The country is voting for the next Lok Sabha elections, and this election is a referendum on the idea of India versus the cult of Modi. Television channels and …
“mi5” – Google News
The country is voting for the next Lok Sabha elections, and this election is a referendum on the idea of India versus the cult of Modi. Television channels and …
“mi5” – Google News
Fareed Zakaria’s comments in a March 28 Washington Post article and like minded monologue on his CNN show GPS of March 31, drew criticism from Democratic Party Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (who is a 2020 US presidential candidate), Caitlan Johnstone and The Duran. Some additional thoughts on this matter come to mind.
In line with Johnstone, Gabbard and The Duran, it’s not hyperbole to characterize Zakaria as carrying on like a geopolitical shock jock, for goading US President Donald Trump to confront Russia over Venezuela. That take from Zakaria concurs with CNN’s geopolitically correct establishment approach over a balanced presentation. A recent CNN segment on Russia’s Arctic presence serves as one of numerous examples. The image is given of an aggressive Russia in an area where the US is comparatively limited. Never mind noting the overall greater global degree of US military prowess to Russia, with an acknowledgement that the Arctic is (on the whole) geographically more relevant to Russia than the US.
Trump should be rightfully criticized for contradicting the not as aggressive foreign policy (when compared to the neocons and neolibs) which he supported during his presidential campaign. That position has been advocated by Gabbard and Republican Party Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.
Venezuela is a problematical situation, involving an internationally recognized government and opposition – with each having limited support. Omitting some key points, Zakaria exaggerates the Russian military support to the Venezuelan government, while portraying Russian President Vladimir Putin as a troublemaker, seeking to disrupt US interests. There’re several related points which (put mildly) second guess this spin.
The US government has been militarily propping up the anti-Russian leaning Kiev regime with aid and advisers. Ukraine borders Russia. Venezuela doesn’t border the US. If anything, the record shows that Putin has sought better relations with the US, only to face obstacles from the latter.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Russia ranks fourth in military spending behind the US, China and Saudi Arabia. In that category, SIPRI notes that the US spends more on its armed forces than the next seven highest spending countries combined – as America faces challenges with its healthcare, infrastructure, environment and schools.
Zakaria depicts Syria as another country where Russia (as suggested by Zakaria) has pretty much had its way with the US. On the flipside, some in Russia and elsewhere have said that the Russian government has been somewhat passive towards US action in Syria, against the preference of the internationally recognized Syrian government.
With Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in mind, Venezuela and Syria concern murky situations, which could get worse via adventurist regime change pursuits. On the matter of using military force abroad, the Russian government didn’t seek the regime change route in the 2008 war in the Caucasus (initiated when Georgian forces attacked Russian military personnel and civilians in South Ossetia), as well as Crimea’s 2014 reunification with Russia (following the coup against Ukraine’s democratically elected president) and the civil war in Donbass (whose rebel fighters are overwhelmingly from the territory of the former Ukrainian SSR).
Zakaria is perfectly aware of these points (at least most of them). He exhibits a kind of Jekyll and Hyde approach, which can serve to cover all angles, while at the same time making him look (upon close scrutiny) as being a bit disingenuous. His CNN GPS show is top heavy with the likes of Bret Stephens, Tom Friedman, Richard Haas, Jane Harmon and Anne Marie Slaughter. The counter to such views don’t get anywhere near as much air time on GPS and other CNN shows.
Consider a March 31 aired GPS segment (taped on March 29) Zakaria did with Russian analyst Andrey Kortunov, who explained Russia’s relationship with Venezuela along the lines of what’s noted in this essay. In this particular exchange, Zakaria doesn’t offer any disagreement to what Kortunov said. As if that segment never existed, Zakaria, in his high profile GPS monologue and Washington Post article, resorts to the simplistic rant of a xenophobic, big power chauvinist. Just the kind of journalism typically not getting called out within US mass media.
As of this writing, Fox News host Tucker Carlson hasn’t responded to Zakaria goading Trump to confront Russia. Concerning Russia related issues, Carlson remains the most even handed among his 24/7 US cable TV news peers. On the Fox Business Network (a Fox News affiliate) Lou Dobbs’ April 5 segment with Jack Keane (at about the 26:35 mark of this video) has the facile inaccuracies which are frequently presented on CNN and MSNBC.
By Joshua Krasna*
(FPRI) — Israelis have gone to the polls, and it appears that Benjamin Netanyahu will continue, for the fifth time, as Prime Minister. The preliminary results show a majority for the Right and Ultra-orthodox (Haredi, in Hebrew) coalition, which has been governing for the past four years and is responsible for the rightward lurch in Israeli policy. The composition of the parliament (Knesset) could change on the margins, as around 300,000 votes (over five percent of the total) are totaled from soldiers, prisoners, diplomats, and the infirm in the coming days. However, the basic composition of the Knesset is now more or less settled: Netanyahu’s Likud party won 35 seats, and so did the main opposition party, Blue-White, headed by retired General Benny Gantz. Netanyahu’s “natural coalition” comprises 65 out of 120 seats in the new Knesset.
Voter turnout was 68 percent, “low-ish” by Israeli standards, and affected by relatively low Arab-Israeli turnout, amidst calls for a boycott over what many Arab citizens see as racist legislation. Likud did well in Jerusalem and in the north and south of the country, its traditional strongholds, while the Center-Left did well in Tel Aviv city and the surrounding suburbs, as well as in Haifa. This election continues a recent trend in Israeli politics: the strengthening of two big parties through “cannibalization” of smaller parties on the left and right. Blue-White surged at the expense of the Center parties, particularly Yesh Atid, Kulanu, and Labor. On the other side, Likud competed with four parties to its right, which all strive to ensure that Netanyahu and Likud will pursue an activist, right-wing domestic and foreign policy. Very few voters seem to have crossed the Right-Center/Left divide in Israeli politics, which has remained fairly constant over the years, with only small changes.
The “electoral threshold” played a major role in yesterday’s election results. Since 2014, a party is required to achieve at least 3.25 percent of the vote in order to enter the Knesset (this works out to 3.9 seats); this rule is aimed at ensuring against the proliferation of micro-parties, which deviled Israeli politics in the past. Two parties expected to enter the Knesset, both on the right, have currently not passed the threshold, and another three—Meretz and Raam-Balad on the Left, and Kulanu on the Center-Right—passed the threshold by a slim margin. This may lead to changes at the bottom of the table with the counting of the remaining votes. Notably, it may cause a further diminution of Arab representation since Raam-Balad is hovering near the electoral threshold, which would bring the number of Members of the Knesset (MKs) from Arab parties to its lowest level since 1992.
There have been several major surprises
in these elections. The first, and least remarked, surprise is
Blue-White itself. The meteoric rise of Benny Gantz, who was not even a
candidate a few months ago, and his party, Blue-White, which also is
brand-new, is chiefly an expression of the desire on the part of many
Israelis to replace Netanyahu, who they see as having overstayed his
welcome and having brought dishonor on the office. In addition, it owes
its relative success to the feeling of Center-Left voters that the
parties and candidates available four months ago—Yesh Atid (which was
subsumed into Blue-White), Labor and Meretz—would not be able to remove
Netanyahu from office.
Blue-White’s credible showing came at
the expense of its potential coalition partners, specifically the Labor
party. Labor’s unexpectedly poor showing of 6 seats—the polls predicted
10—as opposed to 24 in the previous Knesset, was due to the shift of
votes from the Left to the Center. This has been an ongoing process in
Israeli politics, as the midpoint of the Israeli political constellation
has been moving rightward steadily since the beginning of the century.
This is due to disappointment of the Israeli public from the stalled
peace process with the Palestinians and increased skepticism of the
possibility of reaching an agreement with them in the near to medium
term, especially after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007;
disappointment with the results of unilateral withdrawals from Southern
Lebanon (2000) and the Gaza Strip (2005); and demographic trends (the
growing Haredi sector and the inclination of new immigrants to the
One the Right, there were two surprises.
First is the poor showing of the “New Right” party, headed by Education
Minister Naftali Bennet and popular Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
Bennet and Shaked announced in December 2018 that they were leaving
their “Jewish Home” party to form a new party which would appeal to
non-religious as well as religious-Zionist voters, the core of Jewish
Home support. Their rationale was reportedly to position themselves
better for the struggle for the leadership of the Right in the
post-Netanyahu era. At one point, polls predicted that the New Right
would get as many as 14 seats. In the end, Bennet and Shaked’s gamble
failed as their party is below the electoral threshold, though the
soldiers’ votes may lift them over it. Second, the failure of the New
Right may be attributable to the Zehut (Identity) Party, led by Moshe
Feiglin, whose book-long platform was a heady combination of libertarian
economic and social policies (most popularly, legalization of
cannabis), with ultra-right-wing policies such as annexation of the West
Bank, re-conquest and resettlement of the Gaza Strip, loyalty tests for
Arab citizens, and building the Third Temple in Jerusalem. Zehut surged
in recent weeks, mostly due to support of young (often first-time)
voters, who liked its idiosyncrasy and its abandonment of the paradigms of Israeli politics. It does not, however, seem to have passed the electoral threshold.
The “Americanization” of the election
was very evident. Bots and “fake news” flourished, especially on the
Right. Calls by Netanyahu on his leading rival, Benny Ganz, to “come
clean” on what the Iranians learned from hacking his cellphone as well
as his accusations that Ganz was guilty of flouting security protocols
and therefore caused unknown but severe damage to Israeli national
security, and Likud claims that Gantz was unstable or suffered from
undisclosed health problems, bear much more than a nodding resemblance
to President Trump’s campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2016. This is
hardly surprising, since Netanyahu and his closest advisors are
extremely close to the Trump team and quite well-acquainted with
American, especially Republican, politics and electoral strategy.
Netanyahu put great effort during the
campaign on stressing his statesmanship and foreign policy credentials.
He visited Moscow twice in the past six weeks, visited the U.S. and
received the presidential proclamation regarding the Golan, hosted
Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro in Israel (though the guest did not,
as anticipated, announce the opening of a Brazilian embassy in
Jerusalem). The last coup was the return, after 37 years and with the
help of the Russian military, of the remains of a missing Israeli
soldier. While government and military spokesman swear up and down that
the timing was totally coincidental, it seems strangely auspicious that
the emotional event would come to fruition the week before elections in
which Netanyahu could use a shot in the arm in the form of an “April
In the next week, the head of each party elected to the Knesset will meet with the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, and inform him of their first choice for prime minister. The president (whose relations with Netanyahu are known to be cool) will ask the MK whom he assesses has the best chance to form a government to do so. That individual then has 28 days to carry out coalition talks with potential partners, in which he will try to reach a series of bilateral coalition agreements on policy, legislation, and ministerial portfolios. He may ask the president for an additional 14 days. If at the end of 42 days he is unable to form a coalition of at least 61 MKs (50% + 1), then the president will ask another elected MK to try to form a government—that individual will have a maximum of 28 days to do so. If that does not work, new elections would be in the cards.
While it seems that Netanyahu’s
coalition-building mission is simple, this is far from the case, and the
process will take some time. His potential partners, almost all of
which know that his majority is dependent on them, will bargain hard
over policy—especially regarding settlements and annexations in the
territories, budgets, and ministerial portfolios.
One development expected directly after
the formation of the government by Netanyahu is the legislation of the
so-called “French Law.” This law would prevent a serving prime minister
from being indicted. Many of the right-wing and Haredi partners support
such a law, both because they believe in the importance of
“governability” (Israeli shorthand for majoritarianism and limitation of
the power of the courts), and because they are uninterested in the
possibility of another election in the near future, if the legal
processes against Netanyahu continue. But it will also serve as a key
bargaining chip in promoting their agendas in the coalition talks, and
especially in keeping Netanyahu committed to an activist political
In the final days before the elections,
Netanyahu, as noted, invested in shoring up the support for Likud at the
expense of his right-wing rivals, and prospective coalition partners.
The most obvious expression of this was his statement in an interview
that in his next term, he would begin the process of annexing the Jewish
settlements in the West Bank, if re-elected, and that Israel would
always retain a security presence in the Jordan Valley. This was a key
plank of the platforms of at least three of the smaller right-wing
parties, many of whose voters in the end swung to Likud. But it is worth
remembering that there are, and have always been, two Netanyahus—the
radical campaigner, and the elected chief executive, who is termed “the
most left-wing minister in his own government” and who tends to be
deliberate and conservative in his actual foreign and defense policies.
There is still a theoretical possibility
of Gantz achieving a blocking majority: such an eventuality would
depend on Kulanu—which is less staunchly right-wing than the other
components of the Netanyahu coalition—and/or on Yisrael Beitenu, whose
leader, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has poor relations
with Netanyahu. However, this is an extremely remote possibility,
especially as Arab parties would be a key component of such a bloc, a
situation which would not appeal to either party’s electorate or
leaders. It is possible that Lieberman will refrain from joining the
coalition, but not support Gantz.
An interesting question is whether Blue-White, an ideological hodge-podge which was united by its leaders’ and voters’ desire to “send Netanyahu home,” will survive the purgatory of parliamentary opposition. Many of its candidates, including its leaders, will be first-time MKs, and it is not at all clear how comfortable and effective they will be with that status.
*About the author:
Source: This article was published by FPRI
 The President will usually invite the head of the party with the most seats in the elected Knesset to try and form the government first, but this is not required. It has happened (most recently in 2009), that the head of the second largest party was invited to form the coalition first, since after polling the party leaders, the President assessed they had a better chance. He is also not required to invite an MK who is at the top of his party list.
By Daniel Lacalle*
Liquidity injections and zero interest rate policies disguise risk and may give a false sense of security.
This risk could not be more evident today. Not only have we seen large downgrades to consensus growth estimates and central banks’ expectations of GDP and inflation, leading indicators also point to a much weaker economy ahead.
There are similarities with 2008 that we should not ignore.
the first quarter of 2019, stocks have added $9.3 trillion in market
capitalization, bonds have gained almost $2 trillion in value.
Meanwhile, the Conference Board Index of leading indicators has
plummeted for the major economies. The Citi Economic Surprise Index has
also fallen, particularly in March, despite a small bounce in the
Eurozone at the beginning of the year. Global trade growth, machine
equipment orders and manufacturing indices remain poor… while debt soars
to another record-high of $244 trillion according to the Bank of
International Settlements and the IIF.
The difference with the Asian or the 2008 crisis is that this time
the excess risk is hidden under central banks’ balance sheets and will
continue to do so.
So, if risk is hidden under a perennial money supply-growth carpet,
why should we worry? Because the endgame is not likely to be a
2008-style bang, but a slow, painful and unstoppable zombification of
the global economy. As the evidence of stagnation rises, governments
get more nervous. What do they do? Stop the monetary madness? Allow high
productivity sectors to thrive? Promote deleveraging and prudent
investment? No. More white elephants, massive unproductive spending at
the expense of taxpayers and savers in what is likely to be yet another
massive transfer of wealth from salaries and savers to governments with
Investors are forced into riskier assets for lower returns and the
crowding out of productive sectors in favour of government and crony
subsidised sectors accelerates, sending money velocity lower,
productivity growth collapses and mainstream economists hail the
financial repression madness with the excuse that “there is no
inflation”, while citizens all over the world complain and demonstrate
-rightly- against the rise in cost of living. Intensifying financial
repression under the “there is no inflation” excuse is the most
ludicrous mantra ever. It is like running a car at full speed down a
highway under the premise that “we have not crashed yet”.
