Greetings friends and readers, I decided to wait and post my last two pieces together, so that way you could understand my train of thought on the issue of the recent attempt to repeal Obamacare. Continue reading
With the beginning of confirmation hearings for President Trump’s Cabinet appointments and eventually his Supreme Court nominee, I’m sure you’ve heard on television, radio, or read in a newspaper something about the “nuclear option.” You may recall it being discussed before, about 2013, after there was strong opposition given to some of President Obama’s appointments. The nuclear option is a ruling in “parliamentary procedure” that removes the typical threshold of Senators necessary to overcome a filibuster on a confirmation; instead of requiring 60 Senators for legislation, or 2/3rds of Senators for amending Senate rules, all it takes is a simple majority vote (50%+1). This translates into the ability of the Senate majority to ignore any serious effort by the minority to oppose appointments and force candidates and laws through the Senate. When the nuclear option was finally put into power in 2013 under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), it had long been a known issue in the Senate.
For instance, in 1917, 100 years ago, the nuclear option’s existence caused the Senate to reform their filibuster rules. At the time, Senator Thomas J. Walsh (D-MT) noted that while Senate required a 2/3rds majority to approve rule changes, the Constitution stated that “each House could determine its’ rules of proceedings” which meant either House could decide all decisions be resolved by a simple majority. His conclusion caused a shakeup in the understanding of procedures and new rules of cloture (cloture is the procedure to end a debate and take a vote) were adopted to fix the hole Walsh had noted in the rules of operations. In 1957, Vice President Richard Nixon wrote an opinion on the proceedings of the Senate that the US Constitution still granted the presiding officer the authority to override rules. In 1975, acting to make cloture more achievable, the new Democrat majority made the necessary amount of Senators 60 and “having been sworn in” rather than “present and voting”.
But after almost a hundred years of trying to avoid such a blatant crackdown on opposition in Congress, Senate Democrats ended the tense, but respected tradition. After the filibusters of Rand Paul and Ted Cruz occurred on intelligence appointments, Senator Harry Reid felt it was necessary to ensure that Republicans who protested the appointments be incapable of stalling their path to carrying out their duties.
Now in 2017, with Republicans in charge of the Senate again, and with a President amenable to their will in the White House, the nuclear option presents itself as a possibility again. When Senator Reid eliminated the ability of the filibuster to stand in as a protest of truly awful or corrupt appointments, I protested it and considered it a violation of the peace in Congress. Senator Harry Reid had turned to his associates and said “Peace or War” and when Republicans protested, he said “war.”
With the nuclear option being the new tradition, Senator Mitch McConnell has stated that Gorsuch will pass, but how he passes will depend on what Senate Democrats do. Facing the sword they once used on Republicans, Democrats are presented with McConnell saying “I would say that is up to our Democrat friends.” With the offer of “peace or war” on the table to Democrats, if Democrats decide to protest at the threat like Republicans did 4 years ago, here is what will happen.
Mitch McConnell will enact the Nuclear Option on Supreme Court nominees, ensuring that from this point forward the Justices that make it to the Supreme Court will not be non-partisan options favored by all, but be politicized warriors for whichever party holds the Senate. As a Republican and Conservative, this situation worries me gravely. For however we may talk about the President’s executive orders treading against the intent and tradition of the Constitution, the act of turning our last legislative institution that forces unity to become a battleground of politicization is a breaking of tradition I cannot stand.
The nuclear option is an admission that the two parties are irreconcilable. It is an agreement by the two parties to refuse to find common ground, to reject subduing of their hearts and ideologies for the sake of the people. And with Supreme Court nominees no longer needing 60 votes, the Court will go from a “4 Liberals/3 Conservatives/1 Moderate” makeup as it is now to eventually a “5/4” or “6/3” split that always favors one party or the other’s ideologies. Perhaps there will be appointments of good people, persons like Gorsuch who stand not for their personal values, but the Constitution’s. Institutionalizing the end of peace, the Era of the Nuclear Option will not see many such persons seated on the Supreme Court.
I have been missing for a few weeks as I have become absorbed in ending of semester papers and finals. I will create a poll as I usually do and I am curious as to how you feel about the proposals, and if you have an idea to further this, I would suggest you comment them. In fact, if you so desire, if you have a great idea, in your opinion, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will post it up as a reply to this article.
