Trump’s Helsinki Summit

President Donald Trump’s statements following the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin were nothing less than extraordinary. President Trump openly placed greater trust in Putin’s denials of wrongdoing than in American intelligence agencies and other governmental bodies. His statements the following day offering “clarification” were far from convincing. But more troubling still is that this performance was simply a continuation of a pattern of behavior from the President. The Helsinki summit again shows that President Trump is guided more by self-interest than national interest.

President Trump frequently touts his eagerness for “bold” action. He wants to be seen as a President willing to go where predecessors were not. For Donald Trump however, this means a pursuit for personal glory. His meetings with Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin were ego driven affairs. Trump wants to maintain his image as a “dealmaker,” even, or perhaps especially, if that means meeting with tyrants. This quest for personal glory can also be seen in his remarks on NATO, particularly in the last week. He continues to insist that it was through the sheer force of his personality that NATO members were convinced to raise defense spending, stating in a tweet on the 17th that the spending increases were “only because of me”. Nevermind the fact that the recent NATO summit resulted in little more than an affirmation by members to commit to a 2014 agreement to raise contributions.

But this isn’t really news now is it? We have known for a long time that Donald Trump is arrogant and ego-driven. That’s why so many of the White staff members have been fired: he cannot take criticism. The real question is, how much longer are we going to let that ego endanger national interests? At what point is Congress, particularly Trump’s fellow Republicans, going to say “enough”? A nation cannot be ruled by a single man’s vanity. And Trump’s seeming inability to separate the election meddling issue from collusion allegations is but one of many examples of how that vanity is having a direct, detrimental effect on American democracy and national interest.

There are a number of concrete steps that Congress can take to put the President in check. First, and perhaps most importantly, Congressional leaders can directly rebuke President Trump, by name, for disparaging our allies and governmental agencies. Congress can issue legislation to sanction Russia for its actions and to remind the world that President Trump is not the sole political power in the United States. Furthermore, Congress can work to restrict the ever-growing scope and power of executive orders (admittedly a concern that began well before the Trump presidency). Action is needed, and Congress must show that it is up to the task.


The Problem With The “Abolish ICE” Campaign

I’m sure that over the last few days, weeks, and months, the great majority of you have seen an ever growing number of Democrats calling for the abolishing of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, known as ICE. The New York Times gives a good overview of ICE’s history and functions. ICE performs many vital governmental functions that are ultimately good for the country. The trouble is not ICE, but President Trump. ICE is merely enforcing administration policies, and calling for it to be abolished is a distraction from this key distinction. Is an assault to be blamed on the knife or the one wielding it? Calls to abolish ICE are like going for the knife while the assailant gets away.

Donald Trump has long been openly hostile to the mere idea of immigration since well before his election. He has made a vast number of racist remarks and has consistently backed and implemented harsh anti-immigration policies, such as the “zero-tolerance” policy which led to the family separations. Donald Trump does not believe in the United States as the “New Colossus,” a core, foundational tenant of American identity mind you. America is the Land of Immigrants, the “Mother of Exiles.” Everyone in this country, excluding American Indians, is a descendant of immigrants. And yet Donald Trump wants you to believe that immigrants are harmful to this country.

What can I do to convince you that this is a flawed view? Show you that illegal immigration is at its lowest rate in decades? That the great majority of research suggests that immigrants, both legal and illegal, commit crimes at a lower rate than the general population? Or can I show you the near futility in accurately estimating the costs of immigrants, and that, once their children are included (according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences), illegal immigrants are a net fiscal and economic gain to the United States?

Calls to abolish ICE shift the focus away from President Trump’s open hostility to a key tenant of American identity, and towards eliminating a vital government agency. If ICE were to be abolished, it would need a replacement with the same functions. We do need to track who enters this country. We do need an agency to arrest and deport those who enter the country illegally with criminal intent. We also need to restrain any President from using the agency to harass all immigrants. Calls to “abolish ICE,” however, present the Democrats as fanatics who are out of touch with what problems Americans actually face. Abolishing ICE will not solve our current problems with immigration, nor with education, or inequality, or political dysfunction.