Many economists defend the zombification of economies under a false
social premise. The argument is the following: What is bad about
following the example of Japan? It has low unemployment, its debt is
cheap and the economy survives rather well. It is a social contract and
debt does not matter.
Everything is wrong with this argument. Japan’s low unemployment has
nothing to do with monetary and fiscal policy and everything to do with
demographics and lack of immigration. Japan’s low cost of debt is not a
blessing. It is the result of using the savings of citizens to
perpetuate an almost-Ponzi scheme that does not prevent the country from
spending more than 20% of its budget on interest expenses. The idea
that it is irrelevant because the Treasury buys more bonds tells us how
insane we are defending such policies. It is a massive kick-the-can
policy transferring the risk to the next generations. It is no wonder
that Japanese citizens don´t spend or invest as much as their central
planners would want them too. They are not stupid. They know that the
government is going to confiscate wealth via monetary and fiscal means
at some point. This endless debt machine makes the economy less dynamic,
and stagnation is guaranteed. But the strength of the Yen and the low
cost of Japanese debt are only supported by the high level of
international reserves and strong financial flows of the country. Japan
keeps its imbalances because it is one of the few that has undertaken
this concerted policy of zombification. This cannot be transferred to
the rest of the world, because the result would not be Japanese-style
stagnation but Argentina-style crisis chain.
The fact that Japan has survived two decades of stagnation with the
wrong Keynesian policies should not be an excuse to do the same, but an
opportunity to do the opposite.
The idea that Quantitative Easing has failed to spur growth and
healthy recovery of the world economy is correct. The thought that the
mistakes of quantitative easing are solved by outright currency printing
and more government crowding out of the productive economy is simply
ludicrous. You do not correct mistakes with a bigger mistake.
Originally published at dlacalle.com
Source: This article was published by the MISES Institute
Many democracies elect their legislatures (or parliaments) through
proportional voting. Parties submit a list of candidates for election,
and voters vote for the party, not the candidate. Parties are
represented in legislatures in proportion to their vote shares. A party
that gets 40% of the votes gets 40% of the seats.
This contrasts with the plurality system used in the United States in
which candidates run for seats and the candidate that gets the most
votes wins. Perhaps we should change the method of electing
representatives to the House of Representatives to adopt proportional
Rather than having representatives run in individual districts,
parties would put forward a slate of candidates in a national election,
and people would vote for the party of their choice. Parties would be
represented in proportion to their shares of the national vote.
Electing representatives in this way would recognize the explicitly
partisan nature of politics. Often, voters vote for a representative
because of the representative’s party affiliation. Voters tend to be
better informed about a party’s political positions than an individual
candidate’s, so voting by party would result in more informed voters.
Representatives typically vote their party lines when in Congress
anyway, and proportional voting would explicitly recognize the partisan
nature of politics.
Proportional voting at a national level would eliminate
gerrymandering districts and would eliminate the incentive to produce
special interest government programs targeted at individual
Proportional voting would also encourage the formation of additional
parties. Under the current system, a party that gets 20% of the votes
gets nothing. Under proportional voting, a party that gets 20% of the
votes gets 20% of the seats. No longer would people think that if they
voted for minor parties, they would be wasting their votes.
I’ve explained this idea more thoroughly in a recent article in The Independent Review. If the idea sounds intriguing, read the article and leave a comment.
This article was published by The Beacon
By Lindsay Koshgarian*
n tax season, most of us think more about getting our forms in on
time — and getting our refunds — than about where our tax dollars
It’s probably no surprise that a significant portion — 24 cents out
of every dollar — of your taxes go to the military. But where those
dollars go from there should be a national scandal.
Out of those 24 cents, just 5 cents go to our troops. But 12 cents go to corporate military contractors.
For a country that claims to celebrate our troops, with holidays and
yellow ribbons and patriotic displays of the flag, we sure don’t put our
money where our mouth is. Every year for tax day, my organization looks
at where our tax dollars go. And every year, far more money goes to
Pentagon contractors than to our troops.
All told, the average taxpayer handed over $1,704 to Pentagon
contractors last year, compared to $683 for military pay, housing, and
other benefits (except military health care, which has its own agency).
Still, the taxes we pay for military contractors are more than twice as
much as the average contribution for veterans’ health and benefits
The king of all the Pentagon contractors is Lockheed Martin, the
maker of the ill-conceived F-35 jet fighter. This is a plane that’s
billions of dollars over budget, years behind schedule, and once
spontaneously caught fire on the runway.
In 2018 the average U.S. taxpayer paid $225 to line the pockets of
Lockheed’s executives and shareholders. While Lockheed Martin CEO
Marillyn Hewson took home more than $20 million in 2017, the top pay for a four-star general or admiral is $189,600 — and the lowest-rank enlisted soldiers make just $20,172.
The $225 you probably paid to Lockheed Martin is more than you
probably paid for disease research at the National Institutes of Health
($155), K-12 education ($100), or free and reduced school lunches and
other child nutrition programs ($107). And that’s just for one corporation.
Boeing, the Pentagon’s second largest contractor, got $100 from the
average taxpayer. Former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan is now the
acting Secretary of Defense — just one of hundreds of stories of the revolving door between the Pentagon and its contractors.
Shanahan was supposed to recuse himself from all things Boeing. Yet
under Shanahan’s leadership, the Pentagon has suddenly proposed new
investments in Boeing’s F-15X jet — against the wishes of Air Force leaders.
Contractors use plenty of maneuvers to hoover up tax dollars. For
one, they know that by sprinkling some jobs in this town and a few
others in that one, they can encourage Congress to go big on military
purchases, whether the military needs them or not.
For example, Lockheed Martin assembles the F-35 in Texas, in the
district of Rep. Kay Granger, who also just so happens to be the lead
Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. In fall of 2018, Rep.
Granger was perfectly positioned to temporarily insert 16 more F-35s
into the military budget than the military had asked for (though they
were ultimately cut).
And if the temptation of a few jobs in key congressional districts
isn’t enough to ramp up the flow of money, there are always
old-fashioned campaign contributions. In 2018, military contractors
spent $127 million lobbying Congress and gave $29 million in campaign
There’s no good reason for 12 cents out of every tax dollar to go to
multi-billion dollar corporations, or to pad the pockets of wealthy
CEOs. Want to support the troops, or build infrastructure, or invest in
education? Take the military budget back from the contractors.
Both the troops and the taxpayers deserve better.
*Lindsay Koshgarian directs the National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Distributed by OtherWords.org.
Even if the Mueller report turns out to be exculpatory for Trump, evidence of presidential malfeasance remains.
By Louis René Beres*
Donald Trump remains oddly deferential to Russian President Vladimir
Putin amid the growing animosity between Washington and Moscow – with
virulence highlighted by Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty termination
and an accelerating nuclear arms race. Both international and US law
unequivocally require an American chief executive to condemn war crimes
and not become tacitly complicit in such crimes. Still, Trump continues
to align certain US policies with particularly egregious derogations of
Simultaneously, the Trump trade war with China has proven to be a
tangible benefit to Cold War II adversary Putin. Since the imposition of
US tariffs, Russian farmers have literally doubled soybean exports to
China. In agricultural Indiana, from where I write this essay, there has
been substantial tariff-related trade loss.
In a plausibly “best case” scenario, Trump is somehow incapable of
meeting the considerable intellectual expectations of his high office.
In the calculably worst cases, he acts deliberately on behalf of his
Russian counterpart or obediently obliges Putin by sowing assorted
bursts of chaos in US foreign policy directives. The two worst-case
scenario explanations need not imply “collusion” or some intentional
disloyalty toward the United States. Moreover, following the yet-to-be
disclosed Mueller report, it would seem reasonable to give Trump the
benefit of certain lingering doubts. Yet it is also apparent that an
American president who might be blameless on this limited single
standard of law-violating behavior has nonetheless cultivated
relationships with some of the world’s most belligerent and tyrannical
For the United States, this possibly paradoxical juxtaposition is anything but promising. Along similar lines of possible presidential dereliction, conspicuous attention is required on this president’s security-clearance procedures. A whistleblower reports that Trump issued high-level clearances to about 25 individuals who could not fulfill the statutory guidelines, including close relatives of the president. With Cold War II expansion, such presidential waivers, even if technically lawful, are imprudent and potentially catastrophic.
Americans must decide how to proceed fairly, but prudentially. They
will ultimately reach pertinent judgments, but these should not be based
on blind political or personal faith. In such circumstances, Sigmund
Freud would likely have termed fallacious attachments to leadership
idealization as “wish fulfillment.” Apropos of such a plausibly
Freudian indictment, Trump continues to express uncannily fierce
admiration for long-discredited geopolitical postures – most
prominently, the zero-sum or “everyone for himself” dynamic of
international relations – and for the most historically malignant
notions of international justice. The discredited position of “might
makes right” immediately comes to mind.
This dishonorable stance, which offers America only persistent
failure and collective defilement, has its philosophic origins in
certain ancient Greek thought, especially the “Sophist” argument of
Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic and the so-called “Melian Dialogue,” famously recorded by Thucydides in The Peloponnesian War.
Although it has become acceptable during the “Trump Era” to abjure
almost any forms of historical understanding or erudition in government,
truth sometimes still remains intuitive. In other words, for Americans
and their elected president, it still makes good policy sense to read
If, in the end, the American people opt for a properly dispassionate
and systematic assessment of this paradoxical presidency, they could
offer their imperiled country a reassuringly 11th-hour chance. Above
all, this would mean being judged before the wider “community of
nations,” and correspondingly, willing to acknowledge that “America
First” is logically a contradiction in terms.
Before an American president can fully realize this country’s core
security and human rights values, he must understand the inestimable
primacy of global interdependence. Nowhere is this overriding need
better expressed than in the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de
Chardin’s magnum opus, The Phenomenon of Man: “The egocentric
ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain
egoistically the extremity of `everyone for himself’ is false and
against nature.” Much earlier, William Blackstone, the jurist upon whose
work the United States literally owes its own basic system of law,
remarked in Book 4 of his Commentaries on the Law of England:
“The law of nations (international law) is always binding upon all
individuals and all states. Each state is expected, perpetually, to aid
and enforce the law of nations as part of the common law, by inflicting
an adequate punishment upon the offenses against that universal law.”
It should go without saying that an American president who bases his foreign policy upon the opposite of such primary obligation is acting against international law and contra the overlapping best interests of the United States. A continuing and concrete examle of Trump’s disregard for international and national law concerns the universal human rights of refugees and the law-protected privileges of asylum seekers. These fundamental rights are guaranteed to all “persons,” not exclusively “citizens,” by founding documents of the United States. By definition, the rights assured by the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution cannot be confined to the people of the United States as both documents were conceived by their authors as the indisputable codification of a pre-existing Natural Law. Although generally unrecognized, the United States was founded upon the Natural Rights philosophies of the 18th century Enlightenment, especially Locke, Hobbes, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Also, international law, whether customary or codified, has long been incorporated into the “supreme law” of the United States, especially at Article 6 of the US Constitution, or the “Supremacy Clause.”
executive orders directing the Department of Homeland Security to
expand his “expedited removal” program, is generally in violation of a
legal principle known as non-refoulement. This indispensable
human rights principle is plainly codified in Article 33 of the 1951
Refugee Convention: “No Contracting State shall expel or return
(“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of
territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of
his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group
or political opinion.” Automatically, owing to the prior incorporation
of international human rights law into US law, these violations extend to US immigration laws.
Similar and intersecting legal issues are raised with regard to
Trump’s explicit country preferences concerning future immigration. When
he openly urges reduced immigration from “shithole countries,” those in
Africa and Latin America, and calls instead for refugees from “places
like Norway,” it represents a thinly disguised retrogression to racist
criteria. That such crude and potentially murderous presidential
thinking passes as “coarse,” “prejudiced,” “foolish” or “narrow minded”
misses a key point – and that is determinedly racist stereotypes reflect
his most deeply felt and personally favored policies. Another reminder
of this connection: Despite America’s codified and customary legal
obligations to oppose genocide-like crimes in Syria – obligations
discoverable, among other sources, in the 1948 Genocide Convention –
Trump chooses to stand silently by Putin’s murderous Syria policy.
So far, no circumstances have emerged prompting Trump to stand up to
Putin, including crimes of war and crimes against humanity. For the
United States, regarding both its tangible interests and its
once-historic dignity, this retrograde presidential stance manages to
oppose US geopolitical objectives and vital ideals. While Trump
tolerates these starkly indefensible authorizations, Russia continues
with far-reaching nuclear weapon enhancements, including
difficult-to-overcome advancements in hypersonic missile technologies.
Looking ahead, inter alia, it is likely that some of these enhancements could effectively nullify US ballistic missile defense capabilities.
Even if the Mueller report turns out to be exculpatory for Trump,
evidence of presidential malfeasance remains. Can there be a collective
excuse for tolerating such obvious expressions of leadership wrongdoing?
Are the evident facts of Trump’s “cooperation” with Putin
insufficiently clear or not compelling enough to warrant our meaningful
condemnation? Judged by the readily discernible expectations of
international and national law – expectations both binding and
purposeful – any such excuse rings hollow.
*Louis René Beres, a regular contributor to YaleGlobal Online, was educated at Princeton (PhD, 1971). He is the author of many books and articles dealing with world politics and international law. His 12th and latest book is Surviving amid Chaos: Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016; 2nd edition, 2018). His recent articles have also been published in Jurist, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, The Atlantic, The Hill, The National Interest, The New York Times, The Daily Princetonian, Israel Defense (Tel Aviv), International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, The War Room (Pentagon), Modern War Institute (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Harvard National Security Journal, International Security (Harvard), Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College, World Politics (Princeton) and Oxford University Press. Beres was born in Zurich at the end of World War II.
Much hot air is coming out from the public relations unit of Adani, and the language used is that of a hostage taker seeking to earn a rich and ill-deserved ransom. With the date for the Australian federal election looming, the Indian mining giant received a boost in its flagging fortunes. And flagging they had been: banks reluctant to supply credit; scientists concerned about environment credentials; activists worried that Australia was inviting the creation of a dinosaur. But the Morrison government needed some distracting good news and announced with speedy excitement that the company had met various scientific requirements on the protection of local waterways. There are seats to be retained in Queensland, and timing is everything.
The speed of it has all the markings of electoral expediency. The environment minister, Melissa Price, continues to remain an invisible member of the Morrison government, but she briefly manifested in making the announcement. Bullying and hectoring have also been part of the process, and Senator James McGrath was growling for her resignation if the seal of approval was refused. Other members of the coalition, including National MPs Barnaby Joyce and Matt Canavan, have been breathing heavily down the minister’s neck favouring Adani’s cause.
