Archive for Foreign Affairs

Happy About Keystone? Have A Look At What Makes You Happy

by John Weckerle

President Trump’s revival of the Keystone pipeline has been celebrated by a wide variety of people, largely on the bases of the supposed jobs that it would somehow magically create, and the benefits that it would somehow mystically bestow on – well, the good, hard-working people who get those jobs. The claims of job creation have been debated ad-infinitum and, for all intents and purposes, it’s fairly apparent that the jobs in question would be short-term construction jobs associated with installing the pipeline, and a small number of pipeline maintenance positions. Given that the oil transferred from Canada would be processed using existing refinery capacity in the southern U.S., job growth in the U.S. as a result of the pipeline would appear relatively small and relatively short-term.  Of course, jobs associated with extraction would be located at the tar sands deposit that would feed the pipeline, and those tar sands are located in Alberta, Canada.

According to this MSN photojournalistic article  (and we very strongly suggest that our readers read the article and go through all the stunning images), Canada’s little operation is likely to consume up to 54,000 square miles of pristine wilderness, and the photography in the article gives a very good depiction of what the area will be turned into. For perspective, 54,000 square miles equates roughly to the size of the States of New York and North Carolina. Not only would the scar left behind by this profit-inspired effort be visible from space, it would likely be visible from the moon, Mars, Krypton, and Vulcan.

We will leave our readers the space to consider their support (or the opposite) for this pipeline, but we will say this: the idea of leaving a large-state-sized hole in Nature for the purpose of lining a relatively small number of people’s pockets seems repugnant to us. Congratulations to all those who have supported the Keystone Pipeline – at least now you have had a good look at what you supported.

U.N. Passes Resolution On Israeli Settlements In The Occupied Palestinian Territories

by John Weckerle

Yesterday, the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council adopted Resolution 2334 (2016), calling for an end to Israeli settlement in occupied Palestinian territory in accordance with past agreements and resolutions.  Reactions to the resolution have been swift, prolific, and predictable, with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan declaring it “a blow to peace” and the government of Israel decrying it as “shameful.” As reported by MSN here, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has threatened a reduction or suspension of payments to the U.N. and potential retaliation against members who supported the resolution.

Rather than wait for the alt-right blosphere/twitterverse to erupt and then challenge the rantings, we decided to take a direct look at the actual text of the resolution itself.  The text of the resolution is included in this announcement on the U.N. website.

The resolution begins by reaffirming eleven prior resolutions stretching back to 1967 and proceeds to reaffirm Israel’s responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention (Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, August 12, 1949).  It condemns “all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.”  The resolution directly references the  Quartet Performance-based Roadmap to a Permanent Two State Solution (2003), which, among many other provisions, specifies a freeze on all settlement activities.

The resolution states that the U.N. Security Council “Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;” and “Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and that it fully respect all of its legal obligations in this regard.” It calls for immediate steps to prevent violence against citizens, including terrorist acts, and calls upon both parties (Israel and the Palestinians) observe international law and refrain from provocative actions. The resolution further calls upon the international and regional communities to intensify and accelerate efforts to achieve “without delay, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

There are a few things to consider with respect to the resolution.  First, it contains no provisions for sanctions whatsoever.  Second, as reported in the MSN article, it has been U.S. policy since the days of the Reagan Administration to oppose the establishment of these settlements. Third, the United States did not vote for the resolution, but simply abstained – effectively declining to veto it.

It is unclear why the expectation seems to be that we would veto it.  Israel has been been establishing these settlements and does not deny it, and these settlements are contrary to U.S. policy and international agreements to which Israel is a party. As an ally, Israel has reason to expect U.S. support in the event of a military attack, but it seems a little absurd to suggest that we should extend that support to protecting Israel from criticism regarding acts that are counter to our established policy and international accords. It is, perhaps, time for Israel to stand up for itself and its actions rather than have the U.S. do it for them, and to recognize that the U.S. is the only member of the Security Council not to vote directly in favor of the resolution.

We see nothing untrue or inappropriate in the resolution (and, in the end, very little if anything that could directly harm Israel), and the logic behind the outraged reaction to it is unclear. We suspect that it is more partisan or ideological in nature than substantive. As always, we suggest that people read the full text (rather than, or in addition to, stories about it) before reacting to it, or reposting/retweeting others’ opinions on the subject.


From Norway to Afghanistan, And Hopefully Home Again

by John Weckerle

In a recent column at, blog associate Bob Steiner takes apparent issue with President Barak Obama’s receipt of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Peace, and provides some suggestions with respect to how we should seek success in Afghanistan.  Today we examine a few of the issues raised in Mr. Steiner’s article.

To start, we’d like to note that we were as surprised as anybody to see Mr. Obama receive the award.  However, we consider the subject of whether he deserves the award rather moot, since the committee that decides who deserves the award decided that Mr. Obama deserved it.  Mr. Obama himself stated that he did not feel he deserved it.  Mr. Steiner states that Mr. Obama has achieved little in the peace arena, but “he has expended a lot of effort (and jet fuel in Air Force One) trying to lessen international tension and trying to bring hostile parties together.”  This is pretty much the effort that the committee cited in its announcement, and they must have felt fairly strongly about it; the committee has only given the award to two sitting American presidents – Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.  Regardless, we congratulate the winner and hope he lives up to the “call to action” that it represents in his case. It will probably be a tough act to follow. »» From Norway to Afghanistan, And Hopefully Home Again