Wednesday Conversations

Advance Of Al Qaeda In Fallujah Is A Humiliation Of The US, Financial Times Argues
In a sharp editorial, The Financial Times editors contend the loss of the key Iraqi city of Fallujah represents a moral and military defeat for the US. What is needed is not for the Obama administration to walk away, as it has done in Syria, but to take a more proactive role.

“In Syria, the US has no immediate options left. By failing in 2012 to arm the moderate rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Washington allowed militants linked to al-Qaeda to flourish. By siding with Russia and engaging with Damascus over the handover of Syrian chemical weapons, it entrenched Mr. Assad in power. On Syria, the US has sold the pass.

“On Iraq, however, the US must play a more proactive role. The Obama administration announced last week that it was accelerating weapons deliveries to Mr Maliki’s government, including missiles and surveillance drones, to help suppress the insurgency. But the US must make clear to Mr Maliki that settling the rebellion in Anbar province ultimately depends on political engagement with the Sunni community,” The Times advises.

Ben Piven of Al Jazeera America examines the roots of the resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan and why Sunnis perceive it as a real threat to them.

North Korea: Predictably Unpredictable
Robert Manning writes in The National Interest that attempting to predict the future course of North Korea may be a futile endeavor. Rather, he suggests, it is better to simply expect the unexpected.

“For all the unfounded speculation and hand-wringing about the unprecedented political turmoil on North Korea, most of it in inverse proportion to actual knowledge of the situation, too little thought has been given to the potential consequences of instability there. Kim may well have consolidated his rule. But there is also the possibility the Jang purge was a sneak preview of the future that factional strife among contending political elites and a possible budding middle class with unmet expectations lies ahead.

“To be fair, history is littered with erroneous predictions by Asia hands about North Korea. At each juncture – the end of the Cold War and Soviet support, the death of founder Kim Il Sung, and more recently, the death of Kim Jong Il, predications of North Korea’s imminent collapse have proven wrong.”

Terrorism – Is The Threat Overblown?
Ohio State University professor John Mueller argues in this controversial opinion piece that the threat to Americans from a terror attack is insignificant.

“The key question, at least outside of war zones, is not, ‘are we safer?’ but ‘how safe are we?’ At current rates, an American’s chance of becoming a victim of terrorism in the U.S., even with 9/11 in the calculation, is about 1 in 3.5 million per year. In comparison, that same American stands a 1 in 22,000 yearly chance of becoming a homicide victim, a 1 in 8,000 chance of perishing in an auto accident, and a 1 in 500 chance of dying from cancer.

“These calculations are based, of course, on historical data. However, alarmists who would reject such history need to explain why they think terrorists will suddenly become vastly more competent in the future. But no one seems to be making that argument. Indeed, notes one reporter, U.S. officials now say that al-Qaeda has become less capable of a large attack like 9/11. But she also says that they made this disclosure only on condition of anonymity out of fear that ‘publicly identifying themselves could make them a target’ of terrorists,” he contends.

Podcast: Climate Change
The Foreign Policy Association hosts a Great Decisions podcast series in which analysts discuss topics of the day. In this episode, Nathaniel Keohane, the Vice President of the Environmental Defense Fund, which subscribes to the belief that climate change is driven by human actions, discusses the total “cost” of emissions, the effects of climate change on health, and the challenges new energy technologies raise for the fossil fuel industry.

Listen to the full podcast.





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