Will the government of Afghanistan survive America's retreat?
It’s not just generals who are always prepared to fight the last war. President Biden’s April 14 announcement that U.S. forces will leave Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of 9/11 has a long and complicated backstory. Biden said his decision will allow America to put this violent and ambiguous past behind it, to retire the frameworks that conditioned its foreign policy for a generation, and to focus its energies on the competition with China.
Perhaps so. The risk, however, is that Biden’s fixation on settling old scores has blinded him to contemporary realities, has prevented him from answering the question that will determine the future of both Afghan and U.S. security: Will the democratically elected government of Afghanistan survive American withdrawal?
Behind the official statements of Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is the assumption that our exit (and that of our NATO allies) won’t jeopardize the existence of the regime based in Kabul. “While we will not stay involved in Afghanistan militarily,” Biden said, “our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue.” Blinken echoed this sentiment at a press availability during his surprise visit to Kabul, when he said that “Even when our troops come home, our partnership with Afghanistan will continue.”
The robust promotion of civil society, counterterrorism, education for women and girls—none of this, we are told, will be interrupted when our soldiers leave. Nor will the enemy of civilization, the Taliban militia whose safe harbor for al-Qaeda was the reason for our intervention in 2001, abandon peace negotiations and impose its theocratic will through military force. “We have an expectation that the Taliban is going to abide by their commitments that they are not going to allow Afghanistan to become a pariah state,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the other day. “That’s our view.”
And a remarkably foolish view it is. You know the Taliban—always looking out for its international reputation. Of course there is no evidence that the Taliban has changed its methods, moderated its ideology, or abandoned its ambition to impose the strictest possible interpretation of shariah law on as many Afghans as it can reach. There is no evidence that the Taliban has ceased its attacks against Afghan security forces or that it has repudiated al Qaeda. Indeed, the very “intelligence community” on which Biden places so much importance says the Taliban will escalate its war on Kabul as soon as the last American is out and that “the Afghan government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.”
A big “if.” I do not doubt that—for a time—the aid will continue to flow to Afghan democrats, that weapons will continue to be supplied, and that some degree of overwatch from satellites and drones will continue to be provided. But I am equally certain that our attention will be redirected elsewhere, that neglect will lead to negligence, and that within a few years the Afghans may find themselves on their own. There is no substitute for the forward presence of U.S. forces, who are able to assess conditions on the ground, liaise with friends and neutrals, and deter bad actors of all sorts. On this point the Biden administration agrees with me—which is why, even as it announced the Afghanistan withdrawal, it deployed additional troops to Germany and conducted Freedom of Navigation Operations in the South China Sea.
Biden’s argument is that a U.S. military footprint is no longer required in Afghanistan, that we accomplished our main objectives years ago, that the costs of force protection for our remaining 2,500 soldiers outweigh the strategic and tactical benefits they provide, that “the threat has become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe: al-Shabaab in Somalia; al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria; ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia.”
But Biden is unable to draw the causal connection between America’s involvement in Afghanistan and the “metastasizing” terrorist threat that emanates from places where religious fanatics operate more freely than they do in Afghanistan. Nor does he recognize that the terrorist groups he named in his address are based in exactly those locations where America has opted, for different reasons and to varying degrees, to pursue his policy of “offshore balance” rather than onshore residence. The existence of an allied host government is crucial to our ability to intercept, interrupt, interdict, and preempt terrorists before they strike. Biden’s decision to walk away from Afghanistan puts such a government at risk.
This danger is a fact Biden will not or cannot face. He is more interested in rectifying old errors than in preventing new ones. Both the location and the text of his address referenced the history of U.S. involvement in the Afghan theater. He delivered his remarks from the White House Treaty Room, where George W. Bush announced the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001, less than a month after al-Qaeda struck New York, Washington, and United Flight 93. He mentioned that he had called President Bush in advance of his directive. He recounted his visit to Afghanistan before becoming Barack Obama’s vice president and how it convinced him that the war was needless. “It has been well publicized and published that he opposed the surge back 10 years ago,” Psaki said. “And he was vocal about that in the appropriate manner at the time.”
That’s putting it mildly. Biden was furious. He was convinced that the Joint Chiefs of Staff and commanding generals had set the terms of the debate to guarantee that Obama would maintain and expand the war. His current determination to remove American troops over the objections of military commanders, including the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Mark Milley, is evidence of his desire to prove retroactively the wisdom of his position in 2009. His rejection of a conditions-based withdrawal underscores his disagreement with the generals. He dismisses the potential adverse consequences of our departure while implicitly conceding that conditions in Afghanistan are about to become worse.
Potentially much worse. It all depends on whether the Afghan government can fight the Taliban without the guidance of American troops. If it can’t, then over time Afghanistan will revert to the pre-October 2001 status quo of civil war, tribalism, and Taliban dominion. The forces of global jihad will feel empowered. That is what happened after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, from the American withdrawal from Somalia in 1993, from the American withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. Terrorism followed each retreat.
“I’m now the fourth United States president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan: two Republicans, two Democrats,” Biden said. “I will not pass this responsibility on to a fifth.”
No, he won’t. What Biden will pass on instead is the responsibility for cleaning up his mess.
And makes a mockery of his democracy agenda
That didn’t take long. One week after piously and erroneously repudiating the Commission on Unalienable Rights established by his predecessor Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed the hollow selectivity of this administration’s commitment to human rights and democratic reform.
On April 7, Blinken said he was “pleased to announce” the reinstatement of tens of millions of dollars in aid to the West Bank and Gaza and of some $150 million to support the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). “All assistance will be provided consistent with U.S. law,” Blinken added.
Easier said than done. The Taylor Force Act, signed into law in 2018, withholds aid from the Palestinian Authority until the State Department certifies that the ruling party of the West Bank has terminated payments to family members of terrorists. It hasn’t. That was one reason the Trump administration slashed the aid in the first place. Nor is there evidence that suddenly the Palestinians have curtailed the so-called pay-to-slay schemes that incentivize the murder of civilians and the perpetuation of conflict. On the contrary: They bristle at the idea of changing their corrupt and self-destructive ways.
A second law from 2018, the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act, holds beneficiaries of foreign assistance legally and financially responsible for terrorism committed against U.S. citizens. This notion — that the Palestinian Authority might actually have to pay a price for its incitement to anti-Semitic violence — so terrified the leadership in the West Bank that it sent a letter to the Trump administration in February 2019 renouncing U.S. aid. I must have missed the make-up note postmarked Ramallah.
UNRWA long ago abandoned its original mission for anti-Israel activism. According to Pompeo, there are fewer than 200,000 Palestinian Arabs who remain displaced by the 1948 war. Rather than work to resettle this dwindling population, UNRWA devotes its resources to the delegitimization of Israel and to the perpetuation of a mythic “right of return” that obstructs peace. UNRWA also operates in the Gaza Strip, where its facilities were used by Hamas operatives and other terrorists during the 2014 war with Israel.
