Day: August 8, 2018

Putin's 'Marshall Plan' Aims to Contain NATO


Russian president Vladimir Putin could be turning the tables on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Policies once enacted by the United States to contain Soviet expansion into Western Europe are now being used to restrict NATO’s eastward expansion into regions deemed critical to Russia’s national interest.

During his June 2017 interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, President Putin chose to conclude their discussion with a particularly reflective comment: “I will never forget the state in which Russia was in 1991.”  Having been an intelligence officer at the time, it is reasonable to assume that the events surrounding the Soviet Union’s failure replay in Putin’s mind quite often.  Surely, he has learned from them.

Perhaps most useful among these lessons are those extracted from the U.S. policies that brought this demise to fruition, such as the Marshall Plan and its ensuing containment policy.  Devised in part by renowned diplomat George Kennan and enacted by secretary of state George Marshall in 1947, the Marshall Plan is regarded as one of the most effective policies of the 20th century.

Secretary Marshall tasked members of his Policy Planning Staff to concoct the Marshall Plan when the further erosion of Europe’s social and economic circumstances became untenable.  At its most basic level, the plan was designed to curtail Soviet expansionism, reduce Soviet political and economic influence in Europe, and stimulate the economies of European capitalist states, most notably by propping up West Germany after its partition from the East.  (Benn Steil’s recent work on the subject is a refreshing new take on the advent of the Cold War – The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018].)

Decades later, shortly after his election in 1999, Putin found himself in a similar situation.  Russia faced an expanding NATO, a struggling domestic economy, and dwindling influence of its regional partners.

In response, Putin has strengthened his relationships with Syria, China, Belarus, and Iran; split Ukraine and gained access to its warm-water port; invested heavily in European giants such as Germany (which relies on Russia to support its energy infrastructure); and prevented NATO from expanding into contiguous states of particular strategic interest, such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Finland.

Far from a means of achieving peace quickly, the authors of the Marshall Plan understood that if they wanted to contain the Soviet Union, it was necessary to ramp up political and military tensions in Europe temporarily.  Moscow’s shockingly strong 2016 response to U.S. Marines training in Norway and the increase of joint exercises in Sweden mirrors this idea.

Not surprisingly, saber-rattling remains a valuable political tool in Russia’s internal affairs, but it is also in Russia’s interest to avoid a military conflict with NATO.  These dynamics are echoes of Cold War policies, which, at their core, aimed to exert influence over an adversarial state while still avoiding a direct conflict between great powers.  Putin has taken precautionary measures accordingly.

There exists a school of thought among certain strategists that suggests that Putin’s seemingly imperialistic actions in Crimea and Georgia were examples of pre-emption.  These purportedly belligerent acts of Russian expansionism may have been attempts to destabilize those states and preclude their being absorbed into the alliance at a later date.  Tolerating such expansion would lead to heightened military tensions on Russia’s border and increase the likelihood of conflict with a NATO member.

While the idea of Georgia as a member of the alliance may have seemed far-fetched to some in 2006, more recent statements from U.S. vice president Michael Pence have reignited this discussion.  In addition to pre-emptive annexation and military incursion, there are other, more subtle ways through which Russia aims to contain NATO’s expansion.

After the swift takeover of Crimea in 2014, any discussion involving Russian geopolitics tends to drift toward neo-imperialism – particularly regarding the Baltic and Balkan regions.  Although the threat of a Russian military incursion into these zones certainly exists, Russia doesn’t need to invade countries to destabilize them and make them a liability to NATO.

The Marshall Plan proved that active measures, such as information operations, disinformation campaigns, economic warfare, political pressure, and espionage are capable of achieving these objectives without risking open war.  In turn, the use of such “hybrid” measures by Russia has become commonplace within NATO’s sphere of influence – an observation that transforms ostensibly unconnected or random acts of political warfare into a comprehensive national policy of containment.

Keeping NATO busy with operations below the threshold of armed conflict is in Russia’s interest.  Leaders in the Kremlin understand that it would require a catastrophic act of Russian aggression against a NATO member to trigger the alliance’s Article 5 mutual defense pact, considering that Article 5 has been invoked only once (in response to the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States).

Pursuing policies that favor the employment of hybrid measures below the threshold of war limits NATO’s decision space for countering Russian aggression, destabilizes Europe’s security infrastructure, paints the West as provocateur when it responds strongly, and stirs apprehension within the alliance regarding the incorporation of additional states that may be vying for NATO membership.

Within this environment, Putin feels emboldened enough to draw red lines.

The brilliance of Secretary Marshall’s plan was in its ability to align clear policy goals with strategic actions by highlighting what was off limits to the Soviets within the context of U.S. interests in the European theater.  Russia’s head of state has certainly adopted a similar approach to NATO.

During his July 2018 interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, when asked how he would respond to Ukraine or Georgia becoming NATO members, Putin didn’t mince words: “It is a direct and immediate threat to our national security[.] … The reaction would be extremely negative.”

If NATO continues to expand, the question its political leaders in Brussels must ask is, to what end?

Too much expansion will grant Putin leverage with the argument that he is being unfairly enveloped – a position in which Russia understandably feels quite uncomfortable (Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler contributed to this uneasiness).  Too little inclusivity in NATO will embolden Russia and snub potential allies.

The challenge before NATO is an enduring one.  It must develop a focused, coherent policy on expansion that aligns with the political objectives of 29 economically disparate and geographically dislocated nations.  This is no small task, but the alternative of strategic stagnation is worse.  Moreover, this inaction is likely the desired outcome of Russia’s containment policy.

Seventy years after the Marshall Plan hatched NATO, containment may be one of the alliance’s greatest challenges.  Clearly, Putin refuses to entertain the idea of further NATO expansion.  Should Europe?

Michael Ferguson is a U.S. Army officer with operational experience throughout NATO’s European footprint.  He has combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and holds a B.S. and M.S. in security studies.  The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the Department of Defense or the United States government.

