NATO, Trump, Macron, and Counterterrorism

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New NATO headquarters (Image courtesy of interbuild.be)

-Article by Alice Ferré

In their first official meeting at the United States Embassy in Brussels, President Donald J. Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron mostly tackled the terrorism and climate change issues, two of the many transatlantic major concerns. The 43rd G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, this week will allow European leaders and President Trump, along with Canada and Japan, to further discuss these topics.

Mr. Macron and Trump’s handshake caught everyone’s attention: in a “white-knuckled handshake,” the two leaders confirmed their collaboration and marked their territories, with Mr.Trump’s aggressive grip and Mr. Macron’s withholding Trump’s palm longer than expected.

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US President Donald J. Trump and France’s President Emmanuel Macron in the United States Embassy in Brussels. (image courtesy of LeFigaro.fr)

Although Mr. Macron wishes that Mr. Trump “does not make any precipitated decision” regarding the Paris agreement, he said the talk was “frank” and “pragmatic” and demonstrated a “will to reinforce our partnership and cooperation regarding our fight against terrorism.” Mr. Macron had previously sent signals of hope to Mr. Trump on the U.S. role; while visiting the soldiers of the “Barkhane” operation in Mali, Mr. Macron claimed that Mr. Trump’s allegations against Islamic terrorism did not make him doubt that he will maintain this kind of cooperation.

In this optic, President Trump convinced the European leaders to join him in an international coalition against the Islamic State, after a year of reluctance. European leaders, although already fighting terrorism nationally and internationally and engaging in this Washington-led coalition, feared that the formalization of this union under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization banner would trigger hostile comments from recent allies in the Middle East. “We will win this battle,” concluded President Trump referring to the Manchester bombing, an event that influenced the European leaders in their decision.

Jens Stoltenberg, the 13th Secretary General of NATO, said this union would “send a strong political message of unity in fighting terrorism. However, this will not mean that NATO will engage in fighting abroad.” 
One fear remaining is that Mr. Trump did not explicitly endorse the article 5 of the Washington Treaty, NATO’s mutual defense pledge assuring that the WWII allies must bring assistance to one of them if they are attacked; such omission might frighten the Baltic states that wish to escape Russia’s exponential hegemony in the region.

One condition for President Trump to abide NATO (the President previously declared the organization was “obsolete”) is that European nations spend more on national defense and the military, which echoes Trump’s claim in Saudi Arabia that the fight against terrorism is a “shared burden.” So far, the decision taken in 2014 that each country should spend 2% of their GDP on defense seems to be slowly but surely achieved; according to NATO, the nations’ cumulated budgets raised by 3,8% in 2016 (or 10 billion dollars). Europeans have until 2024 to achieve their goal. Mr. Trump, however, complained about “chronic underpayments” to the military alliance during his speech yesterday. “If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today.” Mr. Trump later said that the assembling of the 2% was a failure, “with 23 of the 28 member nations still not paying what they should be paying.”

Regarding other defense resources, France, for instance, will not invest in NATO-stamped missions, such as the failed “Unified Protector” operation launched in Libya in 2011 to oust dictator Muhammad Qaddafi.

Mr. Trump was received in the new NATO headquarters, which will officially open this December. The new building, representing eight fighters crisscrossing each other, will have at its entrance a vestige from the Twin Towers, a symbol of the counterterrorism fight.

Trump’s war on the media

 

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Image courtesy of “Talking Points Memo”

 

The First Amendment has been endangered within the first week of President Trump’s inauguration. The press is the only institution protected by the First Amendment, for there can be no laws made “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The press inherited the role of the fourth branch of government, with the intention of keeping government officials honest by reporting on what they do.

People have misused the First Amendment by publishing what is known as “fake news.” Fake news has become a prevailing enigma in modern society, for the internet provides more channels for citizen journalists to publish news stories, regardless if they are supported by facts. The popularity of fake news can also be attributed to confirmation bias, which refers to people’s propensity to accept or reject information based on their inherent biases. Nevertheless, fake news can be spread more efficiently with the increased interconnectedness of the internet.

President Donald J. Trump has taken advantage of this enigma by rejecting journalists’ reports in favor for his own interpretation of the facts. According to the New York Times, Trump declared, “I have a running war with the media. They are the most dishonest human beings on earth” during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency on January 21st.

