Tag Archives: foreign policy

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On Military and Spending, It’s Trump Versus Trump – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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It can be a challenge to follow the pronouncements of President Trump, as he often seems to change his position on any number of items from week to week, or from day to day, or even from minute to minute. Consider his speech last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). It was reported as “fiery” and “blistering,” but it was also full of contradictions.

In the speech, President Trump correctly pointed out that the last 15 years of US military action in the Middle East has been an almost incomprehensible waste of money – six trillion dollars, he said – and that after all that US war and meddling the region was actually in worse shape than before we started.

It would have been better for US Presidents to have spent the last 15 years at the beach than to have pursued its Middle East war policy, he added, stating that the US infrastructure could have been rebuilt several times over with the money wasted on such militarism.

All good points from the President.

But then minutes later in the same speech he seemed to forget what he just said about wasting money on militarism. He promised he would be “upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything,” in what would be “one of the greatest military buildups in American history.”

This “greatest” military buildup is in addition to the trillions he plans on spending to make sure the US nuclear arsenal is at the “top of the pack” in the world, as he told the press last Thursday. And that is in addition to the trillion dollar nuclear “modernization” program that is carrying over from the Obama Administration.

Of course when it comes to nuclear weapons, the United States already is at the “top of the pack,” having nearly 7,000 nuclear warheads. How many times do we need to be able to blow up the world?

At CPAC, President Trump is worried about needlessly spending money on military misadventures, but then in the same speech he promised even more military misadventures in the Middle East.

Where is the money going to come from for all this? Is the President going to raise taxes to pay for it? Is he going to make massive cuts in domestic spending?

In the same CPAC speech, President Trump reiterated his vow to “massively lower taxes on the middle class, reduce taxes on American business, and make our tax code more simple and much more fair for everyone.” And that’s all good. So it’s not coming from there.

Will he cut domestic spending? The President has indicated that he also wants a massive infrastructure modernization program launched in the near future. The plan will likely cost far in excess of the trillion dollars the President has suggested.

That leaves only one solution: printing money out of thin air. It has been the favorite trick of his predecessors. While he correctly condemns the $20 trillion national debt passed down from previous Administrations, his policies promise to add to that number in a massive way. Printing money out of thin air destroys the currency, hastening a US economic collapse and placing a very cruel tax on the working and middle classes as well.

Following the President’s constantly changing policies can make you dizzy. That’s a shame because the solution is very simple: end the US military empire overseas, cut taxes and federal regulations at home, end the welfare magnet for illegal immigration, and end the drug war. And then get out of the way.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Trump’s ISIS Plan: Another US Invasion? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Just over a week into the Trump Administration, the President issued an Executive Order giving Defense Secretary James Mattis 30 days to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS. According to the Order, the plan should make recommendations on military actions, diplomatic actions, partners, strategies, and how to pay for the operation.

As we approach the president’s deadline it looks like the military is going to present Trump with a plan to do a whole lot more of what we’ve been doing and somehow expect different results. Proving the old saying that when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail, we are hearing increasing reports that the military will recommend sending thousands of US troops into Syria and Iraq.

This would be a significant escalation in both countries, as currently there are about 5,000 US troops still fighting our 13-year war in Iraq, and some 500 special forces soldiers operating in Syria.

The current Syria ceasefire, brokered without US involvement at the end of 2016, is producing positive results and the opposing groups are talking with each other under Russian and Iranian sponsorship. Does anyone think sending thousands of US troops into a situation that is already being resolved without us is a good idea?

In language reminiscent of his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the president told a political rally in Florida over the weekend that he was going to set up “safe zones” in Syria and would make the Gulf States pay for them. There are several problems with this plan.

First, any “safe zone” set up inside Syria, especially if protected by US troops, would amount to a massive US invasion of the country unless the Assad government approves them. Does President Trump want to begin his presidency with an illegal invasion of a sovereign country?

Second, there is the little problem of the Russians, who are partners with the Assad government in its efforts to rid the country of ISIS and al-Qaeda. ISIS is already losing territory on a daily basis. Is President Trump willing to risk a military escalation with Russia to protect armed regime-change forces in Syria?

