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Foreign Affairs

With ISIS defeated, it’s time to bring the troops home

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With ISIS defeated its time to bring the troops home

In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, much was made of the threat of ISIS.  Wild threats abounded as candidates fought each other over who would come down harder on the then-thriving Islamic State.

Sen. Ted Cruz threatened to “carpet bomb (ISIS) into oblivion”.

Now-President Trump promised to “bomb the (expletive) out of ‘em.”

Former Secretary of State and presidential participation trophy winner Hillary Clinton added the possibility of war with Russia by insisting on a no-fly zone over Syria.

And who could forget neocon mascot Senators Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham engaging in what amounted to a bidding war over who would dump more American ground troops into the Middle East?

But since the Trump administration clunked into gear a year ago, news about ISIS has grown more and more sparse, with the latest revelation buried under coverage of the President’s latest Twitter meltdown:

ISIS is gone.

Over the course of the last year, ISIS has been destroyed by increased airstrikes, and coalition armies have systematically liberated ISIS-held territory across Iraq, to the point that both the Iraqi and Iranian governments have declared victory over the self-appointed caliphate.

Of course this is wonderful news for Iraqis, Iranians, Kurds, and everyone else oppressed by the brutal black-flagged regime.

But will it mean good news for American families?

Out of 1.3 million active US military personnel, about 450,000 are deployed overseas.  That’s right – nearly half a million Americans are deployed at over 600 bases in at least 130 different countries, at a time when we have exactly zero declared wars.

When are they coming home?

The victory over ISIS, while encouraging, doesn’t remotely put the War on Terror to bed.  Aside from the thousands of soldiers still fighting America’s longest war in Afghanistan and mopping up ISIS in Iraq and Syria, we have hundreds of even thousands of American troops in places like Norway and Poland, and a large Air Force presence in Somalia.  

The last time the United States actually fought a Congressionally-declared war was in WWII, and that’s important because in the absence of a congressional declaration, we have slowly built up a perpetual military presence around the world, with no end in sight.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The Constitution vested the power to declare war with Congress alone, so that the people’s representatives would get a say in our decision to send Americans to die. A quick review of the last sixty years will show that, as Congress has deferred that power to the President via authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs), conflicts have started more frequently and dragged on much longer, with no defined scope or condition of victory.  As I pointed out in a recent column about Presidential Emergency Powers, ceaseless foreign conflicts and undefined potential threats have removed virtually all accountability from executive power. If the President wants a war, the President gets a war – Congress be damned.

As much as we have been conditioned to accept the presupposition that a persistent, global American military presence is necessary for our security, that’s really not the case at all. President Eisenhower’s famous warning about the “military-industrial complex” has been largely unheeded, and it’s undeniable at this point that there are a lot of folks in both the public and private sectors who profit, either directly or indirectly, from the massive and perpetual show of American force. That profit is at least part of the reason that the United States currently spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined, nearly three times the second-place nation on the list, China.

But the $610 billion we spend for defense each year pales in comparison to the cost in human life and limb precipitated by our consistent propensity for foreign adventurism.  Since 2001, 6,930 Americans have died fighting the War on Terror, and over 52,566 have been wounded.

And that’s without factoring in the tragic epidemic of veteran suicide.

Outside the states, the death toll has been exponentially greater, with estimates ranging between one and two million dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone.

The longer a war drags on, the greater the danger that these numbers will become mere statistics, and that’s why the defeat of ISIS presents a great opportunity to change course on our reckless foreign policy. With the rise of antiwar sentiment on the conservatarian right and its slow integration into the pro-life movement there should be plenty of common ground and political will to draw down our foreign involvement.

It’s time to take advantage of the opportunity to bring our people home, before more Americans come home in body bags.

____________________________________________________________

 Article originally published in the Des Moines Register.

Joel Kurtinitis is co-founder of the US Federalist Party and a columnist for the Des Moines Register. Joel was a Regional Director for Ron Paul 2012 and served on the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa. He co-founded Liberty Iowa in the wake of the Paul campaign, and organized the Free DC Project during the government shutdown of 2013. When not busy setting the virtual world aflame with controversy, Joel is actually an okay guy who enjoys reading, cooking, chess, bluegrass music, and an occasional foray into fiction writing. Joel and his family live in Des Moines, IA.

