Category : Foreign Relations

(PS) Kenneth Rogoff–The Dollar’s Fragile Hegemony

The mighty US dollar continues to reign supreme in global markets. But the greenback’s dominance may well be more fragile than it appears, because expected future changes in China’s exchange-rate regime are likely to trigger a significant shift in the international monetary order.

For many reasons, the Chinese authorities will probably someday stop pegging the renminbi to a basket of currencies, and shift to a modern inflation-targeting regime under which they allow the exchange rate to fluctuate much more freely, especially against the dollar. When that happens, expect most of Asia to follow China. In due time, the dollar, currently the anchor currency for roughly two-thirds of world GDP, could lose nearly half its weight.

Considering how much the United States relies on the dollar’s special status – or what then-French Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing famously called America’s “exorbitant privilege” – to fund massive public and private borrowing, the impact of such a shift could be significant. Given that the US has been aggressively using deficit financing to combat the economic ravages of COVID-19, the sustainability of its debt might be called into question.

The long-standing argument for a more flexible Chinese currency is that China is simply too big to let its economy dance to the US Federal Reserve’s tune, even if Chinese capital controls provide some measure of insulation. China’s GDP (measured at international prices) surpassed that of the US back in 2014 and is still growing far faster than the US and Europe, making the case for greater exchange-rate flexibility increasingly compelling.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Currency Markets, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

(NYT front page) Taliban Believe The War’s Over And They Won

The Taliban’s swagger is unmistakable. From the recent bellicose speech of their deputy leader, boasting of “conquests,” to sneering references to the “foreign masters” of the “illegitimate” Kabul government, to the Taliban’s own website tally of “puppets” killed — Afghan soldiers — they are promoting a bold message:

We have already won the war.

And that belief, grounded in military and political reality, is shaping Afghanistan’s volatile present. On the eve of talks in Turkey next month over the country’s future, it is the elephant in the room: the half-acknowledged truth that the Taliban have the upper hand and are thus showing little outward interest in compromise, or of going along with the dominant American idea, power-sharing.

While the Taliban’s current rhetoric is also propaganda, the grim sense of Taliban supremacy is dictating the response of a desperate Afghan government and influencing Afghanistan’s anxious foreign interlocutors. It contributes to the abandonment of dozens of checkpoints and falling morale among the Afghan security forces, already hammered by a “not sustainable” casualty rate of perhaps 3,000 a month, a senior Western diplomat in Kabul said.

Read it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(War on the Rocks) Robert D. Blackwill+Philip Zelikow: Can The United States Prevent A War Over Taiwan?

If China’s window of advantage does shrink over time as the defense of Taiwan improves, what, then, is the right U.S. strategy in the meantime? If time is on the eventual side of those defending peace and freedom, our strategy is designed to buy more of it.

This option that we recommend supports the planning that we describe in the second approach, the status quo, in which the United States has contingency plans to share in the direct defense of Taiwan but will not commit in advance to do so. But in our view, that is not an adequate U.S. strategy to deter war. We believe the United States should, in addition, rehearse — at least with Japan and Taiwan — a parallel plan to challenge any Chinese denial of international access to Taiwan and prepare, including with pre-positioned U.S. supplies, including war reserve stocks, shipments of vitally needed supplies to help Taiwan defend itself.

The United States and its allies, like Japan, should plan to challenge a Chinese quarantine or siege of Taiwan enough to place the burden on China to decide whether to widen the conflict by attacking U.S. or allied forces that were endeavoring to deliver such supplies. If such plans exist now, they are not evident, either in exercises choreographed with allies, in pre-positioned supplies, or in the shipping capacity to carry them out. These plans would probably require significant changes in the character and deployment of U.S. and other allied forces. But these changes, oriented more to helping Taiwan defend itself and less reliant on a rapid build-up of U.S. striking power inside the first island chain, would not menace the People’s Republic of China as much as the strategy envisioned in the third approach.

In this fourth approach, if China did choose to widen the war, the United States and its allies would plan to defend themselves and continue to do what was possible to help Taiwan defend itself. But the United States would not assume that such a war needs to extend to the Chinese, Japanese, or American homelands.

