Friday, February 28, 2014

US presence wanted/Needed in the PH?

In a January 30, 2014 article by Catherine A. Traywick on titled, Will American Troops Return to Philippine Bases?, the author states the reasons for and against an American presence in the Philippines. After hurricane Haiyan devastated the central Philippines, the United States was first to respond – and we did so in grand fashion.  Loads of American supplies, aid money and first responders appeared within days of the disaster – helping a seemingly overwhelmed Philippine government response.  American and Filipino officials began talks after the disaster about reviving an American military presence in its already established bases in the Nevada-sized country that is home to over 100 million people.

What would an American presence in the Philippines mean for the region as a whole? Given the ongoing territorial disputes with China, the Philippines could use a strong ally in case China decides to become any more brazen with their threats.  At the same time, an official American presence could aggravate the situation, although that seems unlikely given the fact that American troops have been present in the Southern Philippines assisting the Philippine military deal with the Muslim terrorist group al Qaeda.

The pros far outweigh the cons in this proposal. Americans and Filipinos are great allies and have been for some time – the relations between the countries have been sound, with little hiccups along the way.  Why would anyone want to veto American presence in the Philippines? It would provide a great military vantage point for the United States in the region and strengthen relation with many of the nations in the area. American military presence could also provide a counter to Chinese bullying over the contested seas and islands.

Probably the most significant reason for this alliance would be an increase in friendly trade relations between the nations. He Philippines is one of the fastest growing economies since the global recession and is looking to boost output over the coming years – America could use another strong trading partner. In conclusion, both nations can benefit from such an alliance and more importantly, neither has something to lose.

By Christopher M. Vacek

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Obama Looks Beyond Karzai

 President Obama, apparently resigned to President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a long-term security agreement with the United States before he leaves office. A phone call on Tuesday revealed that the President has told the Pentagon to start planning for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of this year. Obama in a message for the incumbent ruler in Afghanistan stated that he is still open to leaving limited troops in the region in order to conduct counter terrorism efforts as well as conduct training. The bilateral security agreement or the, B.S.A., is unlikely to be signed by Mr. Karzai and as Obama has pointed out a breach in their international cooperation. Obama states that the earlier that the agreement is assigned the less troops that the U.S. will continue to remain in the region. Experts speculate that a signed agreement will not come until after the April elections but this also proves that the administration has moved away from their stance on a pullout if the B.S.A. was not signed before the elections. “Clearly, the president is putting pressure on Karzai without closing the door on B.S.A. just as he is preparing the ground for the possibility that B.S.A. may not happen,” said Vali Nasr. Looking to the elections in April, all of the candidates up for election have agreed that they would sign the agreements once in office but many speculate that this may be wishful thinking. The future of Aghan relations seems uncertain as ever, as NATO officials have begun Summer 2015 deployment plans if the agreement were to fall through. The international relations between these two countries is tumultuous in nature and only time will tell what will happen in this region.

Katelyn Krumreich  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ukrainian Protesters See Too Many Familiar Faces in Parliament After Revolution

It's not only civilian protesters who are standing outside of Kiev still in protest. An economist has joined the request for a vote on a new Parliament immediately. Even thought Mr. Yanukovych's has left the Parliament and it seems like there is a win for the protesters, an ally of his is carrying out his duties until a new president is chosen in May. This doesn't seem like any kind of win for the protesters in the Revolution. Just a replacement of a leader is placed in place of the president which just leaves the protesters seeing same actions, just different face. They are left with hands almost tied until May when change is suppose to come. Quote the article, the new leader, who is an ally of Mr. Yanukovych, Ms. Tymoshenko is viewed at President Putin just in a skirt. There is no change for the Parliament, and there is no such win for the protesters if the replacement is referred to as Putin with a skirt on. Pretty much an individual was placed in Parliament who will be controlled by strings like a puppet by President Putin. Nobody in Kiev is challenging the Revolution. There is such an uncertainty of what will happen inside Parliament that challenging coming of the revolution in Kiev can put more fuel on the low fire currently. Eastern Ukraine, which is highly associated with Russia has its disagreements but aren't making anything public. Volodymyr Lytvyn, former speaker of the Parliament is trying to answer all the concerns that the crowd would have. All she is able to present to the public is that to be patient and that the Parliament is working towards a change and something new. There are many individuals who are making their way to Ukraine to stand for what they hope an era that will be history making, breaking the corruption. The issue is that what division this can bring within in Ukraine among the East and West?

Simona Gudynaite

Monday, February 24, 2014

Middle Class Joins Protests in Venezuela

The protests in Venezuela grow with the middle class joining in on the protests.  The protests began initially with citizens of Venezuela upset with the economy, corruption, and violence within the country.  The death toll from the protests is uncertain, but this past week, two men were killed and a mother and child were severely hurt by stray bullets.  President Maduro of Venezuela, successor to former President Hugo Chavez, refuses to recognize the protests for what they are.  He does recognzie the protests, but says the protesters are fascists.  The protesters are wanting change within the government, but this will not happen until Maduro or other sectors of the Venezuelan government give in to the protester's wants.

