When Both Parties are Right: U.S. President Trump & U.S. DOD Secretary Mattis

Each member of the U.S. president’s cabinet serves at the pleasure of the president and the same is true in the case of the United States Secretary of Defense which position is in the top tier of the Executive Office serving the country’s leader. The other two top tier cabinet positions are, of course, the Secretary of State and the Chief of Staff. All of whom serve at the president’s discretion.

That said, General Jim Mattis has done an excellent job as the U.S. Defense Secretary and there are questions as to why such a capable individual should find it necessary to retire from a position to which he was obviously well-suited. Also, the question exists whether the president influenced that decision or whether General Mattis was fired and the term “retiring” was used to convey proper respect to a long-serving military member who earned every honour he ever received.

Obviously, the president and the secretary had a difference on policy, that goes without saying. But under the U.S. Constitution, a U.S. president can pursue any foreign or domestic policy he chooses and he or she doesn’t need the approval of his cabinet.

(Of course, it’s better if they do approve)

U.S. cabinet officers serve the president, not the other way around. Therefore, in case of a difference of opinion the president wins, every time, and it must always be that way.

Even such notable soldiers as General Douglas MacArthur who tried to bully U.S. president Harry S. Truman into militarily attacking China — thereby dramatically enlarging the Korean War — was finally forced to step down famously saying, Old soldiers never die; they just fade away” find themselves subject to the U.S. president’s discretion by virtue of the laws of the United States and its Constitution.

Still, it could be instructive in some way to examine the reasons behind such events to ascertain whether a systemic problem exists that must be dealt with, or to find whether these events occurred due to some other reason.

Let’s look at the Syrian situation in the context of American military involvement, because in the case of president Trump and secretary Mattis it’s almost surely the issue that divided them:

  1. Syria has been involved in a civil war since 2011 and was the last country in the region to feel the effects of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’.
  2. No country is allowed under international law to intervene militarily in another country’s civil war without being invited by the lawful government of that country. Countries can’t unilaterally insert themselves into the midst of civil wars. That’s black letter international law. It’s 100% non-negotiable.
  3. Which the Americans did. As did their allies (some European countries).
  4. Russia and Iran on the other hand were invited by the lawful government of Syria and that invitation was made publicly. It’s a matter of public record.
  5. The legal exception to involvement by non-invited parties occurs if the UN Security Council approves military actions; Where the UN Security Council votes to apply sanctions or approve military force, military intervention becomes legal under international law. However, the UN Security Council didn’t approve military force by the U.S. and its allies against Syrian government forces or non-government forces (terrorists). Yet, the U.S. and its allies militarily attacked targets in Syria without the proper and legal authorizations required by international law.
  6. Though such actions clearly broke international law, Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad didn’t seem to mind. Yes, he did complain at first, but as soon as the Americans and their European allies lessened their attacks on terrorist targets in Syria, Bashar Al-Assad suddenly stopped complaining. To many people (and it might even hold up in international court if it ever comes to that) this clearly registered as tacit approval for America and her allies to conduct military operations against ISIS inside Syria for the duration of the Syrian civil war.

With me so far? Few people would dispute points 1 through 6 above.

No doubt that U.S. president Trump and U.S. secretary of defense Mattis were 100% aligned in regards to U.S. policy in Syria since the confirmation of General Jim Mattis on January 20, 2017.

Any difference of opinion between the two is therefore recent and easy to discern.


American Involvement in Syria: Part II

Since about November of 2018 it appears that the battle against ISIS is largely won in Syria.

From now on, it’s going to be a mopping-up operation with exponentially increasing chances for American and Russian forces to clash (accidentally or otherwise) in the ever-smaller areas formerly controlled by terrorist groups.

Not only American and Russian of course, many countries operate inside Syria fighting terrorists and de facto assist the Syrian government (even if assisting the Syrian regime isn’t one of their objectives) and some terrorists might decide to meddle with the foreign forces fighting them.

Any individual who feels they have something against America or Europe who happens to have access to a rifle, a rocket launcher, or other weapons system may feel entitled under Jihadi rules to shoot down an American fighter or bomber jet, helicopter, or perhaps take out a number of U.S. soldiers who may be sleeping in a tent or non-hardened building.

For a terrorist, the opportunity to create a war between Russia and America, or between Russia and Europe (however unlikely that may, or may not be) might prove too tempting and numbers of them on multiple occasions might soon decide to employ themselves on suicide missions to accomplish that objective.

