On April 6, the hundred year anniversary of the United States’ entrance into World War I, President Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to be fired at Syria’s Al Shayrat airfield. The strike came after Syrian President Assad’s most recent use of chemical weapons against rebel units and citizens living in opposition-controlled areas. Although officials claim this strike is a “one-off,” as we look back at another war –– one that may seem distant –– many parallels emerge to our current War on Terror, and warn of the danger of sending additional forces into Syria. Americans would do well to remember that wars usually cost more than assumed and that they invariably erode the domestic freedoms that the fighting is supposed to protect.
As any good student of history or economics will tell you, wars are expensive and have long-lasting consequences for decades or even a century. Yet, the start of a conflict is often greeted with a bizarre degree of enthusiasm, only for voters and governments to later realize the terrible price. In 1914, crowds cheered in every European capital as politicians predicted glorious victory that would see the boys home “before the leaves fall.” The war would last until 1918 and cause 41 million military and civilian casualties, about 20 million killed and 21 million injured. Moreover, the financial burden was billions of dollars, leaving the major European powers weakened and in debt. The Great War also hit Americans with a bill that would amount to $334 billion in 2014 dollars. This pattern of underestimating the price of war has repeated itself in subsequent conflicts, including our present day ones.
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, officials said the war would be short and estimated the cost at no more than $200 billion. Yet mission creep, the phenomenon when military and political objectives of using force keep expanding, set in. With a vaguely-worded authorization for the use of military force passed by Congress, soon the goals and enemies multiplied as the conflict spread across the globe. Including U.S. military involvement in at least five wars: Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. The combined War on Terror has cost at least $3.6 trillion. That rises to $4.79 trillion when requested spending and projected costs are taken into account.
Spending an amount similar to World War II would be alarming enough on its own, but borrowing at such a level when combined with ongoing U.S. entitlement costs is unsustainable. One fact many hawks on the left and right keep ignoring is that the national debt is now greater than America’s GDP and is about to hit $20 trillion.
Continue reading at RealClearDefense
On 15 March, the Dutch voted in their parliamentary elections in favour of the ruling Liberal party and against their own version of the alt-right. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) won 33 seats compared to insurgent candidate Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party’s (PVV) 20 seats. Although this triumph will act as a speed-bump for ethnic and economic nationalism, it is a temporary effect. The election was mostly about immigration, particularly of Muslims, and how to integrate them into Dutch society.
Now that they have won, centrist parties must learn that without incorporating some of the more legitimate and palatable concerns of voters concerned with immigration, they will be unable to maintain power. During the lead up to the election, Rutte warned of the need to integrate ethnic non-Dutch people to ensure every citizen shared the same basic secular and liberal values.
Rutte said everyone needed to know that the Netherlands wasn’t for people who “litter,” “spit,” “attack gay people”, or “shout at women in short skirts.” All of this was declared in a full-page advertisement which said people should “act normal or go away.”
By doing this, the VVD was able to steal some of the PVV’s rhetoric and, in turn, some of their voters. While such language from an establishment leader rattled the liberal and centrist press, it worked well and was copied by other parties. Finally, Rutte benefited from taking a firm stance on a visceral row with the Muslim-majority country, Turkey. The problem facing centrists is how to stop nativist parties that thrive on marginalising others without alienating increasing numbers of nativist voters.
Continue reading at EUobserver.
In the upcoming French presidential election, Marine Le Pen will likely face off against main contender François Fillon, a center-right free market reformer. François Fillon is the true conservative, a candidate who is proposing economically sound reforms, is distrustful of government, and appeals to common human decency.
Marine Le Pen instead wants to prevent free movement of goods and people, plans to withdraw from trade pacts, and is fixated with increasing state control of the economy. Her policy proposals ironically echo those of the French Communist Party of the 1950s and 1960s. French conservatives should therefore remember what conservatism means, and French liberals ought to unite with the center-right for the greater national good — just as they did in 2002 when they voted to stop Le Pen’s father.
The French economy has many structural problems that threaten both future French prosperity and the survival of the Euro currency and European Union. French voters have a rare chance to address some of those long-standing issues with a dose of basic economics and fiscal realism. The alternative would be the twin dangers posed by Le Pen’s National Front: an ethnic and economic nationalism that would threaten civil liberties and worsen the economy rather than restore it.
Continue reading at Reaction.
The election of Donald Trump does not bode well for embattled Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Speaking to reporters, Poroshenko downplayed concerns that Trump is too cosy with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, saying that Kiev had “no doubt” that Trump would continue to help Ukraine resist Russian aggression. Yet most indicators seem to point to the possibility of leaving Poroshenko completely out in the cold, with a new detente between Washington and Moscow that recognizes Putin’s interests in Ukraine.
During his candidacy, Trump consistently condemned Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, including her hostility to Russia. Trump has also repeatedly praised Putin as a strong leader and said, “… [I]f we could have a good relationship with Russia and if Russia would help us get rid of ISIS, frankly as far as I’m concerned… that would be a positive thing, not a negative thing.” Thus unless Trump appoints a hawkish member of the establishment, such as George W. Bush’s former UN Ambassador John Bolton, he seems poised to reach an agreement with Russia in which both sides agree to respect their traditional spheres of influence.
Already, Trump and Putin have had an official phone call to discuss improving relations. Toward this end Russian state TV has become less anti-American, and online propaganda sites like Sputnik News have written that Trump and Putin will come to a “gentlemen’s agreement regarding Eurasian politics.” This is bad for Poroshenko who cannot stand up to Russia on his own and who has no other allies since the European Union has repeatedly tried and failed to build its own unified military and foreign policy.
Continue reading at Blog Activ.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is right to fear cleric Fetullah Gulen and his Hizmet movement, but the recent failed coup has given him a golden opportunity to crush them for good. Erdoğan never tolerated the continued existence of serious rivals, and the Gulenists had long outlived their usefulness to him. Since being elected in 2003, Erdoğan has systematically co-opted, weakened, or destroyed every alternative power base throughout Turkey. Like other populist authoritarians such as Putin, Erdoğan centralized executive control in the name of nationalism, economic growth, ethnic pride, and an appeal to memories of past imperial and religious glory. This has worked well for him, and, like Putin, he will continue to eliminate any threats to his vision for the state and society, including fighting the Gulenists no matter the cost.
In 2003, after Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) first won national elections, Gulen and his Hizmet movement had been their allies and coordinated to dismantle the threat of the secular military to a more religious Turkish state. Erdoğan was given increased powers, and Gulen’s movement gained followers and influence in the civil service, especially among the judiciary and police. Four times in modern Turkey’s history, the military had led a coup to restore institutional stability or to prevent the Islamification of the state. Erdoğan had been a member of a previous party toppled by a coup in 1997 and saw the military as a threat ever since. Gulen also feared the military and fled Turkey to live in the U.S. shortly after the 1997 coup. Thus, it is no surprise that Erdoğan and Gulen saw the importance of taming the military, which they did with a series of show trials with trumped-up evidence of an alleged coup. Hundreds of officers were sentenced, and the top military leadership was replaced, securing Erdoğan’s control of the armed forces.
Continue reading at Eurasia Review.