You are browsing the archive for 2019 May 06.

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Why the Bay of Pigs Invasion Went So Wrong

May 6, 2019 in History

By Christopher Klein

A series of poor decisions and mistakes led to one of the worst foreign policy failures in American history.

Before the break of dawn on April 15, 1961, a squadron of eight B-26 bombers piloted by Cuban exiles roared down a Nicaraguan airstrip on a secret mission. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and President John F. Kennedy hoped the Bay of Pigs Invasion would result in the overthrow of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. But the operation that unfolded over the next five days became one of the greatest military fiascoes in American history.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower had first sanctioned the covert CIA operation in 1959 to topple Castro, who had nationalized American industries and strengthened ties with the Soviet Union after leading a revolution that ousted the pro-American military dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Bay of Pigs Invasion (TV-14; 1:41)

The Plan, and Why It’s Called the Bay of Pigs Invasion

The plan called for an initial air strike to wipe out Castro’s small air force, followed by the amphibious landing of 1,400 Cuban expatriates at the Bay of Pigs, an inlet of the Gulf of Cazones on the southern coastline of Cuba. The ex-pats had been trained by the CIA in Guatemala and Florida. Once the insurgents established a beachhead, a provisional government of exiled Cubans would fly there from Miami, declare themselves the country’s rightful leaders and invite the United States to send in troops to assist in the operation to depose Castro.

When the plan, codenamed Operation Zapata, was presented to John F. Kennedy just weeks after he took the oath of office, the newly inaugurated president ultimately gave it his approval. Jim Rasenberger, author of The Brilliant Disaster: JFK, Castro, and America’s Doomed Invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, doesn’t believe that military planners pressured the new president into making a decision against his better judgment. “I think Kennedy knew very well what he was getting into, but he was in a tough place,” he says.

During the 1960 presidential campaign, Kennedy had repeatedly called for American intervention in Cuba. “Incredibly, Kennedy got elected by outflanking Richard Nixon as an anti-communist hawk. He beat up the Eisenhower administration for allowing Castro to come to power and not doing anything about it. So he became president in large part because of his anti-communist rhetoric, and he didn’t …read more


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Western Alliance Fissures Grow About Libya Policy

May 6, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

When Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter began his military offensive
in early April to capture Tripoli, Libya’s longtime capital city,
the United States and its European allies seemed united about the
policy to adopt. They adamantly opposed his move. Haftar’s Libya
National Army (LNA) is the military arm of a rival government in
Benghazi that opposes the Tripoli-based Government of National
Accord (GNA), which the United Nations and most Western countries
recognize as the legitimate government of Libya.

The Western powers, especially France, have been working for
years to facilitate nation-wide elections that both the GNA and
Haftar would accept. French President Emmanuel Macron successfully
negotiated a ceasefire agreement between the warring parties
in 2017 and a 2018 agreement to hold elections in December 2018. When
continuing disagreements prevented the December election, the
parties agreed to reschedule it for the spring of 2019. Haftar’s
offensive guarantees that the revised target date will not be met

Both the United States and its European allies clearly were
miffed about Haftar’s decision to seek a military victory
rather than a political resolution. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear that the Trump
administration opposed the LNA’s offensive. The European Union demanded that Haftar’s
forces cease their advance on Tripoli. With considerable Western
input, the G7 and the UN Security Council did the same.

However, there are multiple indications that US policy may be
shifting in favor of Haftar. Washington broke with Britain and
France regarding a new UN Security Council resolution criticizing
Haftar and calling for an immediate ceasefire. Instead, the United
States joined Russia in refusing to support the
resolution. Then, on 15 April, President Trump called Haftar and
clearly had a very cordial conversation. According to the White
House’s official readout of the call, issued a few
days later, the President “recognized Field Marshal
Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing
Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision
for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political
system.” Although Trump did not endorse the military
offensive, such a statement suggested a noticeable change in
Washington’s previously hostile view toward Haftar.

