Category: Foreign Policy (Page 1 of 15)

Add Barcelona to the ever growing list of Euro cities facing insurgency

The tide of ISIS’s terrorism in Europe broke on January 7, 2015 at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket. That attack heralded the start of waves of ISIS directed or inspired attacks that have washed over Europe in the years since. On Thursday, August 17, 2017, terror came to Barcelona. We’ve seen this before. A van rammed into crowds on the busiest street in the city, Las Ramblas at 5 pm. It drove through the crowds, apparently swerving and weaving for maximum impact. The driver of the van is responsible for the deaths of 14 people, and of wounding over 100, 14 of whom are in a critical condition. The driver fled the scene on foot and is, at the time of writing, still at large.

Five suspects were then shot dead in Cambrils, a coastal town 75 miles from Barcelona. The working assumption is that they’re part of the same network as the driver. Meanwhile, early on Thursday morning, there was an explosion at a house in Alcanar Platja, where another member of the network blew himself up with his own bomb.

Islamic State has claimed the attack, saying “Terror is filling the crusaders’ hearts in the Land of Andalusia.” Whether they’re really responsible for this, whether they had some sort of control or role as a guiding hand is not yet known. Time will tell, but the effect is the same even if the attackers were only inspired; another vehicular missile driven by a jihadist mowing down innocent bystanders, guilty of heresy in the eyes of those who murdered them.

We can expect many more of these. Britain has 23,000 suspected jihadists. Belgium has 18,884. France has between 1517,000. Germany has 24,400. Spain has 1000. This totals around 82-84,677 potential jihadists in 5 European countries. While we must not give in to fear-mongering and the temptation to paint with too broad a brush when describing diverse communities, we cannot pretend that these numbers represent anything other than a jihadist insurgency in the heart of Europe. This has destroyed the state’s monopoly over the use of military force, which as Max Weber argued, is the crucial element that gives the state legitimacy.

These vehicle attacks are now a trend in Europe that have become worryingly frequent. Instead of the tragedy of the commons, we now have the tragedy of the common place. ISIS is not the first to call for trucks and other forms of vehicular terrorism; Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular, in their magazine Inspire, gave detailed instructions on how to carry out a vehicular attack. Dabiq, ISIS’s now defunct English language magazine, also gave instructions on vehicular terrorism. Advice included attaching spikes or shards of glass to the front of trucks that were of a certain height and weight in order that they would have maximum physical and psychological impact. From 2010 to 2014, there were attempted car and truck attacks that were either small scale or foiled in the attempt. Nice 2016 saw the first mass casualty attack with over 80 dead. There was then the Berlin Christmas market attack in 2016, and then there have been 6 Islamist attacks using vehicles and one far-right attack so far this year in Europe.

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Corbyn’s Conundrum: Maduro and Marxism

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, is far from the saintly figure that his millions of supporters think he is, an image that he has cultivated over the years.

The man behind the twinkly-eyed mask has once again been revealed to have a gaping hole where a moral center should be. His support for violent revolutionary and terrorist groups that all share anti-Western or anti-British sentiments is documented and well-known. None of this is enough for his fans, who when presented with evidence of his lack of moral character react the same way Trump’s fans do, with hoots of derision, shouts of fake news and complaints of the Labour and wider British establishment’s right-wing bias.

However, when evidence of Corbyn’s moral emptiness is right before their eyes, his supporters still choose not to see who he really is.

Following years of worsening privations suffered by the citizens of Venezuela, as their government’s experiment with socialism has unfolded in the humanitarian catastrophe that these experiments always do, Corbyn has refused to condemn Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

This, despite the fact that Maduro recently claimed victory in a referendum that bestowed on him dictatorial powers that allowed him to rewrite the constitution. The vote was a sham and was treated as such by the opposition, who boycotted it.

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North Korea calls Trump’s bluff (Update on Trump’s statement)

Yesterday I wrote that Trump’s threat to send “fire, fury, and power the likes of which the world has never seen before” raining down on Pyeongyang if Kim Jong-un threatened to attack the U.S. was reckless because it would put American credibility at stake.

I said:

There are only two things that can come of Trump’s threat to respond with “power the likes of which this world has never seen before”:
1.) Trump is bluffing, and he doesn’t start a nuclear war with North Korea. Many lives are initially saved, but America’s credibility is damaged, causing North Korea to push forward with its nuclear weapons program and raising the risk of war later.
or
2.) Trump does incite a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.

