Month: September 2014

What About the Gaza Strip?

Palestinians stand next to the rubble of a destroyed building following an Israeli air strike in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 12, 2014. Photo by AFP

After a summer of intense conflict and constant news coverage, the world seems to have too soon forgotten the devastation that war caused in the Gaza Strip.

Over the summer, the Gaza Strip was plagued with conflict between the Palestinian organization HAMAS and the Israeli state. After two years of relative peacefulness conflict erupted because of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers while hiking in the West Bank. Israel blamed HAMAS and HAMAS denied it, but on the day the bodies were found rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel and Israel started air strikes on Gaza. In retaliation to the murder of the three Israelis, a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and burned to death. After that the conflict just seemed to escalate. There were 11 ceasefires arranged throughout the summer, but none seemed to last more that a few days until the ceasefire brokered by Egypt in late August. According the the Jerusalem Post they will continue negotiating the ceasefire agreement in the first week of October.

After the 50-day conflict the Gaza Strip was left in ruins. According the BBC more than 100,000 people were left homeless, 2,133 Palestinians were killed, and 1,489 are believed to have been civilians. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and seven civilians were killed.

This past month Fatah and Hamas gave power in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority and a deal has been agreed by Israeli and Palestinian officials to allow building materials into the Gaza Strip for reconstruction. That’s a whole lot of change coming their way. Before anyone starts rebuilding in Gaza they need to take a second and think about a few things:

  • How long will this ceasefire last?
  • Are they going to be wasting money rebuilding things to be destroyed again?
  • Is this problem fixable?

The cycle of war has been going on between Palestine and Israel for far too long. The people need to be focusing on a long term solution for their conflict before anything can be rebuilt, or home and schools will be pointlessly rebuilt just to be destroyed by the same conflict that has plagued this land for years. Something has to give because it is the Palestinian people that will get the brute of this conflict with the continuation of mass civilian causality.


Scotland: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Over the past few months there has been talk of Scotland’s vote for independence. This past week the people of Scotland finally had their voices heard in their historic vote. Scotland chose to remain part of the United Kingdom in a close vote of 55% no and 45% yes with a record voter turnout of 84 percent. Now that the people have been heard what is next for Scotland and what have they given up?

Alex Salmond is the head of the SNP and the First Minister of Scotland. It has been the Scottish National Party that has been pushing for Scotland’s independence from the UK. In 2011 the Scottish National Party won the majority in the Scottish Parliament election, and Salmond was reelected as the First Minister. Salmond didn’t put forth the referendum bill for independence in his first term because he didn’t have enough votes, but the 2011 election result made the independence referendum a certainty.

There has been such a push for Scotland’s independence by the SNP because they feel unfairly represented by the conservative party in the UK’s Parliament. According to PBS only one of the 50 members of that Parliament representing Scotland belong to the Conservative party. The rest are from the Labour party, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrat party. From an economic stand point, many people even outside the SNP believe that Scotland could be one of the wealthiest countries in the world because of the offshore oil resources.

The other side of the coin is the Better Together Campaign to promote political stability and the future of economic stability with Scotland. According to USA Today the pro-unity advocates said that being part of the United Kingdom gives Scotland a bigger say in world affairs through major alliances such as the European Union and NATO. They argued that Scotland isn’t guaranteed economic security, and they might lose use of their monetary system the pound.

Luckily, the Scottish people voted a “no” to independence, so the world won’t have to worry about the economic fate of Scotland. The world will look forward see Scotland receiving more political power out of this deal. The prime minister, David Cameron, promised Scotland the Devo Max package devolving further powers over tax, spending and welfare to the Scottish Parliament.

Let me know what you think. Did Scotland make the right choice? Leave a comment or question.

Update on ISIS

In the last week President Obama addressed the nation and gave a four-point updated plan on how the government is going to handle The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS). His plan in a nutshell is to:

  • Increase Airstrikes
  • Send troops and supplies to Iraq
  • Take proactive steps to prevent future attacks
  • Provide humanitarian aid to civilians

Obama has promised to take the airstrikes to the next level. Our military is now going to be striking ISIS with the intent of driving them back. He also said we will hunt terrorists wherever they go, mentioning Syria. Obama plans to send 475 more service members to Iraq, but not for a combative mission. He is sending troops to help the Kurdish and Iraqi forces by training them and providing technology. Obama put a significant emphasis on protecting the homeland and the American people, but how much are we really on the offensive? We have been executing airstrikes for some time now, and we already have service men and women on the ground in Iraq. If ISIS is as big of a threat as everyone has been saying, then why aren’t we hitting them with more aggression? We should be putting boots on the ground and going to them before they come to us. Since President Obama’s speech, ISIS has beheaded a third captive journalist, David Haines. ISIS has started threatening our allies. This situation has definitely turned into a kill or be killed scenario. They have already demonstrated how brutal and gruesome they can be from afar. I hope to see Obama nip this in the bud before it comes to our doorstep and we experience their brutality first-hand.

