clear. This stated objective of these strikes was to punish al-Qaida for attacks at US Embassy’s in Tanzania and Kenya. It is not clear that our response punished the people involved, or degraded al-Qaida’s abilities in any way.

The following conflicts are currently being perpetrated by the United States. There could be others, but the White House has stopped publishing troop deployment information (19). I leave them without commentary because I have no idea what we are doing there nor do I know what objectives we are pursuing.

Iraq Gulf War 1990-91, No Fly Zone Enforcement 1991-2003, Iraq War 2003-

Libya 1981, 1986, 1989, 2011, 2016-present –

Afghanistan 2001- present –

War in North-West Pakistan 2004- present –

Somali Civil War 1992-1995, 2009- present –

Syrian Civil War 2014- present –

Yemen Civil War 2015-present –

Additionally, the US currently has troops stationed in Japan, Germany, South Korea, Italy, UK, Kuwait, Bahrain, Spain, Qatar, Turkey, Djibouti, Jordan, UAE, Austria, Belgium, Cuba, Romania, and El Salvador. (19)

Contrary to what I believe is a commonly held belief by Americans, the US has no moral high ground in how it conducts itself on the world stage. Moreover, if we judge the results of our military actions based on the accomplishment of the stated objective we are failures. Even worse, I would argue that the world sees us act irresponsibly and with greed.  These acts further tarnish our reputation and limits our effectiveness.

We get away with failure because 1. We have the resources to throw at it, and 2. We rarely have to live with the consequences of our actions, at least not directly.

Our poorly thought out policies and inept mission execution make the world a more violent and less stable place.

My motivation in writing this in large part comes from my belief that basic facts about our history and a false narrative woven around American exceptionalism lead to a more dangerous future.

 

Daniel Cashman, EAMP, MS (AOM)

 

  1. http://www.newsweek.com/trump-us-military-deaths-war-zones-are-first-time-six-years-716981
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Eagle_Claw
  4. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/03/flashback-why-ronald-reagan-invaded-grenada/
  5. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/haiti-us-occupation-hundred-year-anniversary
  6. Ibid
  7. http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-trump-deployment-20170330-story.html
  8. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/22/u-s-active-duty-military-presence-overseas-is-at-its-smallest-in-decades/

 

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The American Legacy of War Without End (Part 1 of 2)

Most of my writing is done to teach myself about complex issues and events and bring clarity to my own thinking. I post them hoping that someone else may benefit in the same way. My formal education is in Healthcare, but I spent much of my adult life working both in the military and with the government.

I spent 10 years in the Army – and I have been involved in many of the conflicts that have afflicted the world in the last few decades – the Cold War, the Korean conflict, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I am a student of history and I know that “truth” is often ephemeral, and what one learns about history depends on who wrote the book.

Part 1 explores an uncomfortable truth about America’s violent past in an attempt to set the stage for what I hope will be an argument against American interventionism in Part 2.

War has been a part of the American character since the first European settlers arrived. Starting in 1607 with the founding of Jamestown. The expedition to Virginia was sponsored by the Virginia Company of London who were willing to shell out money for this endeavor because they hoped to cash in on the resources found in the virgin American soil. (1)

The Virginia Company sent settlers to Virginia for almost two decades in an attempt to turn a profit.  The never did, but they did set in motion a precedent for American religious extremism, violence, and capitalism.  It’s worth mentioning that the first encounter with the local Powhatan tribe had the English shooting them. (2) The Jamestown settlers, along with other English settlers, spent decades fighting and murdering the local natives in what would end up being called the “Anglo-Powhatan Wars” (3)

In the interest of brevity, I will lump the contentious history of early America from 1607 to 1775 together and say that Jamestown was the rule and not the exception. 182 years of European (and other) settlers coming to America to conquer, kill, and steal from the people that were already living here.

Before moving on to the Revolution, I need to point out the close connection early America had with the Church. For example, to hold political office in early English colonies, affiliation with the Anglican church was a requirement. In fact, colonial Virginia law required Virginians to worship in a state church funded by their taxes. (4) These feelings eventually started to give way to more tolerant views that coincided with the European Enlightenment (5), but close ties between the church and government have never left the culture of religion in America.

From 1775 to 1783 saw frustrated American colonists dissatisfied with distant English rule – frustrated with a decade of rising taxes and lack of representation in the English parliament resulted in a guerilla war starting, with the rebels seeking to throw of the yoke of the English. (6)  The First Constitutional Congress met in Philadelphia in 1774 and listed their grievances as “taxation without representation and the maintenance of a British army on their soil without their permission”. (7)

The years from 1776 (the Chickamunga War against the Cherokee) to 1861 (the onset of the Civil War) saw another 85 years of nearly constant conflict. Not only with the British, but also with Spain (War of 1812, First Seminole War 1817), Mexico (Mexican American War 1846-48, First and Second Cortina War 1859-1861), the Ottoman Empire (First Barbary War 1801-1805), Morocco (First Barbary War 1801-1805), Algeria (Second Barbary War 1815), Fiji (First Fiji Expedition 1855, Second Fiji Expedition 1859), and China (Second Opium War 1856-1859. These years also brought untold horror to the Native American tribes across the continent.