If the Democratic Party wants to win the elections in November, they need to move from bumper sticker slogans to an actual concrete message. What are their plans for taxation and lasting immigration reform? How do they plan to address Congressional deadlock? What will they do about the massive, and alarming, growth in the power of the executive branch in recent years (especially under Presidents Obama and Trump)? The Republican Party, on the other hand, is not in too much better shape. They have a clearer message and more defined goals and plans, but still have much to do to offer a vision of America other than “not what the Democrats’ want.” Both parties are so much more focused on opposing the other than they are on really addressing our nation’s issues. “Abolish ICE” is just the latest symptom of this trend.

America Goes Tribal

The other day I read an article, originally published two weeks ago, titled “No, We Don’t Have To Be Friends With Trump Supporters”. It was, well, a bit shocking. The article calls for an end of civility with Trump supporters, stating that “when they go low, stomp them on the head.” But this article does not exist in a vacuum. The past two years have seen an explosion of such articles, and tweets, and public statements steadily ramping up the public’s vitriol. And with this, we also see an increasing dehumanization of our opposition. More and more the public discourse is defined as Republicans vs Democrats, and liberals vs conservatives. We are grouped into tribes and encouraged to see each other through these lenses, and not for the people we truly are.

All sides of this debate are engaging in such behavior mind you, no one has the moral high ground. President Donald Trump so frequently belittles and mocks his opposition, using derogatory language, that I do not even feel the need to cite examples. We have all seen it, we all know about it. But it’s not just Trump. Everyone engaged in political debate is steadily racing to the bottom. Both liberal and conservative activists, along with the mainstream news media, are embracing the Trump style. They attach patronizing nicknames to their opponents, such as ‘snowflake’ or ‘libtards,’ and paint all their opponents as ignorant children. Matt Lewis, writing for The Daily Beast, calls this cycle the “Uncivil War”. America is increasingly at odds with itself, and we are nearing each other’s throats. But Lewis puts all of his hope in the idea that someone in the political sphere will rise above this, and pull us from the brink.

But we cannot wait for some ‘savior’ to appear. Change begins with us. It is us who elected these people to office. It is us who share and spread these articles around. Indeed, we already had alternatives in 2016 who offered a more civil path such as Jeb Bush or Bernie Sanders. We rejected them, and we must live with the consequences. We must remember that the people on the other side of the aisle are just that, people. We all want the same thing: for America to be the best that it can be. We may have different ideas about what that entails, but the vast majority of us are simply doing what we feel is right. We must also remember that civility does not mean weakness. You can stage protests, call out public figures for their behavior, speak out for what you feel is right and against what you feel is wrong, and you can do all these things without resorting to harassment and disparaging attacks. If we feed into hate, it will continue to grow and we confirm its validity as a path for political success.

Think about the articles you share online. Is it encouraging this tribalism? Does it lump all Republicans and Democrats together, and what’s more, does it treat the names of these parties as derogatory terms in and of themselves? Are these the articles you want to share? Is this the kind of atmosphere you wish to promote? Think about who you vote for, especially in primaries. You want politicians to change? Vote for different politicians. Don’t vote for people who engage in this kind of divisiveness. Above all, don’t be passive. Civility does not mean keeping quiet. It means fighting for what you believe in rather than fighting to stop those you disagree with.  Civility is the politics of conviction, not opposition. No matter who wins the election, we all have to share this country.

Change Comes to Saudi Arabia

Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has seen some major, positive changes regarding the freedom of its citizens. These changes have been spearheaded by the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia has long been, and continues to be, among the most oppressive countries on the planet. But now, as illustrated by the end of the driving ban on women, things are starting to change. While women have seen the most gains from recent reforms, they also had the most to gain. But the reform movement has spread beyond women’s rights as well. The Crown Prince has called for a return to “moderate Islam”, and cinemas and other forms of entertainment are once again being allowed in the country.