Russian president Vladimir Putin could be turning the tables on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Policies once enacted by the United States to contain Soviet expansion into Western Europe are now being used to restrict NATO’s eastward expansion into regions deemed critical to Russia’s national interest.

During his June 2017 interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly, President Putin chose to conclude their discussion with a particularly reflective comment: “I will never forget the state in which Russia was in 1991.”  Having been an intelligence officer at the time, it is reasonable to assume that the events surrounding the Soviet Union’s failure replay in Putin’s mind quite often.  Surely, he has learned from them.

Perhaps most useful among these lessons are those extracted from the U.S. policies that brought this demise to fruition, such as the Marshall Plan and its ensuing containment policy.  Devised in part by renowned diplomat George Kennan and enacted by secretary of state George Marshall in 1947, the Marshall Plan is regarded as one of the most effective policies of the 20th century.

Secretary Marshall tasked members of his Policy Planning Staff to concoct the Marshall Plan when the further erosion of Europe’s social and economic circumstances became untenable.  At its most basic level, the plan was designed to curtail Soviet expansionism, reduce Soviet political and economic influence in Europe, and stimulate the economies of European capitalist states, most notably by propping up West Germany after its partition from the East.  (Benn Steil’s recent work on the subject is a refreshing new take on the advent of the Cold War – The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War [New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018].)

Decades later, shortly after his election in 1999, Putin found himself in a similar situation.  Russia faced an expanding NATO, a struggling domestic economy, and dwindling influence of its regional partners.

In response, Putin has strengthened his relationships with Syria, China, Belarus, and Iran; split Ukraine and gained access to its warm-water port; invested heavily in European giants such as Germany (which relies on Russia to support its energy infrastructure); and prevented NATO from expanding into contiguous states of particular strategic interest, such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Finland.

Far from a means of achieving peace quickly, the authors of the Marshall Plan understood that if they wanted to contain the Soviet Union, it was necessary to ramp up political and military tensions in Europe temporarily.  Moscow’s shockingly strong 2016 response to U.S. Marines training in Norway and the increase of joint exercises in Sweden mirrors this idea.

Not surprisingly, saber-rattling remains a valuable political tool in Russia’s internal affairs, but it is also in Russia’s interest to avoid a military conflict with NATO.  These dynamics are echoes of Cold War policies, which, at their core, aimed to exert influence over an adversarial state while still avoiding a direct conflict between great powers.  Putin has taken precautionary measures accordingly.

There exists a school of thought among certain strategists that suggests that Putin’s seemingly imperialistic actions in Crimea and Georgia were examples of pre-emption.  These purportedly belligerent acts of Russian expansionism may have been attempts to destabilize those states and preclude their being absorbed into the alliance at a later date.  Tolerating such expansion would lead to heightened military tensions on Russia’s border and increase the likelihood of conflict with a NATO member.

While the idea of Georgia as a member of the alliance may have seemed far-fetched to some in 2006, more recent statements from U.S. vice president Michael Pence have reignited this discussion.  In addition to pre-emptive annexation and military incursion, there are other, more subtle ways through which Russia aims to contain NATO’s expansion.

After the swift takeover of Crimea in 2014, any discussion involving Russian geopolitics tends to drift toward neo-imperialism – particularly regarding the Baltic and Balkan regions.  Although the threat of a Russian military incursion into these zones certainly exists, Russia doesn’t need to invade countries to destabilize them and make them a liability to NATO.

The Marshall Plan proved that active measures, such as information operations, disinformation campaigns, economic warfare, political pressure, and espionage are capable of achieving these objectives without risking open war.  In turn, the use of such “hybrid” measures by Russia has become commonplace within NATO’s sphere of influence – an observation that transforms ostensibly unconnected or random acts of political warfare into a comprehensive national policy of containment.

Keeping NATO busy with operations below the threshold of armed conflict is in Russia’s interest.  Leaders in the Kremlin understand that it would require a catastrophic act of Russian aggression against a NATO member to trigger the alliance’s Article 5 mutual defense pact, considering that Article 5 has been invoked only once (in response to the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States).

Pursuing policies that favor the employment of hybrid measures below the threshold of war limits NATO’s decision space for countering Russian aggression, destabilizes Europe’s security infrastructure, paints the West as provocateur when it responds strongly, and stirs apprehension within the alliance regarding the incorporation of additional states that may be vying for NATO membership.

Within this environment, Putin feels emboldened enough to draw red lines.

The brilliance of Secretary Marshall’s plan was in its ability to align clear policy goals with strategic actions by highlighting what was off limits to the Soviets within the context of U.S. interests in the European theater.  Russia’s head of state has certainly adopted a similar approach to NATO.

During his July 2018 interview with Fox News’s Chris Wallace, when asked how he would respond to Ukraine or Georgia becoming NATO members, Putin didn’t mince words: “It is a direct and immediate threat to our national security[.] … The reaction would be extremely negative.”

If NATO continues to expand, the question its political leaders in Brussels must ask is, to what end?

Too much expansion will grant Putin leverage with the argument that he is being unfairly enveloped – a position in which Russia understandably feels quite uncomfortable (Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler contributed to this uneasiness).  Too little inclusivity in NATO will embolden Russia and snub potential allies.

The challenge before NATO is an enduring one.  It must develop a focused, coherent policy on expansion that aligns with the political objectives of 29 economically disparate and geographically dislocated nations.  This is no small task, but the alternative of strategic stagnation is worse.  Moreover, this inaction is likely the desired outcome of Russia’s containment policy.

Seventy years after the Marshall Plan hatched NATO, containment may be one of the alliance’s greatest challenges.  Clearly, Putin refuses to entertain the idea of further NATO expansion.  Should Europe?

Michael Ferguson is a U.S. Army officer with operational experience throughout NATO’s European footprint.  He has combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and holds a B.S. and M.S. in security studies.  The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the policies of the Department of Defense or the United States government.



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Online Harassment, Political Activists, and What to Do about It


In recent years, the internet has provided free rein to busybodies bent on opportunistic criminal behavior.  Never before have people known so much about others, nor have we cultivated so many meaningless “friends” who have coalesced into a militia of activists and tormentors.