Instead, in another revision to the second approach, the United States and its allies would credibly and visibly plan to react to the attack on their forces by breaking all financial relations with China, freezing or seizing Chinese assets, leading to a severe rupture of the world economy and a likely global financial crisis. Also, the United States and Japan would prepare, visibly and in advance, the massive remilitarization and mobilization measures that they, and perhaps others, would take as the logical consequence of the increased danger of general war. Some critics assert this already is U.S. strategy, but we have seen no such allied economic, political, and military plans on this scale, that would strengthen deterrence.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Taiwan

The Bishop of Worcester calls for targeted sanctions against those responsible for military coup in Myanmar

On 8th March 2021 the Bishop of Worcester received a written answer to a question on targeted sanctions against the Myanmar regime:

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to imposing targeted sanctions against those responsible for the military coup in Myanmar. [HL13549]

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK is looking at a range of measures to ensure the democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar are respected.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Myanmar/Burma, Politics in General

(WSJ) Robert Nicholson–Abraham’s Missing Child: Christians

The announcement that Israel would normalize ties with Muslim-majority Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates might have been the highlight of an otherwise dismal 2020. Yet these groundbreaking accords still lack one important child of Abraham. Do Near Eastern Christians have a seat at this table? If not, who can help get them there?

Years of international anxiety over the slow demise of Christianity in its ancient homeland hasn’t translated into action. The situation in old bastions like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is now catastrophic. Egypt, with the largest population of Jesus followers in the region, isn’t much better. That the region’s second most afflicted religious group—after the devastated Yazidis—has gained the least from a long-overdue peace is a painful irony not lost on its persecuted members.

Part of the problem is that the regional hostility being rolled back under the Abraham Accords was never a distinctly Christian problem. The centurylong animus between Muslims, the region’s largest group, and Jews, its oldest Abrahamic population and newest recipient of sovereignty, could only be rectified by Jews and Muslims. The relative lack of Christians in any the four Muslim countries that are part the Abraham Accords—Israel has as many as all of them combined—means that Christians simply haven’t been part of the discussion.

Another thorny problem is the imprisonment of the region’s most dynamic Christian communities in its other geopolitical axis: the resistance bloc controlled by Iran.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Judaism, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Politics in General

(FT Magazine) How the race for renewable energy is reshaping global politics

Australia itself has long been a climate laggard and a major coal exporter, but as China and other big customers plan to cut their emissions, taking their business with them, that may be changing. Dozens of the world’s biggest economies have adopted targets for net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050. And 189 countries have joined the 2015 Paris climate accord, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2C. In a race to curb climate change, countries are rushing to cut fossil fuels, boost clean energy — and transform their economies in the process.

But as the energy system changes, so will energy politics. For most of the past century, geopolitical power was intimately connected to fossil fuels. The fear of an oil embargo or a gas shortage was enough to forge alliances or start wars, and access to oil deposits conferred great wealth. In the world of clean energy, a new set of winners and losers will emerge. Some see it as a clean energy “space race”. Countries or regions that master clean technology, export green energy or import less fossil fuel stand to gain from the new system, while those that rely on exporting fossil fuels — such as the Middle East or Russia — could see their power decline.

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, the former president of Iceland and chair of the Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation, says that the clean energy transition will birth a new type of politics. The shift is happening “faster, and in a more comprehensive way, than anyone expected”, he says. “As fossil fuels gradually go out of the energy system . . . the old geopolitical model of power centres that dominate relations between states also goes out the window. Gradually the power of those states that were big players in the world of the ­fossil-fuel economies, or big corporates like the oil companies, will fritter away.”

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Stewardship

(Reuters) U.S. ‘deeply disturbed’ by reports of systematic rape of Muslims in China camps

The United States is “deeply disturbed” by reports of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region and there must be serious consequences for atrocities committed there, the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday.

A BBC report earlier on Wednesday said women in the camps were subject to rape, sexual abuse and torture. The British broadcaster said “several former detainees and a guard have told the BBC they experienced or saw evidence of an organized system of mass rape, sexual abuse and torture.”

Asked to comment, a State Department spokeswoman said: “We are deeply disturbed by reports, including first-hand testimony, of systematic rape and sexual abuse against women in internment camps for ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.”

The spokeswoman reiterated U.S. charges that China has committed “crimes against humanity and genocide” in Xinjiang and added: “These atrocities shock the conscience and must be met with serious consequences.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(Bloomberg Businessweek) An Economist’s Guide to the World in 2050

Who really won the Cold War? Maybe China.

