Recently in International Affairs Category


From Clifford Krauss at the NYT: Trump's Iran sanctions are working. Here's the key part:

"The president is doing the opposite of what the experts said, and it seems to be working out," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, a research and consulting firm.

Initial signs of a foreign-policy success could benefit Mr. Trump politically as Republicans try to hold on to control of Congress. The president and lawmakers allied with him could point to the administration's aggressive stand toward Iran as evidence that his unconventional approach to diplomacy has been much more fruitful and far less costly than Democrats have been willing to acknowledge.

Expertise is valuable -- I say, as an expert myself -- but it's not everything. Making good decisions requires more than expertise.


President Trump trolls the world by issuing a sort of challenge on the new border wall.

President Trump said during a visit to San Diego on Tuesday that he needs his proposed border wall with Mexico to be a tough physical obstacle, as those seeking to enter the U.S. illegally are "incredible climbers."

"Getting over the top is easy. These are like professional mountain climbers, they're incredible climbers. They can't climb some of these walls," Trump told reporters during a tour of border wall prototypes.

This is the best wall ever, the greatest, you're going to love this wall, no one can climb it!

Eladio Sanchez is unimpressed by the eight border wall prototypes looming over his house in Tijuana, Mexico, almost within spitting distance of where US President Donald Trump will visit Tuesday.

At age 30, he has already snuck over the border several times, and doesn't expect Trump's wall will have much effect on undocumented migrants like him.

Pointing to the only prototype with an angular barrier at the top -- a concrete structure built by Texas Sterling Construction Company -- Sanchez says that one might slow him down a little more than the others.

But, he told AFP, "you can get over it anyway."


It's hard to imagine how President Obama and his team could have done more damage to the world if they'd tried -- short of starting a nuclear war. In their effort to avoid conflict, Obama's foreign policy team left a trail of ruined countries, refugees, and corpses.

So The Final Year is about the Obama Doctrine, also known as hashtag diplomacy, also known as leading from behind, also known as voting "present" -- also known as hands-off. That a lot of people can get killed while you're wringing them is the movie's unintended lesson. Summing up, I give you none other than Samantha "Soft" Power herself, who near the end of the doc says in a moment of sudden clarity: "My world is a world where you have 65 million displaced. Yemen and Syria and Iraq, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, Central African Republic, Burundi, South Sudan, Darfur, you know, the list, Afghanistan, of course, Venezuela imploding . . . There are concerns about terrorism and there is a fear of the other and . . . all the trendlines -- on democracy, right now, at least -- are going in the wrong direction."

If only she or her friends had held positions of authority, maybe they could have done something about some of that.

Foreign policy is hard, and Obama's team never had any respect for the legacy that had been bequeathed to them.


One of President Trump's least-heralded accomplishments has been the significant number of American prisoners held abroad that he has brought home.

"Immediately after President Trump took office, he told Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson to prioritize bringing home Americans who've been wrongfully detained or held hostage in foreign countries," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told Fox News in an email. "We are proud that we've been able to secure the release of several Americans as a result of U.S. diplomatic efforts."

While the administration has been successful in securing the release of numerous Americans held abroad, officials noted there are at least 10 other U.S. citizens - like Joshua Holt in Venezuela - who are being wrongly detained.

Good work for the President and the State Department.


Hurricane Irma is devastating the Caribbean on its way to Florida. I've been thinking about installing a metal roof on my house, and this picture is fascinating to me.

metal roofs.jpg

These roofs survived the hurricane in perfect condition... other than being torn off their buildings.


Leftist Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounces people who enter Canada illegally.

"Canada is an opening and welcoming society, but let me be clear. We are also a country of laws," Trudeau said in remarks after a meeting in Montreal with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

"Entering Canada irregularly is not an advantage," the prime minister doubled down. "There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that will be followed. Make no mistake."


