Tag Archives: Donald Trump

MOAB’s and Afghanistan – Another Day, Another Munition Dropped

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By William Reynolds, a 2nd year undergraduate studying War Studies. From a British Armed Forces background, William follows the military capabilities of the West and the security issues in the Middle East with great interest, placing special emphasis on COIN and the experiences of individuals on the ground. William has worked as a Research Fellow for Dr Whetham in the Centre of Military Ethics and is a spammer of many articles on the King’s Middle East and North Africa Forum (MENA).

The recent deployment of a GBU-34 Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB) munition over ISIS territory in Afghanistan has grabbed headlines and sparked debate on President Trump’s strategy. Many attribute this deployment to a more muscular approach and possible signalling to both Syria and North Korea that the current administration is not messing around. This, of course, is reliant on one massive assumption: That Trump gave the order for the strike.

The MOAB is indeed one of the largest non-nuclear weapons that the US possesses in their inventory. However, the GBU-43 (MOAB) that was deployed has been incorrectly labelled as the most powerful in the US armoury. That honour falls to the GBU-57A/B Massive Ordinance Penetrator (MOP) at 30,000 lb (or 14,000 kg). Nevertheless, the MOAB cannot be considered to be in a ‘special category’ such as that which nuclear weapons inhabit. To the planners on the ground, the MOAB is simply another tool for the job. Indeed, during the Vietnam campaign is was not uncommon for the MOAB’s predecessor, the BLU-82 ‘Daisy Cutter’ to be deployed regularly against the National Liberation Front (NLF) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA). The MOAB simply falls into the same category as a Hellfire missile or 2,000 lb JDAM.

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It is with this in mind that we must question whether Trump explicitly ordered the deployment of such a munition. In general terms, an air strike is called in through a Forward Air Controller (FAC) who is deployed forward with the combat troops. FAC’s don’t necessarily control what ordinance is dropped. Close Air Support (CAS) strikes are not tailored fit for the platoon’s on the ground, rather they make do with whatever assets are assigned to that area of operations. Now a MOAB is most certainly not a munition deployed in the CAS role. Thus, there was pre-planning involved, possibly placed as a useable asset for the push into the ISIS-held region. Such munitions have proved valuable in the past when clearing out insurgents from rough terrain. The Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan and Ho Chi Minh trail in Vietnam springing to mind.

Ultimately, the buck could have theoretically stopped anywhere along the chain of command. It could have gone as far as CENTCOM Commander Votel, the regional commander in Afghanistan or simply the acting commander of the occurring operation. Whoever did indeed give the go ahead, it does not signal a clear change in strategy. The US has always been focused on killing the insurgent. Whilst not particularly favourable in population-centric warfare, they are certainly good at it.

What commentators on the Afghan war should be looking at was the recent deployment of US Marines back into Helmand province. Whilst numbering only 300, the deployment of Marines usually signals an urge to regain the initiative and go on the offensive. Marines are shock troops first and foremost. Their deployment may signal a change in strategy in the region. Indeed, the deployment to Helmand in itself is a signal of sorts. Helmand has always been the stronghold of the Taliban post-2004, with multiple British, American and Dutch offensives turning up little in terms of major gains for ISAF. The deployment of Marines in the region can only mean the focus shifting away from the maintenance of Kabul’s security.

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This possible change in strategy has further intrigued commentators who note that as of today (09/05/17) NATO has requested additional troops from the UK to be deployed in Afghanistan. This will not mean another British Battle Group will place their feet on the tarmac of Camp Bastion again. But it does signal a possible resurgence of military power into the graveyard of empires.

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Bibliography:

https://www.mca-marines.org/site/styles/gallery_photo_image/public/importedFiles/files/1_461.jpg?tok=ONvy9loy-USMC

https://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/624/media/images/78130000/jpg/_amoc-cct-2014-151-062.jpg-CampBastionMemorial

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The day Australia woke up Asian.

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By Pierre Dugué, a second year BA War Studies student with specific interest in the strategic policies of the United States and its closest allies, particularly the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Pierre is a former intern at the U.S. Embassy in Paris and has most notably written for ‘Atlantic Community’, a NATO-sponsored think tank based in Berlin.

Last week, distinguished former diplomat and first Australian Ambassador to Beijing Dr. Stephen Fitzgerald overtly stated that Australia should drift away from the United States and seek an ever-increasing rapprochement with China. ‘We are living in a Chinese world’, he said. This controversial statement revives a cultural, political and strategic debate in Australia: where does this country belong? What should its role be?

Australia is not an Asian country, and should not become part of the Asian regional order. Rather, it should seek to play the role of a balancer between Washington and Beijing while asserting its influence and interests in Asia.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s argument does have certain legitimacy. In fact Australia’s current relationship with the United States is dangerously undermined. Australia has recently been tough on border issues, passing restricting laws for illegal migrants coming from neighbouring countries. In the last months of his presidency, Mr. Obama committed America to taking more than 12.000 migrants to relief Australian detention areas. This agreement has been questioned by President Trump, whose endeavour to protect American border from potential terrorists led to diplomatic tensions with PM Malcom Turnbull in late January. Likewise President Trump’s decision to void the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been a great source of friction. Now looking to Asia, Australia finds in Beijing its most reliable commercial partner. Exports to China are a high source of revenue that represents five times the income of trading with the United States. Furthermore, access to the Chinese market is essential to the maximisation of Australian goods and culture. Besides, Chinese tourists come to Australia en masse and grandly contribute to the economy. This, nonetheless, is far from being enough to engage in a diplomatic rapprochement.

Australia’s Anglo-Saxon identity has pushed it towards the Western world, fighting in two world wars alongside the ‘free world’ and contributing to keeping the Soviet Union at bay through the Five Eyes program during the Cold War. Today it remains one of the key NATO partners. Australia has, nonetheless, remained committed to regional issues in South Asia, but only under security imperatives. In fact the attack on Darwin by the Japanese Empire in 1942 – whose cultural impact equals that of Pearl Harbour – has framed Australia’s strategic principles in the long term and created a historical inertia whereby the stability of Asia remain paramount to Australia’s security. The recent emergence of China is not without reminding policy makers of the existing threat from the North, as highlighted in Australia’s 2013 White Paper on Defence. China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea and disregard for international law clearly undermine Australian national interests and core beliefs. The expansion of China’s sphere of influence threatens Australia’s power in the region and ultimately its territory. The current defence policies and the purchase of $40bn submarines show Canberra’s commitment to countering China and asserting its dominance over South Asia through the deployment of a power-projecting Navy. Australia cannot side with a threat to its security.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s argument is too engrained in a ‘rise-and-fall’ reading of history and assumes Australia’s passiveness at a time where great powers scramble for control in Asia. Australia does not have to be a second-hand buffer power stuck between China and the United States, facing the dilemma of who to side with. In fact, the picture should neither be black nor white but a shade of grey whereby Australia should stand as an equal third party in the struggle for power in Asia.