“Obviously, there are areas where we would like to see reform,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a recent briefing. That’s the understatement of the year. But what hope is there for reform of UNRWA when the Biden administration rewards it for doing nothing?
A conceit of President Joe Biden’s foreign policy is that involvement in corrupt multilateral institutions somehow gives the United States an opportunity to improve them. “By resuming this assistance today, not only do we have that dialogue, but we have a seat at the table,” Price said. “We can help drive UNRWA in the ways that we think it is in our interest and consistent with our values to do.” That was also his argument for rejoining the World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council. He has little to show for it. The results so far: A propagandistic and misleading investigation into the origins of the coronavirus, and four anti-Israel resolutions. Having a seat at the table doesn’t matter when everyone ignores you.
What was particularly galling about Blinken’s announcement was its disconnect from the nature of Palestinian governance. Here is an administration that says the conflict between democracy and authoritarianism will define the 21st century. Here is an administration that prides itself on its support for human rights. And here is an administration that says it will be able to prevent millions in taxpayer funds from directly benefiting the Palestinian Authority, and thereby breaking U.S. law, by taking into account
the intended primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; whether the PA is the direct recipient of the assistance, of course; whether the assistance involves payments of Palestinian Authority creditors; the extent of ownership or control the PA exerts over an entity or an individual that is the primary beneficiary or end user of the assistance; and whether the assistance or, in some cases, the services provided directly replace assistance or services that the PA would otherwise provide.
Good luck. The renewed assistance, remember, will be circulated in a polity whose president is in the 16th year of a four-year term, whose official corruption is legendary, whose 2.7 million subjects are policed by no fewer than six internal security forces, and whose entry in the 2020 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reads as follows:
reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, torture, and arbitrary detention by authorities; holding political prisoners and detainees; significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including harassment of nongovernmental organizations; restrictions on political participation, as the Palestinian Authority has not held a national election since 2006; acts of corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for violence against women; violence and threats of violence motivated by anti-Semitism; anti-Semitism in school textbooks; violence and threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons; and reports of forced child labor.
The entry for Hamas is no better.
For all of his “transformative” ambitions at home, Biden’s Middle East policy is remarkably backward-looking and uninspired. By denying aid to the Palestinians and UNRWA, the Trump administration recognized that the Israeli–Palestinian peace process had become a counterproductive sideshow, and that U.S. aid wasn’t contributing to the resolution of conflict, but incentivizing it. The more urgent problem is Iran, which is why Trump was able to broker the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Morocco.
Now Biden has pivoted away from the anti-Iran coalition and toward the pro-Iran deal European allies. He’s distanced himself from Israel and moved toward the Palestinians. He’s rebuked the Saudis and coaxed the Houthis. He is trying to reconstruct, ever so slowly, Barack Obama’s Middle East. But he hasn’t really explained why this time will be different. After all: When you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. And that is exactly what Biden is doing.
President Joe Biden’s administration overlooked certain contenders in a contract bidding process to pay an organization run by a former Biden-Harris transition leader more than $87 million to place illegal migrant families 1,200 hotel beds in Arizona and Texas, according to the Washington Examiner.
While contracts from the federal government are usually bid on by various organizations, multiple sources, and data reported by the Examiner indicated that Family Endeavors, run by former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer and the senior official who evaluated Biden’s picks for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, outright won the contract without any competitors.
“Information obtained through the Federal Procurement Data System indicates that ICE never opened the contract to outside companies and organizations but went with an internal candidate who had significant insider connections,” the Examiner reported.
Family Endeavors had contracted with the federal government on smaller projects before, such as working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Federal Acquisition Service. Most of these contracts, the Examiner noted, however, were less than $1.5 million apiece, making the new $87 million contract “more than double the money it took in last year.”
Despite the Family Endeavors’ lack of experience as an ICE contractor, the immigration agency wrote off the breach of federal contract law benefitting the nonprofit as an “unusual and compelling urgency” that provided “short term” solutions to the influx of migrants in HHS’s care.
Lorenzen-Strait reportedly entered the contract just two months after he left the Biden campaign to join Family Endeavors as its senior director for migrant services and federal affairs. Before that, he worked under the now-director of ICE Tae Johnson to manage border detention facilities. According to the Examiner, Johnson “would have the final say on the $87 million contract.”
There will be no peace between Iran and its enemies
Elections have consequences, and one consequence of the 2020 election will be a return to the foreign policy of the Obama era that seeks to punish Israel, isolate the Arabs, elevate Iran as a regional power, and assure friend and foe alike that tough talk from American leaders is just that: talk.
Representatives of the United States will return to Vienna this week with the aim of lifting sanctions on an Iranian regime led by religious fanatics hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons, dominating its neighbors, and eliminating the Jewish state.
Appeasement is never a slog, so it’s a mission they are all but certain to accomplish.
It also reveals the hollowness of the tough talk President Joe Biden offered up on the campaign trail, when he said he would not drop sanctions on Iran without first strengthening the Obama-era nuclear deal. His secretary of state, Tony Blinken, assured the Senate just weeks ago that he would not allow terrorism sanctions against Iran to be held hostage to any fresh nuclear talks. Of course these were lies and all sides knew it. Easy promises to make and easier to break.
Already, Iran envoy and friend of Hamas Rob Malley has lowered the bar: He told PBS News on Sunday that the United States would return to the deal if the Iranians agreed to do so. “Our goal is to see whether we can agree on a roadmap back to compliance on both sides,” Malley said, adding that the administration’s goal is to get on “the same page” as the mullahs.
The motivation for the coming realignment in American foreign policy appears to be a left-wing inverse of “owning the libs”—in this case, owning right-wing hawks, neoconservatives, pro-Israel Jews and their gentile allies. The Left cannot contain its glee and anticipation at the coming return to the flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Biden administration’s—and America’s—all-but-certain humiliation seems only to have heightened their excitement. That humiliation will be painful, but it will do no more damage to the cause of regime change than it will to Iran’s nuclear program.
The Obama-era deal was a tragedy. The repetition of that history is farce, and whatever deal the Biden administration strikes will disintegrate as surely as the last. The Iranians may be delusional and paranoid, but their pursuit of nuclear weapons is not irrational. Their enemies are powerful and the current leadership faces an existential threat from Israel.
A new deal can’t change any of that.
There are many possible outcomes. The vindication of Hussein Rouhani, Javad Zarif, Tony Blinken, and Rob Malley as peacemakers is not among them.
Biden’s actions speak louder than his mixed messages to migrants
On March 14, the day that Kevin McCarthy and 12 House Republicans went to Texas to visit the southern border, the El Paso Central Processing Center for migrants reached capacity. The Republicans heard heartbreaking stories of unaccompanied children, some less than six years old, crossing the border while holding hands. Border agents informed the congressmen that fentanyl traffickers are exploiting the surge in illegal immigration. One agent told John Katko, ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, that a few of the apprehended migrants appear on the terrorist watch list. Border and immigration personnel are stretched thin. “They’ve never seen anything like this,” McCarthy told me.
