To Defeat ISIS, Unlikely Allies May Be Needed

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Last week, President Obama declared the beginning of a sustained effort against ISIS, and the administration has begun to put together a coalition, largely consisting of Sunni Arab states in the Middle East region. The President was careful to emphasize that U.S. boots would not be put on the ground, and instead has said that Arab armed forces will be doing the majority of the fighting. While I applaud the administration for their efforts to form a regionally-based coalition to combat ISIS, I read an interesting article in the Times today that suggested that the United States should reconsider its choice of allies, saying that we should trade idealism for practicality for the time being in order to more quickly eradicate ISIS, and even have a chance at improving regional stability, especially when it comes to Syria.

Ahmad Samih Khalidi, a former Palestinian peace negotiator, argues that instead of partnering with Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia, (who, he says, have a history of supporting violent jihadist groups while claiming to oppose it) the U.S. should join forces with the best military forces in the region: Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Army, and Hezbollah, the Iranian proxy group in Lebanon. Says Mr. Khalidi:

All of the West’s differences with the Syrian regime should be postponed until the tide of battle has turned. Indeed, an anti-ISIS coalition that includes Syria, Iran and Russia may be the only real key to a political engagement with Mr. Assad that could help bring about a peaceful resolution of the three-year-old Syrian civil war.

While such a maneuver would certainly bring criticism, and upset Sunni Arab states in the region, as well as some members of the Western community, the Obama administration should remain open to the idea as it seeks to find the best way to both defeat ISIS and advance our goals of stability and prosperity in the Middle East region.

Hundreds of Migrants Feared Dead

An extremely tragic weekend for those who were traveling across the Mediterranean this last week. About 500 migrants, mostly from Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Sudan have supposedly been killed. Their boat was rammed into by human traffickers of Malta’s coast, who were upset because some passengers refused to board another boat for reasons we do not know yet. The vessel holding these 500 people was found sunk. Another 200 migrants drowned off the coast of Libya this same weekend, resulting in the death of more victims this year than four times last year’s total. About 2,200 migrants feared to be dead this year, and 700 people were found dead last year.

The European Union has now stepped in and agreed to expand border protection operations. More boats and helicopters have been provided for the migrants and places for the refugees to stay have been arranged. Unfortunately, the conflicts in Iraq, Africa and Syria have pushed hundreds of thousands to leave their lives behind and find refuge somewhere else. About 100,000 migrants have reached Italy alone this year.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/hundreds-feared-dead-after-migrants-boat-sinks-off-malta-1410799006?mg=id-wsj

Eradicative Chinese Palate

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“A Porpoise Is Ensnared By Criminals and Nets” Elisabeth Malkin

The continuous rise in power of the People’s Republic of China can be felt throughout the economic, political, and social spheres the world over. It is their overwhelming influence however regarding their appetites that affects even the most obscure communities dotting the California and Mexican coastlines and even as far away as the South Pacific.

The lucrative business of totoaba fishing in the little town of San Felipe, Mexico can fetch about “$10,000” per bladder that the fishermen can obtain. These “more lucrative than marijuana,” bladders are to be bought, sold and gobbled up by the Chinese market for exotic and endangered species, citing the “health benefits” from these species. Now it is understandable that a person’s appetite should be appeased, that’s simple human nature, but is it worth the destruction of an entire species of creature from creation? Because of poaching, and overfishing of the totoaba (and shrimp and other marketable sea life) the life of the vaquita porpoise has been driven to the endangered species status with a chance of extinction occurring in the next “four years,” says the International Committee for the Recover of the Vaquita.

totooba

Overfishing itself is of course overly destructive of important marine life and ruins the very delicate balance of these ecosystems. This overfishing and poaching by humans have been the cause of more than one disappearance of a particular animal species from the world and the almost unalterable consequences that follow from disturbing the environment and threatening other plant, animal, and human lives. The loss of the vaquita porpoise poses a threat to the species that prey upon the little porpoise but also it may hurt the fishing business in the areas as well. The porpoise’s important position in the ecosystem maintains the well-intended balance of the many species of marine life and crustaceans that will overpopulate, dominate and destroy the surrounding waters.

