Foreign Policy: News Roundup for 9/12/14

Here are some of the important stories and opinions from recent days.

Harris on Islamic State: Whatever his errors (and they are many), Sam Harris is right in pointing out that, contra Obama, Islamic jihadists are motivated by their religion. See also my article for the Objective Standard on the subject. And see Harris’s mostly-good essay, “Why I Don’t Criticize Israel.”

Lessons of 9/11: In a new thirteen-minute video, Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute sets some of the important context for the 9/11 attacks and Islamic State, and he explains a proper foreign policy to deal with those problems. Regarding the nature and actions of Iran and Saudi Arabia, see Craig Biddle’s “The Jihad against America and How to End It.”

About Those Syrian Rebels: Obama has expressed very different views of the Syrian rebels who aren’t in Islamic State—the people he now wants to arm. Obama also overstates the “broadness” of his “coalition.” See Krauthammer’s op-ed for the Washington Post.

Islamic State Cash: Islamic State takes in some $32 million per day in oil money, the Daily Signal reports.

In other news:

Missouri Abortion Restrictions: “Missouri Enacts 72-Hour Wait for Abortion,” the New York Times reports. This again shows that religious conservatives do not oppose economic controls by government per se; they just want their kind of controls.

Police State: “The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications” to the NSA, the Washington Post reports. (Hat tip for this story and the last to the Week.)

Denver Post for Sale: Read all about it.

Young Readers: Who said social media would kill reading? “Study finds that people under 30 are reading more than their elders,” reports the Week.

Swimming Dinos: Don’t tell Syfy, or we’ll get “Spinosaurusnado.”

U.S. Scolds Egypt, UAE for Striking Islamic Militants in Libya

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times reports a Libyan story with some bizarre twists. The Islamic militant group Dawn of Libya recently seized control of the international airport in Tripoli (as I mentioned yesterday). Now we learn that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates had “secretly launched airstrikes” against the militants. In what sense were the strikes “secret”? The two Middle Eastern nations had declined to notify “Washington, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines.” (Hasn’t Obama largely put himself on the sidelines, anyway?) The two nations “had also successfully destroyed an Islamist camp near the eastern Libyan city of Derna,” the Times reports. In any case, “United States diplomats were fuming about the airstrikes,” the Times reports; apparently they thought the strikes would undermine United Nations efforts to “broker a peaceful resolution” (because we know how successful the U.N. is at accomplishing such things). I don’t know enough about the context of the strikes or the broader conflict to know whether to cheer the strikes or condemn them; however, offhand, it seems plausible to me that Americans should take the attitude that the more third-party bombs are dropped on Islamic militants, the better.

How Saudi Arabia Backs Islamic State Terror

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Ed Husain is an “adjunct senior fellow” with the Council on Foreign Relations. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, he explains how Saudi Arabia actively supports Islamic State and other Islamic terrorist organizations: “Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism across the globe.” Husain, himself a Muslim, believes the “rigid interpretation of Shariah” practiced by these violent Muslims is “un-Islamic.” Of course, they would claim that Husain’s moderation is “un-Islamic.” Regardless, hopefully Husain’s brand of partly Westernized Islam will win out over more barbaric variants.

China Flexes Its Power in Latin America, Asia

Image: Antilong
Image: Antilong

Consider some recent news stories involving China:

Last month, Chinese president Xi Jinping visited left-leaning Brazil and various other Latin American nations, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports. Xi went to Brazil to ink trade agreements and to attend “a summit of the BRICS group of emerging powers—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—and South American presidents,” AFP reports. Xi ended his Latin American tour “with a symbolic visit to the barracks from which Fidel Castro launched the first armed assault of his communist revolution in 1953,” AFP reports elsewhere; Xi said, “China and Cuba, as fellow socialist countries, are closely linked by the same visions, ideals and goals.”

What is the standard Chinese view of the tour? We can get a hint from a story from the South China Morning Post: “Xi Jinping’s intense nine-day tour of Latin America last month yielded significant gains for Beijing’s strategy in the region and in the broader strategic arena vis-à-vis the United States. Moving beyond purely economic interactions, Beijing is content that Xi’s trip has reinforced political relationships that will ultimately temper American influence in the region and help counter the US rebalance policy.”