On the one hand, Australia should seek a strategic partnership with China that would ensure access to the Chinese market, and freedom of navigation for Australian ships in the South China Sea. This claim should be backed by a mighty Navy as to impose Australia’s monopoly and polarization of the most Southern part of South Asia and set the tone of regional interactions in the face of China’s expansionist doctrine. On the other hand, Australia should champion human rights and Western liberal values alongside the United States, condemning China’s rejection of the ICC rule on the South China Sea’s islands and opposing China’s order in Asia. Sustaining friendly relations with the United States is vital to Australia’s security, America being a nuclear power and militarily the most powerful country in the world by far. However, Australia should not completely fall into the realm of the United States and should, rather, prevent America from intervening in Australia’s potential sphere of influence. Canberra should instead encourage a regionalisation of the dispute in lieu of interference from Western great powers. Australia should distance itself from isolationist policies and start shaping the South Asian order according to its own principles as to maximise its interests.

Australia does have a unique cultural, political and strategic identity, halfway between Asia and the West. It should continue to play on that pivotal role in Asia-West relations with the grand strategic objective of controlling regional issues in mind. China might be gaining extensive power, however, one can doubt Australia will ever stand by a power with which it shares no ideological ground.

Picture Copyright: Alan Moir, Sydney Morning Herald.

 

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‘We can combat populism.’

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By Imogen Parker,a first year student at King’s College studying International Relations.

 Populism, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, is a belief in the power of regular people, and in their right to have control over their government rather than a small group of political insiders or a wealthy elite.

David Cameron’s remarks on the need to “combat populism” have been met with outrage by media outlets, such as the Telegraph and Guardian. But ignoring his inflammatory language, was he so wrong? Populism, as it is manifested in today’s politics, is no more representative of the people’s will than the ‘political elite’ it aims to counteract. Populism carries the ability to be a force for good, and a force for evil. In its current form populism will not change the way that politics is enacted. Whilst ever populism is carried on a wave of misinformation and deceit it will only serve to change the face of the ‘elites’ who control nations. For example, Donald Trump has been a part of the ‘elite’ for decades, yet was elected on a populist, anti-elite surge.

The idea of populism is inherently good for politics, it encourages public engagement and involvement in the political process. However, populism needs democratising. On its current trajectory populism will allow opportunistic, self-obsessed individuals to capitalise on the misinformed, reactionary masses.

We can see populism triumphing across the world with the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, the election of Donald Trump, the ‘No’ vote to the referendum in Italy, and 2017 promises to provide us with more examples of populism at work with the imminent French and German elections. The problem isn’t in the outcomes of the aforementioned votes, but rather the manner in which victory was grasped. Political opportunists were more than happy to harness the power of the populist psych, manipulating the fears and concerns of the population to political advantage and propelling them to victory.

But is this not the way our politics operates? The answer is a simple yes. For decades politicians have manipulated voters, for example David Cameron promised to give households more ‘money in our pocket’ before the 2015 election through tax cuts if the Conservatives were re-elected. What is different in 2016, is that the effects of populism are often far more extreme than tax cuts. When people criticised Cameron for wanting to “combat populism”, they replaced ‘populism’ with ‘democracy’. Cameron was not trying to argue against democratically listening to the voice of the people, but instead arguing for the democratisation of populism. Populism needs to become more representative, less reactionary, and more informed.

The social media age gives rise to undemocratic populism. People gather most of their information from the unrestricted, ungoverned and, therefore, free internet. However, internet freedom is a myth. There are algorithms that tailor users’ preferences, this is harmless in advertising where the user only sees products that they are interested in. However, in the realm of politics, it is far more dangerous. Unbeknown to users, news preferences are also tailored. The internet makes it easy to get caught up in a web of similar minded users, fueling each other’s ideas with emotive posts, creating a strong, vocal, but blinkered, community. When these ideas are simplified and projected onto the national stage undemocratic populism is born.

Populism also expects immediate results without the appreciation that change takes time. Sudden, dramatic change is no better for a nation than remaining with the status quo. This urgency is a further by product of the social media age. Twenty-four-hour news channels, live videos, tweeting etc. allow news to be instantaneous. People who engage with this media, expect all aspects of life to be immediate – including politics. Yet one of the virtues of our political process is the time it allows for thought, analysis and scrutiny. It is not brash and reactionary. Undemocratic populism threatens this. People who don’t understand the complexity of the issues at hand, because their horizons have unknowingly been shortened due to the internet and opportunists, vote without consideration of the full impacts.

Without the democratisation of populism politics becomes fashion. The job of the politician becomes one of a showman, advertising their viewpoints to the internet-nation, grabbing attention with flashy gaffs and clever soundbites. The element of ‘celebrity’ becomes far more important than the traditional exercise of government. Whilst this style of politics is more engaging, it is not more informative, people trust that they comprehend the larger picture but the reality is far from that. Policies are broadcast with the aim of utilising emotion, creating a media storm that could generate a hashtag and have large impact in media circles, rather than advertising the depths of policy.

It cannot be denied that the populist movements that have won referenda and elections have a mandate. Populism has cleverly captured the electorate and the reward is a mandate to govern. However, it is not to say that the process by which the populists achieved a mandate was democratic, nor will it change the ‘elite establishment’, a factor that so many of the recent votes has boiled down to. The notion that Donald Trump or Nigel Farage are less ‘establishment’ and more representative of the average citizen is nonsense. They are a fundamental part of the establishment.

There will always been a separation between the people and the government, but that does not mean that the governments don’t govern for the people. However, true representation takes time. Politicians who are women, ethnic minorities or working class cannot be conjured out of thin air – their development takes time and changes have to occur. Westminster and Washington need to be more accessible, the stigma surrounding ‘sleazy’ politicians needs to disappear, and there needs to be more political education. Only through these means can the general will of the people be portrayed in politics, only then will populism be democratic rather than opportunistic

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How Refugee Admission could save, and not destroy the UK

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By Paula Koller-Alonso, a first year History & International Relations King’s College London undergraduate

Trump’s travel ban has urged us to take a second look at the refugee crisis and the new cataclysm of migration diaspora. Politics and opinions on the topic are generally split between conservatives believing that the immigration influx will create a security breach and liberals encouraging the intake of refugees as a chance to be humanitarian heroes. Yet between the polar opposites, one consequence of the crisis has not been substantially analysed: the idea that mass refugee intake might just be what saves the UK demographic and economy.

