UNRWA: Should it Be Disbanded?

The United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) has been credibly accused of facilitating and even participating in the devastating Palestinian attack on Gaza. A few years ago, my wife Suzanne and I were invited by a Palestinian taxi driver to visit his home in the Qalandiya refugee camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem. We met his family and ate a delicious meal with them. Qalandiya was not what we expected of a refugee camp. It seemed like one of many Arab towns in Israel, but it was under the administrative control of UNRWA. Our host and his wife were both born in Qalandiya, and they planned to stay because of the so-called “right of return” narrative that is widely believed among Palestinians. It seemed to us then that UNRWA was a vestige of the past that served no useful function. It is worse than that now.

What has happened to the GOP?

On Aug. 7, 1974, U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., U.S. House Minority Leader John Rhodes, R-Ariz., and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, R-Pa., went to the embattled Nixon to make it clear that he faced all-but-certain impeachment, conviction and removal from office in connection with the Watergate scandal.

Nixon announced his resignation the next evening, effective at noon on Aug 9, 1974.  The GOP leaders had said nothing to him about resigning, but it was implied since their message was that he had lost all but minimal support for avoiding being convicted of impeachment.

This was the result of thorough investigations by Peter Rodino’s House Judicial Committee and Sam Ervin’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (AKA Watergate Committee), very sold news media reporting, and the evidence that was presented including the infamous “smoking gun” transcript of the June 23, 1972 meeting where Nixon ordered a coverup of the June 17, 1972 breakin to the DNC at the Watergate building.  The House had voted 410-4 in favor of the impeachment inquiry.  All 4 negative votes were Republicans.  But, voting for an inquiry was a long way from voting for impeachment.

Even with the evidence, the vote for impeachment was 27-11.  It was a bipartisan vote yet only 7 of the 17 GOP members of the committee voted for impeachment.  Why not unanimous?  It took a long time for Republicans to abandon Nixon.  The smoking gun transcript didn’t become available until two days before the GOP delegation went to see Nixon.  Even as late as two weeks before he resigned, he still had 38% support from Republicans.  His support collapsed quickly.  The shock that his denials were lies shook quite a few.   Still, there were fierce Nixon loyalists who weren’t about to let their duly elected President be forced out of office.  Some, like Tom Railsback, were warned by their local GOP party that they’d do their best to ruin his career if he voted for impeachment, but he did anyway. They carried through on their threat.

We have a Select Committee investigating again, this time about what happened on January 6, 2021.  But, the GOP of today has a very faint resemblance, if any, to the GOP of 1974.  Most refuse to engage at all in today’s Congressional investigation and seem to put little if any stock in the search for truth.  Most are seemingly afraid to utter a word against former President Trump who continues to hold a large part of the party in thrall to him.  It is an open question what it would take for Trump’s loyalists to finally accept that he did in fact lose the 2020 election.  Those who do finally accept it may face being discharged from the party just as happened in the 1974 midterm elections and has already happened to some who have turned against Trump because of what happened on January 6.

Will the GOP leaders do to Trump what they did to Nixon back in 1974?  They should, but I doubt it.  It likely would take a large loss of loyalty to the former President for that to happen.  What would it take to have that happen? The available evidence indicates that his support has been declining.  More are willing to look at an alternative candidate for 2024. 

Is there a “smoking gun” that will finally push Trump’s support away?  It may lie in the tape of his phone call to Raffensperger asking him illegally to give him the votes he needs to win Georgia.  At least a dozen of Trump’s fake electors who certified that Trump won in Georgia are being investigated by the Georgia grand jury.  Besides that, his phone calls to Raffensperger, Governor Kemp, Attorney General, and state lawmakers are being investigated.  The attempts by Trump loyalists like Giuliani in December 2020 to get the Ga legislature to believe their false election claims are an additional area of inquiry.  If the facts establish that Trump’s smoking-gun phone calls, use of false electors to falsely certify the election in his favor, and the efforts of his lawyers like Giuliani violated both state and federal criminal statutes, private citizen Trump should be treated like any other lawbreaker: indicted and prosecuted to the full extent of the law by both the Justice Department and the Fulton County district attorney.

To get a sense of the dilemmas facing the GOP, look at the results of the very recent GOP primary in Arizona.  The leading GOP candidate for Governor is a believer of Trump’s widespread baseless illegal voting claims that the election in AZ was stolen from him.  Their chosen nominee for Secretary of State has stated that if elected he would purge the voter rolls and eliminate early voting.  He has also said if he had the power to do it, he would decertify Arizona’s election results that gave Biden Arizona’s electoral votes.  The GOP’s nominee for the U.S. Senate parrots Trump’s baseless claims. If they are elected this November, they’d have enormous power of the 2024 election results.  Will they be elected?  It may take massive defeats of Trump loyalists running for office this November for Trump’s power to finally erode.

Dozens of GOP election deniers, many backed by Trump, have already won GOP primaries. Denying the 2020 election results is THE litmus test for Trump and his supporters.  Too many put no stock in truth itself.  They cancelled out of the party many of those who voted against Trump in either or both of the impeachment trials.  Reagan’s splendid idea of not speaking ill of fellow Republicans has gone into the trash can.  Will the virtual civil wars within the GOP harm its chances in the upcoming midterm elections?

Personally, I fervently hope that all or most of those who have been nominated who believe in denial of the 2020 certified results will be soundly defeated this November.  They do not deserve your support or mine.

A Comparison of Our Southern Border with Others in Crisis

It may seem an unfair comparison. Right now, there are an estimated 82.4 million refugees in the world. Our southern border issues are miniscule in comparison to the crises that exist elsewhere; but, our partisanship coupled with 24-7 news focused on primarily the U.S. makes it seem much worse than it is by way of comparison.

Let us take a look first to the south of us in the northern triangle of Central America, COVID has hit them hard. It pushed 687,000 people into leaving in FY 2021. Two hurricanes, Eta and Lota, devastated their economies in November 2020 especially in Honduras and Nicaragua. Frequent floods and earthquakes have continued since then.  Gang violence is rampant which caused a large murder rate. The region suffers from widespread corruption and governmental mismanagement. This is so bad, as an example, that El Salvador spends 70% of its budget on repaying loans. The rich pay little in the way of taxes. That leaves little for ameliorating the miserable conditions. Food insecurity is a real problem.

Miscommunications from the Biden administration led a significant number to believe they could get here, only to find out most were turned away. It is, of course, difficult to measure how much of an impact this miscommunication had given the other serious issues at work. It seems that those who focus on this factor have not considered the other factors causing a crisis on our southern border.

The Biden administration has continued Trump’s policy of Title 42 to attempt to control the crisis. The so-called war on drugs has increased the violence and corruption rather than interdicting the movement of drugs north. Trump’s policies made matters look better for our domestic population, but made the situation for the asylum seekers worse by forcing the asylum seekers to stay in Mexico by threatening tariffs on Mexico. Mexico is poorly equipped to take care of them. Trump’s increased regulations on the ability of asylum seekers to get to the U.S. has created months long backlogs in our immigration courts so the asylum seekers sit in not very nice camps in Mexico.

In fiscal year August 2020 to September 2021 about 1.7 migrants arrived at our border. In March 2021, there were 170,000 migrants that arrived at our border. The large majority were turned away.  Recidivism of 38% has added to the numbers of those turned away compared to a rate of 15% earlier.  So, the numbers of those who have arrived is significantly inflated by the rates of recidivism.

The number of refugees that have been admitted to the U.S. has fluctuated considerably over the years:


Partisanship, of course, has entered into all of this trying to blame Biden and/or Trump for the crisis.  In truth, the border situation was called a crisis in 2014 under President Obama. It has been an ongoing concern. This hints at the causes of the crisis are deeper and more significant than whatever each President has done.

Well, how does this compare with elsewhere?

First of all, my wife Suzanne and I have observed in our overseas travels that wherever there is a reasonably developed nation near to one that is not as well developed then there will be people who feel they have to move to that developed nation whether legally or not to have a better life.  That is certainly true for our southern border but obviously not for our northern one. As other examples, Finland had issues with Russians trying to get in. Slovakia had to deal with illegal Ukrainians. Israel definitely had illegal Sudanese.  It is a virtually universal phenomenon and Americans would be wiser to recognize that reality. We are NOT unique.

Even with our northern border, during the Vietnam war, Canada had illegal Americans coming in to escape the draft. In our own history, Mexico had a miserable time with trying to keep its border closed to Americans coming into the Mexican province of Texas with the result that a fair number of those at the Alamo were illegal immigrants. Since Mexico had abolished slavery, some of those Americans came with their “servants”. Jim Bowie had one at The Alamo.

Maybe, just maybe, if our partisans could recognize reality then the blaming would disappear. We WILL attract those who are desperate from our south. Period.

Secondly, our southern “crisis” does not come close to the situation in the top 7 crisis regions.

Syria is by far the worse with 6.8 million refugees and asylum seekers who because of the Syrian civil war remain in the Middle East. Turkey hosts nearly 3.7 million, the largest number of refugees hosted by any country in the world. Syrian refugees are also in Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. Returnees face a daunting situation, including lack of infrastructure and services mixed with danger from explosive devices. About 6.7 million Syrians remain displaced inside the country, and nearly 11.1 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance.

Second is Venezuela with 5.4 million refugees and asylum seekers, most of whom are in neighboring countries.

Third is Afghanistan with 2.8 million refugees and asylum seekers. Another 2.9 million are displaced within the country. At least 1.4 million of the refugees and asylum seekers are in Pakistan.

