Posts tagged with: War/Conflict

ukraine-soldiersNote: This is an update and addition to a previous post, “Explainer: What’s Going on in Ukraine?

What just happened with Russia and Ukraine?

Last week, pro-EU protesters in Ukraine took control of Ukraine’s government after President Viktor Yanukovych left Kiev for his support base in the country’s Russian-speaking east. The country’s parliament sought to oust him and form a new government. They named Oleksandr Turchynov, a well-known Baptist pastor and top opposition politician in Ukraine, as acting president.

In the southern part of the country, Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, elected in an emergency session last week, said he asserted sole control over Crimea’s security forces and appealed to Russia “for assistance in guaranteeing peace and calmness” on the peninsula. On Saturday, Russian president Vladimir Putin asked his own parliament for approval to use the country’s military in Ukraine. The request comes after Putin has already sent as many as 6,000 troops into Crimea.

Why would Russia want to invade Crimea?
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Eric Prince, founder and former CEO of Blackwater Inc., speaks at the Acton Institute

Eric Prince, founder and former CEO of Blackwater Inc., speaks at the Acton Institute

On Tuesday night, the Acton Institute welcomed Erik Prince to the Mark Murray Auditorium in the Acton Building in Grand Rapids, Michgan. Prince, a west Michigan native, is the founder and former CEO of Blackwater, Inc., the private security firm that became the subject of a great deal of controversy during the Iraq War, and remains so to this day.

Prince’s address shared the title of his book: Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror. He related the story of why he founded Blackwater Inc., how the company grew in response to various national and world events, the role the company played in Iraq and Afghanistan in the post-9/11 conflicts, and the public excoriation that both he and his company were subject to at the hands of a hostile press and Congressional investigators after the public soured on the Iraq war effort.

A small group of protestors greeted Prince's arrival at Acton.

A small group of protestors greeted Prince’s arrival at Acton.

Naturally, Prince’s presence at Acton sparked outrage in the local leftist community, as Prince is widely assumed to be a “war criminal” throughout the leftist blogosphere. This led to calls for protest, which were answered by around ten to twelve individuals who stood at the corner of Fulton Street and Sheldon Avenue, peacefully holding their signs. By my observation, it appeared that about 60 percent of the signs were intended to either denounce Prince as a “war criminal” or Acton for even allowing him to speak, with the other 40 percent calling for various leftist economic reforms. Here’s a rather amusing account of the event from a leftist perspective, which notes that at some point the protestors hauled out a bullhorn, but were asked discontinue use of it by the Grand Rapids Police. A more balanced account of the event appears in the Grand Rapids Press.

In the end, this type of protest is the reason why Prince wrote his book, and the reason why he is now speaking out about his experiences. He has largely been tried and convicted in the international court of the leftist blogosphere and punditocracy, and has had relatively little opportunity to share his side of the story. Even then-Senator Barack Obama acknowledged that “Blackwater is getting a bad rap” during a 2008 campaign related trip to Afghanistan, a trip on which his personal security was provided by – you guessed it – Blackwater.

With all this in mind, your best bet is to hear the man out for yourself. The video of Prince’s address and the Q and A that followed is posted below. For a more in-depth examination of the situation, you’d do well to read his book.

Syruan Refugeesnorthern iraqRecent events in Syria have created what The New York Times is calling an “historic” refugee crisis, with more than 2 million people leaving the country.

In August, hundreds of thousands poured over the border to Iraq, describing “a campaign by jihadi fighters to destroy agriculture and cut power and water supplies in Syrian Kurdish areas.” Lebanon’s population has exploded by 20 percent due to Syrian refugees, and Jordan is trying to deal with over half a million people seeking refuge from Syrian conflict. (more…)

syrian christians church bannerAs the civil war in Syrian continues to escalate, Christians are increasingly becoming the target of violent attacks. Catholic and Orthodox groups in Syria say the anti-government rebels have committed “awful acts” against Christians, including beheadings, rapes and murders of pregnant women.

Today, the conflict has morphed into a full-fledged civil war in which more than 100,000 people have perished. The most capable units on the rebel side — those spearheading the fight against the secular government — are composed of Islamist militants, many of whom fought U.S. forces in Iraq. The militants now accuse Christians of being supporters of Assad’s regime.

“They have threatened to cut our throats,” said Bahri, a Roman Catholic. “I love my country, but if it means having the terrorists slaughter me, my wife and our two boys, I’d rather escape to Lebanon.”

These ancient Christian communities, some of the oldest in the world, have generally been protected by successive Syrian governments, including Assad’s. But that security was lost when rebel factions began mounting increasingly ferocious attacks on them throughout the country.

On Aug. 17, rebel gunmen shot dead 11 Christians and wounded three more in central Syria, eyewitnesses and human rights activists said. In April, two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas and an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, went missing last month while on a trip to the rebel-held northeastern city of Raqqa.

Read more . . .