‘Targets of Opportunity’ are what every American and European military person will now represent to Jihadis at this stage — whereas prior to November 2018 they were too busy trying to stay alive to get involved in planning traps so that (nominal allies, in Syria, at least) America and Russia might find themselves in a ground or air fight against the other. Such danger that represents!


American Involvement in Syria: Part III

Even after the American troops (numbering only 2000 personnel) leave Syria there are still a number of ways to influence events in that country.

a) Soft Power
b) Hard Power

Soft power is the application of diplomacy. The UN is the most likely place for this to happen and America has a strong presence at the United Nations. At this point in the Syrian civil war, America’s best option is UN-backed diplomacy and its 2nd-best option remains direct diplomacy between the nations that are in some way involved with Syria.

Hard power is the application of military force. The U.S. military is the most powerful on Earth but that doesn’t mean the United States should be bombing just for the sake of bombing.

If there are better options than that, those should take precedence over military actions that could result in the unwanted and unnecessary problems of military conflict happening by accident between the U.S. and Russia, or between the U.S. and Iran (or between the U.S. and any other countries operating in Syria) or between the Americans and the Syrians.

None of that is going to help bring peace in Syria.

A final thought about U.S. Hard Power being applied in Syria following the pullout of America’s 2000-strong ground and air force is that the US Navy can deliver as many missiles as the president chooses to targets in Syria from the Mediterranean Sea, anytime the president wants. This has been done in the past with regards to purported chemical attacks that occurred in Syria and is something the Navy trains for every day of the year. Likewise with the U.S. Air Force, which can deliver as many bombs or missiles to terrorist targets inside Syria as the president chooses.

And none of them are going to accidentally bomb Russian or Syrian government positions due to the prior notification protocols common among the world’s major military forces that operate in conflict zones.

Conducting military operations inside Syria is still against international law (therefore I’m not advocating for such operations!) unless Bashir Al-Assad approves of it in advance (and it’s possible he might need help if he gets surrounded by terrorists again) and it’s still in America’s interests to have the democratically elected Bashir Al-Assad government in charge of Syria vs. any number of shady terrorist groups — but at least the lives of 2000 American troops won’t be unnecessarily at risk.

They don’t mind necessary risk, but they hate unnecessary risk. Wouldn’t you?


“Two Men Look Out Through the Same Bars – One Sees Mud, the Other, Stars”

In the final stage of the Syrian Civil War, U.S. president Trump likely sees a case of diminishing returns in Syria, with a growing threat of accidental conflict with America’s nominal allies (Russia, Syria and even Iran — as far as the Syrian conflict is concerned) He sees the potential for a sudden Jihadi attack comparable to the Marine barracks attack in Beirut (1983) that killed 241 U.S. Marines that could undo the good work done by U.S forces in the country especially if a large number of U.S. troops were to be killed in such an attack whether by design or accident; He sees that Syria’s allies are poised and able to complete the task at their cost in both lives and treasure, and he sees that America isn’t going to gain anything further by staying.

ISIS will be defeated in Syria due in large part due to American involvement and no matter how long America stays it isn’t likely to get more recognition for its work fighting terrorism there than it’s already gotten.

In short, for all the right reasons, president Trump decided that U.S. forces should leave Syria — and U.S. Navy aircraft carriers or U.S. Air Force bombers could still deliver a message to terrorist groups operating inside Syria at a moment’s notice.

And from the perspective of Jim Mattis, former U.S. Secretary of Defense, he has resigned for all the right reasons. If you can’t agree on policy (and it is the job of the president to decide policy, not the SecDef) then it’s right to leave. No doubt that General Mattis felt there was more good that American forces could still do inside Syria (even though they weren’t invited and aren’t there legally) and that having U.S. forces on the ground was a stabilizing force in the country. It was that for certain.

But now that Bashar Al-Assad’s tacit approval of unasked-for American ‘assistance’ is almost certainly about to come to an end president Trump has made the right policy move on Syria.

And the president still retains the option of US Navy or Air Force attacks on terrorist targets inside Syria — while removing only the increasingly imperilled ground force option.

‘Timing is everything’ they say.

Written by John Brian Shannon


Related Articles:

  • A look back at the deadly 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut (abc.com)

The UK Housing Market: Post-Brexit

One of the conundrums of EU membership for the UK has been the mass influx of people from the continent since 1993, but especially from 1998-onward. Some 8-million immigrants now call the UK home — of which 3.3-million are EU citizens who’ve come to the UK to work or study.

