Earthling: Biden hardens stance against Afghan people
Plus: Get ready for escalation in Ukraine; Blob logic parody contest; Tasmanian tiger comeback?; tweet of the week; and more!
President Biden’s plan to divert Afghan government funds to 9/11 families is encountering resistance from an unexpected source: 9/11 families.
In February, Biden signed an executive order freezing $7 billion in assets owned by Afghanistan’s central bank. The order reserved half that amount for 9/11 victims’ relatives who had successfully sued the Taliban for damages years ago. But this week 80 other relatives of 9/11 victims urged reconsideration of the policy. In a letter to Biden they wrote, “Ninety-five percent of Afghans are impoverished, and nearly nine million are at risk of starvation…this money is theirs, not ours.”
The letter comes at a time when the Biden administration is hardening its stance against such humanitarian arguments. This week the White House announced it wouldn’t unfreeze the $7 billion—including the $3.5 billion it had said would eventually be used to stabilize Afghanistan’s economy.
That move came in the wake of America’s assassination of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, which made it clear that Taliban officials had helped shelter him. Writing in the American Prospect, Ryan Cooper calls the move “collective economic punishment” of the Afghan people for the behavior of their leaders.
Meanwhile, on the Brookings Institution’s Lawfare site, legal scholar Ben Saul argues that the assassination of al-Zawahiri violated international law. He writes:
The US finds itself in an awkward club of states who murder or assassinate abroad, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. That the killing may be lawful under the US’s absurdly wide 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force…does not excuse US violations of international law. In the same way, Russia cannot write its own rules for Ukraine, or China for the South China Sea, or Israel for occupied foreign territory.
China is taking its zero-Covid policy to new depths. This week, videos emerged on Chinese social media of health workers swabbing the mouths of fish and crabs. Authorities issued an order last month that “both fishermen and their catch” be tested for Covid, on grounds that some fishermen had come into illegal contact with overseas vessels.
Sometimes an argument penned by a western foreign policy elite makes you wonder: Is this really an argument penned by a western foreign policy elite, or is it a parody of such an argument—penned, perhaps, by some enemy operative trying to expose the hypocrisy and incoherence of western foreign policy elites?
Consider a piece just published in the National Interest by Julian Spencer-Churchill of Canada’s Concordia University.
Spencer-Churchill frames the question he’s addressing this way: “What can be done when a sovereign state chooses to ally with a hostile foreign power and provides it the opportunity for a base of operations?” You might think that this is posed as the question that Vladimir Putin asked himself early this year, and that the answer Putin came up with—“Invade that sovereign state!”—is going to be deemed the wrong answer.
But no. Spencer-Churchill argues that “Invade that sovereign state!” can be a good answer—so long as the sovereign state is the Solomon Islands and the invader is the United States or Australia. His piece is devoted to arguing that these two allies should consider intervening militarily to keep the Solomon Islands from cozying up to China.
One reason this piece would work well as Russia-planted propaganda is that the Solomon Islands are 1,000 miles away from Australia and a jillion miles away from the US, whereas Ukraine is right on Russia’s border. So if invasion on national security grounds makes sense in the case of the Solomon Islands, surely it makes sense in the case of Ukraine? Watching Spencer-Churchill weave the pretzel logic required to avoid that conclusion is no doubt a pastime that Putin would approve of.
Time doesn’t permit us to reconstruct all the convolutions involved in this maneuver. But an important one seems to be the claim that a “coalition of democracies” has “legally and morally valid justifications for intervention in a foreign country” that are not legally and morally valid for non-democracies.
Remarkably, Spencer-Churchill says that invading the Solomon Islands would help uphold “the rules-based international order.” Which would seem to vindicate Vladimir Putin’s idea of what that term really means: America makes the rules and then gets to decide which countries have to follow them.
We invite readers to submit other foreign policy pieces that seem to be parodies of Blob logic. Send your candidates to Nonzero.News@gmail.com. Maybe there’s someone out there who can take the “best unintentional parody” trophy away from Julian Spencer-Churchill. That will take concerted effort, but the Blob is nothing if not industrious.
Seven years ago, political scientist John Mearsheimer warned that if Ukraine continued to align itself with NATO countries, rather than adopt a stance of neutrality, Russia would invade and Ukraine would get “wrecked.” Ukraine continued to align itself with NATO countries, Russia invaded, and the wreckage is growing.
Now Mearsheimer, writing in Foreign Affairs, has a new warning: