Focal Points Blog

The Islamic State Is to Islam as Moonshine Is to Whisky

Islamic extremism is a form of reconstituted Islam for a globalized world, writes Robert Kaplan. Pictured: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Islamic extremism is a form of reconstituted Islam for a globalized world, writes Robert Kaplan. Pictured: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

No matter what you think of him, journalist Robert Kaplan is always worth reading. In a piece at the National Interest, he writes that empires, despite their evil, provided “stability and order to vast tracts of land occupied by different peoples, particularly in Europe.” In their absence, “what then?”

We are entering an age of what I call comparative anarchy, that is, a much higher level of anarchy compared to that of the Cold War and post–Cold War periods.

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She Loves a Man in a Uniform

Hillary Clinton has a genuine fondness for our troops. (Photo: incom.korea.army.mil / Flickr Commons)

Hillary Clinton has a genuine fondness for our troops. (Photo: incom.korea.army.mil / Flickr Commons)

Many think Hillary Clinton’s willingness to use force overseas — most infamously her 2002 vote for the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq — was just politics. As I wrote at Focal Points in January:

It was widely assumed that Clinton either saw the writing on the wall and that resisting would only hurt her political future or, more proactively, that it would give a boost to her political fortunes (especially because it ostensibly showed that, as a woman, she could be tough enough for higher office).

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What if the Catholic Church Declares No Wars Are Justified?

Is an end to Just War Theory in sight? (Photo: Martin Schulz / Flickr Commons)

Is an end to Just War Theory in sight? (Photo: Martin Schulz / Flickr Commons)

Where did the justification for war come from? Early versions appeared in India and the Roman Empire. In Christianity the seeds were sown by Saint Augustine and reaped by Thomas Aquinas. Today, Just War Theory, as espoused by the Catholic Church, holds:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated (the power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition).

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Do We Really Want China Living in Fear of a U.S. Nuclear Attack?

Chinese military leaders seek to put China’s nuclear weapons on high alert. (Photo: the Diplomat)

Chinese military leaders seek to put China’s nuclear weapons on high alert. (Photo: the Diplomat)

Russia, Iraq — the list of countries that the United States has threatened with a nuclear attack is short. Some may know that China was in our sites when we used to lump it in with the Soviet Union. But Americans today are aware that we threatened China with a nuclear attack during the Korean War. China, however, hasn’t forgotten.

In a January 2016 paper for the Union of Concerned Scientists titled China’s Military Calls for Putting Its Nuclear Forces on Alert, Gregory Kulacki explains. Along with that nuclear threat, “the nuclear weapon policies of the United States,” which include “accurate U.S. nuclear weapons, the development of high-precision conventional weapons, and missile defenses. … are the most prominent external factor influencing chinese advocates for raising the alert level of China’s nuclear forces.”
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Flush With Cold War “Victory,” U.S. Still Fails to Understand Russia’s Security Needs

It does nobody any good for the U.S. to paint Russian President Vladimir Putin as a bogeyman.  (Image: Global Panorama / Flickr)

It does nobody any good for the U.S. to paint Russian President Vladimir Putin as a bogeyman.
(Image: Global Panorama / Flickr)

It is one of the ironies of history that relations between the U.S. and what was then the USSR chilled into the Cold War while a liberal Democrat, Harry S. Truman, was in the White House. In 1947, two years after the end of World War II, Truman announced what has since been called the Truman Doctrine, a pledge that the U.S. would come to the aid of any country threatened by the Soviet Union.

That doctrine led directly to the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a U.S.-European military alliance that in recent years has stationed troops in a number of Eastern European countries that border directly on Russia. The policy devised by Richard Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, of recognizing the legitimacy of American and Soviet “spheres of influence” in their respective regions was abandoned under the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. President Obama has further chilled U.S. relations with Russia.
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It Doesn’t Require Much for a Nuclear Ban Treaty to Be Successful

The non-nuclear-weapons states need to lead the charge toward nuclear disarmament. (Photo: RAF)

The non-nuclear-weapons states need to lead the charge toward nuclear disarmament. (Photo: RAF)

What if a most of the world declared nuclear weapons — as they have cluster bombs, and chemical and biological weapons — illegal? As you can imagine, the chances of nuclear weapon states being among them are slim to nonexistent. But a growing movement believes that a nuclear ban treaty, also known as the Humanitarian Initiative, can be a first step toward global disarmament.

