Similar to former President Obama’s uncertainty to intervene in Libya, President Trump is hesitant to commit U.S. troops to Venezuela. This country, which has faced numerous economic crises, is now mired in a political conflict between a US-backed resistance and the government. There are calls for humanitarian actions to prevent the Venezuelan government from harming its people. Others cite the Monroe doctrine to push Russian and Chinese influence outside of Latin America. But the use of military action creates many unknown scenarios, making it challenging to predict what the outcome might be. It is better to use caution than take the risk.
The ghost of John McCain has risen to possess the most unlikely host: the Democrats. Trump’s magical aura seems to automatically turn anyone with a (D) in front of their names against him. This occurs regardless of his policy decision. Orange man is always bad. Doesn’t matter what he did, has done, or will do. Orange man is bad, even when orange man is creating a world where fewer people die.
By Glenn Verasco | Thailand
As the Trump-Russia collusion conspiracy theory has, via lack of evidence, all but withered away, it is time to set the record straight on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. What many dramatically refer to as an attack on our democracy or even an act of war was actually closer to a non-event that U.S. foreign policy is to blame for. Instead of fear, anger, or hostility, we should react to Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election with empathy, pity, and national self-reflection.
Unfortunate Diplomatic Circumstances
In an ideal world, the Kremlin and the U.S. federal government would be mutually respectful allies, In this reality, American and Russian people would engage in commerce with each other freely. But we do not live in an ideal world. We live in a world in which both governments’ choices have inculcated Americans and Russians with different languages, cultures, values, and fears. Because of this, it may be impossible for the US and Russia to ever eliminate hostilities wholesale and create a live-and-let-live type of atmosphere.
Even so, a Washingtonian/Jeffersonian foreign policy is our best and safest bet. Instead of getting caught up in entangling alliances, we should seek to make the best of an imperfect world. To do so, we must accept countries for what they are, imperfect. Thus, we should allow people of both countries to seek roads to happiness and prosperity when they see fit.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson summed up what I believe to be the core of good foreign policy in each’s farewell and inaugural addresses respectively:
“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world…Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.” -George Washington
“Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” -Thomas Jefferson
What Will This New Direction Look Like?
Instead of sanctioning Russia and allowing NATO to usurp our national interests, we should knock down any roadblocks in our trade routes that we have the power to. If Russia reciprocates, great. If they don’t, our liberal policies will serve to the betterment of all anyway. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
I empathize with the heart of neoconservative foreign policy. The way I see it, it refuses to stand idly by as major human rights violations occur. Admittedly, there is virtue in universal recognition of the individualist philosophy that our forefathers preached, and in seeking to approach foreign affairs this way.
One problem, however, with this foreign policy is that it can create a hammer-without-a-nail mindset. Though simple from the outside, many foreign conflicts are complicated internal disputes that the U.S. has no business in. Histories external to America, when avenged in real time, do not reveal their depth to our media agencies. Here again, President Washington provides wisdom:
“Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”
Despite my awareness of the complexity of history and geopolitics (which is another way of saying my awareness of my infinite ignorance) as well as my strong non-interventionist leanings, I am still sympathetic to the notion that the U.S. must treat Russia with an exceptionally strong level of distrust. I can even rationalize our military blockading what was once the epicenter of the Soviet Union. The map I have created below shows Russia, the United States, and the countries/regions surrounding Russia that at least 5,000 US troops occupy from a top-down point of view:
Whether you support the Neoconservative tendency towards caution or the Libertarian preference for sovereignty, such an immense military presence around Russia is going to have consequences. These may include, but are not limited to, intimidating military exercises, expansion of territory via brute force, increased centralized control over the flow of information internally, and a greater focus on collecting intelligence from adversaries. It should be no surprise that the Russian government engages in all of these defensive practices.
Is U.S. Intimidation Working?
The counter to this claim could be that the consequences of the U.S. and its NATO allies easing up would be even worse. One might say that the only reason Russia has been so meek in its hostilities is due to the current robust military presence.
This is a chicken or the egg dilemma that I cannot solve, but, for the sake of argument, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the neocons and concede that western military might in some form is needed to keep Russia at bay. Accordingly, we must accept the consequences of this choice, one of which is Russian intelligence agencies seeking information and causing disruptions, i.e. their involvement in the 2016 US election.
