by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch
I. ISLAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST
TURKEY AND SAUDI ARABIA GEAR FOR SUNNI-SHIA SHOWDOWN IN SYRIA: A mistake? A Russian trap? As matters unfold, the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates have begun cutting ties with Lebanon while Turkey demands that the Kurds be considered legitimate terrorist targets during the coming ceasefire.
GROWING DISENCHANTMENT WITH PAKISTAN AS AN ALLY: End to blank checks to Pakistan as Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will block most recent military sales to Pakistan.
GETTING SYRIA WRONG - JOURNALISTS HAVE TO HELP TELL THE TRUTH OF LARGER NARRATIVES: Stephen Kinzer of International Institute at Brown University tells why the usual narrative on Syria is wrong and how independent journalists are needed to get foreign policy right.
ISIS AS LATEST INCARNATION OF SALAFIST SUNNI MOVEMENT: ISIS should be understood as the most noxious fruit of a twisted tree.
TRUMP ON WHO REALLY CAUSED 9/11 - NOT IRAQ: This is not being a "9/11 truther." They are a group of conspirators who say the attacks of 9/11 were an inside job with American and or Israeli involvement. That is patently false, but the involvement of prominent Saudis and the willful looking away by some American officials is slowly being revealed as one of the most uncomfortable truths in American foreign policy.
II. REPUBLICANS AND FOREIGN POLICY
Presidential campaigns are a mix of heavyweight boxing and brothers debating at the dinner table. The debate in South Carolina on February 13 was, by far, the clearest about foreign policy positions to date. A good deal of the credit goes to candidates who made clear statements and the moderator, John Dickerson, who heeded the advice of Pope Francis to the Mexican bishops: "If you disagree, do it like men: argue face to face."
Marco Rubio has three enemies ranking before ISIS and the Salafist Sunnis:
No. 1 is, what are we doing in the Asia-Pacific region, where both North Korea and China pose threats to the national security of the United States.His threat list is dominated by China and Russia. He sees the Sunni-Shia conflict as driven by the Shia. All of his enemies are fighting Sunni extremism. This mirrors the threat list explained by Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense, who listed Russia and China as threats one and two.
No. 2 is, what are we doing in the Middle East with the combination of the Sunni-Shia conflict driven by the Shia arc that Iran is now trying to establish in the Middle East, also the growing threat of ISIS.
And the third is rebuilding and reinvigorating NATO in the European theater, particularly in Central Europe and in Eastern Europe, where Vladimir Putin is now threatening the territory of multiple countries.
Jeb Bush represented the same viewpoint as Rubio, but added Assad of Syria. Bush's ideological and financial backers will make the switch to Rubio comfortably:
...we need to destroy ISIS and dispose of Assad to create a stable Syria so that the four million refugees aren't a breeding ground for Islamic jihadists. It is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that Russia could be a positive partner in this. I would immediately create a policy of containment as it relates to Iran's ambitions, and to make it make clear that we are not going to allow for Iran to do what it's doing, which is to move towards a nuclear weapon.Trump countered:
Jeb is so wrong. You got to fight ISIS first. You fight ISIS first. Right now you have Russia, you have Iran, you have them with Assad, and you have them with Syria. You have to knock out ISIS. They're chopping off heads. These are animals. You have to knock 'em out. You have to knock them off strong. You decide what to do after, you can't fight two wars at one time. If you listen to him, and you listen to some of the folks that I've been listening to, that's why we've been in the Middle East for 15 years, and we haven't won anything.Later, Mr. Bush defended his brother:
And while Donald Trump was building a reality TV show, my brother was building a security apparatus to keep us safe. And I'm proud of what he did.This led to a back-and-forth between Trump and Rubio:
TRUMP: The World Trade Center came down during your brother's reign, remember that.These are very different foreign policy proposals. On the Democratic side, Senator Sanders is much closer to the Trump perspective than any Republican candidate; while Mrs. Clinton is quite similar to Bush-Rubio.
RUBIO: I just want to say, at least on behalf of me and my family, I thank God all the time it was George W. Bush in the White House on 9/11 and not Al Gore. And again, he kept us safe, and I am forever grateful to what he did for this country.
TRUMP: How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center -- the World -- excuse me. I lost hundreds of friends. The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe. That is not safe, Marco. That is not safe.
RUBIO: The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn't kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him.
TRUMP: And George Bush -- by the way, George Bush had the chance, also, and he didn't listen to the advice of his CIA.
The key figure in the national security transition from the Clinton White House to the George W. Bush administration was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism official in the Clinton administration. He was first appointed in 1992 by George H.W. Bush to chair the Counter Terrorism Security Group, and to a seat on the NSC. President Bill Clinton retained Clarke, and in 1998 promoted him to be the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council. Under president George W. Bush, Clarke continued in the same position, but the position lost cabinet-level access. He later became the Special Advisor to the president on cyber-security. Clarke left the Bush administration in 2003. Here is his memo to the incoming Bush administration. Here is an interview. Here is Bill Clinton making an emotional, but revealing, argument answering "why he didn't do more to stop bin Laden" to Chris Wallace of Fox News.
REPUBLICANS AND ISRAEL -- WILL JOURNALISTS LEARN THE RIGHT QUESTIONS?
At the Houston Feb 25th Republican debate, CNN journalist Wolf Blitzer asked about balancing support for Israel and the neutrality needed to negotiate an Israel/Palestine agreement. Mr Trump said he was the most pro-Israel candidate, but he would try to be a neutral broker. Senator Rubio said there was no neutrality and right now a Palestinian state was not possible. Senator Cruz said he would move our embassy to Jerusalem.
Senator Cruz walked out in the middle of his own speech at a historic meeting of Persecuted Christians in the Mideast in September 2014, when he was booed for assuming that all Christians in the Mideast were unqualified in their support of Israel. Rubio was right that the Palestine/Israel question is yesterday's news and has been eclipsed by the present conflict. The CNN journalist and the candidates, however, missed the much more important question about America's loyalty to Israel. Must our loyalty include approval of their deepening alliance with the Saudi royal family and the Wahhabi Sunnis who attacked us on September 11, 2001? The election has months to go and Americans need journalists as much as candidates who will reformulate our foreign policy debate in terms of the actual religious and national actors in the present conflict.
III. R&G ROUND UP
ANTHONY SCALIA: R.I.P.: A Catholic man in full. His 2013 New York magazine interview in which he schooled the interviewer on Heaven, Hell, the reality of the Devil, and being out of touch with Americans. Also, his remembrances of his granddaddy and hunting will make you think he died in the right place at the right time. A letter Scalia wrote to a preacher about the purpose of Christian funerals.
THE TRINITARIAN AND COMMUNAL ROOTS OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION: Tracey Rowland's lecture. Here is Fr James Schall's synopsis. "Friendship and Education" - a reflection by a bishop heavily influenced by John Senior and his friends at the University of Kansas.
LOOKING DOWN ON AFRICA: Fr. Rutler catches Albert Schweitzer and present-day German bishops behaving badly toward the darker-skinned sons of Adam. Americans are much closer to interracial brotherhood than our European cousins.