Focal Points Blog

Just How Much Should Paul Bremer Be Blamed for the Rise of the Islamic State?

The blithe optimism demonstrated by the planners of the invasion of Iraq is still capable of taking one’s breath away. (Photo: Lisa M. Zunzanyika / Flickr Commons)

The blithe optimism demonstrated by the planners of the invasion of Iraq is still capable of taking one’s breath away. (Photo: Lisa M. Zunzanyika / Flickr Commons)

After George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremer, the second Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq (governor of the occupation, in other words), is often considered the man most responsible for the dissolution of civil society in Iraq and the rise of sectarian strife. In the Boston Globe, Neil Swidey (not behind a paywall, as with most of its articles) explores just how much responsibility Bremer, who he calls “at once well intentioned, infuriating, and tragic,” bears.
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We Tolerate the Risk of Nuclear War Between States But Not Nuclear Terrorism

Fear of a nuclear terrorist attack can deter us as much as fear of all-out nuclear war. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons )

Fear of a nuclear terrorist attack can deter us as much as fear of all-out nuclear war. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons )

Did you ever notice how panicky the notion of nuclear terrorism makes us? Meanwhile, most of us consider nuclear deterrence a risk well worth taking for the sake of national security. In fact, the damage that nuclear war between states causes dwarfs that of a nuclear attack with one small bomb (or even only a “dirty” bomb). Perhaps it’s just because we assume terrorists act on bad faith — supposedly little concern about the loss of the lives of themselves and their people — while, most of the time anyway, states can be depended on to act in good faith because they are entrusted with the lives of their citizens.
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States With Aging and Youthful Demographics Can Complement Each Other

Developing states are full to bursting with unemployed young people. (Photo: Greek Reporter)

Developing states are full to bursting with unemployed young people. (Photo: Greek Reporter)

Many believe that, with contraception spreading among developing nations, overpopulation has been solved. In fact, we’re just beginning to experience the worst effects as it peaks. In the New York Times, Somini Sengupta explains:

At no point in recorded history has our world been so demographically lopsided, with old people concentrated in rich countries and the young in not-so-rich countries.

Much has been made of the challenges of aging societies. But it’s the youth bulge that stands to put greater pressure on the global economy, sow political unrest, spur mass migration and have profound consequences for everything from marriage to Internet access to the growth of cities.

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Yazidi Women Seized by the Islamic State Caught Between Rock and a Hard Place

Few Yazidi women captured by the Islamic State have become pregnant. (Photo: Atheist Alliance)

Few Yazidi women captured by the Islamic State have become pregnant. (Photo: Atheist Alliance)

Yazidi women in Iraq who were captured by the Islamic State in 2014 and since used as sex slaves have been experiencing few pregnancies. Writes Rukmini Callimachi in the New York Times:

… of more than 700 rape victims from the Yazidi ethnic group who have sought treatment so far at a United Nations-backed clinic in northern Iraq, just 5 percent became pregnant during their enslavement.

Despite their medieval attitudes about sex, birth control, and abortion, the fighters who “own” and sell them have been giving them birth control pills. Why?
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Foreign Policy: Subject Non Grata in the Primaries

Instead of combating the roots of terrorism, our military strategy since 9/11 has watered and fertilized those roots. (Photo: Ruby Goes / Flickr)

Instead of combating the roots of terrorism, our military strategy since 9/11 has watered and fertilized those roots. (Photo: Ruby Goes / Flickr)

With the possible exception of Ted Cruz, who proposed that the U.S. carpet-bomb Syria, discussion of foreign policy has been notably absent from the pre-primary election campaigns of both parties. Consequently we can only hope that the next president will have the temperament to rely on diplomatic solutions rather hasty military action. It is an issue that could determine the fate of America and much of the world.

In 2008 voters elected Barack Obama with high hopes that he would not commit the same sins as George W. Bush by lying to the American people, taking the country into needless wars, and ignoring international law and the U.S. Constitution. He has disappointed many of those hopes. He expanded the war in Afghanistan after saying he was ending it, he continued to hold dozens of prisoners in Guantanamo, and he authorized drone strikes and the assassination of suspected terrorists, in countries with which we were not at war.
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Is Donald Trump the Strongest Candidate on Nuclear Disarmament?