The British parliament voiced a plan in 2015 to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next years, which seemed reasonable and morally noble. However, this plan was mainly limited to unaccompanied children, at times, as Amnesty International’s newest campaign reveals, tearing families apart and prohibiting the entry of these kids’ parents. Furthermore, 20,000 refugees is a marginal number compared to what the UK’s neighbours are accepting: In one weekend in 2015, 20,000 refugees were welcomed in the city of Munich. 13,000 refugees alone arrived on a Sunday, more than the total number of refugees seeking asylum in the UK in the whole of 2015. To put that into perspective, 20,000 people are only equivalent to 0.03% of the total population, whilst Germany expected 800,000 asylum seekers in 2016, which was a total 1% of their population. So then it has to be asked – why is the UK so afraid to be more generous in their humanitarian aid to give asylum to refugees fleeing civil war?

Having watched the media in recent months gives a partial answer to the question. An increased number of terrorist attacks, many linked to radical terrorist groups, in Western Europe creates an atmosphere of fear and an increase in security protocols. Trump’s travel ban itself forbid the entry of citizens from targeted Middle Eastern countries, stating that it was “about terror and keeping [the] country safe”. However, apart from discriminating against a religion and ethnicity, the travel ban and the refusal of a higher number of refugee intakes, also obscures the advantage a country can gain from receiving asylum seekers.

Considering OECD statistics, the birth rate in the UK has gradually decreased in the last 45 years. As a result, concerning the demographic development, there has been an increase of 4.23% in the elderly population, and a decrease of 6.3% in the young population. Admitting refugees in the UK would therefore strengthen the demographic gap in the population, which would benefit the country in a long-term perspective. Consequently, it would reinforce economic productivity, as its increased labour supply would fuel the GDP and taxation backflows. The UK could then be placed on a higher power basis in the international system, through its increased economic strength – a necessary and welcomed step in the wake of the post-Brexit Sterling devaluation.

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Reference: OECD.org

Although it seems morally incorrect to refer to refugee asylum as an economic policy to strengthen the country, it may be necessary to highlight these advantages in order to urge politicians to turn a humanitarian crisis into a political requirement. There are still more than 4 million Syrian refugees displaced in the Middle East, and now is the time to welcome them, rather than reject them – not only because it is inhumane not to do so, but also because it could highly benefit the UK.

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Is Putin being ‘Trump-ed’ by the Media?

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By Gloria Trifonova, a first year War Studies student at King’s College London.

Vladimir Putin has been in power in Russia for over a decade now – from Prime Minister to President and back again, he has become a symbol for the post-communist Russian political system. Recently, he has been taken out of the spotlight as the media has found a new villain, Donald Trump, who took the world by storm by winning the US Presidential election in 2016. Has the media truly abandoned their beloved Russian scapegoat for everything that is wrong in international relations? 

Given that we now live in a world where executive orders and tweets provoke a similar outrage in the public, it seems Putin is only a side character in the new season of American Horror Story: The White House. We hear about him as if he is the irreverent best friend that is only there to push the development of the main character forward with snooty comments and late night phone calls we never get to hear.

 

While the media has been concerned whether Trump and Kanye had tea or coffee, Putin has been on the move. His recent visit to Hungary seems to have strengthened Russo-Hungarian relations and may result in Hungarian support for the lifting of EU sanctions imposed on Russia. Furthermore, with pro-Russian socialist electoral victories in Bulgaria and Moldova in 2016 it is likely that EU stability may be experiencing turmoil other than BREXIT. Moreover, Russia has managed to keep its relations with Turkey relatively stable thus far, despite a few hiccups along the way resulting in taking down of a Russian war plane in 2015 and a few Turkish soldiers dead by a Russian military jet air strike in 2017. The two historically antagonistic states have taken up a common campaign against ISIS and this is decreasing diplomatic pressures of the past.

 

Military cooperation in Syria has also helped better Russia’s relations with Iran and many independent media sources suggest that Putin is going to attempt to dissuade Trump from his hard stance on Iran, as Trump has recently threatened further sanctions and of course employed his supper villain catch-phrase “nothing is off the table” in regards to further action if Iran doesn’t stop testing missiles. It would be interesting to see Putin’s strategy regarding Iran, traditionally in opposition to key US allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, instead of theorizing about how the Russian leader will handle this delicate diplomatic issue, the mainstream media is concerned with the crisis of the day – why did Nordstrom drop Ivanka Trump’s line indeed?

Perhaps it is a positive development that Putin has been outshone in the media. For too long the West, which likes to presents itself as a beacon of democracy and human rights in the face of the “borderline fascist dictatorships” of the East, has exerted hypocrisy in criticizing his every move and the election of Donald Trump only reveals this further. The US, which for years has deemed Russia racist, homophobic and radical has elected a man, who is the poster child for all those terms. But this is not all about Trump. It seems the moral code the US has applied to Russia over the last decade evaporates when it comes to Saudi Arabia. Not once has the US condemned their oil donor, which enforces punishments for homosexuality ranging from imprisonment and fines to corporal and capital punishment. Furthermore, crimes based on racism occur just as often in the West, but the US, for example, seems to forget its own Trayvon Martins and Mike Browns, while patronizing Russia for being racist.

Also, it seems mainstream media in the West never truly grasped the position of Putin in Russian politics. The tendency to glorify leaders in Russia has deep historical roots. Modern Russia is a produce of both its Tsarist and communist past. In both cases, whether we speak of Ivan the Terrible or Stalin, a strong leader, whom the people believe in, seems to be an intrinsic part of keeping such a vast country together and Putin has ensured the resurgence of Russia in world order and this has secured him the support of the public. Culturally, Russians look for strength in their leader more than anything and Putin is a “killer” as Trump himself has referred to him.

Thus, maybe given that the spoon-feeding of propaganda by the mainstream media does not solve any problems; it only creates a smokescreen for the gullible Western public, who needs a moustache-twirling villain, it is time we start analyzing Putin’s agenda objectively. As he even said in his 2007 Munich speech – “Just like any war, the Cold War left us with live ammunition, figuratively speaking. I mean ideological stereotypes, double standards and other typical aspects of Cold War bloc thinking.” It is high time we let go of such thinking.

 

Bibliography

Donald Trump seeks a grand bargain with Vladimir Putin, The Economist, Feb. 11th 2017, http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21716609-it-terrible-idea-donald-trump-seeks-grand-bargain-vladimir-putin 

Russian Foreign Ministry Following Putin’s Orders on Boosting Embassies Security, Sputnik News, Feb. 12th 2017, https://sputniknews.com/world/ 201702121050595855-russia-embassy-security-measures/

 

‘US-Iran tensions could be defused during Putin-Trump meeting’, Routers, Feb. 11th 2017, https://www.rt.com/op-edge/377079-iran-sanctions-trump-revolution/

 

The new power couple: Russia and Iran in the Middle East, European Council on Foreign Relations, Sep. 13th 2016, http://www.ecfr.eu/publications/ summary/iran_and_russia_middle_east_power_couple_7113

 

Putin Swaggers Into Hungary as Europe Wonders About U.S., New York Times, Feb. 2nd 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/world/europe/ vladimir-putin-hungary.html?_r=0

 

Pro-Russia presidential candidates tipped to win in Bulgaria and Moldova, The Guardian, Nov. 13th 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/ 13/pro-russia-presidential-candidates-tipped-to-win-in-bulgaria-and-moldova

 

‘Wars not diminishing’: How Putin’s iconic 2007 Munich speech sounds today, Reuters, Feb. 10th 2017, https://www.rt.com/news/376901-putin-munich-speech-2007/

 

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The Fruits of a Popular Presidency

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Matthew Shoemaker is an analyst for BAE Systems at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Matthew specializes in nuclear war strategy as well as American, British, and NATO security issues. He holds a BA in Political Science and International Affairs from George Washington University, an MA in Philosophy from Mount St. Mary’s University, and is completing his Ph.D. in War Studies from King’s College London.

