foreign relations

What Is Going On In Egypt?

Over the past week, swelling protests in Egypt against the ruling regime boiled over, finally giving way to violence. Clashes erupted between secularists (who are aligned with the military) and Islamists (who are aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood); eventually Mohamed Morsi was ousted from the Presidency, exactly one year after he was democratically elected to the office. Egypt now stands on the brink of descending into full-blown chaos, and while Egyptians attempt to move the nation “back to democracy,” they risk losing their whole nation to civil war. This past week has left some wondering what Egyptian democracy even means anymore.

A View of U.S. Drone Policy from the Ground

Based on some of my discussions with people who tend to support U.S. foreign policy in general and the drone policy in particular, there seems to be a lack of empathy for those who have been victims of errant bombs (I’m told these people “hate us for our freedoms”). I think sometimes we Americans have no idea what it must be like to live anywhere in the third world as opposed to a superpower. It’s difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to live any place the U.S. is hunting terrorists with soldiers or drones. Would I be worried that my friends or family might be killed by mistake?

This isn’t to say that the U.S. should not hunt terrorists, drones or otherwise, but I do think it’s time for a serious debate about when and how drones should be used. The drones in of themselves are not the problem, it’s the drone policy. What is the cost/benefit of using drones in targeting these people? Can this be done without harming innocent bystanders? Are drones being used when less destructive means are available? Is this policy counterproductive in “winning the hearts and minds” of people who might otherwise fight against Islamic fundamentalists?

The video clip below is from the testimony of one individual who has experienced the reality of U.S. drone policy first hand. Despite this, Farea al-Muslimi is otherwise grateful for his experiences with America, Americans, and American generosity. His heart and mind seems to be on the side of America. His testimony offers a perspective we would all do well to consider when thinking about these questions.

The Best Defense Against Terrorism

Terrorism

The specter of terrorism, especially on the American homeland is very frightening. These fears are especially acute in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack such as the bombing near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday.

More recently and prior to this latest attack, however; according to a recent Gallup poll, terrorism received 0% when asked about America’s greatest problem. Sen. Mitch McConnell said in response to the mathon bombing: “I think it’s safe to say that, for many, the complacency that prevailed prior to September 11th has returned. And so we are newly reminded that serious threats to our way of life remain.

Is Sen. McConnell right? Have Americans become complacent to these “serious threats”? Are Americans to blame for failing to be vigilant? Should we demand the federal government “do something” more to protect us?

Senate Confirmations: An Opportunity Squandered

President Obama’s foreign policy team is undergoing a makeover, with the nominations of Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State, former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, and the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan as CIA Director.  All three gentlemen are expected to be confirmed; Kerry already has, Hagel will likely be confirmed (following an abysmal hearing) later this week, and Brennan faces his confirmation hearing this Thursday, which will essentially be the GOP’s final chance to hold Obama accountable for broken national security policies.

The GOP squandered two opportunities to ask proper questions of Kerry and Hagel.  The Kerry confirmation hearing was a jovial affair for one of the first advocates on intervention in the Libyan civil war in 2011, which, by the way, received no congressional authorization.  When Kerry was questioned about congressional authorization, he essentially bragged about his history of support for unilateral Executive action in Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, and yes, Libya.

The Hagel Hearings: Congressional Politics at Its Worst

Written by Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

The confirmation hearings on Chuck Hagel’s nomination to head the Pentagon are mercifully over. His wobbly performance earned derision among neoconservatives, but he responded as they intended to an interrogation that was all about politics, not policy.

As I have noted before, Hagel is under fire because he disputed neoconservative nostrums to speak unpleasant truths to the Republican Party. He was an orthodox conservative, including on foreign policy. However, he was an Eisenhower, not a Dubya, Republican: Hagel criticized the debacle in Iraq, urged negotiation to forestall Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and backed reductions in today’s bloated military budget. General turned President Dwight Eisenhower could not have put it better.

Crisis in the Sahara

Over the past few weeks, with the Second Inauguration of Barack Obama as a backdrop, a mostly-ignored crisis has been unfolding in North Africa.  As President Obama declared at his inauguration that “a decade of warfare is ending,” the United States began aiding France with their bombing campaign in Mali, to little fanfare, fulfilling President Obama’s actual foreign policy goal: to maintain an American global presence, with little accountability here or abroad.