Indeed, Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas projects that the United States faces its largest surge in illegal immigration in two decades. He’s ordered FEMAto assist in taking care of the hundreds of unaccompanied minors who show up daily asking for asylum. Mayorkas and President Joe Biden insist that the previous administration is responsible for a crisis that emerged weeks after Donald Trump left the White House. They couldn’t be more wrong.
What’s happening on the southern border is the most preventable emergency in years. And Joe Biden created it. No matter how often he tells asylum seekers that now is not the time to enter the United States, migrants won’t listen. That’s because the policies he put into place incentivize the dangerous trek. At the same time, Biden has handed the Republicans an issue that will remain long after the $1,400 checks in the American Rescue Plan have been forgotten. And it hasn’t been 60 days since he took office.
Biden’s contradictory messaging won’t relieve the pressure on the border. Sure, he told George Stephanopoulos that his message to migrants is, “Don’t leave your town or city or community.” Mayorkas echoed this sentiment in an interview with CBS. But then he added, “If they do, we will not expel that young child.” That includes tens of thousands of teenagers who may be looking for jobs rather than fleeing persecution.
So the White House says stay put, but if you don’t and border patrol apprehends you, you’ll be housed, clothed, fed, and released if you are under 18. And by the way, we’re laying the groundwork for providing legal status and a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already here. That’s not a stop light to border crossers. It’s a yellow light: Proceed with caution.
What did Biden expect? True, he’s maintained a Trump-era rule that allows for the swift removal of adults because of the coronavirus. But he exempted minors from the regulation, creating a massive loophole. And he’s torn up just about everything else that Trump did.
Rich Lowry has documented the rapid undoing of Trump’s successes. The most significant changes were ending the Migrant Protection Protocols—the so-called Remain in Mexico plan that kept asylum-seekers in Mexico while their claims were reviewed—and canceling the “safe-third-country” agreements that required migrants to apply for asylum in the first nation they entered on their way to the United States.
Then there’s the attitudinal difference between the two presidents. Whatever else can be said about Trump, his position on illegal immigration was no mystery. Biden, of course, wants to repudiate every aspect of the Trump presidency, especially its approach to immigration. His demeanor and actions send a dramatic signal that America will be more welcoming.
Even if he says otherwise. Kevin McCarthy, for example, recounted his time at an incomplete section of the border wall. Construction workers had only 17 miles left to finish—but were told to put down their tools as of midnight on January 20. Meanwhile the fence around the U.S. Capitol, complete with razor-wire, still stands. Biden’s position on the two walls delivers a message to both migrants and citizens. But it’s not a consistent message. Nor is it a republican one.
The border calamity is the starkest contrast of the transition from Trump to Biden. It’s also a weak spot for an otherwise popular president. A recent Ipsos poll has immigration tied with health care as the third most important issue in the country. The Engagious/Schlesinger focus group of Trump-Biden swing voters expressed reservations about the current approach to the border. And last week’s CBS News poll showed that Biden is vulnerable: Just 52 percent approved of his handling of immigration, versus 67 percent support on the coronavirus, 69 percent on the vaccine, and 60 percent on the economy.
McCarthy downplays the partisan angle. But there’s no denying Republicans sense a political opportunity. House Republicans went on the offensive when Mayorkas testified before Congress Wednesday. Next week, Ted Cruz and John Cornyn will head to the border. Biden was helped by the absence of immigration from last year’s campaign. It allowed him to focus on the pandemic, the economy, and Trump’s personality. But now, on this subject at least, his luck has run out. And he has only himself to blame.
By The Hill•
U.S. air strikes successfully destroyed facilities used by Iran-backed militia in eastern Syria last Thursday. But the operation also exposed the contradictions in the Biden administration’s approach to Iran. Returning to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) has been central to the Biden foreign policy vision, contingent only on Iran’s meeting its obligations. Addressing the several flaws in the agreement, such as the exclusion of Iran’s regional destabilization efforts, is supposed to be postponed to some future second stage of wider talks. Yet the U.S. and its allies face continuous assaults from Iran’s proxies. The need for the recent attacks therefore demonstrates how the problem of the militia should be addressed up front as part of any return to the deal. The JCPOA needs to be fixed and rewritten, not just revived.
Despite Biden signaling his intent to reconcile with Iran, Tehran has accelerated the development of its nuclear program. In December, the Iranian Parliament voted to approve enriching uranium to 20 percent, speeding ahead toward weapons-grade material. On Feb. 7, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif remained intransigent, underscoring that negotiations cannot expand to include any topics beyond the original agreement, i.e. the militia and Iran’s ballistic missiles program. More recently, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei even threatened enrichment to 60 percent. And Iran continues to reject offers to engage in negotiations. The Biden effort to open the negotiating door is clearly not eliciting good will.
Meanwhile, Iran’s proxies have continued attacking U.S. assets and allies. In Yemen, Houthi fighters have been waging an all-out offensive in Marib Province. In the past weeks, in Iraq, a truck convoy with supplies for the U.S.-led coalition faced missile attacks near Basra, rockets hit the airport in Erbil, with at least one death and several wounded, and militia similarly attacked Balad airbase north of Baghdad. In Lebanon, prominent Hezbollah-critic Luqman Salim was assassinated, his body dumped by the side of the road. No one should doubt that this activity is coordinated out of Tehran; none of it points toward any interest in conciliation.
The U.S. airstrike was a legitimate response to the wave of militia attacks in Iraq. Yet the military operation, pushing back mildly against Iran’s assets, stands at odds with a series of diplomatic steps that the administration has taken, involving repeated one-sided concessions to Tehran. Since coming into office, the administration has been winding down its predecessor’s “maximum pressure campaign” step by step. It has lifted travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats in the U.S. It has retracted the Trump administration’s effort to initiate the snap-back provision of the JCPOA, thereby refusing to object to Iran’s weapons imports, while announcing limitations on weapons sales to Iran’s antagonist, Saudi Arabia. It has taken the Houthis off the list of terrorist organizations.
Yet the biggest gift to Tehran has been opening the window to allow South Korea to unfreeze up to $7 billion in Iranian assets. These funds amount to a quid pro quo to induce the Iranians to release a South Korean vessel they seized in the Gulf. This can only be viewed as paying ransom for piracy. More importantly, the funds transfer will undermine the effect of the sanctions by replenishing Iran’s dwindling foreign currency reserves. During the Trump administration, our European allies tried to circumvent the sanctions in order to reduce the pressure on Iran. Now the Biden administration is itself undercutting the sanctions before formally lifting them. It is an odd negotiation strategy to give up one’s leverage even before getting to the table.
