FOREIGN POLICY – Pieced together from essays starting in 2006


FOREIGN POLICY  ( The world according to Tom )

I wrote up this stuff starting in 2006 when I wanted to run against Maria Cantwell for Senate and have added to it for my 2014 Campaign for Congress.  I will do additional revisions starting 1/28/16 to bring it up to date.  Revisions and additions to 2014 version will  be underlined.

I am 67.  My generation came of age politically in college during the ‘60s and ‘70’s turmoil brought on by the Vietnam War and the arrival of drugs on campus.  My generation is now starting to pass from the scene but is still very influential and has had a great influence on our successors.  Many of my generation were soured on America by Vietnam and were ripe for the dogma in college at the time that there was moral equivalence between us and the USSR or that indeed the Communists in the USSR, China and Cuba were morally superior to the greedy Capitalists of the west.  Most of my generation got over those opinions, except most of those that stayed on in the college bubble as professors to maleducate succeeding generations.  Others who kept this opinion were some who decided that they needed to change the world as journalists.  With that history and the prevailing left wing tilt in academia and media it is amazing to me that the far left in this country is not even more powerful.  But for the support of the main stream media, firmly on the left, President Obama’s  poor performance on every front would have cost him the 2012 election, even with the limp performance of Romney, instead he won by 51.1%.

President Obama and many of those that support him do not believe in American Exceptionalism.  Just saying something like that makes them queezy.  They are still not really sure that we are the good guys.

Since I was 13 years old,  I have known who are the good guys.

In 1961, my father, a Marine Officer, was assigned to the US Embassy in Moscow USSR as an Assistant Naval Attache.  At the time this was one of the rare overseas postings for a Marine that was accompanied by family.  Dad put me in a Russian Public School in Moscow for my Junior High years.

At the start of my second year in the Russian school in the fall of ‘62 our history and geography text books were late and we started without them.  They were late because they had to be rewritten to remove all references to Stalin.  Everyone knew why, but no student or teacher ever mentioned the reason.  In the spring of that school year we kids were cleaning up around the school after the snow melted.  My group of 14 year old boys found bits and pieces of plaster, a mustache, a bit of forehead, shoulder boards for a military uniform.  I was trying to figure out what the stuff was and asked my classmates, no one knew, but their demeanor seemed subdued.  I finally figured it out.  These were pieces of the Stalin Bust that had been part of the Lenin & Stalin shrine in every school they had attended since day care.  They knew exactly what these plaster pieces were.  My classmates were normally as irreverent as you would expect of a Junior High kid.  Why didn’t they admit to knowing or make jokes about it, as would a normal 14 year old?  It was because they knew better, they were afraid to speak some things, namely anything critical of their government.  A government that puts that kind of fear in a 14 year old boy is the bad guys.

Police states where people are afraid to speak and the press is not free are the bad guys.  There is no moral equivalence between them and the United States and there never was.  There are a lot of these bad guys, even some of our “Allies” such as Saudi Arabia are in reality bad guys.  There is also no moral equivalence between us and governments who, while not quite police states, operate with the facade of democracy but whose main business is to enrich the people in government and their well connected friends, while leaving many of their people desperately poor, such as Mexico.  We should treat both the police states and the kleptocracies with barely concealed contempt and never tolerate any crap from them in any forum.  Tolerating their crap does not make them like us better, it invites their contempt and further abuse.


We should work consistently across the world to promote democracy and good governance.  Why?  Because now problems travel at high speed and there are effectively no borders for a well financed problem, be it terrorists, cyber crime or WMD.  Long term, our best national defense is the export of good governance.  Despots seeking to maintain power often cause problems that provoke wars, or start wars outright, Saddam in Kuwait and Putin in Georgia and now in Ukraine for example.  Free people with representative governments do not provoke wars.  With the proliferation of Nuclear Weapons we must get rid of despots or risk their use in future conflicts.  One Nuclear weapon passed to terrorists and detonated in a major city in this country would change our lives for generations.  The physical and financial damage would diminish our standard of living and the demands for increased security would endanger our freedom.  A slight chance of this happening to us is justification for any action including an all out war.  This was one of the justifications for the Iraq war and I agreed with it.


