Archive for July, 2012

Coming off a widely publicized trip to Israel this past weekend, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has employed an interesting new strategy for rejuvenating his otherwise stagnant campaign over the last few months. After fending off a proverbial onslaught of economic-minded propaganda, not to mention a heinous attack on his singing ability (was that commercial endorsed by Simon Cowell or what?), it appears that Romney has taken to the streets of Jerusalem in an attempt to draw some new attention to his bid for the White House. On Sunday, Romney pledged that “America [will] stand with you,” and that his presumptive administration “will not look away, and nor will my country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel.” Romney’s solidified pledge to the conflict-ridden nation is interesting for two reasons: 1) is this move purely political in nature- essentially an outstretched hand to American Jewish voters; and 2) is this is a solidification of his campaign’s foreign policy platform, an area that the presidential hopeful wishes to differentiate himself from his competition?

Let’s look at Romney’s visit to Israel from a campaign perspective first. Historically speaking, the Jewish community in the U.S. does not vote Republican, period. In fact, since 1972, the bloc has never dipped below 64% voter support in favor of the Democratic candidate (including ~75% voter support for Obama in his 2008 election), making them a predicable and dependable constituency from year to year. Knowing this, is the Israel issue really the quickest (if not the only) way to the Jewish community’s heart? Is Romney taking an innovative step to reversing this trend? Considering that only 31% of American Jews expressed “emotional attachment to Israel” in 2005, even a drastic increase in pro-Israel sentiment among Jewish voters would result in a 50% importance factor at best (in my opinion). These statistics are aside from the flagrant disagreements his party traditionally has with progressive voters regarding hot button social issues (which we could write a whole other article on).  Doesn’t seem like the most influential tool to win the hearts and minds votes of your competition, eh Mitt?

Despite how ineffectual I think Romney’s visit will be in mobilizing Jewish votes on the basis of Israel , I think his trip accomplished a lot in terms of solidifying his campaign’s foreign policy platform. For starters, it’s becoming more and more evident that the new front of American foreign policy in the Middle East is shifting west, away from Kabul and  towards Jerusalem. With new sound bites coming out of Tehran/Jerusalem each week, it will behoove Romney to essentially “look the part” in making very presidential speeches on very presidential issues. Secondly, Romney is removing himself, and his party, from a tarnished foreign policy reputation associated primarily with Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama administration has had relative success on those fronts (killing OBL and completing troop withdrawals from Iraq), and it’s best for Republicans to accept the political blemish associated with former president Bush and move forward. Perhaps most importantly, Romney is asserting himself as the best possible partner for Israeli PM Netanyahu going in to the future. The Obama administration has had a strained relationship with the staunch Prime Minister for the past 4 years, to say the least, and Romney casting himself as the most capable ally with Israel (especially in terms of denying Iran nuclear weapons) may end winning him a few undecided voters who value strengthened US foreign policy in the region and a more hardliner stance when it comes to Iran (Jewish or otherwise).

In the end, I think the Romney campaign has succeeded in using the Israel issue as a distraction, if nothing else, from the Obama administration’s economic spotlight. Whether or not these moves will directly result in increased Jewish votes for Romney we have yet to see. Certainly rebuilding Washington’s relationship with Israel is a great way to garner support from voters who value the U.S.’s relationship with Jerusalem and firm position in the Middle East, but will his party’s voter history and glaring social disparities prove more dissuading than any possible number of photo opp’s and handshakes with Bibi? We’ll see this November…

(source: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/29/in-israel-romney-to-issue-unmistakable-warning-to-iran/?hpt=hp_t2)