Third, the Gulf States are the major backers of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria – as the president’s own recently-resigned National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, revealed in a 2015 interview. Unless these safe zones are being set up to keep al-Qaeda and ISIS safe, it doesn’t make any sense to involve the Gulf States.

Many will say we should not be surprised at these latest moves. As a candidate, Trump vowed to defeat ISIS once and for all. However, does anyone really believe that continuing the same strategy we have followed for the past 16 years will produce different results this time? If what you are hammering is not a nail, will hammering it harder get it nailed in?

Washington cannot handle the truth: solving the ISIS problem must involve a whole lot less US activity in the Middle East, not a whole lot more. Until that is understood, we will continue to waste trillions of dollars and untold lives in a losing endeavor.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Trump’s Foreign Policy: An Unwise Inconsistency? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s foreign policy positions have been anything but consistent. One day we heard that NATO was obsolete and the US needs to pursue better relations with Russia. But the next time he spoke, these sensible positions were abandoned or an opposite position was taken. Trump’s inconsistent rhetoric left us wondering exactly what kind of foreign policy he would pursue if elected.

The President’s inaugural speech was no different. On the one hand it was very encouraging when he said that under his Administration the US would “seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world,” and that he understands the “right of all nations to put their own interests first.” He sounded even better when he said that under Trump the US would “not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.” That truly would be a first step toward peace and prosperity.

However in the very next line he promised a worldwide war against not a country, but an ideology, when he said he would, “unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth.” This inconsistent and dangerous hawkishess will not defeat “radical Islamic terrorism,” but rather it will increase it. Terrorism is not a place, it is a tactic in reaction to invasion and occupation by outsiders, as Professor Robert Pape explained in his important book, Dying to Win.

The neocons repeat the lie that ISIS was formed because the US military pulled out of Iraq instead of continuing its occupation. But where was ISIS before the US attack on Iraq? Nowhere. ISIS was a reaction to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. The same phenomenon has been repeated wherever US interventionist actions have destabilized countries and societies.

Radical Islamic terrorism is for the most part a reaction to foreign interventionism. It will never be defeated until this simple truth is understood.

We also heard reassuring reports that President Trump was planning a major shake-up of the US intelligence community. With a budget probably approaching $100 billion, the intelligence community is the secret arm of the US empire. The CIA and other US agencies subvert elections and overthrow governments overseas, while billions are spent spying on American citizens at home. Neither of these make us safer or more prosperous.

But all the talk about a major shake-up at the CIA under Trump was quickly dispelled when the President visited the CIA on his first full working day in office. Did he tell them a new sheriff was in town and that they would face a major and long-overdue reform? No. He merely said he was with them “1000 percent.”

One reason Trump sounds so inconsistent in his policy positions is that he does not have a governing philosophy. He is not philosophically opposed to a US military empire so sometimes he sounds in favor of more war and sometimes he sounds like he opposes it. Will President Trump in this case be more influenced by those he has chosen to serve him in senior positions? We can hope not, judging from their hawkishness in recent Senate hearings. Trump cannot be for war and against war simultaneously. Let us hope that once the weight of the office settles on him he will understand that the prosperity he is promising can only come about through a consistently peaceful foreign policy.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Trump’s Promised ‘New Foreign Policy’ Must Abandon Regime Change for Iran – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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President-elect Donald Trump told a Cincinnati audience in early December 2016 that he intends to make some big changes in US foreign policy. During his “thank you” tour in the midwest, Trump had this to say:

We will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past. We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments. …In our dealings with other countries we will seek shared interests wherever possible…”

If this is really to be President Trump’s foreign policy, it would be a welcome change from the destructive path pursued by the two previous administrations. Such a foreign policy would go a long way toward making us safer and more prosperous, as we would greatly reduce the possibility of a “blowback” attack from abroad, and we would save untold billions with a foreign policy of restraint.

However as we know with politicians, there is often a huge gap between pronouncements before entering office and actions once in office. Who can forget President George W. Bush’s foreign-policy promises as a candidate 16 years ago? As a candidate he said:

I am not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world saying ‘this is the way it’s got to be.’ … If we’re an arrogant nation they will resent us, if we’re a humble nation but strong they’ll welcome us.

Unfortunately as soon as he took office, George W. Bush pursued a completely different foreign policy, attacking countries like Iraq at the urging of the neocons he placed in positions of power in his White House and State Department.

Some people say that “personnel is policy,” and that much can be predicted about Trump’s foreign policy by the people he has appointed to serve his Administration. That is where we might have reason to be worried. Take Iran, for example. While Trump says he wants the US to stop overthrowing governments, on the issue of Iran both the candidate and his recent appointees have taken a very different view.

Trump’s pick for National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, has said the following about Iran: “I believe that Iran represents a clear and present danger to the region, and eventually to the world…” and, “…regime change in Tehran is the best way to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program.”

Trump’s CIA choice, Mike Pompeo, has said of President Obama’s Iran deal, “The Iranian regime is intent on the destruction of our country. Why the President does not understand is unfathomable.”

And Trump’s selection for Defense Secretary, General James Mattis, was even more aggressive, saying, “The Iranian regime in my mind is the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East. …Iran is not an enemy of ISIS. They have a lot to gain from the turmoil in the region that ISIS creates.”

Donald Trump’s words in Cincinnati don’t seem to match up with the views of the people that he’s assigning to high places. At least when it comes to Iran.

While I hope we can take President Trump at his word when it comes to foreign policy, I also think we should hold him to his word – especially his encouraging words in early December. Will the incoming president have the ability to rein in his more bellicose cabinet members and their underlings? We can be sure about one thing: if Trump allows the neocons to capture the State Department, keeping his foreign-policy promises is going to be a lot more difficult.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Memo to the Next Administration: Defense Spending Must Be For Actual Defense – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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In a disturbing indication of how difficult it would be to bring military spending in line with actual threats overseas, House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R – TX) told President Obama last week that his war funding request of $11.6 billion for the rest of the year was far too low. That figure for the last two months of 2016 is larger than Spain’s budget for the entire year! And this is just a “war-fighting” supplemental, not actual “defense” spending! More US troops are being sent to Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and elsewhere and the supplemental request is a way to pay for them without falling afoul of the “sequestration” limits.

The question is whether this increase in US military activity and spending overseas actually keeps us safer, or whether it simply keeps the deep state and the military-industrial complex alive and well-funded.

Unfortunately many Americans confuse defense spending with military spending. The two terms are used almost interchangeably. But there is a huge difference. I have always said that I wouldn’t cut anything from the defense budget. We need a robust defense of the United States and it would be foolish to believe that we have no enemies or potential enemies.

The military budget is something very different from the defense budget. The military budget is the money spent each year not to defend the United States, but to enrich the military-industrial complex, benefit special interests, regime-change countries overseas, maintain a global US military empire, and provide defense to favored allies. The military budget for the United States is larger than the combined military spending budget of the next seven or so countries down the line.

To get the military budget in line with our real defense needs would require a focus on our actual interests and a dramatic decrease in spending. The spending follows the policy, and the policy right now reflects the neocon and media propaganda that we must run the rest of the world or there will be total chaos. This is sometimes called “American exceptionalism,” but it is far from a “pro-American” approach.

Do we really need to continue spending hundreds of billions of dollars manipulating elections overseas? Destabilizing governments that do not do as Washington tells them? Rewarding those who follow Washington’s orders with massive aid and weapons sales? Do we need to continue the endless war in Afghanistan even as we discover that Saudi Arabia had far more to do with 9/11 than the Taliban we have been fighting for a decade and a half? Do we really need 800 US military bases in more than 70 countries overseas? Do we need to continue to serve as the military protection force for our wealthy NATO partners even though they are more than capable of defending themselves? Do we need our CIA to continue to provoke revolutions like in Ukraine or armed insurgencies like in Syria?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then I am afraid we should prepare for economic collapse in very short order. Then, with our economy in ruins, we will face the wrath of those countries overseas which have been in the crosshairs of our interventionist foreign policy. If the answer is no, then we must work to convince our countrymen to reject the idea of Empire and embrace the United States as a constitutional republic that no longer goes abroad seeking monsters to slay. The choice is ours.

