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David T. Jones

Secretary Tillerson and he State of State

Par David T. Jones le 18 mars 2017

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - In recent media stories, there are floods of tears (some of the crocodile nature) regarding the degree to which the U.S. Department of State and Secretary Tillerson have (not) controlled U.S. foreign policy.
To an extent, this observation is accurate.  Secretary Tillerson stands alone atop a bureaucratic pyramid of senior State Department officials of the deputy secretary, under secretary, and assistant secretary ilk that are empty.  Or at least empty of specific designees selected by Tillerson and/or President Trump.  They are filled by “acting” officials, essentially long-term civilian government employees and career Foreign Service Officers.  Their political predecessors were defenestrated or made to feel sufficiently unwelcome that with their backs up against the wall, they read the writing thereon.  

WHAT DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND ABOUT “ILLEGAL”?

Par David T. Jones le 27 février 2017

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - Language changes over time.  Try reading Shakespearean plays without constant reference to explanatory commentary.  Words take on new meanings.  “Cute” once meant “short and fat.”  Some words are transient—notably “slang” seldom lasts from one generation to the next (or even one year to the next).
Thus anyone still extant who would respond to “Twenty-three skidoo” is not of the current generation.  Indeed, even the “It’s cool” of the 1950s-60s is long passé.  When “pimp” arrived on the linguistic scene, it had a positive connotation—not a man running a string of whores.
But “illegal” still has a solid basis.  If an action is illegal, it is contrary to the law and subject to official sanction.  Killing is illegal; assault is illegal; theft is illegal.  Trespass is illegal—or is it?

THE DONALD MEETS THE JUSTIN—NO “BROMANCE”

Par David T. Jones le 11 février 2017

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - On Monday, 13 February, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington.
The likelihood of a “bromance” equivalent to that between President Barak Obama and Trudeau is akin to anticipating icebergs in the Potomac.
However, the president and the prime minister have some points in common:  remarkable hair and wives more attractive than they.
Thus, we should not anticipate President Trump offering an official state visit to Trudeau (President Obama covered that base after denying former PM Harper the honor).  Nor should we anticipate that Trudeau will propose Trump visit Ottawa to give an official address to Parliament. 

THE U.N., ISRAEL, OBAMA, AND KERRY

Par David T. Jones le 2 janvier 2017

palestine.jpgWashington, DC -The Thesis: The Second Coming will arrive before peace in the Middle East. The Corollary:  Nobody ever lost money betting against peace.
For close to a generation, ever since the historic Begin-Sadat agreements leading to peace with Egypt and the Rabin-Hussein accords and the peace with Jordan, the peace process has been frozen.  It has not been for lack of trying and, indeed, following the 1994 Oslo peace accord, the ‘90s saw enormous efforts by the most skilled diplomatic professionals to bridge differences between Israelis-Palestinians-Syrians and other Middle East actors.  At times President Clinton almost assumed the role of State Department’s Middle East action officer and seemed to meet the principal players more often than any other foreign officials. 

The Strangest Election

Par David T. Jones le 4 novembre 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington,DC-It took me considerable time to appreciate just how strange this presidential election has been.

Being enough of a historian to recognize that finding something new under the sun is unlikely, I recalled the seriously dirty elections of the past and the ad hominem commentary that characterized them.Thomas Jefferson accused of having sexual intercourse with his slaves.Andrew Jackson characterized as a wild man from out of the West who would militarize the United States.  Jefferson denounced him as “one of the most unfit men I know for such a place.  He has had very little respect for laws or constitutions.  He is a dangerous man. "

Dangers In Demonization

Par David T. Jones le 26 septembre 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington,DC - Donald Trump (Republican candidate for president) will debate Hillary Clinton (Democratic candidate for president) on Monday, 26 October.  
It may be the most watched TV show in history (100 million projected viewers) rivaling Super Bowl figures.
And most eyes will be on Trump, perhaps the most reviled major U.S. political figure in modern history.
And we all know Trump.  Bullying, bombastic, bigoted, racist, male chauvinist.  He sneers at cripples; mocks menstruating females; endorses torture; believes that “blue lives” (police) matter more than black; is hostile to immigrants of all variety, but particularly illegal immigrant Hispanics described as replete with rapists—as well as taking jobs from honest U.S. citizens.