The Myth of Trump and Russia
From what I understand, the extent of Russia’s “meddling” in the 2016 US election does not amount to much. Based on the latest indictments brought by the Mueller investigation, Russian military intelligence operatives may have tried to hack the DNC’s server to expose information about Hillary Clinton. Previous indictments allege that Russians may have purchased Facebook ads aimed at sowing discord within the American public (not simply backing Donald Trump for president, as many lazy and/or biased media outlets continue to assert).
On hacking, I am not convinced that the Russians are responsible. As the race in the Democratic Party between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders was extremely divisive and contentious, it would be unsurprising to find out that various pro-Bernie members of the DNC with access to various servers decided to leak damaging documents about Clinton and her campaign. The motivation makes sense, and so do the logistics. It would have been far easier to get inside and download files at close proximity than from Russia.
An Expert Opinion
Patrick Lawrence, in a summary of a memo released by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), writes in The Nation:
“On the evening of July 5, 2016, 1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.
“These statistics are matters of record and essential to disproving the hack theory. No Internet service provider, such as a hacker would have had to use in mid-2016, was capable of downloading data at this speed. Compounding this contradiction, Guccifer claimed to have run his hack from Romania, which, for numerous reasons technically called delivery overheads, would slow down the speed of a hack even further from maximum achievable speeds.
“What is the maximum achievable speed? Forensicator recently ran a test download of a comparable data volume (and using a server speed not available in 2016) 40 miles from his computer via a server 20 miles away and came up with a speed of 11.8 megabytes per second—half what the DNC operation would need, were it a hack.”
This forensic evidence, combined with Occam’s Razor, makes it difficult for me to accept the accusation of Russian hacking at all, no matter how many US intelligence agencies say otherwise. I am not saying that the Seth Rich conspiracy theory is likely to be true, but I find it equally as persuasive as the Russian hacking theory.
Accusation Without Proper Evidence
The indictments of the Russian operatives accused of hacking the DNC server will not result in extradition or trial, so the accusations will never be tested in a court of law. And some of the most fundamental pillars of reason, liberty, and the Bill of Rights dictate that we cannot accept claims ad verecundiam. In fact, it is assertions from those in power, like the FBI and NSA, we must cast the most doubt upon.
The indicted Russians are not guilty until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It would be nice to have a civil libertarian organization like the ACLU actively reminding us of these things, but identity politics and Trump hatred have resulted in many such groups losing their way.
Beyond all this, the documents released by Wikileaks provided the public with more truthful information, which is most certainly a positive development for the democratic process. For those who purport to care about an informed public determining their destinies via the vote, it would be quite hypocritical to claim otherwise.
Hypocrisy at Home
Even if it were irrefutably the Russians who hacked the DNC server, the US has no moral high ground when it comes to intervening in foreign elections (or intervening militarily for that matter). The map below highlights the nations that have faced election interference from the US since the end of WWII (a total of at least 80 instances):
Bringing these facts to light in the current climate can result in accusations of treason as Senator Rand Paul has been subjected to. While this is to be expected when it comes to warmongering neoconservatives, hearing it from self-described liberals has a chilling effect. This sort of with-us-or-against-us, pseudo-patriotism is far more reminiscent of nazism than the enforcement of immigration law is.
Did Russia Have Any Significance?
To once again be extremely generous to the opposition, let’s accept three premises:
1) That the U.S. must take extreme measures to contain Russia
2) That Russia directly hacked the DNC server at least partially as a means of promoting Trump’s campaign
3) That the U.S. does not have to practice what it preaches in terms of respecting the right to self-determination of foreign peoples
Even with all of this accepted as fact, there continues to be zero proof that Russian “meddling” changed anyone’s vote. And there are monstrous hurdles one must overcome to prove the positive claim that Russia successfully influenced the 2016 election.
The first is that the amount of money Russia allegedly spent on influencing the election is a drop in a bucket at the bottom of a massive sea of campaign financing and media coverage. Unbiased America illustrates the incredible disparity between Russian spending and non-Russia spending. The foreign nation accounts for about 0.1% of the total money spent on the election.
And even without juxtaposing the amounts spent to influence the election, there is no scientific proof that campaign contact or advertisements can persuade voters in the first place. In a study published by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business in 2017, researchers concluded that “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates’ choices in general elections is zero.” In other words, if you are looking to alter someone’s vote, it is going to take more than slogans, attack ads, and memes to do so.
How did Trump Really Win?