Brooke Reed

Western nations scramble to contain fallout of Ukraine crisis

Ukraine has been for a long time a proclaimed democracy aiming to integrate into European Union structures.  European Union in the other hand, because of highly bureaucratic procedures has been prolonging the road of Ukraine toward European Union in the time when other countries with more or less the same standard like Romania or Bulgaria were allowed to join and become full members of this organization.

This article shows how European Union now is considering all the possible methods to “revive” the democracy in Ukraine, or to protect it from losing its democratic means.
Russia has also been very much involved in the situation and just recently called off their ambassador to Ukraine to discuss the situation and come out with a position.  The former President Yanukovych who was mainly supported by Russian speaking Ukrainians had to leave the position because of the new revolution.  A lot of remorse has been coming around regarding a possible split of Ukraine, with the news titling their article “Ukraine going toward split”, this doesn’t seem as a possible solution to both parties in Ukraine. The convention of Russian speakers in Ukraine had come out denying a possible hand of Russian authorities in their position and also stating that they don’t intend to separate.

The actual situation in Ukraine is generally described as chaotic and soon delegations from European Union will start going there to further evaluate the situation and find a possible solution. So typical for European Union, they only start regretting what they did after people get killed.   

For the original link, please click here.

Fatlum Gashi

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Samuel Sheinbein Killed in an Israeli Prison.

On Sunday morning, Israeli special forces units raided a prison is Israel; killing a notorious prisoner who was serving time for a murder committed in the United States. The man killed was identified by as Israeli forces as inmate Samuel Sheinbein, an American who fled to Israel after murdering and dismembering another man in Maryland in 1997- an international case that ignited a firestorm over extraditions and international law. Israel special forces rushed to this prison in central Israel after Sheinbein stole a weapon and shot three guards in an escape attempt. Sheinbein wounded two of them critically and subsequently barricaded himself inside the compound where a standoff ensued. Counter-terrorism responded and when Sheibein shot three more guards, the forces shot him dead. Sheinbein fled to Israel where he was eligible for citizenship, and managed to avoid extradition to the United States based on an Israeli law prohibiting extradition of Israeli nationals. Furthermore, the case strained US-Israeli relations when Sheinbein was sentenced to 24 years in prison by an Israeli court, against the wishes of the United States. Ultimately, Sheinbein's case prompted an overhaul of Israeli extradition law.

-William B. Robinson

Al-Shabaab Attacks Somali Presidential Palace

Al-Shabaab, who is Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia carried out a series of attacks on the Presidental palace friday morning. The attack began with an explosion at the front gate and then further gunfire ensued. It was reported that 12 people died, seven of them being members of Al-Shabaab. The secretary to the Prime Minister as well as the former deputy chief of the national intelligence agency are believed to have died in the attack. Al-Shabaab just recently struck with a car bombing near the airport in Mogadishu the previous week. They are actively hoping to turn Somalia into a predominately Islamic state through their efforts. It's believed that they have also carried out attacks in Kenya and Uganda.

Alec Phillipp

Algeria's President seeking re-election

The President of Algeria (Abdelaziz Bouteflika) is seeking his fourth term as president of the country.  This is despite concerns over both his health and corruption scandals linked to his inner circle.  His health is of primary concern, as he has not addressed the public in three years and last year suffered a stroke.  Despite all this, he and his party are expected to win the next election.  He still seems fairly popular within Algeria, being credited with bringing economic stability.

Jeff Kort

Fatal Violence Strikes Antigovernment Rallies in Thailand

Over the weekend, four people were killed and 50 were injured due to anti-government protests in Thailand.  Of the four who were killed, three were children.  Two separate attacks were carried out.  The first occurred "on Saturday near the border of Cambodia.  The second attack occurred on Sunday in one of the busiest shopping areas of Bangkok.  The Prime Minister of Thailand said the attacks were "terrorist attacks for political gain."  "Protest leaders said the government would be 'soon destroyed by the hands of the great mass of people.'"  The objective of the protestors is to overthrow the current administration and set up an interim government.  The United Nations has intervened by asking both sides to "'dissociate themselves from armed groups.'"  The protestors gained extra wind from a court ruling that said it was unconstitutional for the government to disperse protestors. 

Attack in Bangkok

By: Chris Lencioni

Everyone should read this... or don't - that's fine too

A big question in the back (or front) of everyone's mind is whom should we pick to be the next President. After all, we DO have the control and our votes DO matter. We are all upset with the way things are moving in the "Federal Political Machine" that is Congress and the President (approval ratings are some of the worst in our nation's history).   Whether liberal or conservative, radical or reactionary, we all have one thing in common and that is how we feel – something is terribly wrong.  Whether it is the growing threat of China, Iran’s nuclear party in the desert, domestic policy issues, the trouble in Ukraine – it’s clearly a disturbing world and these are especially troubling times. As thoughtful and informed voters, we should embrace thoughtful deliberation and revolt – silently.  By challenging the status quo, we can ensure that our way of life is protected from the obviously corrupt and incredibly inept two-party system. If we are able to vote a third party candidate into office using the two party system infrastructure, the two-party system will collapse and Americans will no longer be divided into two groups. We are all smarter than simply being labeled as right or left – we are all hybrids of right and left and our needs and wants corroborate this. Why should we settle for the lesser of two evils when we can realize our true political identities?

