Prior to this year’s elections, Ukrainians appeared to stumble collectively toward their second civil war in five years, thus forecasting a renewed domestic catastrophe as well as instigating an ominous foreign policy crisis for the Trump administration in a strategically pivotal part of Europe amid enduring tensions between the United States and Russia.
After declaring independence from the disintegrating Soviet Union on August 24, 1991, the elected representatives of the sovereign republic of Ukraine faced two fundamental problems: the establishment of a Ukrainian national state and the creation of a free market economy. Three decades later the verdict is in: successive Ukrainian presidents have utterly failed to make the people the real sovereign, while simultaneously, have managed to turn the Ukrainian economy into a tightly controlled corrupt, criminal political enterprise. The people’s feeble attempt at facing these challenges decisively in 2004, ended in a spectacular failure. A second similar attempt in 2014, proved to be even worse. It was an unmitigated disaster. By early 2019, during the waning days of the Poroshenko presidency, Ukraine was in an extremely deep political, financial, economic, social, cultural, and moral crisis.
Politically, the sovereignty of the Ukranian people was a shame. The citizens were held hostage to the reign of greedy and irresponsible oligarchs. Financially, the local currency, the hryvnia, became almost worthless and the national debt reached 40% of the GDP. Economically, Ukraine has turned into the poorest country of the European continent. Socially, destructive hatred and fear from each other among various ethnic
communities pushed society to the brink of another bloody civil war. Culturally, the establishment of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (Russian: Pravoslavna Tserkva Ukrayiny) on December 15, 2018, has created even among the 43.9% Ukrainian population fundamental confusions concerning their religious loyalties. Morally, this hatred and the resulting mistrust have inflamed long simmering racially motivated enmities mainly between the Ukrainian and Russian inhabitants of the country. As a result of the bloody Maidan coup d’etat and the subsequent policies of former President Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine has lost the Crimea and has triggered a deluge of fire and blood in the eastern part of the country. The latter in particular, has turned into a vicious circle, in which peace has become elusive.
Amid all these fundamental problems and uncertainties, most Ukrainian presidents have oscillated between their citizens’ desire to anchor the country in the West and the formers’ political inclination to maintain dictatorial powers with democratic facade. Their successive power grabs have moved Ukraine ever closer to its eastern neighbor Russia. In this manner, the so-called Ukrainian democracy has become a joke. That the West, in particular the United States of America, has been unable to stop the gradual descent of Ukraine into chaos is a tragedy for its sorry diplomacy. Specifically, the eight years of the Obama administration that allowed Vice President Joe Biden to take advantage of the all pervasive corruption, and help his son Hunter to enrich himself to the detriment of both countries, have been an unequivocal disgrace. Regrettably, the same Obama/Biden bureaucrats still control Ukrainian affairs from the State Department. Thus, American policy toward Ukraine remains abysmally contradictory and absolutely ineffective. In order to redefine the bilateral relationship with the new Ukrainian administration, the Trump administration should be guided by the facts on the ground. Accordingly, the White House must understand that what has transpired in the spring and more recently in the summer in Ukraine has been a real and fundamental transformation, in which the vast majority of the people have participated in a bloodless revolution to prevent another bloody civil war.
Onto this political minefield has stepped as an unlikely presidential candidate in early 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky. A lawyer by education and an entertainer by profession, he has succeeded to trigger a national uprising not just against President Petro Poroshenko who was running for a second term, but also against three decades of political and economic corruption.
The young Volodymyr Zelensky first introduced himself to the national audience in 2002, in the widely popular Russian language show called The Club of the Joyfuls and the Resourcefuls (Russian: Klub Viselikh i Nakhodchivikh). Starting to run in the Soviet TV in 1960, the show quickly became a national phenomenon. In 1972, Leonid Brezhnev closed the show, because of its increasingly critical political content. Under Mikhail Gorbachev the show was reinstated. In 2002, the best team was named The 95 Resident (Russian: 95-iy Kvartal) led by Volodymyr Zelensky from the town of Krivoy Rog. The team turned its newfound success into a permanent television show. Under the title Kiev Night (Russian: Vecherniy Kiev), they appeared every Saturday night on one of the Ukrainian TV channels. Not being satisfied with a weekly show, the team also performed live on streets and squares throughout the country. Finally, starting in 2006, they introduced a thirty five episode program entitled Servant of the People (Russian: Sluga Naroda) that became by far the most popular television show in Ukraine.
The storyline of the show is as simple as effective. A poor high school history teacher by the name of Vasyl Goloborodko (meaning in Ukrainian Clean Face), who lives with his parents, are convinced by his students to run for president. The show presents a critical picture of conditions in Ukraine from the Maidan events in 2014 on. Based on this criticism, the hero of the show builds a national movement and decisively wins the presidential election. In real life, Volodymyr Zelensky beat Petro Poroshenko 73.23% to 24.46%. Following the dissolution of the Verkhovna
Rada on May 20, 2019, parliamentary elections took place on July 21, 2019. President Volodymyr Zelenski’s party, appropriately named Servant of the People, received 254 mandates out of 424 overall.
In his inauguration speech, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that presently he has no intention to run for a second term. Then, admonished his countrymen and countrywomen to internalize their desire to be an integral part of Europe. He added that anyone who feels to be Ukrainian and would like to help the country are welcome and could obtain citizenship. Turning to politics, he emphasized the overwhelming importance of peace. To achieve peace, he stated that he would be willing to go the extra mile. He proposed direct talks with all parties involved. He strongly emphasized the unity of the entire Ukraine. Ukraine cannot be divided. The Donbas region and the Crimean peninsula are parts of Ukraine. Acknowledged that the social conditions in the country are untenable. Accordingly, everything must be done to restore the viability of the economy. Finally, President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed symbolic measures to restore the people’s faith in government.
The most important question is how to achieve these objectives. First, the new president, as soon as members of the new parliament are sworn in, must deliver a decisive and crushing blow to all who took part in running Ukraine to the ground. Second, Russia should neither be hated or feared. Negotiations must be conducted with a great deal of patience, because Russia is also fears and even hates any sovereign government in Ukraine. However, peace in the east and negotiations regarding the future of the Crimean peninsula are vital to normalization of domestic and foreign affairs of Ukraine. Third, the most thorough audit of Ukraine’s finances must be undertaken by foreign auditors. Finally, the president must work to realize the two major unfinished objectives, namely, the establishment of the Ukrainian national state and the creation of a national free market economy.
The United States of America and the European Union must wish success to Ukraine and extend all the assistance they can possibly marshall for this onerous undertaking.
Just as inflation can destroy a nation’s currency, so too inflation of another kind can destroy a nation’s citizenry.
I’m talking about the Democrat plot to vastly expand the voter base by first importing illegal aliens and then making it as easy as possible for them to vote — sometimes up to and including giving them legal access to state and local elections.
This, coupled with the Democrat effort to diminish trust in our elections by constantly inventing ever-more ludicrous claims of voter suppression, has resulted in a deadly attack on our national sovereignty. If people no longer believe they can trust our elections, then they will feel justified in rejecting the legitimacy of the government itself.
Sound familiar? That’s the faux justification of the resistance in rejecting loyalty to the duly elected president. Remember, according to the Democratic left, President Trump is only in office as a result of foreign interference and voter suppression. Reality doesn’t matter. In the eyes of the far left, Stacey Abrams is the governor of Georgia even though she lost the election by 50,000 votes.
Now, Democrats rarely talk about allowing illegal immigrants to vote in elections, but that is not always the case. Following the Cass Sunstein strategy of effecting transformational change in society through small incremental “nudges,” some Democrats currently call for allowing illegal aliens to vote in school and other local elections on the theory that all residents have a stake in the operation of schools and city services. Sure they do, and all illegal immigrants also have a stake in federal immigration policy, which will eventually be the argument why they should be allowed to vote in federal elections as well.
Nor can we discount the possibility of non-eligible voters participating in federal elections as long as voter ID is not mandatory. Progressives typically label as “voter suppression” any policy that requires voters to present a legal ID before voting. The claim is that Democrat voters are less likely to be able to obtain such an ID, though there is never any realistic explanation of why that is the case. Nor can they explain why they think cashing a check at a grocery store should have a higher bar than exercising your sacred trust of participating as a sovereign voice in the government of the United States.