The effect of such pressure does much to take away the appearance of volition on Price’s part. Jo-Anne Bragg, CEO of the Environmental Defenders Office in Queensland, smells a legal case testing the nature of minister’s discretion. “Such a political threat puts a cloud over Minister Price’s possible decisions on Adani.”
Scientists have different opinions and these have, in turn, been given an unduly rosy twist. CSIRO and Geoscience Australia have been painted as satisfied assessors of Adani’s project, but they remain sceptical of Adani’s water management plant. The media release from CSIRO notes that “Adani’s responses should satisfy the recommendations to update the groundwater models, and to address the modelling-related issues and concerns raised in the CSIRO-GA advice.” But it also “noted that there are still components of the advice provided to the department that will need to be addressed through the approval of the research plan, which includes confirming the source aquifer of the Doongmabulla Springs.”
Ample doubt can be found in the scientific community towards Adani’s water plans. For one thing, there is confusion over which of the two underground aquifers feeds into the ecosystem. The Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management does little to address the source of the springs. The risk of getting this wrong would result in draining the aquifer feeding the Doongmabulla Springs itself, thereby resulting in its complete loss.
Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch was alert enough to be concerned by the qualifications inherent in the CSIRO-GA assessment, which she received a mere 30 minutes before the announcement by the federal government. Lingering “uncertainties” included “source aquifers of the Doongmabulla Springs Complex, which has always been a requirement for state approval.” Further “stringent conditions of approval from the Commonwealth” as outlined by Price herself, needed to be met before coal production could commence.
The Morrison government’s encouragement of Adani has also submerged other environmental snags the company has faced. The fate of the Black-Throated Finch, a critical feature of the approvals process, has somehow disappeared in the enthused announcements. Adani claims to have a management plan for the finch stretching over two decades, one that will include a conservation area at Moray Downs West as part of the pastoral lease it owns. The company boasts that, at more than 33,000 hectares in size, “the conservation area will be bigger than Moreton Island and one of the largest privately managed conservation areas in Queensland.”
Adani is also attempting to exert some pull over the Queensland government, which it only supplied with its latest version of the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan the same day Canberra had given its sketchy approval. “Queensland decisions,” Enoch assured, “will be made by the environmental regulator, free from political interference.” Adani can at least rest assured that it has a special water license from the Queensland government valid till 2077, giving the company unlimited access to the Great Artesian Basin, should the management plans be approved.
Despite all of this, Lucas Dow, Adani Mining Australia chief executive, proved impatient. “The Queensland government has continued to shift the goal posts when it comes to finalising the outstanding environmental management plans for the mine and is standing in the way of thousands of jobs for Queenslanders.”
When faced with regulatory barriers, Dow’s formula is simple: conjure up rich fictions – that old imaginary notion of thousands of jobs – and threaten elected officials with old fashioned corporate thuggery for not giving in to a mining giant used to greasing palms, despoiling environments and corrupting officials. “It’s time the Queensland government gave us a fair go and stopped shifting the goal posts so we can get on with delivering these jobs.” Spoken like a true stalwart of plunder.
The Adani chapter in Australian environmental and political history will prove to be one of the darkest, even if the approval process is not finalised in the company’s favour. This sordid episode has revealed the country’s political classes to be divided, cowardly and impressionable. They have become de facto hirelings of a foreign, often brutal foreign corporation indifferent to disclosure requirements in foreign jurisdictions, labour conditions and local ecology. The affair has revealed a hostility to Australia’s environment, and sympathy for a short term, myopic vision that promises to conclude prematurely, given the move away from coal in the near future. Far from being a beacon of environmental preservation and renewable energy, Australia promises to be the earth’s barren tip.
The following work presents the major challenges of the international agenda for these Latin American Bicentennial times of independence that demands an authentic strategic thinking from our reality and with an originality which doesn’t derivate from models from other continents.
Globalization is inseparable from the regionalization processes to balance its effects
and to achieve a world that leads to an International Community far away from all
Unilateralism. This requires a compromised analytical vision located in a space:
ours, of the South American Continent.
The world is changing. Globalization as a phenomenon and historical process has
an unprecedented speed. The present time must be thought of as a problematic
time of the experience of a world in a state of transition to multipolarity. The limits
between world, regional and national politics are increasingly blurred. The limits of
their spheres become weak forming a triple dialectical relationship between the
local, regional and global.
In this second millennium (under Western parameters) , the bicentennials of the different declarations of independence are happening throughout South America, the peoples of the Spanish Viceroyalties lived a process of Balkanization, three Viceroyalties and a General Captaincy were transformed into nine Republics: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Unlike Brazil, with a totally different historical development on its territory.
In the 19th century a process of clashes took place between “Liberals” and “Conservatives”, which ended in the subjection of the new states in quasi neocolonies of the main hegemon of that century: The British Empire. It was the British Empire that inserts us to “their” world, with the International Labor Division as suppliers / producers of raw materials and cheap food and buyers of manufactured products with high added value. Introducing, on par with our entry into the “world market” economic theories that endorsed the process, momentarily beneficial for some of the new countries.
On the other hand, it was that same Great Power, which fostered the clashes that
ended in tremendous wars between South Americans (War of the Triple Alliance:
Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay against Paraguay or the Pacific War: Chile against
Bolivia and Peru), for a side, while on the other, through financial loans and the
International Labor Division that we have already indicated, generated
sophisticated control mechanisms for the countries in conflict.
Well, the main idea of this work is to recognize that when America got rid of the Spanish Century XIX yoke and tried to have a different destiny as South American peoples, Strategic Thinking lacked in the elites that took power in replacement of the Colonial administration , and that later in the twentieth century, in the middle of the two World Wars was when the countries of the region (especially Argentina and Brazil) initiated strong processes of industrialization and import substitution applying, effectively, a Strategic and Geopolitical Thought that gave great results.
For example, it is noteworthy to mention that Juan Perón who, in a conference of a
reserved nature in the National War School, during the month of November 1953
said: “we have to break the strategy of the arc that goes from Rio to Santiago and
create a new one for South America”.
Consequently, given the Geopolitical changes and the New World Order in conformation that is given cause of the clashes between the Countries that we denominate: Atlantists against Continentalists. We are going through this first quarter of the 21st Century with a new possibility of rescuing and re defining an authentic Strategic and Geopolitical Thought for our Continent Island: South America ; What we will develop next:
“We must recognize from 2001, the reappearance the criterion of geopolitical and geostrategic tensions in international conflicts.”
For this we must break with mental structures and paradigms that were imposed
on us as revealed truths and have that critical and practical thinking, in order to
obtain enough freedom of thought to design our own state policies and not be mere
spectators of global changes. But for this we must start from a serious international
analysis and based on concrete hypotheses in order to have that critical
strategic thinking of our own.
Never before was so obvious that every good political or national and regional
strategy begins and depends on a successful knowledge and sensible interpretation
of international board that is inserted and lives each country.
In this regard, the first thing that is found is that, since human life has existed,
relations between peoples (inter families, clans, tribes, fiefs, nations or whatever)
have been ruled by force. And, even if some interested analysts want to make us
believe that there are good powers, and bad powers, or that talking about
imperialism is a “populist” classic, the reality shows that, even today, in
international politics the strongest is the one that imposes its interests and their
Briefly describing which are the Geopolitical and International Policy actors of the XXI Century, we can observe, prima facie, that the whole model of World Order created in the postwar period of the Second World War is outdated or needs a strong reform to continue to be up to the challenges of our times.
After the fall of the iron curtain, the end of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the implosion of the Soviet Union in fifteen new states and Yugoslavia in six others, after a brutal bloodshed, ethnic cleansing and massacres lived in the last 30 years; the world entered a brief period of hegemonic domination by the United States. History has shown, time again and again, that the world dominated by a hegemon is not sustainable over time and the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001 marked, as has been pointed out in other works, the beginning of the end of the Pax Americana.
Note, in that sense, that the two wars that the United States fought against
terrorism, in Afghanistan and Iraq, were both lost, marking the end of the era of
the almighty American hegemon.
This allowed new players to come onto the geopolitical stage who had been asking
for their space as Russia and China the first in the territories of the former Soviet
Union and the second in the Pacific and Central Asia, first with regional
pretensions and nowadays, with clearly global interests.
In this process called “A New (North) American Century”, USA prioritized its superiority in the military, to achieve its objectives, not for the control of “space”, as was the consequence of the Second World War, but for the geopolitical conquest of the “big markets” of both the suppliers of raw materials and of the consumption of the same. The idea was always: “Americanize the World without Globalizing the USA”.
This allowed that during the first ten years after the implosion of the USSR, the
United States was, in all the planet, a hegemonic superpower in an indisputable
way to the point that, in more than one region of the world, from Washington it
was possible to draw the map of the countries that were going to survive and those
destined to disappear. The end of the story was a real and everything was heading
to a new world order, a unipolar one.
This demanded that in the United States, the different administrations of
Republicans or Democrats since the 1990s “did not stop strongly increasing
defense spending to face a globalized world and to modernize their armed forces
to be at the height of this strategic plan to maintain its global
supremacy”. USA that “republic of imperial character” seemed to reach the zenith
of its power. But “No empire is eternal” with that thesis historian Paul Kennedy, in
2007, published a work in which he argued that the US began its decline.
The issue is when this decline will be felt and how that decline will be, if it will be a
controlled and orderly decline as was the English? Or chaotic as some empires that
disappeared. Therefore, we maintain that this reduction of power of the global
Hegemon forced the USA to retreat from many conflicting scenarios and
strengthen their direct influence in their region. Which is none other than
the entire American continent, which South and Latin America are in.
Therefore the movements that took place a decade ago are not strange in this
context, the subcontinent must be return at USA political, economic and military
influence, in this continental zone.
In that sense, it is important to study the objectives that the Southern Command
abrogates for its area of influence, establishing military doctrines, supporting
governments loyal to Washington and surrounding the hostile ones, since “their”
area of National Security has been established from Central America and the
Caribbean to a line that would be located , geographically speaking, in the Amazon
River, thus delimiting an area that cannot be in the hands of its economic, political
and military adversaries and more now with the new National Security directives of
the administration Trump, that imposed that Russia and China as an enemy of the
China: continental Asiatic- Its Imperative is to expand and to maintain its level of growth and this definitely puts it on the big world board as the key piece that will with its movements unbalance, in the short term, the existing powers, since in that framework of sustained growth, one of its main international objectives is to establish itself as a center of gravity within a multipolar system. In addition to ensuring the supply of resources that it lacks. For this reason, the United States considers it to be the great danger to its global hegemony, and although it is too late to get rid of it, it will economically try, by all means at its disposal, to limit its advance and development.
China desires to diversify its sources of raw materials, China has made a strong
investment bet on the “forgotten” African continent, which has put the USA on
alert, more after China’s agreement to develop the area of Darfur with its own
infrastructure to obtain oil resources, to which the US responded by incorporating
Sudan in the list of members of the Axis of Evil and for which it finances, it is worth
saying, terrorist groups to overthrow the government of that country.
In addition to the concern of the USA strategists, China signed extensive
agreements with Russia not only energy but also technological and military, and is
also making an approach to India. At present, they established an agreement not to
interpose in the area of energy resources, which would make one of the most
important Economic Continental Spaces in this era of globalization.
On the other hand, the military doctrine of China has incorporated as conflict hypothesis a confrontation with the USA and in a work titled “War without restrictions” colonels Liang and Xiangsui, analyze both strategic cultures, and in a attempt for to not to fall into the trap of the arms race that made the USSR collapse, to expand the actions from the field of war to all areas of human activity “the crack stock market, a computer virus, a rumor that causes bank runs, etc.” “It’s really an old issue: the weak’s response to the strong”, known as asymmetric war.
It is in consequence, we envisioned the era of awakening with the Pacific’s own
weight as the “ocean of business” to the detriment of the Atlantic, as Kissinger
At present, the largest planetary investor in Africa is China, and a priority trading
partner in many Latin American countries, and will be even more so in the
China has advanced decisively in cutting edge technology, especially in the so- called Industrial Revolution 4.0; in aerospace technology, biotechnology, etc. Also in the development of an Infrastructure and Development Bank that has more capital than the World Bank, to give just one example, and that quickly caused many Asian and European countries to join it; but everything started with the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement, which today positions it as a country of global importance and since 2013 when its President Xi Jinping launched China’s biggest geopolitical project the “Sino-Russian strategic megaproject”, called “The Belt and Silk Road”, will surely complete the American setback in Asia.
Russia: Eurasiatic /Continentalist- The former communist military superpower, has returned to rediscover its destiny at the hands of Vladimir Putin. It is he who has put her back on the international stage, not as an overwhelming military power, as in the days of the Soviet administration, but as an economic and technological power, in asserting its geostrategic and geopolitical importance of energy resources, today so demanded by the European Union and by China fundamentally. It is also to highlight the current sovereign and defiant attitude of Russia facing the United States when they have wanted to install the so-called missile shield in countries that were satellites of the former USSR, such as the cases of Poland and the Czech Republic, demonstrating the turn taken by the relations of power.
Note that it was an unimaginable situation a few years ago such a challenge to US
hegemony, indeed, the process of Ukraine with the annexation of the Crimean
Peninsula, is a clear demonstration of the changes we observe.
It should be noted on another plane, that by the actions of the US and its Western
Partners (today, no longer so loyal) Russia initiated a deep agreement with China
by joining the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement and lately the Eastern Economic
Forum, known as the Forum of Vladivostok , which was key in the
“rapprochement” between the two Koreas, in September of last year (2017) and in
the transcendental understanding achieved between Russia and Japan, in the
course of 2018 ; establishing a railway development project with a train that from
Japan will pass through the islands in dispute between both countries to connect
with the Russian Trans-Siberian and from there to reach the European market and
those of Central Asia. This is extremely important for the consolidation of another
regional organization led by Moscow, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), which
brings together Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia, in a step to
strengthen the process of integration in the post-Soviet space.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the greatest Russian presence in its return to the global geopolitical panel has been, on the one hand, with the military intervention of its Aerospace Forces in the fight against International Terrorism in the Syrian Arab Republic, something that has been coordinated with the elite Commands of the Islamic Republic of Iran in a war clearly imposed by external actors. While on the other hand it hit NATO with its agreement to sell weapons and agreements for the region with Turkey, returning to compete in the world market for high-tech weapons.
INDIA: India did not become a great geopolitical space that unbalanced and contained China, (as the North American hegemon wanted). India and China improved their relations despite border disputes in Tibet area and the Kashmir region, which both India and Pakistan claim. But India is also in a similar process like China, whose economic growth also causes a shift in the interests of that country to ensure the same in the long term and there also collided with the idea of unilateralism.
Its vast population, which has already passed the 1,200 million inhabitants and
grows at a faster rate than that of China, suggests that it will soon be on the podium
of the world superpowers with decisive influence. We believe that this rise will not
be immediate, because India must first solve enormous problems of social
inequality, extreme poverty, backwardness and abandonment in its (rural)
Like China, for the South Americans, India is just beginning to appear on our
horizon. We must not forget that until the mid-nineteenth century both were the
economies where the colonial empires of the time were trying to conquer their
markets, since they were the main ones of the world, and today they are back to
that height, but as exporting giants.
European Union: -Atlantist- The current situation of the European Union is that of an economic giant in crisis, stagnation and political dwarfism. It has strategic limitations, since in the military it is a pawn of the North American game, proof of this is its participation in the invasion of Afghanistan or its paralysis in the crisis of the Balkans that allowed USA to take full ownership of that geopolitical move. Also, the division in the EU by the invasion of Iraq showed its lack of political unity in international issues, annulling it as a player in the world board, only present by the commercial flows of the French and German economies, fundamentally.
In its weaknesses, the European Union has a heavy dependence on the energy
sector, mainly with Russia, which prevents it from presenting itself as a player
outside its borders, even though NATO now has a globalist policy (for which it is
In that sense, the only member that was reliable and privileged with the hegemonic
power was England (today after the BREXIT, outside the Union). The EU derives
from a strategic relationship since the Second World War with the US, which
sterilized every alternative to conform as a continental power with global weight
and was only allowed to be an economic giant inland. Added to this is a serious
demographic problem such as the aging of its populations and the lack of
population growth that makes it dependent on the foreign work hand, despite the
resistance to social incorporate them, which is already a problem that puts in crisis
to the traditional political structures with the rise of the so-called extreme right
On the political level, the incorporation of new members to the Union increases the
difficulties to reach consensus, because for example the idea of relaunching the
European Constitution was restrained by the popular vote of France and the
Netherlands (2005), and now the rejection of Poland was added to him. That is
why they had to resort to the Treaty of Lisbon to make a Constitution without
consulting their Citizens. We must also remember that after the crisis of garbage
mortgages in 2008, Europe in general could not fully recover from the economic
crash, and therefore, there are two Europes within the Union: a peripheral and
another Central (which no longer has Great Britain) , which is compounded by the
strong instability caused by the emergence of eurosceptics and the position they are
reaching in several countries, which makes the European Union look at an unlikely
Finally, the growing power of the central region of Asia and the countries of the
Pacific Basin mark a course of decline in the presence of this block in the medium
term. Finally, the important EU members are already questioning the sanctions
applied to Russia at the request of the USA. Italy already announced that stance
and German Chancellor Merkel also said it will not apply new sanctions on Russia,
noting that Germany is the only real economic power in Europe and its
locomotive. The EU is a deteriorating Atlantism.
Japan: -Atlantic- It is the other Economic Giant members of the so-called Atlantic sector, which for several years has been losing ground to the detriment of its main competitor in the region that is China. Country with which it did not definitively close the wounds caused by the Japanese occupation in previous times and during the Second World War.
Japan by the treaties signed after its unconditional surrender to the allies in 1945,
can practically not participate in international politics at military terms, but is only
from the field of diplomacy and granting financial aid to solve military expenses
such as the cases of the Iraq War and Afghanistan. The last Japanese
administrations have tried to get out of this terrible defeat stage (it is the only
country on the globe that was attacked with nuclear weapons) but its population is
reluctant to have a more active international role than the Japanese multinationals.
Just as Europe is dependent on Strategic Resources, mainly Energy, and militarily
depends on its ally US. Since in Japanese soil it has several military bases and that
are fundamental used to protect the North American security, before the proximity
with North Korea.
From the economic point of view, Japan has invested heavily in the region,
especially in the countries of Southeast Asia, the so-called “Asian tigers”, and in
Central Asia to obtain the energy resources necessary to maintain its high
technological level. It is very possible that the evolution of international events and
the new geoeconomic realities will lead Japan to rethink a new geopolitics with
China that would reinforce them by the multiple contributions of each Nation to an
alliance of that nature.
There are evidently other regional actors, but this work is directed to our geopolitical position and the main actors that have participation in our space of the South American subcontinent. Especially the BRICS today “strangely” disappeared from the mass communication media of westerners, of which we have the South American giant Brazil as its main member. (That if it is part of our Geopolitical Space and with a fundamental importance in any analysis of scenarios that we contemplate).
Other actors are: the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations Commonwealth of
Nations -Atlantists-, 53 independent and semi independent sovereign countries,
which highlighted Canada, Australia and New Zealand and the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations Association of Southeast -ASEAN- Asian Nations -Pro
Atlantists-. But they do not have global roles like those described above.
On this unstable board, we said in an article that we made in October 2006, that
the new world scenarios of this century would be those that emerge from the
struggle for the control of natural resources and that for this the USA had
developed a series of ideas that the administrations of the 80s and 90s executed
clearly, and whose axis was to establish an absolute and global military superiority
and for which applied the geopolitics of control of the rimland (edge of Eurasia),
following the basic lines of the geostrategist Spykman, with the establishment of
military bases around the world because being a maritime power must surround
the Eurasian heart.
And so not only have military dominance but also to maintain and monitor
economic “manu militari” control of renewable and non – renewable natural
resources, ensuring its provision and impairment in access to them by their main
The idea of their strategists foresee that the ” Economic and Industrial
Continental Spaces ” would be consolidated in the XXI century , and that they
would be a strong competition to their ideas of Hegemonism, therefore a clear
policy would be to prevent the formation of a block of that nature in his backyard, a
guarantee of USA national security. It is evident that the emergence of new
international actors faces this military, economic and financial unilateralism, at
1. Highest level. Multipolarity with three centers: Washington, Moscow and Beijing.
2. High self-determination level. European Union and Japan, India.
3. Level of resistance: Turkey, South Africa, Australia, Canada, Brazil, and Iran that have the capacity to limit the interference of globalization in their own territory. That is, they have internal self-determination and very limited external self-determination.
4. Level of dependence. The rest of the countries, practically all Latin America.
Crises imply opportunities, as we saw in the previous description, the world is in
reconfiguration and therefore in crisis. And remember then that history, as in the
first decade of the nineteenth century, puts us again before the possibility of
reaching a new stage of independence and not only formal politics, but cultural,
Today global changes again give us an opportunity to consolidate a regional unit
that allows us to be able to limit interference of globalization on our own territory,
in a world hungry for natural resources, to use the capital raised from the
strengthening the areas of Science and Technology and being able to enter the
world of the industrial revolution 4.0. The “political realism” is then imposed:
that which allows us to assume theoretical idealist projects with certain skepticism,
but that does not mean that we must stop thinking and try to realize them.
The Political Realism incorporates the rationality to achieve the goods and
satisfy the interests of the community or people that best deploy its strategy. In this
case, we must see South America as a “continent island” with more than 350
million inhabitants (with only two languages, also related between them) 50,000
km of navigable waterways, owning 30% of the planet’s freshwater reserves and all
strategic minerals for the 21st century, with an area of 18 million km2 that is
double Europe and twice the United States.
That is why South America must think of itself as a geopolitical unit with its own
meaning and thus take an important step to eliminate the current fragmentation of
the continent. So to extend the proposal to the whole of South America is an act of
prudence, as well as strategic perception.
And because the idea of the American Century is in crisis, as we have been
detailing it until now, it is almost certain that its strategists and think tanks will try
to manage the decline by consolidating in areas that have better control and there
lies the mayor danger for our development as a
“Self-centered Economic Industrial Continental Space”.
This explains the continuity of the plans both to impose the Free Trade Agreements
from the economic point of view to close the access to the region from
extracontinental competitors or the increase of military bases in our continent to
maintain objectives closer to their territory and easier to control and influence
what they contemptuously contemplate in their “backyard”.
This Unstable Board scheme that we described earlier must be well interpreted by
the countries of South and Latin America, by it s political, military, business sectors,
labor unions , intellectuals and university leaderships to avoid mistakes about what
our permanent national and regional interests are, and one of them is our vision
and relationship with this new globalized world. Because the lack of a strategic
ideas in the last 27 years (1991), let us to be leaded by the siren songs of an
overwhelming hegemonism that led to recurrent political-economic-social crises.
Therefore, it is urgent for the South American states to have a long-term vision that
allows us to plan the next 20 or 30 years, on this competitive world, which is not
only of States but also of companies linked to them, to have that strategic vision it
constitutes a valuable asset for their economies. In this public and private
cooperation priorities must be establish through state policies to achieve the
strategic objectives of high development and growth, outcomes for nation as a hole
and not only for some sectors.
Reality shows that if South America and Latin America really wants to occupy a worthy and reasonable place in the emerging new world, the place it deserves for it s history, which tells the vocation of greatness of its people and the gigantic space continental territory that they possesses, must necessarily consider a geopolitical strategy and an international policy of a great Iberoamerican nation and South America.
This Great Space has the advantage of not being an ex nihilo creation; it is made on the antecedent of ALADI, the Mercosur creation with 27 years (Treaty of Asuncion 1991) also the experience of the Andean Pact is added, then UNASUR.
Four Countries have the maximum responsibility to achieve this objective: two, on
the Pacific Ocean: Colombia and Peru and two on the Atlantic Ocean: Argentina
And we can observe with a certain vision of possibility that from the “political
realism” of the geopolitical strategists of the Continent today have a horizon much
more broader than the limitations of each “Tiny Motherland” (Patria Chica) to
realize us in the Latin and South America ” Great Motherland” (Patria Grande)
the only alternative to get ahead and progress in this XXI Century, if not as the
great Brazilian thinker Helio Jaguaribe said we will be the trash of the history and
we will have lost another century.
*About the author: Carlos Pereyra Melé, Chairman at www.dossiergeopolitico.com / international and Geopolitical analyst
By Nick Cunningham
Oil prices jumped to five-month highs this week, pushed higher by a bullish cocktail of supply outages, geopolitical unrest and a sputtering shale sector.
The most recent factor is the sudden eruption of the long simmering feud
in Libya between rival factions. The attack on Tripoli by the Libyan
National Army (LNA), a militia led by Khalifa Haftar, led to a spike in oil prices on Monday as the market priced in the possibility of supply outages.
One oil export terminal near Tripoli is the most obvious asset at risk.
“If this port were to be shut down due to the fighting, this could see a
delivery outage of up to 300,000 barrels per day,” Commerzbank said in a
note on Tuesday. “The oil market is already undersupplied, so if supply
from Libya also falls away the supply deficit will become even bigger.”
Brent jumped to $71 and WTI to $64 on the news, the highest level in
Intriguingly, speculators have only recently turned bullish on crude oil
in terms of their positions in the futures market. “Indeed, our
money-manager positioning index implies that speculative funds only
moved from neutral to positive on oil in the latest week,” Standard
Chartered wrote in a report on April 9. The investment bank argued that
major investors only began to properly factor in geopolitical risk in
the last few days, having overlooked risk for much of this year.
Standard Chartered analysts said that the “supply security” of Libyan
oil is “low,” and that output could decline in both the short and medium
Meanwhile, the U.S. shale industry has already begun to slow down.
Weekly EIA data put U.S. output at 12.2 million barrels per day (mb/d)
last week, a jump of 100,000 bpd from the week before (the EIA rounds
off to the nearest 100,000 bpd on these weekly estimates). More accurate
retrospective data found that U.S. production actually declined in
January by 90,000 bpd, offering solid evidence of a slowdown.
Most analysts still see strong U.S. supply growth this year, but the
gains have slowed significantly. Standard Chartered looked at
three-month periods, which it argues shows a clear deceleration in
production growth over the past year. “The 3m/3m change peaked at
861kb/d in August, and has declined since, reaching just 140kb/d in
March,” the investment bank wrote.
Goldman Sachs argues that these bullish factors will continue. “We
expect the drivers of this deficit to persist through 2Q19: the ‘shock
and awe’ implementation of the OPEC cuts, global activity sequentially
accelerating, further tightening of US oil sanctions and an only
moderate increase in shale production for now,” Goldman analysts wrote
in an April 8 report. However, the investment bank said that prices
could begin to decline in the second half of the year as OPEC+ begins to
unwind the production cuts and U.S. shale picks back up. On top of
that, some “long-cycle” projects could hit the market in 2020, leading
Goldman to project a $60 Brent price for next year.
In fact, while the oil market is moving very much in an upward
direction, not everyone believes that it will last. “The mood is
increasingly turning bullish, but several feedback loops are about to
start spinning that stand in the way of a prolonged oil rally,” Norbert
Ruecker of Julius Baer told Reuters.
“Russia already signaled its willingness to raise oil output from June.
Fuel remains costly in emerging markets, with soft currencies adding to
high oil prices.” Russian President Vladimir Putin said
at a forum in St. Petersburg that he was comfortable with oil prices
where they are, and seemed to suggest that his government was not yet
sold on the idea that OPEC+ should extend production cuts.
The higher prices go, especially over such a short time period, the more
that cracks will begin to surface in the OPEC+ group. Saudi Arabia
clearly wants to stick with the cuts, still smarting from the downturn
last year. Russia is less keen.
Meanwhile, some economic concerns still linger. The IMF warned
about slowing growth, expecting global GDP to expand by 3.3 percent
this year, down from 3.6 percent last year. One glaring weak spot is the
fact that emerging market currencies are lagging far behind
the rally in commodities and global equities. Higher oil prices and a
persistently strong U.S. dollar have put pressure on an array of
currencies, and the weakness will make crude oil much pricier in many
countries. That, in turn, could dampen demand.
Nevertheless, declining output in Iran and Venezuela, and the threat of
severe outages in Libya, at a time when U.S. shale growth has slowed is a
powerful combination pushing oil prices to new highs.
Link to original article
Malaysia still views China as an important economic partner regardless of the negative rhetoric. It is important to look at the actions of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in recent months, which have indicated that they want to deepen economic relations with China.
By Eugene Mark*
The state of China-Malaysia relations has received increased attention following the 14th General Election (GE14) in May 2018. During the election campaign, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s negative rhetoric against Chinese investments in Malaysia raised questions about the future of this relationship. Subsequently, the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government suspended three Chinese projects, namely the East Coast Railway Line (ECRL), the Multi-Product Pipelines and the Trans-Sabah Gas Pipelines, which are considered projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
During Mahathir’s introductory visit to Beijing in August 2018, he
warned of a “new version of colonialism’ rising in Asia, where ‘unfair
trade prevails’ and ‘poor countries are unable to compete with rich
countries”. Yet, it is also becoming clear that Malaysia still views
China as an important economic partner regardless of the rhetoric.
Mahathir’s critical posture and the suspension of the BRI projects must
be seen within the prism of a desire to discredit former Prime Minister
Najib Razak and his legacies. It is thus important to look at the
actions of the government rather than believe the rhetoric. Indeed,
actions in recent months have indicated that the PH government wants to
deepen economic relations with China.
During Mahathir’s visit to Alibaba Group headquarters in August 2018,
he expressed interest in adopting its innovative and advanced
technology to boost Malaysian businesses, when he said “we’d like to tap
your idea of modern technology for the benefit of the people”.
