You Probably Haven’t Heard of The Greatest Threat to Global Security

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In the 2006 film “Lucky Number Slevin” Mr. Goodkat explains the concept of a “Kansas City Shuffle” to Nick Fisher, a degenerate gambler who owes two different mob bosses a large amount of money. As Bruce Willis’s character explains; a “Kansas City Shuffle” is when everybody else goes left, you go right.

This basic “bait and switch” con is used all the time in politics, anytime there is a “scandal” of any sorts, it is prudent to dig a little deeper to find out what’s really going on.  Let’s take the current geopolitical atmosphere, for example.  For weeks the media, egged on by the Trump administration and China, have been focused on North Korea.  Most rationale people see through this ploy, but nothing unites the country like a common enemy, even if that common enemy doesn’t pose much of a threat at all, so the media ran with it.  So while the media has blown this story way out of proportion, I did what I always do; looked to see what else was going on in the region.  While the Trump Administration has been threatening China over North Korea, the real threat to global security was happening a few thousand kilometers away, in a small piece of disputed territory in the Himalayan mountains between the world’s two most populous countries.

On June 16th, flanked by Chinese troops, construction began on a road in the disputed territory of Doklam.  The territory is located in the Himalayan mountains between Tibet’s “Chumbi Valley,” and Bhutan’s “Ha Valley.” The area has been claimed by Bhutan since 1961, China also claims the territory, saying it is part of Tibet and therefore Chinese land. Despite 24 rounds of border negotiations over the last 56 years, no progress has been made on the dispute. Doklam.jpg

While the mountain kingdom of Bhutan has less than a million citizens, they have been protected by a “Treaty of Friendship” with India since 1949.  This treaty states that India will protect Bhutan from foreign aggression. India takes this treaty very seriously, so seriously that India’s main garrison is located just 13 miles from the disputed territory. So it comes as no surprise that on June 18th India mobilized 270 troops to Doklam to “protect” Bhutan. Many in Bhutan view the standoff as less about protecting their country, and more of a pissing match between India and China. Whether or not India actually cares about the safety of Bhutan is largely irrelevant. The danger is that the “People’s Liberation Army of China” boasts 2.285 million soldiers, while the “Indian Armed Forces” has a standing army of over 1.4 million troops. While both governments have called for a peaceful resolution, neither nuclear power is willing to back down; culminating in a “minor scuffle” this week as  Chinese forces tried to enter Indian territory near Pangong lake near Ladakh on Tuesday.

While it is easy to ignore a story about two countries halfway around the world, both China and India play a major role in global manufacturing. China, for example,produced 90% of the world’s computers in 2011. While India continues to grow their economy through manufacturing:

“Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows in India’s manufacturing sector grew by 82 per cent year-on-year to US$ 16.13 billion during April-November 2016.”

A military conflict between the two countries would inevitably draw attention from US-based companies like Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and others who rely on Indian and Chinese labor to build their products. A conflict would more than likely reduce supply, meaning higher prices for the consumer.

Any major conflict between the two countries could also present an opportunity for Paki

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stan, another nuclear power, to possibly try and take control of Kashmir and Jammu, the disputed states that mark the border between India and Pakistan. This border dispute has led to three separate conflicts since 1947. A three-way conflict between nuclear powers could easily escalate into something much larger, putting us all at risk.

Much like The Boss and The Rabbi in “Lucky Number Slevin,” the United States has fallen for a “Kansas City Shuffle,” ignoring this border dispute while focusing on a hermit kingdom and a dictator, suffering from Napoleon complex.

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5 Republicans To Watch in 2020

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Over the weekend, while out with my friends, I asked “what Republicans will run for President in 2020?” They all sort of looked at me with strange looks, one of them said “this is why we don’t invite you to things” while another asked “who wants to play Buckhunter?” Being a politico is difficult sometimes. After most of the table cleared out to go play Buckhunter, I was left with two others. Besides myself (a Libertarian) I was left with a Republican and a Democrat. While the three of us don’t generally agree on many political issues, we all agreed that Robert Mueller convening a federal grand jury to look into Russian meddling likely meant that Trump would either be impeached, resign, or not run for re-election.

Over the next half hour we came up with a list of five Republicans who we all thought could win the nomination in 2020.

 

Mike Pence

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The most obvious choice for the Republican nomination is current Vice President, and former Governor of Indiana Mike Pence.

Nobody wants to be Vice President, the position has no purpose outside of breaking a tie in the Senate, and most find it to be an exceptionally boring, and possibly worthless job.  John Adams, our nation’s first Vice President stated:


“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

Adams may have been the first to complain about the office, but he wasn’t the last. The office is generally sought by those who have higher aspirations, and appearances suggest that Pence wants to be President. While he has denounced rumors that he would challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020, he certainly has the pedigree for the position. Prior to being Governor of Indiana he served in the House of Representatives from 2001 till 2013, serving as the chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009-2011.  