At the National Interest, Tom Sauer writes:

A Nuclear-Weapons Ban Treaty is a relatively minor step in the process of getting rid of nuclear weapons. The text of a Nuclear-Weapons Ban Treaty can and would be relatively short. The major goal of the treaty is to outlaw nuclear weapons, just as other weapons categories have been declared illegal before.

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Islamic State Sows Seeds of Its Destruction

While the Islamic State seems to have a built-in, self-destruct mechanism, it is doing a lot of damage in the meantime. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

While the Islamic State seems to have a built-in, self-destruct mechanism, it is doing a lot of damage in the meantime. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

It’s difficult to quantify how many the Islamic State have killed in Iraq and Syria. But, along with its barbaric practices and attacks in Europe, it has generated significant blowback. The number of Islamic State fighters killed by allied airstrikes has been put at 25,000. In other words, as Al Qaeda found when its base was attacked in Afghanistan after 9/11, its misconceived attacks lead to a world of pain.
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Crimea’s Tatars Persecuted by Stalin Then, Putin Now

Even though Tatars fought for Russia in World War II, Stalin deported many of them. (Photo: Turkish Press)

Even though Tatars fought for Russia in World War II, Stalin deported many of them. (Photo: Turkish Press)

Last year, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and it made international news. Pro-Ukrainian factions considered Russian actions to be unfair regional despotism, whereas pro-Russian groups considered the annexation to be justified.

Amidst all of this, one particular voice remained unheard, and it is unheard even to this day: the Tatars of Crimea are currently being marginalized and persecuted, and their plight is ignored not just by the international media, but even by Muslim states, with the sole exception of Turkey.

Such silence is deafening, especially considering the fact that the Tatars are a known minority in the region, and have even been recognized by Russia as one of the key communities to have been persecuted and oppressed during Stalin’s era. Yet, virtually the whole world remains silent on this issue.
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Bureaucracy of Death May Prove Assad’s Downfall

The Assad regime and the Nazis is not an unfair comparison. Pictured: the Syrian  Army. (Photo: the Indian Express)

The Assad regime and the Nazis is not an unfair comparison. Pictured: the Syrian Army. (Photo: the Indian Express)

Yesterday, we wrote about how Syria’s Assad regime exceeded even the demonic Islamic State in brutality. In quoting from an article titled The Assad Files in the New Yorker by Ben Taub, we even compared it to the Nazis, however tacky that is considered in light of Godwin’s Law.*

What invited that comparison was how, reminiscent of Nazi death camps, the Assad regime let the bodies of those it tortured to death pile up. In other words, it’s bloodlust overwhelmed its ability to process the results of its murderous state policies.
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Bad as the Islamic State Is, Assad Is Worse

The Assad regime has killed many more than even the Islamic State.  (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

The Assad regime has killed many more than even the Islamic State.
(Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

We frequently post about the Islamic State. Bottom line: How human beings can behave that barbarically in the 21st century is an ongoing mystery. Of course, the Islamic State publicizes its crimes against humanity, which makes them difficult to avoid. Much more covert are the crimes that the Assad regime commits against its citizens. But, as a headline in the International Business Times proclaims in December 2015, Number Of ISIS Victims In 2015 Is Much Less Than Assad Regime-Inflicted Casualties. Michael Kaplan wrote:

More than 21,000 people were killed in the Syria conflict in 2015, most of them civilians, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Middle East Monitor reported. The report indicated the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, has proved less deadly than the Syrian government this year; the regime of President Bashar Assad has been responsible for 75 percent of the casualties, according to the report.

Of the 15,748 people reported killed by government forces, a vast majority, 12,044, were civilians. Thirty-eight percent of civilian casualties were women and children, the human rights group said. For comparison, ISIS was reportedly responsible for the deaths of 2,098 people, which included 1,366 civilians, while Nusra Front, an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, was responsible for at least 167 deaths, including 89 civilians.

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