Since many illegal immigrants now have access to a driver’s license in “sanctuary states” such as California, it is difficult if not impossible to tell a legal citizen from an interloper. The only thing that prevents illegal immigrants from voting is an unwillingness to break the law, and they have already proven that they think the law doesn’t apply to them.
Mark Hemingway wrote exhaustively at RealClearInvestigations earlier this month that it’s not only illegal aliens who present a threat to the sanctity of our elections. According to his report, Los Angeles by itself has 1.6 million more people registered to vote than eligible voters. But it’s not just Los Angeles or California that present a risk. According to Hemingway:
“Eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, have total voter registration tallies exceeding 100%, and in total, 38 states have counties where voter registration rates exceed 100%. Another state that stands out is Kentucky, where the voter registration rate in 48 of its 120 counties exceeded 100% last year. About 15% of America’s counties where there is reliable voter data – that is, over 400 counties out of 2,800 – have voter registration rates over 100%.”
If you think it is absurd that Democrats might want to take advantage of the large illegal immigration population to increase their vote totals, consider this: When passing their first piece of legislation in the Nancy Pelosi-led House of Representatives in 2019, Democrats rejected a GOP amendment stating that “allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens.”
There’s that idea of inflation again, which brings us back to the question of the value of citizenship. This is no longer a merely academic exercise, as we learned in the first round of Democratic presidential debates. Many of the candidates confirmed they want to decriminalize illegal immigration and even offer government benefits to those who are in the country without permission. Moreover, we’ve been told by the Supreme Court that we can’t ask about citizenship on the census unless our “motive” is politically correct. This raises the question of whether citizenship even matters in the world that Marx built.
What, for instance, makes an American an American? If citizenship rights are fungible — if, for instance, you can exchange your Guatemalan citizenship for quasi U.S. citizenship merely by stepping across a border — then what obligations does government have to its own citizens? Don’t we at some point surrender our own rights to the claims of sovereignty if borders are not barriers but merely props for a social-justice docudrama? At least in the realm of rhetoric, citizenship should no longer be considered a once-and-for-all privilege. Easy come, easy go.
I wonder if that’s what President Trump had in mind when he made the supposedly outrageous comments about “the Squad” of four socialist Democrats who want to demolish our borders. He has been attacked for asking, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the four congresswomen were born in the United States, so Trump was technically wrong to say the “‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen … originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe,” but under the new rules of fluid citizenship, he may have been even closer to the target than even he knew.
If citizenship no longer protects us, if we are obligated to shelter anyone who crosses our borders, then the value of that citizenship has been deflated just as the voter rolls have been inflated. Will the Squad really be “sent back” to some ancestral homeland? No, obviously not, but their advocacy of a country without borders makes them an apt target for those who want to defend our sovereignty.
President Trump, as usual, is ahead of the curve. He has pushed the open-borders argument to its natural conclusion. Citizenship and the responsibilities of citizenship either mean something specific or they don’t. Since Democrats in Congress refuse to acknowledge that U.S. citizenship has a real and permanent and impermeable meaning in law, then they need to live with the consequences of their globalist agenda. Sure, they are citizens of our great country, but if they are right in their defense of illegal immigrants, then that citizenship has no lasting value and offers no guarantees to those who possess it. In the brave new world without borders, the four congresswomen — and the rest of us — will have no certainty where we belong nor whether our citizenship rights can be taken away from us as easily as our protections.
Make no bones about it, the southwest border is facing a crisis like nothing the region has ever seen before. The human wave pouring over the border continues unabated, and it will only continue to do so. None of the traditional tools used to combat illegal immigration will work. A wall won’t work. Placing more sensors won’t work. Even hiring more agents to patrol the border won’t work.
They come from places as far away as India and Nepal. They speak ancient Mayan languages found only in remote central American villages. They claim to be Christians persecuted by the Chinese government. Their stories are so familiar that the officers and agents interviewing them could write the stories without bothering to interview the individuals telling the stories. They are all well coached, and know exactly what to say.
Asylum. That is the magic word, the golden ticket. The story is simply the means to the end, and the stories are familiar because those telling the story have been told exactly what to say in order to get an interview with an asylum officer.
These would be immigrants don’t bother to attempt to try to get away. All they need is a toe hold on American soil. Once they cross, they simply sit and wait for the Border Patrol to pick them up. If there is a Border Patrol Agent in the area they will save the agent the effort and walk to him or her to give themselves up. Why risk their lives when all they have to say is one little word?
The word is so small, but it has an oversized effect on our border security agencies. Border Patrol stations are bogged down with people who never bothered attempting to escape. Agents spend time working with interpreters attempting to interview individuals even though the agents already know exactly what the individual will claim. The only thing different is the names of people and places, the rest of the story is identical to the last story they heard. While agents are processing the asylum seekers, the real bad guys, the gang bangers, rapists, murderers, and potentially the terrorists are able to slip by either undetected or detected but unacted on because there are not any agents available to do anything about it.
President Trump is doing what he can to combat this flow of humanity, but there really is nothing that he can do. There is only one way to stop this wave of humanity, and only one entity can stop it.
Under current law anyone who has been in the United States for up to a year can apply for asylum regardless of how they entered the country. It is amazing that it has taken as long as it has for people to take advantage of this gaping loophole in our immigration law. The only way to fix it is for Congress to change the law. The fix is very simple.
Anyone who is able to present themselves to a port of entry for inspection and enters the United States by way other than the port of entry shall be ineligible for asylum.
There. Simple. If you are able to enter through a port of entry and you choose not to, you lose your shot at asylum and are shipped home. If you are coming from a Caribbean island country, you get a pass because you end up wherever the boat drops you off. For everyone else, you have to go to a port of entry if you want to petition for asylum.
Such a simple word, such a simple solution. Unfortunately, Congress has proven over and over that they do not work with simple solutions. So our asylum officers are backlogged for years, our Border Patrol Agents are busy processing people who simply give up, and the people who we really want to keep out of our country have a free pass to slip by overwhelmed Border Patrol Agents.
We the People.
That’s right, we the people have the right to demand that Congress act. Unless we do so, this problem will persist. It is up to you, the patriot, the concerned citizen, to contact your member of Congress and your Senators and demand that the laws be changed to reflect the current crises.
It won’t happen unless you take action.
This essay is part of a RealClearPolicy series centered on the American Project, an initiative of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy. The project looks to the country’s founding principles to respond to our current cultural and political upheaval.
The Declaration of Independence served a dual function at the momentous occasion of its adoption, July 4, 1776. The first was that it was the issuance of a statement of political independence containing within it a rational defense of our dramatic break with the government of Great Britain and its unaccountable king. The second, however, was the annunciation of the principles animating that declaration. According to the Founders, it was the violation of these principles that justified separation; their defense demanded the birth of a new nation.
These principles are outlined in the document’s most famous line: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The rights to life and to liberty suggest the autonomy of the individual, whereas the statement that men are created equal highlights the universal dignity of all. The dynamic tension between these two principles, liberty and equality, underlies the ongoing left-right dialectic that has characterized American politics from the beginning. For this reason, it may be easy to overlook the last phrase in this statement, “the pursuit of Happiness.” It reads to modern eyes, perhaps, like a poetic after thought to the weightier philosophical statements that precede it. Yet it is in the pursuit of happiness that we are called upon to exercise the virtues needed to weave the fabric of a nation.
It is the role of virtue in realizing happiness through community — especially a community of free and equal citizens — that conservatism should remind us of today.
What is virtue? Before offering an answer, it is worth noting that it is a term that exists in our moral vocabulary today largely as an artifact of classical literature and our Christian heritage — rather like a poetical term sapped of substantive meaning. We think of moral questions today predominantly in deontological or consequentialist terms, rather than in terms of the virtues. Deontological ethics holds that an action is right or wrong depending on whether it conforms to some rule or maxim (“It is always wrong to do X,” “It is my duty to do Y.”). Consequentialism, by contrast, holds that we should evaluate an action based on its outcomes or consequences. In the political sphere, we often waver between these two, incompatible approaches to moral questions.