First let me focus on women’s rights. There is nowhere in the world with more restrictions on women than Saudi Arabia. The crux of this oppression lies in Saudi Arabia’s ‘guardianship system’. The guardianship laws prevent women from freely exercising what few rights they do have as they can do almost nothing without approval from their guardian. They cannot work, travel, marry or divorce, live alone, or even leave a prison (even if they are detained without charge or their sentence is up) without consent from their guardian. They will be able to get a driver’s license without approval, though they still can’t travel freely. In addition to the guardianship laws, virtually all public spaces are gender segregated. Shopping malls, schools, public pools, you name it and women don’t have equal access. But still, things are changing. Women can now vote, and they can drive! There are still a great many gains to be made, but this is a good start.

Another key thrust of the Crown Prince’s reforms is his push to reform Saudi Islam, known as Wahhabism. Wahhabism is an incredibly intolerant and puritanical from of Islam. An extensive review of Wahhabi beliefs and the Saudi’s global support for them can be found here. Wahhabism is in the same vein of the kind of fundamentalist Islam practiced by ISIS and al-Qaeda. Saudi Arabia has used its vast financial resources to export these beliefs around the world. So when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia calls for a return to “moderate Islam” it is hugely significant, given the Kingdom’s ideological hold on the entire Muslim world. When Saudi Arabia moderates, so does Islam as a whole. While details have been scarce regarding how the Kingdom will rein in its clerics, other than perhaps jailing them, Saudi Arabia has already made a strong commitment to restore public entertainment to the country and open up society.

Greater personal freedom for Saudis does not mean greater political freedom, however. This is still an absolute monarchy, ruled by royal decree and the whims of the monarch. The Crown Prince’s anti-corruption drive has amounted to little more than a shake-down of the Kingdom’s rich and powerful. This is not a country governed by the rule of law, but one in which any individual can be seized at any moment by the government, and stripped of all rights and freedoms. To cement this point, a month before the end of the driving ban took place, numerous women’s rights activists were jailed, lest people begin to believe in the power of protest. But still, we can’t expect everything to change at once, can we? Saudi Arabia has a long way to go, but it is finally moving in a good direction.

The Decline of Democracy in Turkey

Continuing my coverage of trends I missed during my hiatus, I would like to today discuss Turkey and the ever-growing power of President Erdogan. The entire history of Erdogan’s rule over Turkey, beginning in 2002, has been characterized by his growing authoritarianism. This process was greatly accelerated following the attempted coup in the summer of 2016. Following the coup attempt, Erdogan declared a state of emergency in the country which still remains in place. During this time, tens of thousands have been arrested and over 100,000 government employees have been fired including judges, prosecutors, teachers, and soldiers. According to the New York Times, Turkey is now the largest jailer of journalists in the world and the government now, directly or indirectly, controls 90 percent of all media outlets in the country. It is in this environment that Turkey has instituted a new Presidential system that will come into force following Erdogan’s election victory over the past weekend.

The new Presidential system, outlined in detail by the Venice Commission, gives the office of the President, held by Erdogan, immense power with very few checks and balances. I recommend at least reading the Venice Commission’s concluding remarks, but I will highlight a few key features here. All executive power is now held by the President alone, and all high officials are appointed and dismissed by the President with zero input from any other legal body. The President can now issue legislation by decree, bypassing Parliament. Control over the national budget is transferred from Parliament to the President. Finally, the President of Turkey, Erdogan, is now also responsible for appointing (without need for approval) the majority of judges comprising both the country’s top court and the judicial body responsible for the appointment of all other public judges and prosecutors. In sum, the new constitution gives Erdogan near total ability to rule alone. Turkey has taken a mighty step towards dictatorship.