On the issues Pence is pro-life, pushed for a balanced budget amendment to Indiana’s state constitution, opposed government bailouts, is against increasing regulations, is for “stop and frisk” policies, supports the war on drugs, and is a hawk on foreign policy issues.

Pence would have a leg up for the nomination, especially if Trump doesn’t finish his first term. If he were to audition for the office, it’s hard to imagine that Pence, an establishment favorite, wouldn’t seek the nomination in 2020.

 

John Kasich

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The current Governor of Ohio sought the Republican nomination in 2016, and has been a staunch opponent of President Trump since the beginning. Over the last few years he has done as much as he possibly can to distance himself from Donald Trump, including skipping last summer’s convention, even though it was being held in Cleveland. Kasich, also an establishment favorite, served in the House of Representatives from 1983 till 2001, and supposedly turned down Trump’s offer to become Vice President.

When it comes to the issues, Kasich has been a staunch advocate for criminal justice reform; signing bills in 2012 and 2011 that make it easier for felons to find jobs, and advocating for shorter rehabilitation over prison for nonviolent offenders. Kasich favors “common core,” wants to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and while he wants to cut corporate taxes, he also wants to raise taxes on oil companies, and move away from the income tax.

Governor Kasich has failed to rule out a 2020 Presidential run, and is planning several “policy forums” across Ohio and New Hampshire.

 

Nikki Haley

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The former Governor of South Carolina, and current UN Ambassador has never been a Trump supporter (despite serving in his cabinet). Her reputation is helped by the rumor that one of the key reasons she was chosen as UN Ambassador is because her former Lt. Governor in South Carolina, Henry McMaster, was a vocal Trump supporter. When Haley was named UN Ambassador McMaster became South Carolina’s Governor, the rumor is this was McMasters reward for supporting Trump.

Nikki Haley presents a unique opportunity for Republicans. Her Indian-American ancestry would essentially negate any perceived advantage Democrat Kamala Harris, another Indian-American, would have based on gender and ancestry alone. The fact that female minorities would have two qualified candidates to choose from would mean that they would be more likely to vote on policy issues, rather than following their heart strings.

While serving as Governor of South Carolina, Haley reduced unemployment from 11% to 4% and created 85,000 new jobs. She’s anti-Obamacare, pro gun rights, anti-immigration, and pro-life.

 

Rand Paul

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Another former presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul is among the most ideologically consistent members of the Senate who easily won re-election last year. Senator Paul is a favorite among libertarian leaning republicans. During his time in office he has been critical of the NSA and the surveillance state that is supported by many establishment leaders, he’s been critical of our foreign policy, he’s one of only a few Republicans who has recently advocated for a full repeal of Obamacare, he’s  co-sponsored legislation with liberal Senators like Kamala Harris and Corey Booker on issues like criminal justice and bail reform. He’s been critical of Washington’s spending problem, while consistently vocalizing his opposition to new taxes and regulations.

While Paul may have some issues with establishment republicans; his crossover appeal with both libertarians and (some) democrats, as well as his popularity with millennials could mean a well-run campaign leading up to 2020 could secure his nomination.

 

Ben Sasse

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The freshman Senator from Nebraska has always been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump. In the lead up to the 2014 election, Sasse ran as the “anti Obamacare” candidate and ran as a strong social conservative.  

When it comes to Obamacare, he has consistently voted to repeal as much of the act as possible. In his short time in office, he has also taken a surprisingly libertarian view on foreign policy issues; joining Senator Paul in opposing additional sanctions against Russia, and opposing selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

When it comes to the economy, Sasse has consistently been against government regulations, while calling for more privatization and a revamp of the tax code.

Like Kasich, Sasse also hasn’t ruled out a 2020 run. In the last few months, Sasse has popped up across the state of Iowa; whether he’s talking policy, or just driving for Uber, the Nebraska Senator has made sure that Iowans know who he is.

 

As Republicans continue to distance themselves from President Trump, it doesn’t look like the party would have much difficulty in finding a better candidate in 2020.

A Brief Overview of the Major Players in the Syrian Civil War

Current military situation: Red: Syrian government, Green: Syrian opposition, Yellow: Rojava (SDF)/Syrian Kurds, Grey: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, White: Tahrir al-Sham (formerly known as the al-Nusra Front)

 

To put it simply, The Syrian Civil War is a quagmire. There are alot of different factions at play here. It can be a little confusing to those getting into this topic to navigate. This guide hopefully will provide you with a brief overview of the situation down there as of today.

