Category Archives: Foreign affairs

Colyer an eyewitness to South Sudan’s growing crisis

colyerIn a sobering commentary in the Kansas City Star, physician and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer likened a difficult breech birth at an International Medical Corps clinic in South Sudan to the crisis of violence, famine and disease facing the new nation. The young woman had walked for miles after going into labor and before finding a ride and help at the clinic, but she and her 4-pound daughter survived, wrote Colyer, who recently spent two weeks in South Sudan. “Aside from recognizing the enormity of the potential calamity that awaits South Sudan and encouraging the peace process, important concrete steps are also needed,” he wrote. “These include: creating humanitarian corridors to ship more supplies to hard-hit areas, allowing U.N. forces to patrol cities like Malakal until local security is adequate so that humanitarian groups can effectively carry out their work, and allocating funds already committed to South Sudan by the international community next year for use this summer to ward off the looming threat of famine.”

Obama’s actions don’t match rhetoric on foreign policy

obamaosawatomie“If Putin can flout global rules with impunity, China will take full notice, and Iran will also,” columnist Trudy Rubin wrote. “If Obama wants foreign leaders to take him seriously, he must clarify how he will handle those who ignore international rules and coalitions. The world is watching what he does, not what he says.”

Clinton and Boeing had ‘mutually beneficial relationship’

Pakistan USHillary Clinton and Boeing shared a “mutually beneficial relationship” while she was U.S. secretary of state, the Washington Post reported. For example, Clinton pressed Russian government officials in 2009 to buy dozens of Boeing aircraft. Two months after Boeing won that contract, it announced a $900,000 contribution to the William J. Clinton Foundation to rebuild schools in Haiti. “Clinton functioned as a powerful ally for Boeing’s business interests at home and abroad, while Boeing has invested resources in causes beneficial to Clinton’s public and political image,” the Post reported.

Moran, Roberts should support treaty on disabilities

disabled3Any suspicion that the political right, after suffering a defeat on the debt ceiling and facing threats from business donors, is losing its clout can be dismissed by the fight over the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities,” wrote columnist Albert Hunt. One of the biggest champions of the treaty is Bob Dole, who said that it “would have passed by voice vote” if it had come up while he was still in the Senate. But now Dole is having trouble even convincing Kansas Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts to support it.

Selfie, handshake weren’t biggest news of the day

APTOPIX South Africa Mandela MemorialIt’s sad that a “selfie” picture of President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Denmark Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt dominated much of the discussion about former South African President Nelson Mandela’s memorial service Tuesday. Yes, the officials should have known better – as Cameron noted, “the TV cameras are always on.” Still, who really cares? The other, slightly more substantive debate was about whether Obama was wrong to shake hands with Cuban President Raul Castro. Some argued that the handshake could give the dictator some propaganda. But others argued that it would have been bigger news if Obama had snubbed Castro at the memorial of a man who modeled outreach and reconciliation.

Kassebaum pushed for anti-apartheid sanctions

kassebaumSome remembrances of Nelson Mandela are properly crediting former Kansas Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum for ensuring that the United States was on the right side of history on South African apartheid. As chairwoman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s panel on African affairs, Kassebaum orchestrated the Senate economic sanctions bill in 1986, which meant bucking President Reagan and his policy of “constructive engagement” of the oppressive white minority government. In the end, Kassebaum persuaded 30 fellow Republicans to help override his veto of the sanctions bill. She had visited South Africa twice to inform her perspective. National Public Radio’s Cokie Roberts said Monday of the 78-21 veto override: “The single biggest factor in that vote was the voice of Nancy Kassebaum,” adding that “other members of the Senate knew she had done her homework, that she had no political agenda, that she just thought it was the right thing to do for both countries.” At the time, Kassebaum said: “Sanctions are a symbol that we care about the future of South Africa. That is the real issue, helping South Africa shape a peaceful future for all of its people.”