Religious intolerance is increasingly common around the world, and Sudan is one country where Christians are especially vulnerable. As a minority in a nation that is 97 percent Muslim, Christians there are worried that their right to practicesudan choir their faith freely is more and more at risk. According to Fredrick Nzwili, a two-decade long civil war continues to fester.

The two regions had fought a two-decade long civil war that ended in 2005, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The pact granted the South Sudanese a referendum after a six-year interim period and independence six months later. In the referendum, the people of South Sudan chose separation.

But while the separation is praised as good for political reasons, several churches in Khartoum, the northern capital, have been destroyed and others closed down along with affiliated schools and orphanages.

Christians in Sudan are facing increased arrests, detention and deportation with church-associated centers being raided and foreign missionaries kicked out, according to the leaders.

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I saw the fine film Act of Valor last month, and I was struck by the level of sacrifice displayed in the lives of the service members featured. I have wondered in the meantime whether the scale of the sacrifice that’s been required of American service persons over the last two decades is sustainable.

One of the film’s characters leaves behind a pregnant wife, and beyond all of the usual and somewhat abstract “faith and freedom” reasons for serving in the armed forces, it becomes clear that service members are making the sacrifices of their time, talents, and lives to protect and defend their loved ones.

One of the things we struggle with in our church culture is the idea that “ministry” can only refer to the work of ordained ministers of the church. In the same way, though, the use of the language of ministry in common parlance illustrates something about how important that work is. It’s the same with how “serving your country” used to be understood. “Service” used to be shorthand for “serving in the armed forces.” Now it’s certainly true that this isn’t the only important way to serve your fellow citizen. But this use of language does show something about the value placed on the sacrifices undertaken by those who do serve in the military.

Roger Sterling CO

I wondered after seeing Act of Valor how long people would continue to be willing go abroad to fight and protect their nation, their friends, and their families when their own families, churches, and charitable organizations are under attack, not just from enemies abroad, but domestically, from policy decisions, legislative invention, and judicial activism.

A report released this week by the Council on Foreign Relations found that educational shortfalls at the K-12 level have significant domestic and national interest implications. As Joel Klein, co-chair of the task force report, said,

One statistic that blew members of this task force away is that three out of four kids today in America are simply ineligible for military service. It’s unbelievable. We’re drawing our national security forces from a very small segment of the population. And a lot of the problem is they simply don’t have the intellectual wherewithal to serve in the military.

One of the proposed solutions and needs identified to correct this problem was to introduce greater innovation into secondary education, especially through expansion of school choice initiatives. As Klein says, “We need to generate an environment that leads to innovation, and that empowers parents to really look over the next decade or so. We need to look at how we can transition from a monopoly on public school systems to one that gives parents and their children meaningful choices that stimulate innovation and differentiation.”

It seems to me, though, that the drift in this country is not toward empowering parents, families, charities, and churches. And so I wonder (and worry) what the future of America’s armed forces look like if we have the combination of increasing unwillingness and inability to effectively serve. The segment of the population that is both willing and able to serve might well become increasingly small, and no presidential fiat or campaign plank about increasing the size of the military could make it otherwise.

It’s terribly sad, but you just can’t make this stuff up:

Thousands of sacks of food aid meant for Somalia’s famine victims have been stolen and are being sold at markets in the same neighborhoods where skeletal children in filthy refugee camps can’t find enough to eat, an Associated Press investigation has found.

As much as half of the food aid going into Somalia is stolen and sold in markets. Militants that control of large parts of the country and those who run refugee camps interdict the aid and sell it to free agents. Last week we warned about rampant corruption and theft in the country, but passages like this from the AP story are still heartbreaking

The aid is not even safe once it has been distributed to families huddled in the makeshift camps popping up around the capital. Families at the large, government-run Badbado camp said they were often forced to hand back aid after journalists had taken photos of them with it.

The camp bosses, employed by the most corrupt government in the entire world, take back the food and sell it outside the camp. The flow of aid has become torrential as Western governments take note of the famine and announce generous new aid packages. That has created what one Somali official called a “bonanza” for local charlatans. (The man spoke on condition of anonymity because, believe it or not, “monitoring food assistance in Somalia is a particularly dangerous process.”)

One man interviewed for the story seems to have read yesterday’s PowerBlog posting on the famine.

“While helping starving people, you are also feeding the power groups that make a business out of the disaster,” said Joakim Gundel, who heads Katuni Consult, a Nairobi-based company often asked to evaluate international aid efforts in Somalia. “You’re saving people’s lives today so they can die tomorrow.”

What Somalia needs is a PovertyCure. Instead of hosting hundreds of thousands of its people in refugee camps, which reinforces their powerlessness and encourages the country’s agricultural impotence, the country must open itself up to entrepreneurial development. And the West must focus its resources not on the indirect funding of militants, terrorists, and shysters, but on helping Somalia to build up its civil society and protect the economic freedom of its citizens.