THE WHITE HOUSE
DECISION MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
From: Michael Arthur McKinney
Subject: Options for preventing escalation of Russo-Ukrainian crisis
Summary: This memo provides options and a recommendation for addressing preventative measures against escalation of the recent Russo-Ukrainian Crisis
Goals: Establish international support for the integrity of borders of states; reaffirm the rights of individuals to self-determination of the government of their choosing; create overt and strong support for the Ukrainian government from the international community
Background: Following the recent revolution in Ukraine, unmarked armed forces began to occupy the Crimean Peninsula. While the identity of these forces is unknown, their actions coincide with Russian rhetoric. On February 27, Crimean units and the unmarked vehicles began seizing checkpoints and had armored personnel carriers, in addition to light and heavy personal weapons. These unassociated assailants forced out the Prime Minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and put in a pro-Russian figure, while also replacing the Ukrainian flag with a Russian flag. In addition to the unmarked and Crimean-associated forces, on February 28, Russian units moved into Rostov-on-Don, a border city. On March 1, the Russian representative to the United Nations presented a photocopy of a letter that was signed by ousted President Yanukovych calling for Russian military intervention.
The first issue is how to foster credibility and legitimacy for the new Ukrainian government. A second issue is the integrity of borders for Ukraine and the right to defend itself from military intervention. A third concern, is the transition of fair and free elections, and how one would ensure these provinces their right to self-determination. A final concern, should be the future security of Ukraine from further military occupation or annexation by Russia.
On the international stage, there are two major groups that have reacted to this situation: NATO and the European Union. NATO Secretary General Rasmussen has publicly called on Russia to de-escalate from this crisis, to pull back troops from Ukraine’s borders, to stop further destabilization operations, and establish clearly that Putin will not support violent actions by pro-Russian separatists and protestors. NATO has increased air patrols in the Baltic States and additional naval vessels to be moved closer to Ukraine. NATO has also called for military personnel to conduct military exercises in Eastern Europe. NATO has estimated nearly 40,000 Russian forces are near the border.
The European Union has stated that Russia has acted deplorably in using military force in Ukraine. It considers the military activity to be unwarranted escalation of tensions, and supports dialogue between states, while respecting Ukrainian sovereignty and international law.
The need for action has been present since Russian military intervention began on March 1. However, the Ukrainian government has recently begun a campaign to use its military to strike back against pro-Russian separatists and protestors in Eastern Ukraine. With the Ukrainians finally using military force to quell the domestic unrest, and Russians threatening greater military action if pro-Russian protestors or separatists are harmed, it is clear that previous rhetoric and actions by the United States and our allies have failed.
NATO Option: In order for NATO to effectively act on this issue, NATO members must reconsider their defense to be a priority. It can no longer be stressed that American resources can fight and defend NATO’s interests. To push this idea, in states where defense is limited, we must create opportunities for them to expand their arsenal, and be able to effectively guard themselves. As this crisis has unfolded, it is quite clear that expectations on America are far too high and outside of reality. Nations such as Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, or Hungary, which share a border with either Russia or Ukraine have made statements of concern that their current defenses are not enough, and they seek to expand their arsenal, though their own options to build and increase them are limited.
There are currently military exercises occurring in Poland with NATO forces, in part training the various member states’ armies. This program should be kept up until the situation is fully de-escalated. Using this as a premise, and under consideration of the border member states, missile bases can and should be built, along with creation of joint NATO bases close to the Russian-shared borders. Air patrols should be doubled in size and commitment, and American personnel should begin advisory roles in the Baltic States on further air coordination and training. Finally, coordination to build NATO-sponsored hospital ships in the Baltic and Black Sea should begin.
The expected result from this is that Russia will see our commitment to border integrity. These numbers will also show that we not only speak of supporting fellow NATO states, but ensuring them through physical displays our support for fellow NATO member states. The real goal of this is to rekindle positive attitudes to the integrity of NATO and strengthen the alliance, after several recent remarks by NATO members. These remarks while not directly suggestive of a break in the alliance, can be seen as a weak point, and if not corrected, as failed diplomacy by NATO and America to its allies.
Resources Required: A large amount resources will be required in the immediate period. A full operation by the Combat Commander in the region along, with increased NATO commitment will expend resources. It is encouraged to seek State and USAID support for the hospital ships as well, as these will not be operated by the United States, but by NATO. Clearly NATO cooperation is necessary, but specifically the cooperation of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria, as well as any other state seeking to invest in these endeavors. I estimate that at least an American contribution of $500 Million dollars for the building of the two hospital ships. For at least the Polish missile defense system, it would cost at least $5 Billion to build.
Pros: Re-alignment of the NATO alliance to trusting each other and rebuilding a perceived lack of commitment and resolve by the United States as well as Western European states. Poland would be quite pleased as this would be consenting to its recent request for increased NATO infrastructure and defensive capabilities.