But now, why should you care about what happens in Turkey? After all, these changes are unlikely to ever affect you unless you actually live in Turkey. I believe in a world of principles and ideals. The realities of the world we live in may force us to make difficult, but pragmatic, choices when necessary but that does not mean that we should not still do all we can to fight for the principles that we believe in. Freedom is precious, and is a fundamental right owed to all people. Should we stand idly by, just because it isn’t our freedoms that are being taken away? ‘But wait a minute, Greg’ you might say, ‘we have all heard plenty about the moral reasons for why we should care about such developments already. And of course most of us will agree that yes, we should do something to protect democracy and freedom. But let’s face it, if we are going to expend time and resources on that effort we need some more concrete reasons to do so.’

So here are some more tangible reasons for you to care about what happens in Turkey. Throughout history, and especially in modern history, authoritarian regimes have tended to ally with one another and democracies with one another. Indeed, in recent years as Erdogan has become more authoritarian he has also moved Turkey closer to China and Russia. Turkey is a powerful country, in a pivotal and unstable region. It is a major power broker. Having Turkey drift away from democracy will also increasingly place it in opposition to U.S. interests. With a resurgent Russia increasingly active in the region, having Turkey as an ally is vital for the maintenance of American influence in the Middle East. Erdogan is steadily pushing Turkey towards one-man rule and as the dictatorship grows so does the distance between Turkey and the West. As freedom dies, a new rival to American interests rises.

The Deal With Iran

Given my long hiatus, which I addressed yesterday, there has been a lot of recent news that I have not covered. The next few days will be devoted to covering some of the topics that are particularly important to me, and today we will start with the Iran nuclear deal and President Trump’s decision to withdraw from it.

Last May, President Trump withdrew the United States from participation in the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran. Just to be clear for my readers, I am not in support of this decision. Let me address some key concerns. As stated in this article, both the International Atomic Energy Agency and US intelligence agencies have found enough evidence to certify that Iran was indeed complying with the deal. Iran was complying, there is no denying that. They were not “cheating” as Trump claims. No this deal did not address all of our problems with Iran, nor should it. It would be ridiculous to try to accomplish that in a single treaty as the White House is currently attempting to do. Ronald Reagan knew this, which is why he negotiated separate treaties with the Soviets for arms control, nuclear weapons, ballistic missile limits, etc. Reagan understood that it was important to prioritize agreements on the most pressing of issues, and from there to build trust between the parties. This should be our approach to Iran.

The nuclear issue is clearly our most pressing issue with Iran and thus should be the natural starting point for talks. What is needed between the US and Iran is some time to build trust and the 2015 nuclear accord provided that. Another key concern was that many of the provisions of the deal expired after 10 to 15 years. However, much could change in those 10 to 15 years, not to mention that there is no reason why those provisions could not simply be renewed. A decade of engagement with the rest of the world would do a lot to change Iran, and to build trust. The nuclear deal was already leading to real, institutional change in Iran. There are two main political camps within Iran: the hardliners (known as the ‘Principlists’), and the reformists. In recent years, the reformists have seen unprecedented electoral success.

About two years ago, I wrote about Iran’s parliamentary elections and about the areas in which the reformists could hope to effect change in the country. Let me recap a bit, the reformists won big in those elections and set about working to bring economic growth and lessen corruption in Iran. The reformists were rewarded the next year when Hassan Rouhani was reelected President and reformists candidates won decisive majorities in local councils all across the country. The reformists were, and still are, now in control of nearly every elected body in the country and have been using that power to grant greater freedom to the people of Iran. The growing economy was furthermore steadily chipping away at the power of the Revolutionary Guard Corps by creating alternative, independent sources of wealth and power. All of that progress has come to a halt now with the collapse of the deal.

The problem with Iran is that the real power lies not with elected officials, but with unelected bodies such as the Guardian Council and the Revolutionary Guard. These bodies are not controlled by the Iranian government and possess tremendous legal powers. However, they are still accountable to public opinion. The nuclear deal and subsequent economic growth gave the reformists a lot of victories and the kind of popularity that made it difficult for the hardliners to retaliate. But now the hardliners can say “See? I told you we can’t trust them!” Public confidence in the reformists has dropped, and where the Iranian people will now put their trust isn’t clear. Just yesterday, protests erupted in Tehran and elsewhere against the Rouhani government and the struggling economy. Even if public opinion doesn’t shift to the hardliners, the shift away from the reformists gives the hardliners greater room for action.

