Top Stories of U.S. Foreign Policy in 2019

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What happened to Afghanistan and all that lying about progress?

W.J. Astore

According to FP: Foreign Policy, these are the top five stories in U.S. foreign policy in 2019.  I’ve inserted quick comments at the end in bold:

1. U.S. and Turkey Lock Horns Over Syria.

“U.S. support to the Syrian Democratic Forces has long angered Turkey, a NATO ally which views the Kurdish-led group as a terrorist threat … But in a fateful October phone call, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated his longtime threat to launch a cross-border invasion. This time Trump capitulated, moving a handful of U.S. troops so the Turks could begin the assault against the Kurds … Hundreds have been killed and roughly 200,000 people were displaced.”

Comment: Syria is not a vital U.S. interest.  U.S. forces shouldn’t be there.  And who are these “democratic forces” of Syria?

2. Trump Impeached Over Ukraine Scandal.

“Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating a Democratic rival this year led to the third impeachment of a U.S. president in history, thrusting Washington’s national security apparatus into the spotlight.”

Comment: The U.S. shouldn’t be meddling in Ukraine.  And we shouldn’t be sending more weapons there.  I sure as hell don’t want my taxpayer dollars going to weapons for Ukraine.

3. North Korea Talks Sputter and Stall.

“The historic nuclear talks between Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 offered hope that the two countries could de-escalate tensions and prevent a nuclear confrontation. Talks stalled after the Singapore Summit in June 2018. While both sides made significant verbal commitments in 2019, the year saw a gradual deterioration of bilateral relations.”

Comment: North Korea isn’t giving up its nuclear weapons.  The North Koreans saw what happened to Gaddafi in Libya when he gave up his WMD.  Plus nuclear weapons and missiles are a prestige project for Kim Jong-un, who’s played Trump like a fiddle.

4. Iran Strikes Back.

“Tensions between Iran and the United States skyrocketed in 2019, as the U.S. maximum pressure campaign took effect and Tehran lashed out against harsh U.S. sanctions. (Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018.) … Attacks have ceased in recent weeks as Tehran launched a brutal crackdown on the worst political unrest the country has seen since the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago. But U.S. officials are bracing for another devastating strike in the region, this time perhaps targeting the region’s critical sources of drinking water.”

Comment: Harsh U.S. sanctions are an act of war — or at least we’d see them that way if the roles were reversed.  And why is Iran always seen as the aggressor capable of launching “devastating” strikes?

5. Venezuela Crisis Simmers.

“Venezuela’s Russia-backed leader Nicolás Maduro clung to power this year despite an economic collapse, nationwide blackouts and fierce opposition from Juan Guaidó, who declared himself Venezuela’s interim president in January with support from the West. Tensions threatened to boil over in May, when Guaidó tried and failed to ignite an uprising.  The attempted coup was seen as an embarrassing failure by the United States and particularly National Security Advisor John Bolton, reportedly the architect of multiple attempts to unseat Maduro. In addition to harsh sanctions, the United States went so far as to draw up military options, but never took any action.”

Comment: Looks like Bolton takes the fall for inept U.S. meddling in Venezuela.  Guess what?  It’s all about the oil — and the money.

Of course, FP: Foreign Policy missed the biggest story of 2019: Consistent, extensive, and persistent lying by U.S. leaders about the course of the Afghan War, as revealed by the “Afghan Papers” published by the Washington Post.

Readers — what do you think about this list?  In the holiday spirit, I see much naughtiness here, and no niceness.  Santa won’t be pleased.

19 thoughts on “Top Stories of U.S. Foreign Policy in 2019

  1. Just saw this article about the Afghan Papers: “8 Years Ago I Warned the Government Lied About Afghanistan—Will Anyone Listen Now?”

    by Daniel L. Davis

    “The report may be more painful to me than most, however, because I first publicly exposed our leaders’ duplicity almost eight years ago—yet because the government and military leaders were unwilling to take corrective action. Since then, the war continued without pause and thousands of American service members have since been killed and wounded pointlessly pursuing the unattainable.”

    https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/8-years-ago-i-warned-government-lied-about-afghanistan%E2%80%94will-anyone-listen-now-107696

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  2. Let’s take a fundamental approach: What is the objective of “US Foreign Policy”? It has nothing whatsoever to do with the security of US citizens/residents, and everything to do with advancing/defending the pecuniary interests of the US Ruling Class. For this reason, as a member of “the 99%” who has political consciousness, I CELEBRATE every setback for the US of A!! At the same time, I have nothing but compassion for the “collateral damage” wreaked by my country. “Patriotism”? Don’t be a chump!!

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  3. It reads like a breakdown of “The Top 5 Stories in Foreign Policy” as “powered by Yahoo! and Google.”