Now this whole scenario seems all too familiar to me. I have seen the repercussions of this insatiable Chinese palate for the exotic and sensitive species around the world. In the tiny island Kingdom of Tonga, the overfishing of prized sea cucumbers have filled the pockets of Tongan and Chinese government officials and for now it has laced the pockets of many struggling islanders. However, the consequences of this overfishing and disruption in the ocean’s ecosystem can be felt by the same fishermen who find  themselves going further into the deep to find large fish, and enough in quantity to feed their families. You see, these unenticing creatures known as mokohunu in Tongan, are Mother Nature’s ever working vacuum cleaners that continually keep over growing seaweed and “weeds” at bay will ridding the ocean floor of little fish “surprises.” However, with the disappearance of the mokohunu, the water quality and the pushing in of seaweed and other “growths” take the place of reefs and rock formations that house game fish. This lack of “housing” forces the fish to seek deeper waters, and for those that stay, their sizes seem to decrease with the lack of enough room to swim, reproduce and find prey, this then forces the fishermen to overfish the fish and repeat the process.

sbkmtutc

There is nothing wrong with the rising power of the Chinese influence around the world, except when it endangers the very people that is used as proxies to fulfill their apparently insatiable appetite. From what this article and others about the vaquita and the mokohunu issue, it seems that more attention and policy has come from the lower registries of government, either local or municipal. There apparently has not been enough tougher sanctions by the international community as a whole in controlling China’s push for their prized dishes. In the end their prized delicacies will in fact hurt them more then it will appease them for the hour or two the meal may last. These same countries that continually vie to strengthen economic and political ties with China, through these lucrative business deals will find themselves at the short end of the stick when they decide to revisit their once favorite fishing spots only to find themselves reaching for empty nets. The issue is complicated even more, for there will always be those who defend these extreme practices as it is the lesser of two evils. One being the destruction of a species and the other the ability to care for spouses and children that may be made much more difficult with the restricted or total foreclosure of these sure Chinese “meal tickets.”

Ukraine Proposes ‘Special Status’ for Breakaway Regions

This week the Ukrainian government submitted a draft law to parliament that would grant special status to the two regions who have broken away from Ukraine, for the next three years.

Mr. Poroshenko also said that the three-year life of the law would allow time for changes in the Constitution that would bring “profound decentralization” throughout Ukraine. “There is nothing more important for us than peace,” he said. “These are the key positions that will ensure it.”

This draft law was submitted the same day that six international monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe came under artillery fire- the first time they have taken live fire in 6 months. Ukraine is still searching out ways to bring stability to the unsettled region. Read more here in the New York Times.

Anti-Isis Efforts: Kerry Reaches out to Iran

Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been participating in talks with several world leaders in order to discuss the issues surround ISIS activity in Iraq and Syria. One conference occurred this week in Paris with the exclusion of Iran. Nevertheless, Kerry says he’s still open to working with Iranian leaders. Despite these efforts though, Ayatollah Khamenei and other leaders have been unwilling to assist the anti-ISIS coalition, taking several jabs at the United States and other countries involvement in Iraq and Syria:

The country’s highest leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, indicated that no matter who had invited whom, Iran would sit arms crossed and watch as the coalition tries to bomb ISIS away.“Are we stupid to join the Americans and their coalition?” asked Hossein Sheikholseslami, a parliamentary adviser who helps shape Iran’s Syria policies. “Except for the Iraqis, they are all the same people who over the past three years have been plotting against Syria in over 20 different conferences.”

Thus, Kerry’s best efforts may not be able sustain any type of agreement with the Iranian leaders despite attempts at diplomacy. Read more in the New York Times.

German-Style Training for American Factory Workers

German Style Training

Two summer ago I was able to work in Germany for a mid-sized business that manufactures rubber parts for auto manufactures. I was able to witness first hand this type of vocational training. The German educational system differs from the American school system as there are different kinds of High Schools that specialize in preparing students for different scholastic and career paths. Those in the vocational school were able to begin being trained at the factory and also had to present reports to the staff of the company in addition to their own teachers.

While I find my University experience to be very enriching I understand that not everyone wants or should come to college. The German system allows for a honorable outlet for those who do not find that they fit into a University system. This is just speculation but i’m sure that part of the reason that college drop out rates are so high in the US has to do in part to societal pressure that only values your work if you have graduated from a University. Kids that don’t really want to be in college go only to drop out which leads to frustration. I believe that local governments should promote vocational schools and hopefully in the long run they will become more respectable.

What Makes Israel So Special?

Now that a ceasefire has been declared between Israel and Palestine, the government in Israel is scrambling to cover its bases.  After asserting that it will not cooperate with the United Nations mission,   Israel’s Military Advocate General Corps has announced the launching of several investigations into potential misconducts of Israeli forces during the recent Gaza conflict. This seems to be an effort to “pre-empt international inquiries” of some Israeli actions in Gaza.

Foremost among these are the killing of four boys on a Gaza beach and a strike that killed 16 civilians while sheltered in a UN school. Others include the murder of a Palestinian women, the abuse of a teenage prisoner, and possible thieveries from private homes by soldiers. Dozens of others are being referred, supposedly 55 in the next week.

While it seems honorable that the Israeli state would be so forward in investigating these problems, it is necessary to think about their motivation for doing so. What do they stand to gain?  They can dismiss cases that seem hazy or incriminating. Not the incidents that have received press, such as the abuse of the boy held in detention—those are already too well known—but ones here and there that can be swept under the table without too many questions being asked. For instance, one report of a family of eight being killed in their home by a strike the first day of the Israeli air campaign was closed indiscriminately.

