United States

The US Government Has Failed The World On The Ubiquitous Use of Cluster Bombs

In conflict zones spanning the globe, several factions are utilizing various types of “cluster munitions”.

Unlike ordinary explosives, which are a one and done affair, cluster munitions are a type of warhead that is far more insidious. They disperses bomblets, thus peppering an area with the loaded munitions.

This is problematic due to the tendency of some of the bomblets to not detonate immediately.

These unexploded ordinance can later detonate, and shred civilians in their wake.

Laos for instance has suffered heavily from unexploded cluster bombs in the decades since the American war in Vietnam.

As a result the UN passed a resolution banning the use of cluster munitions in 2008.

As is often the case, the United States is not a signatory to the convention, but has desisted from using cluster munitions, and the White House has blocked the sale of cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia, who has been using them in the war in Yemen.

This was after damning accusations by Human Rights Watch, claiming that Riyadh was even using cluster bombs in urban areas.

However, Saudi Arabia is joined by: Russia and Ukraine, the Libyan National Army, Sudan, and Russia and Al-Assad in Syria, who are potentially field testing a new variety of cluster bomb, according to War is Boring.

The American Government, has been largely silent on the use of cluster munitions.

While the sale of cluster munitions blocked by the President was nearly unnecessary due to a close fight in the House, this slight reaction was only triggered following Saudi airstrikes on urban centers.

A slap on the wrist for a customer and ally, but no condemnation for the many other actors who use cluster munitions on civilian centers.

Whilst the United States is not a signatory to the Convention on Cluster Bombs, this would not be the first time the United States has acted to enforce international law it is not a de jure party to.

The dispute in the South China Sea is one largely over the arcane minutia of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), of which the United States is not party to, due to vague arguments regarding sovereignty.

Nevertheless, the United States largely abides by the conditions of UNCLOS, and has demonstrated its determination to not recognize China’s maritime claims, based on the text of UNCLOS.

In the words of the late International Law scholar Lewis Henkin;

“Almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time.”

If the cost of doing business is to adhere to certain laws and norms, then states will adhere to those laws and norms in all but extraordinary cases.

It then should be surprising that the United States has not used either the Convention on Cluster Munitions, or its own invented doctrine of no use in civilian areas, as a rhetorical stick to hit its adversaries hard and often.

Fear of hypocrisy has not deterred the American Government from criticizing bad actors before, and even more so when decades of damage to civilian populations is guaranteed by inaction.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: Mario Micklisch/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Is American Hegemony Moral? It Can Be

Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has been considered the sole superpower in international affairs.

It has taken advantage of this status many times over, particularly through what many have maligned as its “wars of democratization” in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, as well as so-called “proxy wars of democratization” in Syria and Ukraine.

These military and pseudo-military adventures have, unsurprisingly, led to much resentment of the United States and its perceived hegemony over global affairs.

So much resentment, that as of 2014, 24% of the entire world views the United States as the greatest threat to peace.

It is easy to understand the basis behind the grievances that this 24% possesses.

It can be laid out in layman’s terms as follows:

“The United States, through its irresponsible, if not malicious foreign policy, has caused death and destruction wherever it goes. The foundation of its power lies entirely on the assumption that moral values must be thrown out the window, if they exist at all. This is unacceptable in the eyes of the international community, which must work to change it.”

While it is common sense to recognize that with great power comes great responsibility, and while it is always wise to look back on past policies and take note on what is a responsible policy and what isn’t, is it accurate to call American hegemony immoral?

Not if you are a realist.

Read More: Why We Shouldn’t Fear A China Hegemony

Take note that when I make reference to “realists” or “realism,” I am not writing in the context of the arts, where realism is a described as a “realistic portrayal” of a person or object.

Rather, I am writing in the context of geopolitics, where realism is described as a philosophy that places emphasis on national interests.

Geopolitical realists view international relations as a competition for power between various nation-states.

They also assume that all nation-states aside from their own to be seeking power by taking it from others, and that their nation-state must, out of defensive impulses, play along.

It must eat in order to avoid being eaten.

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This philosophy has been discussed, in one form or another, for millennia.

It had appeared in the works of Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Rosseau, and even Shakespeare, before taking off as a solid political theory in the nineteenth century following the rise of nationalism in Europe.

That being said, there is now an important question that needs to be answered.

Why would the United States, the world’s sole superpower, feel threatened by tenth-tier nations such as Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, to where it would be necessary to overthrow their governments to “spread democracy?”

Well, if you apply one theory that is sometimes discussed by American realists when attempting to formulate future policy, which I call “regional hegemon theory,” the United States has very good cause to see these countries as threats.

Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Photo Credit: DVIDSHUB/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Why? Because they are, in one way or another, capable of being used as tools to prop up a regional hegemon on the Eurasian supercontinent.