A Republican Secretary of State – Whoever Wins

Par David T. Jones le 20 septembre 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington,DC ~ The current focus in the United States is on the day-to-day campaign vagaries of the candidates in the presidential election and in particular the upcoming debates (one in late September and three times in October). Foreign policy will feature in the debates and the campaign, although for the moment it seems to have boiled down to loving or hating Putin and hating ISIS (but unsure how to kill it off).  There is much more in play, notably the fate of trade agreements now in effect (NAFTA) or prospective (TPP); the North Korean nuclear threat; containing/relating to China in every particular, notably Beijing’s effort to make the South China Sea a personal lake; our relationship with NATO and other allies; and if/when/where to put “boots on the ground.” Any one of these problems could become incendiary crises before election day.

PEACEKEEPING? MAKE HAITI THE PRIORITY NOT AFRICA

Par David T. Jones le 11 septembre 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - Canada is contemplating a return to “peacekeeping.”  The Liberal government’s concept of peacekeeping falls into the “we’re not Stephen Harper’s Tories” category of avoiding expeditionary military activity such as Afghanistan like the plague.  There is even the thought that Canada-the-Peacekeeper will get more votes when seeking a seat in UN committees.

But if there is some vague amorphous concept of once-upon-a-time peacekeeping which featured the equivalent of civilians in military garb, “back to the future” will prove a bitter and perhaps bloody comedownance.

THE TRIUMPH OF THE NOSEY PARKER

Par David T. Jones le 19 août 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC ~ Politics is now in the phase of “let it all hang out” and, if there is reluctance to such exposure, rip it out of the recalcitrant.
Thus the endless clarion calls for politicians to release their federal tax returns.  Ostensibly, these demands are couched in dulcet “good government” terms designed to reveal whether certain financial claims by a candidate are accurate or that income is honestly obtained.  “Transparency” is the new buzz word.
In truth these demands are hypocritical and self serving.  They are emphasized by political opponents who suspect that published tax returns will provide further grist for derogatory attacks.

NATO: Myths and realities

Par David T. Jones le 31 juillet 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC ~ Sometimes it is useful to review the realities underlying myths, And this is an opportune time to clarify some of the accepted mythology around NATO.

I have spent eight plus years of my diplomatic career either at the US Mission at NATO, on the "NATO Desk" at State, or addressing arms control negotiations with the then Soviets regarding intermediate nuclear force (INF) missiles in Europe.  So I think that I have sufficient background to make these observations. Particularly in light of the current debate in the Presidential campaign on whether NATO allies are shouldering enough of their financial and military responsibilities or depending too much on the United States. And the discussion with regard to Article 5 of the Treaty needs some perspective.

BREXIT MAKES DE GAULLE ULTIMATE WINNER

Par David T. Jones le 10 juillet 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington,DC - French leader Charles De Gaulle was one of the protean figures of the 20th century.  His monumental physical stature (6 foot 5 inches) was exceeded only by his monumental ego and arrogant self regard.  

Not that he was without accomplishment.  When Europe and France had collapsed under German aggression in 1940, De Gaulle as leader of the “Free French,” surviving in North Africa and England, provided a rallying point for his countrymen.  As such he was a useful tertiary figure for England (Churchill) and the United States (Roosevelt) to prop up as an ally against fascist Germany/Italy.

BREXIT? EVERYBODY TAKE A VALIUM

Par David T. Jones le 26 juin 2016

brexit.jpgWashington,DC - Following the frenzy over his Parti Quebecois victory in the 1976 Quebec provincial election, Rene Levesque was portrayed in a famous Aislin cartoon as saying, “Okay, everybody. Take a valium.”  In other words, relax.  The PQ victory was not world’s end.
Nor is “Brexit’s” victory by those Brits who want to divest themselves of links to the EU.
Essentially, the entire issue was a campaign over national philosophy disguised as an economic debate.  The existential question was whether British wanted to remain Great Britain or whether they be content to become “Britain;” a homogenized element of a 27-member European Union taking direction from a non-British majority of states.

Judge may be wrong, but Trump's attack is inadmissable

Par David T. Jones le 19 juin 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington,DC - Sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a single category for controversy into which Donald Trump, putative Republican nominee for president, doesn’t plunge.  Or that he epitomizes the sobriquet that he opens his mouth only to change feet.
Although Trump is now engaged with critics/opponents over his comments regarding the mass killing in Orlando, Florida, other slanging matches remain unresolved albeit not (entirely) forgotten.  The penultimate high-profile contretemps was a nasty barrage of vituperation from Trump against Gonzalo P. Curiel, the federal judge trying a class action suit against Trump brought by individuals formerly enrolled in Trump University.