In 1972, Cold War logic pushed President Richard Nixon into an unlikely alliance with Mao Zedong—bringing China back into the mainstream of the world economy. In 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union encouraged “end of history” hubris that blinded the West to the consequences of China’s rise.

Fast forward to 2020 and China has emerged as a major global power, its single-party rule and state-dominated economy the cause of alarm in foreign capitals—and pride in Beijing. By 2035, Bloomberg Economics forecasts, China will have overtaken the U.S. to become the world’s biggest economy and perhaps also its most powerful political actor.

China’s rise is just one part of a larger shift that’s already under way and looks set to accelerate in the decades ahead.

Bloomberg Economics has used a growth accounting framework—adding up the contributions of labor, capital and productivity—to forecast potential GDP through 2050 for 39 countries, from the U.S. to Ghana. We’ve used that data to map some of the key geographic and political shifts in store for the world economy.

The results suggest that a remarkable period of stability, stretching from the end of World War II through to the early 21st century, is coming to an end. The center of economic gravity is shifting from West to East, from advanced economies to emerging markets, from free markets to state controls and from established democracies to authoritarian and populist rulers. The transition is already upending global politics, economics and markets. This is just the beginning.

Much could happen to throw our projections off track. The Covid crisis is demonstrating how pandemics can reconfigure the global economic map. Wars, natural disasters and financial meltdowns can do the same. So could policy choices on globalization and climate change. Still, absent a crystal ball, forecasts of potential growth provide the most reliable basis for thinking about the long term.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General

(FT) Britain and EU poised to announce Christmas Eve Brexit deal

Britain and the EU were last night finalising a historic post-Brexit deal that will define their future trading relationship, reducing the risk of the UK crashing chaotically out of the European single market on January 1.

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, is expected to confirm the deal early on Christmas Eve after a flurry of last-minute talks in Brussels, bringing an end to nine months of tense negotiations.

EU and UK officials worked through Wednesday night to finalise the legal text, which will preserve tariff-free trade in goods between the EU and UK as well as protect co-operation in other areas such as security.

People briefed on the talks said that the ongoing work included fine-tuning the details of agreements struck on Wednesday on EU fishing rights in UK waters. But officials on both sides said the terms of the post-Brexit relationship were essentially settled.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Noema Magazine) James Crabtree–China’s Radical New Vision Of Globalization

But then came the interesting part. “Since the beginning of this year, I have said on many occasions that we must promote the formation of a new development pattern, in which domestic and international cycles are the mainstay, and the domestic and international dual cycles promote each other,” Xi said. To an outsider, this might seem unremarkable, cloaked as it is in the elliptical phraseology that often marks Chinese economic ideas. But the “dual circulation” strategy Xi outlined actually represents a radical new understanding of globalization and of China’s place within it.

More than just a buzzword, dual circulation describes the deeply pessimistic worldview that has settled over Beijing. Once China’s leaders saw opportunity in globalization. Now, they expect the U.S. and its allies to deny China the technology it needs to build “a modern socialist country” by mid-century, meaning a wealthy superpower fit to rival the U.S. Although likely to be less pugilistic, Beijing rightly believes an incoming Biden administration will also press forward with policies designed to stop advanced technologies finding their way into Beijing’s hands. Chinese thinking has long valorized self-reliance, dating back to ideas developed by former Chinese leader Mao Zedong during the country’s civil war, which ended with the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Now, Trump’s tariffs, as well as his campaigns against companies like Huawei and TikTok, have given new impetus to the modern form of self-reliance Xi dubs “internal” development.

Many experts have noted a changing Western consensus on China, as leaders in Washington abandoned the idea that economic modernization would inevitably lead to political liberalization in Beijing. But there has been a comparable shift in China’s internal conversation on the West too. Beginning with semiconductors but potentially expanding to all manner of other areas, China now expects it will have to develop technologically on its own. Xi’s new theory now sits at the heart of the country’s 14th five-year plan, which covers development from 2021 to 2025, and was unveiled in draft form in October. The result will accelerate China’s decoupling from the West, while also increasing the importance of trading links forged with other parts of the world — for instance, via Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative. Put more bluntly, while the world was distracted by the drama of the U.S. presidential election, Xi quietly unveiled an economic strategy fit for a new Cold War. Both for China and for globalization itself, the results are likely to be profound.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Defense, National Security, Military, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

(Church Times) Pandemic likely to increase slavery and trafficking, mission warns

The world must act now to prevent a surge in global slavery under the conditions created by the coronavirus pandemic, the International Justice Mission (IJM) has warned today, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Covid-19 is exacerbating poverty and the circumstances that cause people to fall into bonded labour and servitude, the IJM, a Christian anti-trafficking charity, has said. Furthermore, the lockdowns that many governments have imposed in an effort to control the virus have led to a marked increase in online sexual exploitation of children, as adults in the West who are restricted to their homes have spent more time on the internet, facilitating the abuse of children elsewhere.