Admiration for the office of the American presidency, though perhaps not for the present incumbent, would seem, at face value, to be nearly universal amongst practically all sections of the American populace. In the era of 24 hour news, the press minutely reports the comings and goings, agenda, and even the wardrobe of members of the first family. Broadcasters tirelessly and even unctuously described the dresses and gowns of Melania Trump and her consort at the Inauguration Day festivities. President Trump’s children Ivanka, Tiffany, Eric, Donald Jr., and Barron have already become public figures. They became front page news even before President Trump raised his hand to take the oath of office.

There ought to be little doubt that all this attention evinces an authentic public interest. Editors at CNN and MSNBC will likely assume that features about the Trump family, however tired and repetitious, will restore their falling ratings. Exposés of Melania Trump and her supermodel career or humble upbringing will assuredly never fail to increase clicks for the news agencies. It would be fair to speculate that in time Ivanka’s driver or Barron’s former teacher could command for their reminiscences sums which any mortal might envy. Even if the new president’s politics and personality divide American public opinion, tourists to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be sure to stare through the iron railings like that of pious old women who shuffle through dark, deserted churches.

The particular expressions in which popular esteem for the presidency and for the person inhabiting that office have evolved and adapted through the centuries. The first presidents exercised significantly weaker power than their contemporaries do today yet they monopolized the American consciousness during times of upheaval. Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln in particular enjoyed relative popularity during their presidencies: Jackson as a war hero, whereas Lincoln eventually was held in awed regard by the end. At the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, The Washington Times wrote on the occasion:

‘The President breathed his last at 2:15 o’clock this morning. Words of consolation to his wife were the last that passed his lips. They came as a gentle farewell to the American people whom he loved so well, and of whose manhood he was so fine a type…Only three times from the moment he received his death wound did he speak of him who so wantonly struck him down, and it was characteristic of the President’s magnanimous character that in each instance his words were those of pity for what he, in his broad charity, regarded as the delusion of a misguided youth.’

The obituary continues in the most prolific and glowing terms of the late president’s saintliness. His memory was accorded the sonorous adulation which had and has even at the present age come to be regarded as due to a deceased president.

It was during the presidency of Bill Clinton that the popular presidency as we know it today took shape. In previous administrations, presidents were at the mercy of voter sentiment during election season; however, the Monica Lewinsky scandal thrust the president’s personal life into the homes of American citizens to examine, debate, and gossip over well beyond the slated election cycle. The effect was that the president had become the star in an American soap opera.

At the time of his impeachment proceedings, Bill Clinton is said to have told his advisors that he was contemplating resigning as Richard Nixon had in 1974. Nevertheless, he confronted his political adversaries and defeated the impeachment accusations. For this, his party was rewarded in the 1998 midterm elections with gains in the House and Senate. As events unfolded, he realised that the voters held him in affectionate regard as a man, as distinct from holding him in respect, or even awe, as a president.

From an outsider’s view, one could easily be forgiven for expecting demonstrations of hostility or at any rate ridicule against a president who cheated on his wife with a 22 year old college intern in the Oval Office. Instead, to the political establishment’s amazement, he was acclaimed with delight in American homes. If the majority of people sympathized with and took the president to their hearts in spite of, or perhaps because of, the similarities in American marital and sexual mores, then, surely, it might be confidently assumed that the whole population were solidly behind the president. Louis XIV of France made the claim: ‘L’état, c’est moi”. I and the state are one and the same. Bill Clinton found himself in a position to claim: ‘I and the people are one and the same.’

If Bill Clinton found himself the unexpected object of authentic popular affection, Barack Obama was idolised as few men ever have been. For millions of Americans, he was more than the inhabitant of the White House—the most powerful office in the world. He represented their own hopes of a better, kinder, more left-wing way of life than they had hitherto known. His personality became a sort of utopian drama against which global events and world leaders were measured. His fame and the time in which he became president were indissolubly connected. After the extraordinarily contentious Bush years, Obama, like so many of his contemporaries, was apt to confuse aspiration and achievement—to assume that human ills would all dissolve in the sunshine of good intentions. When he said, in the course of a visit to depressed areas of Detroit, that “something” must be done, everyone fallaciously assumed that something would be done. Had his presidency been more prosperous, he might have achieved Kennedy-esque stature, but he lacked the humility to be a president who turned thoughts and intentions into reality. Instead, he basked in the spotlight as his people’s idol, unwilling to upset the apple cart and risk unpopularity by getting into the muck of governing.

Yet, in attempting not to upset the cart, upset it he certainly did. In leaving his people and relinquishing the destiny upon which he so dazzlingly embarked, he confronted the presidency with what seemed an insoluble problem of how to transition from an idolised man by the establishment to a brusque billionaire, an arduous septuagenarian. To the surprise of the American establishment, the transfer as we have seen over the past months, was achieved without significant difficulty, though perhaps raucous grumbling. The new president attended what has become a de facto coronation and is beloved by Middle America. President Trump, along with his wife and family, held the center stage. Despite Obama’s withdrawal from the cast as its leading actor, the show went on playing to a packed house. Today, a solid majority, nearly 60%, of the American populace approves of President Trump according to a Rasmussen poll.

For months, President Trump and his supporters announced that a new Age of Trump was to be expected. Such a prospect, in the circumstances of minimal economic or foreign policy successes, was alluring and Trump and his consort fit well into the expectation of a new springtime in public affairs. President Trump alone constitutes a kind of a presidential soap opera unto himself, whose interests never seem to flag even though the successive installments might be somewhat monotonous. Sophisticated observers might marvel at the appeal of so invariable a theme, but the general public continues to be enthralled almost to the point of hysteria.

Such is the popular presidency. It has its charm and utility. A largely materialistic society like ours has a natural propensity to hero worship, and the image of a presidential family is not a bad way of satisfying it. The presidency in a way provides a sort of substitute or ersatz religion. One could almost be forgiven for thinking the president practically ruled through divine right. Today, with the imperial presidency creeping into legislative affairs via pens and phones, Congress struggles to remind presidents that Congress does not advise but rather legislates. However, in an era where presidents are hailed as ‘The Anointed One’, he is practically God’s viceroy, and, as such, is not susceptible to interference by mortal men. When a president rules over the hearts of men, it is inevitable that the focus of interest should be transferred from the office to the person.