    1a. Why are we in Syria, anyway?
    1b. What are the criteria for a “vital U.S. interest” these days?
    1c. With the above in mind, to shift troops around to better accommodate Turkey’s military makes it sound like our people there are on an extended, glorified camping trip.

    2. D’accord. We shouldn’t be meddling anywhere. As for supporting former Commie satellite countries and “freedom fighters” anywhere financially or militarily is so Cold War it’s not funny. And do a President’s criminal actions – even if they involve another country – qualify as “foreign policy”?

    3. Talks with anyone are hardly “historic” if nothing is accomplished. “Yes, but this was North Korea!” Big deal.

    4a. It kinda seems like everything about US foreign policy has become an act of war or the threat of or prelude to it. Our military is the most destructive force in history and we’re always spoiling to remind people of that fact. Where is the UN? Why are there never sanctions against the US?
    4b. In a way, Iran is like Cuba once was: they embarrassed/humiliated us with the takeover of the Embassy, have never said “we’re sorry” and refuse to be intimidated.

    5. Again, very Cold War.

    How much credibility can FP: Foreign Policy have if the “Afghan Papers” story doesn’t figure prominently, as in “Number 1 with a Bullet”?
    Yes, this stuff should be tucked in between “The Kardashian’s Family Christmas Card” and “New Chinese Aircraft Carrier Shifts Balance of Power in the Pacific.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Andrew Bacevich nails it:

    “There is a lesson to be learned from the Washington Post’s publication of the “Afghanistan Papers,” which chronicle the corruption, ineptitude, dishonesty, and strategic disarray that have marked the Afghanistan war since its earliest days. That lesson is this: when it comes to war, the American people and their elected representatives will do just about anything to avoid the truth.”

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/learning-nothing-from-the-ghost-of-congress-past/

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    1. As long as military adventures abroad (which is all “US foreign policy” consists of) bring in lucrative profits for the “Defense” (ha! ha!) Industry, futile endless wars will persist.

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  5. A few years ago I volunteered at our local VA Hospital. I was a driver of a VA provided Van. We would pick -up and take home Vets who for one reason or another could not drive. Given, the grossly obscene Defense Budget, you might think the VA would have paid drivers, instead of volunteer drivers.

    It was a gamut of Vets, Korean War, Vietnam War, peace time Elvis Era Vets, post Vietnam Era Vets and then the “new” Vets from Bush the Elder, Bush the Younger, to Hope and Change Obama.

    The younger Vets are surprised that my “tour” in Vietnam was 13 months and then I was out of the Army. The younger Vets are deployed again and again using various subterfuges – Stop Loss, etc. I also joined support groups. It was horrifying to hear the stories from the young Vets. Basically, Afghans, and Iraqis are all the potential “enemy” and they are treated as such. No winning the hearts and minds – just survival.

    What we usually hear and see about War stateside, is a movie about Alvin York or Audie Murphy, if there is any semblance of truth. Then we have the Rambo movies. Saving Private Ryan was a bit of both, reality and Rambo.

    What shocked me listening to the Young Vets is how over powering their experience in war now rules their lives – Fear, suspicion, anger, or guilt the inability to leave their experiences “over there”. The civilian world expects us to leave it “over there” and re-enter our world of happy, consuming capitalism. It does not surprise me to hear about the suicides.

    The stories of the Vets who cannot assimilate and who struggle with tormenting demons are never publicized. No, we have big thank you’s for the Warrior Cult. We have the ridiculous displays of professional athletes in some bit of “Cameo” gear, giant flags, and the National Anthem. Oh yes, and the politicians who have as a back drop several giant American Flags.

    The American Legion and VFW who could expose the damage to mind and body of our soldiers, etc., prefer to write stories about some heroic action of American bravery against some enemy in the past. Since 1945, we have been reduced to “celebrating” not the end of a War but, to some victory on some hill or rain forest.

    The Vets who are drug or alcohol addicted and/or homeless, real life zombies are ignored – The Warrior Cult does not permit us to see the real damage to the body and soul.

    If there was a Smedley Butler today the McMega-Media would guarantee he or she would never be heard.

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    1. ML: I’ve been reading “The Last Full Measure: How Soldiers Die in Battle,” by Michael Stephenson. First off, the book reminds us soldiers exist to fight, to kill — and often to die. It’s not about being warriors, looking good in uniform, being brave, being heroic. It’s about killing and surviving, and it involves incredible waste.

      For some reason, this snippet caught me (on page 345):

      “Charles Lindsay of the Fourth Marines on Okinawa stumbled on the body of a fellow Marine: ‘A perfect specimen of youth … not a scratch on him except a bullet hole thru his helmet. He must have been killed instantly and there was no blood. I opened his pack to get his poncho to cover him from the flies. Out fell a picture of his mother and a picture of a beautiful girl. I placed the pictures inside his jacket and then knelt down and prayed. And then just plain cried. To me he was the whole war.'”

