Focal Points Blog

Rand Paul’s Foreign-Policy Flip-Flop Not Likely to Win Him Many Friends

Rand Paul’s anti-interventionism amounted to an anti-war policy. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons)

Rand Paul’s anti-interventionism amounted to an anti-war policy. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons)

In a recent article in the National Interest, Jacob Heilbrunn, its editor, notes Senator Rand Paul’s metamorphosis from your standard libertarian isolationist on all things offshore to a hawk. The man who once invoked George F. Kennan and prescribed the policy of containment that the latter applied to Russia for Iran and who opposed drones is “refurbishing his foreign-policy stands.”

In recent months, Paul seems to have experienced a conversion when it comes to intervention abroad.

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Could the Yugoslav Wars Have Been Avoided?

Yugoslav political scientist Mitja Zagar foresaw the war in Bosnia. (Photo: John Feffer)

Yugoslav political scientist Mitja Zagar foresaw the war in Bosnia. (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

When I traveled through Yugoslavia in 1990, a number of people confessed their fears to me. They were worried about the rise of nationalism, particularly in Serbia with Slobodan Milosevic. They were concerned about the economic situation – the high level of national debt, the overall stagnation, the persistent gap between the more prosperous northern republics and the less prosperous south. And they feared that the federal structure of the country could not withstand these centrifugal forces.

When I met political scientist Mitja Zagar in Slovenia, he provided the most chilling prediction. “I believe that the only way of dismantling Yugoslavia without creating any kind of new links or forms of common living would be if there is a war in some parts, maybe Kosovo-Serbia, maybe Croatia,” he told me. “But I think the most dangerous spot is Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
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Conservatives Can’t Understand Why Pamela Geller Fails to Win Same Sympathy as Charlie Hebdo

Conservatives are lauding Pamela Geller as a beacon of free speech. (Photo: Del-Uks / Flickr)

Conservatives are lauding Pamela Geller as a beacon of free speech. (Photo: Del-Uks / Flickr)

On May 3, as you’ve no doubt heard, conservative commentator Pamela Geller’s AFDI Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas was disrupted by two gunmen, subsequently shot dead, supposedly acting on behalf of aggrieved Muslims. The Islamic State at first tried to take responsibility for the event, but their provenance was scarce. One of its representatives then apparently posted a threat to her and boasted of Islamic State cells across the United States just waiting to be activated. For her part, Ms. Geller posted:

This threat illustrates the savagery and barbarism of the Islamic State. They want me dead for violating Sharia blasphemy laws. What remains to be seen is whether the free world will finally wake up and stand for the freedom of speech, or instead kowtow to this evil and continue to denounce me. What’s really frightening and astonishing about this threat is that the media in denouncing me is essentially allying with and even cheering on the Islamic State. I expected this from jihadists. I never expected it from my fellow Americans in the mainstream media.

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Identifying the West’s Flaws in Logic When Discussing Islam

To conservatives, hating Islam is a cottage industry.  (Photo: Edward Musiak / Flickr Commons)

To conservatives, hating Islam is a cottage industry. (Photo: Edward Musiak / Flickr Commons)

Of late, checking the news has become monotonous. Every other day, in virtually all publications and verticals of repute, there is some “expert” or the other busy discussing ways in which Islam is in conflict with the rest of world, or how Islam is having trouble dealing with itself, etc.

None of these so-called “insights” are original, nor do they add any merit to the news in general. Yet, such opinions continue to remain in vogue, and are preferred by the common populace. You know, when you segregate people and talk about ‘us’ versus ‘them’, people enjoy taking sides.

So, I decided to dig deeper, and reflect on what exactly such viewpoints are trying to convey. Is Islam really at war with everyone? Or is Islam having a crisis within itself? Do Muslims need to react?
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The Islamic State’s Strange Co-dependency With Syrian President Assad

Insurgent gains do not necessarily spell the end for Assad. (Photo: Michael Goodine / Flickr Commons)

Insurgent gains do not necessarily spell the end for Assad. (Photo: Michael Goodine / Flickr Commons)

Yesterday, we posted about how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was withholding chlorine for health purposes and, to almost as ill effect, using it as a makeshift chemical weapon. We commented that these measures may be a sign of his desperation. On April 28, the New York Times reported:

The Syrian Army has suffered a string of defeats from re-energized insurgents and is struggling to replenish its ranks as even pro-government families increasingly refuse to send sons to poorly defended units on the front lines. These developments raise newly urgent questions about the durability of President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

“The trend lines for Assad are bad and getting worse,” said a senior United States official in Washington, who, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments, nevertheless cautioned that things had not yet reached “a boiling point.”

