Tag: Middle East

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As you might have already heard, from the Washington Examiner:  A Russian air force jet was shot down after it violated Turkey’s airspace, according to unconfirmed reports. Witnesses say they saw a large explosion in Huraytan, northern Syria, as three fighter jets flew above. Preview Open

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I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Sunday. (This week’s was printed on Wednesday.) When it appears, I post the previous week’s review on Ricochet. Seawriter Preview Open

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President Obama’s Downsized Foreign Policy – Is It Conservative?


Obama & Abe Review Troops.Speaking ten years after the conclusion of the calamitous Crimean War, Conservative Prime Minister Lord Derby cautioned that foreign policy should avoid “quixotic action – inimical to the welfare of the country.” Six years later, in 1872, Conservative Party leader of the opposition and former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli spoke, “though so momentous are the consequences of the mismanagement of our foreign relations, no one thinks of them till the mischief occurs, and then it is found how the most vital consequences have been occasioned by the mere inadvertence.” With these statements in mind, one might question whether President Obama may have been channeling conservatives when he allegedly uttered his rule of foreign policy, “Don’t do stupid [expletive].”

Traditionally, conservatism has not valued bellicose talk nor attempted to find the next “Munich” behind every negotiation. All conflict was not seen as equal – and all agreements were not as tough as some may suggest. Instead, conservatives tried to see the bigger picture. Conservative foreign policy acknowledges power is precious and ephemeral and, thus, best applied sparingly, primarily to protect the nation’s sovereignty. Righteous, courageous, humanitarian, or moral crusades might have merit, but outlay must always adhere to dominion.

Prior to the 20th century, American foreign policy was by and large a bipartisan affair centered on nationalism, placing American interests first. It was one of realism; i.e., the belief that all states desire power and expansion for self-preservation. The United States foreign policy focused on preserving itself as it negotiated, intrigued, and fought its way westward. Teddy Roosevelt promoted the idea that national security is enhanced when power is distributed or balanced, and believed America must be a world power to ensure security. In 1919, Woodrow Wilson took a different approach advocating morals are universally valid and democracies quell the instinct for power (war), therefore the promotion of democracy and international conventions were the best tonics for peace. Conservatives looked askance at Wilson’s internationalist approach, claiming it would threaten American sovereignty and interests with entanglement. Realism, not internationalism, was their view.

The Libertarian Podcast, with Richard Epstein: “US Global Leadership and the Refugee Crisis”


How much of the responsibility for the refugee crisis currently roiling Europe falls on the United States? What kind of legal and moral obligations do we have to international populations that have suffered as a result of decisions we have (or haven’t) made? And what lessons ought we to take for American foreign policy from the present chaos in the Middle East? Those are some of the questions I take up with Professor Epstein on this week’s installment of The Libertarian, which you can listen to below or by subscribing to the series via iTunes.

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Only a fool would expect President Obama or his administration to be honest with the public after his many years in office. But one might hope that the President’s advisers are at least honest among themselves. According to Shane Harris at The Daily Beast, that too is wishful thinking.  Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed […]

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The Strategika Podcast: Walter Russell Mead on the Feasibility of the Iran Deal


In this final installment of the new series of Strategika podcasts from the Hoover Institution, I talk with the great Walter Russell Mead — Bard College professor, Distinguished Scholar at the Hudson Institute, and Editor-at-Large of The American Interest. What ensues is a wide-ranging discussion over the Iran deal. What’s the strategic calculus for the leadership in Tehran? What’s President Obama’s theory of the case? And how likely is it that this agreement gets us closer to war rather than further away? Find out below or by subscribing to Strategika via iTunes.

Democrats, Republicans, and Mushroom Clouds


shutterstock_164761160The Democratic Party has been weak-minded on defense for decades, but with the Iran capitulation, they’ve achieved a new threshold of cowardice and treachery.

While it’s true that an honorable handful of Democrats have resisted the president’s pressure, the overwhelming majority have chosen to go over the cliff with Mr. Obama, a president who never met an enemy he didn’t wish to conciliate or an ally he didn’t seek to betray.

Democrats have long tended toward appeasement of aggressors. Throughout the Cold War, they scared themselves (and everyone else) silly conjuring specters of nuclear holocaust. Then-Senator John Kerry was one of many prominent Democrats who endorsed the “nuclear freeze.” It wasn’t America’s enemies that we should fear, the Democrats argued, but the weapons themselves.

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These protests in Beirut caught my attention: Protesters and police clashed in Beirut over the weekend in one of the biggest shows of civil disobedience in Lebanon in 10 years, sparked by anger at piles of steaming rubbish on the streets and the political inaction that has led to the situation. Preview Open

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Between a Rock and a Saud Place


Few international relationships are more susceptible to criticism than that between the United States and Saudi Arabia. One is the leader of the free world.  The other is antithetical to even the most basic human rights, let alone religious freedom or gender equality.  Saudi Arabia is the most influential Sharia state in existence, a mantle recently challenged by its Shia semblable, Iran.

The Saudi regime has successfully played a highly cynical game since at least the beginnings of the Cold War. After decades of conquest, Ibn Saud unified the modern (the word goes down hard) nation-state of Saudi Arabia in 1932. As stewards of the hijaz and rulers of one of the most conservative populaces in the world, it was incumbent on the Saudis to show their bona fides as good Wahabists. In the ensuing decades, they entrenched a medieval legal system and permeated all aspects of civil society with fundamentalist apparatchiks of the state.

If There’s no Iran Deal, Then What?