The U.S. air strikes show that the administration recognizes the threat posed by Iran’s proxies: All the more reason to include the question of Iran’s regional destabilization strategy in reopened negotiations. However, the militia are not the only problem that needs to be addressed. The original agreement also unwisely excluded Iran’s missiles program, which poses a threat across the Middle East and even into Europe. Nor has much mention been made of human rights, despite the Biden administration’s claim to view them as central to American foreign policy. A future agreement should include a commitment that Iran fulfill its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which it is a signatory. Human rights organizations repeatedly point out how Iran engages in rights violations. The U.S. should insist that this stop before it lifts sanctions and agrees to any new treaty.
Yet the problems with the JCPOA are not only a matter of what it omits. Its egregious sin of commission is the sunset process that clears the way for Iran to pursue a legitimate path to nuclear weapons by the end of the decade. Some of the sunset clauses will become operative even before the end of the Biden administration. This fatal flaw needs to be fixed.
The administration deserves credit for responding to the militia attacks. Yet that show of force does not make up for the policy of premature concessions, winding down maximum pressure even as Iran rushes toward enrichment and directs its proxies toward aggression. Instead, the administration should make use of the leverage it has to push for an improved agreement that addresses wider regional security concerns, Iran’s human rights record as well as an effective end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
On February 8, 2021, the Financial Times published an op-ed authored by Eric Schmidt titled US’s Flawed Approach to 5G Threatens Its Digital Future. In it, Mr. Schmidt makes a series of claims, but his central theme is that the U.S. is not doing enough to promote our 5G infrastructure and, worse, forcing us to forfeit the U.S.’s dominant position in the race to 5G to China. He even goes as far as to suggest that the U.S. should throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater by adopting a more nationalized approach to 5G vis-a-vis the Department of Defense (DoD) spectrum sharing plan. In this article, I address the most glaring of his assertions to put the 5G debate in the proper context.
Claim: “…China, is already far ahead [in 5G].”
Response: Mr. Schmidt’s article does not provide a metric when he says that China is “far ahead.” Based on the article, it appears that Mr. Schmidt might be comparing the two countries in the following ways: 1) internet speeds; and 2) national 5G coverage. In each case the United States is excelling. Although both countries have taken very different approaches to 5G, both countries’ 5G strategies involve blending their 4G/LTE networks with their nascent 5G networks. Hence, it is appropriate to compare the countries’ progress on those measures.
In terms of broadband speeds, China has an average internet speed of just 105.2 mbps where the United States has an average of 124.1 Mbps. In terms of broadband speed, we are far ahead of China. Moreover, a study conducted by Global Wireless Solutions released network performance testing from Super Bowl LV in Tampa and found that all three of the nation’s carriers averaged more than 1 gigabit per second on their respective 5G networks, which for the uninitiated means that we have past light speed and are now entering into ludicrous speed. Hence, we are certainly leading in this area.
In terms of 5G coverage, China appears to be deploying far more infrastructure than the U.S., but basing China’s success in 5G purely on the amount of infrastructure deployed may be misguided. The main issue China is having is making its 5G infrastructure compatible with its 4G/LTE networks. This issue is so prevalent that Huawei’s Ryan Ding described China’s 5G rollout as “fake, dumb, and poor,” because most of the applications China is calling 5G is really just disrupted 4G due to the frequent and sporadic handover between the two networks. This is distinct from the U.S.’s plan where it and its carriers have a slower deployment strategy to ensure that its 5G networks can efficiently interoperate with its 4G/LTE networks. However, China’s aggressive 5G policy should be taken seriously, but we should not assume that China is in fact “ahead” of anyone.
The one place where China may pose a competitive threat is in spectrum. This is because China can more easily clear incumbents from spectrum bands for 5G due to its heavier regulatory control when it comes to property rights. Also, China has much more local zoning control over deployment. It is similar to its government’s control on spectrum where it relies on heavy centralized state control allowing quicker infrastructure deployment without public input. If the U.S. wanted to emulate China’s approach, then Mr. Schmidt is essentially advocating that the U.S. allow the FCC to clear bands with disregard to the property rights of incumbents operating in those bands.
Claim: The FCC’s C-Band Auction is a “digital setback,” because the auction provided “no meaningful requirement to build necessary network infrastructure.”
Response: This criticism is simply untrue. As it relates to its C-Band Order, the FCC requires C-Band licensees to meet multiple performance metrics based off of the service or services the provider wishes to provide. For example, In paragraph 93 of the C-Band Order, the FCC requires licensees in the A, B, and C Blocks offering mobile or point-to-multipoint services must provide reliable signal coverage and offer service to at least 45% of the population in each of their license areas within eight years of the license issue date (i.e., first performance benchmark), and to at least 80% of the population in each of their license areas within 12 years from the license issue date (i.e., second performance benchmark). These population benchmarks are actually more aggressive than those for other flexible-use services under part 27 of the FCC’s rules.
There are even performance metrics for licensees providing IoT-type fixed and mobile services on paragraphs 97-99. The C-Band Order requires licensees providing Fixed Service in the A, B, and C Blocks band to demonstrate within eight years of the license issue date (first performance benchmark) that they have four links operating and providing service, either to customers or for internal use, if the population within the license area is equal to or less than 268,000. If the population within the license area is greater than 268,000, the FCC requires a licensee relying on point-to-point service to demonstrate it has at least one link in operation and providing service, either to customers or for internal use, per every 67,000 persons within a license area. The FCC requires licensees relying on point-to-point service to demonstrate within 12 years of the license issue date (final performance benchmark) that they have eight links operating and providing service, either to customers or for internal use, if the population within the license area is equal to or less than 268,000. If the population within the license area is greater than 268,000, the C-Band Order requires a licensee relying on point-to-point service to demonstrate it is providing service and has at least two links in operation per every 67,000 persons within a license area.
Claim: “Future auctions must set stringent build requirements, with penalties for underperformance.”
Response: In paragraphs 102-103 the C-Band Order goes into detail about the penalties for each licensee for not meeting the performance metric. For example, the C-Band Order outlines that, in the event a particular licensee fails to meet its performance benchmark, the licensee will have its license term substantially reduced and, when the shortened term is exhausted, the C-Band Order states that “licensee’s spectrum rights would become available for reassignment pursuant to the competitive bidding provisions of section 309(j) [of the Communications Act of 1934 that articulates restrictions on spectrum license applications] and any licensee who forfeits its license for failure to meet its performance requirements would be precluded from regaining the license.”
Claim: “Pursue alternatives to auctions.”
Response: Mr. Schmidt’s statement is myopic as auctions are only one way the U.S. has advanced 5G. His article failed to review or even mention the myriad of 5G policies in place now. In fact, the U.S. has taken an holistic approach to advance our 5G networks through: 1) a series of subsidy programs (e.g., Rural 5G Fund, RUS Fund, USF programs, etc.); 2) clearing spectrum and auctions (e.g., 24 GHz Auction, CBRS, Ligado Order, and, yes, the C-Band auction); 3) granting key mergers (e.g., T-Mobile-Sprint, AT&T-Time Warner, etc.); and 4) lowering regulatory burdens for wireless infrastructure (e.g., 5G Upgrade Order, 5G Small Cell Order, One Touch Make Ready Order, 6409 Order). Again, Mr. Schmidt fails to mention or even allude to these policies focused on infrastructure.
