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Syria, North Korea, United passenger fiasco

Late last week, the Trump administration ordered a missile strike on Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. The political and diplomatic effects are still reverberating. Was this the right move?

Another potential crisis is brewing in northeast Asia. A U.S. carrier group is heading to the Sea of Japan as a show of force against recent North Korean aggression. Will this escalate the situation?

Perhaps the biggest story this week was the United Airlines passenger being dragged off a flight. Dr. David Dao was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago to Louisville to make room for United crew members. How can this situation be avoided in the future?

Bill Buck of MyWallit.com, Jerrod Laber of Young Voices Advocates, conservative writer and editor Brian McNicoll discuss these issues & more….

Check out the whole exchange here

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	The Pentagon, headquarters of the Department of Defense.  DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force.

Will Policymakers Ever Stop Underestimating the True Cost of War?

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 

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Before Risking Another War, Trump Needs To Give Diplomacy A Chance

In the aftermath of Trump’s missile strike, congressional Democrats urged precaution while Republican leaders promptly urged President Trump to push for Assad’s ousting. The Democrats have apparently been proved correct in emphasizing precaution; President Bashar al-Assad’s allies have since threatened reprisals against any further assaults on the regime. This development doesn’t bode well for future success in handling the Syrian crisis. A miscalculated American intervention in Syria might worsen the country’s humanitarian crisis, drag America into another war in the Middle East, and leave a leadership void for myriad extremist groups.

The humanitarian situation in Syria is already appalling, with over 400,000 people killed since 2011. The Assad regime has showed little concern for innocent civilians when securing power. If the US toughens their assaults on the regime, a Russia-led retaliation could be imminent, leading to a possible confrontation between the US and Russia. Indeed, Russia and Iran have already committed to “respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.” In this scenario, civilian casualties and internal displacement would certainly deteriorate further.

Read more at the Daily Caller

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Meet Germany’s Alt-Right

In September, Germans will head to the polls to elect a new parliament. One of the parties expected to enter the Bundestag for the very first time is the Alternative für Deutschland (or Alternative for Germany). Over the course of two years, as AfD has transitioned from an agenda of economic reform to one of nationalist populism, they have morphed into something resembling the American alt-right.

In 2012, a group of German conservatives and classical-liberal economists who had defected from Angela Merkel’s center-right and the traditional liberal-democrat party found themselves associating with independent-voter groups in order to run for office on the local level. Soon, these conservatives, who were heavily critical of the European Union’s economic interventionism and especially the European common currency, found themselves alienated by these existing platforms, and in 2013 they founded the AfD.

Soon after its creation, the party began to struggle with internal disagreements about the priorities of its political message: the classical liberals were keen on developing a German brand of Euroscepticism—which, relative to the Anglo-Saxon brand, would appear less aggressive and more academic—while nativists and those who were religiously inspired pushed for more nationalism and social conservatism on issues like gay marriage (which remains illegal in Germany). These were internal fights over these differences during the 2013 election, which contributed to the AfD narrowly failing to enter parliament.

In 2014, the party continued its rise in the polls. It won electoral success in the European Parliament, local parliaments, and municipal councils. Former AfD chairman Bernd Lucke, a classical-liberal economist known for his numerous appearances on German TV shows dedicated to debates on the Euro and its effect on the European debt crisis, became the target of the nationalist wing of the party. But AfD’s moment in the spotlight was short-lived. As the issue of Greece leaving the Euro was swept off the table and the Euro-crisis became uninteresting for the German media, so did the focus on the AfD.

Continue reading at The American Conservative

Behind Bars

On Criminal Justice Reform, Alabama Should Look To Texas

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley recently announced a new initiative aimed at addressing the state’s overcrowding problem,with 23,000 prisoners in facilities designed for about 13,000. The “Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative” would consolidate the states fourteen prisons into four megaprisons, costing taxpayers about $800 million. Amazingly, Bentley argues this is the most cost effective way to handle Alabama’s disastrous criminal justice system.

Instead of throwing money at the behemoth of bureaucracy that the prison complex has become, Alabama should consider an alternative model for reform pioneered by Texas.

In 2007, Texas legislators coalesced around a rare bipartisan effort to slim the country’s most bloated incarceration population. The war on drugs and tough on crime politics skyrocketed the state’s incarcerated population from about 50,000 in 1990 to a peak of 173,000 in 2010. The legislature in Austin was faced with two options—a $523 million prison construction plan or an approach focused on shrinking the amount of people they send to prison (i.e. the root of the problem). Obviously, the tough on crime stance so popular in deeply red states hadn’t stemmed the crime wave in any meaningful sense, so Texas House leaders opted for an alternative strategy.

Instead of placing first-time, nonviolent drug offenders in prison — making them more likely to adapt to the hardened prison culture and reoffend once out on release — Texas expanded drug courts that allowed users to forego prison if they agreed to comprehensive supervision, drug testing, and treatment. The new approach also eschewed the common practice of severe sentencing punishments for technical violations of probation or parole. Instead, Texas’s reforms used graduated sanctions (i.e. increasingly strict punishments for parole or probation violations as opposed to instant re-incarceration) and rehabilitation programs for drug users and the mentally ill.

Texas legislators wanted to send fewer people to prison. After all, housing prisoners is a massive taxpayer burden, with annual cost of $26,000 for just one prisoner, and Americans foot an annual bill of roughly $85 billion for corrections.

Read the rest of this piece in TownHall