Estimates from the World Bank suggest that 49 million extra people will be forced into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. The IJM said that it had already observed people-traffickers trying to exploit this by offering false job offers or loans to entrap vulnerable people who had lost their income because of the virus.

The IJM’s principal adviser on modern slavery, Peter Williams, said that evidence suggested that certain vulnerabilities were key key, and that these — loss of income, family medical emergencies, isolation — were “characteristic of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on people in poverty”.

In the developing world, public institutions that were needed to combat trafficking and modern slavery — such as local police forces, social services, and the courts — were being put under unprecedented pressure by the pandemic, Mr Williams said.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(CNA) Cardinal Sarah says West must wake up to threat of Islamism after three killed at French Catholic church

Vatican Cardinal Robert Sarah said Thursday that the West must wake up to the threat of Islamism after three people were killed at a French church by an attacker shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

The Guinean cardinal wrote on Twitter Oct. 29 that “Islamism is a monstrous fanaticism which must be fought with force and determination.”

“It will not stop its war. Unfortunately, we Africans know this all too well. The barbarians are always the enemies of peace,” the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments wrote.

“The West, today France, must understand this. Let us pray.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, France, Guinea, Italy, Politics in General, Roman Catholic, Terrorism

(Wired) The Russian Hackers Playing ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ With US Infrastructure

Over the last half a decade, Russian state-sponsored hackers have triggered blackouts in Ukraine, released history’s most destructive computer worm, and stolen and leaked emails from Democratic targets in an effort to help elect Donald Trump. In that same stretch, one particular group of Kremlin-controlled hackers has gained a reputation for a very different habit: walking right up to the edge of cybersabotage—sometimes with hands-on-the-switches access to US critical infrastructure—and stopping just short.

Last week the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency published an advisory warning that a group known as Berserk Bear—or alternately Energetic Bear, TEMP.Isotope, and Dragonfly—had carried out a broad hacking campaign against US state, local, territorial, and tribal government agencies, as well aviation sector targets. The hackers breached the networks of at least two of those victims. The news of those intrusions, which was reported earlier last week by the news outlet Cyberscoop, presents the troubling but unconfirmed possibility that Russia may be laying the groundwork to disrupt the 2020 election with its access to election-adjacent local government IT systems.

In the context of Berserk Bear’s long history of US intrusions, though, it’s much harder to gauge the actual threat it poses. Since as early as 2012, cybersecurity researchers have been shocked to repeatedly find the group’s fingerprints deep inside infrastructure around the globe, from electric distribution utilities to nuclear power plants. Yet those researchers also say they’ve never seen Berserk Bear use that access to cause disruption. The group is a bit like Chekhov’s gun, hanging on the wall without being fired through all of Act I—and foreshadowing an ominous endgame at a critical moment for US democracy.

“What makes them unique is the fact that they have been so focused on infrastructure throughout their existence, whether it’s mining, oil, and natural gas in different countries or the grid,” says Vikram Thakur, a researcher at security firm Symantec who has tracked the group over several distinct hacking campaigns since 2013.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Science & Technology

(WSJ) Soaring Prices, Rotting Crops: Coronavirus Triggers Global Food Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic hit the world at a time of plentiful harvests and ample food reserves. Yet a cascade of protectionist restrictions, transport disruptions and processing breakdowns has dislocated the global food supply and put the planet’s most vulnerable regions in particular peril.

“You can have a food crisis with lots of food. That’s the situation we’re in,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO.

Prices for staples such as rice and wheat have jumped in many cities, in part because of panic buying set off by export restrictions imposed by countries eager to ensure sufficient supplies at home. Trade disruptions and lockdowns are making it harder to move produce from farms to markets, processing plants and ports, leaving some food to rot in the fields.

At the same time, more people around the world are running short of money as economies contract and incomes shrivel or disappear. Currency devaluations in developing nations that depend on tourism or depreciating commodities like oil have compounded those problems, making imported food even less affordable.