After the 1986 Reykjavík Summit, Donald Trump questioned the abilities of the negotiators. (Photo: AP / Scott Stewart)

After the 1986 Reykjavík Summit, Donald Trump questioned the abilities of the negotiators. (Photo: AP / Scott Stewart)

A key component of a presidential election year is speculating on how the candidates will handle the responsibility of the nuclear football, which often accompanies the president. (It contains options, sites, and launch codes for a nuclear attack.) One, of course, shudders at the prospect of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio anywhere close to the process of decision-making about nuclear war. And what about Hillary Clinton?
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Does the Military Support Trump?

New York real estate magnates Steve Ross, right, and Donald Trump, left, announce agreement, Thursday, August 1, 1985 in New York, to merge the Houston Gamblers and the New Jersey Generals United States Football League teams. Ross heads a group of investors that last week agreed to buy the troubled Houston franchise. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)

The only generals Donald Trump will control is the football team of the same name that he once owned. (Photo: Politico)

Donald Trump has treated us to many ignominious moments on the campaign trail. Among them were his distasteful comments about Megyn Kelly and his mocking of a New York Times reporter who suffers from arthrogryposis, a congenital joint condition. In a sane nation, or even the United States of a generation ago, shame engendered by these incidents alone would have forced him out of the campaign. Yet nothing Trump has done while campaigning compares with when, in December, he said, “with the terrorists, you have to take out their families.”
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You Think North Korea Is Aggressive Now?

orth Korea warned it would make a preemptive nuclear strike if the U.S. and South Korea engaged in scheduled joint military exercises. Pictured: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Photo: Huffington Post)

orth Korea warned it would make a preemptive nuclear strike if the U.S. and South Korea engaged in scheduled joint military exercises. Pictured: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Photo: Huffington Post)

By claiming it is an internal affair inside Korea and threatening to strike Japan and Alaska with nuclear bombs via long range missiles if American forces were to directly participate into combat, Pyongyang will retaliate to the “toughest ever” UN sanctions [Note 1] by conducting extensive but small-scale military intrusions (not invasion) into South Korea on at least four fronts, when Kim Jong-un, the leader of DPRK (North Korea), is really in possession of 10 nuclear warheads or more.  

The first move is assailing the coastal areas by surprise in order to capture people of any nationalities as hostages for all sorts of advantages in future. Hijacking cargo vessels to or from South Korea like those Sudanese pirates, but with assistance from submarines here, is the second tactic. Unless you sink the ships and simultaneously kill the civilian crews on board, you have to let the valuables go to Pyongyang. The third wave can be looting coastal cities and towns for anything — grocery items, electronic devices or even clothes and shoes. The fourth assault is to fire conventional warheads onto the high-tech research centers of major Korean manufacturers such as Samsung and LG, with the objective of demoralizing the citizens in the south.
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Iran Deal Undermines Rationale for Missile Defense

Missile defense is as much of a boondoggle as it was during the days of Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars.” Pictured: the Phased Array Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (Photo: Wikipedia)

Missile defense is as much of a boondoggle as it was during the days of Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars.” Pictured: the Phased Array Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (Photo: Wikipedia)

North Korea’s ramped-up recent nuclear-weapon and rocket tests have spurred the United States and South Korea to agree to U.S. missile defense sites in South Korea. This comes on the heels of the completion of a U.S. missile defense site in Romania, originally intended to protect against missiles with nuclear warheads from Iran.
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Socialists Rain on Spain

The domination of the Spanish government by two parties has been replaced by regional and anti-austerity parties like Podemos. (Photo: Vicente José Nadal Asensio / Flickr Commons)

The domination of the Spanish government by two parties has been replaced by regional and anti-austerity parties like Podemos. (Photo: Vicente José Nadal Asensio / Flickr Commons)

The effort by Pedro Sanchez, leader of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party, to form a government on March 2 brings to mind the story of the hunter who goes into the forest with one bullet in his rifle. Seeing a deer on his right and a boar on his left, he shoots in the middle.

Sanchez’s search for a viable coalition partner began when the ruling right-wing Popular Party (PP) took a pounding in Spain’s Dec. 20 election, dropping 63 seats and losing its majority. Voters, angered by years of savage austerity that drove poverty and unemployment rates to among the highest in Europe, voted PP Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy out and anti-austerity parties in, although leaving the PP as the largest single party in the parliament.
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