Thus far, Alibaba has proven to be a useful partner to the government
in training Malaysian businesses for the next lap of innovation. For
instance, under the joint project with Alibaba called the Digital Free
Trade Zone (DFTZ), Malaysian businesses would be able to sign up for an
Alibaba Netpreneur training course on e-commerce and learn how to expand
their business beyond the local market.
Separately, Mahathir had also visited the Geely headquarters where he
witnessed the signing of a deal between the Hangzhou-based company and
Proton. He expressed hope that the Proton-Geely collaboration would lead
to a production of a third Malaysian national car and enable Malaysians
to gain new knowledge in automotive technology.
From the two visits, it can be seen that one of Malaysia’s key
focuses is to gain technological transfer from Chinese investments and
in turn, bring the Malaysian economy to its next stage of digital
There is also another indication that demonstrates Malaysia’s
interest in wanting to boost its economic links with China,
notwithstanding the rhetoric. The PH government is re-negotiating the
terms of the ECRL project with the Chinese side.
Daim Zainuddin, a close associate of Mahathir, was appointed to lead
these negotiations. He announced that the project would be finalised in
April 2019 and that it would enhance commercial development in Northern
This announcement by Daim indicates that Malaysians are prepared to
cut a deal with the Chinese to move the project forward even though it
is seen to be highly controversial.
It is clear that Malaysia needs more foreign trade and investment and
China is a big player for both. According to Malaysia External Trade
Development Corporation (MATRADE), Malaysia’s exports to China amounted
to RM138.9 billion (S$45.8 billion) in 2018, a 10.3% increase from a
In the same year, Malaysia’s imports from China was RM174.93 billion,
which was a 6.38% increase from 2017. Overall, Malaysia’s total trade
with China was RM313.81 billion in 2018, making the People’s Republic
the largest trading partner for the country. In 2018, China was also the
biggest foreign direct investor in Malaysia with approximately RM19.7
billion, according to statistics from Malaysian Investment Development
Separately, during Mahathir’s visit to China in August 2018, the two
countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a bilateral
currency swap agreement.
In March 2019, Malaysian and Chinese companies signed four purchase
intent documents for the export of 1.62 million tonnes of palm oil from
Malaysia to China with a combined estimated worth of RM3.63 billion, at
the Malaysia-China Palm Oil Business Forum. This takes on particular
significance given Malaysia’s ongoing spat with the EU over the latter’s
plan to curb the use of palm oil in its biofuels by 2030.
It is clear that beyond the rhetoric, the reality is that Malaysia is
expected to deepen its economic ties with China. What will be
interesting to watch is whether Malaysia will also develop closer
political ties with China. Take the case of Huawei.
When asked about Huawei, Mahathir said that his government would take
its own stand and would not be influenced by others. He added that
Malaysia has yet to find Huawei to be a threat to its national security
and noted that Chinese technology in this regard seemed to be ahead of
Mahathir will be conducting his working visit to China in April 2019.
Among other things, the BRI initiative will be on the agenda. Speaking
in Hong Kong in late February 2019, Malaysia’s Deputy Trade and Industry
Minister Dr Ong Kian Ming referred to Mahathir’s planned April visit to
China and said that it showed Malaysia’s continued commitment towards a
“very important relationship”.
He said that there would be more opportunities to expand Malaysia’s
trading and investment relationship with China and that this would set
the tone that Malaysia was “very welcoming of investments” from China.
Given this context, it will be worth monitoring the outcomes of this
*Eugene Mark is an Associate Research Fellow with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
Indonesians will soon vote in the presidential election to decide whether the incumbent Joko Widodo, or the challenger Prabowo Subianto, will lead the country until 2024. Initial surveys show that, as in 2014, there may be a high number of abstaining voters, known as golput. Why are Indonesians increasingly uninterested to vote?
By Made Ayu Mariska*
A recent survey by Indikator Politik predicted that at least 20 percent of voters are going to abstain in the upcoming presidential election. It is clear that both of the presidential aspirants – Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) and Prabowo Subianto − have failed to effectively convince the electorate that they are qualified to lead the country.
As always, the issue of non-voters, or golongan putih (golput),
has raised questions about the extent of indirect protests by the
disaffected. Is this a temporary reaction to this year’s candidates or
is this indicative of the failings in Indonesian democracy?
The term golput first originated from protesting youth and students
as they disagreed with the implementation of the 1971 general election
which they considered as pseudo-democratic. The name itself was
purposely similar to Suharto’s political party, Golkar (Golongan Karya).
Golput was used specifically for those who went to the ballot box but
spoiled their vote by punching a hole in the blank space, instead of on
the picture of the preferred candidates. This was their way of showing
dissatisfaction with the process. In contemporary usage, golput simply
refers to all those who abstain from voting, either by spoiling their
ballot or not voting at all.
More than 192 million Indonesians are registered to cast their vote
next week on 17 April 2019. Although the number of registered voters is
high, there is an increasing trend to abstain from voting. It is
predicted that the number of golput is going to be almost as high as in
the 2014 presidential election.
The chairman of Indikator Politik, Burhanuddin Muhtadi, stated that
there is a possibility the number will increase because of the growing
inclination to be undecided voters. From the survey, it was found that
there are 9.2 percent of undecided voters so far. Potentially these
swing voters could decide to abstain if they are not convinced by the
In the first presidential election in the post-Suharto era in 1999,
the number of golput was just 7.3 percent; this increased significantly
to 29 percent by the 2014 presidential election. Riau Islands (40.6
percent) and Aceh (38.6 percent) were the two regions with the highest
proportions of golput, followed by three regions in Sumatra.
The high number of golput in these regions could have been driven by
the lack of infrastructure development since Java was the main target
for investment. Another factor could simply be because of the lack of
socialisation regarding the voting process.
One of the responses to the high number of Golput was the fatwa
(a nonbinding legal opinion on a point of Islamic law) from Indonesia’s
highest Muslim clerical body, Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), stating
that abstaining from voting is haram (forbidden). Recently, MUI
reiterated the haram fatwa in the effort to suppress the number of
non-voters in the upcoming election, since it is not compulsory to vote
by national law.
The phenomenon of non-voters in elections is neither unique, nor new
to Indonesia. However, the trend still warrants examination, as a
healthy, legitimate democracy is one with high participation rates. The
high level of golput predicted for the 2019 election is driven by the
dissatisfaction and disappointment of the people towards the two
candidates, specifically with regard to human rights issues.
During his campaign in 2014, Jokowi pledged to bring to justice to
those guilty of violently oppressing Indonesians during the Suharto era
including those responsible for infamous instances such as the May
riots, disappearances or kidnappings of protestors, and the 1965 mass
killings of alleged communist sympathisers. Jokowi also guaranteed
protection and the right to freedom of religion, pledging to take legal
steps against perpetrators of violence in the name of religion.
In addition, Jokowi promised to prioritise reducing sexual violence
against women and children. Yet during his presidency, Jokowi has not
been able to resolve any of those past human rights violations. On the
contrary, according to the Women’s National Commission (Komnas Perempuan), the number of reports involving violence against women in 2017 increased 76 percent from the year before.
Furthermore, Jokowi has appointed conservative Islamic scholar,
Ma’ruf Amin, as his vice-presidential running mate. Ma’ruf is considered
to have had a role in the spread of intolerance in Indonesia,
especially during the controversy over the blasphemy case of Basuki
Tjahaja Purnama (“Ahok”).
On the other hand, Prabowo’s candidacy is also the target of human rights activists. There is an indication
that the former Kopassus general was linked to the enforced
disappearance of activists from 1997 to 1998. This issue is causing a
dilemma for voters because the two candidates are not viewed as a
solution to the country’s human rights issues.
There are several factors why voters decide to go golput. One is
distrust, dissatisfaction, and disappointment of both candidates. The
second factor is that voters feel whoever wins the election will make no
difference to their lives.
This may be explained by the opinion of many scholars. Long-time
Indonesia watcher, Harold Crouch, for example, sees that throughout the
different presidencies post-Suharto, the Indonesian government has
tended to focus on the reform of key political institutions, barely
touching ground-level issues, such as people’s welfare and human rights.
To resolve the problem of the growing trend towards golput, reiterating the haram fatwa
towards abstaining, or potentially making it legally compulsory to vote
will not address the root causes. It is essential for the government to
reflect on the core motivations of non-voters. Instead of seeing them
as simply abstaining from voting, the government should start to see
this as a political act of rejection towards the candidates or the
system as a whole.
In this very short period left before the election, both candidates
must address more specifically how they will achieve their aims or
promises made in their campaigns. In the long term, the high number of
golput is an indicator that further reform is necessary. The voters need
to believe in the system and the candidate for any successfully elected
president to have the mandate necessary to exercise the changes they
*Made Ayu Mariska is a Research Associate with the Indonesia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. This is part of a series on the 2019 Indonesian presidential election.
The Singapore Government announced in February the arrests of two Singaporeans for their involvement in terrorism-related activities. One had provided financial and material support to a Malaysian fighter in Syria while influencing the other arrested individual with his radical views. These arrests showcase Islamic State’s (IS) misinterpretation of Islamic doctrines such as piety, martyrdom and intercession.
By Mahfuh Haji Halimi*
In February 2019, Singapore authorities arrested 48-year-old Malaysia-based businessman Mohamed Kazali bin Salleh and 28-year-old Hazim Syahmi bin Mahfoot on terrorism-related charges. Kazali had funded a Malaysian Islamic State fighter for his trip to Syria as well as provided him with material assistance there. He was also willing to facilitate the travel of others who wished to fight in Syria.
Kazali’s role as a financial and material supporter of IS fighters
throws a spotlight on how certain Islamic concepts that outline the
conditions under which a Muslim should help another have been
misinterpreted by terrorist groups, including IS. The first is about
helping one another in furthering virtue and taqwa (piety or
God-consciousness); the second concerns martyrdom; and the third is over
the question of a martyr’s intercession for fellow Muslims to enter
Kazali had funded Malaysian Akel Zainal for his trip to Syria because
he believed Akel was doing something good and acting out of piety.
Kazali’s support was likely based on an often misconstrued belief among
supporters of Islamist militant groups that the assistance provided
could earn him a ticket to paradise should Akel be killed and achieve
Firstly, jihadist supporters like Kazali tend to wrongly believe that
they are doing a service to Islam by providing the means for others to
be involved in the fighting in conflict zones where Muslims are seen to
be “persecuted”. While the Quran calls on Muslims ‘to help one another in furthering virtue and God-consciousness’, it also warns them not to ‘help one another in furthering evil and enmity’.
In this light, Kazali’s action cannot be considered as promoting
righteousness and piety; instead, it constitutes advancing nefarious
activities and conflicts.
This is because Akel had joined IS, a designated terrorist
organisation which had violated numerous Islamic laws upheld by Muslim
scholars and the wider Muslim community. Among others, IS explicitly
went against Islamic laws which forbid the killing of innocents and
non-combatants, the desecration and destruction of places of worship,
the torture of prisoners, the mutilation of corpses and forced
conversions. IS also revived slavery and misinterpreted and distorted
Islamic teachings and doctrines to suit its religio-political ends.
In doing so, IS revolted against the Muslim community, rulers and
scholars who oppose them. IS waged armed and violent opposition against
Muslim states for not ruling according to the Sharia and rejected advice
by prominent Islamic scholars around the world to stop the fighting.
Instead, IS labelled the scholars, rulers and governments as apostates.
Using this as an excuse to declare jihad, IS has legitimised
terrorising and killing of government and community leaders, members of
the armed forces, and public servants, treating them as legitimate
Secondly, Kazali would have defined Akel’s fight against perceived
oppression, persecution and injustice against Islam and Muslims as a jihad.
This is supported by his view that the IS fighters were “righteous”
individuals defending Muslims in Syria. However, it is essential to
underscore that not only Akel but also IS’ claim of jihad does not
automatically qualify it to be legitimate and in accordance with Islam.
IS has waged jihad it in a manner that flouts all guidelines which
the Qur’an and Traditions of the Prophet have stipulated. IS’ so-called jihad
has been based on hatred, revenge, bloodlust and military adventurism,
resulting in the killing of non-combatants, women and children.
It is clear that IS’ motive for jihad has departed from the
one prescribed by an authentic Prophetic saying which explains that
jihad cannot be waged without having both the right intention and just
cause. This is a fundamental issue because in the end, how jihad is waged determines God’s acceptance. As such, IS’ war is not jihad, and its dead fighters are not martyrs. Period.
Related to jihad is the concept of martyrdom. Linking
martyrdom and martyrs predominantly with military actions as IS has done
is fundamentally wrong. Individuals like Kazali should have heeded the
fact that Prophet Muhammad himself had defined martyrdom and martyrs in
an expansive manner. The Prophet included “the believer who suffers a
painful death from a variety of debilitating illnesses, from a difficult
labour in the case of women, or from falling victim to an unfortunate
accident, such as being crushed to death by a falling wall, in addition
to falling on the battlefield”.
Thirdly, Kazali could have wrongly connected Akel’s supposed
martyrdom with his own afterlife reward. That is, should Akel be
“martyred in battle”, Akel’s intercession (shafaat) would allow
him (Kazali) to enter paradise. In principle, intercession is only
applicable to those who are killed while fighting a legitimate jihad which IS’ war is clearly not.
Also, the privilege of intercession demands complete compliance with
the prerequisites of martyrdom as discussed earlier. In simple terms, a
fighter cannot expect to dwell in paradise and intercede for others when
he fights alongside those who engage in atrocities instead of just
acts. Hence, the understanding of intercession by jihadist supporters
like Kazali is theologically and logically flawed.
To fortify the community against supporting the erroneous beliefs of
terrorist groups, it is critical that the religious authorities and
scholars develop a clear understanding of the religious doctrines and
their proper contextual application. Reading the religious texts and
knowing the context should not be devoid of independent reasoning that
empowers them with the wisdom to put things in its rightful place.
In this regard, MUIS and the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) are
moving in the right direction with their efforts to educate and raise
the awareness of the Muslim community, both in the virtual and physical
space. For instance, MUIS’ MuslimSG smartphone app engages netizens with
bite-size contemporary Islamic guidance.
Among its initiatives, RRG recently completed its second run of the
Awareness Programme for Youth (APY) that focuses on the practice of
Islam in a secular, plural society like Singapore. These outreach
strategies are commendable; they could be developed further to reach out
to more Muslim segments on the misinterpretation of Islamic concepts by
terrorist groups. They can also help anticipate extremist narratives in
an ever-changing religious landscape.
*Mahfuh Haji Halimi is a Research Fellow and Muhammad Saiful Alam Shah is an Associate Research Fellow with the International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research (ICPVTR), a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. Saiful is also a religious counsellor with the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG).
