If we go to war with Iran, blame President Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter may be the one to blame if President Trump goes to war with Iran, thanks to his handed-down Carter Doctrine

The 94-year old ex-president is recovering from a turkey shoot hip injury, but while he was in the White House refusing to pardon Thanksgiving turkeys, he changed the course of America’s Iran policy.

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Carter asserted that any nation trying to control the Persian Gulf or restrict the free-flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz was acting against America’s “vital interests.” Carter articulated this message near the end of his presidency and at a time when revolutionary Iran held the United States hostage and the Soviets militarily occupied Afghanistan.

The message to Iran and the USSR was clear: Make a move on the neighborhood, mess with shipping, slow the flow of oil and risk going to war with the United States. READ MORE

Trump’s foreign policy is pushing allies into China and Russia’s waiting arms

Nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula have diminished since last summer’s Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. In the run-up to this month’s Vietnam summit, Trump is acutely aware that a potential landmark deal on Kim’s complete, verifiable and permanent denuclearization would be a significant foreign policy win for him, the region and the world.

Unfortunately, that potential deal is where Trump’s foreign policy successes both start and end.

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By any other measure, the president’s aggressive pursuit of nativist policies has weakened America’s global leverage, given its adversaries strategic openings and made the world a little less safe for democracy and human rights. In normal times, this would be seen as a failure of leadership and a threat to America’s fundamental values, global stature and international dominance.

These are not, however, normal times. READ MORE

With Juan Guaidó seizing the presidency, Venezuela’s ‘Latin Spring’ is heating up

Arab Spring, move aside. Latin Spring is now blossoming, and if all goes well, it will be less bloody and a lot more successful at ousting corrupt leaders and promoting homegrown democratically elected representatives than the Middle East revolutions.

The North African and the Middle East popular movements that began in late 2010 shook up the power balance, catalyzed civil wars and further destabilized the region. Venezuela just experienced a so-far relatively peaceful and planned constitutional coup.

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It’s way too early to predict if the effects of Wednesday’s dramatic event will devolve into chaos or breed new forms of violence, corruption, juntas or dictatorships, but as with the Arab Spring countries, what kicked Venezuelans into action is that daily life hit rock bottom. Living conditions have gotten so bad that people’s hope for a better life completely dissolved. Ninety percent of Venezuelans today are living in poverty and over the last year had lost an average of 24 pounds. Citizens were both on the path to real starvation while on a strictly enforced diet from democracy. READ MORE

Trump’s foreign policy is all about him. That’s not good for us, or the rest of the world

Snap troop withdrawal from Syria? Overnight decisions for a dramatic military draw-down in Afghanistan?

America’s foreign-policy and national-security establishment is reeling from the rapid-fire changes, declarations and White House edicts. Our allies are shocked, too.

While President Trump’s tweet-from-the-hip policy-making is shocking and shaking-up the world, no one should be surprised.

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The truth is, Donald Trump has never lied to us about his foreign-policy priorities. We may not have wanted to believe him, we may ultimately find out that they were improperly influenced, we may even disagree with them. But the reality is that he has not simply intimated or coyly indicated how he sees the world and what he wants to do. He has told us. Repeatedly.

Treaties? Tear them up. READ MORE

Nicaragua’s ‘House of Cards’ stars another corrupt and powerful couple

Nicaragua is a political stage where a real-life “House of Cards” is now in its second season. President Daniel Ortega and his wife and partner in crime, Vice President Rosario Murillo, have together run the country as an increasingly violent family business for the last couple of years. Ortega has been continuously in power for the past decade and, all in all, for four long terms with no term limits. The next elections are scheduled for 2021.

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Ortega and Murillo make the Netflix series’ Frank and Claire Underwood seem like law-abiding, Constitution-respecting, selfless public servants. The Ortega family runs everything, owns the ruling Sandinista Party, dominates media, monopolizes power, skims profits and loots the nation. They are living proof of Lord Acton’s axiom that, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The United States has now decided to shut down parts of the Ortega-Murillo gang’s operation by freezing funds and flummoxing any financial transactions using American banks or brokers. READ HERE

Under Trump’s “sovereignty doctrine,” foreign tyrants have nothing to worry about

Jamal Khashoggi’s horrific murder was a message to journalists, dissidents and regime critics everywhere. You are never safe. Anywhere, anytime.

