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Ex-commander Wesley Clark decries Trump’s Syria decision

by Frank E. Lockwood | October 15, 2019 at 7:15 a.m

ARLINGTON, Va. — President Donald Trump’s abandonment of America’s Kurdish allies is a victory for Russia and raises questions about his fitness as well as his motivations, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark said Monday.

Trump’s actions in Syria and Ukraine have shaken allies, he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in an interview.

For those living in Moscow’s shadow, Trump’s decision raises the specter of “appeasement” and “1938,” he said, a reference to the year that the United Kingdom, France and Italy allowed Nazi Germany to seize the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia.

The unfolding disaster in Syria was foreseeable and preventable, Clark said.

“It’s a real tragedy for U.S. foreign policy and for the Kurds,” he said.

“What we did was open the door to a Turkish invasion. We betrayed our Kurdish allies, who lost 10,000 people fighting for us against ISIS. We’ve let ISIS prisoners escape, and their command structure is still intact. So now they’ll be stood up again and coming after the United States. By pulling back, we allowed Syria’s [President] Bashar Assad to reoccupy in the region. And he’s been criticized by us for a decade for human-rights abuses, for oppressive tactics, for wanton killing of civilians. We’ve opened the door to Iran for greater passage, through Syria, to threaten Israel, and we’ve given Russia the strong role of leadership in the region,” he said. “None of that is in the interest of the United States. And here’s the point: Our 50 U.S. troops up there were not in danger. We didn’t have to do this. The question is why we did it.”

The rapid removal of U.S. troops from northern Syria — with little advance notice — was “inexplicable,” Clark said.

“The hardest military operation to run is a withdrawal under pressure. So if you’re not careful, a withdrawal turns into a retreat and a retreat turns into a rout,” he said.

“In this case, the United States is not only withdrawing forces, but it’s, as a national policy, trying to realign itself in the region to compensate for two decades of overextension,” he said. “President Trump is absolutely right. It was a terrible strategic mistake to invade Iraq. However, how you get out is critical.”

The consequences of Trump’s decision should come as no surprise, Clark said.

“Every military and national security expert would have told you what would happen if we pulled those troops out. It’s not partisan. We all know the region. We all understand the complexities,” he said.

With allies doing most of the fighting, the number of U.S. casualties in the area had been low, Clark noted.

“It would be one thing if we were over there at enormous expense losing 100 soldiers a month like we did at the height of the conflict in Baghdad in 2007. But that’s not what’s happening. Actually, there were very few losses from this. We had stabilized the region. So that’s why it’s inexplicable why this decision was made,” he said.

Asked whether Trump’s conduct raises questions about his fitness to be commander in chief, Clark said: “[It] raises many, many questions. We may never understand why he did it. But if you ask the people in the region, they have their own theories. They see it as a betrayal. They believe that maybe he was blackmailed by [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. … Maybe his hotel interests in Turkey conflicted with this. Maybe [Russian President Vladimir] Putin whispered in his ear and said, ‘It’s time to leave.’ Nobody knows why he did it, and we may never find out. He says he trusted his gut. It didn’t work in this case,” Clark said.

Trump’s decision on Syria will have repercussions around the world, he predicted.

“There’s damage in the region, certainly. People like the Kuwaitis, the Qataris, even the Saudis, where he’s reinforced with troops, are asking questions. But it’s actually broader than that. Something like this has global impact.”

In South Korea, confidence could be undermined, he said. In Ukraine, “where people are fighting for the very Western principles that we say we stand for,” concerns were already elevated, he added.

“The basic principle of American diplomacy since the end of the Second World War is, when countries that are weak are facing adversaries that are armed with nuclear weapons, that’s where we come in to help maintain freedom. That’s what NATO was all about. And Ukraine’s not a member of NATO. But these other Eastern European countries that border Ukraine, they are members of NATO. Their leaders told me in New York that this is like 1938 in Europe. They can see the appeasement and they can see what’s coming, so this has global implications,” he added.

Clark, 74, was born in Chicago but raised in Little Rock. Three years after his career with the U.S. Army ended in 2000, he became a Democratic candidate for president, but he withdrew from the race in 2004.