By Duncan Bartlett*
The latest visit to Europe by Premier Li Keqiang comes at a tense
time in relations with the EU. He would like to convince the EU’s
leaders that closer ties with China will boost their economies, improve
global governance, and put everyone on the path to a bright shared
He is also promising that harmony with China offers Europe an
advantage over the United States, where Donald Trump’s animosity has led
to a damaging trade war. But within the EU’s member states, opinion
upon China is split. Some countries warn of a lack of trust and
reciprocation, while other governments, such as Italy, are ignoring such
warnings and pursuing a deeper relationship.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is also attending the meeting in
Brussels with the European Council President Donald Tusk and the
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Mr Yi likes to
emphasize China’s common ground with the Europeans, such as mutual
support for the concept of multilateralism – a contrast with the
perceived protectionism of Donald Trump. He is pleased that America’s
European allies have not supported the massive trade tariffs on China.
Yet there remains some skepticism in Europe that China’s version of
multilateralism genuinely represents a “win-win” arrangement. As the
French finance minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters recently: “If
we’re going to talk about a new Silk Road, then it must be one that goes in both directions.”
That chimes with the view heard widely within European parliaments
and institutions that China always endeavors to maintain the upper hand
in its dealings with its partners because it follows an agenda based
firmly upon the ideologies of its Communist leadership. A recent
strategy document from the European Commission described China as a
“systemic rival promoting alternative modes of governance.”
Business leaders in Europe often warn that the Chinese Communist
Party is tightening its grip on state-owned enterprises and sometimes
moves to veto important corporate decisions for political reasons. The
business lobby also complains that Chinese pledges to open up its
markets to more to European companies have failed to materialize.
All this creates a diplomatic challenge for the leaders attending the
Brussels summit. It is highly unlikely that enough of them will be in
accord with China to offer a joint closing statement which warmly
endorses a rival.
However, the Chinese have already recently enjoyed an important
propaganda success in Europe. Last month, Italy formally endorsed the
contentious Belt and Road Initiative, becoming the first G7 nation to
officially do so.
The United Kingdom’s Finance Minister, Chancellor Philip Hammond is
now pushing for Britain to also endorse BRI and is preparing to visit
Beijing in a show of support later this month. Mr Hammond will not care
much if this leaves Britain further out of step with the EU, as the UK
on the verge of leaving the bloc following months of fraught Brexit negotiations.
However, endorsement of BRI may place Mr Hammond in conflict with
some key members of his own government; a government led by a
Conservative Party which is already in turmoil over foreign policy
because of Brexit.
An influential House of Commons Committee recently panned the
government for putting trade with China above issues of national
security and human rights.
The committee’s official report declared: “We must recognize that
there are hard limits to what cooperation can achieve; that the values
and interests of the Chinese Communist Party, and therefore the Chinese
state, are often very different from those of the United Kingdom.”
*Duncan Bartlett is the Editor of Asian Affairs magazine and a former BBC Correspondent in Asia. This article was published by Geopolitical Monitor.com
Alyaksandr Lukashenka has suffered three self-inflicted wounds his decision to demolish the crosses at the site of the Kuropaty mass graves: he has lost whatever sympathy he had among the population, he has likely made it impossible for any Western leader to receive him, and he has called attention to splits within his own regime.
That Lukashenka lost whatever sympathy and support he had among Belarusians is no surprise: Not only did he by his actions at Kuropaty dishonor their history but insulted their intense national commitment to honoring the dead and especially those who died for the cause of Belarus.
Today, a group of Belarusians took to Lukashenka’s office to hand over a petition protesting what he did. It declared that by his actions at Kuropaty, the Belarusian president had effectively “gone to war against the Belarusian people” (belsat.eu/ru/news/zashhitniki-kuropat-trebuyut-ot-lukashenko-vernut-kresty-na-mesto/).
The Belarusian leader may not care about that: his track record of abusing and ignoring his own population is legendary. But he will care very much about the second consequence of his actions. It is almost inconceivable in the wake of what he did at Kuropaty that any Western leader will now be willing to host him in his or her capital.
Belarusian commentator put it both classically and bluntly: By his tearing down of the crosses at Kuropaty, “a cross has been put on possible Lukashenka visits to NATO neighbors.” That deprives him of one of his major cards in dealing with Russia and thus leaves him in a significantly weakened position internationally.
But it is the third self-inflicted “wound” that probably disturbs Lukashenka the most because it points to more troubles ahead for his regime and his personal survival in office. According to analysts at Belarus in Focus, the decision to destroy the crosses at Kuropaty highlights not only the failure of Lukashenka to think about the consequences of his actions but also about something else.
And that is this: it highlights the internal disagreements within his regime, disagreements that may now emerge more publicly and more consequentially given Lukashenka’s rash action at Kuropaty (belarusinfocus.info/by/security-issues/konflikt-vokrug-kuropat-prodemonstriroval-vnutrennie-raskoly-vo-vlasti reposted at thinktanks.by/publication/2019/04/10/konflikt-vokrug-kuropat-prodemonstriroval-vnutrennie-raskoly-vo-vlasti.html).
The negative reaction of Belarusian civil society to the Kuropaty outrage was completely predictable, but the equally negative reaction of “a number of political officials, including those who had been considered close to Lukashenka as well as representatives of businesses affiliated with the government” shows that the country has entered an entire new political era.
How much these will matter remains to be seen, but at the very least, as the journal’s analysts observe, they already show that “the Belarusian regime is far from as monolithic as it is customary to think.” And that is something Belarusians in the government and out as well as Russia and the West are now going to factor into their calculations.
and armored units are massed along
Turkey’s southern border awaiting orders
to invade northern Syria. Turkish
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to
clear a ten mile-deep swath of land east
of the Euphrates River in order to
remove terrorist-linked militants (YPG)
currently occupying the territory. The
proposed offensive would put US Special
Forces in the line of fire which
significantly increases the likelihood
of US casualties. If American troops are
killed or wounded by the Turkish
operation, Washington will respond in
force leading to a potentially
catastrophic face-off between the two
NATO allies. The possibility of a
violent clash between Turkey and the
United States has never been greater
than it is today.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
warned Turkey that any unilateral action
in Syria would have “devastating
consequences.” Pompeo’s comments were
intended to intimidate Erdogan who
stated on Tuesday that the military
offensive would begin shortly after last
weekend’s elections. If Erdogan proceeds
with his plan, Pompeo will undoubtedly
give the military the go-ahead for
retaliatory attacks on the Turkish Army.
This will either lead to a speedy
retreat by Turkey or asymmetrical
strikes on US strategic assets across
the region. In any event, the fracas
with Turkey is bound to widen the chasm
between the two former allies forcing
Erdogan to reconsider his commitment to
the western alliance. Any further
deterioration in relations between the
US and Turkey could result in a dramatic
shift in the global balance of power.
problems with Erdogan began years before
the current dust-up. The Turkish leader
has always steered an independent
foreign policy which has been a constant
source of frustration for the White
House. During the war in Iraq, Erdogan
refused to allow the US to use Turkish
air bases to conduct their operations. (Erdogan
did not support the war.) Presently he
is purchasing air defense systems from
Russia (S-400), (which VP Mike Pence has
strongly condemned), he has attended
summits in Sochi with Moscow and Tehran
in order to find a political settlement
for the war in Syria, he has signed
contracts with Gazprom that will make
his country the energy hub of southern
Europe, and he has been harshly critical
of US support for the its Kurdish
proxies in east Syria (the SDF) which is
an offshoot of the Kurdish Workers Party
(PKK), a group that is on the US State
Department’s list of terrorist
Most of the
friction between Erdogan and the US has
been brought on by Washington’s flagrant
disregard for Turkey’s security
concerns. The current crisis is just
another self inflicted wound, like the
failed coup in 2016 which backfired
spectacularly strengthening Erdogan’s
grip on power while fueling widespread
distrust of the United States. Check out
this excerpt from an article in the New
York Times dated August 2, 2016:
newspaper reported that an American
academic and former State Department
official had helped orchestrate a
violent conspiracy to topple the
Turkish government from a fancy
hotel on an island in the Sea of
Marmara, near Istanbul. The same
newspaper, in a front-page headline,
flat-out said the United States had
tried to assassinate President Recep
Tayyip Erdogan on the night of the
another pro-government newspaper
asked Turks in a recent poll
conducted on Twitter which part of
the United States government had
supported the coup plotters, the
C.I.A. came in first, with 69
percent, and the White House was a
distant second, with 20 percent.
conspiracy theories are not the
product of a few cranks on the
fringes of Turkish society. Turkey
may be a deeply polarized country,
but one thing Turks across all
segments of society — Islamists,
secular people, liberals,
nationalists — seem to have come
together on is that the United
States was somehow wrapped up in the
failed coup, either directly or
simply because the man widely
suspected to be the leader of the
conspiracy, the Muslim cleric
Fethullah Gulen, lives in self-exile
in the United States.” (Turks Can
Agree on One Thing: U.S. Was Behind
Failed Coup –
The New York Times)
Let’s cut to the
chase: Was the United States behind the
plot to remove Erdogan from office in
Probably, just as
the United States was behind more than
50 other regime change operations since
the end of WW2.
And is the US
currently harboring the mastermind of
the Turkish junta in a sprawling
compound in rural Pennsylvania?
Yes, this is
probably true as well. But, even though
Turkey has provided the US with
mountains of evidence identifying Gulen
as the coup-leader, and even though
Turkey has cooperated in the extradition
of numerous terror suspects sought by
the United States, the US simply doesn’t
feel any obligation to return the favor
by treating Turkey with respect and
fairness. Why is that? Why is there one
standard for the United States and a
completely different standard for
repeatedly asked the Trump
administration to respect Turkey’s
legitimate security concerns by removing
terrorist-linked militants (YPG) from
the area around Turkey’s southern
border. In mid December, Trump discussed
the issue with Erdogan over the phone
and agreed to meet the Turkish
president’s requests. Four days later
(December 19) Trump announced that all
US troops would be withdrawn from Syria
within 30 days. Since then, the
administration has failed to meet any of
its prior commitments. It has increased
its troop levels in east Syria,
bolstered its military hardware and
weaponry, and reinforced its positions
along the border.
The US has also
failed to fulfill its obligations under
the terms of the Manbij Roadmap which
requires the US to remove all YPG
fighters in and around the city and
assist Turkey in establishing security
in Manbij. There has been no movement on
this front at all. If anything, the
situation has gotten worse. This
suggests that the Trump team has no
intention of lifting a finger to address
Turkey’s security concerns or of
following through on its clearly stated
commitments. It suggests that Washington
is actually trying to provoke Erdogan in
taking matters into his own hands and
doing something that he might later
designs on Syrian territory have no
legal basis, they have been consistently
reiterated (without change) from the
earliest days of the war. As far back as
2012, Turkey insisted on a “safe zone”
which would establish a buffer between
itself and YPG militants operating in
east Syria. The Obama administration
agreed to assist Erdogan in the creation
of a safe zone in exchange for the use
of the strategically-located airbase at
Incirlik. Here’s a clip from another
article at the New York Times dated July
27, 2015 which explains:
the United States have agreed in
general terms on a plan that
envisions American warplanes, Syrian
insurgents and Turkish forces
working together to sweep Islamic
State militants from a 60-mile-long
strip of northern Syria along the
Turkish border, American and Turkish
would create what officials from
both countries are calling an
Islamic State-free zone controlled
by relatively moderate Syrian
insurgents, which the Turks say
could also be a “safe zone” for
details have yet to be determined,
including how deep the strip would
extend into Syria, the plan would
significantly intensify American and
Turkish military action against
Islamic State militants in the
country, as well as the United
States’ coordination with Syrian
insurgents on the ground. …
remain to be worked out, but what we
are talking about with Turkey is
cooperating to support partners on
the ground in northern Syria who are
countering ISIL,” a senior Obama
administration official said, using
another term for the Islamic State.
“The goal is to establish an
ISIL-free zone and ensure greater
security and stability along
Turkey’s border with Syria.”
(“Turkey and U.S. Plan to Create
Syria ‘Safe Zone’ Free of ISIS”,
New York Times)
and the United States have agreed in
general terms on a …safe zone” In
exchange, the US would be allowed to use
the Incirlik airbase. This is the deal
that Obama made with Erdogan, but the
United States never kept up its end of
the bargain. Of course, the facts
related to Incirlik have been swept down
the memory hole in order to demonize
Erdogan and make it look like he is the
one creating all the problems. But
that’s simply not the case. It wasn’t
Erdogan who scotched the safe-zone deal,
it was Obama.
By the way, the
announcement that Turkey had struck a
deal with Obama on Incirlik turned out
to be the trigger for Russia’s entry
into the war. This little known fact has
escaped the attention of historians and
analysts alike, but the truth is clear
to see. Shortly after the above article
was published (July 27, 2015), Russia
began hastily clearing airfields and
shipping its warplanes to Syria. Two
months later, Russia began its momentous
air campaign across Syria.
Why the hurry?
Mainly because of
the information that appeared in the NY
Times article, particularly this:
officials and Syrian opposition
leaders are describing the agreement
as something just short of a prize
they have long sought as a tool
against Mr. Assad: a no-fly zone in
Syria near the Turkish border.”
“No-fly zone”? Is
that what Obama had up his sleeve?
realized that the US was going to use
Incirlik to establish a no-fly zone over
Syria, (the same way it had in Libya)
the Russian president quickly swung into
action. He could not allow another
secular Arab leader to be toppled while
the country was plunged into chaos. This
is why Russia intervened.
So now Turkey and
the United States are at loggerheads,
the Turkish Army has completed its
preparations for a cross-border
operation east of the Euphrates, while
Pompeo, Bolton and Pence continue to
exacerbate the situation by issuing one
belligerent statement after the other.
Is this the
administration’s strategy, to lure
Turkey into a conflict that will force
Washington to get more deeply involved
in the Middle East? Is that why the US
has shrugged off its commitments to
Ankara, dug in along the border, created
a Kurdish state at the center of the
Arab world, and is now thumbing its nose
What is it the
neocons (Pompeo, Bolton and Pence)
They want to
intensify and expand the fighting so
that more US troops and weaponry are
required. They want a wider war that
forces Trump to go “all in” and deepen
his commitment to regional domination.
They want America’s armed forces to be
bogged down in an unwinnable war that
drags on for decades and stretches
across borders into Lebanon, Turkey and
Iran. They want Washington to redraw the
map of the Middle East in a way that
diminishes rivals and strengthens
Israel’s regional hegemony. They want
more conflagrations, more bloodletting,
and more war.
That’s what the
neocons want, and that’s what their
provocations are designed to achieve.
In light of the continuing anti-vaccination movement, a provocative new article provides a comprehensive overview of the potential risks of vaccinating breastfeeding women.
The article, which determined that only smallpox vaccine and, in some circumstances yellow fever vaccine, are the only vaccines having the potential to cause harm to infants, is published in Breastfeeding Medicine, the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.
In “Maternal Vaccination and Breastfeeding,” Philip Anderson, PharmD, University of California San Diego, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, reviewed all of the most common types of vaccines, including inactivated and live attenuated types for the unsubstantiated concern that they would cause harm to a nursing infant or interfere with the infant’s response to early childhood vaccinations.