The world is about to get much more dangerous due to a coming rash of nuclear proliferation brought on by President Obama’s limp policies.   Teddy Roosevelt’s guide for foreign policy was “Speak Softly but Carry a Big Stick”.  With President Obama, the foreign policy guide is to “lead from behind”  and “speak loudly but carry no stick at all”. His response to the “Arab Spring” uprising in  Libya was too little, too late, after being dragged in by the Europeans.  We got in so late and so reluctantly that we could not have any influence in shaping the outcome.  We are seeing a repeat in Syria.  He has been dithering for 5 years now, offering token support for some of the rebels while 300,000 Syrians have died, most murdered by their government.  Again it is too little and too late to have influence on the outcome.  In addition to that, he announced “Red Lines” for Syrian behavior and then when they crossed Obama’s Red Lines he did nothing.  President Obama has thrown away our credibility.

Next shoe to fall, Iran will become a nuclear weapons state.  President Obama partially lifted economic sanctions to start negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and gave Iran access to $2.8 billion in frozen assets.  The negotiations were supposed to be concluded July 20, 2014, instead they were extended to November 2014, then extended multiple times to June 2015 .  Anybody in the world with the proper amount of skepticism knows that Iran has been playing “Rope a Dope” with us and will soon either have nuclear weapons or be “a screwdriver turn” away from having nuclear weapons.  The immediate result of this development will be Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and possibly others, acquiring their own nuclear weapons.

In 2015 President Obama negotiated an agreement with Iran to in effect delay their Nuclear weapons program for 10 years or so if the Iranians adhere to the letter of the agreement.  There is no real reason to believe that they will.  Our goals for the agreement were constantly reduced.  It started out that Iran would not be allowed any ability to enrich uranium.  That was reduced to merely limiting the number of enrichment centrifuges that they could have on line and reducing the stockpile of low enriched uranium they could have.  It started out that there would be no notice intrusive inspections anywhere anytime.  It ended up that short notice inspections would be allowed at designated sites and inspections at new suspected sites could be negotiated as to time and degree of intrusiveness.  Sanctions are being removed and Iran will shortly have access to $150 Billion in frozen assets.  Iran is quickly tying up huge trade deals with Europe to make sure that there will be no “snap back” of trade sanctions in the event they are found to be cheating on the agreement.  See my page “REPUBLICAN PLAN TO FAIL” for a discussion of the Republican’s failure to insist that the agreement rises to the importance of a treaty and therefore requires Ratification by 2/3 of the Senate as specified in the Constitution.

President Obama’s limp response to China’s aggressive posture towards it’s neighbors and it’s extension of its “Territorial Waters” to include most of the South China Sea have led the countries in the region to doubt America’s resolve to fulfill it’s role since WW2 of shielding the small nations of the West Pacific first from Russia and China, and now from a rising China powerhouse.  Japan, South Korea and Taiwan could develop nuclear weapons in significant numbers in a very short time and very likely will.  Stable, responsible nations in the West Pacific with nukes might not be a problem but a bunch of nuclear weapons states in the Middle East is definitely a very serious problem.


This is an essay laying out my view on the fundamentals of our Foreign Policy in the recent past, and President Obama’s foreign policy based on his “non traditional” world view.

I wrote most of this during the Bush administration when they flailed around trying to come up with an animating idea for their foreign policy and kind of settled on IDEALISM, sort of, executed by people and institutions steeped in REALPOLITIK (Rumsfeld and the State Department).  Consequently, with his people pulling in different directions, President Bush not able to get them in line, and not willing to vigorously promote his vision for Iraq and the Middle East to the public, we were not able to finish the job in Iraq during the Bush administration. President Bush’s policies and ultimate goal did not pass on to the Obama administration.  Indeed, President Obama acted as if the progress in Iraq, purchased with 4,000 lives and a Trillion Dollars was his to throw away, and he threw it away, by withdrawing all American forces as fast as he could.   An announced goal of the Iraq war was to set up a real democracy in the Arab world.  Bush got a poor start on the job and now Obama has thrown that chance away.