Last week, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican and former presidential candidate, was among those who had pleaded with Trump to reverse course, calling it “a HUGE mistake to abandon Kurds.”

“They’ve never asked us to do THEIR fighting-just give them tools to defend themselves. They have been faithful allies. We CANNOT abandon them,” Huckabee tweeted on Oct. 7.

A Section on 10/15/2019

Print Headline: Ex-commander Wesley Clark decries Trump’s Syria decision

Lyon College Hosts Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander

Is there a place for civility and rational debate during the heated political discourse of our times?

Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, believes the answer is a resounding “yes.” He shared his thoughts on the topic and a broad range of other issues in a public forum held at Lyon College on Thursday, Sept. 26.

Clark, a retired four-star U.S. Army general and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, was on campus as part of his “Renew America Together” initiative, focusing on civility and the major concerns Americans face now. 

“We hear that this is the most divided American electorate and the nastiest politics in anybody’s memory, some people say it’s worse than that period before the American Civil War,” Clark said. 

Clark’s thesis, however, is just the opposite. He argues that meeting people from across the country, it appears we “mostly agree on most everything.” 

There may be a difference in priorities or intensity of feeling, he said, but the divisions in the American populace are fewer than one might think. The media and members of both political parties make their existence possible by stirring up differences rather than focusing on common values and interests, according to Clark.

“The question is, what are we really interested in?” Clark asked. “Is it the issues of the moment, gun control, immigration, abortion?” 

“Or is it the longer-term issues like climate change, how to manage the ascent of China, how to get financial security, how to deal with a world that needs U.S. leadership . . . These are the questions we have to resolve.”

Clark foreshadowed that unless American democracy solved these challenges, “they’ll be addressed and solved some other way.”

Beth Anne Rankin, owner and president of Beth Anne Productions Inc. and a former Miss Arkansas, joined Clark in the discussion. 

Rankin, who ran as a Republican for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 and 2012, joked she was grateful neither she nor Clark were making their appearances as candidates for office.

The two found common areas of agreement throughout the course of the discussion. Both agreed, for example, that the viciousness of the 24-hour news cycle, a beast that has to be fed constantly, is such that it contributes to “the perception we are more divided than we really are,” said Rankin.

The two likewise found common ground in their concern about the soaring national debt which, at more than $22 trillion, is at the highest levels ever. Clark said, however, that as crucial as it is to address the national debt, he would not put it above such issues as student access to quality preschools or a college education, or maintaining a source of income for senior citizens.

Both also concurred that the role of money in politics has left a negative impact, especially dark money, with anonymous donors hitting nearly $150 million in the 2018 election cycle alone. Each also found agreement in the need to create a nation of “lifelong learners” who can find retraining at local universities and colleges, so that Americans better adapt to the rapid pace of technological change. 

“I do agree with General Clark, these jobs are changing, and our workers of the future are going to have to be resilient,” Rankin said. “We need to create a mindset of resiliency. Because, otherwise, life is going to be disappointing.”

Aside from the issues, Clark conceded that no contemporary politician has been a better communicator, especially in the age of social media and on Twitter, than Donald Trump.

“Now you may not like what he says, or you may love it, but it’s quick, it’s pertinent, it’s on target,” he said. “He’s got an opinion on everything . . . and it doesn’t waste a lot of time.”

The event concluded with questions and answers from the audience who filled the auditorium for the evening’s discussion. Audience members ranged from veterans of foreign wars to current Lyon students and faculty. 

Clark’s non-profit Renew America Together was created to promote and achieve greater common ground in America by reducing partisan division and gridlock. Its stated mission is “to revitalize public and political discourse by teaching and promoting civics, citizenship and civility.”

The Lyon College Division of Advancement hosted the event, which was moderated by The William Jefferson Clinton Professor of International Politics at Lyon College, Dr. Bradley Gitz.

This story courtesy of Lyon College.