For the current occupant of the White House, it is Trump, himself, his family, and his way of life which holds the public attention. The presidency has amassed such power both socially and constitutionally that the person inhabiting the office becomes, in himself, wondrous. If he were ordinary, he would be nothing. Almost two dozen Republicans ran against Donald Trump in the primaries and quickly melted away when they were deemed mundane or banal by the public. Now, President Trump’s raison d’être is to be president and presidential. That is to say, he must be alluring, removed from the necessities and inadequacies of ordinary men—a creature of this world in the sense that he has a home, a wife and children, and yet not quite of this world in that he is president.

Yet it would be a mistake to assume from the adulation shown the presidency, the security of the office. Popularity, like patriotism, is not enough. Any earthly image is an extremely unsound focus for hysterical feeling. History shows that institutions survive only to the degree that they fulfill an authentic purpose. The American presidency indeed fulfills a purpose though perhaps too large a purpose in a system with coequal branches of government. Conversely, the presidency theoretically provides a head of state transcending the lower politicians who tend to ‘ebb and flow by the moon’ as King Lear so wonderfully said. The past three presidents all won second terms which expresses that continuity which has enabled America to survive the French and Russian Revolutions, a civil war, and two ruinous world wars without being torn asunder. But the function of the presidency must not only be fulfilled, it must be seen to be fulfilled. The president, in other words, must be put across not only as an effective businessman who is able to win hearts through his achievements. He must be put across, as well, as a useful unifying element in a society full of actual and potential discord.

Are his present advisers and his own temperament capable of doing this? In all fairness, it is too early to pass judgment. He will, however, need men and women who understand what the twenty-first century is about and what the role of a president at such a time ought to be; men and women who can deal with the internet and news cycle side of his existence subtly and sensibly, without losing sight of the great symbolic utility of the institution he embodies; men and women who are living in the present age which has been shaped by the fleeting desires of the populace. The American people are the authors of their own leadership; they anoint their own ruling class. They need only thank themselves for the fruits of a popular presidency.

 

 

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CIA Russia hacking report, Twitter Sarcasm and the Prospects of Russia-U.S. Relations

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By Aleksandra Serebriakova, a 3rd year International Relations student at King’s College London with a strong interest in post-Soviet Union space and Russia in particular.

On the 6th January the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the unclassified report that openly accused Russia of interfering in the U.S. presidential elections. The report argued that findings were based on the “understanding of Russian behavior” in its “longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order” and preconditioned by Russia’s “clear preference for President-elect Trump”, but nevertheless did not argue that hacking affected the election results.

The whole language of the Report was supported by the logic of ‘judgements’ rather than hard evidence through analyses of the CIA and two other agencies (FBA and NASA). This absence of strong evidence was explained by inability to “reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future”. Thus, the Report has stated that the campaign to undermine U.S. presidential elections was ordered directly by Vladimir Putin who wanted to “denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency”. What is more, Russia’s military intelligence agency and its Main Intelligence Agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU) has been accused for directing the hacks into the emails of Democratic Party officials and released them with a help of Guccifer 2.0 hacker through Wikileaks and DCLeaks.com beginning in March 2016. Notwithstanding the fact that this kind of reporting would be ridiculous in any other democratic country, as it would confirm that administration itself had a “clear preference” for the Presidential candidate ignoring the desires of its own population, two interesting points can be picked up from this Report: U.S. open advertising of ‘Russia Today’s’ (RT) ability to influence American population and reaction of Russia’s officials to these findings that has often been sarcastic and undiplomatic.

Firstly, due to inability to provide strong evidence the Report had to explain Russia’s alleged influence through its ‘covert intelligence operations’ and ‘over propaganda efforts’ with a help of Russian Government agencies, paid social media users (internet ‘trolls’) and state-funded media, with RT and Sputnik news outlets being examples of this ‘propaganda machine’. Seven pages of unclassified version of the Report were devoted to assessing RT America TV’s activities in relation to “undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest”. Without profoundly discussing RT’s efforts to meddle in the current election and only briefly touching upon its ‘negative’ portrayal of Hilary Clinton and open support for Donald Trump, the short Report devotes a substantial part to the discussion of the channels attempts to “fuel political protests” during Occupy Wall Street movement and rise criticism on the U.S. economic and political systems. Overall, the Report presents RT America as some kind of international criminal syndicate with enormous power and financial connection to Russian Government. The argument that “RT recently was the most-watched foreign news channel in the UK” and the tables of comparison that present this channel as the most popular on YouTube out of foreign broadcasting companies (image 1) has caused a stream of comments and jokes from the Russian officials.

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Image 1: Comparative Tables from ODNI Report, Appex A

Thus, the Russian Embassy in London claimed that the Report findings have been the best advertising for RT (image 2). Indeed, RT preferences for Trump were clear from the start but how can the coverage of one channel that has a clear connection to the foreign government be argued to have such an enormous power to indirectly influence election process in a sovereign country? While RT should definitely be grateful to this Report for its promotion, we still should be willing to get some more evidence in support for the existing accusations. Otherwise, it all too sounds more as a Cold War scare.

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Image 2: Twitter of the Russian Embassy in London, 7th January 2017

What is more, the reactions of Russia’s officials to this Report were not at all surprising. Seen as another groundless attempt to discriminate Russia in the eyes of international community following the traditions of doping scandal and McLaren report, CIA report was met with sarcastic comments from Russian officials. Thus, Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary of Putin, called the accusations on Russia’s involvement in hacking a “witch hunt” and said that Obama’s administration is “behaving like an elephant in china shop”; while Maria Zakharova, a Director of the Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called Obama’s team in Facebook “a group of foreign policy losers, anxious and short-sighted”. At the same time, Russian Embassy in the UK called the Report a “pathetic attempt at tainting American’s vote by innuendo coached in Intel new-speak” (image 3) but also posted a bunch of memes in Twitter mocking the Report and Obama administration for its efforts to unleash the Cold War.

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Image 3: Twitter of the Russian Embassy in London, 7th January 2017

What is so telling about such an active engagement of Russian officials with Twitter and Facebook in such an ‘undiplomatic’ way? In 2015 Andrew Hoskins and Ben O’Loughlin have argued that Russia was one of the most successful countries to accommodate the chaotic dynamic of social media and user-led content that for some time upset policy-makers ability to influence and control information. In particular, they argued that Russia was successful in “arresting the mainstream media” through its engagement with Twitter, Facebook and VK by allowing only certain parts of the conflict, such as the one in Ukraine, to be visible and framed in a certain way. Russia’s open engagement with social media allows mediatization of conflicts and disagreements and is trying to be especially proactive in promoting its own definitions of how certain disagreements should be seen and which side should be blamed for their existence (well, definitely not Russian). The Twitter and Facebook comments of Russian officials on hacking claims has signified a change in the platform for diplomatic exchanges and showed how influential it might be for promoting a particular view especially when sarcasm, the competition of memes and social media logic of shareability are present.

