Wait, Climate Change is Real?

snowballfb_0

Our favorite GOP presidential candidate Donald J. Trump is quite the social media mogul. Sometimes he posts short, stoic Instagram videos where he usually ends with, “WHAT ARE THEY DOING/THINKING?” His most recent video caught my eye more than his usual shenanigans. He ‘calls’ out President Obama for being in France to discuss climate change while he apparently should be focused on illegal immigrants and Syrian refugees crossing our borders. Lovely. While I feel it goes without saying, Mr. Trump needs to put his priorities in order. Climate change has not been the fastest process ever, future generations will bear the burden of its effects, but guess what? Temperatures are rising everybody. Our generation has inherited the task of lowering temperatures or future generations will feel climate woes tenfold.

Whether Donald Trump thinks it is important or not, the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (or COP 21) seeks to establish new climate treaties and at the very least, promote discussion on this extremely overlooked issue. I am usually very quick to bash the UN system, but the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which hosts the conference, at least has a realistic set of goals in mind. Sure the UNFCCC lacks enforcement mechanisms and has not met said goals, but that does not mean it never will. Many countries (including the entirety of the EU) reduced their carbon footprint while others fell short. The United States, for example, signed the Kyoto Protocol but never ratified it. While all of this sounds incredibly ineffective and useless, it at leasts brings UN powers together to talk about climate change. The UN and its systems have always been effective for promoting conversation, and every so often something tangible sticks.

So now let me ask you, Donald Trump, what are YOU thinking? Illegal immigration is on the decline and temperatures are on the rise. Global temperatures are rising in a scientifically quantifiable manner. The other issue, immigration, is immeasurable noise. The “big beautiful wall with a big beautiful door in the middle” is not the answer because illegal immigrants will still attempt to cross the border. It’s inevitable. We currently have phenomenal technology in place to put a halt to border hopping. Sure, it slows down illegal immigration. We will never stop it entirely though. But what about the case of global climate? This is something we could visibly slow down by changing energy and consumption policies. Temperatures are going up and Congress refuses to accept it. Instead, they bring snowballs into congress and say it’s all fine. The rising temperatures are not a significant change over a short time, because it is a long term gradual rise that will eventually become much more of a problem than it is now. It’s still snowing in DC, but the ice caps are melting and seas are rising. So sure, the UNFCCC may not be the answer. However, at some point in the future there will finally be an answer. So don’t listen to Trump. President Obama is not wasting his time in France. Fixing the planet require global coordination. Earth needs the help.

The Real Winners and Losers in the Debates

Vladimir Putin

A lot of mention has been made of late as to who is benefitting the most from their debate performances, and who is damaged irreparably. Amidst the entertainment of the fiasco that has been the debate cycle, in both parties, there are unseen winners and losers.

 

The Loser: US Foreign Policy

 

Despite the increasingly dire threats facing the United States abroad, a growing refugee crisis and the backlash from the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, foreign policy largely sits on the backburner. Yes, the rhetoric surrounding taking the fight has been intense and widespread amongst most of the candidates. However, this is all that presently exists, and the American voter seems to be far more interested in the smoothest talker, and not the most qualified Commander in Chief.

As each day of the campaign drags on, likely primary voters appear to draw their motives from public issue statements, rather than any meaningful record of accomplishments. The polls are reflecting this. The candidates gaining both the most traction and media attention have very little, if any, foreign policy prowess on which they can draw to justify becoming the next Commander in Chief of the armed forces during this incredibly crucial time.

Republicans Donald Trump and Ben Carson, the two undeniable leaders in almost every recent poll, have nearly zero experience in any political field. Trump touts his negotiating experience as a point of pride for his foreign policy credentials. His outlandish, macho talking points have allowed him to soar in the polls despite lacking versed stances on any events in which a foreign entity, like ISIS, would have no interest or reason to negotiate. Then, of course, there is Carson, who has publicly admitted he is actively studying foreign policy on the campaign trail and has struggled to fend off reports that members inside his campaign “coach” him on foreign policy basics.

After the steep polling drop-off from the two distinct frontrunners, we have the class of three young senators: Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY). These senators have gained a lot of influence within the party, especially within the younger demographic the GOP desperately needs to reach. But, what does it mean for foreign policy?

Senator Rubio has laid out a strong, clear plan for strengthening the military and re-establishing American influence abroad. However, his attendance record in the Senate has been increasingly, and perhaps justifiably, called into question. Could President Rubio adequately handle international relations as president when he couldn’t dedicate time to hash out these issues as a Senator? There’s also the fact that Rubio attacked Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for “knowing nothing about enhanced interrogation.” Senator McCain was a prisoner of war in Viet Nam and lost most of the function in his arms due to the torture he endured there.

Senator Cruz largely joins Rubio in advocating for a strong national defense. Cruz’s vision, if implemented, would be a large benefit to the United States’ standing in the world. However, he has stated he would use overwhelming force to achieve American objectives, but not dedicate resources to “nation build” in the aftermath. This threatens to cause even more instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world and reflects the issue with inexperienced leadership.

There is always the interesting case of discussing foreign policy with the Paul family. Senator Paul, as well as his father, former presidential candidate Ron Paul, blames American involvement in foreign affairs for many of the world’s problems. Paul’s non-interventionist vision also threatens to harm American integrity abroad and threatens our relationship with Israel by sacrificing the ability for the United States to influence global decisions.

No discussion of US foreign policy would be complete, however, without the mention of the name Bush. President George W’s little brother, former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, is trying to take over in a world that has largely rejected the Bush doctrine of foreign policy. This has also been harmed by Jeb’s unwillingness to reject his brother’s shortcomings and his fumbling many questions on the subject.

The rising tide of candidates, who have very poor foreign policy credentials, has only been compounded by the debate process marginalizing or eliminating the best candidates this cycle has to offer in terms of foreign policy. And, no, despite being Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton (D-NY) does not fall into this group. Her lack of notable accomplishments in that role and the fact that foreign relations failed to improve during her time there keeps her out of that upper echelon.

Conversely, despite his vast experience, former Governor of Virginia, Jim Gilmore, never had a shot in this race. What chances he had were eliminated by being excluded from all but one of the debate thus far. However, Gilmore logged years of service in the Army in West Germany in the 1970s, and was a former counterintelligence agent. He also has run or founded various councils within the Department of Homeland Security dedicated to security policy. His governorship of Virginia also coincided with the attacks of 9/11, which hit the Pentagon, in Arlington, VA. Unfortunately, this process blocks voters from access to his knowledge and experience.

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) also has military experience in the Air Force and was the longest-serving governor in Texas history. He created millions of jobs in a huge economy, and has experience dealing with external competition. He’s also had experience dealing with the immigration crisis at the Texas border, which he deployed the Texas National Guard to combat. His campaign had huge support within the armed service community, but, after being relegated to the lower tier debate, he never caught momentum.

Another Senator who receives fairly little mention in this process is Lindsey Graham (R-SC). He also served in the Air Force and logged over 20 years of military service. He now serves on the Armed Services Committee in the Senate and has been endorsed by the aforementioned Senator McCain. Graham, due to low coverage and polling, has never made the top tier debates and was excluded altogether from the most recent one.

Finally, perhaps the most qualified Commander in Chief of all the candidates does not come from the Republican pool at all. Former Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) was a decorated Viet Nam War veteran, including two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy under the Reagan administration. Webb has further articulated clear knowledge of foreign policy and had a strong record of accomplishments during his term in the Senate. However, he received paltry speaking time in the only Democratic debate before he dropped out.

 

Winner: Vladimir Putin

 

The way this process has, thus far, marginalized legitimate foreign policy perspectives has paved the way for Vladimir Putin’s full ascension into the position of most powerful man in the world.

Putin has helped re-establish Russia as a dominant world force and has been ardent in his fighting of ISIS and radical Islamic forces in the Middle East. The Obama administration’s reluctance to take an active role has allowed Putin to maximize his influence.

The United States has helped embolden Russian leaders by pushing NATO right up to the Russian borders during the Bill Clinton administration. There is nothing wrong with NATO expansion, and given the time, it was a useful tool to deter future Russian aggression into former Soviet bloc states. It was used again by President Bush (43) to add the Baltic states to the alliance.

However, during these administrations, America displayed an active foreign policy, and projected strength. Therefore, these NATO expansions can be seen as strategic moves to maintain global influence. On the other hand, if America projects weakness, and retreats in influence, an advocacy for NATO expansion can be seen as nothing other than a symbolic move and unnecessarily antagonistic towards Russia.

Putin has seen this American weakness in policies like Hillary’s “reset” during her time as Secretary of State, where she initiated a unilateral easing of tensions and relaxing of US policy towards Russia, in hopes of making deals with then-President Dmitri Medvedev. It only projected weakness and galvanized Russian ambitions.

Now, Putin assumes a vast amount of influence on the world stage and the only credible threat to that unilateral influence would be a strong American leader. Symbolic moves like the expansion of NATO without any strategic objectives in mind, only projects weakness, and also gives Putin a rationalization for more rash actions that he knows the US would not be willing to back up.

Despite various assertions, Vladimir Putin is not an unreasonable or evil man. He has been both inspired and encouraged by reckless assertions on the part of US leaders and by their lack of strength when it comes to pressing international issues. He is an international actor responding to changing international conditions in order to increase his influence and leverage globally.

This makes him an undeniable threat to American influence abroad, and to America itself. We need a strong national leader to take on Putin’s advances head-on.

The dearth of credible Commanders in Chief in our presidential race and the rhetoric that has been spewed during this cycle will score as a victory for Putin who will continue to increase Russian influence while he takes on ISIS and threatens territorial expansion. He will receive no backlash from a United States that seems content to elect a leader who cannot adequately challenge his advances or be respected in an international context.

The Top Five Reasons Israel is NOT an Apartheid State

Israel

In light of recent events, Israel Apartheid Week at American University and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s congressional address, it is beneficial to put forward a few facts about Israel and what apartheid really means. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, apartheid is defined as “racial segregation; specifically: a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa.” The word apartheid originated from the South African segregation movement. Oppressive laws were put into place during this time. Unfortunately, due to prejudice or misinformation, there are people who mistakenly deem Israel an apartheid state. Below are just a few simple facts proving that Israel is not an apartheid state.

  1. Voting Rights

One of the first and most important rights taken away from marginalized minorities is the right to vote. When oppressive groups begin to suppress minorities, they often deprive the right to public representation, as we saw in apartheid in South Africa. Israel has a large Arab population, which is why Arabic is one of Israel’s official languages. Fortunately, unlike an apartheid state, Arab Israeli citizens are guaranteed the right to vote as all Israeli citizens are. In fact, voting ballots are in Arabic and Hebrew to make voting simple and accessible for all citizens above the age of 18. Not to mention, Arab Israeli women had the right to vote in Israel before women had the right to vote in most Middle Eastern countries including, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates.

  1. Public Representation

Not only can Arab Israeli citizens vote in elections, they can also hold public office. Currently Arabs hold ten seats in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament). Abdel Zuabi, the first Arab-Israeli Justice, joined the Israeli Supreme Court in 1999. The first Arab Israeli diplomat, Ali Yahya, was appointed in 1995. For a nation established in 1948, these representation demographics are impressive. It took America 197 years to see its first Senator of Arab descent, James Abourezk. Ultimately, Arab Israeli citizens have an equal right to vote and hold public office in Israel.

  1. Education

Every citizen within Israel has the right to education. The Compulsory Education Law of 1949 required that all children must attend school. Therefore, each child has the right to free education. This right also allows parents to choose which school their child attends. The law resulted in a natural trichotomy of students attending Arab, Christian, and Jewish elementary schools. Each child has the right to an education, and their parents have a right to choose which schools children attend. There are fundamental differences in the teachings of religion, language, and history between the schools, giving parents freedom to choose the most suitable learning environment.

  1. Health Care

South African apartheid barred access to health care. Unfortunately, South Africa is still suffering the side effects of these apartheid laws. According to Kenneth Meshoe, a South African politician, patients couldn’t share a hospital room with members of different races. Again, unlike an apartheid state, Israel has universal health care. Every Israeli citizen, including Arab citizens, has the fundamental right to basic health care. The Save a Child’s Heart facilities are perfect examples of the charitable nature of Israel’s health care system. The Save a Child’s Heart facilities provide free heart surgeries to children of any race, religion, sex, color, or financial status. Therefore, Israel places importance on creating the most efficient and accessible health care for all of its citizens, regardless of race or religion.

  1. Daily Life

During the years of apartheid in South Africa, segregation ruled every aspect of daily life. Much like the Jim Crow era in the United States South, race separated everything in apartheid South Africa. People were forced to use separate bathrooms, water fountains, hospitals, and restaurants. Because Israel is not an apartheid state, this behavior does not exist. Jews and Arabs are not forced to use separate bathrooms, water fountains, restaurants, or hospitals anywhere in Israel.

The five aforementioned aspects prove that Israel is not an apartheid state. People wrongfully deem Israel an apartheid state to slander its nature. However, these people may not realize that by accusing Israel of apartheid, they tarnish the potential for peace in the Middle East. Additionally, these same people are minimizing the horrifying, inhumane, and indescribable real apartheid that countless South Africans suffered. As Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the South African Parliament and victim of South African apartheid stated at Prager University, “I ask those in the United States, Europe and anywhere else in the world who charge Israel with practicing apartheid to please stop doing so. You are damaging the truth, you are damaging any chance for peace in the Middle East, and most of all, you are destroying the memory of the real apartheid.” All prejudices, racism, or anti-Semitism aside, do not label Israel as an apartheid state in respect for afflicted South Africans who underwent true oppression.

Image: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/israel-guide/

Mr. President, ISIS is Radical Islam

21 Christians Executed for Faith
                 21 Christians Executed for Their Faith

After the United States crushed former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s military, former Iraqi soldiers committed to ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This group of Jihadists merged with al Qaeda militant groups in Syria in April 2013. Since then, ISIS receives global attention for beheading Christians and seizing territory in the Fertile Crescent. Before ISIS gains more control in the Middle East, the Obama administration must implement a military strategy.

Since the beginning of ISIS’s military action, Obama has refused to admit that the United States faces a war on radical Islam because stigmatizing labels damage Muslim communities. How can Obama say that ISIS leaders have no religious motive when they beheaded 21 Christians a few weeks ago? The President’s philosophy on the ISIS issue is deeply flawed. On February 15, ISIS released a video from an Egyptian beach displaying the ruthless murder of 21 Coptic Orthodox Church Christians. The video is entitled: “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross.” ISIS asserted faith as the reason for the genocide. Before they were beheaded, several of the Christians uttered: “Jesus, help me” for their last words. Simply put, Christians are dying because of faith, and President Obama refuses to confront the problem. These heinous crimes are not just acts of terrorism, but they are religiously motivated. Earlier in February 2015, Senator Lindsey Graham said: “We are in a religious war with radical Islamists.” Now is the time to combat ISIS and call the situation what it is: Islamic radicalism.

Similarly, the killing of three Muslims at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was tragic. President Obama recognized this incident as, “brutal and outrageous.” He went onto state, “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.” While President Obama is correct to say that discrimination still exists, he is unjustified in only defending Muslims. The United States has an obligation as a nation to protect religious freedom across the globe. The right to choose one’s religion freely is a founding principle within the Constitution, and I urge the President to use his influence to bringing about collective action to solve this issue. NATO and the UN are two organizations to which Mr. Obama should direct his action with freedom of religion. However, the United States of America must protect all faiths from being persecuted. As a Christian, it is devastating to see our President defend what happened in North Carolina and not show the same empathy towards the 21 Christians that were beheaded in Egypt.

Unfortunately, the cowardice by the executive branch is on full display. Right now, President Obama is sending a strong message to other nations and ISIS that the U.S. will not bring action against those who murder Christians; thus making human rights violations acceptable. In the past two years, ISIS gained significant power and utilized it to the detriment of others. Last year, President Obama told The New Yorker that he believed ISIS to be al-Qaeda’s “weaker partner.” One of the greatest mistakes by the Obama administration is ignoring terrorist organizations.

In 2014, President Obama should have realized the intentions ISIS had to capture members from the West and torture them. James Foley’s story as an American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State is perhaps the most known. The picture that stirred public opinion in America depicted Foley’s chopped-off, bloody head placed where his hands were tied behind his back. ISIS has not only gained the attention at the global level, but it has been able to expand its influence, militant numbers, and territory controlled. All of these expansions of course are unnoticed by the Obama administration. Furthermore, pushing Iraq to tighten its border with Syria would have prevented ISIS from taking over some of the largest cities in Iraq, including Mosul and Baghdad. ISIS is continuing expansion in Iraq and seizing control of major provinces.

According to polling by CBS in February 2015, 77% of Americans favor airstrikes against ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria. In addition, a majority of Americans, 57%, believe sending Americans ground troops to Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS is necessary. Currently, about 2,600 U.S. troops are in Iraq. However, the New York Times ran a column last week showing that ISIS is reaching upwards of 31,000 in Syria and Iraq.

In the meantime, President Obama should employ as many drone strikes as it takes to weaken and cripple ISIS. Combat drones are one of the greatest military advancements in the past decade; they reduce the likelihood of American lives being lost. Also, such strikes proved successfully in Afghanistan as prominent terrorist leaders perished when confronted with hellfire missiles. Until Obama recognizes ISIS as a terrorist organization with religious fueled hatred, executions will continue to go unchecked.

Photo: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/u-s-condemns-heinous-beheading-21-egyptian-christians-isis-n306721

Email the author at ss3764a@student.american.edu

Greece vs. Latvia: Left Wing Economics vs. Real Austerity

Greece Financial Crisislatv-MMAP-md

Since 2010, a sweeping debt crisis has hammered the Eurozone. The poster child of this crisis is Greece. In October 2014, Greek unemployment stood at 25.8 percent; high unemployment remains a theme in the Greek economy since the 2008 recession. Liberals decry the Greek economy situation as an example of conservative economic principle failures. However, the Greek economy is not an example of real conservative austerity, but rather, the result of liberal economic principles. Unfortunately, Greek austerity arrived too late. Unlike Greece, a country that adopted true austerity is Latvia, and its economic recovery is a testament to conservative fiscal policy.

Setting the standard for the Eurozone, the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), which laid out the requirements for joining the Eurozone in 1997, stated that a country’s debt and deficit shall not exceed 60% of GDP and 3% of GDP respectively. Unfortunately, countries already in the Eurozone ignored the requirements set by the Stability and Growth Pact. For example, according to Anders Åslund, a leading advocate for austerity, “Greece maintained an average budget deficit of 7.3 percent of GDP from 1990-2009, with a public debt never less than 94 percent of GDP” (Åslund 93). These statistics violate both the Maastricht Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact. Penalties were not assessed against Greece for its conduct violations. In fact, Greece actually received benefits from being in the Eurozone, such as lower interest rates on loans (Åslund 93). These lower interest rates created an incentive to overspend and borrow recklessly, which led to Greece’s debt crisis.

Following the requirements set forward by the Maastricht Treaty, which has similar requirements to the SGP in regards to debt and deficit requirements, has worked rather well in countries like Latvia. Latvia was in the process of joining the Eurozone when the first recession hit in 2008. The European Central Bank (ECB) placed harsh fiscal constraints on Latvia, so it would still be eligible for admission into the Eurozone. After adhering to the requirements of the Maastricht Treaty, Latvia joined the Eurozone in January 2014. Latvia’s economy now thrives, especially when compared to the Eurozone and European Union (EU) as a whole. Latvia was the fastest growing economy in the EU during 2013 with a real GDP growth rate of 4.2% (“Real GDP”).

In order to understand how Latvia’s and Greece’s paths differed, it is important to look at the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF acted passively during the European Debt Crisis. However, the IMF took action during the crisis in Eastern Europe that flared up in late 2008. The IMF initiated programs that stabilized the governments of many Eastern European nations. In fact, Latvia accepted an IMF program in December 2008 (Åslund 37). Latvia’s IMF program totaled 7.5 billion euros, more than one third of its GDP (Åslund 37). Fortunately, Latvia stabilized its economy quickly with the IMF loan and began economic recovery. Unlike Latvia, Greece did not experience the same success. The EU and ECB barred Greece from approaching the IMF, which eliminated the possibility of immediate loans that countries like Latvia received (Åslund 94). This barring led to the deterioration of Greece until it reached bankruptcy. When Greece required a bailout, the EU finally let Greece seek IMF support, which eventually led to marginal stability. Zero hesitation with bailouts in the future will avoid the deterioration of the economic situations within countries.

After examining Greece’s story, comparative qualities emerge from Latvia’s situation. At the end of 2008 Latvia’s foreign debt reached 137 percent of GDP; its GDP declined by 4.8 percent, its budget deficit rose to 4 percent of GDP, and by October 2008 Parex Bank (a national bank) couldn’t receive international financing (Åslund 35). Latvia decided to fight a potential downturn with “internal devaluation,” which is defined by Åslund as, “large cost and wage cuts” (Åslund 35). The reason Latvia didn’t devalue its currency, like the IMF originally recommended, is that it is a violation of the Maastricht Treaty and would have delayed its admission into the Eurozone. Åslund believes devaluation would have devastated Latvia’s economy by sending inflation, debt, and mortgage defaults soaring (Åslund 36). Latvia by almost any measure significantly cut public costs and wages. In December 2008, Latvia passed a program that cut spending and increased a few taxes, which amounted to 7 percent of GDP. In June 2009, Latvia introduced another program that cut its budget by 4 percent of GDP (Åslund 37). These programs together cut public wages by 25 to 30 percent, cut 14,000 public sector jobs (in a country of approximately 2,000,000 people), and eliminated half the government’s agencies (Åslund 37).

The success of these programs in Latvia is undeniable. Since Latvia introduced budget cuts, its economy is the fastest growing in the EU (“Latvia GDP Growth Rate.”). Latvia also had the third fastest unemployment decline in the EU, 3.1%, from 2012 to 2013 (“Unemployment statistics.”). Latvia also saw the largest decrease in the “at-risk-of-poverty rate” in the EU of 3.9%, in 2012 (“People at Risk”). From 2009 to the fall of 2013 Latvia’s exports, “have increased by more than 40%,” and “its export market share has increased from 0.07 to 0.08 percent” (Blanchard). Latvia also paid off its IMF loan in December 2012, three years earlier than expected (“Why Austerity Works”). This conservative economic model enabled Latvia to reduce its budget deficit to 1.5 percent of GDP by 2012 (Eglitis).

Even though the media might portray the Greek budget cuts as harsh and dramatic, they are miniscule compared to Latvia’s budget cuts, which is why Greece did not stabilize its economy. While Latvia slashed the number of public sector workers by 14,000, in Greece: “There have been no mandatory dismissals yet in the public sector… Those in the public sector who are unqualified or low performing have continued to have protected jobs” (“IMF Survey”). In fact, since 2010 (the year Greece received its first bailout) to 2011, Greece added 5,000 civil servants to its payrolls (“Why Austerity Works”). Latvia had a fiscal adjustment, a change in government spending, of 9.5% of GDP in 2009 alone, as Greece from 2010 to 2012 saw only a fiscal adjustment of 9% of GDP (“Why Austerity Works”).

Conservative economic policy rescued Latvia from the brink of financial ruin. Latvia went from massive bailouts to the fastest growing economy in the EU after immediately embracing smaller government during financial crisis. On the other end of the spectrum, Greece half heartedly reduced government spending. This Keynesian liberal form of economic policy drove Greece into a complete economic collapse that shrunk the Greek economy by 25% (Lowen). When analyzing the results of these two EU nations, it is clear that real austerity leads countries out of economic parel.

Works Cited

Åslund, Anders. The Last Shall Be the First the East European Financial Crisis, 2008-10. Washington, DC: Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2010. Print.

Åslund, Anders. “Why Austerity Works and Stimulus Doesn’t.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 7 Jan. 2013. Web. 9 Feb. 2014.

Blanchard, Olivier, Mark Griffiths, and Bertrand Gruss. “Boom, Bust, Recovery Forensics of the Latvia Crisis.” Brookings. Brookings Institute, 19 Sept. 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

Eglitis, Aaron. “Latvian Budget Deficit Was 1.5% of GDP in 2012, Ministry Says.”Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.