Sorry, no apocalypse today or tomorrow

Par David T. Jones le 29 mai 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - The lack of perspective among political and/or foreign policy commentators is remarkable.  One would sometimes believe that their sense of history when they awaken in the morning is limited to when they went to sleep.
Even when appreciating the imperatives of the 24-hour news cycle and the imperatives that reporters must serve the Twitter/Tweet/Social Media gods while attempting to provide stories, their absence of historical perspective ranges from amusing to pathetic.
Thus one would believe that the current U.S. presidential primary competition is somehow uniquely horrid in its political atmospherics and prospective consequences. 

Gender and bathrooms: A tempest in a piss pot

Par David T. Jones le 9 mai 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - For most of human existence and identifiable history, toilet facilities were wherever the urge struck one. The world was one’s toilet for those actions which could neither be delayed nor delegated. One memorable and illustrative little jingle went: “In days of old, when knights were bold, and toilets weren’t invented, they left their loads upon the roads and went away contented.” Chamber pots from standard dwellings were dumped on the streets (often just hurled from upper story windows). Creeks and rivers were open sewers.
You were into relatively modern times before society recognized the close connection between sanitation and disease. And while there was an appreciation that clean water was a significant health benefit, it is still recognized primarily in “Western” civilization.

The United States owes no apology to Japan

Par David T. Jones le 24 avril 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - There is no question that Japan continues to seek a U.S. apology for having delivered atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
When Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima on 11 April 2016, he made no apology nor did he speak. His appearance, however, was a “first” by a sitting U.S. Secretary of State.  Separately, press release/documentation indicated Kerry’s strong desire (reflecting that of President Obama) for a world without war and nuclear weapons.  In 2010, then U.S. Ambassador John Roos was the first U.S. diplomat to partake in memorial ceremonies at Hiroshima.

Republicans resist rape

Par David T. Jones le 6 mars 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - There is an ancient aphorism, both sexist and archaic (and now as unacceptable as the “n” word) that proclaims, “When rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”
But faced with the prospect of political rape by the Donald Trump presidential candidacy, Republicans are far from willing to accept an “inevitable” and certainly not prepared to find any enjoyable element in the circumstance.
Although Trump as the destined Republican nominee for presidency is not definitive, its likelihood appears far stronger, following his victories on 1 March’s “Super Tuesday” when he seized a substantial lead in the delegate count. It is not that Trump cannot lose the nomination, at this point, however, it is profoundly unlikely.

The battle for the soul of the Supreme Court. Disingenuousness drenched in hypocrisy

Par David T. Jones le 27 février 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - The politico-legal battle to replace just-deceased U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonia Scalia is generating more heat than light.
Canadians, for whom their Supreme Court is a minor actor in domestic politics, are always puzzled over the intensity of the arguments over every aspect of the U.S. “Supremes.”  Indeed, in some respects, Canadian have “to die for” procedures for filling their Supreme Court.  Were they to apply to a U.S. president, the U.S. politico-legal scene would be infinitely different.  Essentially, the prime minister proposes—and the prime minister disposes so far as naming justices to the Canadian Supreme Court.  The most recent innovations of some gentle questioning by a parliamentary committee are optional rather than obligatory.  

Remembering Remembrance Day

Par David T. Jones le 24 janvier 2016

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - Sometimes the best time to remember is after the official commemorations.  The oft-inflated hoopla has ended.  The parades are over.  The rhetorical speechifying is now deleted from media coverage.  In our 24-hour news cycle, if an event receives a day of coverage, that is all that is deemed necessary or deserving.
Thus it was for Remembrance Day 11 November 2015 (and less than a month later the 74th anniversary of the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor received similar minimalistic attention). Traditionally, on Remembrance Day, wearing a red poppy of the nature no longer available in normal U.S. outlets, I attended morning ceremonies at the Canadian Embassy in Washington and/or afternoon ceremonies at the Canada-United States memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. 

And Who Will Vet The Vetters?

Par David T. Jones le 6 décembre 2015

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - There is a classic, albeit cynical, observation recounting an exchange between officials.
Official One: We have all of the facilities guarded.
Official Two: But who will guard the guards?
In short, the historical illustrations of dishonesty and corruption are manifest. The creation and installation of inspectors, auditors, overseers, etc may well reduce blatant corruption. But who will be watching these “watchers”?
And, from this reality to the exercise of “vetting” Syrian and other refugees seeking admission to our countries.

Remember Paris and Strike Back

Par David T. Jones le 25 novembre 2015

jones_david.jpgWashington, D. - Once again terrorists have struck. And around the world, starting with France, citizens are defiantly cringing. They wait for the next shoe to drop and fear that the Islamic State (ISIS) is a centipede. They stampede in panic when hearing firecrackers at a memorial rally. Colored lights proclaim “Vive la France” (just as “We are all Charlie” in January).