“In the past, we have always dealt with either a demand-side crisis, or a supply-side crisis. But this is both—a supply and a demand crisis at the same time, and at a global level,” said Arif Husain, chief economist at the UN’s World Food Program. “This makes it unprecedented and uncharted.”

Read it all.

Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Poverty

(1 News NZ) China’s ambassador to Australia says calls for inquiry into Covid-19 origins are ‘dangerous’, could spark boycotts

China’s ambassador to Australia told a newspaper that the Australian government’s pursuit of an independent international inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak could spark a Chinese consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting the country, as well as sales of major exports including beef and wine.

Ambassador Cheng Jingye told The Australian Financial Review in an interview published today that Australia’s push for an inquiry was “dangerous” and predicted it would fail to gain traction among global leaders.

“Resorting to suspicion, recrimination or division at such a critical time could only undermine global efforts to fight against this pandemic,” Cheng said.

Cheng did not accept that the virus had started in a “wet market” in the city of Wuhan, saying the scientific jury was still out on its origins.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine

(Express) How Christian persecution overseas is set to become UK priority

A religious literacy programme will be rolled out to ensure that civil servants and diplomats are no longer ignorant of the dire threats facing Christians around the world.

Sir Desmond Swayne, a leading Conservative campaigner for religious liberty, said: “This is all part of global Britain… This is us now reaching out with our soft power, using our diplomacy to defend religious freedom.”

The new training package will also give Government staff a crash course in the importance of religion to billions of people – and it may make damaging diplomatic blunders less likely.

There was embarrassment in 2018 when Britain’s most senior diplomat had to apologise for calling one of the holiest Sikh sites a mosque.

Research by the campaigning charity Open Doors suggests the persecution of Christians is getting worse, with “an average of eight Christians” killed for their faith every day last year, and 23 were “raped or sexually harassed for faith-related reasons”. It found North Korea was the country with the worst record on persecution, followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan.

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(CC) China’s attack on the Uighurs and their Muslim faith

To coerce behavior in Xinjiang, the Chinese government has employed thousands of security agents along with high-tech forms of surveillance, in­cluding security cameras and facial recognition software. Because the Chinese press is censored by the government, news of these abuses has filtered out of the region largely through foreign journalists and independent researchers. China denied the existence of the internment camps until classified government documents were leaked last year; since then, government officials have described the camps as “vocational centers.”

China’s role as scheduled host of the 2022 Winter Olympics offers the world a chance to speak up for the Uighurs and apply pressure on the government to relent. So far, China’s economic clout on the world stage has rendered many nations hesitant to respond. The US shows no signs of making religious freedom for the Uighurs a key issue in trade negotiations.

The US Congress is, however, considering a bill that would direct the Trump administration to identify Chinese officials involved in the abuses and to deny them entry to the US and freeze their financial assets. The bill would also impose sanctions on tech firms that supply China with equipment used in repression and surveillance. The bill passed the House of Representatives and awaits a vote in the Senate. As modest as it is, such a law would be one of the more significant international efforts to hold Chinese leaders accountable for their brutal and systematic assault on a religious community.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) David Brooks–Has President Trump Made Us All Stupid?

Donald Trump is impulse-driven, ignorant, narcissistic and intellectually dishonest. So you’d think that those of us in the anti-Trump camp would go out of our way to show we’re not like him — that we are judicious, informed, mature and reasonable.

But the events of the past week have shown that the anti-Trump echo chamber is becoming a mirror image of Trump himself — overwrought, uncalibrated and incapable of having an intelligent conversation about any complex policy problem.

But in the anti-Trump echo chamber, that’s not how most people were thinking. Led by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, they avoided the hard, complex problem of how to set boundaries around militias. Instead, they pontificated on the easy question not actually on the table: Should we have a massive invasion of Iran?

A great cry went up from the echo chamber. We’re on the brink of war! Trump is leading us to more endless wars in the Middle East! We’re on the precipice of total chaos! This was not the calibrated language of risk and reward. It was fear-stoking apocalyptic language. By being so overwrought and exaggerated, the echo chamber drowned out any practical conversation about how to stabilize the Middle East so we could have another righteous chorus of “Donald Trump is a monster!”

This is Trump’s ultimate victory. Every argument on every topic is now all about him.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(FA) Will Iran’s Response to the Soleimani Strike Lead to War?

