Posted in Star Lord

A glitch in the system

On March 14th, President Trump declared that there is “duplication and redundancy everywhere” and that there needs to be more “efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the executive branch”. One might think, “our outsider president is wonderful for recognizing how disorganized the executive branch is” or “what a revolutionary idea!”

Except, he’s not and it isn’t.

In fact, there seems to  be a glitch because nearly the same thing was said by Nixon in 1971. And Jimmy Carter in 1978. And Bill Clinton in 1994. And Obama in 2012.

But, let’s backtrack and look at why exactly the executive branch seems so disorganized. One reason behind this supposed “redundancy” is that the federal government has expanded greatly in the past few decades, with new departments manifesting from current events and the influence of interests groups who demanded official attention for their needs. Moreover, getting rid of these departments is met with resistance from Congress because the reconstruction of already established agencies is “too large a challenge to the centrifugal forces within the national government”. Which is to say, it creates division within the federal government in the places that were actually creating unity.

So, what is Trump’s plan?

Reportedly, the new president is giving every executive agency 6 months to prepare a reorganization plan “if appropriate” and submit it the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Then, the OBM will have 6 months to review the proposals and create a master plan for Trump to review. However, the loophole in this is that not every agency will feel that reorganization is “appropriate”, and it is not guaranteed that these proposals will feature reorganization that suits the executive branch as a whole. Moreover, even if the process goes as planned, Trump will still have to convince Congress to bestow him the authority to administer unilateral reorganization of the executive branch, something that was never granted fully to any president before.

So, will Trump finally whip the executive branch into shape? Probably not. But saying a few words about it will earn him praise from those that do not understand the fundamental workings of the executive branch itself.

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Posted in Star Lord

Congress gets sporty

On February 28, lawmakers in the House of Representatives conducted a hearing for the strengthening of anti-doping controls in international sports in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics. The Oversight and Investigations subcommittee that hosted the hearing is under the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over sports. Some of the witnesses that spoke at the hearing were Olympic gold medalist and record-breaker Michael Phelps, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency Travis Tygart, and Medical Director of the International Olympic Committee Richard Budgett.

Measures for tightening anti-doping control have been in the works since the last Olympic Games, held in Rio de Janeiro in the summer of 2016, when global sports officials called for the exclusion of Russia from the Olympics after learning the nation had blatantly violated anti-doping controls at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. Following the report of Russia’s systematic cover-up by the nation’s former anti-doping lab chief, a Senate subcommittee questioned the top official of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the global regulator of drugs in  international sports. Since WADA relies on the funding from national governments and the Olympic committee in order to operate, and receives over 2 million dollars from the US, the agency has been very vocal in recent months about working with Congress to reform the anti-doping system so similar events do not occur again.

In addition to action from Congress, the International Olympic Committee has also created two new committees of its own to investigate doping in Russia and pursue further sanctions against the country. In light of the current relationship that the Trump administration is having with Russia, this hearing grants some assurance that Russia is being held accountable for its actions in at least the athletic sphere.

Posted in Star Lord

Intelligence vs Trump: Who will win?

Amid controversy with the resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn, tensions rise between the Trump administration and US Intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On Wednesday, a report citing unnamed former and current officials stated that intelligence agencies may be “withholding sensitive information from the president” due to suspicion that it will be leaked in connection with President Donald Trump’s dubious ties to Putin. On the same day, it was reported that Trump could launch a review of the agencies led by billionaire Stephen Feinberg, which could threaten the intelligence community’s independence and diminish their ability to secure information that opposes Trump’s agenda.

It doesn’t end there.

Earlier this week, another report came out with news that the Justice Department specifically notified the president about Flynn’s actions and “vulnerability to Russian blackmail” in January. Instead of responding, Trump went on Twitter to shame the intelligence agencies for “illegally” giving out classified information “like candy”. Of course Trump didn’t mention the fact that Flynn broke US law by conducting diplomacy as a private citizen, a true illegal action.

What does this mean for the future?

Trump launching a review of the intelligence agencies could mean more than intimidation. There is suspicion that the investigation is an excuse to condition Feinberg for a high position in one of the intelligence agencies despite little to no experience. With a loyalist at the top, this could tie the hands of any intelligence agency, especially when a good portion of the analysis produced by American intelligence agencies contradicts the policy positions of the Trump administration.

It also could mean a new pinnacle for cooperation between the intelligence community and the media. With both under attack by the president and with the mutual goal of greater transparency in the government, the two forces could ally to curtail the limits Donald Trump seeks to place on both.

At this point in the battle between Intelligence and Donald Trump, the one who can manipulate the playing field best will win.