Now, why is a regional hegemon on the Eurasian supercontinent bad? For this answer, we ought to turn to John Mearsheimer, one of the most well-known (and most notorious) contemporary American geopolitical realists.

He sums up the threat of regional hegemons well in a 2015 interview with The National Interest:

“Regional hegemons are dangerous to the United States, because dominating their own neighborhood would give them freedom to intervene elsewhere, just as the American military is free to roam the planet today. The great danger is that a distant hegemon would eventually start to meddle in the Western Hemisphere, which could present a serious threat to the United States.”

Read More: Militarism Is Back In Vogue Around The World And It Should Scare The Hell Out Of Us

According to Mearsheimer, this idea was used to justify American policies against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and the Axis powers during World War II.

And according to Joseph Parent, who was one of my International Studies professors at the University of Miami, this idea was also applied, abeit to a much smaller extent extent, prior to World War II (particularly towards France, which, between the end of World War I and the rise of Hitler, was seen by some American political scientists as a, if not the, main potential hegemonic threat against American interests).

Although which countries could pose a potential threat to the United States via “regional hegemon theory” is often hotly disputed (for example, Mearsheimer, who sees China as the only country that currently has the potential to become a regional hegemon, would get into an interesting debate with someone who would portray Iran as a regional hegemon due to its alleged ability to project influence into South America via Hezbollah), that is a different debate that is beside the point I’m trying to make.

That point is that because even a weak country (such as Syria relative to Iran and Ukraine relative to Russia) can play a role in propping up a regional hegemon that can project power into the United States’ neighborhood, even a weak country can be a serious threat to American national security.

Therefore, it is at best moral (because you are acting to protect your citizens, which is the chief duty of all governments), and at worst amoral (because you are justifying your means with your ends and are, presumably, not acting out of sadism, malice, or greed, but out of defense) to make sure that friendly governments are in power in other countries, if you wish to protect your own nation-state from being changed by outside forces.

It’s eat or be eaten.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but other countries have made it this way. Is that our fault?

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Fighterjocks From Portland Are In Finland Right Now, Spooking The Russians

Some American flyboys are in Finland this month, in an effort to remind Russian President Vladimir Putin where his country’s borders really are.

The 123rd Fighter Squadron, based out of Portland, Oregon, is participating in exercises in Finland over the course of this month.

The F-15Cs of the 123rd will be assisting in improving the readiness of the Finnish Air Force, who has seen an increase in its necessity due to an increase in Russian airspace violations of sovereign airspace.

Finland is not a member of NATO, but has been a participant in the Partnership for Peace program, as well as assisting in ISAF operations in Afghanistan, and participating in NATO exercises, as demonstrated below.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has solidified North American and European security interests to a degree that may even exceed that of the height of the Cold War.

This in turn has lead to an interest among some to extend the NATO security umbrella.

This has led most recently to Montenegro’s invitation to the alliance, and some suggestions that Sweden and Finland consider alliance membership.

Both Sweden and Finland have historically followed a policy of neutrality, but this has not been entirely adhered to.

Sweden has had intelligence sharing agreements with NATO states since 1954, as well as relying on NATO capabilities in the event of war against the Soviet Union, and in more recent times against simulated Russian airstrikes.

Both countries participate in NATO exercises, and operations, as well as having strong relations with both Denmark and Norway; both founding members of the Atlantic Alliance.

However, the two countries are not equally open to formally joining the alliance.

The Swedish public has rapidly shifted in favor of NATO membership, with 41% in favor, 39% opposed, and 20% undecided as of late 2015.  While Finnish support for NATO membership is at a historical high, only 27% support membership.

This is why the American deployment of aircraft into non ally Finland is such a strong signal.

 The Americans may be showing a preview of the kind of commitment they would offer if Finland joined NATO.

By creating stronger military and diplomatic ties with Finland through interactions between the 123rd with Finnish units, and other NATO-Finland interactions, the case for affiliation becomes more concrete.

That does not make the Portland based unit’s sale easy.

Greater affiliation with the EU and NATO has historically lead to an increase in likelihood for Russian counter actions, ala the 2008 Russia-Georgia War, and the two year old ongoing fiasco in Ukraine.

It is essentially out of the question that Finland join without Sweden, or vice versa. In addition to the two countries having strong historical ties, as well as sharing a highly convenient border to ferry troops and material over in the event of Russian intervention into Finland, while Sweden joining with Finland might trigger a response against neutral Finland, in order to guarantee buffer space against the perceived NATO threat.

The Oregon Air National Guard is thus pulling double duty in appealing to both the remaining non aligned Scandinavian countries, as well as improving Finland’s unilateral readiness.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Photo Credit: cryogenic666/Flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

Rihanna Might Actually Pay For Your College

Notorious BadGirlRiRi has been up to some good lately.

Beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year the Grammy award winner will offer scholarships of up to $50,000 to college students through the Clara Lionel Foundation, an organization she started in 2012 in honor of her grandparents.

The organization’s goal is to “improve the quality of life for communities globally in areas of health, education, arts, and culture.”

Scholarships will be awarded on a “as-needed basis” to 50 citizens or natives of Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, or Rihanna’s own home of Barbados.

Recipients must be students who wish to further their education and have already been accepted at a four-year school in the United States. They must be considered freshman at these schools and be able to provide a birth certificate from one of the eligible countries.

Recipients of the scholarships can get an award between $5,000 and $50,000.

Rihanna spoke about her excitement for the project after the announcement on her instagram account.

“Higher education will help provide perspective, opportunities, and learning to a group of kids who really deserve it. I am thrilled to be able to do this.”

So if you’re willing to put in a little work, work, work, work, work, work, than Rihanna just might be willing to foot the bill. Application will be available for submission on June 10th, 2016.

H/T: USA Today College

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: suran2007/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

WATCH LIVE: Obama and French President Hollande Talk Syria, ISIS In Press Conference

US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande will be speaking about ISIS and the crisis in Syria after a morning of talks at the White House.

Hollande has been vocal in his efforts to get the international community more engaged in directly fighting ISIS after terror attacks struck his nation two weeks ago.

It is unclear how much the events of today: the Turkish downing of a Russian fighter jet and the Syrian rebels (who are armed by the US) downing of a Russian helicopter will impact the international response.

WATCH LIVE: Obama, Hollande speak after joint meetings.


Cover Photo Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Philadelphia Braces For Super Bowl Levels Of Mobile Usage When Pope Francis Comes To Town

Preparations are underway as civic and religious leaders in New York, Washington DC, and Philadelphia all prepare for the arrival of Pope Francis next week.

This visit will be Pope Francis’ first ever trip to the United States. The New York Times quoted Cardinal Timothy Dolan talking about Francis’ feelings about the trip.

“He’s a little nervous about coming,” Dolan told the Times. “Not that he lacks any confidence in the reception of friendship that he knows he’ll get, but he readily admits he has never been to the United States.”

Social media platforms and wireless carriers anticipate that web activity related to the Pope’s three day visit will generate roughly the same web traffic as the super bowl.

A single closing mass in Philadelphia is expected to draw more than one million attendants, according to the Associated Press.

Wireless carriers have brought in portable cell towers in an attempt to increase capacity for the social media frenzy surrounding the Pope’s visit. Bishops in all three cities have been receiving a crash course in social media and live streaming events. Comcast, the cable giant headquartered out of Philadelphia, has even offered free Wi-Fi to try and ease the data strain expected to surround Pope Francis’ visit.

Pope Francis will spend roughly five days in the United States. In this time the Pope will meet with President Obama and address members of the Congress, following which he will meet with many of the poor and homeless clients of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

The Pope will also make an address before the United Nations General Assembly. During the trip Francis is expected to focus on the rights and the needs of the poor, as well as the responsibilities of the United States as a global super power.

The United States will be the fifteenth country that Pope Francis has visited since being named the Supreme Pontiff.

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Photo Credit: nitin raj srivastava/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

White House Promises Increased Support In Europe Refugee Crisis

By Zoe Fowler

President Obama and his administration announced on Thursday that the U.S. will be accepting at least 10,000 Syrian refugees seeking asylum over the course of the next year.

Josh Earnest, The White House Press Secretary, said the U.S. gave $4 billion to humanitarian aid organizations to support efforts of the refugee crisis in Europe but “Obama has decided that admitting more Syrian refugees would help boost the US response,” according to The Guardian.

Secretary of State John Kerry said at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill that the total of Syrian refugees admitted could increase from 70,000 to more than 100,000, according to The New York Times. However, officials said not all of 30,000 of refugees would include Syrians.

The resettlement of Syrian refugees in the U.S. won’t be immediate. The State Department said in a statement last week that the process could take up to 18 to 24 months for the Department of Homeland Security to decide if a refugee is eligible to resettle in the U.S.

The reaction to the U.S. accepting Syrian refugees has been mixed. GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio said he doesn’t oppose the U.S. welcoming refugees, but caution needs to be taken into effect.

“We’d always be concerned that within the overwhelming number of the people seeking refugee, someone with a terrorist background could also sneak in,” Rubio said at a town hall meeting last week in Charleston.

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump who has advocated for tougher immigration laws said the refugee crisis is a humanitarian issue that needs to be dealt with.

“It’s a serious problem,” Trump told FOX News. “We haven’t seen anything like it since the second world war, and it’s getting worse and worse.”

Meanwhile today, British Prime Minister David Cameron was in Lebanon and Jordan where he toured camps built for displaced Syrian refugees.

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Photo Credit: Freedom House/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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