Included in the scope of Dr. Anderson’s review are routine vaccines such as influenza, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT), varicella and measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR). The article also focuses on vaccines related to exposure or special risk factors, such as hepatitis A or hepatitis B, and specialty vaccines including cholera, yellow fever, smallpox, rabies, and typhoid.
“As Dr. Anderson concludes in his timely and important article, there are no risks associated with giving breastfeeding mothers routine and most other standard vaccinations, including measles, and, in fact, there are benefits for both the mothers and infants,” says Arthur I. Eidelman, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine.
These benefits include the transfer to the infant of maternal antibodies and an enhanced antibody response and less vaccine-related fever following infant vaccination, as Dr. Eidelman explains in the accompanying editorial entitled “Guidelines for Vaccinating Breastfeeding Mothers.”
Dr. Eidelman further notes that, “not only is there no harm in administering routine vaccinations to breastfeeding mothers, but one can and should include nursing mothers in any emergency measles immunization campaign, such as the recent emergency declared by the New York City Health Department.”
The following is a previously unpublished essay from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI:
On February 21 to 24, at the invitation of Pope Francis, the
presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences gathered at the Vatican
to discuss the current crisis of the faith and of the Church; a crisis
experienced throughout the world after shocking revelations of clerical
abuse perpetrated against minors.
The extent and gravity of the reported incidents has deeply
distressed priests as well as laity, and has caused more than a few to
call into question the very Faith of the Church. It was necessary to
send out a strong message, and seek out a new beginning, so to make the
Church again truly credible as a light among peoples and as a force in
service against the powers of destruction.
Since I myself had served in a position of responsibility as
shepherd of the Church at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis,
and during the run-up to it, I had to ask myself – even though, as
emeritus, I am no longer directly responsible – what I could contribute
to a new beginning.
Thus, after the meeting of the presidents of the bishops’
conferences was announced, I compiled some notes by which I might
contribute one or two remarks to assist in this difficult hour.
Having contacted the Secretary of State, Cardinal [Pietro]
Parolin and the Holy Father [Pope Francis] himself, it seemed
appropriate to publish this text in the Klerusblatt [ a monthly
periodical for clergy in mostly Bavarian dioceses].
My work is divided into three parts.
In the first part, I aim to present briefly the wider social
context of the question, without which the problem cannot be understood.
I try to show that in the 1960s an egregious event occurred, on a scale
unprecedented in history. It could be said that in the 20 years from
1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality
collapsed entirely, and a new normalcy arose that has by now been the
subject of laborious attempts at disruption.
In the second part, I aim to point out the effects of this situation on the formation of priests and on the lives of priests.
Finally, in the third part, I would like to develop some perspectives for a proper response on the part of the Church.
(1) The matter begins with the state-prescribed and supported introduction of children and youths into the nature of sexuality. In Germany, the then-Minister of Health, Ms. (Käte) Strobel, had a film made in which everything that had previously not been allowed to be shown publicly, including sexual intercourse, was now shown for the purpose of education. What at first was only intended for the sexual education of young people consequently was widely accepted as a feasible option.
Similar effects were achieved by the “Sexkoffer” published by the
Austrian government [A controversial ‘suitcase’ of sex education
materials used in Austrian schools in the late 1980s]. Sexual and
pornographic movies then became a common occurrence, to the point that
they were screened at newsreel theaters [Bahnhofskinos]. I
still remember seeing, as I was walking through the city of Regensburg
one day, crowds of people lining up in front of a large cinema,
something we had previously only seen in times of war, when some special
allocation was to be hoped for. I also remember arriving in the city on
Good Friday in the year 1970 and seeing all the billboards plastered up
with a large poster of two completely naked people in a close embrace.
Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for
was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.
The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence.
That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because
violence would break out among the small community of passengers. And
since the clothing of that time equally provoked aggression, school
principals also made attempts at introducing school uniforms with a view
to facilitating a climate of learning.
Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.
For the young people in the Church, but not only for them, this was
in many ways a very difficult time. I have always wondered how young
people in this situation could approach the priesthood and accept it,
with all its ramifications. The extensive collapse of the next
generation of priests in those years and the very high number of
laicizations were a consequence of all these developments.
(2) At the same time, independently of this
development, Catholic moral theology suffered a collapse that rendered
the Church defenseless against these changes in society. I will try to
outline briefly the trajectory of this development.
Until the Second Vatican Council, Catholic moral theology was largely
founded on natural law, while Sacred Scripture was only cited for
background or substantiation. In the Council’s struggle for a new
understanding of Revelation, the natural law option was largely
abandoned, and a moral theology based entirely on the Bible was
I still remember how the Jesuit faculty in Frankfurt trained a highly
gifted young Father (Bruno Schüller) with the purpose of developing a
morality based entirely on Scripture. Father Schüller’s beautiful
dissertation shows a first step towards building a morality based on
Scripture. Father Schüller was then sent to America for further studies
and came back with the realization that from the Bible alone morality
could not be expressed systematically. He then attempted a more
pragmatic moral theology, without being able to provide an answer to the
crisis of morality.
In the end, it was chiefly the hypothesis that morality was to be
exclusively determined by the purposes of human action that prevailed.
While the old phrase “the end justifies the means” was not confirmed in
this crude form, its way of thinking had become definitive.
Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an
absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; (there could
be) only relative value judgments. There no longer was the (absolute)
good, but only the relatively better, contingent on the moment and on
The crisis of the justification and presentation of Catholic morality
reached dramatic proportions in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. On January 5,
1989, the “Cologne Declaration”, signed by 15 Catholic professors of
theology, was published. It focused on various crisis points in the
relationship between the episcopal magisterium and the task of theology.
(Reactions to) this text, which at first did not extend beyond the
usual level of protests, very rapidly grew into an outcry against the
Magisterium of the Church and mustered, audibly and visibly, the global
protest potential against the expected doctrinal texts of John Paul II
(cf. D. Mieth, Kölner Erklärung, LThK, VI3, p. 196) [LTHK is the Lexikon
für Theologie und Kirche, a German-language “Lexicon of Theology and
the Church”, whose editors included Karl Rahner and Cardinal Walter
Pope John Paul II, who knew very well the situation of moral theology
and followed it closely, commissioned work on an encyclical that would
set these things right again. It was published under the title Veritatis splendor on
August 6, 1993, and it triggered vehement backlashes on the part of
moral theologians. Before it, the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”
already had persuasively presented, in a systematic fashion, morality as
proclaimed by the Church.
I shall never forget how then-leading German moral theologian Franz
Böckle, who, having returned to his native Switzerland after his
retirement, announced in view of the possible decisions of the
encyclical Veritatis splendor that if the encyclical should
determine that there were actions which were always and under all
circumstances to be classified as evil, he would challenge it with all
the resources at his disposal.
It was God, the Merciful, that spared him from having to put his
resolution into practice; Böckle died on July 8, 1991. The encyclical
was published on August 6, 1993 and did indeed include the determination
that there were actions that can never become good.
The pope was fully aware of the importance of this decision at that
moment and for this part of his text, he had once again consulted
leading specialists who did not take part in the editing of the
encyclical. He knew that he must leave no doubt about the fact that the
moral calculus involved in balancing goods must respect a final limit.
There are goods that are never subject to trade-offs.
There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value
and even surpass the preservation of physical life. There is martyrdom.
God is (about) more than mere physical survival. A life that would be
bought by the denial of God, a life that is based on a final lie, is a
Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence. The fact that
martyrdom is no longer morally necessary in the theory advocated by
Böckle and many others shows that the very essence of Christianity is at
In moral theology, however, another question had meanwhile become
pressing: The hypothesis that the Magisterium of the Church should have
final competence [infallibility] only in matters concerning the
faith itself gained widespread acceptance; (in this view) questions
concerning morality should not fall within the scope of infallible
decisions of the Magisterium of the Church. There is probably something
right about this hypothesis that warrants further discussion. But there
is a minimum set of morals which is indissolubly linked to the
foundational principle of faith and which must be defended if faith is
not to be reduced to a theory but rather to be recognized in its claim
to concrete life.
All this makes apparent just how fundamentally the authority of the
Church in matters of morality is called into question. Those who deny
the Church a final teaching competence in this area force her to remain
silent precisely where the boundary between truth and lies is at stake.
Independently of this question, in many circles of moral theology the
hypothesis was expounded that the Church does not and cannot have her
own morality. The argument being that all moral hypotheses would also
know parallels in other religions and therefore a Christian property of
morality could not exist. But the question of the unique nature of a
biblical morality is not answered by the fact that for every single
sentence somewhere, a parallel can also be found in other religions.
Rather, it is about the whole of biblical morality, which as such is new
and different from its individual parts.
The moral doctrine of Holy Scripture has its uniqueness ultimately
predicated in its cleaving to the image of God, in faith in the one God
who showed himself in Jesus Christ and who lived as a human being. The
Decalogue is an application of the biblical faith in God to human life.
The image of God and morality belong together and thus result in the
particular change of the Christian attitude towards the world and human
life. Moreover, Christianity has been described from the beginning with
the word hodós [Greek for a road, in the New Testament often used in the sense of a path of progress].
Faith is a journey and a way of life. In the old Church, the
catechumenate was created as a habitat against an increasingly
demoralized culture, in which the distinctive and fresh aspects of the
Christian way of life were practiced and at the same time protected from
the common way of life. I think that even today something like
catechumenal communities are necessary so that Christian life can assert
itself in its own way.
(1) The long-prepared and ongoing process of dissolution of the Christian concept of morality was, as I have tried to show, marked by an unprecedented radicalism in the 1960s. This dissolution of the moral teaching authority of the Church necessarily had to have an effect on the diverse areas of the Church. In the context of the meeting of the presidents of the episcopal conferences from all over the world with Pope Francis, the question of priestly life, as well as that of seminaries, is of particular interest. As regards the problem of preparation for priestly ministry in seminaries, there is in fact a far-reaching breakdown of the previous form of this preparation.
In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which
acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the
seminaries. In one seminary in southern Germany, candidates for the
priesthood and candidates for the lay ministry of the pastoral
specialist [Pastoralreferent] lived together. At the common
meals, seminarians and pastoral specialists ate together, the married
among the laymen sometimes accompanied by their wives and children, and
on occasion by their girlfriends. The climate in this seminary could not
provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation. The Holy See
knew of such problems, without being informed precisely. As a first
step, an Apostolic Visitation was arranged of seminaries in the United
As the criteria for the selection and appointment of bishops had also
been changed after the Second Vatican Council, the relationship of
bishops to their seminaries was very different, too. Above all, a
criterion for the appointment of new bishops was now their
“conciliarity,” which of course could be understood to mean rather
Indeed, in many parts of the Church, conciliar attitudes were
understood to mean having a critical or negative attitude towards the
hitherto existing tradition, which was now to be replaced by a new,
radically open relationship with the world. One bishop, who had
previously been seminary rector, had arranged for the seminarians to be
shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making
them resistant to behavior contrary to the faith.
There were — not only in the United States of America — individual
bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to
bring about a kind of new, modern “Catholicity” in their dioceses.
Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students
caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood.
My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the
The Visitation that now took place brought no new insights,
apparently because various powers had joined forces to conceal the true
situation. A second Visitation was ordered and brought considerably more
insights, but on the whole failed to achieve any outcomes. Nonetheless,
since the 1970s the situation in seminaries has generally improved. And
yet, only isolated cases of a new strengthening of priestly vocations
came about as the overall situation had taken a different turn.
(2) The question of pedophilia, as I recall, did not
become acute until the second half of the 1980s. In the meantime, it
had already become a public issue in the U.S., such that the bishops in
Rome sought help, since canon law, as it is written in the new (1983)
Code, did not seem sufficient for taking the necessary measures.
Rome and the Roman canonists at first had difficulty with these
concerns; in their opinion the temporary suspension from priestly office
had to be sufficient to bring about purification and clarification.
This could not be accepted by the American bishops, because the priests
thus remained in the service of the bishop, and thereby could be taken
to be [still] directly associated with him. Only slowly, a renewal and
deepening of the deliberately loosely constructed criminal law of the
new Code began to take shape.
In addition, however, there was a fundamental problem in the
perception of criminal law. Only so-called guarantorism, [a kind of
procedural protectionism], was still regarded as “conciliar.” This means
that above all the rights of the accused had to be guaranteed, to an
extent that factually excluded any conviction at all. As a counterweight
against the often-inadequate defense options available to accused
theologians, their right to defense by way of guarantorism was extended
to such an extent that convictions were hardly possible.
Allow me a brief excursus at this point. In light of the scale of
pedophilic misconduct, a word of Jesus has again come to attention which
says: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to
sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his
neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42).
The phrase “the little ones” in the language of Jesus means the
common believers who can be confounded in their faith by the
intellectual arrogance of those who think they are clever. So here Jesus
protects the deposit of the faith with an emphatic threat of punishment
to those who do it harm.
The modern use of the sentence is not in itself wrong, but it must
not obscure the original meaning. In that meaning, it becomes clear,
contrary to any guarantorism, that it is not only the right of the
accused that is important and requires a guarantee. Great goods such as
the Faith are equally important.
A balanced canon law that corresponds to the whole of Jesus’ message
must therefore not only provide a guarantee for the accused, the respect
for whom is a legal good. It must also protect the Faith, which is also
an important legal asset. A properly formed canon law must therefore
contain a double guarantee — legal protection of the accused, legal
protection of the good at stake. If today one puts forward this
inherently clear conception, one generally falls on deaf ears when it
comes to the question of the protection of the Faith as a legal good. In
the general awareness of the law, the Faith no longer appears to have
the rank of a good requiring protection. This is an alarming situation
which must be considered and taken seriously by the pastors of the
I would now like to add, to the brief notes on the situation of
priestly formation at the time of the public outbreak of the crisis, a
few remarks regarding the development of canon law in this matter.
In principle, the Congregation of the Clergy is responsible for
dealing with crimes committed by priests. But since guarantorism
dominated the situation to a large extent at the time, I agreed with
Pope John Paul II that it was appropriate to assign the competence for
these offences to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under
the title Delicta maiora contra fidem.
This arrangement also made it possible to impose the maximum penalty,
i.e., expulsion from the clergy, which could not have been imposed
under other legal provisions. This was not a trick to be able to impose
the maximum penalty, but is a consequence of the importance of the Faith
for the Church. In fact, it is important to see that such misconduct by
clerics ultimately damages the Faith.
Only where faith no longer determines the actions of man are such offenses possible.
The severity of the punishment, however, also presupposes a clear
proof of the offense — this aspect of guarantorism remains in force.
In other words, in order to impose the maximum penalty lawfully, a
genuine criminal process is required. But both the dioceses and the Holy
See were overwhelmed by such a requirement. We therefore formulated a
minimum level of criminal proceedings and left open the possibility that
the Holy See itself would take over the trial where the diocese or the
metropolitan administration is unable to do so. In each case, the trial
would have to be reviewed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith in order to guarantee the rights of the accused. Finally, in the
Feria IV (i.e., the assembly of the members of the Congregation), we
established an appeal instance in order to provide for the possibility
of an appeal.