In past generations, we went to church, school, or social functions to mingle and truly understand one another.  Nowadays, we park ourselves somewhere quiet and fly solo into an alternate world via our favorite electronic devices.  The internet has become as addictive as drugs and often makes people domineering, obsessive, and mean.  Too much personal information bleeds across social media platforms, resulting in cyber-harassment.  While social media’s “user agreements” supposedly govern their platforms, they may as well be written in beach sand.  Privacy is also a myth.  In this political climate, harassment has become epidemic.  Up until now, no one has had a clear idea how to deal with it.

Two years ago, my life came under attack from a cyber-bully turned stalker, who didn’t like the fact that I supported our president.  Undoubtedly, millions of people in our country are experiencing similar challenges.  Folks who don’t toe the political left’s line are labeled fascist, racist, white supremacists, Nazis, white nationalists, etc.  Attacks come in many forms via email, texts, or public postings designed to smear the victim’s name, reputation, or accomplishments.  Attackers impersonate others to cover their tracks and their malicious deeds.

My motto is, if someone doesn’t like me, I walk away and ignore him.  Ironically, my silence triggered demands from my stalker for a public apology and iron-fisted compliance with the left’s political ideology.

From the start, I confided in an astute friend who had prior experience with this person.  I was advised to log everything this narcissist threw at me and was cautioned never to respond.  Her advice was prophetic.  Knowing my attacker, I didn’t think this foolishness would persist.  I was wrong.  As difficult as it is not to defend oneself, it is important to refrain from responding.  Simply stated, the perpetrator will have nothing to throw at you if the case ends up in court.  Fighting the battle intelligently from the start is crucial.  Ultimately, the stalker will provide the rope, but you get to hang him.

Here are some additional recommendations gleaned from my experience.

Block harassers from your online accounts.  If they find a way around it, take a break and temporarily un-publish your profile.  I finally closed my Facebook account for good when two other people turned ugly.  Things were quiet for a time until this jerk began searching other venues where I could be hunted down and summarily trashed.

Contact web administrators and report inappropriate conduct.  Generally, they won’t do anything to begin with.  Stay persistent.  Seek top-level management.  For example, I contacted Jeff Bezos’s office, which was the only way to effectively ban this individual from writing vile, unrelated taunts regarding my work.  Once he was blocked, an escalated search for additional avenues of attack commenced.  One was a blog post I had written many years before.  The administrator informed me of the specious comments.  We had a good laugh.  This attack taught me another method of protection.

Blog controls will generally log I.P. addresses of commenters.  If you administer a blog or website, I highly recommend paying attention to I.P.s.  Tools exist to block selected I.P. addresses from accessing websites.  However, if your abuser is savvy and determined, he will simply change I.P. addresses or devices to continue his salvos.  Another “workaround” tactic stalkers favor is to use the email client or internet access of an employer.  Universities are particularly vulnerable to this abuse with public computers available in libraries.  If you notice that an official email address or URL is being used inappropriately, report it to the organization’s I.T. department.

Eventually, my stalker began threatening physical harm.  This is where things got serious, and I got angry.  Up until that time, it was simply an irritating daily provocation.  I finally contacted the FBI and an attorney.  State and federal laws stipulate that if you are harassed more than twice by a person, you have a case.  The federal statute (18 USC §875) is detailed in “Cyber Misbehavior.”  Although frustrating and time-consuming, damage control and investigation of these creeps is necessary.  In this era of divisive behavior by politicians, celebrities, and their armies of mindless minions, I recommend the following.

1. If you are a child or a young person, tell your parent(s), your teacher, or a police officer of your concerns.  Parents: Take these incidents seriously, and deal with them promptly.  Children shouldn’t have to deal with a stalker.  Remember: the culprit who is trying to embarrass you, or target your child, is mentally disturbed.  If someone you love has become pensive, is unable to track a conversation, is constantly deep in thought, or is over-using his device – ask questions, then act.

2. Log all activity, including unpleasant emails, texts, posts, phone calls, etc.  Block the culprit if possible.  Keeping a log is important.  Detail complete names, dates, and times, and obtain real-time screen shots displaying the exact email, text, photo, and social media comments.  Record only the facts – no personal commentary.

3. Know his identity and I.P. address.  Gather as much information as possible.  Using an online I.P. locator, you can determine an approximate location and sometimes a physical address.  If you don’t know the stalker’s identity, an I.P. address will identify him.  I.P. locators will list his internet provider.  Supplying the I.P. address of your stalker in a complaint to his internet provider may impede further attacks.  If you know his name and age, fastpeoplesearch.com and advancedbackgroundchecks.com are useful for mining and corroborating details.

4. Do not respond to attacks.  Instinctively, we want to defend ourselves.  It can be unnerving to refrain, but remain silent and calm, and above all, stay alert.  Best case, some bullies will move on if they can’t get a rise out of you.  However, the worst of them may double down on you – and in this case, find an attorney. 

5. If threatened with physical harm and the subject lives nearby, call your local police immediately.  If the threat comes from another state, call the FBI hotline for your area, in addition to your local police.  Threats of physical harm should be taken seriously.  If you are an adult, call your representative in Washington, D.C. and ask him to help you write a complaint to the FBI.  Be prepared with factual, detailed notes.  The FBI investigates all civil rights violations.

6. Hire an attorney to write a Cease and Desist letter on your behalf.  Sometimes threats of law enforcement and litigation will stop a stalker.  Cease and Desist letters are less expensive than putting up with the psychological abuse a stalker hopes to inflict upon you.  Your peace of mind is worth a few hundred dollars.  An attorney’s letterhead is more effective than writing it yourself, plus you will benefit from the attorney’s expertise and have potential backup assistance if a restraining order or litigation becomes necessary.

Stay strong and confident.  Protect your constitutional rights.

In recent years, the internet has provided free rein to busybodies bent on opportunistic criminal behavior.  Never before have people known so much about others, nor have we cultivated so many meaningless “friends” who have coalesced into a militia of activists and tormentors.