When you suddenly dump 8-million people (or even 3.3-million Europeans) into a country it puts an unprecedented strain on the country’s housing market. Indeed, since 1993 property prices in the UK have become some of the highest priced property on the planet sometimes pushing UK homebuyers aside and into high-priced rental accommodations.

Although these mass migrations began in 1993 when the UK joined the EU (bereft of any referendum) the population of the UK had been holding near 57.7-million with almost no annual growth in the UK population. In recent weeks the population of the UK has surpassed 66-million. It’s easy to see from this calculation that the UK-born population only increased by 1-million from 1993-2018, while the balance of the country’s population increase (8-million) occurred as a result of immigration.

Therefore, is it any wonder that house prices are expected to fall once Brexit occurs and the UK government is again in charge of how many immigrants it lets into the country? Certainly the demand for housing and services will fall to equilibrium levels as supply once again approximates demand.


Is it Possible to Determine Housing Policy Before Immigration Policy is Decided?

In a word, no.

As long as unrestricted immigration continues, any housing policy is doomed to fail no matter how well-intentioned. When numbers of immigrants rise or fall by the hundreds of thousands per year, trying to fine-tune the UK’s housing policy is impossible.

The same holds true during the 2-year Brexit implementation period. Immigrants living in the UK may decide to return to their countries of origin at a rate the UK government won’t know about until well after it has occurred.

Assuming the government places a cap on immigration (of say, 200,000 per year) during the 2-year implementation period it still leaves the variable of how many immigrants will leave the UK, post-Brexit.

As you’ve correctly deduced from reading the above, TWO VARIABLES have been at play in the UK’s housing/immigration market since 1993. No wonder there’s been chaos!

Post-Brexit, there will only be one variable — and that one variable could still become a large factor in this equation — which is why immigration levels should continue to remain high to level-out the expected crash in housing demand that will negatively impact house prices and rental rates.

In short, the UK government’s approach must be one of helping to stabilize the UK housing market by maintaining high-ish immigration levels for up to 5-years following Brexit, otherwise demand will crash and property values will fall precipitously and trigger a mini-recession in the UK.


What is the Best Rate to Taper UK Immigration?

Last year, the UK allowed over 300,000 immigrants into the UK (great for UK businesses that depend on cheap labour) but it puts severe demand on housing, leading to vastly overinflated house prices.

Were the UK to drop immigration down to zero in 2019 and 2020, not only would demand for new housing crash, it could happen that large numbers of immigrants may leave the UK. How many? No one could say. It could be thousands, it could be hundreds of thousands, it could be millions.

How can you create a housing policy when your assumptions may be off by millions of people? You can’t.

Therefore, whatever changes there are to be in UK housing policy for the next 5-years, it will be best that the government make only incremental adjustments to immigration numbers, net immigration numbers, and in housing policy — that strongly adhere to whatever housing market situation develops, as it develops.

Allowing housing prices to drop precipitously (even while recognizing those prices are at present vastly overvalued and must eventually return to reasonable levels) could wreak havoc with the UK housing market, with people’s lives, and with the UK economy. It’s the only time where policy must follow an evolving situation instead of leading it.

This scenario will allow immigration levels to be tailored toward a gentle and ongoing reduction in the outrageous housing prices in the UK’s major cities to something approximating a normal housing market.

Written by John Brian Shannon | Image Credit: The Independent

Europe: The EU’s Immigration Conundrum

Reposted from JohnBrianShannon.com

by John Brian Shannon

Recent reports about immigration in Europe suggest a real macroeconomic benefit to welcoming millions of refugees and economic migrants into the country

And that’s true. Even poverty-stricken refugees consume goods and services.

If we look at the German example; One million Middle Eastern refugees have been accepted into Germany since 2010 and all of them eat food, pay rent, pay electricity bills, take the bus, buy clothing, go to movies — and in many other ways add revenue to the economy.

If each of those million refugees spend 10 euros per day (equal to their daily food spending) that’s 10 million euros per day. Totalled, their monthly food spend equals 300 million euros in Germany alone.

If we extrapolate the German example further, we see that almost everything in Germany has a sales tax attached to it, and for those that have become employed, they’re paying income tax on their earnings.

Therefore, Germany is earning nearly 1 billion euros per day from their 1 million refugees

Of course, there are the high costs of accepting refugees and some may remain on social welfare programmes for as long as 2 years. German taxpayers pay for that. But after the 2-year mark, it’s all good.

No wonder Chancellor Merkel looks at immigration with such optimism. From an economic standpoint Merkel is 100% right; It really is the best thing for Germany. A brilliant but domestically unpopular policy by one of the greatest Chancellors in German history.