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Posted in Star Lord

Trudeau taunts Trump with trade deal

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, is known for being quite at odds with the positions of American President Donald Trump.In fact, Trudeau has increasingly become the world’s favorite “Anti-Trump”, despite refraining from outwardly criticizing the new president. Even after Trump’s controversial travel ban, when asked to comment, Trudeau stated that “there have been times where we have differed in our approaches and that has always been done firmly and respectfully.”

Today is no different.

After nearly eight years of negotiations, the Canadian Prime Minister finally passed his country’s CETA deal with the European Union. Called “a comprehensive blueprint for responsible economic co-operation”, the deal is a free-trade agreement between Canada and the EU which will eliminate 99% of non-farm tariffs between them. This will affect EU’s market of 500 million people and Canada’s 35 million, and will supposedly boost growth and jobs on both ends.

This measure has been in the works for some time now, but analysts believe that its fulfillment comes as a direct response to Donald Trump’s plan to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Moreover, although Trudeau did not mention Trump by name in his address to the European Parliament, his words stuck clearly as an opposition to the leader’s views on the free trade agenda.

Now, the world turns its attention to Trump and how he will respond to the decisive actions of the Canadian Prime Minister. For decades, Canada has been one of the most essential allies to the United States and the two nations have repeatedly been on the same page, especially when it came to economic globalization. Nevertheless, with the Trump and Trudeau administration on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, the US-Canada partnership appears to be in jeopardy. Trump will in all likelihood respond to Trudeau’s decision, and for (what may be the first time!) he may do this with actions instead of words. If Trump ultimately makes the move to scrap NAFTA, which he can constitutionally do without the approval of Congress, this would put the longtime, mutually beneficial international relationship at risk of severance.

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Posted in Star Lord

Who will Trump “trump” in the Middle East?

Now that Donald Trump has been sworn in as president, America waits in anticipation for the first decisions of the new administration on international affairs. Particularly, many want to know to what extent the US will involve itself in the Middle East.  In the past few months, Trump has appointed a number of notoriously conservative officials to high office positions. Notably, he appointed his son-in-law Jared Kushner as his senior adviser and “special envoy” to the Middle East despite minimal relevant experience. Oh, besides one thing. Kushner’s family has a large foundation which donates substantial sums of money to the Israeli settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The CNN article takes a very wary approach to analyzing Trump’s stance and possible decisions, clearly struggling to appear unbiased (although it is quite clear throughout the entirety of the article that the view is leaning left). Despite this, the article gives a new twist on looking at Trump’s stance on international relations. Trump relies on assertiveness, such as when he says that he will “crush” ISIS and remove “radical Islamic terrorism” from the face of the earth, as well as isolationism, which is evident when he suggests giving Russia a free pass in Ukraine and Syria. This mix of conflicting positions is remarkably reminiscent of “American grand-strategy” pre-1941. By looking at Trump’s position on foreign affairs as a return to the policies of pre- Pearl Harbor America, there are numerous results that we can expect from his administration.

One expected result is that Trump will abandon Obama’s agendas on nation building and human rights. This will all be part of Trump’s greater goal of dismantling America’s role as the “world police power”, a reputation taken on by the country after World War Two. Another expected result is a halt of progress towards the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a consequence of the assertive side of Trump’s strategy, as well as an effect of his conservative leadership. Kushner, Greenblatt, and Friedman have all given statements that are favorable towards settlement and hostile towards the two-state solution. The third expected result is also an effect of Trump’s assertive side: a possible partnership between him and Putin with the goal of sticking it to ISIS and “radical Islamic terrorism”.

Every one of the expected results listed above is at odds with the goals of the Guardians of Freedom. By returning to pre-WW2 strategy, the US will regress back to the state at which it was when it allowed countless monstrosities to occur during and before the World Wars. Our goal is towards progress and towards universal recognition of human rights for minority groups and oppressed peoples. There is positives to rolling back America’s “police power” bravado. However, the United States also has an obligation to its allies and to LDCs around the world. There is no way that we can turn a blind eye to these nations without undermining core American values. Further, the rejection of the two-state solution is completely in conflict with our mission because we condemn the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel, just as we reject any occupation of internationally recognized land by an oppressive power. Finally, Trump’s promised crusade with Putin against ISIS is not just in disagreement with our political beliefs and ideology. It takes one brief look at some credible research to perceive that Russia has been funneling weaponry and fighting power to ISIS for years. Trump praises Putin for his authoritarian rule and sneaky strategy against other nations, but refuses to entertain the possibility that he will pull a fast one on Trump himself.

So, who will Trump “trump” in the Middle East? As of now, it looks like America will be one of the net losers.

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Posted in Star Lord

GAMBia is GAMBling in its election

On December 1st in the West African country of Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh lost the election to the leader of his opposition, Adama Barrow. The president-elect is supposed to step into power on January 19th, however Jammeh reversed his initial concession of defeat and sued to nullify the election result.