In past generations, we went to church, school, or social functions to mingle and truly understand one another.  Nowadays, we park ourselves somewhere quiet and fly solo into an alternate world via our favorite electronic devices.  The internet has become as addictive as drugs and often makes people domineering, obsessive, and mean.  Too much personal information bleeds across social media platforms, resulting in cyber-harassment.  While social media’s “user agreements” supposedly govern their platforms, they may as well be written in beach sand.  Privacy is also a myth.  In this political climate, harassment has become epidemic.  Up until now, no one has had a clear idea how to deal with it.

Two years ago, my life came under attack from a cyber-bully turned stalker, who didn’t like the fact that I supported our president.  Undoubtedly, millions of people in our country are experiencing similar challenges.  Folks who don’t toe the political left’s line are labeled fascist, racist, white supremacists, Nazis, white nationalists, etc.  Attacks come in many forms via email, texts, or public postings designed to smear the victim’s name, reputation, or accomplishments.  Attackers impersonate others to cover their tracks and their malicious deeds.

My motto is, if someone doesn’t like me, I walk away and ignore him.  Ironically, my silence triggered demands from my stalker for a public apology and iron-fisted compliance with the left’s political ideology.

From the start, I confided in an astute friend who had prior experience with this person.  I was advised to log everything this narcissist threw at me and was cautioned never to respond.  Her advice was prophetic.  Knowing my attacker, I didn’t think this foolishness would persist.  I was wrong.  As difficult as it is not to defend oneself, it is important to refrain from responding.  Simply stated, the perpetrator will have nothing to throw at you if the case ends up in court.  Fighting the battle intelligently from the start is crucial.  Ultimately, the stalker will provide the rope, but you get to hang him.

Here are some additional recommendations gleaned from my experience.

Block harassers from your online accounts.  If they find a way around it, take a break and temporarily un-publish your profile.  I finally closed my Facebook account for good when two other people turned ugly.  Things were quiet for a time until this jerk began searching other venues where I could be hunted down and summarily trashed.

Contact web administrators and report inappropriate conduct.  Generally, they won’t do anything to begin with.  Stay persistent.  Seek top-level management.  For example, I contacted Jeff Bezos’s office, which was the only way to effectively ban this individual from writing vile, unrelated taunts regarding my work.  Once he was blocked, an escalated search for additional avenues of attack commenced.  One was a blog post I had written many years before.  The administrator informed me of the specious comments.  We had a good laugh.  This attack taught me another method of protection.

Blog controls will generally log I.P. addresses of commenters.  If you administer a blog or website, I highly recommend paying attention to I.P.s.  Tools exist to block selected I.P. addresses from accessing websites.  However, if your abuser is savvy and determined, he will simply change I.P. addresses or devices to continue his salvos.  Another “workaround” tactic stalkers favor is to use the email client or internet access of an employer.  Universities are particularly vulnerable to this abuse with public computers available in libraries.  If you notice that an official email address or URL is being used inappropriately, report it to the organization’s I.T. department.

Eventually, my stalker began threatening physical harm.  This is where things got serious, and I got angry.  Up until that time, it was simply an irritating daily provocation.  I finally contacted the FBI and an attorney.  State and federal laws stipulate that if you are harassed more than twice by a person, you have a case.  The federal statute (18 USC §875) is detailed in “Cyber Misbehavior.”  Although frustrating and time-consuming, damage control and investigation of these creeps is necessary.  In this era of divisive behavior by politicians, celebrities, and their armies of mindless minions, I recommend the following.

1. If you are a child or a young person, tell your parent(s), your teacher, or a police officer of your concerns.  Parents: Take these incidents seriously, and deal with them promptly.  Children shouldn’t have to deal with a stalker.  Remember: the culprit who is trying to embarrass you, or target your child, is mentally disturbed.  If someone you love has become pensive, is unable to track a conversation, is constantly deep in thought, or is over-using his device – ask questions, then act.

2. Log all activity, including unpleasant emails, texts, posts, phone calls, etc.  Block the culprit if possible.  Keeping a log is important.  Detail complete names, dates, and times, and obtain real-time screen shots displaying the exact email, text, photo, and social media comments.  Record only the facts – no personal commentary.

3. Know his identity and I.P. address.  Gather as much information as possible.  Using an online I.P. locator, you can determine an approximate location and sometimes a physical address.  If you don’t know the stalker’s identity, an I.P. address will identify him.  I.P. locators will list his internet provider.  Supplying the I.P. address of your stalker in a complaint to his internet provider may impede further attacks.  If you know his name and age, fastpeoplesearch.com and advancedbackgroundchecks.com are useful for mining and corroborating details.

4. Do not respond to attacks.  Instinctively, we want to defend ourselves.  It can be unnerving to refrain, but remain silent and calm, and above all, stay alert.  Best case, some bullies will move on if they can’t get a rise out of you.  However, the worst of them may double down on you – and in this case, find an attorney. 

5. If threatened with physical harm and the subject lives nearby, call your local police immediately.  If the threat comes from another state, call the FBI hotline for your area, in addition to your local police.  Threats of physical harm should be taken seriously.  If you are an adult, call your representative in Washington, D.C. and ask him to help you write a complaint to the FBI.  Be prepared with factual, detailed notes.  The FBI investigates all civil rights violations.

6. Hire an attorney to write a Cease and Desist letter on your behalf.  Sometimes threats of law enforcement and litigation will stop a stalker.  Cease and Desist letters are less expensive than putting up with the psychological abuse a stalker hopes to inflict upon you.  Your peace of mind is worth a few hundred dollars.  An attorney’s letterhead is more effective than writing it yourself, plus you will benefit from the attorney’s expertise and have potential backup assistance if a restraining order or litigation becomes necessary.

Stay strong and confident.  Protect your constitutional rights.



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Ocasio-Cortez vs. the Trump Economy


If you want to bring a smile to Donald Trump’s face, the best way to do it might be to bring up the economic news from the past ten days.  The July jobs numbers were released, and our unemployment rate has again fallen below 4.0%.  This follows the recent news of our second-quarter 2018 GDP numbers released at the end of July.