Perhaps the most provocative thing Iran could do is carry out a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or attempt to kill a senior U.S. official of Soleimani’s stature. This would be much more challenging for Iran to pull off than an attack on U.S. interests or personnel overseas but may be deemed by Iran as appropriately proportional. The last time Iran is known to have attempted an attack in the United States was in 2011, when American law enforcement and intelligence agencies foiled a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington by blowing up a restaurant. In that case, the plot was detected early on and easily foiled because of poor Iranian tradecraft. The episode suggested that Iran is much less capable outside the Middle East than inside it, an assessment that is buttressed by foiled Iranian bombing attempts in Denmark and France this year. So while Iran may try to conduct an attack inside the United States, it would need to get lucky to succeed.

If the Trump administration is smart, it will do all that it can to harden U.S. facilities and protect Americans while absorbing some of the inevitable blows to come. It should also reach out to Iran through U.S. partners that have good relations with the country, such as Oman, to try to de-escalate while also setting clear redlines in private to avoid an Iranian miscalculation. Finally, Trump should be satisfied to declare victory and boast that he got the upper hand on Iran by killing Soleimani—not take further military actions. But this type of restraint appears to run counter to Trump’s very nature. And even if he shows uncharacteristic self-restraint in the coming weeks, the desire for revenge in Iran, and the political momentum that desire is already beginning to generate, may inevitably draw the United States and Iran into a major conflict.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump

(WSJ) Bernard-Henri Lévy–The New War Against Africa’s Christians

A slow-motion war is under way in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.

A Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, director of a nongovernmental organization that works for mutual understanding between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims, alerted me to it. “Have you heard of the Fulani?” he asked at our first meeting, in Paris, speaking the flawless, melodious English of the Nigerian elite. The Fulani are an ethnic group, generally described as shepherds from mostly Muslim Northern Nigeria, forced by climate change to move with their herds toward the more temperate Christian South. They number 14 million to 15 million in a nation of 191 million.

Among them is a violent element. “They are Islamic extremists of a new stripe,” the NGO director said, “more or less linked with Boko Haram,” the sect that became infamous for the 2014 kidnapping of 276 Christian girls in the state of Borno. “I beg you,” he said, “come and see for yourself.” Knowing of Boko Haram but nothing of the Fulani, I accept.

The 2019 Global Terrorism Index estimates that Fulani extremists have become deadlier than Boko Haram and accounted for the majority of the country’s 2,040 documented terrorist fatalities in 2018. To learn more about them, I travel to Godogodo, in the center of the country, where I meet a beautiful woman named Jumai Victor, 28. On July 15, she says, Fulani extremists stormed into her village on long-saddle motorcycles, three to a bike, shouting “Allahu Akbar!” They torched houses and killed her four children before her eyes.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(WSJ) On Christmas Eve in Hong Kong, Protests Are Still Going Strong

The night before Christmas was marked with tear gas and rubber bullets as police tried to disperse protesters gathered near the city’s harbor front, signaling a renewed escalation in the conflict after a few weeks of relative calm.

Hundreds gathered in the tourist-heavy neighborhood of Tsim Tsa Tsui to chant “fight for Hong Kong” and “five demands.” Around 9 p.m., riot police fired several rounds of tear gas near the Peninsula hotel, a luxury British colonial-era establishment that has been hit hard by falling numbers of tourists as months of protests drive the city into recession. As people fled, one protester threw an object at police, prompting one officer to fire rubber bullets.

An 18-year-old university student who identified herself as Rainbow Leung said she ran over after dinner to show solidarity with other locals fighting for their freedom.

“We want to support Hong Kong and stand against the violence,” Ms. Leung said. She canceled plans to attend an orchestra performance on Christmas Day to continue protesting. “The city is more important,” she added.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(CT) British Evangelicals Brace for Brexit

Faced with so many unknowns, British evangelicals are trying to remain focused on things that don’t change.

“It is essentially important our attitude to each other remains fueled by love,” Webster said. “As Brexit stumbles towards actually happening, evangelicals should not lose sight of loving our neighbor.”

In the end, the question of “how to Brexit like a Christian” has as many possible answers as the question of “how to Brexit” at all. Friendships have been tested, harsh words said, zealous positions taken.

That is because, John Stevens said, “there is no specific ‘biblical’ position on Brexit.” Stevens believes evangelicals have “to speak wisely and model unity-in-disagreement.”