 

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Regardless of How America Votes, Americans Want a Different Foreign Policy – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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I have said throughout this presidential campaign that it doesn’t matter much which candidate wins. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are authoritarians, and neither can be expected to roll back the leviathan federal government that destroys our civil liberties at home while destroying our economy and security with endless wars overseas. Candidates do not matter all that much, despite what the media would have us believe. Ideas do matter, however. And regardless of which of these candidates is elected, the battle of ideas now becomes critical.

The day after the election is our time to really focus our efforts on making the case for a peaceful foreign policy and the prosperity it will bring. While we may not have much to cheer in Tuesday’s successful candidate, we have learned a good deal about the state of the nation from the campaigns. From the surprising success of the insurgent Bernie Sanders to a Donald Trump campaign that broke all the mainstream Republican Party rules – and may have broken the Republican Party itself – what we now understand more clearly than ever is that the American people are fed up with politics as usual. And more importantly they are fed up with the same tired old policies.

Last month a fascinating poll was conducted by the Center for the National Interest and the Charles Koch Institute. A broad ranging 1,000 Americans were asked a series of questions about US foreign policy and the 15 year “war on terror.” You might think that after a decade and a half, trillions of dollars, and thousands of lives lost, Americans might take a more positive view of this massive effort to “rid the world of evil-doers,” as then-president George W. Bush promised. But the poll found that only 14 percent of Americans believe US foreign policy has made them more safe! More than 50 percent of those polled said the next US president should use less force overseas, and 80 percent said the president must get authorization from Congress before taking the country to war.

These results should make us very optimistic about our movement, as it shows that we are rapidly approaching the “critical mass” where new ideas will triumph over the armies of the status quo.

We know those in Washington with a vested interest in maintaining a US empire overseas will fight to the end to keep the financial gravy train flowing. The neocons and the liberal interventionists will continue to preach that we must run the world or everything will fall to ruin. But this election and many recent polls demonstrate that their time has passed. They may not know it yet, but their failures are too obvious and Americans are sick of paying for them.

What is to be done? We must continue to educate ourselves and others. We must resist those who are preaching “interventionism-lite” and calling it a real alternative. Claiming we must protect our “interests” overseas really means using the US military to benefit special interests. That is not what the military is for. We must stick to our non-interventionist guns. No more regime change. No more covert destabilization programs overseas. A solid defense budget, not an imperial military budget. US troops home now. End US military action in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and so on. Just come home.

Americans want change, no matter who wins. We need to be ready to provide that alternative.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.


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Fifteen Years Into the Afghan War, Do Americans Know the Truth? – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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Last week marked the fifteenth anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan, the longest war in US history. There weren’t any victory parades or photo-ops with Afghanistan’s post-liberation leaders. That is because the war is ongoing. In fact, 15 years after launching a war against Afghanistan’s Taliban government in retaliation for an attack by Saudi-backed al-Qaeda, the US-backed forces are steadily losing territory back to the Taliban.

What President Obama called “the good war” before took office in 2008, has become the “forgotten war” some eight years later. How many Americans know that we still have nearly 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan? Do any Americans know that the Taliban was never defeated, but now holds more ground in Afghanistan than at any point since 2001? Do they know the Taliban overran the provincial capital of Kunduz last week for a second time in a year and they threaten several other provincial capitals?

Do Americans know that we are still wasting billions on “reconstruction” and other projects in Afghanistan that are, at best, boondoggles? According to a recent audit by the independent US government body overseeing Afghan reconstruction, half a billion dollars was wasted on a contract for a US company to maintain Afghan military vehicles. The contractor “fail[ed] to meet program objectives,” the audit found. Of course they still got paid, like thousands of others getting rich off of this failed war.

Do Americans know that their government has spent at least $60 billion to train and equip Afghan security forces, yet these forces are still not capable of fighting on their own against the Taliban? We recently learned that an unknown but not insignificant number of those troops brought to the US for training have deserted and are living illegally somewhere in the US. In the recent Taliban attack on Kunduz, it was reported that thousands of Afghan security personnel fled without firing a shot.

According to a recent study by Brown University, the direct costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars thus far are nearly five trillion dollars. The indirect costs are virtually incalculable.