The election challenge was supposed to be heard by a panel of foreign judges, which Gambia requires due to its lack of trained professionals, on January 10th. However, the judges from Nigeria and Sierra Leone did not make it to the hearing due to the “insistence” of Jammeh. The current President has put pressure on his allies in the West African region to prolong the hearing and keep himself in power until some deal, which probably includes amnesty, is reached with Barrow.With backing from major players like the UN and the US, however, it is expected that Barrow will not back down and will demand inauguration on the 19th.

No matter the result of this contested election, this situation brings up a crucial question in foreign relations and US involvement in international affairs. Firstly, to what extent should the US get involved? Due to our involvement in these nations in the past, particularly our debt to West Africa from centuries of enslaving the region’s people, it is in part our obligation to ensure that Gambia has the resources and support to secure peaceful transitions of power. So far, the US has done just that. However, if there is violent resistance from Jammeh and his forces, should the US get more involved? On one hand, the US has the power to do so and can oversee that Barrow is given the authority the people have vested in him. As of yet, Gambia has been very open to foreign aid from both the US and other neighboring nations. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that Barrow will not be as corrupt, or more, than Jammeh.

The stance that the article takes on this issue is vague, although there is a sense that the author prefers the US to provide aid from a distance. Right now, the Guardians of Freedom agree that the US should let Gambia and its neighboring countries try to resolve the issue. If the situation becomes violent, and hopefully it will not, then the US can collaborate with other major forces like the UN in providing support for the people-backed Barrow. As always, we believe in supporting those who strive towards justice, be it the opposition or the government.

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Posted in Star Lord

Ukraine is against occupation-shocking!

In the most recent meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Ukraine voted in support of the resolution which demands the termination of Israeli settlement construction in the Palestinian territories, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Ukrainian diplomats noted that the construction of settlements is at odds with the goal of creating a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is particularly “unlikely to help tackle violence” in the Palestinian territories.

While Ukraine condemns the illegal activity of Israel on a moral and ethical level, it was also in the best national interest of Ukraine to vote in support of Palestine. The Palestinian territories are internationally recognized as occupied land and Ukraine is in the same boat with its own Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as Crimea, occupied illegally by Russia and Russian-backed militants.

Despite the obvious reasons for why Ukraine had to vote against the settlements, the nation has gotten a lot of backlash from Israel, which has announced that it will decrease all interaction with Ukraine to a minimum. Although Ukraine had hoped for some military defense know-how from Israeli sources which it will probably not get after the statement, Ukraine still stands firm in its position and sees its decision to support the termination of further settlement on Palestinian territory as part of Ukraine’s permanent mission in the UN.

We, at Guardians of Freedom, support both Ukraine in its decision to stand against the illegal actions of Israel and the UN resolution itself. After this new development, we expect Israel to stay true to its word and keep Ukraine at arms length. However, this is not much different from Israel’s relationship to Ukraine prior to its statement, as Israel has reportedly noted in the past that Russia is its more strategic ally. We also expect that Ukraine’s solidarity with Palestine and other illegally annexed territory will only benefit its current situation because there is strength in togetherness. To call out one aggressor, it is necessary to hold all aggressors responsible for their injustice.

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Posted in Star Lord

Obama administration goes into maximum overdrive


Following the European Union’s announcement that it will continue sanctions against Russia for the next six months and Obama’s declaration that he will take action against Putin for his involvement in the election hack, the US blacklisted an additional 15 Russian individuals and companies in an effort to expand sanctions against Russia. John E. Smith,  director of the Treasury Department’s office of foreign assets control,  stated that these measures were taken  “in response to Russia’s unlawful occupation of Crimea and continued aggression in Ukraine”.

The expected result of these new sanctions is to add economic pressure on Russia while throwing a wrench into the work of those who support and create instability in Ukraine. It also is a move from the administration that reinforces the idea that, at least while under the leadership of Obama, the US condemns the actions and aggression of Russia and will continue to oppose them.

It also is a move that challenges president-elect Donald Trump. The Republican president-to-be has consistently shown favor towards Putin and many anticipate that he could remove the current sanctions against Russia, especially after his choice for national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, consorted with the Russian president in December. However, after these new actions taken by the US and EU, the question is whether Trump will risk outrage at home and abroad by pandering to Putin.

The stance taken by the New York Times is supportive of the actions taken by Obama to expand sanctions against Russia. However, we at Guardians of Freedom, while similarly supportive of these measures, feel that they are not enough. A stronger move from Obama would be to provide direct support to Ukraine, whether that be in the form of the military aid that Ukraine has been asking for or increased financial assistance that will allow Ukraine to fortify its position against the Russian-backed rebels in the East.

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