Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The opportunity after the Gaza War

The brutal attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, 2023, presents a challenging situation. However, it may have unforeseen consequences, such as weakening Iran's influence, potentially leading to a change in leadership in Gaza, and creating a more favorable political environment for peace and prosperity in the region, including for Palestinians.

Hamas's attack on Israel can be seen as an attempt by Iran, using one of its proxies, to disrupt the progress and success of the Abraham Accords. These Accords offer modernization, economic prosperity, and peace to a region that has been plagued by bitter conflicts with no hope of resolution for decades.

Iran's opposition to the Accords is driven by its desire for regional hegemony. Iran is a theocracy governed by totalitarian mullahs, leading a population of 90 million people with the intent to remove the U.S. presence from the Middle East and dominate its Sunni Muslim neighbors. Their leaders aspire to “restore a sense of “greatness” reminiscent of ancient Persian empires.” Iran uses proxies across the region to pursue its strategic goals with plausible deniability.

Contrary to the outcry from Hamas supporters worldwide and distorted intersectional views on U.S. college campuses, the attack was not about a continuing cycle of violence or a righteous anti-colonial struggle of the oppressed. Its purpose was to prevent the Abraham Accords from uniting Israel and Sunni Muslim states in the Middle East.

Iran employs proxies throughout the Middle East to challenge local and neighboring governments. These militias and parties receive support from Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Yemen. This allows Iran to pursue its strategic objectives while maintaining plausible deniability, as seen in incidents such as the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut and the recent attack on Israel.

Hamas had been planning its attack on Israel for over a year, with key support from Iranian allies. Iran's backing of Hamas has increased in recent years, with funding rising from $100 million to $700 million in 2022. Training, arms, logistical support, and technical guidance on weapons manufacturing have also increased. Although it seems unusual for Sunni Hamas leaders to align themselves with Shiite Iran, their shared interests in the destruction of Israel and substantial Iranian support forged this alliance.

Reports from The Wall Street Journal suggest that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp met with Hamas in Beirut to approve the attack on Israel. While the U.S. government claims it lacks direct evidence of an Iranian role in the attack, substantial evidence points to Iran's involvement, which some choose to deny in order to avoid direct confrontation with Iran.

The Biden Administration's policy changes, including a more conciliatory approach to Iran to restore nuclear negotiations, have emboldened the Iranian government. These changes have allowed Iran to earn significantly more from crude oil sales. Additionally, the release of $10 billion in frozen funds in Iraq in July and another $6 billion in frozen funds in Korea in September has provided the Iranian government with ample resources to pursue its objectives.

The Abraham Accords pose a challenge to Iran's ambitions. These agreements between Israel and several Arab states expand upon previous peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. As of now, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan have joined the Accords.

The Abraham process, initiated by the Trump Administration, emerged from frustration with the failure of the  1993 Oslo Accord process to achieve final agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. Two attempts in 2000 and 2008 failed due to the refusal of Palestinian leaders Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. The Abraham process shifts the focus to the religious connection between all Abrahamic peoples. Abraham was the father of Isaac and Ishmael from whom the Jewish and Arab peoples descend respectively. Genetic studies affirm the Biblical connections of the two peoples.

The Accords document states, “Recognizing that the Arab and Jewish peoples are descendants of a common ancestor, Abraham, and inspired, in that spirit, to foster in the Middle East a reality in which Muslims, Jews, Christians and peoples of all faiths, denominations, beliefs and nationalities live in, and are committed to, a spirit of coexistence, mutual understanding and mutual respect… [AND] committed to working together to realize a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that meets the legitimate needs and aspirations of both peoples.”

Talk of expanding the Accords to include Saudi Arabia may have been too much for Iran to tolerate. The announcement of the India-MiddleEast-Europe Corridor initiative at the G20 Summit in India in September likely raised further concerns, not only for Iran but also for China and Russia. This corridor envisions a multi-faceted economic and energy route from India to Europe through Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The opportunity lies in the possibility that Iran may have overplayed its hand, confirming to the Abraham Accords participants that their perception of Iran as a source of violence and instability in the region is accurate. Forward-thinking leaders in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain are not deceived by this attempt to undermine their vision for the future. They may express concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people publicly, but they are likely to welcome the destruction of Hamas. Once the dust settles after the conflict, they will likely resume their efforts with renewed determination and a sense of urgency.