It was just a few hours later that North Korea made a threat to strike Guam. As I wrote at the time, North Korea makes implausibly bellicose threats all the time, and it is wise not to always take them at face value. Yet Trump specifically mentioned “threats” in his statement (“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States”), so for him to not follow through would mean North Korea once again found his words to be not credible.

The result:
Trump just set his own, uncrossable ‘red line’ — and North Korea crossed it instantly – CNBC
North Korea just called Trump’s bluff. So what happens now? – Washington Post

Trump appears (wisely, it should be said) to have opted for choice #1 of the two choices, at least for now.

If and when the President does a real red line, however, will North Korea believe him? And if they don’t, would that mean war?

Maybe world leaders will realize that Trump is a buffoon and take their cues on America’s position from smarter men like Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson, and National Security Advisor McMaster (who is currently facing an attack from the alt-right).

To that end, Mattis put out a statement, in much more refined language, that threatened strong actions should North Korea go too far but also affirmed America’s strength and ability to deter:

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Trump’s “fire and fury” threat on North Korea is reckless

Donald Trump’s saber-rattling towards North Korea has heated up as North Korea is getting closer and closer to having an operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking the United States mainland.

This afternoon, he threatened “fire and fury” against Kim Jong-un’s thiefdom.

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. He has been very threatening — beyond a normal statement. As I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.

Notice, too, that Trump’s strong words were made specifically in response to “threats” by Kim Jong-un and his government. North Korea makes farcical threats all the time. In 2013, years before he had the capabilities to hit even Los Angeles, Kim made a threat to attack Austin, Texas, of all places.

That Trump issued such fiery words in response to “threats” rather than anything of substance indicates his strange obsession with honor politics. He is a man whose argument for pulling out of deals is that “the world is laughing at us.” He took Cuban President Raul Castro’s absence at Obama’s arrival to Cuba as an insult to the United States.

North Korea, of course, poses some very real threats to the U.S. and its allies. It tested two ICBMs in July, prompting new UN sanctions, and a U.S. intelligence assessment holds that it has attained the capability of putting warheads on missiles.

But North Korea’s threat is just why Trump needs to be careful: hasty responses could cause miscalculation and could result in a war that would leave millions dead. Even without the use of nuclear weapons, 20 million civilians in the Seoul area and 28,500 American troops in Korea are at immediate threat of heavy artillery.

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Two pathbreaking studies you need to know

First, the US and Western Counter insurgency operations are failure, because frankly, in simple words, we are too good and pussyfooted. We are not brutal enough.

I have previously written why Western strategies fail, and stated that in the last 20 years, only two Counter Insurgency operations succeeded, and that’s in Sri Lanka, and Chechnya. It was brutal, but it brought on stability.

US and Indian officers in a joint COIN training briefing.

Latest research proves, the only way to succeed in a COIN op, is to be insanely heavyhanded.

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Migrants and Crime: Latest Data from Germany

Few days back, I wrote about Dr Cheryl Benard’s excellent article on Afghans unleashed on Europe, and why it’s not a migration, but an invasion. It was accused of xenophobia. Facts are not xenophobic, even though xenophobes often usurp facts to their nefarious purposes. Nonetheless, it is the duty of an academic to seek truth, rather than be subservient to any ideology.

I have previously written about why the argument of Jews fleeing Nazis and Syrian refugees being similar is flawed. I have also written why Europe is undergoing an insurgency, which includes a fifth column within European society. Paper by Thomas Hegghammer supports my view. I have also written in 2015, how it will invite justifiable ethno-nationalist backlash, especially from insular East Europe.

Today, new data, spotted by my fellow blogger Ben Sixsmith, came into sight and the implications are horrifying.

Here are the graphs from Germany. Foreigners (in orange) here mean European Non-Germans, as opposed to Asylum Seekers (in red) who are from Middle East and Africa. 

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Israel, Eastern Europe And An Alliance Of Nationalists

The Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised eyebrows last week by meeting, among other leaders from Central and Eastern Europe, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban has been accused of stoking anti-semitism yet pledged to Netanyahu that he would protect the Hungarian Jewish minority.

Raised eyebrows shot higher when Netanyahu was recorded saying to the Hungarian, Polish, Czech and Slovakian leaders that EU policy was “crazy”. “I think Europe has to decide if it wants to live and thrive,” he suggested, “Or if it wants to shrivel and disappear.”