This comment was in response to a viral picture comparing Trump’s 2017 inauguration to Obama’s 2009 inauguration. The picture shows that Obama’s inauguration drew a significantly larger crowd than Trump’s did. Trump spent his first day of office disputing his inauguration crowd size.

At the CIA Headquarters, he spoke about his own interpretation of the facts: “I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, million and a half people”.

Later, Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed that these photos “were intentionally framed in a way, in one particular tweet, to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall”, according to the Washington Post.

The next day, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway had an interview with Chuck Todd about Trump’s and Spicer’s rejection of the photos. When asked why Trump told Spicer to “utter a falsehood” his first time on the podium as press secretary, Conway replied, “What–You’re saying it’s a falsehood. And they’re giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that”.

At a Texas rally on Friday, Trump vowed to “open up libel laws, so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money” according to a video posted by Politico. “We can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they are protected”, he continued. “You see, with me they’re not protected.”

According to the New York Times, the First Amendment has weakened its protection of the press. The press relies on “the institutional media’s relative financial strength; the good will of the public; a mutually dependent relationship with government officials; the support of sympathetic judges; and political norms and traditions.” What used to bolster the press in its mission to inform the public has faltered: news organizations have been running out of money, the public has lost trust in the media, the Supreme Court has declined major press cases, and Trump’s new administration has broken the relationship between government and journalists.

 

Sources to fact-check news articles:

http://www.factcheck.org/

http://www.snopes.com/

http://www.politifact.com/

 

Article by Katerina Muraviyova, COM’19

The Puppet-Masters: Who is really to fear in Trump’s America?

 

 

November 24, 2015

Cartoon by Adam Zygus/AZvision

 

 

This past week liberal America’s worst nightmare became a reality. We watched on helplessly as a man we have come to know as racist, misogynist, fear-mongering “islamophobic” (among a multitude of other qualities) be handed the pinnacle role in the US Government. For many of us, seeing those states one by one light up red was like watching years of progress disappear before our eyes.

Emotions ran high that night and continue to do so today. It seems that the post-election vibe across the East Coast, at least, is one shrouded in disbelief. But the one emotion that seems to cross cultural and societal boundaries for many minority groups is one of fear: there is so much fear as non-white members of our country. As CNN anchor Van Jones put it in a moving commentary, the results of the presidential election were a lot of things, but above all, it was a “white-lash”. Essentially, a reaction of traditional ‘white’ American culture to changing tides in racial, gender, sexuality and religious norms.

But is President-elect Donald J. Trump truly the monster we have to fear in the next four years? Yes, he will be the face we see the most. His speeches on topics that touch us dearly will anger and frustrate as ever, but can someone who has never dealt with the rabbit hole that is Washington D.C. and Congress be the nightmare we think him to be? Maybe so.

However, what is most likely is that there will be some dubious characters behind him. For example, only two days after the election did Trump bring in Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, onto the immigration transition team. Now this man is a scary character. When Kobach was questioned on his views of the border wall Trump has railed about for the entirety of his campaign, he stated that “there’s no question the wall is going to get built. The only question is how quickly will it get done and who pays for it?”

If that doesn’t rattle you, Kobach has been a major proponent of some of the most racist and anti-immigrant laws in his state. Many of us have heard of the infamous ‘Stop and Frisk’ practice in New York, but it is the lesser known, yet equally racist, SB 1070 law that Kobach was behind. This law made is possible for authorities to questions and demand identity proof of anyone who looks like an immigrant. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “laws inspired by Arizona’s SB 1070 invite rampant racial profiling against Latinos, Asian-Americans, and others presumed to be ‘foreign’ based on how they look or sound.”

What is important to note about this information is that Kobach, like many other recruits in a Trump administration, is and has been involved with government work for a long time. People like him, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pence know how to deal with Congress and the nuances of government work. As a business man and public personality, Donald J. Trump does not. He’s truly a fish out of water in D.C.

So is he a mere figurehead of a much more sinister group of people? Deciding who the real monsters of the next four years is going to take time. All we can do is wait and see. But one thing is for sure, the members of his cabinet are not to be underestimated.

Article by Maria Noyen, CAS’19