Foreign Affairs

Robert Wood Johnson on the failed Iran deal

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Robert Wood Johnson on the failed Iran deal

As ambassador to the United Kingdom, Robert Wood Johnson understands the situation in Iran. He’s acutely aware that sanctions against Iran are the only thing short of military intervention that can prevent them from producing nuclear weapons in the near future. The Iran deal, the alleged hallmark of President Obama’s and Secretary of State Kerry’s legacy, has been clearly demonstrated as an utter failure.

Iran has not backed down. They’ve only placated the world when absolutely necessary with lies on top of lies. The United States is fighting back by pulling out of the deal and laying sanctions on Iran, but they need more to join the fight. Johnson is calling on his host nation to follow suit.

“Far from becoming a more responsible member of the international community, as we had all hoped, Iran grew bolder.”

Source: The Hill

US ambassador urges UK to pull out of Iran nuclear deal

http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/401458-us-ambassador-urges-uk-to-pull-out-of-iran-nuclear-deal“It is clear that the danger from Iran did not diminish in the wake of the [2015 Iran] deal,” Johnson wrote. “Far from becoming a more responsible member of the international community, as we had all hoped, Iran grew bolder.”

“It is time to move on from the flawed 2015 deal,” he continued. “We are asking global Britain to use its considerable diplomatic power and influence and join us as we lead a concerted global effort toward a genuinely comprehensive agreement.”

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Economy

Tariffs on Turkey: Bad for the economy but damaging to a dangerous dictator

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Tariffs on Turkey Bad for the economy but damaging to a dangerous dictator

Say what you will about President Trump’s foreign and economic policies. Whether you support them or not, it’s hard to deny that they’ve made things much more interesting.

The latest move by the President to impose stiff tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum may seem in line with how he’s been treating the national and world economies recently, but more is at stake with this move than previous ones.

There are two factors at play that make this move different from previous tariffs. First, it is not purely economic but is a response to Turkey continuing to hold pastor Andrew Brunson for allegedly supporting the coup attempt of 2016. Second, the tariffs come at a time when Turkey’s currency, the lira, is in free fall.

It was already starting to show signs of failure when leaders from both countries pushed it even further down. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added more challenges for the lira when he asked his people to convert their foreign currency and gold, a sign of trouble that will likely have the opposite effect.

Erdogan calls on Turks to convert hard currency, gold into lira

https://www.reuters.com/article/turkey-economy-currency-erdogan/erdogan-calls-on-turks-to-convert-hard-currency-gold-into-lira-idUSA4N1TM024Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Friday called on citizens to convert their hard currency and gold into lira, after the local currency tumbled to a record low this week, reflecting investor concern about a widening diplomatic rift with the United States.

Erdogan, in a speech in Ankara, also said Turkey was diverting to the Chinese market to overcome what he said were “subjective evaluations” from ratings agencies. Erdogan has repeatedly railed against credit raters, saying their downgrades of Turkey’s sovereign debt to “junk” status were politically motivated.

Seizing on the free fall, President Trump made matters worse for for the lira with the sanctions:

Trump authorizes doubling of metals tariffs on Turkey

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/10/trump.html“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!” Trump wrote.

Losses in the the Turkish lira deepened on Trump’s tweet, falling as much as 20 percent vs. the U.S. dollar in Friday trading.

Erdogan is now calling this an economic war with the United States and claims he will not back down. Meanwhile, the Euro and other currencies are also feeling the heat:

Euro tumbles as investors fear bank exposures to Turkey

https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-global-forex/euro-whacked-on-turkey-turmoil-as-investors-scramble-for-safety-idUSKBN1KV07M“You’ve had a fairly sharp move lower in the euro and it’s broken through key technical levels as well,” said Richard Franulovich, head of FX strategy at Westpac Banking Corp in New York.