There was an element of realpolitik in the wily Netanyahu’s comments. It is simply untrue that European survival depends, as he went on to claim, on its stance on Israel. But exploiting the resentment that nationalist Central and Eastern European leaders feel towards the cosmopolitan supranationalists of Western Europe makes sense. He can link their desire for sovereignty to his struggle against opposition to and criticisms of Israel.

Still, it is interesting how much these nations have in common. 

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Poland, Trump, and Hungary: This is what illiberal democracy looks like

The election of Trump, the Law and Politics Party winning a majority in Poland in 2015, and Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary; what they all have in common is not merely a right-wing bend, but a contempt for liberal democracy. So goes the narrative, which has been particularly on display since Trump’s speech in Poland, that “illiberal democracy” is threatening the underpinnings of democracy in the Western world and beyond.

Some of the more conservative-minded would say this argument is the resentment of the losers. Trump, Szydlo, and Orbán won their elections fair and square. Why should they be dismissed just because you disagree with them? “If a democracy now needs to be a tool for spreading liberalism, conservatives are by definition, not democratic,” Sumantra Maitra wrote for Quillette.

Here is the thing: the problem isn’t simply with policy preferences but with the normative structures of democracy itself. These governments are taking actions to solidify their own power, not just to advance ideological interests of the people, but to advance the personal and party-based interests of the leaders or the ruling parties in ways that strike at the legal and moral underpinnings of democracy and rule of law.

A few examples will illustrate what exactly is meant by illiberal democracy. In Poland, the ruling party is trying to enact a measure that would give them control over the composition of the judiciary. As reported by Politico Europe:

Poland’s parliament, under the leadership of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, passed a law dissolving an independent body responsible for the nomination of judges. At the same time, PiS submitted a draft law that would force the entire Supreme Court into retirement and give the country’s justice minister the ability to decide which judges can stay in their current roles.

Currently, Poland’s federal judges are appointed by a professional panel of lawyer. The Law and Justice party attacked the judges as leftists—the party chairman called the judiciary a “stronghold of post-communists”—and it is easy to see how a panel made up of lawyers could be attacked as “elitist” and biased to be more favorable towards political liberalism than the public, due to expected leanings within the field. Perhaps there is a case to be made for having judges appointed by the president, prime minister, parliament, or some combination thereof, as is done in places like the United States and South Korea. Although there are problems with the system in the U.S., which has resulted in the politicization of judicial appointments, there is a case to be made for some level of political accountability in the process.

The problem is that the manner by which Law and Justice is planning to implement this program appears meant to give their party control over the composition of the court

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Call it what it is, an invasion

A recent important essay by Dr Cheryl Benard cannot come at a more appropriate time. She writes for The National Interest in a must read essay, where she highlights something so obvious that it barely needs any debate. Europe is undergoing a categorical invasion, in the form of unarmed, military aged men, looking to destroy the society from within. A few highlights from this essay:

If there’s one thing you need to read, it is this essay.

Dr Benard is no right wing nutty Islamophobe. She’s married to an Afghan American diplomat, Dr Zalmay Khalilzad, and has a stellar record of working with refugees for over a decade, and producing scholarship on the concept of Honour in Islam.

Unfortunately, I have been saying this for quite a while.

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U.S. should fight against Russian incursions, not work with them

The Trump administration and the alt-right generally has been pushing for making good with Russia. The argument seems hinged as much on unfounded fears of Russia as on possible benefits that could come out of it (which are few).

Recently we saw two examples of this: one with Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20, another with revelations about Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, which Trump Jr said was about Russian adoptions.

At the G20, Trump had a meeting with Putin that stretched for over two hours. The Trump administration said Trump raised the issue of Russia’s hacking and dissemination of emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election at the meeting, as one would expect the U.S. president to do, but they were vague as to whether Trump accepted Putin’s denial of such hacking, as Russia’s foreign officials said he did, and as he himself has done in public multiple times, including the day before the meeting.

Still, Trump doesn’t want to be perceived as having done little or nothing, so he tweeted that he “discussed forming” some kind of “impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..” (No word on whether Baron Trump will be appointed as the first chief of the unit, since he’s “so good with computers.”)

Besides the fact that a “Cyber Security unit” is an extremely vague term that sounds more like a useless facade with less power than the UN Human Rights Council and the fact that, according to his tweet (even taking it at face value), they merely “discussed” it, and the fact that Trump’s statements are notoriously unreliable anyway, the whole idea that the U.S. should set something up with Russia to protect itself against hacks by Russia is delusional.

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