Because all of this actually went beyond the capacities of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and because delays arose
which had to be prevented owing to the nature of the matter, Pope
Francis has undertaken further reforms.
(1) What must be done? Perhaps we should create another Church for things to work out? Well, that experiment has already been undertaken and has already failed. Only obedience and love for our Lord Jesus Christ can point the way. So let us first try to understand anew and from within [ourselves] what the Lord wants, and has wanted with us.
First, I would suggest the following: If we really wanted to
summarize very briefly the content of the Faith as laid down in the
Bible, we might do so by saying that the Lord has initiated a narrative
of love with us and wants to subsume all creation in it. The
counterforce against evil, which threatens us and the whole world, can
ultimately only consist in our entering into this love. It is the real
counterforce against evil. The power of evil arises from our refusal to
love God. He who entrusts himself to the love of God is redeemed. Our
being not redeemed is a consequence of our inability to love God.
Learning to love God is therefore the path of human redemption.
Let us now try to unpack this essential content of God’s revelation a
little more. We might then say that the first fundamental gift that
Faith offers us is the certainty that God exists.
A world without God can only be a world without meaning. For where,
then, does everything that is come from? In any case, it has no
spiritual purpose. It is somehow simply there and has neither any goal
nor any sense. Then there are no standards of good or evil. Then only
what is stronger than the other can assert itself. Power is then the
only principle. Truth does not count, it actually does not exist. Only
if things have a spiritual reason, are intended and conceived — only if
there is a Creator God who is good and wants the good — can the life of
man also have meaning.
That there is God as creator and as the measure of all things is
first and foremost a primordial need. But a God who would not express
Himself at all, who would not make Himself known, would remain a
presumption and could thus not determine the form [Gestalt] of our life.
But a God who would not express himself at all, who would not make
himself known, would remain an assumption and could thus not determine
the form of our life. For God to be really God in this deliberate
creation, we must look to Him to express Himself in some way. He has
done so in many ways, but decisively in the call that went to Abraham
and gave people in search of God the orientation that leads beyond all
expectation: God Himself becomes creature, speaks as man with us human
In this way the sentence “God is” ultimately turns into a truly
joyous message, precisely because He is more than understanding, because
He creates – and is – love. To once more make people aware of this is
the first and fundamental task entrusted to us by the Lord.
A society without God — a society that does not know Him and treats
Him as non-existent — is a society that loses its measure. In our day,
the catchphrase of God’s death was coined. When God does die in a
society, it becomes free, we were assured. In reality, the death of God
in a society also means the end of freedom, because what dies is the
purpose that provides orientation. And because the compass disappears
that points us in the right direction by teaching us to distinguish good
from evil. Western society is a society in which God is absent in the
public sphere and has nothing left to offer it. And that is why it is a
society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost. At
individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and
destroys man has become a matter of course.
That is the case with pedophilia. It was theorized only a short time
ago as quite legitimate, but it has spread further and further. And now
we realize with shock that things are happening to our children and
young people that threaten to destroy them. The fact that this could
also spread in the Church and among priests ought to disturb us in
Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is
the absence of God. We Christians and priests also prefer not to talk
about God, because this speech does not seem to be practical. After the
upheaval of the Second World War, we in Germany had still expressly
placed our Constitution under the responsibility to God as a guiding
principle. Half a century later, it was no longer possible to include
responsibility to God as a guiding principle in the European
constitution. God is regarded as the party concern of a small group and
can no longer stand as the guiding principle for the community as a
whole. This decision reflects the situation in the West, where God has
become the private affair of a minority.
A paramount task, which must result from the moral upheavals of our
time, is that we ourselves once again begin to live by God and unto Him.
Above all, we ourselves must learn again to recognize God as the
foundation of our life instead of leaving Him aside as a somehow
ineffective phrase. I will never forget the warning that the great
theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once wrote to me on one of his letter
cards. “Do not presuppose the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
but present them!”
Indeed, in theology God is often taken for granted as a matter of
course, but concretely one does not deal with Him. The theme of God
seems so unreal, so far removed from the things that concern us. And yet
everything becomes different if one does not presuppose but present
God. Not somehow leaving Him in the background, but recognizing Him as
the center of our thoughts, words and actions.
(2) God became man for us. Man as His creature is so
close to His heart that He has united himself with him and has thus
entered human history in a very practical way. He speaks with us, He
lives with us, He suffers with us and He took death upon Himself for us.
We talk about this in detail in theology, with learned words and
thoughts. But it is precisely in this way that we run the risk of
becoming masters of faith instead of being renewed and mastered by the
Let us consider this with regard to a central issue, the celebration
of the Holy Eucharist. Our handling of the Eucharist can only arouse
concern. The Second Vatican Council was rightly focused on returning
this sacrament of the Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, of the
Presence of His Person, of His Passion, Death and Resurrection, to the
center of Christian life and the very existence of the Church. In part,
this really has come about, and we should be most grateful to the Lord
And yet a rather different attitude is prevalent. What predominates
is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ’s death and
resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness
of the Mystery. The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic
celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about
appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real
Presence. The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when
it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at
family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all
those invited for family reasons.
The way people often simply receive the Holy Sacrament in communion
as a matter of course shows that many see communion as a purely
ceremonial gesture. Therefore, when thinking about what action is
required first and foremost, it is rather obvious that we do not need
another Church of our own design. Rather, what is required first and
foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ
given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.
In conversations with victims of pedophilia, I have been made acutely
aware of this first and foremost requirement. A young woman who was a
altar server told me that the chaplain, her superior as an
altar server, always introduced the sexual abuse he was committing
against her with the words: “This is my body which will be given up for
It is obvious that this woman can no longer hear the very words of
consecration without experiencing again all the horrific distress of her
abuse. Yes, we must urgently implore the Lord for forgiveness, and
first and foremost we must swear by Him and ask Him to teach us all anew
to understand the greatness of His suffering, His sacrifice. And we
must do all we can to protect the gift of the Holy Eucharist from abuse.
(3) And finally, there is the Mystery of the Church.
The sentence with which Romano Guardini, almost 100 years ago,
expressed the joyful hope that was instilled in him and many others,
remains unforgotten: “An event of incalculable importance has begun; the
Church is awakening in souls.”
He meant to say that no longer was the Church experienced and
perceived as merely an external system entering our lives, as a kind of
authority, but rather it began to be perceived as being present within
people’s hearts — as something not merely external, but internally
moving us. About half a century later, in reconsidering this process and
looking at what had been happening, I felt tempted to reverse the
sentence: “The Church is dying in souls.”
Indeed, the Church today is widely regarded as just some kind of
political apparatus. One speaks of it almost exclusively in political
categories, and this applies even to bishops, who formulate their
conception of the church of tomorrow almost exclusively in political
terms. The crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, urges us
to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now
take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot
Jesus Himself compared the Church to a fishing net in which good and
bad fish are ultimately separated by God Himself. There is also the
parable of the Church as a field on which the good grain that God
Himself has sown grows, but also the weeds that “an enemy” secretly sown
onto it. Indeed, the weeds in God’s field, the Church, are excessively
visible, and the evil fish in the net also show their strength.
Nevertheless, the field is still God’s field and the net is God’s
fishing net. And at all times, there are not only the weeds and the evil
fish, but also the crops of God and the good fish. To proclaim both
with emphasis is not a false form of apologetics, but a necessary
service to the Truth.
In this context it is necessary to refer to an important text in the
Revelation of St. John. The devil is identified as the accuser who
accuses our brothers before God day and night (Revelation 12:10). St.
John’s Apocalypse thus takes up a thought from the center of the framing
narrative in the Book of Job (Job 1 and 2, 10; 42:7-16). In that book,
the devil sought to talk down the righteousness of Job before God as
being merely external. And exactly this is what the Apocalypse has to
say: The devil wants to prove that there are no righteous people; that
all righteousness of people is only displayed on the outside. If one
could hew closer to a person, then the appearance of his justice would
quickly fall away.
The narrative in Job begins with a dispute between God and the devil,
in which God had referred to Job as a truly righteous man. He is now to
be used as an example to test who is right. Take away his possessions
and you will see that nothing remains of his piety, the devil argues.
God allows him this attempt, from which Job emerges positively. Now the
devil pushes on and he says: “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will
give for his life. But put forth thy hand now, and touch his bone and
his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.” (Job 2:4f)
God grants the devil a second turn. He may also touch the skin of
Job. Only killing Job is denied to him. For Christians it is clear that
this Job, who stands before God as an example for all mankind, is Jesus
Christ. In St. John’s Apocalypse the drama of humanity is presented to
us in all its breadth.
The Creator God is confronted with the devil who speaks ill of all
mankind and all creation. He says, not only to God but above all to
people: Look at what this God has done. Supposedly a good creation, but
in reality full of misery and disgust. That disparagement of creation is
really a disparagement of God. It wants to prove that God Himself is
not good, and thus to turn us away from Him.
The timeliness of what the Apocalypse is telling us here is obvious.
Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing
His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. The idea of a
better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the
devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a
deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped. No, even today the
Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also
exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God
It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil
with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even
today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there
are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real
God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. Today God also has His
witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them.
The word martyr is taken from procedural law. In the trial against
the devil, Jesus Christ is the first and actual witness for God, the
first martyr, who has since been followed by countless others.
Today’s Church is more than ever a “Church of the Martyrs” and thus a
witness to the living God. If we look around and listen with an
attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially
among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who
stand up for God with their life and suffering. It is an inertia of the
heart that leads us to not wish to recognize them. One of the great and
essential tasks of our evangelization is, as far as we can, to establish
habitats of Faith and, above all, to find and recognize them.
I live in a house, in a small community of people who discover such
witnesses of the living God again and again in everyday life and who
joyfully point this out to me as well. To see and find the living Church
is a wonderful task which strengthens us and makes us joyful in our
Faith time and again.
At the end of my reflections I would like to thank Pope Francis for
everything he does to show us, again and again, the light of God, which
has not disappeared, even today. Thank you, Holy Father!
Translated by Anian Christoph Wimmer.
Quotes from Scripture use Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE).
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that Asia Bibi remains in the country, negating speculation that she had already joined her family in Canada.
Khan told the BBC in an interview published online on April 10 that Bibi was still in Pakistan because there was “a little bit of a complication” which he declined to explain.
“But I can assure you she is safe, and she will be leaving in weeks,” Khan said during the interview conducted in London.
The Catholic mother of five had been on death row for blasphemy since 2010 and was held in solitary confinement for eight years.
In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of Pakistan quashed her death sentence in November last year and ordered her immediate release from prison.
The ruling, however, sparked violent nationwide protests that came to an end only after the government agreed to stop Bibi from leaving Pakistan until a challenge to her acquittal was heard by the top court. The court, however, upheld Bibi’s acquittal on Jan. 29, allowing her to exit Pakistan.
Days after the court’s ruling, she was airlifted from a prison in Multan to the capital Islamabad, where she was reportedly kept in a safe house due to death threats. Subsequent media reports stated preparations were being made for Bibi to be relocated with her family who are living in an undisclosed location in Canada.
One German media quoted her lawyer saying that she had already been flown to safety in Canada. Her current situation remains unknown.
Catholic activists in Pakistan were dismayed that Bibi had still not been flown out of Pakistan.
Katherine Sapna, the director of Christian True Spirit, said that there was “total confusion” about what Bibi’s real situation was.
“We assume that she is in a protective place,” said Sapna, who is leading a delegation of politicians and activists to the Dutch parliament later this month to discuss the misuse of the blasphemy law and the forced conversions of females.
“But the confusion benefits Bibi and her family. The hard-line clerics were the biggest challenge for the state during proceedings of her case,” she said.”
Kashif Aslam, a program coordinator for the Pakistan Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace, said that Bibi’s presence in Pakistan appears as if the authorities are waiting for a conducive time.
A study from U of T Mississauga uses new research techniques to
reveal alarming information about climate change in Canada’s north. A
study published in Nature Communications confirms that recent
climate warming in the central Yukon region has surpassed the warmest
temperatures experienced in the previous 13,600 years, a finding that
could have important implications in the context of current global
Paleoclimatologist and lead author Trevor Porter studies climate
indicators such as water isotopes, tree rings and plant waxes for signs
of climate patterns in the Holocene, a period of time that spans the
past 11,700 years. In glaciated regions, paleoclimate research often
relies on water isotopes measured from ice core samples taken from
glaciers, but in the central Yukon where glaciers have long since
receded, researchers must rely on other indicators such as plant pollen
and small winged insects known as midges preserved in layers of lake
sediment. Pollen and midges act as proxies for ancient temperatures but
sometimes offer conflicting information.
In a first for the field, Porter and his colleagues used radiocarbon dating and water isotopes preserved in permafrost beneath a central Yukon peatland to reconstruct summer temperatures over the last 13,600 years. Each summer, new peat moss accumulates at the surface, and the top of permafrost, which lies at a constant depth of 58 cm below ground, adjusts to the new surface. It simultaneously preserves precipitation that filtered through the ground and froze at the top of permafrost during previous summers.
“Each centimeter of permafrost holds roughly 20 to 30 years of precipitation, which settles into well-blended layers of information,” Porter says. “Water isotope records from ice cores are one of the most valued climate proxies but can only be developed in glaciated regions. This project demonstrates that we can develop ice core-like records in non-glaciated permafrost regions. This type of permafrost offers a unique archive for water isotopes that could be used to advance our understanding of Holocene climate change in other northern regions, which would be a major benefit to the climate science community.”
The results of the permafrost analysis confirms information provided
by previous midge studies, and shows that early Holocene summers in the
central Yukon were mostly warmer than the typical Holocene summer. The
study further concludes that industrial-era warming has led to current
summer temperatures that are unprecedented in the Holocene context, and
exceeds all previous maximum temperatures by nearly 2°C.
“When compared with climate reconstructions from other northern
areas, our data confirm that this region has been warming at an
exceptional rate,” Porter says. “We know, based on recent historical
climate data, that this area has warmed up more than other high-latitude
region has experienced warming of just over 2ºC over the past
century, which is above the global average and above the average of the
Arctic region in general.”
“Summer warming has major implications for permafrost landscapes.
When temperatures go up, ice-rich permafrost can thaw, become unstable,
and previously frozen soil carbon can be released to the atmosphere as
carbon dioxide by microbes,” Porter says, noting that the region
experienced a deep thaw of permafrost roughly 9,000 years ago. “Deep
permafrost thaw events did occur in this region in the early Holocene, a
time we now know was relatively warm compared to the Holocene average
but not nearly as warm as today. This implies that ice-rich permafrost
in this region is currently vulnerable to similar thaw events.”
“We’re seeing the evidence right now that climate warming is
destabilizing permafrost in northern Canada and releasing greenhouse
gases,” he says “This is potentially the new normal and, if it
accelerates in the near future, it threatens to further amplify global