Perhaps Afghanistan is the “forgotten war” because to mention it would reveal how schizophrenic is US foreign policy. After all, we have been fighting for 15 years in Afghanistan in the name of defeating al-Qaeda, while we are directly and indirectly assisting a franchise of al-Qaeda to overthrow the Syrian government. How many Americans would applaud such a foreign policy? If they only knew, but thanks to a media only interested in promoting Washington’s propaganda, far too many Americans don’t know.

I have written several of these columns on the various anniversaries of the Afghan (and Iraq) wars, pointing out that the wars are ongoing and that the result of the wars has been less stable countries, a less stable region, a devastated local population, and an increasing probability of more blowback. I would be very happy to never have to write one of these again. We should just march home.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Americans Are Going to be Disappointed in Election Outcome – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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It is a sad commentary on the state of political life in the United States that our political conventions have become more like rock music festivals than competitions of ideas. There has been a great deal of bombast, of insults, of name-calling, and of chest-beating at both party conventions, but what is disturbingly absent is any mention of how we got to this crisis and how we can get out. From the current foreign-policy mess to the looming economic collapse, all we hear is both party candidates saying they will fix it, no problem.

In her convention speech Hillary Clinton promised that she would “fight terrorism” and defeat ISIS by doing more of what we have been doing all along: bombing. In fact we have dropped more than 50,000 bombs on ISIS in Iraq and Syria over the past two years and all she can say is that she will drop more. How many more bombs will defeat ISIS? How many more years will she keep us in our longest war, Afghanistan? She doesn’t say.

In fact, the New York Times – certainly not hostile to the Clintons – wrote that it was almost impossible to fact-check Hillary’s speech because, “she delivered a speech that was remarkably without hard facts.”

Clinton’s top foreign policy advisor said just a day after her convention speech that her big plan for Syria was to go back to square one and concentrate on overthrowing its secular president. How many more thousands more will die if she gets her way? And won’t she eventually be forced to launch a massive US ground invasion that will also kill more Americans?

Clinton does not understand that a policy of endless interventionism has brought us to our knees and made us far weaker. Does she really expect us to be the policemen of the world with $20 trillion in debt?

Likewise, Republican candidate Donald Trump misses the point. He promises to bring back jobs to America without any understanding of the policies that led to their departure in the first place. Yes, he is correct that the middle class is in worse shape than when Obama took office, but not once did he mention how it happened: the destructive policies of the Federal Reserve; the financing of our warfare/welfare state through the printing of phony money; distorted interest rates that encourage consumption and discourage saving and investment.

Trump tweeted this week that home ownership is at its lowest rate in 51 years. He promised that if elected he will bring back “the American dream.” He seems to have no idea that home ownership is so low because the Fed-created housing bubble exploded in 2007-2008, forcing millions of Americans who did not have the means to actually purchase a home to lose their homes. Not a word about the Fed from Trump.

How are these candidates going to fix the problems we face in America if they have absolutely no idea what caused the problems? No matter who is elected, Americans are going to be very disappointed in the outcome. The warfare/welfare state is going to proceed until we are bankrupt. There is hope, however. It is up to us to focus on the issues, to focus on educating ourselves and others, and to demand that politicians listen.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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Don’t Turn Foreign Tragedies into Domestic Tragedies – Article by Doug Bandow

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The New Renaissance HatDoug Bandow
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Americans Enjoy Prosperity and Peace in a Dangerous World
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The Islamic State’s March attacks in Belgium reinforce Americans’ belief that we live in a dangerous world, perhaps the most dangerous ever. Thankfully, most of the horror bypasses the United States, which remains a global oasis.

Americans can help alleviate the ugliness elsewhere. But rarely can they remake other nations, at least not at a reasonable cost in lives and resources. Americans’ priority must remain safeguarding and uplifting the United States.

I recently visited the city of Erbil, Iraq. Briefly threatened by the Islamic State two summers ago, Erbil is the capital of largely autonomous Kurdistan. Today, the city operates without evident fear, though security remains heavy. The Kurdish people are spread throughout Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran, and are the largest ethnic group without their own nation. They have suffered oppression and violence at the hands of all four states.