Cons: The Russian will see this as a direct challenge and have expressed before that it would be perceived as such.
Metrics: Success in this plan is dependent on preventing further Russian expansionism. This plan does not address the current Russian invasion, but is about preventing actions Westward by the Russians. In the immediate, success would be Poland approving of NATO military bases and a missile defense system. Another piece of this success is dependent on the costs that America expends. If other member states can at least meet half the costs for the operations, cooperation will show the alliance is still strong, and that will be important in showing that NATO is still a strong alliance against aggression.
Level of Overtness/Covertness: Highly Overt
Level of Confidence of Success: Medium-Low Confidence
Risks of this approach: The Russia Leader, Putin, will see this as an escalation on the matter of Ukraine, rather than a de-escalatory tactic. Ukraine may also see this, if done solely, as a sign of complacency on their current political situation. Finally, citizens of various NATO states have expressed in some manner a desire to not interfere. This could have unintended political consequences that might severely affect the process mid-term financially or in manpower.
European plan I: With the crisis in the Ukraine, it’s become quite clear that the European Union is still far too dependent on one source, Russia, for all of its petrochemicals, including natural gas and oil. This energy dependency needs to end, and it will alleviate some of the diplomatic power the Russian government has when dealing with the European Union.
As part of our own government subsidies that assist the oil industry, we should place pressure on our companies to give lower and better deals with the European states. This strategy will be used to undercut the Russian hold on the European natural gas and oil market. We can also utilize the suspension on various military deals to sell or buy the different military deals that EU members have currently tied to the Russians.
Another piece of the cooperation between the EU in regards to the Russo-Ukraine Crisis should be the furthering of the diplomatic and economic talks that the European Union had prior to the crisis. These talks should not only be between the European Union and Ukraine, but should also include Moldova and Georgia, and be interested in helping these countries be able to stand on their own. Together with the European Union, an economic aid package should be designed, so as to alleviate the struggling economic situation the Ukrainian people find themselves in.
Resources Required: In this option, the IMF and USAID, along with European Union members will have to draft an aid package that will adequately assist the Ukraine. Gas company subsidies will have to be convinced to carry this change through, which leads to changing the bureaucracy.
Pros: The separation of the European Union from the dependency on Russian gas and oil will lead to a more diplomatically independent and stalwart Europe, meaning that organizations such as NATO and the United Nations will have more credibility through the EU being economically stronger.
Cons: Exposes the US market to sharper fluctuation as oil companies provide less oil and natural gas supply to the domestic market. A chance that Ukraine will not make a budget in which the debt of their state will be adequately resolved and an economic aid package will therefore be moot in assisting Ukraine.
Metrics: One metric we could account for would the overall dependence on Russian natural gas and oil out of the total European Union consumption. If we can even reduce the consumption by 2% on average between the member states, success as a whole could be considered. Also, as a long-term goal to consider, success would be a budget in Ukraine in which at least a $1 Billion reduction in the deficit and at least a 2% reduction in the % of the GDP that the debt covers.
Level of Overtness/Covertness: This plan can have covert options, especially through the oil companies. However, as a whole, this plan is still at a high level of overtness.
Level of Confidence of Success: Low confidence of success due too many moving parts
Risks of this approach: This will be seen as a direct challenge by the United States from the Russia. Relying on one, the European Union making economic long-term changes, and two, relying on cooperation from the oil companies places this plan in a position of really being outside the United States control.
European Plan II: Utilizing the overall package of the previous plan, rather than pressuring oil and natural gas companies in the United States to reduce prices, pressure will be placed on other oil-exporting and natural gas-exporting states to provide cheaper prices to the European Union. Organizations such as the Arab League, as well as Canada and Norway should be considered for this. Nations that are willing to offer cheaper than Russian prices to the Russians will receive cheaper military prices, as well as creation of various exchanges between states.
This strategy will be used to undercut the Russian hold on the European natural gas and oil market. We can also utilize the suspension on various military deals to sell or buy the different military deals that EU members have currently tied to the Russians. In consideration with the Canadian exporting, we could officially approve and begin construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Another piece of the cooperation between the EU in regards to the Russo-Ukraine Crisis should be the furthering of the diplomatic and economic talks that the European Union had prior to the crisis. These talks should not only be between the European Union and Ukraine, but should also include Moldova and Georgia, and be interested in helping these countries be able to stand on their own. Together with the European Union, an economic aid package should be designed, so as to alleviate the struggling economic situation the Ukrainian people find
Resources Required: In this option, the IMF and USAID, along with European Union members will have to draft an aid package that will adequately assist the Ukraine. At the same time, cultural and educational exchanges will be established between these states and the United States. Plans to sell military equipment, such as aircraft, and other necessary devices will also be laid with these nations, at cheaper prices through military grants to help these cooperating nations sell to the European Union.