Claim: “The defense department has proposed sharing government-controlled spectrum with commercial providers if they build infrastructure quickly.”
Response: Mr. Schmidt’s endorsement of the DoD’s proposal is misguided.As I and others have argued before, the DoD’s blue-chip in 5G is that it sits on most of our Nation’s valuable mid-band spectrum, which is essential for 5G deployment. This is clearly evident from every other countries’ inclusion of these frequencies in their respective 5G plans. This is especially true in the case of China that is a leader in mid-band spectrum deployment for 5G. The DoD’s frequencies in its RFI (i.e., 3450-3550 MHz) are prime “beachfront” mid-band spectrum and are critical to open up for commercial use. This is because U.S. commercial 5G networks are severely lacking in mid-band spectrum; a fact of which the DoD is well aware. DoD’s offer to industry is, thus, enticing, but it comes at a hefty price: every carrier must go through the DoD to access this mid-band spectrum that they all will need to make their networks functional. This is a Hobson’s choice for carriers: either they want a functioning 5G network or not. Hence, they will be compelled to work with DoD if this proposal moves forward. This will most likely translate into the DoD being yet another bureaucratic barrier of entry for carriers looking to deploy 5G, which, in turn, slows down the deployment that Mr. Schmidt says the DoD’s plan will promote.
In his article, Mr. Schmidt makes assertions that are either exaggerated, myopic, or confused on the issues of 5G. We can both agree that China’s growth in the area is concerning. However, the arguments Mr. Schmidt presents regarding our auctioning process are not at all the issue and, ironically, is an example of the U.S.’s success in this technological race.
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Joel L. Thayer is an attorney with Phillips Lytle LLP and a member of the firm’s Telecommunications and Data Security & Privacy Practice Teams. Prior to joining Phillips Lytle, he served as Policy Counsel for ACT | The App Association, where he advised the Association and its members on legal and regulatory issues concerning spectrum, broadband deployment, data privacy, and antitrust matters. Prior to ACT, he also held positions on Capitol Hill, as well as at the FCC and FTC. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of Phillips Lytle LLP, or the firm’s clients.
Joe Biden largely campaigned on restoring the status quo ante in Washington, so naturally one of his first proposals is for the sort of “comprehensive immigration reform” that was a staple of the pre-Trump years.
George W. Bush pushed a “comprehensive” bill and failed. So did Barack Obama. Biden picks up where they left off, except with a proposal — and this will be a theme — that is further to the left than the prior bills.
The key, if always dubious, promise in past legislation was to implement enforcement provisions before or alongside an amnesty for illegal immigrants. Biden’s plan doesn’t even bother pretending. It discusses upgrading technology at the border, the bare minimum of enforcement window-dressing, while proposing an amnesty for more than 10 million people.
Although the details are yet to be written into legislation, it’s hard to exaggerate how sweeping this proposal is. It would apply not just to illegal immigrants who have been here for years and become embedded in their communities, but to illegal immigrants who showed up the day before yesterday — the cutoff for the amnesty is January 1, 2021. Even this requirement may be waived for illegal immigrants who were deported on or after January 20, 2017 but resided in the United States three years prior to that.
Biden doesn’t want to give temporary legal status to illegal immigrants. He wants to give them green cards and then, after a period of years, make them eligible for citizenship. This would precipitate a wave of follow-on immigration. Green-card holders can petition for spouses and minor children to come to the United States, while citizens can petition for parents and siblings, as well.
It’s an unwritten rule that comprehensive immigration bills must always increase levels of legal immigration, too, and sure enough, the Biden proposal would loosen and lift various restrictions and caps in the legal system.
The proposal’s gesture toward stemming the flow of migrants from south of the border is to increase foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. We should do what we reasonably can to assist the development of these countries, but we shouldn’t pretend that this is any kind of short-term solution to migration. Even if these countries were to experience more economic growth right away, the immediate effect would likely be to increase migration as more people would have the resources to attempt to come north.
In a move worthy of an apparatchik at Oberlin College, Biden also wants to eliminate the term “alien” from the U.S. code on grounds that this longstanding, perfectly good term is offensive and exclusionary.
There is a good case for a carefully tailored amnesty for the illegal immigrants who have been here the longest, coupled with real enforcement measures like E-Verify and an exit-entry visa system. This is not even close to that.
At least the proposal furthers Biden’s goal of unity in one respect. It should unite Republicans and all supporters of a sound immigration system in determined opposition.
Author: Dr. Miklos K. Radvanyi
On January 15, 2020, a man of Chinese descent and a U.S. resident in his 30’s, arrived in Seattle from Wuhan. When asked about his contacts in China, he clearly lied to the authorities, as the Chinese Communist Party did to the rest of the world about COVID-19 cases throughout the People’s Republic of China. This deliberate act of President Xi and his despotic party unleashed global suffering and devastation across the globe. Explore the historical constructs and political climate affecting recovery from the Novel Coronavirus, both worldwide and in the United States of America.
It appears that the belief in widespread dishonesty among American youth has become an excuse to lower standards for the presumed gradual ‘development’ of more recently joined cadets.
On March 7, 1945, Lt. Karl Timmermann joined a small group of scouts on a rise overlooking the Rhine River and saw that the bridge at Remagen was yet standing. Heroically, he immediately radioed back to his higher headquarters what he had seen.
He had to know what the subsequent orders would be—lead his men into the jaws of death, seize the bridge, and open a path into the heart of Germany. Later that day, he would earn the Distinguished Service Cross for taking that bridge in the face of fierce German resistance
Timmermann was not a West Pointer, but his character and integrity reflected the epitome of the West Point motto: Duty, Honor, Country. He would say later that he only did what was expected of him. He was right.
So too should we expect all West Pointers—indeed, the entire officer corps—to do what is expected of them. Yet cheating scandals at West Point increasingly meet not this unflinching expectation, but excuses and accommodations.
The West Point honor code, the essential character-building element of the Academy’s rigorous four-year program, is clear and straightforward: A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do. It is a code that has existed for decades, held sacrosanct by not only cadets but also the cadre that leads them, and the officer corps in which they will eventually serve.
Or is it? The last seven decades have seen three major instances of cheating rings: a football team-centered academic scandal in 1950-‘51, an engineering one in 1976-‘77, and a Plebe (freshman) math one in 2020. The traditional sanction for such behavior was expulsion, but of the three noted above the first was partially overlooked, the second resulted in a year-long dismissal for those involved (of whom most returned to graduate a year late), and the latest—under a system “reformed” in 1977 and again in 2002 giving more discretion to the superintendent of West Point—is yet to be determined.
In late December when the latest scandal broke, USA Today summarized it this way:
More than 70 cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point were accused of cheating on a math exam, the worst academic scandal since the 1970s at the Army’s premier training ground for officers.