Crisis in Crimea

Destruction in the streets of Kiev. Picture from Newsweek

Over the last few months the United States has gotten involved in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. There have been sanctions put on Russia by the European Union and the US. According to the New York Times, in March 2014 congress approved for $1 billion in aid to be sent over to Ukraine. The United States has been proactive in the protection of Ukraine, but what is really going on and why is it so important?  

Back in the day, Ukraine was a Soviet satellite state. It became known as an independent nation in 1991, and since then has been ruled as a constitutional republic. Over the years Ukraine has been asked to join the European Union. The European Union is a partnership with 28 countries that work together to make laws and share the same monetary system. There has been a loud cry of opposition in eastern Ukraine about joining the EU and having the west expand to Ukraine. 

In February 2014 Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was forced out of power by the Ukrainian parliament. The president, Vladimir Putin saw this as a threat to Russian speaking people in Ukraine, having anti-Russian people in power. Crimea has come into play in the last few months because of the Russian military occupation. Crimea is located in eastern Ukraine and has a population of 60 percent Russian. 

Some people in Crimea see themselves as Russians and think they should be apart of Russia. Russia thinks they have a claim to Crimea because of all the Russian speaking people. That’s where the conflict comes in. Do the people of Crimea really want to be part of Russia or are they being bullied by their looming neighbors to say so?

The fact of the matter is that people dying in eastern Europe. The Russian supporting rebels are fighting the Ukrainian military for control. We are seeing careless casualties like the Malaysia Airlines flight that was mistaken for a Ukrainian plane that killed all 295 people aboard the plane.

The big picture points to Russia and its issues. Putin doesn’t want to see the West expanding to Russia’s former territory. According to CNN lawmakers believe that Putin wants to control Ukraine in an attempt to reestablish a new version of the former Soviet Union, which may be an even bigger international problem. 

As an American I care what kind of conflicts our government gets into. It’s important to pay attention to what’s going on in Ukraine and Russia for a lot of reasons:

  • It affects the trade we do with different countries. (We have sanctions on Russia at the moment)
  • It affects government spending. (We spent $1 billion on aid)
  • It affects international relations. (Russia isn’t our biggest fan)

More importantly we’ve always been told that history repeats itself. We need to pay attention to this kind of conflict because we could be faced with a similar situation in the future. We need to know what works and what doesn’t. It’s going to be the people of my generation who will have the power to make or break this country in the near future. I share my knowledge as a political science student in hopes that it inspires someone to want to know what’s going on because the bloodshed going on in Ukraine is for real. 

ISIS: The State of Terror

A child is photographed, waiting to be killed by militants. ISIS uses these images to terrorize others and to glorify their spree of terror. Photo from Catholic online

A child is photographed, waiting to be killed by militants. ISIS uses these images to terrorize others and to glorify their spree of terror. Photo from Catholic online

    The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria better known as ISIS, has been blowing up American news since the beginning of the summer, but what really is ISIS and why should you care? ISIS is a Sunni extremist group that has broken off from the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. According to the UN News Center ISIS is considered a terrorist organization not only by the United States, but by the United Nations, and other nations as well. This isn’t the first time ISIS has terrorized Iraq. They have been on the US List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since December 2004.

    ISIS has created an Islamic caliphate, which is an Islamic state lead by a caliph, or successor to Muhammad.  According to my textbook, The World of Islam, the word caliphate comes from the arabic word “khalifa,” meaning successor and deputy. This term was created after the death of the prophet Muhammad in 632. Muhammad left no instructions as to who was to be his successor after his death. The Sunni Muslims originated when they selected the first “khalifa”, Abu Bakr as the successor. The leader of ISIS also calls himself Abu Bakr. The goal of ISIS is to create a worldwide caliphate where everyone is under the law of Islam. Anyone who doesn’t cooperate with their new world order is to be murdered. That is what ISIS does. They terrorize the people that don’t follow them. They have been running rampant through the country beheading Christians, the Kurdish people, the Yazidis people, and journalists. 

    I know that most people out there have at least heard about the beheading of James Foley. That was ISIS’s rebuttal to the US airstrikes in Iraq. That is how ISIS does business with people that oppose them. James Foley was not the first person ISIS has beheaded and you can bet he won’t be the last. 

    The most important thing we need to take from everything going on in Iraq is that this is really happening to people. We can preoccupy ourselves all day long with things in our own lives and pretend that this stuff isn’t real, but it is. Someone really got his head cut off on camera. That wasn’t an actor who character was dying. That was a person, an American, who was murdered for the world to watch. ISIS continues to murder people even when we aren’t watching. There are thousands of people hiding out on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq trying to keep their heads attached to their bodies. Men, women and children are dying of starvation and thirst trying to hide from this terrorist organization in the wilderness. If ISIS weren’t a real threat, these people wouldn’t have fled their homes to hide in the mountains with nothing more that the clothes on their backs. This. Is. Real.