Mandela was an inspiration

mandelaGov. Sam Brownback was among the many U.S. and world leaders to react to the death Thursday of former South African President Nelson Mandela (in photo), 95. “Nelson Mandela was a great man who stood up for his principles and human rights,” Brownback said in a statement. “He was an inspiration to many, including myself.” Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said that Mandela “embodied unsurpassed courage and commitment to equality.” President Obama ordered flags to half-staff until Monday. His presidential proclamation said that “the United States has lost a close friend, South Africa has lost an incomparable liberator, and the world has lost an inspiration for freedom, justice and human dignity.”

Wichita smart to open China trade office

China is a huge growth market for general aviation companies and suppliers. So it is smart that Wichita is opening a trade office in Beijing this week. Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer will be at the grand opening of the office, which is privately funded and overseen by Kansas Global Trade Services. “We need to be in the game of international trade, and this trip reflects our dedication to helping Wichita companies expand their export opportunities,” Brewer said. In addition to helping boost Wichita’s exports to China, the office hopes to help direct Chinese investment to Wichita.

Most Americans have not earned ‘war-weariness’

Eliot A. Cohen objects to the overuse of “war-weariness” to describe many Americans’ reluctance to see the U.S. military to engage in Syria. “The families of the fallen are entitled to war-weariness,” Cohen wrote. “So are those wounded in body or spirit, and their loved ones. The mother who has sent her son to war has a right to war-weariness, as does the father who prepares to send his daughter to battle again and again. But for the great mass of the American public, for their leaders and the elites who shape public opinion, ‘war-weariness’ is unearned cant, unworthy of a serious nation and dangerous in a violent world.”

Why Pompeo wants decisive action in Syria

Trying to deal with “scores of calls with comments and questions about Syria,” Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, has posted a letter to constituents discussing his recent visit to the Middle East and the U.S. options in “a very, very, very tough neighborhood.” Pompeo wrote that he doesn’t approve of President Obama’s current plan and wants Congress “to ensure American interests are observed and any action is decisive.” We should care what happens in Syria, Pompeo wrote, because “a growing control of radical Islamic jihadists threatens Americans at home and our armed forces abroad. We have a deep national interest in ensuring that a post-Assad Syria is not under the control of the ayatollahs in Iran, but is influenced by America’s efforts to defeat the most radical elements now fighting inside of that country.” He also said: “It is not responsible for a member of Congress to simply argue for ‘doing nothing’ for three years because we don’t like our president. The world will not wait…. Just saying ‘no’ is not a strategy; it is a recipe to make America weaker abroad than we already are.”

Libya offers lesson for Syrian action

President Obama and the American public should consider what has happened in Libya as we contemplate military action in Syria, columnist Glenn Garvin wrote. While U.S. military assistance helped depose Moammar Gadhafi, little has gone right since then. “Post-intervention Libya is a witch’s cauldron of crime, corruption and terrorism,” Garvin wrote. Here are the lessons of Libya, Garvin wrote: “That the Middle East is fraught with ancient religious, ethnic and tribal rivalries only dimly understood in the West. That they erupt in unpredictable and vicious ways when the balance of power is upset. And that there’s probably a better way to deliver a prescription for peace and prosperity than in the payload of a Tomahawk missile.”

Pompeo doesn’t want World War III

The position of Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, favoring a strong military action against Syria puts him at odds with the rest of the Kansas congressional delegation. But his stand is more complicated than described in a local robocall campaign that began Sunday and urges people to contact the congressman and tell him to “start looking after the interests of Kansas and not Obama.” The recorded voice says: “World War III is not what we want from Mike Pompeo.” That’s not what Pompeo wants either, and he’s been sharply critical of President Obama’s handling of this and other foreign-policy matters. Given that Operation Rescue president Troy Newman reportedly is behind the robocalls, which say they are “paid for by Remove and Replace Pompeo,” it’s fair to wonder whether the real issue is not “Obama’s war on Syria,” as the calls put it, but abortion. Yet that makes no sense, given Pompeo’s strongly anti-abortion voting record. He doesn’t even support abortion in cases in which a woman has been raped.

Military experience no longer the rule in Congress

As Congress debates whether to support President Obama’s plan for military action in Syria, consider this: Only one-fifth of the members of Congress have any military experience themselves, according to the Pew Research Center. The proportion of veterans serving as lawmakers, which was as high as 77 percent in 1977-78, is still far larger than in the overall population. Only 7 percent of Americans are veterans now, down from 13.7 percent in 1970. Two Kansans are among the 20 senators and 89 representatives who have served in the military: Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who was a Marine, and Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, who graduated from West Point and served as an Army cavalry officer. Pompeo supports U.S. action in Syria, while Roberts does not.