Over 2,100 Palestinians were killed during the last 50 days and unbiased monitoring groups report that about seventy-five percent of those are civilians. On the other hand, only 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians have died. Israel blames Hamas of committing a “double war crime” for firing rockets while hiding in populated Gaza areas. However, we can clearly see that the rockets that were fired into Gaza were not done by Hamas. There is enormous responsibility by the Israelis that they are trying to evade, both in their public statements and private “pre-emptive” haphazard investigations of their troops while defying international authority.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/world/middleeast/gaza-strip-israel-criminal-investigation.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSum&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Trouble in the Philippines

In Manila, President Benigno S. Aquino III submitted a draft law that would create a self-governed predominately Muslim region in the Philippines’s south. Muslims in this region have come together to form a rebel group that’s main goal is to create an Islamic state in Mindanao. The creation of this rebel group has caused significant conflict in the region. Mindanao is one of the poorest regions in the Philippines, despite being rich in resources of natural gas, gold, and valuable minerals. This draft bill promises to bring peace to this area, which is something that it desperately needs.

While some legislators are in support of this bill, many are still unsure because of the possible repercussions. The supposed new state will keep a portion of local taxes and many believe that is it better used for the national benefit, rather than locally. Others say that the creation of this Islamic state imposes on the Philippine sovereignty and question the constitutionality of the law. It is still unclear how both the government and the rebel sides will react, but only time will tell. 

If you want to learn more about this, click here 

Ukraine Palace Is Still An Emblem of Dysfunction – NYT

With Ukraine’s recent revolution came the ousting of President Yanukovych not only from government but from his lavish estate as well. Originally planned to become a symbol of the revolution, of hope and new beginnings for Ukraine, it has turned into a “symbol of our state’s inability to function normally.” The lack of communication and unity over whose possession the property should fall into is indicative as to how well the state has been functioning since the revolution. 

Many officials have resigned from government in recent months leaving the country’s citizens wondering what the future holds for them. The frustration caused by the abundant amount of bureaucracy and red tape to jump through has proven to be too much for many of those in the government. Tetyana Chornovol, previous head of an anti-corruption agency, attributed her resignation to “drowning in a bureaucratic swamp” and that, “Our country is simply so sick, it lacks patriotism and you can hardly expect better things from the government right now. Yes, the government is ill with corruption, political intrigues and God knows what else.” 

With its own officials losing faith in the government’s ability to bring stability to bring any sort of stability in the near future, how are its citizens supposed to remain confident? Though small, for now, there appears to be a lack of respect for authority shown by the fact Denys Tarachkoteyk, a businessman who somehow came into control of Yanukovych’s previous residence, refuses to give up his control of the estate and turn it into the hands of government despite the fact a number of lawmakers have declared it government property. 

In time, will this growing unrest and lack of confidence in the new government subside or will it continue to increase? Should it increase, what will be in store for the government and its citizens?

Freedom at last? The fight for Scotland

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Recent polls in Scotland have urged Prime Minister David Cameron northward to campaign against the September 18th referendum vote. Since the beginning, when Scotland announced it would have a vote for independence, the Prime Minister has maintained that he would like to see a United Kingdom: “we desperately want you to stay; we do not want this family of nations to be ripped apart.”

How would a “yes” vote on the referendum affect Scotland? Economically? Internationally? Scotland is a small country, but rich in natural resources. Another question to consider is if England would let Scotland’s resources go without a fight.

Cameron is offering to increase the Scottish Parliament’s powers in regard to taxes, welfare, and spending if Scotland votes to remain in the United Kingdom. Uncertain voters in Scotland may take these promises and decide that certainty is more secure than the unknown future as an independent country. There is a possibility that there will be a period of instability if Scotland does vote for independence—as is seen in the creation of other countries (such as the Soviet satellites after the fall of the USSR). Independence may also affect foreign and domestic investment. The referendum could either attract or detract investors to Scotland. The English economy may also take a hit. The possible outcomes are endless.

As a former resident of Scotland, I find my thoughts torn when weighing the consequences. If I were there, would I vote yes, or no? Do the benefits of developing as a nation and forming a more cohesive and independent national identity outweigh the possible economic consequences of separating from the United Kingdom? One of the great world powers? Would independence increase poverty and thereby increase racism and crime in Scotland? My answer to whether or not Scotland should vote yes on 18 September is “ah dinnae ken.”

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/11/world/europe/scotland-referendum.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&version=HpSumSmallMediaHigh&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-scotsman-who-forced-the-u-k-to-the-brink-of-disunion-1410305684?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStories

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