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Chlorine: Assad’s Double-Edged Sword

By both withholding and using chlorine, Syrian President Assad has wrought yet more death and destruction on his people. (Photo: Cameron Russell / Flickr Commons)

By both withholding and using chlorine, Syrian President Assad has wrought yet more death and destruction on his people. (Photo: Cameron Russell / Flickr Commons)

In an article for the New York Review of Books titled Syria: Death from Assad’s Chlorine, Annie Sparrow begins by citing the tremendous boon to private and public health that the element chlorine has been over the last couple of centuries.

Today 90 percent of water sources in the United States and Europe rely on chlorine for safe water. This is still the most important use of chlorine, and yet so commonplace that we have forgotten its vital role in human well-being….

Beyond public health, chlorine is fundamental to modern medicine. Chlorine compounds form the building blocks for 90 percent of modern drugs.

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Poland’s Uncivil Society

Leszek Konarski and Zygmunt Fura were involved with environmental issues and the creation of Poland’s first Green Party. (Photo: John Feffer)

Leszek Konarski and Zygmunt Fura were involved with environmental issues and the creation of Poland’s first Green Party. (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

During the 1980s, Poland had perhaps the strongest civil society in the world. The Solidarity trade union movement, created in August 1980, eventually counted 10 million members, a quarter of Poland’s population. And when the government cracked down on Solidarity, declaring Martial Law in December 1981, the opposition was strong enough to survive underground under considerably adverse conditions.

In 1989, as Solidarity became a legal organization, it created citizens’ committees that enlisted Poles from all walks of life to discuss the transformation of the country. These committees, in every part of the country, mirrored the Round Table negotiations between the government and the opposition that took place at the elite level.
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Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference Can’t Win for Losing

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (RevCon) is being held for the ninth time since the treaty was entered into force in 1975. (Photo of 2010 RevCon: Xinhua-Zhu-Wei)

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (RevCon) is being held for the ninth time since the treaty was entered into force in 1975. (Photo of 2010 RevCon: Xinhua-Zhu-Wei)

The Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (more commonly known as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) has long been considered, along with the concept of deterrence, as the strongest bulwark we have against nuclear war. Briefly, the states that had developed nuclear weapons prior to the treaty were allowed to keep them as long as they promised (without being bound to a deadline) to work toward disarmament. Meanwhile, states without nuclear weapons were to refrain from developing them, but would be entitled to nuclear energy.
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How Did U.S. Go from “Constructive Engagement” to Containing China?

The smooth political succession from Deng to Jiang, Hu and lately Xi Jinping (pictured), has assured the world that Beijing’s leaders are able to execute foreign policy consistently over a long timeframe. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

The smooth political succession from Deng to Jiang, Hu and lately Xi Jinping (pictured), has assured the world that Beijing’s leaders are able to execute foreign policy consistently over a long timeframe. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Admit it: the American question on “Contain China” has been changed from “Should?” to “How?” in view of the brewing consensus that the ‘constructive engagement’ policy since President Nixon was a mistake [Note 1].

In an originally titled “Wake up America, China must be contained” article and their March 2015 report issued by Council on Foreign Relations, Robert D. Blackwill and Ashley J. Tellis argue for a new Grand Strategy towards China because “the American effort to ‘integrate’ China into the liberal international order has now generated new threats to U.S. primacy in Asia — and could eventually result in a consequential challenge to American power globally …” [Note 2].
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Number of Atheists in the Arab World Rivals the West

It’s not easy being an atheist in an Arab state, most of which derive their legitimacy, in part, from Islam. (Dale Spencer / Flickr Commons)

It’s not easy being an atheist in an Arab state, most of which derive their legitimacy, in part, from Islam. (Dale Spencer / Flickr Commons)

The election of a black president in 2008 seems to have triggered a social domino effect in the United States. For instance, 38 states now allow same-sex marriage. More subjectively, not only do LBGTs seem to have become more accepted in society, but atheists have come out of the woodwork. Who knew there were so many in the United States?
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