Category Archives: Foreign Policy

What Kind of a F#&*ing Person Does This?!


Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of the Puerto Rico recovery effort. He has also signed legislation to completely undermine The Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare). At the same time, he is threatening North Korea, and is going to decertify the Iran Nuclear Deal.

To say that Trump is unhinged would be an understatement.

On Tuesday night, General Barry McCaffrey told Brian Williams that he thinks we are headed unavoidably toward war with North Korea. Yesterday Nicholas Kristof, who just returned from North Korea thinks that they, too, are gearing up for an inevitable war with the United States. How can ‘cooler heads’ prevail when the biggest hot-head is in the Oval Office? For years, we have had a stand-off with North Korea. But we have had presidents, of both parties, who understood that we must remain calm. Trump could start a nuclear war with the same emotional storm in which he starts his Twitter-tantrums.

This is a man who is willing to hold 800,000 young people hostage (the DACA program) in order to build his “wall”—which even Republicans know is a cost-benefit disaster.

Everything about Trump can be understood as “undo everything that Obama accomplished”. Obama wanted better health care for millions—undo that. Obama wanted a nuclear treaty with Iran—undo that. Obama is a humanitarian—Trump is the opposite. Obama wanted peace…this is getting scary. From clean energy, environmental protection, affordable health care, treaties with other countries… Trump will do the opposite. We can use child psychology to understand Trump, but we cannot control him. He is unhinged and is leading us inevitably toward war, and even some in his own party now recognize this.

He has done nothing about the opioid crisis, except to appoint Invisible Jared to head up something (nobody knows). This has gone nowhere while America is in a drug crisis manufactured by our own pharmaceutical companies.

What, if anything, is it going to take for his supporters to admit that they have been conned?  His tax plan focuses on the Estate Tax, which benefits him and his billionaire friends. He has not even proposed an infrastructure plan, except as a surreptitious tax-cut for corporations which will supposedly ‘stimulate’ private spending.

He, and his minion Betsy DeVos, are trying to destroy public education. But for his Chief Strategize Steve Bannon, who now works for him outside the White House, even this isn’t far enough. Bannon wants to destroy even more, threatening to push the Republican Party even further to the right.

If America is lucky we will avoid a disaster for the next 18 months. But if the Democrats don’t get their shit together and turn out the vote, if we cannot take back the House and Senate in next year’s election, then we are going to pay the price for decades.

Democrats have one main job for the next year—get out the vote!

Three Arguments for Open Borders: Part II – Libertarianism

Will Rand Paul be calling for open borders? Not likely; but perhaps, as a libertarian, he should.

Rand Paul

Few of us have ever stopped to consider whether a country is justified in limiting who can enter its borders. However, it actually may be the case that justice demands open borders.

Libertarianism, a popular political movement at the moment, exemplified by much of the Republican party, actually implies that border control as we understand it is a massive violation of our rights. This is the second part of a series of blogs based on Joseph Carens’s “Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders.”

The foundation of libertarianism is that the state does not have any rights which an individual does not have in a situation without government. For instance, imagining a time without government, I have no right to take your property and distribute it as I see fit, so the state does not have such a right either – which is why libertarians fight against welfare programs. To redistribute property, on the libertarian account, is a violation of rights.

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Three Arguments for Open Borders: Part I – The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number

Whatever you think about the current immigration debate, you have likely never questioned our country’s right to dictate who can, and cannot enter our borders. But, what if we are all wrong about that?

Undocumented border crossing.

This is the first part of a series of blogs concerning arguments for open borders. However crazy this sounds, I will give three separate arguments for open borders, each from a very different ethical perspective – the greatest good for the greatest number, libertarianism, and from the perspective of impartial rights – which should cover most of my readers.

These arguments were originally conceived by Joseph Carens, in his groundbreaking paper, “Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders.” All I will do is reformulate and simplify his arguments in order to call into question one basic assumption we all share – countries have a right to prevent people from crossing their borders.

This first argument concerns utilitarianism. This is the ethic of bringing about the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The idea is that we should pursue policies that provide for the greatest overall level of well-being for everyone affected by the policies.

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The War Drums Beat Louder

As many of you have now heard, the United States has just begun bombing operations against ISIS in Syria. However, the crucial aspect of this is that there are at least four Arab countries who are working with us against ISIS. Of course if the Republicans had their way we would have begun bombing operations earlier, but we would have been fighting alone.

The Obama administration moved more slowly, but also more intelligently. The Muslim world can not merely point to the West as attacking Islam. We have created enough enemies in the Middle East, it is crucial that we not be seen as solely a Western invading force. The other crucial aspect of this is that the countries working together on these bombing raids are Sunni Muslim, rather than Shia Muslims. It is because of the Shia majority in Iraq, which was not inclusive, which is partially responsible for creating Sunni support for ISIS in Iraq. It was a failure of democracy.

However, the real war on ISIS and other fundamentalist ideologies has to be an ideological war. This must come from within Islam itself.

It is time for moderate Muslims to spread the word that what made Islam great in the past was the fact that they were moderate, scientific, and inclusive. Fundamentalist Muslims such as ISIS want to take Islam back to the 13th century. However, what made Islam the great empire in the 13th century was that they were much more liberal than Christian Europe.

The greatest university in the world in the year 1250 was the House of Wisdom at Baghdad. The reason for this is that they welcomed all scholars: not just Islamic, but Christian and Jewish as well. Islam, during this epoch was far ahead of Christian Europe in medicine, astronomy, mathematics, architecture, hydraulics, and philosophy.

The House of Wisdom

It was the spirit of the age, which was one of liberalism– tolerant, inclusive, open-minded, and progressive– which made the religion great in the first place. Trying to recreate this greatness through the barrel of a gun can never achieve positive consequences.

The last best step in this coalition would be to get Saudi Arabia and Iran on the same side. However, as I wrote in my last blog, Saudi fundamentalism is partially behind the spread of groups such as ISIS. When they realize that they may have started something that they never intended go this far, they may take a reflective step toward a little more liberalism. As long as there is a religious civil war within Islam there will be no peace. The major step toward this peace would be for Iran and Saudi Arabia to be on the same side.

One of the reasons why young Muslims throughout the world are rushing to fight for ISIS is because of the failures of modernity to create meaningful jobs, a more inclusive culture, and eradicate all forms of racism. But this is not a reason to turn against liberalism, it is a reason to renew the liberal project which was begun in the age of Enlightenment.

The Coming War with ISIS

nullAs many of you now realize, we are once again building for a war in Iraq. As far as the Republicans are concerned the entire thing is President Obama’s fault. “He shouldn’t have pulled our troops out in the first place”… “He should have acted sooner when the threat was growing”… It doesn’t matter what is going wrong in the world, as far as the Republicans are concerned everything can be blamed on Obama.

Let’s take a breath and back up: first of all, ISIS, which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, grew out of the Syrian rebels that the Republicans wanted to arm over a year ago. They will claim that they wanted to arm the moderate rebels, but the experts will admit that it is very hard to distinguish the shifting rebel alliances in the Mid East.

A year ago the Republicans were pushing Obama to attack Syria, but when it came time to hold a vote congress would not go ahead and authorize this military action. And then they blamed Obama for not bombing Syria. Now, of course, they want to bomb Syria –- only for the other side.

Let’s see if they have the courage of their ‘convictions’. Odds are that they will continue to ‘beat their chests’ and then not hold a vote once again. Continue reading