Tag Archives: middle east

Foreign Policy: Less is More

Good news seldom comes from the CIA. Whether it’s secret missions hidden from U.S. taxpayers and citizens or funding secret wars without congressional approval.

The Telegraph reports “[m]illions of dollars worth of weapons sent by the CIA to Jordan for Syrian rebels was stolen by Jordanian intelligence chiefs and sold on the black market.” To add insult to injury, the weapons were stolen by Jordanian military officers — supposedly allies of the U.S.

Unfortunately, this type of incident is not unique and happens quite often. It’s easy to blame the CIA’s incompetence or greedy Jordanian officers for this recurring blunder, but, in reality, the problem is U.S. foreign policy.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a close ally to the United States. But, when close allies steal military supplies from you—maybe it is time to cut back.

The Department of Defense budget for fiscal year 2015 was $495.6 billion in discretionary funding. The U.S. spends more than the next seven countries combined. With approximately half a trillion dollars being spent every year on defense, is the U.S. safer? Is the world safer? I would posit that it is not. A brief look at the Middle East shows a region which seems to have imploded, from Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, to Afghanistan.  

Syria is a great example. The U.S. recently sent soldiers into the region and is supporting rebels fighting the Syrian regime. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is fighting the both Syrian rebels and government itself. Meanwhile, the Syrian regime is fighting both the rebels and ISIS and is backed by Russian airstrikes and Iranian funded militias. The Syrian situation is an obvious no-win situation, yet there are calls from for U.S. foreign policy to do more.

The U.S. cannot be the world’s policeman, and it should not spend like it. Half a trillion dollars is an outrageous bill to pay, and it does not make the American people or the world safer. If members of Congress were serious about cutting spending, they would start with defense. Every dollar needlessly spent on defense is a dollar less in the taxpayer’s pocket.  

The stolen shipment of weapons signifies the recklessness and wastefulness of war. The American people should demand more from their foreign policy—or, in this case, demand less of it.

More Bombs in Syria Aren’t the Answer

Tragedies lead to emotions running high. The terrorists that murdered 130 people in Paris are not to be taken lightly. Those 130 lives deserve much more than passive apathy in response to this brutality. But they also deserve more than hasty recklessness.

A foreign policy that rationally assesses its prior successes and failures, looks at the long-term consequences of its actions, and prioritizes the safety of people against terrorism is the answer to the recent barbaric Paris attacks. The temptation to immediately retaliate by bombing ISIS targets in Syria should not be pursued without careful consideration of the costs. Reason must temper our anger.

Public policy, guided by politicians focused on short-term public opinion, is often shortsighted and brash, especially in the wake of tragedies. Responding to pressure that we “must do something,” and motivated by anger and hate, people pursue thoughtless vengeance, rather than deciding on a course of action through rational deliberation.

Yes, justice should be swift, but we must figure out what justice is before acting.

Read the rest on AntiWar.com here.

UK airstrikes would play straight into the ISIS strategy

Following the horrific and tragic events in Paris the House of Commons is considering today whether it should commit to airstrikes in Syria, in order to combat the threat posed by ISIS. As the times’ current agent of evil, it is necessary that action be taken to eliminate this barbaric threat to civilization. That being said, the actions should not come from Great Britain but from the region where these attacks are originating.

It is important to understand the nature of how ISIS operates in the region, and how it draws in new recruits. Their goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate, and they seek to achieve this through whatever violent means they deem necessary.  But ISIS’ strategy relies as much on recruitment as on  their ability to keep those within their sphere of influence docile and subdued. Airstrikes from western nations only seek to strengthen their hand on both these counts.

In reality, there is nothing that ISIS would like more than for the UK, and other western nations to not only send airstrikes, but to launch an invasion with boots on the ground. This may seem counterintuitive, but there is a method to their madness.

The children of Iraq who faced the operations of our military in 2003 are the fighting age males who are now joining ISIS. For every wedding or village hit by a western drone, more and more people have been spurred into joining Islamic extremists.

This is certainly not a justification for their actions. But we must understand that intervention in the middle east comes with heavy consequences. Even if involvement is kept only to the level of airstrikes, it is unlikely to have positive results.

read the full article at CapX.

