Focal Points Blog

Brexit Vote: A Very British Affair

A deal David Cameron (pictured in a happier time) cut with his party came back to bite him – and the entire UK. (Photo: Crown Copyright / Flickr Commons)

A deal David Cameron (pictured in a happier time) cut with his party came back to bite him – and the entire UK. (Photo: Crown Copyright / Flickr Commons)

In the end, the Brexit — the vote on whether the United Kingdom should remain in the European Union (EU) or be the first in the 29-member trade group to bail out — was a close-fought matter, but for all the sturm und drang about a pivotal moment for the EU, the June 23 referendum that saw the Brexit pass was a very British affair.

While the European Union is clearly in a crisis — countries weighed down with unpayable debt, economies virtually dead in the water, double-digit unemployment, and a rising chorus of opposition to the austerity policies of the EU authorities in Brussels — those were not the issues that brought the British people to the polls.
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FBI Overwhelmed by Terror Suspects

“They envy our freedom” no longer, if it ever did, explains why Islamic extremists seek to mount attacks against civilians in the United States. (Photo: CounterJihadNews)

“They envy our freedom” no longer, if it ever did, explains why Islamic extremists seek to mount attacks against civilians in the United States. (Photo: CounterJihadNews)

After 9/11, domestic spying became the law of the land with the Patriot Act, which granted the U.S. government the right to search citizens’ telephones, e-mail, and financial records without a court order. Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed the vastness of the surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency.

In spite of the powers granted it – and taken illegally – the United States has been unable to stop attacks by both the American far right and Islamist extremists (or those who use the latter as a pretext for an attack, such as Omar Mateen in the Orlando shooting). In Politico magazine, Garrett M. Graff explains.
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The Pentagon Plans for War on Many Fronts

Since both Russia and china possess nuclear weapons, a future war could be on a scale never before experienced. (Photo: the Diplomat)

Since both Russia and china possess nuclear weapons, a future war could be on a scale never before experienced. (Photo: the Diplomat)

It is often said that nations typically defend themselves by preparing for the last war. That is what the Pentagon seemed to be doing a few weeks ago in the California desert near Twentynine Palms. The exercise called for one group of Marines to fire live ammunition in order to back up another group of Marines that was attempting to retake a city built to resemble the Iraqi towns of Falluja or Ramadi. When the general in charge was asked what language the participants were speaking, he said “Arabic.”

U.S. military commanders are at the same time training troops for war with Russia or China, or in the worst case scenario, both. The Pentagon says it is preparing for “hybrid wars” that will involve armies, guerrillas, and cyber threats. A large navy will be necessary as well. According to Admiral John M. Richardson, “When you look at this return of great power competition, one of the things that we have to pay more attention to, think harder about, is not only power projection, which is what we’ve been doing, but also sea control.”
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How Much Blame Should Hillary Clinton Bear for Libya?

The biggest blot on Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state – Libya – may have been a symptom of her stubbornness. (Photo: RedPepperCo.ug)

The biggest blot on Hillary Clinton’s record as secretary of state – Libya – may have been a symptom of her stubbornness. (Photo: RedPepperCo.ug)

Can any credence given to a national security policy advisor to Donald Trump when it comes to Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy? Unlikely, we reflexively respond – at the least, we are sick of hearing about Benghazi. But what if he’s a retired navy rear admiral? And what if he was personally involved in negotiations for the abdication of Muammar Gaddafy? Before we hear out Charles R. Kubic at National Interest, here’s a synopsis at Counterpunch from Diana Johnstone.

As Secretary of State, [Ms. Clinton] blocked diplomacy that would have prevented or ended conflict, most notoriously concerning Libya, where even senior U.S. military officers were told to cut off their contacts with Gaddafi agents seeking a peaceful compromise.