French President Francois Hollande declares the terrorism in Paris was an “act of war,” and France will strike back. Then French aircraft hit a couple of targets in Raqqa, an ISIS-controlled city in Syria. Pinpricks anyone?

Syria, Russia And Reality

Par David T. Jones le 11 octobre 2015

jones_david.jpgWashington,Dc - What the world is seeing in Syria is a painful illustration of politicomilitary reality.
Nature deplores a vacuum.
Politics is even less forgiving of vacuums.
And the West now has the opportunity to watch Russia, accompanied by Hezbollah and Iran, fill that vacuum.
It is difficult to characterize the reactions of observers—something akin to a betrayed spouse or a naïf who believed that Nigerian prince on the internet wanted you to assist him with his million dollar bank transfers

NEW “INCONVENIENT TRUTHS”

Par David T. Jones le 21 septembre 2015

jones_david.jpgWasington, DC - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore made a name for himself (and snarfed up a Nobel Prize) with his “Inconvenient Truths” film.  The film, although in retrospect fundamentally and irredeemably flawed, professed to convince viewers that “global warming” (or “climate change”) was a near term peril that would inalterably damage the earth and its inhabitants (flora and fauna both) unless dramatic, near term action was taken.
Essentially, viewers rejected the Apocalypse Today (or at latest tomorrow).  They decided (correctly or not) that Gore was wrong, the data was skewered, the time lines were too long to worry about in a foreseeable lifetime, and/or there was nothing normal citizens or societies could do other than wreck their economies if they embraced the solutions. 

CANADA, BETTER ONE HARPER THAN 16 REPUBLICANS

Par David T. Jones le 21 juillet 2015

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC ~ In 1992 when I was preparing for my assignment in Ottawa as political counselor, I read many serious, academic oriented books and spoke with a wide variety of individuals in Washington with hands-on experience in Canada.  I also had the good fortune to talk with counterparts in the Canadian Embassy.
During the process, however, I also encountered a little cartoon book, Son of a Meech:  The Best Brian Mulroney Jokes, edited by Mark Breslin and published in 1991.  A quick search of the Internet did not reveal it available for current sale.  It was unique in its way; frankly, I’d not seen anything outside of straight pornography with such viciously crude humor.

SHOULD I HAVE FLUNKED BECAUSE OF MY CLASS SIZE?

Par David T. Jones le 23 juin 2015

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - The classic teacher student ratio has been said to be “Socrates at one end of a log and the student at the other end.”
Unfortunately, even in the time of Socrates, there were very few such teachers.  And today one suspects there are none.
The educational bureaucratic effort is to get the most students taught by the fewest teachers.  They hope that the students learn something and the teachers do not walk away from the process.  Unionized teachers, however, seek to teach the fewest number of students with the shortest work day implicitly (if not explicitly) citing Socrates as an example.
The U.S. educational process has seen an interesting evolution.

I Did Not Have Sex Ed In Elementary School

Par David T. Jones le 14 mai 2015

jones_david.jpgI didn’t know that I could have two mothers.
Nor did I know that my little sister could have two fathers.
Indeed, I didn’t know (at age four) that my mother was pregnant, and when my sister appeared in our apartment and I viewed her diaper being changed, I asked with naïve ignorance, “Where’s her little ‘gigger’?
Yes, I also assumed until about age 10 that “the stork brought me” or that “you were found under a cabbage leaf”—both then-prevalent circumlocutions for the messy reality of sex and birth.  To be sure by that age such nonexplanations were wearing a bit thin.

I WAS A FREE RANGE CHILD! Let's end our "zero risk" mentality.

Par David T. Jones le 2 mai 2015

Jones_David_bw_new.jpgWashington, DC - Currently, in the United States, a widening number of states have laws and regulations addressing “child neglect” that require intensive monitoring of children for a significant part of their lives.
The proximate example is Maryland where police seized a 10-year-old and a six-year-old walking home from a local park approximately a mile from their home.  Maryland law says a child must be eight years old to stay home alone, and a child must be 13 years old to baby sit a younger child.
The result has been a new level of confrontation between “helicopter” parents (most recently epitomized by a man that had a drone to monitor his child’s progress to school) and “free range” parents who believe that children early on should be taught independence and given an opportunity to exercise such.

I Would Not Want To Be A Young Man Today

Par David T. Jones le 16 avril 2015

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - I am now certifiably an “old man”—well past social security age with a gray beard.
And, the sexual mores of today are so different than those prevailing when I was young that one wonders how a young man (often with his “brain” between his legs) is able to negotiate the minefields laying between his desire for sexual intercourse and acceptable female acquiescence in his desire.
Recently, an Internet Headline News article, ostensibly directed at Canadian athletes but applicable to all young men, displayed as part of its story a wall-mounted poster listing a dozen examples illustrating how and when “NO MEANS NO.” 