Fifty-eight cadets admitted cheating on the exam, which was administered remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of them have been enrolled in a rehabilitation program and will be on probation for the remainder of their time at the academy. Others resigned, and some face hearings that could result in their expulsion.
The academy’s original statement in response expressed its “disappointment,” a comment often rendered to misbehaving children by a parent. A subsequent letter from the superintendent promised to deal with the matter thoroughly and pledged devotion to a strong honor system.
I trust West Point will do so, but even in that letter, the superintendent cited the default position toward honor violations (and other egregious violations of character and discipline) as the “developmental model.” That model assumes cadets in their early years have not yet had enough time to consider the import of the honor code and its centrality to a cadet’s and an officer’s character. They must, therefore, be educated for the first two years (and perhaps beyond) to ultimately come to terms with it.
Indeed, the letter pointed out that all cadets had been sent home over COVID-19 in March 2020. Although classes continued via electronics, it said, the Plebes who cheated in May (they had entered West Point the preceding July) had been denied the onsite mentoring that would have forestalled it.
Having been given his post the day before, Timmermann had one day to come to terms with his responsibility as a company commander in combat. No one assumed he would need more time. When chosen to command, he was expected to perform, and he did.
West Point still recruits young men and women of talent and character to lead American soldiers in defense of the country. But it now has become a mantra at the academy to point out that society today does not imbue the high standards of integrity for those recruited.
“Eighty percent of high school students today admit to cheating” is a statement often heard at the academy, whose alma mater for more than a century now includes the words “may Honor be e’er untarned.” It appears that the belief in widespread dishonesty among American youth has become an excuse to lower standards to buy time for the presumed gradual “development” of more recently joined cadets to take hold.
Is that not the bigotry of lowered expectations? Is it not an insult to those recruited today—a cohort of young people more reflecting the diversity of the nation—to assume that they do not know at the outset the difference between lying and telling the truth, nor recognize that copying an illicitly obtained answer to an exam question is cheating, nor understand that lack of integrity away from West Point is no less damning than a similar failing at the academy?
Indeed, the final part of the West Point Honor Code (“or tolerate those who do”) is no doubt the most difficult part to comply with. It is one thing to maintain your own integrity, another to report a peer who cheats.
But without that final clause, honor becomes a solitary experience, not an organizational coda. If West Point tolerates those who cheat, it violates its own honor system. What does that teach the cadets it seeks to develop—that words describing an ideal may have a nice ring to them, but it is not necessary to abide by them?
Those who decry contemporary American society perhaps assume that generations ago we were peopled by plaster saints and that it would be impossible to maintain once widespread and impeccable value sets. In my view, citizens of quality remain in abundance. West Point can recruit from the best of those and expect the best from them.
Standards there can be reasonably enforced (and expulsion need not be the only sanction) and thereby maintained. These apply not only to honor, but to matters of discipline, professionalism, and the traditions of commitment to the nation and selfless service. Some of the long-term adherence to all of these has occasionally slipped as well, an indication that if we lower expectations and thereby relax standards, we can expect standards to erode.
To maintain high standards, West Point will need the backing of the Army and its political leadership, as well as the support of the American public, who expect the best of those it pays to put through the four demanding years at the academy. It is the latter whose sons and daughters will be led by its graduates and their peers in the officer corps.
As retired Col. Lewis Sorley, a West Point graduate, wrote in his excellent book, “Honor Bright,” on the history and traditions of the West Point honor system: “As the Military Academy moves through the 21st century, the Honor Code remains as it has always been, a precious thing, fragile, entirely dependent on each new cohort of cadets to adopt it, make it their own, fiercely protect it, and march forward in its service. That this process shall continue in perpetuity is the heart-felt hope and dream of all those—proud and grateful members of the Long Gray Line—who have shared the privilege of living by its inspiring standard.”
Democratic megadonor bankrolls cause that tanked Dem candidates in November elections
Liberal billionaire George Soros bankrolls a group that advocates abolishing the police. In fact, he funded its launch.
The Foundation to Promote Open Society, a nonprofit in Soros’s vast network, earmarked $1.5 million for the Community Resource Hub for Safety & Responsibility (CRH), according to 2019 tax forms. Those investments funded the creation of the group, whose mission goes far beyond the “defund the police” campaigns that arguably cost Democrats down-ballot. In a research memo for organizers, CRH “reviews alternatives to policing in the context of police abolitionist frameworks, offering insight and sharing successful strategies for advocates in the field.” It also offers a toolkit to help activists defund their local sheriffs—”an essential step towards building more safe and just communities across the country,” according to its website.
A spokesman for Open Society said the group supports CRH’s advocacy.
“Open Society made the initial investments you reference and continues to support the Community Resource Hub for Safety & Accountability to address the harm excessive policing does to communities and promote greater accountability for law enforcement’s actions,” Leonard Noisette, head of the Justice team at OSF, told the Free Beacon.
“OSF supports the exploration and development of alternatives to current policing practices, and the Hub serves as a clearinghouse of ideas and resources to help advocates determine how best to improve police practices in their communities,” Noisette continued. “We defer to communities regarding what alternatives make sense for them, including substantially shifting funding for the current approach to policing/law enforcement into services that address societal challenges while doing less harm.”
Soros made the donation to CRH through the New Venture Fund, which acts as a fiscal sponsor to CRH by providing its legal and tax-exempt status. The fund is managed by Arabella Advisors, a D.C.-based consulting firm that oversees a massive dark-money network that raked in $715 million from anonymous donors in 2019.
CRH’s overall financial information remains unknown. The group does not have to file individual tax forms to the IRS due to its fiscal sponsorship by the New Venture Fund.
“As a nonpartisan fiscal sponsor, the New Venture Fund provides support to projects with diverse opinions and policy goals,” a spokesperson for the New Venture Fund said.
Soros has funded numerous initiatives aimed at overhauling the criminal-justice system in recent years. His network devoted $70 million in cash last year to local efforts for criminal-justice reform—part of a $220 million initiative for racial equality. His nonprofits also back groups that want to eliminate the death penalty, and he has pushed millions into district-attorney races across the country.
CRH did not respond to a Free Beacon request for comment.
In mid-November, the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff — I serve as the director — published “The Elements of the China Challenge.” The paper argues that the core of the challenge consists of the concerted efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to reconfigure world order to serve the CCP’s authoritarian interests and aims. It explains the errors that nourished the hope on both the right and the left that economic liberalization in China, coupled with Western engagement and incorporation of Beijing into international organizations, would bring about China’s political liberalization. It describes the characteristic practices of the communist dictatorship, traces China’s brazen programs of economic co-optation and coercion in every region of the world, examines the Marxist-Leninist dogma and hyper-nationalist beliefs that provide the intellectual sources of the CCP’s quest for global supremacy, and surveys China’s vulnerabilities — both those endemic to authoritarian regimes and those specific to the People’s Republic of China. In conclusion, the paper lays out a framework for securing freedom.