“IMF Survey : Greece Makes Progress, But More Effort Needed to Restore Growth.” International Monetary Fund. International Monetary Fund, 5 June 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2014.

Lowen, Mark. “Eurozone ‘backs Greece Reform Plans'” BBC News. 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.

“People at Risk of Poverty or Social Exclusion.” Eurostat. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

“Real GDP Growth Rate – Volume.” Eurostat. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

“Unemployment statistics.” Statistics Explained RSS. Eurostat, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015.

America and the Future of Afghanistan

While President Obama’s tenure has involved countless geopolitical failures, the decision to remove troops from Afghanistan by 2016 tops the list. From 2009-2012, the number of boots on the ground in Afghanistan remained above 50,000 (CRS).  Fast-forward to January 2015 and the U.S. troop level is below 10,000. With the continual threat of terrorism in the Middle East and the rise of groups like ISIS, now is not the time to withdraw or reduce the military budget. President Obama’s decision to remove troops is unjustified; furthermore this shows that the U.S. has quit on the mission it embarked upon in 2001.

Now President Obama and a majority of mainstream liberals favor the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by 2016; however this is an invitation for the resurgence of the Taliban and other terrorist groups to regain power in Afghanistan. Although liberals want to walk away from Operation Enduring Freedom due to the $641.7 billion already spent, objectives within the mission remain uncompleted: preventing the use of Afghanistan as a safe haven for terrorists and to develop relations with groups opposed to the Taliban. (2013 DOD estimates) Many provinces within Afghanistan are not a safe haven for terrorists, but removing all troops at will jeopardize what the U.S. has achieved in the past 14 years. The U.S. has worked with Afghan forces in counter-terrorism efforts and on how to protect their own people.

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said in 2013 that, “Without liberty, there is evil.” If President Obama remove all troops by 2016, then the Taliban  will likely regain power within the next few years and evil will reign once again. Anti-war hippie liberals often claim, “this war is pointless and the U.S. should just end it now.” Let’s examine this argument further though. Is this a war that has a clear objective? Yes, although the strategy has evolved since 2001 (boots on the ground to counter-insurgency operations), terrorism is still a powerful force in the Middle East and in other parts of the world. Just look at events such as 21 Christians that were beheaded last week. Second, what would be the annual costs of having a force of U.S. troops in Afghanistan? An active U.S. military presence, typically 30,000 troops, would cost around 40 billion annually (CRS 2009). Considering how much the U.S. has already invested, withdrawing troops is comparable to mowing a lawn and not completing the job. The Obama administration is wrong to treat this situation on a timetable basis. Instead, America should continue to support a country where democracy, freedom, and anti-terrorism operations have shown success against the Taliban. The U.S. should not only fight this war to provide regional stability in the Middle East, but to protect American interests both at home and abroad.

First, let’s examine one of the primary achievements made by U.S. forces in Afghanistan: an active participation of women in society. Under Taliban rule, women were systemically discriminated against and were barred from health care, education, politics, and employment. Only 3% of girls were able to attain a basic education (UN). In addition, the Taliban prohibited women from driving and governing; thus excluding them from taking part in society. According to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, 68% of community based schools were female in 2012. In addition, education enrollment in Afghanistan has skyrocketed from one million to over seven million since 2003. The the number of Afghan women receiving health care increased from 9% to 60% from 2002-2010. While there is much data above, when liberals try to argue that the lives of women or citizens in Afghanistan have not improved under a U.S. military presence, their point is not only ridiculous, but invalid.

By pulling out all troops, this is a slap to the face to the U.S. military, NATO members, and Afghanistan. President Obama’s decision to withdraw troops by 2016 signals terrorist regimes do not pose a significant threat to the U.S. or Afghanistan. The matter of Afghanistan is one many Americans have an opinion about. This is a conflict that has been going on for 14 years now and may last another decade. However, if the U.S. decides to give up now, then then the Taliban may seize control of Afghanistan once again and be able to terrorize even more citizens. As a superpower in the world, backing away from terrorism is not a viable option.

Email the author at ss3764a@student.american.edu