Marco Rubio views the Middle East as apocalyptically as ISIS does

On Sunday, Marco Rubio released a video painting the United States’ struggle against ISIS as a “civilizational conflict.” He framed Friday’s Paris attacks “a wakeup call” and warned that our campaign against terrorism is no “geopolitical issue” about people who “want to conquer territory.” Instead, Rubio characterized ISIS as a group that wants “to overthrow our society.”

Most significantly, Rubio declared that “this is not a grievance-based conflict. This is a clash of civilizations. For they do not hate us because we have military assets in the Middle East. They hate us because of our values.” Then he explained how what ISIS really despises is our freedom of speech, diversity of religions, female education, and general tolerance.

Sound like 2001 anybody?

As the Atlantic’s Peter Beinart shouldn’t have had to point out, “ISIS isn’t a civilization.” It’s a group of sociopathic gangsters with a twisted ideology. But Rubio describes them in the language of Samuel P. Huntington’s controversial 1993 essay and book “The Clash of Civilizations” predicting a post-Cold War conflict on the basis of cultural and ethnic differences. He implicitly associates ISIS with Huntington’s view of a broader cultural force of Islam.

That directly advances ISIS’s narrative that it’s the defender of the Islamic faith.

Read the full article at Rare Politics

Walking the Tightrope: Turkey in the New Middle East

The Arab Spring and subsequent events have dramatically re-arranged the power dynamics of the Middle East. Formerly stable nations like Syria and Libya have descended into near-anarchy, while others, like Iraq and Jordan, have been significantly weakened by the rise of the Islamic State and the flood of refugees fleeing conflicts in the region.

Not all have been affected equally, however. While most of their regional neighbors are still reeling from the aftermath of war and revolution, the Turks have emerged almost entirely unscathed. This has left them in a position that is both enviable and vulnerable as they navigate the geopolitics of the new Middle East.

The upheavals of the last few years have diminished the ability of many of the leading nations in the region to project power outside their own borders. While Bashar al-Assad remains president of Syria, much of the country is either contested or under the control of various rebel and Islamist militias and the economy is utterly ruined after four years of war. Jordan, which has long been a bulwark of stability, is finding its resources stretched to the breaking point as it tries to absorb an estimated 1.4 million Syrian refugees, or 20% of Jordan’s population. Iraq’s fragile political framework has degraded considerably since the conquest of much of the north by ISIS, and Iran is still the subject of strict sanctions and international isolation. Meanwhile, Egypt is in the process of rebuilding its economy, confronting domestic Islamist insurgents, and promoting stability and investor confidence, leaving little capacity for regional engagement.

In this environment, Turkey enjoys a number of advantages. With one of the most powerful militaries in the world, membership in NATO, a strategic position between Europe and Asia, and a fast growing population of over 70 million, Turkey possesses a level of security that has escaped most of its neighbors.

Despite the conflict in neighboring Syria and Iraq, the violence has been almost entirely relegated to the other side of the border, and its contentious domestic politics aside, Turkey has been able to maintain a relatively high measure of internal stability. Much like Jordan, Turkey has absorbed an estimated 1.5 million refugees fleeing Syria, and although this has strained the nation’s resources, its much larger economy has so far been able to handle the refugees without large negative spillover effects.

Another key contributor to Turkey’s improved strategic position is the conflict between Russia and the E.U., which has left the Turks in the enviable role of being an essential partner to both sides. The South Stream pipeline, which Russia envisioned as a way to deliver gas to the European market while bypassing Ukraine, was cancelled after the E.U. pressured Bulgaria to block passage through its territory. It has been replaced by the proposed Turkish Stream, which would run a pipeline underneath the Black Sea and through Turkish territory. Although negotiations are still ongoing, Russia has already taken steps to signal its commitment to the new plan, and the continuing hostility between Russia and the E.U. makes it highly likely that any alternative gas route to Europe will run through Turkey.

This leaves Turkey in an ideal negotiating position. It will likely be able to secure a significant discount for its own considerable energy needs from Russia (and in fact is already aggressively negotiating for one), which is seeking access to the large and growing Turkish gas market as well as an economically and politically viable alternative to the aborted South Stream route.

Read the rest at the Project for Study of the 21st Century…