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Image 4: Twitter of the Russian Embassy in London, 29th December 2016

All of these raise a question over the prospects of future Russia-U.S. relations. While during the last press-conference Barak Obama called Russia “a smaller and weaker country”, which nevertheless was able to meddle with the U.S. elections through hacking processes, new sanctions against Russian officials and diplomats summed up the last two years of Obama’s administration unsuccessful politics towards Russia. At the same time, Trump’s position over Russian involvement into the election process was ambiguous. While his Twitter praised Putin’s decision not to expel the U.S. diplomats in reciprocal measures by tweeting that he always knew that Putin was very smart, at the same time condemning findings of the hacking report, his positions somehow changed after few days when he actually agreed that the hacking took place, but due to the “gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee” that would never happen again when he becomes the president. Russian press such as independent Novaya Gazeta news outlet has suggested that such change in the rhetoric is occurring mainly due to the pressures Trump is experiencing from his own Republican party and other officials that take hacking report seriously and do not share his admiration for Putin. Overall, it is clear that unpredictability of the next American president and the pressures he will be experiencing in the White House might force him to completely change the rhetoric in a more anti-Putin and anti-Russian way that will definitely be followed by reciprocal tweets and Facebook posts from Russian officials in even more sarcastic manner.

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God bless America and the rest of the world in times to come

By Julia Huentemann, 1st year student from Germany studying BA International Relations at King’s College London.

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Even though I wished the results of the presidential elections were different, I do not find the outcome surprising.

After Brexit, these elections once again reveal how well established parties/politicians have obviously failed to sufficiently acknowledge the needs and sorrows of a broad range of the population. I believe that – just as with Brexit – the majority of the Trump supporters used their vote in order to express fear.  They have reached a point at which they have nothing to lose anymore.  The desire for change has become the driving force for their actions and decisions, no matter how questionable the candidate running for presidency and the consequences might be.

The United States is not an individual case. My home country, Germany, is experiencing a similar development with the German government not actually having a realistic understanding about what is an acceptable burden to place on its citizens. Obviously, a well- earning and well-educated citizen is able to deal with the constant influx of refugees in a much more relaxed way than a member of a low-earning, less-educated class. After all, the members of a well off upper class do not live next door to the refugee camp. They do not have to compete for employment and their children do not have to be afraid of not getting allocated to the favoured kindergarden/school etc.

Anyway, this privileged position is not enjoyed by a vast majority of the population and the influence this vast majority can have is obviously being underestimated. Despite general commitment shown towards the refugees by the general public, we should not neglect the fact that this influx of “strangers” is causing huge fear and envy among the citizens being worse off than the average. They fear of being deprived from privileges and now having to compete against an enormous number of newcomers. This fear is universal in its nature and applies to both Americans in their anxiety about immigrants from Mexico & Co. as well as Germans and their anxiety about refugees from Syria & Co. No nation simply exists of wealthy and privileged. There always exists an equal proportion (if not even more) of poor, uneducated and narrow minded. And still those less privileged have to be considered as equal, especially in their right to vote.

The outcomes of the elections show that the gap between rich and poor, educated and uneducated is becoming wider and wider. Here I see the most urgent need for action not only in America but also in Europe. Education, and with it the opportunities for social upward mobility is, among other things, a prerequisite for a functioning and sustainable democracy.

Democracy in itself has its limitations. It assumes every citizen to be mature, to make rational decisions to promote the common good but this is rather an unrealistic illusion. As long as everyone is content, values such as tolerance, freedom and solidarity are being promoted, but as soon as there is a tendency towards misery, rather negative sentiments move to the focus of attention. And those sentiments are very unlikely to conform to such honorable values as tolerance, etc.

Without social equality it will become increasingly difficult for liberal-democratic governments to acquire a majority in governmental elections and the presidential elections in the US is just one example revealing this ugly truth. We should acknowledge the fact that Trump, other than Hillary Clinton, has managed to see and incorporate the desires of the so-called “silent majority” into his campaign. We should acknowledge the fact that Trump was able to use the weaknesses of democracy (namely the dissatisfaction of the people) to his advantage, which is not illegitimate as a means of acquiring power, and that this has made him a successful candidate.

If we truly believe in the concept of democracy, we still have to respectfully accept what the people in the United States have voted for. There is no point in complaining about the outcome of the 2016 elections, even if it is tempting to do so, to join the ones proclaiming a global apocalypse. Future politicians can actually learn a lesson from the recent developments, may it be Brexit, the refugee crisis or the presidential election. There is an urge for an increasing awareness of the needs of the less privileged who feel neglected by the establishment. Too many events have proven this social group to be underestimated in its actual impact upon the outcome of public votes from which they must and cannot be excluded.

Instead of complaining about the past, we should attempt an optimistic outlook into the future as things never turn out to be as bad as they might have seemed. We should have faith in the American population, we should have faith in the survival of democracy and we should understand it as a chance to return to more solidarity in Europe. I strongly believe that the outcome of those presidential elections provides enough motivation for European nations to form a closer union in order to withstand Trump´s America and to be considered as a serious partner on equal level. God bless America and God bless the rest of the world.

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KCL Reactions to #Trump

8th of November hit us like a hurricane. Everyone has something to say, especially people from the War Studies department at King’s. Take a look at what students and professors from our department have to say about the American election.

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Students

“The day that racism becomes some sort of patriotism, America is no longer America”

“What’s funny is that it’s not low level racism anymore. Resembling Brexit, the ascendancy of trump will now legitimise draconian behaviour i.e. “The wall”, “deportation forces” and “ban of muslims”. This was my first election where I myself could vote and although I did not have high thoughts of any candidate, there was clearly a moral side against a racist, sexist and deplorable side. I will still go to the US in pursuit of further education and it being my country of birth (yes Trump I am one of those “anchors” you so want to get rid off). America is still a beautiful place with endless opportunities (as we saw last night) and we shouldn’t allow someone like trump to ruin our futures if we can control it. At times of extreme adversity, we must stand up and face it with dignity…”

Emil Wilson, 3rd year IR

“I cannot believe how much Hillary Clinton, the most qualified and experienced candidate was let down like this. Feminism is very very much needed in today’s world and especially in the most “forward” thinking country.”

Shalini Chatterjee, 3rd year IR

“Look, I’m as crushed as anyone by Trump’s victory but enough with all this moving to Canada nonsense. If one defeat is enough to make you give up on your country then you never loved it in the first place. Tonight the people were stupid, but they have the right to be. That’s democracy and it is still worth fighting for. So we respect the result. We stay engaged. We try to make this work and in 4 years we come back. Or 4 years after that. Or 4 years after that.

Don’t give up the ship.”

