HOWARD EPSTEIN: LIMITS TO THE RELEVANCE OF WHITE HOUSE DYSFUNCTION
The leadership of the USA in diplomacy and strategic affairs is wilting as badly as the White House is run. Telling Kim Jong Un of North Korea, each time he takes another step towards the ability nuke US cities, that he is a naughty boy has not been working since Wendy Sherman gave effect to Bill Clinton’s appeasement policy back in 1994, and it is not going to work any more effectively now. As Putin, Assad and the Iranian mullocracy see this feeble excuse for world leadership, and celebrate the apparent resignation from active duty of the World’s Policeman, so each absence of activity encourages the next outrage from the outrageous. DEBKAfile this weekend set out the position chillingly thus:
Trump under NKorean and Iranian missile siege – DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis
In the same 48-hour time frame, North Korea and Iran both managed to rattle the West by successfully testing advanced missiles. Thursday, July 27, Tehran launched a “Simorgh” rocket, which is capable of carrying a 250-kg satellite into space. The next day, Pyongyang test-fired its second intercontinental ballistic missile, an improved version of the Hwasong 14, first tested three weeks earlier.
The depth of the dismay in the West may explain why none of the experts dared mention the even more troubling fact which has been known for some time: Iran and North Korea are longstanding partners in their long-range missile programs. Each maintains experts at the other’s development facilities.
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources confirm that Irans success was no less impressive than North Korea’s – and just as dangerous. The Simorgh, aka Safir-3, is the fruit of years of Iranian development and many failed tests on the way to achieving a satellite-carrying rocket as the basis for nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.
From this one can see how the Obama-Sherman appeasement of Iran is already threatening everything we know, the only barrier to its nuclear breakout being time – which, as we know, has a habit of slipping away all too quickly.
As to the hapless Trump, Congressmen of both parties appear to have the bit between the teeth now, with the appointment of a grand jury as well as a special prosecutor. Nevertheless, the wheels of justice, if that is what is required to unseat the dysfunctional president, will undoubtedly grind exceeding slow, as has been the case (as perhaps it should be in any criminal and administrative law system where the rule of law is paramount) since English/common law legal processes evolved and matured. In the meantime, one shudders to think how, in the meantime, the bad guys might win territory at the expense of the West – for example an Iranian presence on the Mediterranean coastline that a more competently-instructed US military might be able to preclude. Let us hope that the cavalry arrive before the last reel.
In the meantime, should we write the USA off as unable any longer to contribute to the welfare of the world? The wider picture tells a different story.
As is well-known, the US arrogates to itself the right to control behavior beyond its continental shelf. For example, the United States regulates the bribery of foreign public officials by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act 1977. There are three possible reasons why the US pursues such a policy:–
- Moralism: legislation that is designed to make a moral statement, to send the message that corrupt practices are morally blameworthy no matter where they take place;
- Self-Interest: bribery is an improper and wasteful way to obtain favors from foreign officials; so it is in the economic interests of the US to prevent the paying of bribes for favors that they might otherwise be able to obtain by less costly and more legitimate means; and the prohibition of bribery helps maintain a wholesome image of the US abroad; and
- Altruism: that the US should assist others to combat corruption as part of a broader commitment to promoting their economic and political development for the greater good.
Indeed, altruism has played a more prominent role in the USA in fields other than just its criminal law. There are many other impressive examples of US altruism that others would do well to emulate.
In 1974, Senator Henry Jackson, with Charles Vanik in the House, sponsored the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act. This legislation operates to deny normal trade relations to countries with non-market economies that restrict the freedom of emigration and other human rights. The intention was to help refugees, particularly minorities – and specifically Jews wishing to emigrate from the Soviet Bloc. Indeed, Jackson and his assistant, Richard Perle, can take direct credit for the release from his Gulag cell of Natan Sharansky, now the head of the Jewish Agency (the Sochnut) in Jerusalem. (Jackson was also a leading proponent of materially-elevated foreign aid to Israel.)
Then, in 1997, the Leahy Law (or the Leahy amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act – named for its principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy) was passed. This is expressly a human rights law that prohibits the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign military units that would otherwise violate human rights with impunity. To apply this law, US embassies, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and the appropriate regional bureaux of the Department of State must exclude as potential recipients of security assistance any entity seen to be guilty of serious human rights abuses. Due to the Leahy Law, the security forces of Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, Indonesia, Lebanon and Saint Lucia have been denied assistance.
More recently, the Magnitsky Act (formally known as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012) was passed by the US Congress and signed off by President Obama in November–December 2012. This provides for the punishment of Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009.
Now we come completely up-to-date with a quick look at the Taylor Force Act. On August 3, 2017, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the advancement of the bill by a vote of 16-5. This legislative bill proposes to end American economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until the PA changes its laws to cease paying stipends funneled through the Palestinian Authority Martyr’s Fund to individuals who commit acts of terrorism (like the murder of American tourist, and United States Army Veteran, Taylor Force in Tel Aviv-Jaffo on 8 March 2016) and blood money to the families of deceased terrorists.
There is no other country in the world that has a record for altruism like that of the USA.
OK, so the White House is dysfunctional but that is not the whole country. Plainly, Congress is still a force for good. Also, outside the DC Beltway, Elon Musk just delivered the Model T of the 21st century to the first 5,000 customers for his peoples’ electric car, Apple still posts record profits and – at the other end of the spectrum – ordinary people go to work every day to earn an honest living for their families. All this despite the absence of strong government in the White House.
The State of Israel, thanks to its proportional representational electoral system, has never had a strong government: they are all coalitions teetering on the edge of the next election as a reaction to the last crisis. Yet its economy is a thing of wonder (excellent GDP growth at ten times that of Europe and the USA from an export-led economy despite having the world’s strongest currency in a diversified economy) and its people continue to amaze with their inventiveness and resourcefulness.
Now, does anyone think there would be fewer markets opening up to Israel in Africa, the Muslim central Asian states, India and China if some other person that Bibi Netanyahu, corrupt or not, were the PM? Really? Is one man the key to the success driven by millions of working Israelis and hundreds of awesome Israeli companies? Somewhat unlikely. Outside Nazi German, today’s North Korea and Venezuela, the influence of the leader is as of nothing compared to the momentum of the country.
Some countries have a momentum for evil; others as a force for good. In regard to the latter, the USA still leads and lights the way.
© Howard Epstein August 2017
Chaim Weizmann: the Indispensable Zionist, by Howard Epstein, is now available on Kindle. Just go to Kindle and search for any combination of words in the title or the author’s name.