An article written by Ralph Benko of the Forbes titled, “Rand Paul vs. Hillary Clinton? The 2016 Presidential Election Is Likely to Be Radically Transformational,”  points out what each candidate is essentially advocating – taking out the red tape. Hillary is looking to officially make the United States a social democracy and Rand Paul “stands for smaller government, civil liberties made sacrosanct by inclusion in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, and free enterprise.” This is great news for Americans because we can either decide to have essentially more government involvement, or we can crack down and embrace thoughtful deliberation.  The governed will either consent to social democracy or vote for smaller government – both are good for human rights, both are different than what we have now, but both are very different in terms of foreign policy.  For example, Rand Paul would emphasize fiscal responsibility and attempt to put America back in an “observation only” mode in terms of foreign affairs because he understands history and knows that when an empire stretches itself too thin, it collapses. Americans need to recognize and make a choice to either be responsible and own up to our mistakes, or make the change to social democracy.

“Paul vs. Clinton: liberal republicanism vs. social democracy.”

By Christopher M. Vacek

As Mexico catches cartel boss, others wait in wings

Mexico city's most powerful drug kingpin, "El Chapo" Guzman has finally been caught. This is a victory for President Enrique Pena Nieto, however it also poses new concerns of threats of violence from other powerful drug kingpins. The DEA warns that there is going to be a huge void with his capture of others trying to replace Guzman as the most powerful drug lord in Mexico city. This could potentially lead to increased violence between groups fighting for power. Guzman made a lot of powerful enemies on his rise to the top and those enemies now have their eyes on his former position. Both enemies and allies of Guzman's could possibly try to take his spot and this could easily lead to a period of serious violence between these groups. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few weeks, it is also interesting how something so positive, the arrest of a major drug cartel player can lead to a time of increased violence. 

By: Josh Moorman


El chapo arrested- what does this mean for Mexico

Before anything, I want to point out the repeated entries on this blog on the topic of Chapo's arrest, but I find that it hits close to home for me and, thus, I'll write a third post.

This past week, Mexico's and, for that matter, the world's most influential drug lord, Joaquin Guzman was arrested in Mazatlan, Sinaloa by Mexican marines acting on information supplied by a joint U.S.-Mexican effort. This historic is important because of the sheer volume of illegal drugs El Chapo is supposedly in charge of moving. For many years, Mexico and many other south and central American countries have struggled with dealing with cartels dealing drugs to beyond the United States' border. In return, money and weapons travel back. American and Mexican officials have had a joint missions such as maintaining peace in the border City of Juarez. In 2006, the war on drugs was declared by, then president, Felipe Calderon. This unprecedented assault on the cartels led to levels of violence never before seen. Over 60,000 thousand people have been killed or reported missing since 2006. this has caused many citizens to change their views towards calderon.  Even though the Mexican government has managed to remove many high ranking people from the streets, there has been a feeling running through Mexican citizens that the war on drugs has been lost. Many have lost faith in the government and have grown tired;   many actually ready to accept drug business as legitimate. With the arrest of the most notorious, what does this mean for the future of Mexican security and government functionality. Well, for the present moment, it is important for El Chapo to be extradited to the United States lest he is provided the opportunity to escape once again. In the case of successful extradition, I suspect there will be a power vacuum where Guzman once filled. A spike in violence might happen, but after that moment, the business will normalize again. It is an especially difficult problem that Mexico faces when, as President Calderon put it, "the whole world wants to moves drugs to the United States through Mexico".

by Sergio Vargas

New Interim Leader for the Ukraine

With the former president of the Ukraine being forced out of office by MP’s on Saturday due to his rejection of the EU-Ukraine trading pack the new interim President, Oleksandr Turchynov, has stated that the country is looking for a “closer integration with the EU.” Turchynov has also stated that it is time that the country return to their European family counterparts. The interim President has also mentioned that he is ready to create a new relationship with Russia that coincides for the direction that the country desires to take. Russia has let their disapproval of the recent actions that have taken place in Kiev be known resulting in the U.S. responding by saying that the action taken by Parliament was legal and warned that a military response by Russia would not be tolerated. Susan Rice even went as far as saying that military intervention would be a “grave mistake”. Turchynov has informed Parliament that they have until Tuesday to create a new unity government with the desire to modernize the country and take it in the desired European direction. What seems to hold some back however is financial aid. Russia has offered a large amount of money to support the Ukraine if they take actions that Russia approves of with the lingering threat of the money being taken away if they do not comply. It will be interesting to see how this move towards modernization develops and hoe Russia's reaction will play out.