Reaction to the paper has been instructive. The Chinese Communist Party responded with ritual denunciation. In contrast, public intellectuals, scholars, and public officials from around the world have expressed appreciation for the Policy Planning Staff’s efforts to gather in one place the evidence of the CCP’s predatory policies, to distill the party’s governing ambitions, and to sketch a way forward for the United States and all nations dedicated to preserving the free, open, and rules-based international order. The best of the American responses to the paper have coupled praise, in some cases grudging, with strictures, sometimes angry, about the paper’s limitations. The domestic criticisms are especially revealing, both for the serious issues they raise and for the misconceptions that they promulgate.Recommended
“The Elements of the China Challenge” has its origins in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s reorientation of the State Department — consistent with the Trump administration’s 2017 National Security Strategy and a number of other administration documents — around the new round of great-power competition launched by the CCP. The administration’s attention to the China challenge does not entail — as many mistakenly suppose — that the United States must turn its back to the rest of the world. To the contrary, the Policy Planning Staff paper stresses that to counter China’s quest for global supremacy, the United States must renew its alliance system and must reform international organizations so that they serve America’s vital interest in preserving an international order that is composed of free and sovereign nation-states and that is grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Trump administration policy reflects this reorientation. For starters, the administration has led in exposing the CCP’s initial cover up of the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent disinformation campaign. The administration intensified efforts to combat China’s massive intellectual property theft. It placed the United States at the forefront of efforts to hold China accountable for gross human rights violations, especially the brutal imprisonment of more than a million Uyghurs in re-education camps in Xinjiang — the United States is the only nation to impose sanctions on CCP officials for these unconscionable abuses. It terminated Hong Kong’s special trading status in the spring, when the CCP crushed freedom in the city. It increased weapons sales to Taiwan, embarked on an inaugural U.S.-Taiwan economic dialogue, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Taiwan on health, science, and technology. It invigorated the Quad (Australia, India, Japan, and the United States) and, with its strategy for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, affirmed the region’s critical importance. It revamped the Development Finance Corporation and reformed the Export-Import Bank to improve the ability of United States and its allies and partners to invest in other nations’ physical and digital infrastructure. And, the Trump administration has convinced more than 50 countries and counting to join the Clean Network, which promises secure telecommunications — unlike the technology offered by Chinese “national champions” Huawei and ZTE, which are CCP extensions whose hardware and software threaten individual privacy and national security.
By stepping back, taking a broader view, and documenting the pattern and purpose of China’s actions, “The Elements of the China Challenge” explains why these policies are urgently needed, and why much more must be done. And by identifying 10 tasks that the United States must undertake — from restoring civic concord at home to, where possible, cooperating with Beijing based on norms of fairness and reciprocity, and to championing freedom abroad — the Policy Planning Staff paper lays the foundations for refashioning U.S. foreign policy to meet the China challenge.
A common theme of the critics, reputable as well as disreputable, is that the paper falls short of the work of George Kennan, a career foreign service officer who in 1947 founded the Policy Planning Staff and became its first director. At the dawn of the Cold War, Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” from Moscow and his 1947 Foreign Affairs article “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” illuminated the threat to freedom posed by the Soviet Union. The most influential documents produced by a State Department official, they served as sources of inspiration for the Policy Planning Staff, but we did not seek to replicate them since, as Kennan well understood, different challenges and moments demand different undertakings and emphases. Above all, today’s Policy Planning Staff learned from Kennan’s insistence on the combination of “ideology and circumstances” that determines great-power conduct, and took to heart his counsel that “to avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.”
As for the disreputable critics, they give no evidence of having read the paper. The Global Times, a daily tabloid and wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party, was first out of the gate. The CCP newspaper dismissed “The Elements of the China Challenge” the day after it appeared as an “insult to Kennan” amounting to little more than “a collection of malicious remarks from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other anti-China U.S. politicians and senators.” At his regular press conference the following day, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian denounced the Policy Planning Staff paper as “just another collection of lies piled up by the those ‘living fossils of the Cold War’ from the U.S. State Department.”
It would have been more accurate to refer to “the living victors of the Cold War,” but more telling still is the CCP’s failure to notice that the Policy Planning Staff distinguishes the China challenge from the Soviet challenge. While underscoring that, like the former Soviet Union after World War II, China today presents the foremost threat to freedom, the paper also stresses the distinct forms of power at work. “The Soviet Union,” the paper argues, “primarily enlarged its dominions and sought to impose its will through military coercion.” In contrast, and notwithstanding its development of a world-class military, China “primarily pursues the reconfiguration of world affairs through a kind and quantity of economic power of which the Soviets could only have dreamed.”
Of the reputable critics, Odd Arne Westad, a Yale history professor and China scholar, is among the most distinguished. In a Foreign Affairs essay titled “The U.S. Can’t Check China Alone,” he asserts that the “report correctly sees China as the greatest challenge to the United States since the end of the Cold War, showing how Beijing has grown more authoritarian at home and more aggressive abroad.” The paper also, according to Westad, “rightly recognizes how China has tried to gain an advantage by applying economic pressure and conducting espionage — as well as by exploiting the naiveté that causes many foreigners to miss the oppressive nature of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Nevertheless, Westad charges, “the report is limited by ideological and political constraints; given that it is a Trump administration document, it must echo President Donald Trump’s distaste for international organizations, even though they are key to dealing with China.” The professor also takes the paper to task on the grounds that it “almost completely ignores the most basic fact about the current situation, which is that the United States can compete effectively with China only through fundamental reform at home.”
A meticulous scholar of Chinese history, Westad imputes to the Policy Planning Staff paper opinions not found there and overlooks arguments it prominently features. It is not true that our paper, as Westad writes, “suggests that it is now in the United States’ interests to destroy and then selectively rebuild existing international institutions.” Rather, the Policy Planning Staff calls for a reassessment of international organizations to determine where they serve freedom and where they no longer advance the objective for which they were created, arguing for reform where possible and the establishment of new institutions where necessary.
Contrary to Westad, moreover, the Policy Planning Staff highlights the domestic foundations of effective foreign policy. Five of the 10 tasks we identify as crucial to securing freedom involve reform at home — from the renewal of American constitutional government and the promotion of prosperity and civic concord to restoring the U.S. educational system at all levels.
Hal Brands, another reputable critic and leading scholar, finds “valuable insights” in “The Elements of the China Challenge.” Despite the juvenile taunt in the title of his Bloomberg op-ed, “There’s No George Kennan in the Trump Administration,” Brands — a professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies as well as a Bloomberg columnist — writes that the paper “explains, more completely than any prior U.S. policy document, the sources of Chinese conduct — namely the mix of Marxist-Leninist ideology, extreme nationalism and quasi-imperialism that drives the Chinese Communist Party.” In addition, according to Brands, the paper “shows that China’s objectives are not limited to its immediate periphery, but include fundamental changes in the international system”; it “details the troubling aspects of Chinese behavior, from economic predation to Beijing’s menacing military buildup, as well as the deep vulnerabilities — endemic corruption, inescapable demographic problems, economic instability — that threaten its continued ascent”; and it “outlines reasonable steps America should take to strengthen its position.”
