Focal Points Blog

Portugal: The Left Takes Charge

Portugal is the victim of the great 2008 international banking crisis, which saw speculators drove up the price of borrowing beyond what the country’s small economy could manage. (Photo: Matthew Shugart / Flickr Commons)

Portugal is the victim of the great 2008 international banking crisis, which saw speculators drove up the price of borrowing beyond what the country’s small economy could manage. Pictured: Portugal’s parliament building. (Photo: Matthew Shugart / Flickr Commons)

After several weeks of political brinkmanship, Portugal’s right-wing president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, finally backed off from his refusal to appoint the leader of a victorious left coalition as prime minister and accept the outcome of the Oct. 4 national elections. Silva’s stand-down has ushered in an interesting coalition that may have continent-wide ramifications.

Portugal’s elections saw three left parties—the Socialist Party, the Left Bloc, and the Communist/Green Alliance take 62 percent of the vote and end the right-wing Forward Portugal Party’s majority in the 230-seat parliament. Forward Portugal is made up of the Social Democratic Party and the Popular Party.
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Top U.S. Officials Caved on Hiroshima as Well as H-bomb

Not only did Russia respond to American development of the H-bomb by developing its own, so did other countries. Pictured: British thermonuclear bomb test. (Photo: RAF)

Not only did Russia respond to American development of the H-bomb by developing its own, so did other countries. Pictured: British thermonuclear bomb test. (Photo: RAF)

Increasingly it looks as if the nuclear weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not critical to Japan’s surrender in World War II. Revisionist history is slowly becoming conventional wisdom. It seems as if the Japanese command, inured to all the bombing it had already received by the United States before Hiroshima and Nagasaki was, instead, prompted to surrender because Russia invaded Manchuria, China, not far from Japan.

Controversy has also arisen about exactly what the United States hoped to accomplish by dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The conventional wisdom is that it was to summarily bring the curtain down on the Japanese war effort,  thus sparing vast numbers of allied soldiers whose lives would have been lost in the other alternative, invading Japan.
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Islamic State’s Terrorist Acts Threaten State It’s Creating

Is the Islamic State terrorists or a state? All we can say for sure is that it’s got a group death wish. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

Is the Islamic State terrorists or a state? All we can say for sure is that it’s got a group death wish. Pictured: government building in Raqqa. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

The Islamic State wasted no time in turning the territories it conquered into an actual state, especially Raqqa, Syria, it’s de facto capital. Writes Michael Weiss at the Daily Beast:

ISIS likes a tidy state and maintains one courtesy of the Diwan al-Khadamat, or Office of Services. … Here, too, the bureaucracy is impressive. Diwan al-Khadamat includes a sanitation department, a parks department, a building licensing department, and an electric utility.

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Assad the Cornerstone That Must Be Removed Before the Edifice of the Islamic State Collapses

Pictured: a Russian Tu-160 Blackjack, one of the planes Russia is using to bomb the Islamic State. (Photo: Poder Aereo)

Pictured: a Russian Tu-160 Blackjack, one of the planes Russia is using to bomb the Islamic State. (Photo: Poder Aereo)

When Russia sent jets and fighters to Syria to shore up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it wasn’t principally targeting the Islamic State, but the other rebel forces. Thus, it seemed counterproductive on the part of the Islamic State to plant a bomb on Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 and re-direct the bulk of Russia’s attention to it. In fact, the Islamic State bit off way more than it could chew. At the Daily Beast, David Axe reported:

The Russian air force just pulled off one of the biggest and most complex heavy bomber missions in modern history—sending no fewer than 25 Backfire, Bear, and Blackjack bombers on a coordinated, long-range air raid against alleged ISIS forces in Syria.

The Tuesday mission, which launched under the cover of darkness from a base in Ossetia in southern Russia, signaled a significant escalation of Moscow’s air war in Syria—and heralded the rebirth of Russian heavy bomber squadrons that once had withered from a lack of funding.

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Paris Attacks Spur Hillary Clinton to Distance Herself from President Obama

Hillary Clinton is distancing herself from President Obama’s policy of containing the Islamic State. (Photo: Joe Crimmings / Flickr Commons)

Hillary Clinton is distancing herself from President Obama’s policy of containing the Islamic State. (Photo: Joe Crimmings / Flickr Commons)

The last time the candidate of the party that occupied the presidency sought to succeed the president, he steered clear of the latter’s foreign policy. To wit, Mitt Romney kept George W. Bush and his invasion of Iraq at arms length. Conversely, Hillary Clinton has been only too happy to identify herself with President Obama’s foreign policy, in which she was instrumental as his first secretary of state. But no longer, writes Amy Chozick in the New York Times.
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Insights Into the Resistance Movement in Turkey (Second in a Series)