Don’t have to bomb Syria to remain credible

Credibility in foreign policy matters, but the view that the United States has to bomb Syria to remain credible is overblown, Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “We are, and everyone knows we are, the most militarily powerful and technologically able nation on Earth,” she wrote. “And at the end of the day America is America. We don’t have to bow to the claim that if we don’t attack Syria we are over as a great power.”

Kansans not keen on acting against Syria

In a SurveyUSA poll this week, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12 in Wichita, 72 percent of Kansans surveyed said they believe Syria used chemical weapons against civilians – nearly as many as supported President Obama’s move allowing Congress to decide how to respond to the slaughter. But only 24 percent of those polled said they favor U.S. airstrikes against Syrian military targets, while 29 percent said the U.S. should provide support for other countries’ military action and 40 percent said the U.S. should “take no action.” Support for U.S. military action was strongest among Democrats (39 percent) and African-Americans (37 percent).

Huelskamp stands out for linking Benghazi, Syria

An MSNBC blog post credited Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, with demonstrating “that any GOP discussion inevitably leads to Benghazi.” Huelskamp tweeted Tuesday: “Since #Obama still refuses to tell us the whole truth about #Benghazi, why do GOP leaders trust Obama to be truthful about #Syria?” MSNBC’s John Flowers concluded: “It’s difficult to say whether any other Republicans are ready to pick up the ‘Benghazi’ line on Syria. Then again, for the 8 percent of Americans who believe Benghazi is located in Syria – this link probably comes as no surprise at all.” Flowers was referring to a Public Policy Polling survey in May that also found 41 percent of Republicans viewed Benghazi as the biggest political scandal in American history.

Pompeo favors ‘decisive, effective military action’

Further separating himself from the rest of the nay-saying Kansas delegation on Syria, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, co-authored a Washington Post commentary with Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., saying that they “support a well-crafted use-of-force resolution against Syria and urge the president to take decisive, effective military action.” They argued that U.S. credibility is at stake, that the U.S. “has a strong interest in preserving the international taboo against the use of chemical weapons,” and that allies Israel, Jordan and Turkey are at risk. Pompeo and Cotton concluded: “No matter the president’s party or his past failures, all Americans should want, and help, him to succeed when it comes to our national security.”

Few will miss Morsi, but now what?

There is much uncertainty about what just happened in Egypt and what happens now, with Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie declaring Friday that Egyptians will not accept military rule and pledging to defend ousted President Mohammed Morsi. But most global pundits aren’t thinking about a Morsi comeback. “There are so many good reasons to be happy and grateful for the latest turn of events in Cairo,” wrote Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, noting how women and Christians were suffering under the Brotherhood. And if the military had not intervened, he wrote, “the Muslim Brotherhood may have tried, over time, to make sure that Egypt’s first free and fair election was also its last.” Goldberg concluded: “Egyptians have suffered enough from everything already. The hope, as outlandish as it sounds, is that this coup finally sets their country on a different trajectory.” The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins wrote: “Egypt is not Les Miserables.” Egyptians deserve to be left in peace and spared further lectures from the West, he said. “It may be ironic that Cairo protesters should demand their army save them from the same politician who so recently saved them from the army. But it is an Egyptian irony, for Egyptians to resolve.”

No partisan divide on military involvement in Syria

Well, here is one thing that Republicans and Democrats agree on: They don’t want the U.S. militarily involved in Syria. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that only 17 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of Republicans favor direct military action in Syria to stop the killing of civilians. And only 11 percent of Democrats and 10 percent of Republicans favor providing arms to Syrian rebels. “Even those who voted for President Barack Obama and those who voted for Mitt Romney last year hold virtually identical views on this topic, perhaps uniquely in the panoply of current public-policy issues,” wrote Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal.