Israel, which stands to benefit the most from regional peace, has been compelled to take unwelcome military action to defend its people and restore conditions for further advancing the Abraham Accords. It cannot tolerate Hamas as the leadership in Gaza, as it risks a repeat of the horrors of October 7th with potentially even more devastating consequences.

Israel, the United States, and the Abraham Accords states must now work on setting the conditions for progress after Israel completes its military action. This includes establishing new leadership in Gaza committed to peace and willing to shift the culture and political narrative among Palestinians from an absolutist "from the river to the sea" chant that calls for the elimination of Israel to one that accepts that compromise is in their best interest.

Simultaneously, the United States must abandon its misguided efforts to pursue détente with Iran and restore the Trump Administration's "maximum pressure" policy. It should lead an international effort to reduce the power of Iran's mullahs and dismantle their proxies in the Middle East. The participants in the Abraham process should join this effort as advocates for peace and prosperity in the region.

In the words of Jesus, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matt 5:9). Iran's actions have demonstrated it is a source of violence and instability in the Middle East. Those who seek peace and prosperity through the Abraham Accords are the true peacemakers. Their positive trajectory was disrupted by Iran and Hamas, causing the current violence. It is essential to recognize the difference between the two struggling parties and support those who seek peace.


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DISTRIBUTION:  Liberty Takes Effort shifted its distribution from social media to email delivery via Substack as a Newsletter.  If you would like to receive distribution please email me at libertytakeseffort@gmail.com  To see archived blog posts since 2014 visit www.libertytakeseffort.com.

DISCLAIMER: The entire content of this website and newsletter are based solely upon the opinions and thoughts of the author unless otherwise noted. It is not considered advice for action by readers in any realm of human activity. Its purpose is to stimulate discussion on topics of interest to readers to further inform the public square. Use of any information on this site is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.

Friday, October 27, 2023

A Republican Unity Ticket to Challenge Trump

Former President Donald Trump currently holds a commanding lead as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the 2024 Presidential Election. His lead has consistently grown despite facing several indictments. None of his opponents has managed to surpass the 20% mark in national polls or in early caucus/primary states since July. To disrupt this trend and challenge Trump more effectively, a major shift in strategy is required by his challengers.

One potential approach is for the competing candidates to cease vying for second place and instead form a team. This team would identify a president-vice president partnership from within their ranks and select cabinet members from the remaining candidates. The goal would be to work together as a cohesive unit focused on unseating Trump as the primary front-runner.

The strategy necessitates a willingness on the part of the challengers to act unselfishly and boldly. Together, they stand a better chance of defeating Trump, as opposed to going it alone. Combining campaign, media, and financial resources would be a more efficient and effective approach. This unified approach may help them get closer to Trump and build momentum.

The Wall Street Journal reports in “Trump’s Challengers Beg for Donations” (Oct. 18) that large donors are taking to the sidelines until the field of candidates shrinks. A consolidation of the field into a team may unleash that funding stream once again. In addition, combining the cash on hand and small donor bases of the candidates would bring strength. Recent Federal Election Commission reports show that the combined cash on hand of the challengers exceeds $45 million, surpassing Trump’s $32 million.

Following the third Republican debate on November 8th in Miami, the candidates pursuing this plan would announce a joint president-vice president campaign before the New Year. They would also identify potential cabinet members from within their group. 

The primary consideration in selecting candidates for these positions should be their potential to win the primary and general election. All the challengers possess interesting backgrounds and valuable experience in government and the private sector. Some have proven better fund raisers than others and that may influence which president-vice president team may emerge, but the key question is which combination is most likely to secure a general election victory. The strongest combination appears to be Haley/DeSantis based on polling.

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina Governor, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, appears to be a strong candidate for the president position in the primary. National polling averages from 538 and Real Clear Politics show DeSantis has plateaued in second place with Haley gaining momentum and challenging him for that slot. In the early primary/caucus states of New Hampshire and South Carolina Haley is edging out DeSantis for second place behind Trump.