Near the end of his "so what?" post about Russia influencing America's presidential election, Scott Adams notes:

But something much larger than government-on-government influence is happening, and I'd like to call that out in this post. We keep talking about physical border security, but what about influence security? Any country with widespread Internet access is susceptible to the same kind of fake news and other social media influence that we suspect Russia of doing. And every citizen can play this game. For example, if I were highly motivated to influence an election in Great Britain, I'm sure I could move a few thousand votes in any direction I chose. Could it be said in that case that America is trying to manipulate a foreign election? Yes, unambiguously so. And I believe it is totally legal, even if I use fake news as my persuasion.

From 2017 onward, the democratic process in any country is open to "voting" by the entire world. The foreign "votes" will come in the form of social media influence on the local voters. There is no practical way to stop any of that from happening. And that means political power will migrate from the traditional triumvirate of politicians, rich people, and the media, to individual persuaders who are good at it. In 2017 and beyond, the best persuaders in the world will be influencing democratic elections in every country. And those persuaders will be from anywhere on the globe. Borders can't stop persuasion.

The cross-border application of persuasion is an effect of a larger trend: global cultural convergence. It will still probably take a few more centuries (or just decades??), but in the long run cultures will be more defined by geography and industry than by lines on a map.


Oren Cass explains that the Paris Agreement is pointless, whether America participates or not. This fact isn't based on right-wing antipathy for the environment, but on the details of the agreement itself.

Even before President Trump had completed his announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change, howls of disbelief and outrage went up from proponents of the agreement. But the critical dynamic underlying the 2015 Accord, willfully ignored by its advocates, is that major developing countries offered "commitments" for emissions reduction that only mirrored their economies' existing trajectories. Thus, for instance, China committed to reaching peak emissions by 2030--in line with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's prior analysis. India committed to improving its emissions per unit of GDP--at a rate slower than that metric was already improving. President Obama, meanwhile, pledged America to concrete and aggressive emissions cuts that would require genuine and costly change. ...

The giveaway for the Paris charade is the refusal to set baselines. If nations are to hold one another accountable for progress on greenhouse-gas emissions, surely they must agree on a starting point from which to progress. Yet the framework for Paris pointedly omitted this requirement. Countries could calculate their own baselines however they chose, or provide none at all. Now, per Chait, the pledges have themselves become baselines, and each country receives applause or condemnation in inverse proportion to its seriousness.


Giant corporations are leveraging their widespread popularity and public trust to pressure President Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement.

Major U.S. corporations and leading business figures are raising an eleventh-hour appeal to President Donald Trump, urging him to not pull the country out of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. ...

Oil giants ExxonMobil (XOM, +0.01%) and ConocoPhillips (COP, +0.31%) were among companies that reiterated their support for the accord ahead of Trump's announcement, reports Bloomberg. ...

It's also reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook called the White House Tuesday to argue the case in favor of staying, while Dow Chemical's Andrew Liveris backed an open letter by more than 30 top corporate executives. And a TV commercial urging the administration to stay and renegotiate the agreement's terms featured the names of CEOs like Musk, JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon and General Electric's Jeff Immelt.

It's hard to imagine a less convincing group of interlocutors than these big corporations who stand to make billions of dollars researching "green energy".


The Manchester concert bombing is an example of the limits of defensive security.

There was security at the concert, but the bomber apparently didn't try to get into the venue, instead blowing himself up in an entrance foyer area as concertgoers flooded out of the arena. Prime Minister May said the attacker had deliberately chosen "his time and place to cause maximum carnage" in the young crowd.

No matter how you play defense, no matter where you put the security perimeter, you can't avoid creating a choke-point that is itself a soft target for an attack. Security waiting lines, entrances and exits, are impossible to secure by their very nature.

This harsh reality is why relying on defensive measures against terrorism is a fool's game. We can only win by going on the offense.


President Trump has scored another impressive deal for American industry: opening the Chinese beef market to American beef.

Well, I was wrong. Several weeks ago in this blog, I expressed my skepticism that China would act anytime soon on its promise to open its borders to direct import of U.S. beef. I based my skepticism on the past 13, now nearly 14, years of hollow promises by the Chinese government that it would relent.

