No legal (domestic or international) argument exists for the Syrian strikes.

The authors are Jack Goldsmith and Oona Hathaway, both lawyers, and they throughly disprove all legal “arguments” for the Syrian strikes presented in the past several days.
Not that concerns for enforcing International law motivated Trump (nor should it) but it is hard to resist the temptation to point out the irony of a state to violate international law in pursuit of enforcing it.
You can read their blog post here.

When Liberals Become Progressives, Much Is Lost

Historical progressivism is an ideology whose American avatars, like Woodrow Wilson, saw progress as the inevitable outcome of human affairs. Of course, liberals and conservatives believe that their policies will result in positive outcomes, too. But it is another thing to say, as American Progressives did, that the contemporary political task was to identify a destination, grip the wheel and depress the accelerator.

 

The basic premise of liberal politics, by contrast, is the capacity of government to do good, especially in ameliorating economic ills. Nothing structurally impedes compromise between conservatives, who hold that the accumulated wisdom of tradition is a better guide than the hypercharged rationality of the present, and liberals, because both philosophies exist on a spectrum.

The author is By Greg Weiner and you can read the rest here.

Trump and the Syrian attack

In my perspective, do you think the Americans, British and French really care about the regime and that the [attack] yesterday was just to prevent the use of chemical weapons? It was part of it. But the main thing is, there was a hidden message to the Russians that despite your existence and massive victories on the ground, we remain part of the game and we will always be part of the political solution.

That is from Nawar Oliver and other view points can be read here.

I can think of two other reasons for the western military response to the Syrian use of chemical weapons. One is generous to Trump and has to do with the long term view of power. Chemical weapons like those used in Syria are arguably easy to produce. Most accounts I’ve read suggest a masters level of education with a few years of training is all that is needed. The fact that Syria, a country with a GDP of about 2,000, can make them is alarming to the powers that run the world. Chemical weapons are difficult to control and easily dispersed. They are a terrorist’s dream weapon and the west along with other major powers (Russia and China) cooperate and go to great lengths to ensure that they don’t spread. This explains the irrational position that the west will turn a blind eye to the killing of Syrian civilians resulting from conventional weapons but not the use of chemical weapons.

The other reason Trump was motivated was because of the emotional pull of seeing children gasping for air. The same thing happened when Trump ordered the first strike in 2017. Even someone like myself who is highly skeptical of military power solving political issues feels compelled to “act” in response to seeing children dead from being gassed.

Thomas Friedman on Syria

Even more dangerous is that Israel and Iran, at the exact same time, seem to be heading for a High Noon shootout in Syria over Iran’s attempts to turn Syria into a forward air base against Israel, something Israel is vowing to never let happen. This is not mere speculation. In the past few weeks — for the first time ever — Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria.

The rest can be read here.

Ian Bremmer on Russia

What has Putin really won? Today’s Russia has an economy smaller than that of Canada. Its entire military budget is less than the extra money President Donald Trump wants Congress to spend on U.S. defense. It has no NATO allies, and it counts countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea, Syria and Serbia among its few reliable friends. China makes occasional deals with Russia but only at a Chinese price.

You can read the rest at Time here.

Trump Makes Over $80 Billion in Major Arms Deals in First Year

A report released today by the Security Assistance Monitor (SAM) program of the Center for International Policy documents over $80 billion in U.S. arms sales notifications to Congress during the Trump Administration’s first year in office. The Trump Administration total of $82.2 billion for 2017 slightly exceeded the Obama Administration’s total of $76.5 billion for 2016, and was more than $20 billion less than the peak year of the Obama Administration’s major arms sales offers in 2010.

 

The rest can be read here.

The Education of Kim Jong-Un

North Korea is what we at the CIA called “the hardest of the hard targets.” A former CIA analyst once said that trying to understand North Korea is like working on a “jigsaw puzzle when you have a mere handful of pieces and your opponent is purposely throwing pieces from other puzzles into the box.” The North Korean regime’s opaqueness, self-imposed isolation, robust counterintelligence practices, and culture of fear and paranoia provided at best fragmentary information.

Here is another bit.

That left Jong-un, whom the elder Kim chose to be the third Kim to lead North Korea because he was the most aggressive of his children. Kenji Fujimoto, Kim Jong-il’s former sushi chef, who visited Pyongyang at the request of Kim Jong-un, has provided some of the most fascinating firsthand observations about Jong-un and his relationship with his father. Fujimoto claims that Jong-il had chosen his youngest son to succeed him as early as 1992, citing as evidence the scene at Jong-un’s ninth birthday banquet where Jong-il instructed the band to play “Footsteps” and dedicated the song to his son: Tramp, tramp, tramp; The footsteps of our General Kim; Spreading the spirit of February [a reference to Kim Jong-il, who was born in February]; We, the people, march forward to a bright future. Judging from the lyrics, Jong-il was expecting Kim Jong-un to lead North Korea into the future, guided by the spirit and legacy of his father.

It is a Brookings Paper. You can read the rest here.

George Will on Afghanistan

Quoting from the much discussed Steve Coll’s book, “Directorate S: The CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pak­istan,” Will writes,

…when Gen. Stanley McChrystal went to Afghanistan in May 2002, “A senior Army officer in Washington told him, ‘Don’t build [Bondsteels],’ referring to the NATO base in [Kosovo] that Rumsfeld saw as a symbol of peacekeeping mission creep. The officer warned McChrystal against ‘anything here that looks permanent. . . . We are not staying long.’ As McChrystal took the lay of the land, ‘I felt like we were high-school students who had wandered into a Mafia-owned bar.’ ” It has been a learning experience. After blowing up tunnels — some almost as long as a football field — thought to be created by and for terrorists, U.S. officials learned they were actually an ancient irrigation system.

You can read the rest here.

‘President for life’ Xi risks repeat of China’s Mao-era mistake.

The warning is from Cary Huang and here is one bit

However, relying on the strongman model is risky, both for Xi himself and the country. It puts the steering wheel of the world’s most populous nation and second largest economy in the hands of one person, spelling danger when that helmsman gets old or ill – as was seen in Mao’s later days. The model makes it harder for Xi to avoid misjudgments and policy mistakes as few will dare to speak out. Removing term limits will help prevent future challenges to Xi’s authority and legitimacy, but the resurgence of strongman politics could intensify internal power struggles as factions will compete for the powers and resources once shared among all.

You can read the rest here.