Peter King shouldn’t talk about terrorism

U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) argued today, in the wake of a botched terror attack in the New York City subways, that President Trump’s immigration policies could prevent future attacks.

Funny, he never argued for restricting immigration in the name of combating terrorism back in the 1980s when he was an ardent supporter of the Irish Republican Army. Of course then he believed terrorism was a legitimate weapon in a struggle against foreign occupation …

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”

Update: Take their minerals

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Back in August I wrote about mercenary tycoon Erik Prince’s proposal to privatize America’s war in Afghanistan.

*Reminder – Prince is the brother of Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He was also implicated in a bizarre secret scheme to open a back-channel line of communication between president-elect Trump and Moscow.*

Today BuzzFeed News posted details of the pitch, including the PowerPoint slides that made up Prince’s presentation. It makes for stunning reading, with a new twist:

Not only was Prince proposing embedding his mercenaries — which he termed “mentors — with indigenous Afghan forces while providing combat air support and other services, he planned to pay for it by mining strategic minerals from the areas he promised to pacify.

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BuzzFeed’s Aram Roston spells out just how lucrative this part of the operation was anticipated to be:

One surprising element is the commercial promise Prince envisions: that the US will get access to Afghanistan’s rich deposits of minerals such as lithium, used in batteries; uranium; magnesite; and “rare earth elements,” critical metals used in high technology from defense to electronics. One slide estimates the value of mineral deposits in Helmand province alone at $1 trillion.

The presentation makes it plain that Prince intends to fund the effort through these rich deposits. His plan, one slide says, is “a strategic mineral resource extraction funded effort that breaks the negative security economic cycle.” The slides also say that mining could provide jobs to Afghans.

When I wrote about this back in the summer, I figured that Prince was planning to fill his company’s coffers with a combination of US and Afghan government money. Instead, and in the best tradition of the East India Company (which apparently served as his inspiration for this scheme), Prince was going to make his money the old fashioned way. By imperial conquest.

I’m shocked Trump didn’t go for it.

What to make of the Jerusalem decision?

Protesters outside the US consulate in Istanbul (AFP/Getty).
Protesters outside the US consulate in Istanbul (AFP/Getty).

 

What to make of President Trump’s decision to announce the United States will officially recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and begin the process of moving our embassy there?

Well, how darkly cynical are you?

From a policy standpoint, this decision makes less than no sense. In fact, and despite the wishful thinking that may have animated some in the Trump “peace team,” it is counterproductive if our intention was to reinvigorate serious negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinian.

Moreover, it is a spark that could ignite a crisis across the Middle East, as Emma Green points out in The Atlantic.

That’s not to say it wouldn’t have been a valuable final carrot to cement an agreement if it were offered up during the endgame to negotiations. But to do it now just widens the rift between the sides with the added consequence of destroying literally decades of diplomacy intended to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together rather than drive them apart.

Further, it has dashed any remaining notion that the US could act as some sort of honest broker playing a productive role in the peace process.

To cap it all off, the decision has been met with near-universal condemnation from world leaders (Israel’s own notwithstanding) including vital friends and allies across the region, including in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

So, as policy, this is an awful decision, counterproductive at best, destructive to any peace process at worst. But what about as an act of politics?

The most generous reading is that Trump hopes to gain credibility as a man of his word and satisfy the desires of both his Christian evangelical base and pro-Israel American Jews, including major donors like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, by keeping a promise on Jerusalem made during the campaign.

The less generous take on the politics of this decision roots it firmly in Trump’s willingness to seek political advantage by, as Peter Beinart writes, stoking the fires of anti-Muslim bias.

For Donald Trump, Muslim barbarism is a political strategy. It inspires the fear and hatred that binds him to his base. Muslim barbarism is so politically useful, in fact, that, when necessary, Trump creates it.

During the presidential campaign, he invented mobs of Jersey City Muslims who had celebrated 9/11. After the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, he invented a conspiracy in which “many, many people, Muslims living with them, in the same area” had been in on Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik’s plot. This February, he invented a terrorist attack in Sweden, which he blamed on the fact that Sweden “took in large numbers” of you-know-whos. Just last week, he invented a Muslim migrant’s attack on a crippled Dutch boy.

But on Wednesday, Trump outdid himself. By announcing that America recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he didn’t just invent Muslim violence. He provoked it.

The Trump administration was warned that violent protests were not just possible as a result of this announcement, but likely. The State Department went so far as to yesterday, even before the announcement, issue warnings to Americans in Jerusalem to avoid Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Jerusalem’s Old City, and for embassies worldwide to increase their security.

Unsurprisingly, protests broke out almost immediately around the world, and the decision has prompted heightened fears of terrorism. Both developments play right into Trump’s political narrative.

So what are we left with? Shockingly bad policy in the service of ugly, divisive politics. In other words, just another day in the Trump White House.

Don’t watch this on your phone

transient

Watch this remarkable short film on the biggest monitor you can find. In 1080p high definition. With the sound turned all the way up.

This awe-inspiring compilation of image and sound is the work of filmmaker Dustin Farrell. Here is some of what he says about the project:

“Transient” is a compilation of the best shots from my storm chasing adventures of summer 2017. Most of the lightning footage was captured in uncompressed raw at 1000 frames per second with our Phantom Flex4K. This summer I chased for over 30 days and traveled 20K miles. My respect and admiration for storm chasers became even stronger this year. This is one of the most difficult projects I have ever attempted in my career. …

Lightning is like a snowflake. Every bolt is different.

Unrelated personal note — The blog has been more sporadically written this fall than I would have liked and more sporadically written than those of you who have been kind enough to subscribe deserve. I chalk it up to two key factors.

1) I have a day job teaching International Relations that has been far more demanding this semester than I had anticipated. This has cut into my writing time, both in terms of research and here at the blog.

2) The pace of the news, and the seemingly daily series of never-seen-before unprecedented outrageousness has been largely beyond my capacity to keep up with or respond to intelligently.

I’m hope to get back in the swing by the turn of the new year. If you’re still reading, thanks for your patience.