In Erbil, one government official spoke of fleeing his home with his family years ago as Saddam Hussein’s air force attacked from above. Hussein employed mustard gas against Kurdish civilians who opposed his brutal rule. The official’s father explained that they could count on no one else and should be prepared to die fighting. Many did.

Kurdistan remains largely separate from the Baghdad government and has become a sanctuary for others, especially religious minorities. I attended a training seminar on religious liberty organized by the group HardWired, headed by Tina Ramirez, who previously worked on Capitol Hill handling foreign policy and religious persecution. The meeting brought together people of all faiths to deepen their commitment to protecting the religious liberty of all.

Every group had suffered. Christians fled the Islamic State’s takeover of the Nineveh Plain. A Baha’i who lived close to Baghdad went to Turkey with her son. A Sunni judge got out of Mosul three days before the brutal ISIS takeover. Many in his family were not so lucky: the Islamic State detained his youngest brother for more than a year before beheading the 17-year-old. A Yazidi abandoned her home when her city was overrun by ISIS forces. Many people lost contact with friends or relatives left under Islamic State rule.

Even those who escape suffer. A church turned its grounds across the street from my hotel into a mini-refugee camp for 94 families. Homes went from tents to metal containers, but kitchens and bathrooms remain communal. People play soccer and volleyball in the common area, marking time while hoping to return home or find refuge abroad.

Even more people have been displaced by the Syrian conflict. The European migrant crisis is a result of millions fleeing their war-ravaged nation. Many have crossed into neighboring Turkey. Refugees make up an astonishing one-third of Lebanon’s population. Last summer, I visited Jordan’s Zaartari camp, home to some 80,000 people. Many residents have been there for years. Some, in a mix of frustration and desperation, return to Syria aflame.

Only today, decades into a widespread insurgency in eastern Burma, is there hope for the 50,000 residents of Mae La refugee camp, across the border in Thailand. For years, when I visited, children would tell stories of murdered parents, wrecked homes, and desperate flight across the Moei River. Few people could leave the camps and none could work legally.

Today, an uneasy peace has descended upon most of the land also known as Myanmar. In fact, it now may be freer politically than Thailand, which suffered a coup two years ago. Although the Burmese military retains much influence, it is yielding ground. In contrast, the Thai junta seems determined to hold on to power and to construct a faux democracy in which the generals will rule however the people vote.

In many other nations, the threat similarly is repression and persecution rather than conflict and war. Turkish journalists risk jail and ruin for criticizing the new sultan-wannabe, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A Christian minister’s wife lost a leg in a church bombing in Indonesia. Russians are arrested for demonstrating against the Putin government. Palestinian Christians are unable to worship in Jerusalem or to farm ancestral lands due to the Israeli occupation. Chinese students are angry over censorship and curious about the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Pervasive repression is evident in totalitarian systems, in which the state claims authority over almost every aspect of human life, including religious faith. North Korea, Eritrea — known as Africa’s North Korea — and Saudi Arabia come to mind. An accident of birth separates those with a future of freedom and opportunity from those who endure a modern form of serfdom.

Americans face many challenges, too, especially this political season. What believer in liberty could savor a presidential match-up between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? Or Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz? It’s enough for many of us to consider committing ritual seppuku.

Nevertheless, the United States remains largely invulnerable to foreign attack. Only a couple of nations could launch a nuclear assault, and they would be annihilated in return. None can challenge America conventionally: indeed, Washington spends so much on the military to enable it to attack others, not to protect the homeland. Yet, America’s prosperous and populous allies, like the Europeans, prefer to fund generous welfare states rather than potent defenses.

Horrific conflicts elsewhere appropriately tug at Americans’ heartstrings, but that is no reason to turn foreign tragedies into domestic tragedies. Terrorism remains America’s most serious security concern, but it does not threaten the nation’s existence, as did conflict during the Cold War. Less promiscuous intervention abroad is the surest means to limit such attacks at home.

America’s economic dream of a constantly improving future has lagged, but the United States is not alone in that regard. And the wounds are largely self-inflicted: foolish regulatory, spending, and tax policies that weaken Americans’ ability to compete in the world. It’s a lesson that even Europe has had painfully to learn.

No one should wish America’s political system on anyone else, yet a similar populist uprising is occurring in many European nations. It’s a problem born of frustration with bipartisan elites who rig the game for their own benefit. Who can blame people for believing that it really doesn’t matter who they vote for? There is a permanent national government that works most assiduously to ensure its permanence, irrespective of the wishes of those it governs.

The ongoing populist response is fraught with danger. Nevertheless, American supporters of liberty remain alert, constitutional protections persist, checks and balances abound, and for at least two decades, Washington pols have perfected their ability to block and frustrate their opponents. Despite fevered claims this political season, America remains far from a fascist dictatorship.

There is much in America about which to be concerned and even anguished. Yet, traveling the world reminds one just how special Americans remain. Rather than give up in despair, we should remember our blessings and redouble our efforts to reclaim the Founders’ revolutionary legacy. We don’t need to try to remake the world, as so many people seem to desire. Rather, we should concentrate on reviving America.

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of a number of books on economics and politics. He writes regularly on military non-interventionism.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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Yes, Prince Faisal, We Need to ‘Recalibrate’ Our Relationship – Article by Ron Paul

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The New Renaissance HatRon Paul
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For decades the US and Saudi Arabia have shared a peculiar relationship: the Saudis sell relatively cheap oil to the United States for which they accept our fiat currency. They then recycle those paper dollars into the US military-industrial complex through the purchase of billions of dollars worth of military equipment, and the US guarantees the security of the Saudi monarchy.

By accepting only dollars for the sale of its oil, the Saudis help the dollar remain the world’s reserve currency. This has meant that we can export inflation, finance the warfare/welfare state, and delay our day of financial reckoning.

But it seems this longstanding entangling alliance is coming apart.

First, the US nuclear deal with Iran has infuriated the Saudis. They view Iran as bitter rivals and spared no expense in Washington to derail the deal. They were not successful – at least not yet. They have also been frustrated that the US has not devoted more of its resources to the Saudi “regime change” project in Syria, seen as a way to reduce Iranian influence in the Middle East.

But it is the potential release of the secret 28 pages of the 9/11 Report that purportedly show Saudi government involvement in the attacks on New York and Washington that threatens to really blow up US/Saudi relations. The relatives of the victims are demanding the right to hold the Saudi government legally accountable if it is shown to have had a role in the attacks, and the Senate’s “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” would lift Saudi sovereign immunity and allow lawsuits to go forward. The Saudis threaten to dump three-quarters of a trillion dollars in US assets if the bill becomes law – a move that could rock world markets and even the shaky Saudi economy.

President Obama’s disastrous visit to the Saudi capital last week may have been seen as the last straw. Billed in Washington as a trip to shore up relations, President Obama got the cold shoulder as the Saudi monarch sent a low-level functionary to meet the US president’s plane while he met an incoming delegation from the Gulf Cooperation Council. The message was pretty clear.

The Obama PR team tried to put a positive spin on the visit, saying it “really cleared the air” between the two countries. But influential former Saudi Intelligence Chief Prince Turki Al-Faisal disagreed, telling CNN that there is going to have to be “a recalibration of our relationship with America.”

I happen to agree with Prince Faisal. We are long overdue for a recalibration of our relationship. While I do not believe we have any business telling the Saudis how to run their country, the decades-long special arrangement must come to an end. No more US-taxpayer subsidized arms deals to a Saudi Arabia that slaughters civilians in Yemen, transfers weapons to ISIS and other Islamist extremists in Syria and elsewhere, beheads its own citizens for minor offenses, finances terrorism overseas, and threatens other countries in the region. It should be known that no longer will the US guarantee the security of the Saudi kingdom.

If the Saudis refuse to sell us their oil in protest, there are other producers who would be happy to step in. The Iranians have long been prevented from selling their oil on the world market. If the Saudi government was involved in the 9/11 attacks, it should enjoy no immunity from justice. If that means reciprocal moves from other countries against the harm US foreign policy causes overseas, so be it.

Yes, Prince Faisal. By all means let’s “recalibrate” our relationship. No more entangling alliances with Saudi Arabia!

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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