Take just about any debate in the realm of policy. The right to own a firearm or the right to health care is often met with arguments about why such alleged rights may or may not be practical. The right to bear arms makes it too easy for bad actors to buy guns; universal health care is too expensive or will have other harmful consequences, etc. Some oppose abortion on the basis of the right to life for unborn children, whereas opponents object with practical arguments about the difficulty of raising children in certain conditions. These disagreements, however legitimate, leave us speaking conflicting moral languages that offer no path to resolution. More importantly, both moral languages overlook the importance of moral character, which is what yields meaningful happiness and establishes the basis of flourishing community.
The virtues are habits of moral character. In the classical tradition, these include such qualities as fortitude or courage, prudence, temperance, and justice. The Christian tradition adds the “theological virtues:” faith, hope, and charity (love). We might easily add qualities such as honor, nobility, fairness, equanimity, and wisdom (the cornerstone of the good life, according to Aristotle). According to the tradition of virtue ethics, we should aspire to cultivate these habits, which conduce to lives of human flourishing, rather than basing our actions on rules or consequences.
This classical understanding informed the founding of the United States. Though the empirical orientation of the Enlightenment had much to do with setting us on a course away from virtue as the ground of morality, the founding fathers nevertheless recognized the indispensability of moral virtue in securing the project of liberty, representative government, and the pursuit of happiness. As Benjamin Franklin put it: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Or Thomas Jefferson: “A nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.” Or, finally, George Washington: “There is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists … an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.”
This is not to downplay the glaring vices present in American society at the founding. The point is that the Founders were at least minimally aware of the vital role virtue plays in establishing a political society capable of securing individual liberty and the common good. Whence the motivation for John Adams’ saying: “Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.”
American society today has reaped the benefits of a prosperous economy aided by a political system that is the legacy of previous generations of Americans bound by more than the pursuit of riches. Indeed, the political liberalism of the Enlightenment has had much to do with the quest for a more egalitarian society in America, rooted in the dignity of the individual. However, the moral basis not merely of the Founding but also many of the great periods of moral progress in our history since the Founding can be traced to a religious consciousness that has stirred popular demands for social reforms, expressed through a moral language preserved by a Christian culture far older than classical liberalism.
Examples of this include the Abolitionist Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. William Lloyd Garrison, apart from Frederick Douglass perhaps the most well-remembered figure of the late abolitionist movement, might be described as less orthodoxly Christian than some of his peers in the movement. Yet, he could not have been more Christian in the framing of his moral arguments against slavery and the institutions that abided it, decrying both South and North in the years preceding the Civil War for their complicity:
The reason why the South rules, and the North falls prostrate in servile terror, is simply this: with the South, the preservation of slavery is paramount to all other considerations above party success, denominational unity, pecuniary interest, legal integrity, and constitutional obligation. With the North, the preservation of the Union is placed above all other things-above honor, justice, freedom, integrity of soul, the Decalogue and the Golden Rule-the infinite God himself.
Such language leans heavily upon conceptions of virtue harvested from Christian ethical teachings. Similarly, the sermons of Quaker minister and women’s rights activist Lucretia Mottemphasized the ethical substance of New Testament teachings against dogmatic interpretations that justified the subjugation of women, emphasizing religious behavior over rigidity of doctrine.
The nonviolent philosophy of Martin Luther King, Jr., should be understood as the application not only of the methodology of Gandhi but also the moral substance of the Gospels. “Christian love” demanded more than a belief in equality. One of the most important and distinguishing elements of nonviolence, according to Reverend King, was that it “avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love.” Love was not only the preeminent value but also the preeminent virtue of the Nonviolent Civil Rights Movement. The embrace of love as a virtue required the embrace of attendant virtues such as patience, courage, forgiveness, humility, and the suite of moral attributes that lent such ethical force to the work of King and those who followed his moral path.
If the importance of virtue is evident in great social movements it is also visible in the ideational edifice of America’s long-standing institutions. The United States Armed Forces is not merely as a functional organization that safeguards our national security, it is also, at its best, an institution that models and cultivates in its soldiers many of the virtues that we associate with what is most admirable in the American character. “The Army Values” lists seven key virtues that soldiers are trained to adhere to: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. In a similar way, the judicial oath taken by every judge or justice of the United States requires that they “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and the rich,” and to do so “faithfully and impartially,” clearly implying the virtues of faithfulness and impartiality as necessary to the moral character of a proper judge or justice. Even the traditional etiquette of reference that attends the addressing of members of congress (‘the honorable senator…’) expresses the hope that our elected officials possess, or should be held accountable to, the virtue of honor.
It may not be an exaggeration to say that virtue alone serves as the enforcer of all social contract and civic obligation. There are practical arguments that may justify the existence of our institutions, and there are rules, more or less reasonable, that might compel certain behavior from individuals or groups. But if the inward motivation to act in accordance with these rules or to seek the common good through participation in these institutions is lacking, what prevents any of us from subverting our institutions and social relationships for our own gain or becoming altogether alienated from them and one another?
The institution of marriage requires its participants to practice the virtues of selflessness and fidelity in order for it to be sustained. To be a proper friend, one must exhibit the qualities of understanding, patience, and helpfulness. To be a good parent, educator, or really anyone in a position of authority, one must be temperate, fair-minded, and balanced. To be a good student, employee, or soldier, one should be humble and coachable. To be a good leader, one ought to have courage, integrity, and, perhaps, even nobility.
Virtue, as opposed to legal compulsion or mere rationality, forms the basis of genuine interpersonal and social trust. The more we are able to see in and demonstrate for each other those habits of character necessary for flourishing, the more we find ourselves able (as both a reflection of our own virtues and those of our fellows) to collaborate with others, bear with each other’s faults, accept each other’s legitimate authority, and refrain from doing one another harm, whether out of fear, contempt or ambition.
Individual virtue breeds communal virtue, and vice versa, making virtue the great nourisher of our social fabric. If virtue seems to be vanishing from our social, political, and cultural spheres — if it is no longer something that we even pretend to demand of our politicians — this may be because virtue is vanishing from our moral language. At a moment when our political discourse is increasingly limited to our commitments to equality or individualism, and the policies they may seem to imply, American conservativism would do well to reintroduce the virtues into our moral vocabulary — those inward qualities of moral character have always formed the basis for our national excellence and our political community.
The savage beating of journalist Andy Ngo in Portland by far-left antifa rioters last Saturday shocked everyone. Well, conservatives anyway, plus a few honorable liberals. As the police stood by watching at a distance, masked thugs hit him, stole his camera and threw milkshake, rocks and eggs at him. He ended up in the hospital with a brain hemorrhage.
Criminal laws are supposed to deter criminal behavior. But that only works when the criminal gets caught and punished, and when people are permitted to hide their identities behind a mask, as antifa thugs are, no one gets caught.
Portland’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, has vowed to hold the offenders accountable. Let us know who the perpetrators are, he asked, and the city would hold them accountable — a supremely useless plea when dealing with a largely masked and anonymous group.
The antifa slogan in Portland is “we own the streets.” And they do. The city has let it happen. Last October, they blocked a street and threatened drivers and passers-by who wanted to get through. A few months before that, they beat up a Bernie Sanders supporter who was carrying an American flag.
And it isn’t just Portland. We saw similar brutality in Washington, during President Trump’s Inauguration. Hundreds of rioting antifa members took over downtown DC. They marched in black bloc fashion, five abreast, their faces wholly covered, smashing windows and pushing people off the sidewalk. The police arrested 234 people, but not one of them was found guilty.
It’s the masks that save them. They’re a get-out-of-jail-free card. Deterrence doesn’t work when you can hide your identity. That’s a lesson we should have learned from the Ku Klux Klan.
Thanks to the masks, antifa won’t pay a cost. Instead, they will luxuriate in their sense of justified political hatred. They will also have the backing of prominent apologists in the liberal establishment, including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who endorsed the antifa handbook, and CNN’s Don Lemon, who said in defense of the group that “no organization is perfect.”
Best of all for antifa, their actions have an effect. They are letting conservatives and even dissident liberals like Ngo know that they aren’t safe in Portland.
Mind you, that only works if the state is complicit. And when the city abandons its duty to protect its citizens, its inaction amounts to permission.
Mayor Wheeler is picky about the people he will protect. When a federal immigration building was surrounded by protesters last summer, its workers feared for their safety. But the mayor supported the protesters, and, following his orders, the local police refused to take sides.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement workers were effectively imprisoned in their building until federal forces from Homeland Security arrived to rescue them. When it was over, Homeland Security installed a “no-climb” fence to protect the ICE workers, to which the city objected because it was too high.