And that is how the conversation was interpreted on both sides of the Atlantic. The
European governments seemed blindsided by the President’s actions,
with EU officials reportedly wanting an immediate reversal. Both
domestic and European critics condemned Trump for his apparent
policy shift. Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), Chairman
of the House Intelligence Committee immediately denounced Trump’s action,
“Trump has endorsed Gen. Hafter in Libya, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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A Defense of 'Assault Weapons'

May 6, 2019 in Economics

By Matthew Larosiere

Matthew Larosiere

A familiar feud in American politics has reared its head once
more. After the massacre that struck Christchurch, New Zealand in
mid-March, the question of whether civilians should be able to own
“assault weapons” again became en vogue.

New Zealand responded to the shooting by banning an entire class
of weapons just days later, to the thunderous applause of gun
control activists and others on the mainstream political left. This
response was lauded as reasonable and decisive, with proponents
insistent that nobody needs “weapons of war.” In turn,
gun rights activists deflected per their usual means, poking holes
in gun control logic, and attacking their opponents’ vague
and uninformed definitions. But no one is explaining the reason
that people truly do need these weapons.

Generally, Americans know what people are talking about when
they hear the term “assault rifles.” But when someone
tries to write a rigid definition, things get ridiculous. Past
definitions have included things like 22-caliber “squirrel
guns,” handguns, shotguns, and so on.

A weapon’s power isn’t a
matter of magic or opinion, it’s one of science.

This naturally leads to policy failure. It’s worth noting,
for example, the Christchurch killer’s rifles didn’t
even fit the definition of the “Military Style
Semi-Automatic” rifles New Zealand banned after the fact. But
let’s accept “assault weapons” as short,
semi-automatic rifles which accept a detachable magazine, as this
is what most “assault weapon” bans are really getting

The argument against these weapons relies on the belief that
they’re uniquely deadly. For example, the pro-gun control
Giffords Center refers to assault weapons as “a class of
[high-powered] semi-automatic firearm specifically designed to kill
humans quickly and efficiently.” This conception of assault
weapons is inextricably linked to the “high capacity
magazines,” usually holding 20 or more rounds, that these
weapons are designed to use. So, the idea is that a weapon holding
30 rounds must be designed to kill 30 people. Of course, reality is
significantly more nuanced.

Defining “assault” weapons like the AR-15 as
“high-powered” obscures one of their defining aspects:
their use of an intermediate ammunition cartridge. Intermediate
cartridges, as the name suggests, are more powerful than a handgun,
and less powerful than a rifle. A weapon’s power, then,
isn’t a matter of magic or opinion, it’s one of

The 5.56x45mm round — the world’s most common
assault rifle cartridge — makes about 1,200 ft-lbs of energy.
Compare this to 500 and 2,600 ft-lbs for 9x19mm and 7.62x51mm
ammunition — the most common handgun and rifle cartridges,
respectively. So, the average assault rifle is about twice as
powerful per shot as a handgun, and half as powerful as a typical

This difference in power translates …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Gentleman from Nebraska Misfires on America’s Foreign Policy Debate

May 6, 2019 in Economics

By Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford

Sen. Ben Sasse’s recent essay in the
Texas National Security Review was met with some withering
criticismon Twitter. Much of it depicted the article as
relying far more heavily on partisan tropes, threat inflation, and
generalities than on in-depth analysis or critical thinking.
Perhaps it’s a mistake to expect robust analysis or arguments
from any politician. However, Sasse — one of the Republican
Party’s rising stars, a former college president, and a
history PhD from Yale — should know better.

The theme of his article is America’s lack of imagination
in talking about foreign policy, an argument that might confuse
anyone who’s been paying attention to the recent and wide-ranging debates about the future of U.S. foreign policy that
have happened, including in the Texas National Security
. It turns out, of course, that what Sasse means when he
says that “America is facing a crisis in its foreign policy
imagination” is that Americans aren’t actively
envisioning how wonderful things would be if everyone agreed with
him on foreign policy, or how terrible things would be if they

Sen. Ben Sasse – one of
the Republican Party’s rising stars, a former college president,
and a history PhD from Yale – should know better.