Turkish authorities could have investigated suspects in the July 20 suicide bombing in the Kurdish town of Suruç, but instead allowed them to remain free and commit the Ankara bombing, the worst terror attack in modern Turkey. Pictured: victims of the Ankara bombing. (Photo: Kesk)

Turkish authorities could have investigated suspects in the July 20 suicide bombing in the Kurdish town of Suruç, but instead allowed them to remain free and commit the Ankara bombing, the worst terror attack in modern Turkey. Pictured: victims of the Ankara bombing. (Photo: Kesk)

Levels of Resistance

As a student of international relations and journalist, I spent a week in Istanbul and Ankara interviewing those I consider activists in a resistance movement in Turkey. Already biased toward the left-leaning People’s Democracy Party (HDP) and Kurdish rights, I found myself becoming a member of this resistance after the bombing in Ankara—the worst mass murder in modern Turkey—due in large part to the chilling response of the governing party and its supporters.

After the Ankara bombing, a statement by the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) co-chairs, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdag—it is an HDP rule that both a man and a woman serve together—called for the “international community who stand in solidarity, to extend their condolences directly to the peoples of Turkey—not to the state representatives who are politically and administratively responsible from the massacre.” Privy as I was to the ruling elite’s smirking complicity in the fiery extermination of innocents, when President Obama called President Erdogan to offer our American condolences, I wanted to vomit. Another nausea-inducing development was the November 1 parliamentary election that saw Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) violently regain sole custody of the government in Turkey, after five months without it. President Obama called with congratulations, but at least he waited eight days—perhaps recognizing the polarized, war-filled Turkey the AKP left in the election’s wake.
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After the Paris Attacks, What Happens Here?

Peace requires cooperation among nations that have selfishly wrought havoc in the Middle East since the First World War. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Peace requires cooperation among nations that have selfishly wrought havoc in the Middle East since the First World War. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

ISIL’s crusade is reaching out to inflict the horrors of war on civilian populations wherever possible. It has to be defeated — in the Middle East and anywhere it tries to strike.

That can only happen if there is a major shift in policies that contributed much to the horrendous chaos that opened up Iraq and Syria to ISIL. But as we have seen before, acts of terrorism can be exploited to fuel fear, nativist hatreds, and a clamor to unleash US military might. That is exactly what we’re getting from the GOP presidential aspirants. The Democratic candidates have said little so far. Bernie Sanders properly points out he’s “no fan of  ‘regime change’” and cites his vote against the disastrous Iraq war. Hillary Clinton hasn’t said much beyond asserting her toughness.
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Jeremy Corbyn’s Refusal to Launch Nuclear Weapons Shines Spotlight on Flaws of Deterrence

Nuclear deterrence implies an obligation to fulfill its contract and respond in kind if attacked. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Nuclear deterrence implies an obligation to fulfill its contract and respond in kind if attacked. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Newly elected British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn upset the deterrence apple cart when he revealed that he wouldn’t launch nuclear weapons should he become prime minister. Chief of Defence Staff Sir Nick Houghton protested; at Huffington Post UK, Paul Waugh quoted Corbyn’s response:

“It is a matter of serious concern that the chief of the defence staff has today intervened directly in issues of political dispute. It is essential in a democracy that the military remains political neutral at all times.”

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The Only Solution to Nuclear Weapons Remains World Government

World government remains the most likely candidate for a good idea that will never get off the ground. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons )

World government remains the most likely candidate for a good idea that will never get off the ground. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons )

Some of the proposals to control nuclear weapons when they were first developed, but that never saw the light of day, still make eminent sense. Though, admittedly, they are even more light years from implementation now than they were then. One, as presented via the Acheson-Lilienthal Report and the Baruch Plan, was placing all the nuclear weapons in the world under the UN Security Council.

You can understand the resistance: “Can we get 100 of our warheads out of cold storage? The Soviet Union has been a little more bellicose than usual this month.” Another was the concept of world government, which actually gained a couple of feet of traction post-Hiroshima.
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Massive Retaliation to Islamic State Attacks on Paris Can Be as Dangerous as Islamic State Itself

As always, even with the Islamic State, air power, thy name is collateral damage. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

As always, even with the Islamic State, air power, thy name is collateral damage. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

It’s only natural after the Islamic State’s beyond-barbaric attacks of the past week in Baghdad, Lebanon, and Paris, to seek an end to the madness that is the Islamic Stat. once and for all. But, of course, ramping up bombing (as the United States has already done on the Islamic State’s oil fields) carries dangers to others beside members of the Islamic State. Yesterday Reuters presented the crux of massive retaliation:

So far, however, the United States has refrained from direct bombardment of known Islamic State headquarters buildings in its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, Syria.

That, individuals with knowledge of the matter said, is in part because of the risk of large-scale civilian casualties.

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