The collapse of the nuclear deal has put the brakes on the advance of freedom in Iran. That is a sad fact, and the core reason for my opposition to the President’s decision. But on the other hand, I will not completely discount the possibility that Trump may be able to negotiate a new deal. It is unlikely, and I am disappointed in his apparent desire to try to negotiate every issue at once, but still it could happen. But pulling out of this deal before even a framework for a new one was complete was a mistake. The aggressive return of sanctions will only increase Iranian resistance and reluctance to sign a new deal. And we need a deal with Iran.

Standard Daily News Returns

It has been a long time since my last post, almost a full year actually. I never meant to take that much time off, and as such I feel that you, my readers, deserve an explanation. Things were going well for the blog early last summer. I was writing more frequently, views and shares were rising quickly, and the quality of my writing continued to improve. A couple of things happened at once though. A co-worker was injured and I had to cover and work extra hours for many weeks. Visiting family along with family emergencies further stressed my time. Three or four months went by before I actually had time to write again. But I decided not to jump back in. I realized that I needed to make a plan so that such a long break would not occur again.

I felt that my writing had gotten to a place where I could confidently expect to make something of my blog. Even with my irregular writing schedule, view and shares were going up so imagine what could happen if I wrote full time! This is the dream I resolved to achieve. So instead of jumping back in and plodding along with the status quo, I decided to continue to work extra and save up money so I could one day devote myself full time to my dream. Well dear readers, that day has come. Standard Daily News is now full time. This is what I have been doing the past few months. On the other hand, I also realized that time, however precious, is not enough. I needed to rethink why I was doing this in the first place, and what my goal with this blog is.

When I began this blog, I didn’t really have plan or goal at all. Instead, it began out of desperation. Over time I came to realize that one of the greatest fears we have in this world is the fear of ourselves: we fear what we can or cannot do, we fear how others see us, we fear how we see ourselves. But we are not made failures by our inabilities, but rather by our unrealized abilities. I have a voice, and am ready to share it. For a while this was my goal, to share my passion, and indeed it still forms a key drive for me. But is it enough? Can I simply state: “I am passionate about this” and expect you to read it? What can I offer you, the reader? Why should you listen to what I have to say?

I am an individual, with all the resulting limitations. I cannot hope to compete with the mass media in its ability to provide you with raw information. I do not have teams of journalists to find stories, and specialists to pull out of the woodwork to explain every obscure law. But I am real. I am not bought and paid for, not sponsored by or dependent on anyone but you: my readers. We have all seen the rise of fake news, and the politicization of real news. What I can offer you is this: an honest discussion, person to person, about the issues we face today. I can tell you what I believe and I can listen to and hear what you believe. Though I will continue to do my best to ensure that everything I write is factually true, I am not here to drown you with statistics and information overload. I am here to provide you with a source you can trust, a source guided by passion and a desire to do what is right. You may not agree with everything I write, but you can trust that I will listen to what you have to say.

And so this is the goal of Standard Daily News: to provide a place for an honest discussion about the issues facing the world today. My name is Gregory Palmer. I am an intelligent and talented individual and you can trust that I am not feeding you lies to advance some agenda. You can trust that what I say comes from the heart. You can trust that I will listen to what you have to say. We may or may not agree with one another, but we can trust one another. Standard Daily News may be one of the dorkiest names in news, but it is real. If you are reading this as a returning visitor, know that I am back full time. If you are reading this on your first visit, I implore you to look back on some of my past articles to give you an indication of what you can expect in the future. This website is now full time and I am at your disposal.

Gregory Palmer

Happy Bastille Day!

The Fourteenth of July, popularly known as Bastille Day, marks one of the most single important events in human history: the French Revolution. This is not an exaggeration mind you; many historians, most historians, agree that the French Revolution was a watershed moment in human history. Wikipedia, of all places, states it quite well: “The modern era has unfolded in the shadow of the French Revolution”. The French Revolution marked a radical, unprecedented break in the structure of human society not just in France but across the entire world.

Now, as an American, I frequently here other Americans state “Our Revolution was first, it was more important!” This, quite simply, is not true. As proud of America as I am, I must state that the American Revolution was a revolution in name only. The American Revolution created little new, except unleashing the Herculean might of a new nation. The United States was not the first representative democracy, nor the first republic. It did not lead to the genesis of much new political theory and philosophy; instead it much more represented the practical application of prior (i.e. Enlightenment) political innovations. Most Americans after the American Revolution lived much as they did prior to the revolution. The American Revolution is important mostly because the United States is important. The American Revolution itself as an event pales in comparison to what the United States as a country has achieved. The French Revolution, on the other hand, is important in and of itself regardless of the achievements of France either prior or subsequent to the Revolution.

Nearly every modern political ideology, all the –isms we are bombarded with, have their origins in the French Revolution. From socialism to fascism to libertarianism to feminism to anarchism and everything in between, the ideas and ideals that shape our world and way of thinking are rooted in the barricades and salons of revolutionary Paris. Our political ideologies are what give direction and shape to our visions and expectations of a free and just society. Without ideology, without something to believe in, we do not have a goal to strive towards. The French Revolution gave us many different visions of the future, and we are still today debating which vision we wish to see. The Fourteenth of July gave the world much to debate and discuss, and as well it gave all people a right to participate in that discussion.

The First French Republic, the first revolutionary government of France, was the first government to grant universal male suffrage regardless of property, education, or birth. It was the women of France who lead the march on Versailles and the masses on the streets and the barricades who brought down the monarchy. Feudalism was brought to an end, with the nobility and peasants consigned to the same status. This was a revolution in which all had a right to participate. This is the great achievement of the French Revolution: the emancipation of the individual. For the first time in human history, society was shaped with the input of all those who were a part of it. For the first time, the individual had a voice based solely on his status as a human being. For the first time, society was governed by ideals and visions of the future and not by distant kings and warlords or aristocrats and oligarchs. Politics was no longer a zero-sum game in which the powerful accumulated ever more power, but something in which all could participate and benefit from.

Oh that fateful day in midsummer, the July heat bearing down on the barricades. Did they know what the impact of their actions would be? Were they aware of what that moment would come to mean? I would think not. Indeed, this is another lesson from the French Revolution. Any moment, any time we take a stand for something we believe in, can inspire change. Any one of us can spark a revolution. This is the legacy of the barricades. We all have a right to take a stand. We all have a voice that deserves to be heard. Every Fourteenth of July, we should all take a moment to think of the great responsibility laid upon us by those original revolutionaries. Thanks to the French Revolution, we now live in an age of the individual. With the power to effect change comes a responsibility to fight for the change we wish to see. Where shall you build your barricade? What vision of the future do you see from its heights?

Donald Trump Jr and Russian Collusion

This story has been developing for a few days, but the atomic sized bombshell dropped today. The New York Times has published an email chain shared by Donald Trump Jr on Twitter between himself and a Mr. Rob Goldstone. The emails are damaging to say the least. Before discussing the emails themselves, it is prudent to discuss the players involved.

First there is Donald Trump Jr (along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort in a secondary role) representing then candidate Donald Trump Sr.’s presidential campaign. Second there is Rob Goldstone, publicist for Russian pop music star Emin Agalarov. Emin’s father, Aras Agalarov, is a wealthy Russian businessman who has close ties both with the Russian government and Donald Trump Sr (working together to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013). Aras Agalarov, I would also like to add, is mentioned in the “Russian Dossier” leaked in January, specifically on page 27. Finally there is the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who does not seem to have many official connections to the Russian government, but coincidentally shares and advocates many of the Russian Government’s official positions on a number of issues. More can be read here on the main players.

Now with the cast set, we move on to the emails themselves. Read the emails in full before reading further.

The opening email is perhaps the most interesting, and also the most damaging. Goldstone explicitly states that the information he seeks to pass along is “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin [i.e. his clients].” Goldstone here openly admits that there is an ongoing effort by the Russian government to help Donald Trump Sr win the election. Even if we assume that Goldstone was a mistaken fool who didn’t know what he was talking about, the message still didn’t raise any red flags in the Trump campaign. Fool or not the FBI should have been alerted. Instead, Trump Jr accepted the offer to meet, which at the very least demonstrates a willingness, and indeed an actual attempt, by the Trump campaign to meet with Russian officials. But we don’t have reason to believe that Goldstone was mistaken. The people he represents (the Agalarov’s) have proven ties with the Russian government. Combined with the Agalarov’s prior associations with the Trump family, it is not hard to see why they would be at the center of any Russian government effort to meddle in the election.

Another interesting portion of the emails is the attempt to arrange a phone call between Emin Agalarov and Donald Trump Jr. As reported in the Washington Post, there is reason to believe from the emails that the phone call did take place. The Washington Post points out that the meeting seems to have been arranged outside of the email chain, presumably in said phone call. But before I get ahead of myself here, let me remind you that there is no proof that said phone call took place.

It is clear however, that this email chain, as explosive as it is, does not contain all of the information. In his email on June 7th, at 5:19 pm, Goldstone states that he “will send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later today” but the names are not found later in the email chain. This suggests communications beyond what was released today. The final email, in which Trump Jr lets Kushner and Manafort know that the meeting was moved, is obviously not the first time that Kushner and Manafort were made aware of the meeting. The campaign manager, Manafort would understandably require more information about a meeting he was expected to attend than what is present in this email chain. Indeed Trump Jr first mentions Kushner and Manafort in an email the day prior, again suggesting further communications then what we have here.

To summarize, Donald Trump Jr willingly accepted a meeting with a Russian attorney to receive information sourced ultimately from the Russian government. The information was being handed over, explicitly stated, as part of a Russian government effort to aid the Trump campaign. At this point, and given the high ranking campaign officials involved, it is hard to believe Trump Jr that the meeting produced nothing of value. But it also does not really matter. The intent behind the meeting was for the Trump campaign to receive assistance from the Russian government. They did not know beforehand, and indeed we still do not know now, that the meeting would be unproductive. If all this sounds like collusion, it is because it is.

The Harsh Reality of North Korea

Last Tuesday, the Fourth of July, the People’s Republic of North Korea launched what international analysts have confirmed as the country’s first true ICBM. The missile that was launched has the theoretical capability of reaching Alaska, but not Hawaii or the Lower 48 states in the U.S. This represents a major advance in North Korea’s capabilities. In the wake of this test, the United States has threatened war to stop North Korea’s nuclear ambitions while the international community scrambles to find a peaceful solution. In this article, I will give an overview of some of the myths and realities the world faces when dealing with North Korea.

The first myth is that this stand-off on the Korean peninsula can end peacefully. Both Koreas are fully committed to unifying the peninsula; ergo they cannot accept peaceful coexistence side-by-side. It is folly to believe that the North Korean regime would accept anything but unification on its own terms, or conversely that the South would accept unification under the North’s harsh system of rule. Because the two Koreas are unwilling to live in peaceful coexistence or accept the opposing side’s system of government, what we have now is a perpetual state of “near-war.” But make no mistake, at some point war will break out. Someone will make either a tough decision or a tragic miscalculation and thus set loose the dogs of war. Short of war, there is very little reason to hope for regime change in the North. But without regime change in the North, there is very little reason to hope that peace will hold indefinitely.

