First, Donald Trump’s erratic behavior after winning the election does worry me – making statements (in “Twitter storms”) that would ignore Supreme Court rulings (flag burning), complaining about “illegal voting” without apparent factual evidence. Some of the people he courts seem to be “science deniers” and have ties with extreme positions on a number of issues (race, LGBT) in the past, even if some of these people claim their views have changed somewhat with the times.
I can even understand the preoccupation some people have with “family” or “tribal” loyalty, with the “take care of your own first” idea, and with respect for authority, and the idea that a lot of people who complain or protest are moochers or “second-handers” (to borrow a term from Ayn Rand in “The Fountainhead”) looking for attention. I’ve leave all that aside for now.
I do share some of Trump’s concerns over national security, even the idea that the nation is in some peril (as the Washington Post characterized his speech at the GOP convention in Cleveland). I would want to make “infrastructure” great again – but I would focus much more on some specific areas (like power grid security) and in general, would develop ways to make renewable energy use profitable and cost-effective. I think that a progressive attitude on climate change is actually good for business and jobs.
I also share Trump’s concerns over the Left’s obsession with identity politics, and elevating victimhood, which I personally don’t find honorable.
So if I were the president-elect, I could make strong statements on some of these issues, without suggesting retaliation against opponents or critics, and without showing disrespect for the Constitution, and without baiting various racial, religious or gender-issue-associated groups. Both parties would be fine with what I would say, especially the GOP mainstream. And, yes, there are some things seriously wrong with the way Obamacare works now, and it hurts some people.
Before getting to foreign policy in this post, I want visitors to look at Christiane Amanpour’s speech about the developing threat to journalism. I also want to call attention to the hard-hitting journalism by Trey Yingst of OAN, with a story about him here . Yingst has done some live discussions on Facebook about the carnage of civilians in Aleppo.
Washington Post editor Martin Baron has a major op-ed in Vanity Fair on the crisis, His advice: do our jobs.
Margaret Sullivan talks about “access” and “accountability” forms of journalism and then says “Get over it, journalists, and then adapt.”But access journalism, as she defines it, would seem to violate objectivity (if you have to “join the team” first to have access — that’s a problem with bloggers and volunteer groups).
And to the best of my knowledge, it appears that most of the carnage seems to come from Assad, and maybe Russia, claiming to eliminate terrorists. But in much of the rest of Syria and in northern Iraq, of course, ISIS is responsible for all the atrocities and carnage.
At this point, it’s appropriate to note that Donald Trump’s planned foreign policy seems to emphasize eliminating ISIS rather than also opposing Assad, or opposing Russian intervention in former Soviet republics. NBC News has a good summary here. Another source is the WSJ, here. RT claims that opposing Assad would jeopardize US-Russia relations, here, but RT is a Russian site, so you expect that.
Trump seems focused on ISIS because of the asymmetry of the way ISIS seems to be encouraging its followers to target civilians at home in western countries, through social media (especially Twitter) recruiting and the “Dark Web”. ISIS is effectively treating civilians in western countries, including the US, as combatants who bear the moral hazard of what their government does, and exposure to sacrifice. It’s a kind of thinking that recalls to me my own journey with the Vietnam era draft, and the privilege of escaping the risk-sharing through student deferments. It brings back a style of moral thinking of a half century ago when physical cowardice was viewed as a mortal sin.
So Trump can reasonably claim he is protecting individual citizens’ lives from personal peril by emphasizing ISIS, instead of the more distant and conventional threats posed by Russia and particular North Korea.
Along these lines, the latest information about the Ohio State perpetrator, Abdul Azak Ali-Artan is particularly disturbing, as in this CNN story. Artan seems to be a “second generation” refugee, whose mother and sisters were fully vetted by DHS and State before he came to the US with a green card in 2014 from Pakistan, having fled Somalia (one of the world’s most lawless places – “Black Hawk Down”, in 2007). It will be of concern to see if Artan was himself recruited first on “amateur” social media (or searchable websites) here, or if his radical views had come from living in Pakistan. I’ve covered how Trump is likely to view this on Nov. 7 and 27. Breitbart has pointed to material on Vocativ covering ISIS claims and training videos. Indeed, if social media and user-generated content platforms are being “weaponized” by foreign enemies, from a legal and constitutional viewpoint, this can be a grim development for the future of everyday Internet speech as we know it,
Can Trump “constitutionally” censor or shut down what is going on? I’ve covered some of this before, but the idea that American civilians are being drawn into war as combatants sounds, to me at least, like a good theoretical (“war time“) justification which most Internet users in the US would not really grasp yet. Trump seems to believe (as do I) that you take “real enemies” seriously at their word. After the Paris 11/13 attacks, the FCC said it does not have the authority to shut down ISIS or terror-promoting websites, as in this article in The Hill (Note the analysis below of the weak infrastructure for reporting outages.) Information on how to build pipe or pressure cooker bombs, flux weapons and even nuclear devices has abounded in published books even before there was a widely used public Internet (the “library” where “It’s Free”). Remember the liability that Paladin Press incurred for one of its books, “Hit Man” (Wiki) – that didn’t need the Internet. France has tried to make it a crime to visit terror websites, an activity that would normally be hidden with SSL and use of https (Reuters story ), and which Electronic Frontier Foundation will say a lot about. Nevertheless, one can imagine the idea of making “possession” of certain terror-related materials a crime on par with possessing (and distributing) child pornography. Precise definition would be a problem (we are not Russia).
As someone who has followed some of the “doomsday prepper” crowd on Facebook, with all the talk of TEOTWAYKI, I would think that more emphasis on the bigger threats (as opposed to loan wolves) is appropriate. Trump is critical of Obama’s deal with Iran, but some on the right (even Newt Gingrich) think that Iran would be the most likely foreign power to try a mass EMP attack like what happens in “One Second After” (which NORAD might stop). North Korea seems to be accelerating its belligerence with its nuclear weapons program. In the past, some observers have claimed that North Korea would be able to reach northern Michigan through the Great Circle route with a nuclear-armed missile. Now CNN recently reported that such a missile could reach Washington DC within four years. And Kim Jong Un, who can throw a tantrum over a Seth Rogen and James Franco movie (“The Interview”), probably will do something provocative on Trump’s first day on office. And Trump could reach with the red button himself, without preparation. Here’s a recent article in FP about US Missile Defenses. The Daily Caller has a map (Feb. 2016) showing the claimed range of the Taepo Dong 3 as 13000 kilometers, encompassing the entire US. Of course, a long range missile could be contemplated as a high-altitude EMP blast over the middle of the US, and there is a good question as to whether NORAD (Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado — “War Games“) would stop it from ever getting here.
(Posted Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 at 5:43 PM EST)
P.S. (later tonight) Check the New Yorker article today, by Monchillo, “The Hand of ISIS at Ohio State“. That article links to a pdf image of Rumiyah, which ironically has an illustrated page on “character”, not as David Brooks defines it. If you look up “Rumiyah” (“Rome”) on Google, you don’t find a direct site (maybe blocked) but you find foreign server sites with various spellings (Trend Micro hasn’t rated them, but it would warn on any it gets around to visiting). I tried one on an iPhone (waiting for a movie to start) and it required login. I could say that the magazine is rather like porn, or it is like an explicit slasher horror movie that’s “bad for you” if you’re young and impressionable. If taken out of religious context, it’s just the kind of stuff most parents don’t want their kids to see, and some filters would take it out. That takes us back to the kind of debate we had with the CDA and COPA. We’ve been in this place before, talking about 11/13 in Paris, Santa Barbara, and Pulse.