Wheeler says he is against violence. But the hooded antifa riots are still tolerated. The Portland police chief wants to ban masks, but fat chance the state will pass such a law, against protests by civil libertarians. And an anti-mask law isn’t necessary. The state already has a perfectly suitable remedy, in its anti-riot law. A person commits the crime of riot if, while participating with at least five other people, he engages in tumultuous and violent conduct and thereby intentionally or recklessly creates a grave risk of causing public alarm.
I can’t think of a better definition of the antifa method of operation.
After Ngo was beaten, the police declared a riot. Next time, the riot should be declared the moment hooded antifa protesters show up. But Wheeler won’t let that happen. That would get in the way of antifa’s free-speech rights, he thinks.
Evidently, it’s time for the federal government to step in — and crack down. It has had to do so in the past, especially during the civil rights era in the South.
There’s a federal law against conspiring to injure or intimidate a person in the free exercise of enjoyment of his rights or privileges, and I should think the elements of the offense are complete the moment the antifa goons show up in Portland.
What’s missing is the will to protect ordinary citizens, and since the city of Portland won’t do so, it’s time for federal marshals or the FBI to step in.
Democracy dies in arresting genocidal would-be militants
The most amusing part of the Washington Post‘s profile of Representative Ilhan Omar this past weekend was unquestionably the part where they caught her blatantly ripping off classical literature and passing it off as part of her life story. As Omar tells the story, she was once in a courtroom and saw a “sweet, old . . . African American lady” arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her “starving 5-year-old granddaughter.”
The old woman spent two days in jail awaiting trial, and the when the woman was given a fine of $80 that she couldn’t pay, Omar stood up and yelled “Bulls—!” The entire room began to clap. Omar then addressed the judge and said, “And so, Your Honor, you see it’s true, that woman bears no more guilt than you!” Ripping open her jacket, Omar revealed a tattoo on her chest and bellowed “2-4-6-0-1!”
That last part I made up of course, but Omar seriously tried to pretend everything up to and including the loud profanity was true. One wonders how she beat the contempt of court charge. Yet as the Post notes, Omar’s story “echoed the plot of ‘Les Miserables.'” If not entirely fictional, it’s highly embellished; Minneapolis police are not allowed to lock people up simply for shoplifting and the typical sentence is just attending a three-hour class. The Post reports that Omar later acknowledged that “she may have flubbed some facts.”
That was certainly worth a chuckle, but what really threw me for a loop came later on in the piece, when the Post profiled another typical Minnesota Somali-American family. Filsan Ibrahim and her family run a day care, they celebrate Ramadan together, they share jokes around the dinner table, they worked their way through college and graduate school, they got a welcome letter from George W. Bush when they immigrated to the States, they rally behind convicted ISIS terrorists, they lived through the “uncertainty, hope and joy that accompanied her family’s first days in America,” and “have complicated views of their adopted country that mix gratitude, frustration, alienation and pride.”
Wait, what was that one part? About the ISIS terrorists?
A few days later Filsan, her mother and her sisters attended a fundraiser and rally for nine Somalis who had been convicted in 2016 of trying to travel to Syria to fight on behalf of the Islamic State.
Omar had written a letter on behalf of the men on the day she was elected in 2016, urging rehabilitation instead of prison time. “The desire to commit violence is not inherent in people — it is the consequence of systemic alienation,” she wrote the judge. She had known other young men from school who died fighting for al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia.
Since her letter she has kept her distance from the case, which she knew was politically toxic, an easy opportunity for her enemies to paint her as un-American.
Can you imagine? If Omar’s enemies used her public defense of a convicted ISIS terrorist? To “paint her” as un-American?
For Filsan, the trial remained a source of anger and frustration. Her generation of Somali refugees saw America as home, but they lived under a shadow of suspicion. Armed American drones regularly fired missiles into their homeland. In Minneapolis, the FBI was surveilling their mosques and paying off informants.
Filsan had protested the FBI’s “countering violent extremism” program in Minneapolis, which sought to dissuade Somalis from joining terrorism groups, but which she believed stigmatized the Somali community.
Just your average Somali-American family that opposes Obama-created federal programs to peacefully persuade American Muslims to reject radical terrorism and feels “anger and frustration” when radical terrorists are arrested. You’d think the apprehension of nine radical Islamic terrorists in Minneapolis– a hotbed for terror recruitment— would be seen vindication of the FBI’s surveillance and persuasion efforts, but I guess not.
To Filsan, it didn’t make sense. The men on trial had never touched a weapon or left the United States. “I don’t think they knew what they were getting into and I don’t think they need to give up their lives for something that never happened,” she said. “That’s madness.” The heavy sentences, she said, were the product of racism, Islamophobia and the never-ending war on terror.
The men never touched a weapon or left the United States because they were arrested before they went through with their concrete and detailed plan to leave the United States and take up weapons. They knew exactly what they were getting into. Ibrahim surely knows this.
As for the heavy sentences, racism has nothing to do with it. It’s true that the specific terrorist Ibrahim was rallying for, Guled Ali Omar, received 35 years. That was a combination of the fact that he was the ringleader and that he refused to take a plea deal and elected to take his chances at trial. The two other members who refused plea deals got 30 years. Those who took deals got only ten years and those who turned state’s witness got even less prison time. That seems more than fair for plotting to join a genocidal enemy of the state.
About a dozen of Guled’s friends lingered in the parking lot, posing for pictures they planned to post on Instagram. “Fingers up,” someone called out.
Most of the men raised their index fingers, a gesture that symbolizes the oneness of God and has become widely associated with the Islamic State. They flashed the same sign during the trial in 2016, drawing the ire of the prosecutor.
The young Somalis in the parking lot — a mix of men and women — said they didn’t subscribe to the Islamic State’s fanatical interpretation of the Koran. And they certainly didn’t support any terrorist groups. But, on this night, they were trying to send a message — one of Muslim solidarity, alienation and defiance.
You must be kidding.
Imagine this sequence of events: a group of young white, right-wing people attend a rally for, let’s say, the man convicted of threatening to kill Ilhan Omar. In the course of this rally, they tell reporters that they feel anger and frustration at the government’s surveillance of nativist groups and hostility to white nationalism. They downplay the crime– because hey, it’s not like he ever went through with it!– suggest the harsh sentence was politically motivated. Then afterwards, they all head outside and flash the alt-right “okay sign” or grab some tiki torches, but then explain that they don’t subscribe to alt-right beliefs or support alt-right terrorists.
Do you believe, in a million years, that Washington Post reporters would A) credulously parrot the claim they aren’t actually extremists, and B) finish by characterizing it all as a show of “solidarity, alienation and defiance”? Or might they conclude that this rally is at best a hotbed of white nationalist apologists, and more realistically is full of plain old white nationalists?
Alas, the actual extremists and terror sympathizers in questions are part of a liberal constituency, supported by a popular young liberal politician, and are members of a faith group often targeted by the Trump administration. The reporters allowed their biases to blind themselves to reality and the result is absurd: an honest-to-god puff piece of a rally on behalf of convicted terrorists. Take a bow, WaPo.
Democratic presidential candidates are trying to revive a dead deal
On Monday, the regime in Iran announced that it’s intentionally violating the 2015 nuclear deal. Since then, no Democratic presidential candidates have reversed their pledges to reenter the accord if elected. In other words, several Democratic candidates would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons by returning to a nuclear agreement that Iran is no longer following. If that strategy sounds illogical, that’s because it is. But that isn’t the worst of it. Recall that, under the deal, the most important restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program begin to disappear at the end of the next presidential term and the beginning of the following one. So, assuming for a moment that a Democrat is elected president in 2020, the tool by which that president would constrain Tehran’s nuclear ambitions—the deal—would effectively expire as they are set to start a second term, or as their predecessor is set to take office, in either case putting the United States in an impotent position to stop an Iranian capability to develop nuclear weapons. And yet, too many Democrats are hell-bent on preserving a nuclear deal that is on its deathbed. At this point, arguments for reviving the narrow nuclear deal in roughly its original form are dangerous and delusional.
The nuclear deal, which President Trump withdrew from last year, allowed Iran to store 300 kilograms of uranium. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said Monday that his country exceeded that limit. The International Atomic Energy Agency has since confirmed this violation. The deal also allowed Tehran to enrich its stored uranium to a low concentration of 3.67 percent, a cap the regime also plans to breach in the coming days. “Our next step will be enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 percent allowed under the deal,” Zarif said.
Despite what the media have reported this week, Iran’s latest actions are hardly its first in violation of the nuclear accord. Indeed, Tehran has repeatedly exceeded the limits of heavy water, which is used in nuclear reactors to help produce plutonium, permitted under the deal. The regime has also operated more advanced nuclear centrifuges than are permitted by the accord, while refusing to grant international inspections of nuclear research and military facilities. Furthermore, German intelligence agencies have flagged Iran’s continued illicit attempts to buy nuclear and missile technology. As I explainedin January, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Iranian media that the regime
circumvented a section of the deal that explicitly requires Tehran to remove the reactor core at its Arak nuclear facility in central Iran, and then to fill its tubes with cement so the facility cannot be used to pursue a plutonium path to a bomb. Iran’s nuclear chief explained that Tehran secretly acquired and stored replacement tubes, noting that only Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, knew about the decision. … [Salehi] added that images showing the reactor core filled with cement were “photoshopped.”
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani warned Wednesday that the regime “will restore the Arak reactor to its previous condition.”
We know about Iran’s most significant violation of the deal thanks to the Israelis, who last year captured about 100,000 secret files from Iran concerning its nuclear program. The files revealed, among other insights, that the regime had plans to build at least five nuclear bombs. That the Iranians were hiding such information strongly suggests that they were planning to use it later and still seek nuclear weapons today. Why would a bank robber who promised to quit still have blueprints of banks stashed away in his basement? Recall one of the deal’s first sentences: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons.” It seems that Iran was lying from the start, violating the most basic and overarching term of the agreement.
News of Iran’s latest illicit activities came a few days after the first Democratic presidential debates, during which several candidates promised to reenter the nuclear deal if elected.
At the first debate on Wednesday, moderators asked the 10 candidates present whether they would rejoin the deal. Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) was the only one not to raise his hand, although he said he wants to return to a similar agreement. “It was a mistake to pull out of that deal,” he said. Trump “took us out of the deal that gave us transparency into their nuclear program and push back a nuclear breakout 10—20 years. We need to renegotiate and get back into a deal.”
The other two candidates allowed to comment on the issue, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii), expressed similar sentiments.
Every Democrat running for president has said or heavily implied that they would reenter the nuclear deal, either before entering the race or during the campaign. Some, such as Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, have added a caveat that they would seek tougher conditions. But the leading candidates have all indicated that they would return to the original agreement.
A few of the candidates have alluded to the fact that, under the deal, the key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program expire over the next 12 years. Beginning in 2026, Tehran is free to enrich uranium using advanced centrifuges, which make the enrichment process much more efficient, and to install and operate more of its older models. In 2031, restrictions on the amount and level of enriched uranium that Iran can stockpile disappear—restrictions that Iran is already violating. These are the two key dates, after which Iran will be able to build as large of a nuclear program as it wants. And the best part: If the United States were in the deal, Iran could also enjoy relief from sanctions.
But there are several key expiration dates before then. In 2025, for example, the “snapback” provision, under which sanctions by the United Nations would be reimposed should Iran violate the deal, will end. New sanctions would require the U.N. Security Council to pass another resolution, which China or Russia would surely veto. Moreover, in 2023, Iran will have an easier time acquiring components and technology for its ballistic-missile program, the key for Tehran delivering nuclear bombs, with the lifting of a U.N. ban on assisting Iran’s missile program.
Taken together, these dates show that, regardless of who is inaugurated in January 2021, the president will find the nuclear deal unsustainable over the next four years, as key clauses of the deal expire. And if the president during this time foolishly returns to the nuclear deal, imagine the situation they would hand to their successor, who, at that point, would only be able to stop or delay an Iranian nuclear bomb with military strikes. Of course at that point Iran would be better able to defend itself, with the U.N. ban on Iranian arms imports and exports set to expire in 2020 under the deal. Reentering the nuclear accord simply boxes in future presidents, giving them fewer options.
With Iran breaching the deal today and key provisions set to expire in a few years, it simply does not make sense for the United States to return to a dying agreement. Some Democrats at the debate said they wanted to renegotiate their way back into the accord. Well, like it or not, the best way to make that happen, to return to some kind of an agreement, is to follow the Trump administration’s policy: to exert maximum pressure on the regime to force it back into negotiations, with the United States having greater leverage. Other options will lead down a predictably dangerous road of appeasing the Iranians to prevent a full-scale war that won’t erupt if America shows strength and resolve—the opposite of what most Democratic candidates are proposing. So, looking at the big picture, the Democratic candidates can get an agreement. They just have to follow Trump’s road to get there. Don’t hold your breath.
Donald Trump is many things. But one thing he is not is a defender of the 2009-2016 status quo and accepted progressive convention. Since 2017, everything has been in flux. Lots of past conventional assumptions of the Obama-Clinton-Romney-Bush generation were as unquestioned as they were suspect. No longer.
Everyone knew the Iran deal was a way for the mullahs to buy time and hoard their oil profits, to purchase or steal nuclear technology, to feign moderation, and to trade some hostages for millions in terrorist-seeding cash, and then in a few years spring an announcement that it had the bomb.
No one wished to say that. Trump did. He canceled the flawed deal without a second thought.
Iran is furious, but in a far weaker—and eroding—strategic position with no serious means of escaping devastating sanctions, general impoverishment, and social unrest. So a desperate Tehran knows that it must make some show of defiance. Yet it accepts that if it were to launch a missile at a U.S. ship, hijack an American boat, or shoot down an American plane, the ensuing tit-for-tat retaliation might target the point of Iranian origin (the port that launched the ship, the airbase from which the plane took off, the silo from which the missile was launched) rather than the mere point of contact—and signal a serial stand-off 10-1 disproportionate response to every Iranian attack without ever causing a Persian Gulf war.
Everyone realized the Paris Climate Accord was a way for elites to virtue signal their green bona fides while making no adjustments in their global managerial lifestyles—at best. At worst, it was a shake-down both to transfer assets from the industrialized West to the “developing world” and to dull Western competitiveness with ascending rivals like India and China. Not now. Trump withdrew from the agreement, met or exceeded the carbon emissions reductions of the deal anyway, and has never looked back at the flawed convention. The remaining signatories have little response to the U.S. departure, and none at all to de facto American compliance to their own targeted goals.
Rich NATO allies either could not or would not pay their promised defense commitments to the alliance. To embarrass them into doing so was seen as heretical. No more.
Trump jawboned and ranted about the asymmetries. And more nations are increasing rather than decreasing their defense budgets. The private consensus is that the NATO allies knew all along that they were exactly what Barack Obama once called “free riders” and justified that subsidization by ankle-biting the foreign policies of the United States—as if an uncouth America was lucky to underwrite such principled members. Again, no more fantasies.
China was fated to rule the world. Period. Whining about its systematic commercial cheating was supposedly merely delaying the inevitable or would have bad repercussions later on. Progressives knew the Communists put tens of thousands of people in camps, rounded up Muslims, and destroyed civil liberties, and yet in “woke” fashion tip-toed around criticizing the Other. Trump then destroyed the mirage of China as a Westernizing aspirant to the family of nations. In a protracted tariff struggle, there are lots of countries in Asia that could produce cheap goods as readily as China, but far fewer countries like the United States that have money to be siphoned off in mercantilist trade deals, or the technology to steal, or the preferred homes and universities in which to invest.
The Palestinians were canonized as permanent refugees. The U.S. embassy could never safely move to the Israeli capital in Jerusalem. The Golan Heights were Syrian. Only a two-state solution requiring Israel to give back all the strategic border land it inherited when its defeated enemies sought to destroy it in five prior losing wars would bring peace. Not now.
The Palestinians for the last 50 years were always about as much refugees as the East Prussian Germans or the Egyptian Jews and Greeks that were cleansed from their ancestral homelands in the Middle East in the same period of turbulence as the birth of Israel. “Occupied” land more likely conjures up Tibet and Cyprus not the West Bank, and persecuted Muslims are not found in Israel, but in China.
