Sunday, March 27, 2016

Foreign Digest: Elections in Benin and Senegal; Update on Burma; Karadzic Conviction

Elections in Benin and Senegal
I have repeatedly observed a global trend toward authoritarianism over the last several years, especially in Latin America and Africa, where elected leaders have sought constitutional amendments to end term limits.  The presidential election in Benin and the constitutional referendum in Senegal reverse this trend.

The Beninese election for president was significant because the incumbent was constitutionally term-limited and did not make any attempt to extend his term.  An opposition candidate won and the Prime Minister conceded the election.

At the recommendation of the President of Senegal, the Senegalese constitutional referendum, which was approved, shortens the presidential term from seven to five years, recognizes the opposition and makes other reforms.

May Benin and Senegal continue to enjoy freedom in representative republican government and may they serve as examples to other African States.

Update on the Formation of the Burmese Government:
The Burmese Parliament, for which the democratic opposition which won the first fully open parliamentary elections, appointed a President who was the choice of the democratic party.  The new parliamentary majority also formed a government that includes opposition leader Aung Su Kyi as Foreign Minister.

Radovan Karadzic Is Convicted of Genocide
Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, was convicted by an international criminal court of genocide and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment.  He had committed his crimes against humanity, including “ethnic cleansing,” particularly against Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and also against Croats during the Bosnian Civil War in 1995 that followed the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.  The Yugoslavian civil wars were sparked by Serbian Yugoslav Communist Dictator Slobodon Milosovic, who used ethnic tensions as a means to maintain power in Serbia following the end of the Cold War.  Milosovic died during his trial for crimes against humanity. 

The conviction of Karadzic provides a measure of justice.  It is hoped that this justice for the ugly example of hatred from that era will encourage ethnic peoples to live together while respecting each other’s rights.

Have a Happy and Hopeful Easter!

           I wish all of you a Happy Easter!  In this time of terror, it is especially necessary to consider the hope of the Resurrection.  May God bless you!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Syrian Example Suggests Non-Intervention Would Not Have Been Better for Libya

           The Western-led direct military intervention against the Libyan dictatorship during the Libyan civil war is being blamed by those opposed to such intervention for Libya’s post-intervention instability, of which Islamists have been taking advantage to gain territory.  However, Islamists have been taking advantage of the Syrian civil war to gain territory in Syria, too, despite a lack of a direct military intervention against the Syrian dictatorship.

The Syrian example suggests that not intervening military in Libya would have failed to prevent Islamists from taking advantage in Libya, just as they have in Syria.  

Those who oppose interventions of any kind, whether direct or indirect military interventions or even non-military interventions, tend to blame interventions for all of the world’s problems.  In this sense, American isolationists, for example, resemble the “Blame America Firsters” of the Left.  But their determinist explanations are inconsistent. 

Like Syria, Libya was not peaceful before the military intervention, as the Libyan people had revolted against dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who responded by indiscriminately used his armed forces against his own people.  The war had become a stalemate by the time the intervention began.  As in Syria, the West was slow to intervene, which allowed Islamists to begin to co-opt the opposition.  The intervention itself was not swift and decisive, as it took several weeks, with the United States “leading from behind,” in the words of American President Barack Obama. 

The coalition of forces that intervened in Libya succeeded in helping the Libyan people to overthrow Qaddafi.  Afterward, the coalition left Libya to itself without providing adequate support to the anti-Islamist forces.  Therefore, the resultant advances by Islamists were not the consequences of the intervention, but of the withdrawal of international support to the new anti-Islamist free Libyan government.  Islamists, including al-Qaeda and the “Islamic State,” have taken advantage of the opportunity to seize territory.

Many of the same critics of the military intervention in Libya oppose intervention in Syria against Bashar Assad’s regime, but it is the lack of sufficient intervention in Syria that has allowed Islamists to take advantage of the power vacuum there, as in Libya.  Islamists have co-opted the opposition in Syria even more than in Libya.  Direct military intervention cannot be blamed for the gains by the Islamists in Syria because there has been no direct military intervention against Syria’s Assad regime, as against Libya’s Qaddafi regime, but only indirect limited military support for a relatively small number of the rebels.

Therefore, some other explanation other than direct military intervention must be to blame for the Islamists’ gains in Syria, which, in turn, suggests it was the chaos of the civil war in Syria, as in Libya, of which the Islamists took advantage, not the direct military intervention.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Syrian Civil War Update: 250,000 dead; Russian State-Sponsorship of Terrorism

One Quarter Million Dead in Five Years of Civil War in Syria

            The death toll in the Syrian Civil War has surpassed 250,000 in over five years of fighting.  There have also been many injured and millions displaced.  Several of Syria’s cities have been ruined.

            The Syrian people revolted in 2011 against the Baathist dictatorial regime of Bashar Assad.  His regime, which is Iran’s only Arab ally, is a state sponsor of terrorism, as it supports several Iranian-backed terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite terrorist organization.  Hezbollah is responsible for several hundred American casualties.  

Russian State Sponsorship of Terrorism

           Assad is backed by Iran and the Russian Federation, as well as by Hezbollah.  Indeed, Russia is reportedly arming and training Hezbollah, which meets the definition for being a state sponsor of terrorism.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Eliminate the Straight-Party Ballot Option

           United States Representative Charlie Dent, a Republican of Pennsylvania, whose district includes part of Berks County, is sponsor of bipartisan legislation to eliminate in federal elections the straight-party ballot option.  Voters could still vote for all of one political party’s candidates, but the legislation would encourage voters to choose the candidates individually. 

            The straight-party option, such as buttons on electronic machines or boxes on paper ballots for all of a political party’s candidates, is a preferred tool of political party machines, as it depends upon party loyalty and a less-informed and less-responsible electorate.  The elimination of the straight-party option would force voters to make a more informed choice.  Exercising choice is the point of democratic elections.  A better informed and more responsible electorate would make better election choices.  

           All but nine States in the Union have eliminated the straight-party option.  The federal bill to eliminate the option would thus apply only to federal elections in those States.  Pennsylvania is one of the nine.  State elections would not be affected by this proposed federal legislation, but it would make ballots in those States more complicated and undermine the automatic straight-party voting.  Pennsylvania and the other eight States should also eliminate the straight party option, regardless of whether the federal elimination bill passes.  

Hussein, Qaddafi and Assad Were Bad for the United States and the World

           Liberals, isolationists and others opposed to American intervention have lately been arguing even more than usual that Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi and Bashar Assad were not that bad, even going as far to praise these rogues.  All three of them were truly bad for the United States and the world. 

            Hussein, Qaddafi and Assad were all anti-American, brutal dictators who sponsored terrorism and who possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), with all but Qaddafi using them.  During the Cold War, they were pro-Soviet and the socialist regimes they led became Soviet client states.  All three were anti-Israeli militant Muslims with expansionist aims.

            Hussein’s Baathist regime sponsored terrorism by harboring and financing terrorists who targeted and killed Americans.  For example, Hussein harbored Abu Nidal, harbored for decades until the Palestinian terrorist was murdered only a few months before the Liberation of Iraq.  Nidal led an organization responsible for many attacks in 20 countries in Asia and Europe in the 1980s and 90s, which killed and injured several hundred people, including the shootings at the Rome and Vienna airports in 1985, in which 19 were killed and over 100 injured.  Hussein harbored one of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers.  He also harbored Abu Abbas, another Palestinian terrorist through whom Hussein openly funneled money to Palestinian the families of suicide bombers from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, some of whom targeted and killed Americans.  Abbas was responsible for the Achille Lauro hijacking in 1985, in which an American was murdered.  The terrorist was captured during the Liberation of Iraq.  Furthermore, Hussein fostered Islamism, which has resulted in the cooperation between Baathist holdouts and Islamist terrorists, such as al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the “Islamic State.”

            Hussein regarded himself as another Saladin, the medieval Kurdish conqueror who defeated the Crusaders.  The Iraqi dictator committed aggression by invading Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990 and fired missiles indiscriminately into Israel in 1991.  After the Liberation of Kuwait, he violated the 1991 ceasefire by failing to provide reparations to the latter, in addition to attacking Coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones meant to protect Iraqi Shi’ites and Kurds from Hussein, as the Iraqi dictator regarded the “Mother of all Battles” never to have ended after the Liberation of Kuwait in 1991.  His regime attempted the assassination of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush.     

Hussein had used chemical WMDs against Iranians and Iraqi Kurds and had a nuclear weapons program.  He failed to comply with United Nations resolutions to prove he had destroyed his known chemical WMDs, thousands of which were discovered after the Liberation of Iraq in 2003, in addition to quantities of sarin and nerve gas used to make more chemical WMDs.  Iraq also possessed missiles of a longer range than permitted under UN resolutions, while having cheated in the meantime on the UN oil embargo while striving for his regime to outlast the sanctions in order to reconstitute his WMD programs.     

            Qaddafi sponsored terrorism, such as the bombing of Americans in Berlin, Germany in 1985, which killed an American, the 1988 bombing of a civilian airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed over 240, including many Americans, as well as other attacks.  The Libyan dictator was a pan-Arabist who was always trying to expand his territory in North Africa and even claimed control of the international waters of the Gulf of Sidra, firing on American forces patrolling it to protect the freedom of the seas.  Qaddafi possessed chemical WMDs, some of which he retained after promising to destroy them.

            Assad also sponsors terrorism, by harboring Palestinian terrorists and by making Syria a conduit for Iranian support for Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese Shi’ite Hezbollah, which, after al-Qaeda, is the terrorist organization that has killed the most Americans.  Hezbollah and Iran fights for Assad’s Syrian regime, which is Iran’s only Arab ally.  Iran is the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.  Assad’s regime believes in “Greater Syria,” which includes dominating LebanonSyria used chemical WMDs and continues to use chlorine as a chemical weapon.  

           The main interest of Hussein, Qaddafi and Assad was their own survival and that of their regime.  They were skilled at keeping their unpopular regimes in power, often by trying to fool Westerners that they were a better alternative to Islamist terrorists, even though these dictators were themselves terrorists.  Indeed, they would make alliances with such terrorists for survival or harness Islamism for their own ends.  Therefore, even if these dictators seemed to be on the American side against Islamists, they were not necessarily reliable allies, even on only an ad hoc basis.  Regardless, Hussein, Qaddafi and Assad were enemies whose removal from power is in the best interest of the U.S. and the world.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Ronald Reagan Was Conservative Long Before He Was Elected President of the United States

           Ronald Reagan’s conversion from liberal Democrat to conservative Republican has been cited to dismiss concerns about candidates’ commitment to conservative principles or loyalty to the Republican Party.  It has again been cited during the current campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.  However, it is critical to understand Reagan’s journey toward the right had long preceded even his first presidential campaign, twelve years before his election as President of the United States.
            As President of the Screen Actors Guild in the 1950s, Reagan became a government informant on Communist infiltrators.  He campaigned for conservative Barry Goldwater for President in 1964, giving a televised speech based upon conservative principles called “A Time for Choosing” that was broadcast across the Union shortly before the election.  Reagan was elected Governor of California as a conservative Republican in 1966 and reelected four years later.  He sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 and 1976, campaigning as a conservative.  After losing, he supported the Republican nominees, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, respectively, against liberal Democrats.  In the meantime, Reagan wrote and spoke on behalf of conservative causes.  In 1978, he led the argument against President Jimmy Carter’s efforts to give away the Panama Canal to a “tin-pot dictator,” as Reagan put it. 

            As he had campaigned in primaries previously against moderate Republicans throughout his political career, Reagan campaigned for the Republican nomination for President in 1980 as a conservative.  By this point, no one could possibly doubt his conservative credentials, as he was regarded as the leader of the conservative movement.  After winning the nomination, he campaigned as a conservative against the liberal Democratic Carter.  Reagan’s subsequent governance as a conservative was thus not surprising.

            Reagan’s conversion to conservatism began while he was in his forties, and was based upon both his faith and intellect.  His conservatism was consistent, as it included defense and foreign policy, fiscal and economic policy, and public morals.  Reagan’s opposition to Communism was coupled with his contrasting belief in limited government, the free market and in America and its people.  It is important to consider that he converted to conservatism during, not after, the Cold War.  Reagan proved his conservatism through is governance and by becoming the leader the conservative movement.

           The fact that Reagan was a conservative convert does not mean that someone who has converted or claims to have converted, especially if only recently (and especially if the conversion were after Reagan’s presidency), does not necessarily make the recent convert’s claims more credible.  Reagan’s example proves the possibility, but does not necessarily prove the veracity of someone’s conversion.  As he liked to say, it is necessary to “trust, but verify.”  Therefore, it would be necessary for the person who claims conversion to conservatism first to demonstrate his credentials through both his words and deeds, such as by supporting only conservative causes or candidates or through conservative governance at some lower office.

Nancy Reagan, In Memoriam

           Nancy (Davis) Reagan, the widow of United States President Ronald Reagan, died today at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 94.  

           Born in New York in 1921 as Anne Frances Robbins, she studied drama at Smith College and became an actress, appearing in eleven films.  In 1951, she met her future husband, who was President of the Screen Actors Guild at the time.  Davis appeared opposite Reagan in her last film in 1956, Hellcats of the Navy

The couple was married the following year.  The Reagans had two children together and two stepchildren from Ronald Reagan’s first marriage.  They were blessed with 52 years of love and marriage. 

            During Ronald Reagan’s tenure as Governor of California from 1967 to 1975, Nancy Reagan supported the Foster Grandparent program for handicapped children.  While her husband served as President from 1981-1989, she led an anti-drug and alcohol abuse campaign known by its slogan of “Just Say No.”  The campaign was more effective in reducing drug abuse than educational efforts alone at the time because it empowered youths to resist the allure of chemical abuse in order to maintain sobriety and avoid harms to health and addiction.

            Nancy Reagan had always been supportive of her husband’s political career.  Even after his death from Alzheimer’s disease in 2004 at 93, she maintained her devotion to her husband by her activity on behalf of the Reagan Library.  As she had for breast cancer awareness after suffering from the illness in 1987, Nancy Reagan raised awareness about Alzheimer’s, raising money for research for treatments and cures. 

            While residing in the White House, Nancy Reagan wrote a memoir, My Turn, in 1987.  In 2001, she sponsored the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.

            The great success of conservative Republican Ronald Reagan’s presidency was provided indispensable emotional support by Nancy Reagan and she was protective of her husband, not only against critics or staff she recognized as not sufficiently loyal, but especially in regard to his security after the attempted assassination attempt on his life in 1981.  She also personified Ronald Reagan’s compassion for his fellow Americans. 

           May the legacy of Ronald and Nancy Reagan continue to lift people up and remind Americans that their best days are yet ahead.