Patrick Visser, 3rd year War Studies at KCL

“I am not known for sharing my political views but I will not remain silent this time. Coming from a country and a region which is increasingly becoming radical right wing; and a place which has suffered decades of communism, I know what both look like. I have not publicised it in any way but I was a Hillary supporter since day one. Not because of the ‘woman card’ but because she has the experience, knows what she can and cannot do as a president, and has been dedicated to her country politically for over thirty years. I know she has her flaws but she could truly make a beneficial impact on the US.

The US, a place known for attracting people looking for a place with opportunities, a symbol of freedom and diversity. That same America of chances has become subjected to mockery and harassment. It is not ‘America, what did you do?’, it’s not America that ‘did it’. This decision is a consequence of the way working class white men have been treated in the country, of what the Democratic party did not do in the last years and did not do throughout Hillary’s campaign, and of what many Americans understand wrong about politics. This great land, the strongest country in the world, is now to have a leader who refuses to accept climate change exists, is genuinely racist, is pro-torture (which has absolute prohibition under international law and is seen as the ultimate crime committed against a human being), is a sexist and a homophobe and the list goes on. I am not shocked that that happened, especially given how undemocratic the American elections system is, but I am concerned about what will happen to the Hispanic and African-American minorities, to the LGBT+ community, to gender equality, and to all these people who still hold the idea of the US as a land of opportunities and are scared of the future.

America did not need to ‘get great again’, it was/is great, but it now needs to find its focus and balance again. America, you will go through this night and will rise again… I hope. #prayforAmerica

Ilina Trendafilova, 3rd year IR at KCL

“In his acceptance speech, Trump declared he would reach his hand out to all Americans and ask we work together to improve our nation. When a president asks this we must answer the call to work towards improving the nation. However, with freedom comes vigilance. Trump, you will be our president. And as your people we will do what we ought to do: hold you to account. We’re not all running to Canada and we’re not all going to let you do whatever you want. We are going to try and move forward but if you do one thing which runs counter to the ideals which make us American (inclusiveness, diversity, acceptance, and tolerance) as you did during your campaign, we will be there to push back every time. What makes America great is not that we always choose the perfect leader and have the sunniest of days. What makes America great is that regardless of the circumstance, no matter how dire things may be, the institutions which underlie our politics and our society will continue to stand. Furthermore, our love for each other as Americans who share values (regardless of race, gender, orientation, or religion) has stabilized us through days infinitely darker than the ones we face now. God bless the left, right, center, and god bless the United States of America.”

Derek Eggleston, 2nd year IR at KCL

“Scared that it will give momentum to nationalist and populist mouvements in Europe! Especially with Le Pen and even Sarkozy, who since today has embraced the Trump rhetoric in France.”

Elise Lauriot Prevost, 2nd year IR at KCL

“I am shocked to see Donald Trump being elected as president of the United States.  Somebody holding this undisputedly most powerful office should have a significant amount of diplomatic skill. We can clearly negate that to be the case.  Let us hope that hard-earned peaceful relations among the United States and its allies are not being ruined from one day to another. Let us hope the American ideal of democracy survives this challenge. Let us hope this development to be a motivation for a return to more solidarity in Europe in order to withstand Trump’s America.”

Julia Huentemann, 1st year IR at KCL

“As upsetting as the Trump victory is, this is not the time to point fingers and widen the ideological division between socio-economic classes. When people have such a strong feeling of hate towards politicians and when people would rather vote for a misogynistic, racist, inexperienced candidate instead of someone who is perceived to represent the establishment, there is obviously something wrong with Western politics. Now, more than ever, the Left needs to be united, strong, and hopeful. Taking action towards self-examination and reinvention is the next step.”

Ioana Ilie, 3rd Year War Studies at KCL

“It’s not the results any of us opted for, but it’s the one we got. The American people are sick and tired of the establishment and media taking advantage of them. Though their scapegoat is horrendous, their disillusionment with the current system is understandable. Even though the popular vote was given to Hillary, the outdated electoral college puts Trump as the president elect.  Makes you wonder if the primaries weren’t rigged what could have happened…
But I will stand by my Americans – family members, friends and good people who elected Trump. I will also stand by those who elected Clinton. Now is the time for unity, and if we have to take this route then so be it.  He is my president for now but America will always be my country.”

Anya Wasserman, 2nd Year IR at KCL

“What disturbs me the most is the moment I’ll have to write <<President Trump>> in my essays… That is indeed a scary thought”

Andrei Popoviciu, 2nd Year IR at LC:

“Yes there were MANY Reasons for Trump’s win, but I’m stunned by some people simply dismissing those who voted for Trump as idiots, racists, homophobes, etc. Yes we can’t overlook the nature of his supporters and many of them do have these abhorrent qualities, but equally many are genuinely mad at being labelled as soon as they open their mouths. There is no dialogue anymore, if someone utters an opinion outside of the liberal mainstream – they are not deemed a discussant with another opinion. They are deemed a racist, a xenophobe, or a ‘whacky’ guy stuck in the 1910’s. We have to stop lying to ourselves. These people exist, and dismissing them only alienates them further while making them more aggressive and determined. We have to talk to them, because otherwise it looks like they will crush the us and the ‘liberal/democratic order.”

Stanislav Skryabin, 2nd year IR at KCL

Professors 

Former Head of Department, Professor Theo Farrell

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Anglo-American Foreign Policy Lecturer, Dr. John Bew, summed it up

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Alessio Patalano, lecturer in War Studies on maritime issues in Asia

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Cyber specialist, Professor Thomas Rid

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Our beloved Head of Department, Professor Rainsborough kicked off the night with humour (how quickly those smiles disappeared from our faces):

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Kieran Mitton’s view

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Alexander Hitchens’ parallel with the UK:

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Dr Christine Cheng helped draw up the 2000 UN Millennium Development Goals – she is not too optimistic about human security now:

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Professor Neumann is probably the War Studies lecturer most often seen on TV. And really it is not only his expertise that makes us see why… he speaks for the people:

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Shiraz Maher shocked by the news

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Lastly, Professor Freedman calls US on smooth political transition, is there hope?

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The Yellow Haired Buffoon: 6 reasons why Donald Trump should not be considered for the presidential race

by Andrei Popoviciu, a first-year International Relations student at King’s College London. Andrei is the Social Media Editor of International Relations Today and a supporter of the American Democrat party. 

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As frontrunner of the republican nomination and a controversial character in the American presidential race, Donald Trump’s decision to run for head of state has been heavily debated by almost every media facet and political figure. With policies such as the wall to shut out Mexico, killing the families of terrorists, deporting all illegal immigrants and preventing Muslims from entering the United States, he was considered a joke up until he started to gain popularity amongst voters. One of the turning points when everyone figured out how dangerous he is was Super Tuesday, where 8.5 million Republicans turned out to vote in the 11 GOP Super Tuesday. This year’s turnout in those 11 states is 81% higher than four years ago. Donald Trump says he is the main reason behind the shift, claiming to draw Democrats and independents into the Republican process this year, boosting his party at the expense of Democrats. What is extremely worrying is that since 1988, every candidate who has won the most states on Super Tuesday went on to become the party’s nominee. Trump seemed harmless at the beginning, but in light of recent events, he is almost guaranteed to be the Republican nominee.