And let’s also recognize that this latest wave of immigrants is additional to the existing German immigrant pool — the first wave of which began in the 1970’s, and that generation are now a cohort of decent, hardworking, and family-oriented people. A benefit to the German economy almost every day since they arrived.

It’s not all Apple strudel and yodeling in Germany, however

Crime is much higher due to those massive levels of immigration. In Germany, girls can’t even attend a women’s music festival without a high probability of being molested by immigrant men. And the same holds true throughout Europe, especially in Sweden (of all places) and in Greece.

So what’s the point? Gain more in taxes so that women must hide in their homes?

That’s a bad deal for half the population, the female half.

Thus far, the lack of leadership on what is expected of new arrivals to Europe is astonishing and breathtaking all at once.

Refugees and economic immigrants from Day 1 of their arrival in Europe, should’ve been handed water bottles and pamphlets (written in their language) describing the rules of European culture, the rights of the person in EU society, the culture of respect for law and order — and not a gloss-over job but a poignant list of laws and societal norms that must be adhered to while travelling or living in Europe.

And printed in bold letters front and back of the pamphlets:

“It’s not your *right* to emigrate to our countries, it’s a *privilege* therefore consider yourselves guests while in our countries.”

Would you allow a guest to your home to wear muddy boots and to walk all over your expensive carpets and furniture? Obviously not.

Then neither should you allow your guests to molest your girls, rob subway passengers, and engage in rioting and looting.

Nor should we allow immigrants (or anyone) to defile EU culture — culture being the mass of our thoughts, brought into the light.

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” — Mahatma Gandhi

It’s a very human thing to help people experiencing hardship and fleeing from countries due to conflict or famine there. The fact that we still do this (although not as well as in prior decades) gives hope for humanity.

But it’s been bungled up til now in the EU and it needs to be fixed. ASAP.

Finally, refugees should be given a temporary landed immigrant card (a photo ID) that allows them to stay in the EU for up to 4 years

After that; ‘It’s time to go back home and rebuild your country, with the skills, money and experiences you’ve acquired during your time in the West.’

European countries should now, even at this late stage, attempt to:

1) Educate refugees/economic migrants about European legal and cultural standards, from Day 1 of their arrival.
2) Continue to provide the normal social benefit for each adult, until they find a job.
3) Continue to provide safe housing until reasonable accommodation can be found.
4) Continue to monitor those people to make sure they are finding services, housing, jobs, and are not being targeted by Middle Eastern ‘mafia’ types within their own community.
5) Provide a free airline ticket at the 4-year mark to allow them to return to their home country. If they don’t want to return to Syria (for example) they could exchange their ticket for another of similar value (to Cairo, for example)
6) By accepting and paying for the living expenses of refugees and economic migrants (where they don’t have their own funds) for four years, and by educating them to Western norms, and by helping them to find safe shelter and jobs, etc. it’s truly a privilege for those people to be in Europe, and they should conduct themselves accordingly.
7) If not, they should be deported as soon as they are convicted of any crime (and obviously, their 4-year pass cancelled)

Every day, we teach others how to treat us

If we teach others that it’s acceptable to walk into our homes wearing their muddy boots and to walk all over the carpets and furniture, we deserve everything that we get from those people.

If we (gently) teach them about the rules of our house and provide the support they need, we are teaching them that we’re their benefactors and that we’re people to be respected.

Thus far, we’ve been teaching the refugees the wrong things, and they’ve responded in kind. (Input = Output)

It’s a failure of vision and it’s a failure of leadership. And the experiment with mass immigration flows from the Middle East will end in the failure of some EU member nations.

We’ve already seen blowback from this mishandled affair via the Swiss voting in a 2014 referendum to leave the EU, and Brexit in 2016, with surely more exits to follow.

It’s a problem that won’t go away until EU leaders address the fundamental problems of mass migration, problems which (in the absence of proper guidance) begin on Day 1 of a refugee’s arrival.

Related Articles:


Bonus Graphic: A Snapshot of the European Migrant Crisis in 2015

Europe immigration crisis
Reports suggest there are many macroeconomic benefits to welcoming millions of refugees to the EU. It’s not all Apple strudel and yodeling, however.

Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa)Own work, using data and information from these web sites: Eurostat dataset migr_asyappctzm (direct download) Eurostat dataset tps00001 (direct download) FRONTEX Migratory Routes Map This base map by alexrk  | CC BY-SA 2.0

Did Globalization cause Brexit?