With 4.1% GDP growth, we’ve reached the fastest economic expansion in four years, and President Trump doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.  National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow believes we could be on the precipice of growth over 5% in the near future.

At the same time some of these great economic numbers were released, Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was somewhere plotting her next move on the campaign trail.

Since her upset primary win over Joe Crowley, the current chairman of the House Democratic caucus, Ocasio-Cortez has been the center of considerable media coverage.  The 28-year-old self-described Democratic Socialist is now the standard-bearer for a phenomenon that can no longer be ignored – the rise in popularity of socialism among Americans, in particular young Americans. 

While many Republicans hope Ocasio-Cortez is where the party is headed due to her far-left views, recent polling suggests they should perhaps be careful what they wish for.  According to The University of Chicago’s GenForward Survey, Americans aged 18-34 had only 4 percent (49-45) greater favorability of capitalism to socialism.

The rise in popularity of socialism can be evidenced by how it has seeped into mainstream conversation.  For evidence, look no farther than the debate that took place on ABC’s The View recently between Meghan McCain and Joy Behar.

There are many on both the left and right who are wondering if Ocasio-Cortez is just an anomaly in the Democratic Party or if she is a sign of where the future of the party is headed.  A recent article even suggested she may be the left’s version of Donald Trump.  She is not alone, either.  Sarah Smith is another young female who is a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist running for Washington’s 9th Congressional District.

But the kryptonite to Ocasio-Cortez, Smith, and the rise of socialism may be the success our economy is having under President Trump.

From tax cuts to North Korea and everything in between, there could be an entire column on the times Democrats have predicted Armageddon, only for President Trump to prove them wrong.  Potentially the most egregious of these predictions relate to President Trump’s handling on the economy.

Many pundits predicted economic collapse when the business tycoon turned presidential candidate won the 2016 election.  Even the so-called “experts” got it wrong.  Economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman made the bold prediction that markets would “never” recover from Donald Trump being elected president.

Yet here we are with no sign of an economic collapse.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  The great GDP numbers and record low unemployment rates are just the latest positive example of what has been an objectively successful economy under President Trump.

Since Trump took office, the DOW has gone from 18,332 to almost 25,500.  The NASDAQ has gained almost 3,000 points, and the S&P is up just shy of 700.  Among the black, Hispanic, female, and Asian populations, unemployment is at or nearing all-time low numbers.

Further, President Trump has slashed regulation and red tape at a record rate, and consumer confidence and small business confidence are both through the roof.  Since taking office, his administration has added 3.7 million new jobs, and we now have more available jobs that we do workers prepared to fill the vacancies.

All the economic success from President Trump’s policies raises a large question for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and those on the far left: can they reconcile their beliefs on economics with the economic success stemming from President Trump’s polar opposite views?

Ocasio-Cortez certainly has a strong niche base of support with people on the far left, but can she sustain or even continue her rise in the face of our current booming economy?  There is certainly more to a candidate than just his economic policies, but Ocasio-Cortez has struggled to provide even basic answers to elementary-level political questions in other areas such as foreign policy.  She also holds positions, like abolishing ICE, on topics like immigration that polling indicates are heavily in favor of Republicans.

Even on economic issues, she has fumbled with answers related to things like our low unemployment rate, stating that it was so low due to Americans working two or more jobs.  However, the number of Americans working two or more jobs has been on the decline since peaking at 6.5% in the mid-’90s and sits under 5% of all people employed today.

Ocasio-Cortez’s policy positions include things like a federal job guarantee for anyone and everyone.  Not only would she propose making a federal job available to anyone who wants one, but it would pay at least a $15 minimum wage with health care and paid leave benefits.  She has also proposed tuition-free higher education and trade school, including a onetime buyback by the government of all student loans both public and private.

Additionally, she states that housing is a right that the government should make available in some form to all citizens, extending tax credits, housing the homeless, and fully funding the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  The details on how to afford all these policies are predictably vague, but you can be sure that an increase in taxes is on the agenda.

President Trump’s best polling numbers are in relation to his handling of the economy.  Even unfriendly CNN has been forced to admit that President Trump deserves some credit for the economic surge.  It is clear at this point in his presidency, his policy positions on the economy have been successful.

Despite all the “Chicken Little” predictions from those on the left, our economy is flourishing.  In sum, if it were up to her, Ocasio-Cortez would reverse all of President Trump’s economic policies like tax cuts and the slashing of red tape that have been responsible for our recent economic swell.  This would all but guarantee a reversal of the great economic achievements we’ve had in the last 18 months.

When President Trump came onto the political scene, many assumed he would be little more than a flash in the pan.  Now, almost two years into the Trump presidency, the left faces a fork in the road.  Leftists will have to determine if the future of the party will follow the young Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Only time will tell if she can outgrow the niche bubble of her support, but if President Trump continues to guide a thriving economy, anyone with “socialist” preceding his name seems more likely to wind up as a flash in the pan.

Evan Berryhill is a former communications staffer for Rep. David B. McKinley.  Currently, Evan is a conservative commentator and law student at West Virginia University.  He has written for American Thinker, the Washington Examiner, The Federalist, The Daily Caller, The Hill, the Charleston Gazette, and the W.V. State Journal.

If you want to bring a smile to Donald Trump’s face, the best way to do it might be to bring up the economic news from the past ten days.  The July jobs numbers were released, and our unemployment rate has again fallen below 4.0%.  This follows the recent news of our second-quarter 2018 GDP numbers released at the end of July.

With 4.1% GDP growth, we’ve reached the fastest economic expansion in four years, and President Trump doesn’t plan on slowing down any time soon.  National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow believes we could be on the precipice of growth over 5% in the near future.

At the same time some of these great economic numbers were released, Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was somewhere plotting her next move on the campaign trail.

Since her upset primary win over Joe Crowley, the current chairman of the House Democratic caucus, Ocasio-Cortez has been the center of considerable media coverage.  The 28-year-old self-described Democratic Socialist is now the standard-bearer for a phenomenon that can no longer be ignored – the rise in popularity of socialism among Americans, in particular young Americans. 