Turkey

Turkey seeks to quell its own Kurdish uprising and increase its influence in the Middle East

The Turks are against the Syrian Kurds and Assad and ISIS roughly in that order and nominally allied with the US however Russia has been recently trying to make friendly overtures towards them. The Turks mainly seek to quell the local Syrian Kurds to keep their own Kurdish separatist movement in check as well as gain a greater influence in the Middle East at the expense of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other Gulf States as well as Iran.  They sent a military intervention into Syria with the goal of fighting both ISIS and the Syrian Kurds.  Recently, there has been an uptick in violence between the Syrian Kurds and Turkish forces as ISIS-held Raqqa nears collapse

Assad

Assad seeks to stop the rebellion with the help of Russia and Iran

Assad has, with the support of Russia and Iran, been focusing mostly on non ISIS rebels which are themselves a patchwork of different factions of shifting alliances running the gamut from hard core Islamists of a different ideological stripe from ISIS to secular militarists to straight up secular liberal democracy proponents. However the Syrian regime is also at war with ISIS but have largely let the US coalition fight them, keeping their military operations concentrated to the southern and western parts of Syria.  Until the Russian intervention Syria government forces were on the brink.  The Iranian militias supporting them “unofficially” were not enough to stem the tide. However the arms and military support from Russia allowed them to take the offensive and make considerable gains in the war.  They are trying to stay out of the Syrian Kurds way as the Syrian Kurds have been the main force fighting ISIS with the perceived strategy of letting them fight it out and taking down the winner.

 

The Gulf States

The Gulf States seek to fight ISIS with the nominal help of the US coalition but also seek to check Iranian and Turkish influence.

The Gulf States (UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc) generally back support and arm various rebel groups within Syria shifting their support as the map and battlefield changes. They tend however to support the hardcore Islamists as a way of staying “tough on seculars​” They are also nominally allied with the US as ISIS and Iran are common enemies. They do this mostly to maintain their local hegemony over the region and to prevent Iran and non Gulf Muslim States (like Turkey and Iran) from gaining the upper hand, influence wise. Also as one of ISIS’s stated goals is the utter destruction of those states they must work with the US to prevent that.

Iran

Iran seeks to maintain its influence in Syria as well as fight ISIS in nominal cooperation with Russia

Iran seeks to maintain its last foothold of influence in the Arab world (Iranians are Persians) and thus supports Assad as the Syrian regime was one of the few that had a pro Iranian policy. They are nominally allied with Russia as the two share similar goals of keeping the Syrian regime alive. They also are against ISIS as their special brand of Islam is not ISIS’s special brand of Islam so they fight their own completely separate battle against them.  This is done mostly through unofficial militias as well as “Iranian volunteers.”

Russia

Russia continues its quest for warm water ports and increased influence in the Middle East on the side of Assad and Iran.

Russia also seeks to maintain its last foothold in the Middle East. Continuing it’s long-standing policy of warm water ports, it seeks to preserve the military base in Tartus that it has in Syria ( the Syrian regime has granted them military access and a base there) as well as gain new bases in Syria to continue its bid for control and access to the Eastern Mediterranean and the trade routes that pass through it. It also is against ISIS largely out of an outgrowth of the Chechen conflict (many former Chechen rebels went to ISIS after they lost.) As such they back the Syrian regime to the hilt against the Syrian rebels, ISIS, and the US and Gulf state interests roughly in that order and nominally work with Iran.

Syrian Kurds

The Kurds seek to form their own nation and are the main ground force against ISIS

The Syrian Kurds are straight up fighting for their own country. Kurds are the largest and oldest “Stateless Nation”. They haven’t been able to form a state as traditional Kurdish lands straddle Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq.  (Guess which countries in the Middle East are against the Kurds!)  They are the main ground force fighting ISIS as the territory they control is right smack dab next to ISIS controlled territory. The US backs them against the protests of Turkey and they are nominally allied to the Iraqi Kurds in the east.  The Iraqi Kurds are the ones who actually sent an artillery force to help relieve Kobani a couple years back. The Syrian Kurds are leftist while the Iraqi Kurds are right wing which makes for some tensions but are still united in the idea of a Kurdish state. After ISIS though the Syrian Kurds are opposed to Turkey. The US has been trying to keep Kurdish and Turkish forces apart but once ISIS is gone all bets are off.

US led Coalition

The US seeks to keep ISIS from launching attacks on its homeland as well as to limit Russian and Iranian influence in the Middle East

The US led coalition is primarily interested in the defeat of ISIS as a way of keeping them in the Middle East and busy so as not to conduct terror attacks on domestic US soil. They are also against the Assad regime for human rights violations but also to limit Russians and Iranian influence in the Middle East.  They try to back the various rebel groups but their support is limited as they are trying to find the ever rarer secular democratic rebel group (there are a few but they are teetering.) Recently, they’ve ended their support of the anti-Assad rebels, causing uncertainty over their role going forward.  They are nominally allied with the Gulf States but behind the scenes work at cross purposes in terms of Rebel support but coordinate closely in terms of fighting ISIS.

ISIS

We won’t be displaying the ISIS flag. They hate everyone and everyone hates them.

Finally ISIS. ISIS hates everyone. Everyone hates ISIS.  ISIS’s ideology and expression of said ideology puts them at violent odds with literally everything around them that does not adhere to their very specific sub-branch of Wahhabi Islam.  As such, they have no real allies or backers on the international scene.  Their funding largely comes from the sale of artifacts looted from archaeological sites, crime, and taxes from conquered territories.  With the loss of Mosul and other territories, their income has been reduced dramatically in the past year.