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Author: TriSec    Date: 05/24/2016 01:47:49

Good Morning.

It's been a couple of weeks since I started this "Monday Night Writing" experiment. I certainly feel far less rushed trying to bash together something meaningful, and it certainly seems like I can devote a few more words than just a framework around the stories I've pulled. What say you all?

Let's start today with an argument we all wrote about last year. It's about a flag considered hallowed by certain southern states, but increasingly became the symbol of pariahs last summer. Since we've moved on to a full-bore presidential race, and other "issues of the day", you may have missed the recent news that congress passed a measure banning the Confederate flag from all Veteran's cemeteries. While it sounds like the right thing to do, I actually have a disconnect here. While I'm not a Civil War buff, I am a history geek - and I have visited several battlefields from that war. In these places, I've seen a Confederate flag flying proudly alongside the Stars and Stripes, and all the flags of states that were engaged in said battles - an altogether fitting and proper historical display.

During the presidential election of 2004, Democratic candidate Howard Dean told a reporter, “I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks.”

Twelve years later and it is very difficult to envision a presidential candidate appealing to this same demographic with references to the Confederate flag without having to deal with the legacy of slavery and racism. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have spoken out publicly against the display of the flag and just yesterday the House of Representatives voted 265 to 164 (with 84 Republicans joining almost all Democrats) to ban the Confederate battle flag from display in all Veterans Administration cemeteries. An exception was included to allow for small flags to be displayed on individual graves only on Memorial Day and Confederate Memorial Day.

Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), who proposed the amendment, spoke for many when he asked, “Why in the year 2016 are we still condoning displays of this hateful symbol on our sacred national cemeteries?”

The House vote caps off a year of the most sustained pushback against the public display of the Confederate battle flag throughout much of the country—especially in the South—since the violent shootings in Charleston, S.C., in June 2015. In addition to banning the display of the flag, a number of communities, including New Orleans, Baltimore, Louisville, and Charlottesville, have passed or are considering legislation for the removal of monuments to the Confederacy. This pushback has enjoyed a good deal of bipartisan support on the local and state levels. It was Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, who set the ball rolling with her call to remove the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds in Columbia, S.C., just shortly after the Charleston shootings, followed by an order to remove four flags from Alabama’s state capitol grounds by another Republican governor.

A few Republican-controlled state legislatures—notably in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia—have attempted to stem this tide, but they will likely remain on the defensive with fewer and fewer elected leaders running openly on their record defending symbols of the Confederacy. Even Mississippi, which is the only state that still includes the Confederate battle flag in its design, is now dealing with the embarrassment of seeing colleges, universities, and even local municipalities remove it from their grounds. What happened?

While it's certainly the wrong side of history (The victors write the history books), those men that fought and died under that banner perhaps deserve to have it over their final resting places. Their last full measure of devotion is no less relevant than those of the Union, after all.

Staying with our ancient vets, you are aware of the "Shores of Tripoli" line from the Marine Corps hymn. This, of course, references the Battle of Derne during the first Barbary war, circa 1805. In this action, the early US Marines stormed ashore and raised the Stars and Stripes over the Old World for the first time. Ever since then, our relationship with Libya seems to have been stormy. With the fall of Kadafy, it seems like another opportunity has been missed - so naturally we're going to invade. Oh, it's not an invasion per se, but don't oh so many of our wars start this way?

Libyans will have to come together behind a government before U.S. troops are sent on a train and advise mission into the country's multi-sided civil war that includes ISIS, the Pentagon said Friday.

The U.S. wanted to "see a central government coalesce" as a precondition to any commitment of American troops, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

"The first thing that is needed is political unity," he said.

The statements followed remarks by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford in which he suggested that the deployment of small teams of U.S. troops to Libya was imminent.

"There's a lot of activity going on underneath the surface" on a train and advise mission in Libya that would also involve supplying friendly forces with arms and equipment, Dunford told reporters on his plane returning from Europe.

"We're just not ready to deploy capabilities yet because there hasn't been an agreement" among the Libyans to support a central government, Dunford said, "and frankly, any day that could happen," The Washington Post reported.

"There will be a long-term mission in Libya," Dunford said.

By sending troops to Libya, the U.S. would be adding to the list of countries in which it has gone to war since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or become involved in lengthy military missions, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia and now Yemen.

Davis said that the small team of U.S. advisers sent into Yemen earlier this month to assist Arab coalition forces against the Islamic State in the Arabian Peninsula terror group was still on the ground, though their mission was described as short term.

In his remarks aboard the plane, Dunford also alluded to how increasingly complicated it has become to organize a strategy against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as the group branches out in the region.

Dunford said that there are now about 1,000 fighters backed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in the Sinai.

"We have seen a connection between the Islamic State in the Sinai and Raqqa" -- the self-proclaimed capital of the ISIS "caliphate" in northeastern Syria, Dunford said.

The offshoot in the Sinai has also been communicating with ISIS fighters concentrated in the Libyan coastal city of Sirte, "so we are watching that pretty closely," Dunford said.

If the U.S. were to send troops to Libya, it would be in support of the struggling new Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, which is backed by the United Nations.

Sarraj has been attempting to unite various factions now fighting with each other to rally behind the government in battling ISIS.

And staying with our theme today, let's consider a more recent enemy. We're all old enough to remember Vietnam, or maybe somebody not much older than us was there, or knows somebody that didn't come home. President Clinton started the normalization of our relationship with our former foe some two decades ago now. It's taken many turns, but President Obama has just lifted the last of the barriers to finalize that "normalization". Yep, Hi Vietnam, welcome to full relations - now how about some guns?

(Warning: Fox News story.)

President Obama lifted the decades-long U.S. arms embargo against Vietnam on Monday in an apparent effort to shore up the communist country's defenses against an increasingly aggressive China – though he faced criticism that the move takes away U.S. leverage to press for human rights freedoms.

Obama announced the full removal of the embargo at a news conference in Hanoi alongside Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. The president said the move was intended as a step toward normalizing relations with the former enemy and to eliminate a "lingering vestige of the Cold War."

The embargo was imposed in 1984. The United States partially lifted the ban in 2014, but Vietnam pushed for full access as it tries to deal with China's land reclamation and military construction in nearby seas.

Obama, in announcing the agreement Monday, said every U.S. arms sale would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis going forward. Vietnam has not bought anything, but removing the remaining restrictions shows relations are fully normalized and opens the way to deeper security cooperation.

"At this stage both sides have developed a level of trust and cooperation, including between our militaries, that is reflective of common interests and mutual respect," Obama said.

U.S. lawmakers and activists, though, had urged Obama to press for greater human rights freedoms in the one-party state before lifting the embargo. Vietnam holds about 100 political prisoners and there have been more detentions this year.

"In one fell swoop, President Obama has jettisoned what remained of U.S. leverage to improve human rights in Vietnam -- and (has) basically gotten nothing for it," Phil Robertson, with Human Rights Watch, said.

In Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry outwardly praised the move, with a spokeswoman saying China hoped "normal and friendly" relations between the U.S. and Vietnam would be conducive to regional stability. China itself remains under a weapons embargo imposed by the U.S. and European Union following 1989's bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Obama said the United States and Vietnam had mutual concerns about maritime issues and the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. He said that although Washington doesn't take sides on the territorial disputes, it does support a diplomatic resolution based on "international norms" and "not based on who's the bigger party and can throw around their weight a little bit more," a reference to China.

I wonder if what we need right now is not globalism, but a good dose of old-fashioned isolationism?

16 comments (Latest Comment: 05/24/2016 19:02:08 by Raine)
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