Remembrance and War

Par David T. Jones le 27 novembre 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington,DC - There is a special mythos to ending a war on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” that has clung to societal memories.
Some years it has been a grind-through-it event, when we were deeply engaged in other wars.  One doubts that in the midst of World War II there was much attention paid to “Armistice Day” when the Great War had proved only a precursor to another greater one.
And during my boyhood, U.S. citizens were still celebrating “V-E” and “V-J” day proclaiming the victories in Europe and against Japan. “Armistice” Day had not yet morphed into “Veterans” Day.

Taxes And Dual Citizenship

Par David T. Jones le 14 septembre 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - Everybody despises taxes.  The standard lament is “Nothing is inevitable but death and taxes.”
 At best taxpayers put a good face on the process, accepting that taxes are a necessary element of civilization.  At a minimum, virtually all agree that we require taxes for security from foreign invasion and to protect against home invasion.  On a national and local level, security is an accepted use of taxes.
Other than security, however, there is endless argument regarding whether a service or benefit (education, health, postal delivery, water purification, disease eradication, transportation, infrastructure) should be paid by government taxes or private funding.

Canadians In Dreamland

Par David T. Jones le 7 septembre 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington, DV - An observer of things Canadians in the Southland looks upon the Trudeau home break-in incident with puzzled, indeed appalled disbelief. Canadian failure to appropriately guard its officials literally begs for tragedy.

Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party leader, is arguably the second most important individual in Canada.  .He is the emergent figure in Canada's political landscape!  but in Quebec “you either love him or hate him” as one Quebecois noted.

Yet his family residence was so unguarded that the front door wasn’t even locked. 

U.S. FOREIGN POLICY: IT PIVOTS—BUT DOES IT STAND?

Par David T. Jones le 20 août 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington DC…U.S. foreign policy is (Select one of more of the following:  adrift; unfocused; contradictory; confused; disheartening; disconcerting; wrong-headed).
In a concerted issue to be anti-Bush, President Obama and his Administration have spent almost six years attempting to create a working, understandable, coherent foreign policy.  In so doing, they have:
-- Announced “reset” of policy toward Russia, without really saying what was wrong with the previous policy other than Dubya Bush pursued it.  And then they have found themselves confronting a bear whose aggression annexed Crimea and appears intent on destabilizing the rest of Ukraine;


OMAR KHADR: THE LUCKIEST MAN IN THE WORLD

Par David T. Jones le 18 juillet 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington, DC - Canadians are now being treated to the latest episode in the long-running Omar Khadr sob story.  An Alberta appeals court has ruled (but the federal government plans to appeal) that Khadr should be transferred from a federal penitentiary to a provincial prison. 
The technical argument is that the eight-year sentence imposed on Khadr after he pleaded guilty in U.S. court to five crimes, including murder, was a youth sentence in Canadian terms.  Of course, nothing of the like was indicated in the U.S. disposition of the sentence. Indeed, his repatriation to Canada was implicitly dependent on Khadr serving his full sentence under conditions equivalent to those in the United States—not in a county court house jail/motel equivalent with early release.  But Canadian disinterest in U.S. juridical practice is legendary.

Nobody’s voting the graveyard

Par David T. Jones le 16 mai 2014

jones_david.jpgWashington DC - There is nothing more vital to a democracy than the legitimacy of the vote.

It doesn’t matter whether your speech is free; whether the press/media publishes without stint; whether political parties organize and demonstrate without restraint—if authorities tamper with your ballot and the vote manipulated, your democracy is a travesty.
Thus the integrity of each individual ballot must be an absolute.  Moreover, voters must believe that the votes of others are legitimate.  We have more than enough sources of political conflict than to add questions regarding the validity of the voting outcomes.  

How the PQ eviscerated itself

Par David T. Jones le 27 avril 2014

jones_david.jpgWasington, DC -In another time; in another society, following April 7’s electoral defeat, the leaders of the Parti Quebecois would have given Mme Marois a revolver with one bullet and escorted  her to a closed room.
A Medieval Era response would have been more polite—simply consigned her to a nunnery to live out her days contemplating the errors of her ways.
Media observers have said that Canadian federalism “dodged a bullet” with the PQ defeat in the 7 April election.  To be sure—but only because the bullet it dodged had already been fired by separatists directly into their own hearts.