Fourth has to be southern Sudan with the worst crisis in Africa. There are 2.2 million refugees and asylum seekers who fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.  There are another 1.6 million displaced within the country.  Around 83% of the refugees and asylum seekers are women and children. As mentioned above, some of those Sudanese have turned up in Israel—we have met with some of them. Just like within the U.S., Israel is politically divided on what to do with refugees.

Fifth would include the 1.1 million Rohingya Muslim Refugees and asylum seekers from Myanmar.  There are another 880,000 stateless Rohingya in the country. Close to 500,000 of the refugees and asylum seekers are in Bangladesh.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has about 1 million refugees and asylum seekers in neighboring countries. But, there are a staggering 5.2 million stuck in the DOC.  Most are suffering from malnutrition and diseases. The DOC is arguably one of the worst places to be in the world.

Somalia comes in 7th with 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Most Somali refugees have settled in Kenya, Ethiopia, or Yemen. Some have lived in massive refugee camps for years. There are 3 million displaced within the country.

There are other refugee crises as on the border between Poland and Belarus along with between Libya and Southern Europe that manage to outstrip our southern border situation.

To sum up, the situation on our southern border is a small part of a global crisis involving refugees.  Maybe, just maybe, we can put the partisan attacks aside; and, recognize that a global crisis just might need a coordinated global campaign. If you compare our southern border situation with those outlined above that should help the reader realize that our problems are small compared to others, but our partisan attacks make the situation look much worse than it is by way of comparison. Our southern border crisis has lasted for 7 years spanning three Presidencies; and is not likely to go away regardless of whoever is President. It WILL continue as long as lives are endangered within the Northern Triangle.

Arguably a solution would be to aid the Northern Triangle to have security and decent jobs. The Obama administration tried a pilot program to do that with measurable success. Unfortunately, the Trump administration put an end to that program thus helping expand our southern border crisis. Reverse that decision and a better situation will likely evolve. Still, no one should expect that such a solution would be quick and 100% effective.

As an example, look at our northern border. Is there anything like the crisis on the southern border? Nope. Why not? Two quite developed nations are living side by side so there is little to no need for folks to become refugees. Help the Northern Triangle to be a place where people would feel safe and be employed. Do that; and, the crisis will reduce by quite a bit.

Oh, in a by the way, why don’t our partisan battles discuss the itsy bitsy troubling fact that at least half of our undocumented folks got here legally.  Why? It is so expensive and time consuming to stay here legally that many have chosen to just stay.  They are from all over the world; and, they are working, paying taxes. 

Why don’t our partisans on both sides get so heated up over this? 

Maybe because it is such a good deal for the employers as they don’t have to worry about paying benefits and treating their employees well? Is anyone motivated to pass legislation to fix this? The employers outsource the hiring so they can say they don’t employ undocumented folks. Why not make that outsourcing practice a felony? This is a modest suggestion if we are really serious about dealing with the undocumented.  But, are we?  Its so much easier to blame whoever is President for the southern border crisis than it is to try to solve it.

See: https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/why-don%E2%80%99t-they-just-get-line

Finally, are we really having to deal with open borders on our southern border? No. It is not the policy of the Biden administration to open our nation to whoever wants to come here without restrictions. https://www.cato.org/blog/bidens-border-policy-not-open-borders.

Jeez, this nasty partisanship has to stop.  THE U.S.A. DOES NOT HAVE AN OPEN SOUTHERN BORDER.

Sure, there are some on our southern border who manage to come in undocumented. That is NOT a new phenomenon. Aside from that, the reader should know that the U.S. has not had a policy of open borders since 1881, one year before the Chinese Exclusion Act.  

Is that going to change to an open borders policy?


Is the U.S. withdrawing from the Persian Gulf along with the ME?

This question has been raised since the U.S. has withdrawn its troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.  It is in fact a good question.

Just how and why did the U.S. begin having its military serve as “police” in the Middle East?

CENTCOM WAS FORMED IN 1983 BECAUSE OF A PERCEIVED SOVIET THREAT TO THE PERSIAN GULF.  Prior to CENTCOM, the U.S. had no pretentions of serving as The Policeman of the Persian Gulf.  As it turned out, the Soviets did NOT present any serious threat to the Persian Gulf. They did not seek to control it with their military; and made, no efforts to do so.  So, what to do?  There had to be an enemy for CENTCOM to plan against.  Who would that be?  Iraq.  Saddam had a big army but it turned out Iraq was not nearly the threat that the Soviets had been imagined to be.  Besides, we took him down, unwisely.  So, who would be the enemy now?  Iran.  But, Iran is not capable of controlling the oil flow out of the Persian Gulf.  They can occasionally disrupt it; and, have somewhat.  Even if they could, the UAE has built a pipeline for their oil to exit on the other side of the strait of Hormuz.  Saudi Arabia’s main oil pipelines can ship oil either to their ports in the Persian Gulf or to their huge port at Jeddah in the Red Sea.  So, why are we there?