      Waste. Waste of youth. Killing. Loss. That’s what war is all about, and why we should never fight one except as a last resort.

      Bring the troops home!

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      1. I just wrote a lengthy commentary that was robo-rejected. Too long, perhaps. So I’ll just repeat my concluding thought: Yes, a soldier’s job is to kill enemies. IN DEFENSE OF THE HOMELAND. This is NOT what the US Military has been doing for many, many decades. Korea, Vietnam, everything that went on in the “Middle East,” and now the Forever War on Terror…ALL wars of choice!! THAT is the real issue.

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        1. Rejected? That’s strange, Greg. I see no record of it. Sometimes, comments are rejected if they contain too many links, as that’s often a sign of spam.

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          1. Nope, I embedded no links. Just a technical hiccup at WordPress, I suppose. Comment was too long for me to be willing to redo it! Merry Christmas to you!

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  6. I just listened to Glenn Greenwald interview Evo Morales (it’s on YouTube). He barely made it out of Bolivia to Mexico, which was not his original plan. At first he wasn’t allowed to take off. Finally a general in the air force cleared him. The original destination (Peru, I think) was closed to him
    I was struck by something Evo said about what the US ambassador to Bolivia said to him, that he could have any diplomatic relations he wanted except that he (Evo Morales) was not allowed to have diplomatic relations with Venezuela, Cuba and Iran.
    Morales said he replied that Bolivia was a sovereign country, not a colony to give orders to.
    Just the sheer arrogance of the US ambassador is stunning to me. Naked arrogance.
    Note, Morales had 60% of the vote while the woman taking over, Jeanine Áñez, as president, had 4% and the kingmaker behind it, Luis Fernando Camacho, had 0.69%.
    While this certainly has CIA-type marks all over it (much the same script), and “we” have “our” controlling hands in so many pies, there is another, dark, sinister force going on here which is coming up from the shadows worldwide. A Christian fundamentalist fascist movement. Áñez, held a large bible over her head and proclaimed that, “The Bible has returned to the Palace.” And the US is right behind her, immediately recognizing her is the president of Bolivia.
    Camacho (0.69%), holding a crucifix, said, ‘Pachamama will never return to the palace, Bolivia belongs to Christ…”
    I note also the prayer campaign for Trump by Christian fundamentalists in this country.
    Today I heard on the radio that the Mexican embassy in Bolivia is basically under siege for granting asylum, in the embassy, to top members of Morales’ government. Boliva says the officials will not be allowed to leave. That’s were it is at this moment, as the Bolivian police and military cleanse the country – so far just starting.

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    1. Yes. I’m no expert on this, but apparently it’s all about the lithium, i.e. money.

      Who are these Christians who think they can serve both God and Mammon? Guess they never read the Bible they’re so proud to hold over their heads.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. CIA seldom publicly admits its deeds, much as I’m sure they’d love to boast. That’s why it was remarkable, maybe stunning, that they eventually owned up to Osama bin-Laden having been their very own creature (though not using that language, of course). And that creature turned around and showed the face of “Frankenstein’s Monster.” Another brilliant US triumph!!

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  7. yes the Afghanistan papers are the big missed story but so too is the Democrats’ McCarthyist embrace of Russia conspiracy theories, which poisons both foreign and domestic political strategy.
    The return of old fashioned yankee imperialism and coup making in Latin America is another. And please don’t refer to the failed coup attempt in Venezuela as “inept meddling.” It was in fact a failed coup attempt.
    Finally, the failed expansion of the global war on terrorism to west Africa and the Sahel warrants a spot on the list. From carbombs in Mogadishu to dead operators in Niger and no go zones in jihadi controlled northeast Nigeria, the clusterfuck that was Obama’s disastrous war in Libya continues to ravage the entire region.

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    1. Those who really make the decisions on US foreign policy–Donald J. Trump is NOT a member of this “club,” let’s face it–are united in pushing the line that Russia and China are still (all these years after “the collapse of communism”) the Raging Monster Enemies of poor, picked-on, peace-loving USA. Trump’s cozying up to Putin is just an aberration of his extremely aberrant presidency. Yes, we still hear the Dems and their media accomplices speak almost daily about how the Evil Russkies “meddled in/interfered with/hacked,” etc. the 2016 US election. It is, indeed, pathetic and I was sick and tired of it the day after they started this song & dance!…Latest “news”: US launched airstrikes against alleged Iranian ops bases in Syria and Iraq, and US military is ready to answer ‘Little Rocket Man’s still undelivered (!) “Christmas present.” If anyone can contribute a single argument for things getting better in the new year, I’ll be thrilled to ponder it!

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