Khashoggi was guilty of practicing journalism. He mistakenly bet he would be safe traveling to a NATO member nation to take care of personal business. Why? Because nations generally follow both international law and formal diplomatic practices that respect foreign laws and sovereignty.

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Increasingly, however, more nations are exporting fear and practicing lethal intimidation with a new form of global vigilantism. They go abroad to get outlaw revenge.

The Khashoggi case is the latest example of exceptional and perverse murderous state-related behavior that targets and takes out perceived opponents living in exile. It’s not just journalists abroad practicing their profession that are singled-out for murder. Turncoats living in other countries are targets, and killing them, too, is a clear warning to future defectors and detractors. READ MORE

Haley leaves the stage as America prepares to assert a harsher global vision

Nikki Haley is getting out just in time.

With Venezuela on the brink of collapse and renewed Iran sanctions kicking in on Nov. 5, Haley will be on her way out the U.N. door as the world comes knocking on it to call for greater American accountability and support.

Haley could handle it, of course — she gives as good as she gets. However, it might just be a good time for her to be sipping mint juleps on a South Carolina back porch as this administration executes a more-assertive foreign policy — one the United Nations will not look upon kindly.

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The Trump administration is actively advocating for and catalyzing regime change in several countries, but with no plans to participate in follow-on nation building.

The administration clearly is disregarding Colin Powell’s famous use of the Pottery Barn rule, “You break it, you own it.” There are plenty of plans to break Iran and Venezuela, for example, but no clear plans to take ownership for the nation building that needs to follow any traumatic or violent event in an already-struggling society. READ MORE

CNN Newsroom: A look at NATO & Montenegro

Kounalakis on if US should defend NATO countries: "We answered that question a long time ago"

Markos Kounalakis, Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, discusses the uncertainty around President Trump's comments about NATO.     CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Markos Kounalakis, Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, discusses the uncertainty around President Trump's comments about NATO.   CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO

Trump moves fast and breaks things to disrupt world

Hang out in any Silicon Valley café and the word “disruption” is sure to be uttered at a nearby table. It is the keyword to unlock funding for forward-leaning ideas and the approach toward cutting out the middle man in transactions, leaving behind the inefficiencies in mediation, and burying the slow-to-change and inertia-bound in industry. Disruption is everything and everyone wants a piece of it. Including the American people.

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Disruption has hit every industry, from car transportation services to hotel lodging. 2016 brought it to foreign policy when a tried, tested and predictable former secretary of state was turned down for her star turn at the U.S. presidency in favor of a bull in the china shop disruptive agent of anti-globalist chaos and firm believer in realism’s international anarchy.  

As in every case of disruptive change, there are decided winners (Uber, Airbnb) and clear losers (taxis, hotels) and a lot of people out of work and scratching their heads because they didn’t see what just hit them.  READ MORE

Global fallout from Trump's remark

JANUARY 13, 2018, 1:17 PM| There's growing backlash over President Trump's controversial immigration remark. Foreign affairs columnist for McClatchy and visiting fellow at the Hoover Institute, Markos Kounalakis, talks to CBSN about the latest developments, as well as the ongoing threat from North Korea.

2018 could lock-in Trump privilege, power in foreign policy

The last line of defense in checking President Donald Trump’s foreign-policy power is the old guard of the Republican Party, and those watchmen are about to go quietly into the night.

A 2018 Republican sweep would cripple two key Senate committees, moving them from painfully ineffective to plainly inconsequential. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee are supposed to oversee the foreign-policy and the national-security apparatus. Trump has brought them to heel.

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He has belittled the outspoken Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who became a lame duck by giving up a 2018 reelection bid (Disclosure: Corker held my presidential appointment from Senate confirmation in 2016). Sitting out alongside him is another committee member, Trump-critic Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, leaving a handful of cowed Republicans and the minority Democrats to try to counter Trump policy tweets and fight for a systematically well-formulated foreign agenda.  READ MORE