What purpose is served by continued U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan?
The Afghanistan government has failed to focus on issues of chief concern to the Afghan people, such as the economy, security, and efficiency. (Photo: David Axe / Flickr Commons)
The fall of the Afghan city of Kunduz, a major regional center, to the Taliban may turn out to be temporary, but it was nevertheless a stunning defeat for the Afghan army. “Fall” is the operative word. It took only 500 Taliban fighters to capture the city from an American-trained force of more than 7,000 Afghan soldiers who had put up little defense before retreating.
The episode makes all the more urgent the need to ask what purpose is served by continued U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. The loss of Kunduz did not come as a surprise. Corruption and incompetence have long plagued both the Afghan army and the government. Soldiers complain of lack of leadership and say their commanders sell their ammunition and other supplies and pocket the money. In some areas the desertion rate is 50 percent.
A prescription for fueling an intensified Middle-East arms race.
U.S. sale of bunker-busters to Israel would make the U.S. even more complicit with Israel in its concept of regional security.(Photo: Wikipedia)
The Iran deal: what the Obama Administration giveth, Congress (tries to) taketh away?
In the aftermath of Congress’s failure to sabotage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the agreement negotiated between six countries, the EU and Iran to limit the Iranian nuclear energy program in return for lifting sanctions – the Obama Administration, along with its partners in the agreement, have pushed ahead to implement it. But is this a case of “What the Obama Administration giveth, the Congress taketh away?” At the behest of neoconservatives, AIPAC, Christians United For Israel, some in Congress, however, including some original Democratic supporters of JCPOA, are actively working to undermine the very same agreement.
The recent multinational agreement with Iran, along with the calamitous consequences of US military intervention in the Middle East, challenge the frozen notions that have dominated US foreign policy.
The world sorely needs a more influential and effective UN General Assembly. (Photo: David Ohmer / Flickr Commons)
At the latest UN General Assembly, we saw some of ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ in the present unsteady state of international relations.
We may have moved a bit past the time when our foreign policy largely ignored the UN except when coopting it to serve as a cover for a US-led military adventure. The recent multi-nation agreement with Iran, along with the calamitous consequences of US military intervention in the Middle East, challenge frozen notions that have dominated US foreign policy. That at least should open the door to new approaches based on more realistic assessments.
More than just a deterrent, nuclear weapons are the cornerstone of imperialism.
Nuclear weapons became a pretext for secrecy and the executive authority of the president. (Photo: Steve Jurveston / Wikimedia Commons)
Much like 9/11 decades later, the development of nuclear weapons served as a pretext for secrecy in government. In his 2010 book Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State (Penguin Books), Gary Wills, according to the back cover, “argues that the secrecy surrounding the Manhattan Project became a model for the covert operations and overt authority that have defined American government in the nuclear era, culminating with the usurpations of George W. Bush.” In fact, the development of nuclear weapons by the United States covered a multitude of sins. Wills writes:
Foreign governments that granted us territory and protection were to be supported, even if they were not very good at recognizing the rights of their citizens. Thus began a long history of friendly relations with dictators. Obtaining and securely maintaining our bases was considered more important than the moral legitimacy of the regimes granting us such access.
The speeches and encyclicals of Pope Francis are almost like the fulfillment of a fantasy for left-leaning individuals everywhere.
Between his speech to the UN and Laudato Si’, his papal encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis has pointed a way forward for mankind. (Photo: Alfredo Borba / Wikimedia Commons)
Pope Francis will never be all things to all people — such as half of them: women. For example, while in the United States, he supported the right of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk to refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples (albeit under the guise of conscientious objection). Nevertheless, his election as pope had to constitute one the most extreme institutional about-faces in recent history. It surpasses Barack Obama succeeding George W. Bush as president and even Bill de Blasio succeeding Mike Bloomberg and Rudolph Giuliani. The speech that Pope Francis delivered to the United Nations on Sept. 25 struck all the right chords for forward-thinking individuals everywhere.
By failing to implement economic reforms, Romania lagged behind the rest of East-Central Europe.
Romania, says economist Dragos Negrescu (pictured), has finally become a fiscally normal country. (Photo: John Feffer)
Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.
Bucharest was once known as the Paris of the East. In the 1930s, it was a vibrant city of cafes, artists, and poets. The playwright Eugene Ionescu, the historian of religion Mircea Eliade, and the essayist Emil Cioran all became friends at this time at the University of Bucharest. Romania was also enjoying a brief economic boom, and many of Bucharest’s most beautiful houses were built during this period leading up to World War II.
Some of those houses are still standing, including the family home of economist Dragos Negrescu. That’s where I met him in 1990 when we talked about the future prospects of Romania.
Despite risks to domestic politics and local administration, Germany is opening its gates to vast numbers of refugees.
Germany plans to admit as many as 800,000 refugees by the end of 2015. (Vito Manzari / Flickr Commons)
Maher Zain, a 1981-born singer who was just eight when his Lebanese family was admitted by Sweden, is the latest showcase that Muslim immigrants can make contributions to world peace rather than causing troubles to their receiving countries. With millions of fans in Europe, England, Malaysia, Indonesia, Palestine, Pakistan and China, Zain’s anti-war songs [Note 1] are no less heart-touching than Pakistan-born Canadian singer Irfan Makki’s “You and I”. Yet, Germany is the only state in the West camp welcoming Muslim refugees when all its peers hesitate. Berlin’s once again deviation means something important to International Relations.
Were it not for Republicans, developments to mitigate global warming would be cause for celebration.
The decline of the coal industry is one example of good news about global warming. (Photo: CSIRO / Wikimedia Commons)
Yesterday we wrote about the extent to which conservatives in the United States are opposing not only action on, but acknowledgment of, global warming. That’s the bad news. But, on the eve of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference beginning Nov. 30, there is, writes Jonathan Chait in New York magazine, a surprising amount of good news. Global warming has been perceived as a “drama” that “has taken on an air of inevitability, of a tragedy at the outset of its final scene — the tension so unbearable, and the weight of looming catastrophe so soul-crushing, that some people seek the release of final defeat rather than endless struggle in the face of hopeless odds.”
Denying global warming can leave one open to legitimate comparisons with Hitler.
Global warming can lead to wars for resources similar to the one that Hitler waged on Russia. Pictured: Water distribution in Darfur. (Photo: UNAMID / Flickr Commons)
As global warming worsens, the world may see states or other groups warring over diminishing resources, especially food and water. But first allow us to interject the definition of Godwin’s Law, of which you may have heard. It holds: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” What does global warming have to do with Hitler?
When Walt Whitman wrote of “burial clouds, in black masses spreading,” he couldn’t imagine that a century later, they could invoke the nuclear mushroom cloud.
The Pleiades, written about by Walt Whitman in his poem “On the Beach at Night.” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The 2000 remake of the film On the Beach, based on the 1957 novel by Nevil Shute, ends with a quote from an 1871 poem by Walt Whitman titled On the Beach at Night. I haven’t seen either film or read the book about an impending nuclear holocaust. But I would venture a guess that the intent in using the quote was to compare “the ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading” to a nuclear mushroom cloud.