An aging population, the veritable end to U.S. manufacturing and heavy industry, and an opioid epidemic meant that America needed to get used to stagnant 1 percent growth, a declining standard of living, a permanent large pool of the unemployed, an annual increasing labor non-participation rate, and a lasting rust belt of deplorables, irredeemables, clingers and “crazies” who needed to be analyzed by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. At best, a middle-aged deplorable was supposed to learn to code or relocate to the Texas fracking fields. Perhaps not now.
In the last 30 months, the question of the Rust Belt has been reframed to why, with a great workforce, cheap energy, good administrative talent, and a business-friendly administration, cannot the United States make more of what it needs? Why, if trade deficits are irrelevant, do Germany, China, Japan, and Mexico find them so unpleasant? If unfettered trade is so essential, why do so many of our enemies and friends insist that we almost alone trade “fairly,” while they trade freely and unfairly? Why do not Germany and China argue that their vast global account surpluses are largely irrelevant?
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) assured us that the world would be suffocating under greenhouse gases within 12 years. Doom-and-gloom prophecies of “peak” oil warned us that our oil reserves would dry up by the early 21st century. Former Vice President Al Gore warned us that our port cities would soon be underwater. Economists claimed Saudi Arabia or Russia would one day control the world by opening and closing their oil spigots. Not now.
Three million more barrels of American oil are being produced per day just since Trump took office. New pipelines will ensure that the United States is not just the world’s greatest producer of natural gas but perhaps its largest exporter as well.
Trump blew up those prognostications and replaced them with an optimistic agenda that the working- and middle classes deserve affordable energy, that the United States could produce fossil fuels more cleanly, wisely, and efficiently than the Middle East, and that ensuring increased energy could revive places in the United States that were supposedly fossilized and irrelevant. Normal is utilizing to the fullest extent a resource that can discourage military adventurism in the Middle East, provide jobs to the unemployed, and reduce the cost of living for the middle class; abnormal is listening to the progressive elite for whom spiking gasoline and power bills were a very minor nuisance.
Open borders were our unspoken future. The best of the Chamber of Commerce Republicans felt that millions of illegal aliens might eventually break faith with the progressive party of entitlements; the worst of the open borders lot argued that cheap labor was more important than sovereignty and certainly more in their interests than any worry over the poor working classes of their own country. And so Republicans for the last 40 years joined progressives in ensuring that illegal immigration was mostly not measured, meritocratic, diverse, or lawful, but instead a means to serve a number of political agendas.
Most Americans demurred, but kept silent given the barrage of “racist,” “xenophobe,” and “nativist” cries that met any measured objection. Not so much now. Few any longer claim that the southern border is not being overrun, much less that allowing a non-diverse million illegal aliens in six months to flood into the United States without audit is proof that “diversity is our strength.”
The Republican Party’s prior role was to slow down the inevitable trajectory to European socialism, the end of American exceptionalism, and homogenized globalized culture. Losing nobly in national elections was one way of keeping one’s dignity, weepy wounded-fawn style, while the progressive historical arc kept bending to our collective future. Rolling one’s eyes on Sunday talk shows as a progressive outlined the next unhinged agenda was proof of tough resistance.
Like it or not, now lines are drawn. Trump so unhinged the Left that it finally tore off its occasional veneer of moderation, and showed us what progressives had in store for America.
On one side in 2020 is socialism, “Medicare for All,” wealth taxes, top income tax rates of 70 or 80 or 90 percent, a desire for a Supreme Court of full of “wise Latinas” like Sonia Sotomayor, insidious curtailment of the First and Second Amendments, open borders, blanket amnesties, reparations, judges as progressive legislators, permissible infanticide, abolition of student debt, elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau and the Electoral College, voting rights for 16-year-olds and felons, and free college tuition.
On the other side is free-market capitalism but within a framework of fair rather than unfettered international trade, a smaller administrative state, less taxation and regulation, constitutionalist judges, more gas and oil, record low unemployment, 3-4 percent economic growth, and pressure on colleges to honor the Bill of Rights.
The New, New Normal
The choices are at least starker now. The strategy is not, as in 2008 and 2012, to offer a moderate slow-down of progressivism, but rather a complete repudiation of it.
One way is to see this as a collision between Trump, the proverbial bull, and the administrative state as a targeted precious china shop—with all the inevitable nihilistic mix-up of horns, hooves, and flying porcelain shards. But quite another is to conclude that what we recently used to think was abjectly abnormal twenty years ago had become not just “normal,” but so orthodoxly normal that even suggesting it was not was judged to be heretical and deserving of censure and worse.
The current normal correctives were denounced as abnormal—as if living in a sovereign state with secure borders, assuming that the law was enforced equally among all Americans, demanding that citizenship was something more than mere residence, and remembering that successful Americans, not their government, built their own businesses and lives is now somehow aberrant or perverse.
Trump’s political problem, then, may be that the accelerating aberration of 2009-2016 was of such magnitude that normalcy is now seen as sacrilege.
Weaponizing the IRS, unleashing the FBI to spy on political enemies and to plot the removal of an elected president, politicizing the CIA to help to warp U.S. politics, allying the Justice Department with the Democratic National Committee, and reducing FISA courts to rubber stamps for pursuing administration enemies became the new normal. Calling all that a near coup was abnormal.
Let us hope that most Americans still prefer the abnormal remedy to the normal pathology.
His flip-flops suggest that he remains troublingly clueless about the biggest geo-political peer rival and potential challenger to the United States.
Under old-school journalism, reporters would be camping in front of Joe Biden’s campaign offices asking questions on his foreign policy: whether he still thinks Qatari-funded jihadis wanted to topple Syria’s Bashar Assad, if Libya intervention under President Obama was a mistake, and the reason for the flop of Obama’s Asia Pivot. In the last few weeks, Joe Biden has shown he would say anything to be president, including first promising to cure cancer, then flip-flopping on abortion, and finally flipping on China.
American domestic politics are for Americans to decide when the election comes, but at a time Beijing is returning to Tiananmen form, no bigger issue needs further scrutiny than Biden’s China stance.
Biden recently said in Iowa that China is a “serious challenge” and threat, adding, “We are in a competition with China. We need to get tough with China. They are a serious challenge to us and in some areas a real threat.”
Funny, because in May, he mocked the China threat, saying, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man…They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the east, I mean in the west.”
Biden then added that he is worried about President Trump’s tariff wars against China, which is arguably “exacerbating the challenge,” and said “if we do what we need to do here at home…we can out-compete anyone.” According to reports, Biden then said: “You bet I’m worried about China…if we keep following Trump’s path.”
While pondering the alternative way, Biden said he would force China to go green: “Biden will rally a united front of nations to hold China accountable to high environmental standards in its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure projects so that China can’t outsource pollution to other countries.” Yes, good luck with that. It might sound plausible in a school kid’s Earth Day project, but not in the policy plans of the prospective leader of the free world.
This, is, of course, pure madness. There is no bigger potential challenge for the West, and especially for the United States, than the rise of a near peer-rival great power like China. At this very moment, Chinese government lackeys in Hong Kong are cracking down on the largest protests of 2019, where more than a million Hong Kongers are marching to stop China’s de facto takeover of Hong Kong’s justice system, which would allow any dissident to be packed off to trial in mainland China.
But that is not the biggest issue. The problem is China is a challenge unprecedented to U.S. policymakers. Chinese peacetime gross domestic product is overtaking America’s, and China is set to soon, as a percentage of relative power, eclipse all previous great power challenges that the United States has ever faced, including Imperial Spain, Imperial Germany, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and even the Soviet Union.
To put it simply, the conflict of interest between the rising China and an established hegemon in the United States is inevitable. In international relations, it is known as “the Thucydides Trap“.
Consider the world of international politics like a snooker table. Unlike the domestic politics of a nation state, the international system is anarchic in nature. That is because, in domestic politics there is an established government that can decide and, if needed, enforce. The lack of hierarchy in international politics makes it anarchical, in Kenneth Waltz’s terminology, because there is no global governance, and any attempt to form a global empire would invite backlash from rival powers, while any attempt at global governance would result in a global war.
Naturally, international politics is determined by nation-states, and more importantly great powers, which are the single most important actors of world politics. And great powers rise or fall due to a variety of factors: stupid policies, ideological and military overstretch, spending more than one can afford, foolish wars and global policing, failure or decline in technological competition, juvenile or effeminate elites, and the biggest variable of all: time.