And I based my skepticism on the fact that China has stringent import requirements that serve as non-tariff trade barriers. The main hurdles are no use of ractopamine and a national animal ID system. While the U.S. has infrastructure in place to deal with both those, I was sure that China would hold the line on animal ID. Since the U.S. can't meet the nationwide animal ID requirement, I was sure the deal would fall apart once again.

I got Trumped.

I'm not tired of winning yet.


Of course rich nations are failing to fulfill their obligations to create a $100 billion "Climate Fund", and of course developing nations will use that failure to avoid their obligations to reduce carbon emissions. Newsflash: climate politics is all a scam.

First world donors have been busily relabeling other foreign aid as contributions to the climate kitty. For developing countries, this is a cheat--they expect $100 billion in new money.

Or, to put it more accurately, they are not nearly stupid and naive enough to believe the lies Western diplomats tell when trying to bamboozle naive green voters at home that they are "Doing Something" about climate change. So they don't really expect all that money, but hope to use these commitments to pry something out of the West. Also, since the West will certainly default on these bogus commitments, developing countries have all the justification they need to blow off their own commitments when the time comes.


Looks like another vehicle-based terror attack, this time outside the UK Parliament.

At least one person is dead after a terror attacker brought carnage to central London today by mowing down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and attacking police with a knife in the grounds of the Houses of Parliament.

More than 12 people are said to have been hit by a vehicle on the bridge after a 4x4 drove into pedestrians and cyclists before crashing into the gates of Parliament.

An intruder, described by a witness as 'middle-aged and Asian', then managed to break into the grounds of the Parliament and stabbed a police officer before he was shot. The policeman is thought to have since died.

We pray for the victims, as well as for our good friends and allies in the UK. May God give you peace, strength, and wisdom through this horrific time.


After repeated humiliations by the Russians and Syrians, the Obama administration is again "discussing" strikes directly against the Assad regime.

U.S. military strikes against the Assad regime will be back on the table Wednesday at the White House, when top national security officials in the Obama administration are set to discuss options for the way forward in Syria. But there's little prospect President Obama will ultimately approve them. ...

The options under consideration, which remain classified, include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, an administration official who is part of the discussions told me. One proposed way to get around the White House's long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said.

Above all, President Obama wants to protect his own ego by avoiding any Bush-like behavior -- better to strike covertly and deny responsibility than to admit that his predecessor wasn't as evil as portrayed. Better for hundreds of thousands to die than for Obama to admit a mistake.

Obama and Hillary's bungling of the Middle East will go down in history as one of this century's greatest failures. There may have been no great options, but Obama and Hillary's cowardice and pride led them to erratic passivity that was perhaps the worst possible course.

Would Trump be better? I certainly don't know, but at least there's a chance. Unlike Obama, Trump's ego seems to push him towards action rather than inaction. An active America constrains the options of our foes -- as long as we are doing something they have to watch their toes. When we do nothing, they have freedom of action.


It's obviously fine for President Obama to campaign for Hillary and to express a strong preference for her victory in November, but he crosses the line when he meets with world leaders and denigrates Trump as unfit for office. Lots of people say that, lots of people believe it, but President Obama has a responsibility to the office and to America not to undermine a potential successor. Even if Obama is right, if Trump wins the election he will be the next President, and he'll have a tough enough job without this condemnation hanging over his head.

On many occasions, Obama has been explicit about the fact that his words are intended specifically about Trump. He's said questions about the GOP nominee come up in every meeting with a foreign leader, and he's emphatically declared Trump to be unfit to inhabit his role as commander in chief.


Andrew C. McCarthy says it well: Relations between governments are best handled through diplomacy, not legal proceedings.

Why, when the Republican-controlled Congress is finally willing to fight President Obama to the point of forcing and potentially overriding a veto, do they pick an issue on which Obama is right?