But how and why did this happen? Most supporters see in Trump the potential to be the next president due to a series of characteristics and assets they think are essential for the position he is running for. Ignoring his inconsistencies in policy and his hypocritical statements, reasons such as his incredible business skills, the fact that he funds his own campaign, his anti-establishment position or his charismatic and though personality were considered by his devotees when they decided to support him. This article sets to debunk all these reasons and to justify why he shouldn’t be considered as an option for the presidential race.

#1 He is funding his own campaign

 Well, not really. He declared at a certain point that he spent 25 million dollars on his campaign so far. He boasts about the fact that he hasn’t taken any corporate money and that he is truly financially independent. What is important to note is that starting from the start of his campaign in April through October last year, individual contributors made up about 67% of his total money raised for his campaign. His self-financing only started to come up in the last months of 2015, making his statements not so true. Furthermore, he gave his campaign a $10.8 million loan, making the vast majority of his contributions loans rather than donations. This means that he is expecting to eventually get his money back at some point. Additionally, of the $12 million Trump’s campaign spent in 2015, $2.7 million went toward reimbursing Trump-affiliates companies for services provided to the campaign, such as traveling in his own plane and helicopter. Sure, it is safe to say that he might be partially funding his campaign or that he’s accepting donations as means of gratitude to his supporters but this idea that his campaign is fully independent is of course twisted in his benefit.

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#2 He is tough

One of his best assets is his ability to victimise himself. He has a long history of suing people, businesses, cities and countries or media outlets. He sued a newspaper, his ex-wife, a Native American Tribe and even the state of New Jersey. He sues to make a point, to regain his sense of control or just for sport. Trump has a habit to sue whenever he feels threatened, small or insufficiently wealthy, making him look like a money-driven and anger-filled character that could be anything but tough.

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#3 He tells it like it is

A lot of Trump’s supporters are really keen on his personality and his rhetoric. One thing he can get credit for is his public speaking skills. He knows how to engage with a crowd and he knows what to give people. However, according to PolitiFact, 1% of his statements are deemed to be true and 43% to be false. Truth be told, he doesn’t care what the truth is and his statements and the things he says are just a way to self-indulge and make himself noticed on the political stage. He, at one point, admitted to the New York Times that he doesn’t believe in what he says and everything is just for show. So why does he have that many supporters? Are American people that desperate to change the current views of the state that they would vote for such a person? This has been heavily debated and it is still a mystery in the eyes of political analysts and scholars in the domain.

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#4 He inspires success

Well, you might say that his multi-million dollar businesses count for something and that his habit of never missing a chance to remind people that he is successful and rich counts for something. Furthermore, he likes to think that his name and everything he owns and runs inspires money and success as a self-made man. One of the main arguments against this is his multi-million inheritance from his father which helped him set the bases of his empire. Trump states that his name and brand is valued at 3 billion dollars, accounting the fact that his name gives quality to everything he owns or sells. Let’s take a closer look at the facts. His branded products like Trump Magazine, Trump Steaks, Trump Shuttle, Trump Vodka and Trump University have been businesses and initiatives that failed over time. He’s being sued over some of them: Trump University was deemed as a scam of a for-profit university. He even started a mortgage company in 2006, named obviously, Trump Mortgage, which emerged right before the financial crisis of 2008. The bottom line is: he is not really the most reliable person when it comes to businesses and ventures.

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#5 He has a clear plan for policies

On some issues, Trump’s campaign has gone through more than a half dozen plans in two months. On top of the fact that he is characterised by his inconsistency and his plain stupid way to engage with policy making, he doesn’t believe in his own plans.

Let’s take the example of the undocumented immigrants living in the US.

  • In July 23rd he said “The first thing we have to do is strengthen our borders. And after that, we’re going to have plenty of time to talk about it.”
  • “If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out.” This was his statement on the 24th of July. So he said that he will deport the “rapists and the wrong doers” but will try to “work out something so the good ones can stay.”
  • His 3rd version is quite similar to his 2nd. “We’re going to do what’s right. Some are going to have to go. And some, we’re just going to see what happens,” July 26th.
  • Then again, on July the 27th he wants to deport everyone by saying “But the good ones – of which there are many – I want to expedite so they can come back in legally.”
  • Then on July the 29th he was in conversation with CNN which raised the issue of the children of the illegal immigrants. He states, “They’re with their parents? It depends?”

As you can see, in a matter of a week he gave 6 different statements on his stance about the issue. Another essential problem he was evasive about was the tax reform.

  • On June the 18th he stated that the best option is to “Simplify it. At a minimum, simplify it.”
  • On August 11th, in an interview with CNN he said “You can’t be just boom, boom, hard and fast.”
  • His 3rd option was to maybe get rid of the income tax and have a national consumption tax with a “Fair Tax”. “You can have a ‘Fair Tax…’ This was on the same day as his previous statement.
  • He suggests in the same interview to keep the income tax, but make it one flat rate for everybody.
  • Or maybe don’t change the current system at all and just add things to it. “You can leave the system alone, which is probably the simplest at this point. Leave the system alone and take out deductions and lower taxes and do lots of really good things, leaving the system the way it is.”.

There’s obvious clash of statements in just two of one of the main issues the candidates will need to tackle if they win. He fails to have a persistent view on anything at any point, making this reason flawed and not worthy to take into consideration.

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#6 He would make a great president

His main mind-set is to be flexible. He is indeed very flexible, changing his views in a matter of minutes and surprising everyone with statements every day. At the FOX News GOP primary debate he was shown a montage in which moderators showed him changing his opinions about matter such as the Iraq war or the refugee problem. His response:

“I’ve never seen a very successful person who wasn’t flexible. Who didn’t have a certain degree of flexibility? … You have to be flexible. Because you learn.”

 Donald Trump, Fox News GOP primary debate

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At the end of the day, does anyone want a president who is constantly changing his views based on his mood? His opinions don’t really matter now, and he can be mocked, but what will happen if he manages to gain office? Which one of his political views will he stick to? Do the American people want a president with a stream of broken business ventures who has the support of a white supremacist clan leader, David Duke, and who is often compared to Hitler? I think not.

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/03/04/fact-checking-the-11th-gop-debate/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/03/04/fact-checking-the-11th-gop-debate/?tid=bkgd_campaign2016

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/feb/10/donald-trump/donald-trump-self-funding-his-campaign-sort/

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/10/donald-trump-fec-fundraising-214838

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/feb/10/donald-trump/donald-trump-self-funding-his-campaign-sort/

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