Haley appears weaker among populists, pro-life, and strong traditional values segments of the Republican Party. In this context, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis could serve as an ideal vice-presidential candidate to shore up support among these voters. DeSantis has proven himself as a winner with a convincing victory in the 2022 election. He is also willing to tackle cultural issues head-on and has a history of success in reversing trends objectionable to traditionalist conservatives.

The remaining third-tier challengers can play vital roles in the team as likely cabinet members in the Haley/DeSantis partnership. For instance, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott could take on the role of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to lead efforts in implementing an equality and opportunity agenda. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could serve as Attorney General to rebuild trust in the justice system. Former Vice President Mike Pence, if he wishes to continue serving, could be considered for Secretary of Defense or State. His experience would be welcome, and he has a personal stake in national security decisions with a son and son-in-law serving as military pilots. Vivek Ramaswamy’s energy and intellect could be focused to revamp U.S. education policy as Secretary of Education. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum could serve as Secretary of Energy to implement a comprehensive and balanced energy policy. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson might take on the role of Secretary of Homeland Security having had several related positions in the past.

Another potentially dramatic cabinet offer could be made to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He left the Democratic Party and began an independent campaign. He is polling above 20% against Biden and Trump in some polls. Kennedy would be asked to join this team with a promise to be nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services and the opportunity to transform the institution and break the stranglehold he perceives the pharmaceutical industry has on it.

It is worth noting that a significant majority of Americans, across the political spectrum, have indicated in polling that they do not want a Biden/Trump rematch. The Democratic Party has shut down challenges to President Biden. The Republican Party is fortunate to have a deep bench of high-quality candidates seeking to replace former President Trump. Alone, none of them are likely to unseat President Trump, but by working together, they stand a better chance of achieving this goal.

There is also the opportunity for non-Republicans to express their dissatisfaction with the Trump/Biden match up. Thirty-one states do not have party registration or allow registered independents to vote in any party's primary. If a Unity Ticket were formed it could expand its outreach to independents and even moderate Democrats to support their ticket. This could make the difference in accumulating a majority of delegates in the 31 states.


SHARING:  Please consider sharing these blog posts via social media or email if you find them interesting by providing a link to either https://www.libertytakeseffort.com/   or   https://libertytakeseffort.substack.com/ 

DISTRIBUTION:  Liberty Takes Effort shifted its distribution from social media to email delivery via Substack as a Newsletter.  If you would like to receive distribution please email me at libertytakeseffort@gmail.com  To see archived blog posts since 2014 visit www.libertytakeseffort.com.

DISCLAIMER: The entire content of this website and newsletter are based solely upon the opinions and thoughts of the author unless otherwise noted. It is not considered advice for action by readers in any realm of human activity. Its purpose is to stimulate discussion on topics of interest to readers to further inform the public square. Use of any information on this site is at the sole choice and risk of the reader.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Red Flag failure - laws mean nothing if not implemented

The 4th of July mass public shooting of parade goers in Illinois is yet one more tragedy sparking calls for new gun control laws.   As in the Buffalo shopping center mass public shooting, this event occurred in a state with some of the most stringent gun control laws in the country.  Only seven states are ranked A- or better, including Illinois and New York, by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  Both states also have Red Flag Laws in place that if properly resourced, prioritized, and enforced could have prevented both events. 

In a previous blog post, “Mourning with Uvalde – what can we do?” this blog recommended several actions for readers and law makers to make changes that could be realistically achieved and might make a difference.   Another blog post, “A victory for respectful bipartisan collaboration,” described some legislative success at the federal level.  One of the outcomes was to support states in creating and implementing Red Flag laws. 

As I have written before, there are now 19 states with Emergency Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws commonly called Red Flag laws. These laws are essential to successful intervention at the intersection of dangerousness and firearm access.   They typically create a process for the removal of guns from the possession of an individual who demonstrates they are dangerous to themselves or others.  Having a Red Flag law in place is essential as a first step in this effort. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

A victory for respectful bipartisan collaboration post Uvalde

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed into law on June 25, 2022.   It was a major achievement for the Congress to pull together the Bill in a bipartisan manner and approve legislation that may not make anyone at the extremes of the left and right divide happy.  But for the 60+% in the middle, it showed that people of good will, respecting the opinions of others, can get something done to impact a problem of concern to the public.