Progressive efforts to staff the nascent administration backfire
On Nov. 2, before the first votes in the presidential election had even been tallied, the foreign policy “experts” from the Blame America wing of the Democratic Party laid out their demands. Foreign Policy described their “wish list,” which included above all else their pick of jobs in the expected Biden administration.
They’d kept their mouths shut for six months and now they wanted their reward. Or, as Foreign Policy put it, they were preparing to “take off the gloves, setting the stage for a public brawl for the party’s soul over policy and political appointments to the most senior positions.”
But Biden’s victory was less sweeping than expected, and as early as Nov. 6, Foreign Policy was reporting that progressives were panicking that the election results would “ease pressure on Biden to offer progressives key positions in the new administration.”
Still, the nomenklatura have pressed on, presenting the Biden transition team with a list of 100 names they must consider for senior jobs in the new administration.
The list’s existence was first reported by Politico, but the Washington Free Beacon obtained the document and published it in full. It includes a rogue’s gallery of fringe figures—anti-Semites, operatives with deep ties to unsavory regimes, and the merely unserious and unqualified.
And it quickly became clear that the organizers did not want the list to see the light of day. The Free Beacon’s publication of the dossier elicited recriminations and finger pointing. List organizers accused the mainstream reporters with whom they’d shared the list—presumably, an accurate one—of leaking the document to their enemies (us). At the same time, they told us we’d obtained an inaccurate copy, representative only of “research materials.” False, unless they were bamboozling us all.
The contretemps is revealing of how quickly the Democratic Party’s progressive wing went from demanding to begging, and of the disorganization and unseriousness of its efforts. Turns out, one mainstream reporter said, that list organizers hadn’t even consulted with several of those named on the list before including their names and résumés without their permission.
Vanquished in the primaries and now at risk of exclusion from the new administration, they are in disarray. A compelling story, if anybody cared to cover it.
Sanctions relief didn't bring stability in 2015. And it won't now
Back in September, Joe Biden described his Iran policy in an op-ed for CNN. After several paragraphs criticizing President Trump, Biden made an “unshakable commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Then he offered Tehran “a credible path back to diplomacy.” The terms were simple. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal,” Biden wrote, “the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.” Sanctions would be lifted. And Biden is sticking with his plan. Recently Tom Friedman asked him if the offer stands. “It’s going to be hard,” Biden replied, “but yeah.”
Sure, Biden admitted, the agreement did not cover Iran’s missile programs, or support for terrorism, or human-rights violations, or malign behavior in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Absolutely, it contained a sunset clause that freed Iran of its obligations, and limited inspections to non-military installations. True, Iran maintained its archive of nuclear weapons research (until Israel revealed it to the world in 2018). And yes, the regional dynamic has changed. But these are secondary issues. “The best way to achieve getting some stability in the region,” Biden said, is “with the nuclear program.”
“Stability” is not how most people would describe the Middle East after 2015. Iran continued to launch missiles and send weapons and rockets to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, Shiite militias in Iraq, and Houthis in Yemen. Iran continued to hold captive U.S. citizens and harass and even detain U.S. naval personnel. Iran continued to harbor al-Qaeda’s number two, until he was killed earlier this year.
The economic benefits from sanctions relief went straight to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its leader, General Qassem Soleimani, used this walking around money to sow murder and chaos before Trump ended his reign of terror last January. The nuclear deal did not bring order to a Greater Middle East where the Islamic State ruled large parts of Iraq and Syria, and where extremist ideologies inspired attacks in America, France, and the United Kingdom.
It is fantastic to think that the Iran deal stabilized anything. But the agreement has replaced the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as a kind of philosopher’s stone that, according to the liberal imagination, transmutes ethno-sectarian animosity into peace and toleration. In reality, the benefits of the nuclear deal were just as illusory as the promise of Oslo. Concessions did nothing but embolden the agents of terror.
That’s because negotiations were not conducted in good faith. One side, earnest and idealistic, was willing to pay a steep price to attain its aims. The other side wanted to pocket its gains while dissembling, diverting from, or otherwise undermining the spirit of diplomacy. This cynicism and double-talk isn’t a function of religion or ethnicity. It is a function of regime. Both the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic Republic of Iran are autocracies. Neither government respects the dignity and liberty of its own people. There is no reason to assume they would respect ours.
Recent weeks have provided remedial instruction for those unwilling or unable to acknowledge the reality of Iran’s outlaw government. On December 9, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif gave a Persian-language interview in which he said that “America is in no position to set conditions for its return” to the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA. Then he used anti-Semitic slang to express his support for Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “popular referendum” that would decide whether Israel should continue to exist. “We’re not talking about throwing the k—s into the sea, or about a military attack, or about suicide operations,” Zarif said. A simple up-or-down vote should do the trick.
No one in the English-speaking world would have known about Zarif’s comments were it not for the indefatigable translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Needless to say, when his despicable language was publicized, Zarif claimed in a tweet that, ha-ha-ha, he was just joking. “I was mocking the allegation that Iran seeks to ‘throw the Jews into the sea’ and reiterating our solution is a referendum with participation of ALL: Jews, Muslims, Christians,” he wrote. In a favorite trick of demagogues everywhere, Zarif cast himself as the victim, and said it was really his critics who were biased and beneath contempt. How could anyone accuse Minister Zarif or his government of anti-Semitism? It’s not like his supreme leader denies the Holocaust and says Israel won’t exist in 20 years. “MEMRI,” Zarif wrote, “has sunk to a new low.”
It is Zarif who’s hit bottom. Around the time the foreign minister dropped the k-bomb, Iran executed the 47-year-old Ruhollah Zam, an Iranian journalist and dissident who had been living in France until Tehran’s agents lured him under false pretenses to Iraq, where they kidnapped and arrested him. Zam’s killing was intended to demonstrate that no Iranian who speaks out against the mullahs is safe. It also sparked an international outcry from the very people whose good opinion Iran needs the most. It’s “another horrifying human rights violation by the Iranian regime,” tweetedincoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan. “We will join our partners in calling out and standing up to Iran’s abuses.”
One way to stand up to “Iran’s abuses” would be resisting the temptation to reenter the nuclear deal. Using the sanctions leverage bequeathed to him by Trump, Biden might try linking not only missiles and terrorism but also human rights to a renewal of negotiations. Iranian refusal would not be a “failure of diplomacy.” It would be confirmation that Tehran has no interest in changing its ways. The mullahs understand that the second they relax their grip, or appear weak vis-à-vis America, their government will crumble. Paying them off to abide by an agreement whose terms they set is an evasion. Stability in the Middle East won’t come when America rejoins the JCPOA. It will arrive when the Iranian people put an end to the Islamic revolution.