While many Republicans hope Ocasio-Cortez is where the party is headed due to her far-left views, recent polling suggests they should perhaps be careful what they wish for.  According to The University of Chicago’s GenForward Survey, Americans aged 18-34 had only 4 percent (49-45) greater favorability of capitalism to socialism.

The rise in popularity of socialism can be evidenced by how it has seeped into mainstream conversation.  For evidence, look no farther than the debate that took place on ABC’s The View recently between Meghan McCain and Joy Behar.

There are many on both the left and right who are wondering if Ocasio-Cortez is just an anomaly in the Democratic Party or if she is a sign of where the future of the party is headed.  A recent article even suggested she may be the left’s version of Donald Trump.  She is not alone, either.  Sarah Smith is another young female who is a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist running for Washington’s 9th Congressional District.

But the kryptonite to Ocasio-Cortez, Smith, and the rise of socialism may be the success our economy is having under President Trump.

From tax cuts to North Korea and everything in between, there could be an entire column on the times Democrats have predicted Armageddon, only for President Trump to prove them wrong.  Potentially the most egregious of these predictions relate to President Trump’s handling on the economy.

Many pundits predicted economic collapse when the business tycoon turned presidential candidate won the 2016 election.  Even the so-called “experts” got it wrong.  Economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman made the bold prediction that markets would “never” recover from Donald Trump being elected president.

Yet here we are with no sign of an economic collapse.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  The great GDP numbers and record low unemployment rates are just the latest positive example of what has been an objectively successful economy under President Trump.

Since Trump took office, the DOW has gone from 18,332 to almost 25,500.  The NASDAQ has gained almost 3,000 points, and the S&P is up just shy of 700.  Among the black, Hispanic, female, and Asian populations, unemployment is at or nearing all-time low numbers.

Further, President Trump has slashed regulation and red tape at a record rate, and consumer confidence and small business confidence are both through the roof.  Since taking office, his administration has added 3.7 million new jobs, and we now have more available jobs that we do workers prepared to fill the vacancies.

All the economic success from President Trump’s policies raises a large question for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and those on the far left: can they reconcile their beliefs on economics with the economic success stemming from President Trump’s polar opposite views?

Ocasio-Cortez certainly has a strong niche base of support with people on the far left, but can she sustain or even continue her rise in the face of our current booming economy?  There is certainly more to a candidate than just his economic policies, but Ocasio-Cortez has struggled to provide even basic answers to elementary-level political questions in other areas such as foreign policy.  She also holds positions, like abolishing ICE, on topics like immigration that polling indicates are heavily in favor of Republicans.

Even on economic issues, she has fumbled with answers related to things like our low unemployment rate, stating that it was so low due to Americans working two or more jobs.  However, the number of Americans working two or more jobs has been on the decline since peaking at 6.5% in the mid-’90s and sits under 5% of all people employed today.

Ocasio-Cortez’s policy positions include things like a federal job guarantee for anyone and everyone.  Not only would she propose making a federal job available to anyone who wants one, but it would pay at least a $15 minimum wage with health care and paid leave benefits.  She has also proposed tuition-free higher education and trade school, including a onetime buyback by the government of all student loans both public and private.

Additionally, she states that housing is a right that the government should make available in some form to all citizens, extending tax credits, housing the homeless, and fully funding the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund.  The details on how to afford all these policies are predictably vague, but you can be sure that an increase in taxes is on the agenda.

President Trump’s best polling numbers are in relation to his handling of the economy.  Even unfriendly CNN has been forced to admit that President Trump deserves some credit for the economic surge.  It is clear at this point in his presidency, his policy positions on the economy have been successful.

Despite all the “Chicken Little” predictions from those on the left, our economy is flourishing.  In sum, if it were up to her, Ocasio-Cortez would reverse all of President Trump’s economic policies like tax cuts and the slashing of red tape that have been responsible for our recent economic swell.  This would all but guarantee a reversal of the great economic achievements we’ve had in the last 18 months.

When President Trump came onto the political scene, many assumed he would be little more than a flash in the pan.  Now, almost two years into the Trump presidency, the left faces a fork in the road.  Leftists will have to determine if the future of the party will follow the young Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Only time will tell if she can outgrow the niche bubble of her support, but if President Trump continues to guide a thriving economy, anyone with “socialist” preceding his name seems more likely to wind up as a flash in the pan.

Evan Berryhill is a former communications staffer for Rep. David B. McKinley.  Currently, Evan is a conservative commentator and law student at West Virginia University.  He has written for American Thinker, the Washington Examiner, The Federalist, The Daily Caller, The Hill, the Charleston Gazette, and the W.V. State Journal.



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The DNC Leaks and Crossfire Hurricane: A Timeline


Driven by their conspiracy theory, Hillary indulged in anti-Russian rhetoric, and the Obama administration drove relations with Russia to the worst point in the last 40 years.  Since the elections, the Democrats, the hard left, and the institutions owned by them have been pushing Trump to aggravate the conflict, started by Obama and Hillary.  But let’s proceed in chronological order.

• Summer 2015 – The FBI warns the DNC about alleged Russian hacking.

The DNC ignores the warning.

• April 28, 2016 – The DNC discovers suspicious activity on its network.

…and calls its lawyer, Marc Elias.  On May 6, after more than a week of waffling, the DNC brings in cyber-security contractor CrowdStrike, selected based on affinity rather than on merits.  CrowdStrike “determines” there were two breaches and names the culprits behind them – Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear – claimed by CrowdStrike to be Russian elite hacker units of FSB and GRU, respectively.

The DNC refused to allow the FBI to access its computers, which it thought had been accessed by FSB and GRU.  Apparently, the FBI consented to be subordinate of FSB and GRU on this issue.

• June 12, 2016 – Assange of WikiLeaks declares that he’s got internal documents from the DNC.

…and is going to publish them.  Surprised, the DNC and Hillary’s campaign decide to pre-empt and even exploit this publication.