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As if PTSD, CTE, and Moral Injury Weren’t Enough

The costs of war, in every way, have become prohibitive. Pictured: a Humvee destroyed in an attack. (Photo: Hoggard Films)

The costs of war, in every way, have become prohibitive. Pictured: a Humvee destroyed in an attack. (Photo: Hoggard Films)

Throughout history, it’s been obvious that soldiers returning home from war are changed men. From being silent to just “different,” soldiers have been suffering what’s been variously called, in the last 200 years, “soldier’s heart,” “shell shock,” “war neuroses,” and, more recently, post-traumatic stress syndrome. Sometimes, PTSD is a result of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a form of dementia caused by degenerative brain tissue and characterized by deep depression, failing memory, and rage.
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Jihad an Equal Opportunity Employer

Islamist extremists come in all shapes and sizes: middle-class, poor, happy, sad. (Photo: the Telegraph)

Islamist extremists come in all shapes and sizes: middle-class, poor, happy, sad. (Photo: the Telegraph)

“Could Mateen have been caught?” asks Michael Hirsch in Politico magazine of the Orlando mass shooting. “It’s unfair to expect that U.S. law enforcement can track and stop every would-be terrorist,” he writes.

But perhaps the toughest thing to explain about the worst mass shooting in U.S. history is how a man who was interviewed three times by the FBI ended up buying, unnoticed, an entire arsenal and then gunning down, unsurveilled, more than 100 people. He’d been on the FBI’s radar because he attended the same Florida mosque as a suicide bomber named Moner Abusalha, who had gone to Syria to blow up Syrian government soldiers in 2014, but Comey said [there were] no known “connections.”

… Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security, says it’s “in the FBI’s DNA” to pursue such criminal links to terrorist groups and build a case in the way law enforcement traditionally does. … “There’s an overemphasis on operational links.”

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The Latest in Ethical Compromises and National Security Lapses From Hillary Clinton

It’s as if Ms. Clinton’s staff thought: “No one will notice. It’s only a nuclear weapons committee.” (Photo: Zimbio)

It’s as if Ms. Clinton’s staff thought: “No one will notice. It’s only a nuclear weapons committee.” (Photo: Zimbio)

Citizens United is a conservative nonprofit group that gained fame for winning the court case known by the same name. In 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that the government could not limit independent political contributions by nonprofit corporations. However long, as a result of that decision, the name Citizens United will live on in infamy, it actually performed a public service recently.
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When Shuttling Between the Public and Private Sectors Actually Helped Cut Defense Spending

A Pentagon official uses his knowledge of how defense contractors work to keep costs down.

A Pentagon official uses his knowledge of how defense contractors work to keep costs down.

“Some of the nation’s leading defense companies are declaring war on a powerful enemy — an obscure Pentagon official named Shay Assad who has helped cut more than $500 million from military contracts with his aggressive scrutiny of their costs,” writes Ellen Mitchell at Politico magazine. “The industry’s tactics include blanketing congressional committees with proposals that would make it harder for Assad and his contracting officers to get detailed breakdowns of the companies’ expenses.”
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Supporting Hillary Clinton Could Mean Choosing Between Your Son and Your Daughter

hillary-clinton-secretary-of-state-csis

Hillary Clinton’s disposition toward the use of armed force poses a threat to our children. (Photo: Flickr/CSIS)

I am roughly paraphrasing a conversation recounted to me by a middle-aged, middle-class white woman who supports Bernie Sanders and has had a grudge against Hillary Clinton ever since she disrespected Monica Lewinsky as a woman. Another middle-aged white woman, who supports Ms. Clinton’s likely nomination, questioned the first woman’s support for Sanders.
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Plenty of Blame to Spread Around for the Orlando Nightclub Shooting

Well over 20 million AR-15s have been sold to American civilians.

Well over 20 million AR-15s have been sold to American civilians.

There’s plenty of blame to assign in the Orlando nightclub shooting –– to everyone but the victims. I defy anyone to find a single instance of homosexual violence against heterosexuals (try Googling that term and you will see what I mean). While some gays may find heterosexuality as “unnatural” as some heterosexuals claim to find homosexuality, they don’t come to the deluded conclusion that heterosexuals must die.

Outside of self-defense, a capacity to kill, especially on the scale of Omar Mateen, presumes an inability to experience, or active disdain for, the quality of empathy. Imagination is required to feel empathy –– an ability to visualize another’s experience including the pain he or she would feel if attacked. From the tactical to engineering (including bomb-making), fundamentalist extremists, whether Christian or Islamic, value ingenuity in the service of their causes. But, whether by design or because of the type of person drawn to fundamentalist extremism, when it comes to imagination and innovation, its proponents tend to come up short.
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