Indeed, there’s a strong tension in his article between
his calls for Americans to develop a foreign policy vision and his
insistence that his is the only valid approach. The article shifts
in the span of a few lines from asserting that “America needs
a new way forward” to arguing that “U.S. policymakers
can’t pretend the American voters will go along with a
program of vigorous engagement without being persuaded, courted,
and wooed.” So when Sasse says that he wants the American
people “brought into a conversation about what the world
might look like,” he appears to views their role in this
conversation as passive listeners.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. It certainly fits
with a worrying trend among segments of the foreign policy
establishment in the era of Trump: assuming that the American
people are unhappy with American foreign policy not because of its
failures, but rather because it has not been adequately explained to them. Yet after almost two decades
of an unwinnable “War on Terror,” it’s somewhat
condescending to assume that the problem is with the American
people, not with the foreign policy itself.

Sasse is also wrong when he states that Americans have no shared
foreign policy vision. As one recent study from the Chicago …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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On North Korea, a Return to Fire and Fury Isn't Worth the Risks

May 6, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

A couple of years ago the Trump administration seemingly brought
the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war. The president matched
North Korea’s Supreme Leader insult for insult, sent what he
called the “armada” off of the North’s coast, and
threatened “fire and fury.” The consequences of a
conflict most likely would have been catastrophic, especially for
America’s ally, the Republic of Korea.

Happily, negotiation rather than shooting occurred. Contra
claims that Washington was played or fleeced, the North ended
missile and nuclear testing and Kim Jong-un began acting like a
normal statesman. Kim started meeting foreign leaders, and
Pyongyang put its Yongbyon nuclear facility up for closure. Before
the Hanoi summit, between Kim and Trump, Pyongyang reportedly had
agreed to a peace declaration and opening of liaison offices. These
steps toward normalization would have benefited America and the ROK
as well as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Moreover, Pyongyang agreed to further repatriation of the remains
of Americans killed during the Korea War.

Here’s how Washington and
Pyongyang can make some progress towards peace and maybe
denuclearization too.

Still, the ultimate destination of the Kim-Trump
“friendship” admittedly was uncertain. The
president’s certitude that the latest in the Kim family line
to rule the DPRK was prepared to fully disarm almost certainly was
misplaced. Indeed, the behavior of President Trump and his
predecessors made denuclearization an ever more distant

Internationally, nuclear weapons give the North status;
militarily, nukes enhance Pyongyang’s destructive power;
domestically, the program cements military loyalty to the regime.
Moreover, possession of nuclear weapons offers the only sure
deterrent against overwhelming American military power for a small,
isolated, impoverished country with no sure friends. Only nuclear
bombs and missiles redress a balance of power which has steadily
shifted against North Korea since the Korean War ended.

The DPRK’s search for deterrence took on greater
significance as the U.S. tagged Pyongyang as “evil,”
attacked several nuclear-free regimes, and abandoned earlier
foreign commitments (most the Iran Deal). Now add to that the
president’s appointment of a national security adviser who
advocated war against North Korea. Only a naive leader would disarm
unilaterally, completely, and speedily as demanded by the Trump
administration. And Kim, who brutally consolidated power after
succeeding his father at age 28, is not naive.

Nevertheless, last year at the Singapore summit between Trump
and Kim, Pyongyang offered a plausible road map. Kim wants to
improve bilateral relations and create a regional peace regime;
then denuclearization would follow. There is reason to doubt even
then that the DPRK would ever yield all its nuclear weapons.
However, complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization, while
desirable, is not a prerequisite for American security. Washington
has deterred far …read more

Source: OP-EDS