A flurry of leaks and news reports seems designed to prepare us for the collapse of the Iran negotiations. We’re being told that Obama is “no longer sanguine” about the prospects.

Russian state media (for what that’s worth) reported that a senior official from the group of six told Zarif that if he didn’t want to reach a deal, they could end the talks right then and there. Iranian state media (for what that’s worth) identified that official as the Entity-Formerly-Known-as-the-European-Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. Zarif apparently barked, “Never try to threaten the Iranians.” Lavrov apparently added, “Nor the Russians.” What the Americans said went un-leaked, but there are rumors that Kerry was heard screaming at Zarif, and that his aide had to tip-toe in to warn him that everyone in the hotel could hear it.

America, Where Is Your Churchill?


ChurchillWhat’s the one fact about the political situation in America that we do not emphasize enough — think through enough — try hard enough to confront? I’m sure you have your own views on that, likely better than mine, and I encourage you to publish them. My own view is that there is not one politician playing Churchill.

Do you know the phrase, America will do the right thing once it’s tried everything else? Well, America is trying lots of things and must come to the right thing, but who will do it? Who is the politician who will lead public opinion and possibly the government when necessity will be upon you?

Churchill said, upon assuming the commanding authority, that he finally felt at peace — the hour was late, but the man had come. He described not his unique competence, but his unique reputation: He had been out of power so long that no rumor or fear of partisanship could arise; he had been confirmed in so many dire predictions that no doubt as to his knowledge could arise. He was innocent of the misdeeds and could be thought to excel in facing up to events and facing down the terrible threat.

Radical Thoughts About Iraq


SaddamStatue“Knowing what you know now, would you have invaded Iraq in 2003?”

This question, posed by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly to potential presidential candidate Jeb Bush, created a stir this week when Bush first answered “Yes, of course” (I paraphrase) only to later claim that he wasn’t listening closely to the question and had mis-answered. This appears to have been an honest mistake (although a dumb one). Bush evidently was listening for the question as to whether he would have invaded Iraq if he had been in his brother’s shoes at the time. Given what we all know now, however, he absolutely would not have gone to war.

The whole kerfuffle was all just a misunderstanding. But it was instructive and depressing nevertheless.

The False Panacea of Energy Independence


Politicians, commentators, and some fellow Richochetti often mention “energy independence” as a solution to the conundrum of Middle Eastern politics. Dealing with the complex mess of that region is a thankless and dirty job, and we’ve been stuck doing it because of the importance of Persian Gulf oil to the world economy. I raised this issue last night in a comment to a post by Claire Berlinski, and it seemed to me that it warranted further discussion.shutterstock_78597688

The United States is not involved in the Middle East because we import oil from the Middle East. Rather, events in the Middle East can have a major impact on the worldwide price of oil. This would be true even if the US doubled its oil production and became a net exporter, as the Middle East would continue to produce a large proportion of the world’s oil. Simply put, American “energy independence” will not change the political importance of the Middle East, nor will it insulate the US from oil price shocks resulting from events in the Middle East.

This is true because a large percentage of the most easily-accessible oil is located in the Middle East. This is a matter of geography, and is not something that we can change (assuming conquest of the oil fields is off the table). In fact, I would not be surprised if falling oil prices increase the proportion of oil produced in the Middle East, as I suspect that the more marginal wells (which tend to shut down when prices drop) are located elsewhere.

The Strategika Podcast: Kori Schake on the Mixed Blessings of Energy Abundance


Schake current hi-resThe energy boom has been great for the United States. But in other parts of the world? Not so much. In this final installment of the Strategika series on the international implications of new energy development, I talk with the Hoover Institution’s Kori Schake about the fallout for nations that have traditionally relied on energy resources to prop up their governments. Are places like Venezuela and Russia heading for dramatic upheavals thanks to changes in global markets? Should growing American energy production cause us to rethink our role in the Middle East? Are natural resources just as much a curse as a blessing? You can hear the answers below or by subscribing to the Strategika podcast through iTunes or your favorite podcast player.

The Strategika Podcast: Williamson Murray on the Strategic Implications of America’s Energy Boom


WickIn the new series of Strategika podcasts from the Hoover Institution, we’re looking at what the revolution in American energy production means for the US’s economic and strategic future. In this first installment, I talk with Williamson Murray, the Ambassador Anthony D. Marshall Chair of Strategic Studies at The Marine Corps University, about what the implications are for our relationships with Russia, Iran, and other countries in the Middle East. Listen in below or subscribe to Strategika through iTunes or your favorite podcast service.

Relationship Status with Bibi: It’s Complicated


bibi-2015victoryHey, everybody. Greetings from King Bibi-Land. Troy suggested I drop in and offer a word or two about the Israeli election from ground zero, as it were. I’m happy to do so, although I confess to some slight hesitation, as my views on the result run somewhat counter to the general sentiment at Ricochet.

There appears to be much (forgive me) rather uninflected delight being expressed at Ricochet over Bibi’s victory — a victory that does offer obvious satisfaction to anyone who views it strictly in terms of the thumb in the eye it offers to President Obama. I understand this. I can see that the result has really energized some of you, who view it as evidence that a rhetorical, chest-thumping lunge for the throat can, under certain circumstances and when executed by a pro, be a productive strategy against Obama.

But from my perspective here in Israel, it’s hard to view Bibi’s dissing of the US president and subsequent electoral triumph with unalloyed joy. This is not because I have any problem in principle with this president being flipped a well-earned bird, but because the consequences could be precisely the opposite of what Bibi intended. They could, in fact, be horrendously costly to us.