The notion and guiding principal that the goals of our internal political philosophy, freedom and prosperity for our own citizens, should be the goals of our foreign policy for the rest of humanity.


The “Realism” or “Realpolitik” school of foreign policy thought focuses on balance of power, maintaining the status quo, making small gains if possible, limiting losses if necessary.  Since the end of World War Two this has been the dominant school of thought of those in our foreign policy establishment.  One of the tenants of this policy, that developed as an underpinning of the policy, is that the legitimacy of the government of a recognized nation state must not be challenged.  Many of the proponents of REALISM also believed that in reality there was a moral equivalence between all nation states and it was not for them to judge other states.

Ronald Reagan overrode this school of thought to a large degree during his Presidency and George Bush also tried to override REALISM.  This other outlook, Reagan’s, is sometimes labeled “Idealism”, the notion that the goals of our internal political philosophy, freedom and prosperity for our own citizens, should be the goals of our foreign policy for the rest of humanity.  Sometimes circumstances mean that “Realism” may be the best you can do.  Circumstances change, making it possible to pursue an “Idealistic” foreign policy.  The problem is that the people in our Foreign Policy establishment, our academic establishment and our Media establishment are stuck on “Realism” and the attendant “moral equivalence” mindset that is no longer required by new circumstances.


After World War Two, the US and the West were faced with an unpleasant reality.  The USSR, led by Joseph Stalin, was bent on expansion.  They had an ideology that was ascendant in large segments of societies worldwide due to widespread poverty brought on by two world wars in less than 30 years, the wide spread economic depression of the 30’s, their own propaganda and the popularity of socialism / communism in the academic community world wide.  They had a powerful war machine, the Red Army, that was occupying a lot of territory outside the borders of the USSR, was not demobilizing and that was obviously not going to leave these countries until it had brought them under the USSR’s umbrella.   They had a leader, Stalin, whose ruthlessness was proven by the 20 to 25 millions of his own citizens that he had starved or imprisoned and abused to death in a vast network of labor prisons.  In contrast, the US and our Western allies demobilized their swollen militaries as fast as possible.  The public in the US and our Western allies wanted to get back to civilian life and were barely interested in the fate of the countries that had fallen under the control of the USSR.  They were certainly not interested enough to support military response to the Soviet expansion.   Pretty soon we settled on a policy of “Containment”, accepting the facts on the ground, the enslavement of Eastern Europe occupied by the Red Army, and resisting the expansion of Soviet influence by application of a foreign policy based on “Realism” or “Realpolitik”.

During this period we resisted Soviet / Communist expansion by dealing with governments in power, whatever their stripe, trying to get them to align with us, rather than with the USSR.  We supported existing despots of varying degree and through covert means put in our own despots when it looked like the USSR was going to beat us to it.  “They were SOBs, but they were our SOBs.”  We cannot be proud of some of these activities, but the “Containment” policy, carried out by “Realpolitik” allowed us to hold most of our ground, and avoid a catastrophic nuclear war for 40 years, until the USSR ran out of the will and wealth to compete with us.  Their ideology had lost its appeal and they temporarily ran out of people in power that were willing to take the ruthless murderous steps needed to revive it.  Thankfully this coincided with Ronald Reagan’s Presidency and his willingness to confront and resist the USSR.

During the Cold War, in order to prevent escalation to a Nuclear War, we tolerated outrages.  We tolerated cheating on treaties and we tolerated war by surrogates.  The list of outrages is very long, and starts right at the end of the war.  American and British POWs, at least hundreds, of the thousands liberated by the Red Army, were retained in Soviet custody after the war.  Repatriation of our POWs was stopped after we stopped forcefully repatriating Soviet citizens.  These former Soviets resisted repatriation, some unto death, because they new what Stalin had waiting for them, immediate execution if they were lucky, death by abuse and neglect if they were not.  They kept some of our POWs, how many is unclear.  Yeltzen admitted to 400 in 1992, the CBS show 60 Minutes did a piece in the early 90s and claimed up to 12,000 were retained.  We choked down this outrage and did nothing.