• June 14, 2016 – The DNC announces the network breach through a WaPo article.

CrowdStrike publishes alleged technical details on its website.  Both blame the Russian government.  The DNC says that only a few documents had been compromised, including opposition research on Trump.  This is an open invitation for WikiLeaks to publish that research.

• June 15, 2016 – Guccifer 2.0 claims the hack and posts several DNC documents on guccifer2.wordpress.com. 

Guccifer 2.0 wasn’t known before that.  The opposition research is among the published files.  Independent analysts discover Russian fingerprints – the opposition research file shows an error message in Russian and had been last saved on a computer with Windows in Russian by Феликс Эдмундович.  Феликс Эдмундович refers to Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926), the founder of the Cheka, the predecessor to the KGB.  Gotcha!  The ecstatic media form the narrative: all leaked DNC-Hillary documents come from the Russian government; Guccifer 2.0 is a front for a Russian intelligence operation.

Just a few weeks or days earlier, the DNC hired Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele to produce dirt on Trump.  The outcome was a series of absurd pieces, which became known as the “Steele dossier.”  It was called “a garbage document” by Bob Woodward.  The only known version of it was published by BuzzFeed.  The first “Steele report,” dated June 20, makes bizarre claims and leaves the impression that Steele was unclear about what the client wanted him to write.

• July 16, 2016 – Guccifer 2.0 offers WikiLeaks about 1GB of leaked DNC documents.

Hillary, convinced that Guccifer 2.0 was a front for the Russian government, concludes that Putin had betrayed her.  I think that at that time she decided to invent a narrative that she is tough on Russia while Trump is Putin’s puppet.  It was the summer of 2016, and people didn’t know that the MSM had shifted from being biased to being shameless fake news.  Hillary’s plan worked.

• July 18, 2016 – Hillary/DNC launch Trump-Putin conspiracy theory through WaPo and N.Y. Mag.

WaPo publishes an article titled “Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine” (Josh Rogin), and N.Y. Mag “Is Donald Trump Working for Russia?” (Jonathan Chait).  The N.Y. Mag piece is a purported analysis.  It mentions the WaPo article, but it couldn’t have been written in a half-hour.  Thus, these articles were part of a media operation by Hillary and/or the DNC.  The WaPo article falsely claimed that Trump’s campaign had weakened the GOP platform regarding support for Ukraine against a Russian invasion and briefly mentioned Paul Manafort.

This DNC-Hillary media operation has achieved its apparent goal – establishing a crazy conspiracy theory of Trump-Putin collusion as a dominant media narrative.

• July 20-25, 2016 – Third Steele report mentions DNC files on WikiLeaks.

It’s possible that Steele learned the new party line from the July 18 WaPo article, from copycats in other outlets, or directly from Hillary’s boys.  None of the previous “reports” had mentioned a DNC hacking, WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, or Paul Manafort.  But this one talked extensively about Manafort and the DNC documents on WikiLeaks.  Manafort and the DNC leaks had been placed together only in the WaPo article, which was largely retold in this Steele piece.  Examples:

Suggestion from source close to TRUMP and MANAFORT that Republican campaign team happy to have Russia as media bogeyman[.]

TRUMP associate admits Kremlin behind recent appearance of DNC e-mails on WikiLeaks, as means of maintaining plausible deniability[.]

Don’t ask me which “Trump associate admits” something on behalf of the Kremlin – the whole Steele dossier consists of such rubbish.

• July 22, 2016 – A WikiLeaks dump reveals:

The DNC had cheated Bernie out of the votes in the primaries to make Hillary the presidential candidate.

• July 25, 2016 – The Democratic National Convention starts with a huge scandal.

The revelation of the dirty collusion between the Hillary campaign and the Democratic National Committee against Bernie rocks the Democratic National Convention.  Hillary blames Russia and Putin; the MSM echoes.  Hillary, the DNC, and the media become deluded into the consensus that Putin is behind Trump.  Now it’s official: Hillary runs against Vladimir.

• July 26, 2016 – Fourth Steele report is almost entirely devoted to alleged Russian cyber-operations.

Note that the “Steele reports” were received by the DNC, and any piece might have been leaked to the media at any time after receiving.

• July 31, 2016 – FBI launches operation Crossfire Hurricane.

After watching the Democratic convention for days, reading media reports and Steele fantasies conveying the Democratic narrative, Peter Strzok decided to act.  Within two days, he and a few other Obama loyalists in the FBI started the operation Crossfire Hurricane, initially spying on Trump but then attempting a full-spectrum suppression of Candidate Trump and the Republican party.

Aftermath

Within a couple of weeks, CIA director John Brennan and other members of the Obama administration joined Crossfire Hurricane.  Obama-Hillary loyalists in DOJ, FBI, CIA, DNI, and DHS incited Republican senators against Trump, spread anti-Trump propaganda through media leaks, and even broadcasted support to the DNC-Hillary conspiracy theory of in a joint DNI-DHS statement merely a month before the elections.  These efforts continued after the elections and morphed into a coup d’état.

A longer analysis of the DNC leaks and origins of the Crossfire Hurricane from 2015 to August 1, 2016 is available from Leo Goldstein and the Science for Humans and Freedom Institute.

The media’s and the Democratic Party’s obsession with the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory originates from events of April-June 2016.  Media operations by the Democratic Party and its media echo chamber have distorted not only the information about the relevant events, but even the background political picture of April 2016.

The DNC and Hillary constructed a conspiracy theory in which Putin ordered the hacking of the DNC network and subsequent mass distribution of the exfiltrated documents to help Trump beat Hillary.  Such actions were against Russian interests and very unusual for Russian intelligence.

Driven by their conspiracy theory, Hillary indulged in anti-Russian rhetoric, and the Obama administration drove relations with Russia to the worst point in the last 40 years.  Since the elections, the Democrats, the hard left, and the institutions owned by them have been pushing Trump to aggravate the conflict, started by Obama and Hillary.  But let’s proceed in chronological order.

• Summer 2015 – The FBI warns the DNC about alleged Russian hacking.

