Archives for September 2015

Obama’s Weak Rationale for the Iran Deal

Apart from being shocking, the Iran deal is baffling. Why would a U.S. president enter into an agreement that so empowers a nation that behaves so badly?

Iran’s leaders – including its supreme leader – routinely call for the annihilation of Israel. It’s designated by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism. It sends money, weapons and military experts to forces hostile to the U.S. and Israel. Its proxies killed more than a thousand U.S. troops in Iraq. It aids the Taliban. It’s holding U.S. citizens hostage. And most alarming, it’s bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, likely with the intention of making good on its pledge to erase Israel from the map.

Within Iran, political prisoners are common, with reports of torture, rape, and killings of them. It lacks freedom of speech, the press, and religion. It practices Sharia law. Democracy and the rule of law are absent, with most power in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Council of Guardians determines who can run for office, and holds veto power over the parliament.

Responsible countries typically penalize such regimes through military containment, economic sanctions, and diplomatic isolation. Engaging with them amounts to rewarding bad behavior; top U.S. officials meeting with their leaders – such as what Secretary of State John Kerry has been doing – boosts them politically in the eyes of their citizenry and of other world leaders.

Why would President Obama not only engage in diplomacy with this rogue nation, but also lift economic sanctions and thereby enable increased funding of its terrorist activities abroad? Why would Obama give Iran express permission to build nuclear weapons starting in a decade, and leave open avenues for the country to cheat on the agreement before then?

His explanation is that he hopes the deal will prompt Iran to be “less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative,” and boost reformers within the country’s political system.

Yet he or his administration don’t explain how such goals will come about. They’re extremely unlikely.

Most of those who comprise Iran’s powerful, entrenched institutions shun any kind of political and economic reform. There’s nothing to indicate reformers will get the upper hand within Iran, with or without the agreement.

Those currently in place will use revenues gained from the lifting of sanctions to further entrench themselves. For example the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or goon squad as The Economist calls them, are set to profit handsomely from the lifting of sanctions; they control an array of businesses that span industries including construction, oil, automobiles, and telecommunications.

While the current president, Hassan Rouhani, seems open to economic reform, he’s no political reformer – and his powers pale in comparison to the ultra-hardline Ayatollah Khamenei. Reformists only make up less than a quarter of Iran’s parliament, and none are very well known, according to Arron Reza Merat, writing in The National Interest.

The next parliamentary elections are to be held this February, but all candidates have to be approved by the reactionary Guardian Council. Anyone who backed the 2009 protests against the presidential election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are expected to be disqualified.

Even if Iran were ever to get a reformist president and parliament again, as it did during the late 1990s and early 2000s when Mohammad Khatami was president, not much would change. The Guardian Council routinely vetoed reform-minded legislation during his tenure.

There’s no use in holding out hope for an “Arab spring”-style regime overthrow in Iran; even if it were to happen, we all have seen the dark winters that typically follow such events in Middle Eastern countries. And Iran’s reactionary institutions make it highly unlikely that a reformist would ever replace the 76-year-old Khamenei after he dies.

Defenders of the Iran deal point to Nixon’s outreach to China in 1972, when the U.S. made significant concessions to China such as plans to shutter the U.S. embassy in Taiwan. China thereafter scaled down its anti-American rhetoric, but the deal did nothing to quell that country’s totalitarianism or development of nukes. (And unlike Obama, Nixon gained the release American political prisoners.) As Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, authors of Mao: The Unknown Story point out, “The increased Western presence did not have any appreciable impact on Chinese society while Mao was alive….The only people who benefitted at all from the rapprochement were a small elite.”

While China opened up economically and moved from totalitarianism to authoritarianism under Deng Xiaoping, its lack of democracy and ever-increasing saber-rattling are a serious cause for concern more than four decades after Nixon went to China.

President Obama’s “encouraging reformers” argument for inking the Iran deal is incredibly weak. Don’t expect Iran to become a responsible player in the community of nations anytime soon. Expect it to keep causing trouble. When it gets nukes, expect the worst.