Meanwhile, over the inaugural weekend, to the north of Mali in neighboring Algeria, a hostage crisis at a British Petroleum natural gas plant ended violently; at the time of this writing, 37 hostages were killed, 3 of which were American.  Details are still unclear, and the situation is sensitive, but the mind recalls another inaugural hostage crisis 32 years ago with a happier ending.

The events in Algeria and Mali are intrinsically linked, not just by the actors therein, but by the actions which spurred them.  To properly confront the crisis at hand, we must also confront our contributions to the crisis, for as Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

United States is meddling in a Civil War

Before Christmas, amid the drama of the fiscal cliff, and before the horrible shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama announced that our government would recognize the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the country’s people, stating:

“The Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, and is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.”

If Romney Wants to Win Libertarian Votes – He Has the Chance Tonight

I know that I am in the minority among the contributors to UL in that I will cast my vote on Election Day for Mitt Romney. I laid out my reasons for switching my vote from Gary Johnson to Mitt Romney in The Blaze a couple of weeks ago.

I was no fan of attempts to bully or shame libertarians into voting for Romney before I made my endorsement and I am no fan of those tactics now. I tried in my piece in The Blaze to lay out reasons why a libertarian should consider a vote for Romney – reasons that are obviously compelling enough for me personally to cast that vote.

If Romney wants to win over libertarians he doesn’t need his supporters trying to bully or shame libertarians who plan on voting for Gary Johnson. Instead, to win the votes of libertarians, Romney needs to actually take positions advocated by libertarians. I know this isn’t rocket science, but considering some of the pieces I have seen written by Romney supporters with the supposed objective of winning over Johnson voters, this actually needs to be said.

Tonight, Governor Romney has an opportunity to win over libertarians in the foreign policy debate.

First, let me say that I am realistic about what Romney could do to win over libertarians tonight. I know, unfortunately, that he will not repudiate the failed nation-building and interventionism that has been the hallmark of the Bush and Obama foreign policies.

That having been said, here is what Romney could say that would set his approach apart from the disastrous Obama foreign policy and win over libertarians:

Romney’s Praise of Israeli Healthcare Shows GOP Blind Spot

Earlier this week, Mitt Romney visited Israel, and in a speech praised the Israeli healthcare system for keeping down costs. This sounds like an utterly uncontroversial statement (Republican politician praising Israel), until one realizes that Israel has a single-payer, universal health care system.

OH BOY.

Yet, oddly, there was very little mention of this in conservative spots. I checked The Weekly Standard, Hot Air, the Washington Times, even The Blaze, but none of them talked about Romney’s statement. Not even Fox News seemed to have an article about it. Instead, places like the Boston Globe, the Washington Post (in particular, Ezra Klein), Matt Yglesias at Slate, and Steven L. Taylor at Outside the Beltway were the ones who seemed to actually notice what Romney said.

Have conservatives lost their mind on foreign policy?

As a libertarian, it has been puzzling to watch how conservatives have reacted to the foreign policy of Barack Obama.  In almost every tangible way, Obama’s policies have been a continuation of his predecessor’s.  In fact, in some ways he has been even more aggressive - amping up the mission in Afghanistan, involvement in Libya, and increased drone attacks (including against American citizens).  Yet the right continues to pretend that the Obama administration has been “weak” on national defense.

This debate has reached an even greater level of absurdity in recent weeks as Obama has used the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing to tout his foreign policy successes.  Obama has even attempted to argue that Mitt Romney would not have ordered the killing (more than a bit far-fetched in my humble opinion).  Conservatives, on the other hand, have tried to minimize the significance of the event and find any way possible to not give Obama credit for it, when surely they would have praised George W. Bush.

And while military spending has not been cut at all under Obama, conservatives are still arguing that he is somehow short-changing the Pentagon.  Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma went as far as to claim Obama is “gutting” the military in recent comments regarding President Obama’s trip to Afghanistan early this week:

“Clearly this trip is campaign-related,” [Inhofe] said. “We’ve seen recently that President Obama has visited college campuses in an attempt to win back the support of that age group since he has lost it over the last three years. Similarly, this trip to Afghanistan is an attempt to shore up his national security credentials, because he has spent the past three years gutting our military.”


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