The second half of the 19th was characterized by the US governments intense interest in expanding to the Pacific Ocean. By the 1850’s nearly all Native American tribes were located West of the Mississippi River (8) In 1871 the government passed the Indian Appropriation Act (9) the US simply decided that the native tribes were simply wards of the United States instead of sovereign nations. (10) This Act paved the way for the US government to at-will seize lands occupied by Native Americans. The General Allotment Act of 1887 broke up historically native lands and gave them to whites. Additionally, constant wars of aggression were propagated against native tribes (Apache Wars, Puget Sound War, Seminole Wars, Yakima War, Utah War, Navajo Wars, Paiute War, Yavapai Wars, Dakota War, Colorado War, Snake War, Powder River War, Red Cloud’s War, the Comanche Campaign, the Modoc War, Red River War, Great Sioux War, Buffalo Hunters War, Nez Perce War, Bannock War, Sheepeater War, Victorio’s War, White River War, Pine Ridge Campaign, and the Yaqui War).

Over and above these campaigns is a long and shameful list of massacres committed against the native tribes. I won’t get into the details in this essay but here is a list:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_massacres

The era from the Civil War (1861) to the onset of the First World War (1914) was also characterized by violence against Spain (Spanish American War 1898), Mexico (the Las Cuevas War 1875, Border War 1910-1919, the Occupation of Veracruz 1914), Japan (Shimonoseki War 1863-64), Korea (1871), Philippines (1899-1902), Cuba (Negro Rebellion 1912), Nicaragua (1912-1933), Haiti (1915-1934), the Occupation of the Dominican Republic 1916-1924), and China (Boxer Rebellion) 1899-1901.

I have provided this short summary of pre-World War I American conflicts to make a point. From the earliest days of American culture, we have been a people motivated by the acquisition of capital and are willing to commit unbelievable violence (justified as needed by religion) to achieve it. (Sort of the Evangelical version of selling indulgences).

Of course, history can’t be undone. It should, however, be taught. At no point in my education (and I have a Master’s degree) has history ever been presented to me in this way. Since elementary school we are taught of the absolute right of America to do anything we want, in a consequence-free environment. Our Manifest Destiny is to be sole arbiter of fairness in the world. We have god on our side.

To deny the truth of our history is to deny any hope of justice for the future.

I don’t want to re-litigate the reasons and motivations at play that led to these conflicts. I would however like to look a little more closely at the wars of the 20th century.

Early in the 20th Century the worst conflict in human history (up to that date) was fought. The dark years from 1914 to 1918 saw the First World War, the erroneously titled “War to End All Wars”. 16 million people died during this four-year period, nearly half of them non-combatants.

To our credit, the US did try to stay out of the war, and did not join until 1917. We were never officially one of the Allies, and settled for the title “Associate Power”. A complicated intertwining of alliances coupled with a European arms race and simmering national, religious, and cultural angst created the fuel for this war.

I don’t know how our participation in World War I ultimately reflects upon us. I suppose that our participation brought it to a close quicker than had we stayed out.

Unfortunately, nations don’t exist to foster karmic good, as we will see with World War II.

Probably more has been written about World War II than any other conflict, and I surely have nothing new to add to it’s analysis. But I would like to point this out.

Prior to US involvement there was widespread belief that America should stay out of it – the War was considered a “European” problem. President Roosevelt, who was very open to getting involved, began to set the tone as early as 1940 during one of his radio broadcast “fireside chats”. On May 26th, 1940, soon after cities in Europe began falling to the Nazi’s, he talked to Americans about how the isolationists were wrong. One of the commonly held beliefs was that Roosevelt wasn’t able to act unilaterally to enter America into war, and needed Congressional approval. (How different things appear to be today with Trump acting with impunity). But we didn’t enter the war officially until the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. (Also note that it was Germany that declared was on us, not vice-versa).

From September of 1939 to December of 1941 we let the war rage. Roosevelt also got the Lend-Lease Act signed into law allowing him to give materials to the Allies in support of the war into reciprocal payments to be made at a later date.

The Lend Lease Act was a critically important contribution to the success of the war and, although altruistic on its face, was definitely to the benefit of the United States, principally by making the United Kingdom hand over top-secret technologies they had developed like radar and sonar, as well as technologies related to jet engines, superchargers, self-sealing fuel tanks, plastic explosives, and British contributions to the Manhattan Project (11).

Another feature of the Lend Lease Act, as pointed out at the time by Republican senator Robert Taft, was to “give the President power to carry on a kind of undeclared war all over the world, in which America would do everything except actually put soldiers in the front-line trenches where the fighting is.” (12) During an era where Congress felt like it was their duty to be part of the system of checks and balances.

I think that World War Two was likely the last righteous war fought by the United States, even though we ended up holding our allies over the barrel and waiting until the last moment to get involved. How much suffering could have been prevented had we intervened a year earlier?

I will close this part our with an anecdote. In 2003, prior to my own participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. The last display there was a small T.V. screen showing, on loop, US reconnaissance flights over concentration camps in 1941 – the suggestion being that we knew about the Holocaust and did nothing to stop it.

 

 

Daniel Cashman, EAMP, MS (AOM)

 

 

  1. https://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/the-virginia-company-of-london.htm
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powhatan
  3. Ibid
  4. http://www.history.org/almanack/life/religion/religiondfn.cfm
  5. https://www.britannica.com/event/Enlightenment-European-history
  6. http://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/american-revolution-history
  7. Ibid
  8. http://www.victoriana.com/history/nativeamericans.html
  9. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/25/71
  10. http://www.victoriana.com/history/nativeamericans.html
  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lend-Lease
  12. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/lend-lease-act
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