NYT Opinion Article: “What Happens When Our Leaders Lack Moral Courage”

NYT Opinion Article: “What Happens When Our Leaders Lack Moral Courage”

General Wesley Clark was featured in an Opinion OpEd in The New York Times on May 23rd

Over the years, thousands of cadets at the United States Military Academy, myself included, have memorized and recited West Point’s Cadet Prayer. “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,” the prayer goes, “and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice, and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

The prayer describes the value of acting for good, and how moral authority is itself the deepest source of power. Cadets are taught that one’s values ought to be the primary reason to seek power, and its only justification for use. This is the essence of the “courage” described in the prayer, the courage that should be a part of every leader’s core.

But we as a nation and as leaders have not always demonstrated this courage. Two major events in my career illustrate when we acted for good with our values in mind, and when we did not.

Read the rest of the Article Here

AR Democrat Gazette: “Retired general Wesley Clark rules out ’20 run”

AR Democrat Gazette: “Retired general Wesley Clark rules out ’20 run”

By Frank E. Lockwood

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark plans to speak at college campuses “about the important issues facing America,” but he won’t be asking any of the students to vote for him.

In an interview, the retired four-star general said he won’t be running for office in 2020, despite entreaties from some Arkansas Democrats.

Read full article on Arkansas Online

Gen. Clark was honored on the 20th Anniversary of the start of Operation Allied Force at the Embassy of Kosovo

Gen. Clark was honored on the 20th Anniversary of the start of Operation Allied Force at the Embassy of Kosovo

March 24 was the 20th anniversary of the start of Operation Allied Force that saved 1.8 million Kosovar-Albanians from ethnic cleansing at the hands of Slobodan Milošević.   General K. Wesley Clark (ret.) was honored at a dinner with at the Kosovo Embassy in Washington. In attendance was current Kosovo Ambassador to US Vlora Çitaku.  Pictures are below.

Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) Awarded Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship Medal

Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) Awarded Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship Medal


Former Democratic candidate for president and four-star Gen. Wesley Clark (ret.) was awarded the Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship Medal at a March 14 event hosted by the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. 

Clark received the award after speaking about the challenges of overcoming polarization in America. 

Clark served for nearly 40 years in the United States Army, including assignments as Commander of U.S. Southern Command and Commander of U.S. European Command/Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.

The Hauenstein Fellowship Medal recognizes the extraordinary life of the center’s namesake, the late Ralph Hauenstein, and honors distinguished individuals who exemplify his spirit of leadership and service, which Grand Valley State University seeks to inspire in its students and graduates.

Previous recipients of the Col. Ralph W. Hauenstein Fellowship Medal include: President Gerald R. Ford (posthumously), Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State James A. Baker, Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, Ambassador John Beyrle, President of Palau Tommy Remengesau, Admiral James M. Loy, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Carla Hills, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Penn Today: ‘The conversation America needs’

Penn Today: ‘The conversation America needs’

Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general of the U.S. Army, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who served as the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, joined the Penn Political Union in College Hall on Wednesday for a wide discussion.

Former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general of the U.S. Army, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who served as the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, joined the Penn Political Union in College Hall on Wednesday for a wide discussion.

A Democrat and a Republican walk into College Hall

With the way the federal government has been operating—now in day 34 of the longest shutdown in history—this may seem like the start of a bad joke. 

But, in fact, this was reality on Wednesday evening, as two political leaders came together to talk reasonably about their differences, as well as commonalities, with a group of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and even folks from the broader Philadelphia community.

The event, hosted by the Penn Political Union (PPU), a nonpartisan student organization sponsored by the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy, featured former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO Wesley Clark, a retired four-star general of the U.S. Army who ran as a Democrat for president in 2004, and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican who served as the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. Longtime political journalist Jessica Yellin skillfully moderated the two-hour conversation.

See The Whole Article here

WPSU: “Take Note: Retired Gen. Wesley Clark On His Efforts To Promote Civil Dialogue”

“A retired four-star general, 2004 presidential contender, author and commentator, Wesley Clark is now starting a nonpartisan organization. The goal of Renew America is to encourage people to find common ground by promoting public and political discourse.

WPSU’s Anne Danahy spoke with Clark about the organization, what he thinks needs to change in politics and how Americans can help make that happen.”
-Anne Danahy, WPSU

Listen to the interview here