Pros: First this option places the brunt of the Russian irritation on the international community as a whole, rather than the United States. Second, it will allow for some revenue to the American government as we sell supplies from our currently-being reduced military. Thirdly, we create opportunities for soft power to affect change and cooperation in states that would ordinarily have a hostile attitude to the United States. Finally, the opportunity to increase our own access to natural gas and oil.
Cons: The United States might pass through this plan without ever being directly acknowledged as having done some good. We may also suffer some at-home political backlash for being unwilling to use our own natural gas and oil exporting capacity. Finally, this plan will not make up for the loss face we have suffered during the Russo-Ukraine crisis. Some minor political backlash to approving Keystone XL pipeline, as legalists and environmentalists have tried to foster opposition to its passage and building.
Metrics: One metric we could account for would the overall dependence on Russian natural gas and oil out of the total European Union consumption. If we can even reduce the importing of Russian petro products by 2% on average between the member states, success as a whole could be considered. Also, as a long-term goal to consider, success would be a budget in Ukraine in which at least a $1 Billion reduction in the deficit and at least a 2% reduction in the % of the GDP that the debt covers is achieved.
Level of Overtness/Covertness: Low level covert opportunities to influence Muslim states through non-direct means. Medium Level overtness through the IMF and USAID economic aid packages.
Level of Confidence of Success: Medium level of success as less bureaucracy to face and greater opportunities to show direct benefit for American participation in the crisis.
Risks of this approach: Continues an intentional effort to reduce our own military capacity. Can be seen as paying non-allies for something that doesn’t immediately help the taxpayers. Over-reliance on outside, non-aligned states to keep their agreements.
Recommendation:The recommendation is that you approve European Plan II and also consider approving the NATO option as well. By using our own military capacity that is being currently reduced, and leasing or selling it to strategic partners near or bordering Russia, we can reduce the military budget without permanently destroying the tools we have access to. The options combined also allows for re-affirmation of support to worried allies in the region, as well as increasing cooperation with other states that we have limited or tense relations with right now. Also, with the availability to Canadian natural gas and oil, we may be able to create incentive for lower petro prices in our domestic market and thus gain public approval. If we are going to intervene, we need to convince the American public that there is some benefit that they will experience.
Political Food for thought: Sun Tzu writes in the “Art of War” that positioning is the greatest objective for any state. In reality, Sun Tzu credits deception as the key virtue of winning a war, and the best victors “triumph before their enemy’s threats become real.” When you approach another person, how you present yourself is how they will judge you. You hold the key to that judgment, meaning you CAN control what others think of you.
WARNING: THIS IS A LOT TO TAKE IN
To understand the current situation of diplomacy involving Ukraine, it is important to discuss the chain of events that have led the Western nations to this point.
- November 21st, 2013: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych denies the offer by the European Union. At the time, the European Union was seeking to draw the Ukraine closer to it politically and economically. Officially, the EU labels Ukraine a priority partner country within several projects. The attached link contains all official goals of European-Ukrainian cooperation. At the same time as receiving an offer from the EU, the Ukrainian government received one from the Russian government.
- November 30th: Protests begin to form, and in typical autocratic fashion, police begin to arrest protesters. Images go across the internet showing “brutality” and suddenly the Western states become ‘frustrated’ by the crackdown on freedom of expression in Ukraine. This does not reflect the true environment of Ukraine which has had terrible civil and political freedoms since its controversial elections in 2004.
- December 1st: A gathering of 300,000 people forms in the capital of Kiev, the largest gathering since the Orange Revolution of 2004. These protesters storm the Kiev City Hall. While protesters stormed the City Hall, opposition leaders, like Vitaly Klitschko, called for protesters to stand down from violence and not to storm further government buildings. Other opposition leaders echo calls for peaceful protest.
- December 17th: Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, announces that the Russian deal will include buying $15 billion of Ukrainian bonds, and drastically cutting the price of natural gas from Russia to Ukraine. Putin and Yanukovych claim no strings are attached to the deal being offered. Claims of an “EU-instigated revolt” begin surfacing as Kiev still remains in civil unrest. An opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is currently imprisoned and being detained without trial is mentioned. This is the first instance of a separate famous leader from Vitaly Klitschko. A third opposition leader, Arseni Yatsenyuk, declares the President has “blood of our children, the blood of students, the blood of the youth on his hands.”
