Links for 8-4-2017

  • The Department of Defense released the names of the two U.S. Army soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday: Specialist Christopher Harris of Jackson Springs, NC and Sgt. Jonathon Hunter of Columbus, IN.

  • American troops are on the ground in Yemen helping soldiers from the UAE and Yemen’s government push al Qaeda out of a stronghold.

  • Tom Nichols writes that we shouldn’t be happy to see so many generals on the White House staff:

    Rather, the problem is that the public’s eagerness to see a general impose order on the White House—with the president’s blessing, no less—represents a potentially dangerous bargain that at least some Americans seem willing to forge with serving and retired members of the U.S. military: we will accept dysfunction in the Oval Office, it seems, so long as there are enough generals ensconced around it as insurance against disaster.

    This is a complete reversal of long-lasting and stable traditions of American civil-military relations. The United States has a civilian commander in chief in order to provide a civilian check on the power of the military, not the other way around. To hope that Kelly and H.R. McMaster in the White House, and Gen. James Mattis at the Pentagon, will somehow restrain the president’s erratic impulses is a terrible development in our history, not because these are not fine men, but because too much reliance on them corrodes a key principle of the American constitutional order.

  • Former members of the National Security Council are trash-talking H.R. McMaster, claiming that McMaster holds views opposite Donald Trump’s on Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and China.

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice is stepping up its investigations of the Trump administration’s many leaks, and that it charged four people with leaking classified information.

  • The U.S. drafted a U.N. resolution that would cut North Korea’s exports by a third. North Korea earns $3 billion a year by exporting coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore, and seafood.

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress that the State Department is not removing the term “genocide” from its characterization of ISIS’ actions in Iraq and Syria, but members of Congress are unhappy about the Trump administration’s failure to spend appropriated money to help Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq.

  • A Public Policy Polling survey puts Senator Jeff Flake’s job approval rating in Arizona at 18%.

  • Toyota and Mazda plan to spend $1.6 billion building a factory in the U.S. They’re also planning to cooperate on electric car development. As part of the deal Toyota and Mazda are taking (relatively small) stakes in each other’s business.

  • Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt pleaded guilty to cheating on diesel emissions tests. He faces up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $400,000.

  • In Los Angeles County, California there are 144 registered voters for every 100 citizens of voting age.

  • The U.S. military used to be a big advocate for Turkey, but no more:

    There are many problems in bilateral ties, from U.S. cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish YPG, to the Turkish decision to buy Russian weapons systems, to the increasing anti-American, anti-European, and anti-Western rhetoric coming out of Turkey. And this rhetoric should not be ignored because it has been going on for the last 15 years, and it has started to go mainstream because it is being supported by government officials and pro-government media. According to the most recent Pew Center report, whereas other countries are worried about ISIS, global warming, refugee flows, cyberattacks, and economic collapse as key global threats, uniquely among all nations, Turks view the U.S. as a major global threat. No other country polls like Turkey, and this is not accidental – it is linked to anti-Americanism that the AKP has been feeding to its own people since its rise in 2002, as well as issues in bilateral ties. These anti-American sentiments are now quite mainstream in Turkey. That should concern the U.S., and Secretary Mattis is aware of it.

    Later:

    I would say that the people who have the most negative views of Turkey in Washington are, unfortunately, in the U.S. military as a result of a series of events, all of which took place under Erdogan’s watch. Turkey’s refusal to join the Iraq war in 2003, the collapse of Turkish-Israeli ties, the Turkish decision to buy Chinese air defense systems (although they backed down on that), Turkey’s recent decision now to buy Russian missiles, and Turkey’s lax policy in allowing radicals to cross into Syria in an effort to undermine Assad, all of these factors have hurt the relationship. And of course, from the Turkish perspective, the U.S. reticence to fully support Turkey against the Kurdish PKK group over the last decade – as well as the U.S. decision to fully support the Kurdish YPG against ISIS in Syria – has really soured the relationship.

  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit tossed the first degree murder conviction of a former Blackwater employee who fired on unarmed Iraqis in Baghdad in 2007, killing 14 people. The court also ordered resentencings for three other former Blackwater employees who were convicted in the same case.

  • Nolan Peterson writes that supplying American weapons to Ukraine would be a huge morale boost for Ukraine’s army.

  • Last month the Australian Federal Police disrupted an ISIS plot to plant a bomb on an airliner. Four people were arrested. They were working at the direction of ISIS operatives in Syria, who mailed them bomb components.

  • Javier El-Hage describes what’s likely to happen with Venezuela’s new constituent assembly, which met for the first time today:

    It is likely that the new assembly, which includes Maduro’s wife as well as Diosdado Cabello (widely considered the No. 2 man, behind Maduro, of chavismo), will attempt to write a constitution like the one the Castro regime imposed on the Cuban people in 1976, putting all branches of government under the control of one party. The new constitution will also likely enumerate rights and liberties, even as it includes a provision similar to the one in Article 62 of the Cuban constitution warning that “none of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to … the existence and objectives of the socialist State, or contrary to the decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism” — canceling any real opportunity for a constitutional government.