By MR Josse
TAMPA, FL: Understandably, no week goes by here without there being a surfeit of important, even momentous, developments unfolding – either within this continent-sized nation or outside its shores – that are worthy of comment or deserving of close scrutiny.
That was true for the week that has just disappeared into history. Among a very few that can be lumped as news/comment worthy is the suspension by the U.S. of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, a move that may ignite a new global arms race and which has already placed America’s European allies on edge.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT
Another set of issues revolve around a second Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit that will take reportedly take place this month, possibly in Danang, Vietnam. That, it seems, will probably be followed by an apex meeting in China’s Hainan island between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a prospect that apparently looms large following recent trade talks in Washington between China and the United States.
Meanwhile, here in America it is rather amazing to see how hordes of Democrats are already throwing their hats in the ring for the November 2020 presidential election, almost as if that event were just around the corner.
No less attention-grabbing is that Trump’s troop pullout – from Syria and Afghanistan – decision was rebuffed (68-23) in a procedural vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Meanwhile, pundits here are mulling over the significance that senior intelligence officials are breaking two years of silence to warn that the President is endangering American security with that they say is a stubborn disregard for their assessment. As John Walcott claims in an opinion piece in Time.com, these intelligence biggies say Trump displays what one of them called “willful ignorance” when presented with analyses generated by “America’s $ 81 billion-a-year intelligence services.”
Referring to a briefing on South Asia, Walcott relates: “Trump’s advisers brought out a map of the region from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, according to intelligence officers with knowledge of the meeting and Congressional officials who were briefed on it, Trump, they said, pointed at the map and said he knew that Nepal was part of India, only to be told it was an independent nation. When, he said, he was familiar with Bhutan and knew it, too, was part of India, his briefers told him that Bhutan was an independent kingdom. Last August, ‘Politico’ reported on the president’s mispronouncement of the names of the countries during the same briefing…”
So, is anyone who follows American politics, within or outside the United States, dumbstruck? What is surprising to me is how the world’s richest and most powerful nation on earth can elect such a person to lead it!
At this juncture, I would like to refer to revelations from Condoleezza Rice’s “No Higher Honor” about 2000 presidential election candidate George W. Bush who when asked in an interview to name the president of Taiwan could only answer: Lee, rather than his full name Lee Teng-hui.
When asked to name the general then in charge in Pakistan, he responded: “General” and when asked if he knew the name of the prime minister of India could provide no answer.
Rice, who was at that point was a Bush campaign adviser, says that thereafter an effort was made to brush up candidate Bush’s foreign policy competence, but goes on to add: “We needed to fight to a draw in foreign policy so that the American people could concentrate on the governor’s qualities and domestic achievements, not the names of leaders he knew.”
Interestingly, Bush’s ignorance of the Indian prime minister’s name did not stand in the way of his administration taking the leap and formalizing a historic U.S.- India civil nuclear agreement of October 2008, signed respectively by the then American Secretary of State Rice and Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
There are, of course, some other considerations that follow from the unbelievable ignorance of the high and mighty in America. One is: apparently the visit of Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali to Washington a few months ago and the meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stirred not even a leaf within the White House compound.
Given that insight, how much credence should Nepal give to the Trump administration’s commitments? One hopes that Baluwtar and Singha Durbar will give deep and considered thought to the far-reaching ramifications, where Nepal’s foreign policy choices are concerned, from the disturbing state of affairs as made out in the just quoted Time.com item above.
Venezuela meantime continues to dominate the news, with dictator Nicolas Maduro still holding out, despite the fast-building pressures for him to quit. While that is due to the armed forces’ continued support, it is not difficult to comprehend that American pressure is part of a broader hemispheric strategy to exert greater U.S. influence over Latin America, as a whole.
More specifically, it is quite apparent that targeted is not only Maduro’s regime but Cuba’s as well. It is well-known, for example, that for long the United States has considered Cuba to be the far more serious security threat.
The OAS and the 12-member Lima Group have strongly rejected Maduro’s re-election while key regional states – Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Chile – have recognized National Assembly leader Juan Guaido as interim Venezeulan president.
Jared Genser in the Wall Street Journal recommended that a “credentials challenge” be mounted in the UN General Assembly against Maduro – one that would require only a majority vote, and not be subject to veto by Russia and China.
“In previous credential challenges such as Haiti’s in 1991 or Sierra Leone in 1996, the UN transferred UN recognition from repressive regimes to democratic ones even before the new governments had secured control over their territories.”
Apropos Prachanda’s anti-U.S. blast on Venezuela, I wonder why he did not find India’s active intervention in Nepal’s politics, via assistance to his Maoist gang, offensive!