 

(Originally published in Newsmax.com)

Roots of the Planned Parenthood Debacle

In addition to the outrage, Americans are downright dumbfounded as to as to how our civilization could sink so low that Planned Parenthood professionals engage in the selling of organs of aborted human fetuses. Even worse, a large portion of the general public actually supports Planned Parenthood’s efforts, and the U.S. Congress chooses to continue to allocate U.S. taxpayer money toward the organization.

We’ve sunk so low in part because of three long-festering falsehoods that have pervaded our culture: that pre-born babies are not human beings, that humans are just another animal, and that abortion is a solution to overpopulation.

Most of us have no problem with the prospect of cutting up and selling body parts of pigs, chickens, cows, and other animals. The folks at Planned Parenthood and their supporters have no problem with doing the same to pre-born humans because they don’t look upon them as human beings. Using the word fetus helps condition people to not regard pre-born humans as actual humans.

But their DNA indicates that they’re human in every way.

Ask any biologist, and he or she will tell you a dog is a dog, regardless of whether it’s a fetus or a puppy. The DNA indicates this. Similarly a human is a human, regardless of whether it’s in the form of a fetus, baby, toddler, or adolescent.

The only difference between a developed human fetus and a newborn baby is the way each gets its oxygen and nourishment. In the womb it’s via the umbilical cord; out of the womb it’s via the mouth.

To deem a human fetus not to be human is absurd.

Consider another falsehood that likely helped shape general attitudes enabling the acceptance of Planned Parenthood’s heinous practices. Many believe we humans are mere animals that happen to be a little more advanced along the evolutionary scale. For the past several decades a common refrain (to which I subscribed) has been that humans differ from chimpanzees by only 1 percent genetically. Since we’re so similar to other animals, one may reason, how is killing a human so different from killing any other animal?

But research, such as presented in a 2007 Science article titled “Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%”, reveals that we’re much more different biologically from chimps than previously thought. The 1 percent figure doesn’t take into account many sections of DNA that have been inserted or deleted in the respective genomes. Gene duplications and deletions represent a 6.4% difference between chimps and humans, according to researchers. Dr. Ann Gauger of the Discovery Institute’s Biologic Institute writes that by one measure, 17.4% of gene regulatory networks in the brain are unique to humans.

And regardless how similar or different we are genetically from chimps and other animals, this much is clear: we’re the only species that has free will, and the ability to reason abstractly. These attributes make all the difference in the world.

So humans are unique, exceptional, and vastly more biologically advanced than any other species after all. We’re far from being just another animal. No fetus of such an extraordinary species merits being aborted, let alone sold for parts.

Now let’s address a third falsehood: it is commonly thought (and I used to think) that population growth is outstripping the carrying capacity of the planet. This prompts academics and many others to champion abortion. One academic paper states, “No nation desirous of reducing its growth rate to 1% or less can expect to do so without the widespread use of abortion.”

Just as deer starve when their numbers grow too large for the local environment to support, so can people. But people differ from animals in that the human brain is so advanced that we have the ability to manipulate the Earth’s resources for our sustenance. Unlike all other animals, we can increase the land’s carrying capacity by growing crops, mining raw materials, building factories and transporting goods. Education and free markets greatly facilitate this process. As countries become more adept at carrying out these endeavors and prosperity increases, the environment typically improves (albeit perhaps after some time) even as the population grows.

Even if one thinks the world is overpopulated, the killing of human beings whether born or unborn should not be a population control mechanism. And from abortion, it’s a slippery slope to organ harvesting. And then on to infanticide. And then, genocide?

Three reasons America has sunk so low, therefore, is that so many Americans have become conditioned to believe that human fetuses are not fully human; that humans have no more intrinsic value than any other animal; and/or that abortion should be a means to curb population growth. If aborting pre-born babies is fine, goes the thinking of Planned Parenthood backers, then selling their body parts is fine as well. They’re tragically wrong on all counts.

 

(Originally published in Newsmax.com)