The euro dropped below technical support at $1.15 to $1.1421, down 0.91 percent on the day and the lowest since July 2017. Against the yen, the euro slid 1 percent to 126.79 yen, a two-month low.

Now, the criticism and praise of President Trump’s moves will be debated for days, maybe weeks.

My Take

As I’ve stated on many occasions, I’m not a fan of tariffs. They are misunderstood by most, particularly the President, and no longer yield the results they did in previous centuries. From an economic perspective, I oppose this move.

The bigger picture is how this is being used as a pressure tactic against Turkey. Currently, I like it a lot. That opinion could change based on how things go, but moves like these that apply pressure against a dangerous dictator of the false ally that Turkey has become are welcome. It isn’t just about securing Brunson’s release, though that’s extremely important. Turkey is a rising power on every spectrum that is increasingly turning to Russia and China for help instead of their “friends” in NATO.

The strategic importance of Turkey as a hub that connects Europe, west Asia, and the Middle East cannot be understated. In an ideal situation, Turkey would still be a good ally as they once were. Erdogan has taken advantage of two past U.S. Presidents and seemed poised last year to start taking advantage of President Trump. That doesn’t seem to be happening anymore.

Is this the right way to handle Erdogan? Probably not. Whether it is or not will be revealed in coming weeks. One thing is certain: we’re seeing things being done from the White House that we’ve never seen before and may never see again. It’s troubling, but at least it’s entertaining.

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Foreign Affairs

Yes, Trudeau made a tactical error with Saudi Arabia. And it was the right move.

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Yes Trudeau made a tactical error with Saudi Arabia And it was the right move

I am no fan of the far-left Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. His worldview is flawed and his actions are based solely on maintaining left-wing power over Canada. Last week, he made a huge tactical error by going after Saudi Arabia for human rights violations using Twitter. It has hurt Canada and achieved nothing.

And I fully support it.

It’s the first and probably last time I knowingly support an action by Trudeau, but it’s an important one.

Here’s the background:

Trudeau made a glaring tactical error that’s getting Canada hammered by Saudi Arabia

https://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Trudeau-made-a-glaring-tactical-error-that-s-13143619.phpOn Friday, Canada’s foreign-affairs Twitter handle urged the “immediate release” from imprisonment of the Saudi women’s-rights activist Samar Badawi and others detained for similar activities in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia issued a blistering response, quickly and sometimes harshly turning its state-run media to bash Canada.

In less than a week, Saudi Arabia then expelled its Canadian ambassador, froze all new investment, canceled all flights to Toronto, pulled thousands of students from Canadian institutions, barred its citizens from getting medical treatment in Canadian hospitals, and reportedly sold off all its Canadian assets.

This oddly Trumpian move was likely done in an attempt to score political points. I won’t give him so much credit as to herald him as brave. However, the way in which this was handled is, in my unpopular opinion, the right way to go.

Saudi Arabia has been one of the worst opponents to human rights for decades. The Kingdom has been protected by America and other nations because of their petroleum influence as well as the vast wealth they throw around the globe. While many have heralded their recent shift away from traditional human rights offenses that have been their hallmark, these moves are far from being adequate.

In other words, this is still a backwards nation that holds way too much sway while getting away with pretty much everything they do.

Critics of Trudeau say his tactical error has hurt Canada. They are right. But it’s a temporary pain that they’ll feel. Critics will also point out that this does nothing to advance the cause of coaxing Saudi Arabia to act more civilized, more modern. On this criticism, I completely disagree.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ambitions that go well beyond ruling the Kingdom. He wants to be a world leader, one that controls the Middle East and influences every nation across the globe. To do this, he will need to be universally revered. That means detractors and critics must be hushed.

If we put aside the notion that Trudeau’s actions were self-serving, we can see some benefit in it. Whether or not other world leaders are willing to do the same or continue to cower in fear to the Crown Prince remains to be seen.

What Trudeau has done is speak out against an oppressive regime in a way that most, including the U.S. President, would never dare to do. Is it a tactical mistake to do so? Of course. Was it the right thing to do? I believe it was.

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