“This will no doubt become easier once decisions are made and the uncertainty is ended,” he said. “In the meantime we need to keep praying for wisdom and grace, and keep trusting the good sovereign purposes of God. Who will win? At this point God knows. And that is the only true comfort.”

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(LSE) Ann Gillian Chu–Hong Kong: City of Protests, City of God?

The major difference between the pre- and post-Handover protests is this: prior to 1997, the people of Hong Kong had a sense that there was still potential for self-determination and idealisation once the Handover arrived. However, after the Handover, many became disillusioned with the process of Hong Kong’s Chinese assimilation due to the reversal of power between Hong Kong and mainland China. Accordingly, protests became a desperate cry rather than a look forward toward a hopeful future. Despite the differences in response pre- and post-Handover, there has always been a part of the Christian community that consider social justice to be a core concern of Christians, while there are those who consider social issues to be earthly concerns and urged the church to focus on evangelism alone.

Where do Hong Kong Christians go from here? There are those who aim to leave the Earthly City and look inward to the church community—withdrawn pietists—and there are those who think being Christian means having to engage with social justice and who are trying to fix the existing political system. But why should you care? The situation in Hong Kong presents important considerations on the nature of religious freedom for the rest of the world. Hong Kong has taken an unusual trajectory, having moved from a more free society to a more autocratic one. However, the shift toward autocratic political orders is becoming more and more common in the twenty-first century. Hong Kong’s political situation will provide a much-needed analysis of how Christians in a non-democratic, non-Christian society frame civic engagement. Watch Hong Kong and its prophetic existence.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Politics in General

(Church Times) Hundreds of Christians in Nigeria ‘slaughtered’ by Islamist militia this year

More than 1000 Christians in Nigeria have been “slaughtered” by Islamist militia since January.

This is the key finding of a new report, Your Land or Your Blood, from the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), which was presented at the International Organisation for Peace and Social Justice (PSJ) crisis conference in London, last month. The PSJ promotes peace-building and social justice in Nigeria.

Since January, there have been five serious attacks in Kaduna State, in the centre of the country, resulting in an estimated 500 deaths. There were at least another five attacks in the counties of Bassa and Riyom, and more in Taraba State. The militant Islamist group Boko Haram remains in power around the Chad border region, including parts of Borno State in the north (News, 19 March).

More than 6000 people have been killed since 2015.

Baroness Cox, who founded HART to promote and support peace and development groups in Nigeria, has recently returned from a research trip to the country. She explained that the Fulani, a nomadic ethnic group of about 20 million people across 20 West- and Central-African countries, were largely responsible for the new wave of violence. The terrorist group was listed as the fourth most deadly in the Global Terrorism Index in 2016 and 2017.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Nigeria, Politics in General, Terrorism

(NYT) Suddenly, the Chinese Threat to Australia Seems Very Real

A Chinese defector to Australia who detailed political interference by Beijing. A businessman found dead after telling the authorities about a Chinese plot to install him in Parliament. Suspicious men following critics of Beijing in major Australian cities.

For a country that just wants calm commerce with China — the propellant behind 28 years of steady growth — the revelations of the past week have delivered a jolt.

Fears of Chinese interference once seemed to hover indistinctly over Australia. Now, Beijing’s political ambitions, and the espionage operations that further them, suddenly feel local, concrete and ever-present.

“It’s become the inescapable issue,” said Hugh White, a former intelligence official who teaches strategic studies at the Australian National University. “We’ve underestimated how quickly China’s power has grown along with its ambition to use that power.”

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Posted in Australia / NZ, China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NI) Gordon Chang–Pro-China Forces ‘Annihilated’ in Hong Kong Election

Initial results from Sunday’s election in Hong Kong indicate that pro-democracy forces have handed Chinese ruler Xi Jinping a stunning setback. Pro-Beijing candidates are going down to defeat in District Council elections, the first real test of sentiment in the territory since protests began in April over the introduction of a bill authorizing extraditions to mainland China.

So far, pro-Dems have won 88.6 percent of the vote for 452 seats on 18 District Council boards. They have so far taken 351 seats versus 45 for the “establishment” forces. “Absolute political annihilation for the pro-Beijing camp” is how Stephen McDonell, a BBC China correspondent, described the result on Twitter. Tom Mitchell of the Financial Times called it a “Himalayan-sized avalanche.”