Iron Lady was transformational leader

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher died Monday. She was 87. The Iron Lady served 11 1/2 terms in office, making her the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century. As with other transformational leaders, Thatcher had both devoted fans and harsh critics. “For admirers, Thatcher was a savior who rescued Britain from ruin and laid the groundwork for an extraordinary economic renaissance,” Associated Press reported. “For critics, she was a heartless tyrant who ushered in an era of greed that kicked the weak out onto the streets and let the rich become filthy rich.”

Moran disputes that he ever supported disabilities treaty

The Boston Globe did an autopsy of the U.S. Senate’s December vote failing to ratify an international treaty on the rights of individuals with disabilities – a measure championed by former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who appeared in the chamber in a wheelchair for the vote. “The deepest wound – some considered it betrayal – came from a Republican senator from Dole’s home state of Kansas. That senator, Jerry Moran (in photo), had announced he supported the treaty and would be ‘standing up for the rights of those with disabilities,’” the Globe noted. Asked why he voted against it, Moran told the Globe: “I tried to help (the treaty) come to the floor, and had never made a conclusion as to whether I was for or against it, and concluded that it was a bad idea to have the United Nations involved in this.” Dole told the Globe: “The home-schoolers thought the U.N. would be involved in how they dealt with their children. I don’t know how they got there, but once the stampede starts, they notify their leaders to start ringing the phones, sending the e-mails. It’s really effective.”

Pro-con: Does Benghazi hurt Clinton politically?

Last year, on Sept. 11, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got that “3 a.m. phone call.” Her failure to answer leaves a permanent black mark on her record. Clinton’s blindness to the magnitude of the department’s failure regarding the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi was on display in her recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Her testimony revealed a leader unapologetic for her failure to act or understand the threat. Worse, she showed no real interest in learning from the incident. Taking “responsibility” for the attack means nothing without follow-up. It appears that the only thing she hopes to learn from the experience is that if you play nice with the press and with Congress, you can suffer no consequences for abject failure. That said, the bumbling of Benghazi and the indifference toward learning from the disaster cannot be erased from reality. The ghosts of Benghazi will always follow Clinton. – James Jay Carafano, Heritage Foundation

It’s possible that Hillary Clinton may decide not to run for president in 2016, but there is very little reason to believe such a decision would be a result of her handling of the Benghazi attacks. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, Clinton leaves her post as secretary of state with an eye-popping 69 percent approval rating. If Clinton’s approval numbers were this high during a month in which she endured a hostile congressional grilling over Benghazi, there is no reason to expect that the incident is going to plague her in any meaningful way. Clinton’s response to Benghazi is another factor working in her favor. She has not dodged the issue, and she has demonstrated a willingness to accept responsibility for mistakes that were made and to work to fix the problems that have been identified. – Jim Cottrill, Santa Clara University

Government giving government a bad name

“A reality has become too obvious for the world’s dazed inhabitants not to notice: The greatest threat to the upward arc of human progress is the collapse of public policymaking. That is the biggest cliff of all,” Daniel Henninger wrote in the Wall Street Journal. He said that “government, for the past 80 years or so, has seen its purpose as mainly to ‘respond’ to society’s failures the moment they occur or whenever they are imagined.” But the problem with governments around the world today, he wrote, “is that its advocates are enacting policies that do damage or don’t work.”

Presidential debate unlikely to affect election

Though polling after Monday night’s presidential debate showed President Obama as the clear winner, the debate is unlikely to make a significant difference in the election. An average of “snap polls” of debate viewers had Obama winning by some 17 percentage points (including a 30-point win in a CBS News poll). But the topic of the debate – foreign policy – is not a priority for most voters, and Mitt Romney was able to meet the basic test of the debate: appearing as a credible commander in chief.

GOP Libya hearing reveals classified information

“The purpose of Wednesday’s hearing of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee was to examine security lapses that led to the killing in Benghazi last month of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others. But in doing so, the lawmakers reminded us why ‘congressional intelligence’ is an oxymoron,” wrote Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. “Through their outbursts, cryptic language and boneheaded questioning of State Department officials, the committee members left little doubt that one of the two compounds at which the Americans were killed, described by the administration as a ‘consulate’ and a nearby ‘annex,’ was a CIA base. They did this, helpfully, in a televised public hearing.”