I imagine that the way to get voters on your side is to stump for policies they prefer and to create some kind of unified identity. Trump ran on making America great again, draining the swamp, defeating the establishment, protectionist economic policy, restricting immigration, non-interventionism, and lowering taxes without lowering welfare spending. I imagine this formula is what put him over the top, not these crude supposedly Russian-made memes:
To sum up, any genuine hysteria over Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election is misguided. There is no reason to believe Russia affected the US election in any way of their own volition, nor that they broke any laws. Freedom of speech is a human right, not one reserved for everyone except those who have some distant connection to the Russian government. Human nature and far greater influences impeded any attempts to impact the election. And Russian meddling in U.S. affairs is a small price to pay for containing them (or, rather, bullying and threatening them).
The More Chilling Issue
What should be of far greater concern to all Americans are reactions to the Trump-Russia narrative by individuals, the media, and especially the US government. Sanctions against Russia will harm the Russian people and strengthen its government. Already suffering from a lackluster economy, sanctions will further thin out their opportunities. On a global scale, sanctions and other barriers to trade create an invisible domino effect that hits sectors of economic activity around the world too. Growing economic anxiety and economic hostility from NATO combined with a global media that paint Trump as Russia’s lapdog will inevitably guide the Russian people deeper into the protecting arms of Vladimir Putin.
Many members of the public and in Congress have called for increased regulation of the internet and social media as a way to prevent Russia from “meddling” in future elections, a dangerous undermining of free speech and expression no American should tolerate.
Instead of making peace and harmony with Russia more difficult, we should accept the minor consequences of containing Russia or leave NATO and let Russia be. The men who fought off a bullying foreign nation to found the United States of America would have preferred the latter option.
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By Joshua D. Glawson | United States
From its inception in 550 B.C., the Persian Empire reigned with fervor and might. The Persians carved out their territory that would expand across major parts of Eurasia, keeping the Greeks at bay, as well as other nations in pursuit of their own place in history. Ever since the first establishment of the Persian Nation-State, they have had to fight off other nations and were influenced by them. The biggest change first occurred in 637 A.D. when Persia fell into the hands of the nomadic Arabs at the Battle of Kadisiya which is close to the Euphrates River. Once the Arabs took hold of the Persian Empire, they brought with them Islam and Arabic, which forever changed the Persian language and religion casting out most Zoroastrian practices. Zoroastrianism was not only the main Persian religion of choice, but it is often considered the first monotheistic religion of the world. After a long period of delegation, finding peace under the new regime and identity of the Persian Empire, in 1722 Afghan rebels had a degree of conflict with the Persian Empire, and they pursued the capturing of Isfahan. This seizing of a major city led the way for Russia and Turkey to also plunder their way through Persia, and by 1724 the Russians and Turks split the spoils among their militaries and elite.
By the 1800s to mid-1900s, the British and Americans had tight economic and personal relations with Persia. Although the British and Americans were both there to better petroleum and crude business in their favor, it was only the Brits that were seen as adversaries while the Americans were generally seen in favor by the Persian people. This was surely well-established when many Americans who were living in Persia in the early 1900s fought along the Persians’ and their rights in the Persian Constitutional Revolution from 1905 to 1911.
As quoted in the book, All the Shah’s Men, one person wrote, “…The American contribution to the improvement and, it was felt, the dignity of our impoverished, strife-torn country had gone far beyond their small numbers…Without attempting to force their way of life on people or convert us to their religion, they had learned Persian and started schools, hospitals, and medical dispensaries all over…” They went on to say, “The dedication of these exemplary men and women was not the only reason many Iranians admired the United States. American officials had spoken out to defend Iran’s rights. The United States sharply criticized the 1919 Anglo-Persian Agreement through which Britain acquired colonial powers in Iran.”
“That same year at Versailles, President Woodrow Wilson was the only world leader who supported Iran’s unsuccessful claim for monetary compensation from Britain and Russia for the effects of their occupation during World War I. In the mid-1920s an American envoy in Tehran was able to report that ‘Persians of all classes still have unbounded confidence in America.'” Of course, needless to say, it was also the US President, Woodrow Wilson, who would, unfortunately, lead America out of a more non-interventionist leaning foreign policy, into a hawkish mentality of a pursuit of war and control in the world from WWI to his constant concern for control over the Middle East. To this day, his policies plague American politics creating countless numbers of problems for the US and the world in an onslaught of political blowback.
In 1935, with relations with and influence from Nazi Germany, Persia’s name was changed to ‘Iran.’ This was a cognate of the word ‘Aryan,’ as the Nazis were in pursuit of the origins of the actual Aryan nation of people, and Persia’s leader, Reza Shah, wanted to establish good relations with the growing German powers. Not only was this a means of changing the direction of the Persian nation, but it was also a way of aligning with the Nazis against the British and Russians who had plundered their land for well over a century. This allegiance to Nazi Germany would prove tragic for Iran in WWII, as in 1941, the Anglo-Soviet Allies invaded and ensured the Nazis could not keep reign over the region.
With growing tensions over the following ten years from the British setting up the Anglo-Persian Oil Company also in 1935, Persians’ boiling tempers over increased economic struggles, and the ongoing introduction and implementation of Socialism, after also being struck left and right by the British, Americans, Russians, Turks, Afghans, and others, Iran voted to nationalize the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. The name was then changed to the National Iranian Oil Company. This, then, led to Mohammad Reza Shah officially signing the 1951 declaration that the State was the sole owner of the company, and put Mossadegh as Iran’s Prime Minister.
Mossadegh’s office prompted news outlets around the world to respond and criticize from various perspectives. The British press criticized Mossadegh for being like Robespierre, very Socialistic in a negative way, after Iran essentially stole the company rights. While the US, on the other hand, praised Mossadegh for being like Thomas Jefferson freeing Iran from the British as Jefferson helped to free America from the British. Although, the British interpretation of the events was probably more accurate than the Americans’, both the British and the US colluded together in 1953 to overthrow Mossadegh and return the Shah.
In 1953, the CIA and Britain’s M16 staged a coup in Iran to overthrow Mossadegh because it was clearly evident that he was attempting to allow the Soviets into Iran instead of the Western Allies. The US policy at the time, the Truman Doctrine, stated that the US would come to the aid and defense of any people threatened by Communism. Mossadegh’s introduction of disorder within Iran was eventually the downfall of the Shah and allowed Socialists and Communists to infiltrate Iran ever since.
Iran has been continuously influenced by the outside world in that it has lost most of its military capabilities coming from the 5th largest military power in the world and then losing most of it all by the early 1980s after the Iran-Iraq war. Iran now continues to seek to create nuclear weaponry in order to better negotiate their place in the world and to possibly end many of the sanctions put on them by the US. The US and Iran used to have very good relations and diplomacy prior to the end of the Shah’s reign.
Today, Iranian leaders continue to utilize Diversionary War Theory “which states that leaders who are threatened by domestic turmoil occasionally initiate an international conflict in order to shift the nation’s attention away from internal troubles.” Many of the economic difficulties are not only due to the government seizing companies especially in the oil and natural gas industries, but also the sanctions brought on by the US. So, it is not as obvious that leaders in Iran are attempting to divert the attention of the economic struggles of Iran, rather there is some justification for their anger towards the US.
Iran’s justified anger with the US was initiated by the US’ infiltration and establishment of Mohammad Reza Shah and continued acts of aggression such as severe economic and travel sanctions, and completely encircling Iran with US military bases and battleships. Furthermore, since the US has now backed out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal that was being led by the Obama administration, Trump’s administration will most likely be reimplementing these heavy economic and travel sanctions, along with several others that are surely to assist in the near total destruction of Iran.
This, of course, is not to suggest that Iran is completely innocent. Iran has innumerable cases of human rights violations and a severally corrupt government which allows paying one’s way out of crimes and completely undermining the private sector as the Iranian government has the power to seize and control privately owned companies at near whim.
Overall, Iran has been shaped, influenced, benefited, and harmed by the international community from almost the beginning. The strife caused through interventionist policies of outside nations and States has also prompted internal domestic conflicts and turmoil for Iran. These instances of influence have led to destabilization and the pessimistic future for Iran. Although Iran has done everything they believed possible to leverage their negotiations by building nuclear weapons and attempting a Nuclear Deal with the US, unfortunately it has thus far failed. Iran’s past one hundred years has already been filled with chaos and confusion, surely the next one hundred will be the same as long as countries outside of Iran continue to intervene and act in hostility towards them; and if Iran continues to violate the rights of individuals within their borders, there is no hope for Iran as a country.
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By Kenneth Casey | United States
American troops have been fighting a war in Afghanistan for over 17 years, making it the longest war in American history. It all began in 2001, in response to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
To understand just how long we’ve been fighting the war in Afghanistan, here’s a list of things that have happened each year since the United States’ invasion:
- 2001: On the day George W. Bush finalizes his plan to invade Afghanistan, Fallin’ by Alicia Keys is atop the Billboard charts.
- 2002: The first film of the Spider-Man trilogy is released.
- 2003: The U.S. launch an invasion in another middle-eastern country, Iraq.
- 2004: Mark Zuckerberg and friends launch social media platform Facebook.
- 2005: Hurricane Katrina causes 1,833 fatalities and impairs the city of New Orleans.
- 2006: Social Networking service Twitter is created by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams.
- 2007: Apple! announces their plan to create the iPhone.
- 2008: America elects their first African-American president, Barack Obama.
- 2009: Cryptocurrency Bitcoin is created by an unknown person under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto.
- 2010: An earthquake in Haiti affects more than 3 million people and results in the death of around 230,000.
- 2011: The Iraq War concludes, as the final U.S. Troops stationed there are withdrawn.
- 2012: Hurricane Sandy affects 24 states and causes 233 fatalities overall.
- 2013: Edward Snowden divulges classified NSA documents to journalists and eventually to the public.
- 2014: America’s first marijuana store opens in the state of Colorado.
- 2015: The United States supreme court rules in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
- 2016: For the first time since 1908, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series.
- 2017: For the first time in 99 years, a solar eclipse was visible to most of America.
- 2018: Kim Jong-un became the first North Korean leader to step foot onto South Korean soil.
The original intent of invading Afghanistan was to defeat and overthrow the Taliban, which had granted asylum to Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks. Although you may not agree with Bush on invading the country and think he should have just agreed to negotiate with the Taliban for the handing over of Osama Bin Laden instead, the Taliban government was overthrown as leaders of the Afghanistan government in December of 2001. The U.S. had completed their original mission and could have left the war at this point.
But they decided to stay in order to build up a government in Kabul, Afghanistan, which later proved to be one of the classic examples as to why nation-building is an awful idea. Many people of the Pashtun population of Afghanistan objected to the U.S. building up their own government in Kabul, and the U.S. decided to stay even longer to take on the people they considered enemies of this new government they had helped create.
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan with the intent of accomplishing one thing which caused another problem, and once that problem was fixed another problem came about, and eventually, we got ourselves in such a big of a quagmire that it was basically impossible that we’d ever been able to come out victorious.
Since the invasion in 2001, it’s been reported that almost 2,200 American soldiers have lost their lives in the war. These fatalities to our troops are unnecessary and could have been avoided if we weren’t engaged in this now useless war with no clear strategy or intent ahead. This is the most important reason why we should bring the troops home and cease war.
The second most important reason is our debt. Currently, we sit in over $21 Trillion dollars of debt. In our time in Afghanistan, we’ve spent almost a trillion dollars, estimates Anthony Cordesman, the chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic And International Studies. The government has wasted a lot of taxpayer money overseas in a war that has killed a lot of civilians for over 17 years now. Policing the world should not be America’s job, and Americans do not want their tax money being spent wastefully overseas when, at the very least, it could be spent towards more productive things back home (although preferably just cut).
As Rand Paul puts it: “We went from striking back against those who attacked us, to regime change, to nation-building, to policing their country for them.” Clearly, we’ve steered away from our original intentions in Afghanistan and we’ve faced the consequences of wasting a ton of U.S. taxpayer money and our soldiers dying because we’ve been stubborn and refused to cease the war.
When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, I was optimistic about his stance on the Afghanistan War. It was often difficult to pinpoint The Donald’s stances on Foreign Policy during the campaign trail, sometimes sounding like a non-interventionist or an isolationist, other times sounding as hawkish as John Bolton. So although his rhetoric on the campaign trail was mixed and confusing, he did claim at one point that getting involved in Afghanistan in the first place was a mistake and one would think to end useless wars and wasted taxpayer money overseas would go along with his so-called “America First” platform that he campaigned on.
Unfortunately, last year he arranged to add around 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan to the already ridiculously high number of troops present in the country. Although for right now it seems his desire to flex the military muscle outweighed his desire to put America first, I hope that by the end of his term he comes to his senses and declares that enough is enough in Afghanistan.
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