- January 16th, 2014: On ‘Black Thursday’, the Ukrainian parliament passes the “Ukrainian anti-protest laws” as an attempt to overtly criminalize all forms of protest and end the unrest. The laws reduce the right to protest, partake in free speech, and participate in non-government organizations. EU and American journalists label the laws “Draconian” or “Dictatorship” laws as they “effectively make Ukraine a dictatorship.”
- January 22nd: After nearly a 2 months of upheaval, Kiev has the first bloodshed when protesters and police clash violently. The protesters had been manning barricades, and in attempt to take back territory from the aggressive mob, police open fire. Two protesters die from the gunfire, and a third falls to their death in the clashes.
- January 28th: The Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, resigns from his post. Azarov is most famous for his “Reforms do not fall into women’s competence” in the 2010 elections. After his resignation, the Ukrainian Parliament repeals all the anti-expression laws that had been instituted by Azarov and Yukanovych.
- January 31st: Activist Dmytro Bulatov, who had been believed to have been kidnapped, reappears bruised and with his right ear mutilated. He claims he was kidnapped by pro-government agents and that he was forced to admit on camera “he had accepted money from the US Embassy.” Internet accusations of a grand US conspiracy begin.
- February 16th: After nearly 3 months of protests, protesters abandon Kiev City Hall. 234 jailed protesters are released in exchange for the abandonment, as a sign of goodwill and ending unrest.
- February 18th: Violence breaks out once again as protesters and police attack each other. 26 people die, at least 10 of them police officers. Protesters claim they attacked because the Parliament was stalling on passing a constitutional reform. Protesters charge at police lines and set fire to Kiev. As the night closes in Kiev, Police in riot gear storm Independence Square, trying to dislodge the arson-spreading protesters.
- February 20th: Casualties begin to mount as the recent truce becomes violated. No side lays at fault as video shows police using stun grenades to combat protesters as they continue to set fire to Kiev and keep the fires going.
WESTERN SOLUTIONS TO EASTERN TURMOIL
What Diplomacy, if any has the Western world suggested? SANCTIONS!
That’s right, the EU on February 20th, announced they would impose economic sanctions on the Ukrainian president and his senior officials, including travel bans into the European Union. Shortly after the EU announced its diplomatic response, the Canadian government increased their ante by declaring “they will medically aid the protesters in their time of need.” For the European Union, money and further growth of the Union lays in a stable and pro-European Ukraine. For the Canadian government, large minority populations of Ukrainian-Canadians demand the support of the democracy in the Ukraine.
But for the United States, what is best for us? Is our National Interest lie in a pro-European Ukraine? Do we or should we care about whether Ukraine is 1. Democratic, or 2. Whose side it is on? Clearly, our President is as confused as we are about the rights and wrongs of this situation, as the White House has still failed to join in the EU-Canada sanctions. Our President clearly believes the Ukrainian people deserve democracy, and their rights to expression, speech, and protest.
Opinion of Michael McKinney (Unilateral Internationalist): We should take the initiative and offer a stronger deal to the Ukrainian government than the Russian proposal being presented right now. We should also assist in the strengthening of sanctions at this point on the Ukrainian leadership. Freezing their assets and establishing travel bans will reduce the amount of places that will grant asylum to these former leaders. If America gives a better deal than the Russians, or the IMF, then the Ukrainian Parliament may have an incentive to end the schism of government much sooner. It is better than sitting on our hands. Sanctions and a $15+ bailout?
Opinion of Michael Tagan (Realist Unilateralist): Superseding the deal of the Russians would be in the furthering of the American national interest. But if we agree to the sanctions, then we simply drive these former leaders into the Russian arms. Dissident former leaders become rebels with a cause, and rebels with a cause start large rebellions due to foreign support. We can see our wonderful intervention into Yemen for how ousting a leader goes. If we really want to win the day for America, we need to put as part of our better deal to the Ukrainians an “amnesty for all partisans” clause, in which, the President, Prime Minister, Parliament, the police officers and military, and the protesters all are free from criminal charges. There isn’t a good or bad side in this conflict, and both sides have leaders mired in corruption. The best you can hope for is a white peace, in which the economic woes are mitigated for a time long enough for Ukraine to sort out Ukraine’s problems. It’d be nice, if we didn’t have to police this situation. Diplomatic Immunity for all and a $15+ bailout?
Here are some interesting US-Ukraine Business Groups:
US-Ukraine Business Council: List of Members
US-Ukraine Trade and Investment Council, Office of the United States Trade Representative, Executive Office of the President
US-Ukraine Foundation: Major Contributors and Individuals
Market of Ukraine: Portal for Business Partnerships