The DNC ignores the warning.

• April 28, 2016 – The DNC discovers suspicious activity on its network.

…and calls its lawyer, Marc Elias.  On May 6, after more than a week of waffling, the DNC brings in cyber-security contractor CrowdStrike, selected based on affinity rather than on merits.  CrowdStrike “determines” there were two breaches and names the culprits behind them – Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear – claimed by CrowdStrike to be Russian elite hacker units of FSB and GRU, respectively.

The DNC refused to allow the FBI to access its computers, which it thought had been accessed by FSB and GRU.  Apparently, the FBI consented to be subordinate of FSB and GRU on this issue.

• June 12, 2016 – Assange of WikiLeaks declares that he’s got internal documents from the DNC.

…and is going to publish them.  Surprised, the DNC and Hillary’s campaign decide to pre-empt and even exploit this publication.

• June 14, 2016 – The DNC announces the network breach through a WaPo article.

CrowdStrike publishes alleged technical details on its website.  Both blame the Russian government.  The DNC says that only a few documents had been compromised, including opposition research on Trump.  This is an open invitation for WikiLeaks to publish that research.

• June 15, 2016 – Guccifer 2.0 claims the hack and posts several DNC documents on guccifer2.wordpress.com. 

Guccifer 2.0 wasn’t known before that.  The opposition research is among the published files.  Independent analysts discover Russian fingerprints – the opposition research file shows an error message in Russian and had been last saved on a computer with Windows in Russian by Феликс Эдмундович.  Феликс Эдмундович refers to Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926), the founder of the Cheka, the predecessor to the KGB.  Gotcha!  The ecstatic media form the narrative: all leaked DNC-Hillary documents come from the Russian government; Guccifer 2.0 is a front for a Russian intelligence operation.

Just a few weeks or days earlier, the DNC hired Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele to produce dirt on Trump.  The outcome was a series of absurd pieces, which became known as the “Steele dossier.”  It was called “a garbage document” by Bob Woodward.  The only known version of it was published by BuzzFeed.  The first “Steele report,” dated June 20, makes bizarre claims and leaves the impression that Steele was unclear about what the client wanted him to write.

• July 16, 2016 – Guccifer 2.0 offers WikiLeaks about 1GB of leaked DNC documents.

Hillary, convinced that Guccifer 2.0 was a front for the Russian government, concludes that Putin had betrayed her.  I think that at that time she decided to invent a narrative that she is tough on Russia while Trump is Putin’s puppet.  It was the summer of 2016, and people didn’t know that the MSM had shifted from being biased to being shameless fake news.  Hillary’s plan worked.

• July 18, 2016 – Hillary/DNC launch Trump-Putin conspiracy theory through WaPo and N.Y. Mag.

WaPo publishes an article titled “Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine” (Josh Rogin), and N.Y. Mag “Is Donald Trump Working for Russia?” (Jonathan Chait).  The N.Y. Mag piece is a purported analysis.  It mentions the WaPo article, but it couldn’t have been written in a half-hour.  Thus, these articles were part of a media operation by Hillary and/or the DNC.  The WaPo article falsely claimed that Trump’s campaign had weakened the GOP platform regarding support for Ukraine against a Russian invasion and briefly mentioned Paul Manafort.

This DNC-Hillary media operation has achieved its apparent goal – establishing a crazy conspiracy theory of Trump-Putin collusion as a dominant media narrative.

• July 20-25, 2016 – Third Steele report mentions DNC files on WikiLeaks.

It’s possible that Steele learned the new party line from the July 18 WaPo article, from copycats in other outlets, or directly from Hillary’s boys.  None of the previous “reports” had mentioned a DNC hacking, WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, or Paul Manafort.  But this one talked extensively about Manafort and the DNC documents on WikiLeaks.  Manafort and the DNC leaks had been placed together only in the WaPo article, which was largely retold in this Steele piece.  Examples:

Suggestion from source close to TRUMP and MANAFORT that Republican campaign team happy to have Russia as media bogeyman[.]

TRUMP associate admits Kremlin behind recent appearance of DNC e-mails on WikiLeaks, as means of maintaining plausible deniability[.]

Don’t ask me which “Trump associate admits” something on behalf of the Kremlin – the whole Steele dossier consists of such rubbish.

• July 22, 2016 – A WikiLeaks dump reveals:

The DNC had cheated Bernie out of the votes in the primaries to make Hillary the presidential candidate.

• July 25, 2016 – The Democratic National Convention starts with a huge scandal.

The revelation of the dirty collusion between the Hillary campaign and the Democratic National Committee against Bernie rocks the Democratic National Convention.  Hillary blames Russia and Putin; the MSM echoes.  Hillary, the DNC, and the media become deluded into the consensus that Putin is behind Trump.  Now it’s official: Hillary runs against Vladimir.

• July 26, 2016 – Fourth Steele report is almost entirely devoted to alleged Russian cyber-operations.

Note that the “Steele reports” were received by the DNC, and any piece might have been leaked to the media at any time after receiving.

• July 31, 2016 – FBI launches operation Crossfire Hurricane.

After watching the Democratic convention for days, reading media reports and Steele fantasies conveying the Democratic narrative, Peter Strzok decided to act.  Within two days, he and a few other Obama loyalists in the FBI started the operation Crossfire Hurricane, initially spying on Trump but then attempting a full-spectrum suppression of Candidate Trump and the Republican party.

Aftermath

Within a couple of weeks, CIA director John Brennan and other members of the Obama administration joined Crossfire Hurricane.  Obama-Hillary loyalists in DOJ, FBI, CIA, DNI, and DHS incited Republican senators against Trump, spread anti-Trump propaganda through media leaks, and even broadcasted support to the DNC-Hillary conspiracy theory of in a joint DNI-DHS statement merely a month before the elections.  These efforts continued after the elections and morphed into a coup d’état.

A longer analysis of the DNC leaks and origins of the Crossfire Hurricane from 2015 to August 1, 2016 is available from Leo Goldstein and the Science for Humans and Freedom Institute.



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