The law provides support to improve mental health services for communities and schools; expands background checks for those under 21 to include juvenile records; funds assistance to states to implement Red Flag laws; closes the “boyfriend loophole;” clarifies trafficking to include “straw purchases;” and funds school safety programs. 

Credit for the law goes first to Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) who vowed business as usual would not pass muster after the Uvalde mass murder.  She approached Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R) of Kentucky and asked for negotiating partners on the Republican side.  McConnell identified Texas Senator John Cornyn (R) and Senator Thom Tillis (R) of North Carolina.  The two promptly agreed to meet with Sinema the next day along with Senator Chris Murphy (D) of Connecticut. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Is our partisan political division biological?

Stephen Stills wrote a song in 1966 for the group Buffalo Springfield titled “For What It’s Worth.”  It became an anti-war protest anthem of sorts in the 1960’s. The song seems more broadly applicable today than in 1966.  Parsing the lyrics:   

There's battle lines bein' drawn.  Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.  A thousand people in the street.  Singin' songs and a-carryin' signs.  Mostly sayin' hooray for our side. 

In the responding chorus, Stills gives good counsel singing, “It’s time we stop children, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s goin’ down.”

Western countries are increasingly divided in partisan political animosity that is personal and intense - the U.S. most acutely.   Mutually antagonistic political groupings cast their political identity like an umbrella over personal and professional relationships.  Irrational allegiance to political identity and confirmation bias are at play, not opinion. Shared opinions on specific issues and policies flourish across the dividing lines.  Many people hold political identities that are largely inconsistent with many of their expressed opinions and policy preferences.    Much is written about the divide - when it started; how it gets worse with time; that it may cause the breakup of the U.S. or even a civil war

Both sides of the divide seek to impose their values through control of government, particularly national government, and through cultural and economic entities.   On the one side, the goal is to restore a nostalgic, almost mythical past, and stop change that is often essential to the renewal of institutions and culture.  On the other side, the goal is to transform society to an unattainable political and cultural utopia that necessitates the destruction of the social institutions that bind society and undergird civilization.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Mourning with Uvalde – what can we do?

 After the Parkland murders occurred, and again after the Santa Fe murders I asked my readers to take action.   I ask you again to please take individual action within your own sphere of influence. Please, also communicate with school and governmental leaders. Hold them accountable and demand that they implement solutions. Do not assume that your schools are safe.  Demand testing, practice, and exercise protocols be instituted.

Once again America mourns the loss of innocent children.  How horrible for the people of Uvalde to suffer such a loss of innocent life.  That such things can happen seems unimaginable, but we know them all too well.  May each of these families, and the community of Uvalde, find peace and healing after their immense loss.  May their loss and God’s love inspire our nation to gain the understanding and wisdom needed to come together with humility in a cooperative manner to prevent such horror in other communities.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

My House Price is Inflated – Should I Sell?

Average U.S. national house prices have increased to record levels.  Homeowners may view the current market as an excellent opportunity to sell.  While the market is high, there are also indications that a correction may occur within the next few years.  Selling near peak and waiting out a correction to buy at a lower price is a potentially profitable option.  In pursuing such action, it is important to distinguish assumptions from facts in decision-making.

In my last blog post, Real Estate and the First Time Buyer,” I provided an assessment of how the housing market arrived at its present state and explored possible outcomes in the market in the coming two years.  It was written for the benefit of the first-time buyer.   This post builds upon that analysis and explores options for the high equity owner thinking of selling.

There are many reasons to consider selling in the current market.   For example, one’s financial portfolio may be disproportionately allocated to real estate due to the rise in prices.   Or one might be at the limit of the real estate capital gain tax exclusion ($250,000 single or $500,00 couple).   Selling now would restart the two-year exemption timeline on the next house and save significant taxation.  Maybe there were already plans to downsize or retire or move to another job or make a vacation home or rental property into a permanent residence.

There are too many scenarios to assess in this limited space.   The context of people’s lives and regional housing market conditions vary considerably.  So, the remainder of this post will explore a single case study that can provide broad insight in many scenarios.