In a grandstanding exhibition, Congress has enacted legislation that would enable private litigants -- the most sympathetic imaginable, the families of 9/11 victims -- to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. Obviously, even if it is sued successfully, the Saudi government is never actually going to pay any judgments. More to the point, legislation of this kind will spur other countries to enact laws allowing their citizens to sue the United States -- and maybe even criminal laws allowing the arrest of current and former American government officials (including military personnel) -- for actions taken in defense of our country and pursuit of our interests.

Since we have interests throughout the world and a military that acts globally (and lethally), our nation has far more to lose than most nations by playing this game. Consequently, while I get the populist zeitgeist, it is disappointing to see people who ought to know better claiming that a veto would represent Obama's prioritizing of Saudi interests over American interests. It would do nothing of the sort.


President Obama isn't solely at fault for the systematic collapse of American foreign policy over the past eight years, but there sure have been a lot of failures.

The Era of Hope and Change has been one prolonged act of suicide. If anyone had said that Obama would manage to alienate Israel and the Philippines, lose Turkey, pay Iran a hundred billion dollars, preside over the loss of a won war in Afghanistan, lose billions of dollars in military equipment to ISIS, watch a consulate burn, restart the Cold War with Russia, cause Japan to re-arm and go the knife's edge with China would you have believed it? If someone had told you in 2008 millions of refugees would be heading for Europe and that the UK would leave the EU after Obama went there to campaign for them to remain would you not have laughed?


Michael J. Totten argues that paying ransom to Iran for the four Americans they kidnapped is bad enough, but we shouldn't ever transfer any money to countries that are openly hostile to us.

Even so, let's just say for the sake of argument that this didn't even resemble a ransom payment. Let's pretend, for the sake of discussion, that Iran released its hostages because it had a guilty conscience and that the arrival of the 400 million in cash was a total coincidence. And let's also pretend--while acknowledging that we're venturing deep into an alternative universe here--that the 400 million shouldn't have gone to the American victims of Iranian terrorism and hostage-taking.

Washington was still wrong to pay Iran the 400 million.

Why?

Because the United States shouldn't give money to any nation for any reason that we aren't at peace with. Would Washington have paid back a loan to Nazi Germany in 1943? Of course not. Would the US have given diddly-squat to the Taliban after 9/11? No way. Nor were Osama bin Laden's 100 million dollars in assets ever unfrozen.


Did Hillary's "extremely careless" email practices lead to the execution of an Iranian nuclear scientist who had defected to America?

"The physicist that came out, he defected, he was a treasure trove of information, but the CIA and the Clinton State Department botched it while he was in the States, left him pretty much unsupported," Prince replied, calling it a major mistake to leave Amiri's family in Iran.

"The second time he calls home, the Iranian intelligence service answers the phone. Undoubtedly, they leveraged him. When the guy talks about psychological trauma here in the United States, I'm sure it's because the Iranians were telling him all the things they were going to do to his family if he didn't come home," said Prince.

"Once again, the administration screwed it up. He goes home; of course, he's arrested. And then Hillary's emails, which were in the open, certainly readable by foreign powers, were talking about Hillary's so-called friend, who was a defection, and not an abduction, as the guy was claiming," he added.

Brits vote today on whether to Leave or Remain in the European Union. I really have no idea which would be better for the UK, the EU, or America -- but my mischievous side hopes that Leave wins, just to watch the smug bureaucrats who run the EU suffer.

A lot of the focus today is on the weather:

Millions of Britons have defied the wet weather to queue in torrential rain and even wade through deep water to vote in today's historic EU referendum as a final poll revealed the result is on a knife edge.

Several polling stations were closed in London because of floods as Britain was finally having its say on whether to stay in the EU or cut our ties with Brussels after a gruelling 10-week campaign.

Thundery showers caused chaos across London and the south of England overnight and could potentially push the result towards a Brexit because polling data is clear that Leave voters are less likely to be put off by the bad weather than Remain voters.

Whatever the result, I wish the absolute best for our friends and allies in the UK.

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