Weekly Letter to the President
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
December 22, 2017 (posted December 25)

Mr. President:  Delegates to the UN are generally referred to as diplomats.  But, in the
wake of the vote condemning the U.S. decision on Jerusalem, one has to wonder.  
The permanently scowling U.S. representative, Nikki Haley, threatened reprisals --
"We will be taking names" -- against those who did not support the U.S. position.

The vote was 128-9.  Aside from the U.S. and Israel, the seven who voted with them
consisted of five minuscule Pacific island nations, whose bread and butter comes from
the U.S., plus Honduras and Guatemala.  In Honduras, a stolen election had the
opposition up in arms because it appeared from the results that the incumbent Juan
Orlando Hernandez had lost to Salvador Nasralla.  Following the UN vote, the U.S.
threw its support behind Hernandez and Nasralla threw in the towel.  Then there is
Guatemala, where former generals from dictatorship days joining with  President
Jimmy Morales have made a smooth transition to civilian government and who the
U.S. continues to support, rounded out the 9 votes.  A co-founder of Morales'
Convergence Party, Ovalle Maldonado is being investigated for the crimes of
disappearances and money laundering.  Now a fugitive, he is a former Colonel and a
graduate of the School of the Americas and just one of many in a party 'dominated by
military officers'.

All the same, U.S. support constituted a pinprick of the world's population.  Consider
on one side Nikki Haley and the U.S. with its immense economic and military power; on
the other, Palestine relying only on the world's conscience.  Conscience won.  In an
earlier Security Council vote, the U.S. tallied 13-1 against, obliging it to use its veto.

Has the U.S. lost its clout?  And what of Nikki Haley's threats.  They seem to have
been forgotten by the time the next issue of North Korean sanctions was taken up.  
Approved and putting a strangle hold on oil, these still depend on China.

In fact, Nikki Haley's foreign aid threat means little as foreign aid is mostly about the
furtherance of U.S. policy.  The principal recipients Israel and Egypt are unlikely to
see cuts; the first because of its influential lobby and the other because of the peace
treaty obligations.  Afghanistan, the other major recipient, is busy fighting the Taliban;
Jordan is fighting extremism and is like Egypt kept under control in the extent of its
opposition to Israel.  Then there is the Somalia conflict and the aid recipients as a
result include in particular Ethiopia used as a proxy there plus the peripheral states.  
Nigeria is fighting ISIS offshoots and so it goes on.

Nikki Haley's undiplomatic threat was not only empty but made the U.S. appear mean,
nasty and child-like.

Worse have been Donald Trump's threats against North Korea.  "It can't happen", he
tweeted about ICBM missiles early in the year; they now have them.  Then there are
his repeated military threats ... also ignored by Kim Jong Un.  Red lines have been
drawn, crossed, and then no response because there is no military solution.

Often, as in chess, a certain tension is more effective in hampering opponents than
the actual play out of a scenario.  The U.S. chose the latter, and from Libya to
Afghanistan (not to mention Vietnam) people have watched its lack of success; they
have weathered the storm.  It might still displace elected governments as in Ukraine,
but the end result it less than satisfactory.

One might well ask, is the U.S. now in decline?  The election of Donald Trump offers a