Reposted from JohnBrianShannon.com

“The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens.” — former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter

And in the UK, the vote on that was June 23rd. The result is there for all the world to see.

Had a mentally disturbed man not gunned down MP Jo Cox, the Brexit win might’ve been 70 percent.

Regardless, 52 percent of Britons said EU membership isn’t working for them, in one way or another.

And this is the whole point; If you’re a 1-percenter or an elite, the EU is a truly wonderful place to live. I’d have to call it an ‘unparalleled’ existence, living in historic Europe, beautiful Europe, a continent full of amazing cultures and such technological prowess and so much more(!) that it would take a year-long video presentation just to cover the basics.

But if you’re a ‘working stiff’ it’s not so good.

Did Globalization cause Brexit?
Did Globalization cause Brexit? Vote Leave supporters hold Union flags in Westminster after Britain voted to leave on the European Union in London, Britain, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville

OF COURSE the economic problems in the EU and other Western nations are globalization-induced. It’s so apparent it’s beyond all argument.

Fully half of the Brexiters angst could be traced or blamed on the follow-on effects of globalization.

That doesn’t give the EU governance architecture a ‘free pass’ however — on the contrary — the EU is one of the main ‘pushers’ of the globalization drug, and with that (good) drug come the (negative) side-effects;

Which are; the offshoring of jobs, higher unemployment, more competition for jobs, massive immigration / ghettoization, higher crime rates, higher societal costs (including, but not limited to; policing, court, incarceration, property damage, and intangibles like ‘how safe’ citizens feel in their own city) also higher traffic flows in airports / shipping ports / highways / and in cities — all of which suddenly require massive upgrades to handle the increased traffic. And so much more than that short list.

I’m the first to agree that the thing we call globalization is a truly wonderful and great thing! But the job is only half-done.

Globalization has created a permanent poor class (whose jobs were shipped to Asia, and many remaining jobs were taken by economic immigrants) a situation which has yet to be properly addressed in the EU.

When a society isn’t working for 2/5ths of the citizens, it isn’t working. Period. Full stop. Until the day it’s rectified.

And that’s what I’m hoping for. I’m waiting for the mandarins in Brussels (who can’t be fired by ‘The People’ because they’re unelected) to begin to address the shortcomings of their governance architecture — of which globalization is a major platform.

They should’ve been proactive all along, instead of spending hundreds of thousands of person-hours on what ingredients bread may, or may not have. (How ‘Soviet’ of them)

It’s difficult to believe that some people can’t understand Britons voting for Brexit.

  • Either the EU must begin holding elections for their highest officials (to allow ‘The People’ a chance to ‘vent’ when things aren’t going well) instead of choosing to exit the EU,
  • OR
  • the unelected mandarins must begin to address the negative aspects of globalization for the bottom two economic quintiles (2/5ths) of the EU’s citizenry.

Otherwise, the whole thing will eventually fail — with nations continuing to join the EU, but more leaving than joining.

Were a similar referendum to the UK referendum held in every EU nation next week, I’d expect that 52 percent (or more) of EU citizens would vote to exit the European Union.

And that would be a crying shame. But it wouldn’t stop it from occurring.

There are few who support the European project as sincerely as I, but there comes a time when we must be candid about successes (many) and failures (only two; But causing two other failures, for a grand total of four failures) and with more failures likely.

The failure to address the;
(1) negative aspects of globalization, is caused by;
(2) a democratic deficit in Brussels, which caused;
(3) Swiss citizens to reject EU membership in 2014, and;
(4) British citizens to vote Brexit in 2016.

Stay tuned for more such failures — and all of it will be on account of the democratic deficit of the eurocrats and their failure to address the negative aspects of globalization.

It’s not the EU’s fault, but it is the EU’s problem. And it needs solving, ASAP.

by John Brian Shannon 

Solar & Wind Catch Up With Coal & Gas

Solar And Wind Catch Up With Coal and Natural Gas Across The Globe

In some regions of the U.S., the cost of utility-scale solar electricity rates are *cheaper than the cost of the fuel alone* for natural-gas plants.
In some regions of the U.S., the cost of utility-scale solar electricity rates are cheaper than the cost of the fuel alone for natural-gas plants. Image courtesy of understandsolar.com

As solar panel prices have decreased by more than 80 percent in the past decade and wind turbines have also seen dramatic price falls, both types of renewable energy have become much more competitive.

Meanwhile, fossil fuels received $583 billion in 2014 globally in subsidies — even as renewable energy continues to receive a much lower level of subsidies ($124 billion in 2014).