CENTCOM WAS ALSO FORMED BECAUSE OF THE INHERENT ASSUMPTION THAT THE U.S. ALLIES AND FRIENDS WERE INCAPABLE OF FENDING FOR THEMSELVES.  They need help that only the U.S. could provide. This assumption is questionable now as noted below.

FINALLY, IT WAS FORMED BECAUSE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL BELIEF THAT ONLY THE U.S. MILITARY COULD GUARANTEE ACCESS TO THE ENERGY NEEDS COMING OUT OF THE PERSIAN GULF THAT WERE ESSENTIAL FOR THE LIFESTYLES AND ECONOMIES OF ITSELF AND ITS FRIENDS.  Thus, any threats to that supply could only be met by a U.S. military response.  But, why only by our military at this point?  Britain and France both have a naval presence in the Gulf. Britain’s base in on Bahrain and France’s is in the UAE.  Britain’s naval warships regularly escort British merchant ships through the Strait of Hormuz.  France is a large military arms salesman in the Gulf providing weapons to 4 of the 5 states there. They have signed weapons sale agreements worth billions with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait.  Israel has “special weapons” on their air-independent submarines which are regularly on duty as well in the Gulf.  Their military capabilities are formidable compared to Iran’s. The UAE has stealth F-35I planes to use and is part of the Persian Gulf Coalition.

It may be that CENTCOM’s main raison d’etres no longer apply.  But, does that mean we should withdraw all of our military from the ME?

To answer that we need to be aware of what our vital interests are in the ME 

1) it is vital, non-negotiable, that no foreign power can control trade anywhere in the ME, most especially in the Persian Gulf since the free flow of oil is still needed in the U.S. along with our friends and allies.  Freedom of the seas has long been a major issue for the U.S.  That certainly impacts American relations with Iran. The ME matters because of location, location, location.  It straddles the connections between three continents.  Even if there were no oil, the U.S. would still keep some military in the ME and particularly in the Gulf. As a result of Benghazi, the U.S. has developed a rapid response military team capable of reaching any American installation in the ME within a few hours.

2) Ensure that no foreign power or even a power in the ME controls that Gulf or the Eastern Med.  That is why our Sixth fleet is located in the Eastern Med and the Fifth fleet is based in Bahrain. Contrary to myth, the U.S. has not withdrawn from those bases located in the ME.

3) “A fair field for American businessmen in competition with foreign powers, especially China.”  We are a mercantile people with heavy investments in the ME so those folks desire protection of their assets.

4) The U.S. has a fundamental, non-negotiable, commitment to the security of Israel.  Our commitment there goes back to Wilson’s acceptance of the Balfour Declaration. We share democratic values; and, we cooperate at the highest levels militarily and in intelligence.  We have a multi-year arms agreement with Israel to enable Israel to maintain a distinct qualitative edge over any ME adversaries.

5) The U.S. prefers a peaceful resolution of disputes by negotiation or by arbitration.  Americans have believed that change happens for the best when it is peaceful.  However, our own domestic politics have become so dysfunctional that it makes having a coherent foreign policy difficult to achieve.  What can most Americans agree on, amicably? Hopefully that these interests outlined above are worth defending.

Further, as far as the ME is concerned, generally, Americans are ill informed or even misinformed about foreign affairs there, never mind geography. One of the first exercises I have had my ME students do is to place the names of the ME countries properly on a blank map of the ME that has the state boundaries in place.  Very few can do it.  In addition, Americans do not understand the complexities of the ME. How many would be able to give a correct answer to explain the main differences between Sunni and Shia Islam?  Very, very few. They would not know that a major impediment to democracy there is the widespread custom of marrying one’s cousins.  Almost none realize that Islam has at least 4 schools of thought about Sharia, not just one.

A very good example of a common belief is that the surge worked in Iraq; and, that the U.S. threw away something that worked.  The reality was that the surge was not just intended to defeat ISIS in Iraq, which it did, BUT ALSO to provide the peace needed for the Shi’ite Iraqi government to work out a wealth and power sharing agreement between the Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds. That government has not been able to do that so what was gained by the surge was soon lost.

6) The U.S. has found that it was pretty good at taking down dictators and nasty regimes as in Libya and Iraq; but it has been utterly unsuccessful in finding a way to build some form of western style democracy in those countries.  We should not try that again.  If the U.S. and Israel succeeded in taking down the Iranian regime, is there any guarantee that the resulting regime would be any better?

To summarize, it is reasonable to assume that the U.S. is NOT withdrawing from the Persian Gulf let alone the ME.  We can hope that our government will be wiser in the future about using our military there.