I first heard of this outrage in 1992.  In ‘61 & ’62 my father was an Assistant Naval Attache in Moscow.  In a conversation in 1992 or so, brought on by the Army giving the name of a helicopter pilot who had killed US troops in the Gulf War, we agreed that the pilot would carry that memory to his death and the Army should not have identified him.  My father told me of WW2 memories that stuck with him and of a memory of his time in Moscow that bothered him.  On our way to Moscow in 1961 we stopped off in London for a school held for allied defense attaches.  One of the things he was told to watch for was prison gangs that did not look like normal Soviet prisoners, but that may be allied POWs from WW2.  He told me that every day, since ‘62 he had thought of a prison gang he had seen up around Murmansk.  They did not look right and appeared to try to catch his attention before they were hustled away.  I asked him why he did not run over to them and find out.  He answered “Because they would have killed me if they were POWs”.  He was probably right.  The Russians play for keeps and my father knew it.  Dad got the Navy Cross, Silver Star and Bronze Star medals at Roi Namur, Saipan and Iwo Jima in WW2.   This incident was not a matter of a young man’s bravery in combat, it was a matter of an older man knowing he would be throwing his life away for no purpose.  Dad took a realistic approach in this incident and it bothered him to his death 33 years later.  Another example, of many outrages is the case of Raul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who in WW2 Budapest saved a few thousand Jews from the Nazis.  Wallenberg was picked up as the Red Army approached Budapest and disappeared into the Soviet Prison system, and was reported alive as late as the 70’s.  He was never repatriated.  The Soviets claimed he died in their custody in 1947.  Skipping lots of outrages and many years.  Did anyone ever really believe that the attempted assassination of the Pope in 1981 was not the work of the Soviet KGB?  ;New revelations from the files of the East German Secret Police provide more evidence that was the case.  Shortly after the assassin was caught it was evident from his history and travels that the KGB, via their Bulgarian surrogates were behind the plot.  The motivation for the assassination was the Pope’s roll in the rising resistance to Soviet rule in Poland.  Everyone knew it, but no one was bold enough to make the accusation, much less hold the Soviets to account.  They got away with many lesser outrages, conducted in a similar barely deniable heavy handed manner, at least till Gorbachev came to power in 1985.

We tolerated the USSR cheating on arms control treaties.  Their normal course of action was to overtly go just over the limits agreed to, then argue about it, but covertly go quite a bit further.  The most flagrant and well known case of the USSR cheating was on the 1972 treaty banning biological weapons.   It was revealed by Yeltzen in 1992 that the USSR had maintained a robust biological weapons program and it was just then being stopped, twenty years after they signed the treaty.  The program was so large and we had such an intelligence effort directed at the USSR that we could not have missed it, yet we said little and tolerated it for twenty years, continuing to make agreements with them.  We knew they had our POWs from WW2, and did nothing.  We knew they cheated on arms control treaties and still did more treaties with them.  What were the reasons for the behavior of both parties?  That’s easy, Realism.  We wanted engagement and agreements with them, and they were setting the stage for the negotiations. The Russians kept our WW2 prisoners, they just disappeared them and never again acknowledged their existence, till the fall of the USSR, when Yeltzen admitted that they had kept  about 400 , now dead.  We accepted this under the  “Realism”  tactic because we were not willing to risk war to get them back and were willing to write them off so that we could make “progress” in the relationship with Stalin”s scary USSR.   This failure of resolve set the stage for all future negotiations with the Soviets, and later with the Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese, putting us at a great disadvantage.  Their negotiators knew that we had swallowed this outrage, and ours did also.  This was prime evidence that we did not have the resolve to press a hard bargain and would tolerate anything but the most flagrant public cheating.  In their eyes, a nation that would walk away and break the faith with its POWs in this manner, was weak willed, worthy of contempt and would tolerate a lot of abuse.  It has been reported many times that the North Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese kept some of our POWs after they were supposed to have been repatriated.  I believe that they did keep some, for the same reason the USSR kept our boys from WW2, to rub our noses in shit and have us take it, to set the right tone for negotiations.  We also tolerated war on us and our interests by surrogates.  The North Koreans were Soviet surrogates when they invaded South Korea.  The Cubans were Soviet surrogates when they overtly took part in wars in Africa and covertly took part in subversion in Latin America.  It can be argued that in the context of the Cold war contest for world domination, the North Vietnamese were Soviet surrogates.