In that light, the Thucydides Trap comes in.
Throughout history, there has been one completely consistent pattern: Growing and rising powers always challenge established powers. From Athens and Sparta, to Rome and Carthage, to Napoleon, to the two World Wars, and the Cold War, this pattern remained the same. China and the United States are just the new avatars of this great game, as the actors change, but the game remains the same.
In this context, conflict does not always mean war. It could be a cold war, trade war, proxy wars, anything, but conflict between a rising and established power is inevitable. As J.J. Mearsheimer states in his book, China will try and push away the United States from Asia, just as the United States once pushed away European great powers from the Western Hemisphere.
Meanwhile, Biden is flip-flopping on this biggest challenge confronting the United States, tweeting friendship bands about how much he misses Barack Obama, and claiming there was not a hint of scandal during his eight years as vice president. For all his problems, President Trump has been forthright about the China challenge, much more than any current Democrat, or even a majority of the Republican leaders. In the future, this might be considered his legacy.
While most focus on tariffs and economics, China—with its AI research, space research, naval build-up, data and IP theft, and unfair trade practices—is a much bigger challenge than to suffer a dollar increase in the price of a beer can. There are questions already on how one should contain China, or what in itself is an intelligent containment strategy.
Some are pointing out their doubts about whether the present U.S. leadership and population is even martial enough to withstand the long-coming generational conflict. But whatever the case, to lightly rephrase an old and used proverb, you cannot choose whether to be interested in a coming Cold War, as the Cold War is already interested in you.
Biden’s callousness about identifying that and then his face-saving flip-flop is, therefore, the most troubling aspect of his candidacy. The less said about his Democratic colleagues, the better.
The Air Force has received heat recently from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which filed a lawsuit alleging it “wrongly awarded” billions to a few of its competitors, going so far as to write that “by any reasonable measure, SpaceX earned a place in the LSA portfolio.”
Forget for a minute that the Air Force has been more than fair with Musk’s start-up, providing it with a $130 million award just last summer. And forget that in the most recent offering that SpaceX is protesting, the military imposed strict criteria that ultimately resulted in a diverse array of firms, old and new, receiving awards. To understand the baselessness of Musk’s allegations, just follow the news that broke in sync with the release of his lawsuit.
According to a bombshell announcement made by the Department of Justice on May 22—the same day the U.S. Court of Federal Claims publicly released SpaceX’s lawsuit—federal investigators have charged a SpaceX quality assurance engineer with falsifying at least 38 inspection reports for the company’s rockets. These SpaceX rocket parts, which did not pass proper QA inspections, were nevertheless used in seven NASA missions and two Air Force missions. At least 76 uninspected parts slipped through SpaceX’s quality assurance procedures. Needless to say, that’s more than enough to raise some eyebrows.
SpaceX, to their credit, swiftly cut ties with the accused individual, as well as the company for which he worked. They also pointed out that all the missions affected by the falsified inspection reports were successful. However, this isn’t the first time the specter of inadequate quality assurance has haunted SpaceX.
In 2015, after a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket cost the government $110 million by exploding just minutes after takeoff, SpaceX essentially washed its hands of the incident, stating that an outside supplier’s faulty steel strut was to blame. While that may have seemed like reasonable justification at the time, three years later, a NASA report detailed that SpaceX’s implementation of that part “was done without adequate screening or testing,” “without regard to the manufacturer’s recommendations for a 4:1 factor of safety,” and “without proper modeling or adequate load testing of the part under predicted flight conditions.” Those lapses of quality assurance are all on SpaceX, and they are certainly much bigger than one faulty steel strut.
Additionally, Musk also had to contend with the fallout from a 2017 Inspector General report, which found that SpaceX “did not perform adequate quality assurance management.” In total, the auditors uncovered 33 major quality violations, as well as 43 minor infractions.
At a May 8 meeting of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, a NASA official revealed that things have not improved with time. Recently, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon was deemed to have an unsatisfactory parachute system after the capsule sustained significant damage while impacting the ground. The Crew Dragon shuttle itself also suffered a major malfunction during testing, resulting in the entire capsule erupting into flames. Given the shuttle’s ultimate goal of transporting astronauts to and from Earth, the Crew Dragon’s ineffective parachutes represent legitimate stumbling blocks for both SpaceX and NASA.
It would appear that the Crew Dragon explosion was jarring enough to catch the attention of the United States military, potentially placingSpaceX’s partnership as an aerospace contractor for the U.S. government in jeopardy. That may explain, at least in part, why SpaceX has been such a vocal opponent of moving forward with the government’s Launch Service Agreement—the program Elon is currently suing the Air Force over.
In all likelihood, SpaceX recognizes the importance of the LSA but wants to stall the program to give itself a fighting chance to secure a contract. After all, Musk stated previously that his company “missed the mark” when crafting a proposal. Musk’s delay tactics, though, aren’t serving him well. His strategy to postpone the LSA is only generating increased scrutiny toward SpaceX.
Likewise, Musk’s lawsuit against the Air Force is creating the perception that SpaceX understands national security better than the U.S. military. And with SpaceX’s ongoing, public, and embarrassing QA crisis, SpaceX is not in a position to be dictating terms. Musk would be wise to recognize that the Air Force does indeed know best, and that his public crusade against them isn’t doing his company any favors.
The so-called Maidan revolution of 2014, and the subsequent five years under President Petro Poroshenko have brought nothing but unrelenting catastrophes upon the since 1991 independent former Soviet Republic of Ukraine. During former President Petro Poroshenko’s reign, Crimea has been lost to the Russian Republic, a bloody civil war has devastated the Donbas region, hundreds of thousands of educated Ukrainians have left the country for the European Union, the national currency, the hryvnia, has lost more than 20% of its value vis-a-vis the Euro, inflation has hit astronomical proportions, the economy has flirted with total bankruptcy and presently only vegetates on the handouts of the IMF, the national debt has reached 40% of the GDP, the all pervasive corruption has impoverished the entire society except Mr. Poroshenko and his cronies, criminal organizations have controlled large segments of the economy, and the Ukrainian per capita income has fallen to the last place in Europe behind even Moldova and Bulgaria.
Under these circumstances, there could not have been surprising that at least a year before the presidential election opinion polls already indicated Petro Poroshenko’s defeat. Volodymyr Zelensky clearly rod on the crest of ubiquitous dislike of the former president. Yet, few have had expected the tidal wave with which the new President Volodymyr Zelensky beat his predecessor. In the first round, Volodymyr Zelensky received 30.24% of the votes, while Petro Poroshenko trailed him with 15.95%. The second round brought a total political disaster to Petro Poroshenko. He ended up with only 24.46%, while Volodymyr Zelensky gathered 73.23% of the total votes.
With this kind of electoral victory, President Zelensky has won a popular mandate to transform Ukrainian politics from a semi-criminal state to a true democracy. In this context, democracy should mean a system of government in which the will of the majority of the citizenry must be respected with the right of the minority to constructively oppose the forces in power. On the other hand, the majority must govern within the limits of the constitution and the laws and respect the morality and traditions of the Ukrainian society. The ultimate objective should be to rebuild and strengthen the legal and moral foundations of the Ukrainian nation.
However, this task is enormous and full of trepidations. For these reasons, President Zelensky should resist attempts of superficial experimentations. Therefore, his first objective should be to establish the rule of law. Secondly, he should fight resolutely Ukraine’s destructive opposition headed by former president Poroshenko. Meanwhile, he should not forget that the guarantee of good politics resides in the character of the politician. Simultaneously, President Zelensky should allow a constructive opposition to participate freely in the political processes. Thirdly, President Zelensky should strengthen the Ukrainian families. This can be done by legislation and also by establishing a holiday honoring the family unites across the country.
On the larger scale, Ukraine needs peace. Peace with Russia and peace with its minorities. Without such an internal and an external peace the eternal struggle for Ukrainian statehood will fail again. Moreover, without peace the reconstruction of the Ukrainian state will never materialize. Finally, without peace economic recovery will never become a reality.
Taking all these requirements into account, the policies of the United States of America and the European Union should focus primarily on the normalization of the
Ukrainian state from within and only secondarily on the present hostilities with Russia. Once the ongoing civil war is ended, the troubled relations with Russia can be addressed from a better strategic position.