Meanwhile, David Axe claims for the the Week: “For the first time since China’s rapid ascent as a regional military power, officers in Beijing believe the Chinese army could invade Taiwan or attack a disputed island while also deterring intervention by U.S. Pacific Command.”

Elsewhere, the Week offers some evidence indicating that China’s relationship with North Korea may be “fraying”—so that at least may be some good news.

At home, as Cass Sunstein reported a few months ago (see my article for the Objective Standard), “recent curricular reforms in China, explicitly designed to transform students’ political views, have mostly worked”; the reforms were explicitly intended (in the words of a Chinese official) to “form in students a correct worldview, a correct view on life, and a correct value system.” Obviously, “correct” in this context means pro-socialist.

And all of this comes at a time when Barack Obama is deliberately weakening America’s standing in the world. Mission accomplished.

Will Islamic State Get a Boost in Syria?

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Syrian civil war is so complex that I resorted to reading Wikipedia to try to get a handle on it. The upshot is that the government of brutal tyrant Bashar al-Assad is battling against the Free Syrian Army as well as against explicitly Islamist groups, including Islamic Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)—the same broad organization now terrorizing Iraqis.

A problem for al-Assad, as well as for the West, is that, to the degree al-Assad’s regime weakens the Free Syrian Army, it strengthens Islamist rebels. The Wall Street Journal makes this point in an article by Maria Abi-Habib. The regime is currently attacking rebel forces in Aleppo. “The fall of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and economic hub before the fighting, could also bolster the ranks of Islamic State militants who continue to make gains across the country, as defeated members of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army switch to their side,” Abi-Habib writes.

And what we know about Islamic State (ISIS) is that its members are brutal, murderous totalitarian Muslims who explicitly want to destroy America and create a global Islamic state. So how is this all going to end?

How the U.S. Government Accidentally Armed Islamic State

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons
This news from Kurdish Irbil is absolutely sickening: “In a bitter irony, the extremists used American armored vehicles and weapons they had seized from the hapless Iraqi military to defeat Kurdish fighters who were blocked from acquiring just such equipment, U.S. and Kurdish officials said,” the Associated Press reports. Hat tip to Power Line. I don’t have any well-developed opinions yet about the latest developments in Iraq—other than that this sort of mess is what happens when the U.S. engages in haphazard, unprincipled foreign policy—but offhand arming the Kurds strikes me as a reasonable possibility.

Obama on Bombing Islamic State

Today the White House released Barack Obama’s short address on bombing militants of Islamic State in Iraq and on dropping humanitarian supplies to their victims. My initial reaction is that Obama’s foreign policy is intentionally pragmatic, without any basic guiding principles. Sometimes he’ll act in America’s defensive interests, sometimes he’ll act for other reasons—but only in piecemeal fashion.

U.S. General Murdered by Member of Afghan Security Forces

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Army Major General Harold J. Greene was shot and killed yesterday in Afghanistan, “apparently . . . by a member of the security forces he was committed to training,” the Washington Post reports. (Hat tip to the Week.) Horrid. I tend to agree with Greene’s neighbor, Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Caramanica, who told the Post: “If we’re going to fight a war, fight to win, and get out.”

The Tragedy of Iraq

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

While much of America’s left (not to mention legions in Europe) are busy spreading anti-Semitic smears and demonizing Israel for Hamas’s violence, Islamic totalitarians continue to expand their control of Iraq, most recently in the northern towns of Zumar and Sinjar, causing thousands to run for their lives (see the Associated Press report). Not only are many Iraqis not better off after America’s involvement there; many are undoubtedly far worse off. Remember, we called the 2003 American invasion “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Well, let’s just say mission not accomplished.

Why Hamas is Morally Responsible for the Deaths in Gaza

Image: Wikimediai Commons
Image: Wikimediai Commons

Craig Biddle, publisher of the Objective Standard (where I’m an associate editor), published an article today succinctly pointing out that the deaths in Gaza are Hamas’s fault. Biddle writes, “Hamas is morally responsible for the deaths and destruction resulting from the retaliatory force necessitated by Hamas’s assaults on Israel.”