We have tolerated acts of war against us by surrogates of Iran, Hezbollah who killed  260 Americans in Beirut in 1983, and in 1996 they killed 19 Americans in Al Khobar Saudi Arabia.  Iran is actively supported people in Iraq that killed Americans.  They have yet to pay any price for killing Americans.


With the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991 it can be argued that the “Containment” policy, carried out with the “Realism” tactic worked.  We won the Cold War and avoided a Nuclear WW3.  Maybe so.

“Realism” may have been the best we could do during the 1945 to 1991 period.The circumstances are such that now we can do better.  For a closing window in time, we are now the only Super Power, by a very large margin .  If we act boldly, according to our ideals, we can set the stage for a better world.  If we fail to take this opportunity we will likely end up in a situation similar to the Cold War, with an alliance of Despots acting against us at every opportunity while the Europeans appease them.   This new alliance of despots that is berthing will include Russia, China and probably the oil rich despots of the third world, including Saudi Arabia and eventually Iran.

The first thing we must do is make it clear that we will not accept war by surrogates on us our our allies, ever.  President Bush missed an opportunity to make this real, he lost the moment.  In his reaction to the 9/11 attack he said, speaking to the world as a whole, “You are either with us or with the terrorists”.  I thought that was a bit strong, cowardly nations should be able to opt out, supporting neither side.  But, anyone who provides the least support to our enemies should have had fair warning.  We have not followed through.

Iran gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda remnants fleeing from Afghanistan, including one of Osama’s sons.  They were in a very lenient “house arrest” status, safe from us.  Known people in Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf states continue to facilitate Al Qaeda with money, and still draw breath.  We should be hunting these people to the ends of the earth, demanding that they be turned over to us.  If they are not turned over, they and their protectors should be targeted and killed wherever they may be, with very large explosions if needed.  If that had been our policy immediately after 9/11 it would have been accepted as justified retribution, world wide, but that time has past.  The second thing we must do is to start making a distinction between free nations and despotic nations.  We should constantly criticize nations that do not provide freedom for their citizens, or who are backsliding in their progress to freedom and rule of law.  We should link our relations with countries to their treatment of their citizens.

China is still a dictatorship, still run by the Communist Party, though now in the absence of the justifying ideology.  Rule of law is tenuous, there are no human rights, no free press, no labor unions, no environmental laws and no meaningful participation of the majority of the citizens in how they are governed.  We should not have de-linked trade and human rights.  That was not only immoral but stupid.  We are now facilitating the Chinese Communist Party arming to not only maintain control of their country but gain the ability to exercise regional power by intimidating their neighbors.  There is every indication, including the examples of Tibet, India and Vietnam that the Chinese are not reluctant to use force to settle disputes with their smaller neighbors.

President Bush’s policy to bring democracy to the Arab world, by setting up an example in Iraq and Afghanistan has been a failure due to his lack of leadership of his own subordinates and the difficulty of the task.    Over time the goal must be to get rid of all the Middle East despots, now mostly operating under the cloak of Islam, so that their people can have a stake in the future and live in prosperity and freedom.  This is the only way to yank that part of the world into modern times, better the lives of people in the Middle East, and eventually stop radical Islam from making war on all who disagree with their religious view. I believe in an idealistic, activist foreign policy.  We should act to speed the day when all people can live in freedom and have the opportunity to prosper.

We should not stand by and watch as entire populations are murdered, as the UN led world has done time after time in the recent past.  The UN, the world and the US stood by while one million were murdered, by machete, over a period of less than six months in Rwanda.  The UN, the world and the US has stood by while up to 2.8 million have been murdered in Sudan over the last few years.  The UN, the world and the US stood by while 1 to 2 million North Koreans starved in the 90’s.  The UN, the world and the US stood by and did nothing while 30 million were starved and killed in China in the 50’s, & 60’s and 70’s.  It was wrong to let these things happen and stand by and say very little, much less do something.  I will at least make noise about this kind of thing.