Turnout was a record 71.2 percent, well ahead of the previous high mark of 47.1 percent set in 2015, the year after the 79-day “Occupy” protests. A record 4.13 million people, in a region of 7.40 million, were registered to vote this year.

The District Councils, responsible for routine municipal services, have little power, but the Sunday elections took on significance, widely seen as a referendum on various matters because they are the only government bodies in Hong Kong whose members are elected by universal suffrage. “Sunday’s vote,” CNN noted on the eve of the election, “offers the first objective test of how people in the city feel about the protests and the government.”

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(Mirror) Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Jesus would not have got a UK visa

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby says Jesus would not have got a UK visa under the points-based system being proposed by the government.

The clergyman, who has been outspoken about social justice, said there would have to be a “shortage of carpenters” in Britain for Jesus to be granted entry during an event at the CBI conference in London.

He said: “Our founder Jesus Christ was of course not white, middle class and British – he certainly wouldn’t have got a visa – unless we’re particularly short of carpenters.”

The Archbishop was talking as part in a discussion on social inequality chaired by the BBC Business Editor Faisal Islam who shared a clip on his Twitter feed.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Anthropology, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

(Wash Post) Europe has resisted taking back citizens who joined ISIS. Now, it may not have a choice.

Bint Dahlia was 33 when she left Germany with her husband and children to start life in the Islamic State’s newly declared caliphate.

She is one of thousands of Europeans who did — and, five years later, one of hundreds trying to come back.

European governments have resisted repatriating their nationals since the caliphate crumbled. Leaders fear domestic attacks and public backlash and have argued that trials should take place regionally.

But now Europe’s hand is being forced. Although Turkey has said it is starting to deport people in its custody with suspected Islamic State links, even more significant are landmark court cases giving governments little choice.

Last week, an appeals court in Berlin ruled that the German government should repatriate Bint Dahlia alongside her three children from al-Hol, a squalid Kurdish-run camp inside Syria. (The woman’s real name was redacted in court documents shared with The Washington Post, and her relatives have asked that The Post use a family nickname for her safety.)

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(CT’s The Exchange) Another Way for Immigration Reform? How Evangelicals Can Help Lead It

As I speak in evangelical churches on a regular basis, I find most evangelicals are desperate for an approach to immigration that respects biblical principles. That means keeping families together whenever possible, being fair to taxpayers and insisting that our government fulfill its God-ordained responsibility to secure our borders and protect citizens from harm.

It also means respecting the law – the point on which evangelicals feel most conflicted. While they don’t like raids and mass deportation, amnesty – which means dismissing and forgiving the violation of U.S. law – is also a non-starter.

The solution lies in the middle.

This week in Washington, D.C., the Evangelical Immigration Table unveiled an Evangelical Call for Restitution-Based Immigration Reform.

Dozens of the most prominent evangelical leaders in the country – leaders of evangelical denominations, presidents of Christian colleges and seminaries and pastors of prominent churches – voiced their support for a process that would require undocumented immigrants to get right with the law by paying a significant fine.

If they could pass a criminal background check and meet other requirements, they would be given the opportunity to gradually earn permanent legal status. Most immigrants I know would be thrilled to make things right and stay lawfully with their families.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Foreign Relations, Immigration, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(NPR) An Advocate For Kazakhs Persecuted In China Is Banned From Activism In Kazakhstan

One afternoon last month, Serikjan Bilash went to the watchdog organization he co-founded in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to celebrate the opening of its new office.

Since its founding in 2017, the organization, Atajurt Eriktileri, has publicized thousands of accounts of ethnic Kazakhs who are among the primarily Muslim minorities rounded up in detention centers in Xinjiang, China.

But instead of entering the office that day, Bilash hovered outside the door, reaching only his hand in to greet well-wishers. The Kazakh government barred him from political activism for seven years for the charge of “inciting ethnic tensions.”

“I can work as a taxi driver. I can work as a cleaner or a barman. But I cannot work as a political person,” says Bilash, a Kazakh citizen born in China. “I can’t stand up, and I can’t speak openly to my nation. They closed my mouth.”

The punishment against Bilash has bolstered suspicions among Kazakh rights advocates that Kazakhstan’s government is working to silence a prominent critic of China in order to please its powerful neighbor and investment partner. That has sent chills through Kazakhstan’s Chinese-born community.

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Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Islam, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution