Saturday, June 27, 2015

Conservative Analysis of the Obama Administration’s Tolerance of Private Ransoms for Hostages

           American citizens who pay ransom to terrorists for the release of hostages will no longer be threatened with prosecution by the Obama Administration for providing material support to terrorists.

            No American had ever been prosecuted for paying ransom, but the threat of prosecution did have some deterrent effect.  The United States government will continue not to pay ransoms. 

Publicly announcing that no one will be threatened with prosecution is an abuse of prosecutorial discretion, as it is a blanket policy, which violates the constitutional requirement in Article II, Section 3 that the Chief Executive “Take Care That the laws be faithfully executed.”  A prosecutor may exercise discretion for reasonable cause, such as some significant matter of public policy or risk to security, or out of prioritization of resources, but publicly announcing a blanket policy of non-prosecution leaves no room for exceptions and is thus an act of executive lawmaking by decree, which violates the principle of the separation of powers by usurping the Congress’ legislative powers.  Such a policy is unlike an amnesty, which precludes prosecution of people after they commit a crime, but is given before they commit the crime, as if to condone it. 

The impetus for the change in policy was the Obama Administration’s trade of five Taliban terrorist leaders for an American soldier who had deserted to the Taliban in Afghanistan, which led the families of some hostages to object to the inconsistency.  The policy change follows the rewarding of the Cuban Communist dictatorship for with diplomatic recognition and the relaxation of economic sanctions for releasing a federal contractor working to increase internet access for Jewish Cubans.  The contractor had been unjustly detained by the Castro regime, which censors the Internet.  The Obama Administration further rewarded Communist Cuba by removing it from the State Department’s lists of state sponsors of terrorism, despite Cuba’s harboring of terrorists and pro-terrorist foreign policies.  The Administration’s tolerance for private ransoms is thus part of a pattern in placing a higher premium on obtaining the release of Americans captured abroad than on protecting other Americans from being taken hostage in the first place.

            The Obama Administration’s policy not to threaten prosecution for private ransoms for hostages encourages terrorists to capture more Americans and hold them for ransom as the tactic of hostage-taking is now financially incentivized.  In fact, ransoms are one of the main sources of fundraising for terrorists.  Therefore, the change in policy leaves Americans more vulnerable as terrorists conclude that the reward for hostage-taking is more worth the risk.  Furthermore, the ransoms finance additional terrorist or other militant acts.   

           Conservatives should promote more comprehensive policies to obtain the release of Americans who are taken hostage or unjustly detained for bargaining purposes and to deter hostage-taking instead of encouraging it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Obama Administration’s Plan to Replace Alexander Hamilton’s Portrait on the $10 Bill Is Divisive and Patronizing

           The Obama Administration has announced its intent to place an image of a woman in its redesign of the Ten Dollar United States Federal Reserve Note in place of that of Alexander Hamilton, although Hamilton’s portrait may continue to appear on some $10 bills.

            Hamilton was an American Founding Father, and in that capacity was the author of most of the Federalist Papers that defended the U.S. Constitution during the debate over its ratification, and the first and greatest Secretary of the Treasury who, among other major achievements in that office, established the dollar as the United States monetary unit.  Few other Americans accomplished as much as Hamilton, or, indeed, as much as any of the other greatest Founding Fathers, especially any women.  It is unclear if there would be a new image on the reverse of the $10 bill, which currently features the Department of the Treasury.

The Administration made clear it seeks to place a portrait of an individual woman on the $10 bill, not the allegorical female figure of Liberty.  Sometimes allegorical female figures or images of eagles have been printed onto paper American currency instead of individuals.  Portraits of Martha Washington, the wife of George Washington, and Pocahontas, who assisted the English colonization of Virginia, have appeared on American paper currency, in the latter case, on the reverse.  There are a number of American women who made accomplishments of general benefit, such as Sacagawea, the guide of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, whose image is featured on the Native American Dollar coin, or “Dolly” Madison, the wife of Founder and President James Madison who, as First Lady, rescued historical treasurers from the invading British forces who burned the White House during the War of 1812, or Helen Keller, whose image appeared on the Alabama State Quarter Dollar, but none of their accomplishments are equal to those of the Founding Fathers or to certain other historical figures.  The replacement of Hamilton recalls the controversial replacement of Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander during the Second World War who was later President, on the Dollar coin in 1979 with women’s suffragette Susan B. Anthony in appearing to be ideologically motivated or as patronage to a favored political constituency. 

As I have noted previously, Liberty was inspired by the Roman goddess of freedom.  Her image appeared on the first coins issued by the U.S. under Treasurer Hamilton.  In contrast to the Roman custom of placing the image of the current Emperor or his wife or family members on coins, the Founding Fathers did not wish to allow coinage to be used as a means of self-promotion or politicized to the benefit of a particular political party or faction or to divide Americans, but instead intended coinage to unite Americans.  Accordingly, no individual figure appeared on American coins, other than commemorative coins, until 1909, when a portrait of Abraham Lincoln appeared on the Cent on the centennial of his birth.  Liberty continued to appear on regular issues of coins until the mid-1940s, by which time every regular issue coin featured an image of an individual.  Currently, Liberty appears only on commemorative or bullion coins, except for the image of the Statue of Liberty on the reverses of dollar coins, which are no longer minted for general circulation.  

There had been a movement by liberals to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 Note, but it is not scheduled to be redesigned until after the $10 bill.  He was the General who was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 and the founder of the Democratic Party.  Perhaps his most fitting achievement as President to merit his portrait on American currency is that he was the only President to pay off the public debt, among other significant achievements, such as successfully resolving the Nullification Crisis. Unlike Hamilton, Jackson is reviled by some, among other reasons, for his policies towards certain Native American tribes during the war and for his personal slaveholding.  An example of typical liberal inconsistency is that there is no movement by liberals to replace the image of liberal Democrat Franklin Roosevelt, which has appeared on the Dime since the year after his death in 1945, even though, as President, he interred without trial thousands of American citizens, as well as numerous loyal permanent residents, on the sole basis of national origin, during the Second World War, and violated the civil rights of many others.  I have also previously noted how coin designs used to be completely changed with greater frequency in the past, but have generally become frozen, except in the cases of series in which only the obverse or reverse change, for several decades because of politics; the same is somewhat true of currency. 

Such controversies over what historical figures should appear on coins or currency would not exist if, as I have noted in previous posts, the example of the Founding Fathers of not placing the images of individuals on coins, except for allegorical figures, would once again be followed, in regard to both coins and currency, except for commemorative coins.  At most, it would be reasonable to place images of only the most significant Founders on coins or currency, in addition to symbols.  A more fitting place, like commemorative coins, to honor other individuals is on medals or postage stamps where many individuals, places or events are honored.  Instead of being divisive or patronizing or reflective of partisanship, regular issue coins and currency ought to be unifying.  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Foreign Digest: Denmark, Mali, Cuba

            The center-right won a plurality of seats in the recent Danish parliamentary elections.  If it can form a coalition government, it will replace the current center-left government.  Anti-immigration sentiment was a factor in the elections, as a smaller party that opposes the acceptance of asylum-seekers coming into the European Union to escape difficulties in Asia and Africa gained a significant enough number of seats to be part of a coalition.  Denmark has been a strong ally of the United States in the global War on Terrorism.

            The Malian government has signed a peace treaty with the largest separatist coalition of Tuaregs to end a lengthy insurgency, of which I had posted about previously.  The insurgency had led to a coup and the takeover of much of northern Mali by al-Qaeda Islamists who had allied themselves with various Tuaregs.  A French-led international force that included the troops of several neighboring African states helped Mali to liberate its north in a major victory in the War on Terrorism, but the jihadis fled into the desert, where they have launched sporadic attacks on Malians and the international troops.  Mali had already reached peace agreements with other Tuareg groups.  It is hoped that peace with the Tuaregs would help deter the Islamists from regaining power in northern Mali

            Al-Qaeda Islamists still control significant territory in Somalia and are able to launch attacks in its capital and in neighboring Somali allied states, although the rebels have been gradually pushed back by international forces in support of Somalia’s government.  Nigeria, together with several neighbors, has been battling Islamists in its north and has been having some recent success in halting the insurgents’ advance.  However, Libya’s internationally-recognized government controls only a relatively small portion of Libyan territory while various Islamists, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, battle for total control of Libya, thus making it a potential safe haven for Islamists, as well as a jumping-off point for terrorists into Europe.  It is critical, therefore, that Mali not be left to fall back into the hands of the Islamist enemy while these other African battles in the War on Terrorism continue to be fought.

           A Cuban human rights organization reports that over half of the total Cubans who had been political prisoners since the Obama Administration normalized relations with Cuba remain prisoners of conscience, as well as others who remain on parole.  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Islamists Lose Their Majority in the Turkish Parliamentary Elections

           Turkey’s Islamist ruling party lost its majority of seats in the Turkish parliamentary elections yesterday. 

            A new secular Kurdish party achieved the 10% threshold to hold seats in Parliament, which will be the first time that Kurds will be Members of the Turkish Parliament, while the two main secular opposition parties earned the rest of the majority.  None of these parties is likely to govern in coalition with the ruling party. 

A coalition government must be formed by a certain time or else Turks will have to return to the polls for another round of parliamentary elections.  The current Prime Minister will continue to govern in the meantime, but only as a caretaker.  The Islamist President will remain in power, but his attempt to gain more powers constitutionally will be halted, as Turkey will remain a parliamentary, not a presidential state. 

The growing authoritarianism of Turkey’s Government and the President’s attempt at gaining more powers, as well as public corruption and an economic slowdown were the issues that led to the defeat of the Islamists.  The Islamist Government had repressed dissidents, compromised the independence of the judiciary and violated the freedom of the press.

            Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, had long been a secular representative republican oasis in the Middle East and a reliable Western ally, but has suffered worsening relations with its neighbors and the West amidst various crises in the Middle East, including the Syrian Civil War and the Islamist-Baathist insurgency in Iraq.  Turkey has aspired to join the European Union, but faced obstacles because of its decline of secularism and civil rights. 

           It is hoped that Turkey will enjoy liberty, secular civilian representative government, equality for minorities, peace, stability and prosperity.  It is also hoped that a new government will restore Turkey to its role as a trusted Western ally against Islamism, play a more helpful role in resolving the ethnic Greek-Turkish division in Cyprus and become more integrated into Europe.  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Update: The Obama Administration’s Continued Weakness in Promoting Religious Liberty Abroad

After pressure from conservatives, including this blogger, and others concerned about religious liberty around the world, United States President Barack Obama finally named an Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom, after another lengthy vacancy in the post.  See my post from August of last year, The Obama Administration Should Make More Effective Use of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,

After there was no Ambassador for Religious Freedom from 2009-2011 and again from 2013 until recently, which represents most of Obama’s presidency, he finally nominated a Jewish rabbi to the post.  The Ambassador reports to a Deputy Secretary of State, even though ambassadors-at-large hold a higher rank.  However, the Secretary of State assured Congress the ambassador would have direct access to him and also that religious freedom was a priority of American foreign policy.

            The lengthy lack of an ambassador, the placement of the office in terms of reporting in the State Department’s organization chart and the Administration’s practice of seldom championing freedom of religion, which is fundamental to liberty, combined to signal to foreigners that freedom of religion is an American foreign policy priority and that the Administration is thus less inclined to invoke the enforcement mechanism of the act that created both the office of the ambassador and the Commission on International Religious Freedom of accepting the Commission’s recommendations to impose sanctions on states of concern that do not respect religious liberty.  Obama has still not named several foreign governments that meet the definition as “countries of concern,” as he may do under the law that authorized the Commission.

Furthermore, although Obama signed another piece of legislation in August of 2014 to create a special envoy for the protection of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia, where much of the persecution is centered, even as religious minorities, such as Yazidis and Christians, for example, are being persecuted in Iraq and Syria by the violent jihadist terrorists known as the “Islamic State,” he has still not filled that post. 

Freedom, peace and stability are essential foreign policy interests of the U.S., as they are the basis for good relations and commerce.  Religious liberty is the foundation of all of these interests.  Therefore, conservatives and others concerned about the freedom of religion abroad should continue to pressure the Obama Administration to make it more clear that religious liberty as a priority in American foreign policy.

United States President Barack Obama Legitimatizes the Iranian and Cuban Dictatorships

            The many flaws and omissions of the preliminary deal between the United States and the terrorist-sponsoring Islamist regime of Iran to curb the Iranian nuclear weapons program that leave the results of the deal far short of what President Barack Obama promised have been pointed out by numerous critics.  In addition, there was immediately afterwards a disagreement between Iran and the U.S. on the basic framework of the deal.  In earlier posts, I have questioned even the premise of negotiating in good faith with such a regime with an open policy of promoting Islamism by unscrupulous means, including deception, and a poor human rights record. 

            The U.S. is, however, robustly supporting the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting pro-Iranian rebels in Yemen.

            President Barack Obama has removed Iran from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, despite its continued harboring of terrorists.  In addition, Cuba aids Venezuela, which, in turn, aids terrorists.  In fact, Cuba did nothing to deserve being removed from the state sponsor of terrorism list, just as it did little to merit American relaxation of certain economic sanctions and diplomatic recognition in terms of improvement of human rights.

            I have called for Venezuela to be added to the State Department’s state sponsor of terrorism list (Designate Venezuela a State Sponsor of Terrorism, from February of 2012, and North Korea to be placed back onto it (A Consideration of Recent Alleged Instances of “Terrorism” and Related Observations, from January of this year,  The de-listing of Cuba now leaves only Muslim states on the list: Iran, Syria and Sudan, which is out of step with Obama’s policy of going out of his way not to have the War on Terrorism be seen in the slightest way whatsoever as a war on Islam or at least on Muslims. 

           The direct negotiations by the Obama Administration with the Islamist Iranian and Communist Cuban dictatorships which sponsor terrorism legitimatize those regimes, as American negotiations with them are propaganda victories over the freedom-loving dissidents they oppress and are discouragements of their fellow countrymen to resist tyranny as the message sent by the President of the United States is that even the leader of the free world respects the dictators’ right to rule over their people.  Direct negotiations also further reward the tyrants’ bad behavior by being interpreted as forcing the U.S. to the negotiation table, as if brutal dictatorships are on equal terms of legitimacy with free states.  In the case of Cuba, it was the kidnapping of an American aid worker, and in the case of Iran, it has been its development of a nuclear weapon program that forced the Obama Administration to direct negotiations.  In addition to the propaganda gifts to these dictatorships, Obama has rewarded them with decreases in economic sanctions.  Moreover, direct negotiations with brutal despots are inherently ineffective, as tyrants do not usually negotiate in good faith. 

           Alas, the beacon of liberty, of which America has always been seen, has been dimmed by Obama.