The second myth is the current capabilities of the North Korean regime to retaliate in the event of war. The North Korean military is vastly outclassed in every respect by the US and South Korean militaries. In the event of war, North Korea would lose very quickly. North Korea still has no ability to weaponize the few nuclear warheads it has, and in a conventional conflict the North Korean military would be completely overwhelmed in a matter of weeks. North Korea’s missile forces are also over-stated, with most of their missiles being old and unreliable. Many of their most recent missile tests have ended in abject failure. The North Korean military is estimated to have roughly 1.1 million men and a budget of around 10 billion dollars. This means North Korea spends roughly 10000 dollars per year per soldier. This money is spread out over investments in the nuclear program, supply acquisition, housing, equipment maintenance, logistical infrastructure, food, fuel, etc. and leaves little money for adequate training. As such the North Korean military is also not particularly well-trained to use the outdated equipment that they do have. This is why the North Korean regime is so ardently seeking a nuclear deterrent: it simply cannot survive without one.

The Kim regime has no ability to cause ‘millions of causalities’ as is often reported. A recent study by Robert Cavasos for the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability gives a clear estimate of the number of civilian causalities expected from North Korean artillery along the DMZ, before it is silenced by US and South Korean firepower. The Nautilus study estimates that it would be about a week before all North Korean artillery along the DMZ would be destroyed. In that time, a probable 80000 civilians in the South would lose their lives. The Nautilus study however assumes unlimited ammunition for Northern artillery and does not cover damage done to logistical and military infrastructure north of the DMZ, such as bombing airbases, supply depots, major highways, power gird infrastructure, etc. Thus there is good reason to hope that causalities would be still lower.

But there are some other things to keep in mind here. This is the reality of the situation: the estimated causalities of any conflict on the Korean peninsula will only grow as time passes. North Korea is making steady progress towards a fully operational nuclear deterrent. While it must be stressed that it will be many years before the North develops an ICBM capable of delivering a nuclear warhead with some degree of accuracy and with anything more than a glimmer of hope at breaching American air defenses, it will happen at some point. Do we wait until it does happen? A recent quote from the New York Times illustrates well the logic behind North Korea’s quest for nuclear weapons:

South Korea’s stronger economy and freer society leave the Pyongyang government with little reason to exist. Ending hostilities would risk a German-style reunification that would subsume the North under South Korean rule. Only a perpetual state of near-war can stave off reunification while justifying the North Korean state. And only nuclear-armed missiles can make that standoff survivable. No amount of American power or will could impose a threat that North Korea will see as costlier than destruction nor offer an incentive more valuable than survival.

Max Fisher, The New York Times

But whenever we talk of lives lost in a potential Korean conflict we must also remember the millions of North Korean civilians toiling in bondage, held hostage by a murderous regime. Not only those killed by the Regime but all the lives destroyed, all the people who can only afford to think in the most base of terms in their struggle for survival. From what we can tell, most people in the North only live in the biological sense, without the luxury of dreams or hope. The malevolence of the regime is only matched by the indifference of hunger. The black abyss of despair is what characterizes life in North Korea, with each new day bringing new terrors, new horrors, and new tragedies. What value to us are these millions, and the millions more to follow them in the generations to come? Do we abandon them to their fate?

I do not want you to believe that I am advocating war here. Indeed, any war between the two Koreas will be terrible and costly and if at all possible it should be avoided. But the reality of the situation is that war is likely to occur at some point, and we need to have a serious discussion about it before the conflict truly goes nuclear. A day of reckoning is fast approaching, and we must be prepared. War should be avoided, but also accepted as a possible course of action. The more we accept this, and prepare for it, the less people will die. This is a decision we must make soon, before the North acquires ‘nuclear immunity’. Perhaps there is another way. Perhaps we can redouble our efforts to spark an internal uprising (though that too would likely result in hundreds of thousands dead). Perhaps a coup will depose the Kim dynasty and lead to the end of the regime a la the Soviet Union. Perhaps a future Kim will see reason and dismantle the system himself a la Juan Carlos of Spain. But, sadly, the most likely outcome remains war between North and South Korea. We can either accept that fact, and prepare for it, or ignore it until the North Korean ‘Bureaucracy of Death’ is nuclear armed.