After seeing a poster in a DC metro station portraying the infamous Wikileaks whistleblower as a “hero”, I’ve taken a particular interest in the respective stories of Pvt. Bradley Manning (the Wikileaks source) and Maj. Nidal Hasan (the Fort Hood shooter). Both “men*” are awaiting trial this fall for their various crimes, and several interesting and ethical dilemmas are sure to follow with the respective judgments. After just a few hours of research, admittedly via each person’s official Wikipedia page (and I would encourage you to do the same after reading this), I’m astounded by the biographies of these two men with whom our armed services invested so much time and treasure. Both men demonstrated very objectionable behavior months before their offenses, not to mention overt conflicts of interest and deep moral unwillingness to perform the tasks assigned of them. The fact that each individual not only had access to top secret and militaristically sensitive material, but were often times responsible for the mental health and security of fellow soldiers, is absurd. Granted these case studies are several years in the past, it begs the question of just how much oversight and accountability our armed services have over their troops? How could repeated violations of standard professional protocol, Osama-esque decrees, and a proverbial laundry list of documented mental instability go unaddressed for so long? In my opinion, greater leeway needs to be given to our armed services to classify soldiers, sailors, pilots, and marines as unfit for duty due to intangible criteria such as perceived religious conflict of interest and/or mental instability attributed to conditions such as gender disorder, social anxiety, or political inclination. Additionally, our services must be more vigilant in sniffing out suspicious troops in their ranks, and must have the gall to dismiss said troops despite the technical, linguistic, or physical talents they offer.

I leave you with a few direct quotes from both Manning and Hasan, all of which were taken from conversations, emails, and chat rooms with their respective coworkers, friends, and supervisors prior to their heinous offenses. I hope their words not only clarify the discussion, but set the precedent as to whether or not they should be considered traitors or terrorists in their upcoming trials:

–          “[the DOD] should allow Muslim Soldiers the option of being released as “Conscientious objectors” to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events”

–          “the Muslims should stand up and fight against the aggressor”, referring to the US

–          People should “strap bombs on themselves and go into Times Square.”

–          “and little does anyone know, but among this “visible” mess, there’s the mess i created that no-one knows about yet […]”

–          “hypothetical question: if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time … say, 8–9 months … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do? […]”

–          “and … its important that it gets out … i feel, for some bizarre reason”

–          “i’ve totally lost my mind … i make no sense … the CPU is not made for this motherboard … […]”

(source: http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/20/hasans-e-mail-exchange-with-al-awlaki-islam-money-and-matchmaking/)

*I say “men” above due to Manning’s self-admitted anxiety of being “plastered all over the world press… as a boy”.

Various U.S. government agencies refuse to release detailed reports about drone strike tactics being used in Yemen/Somalia/Afghanistan/Pakistan. ACLU reps claim the public has a “right to know”, while security officials claim that reports could compromise national security interests. Personally, this “right to know” business doesn’t hold much weight. What exactly do you, John Q. Citizen, have a right to know when it comes to eliminating the people who seek to eliminate you? Whatever happened to ignorance being bliss?  Whatever happened to things being above a person’s pay grade? Leave it to the glorified Halo player clutching his joystick somewhere in dusty ole Nevada and the man “pulling the trigger” at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
 
 
 
Political realism at it’s finest. Why would China and Russia undermine their economic and strategic interests in Syria just to appease an international community they’re already at odds with? Comparatively, do you think the US would be quick to slap down sanctions on Israel if a similar situation occured (not that I think it would)? A country is going to protect and preserve its national interests, even if they’re at the cost of another nation’s innocent lives and a tarnished international reputation. Not saying I agree with their move, but I can definitely understand their rationale from a realist perspective.
 

Welcome to al-Ra˚yee, or “the opinion”, in Arabic. Contained in this blog are a series of provocative articles I’ve found across the web pertaining to broader issues in international relations, national security, and terrorism, as they apply to the U.S. and the Middle East. I found the following articles intriguing, upsetting, or praiseworthy enough to share with all of you, and I hope to elicit some brief, yet academic, discussion about some of the toughest moral and political issues in our world today. I am by no means an expert in any field (including those listed above), but merely a student and a passionate follower of all things IR. I [far too] often play the devil’s advocate, and encourage my readers to take one of many controversial stances on the issues presented.  I aim to post something that caught my eye at least weekly, and to provide you with a very brief personal commentary about the matter at hand. If you’re looking for something long and scholarly, you’ve come to the wrong place.

A colleague once shared with me quote from 20th century politician/lobbyist/lawyer/actor Dudley Field Malone which went: “I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.” That being said, leave your PC at the door and feel free to share your ra˚yeeka with the rest of us.