The key to Ukraine is to understand that the country is replete with maliciously placed political, economic, financial, cultural, ethnic, religious, and moral landmines. These mines can only be defused gradually and with the greatest caution. To achieve a positive result, Ukraine needs all the help that could be marshalled by President Zelensky at home and the international community outside the country.
For some time now there has been a certain “Woe is me” attitude among American conservatives of almost all stripes. It seems to be rooted in a deep sense that the culture war is already lost and the country is changing too fast in ways we can’t combat. It is true that progressive dominance of the media, the educational system, and our cultural institutions very often makes it appear that this is the case.
But is it? And if we are to judge the success of American conservatism, to what should we compare it?
The most sensible comparison is to the rest of the English-speaking world. We don’t tend to think much about the “English-speaking world,” anymore, notwithstanding Winston Churchill’s several somewhat tedious volumes about it. In this case I’m referring roughly to the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. All of these countries have societies and governments that emerged from the same crucible of English power in the 17th and 18th centuries. So how does American conservatism stack up against that of our siblings with the charming accents?
Pretty well. On issues like free speech, gun rights, religious freedom, taxation, health care, energy, and a host of others, the United States has policies that would be unthinkable in the nations of the other sons and daughters of William Shakespeare. In fact, it is a common leftist talking point that United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have blah, blah, blah. In the American context, in almost every case this is meant to say that we are too conservative.
A lot of this is baked into the mechanics of our system of government, as opposed to the other nations’ parliamentary models. This was on display recently when New Zealand passed new anti-gun measures a mere month after the tragic terrorist attack at Christchurch. The American left marveled. “Why can’t we do that?” they demanded. The answer of course is the Constitution.
Under a parliamentary system, a simple majority in the legislative body can do almost anything it wants, as New Zealand’s did. Under our system, such laws would have to pass two legislative bodies, an executive branch, a judiciary system, and possibly a constitutional amendment process that requires something approaching national consensus. Although our own left and almost everyone in our sibling nations think of this as a flaw, it is in fact a marvelous feature.
But it isn’t merely the rigidity of our government’s self-imposed impotence that explains why America’s laws are so much more deeply conservative than is any other English-speaking nation. After all, even under our system laws can change. The other essential element is the unique nature of the American conservative. There is a symbiosis between government and culture, and ours led to a conservative culture that is far more individualistic than any other.
By American standards, most other English-speaking conservatives are practically socialists. For all the talk of the dangerous, right-wing, mostly international Intellectual Dark Web, Quillette, or Jordan Peterson, by American standards they aren’t conservative. They can’t buy guns, they have socialized medicine, the government controls vast swaths of their news and media, and there is no significant movement to change much of that. This is because other English-speaking conservatives are comfortable with a far greater level of collectivization imposed by the state. It’s kind of a “Let’s all pitch in” attitude instead of the American conservative’s “Stay the H-ll off my lawn” approach.
The American conservative has succeeded in keeping more of her rights not merely because the Constitution is more protective of them, but because she is. And the defense of those is not rooted in fear, but in faith. It is rooted in the sincere belief that all of us get to choose what is best for ourselves.
Fear is a legitimate political tool. It is being employed by almost every version of today’s American conservative. For some it is fear of socialism, for others fear of multiculturalism, for a small but noisy segment it is fear of Donald Trump. For all the blogs and tweets and clicks and takes that we love so dearly, these divisions are likely to stay. So what still unites us as conservatives? Liberty does, as it always has.
John Adams knew this when he wrote these words to his wife in 1775, “Liberty once lost is lost forever. When the People once surrender their share in the Legislature, and their Right of defending the Limitations upon the Government, and of resisting every Encroachment upon them, they can never regain it.” I posit that the encroaching natures of every other English-speaking nation’s governments prove Adams right in this, as in so much else.
It is liberty that must guide a wounded and fractured American conservative movement that holds significant if not decisive power in our government. There need not be unity. We can hate each other, but from all of our perches on the political spectrum our first principle must be individual rights. And we must continue to protect them while so many other nations fail to.
In this regard, it is best not to be too distracted by the global rise of so called right-wing populism. American conservatism, especially in regard to Trump, is related to this rise, but it is not the root of it. Brexit happened before Trump, after all. An anti-globalist, anti-foreign intervention, and anti-immigration wing of the conservative movement has always existed, with figures like Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan leading the way. It is now perhaps ascendant, but it faces the same gridlock of the American system that every other movement does, as we have well seen.
It is natural and healthy for conservatives to argue over where the movement’s energy should be spent, to understand what the greatest threats to liberty are. And it is fine for all of the branches to disagree about that so long as everyone’s ultimate goal is to protect freedom from forces that would replace it with equality of outcomes.
So cheer up, conservatives. It’s going well. There is a lot to be proud of, a lot to cling to, and a lot to fight for. Ronald Reagan said freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction, and that we don’t pass it down to our children through the bloodstream. It must be fought for. We have preserved it for a generation. Twenty-five years from now, provided the earth isn’t destroyed by climate change as some leftists predict, the United States will still be a conservative country.
But we have to teach our kids to fight for it. And what we have to teach them has nothing to do with Trump, populism, norms, or globalism. It has to do with natural rights. It has to do with the idea that the individual matters more than what the state wants to make of him. It has to do with never ceding the power and risk of being free people. More than anything else, and what we must focus on completely, it has to do with liberty.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering a monumental change to Medicare — and believes that President Donald Trump might support her plan.
Her big idea? Binding arbitration — a method that empowers government-appointed “arbitrators” to dictate the price of new medications and treatments. She hopes it’ll lower drug spending.
That would represent an enormous change from the status quo. Right now, drug makers negotiate directly with private insurers and healthcare providers.
Arbitration is just a fig leaf for government price controls. Arbitrators are supposed to be unbiased. But they’d likely always side with the government officials who appointed them — and set prices well below fair-market value. Like all price controls, arbitration would discourage medical innovation.
Under Medicare, drug coverage is broken into two parts. Medicare Part B covers potent medicines, like chemo- and immunotherapies, that physicians administer in hospitals and doctor’s offices. Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs that patients can pick up at the pharmacy.
For both programs, drug prices are determined through negotiations between drug makers and private payers, like hospitals or insurers.
In a binding arbitration system, if Medicare officials aren’t satisfied with those negotiated prices, they could appoint an arbitrator to do their bidding. Medicare officials would explain to arbitrators why they feel a lower price is justified. Pharmaceutical companies would justify their own suggested price.
Arbitrators would then choose a legally binding price. And their decision wouldn’t be limited to the two proposals on offer.
This type of dispute resolution is also called “baseball arbitration.” Baseball teams are well known for bringing in neutral arbitrators to resolve contract disputes. But Pelosi’s arbitration plan shouldn’t be compared to the big leagues, as the government would run the entire show. Government officials would get to pick the arbitrators — and would almost certainly choose ideologues who agree with them. So the “negotiation” would function identically to price controls.
Price controls always stifle innovation and harm patients in the long run.
Drug development is a risky business. It takes about $2.6 billion and between 10 and 12 years, on average, to create just one new drug. Around 90 percent of medicines never make it past clinical trials.
Investors are willing to take such financial risks on the off chance their drug succeeds and is profitable. Price controls eliminate that potential by making it harder for companies to recoup their R&D expenses. No investor would risk her capital knowing the government could undervalue her discoveries.
Just look at what price controls did to Europe. In the 1970s, European companies made more than half of the world’s new drugs. Then governments across Europe began to implement various price control schemes over the next 10 years. European countries develop less than 33 percent of new drugs today.
The United States, on the other hand, is the global leader in drug development — and has done so for over three decades. Because our healthcare system values drugs fairly, drug innovators are eager to research and develop drugs stateside. In fact, America’s biopharmaceutical industry dedicated close to $90 billion in R&D efforts in 2016.
All that investment has paid off, too. In the United States, researchers are developing roughly 4,000 new medicines targeting a range of diseases — including potential cures to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and diabetes.
If binding arbitration takes off, Americans may never benefit from these potential treatments. Instead, patients would be left at the mercy of diseases for which there are currently no cures.
Binding arbitration doesn’t deserve President Trump’s support — or the support of Democrats. Letting the government set drug prices would hinder future medical advances.