Ever since the British people voted 51-49% in 2016 to leave the European Union, the status of their departure has been in turmoil. Now, almost four years later after numerous delays and extensions from Brussels, the United Kingdom appears poised to finally make their official exit on January 31st. It is fitting that Boris Johnson, one of the most vocal advocates for Brexit, will be the Prime Minister who ushers Britain into this new era, although the road to his crowning achievement has not been simple.
Johnson became PM after his predecessor, Theresa May, resigned following numerous rejections in Parliament of her deal with the EU for post-Brexit relations. Unlike May, who often pressed the importance of negotiating a deal for Britain’s departure, Boris spoke at length about his willingness to leave the Union without a Brexit deal in place. He was elected by the Conservative Party as PM in June 2019, but his plans for a no-deal Brexit were quickly derailed. Shortly before the departure deadline of October 31st Johnson called for a suspension of Parliament until late October to nullify any chances of a Brexit deal passing. The move was highly controversial and eventually ruled illegal as Parliament gathered again on October 8th.
After reconvening, several members of Johnson’s Conservative Party defected and voted with the opposition to pass the Benn Act which forced the government to ask Brussels for an extension if a Brexit deal was not approved.
After this setback Johnson began calling for new general elections hoping to regain his majority in Parliament. The election, held on December 12th 2019, resulted in a landslide victory for the Conservatives who gained 48 seats while their primary rival, the Labour Party, suffered a humiliating turnout, losing 60 seats. This victory gave Johnson the Parliamentary majority he desired, allowing him to declare that Britain would finally leave the European Union in January 2020. Yet this departure will not be the no-deal Brexit that Boris wished for, instead Britain will be departing under a revised version of the deal that Theresa May initially negotiated.
The primary change under Boris’ deal compared with May’s regard the so called “Irish backstop.” The backstop was intended to resolve the border question in Ireland resulting from Britain’s withdrawal and the Republic of Ireland’s status as an EU member-state. Specifically, the backstop was a plan to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which would result from the UK’s withdrawal as Northern Ireland is a province of the United Kingdom. A hard border within Ireland was outlawed under the Good Friday Agreement that ended the Troubles. The Troubles were a thirty year ethnic conflict between Ireland and Northern Ireland over the unification of the island. The backstop would have essentially acted as if there was no border between the two nations in Ireland with customs checks between the islands of Ireland and Britain. Johnson’s Brexit deal removes the backstop and institutes a customs border between Ireland and Northern Ireland which might unintentionally inflame Irish nationalist tensions. The new agreement does give the UK the added ability to negotiate its own international trade agreements which was a major complaint regarding May’s Brexit deal.
Though Brexit remains controversial in Britain and Europe, both parties will likely be
relieved to see this saga end. Voters for the withdrawal should be delighted with the deal Johnson put together and EU citizens who generally opposed the withdrawal should be glad it’s actually over. As for the potentially catastrophic results many foretold during the Brexit referendum in 2016, only time will tell how Britain’s departure affects both their economy and
Much has been said about President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from territory in Northern Syria that was controlled by our Kurdish allies. In fact, most of the commentary about this move has been overwhelmingly critical regardless of the author’s political affiliation; even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rebuked the decision. With such strong bipartisan opposition, it is evident that many in our government believe this withdrawal to be harmful to American interests in the region. So what are the potential consequences of an American withdrawal out of Syria?
Perhaps the most obvious consequence is the loss of American influence on the world stage and in the Levant. The US has been very involved in Middle East politics for decades and the presence of American troops in the region was a large part of that involvement. Now with American troops withdrawing from Syria it leaves a power vacuum which Russia is already moving to fill. Russian troops are patrolling in the region and returning cities formerly occupied by US allies to the Syrian government. Additionally, Putin has begun increasing his personal presence in the region with visits to Saudia Arabia and the UAE.
Another consequence is the apparent about-face of the Kurds foreign alignment. The US had allied the Kurds in the fight against ISIS, arming and training them and using them as the primary ground force in the region to avoid the deaths of American servicemen. But in the face of brutal aggression from Turkey, a NATO member and US ally, the Kurds turned to any potential allies in the region and it seems they decided Russia and the al-Assad regime are they best hopes for survival. This move essentially guarantees Assad’s victory in the eight-plus year civil war as the Kurds controlled the largest contested portion of Syrian territory. Russia has also intervened and negotiated with Turkey to relocate the Kurds from the Turkish-Syrian border, another step in a growing relationship between the two former enemies.
A third consequence is the potential setbacks in the fight against ISIS. The Kurds were holding a number of prisoners captured in the fight against the terrorist group and soon after Turkey launched reports surfaced captured fighters were escaping in the chaos, providing new strength to the organization President Trump claimed was “100% defeated” earlier this year. Kurdish officials said that upwards of 800 fighters escaped from a single detention camp as a result of the Turkish invasion. Turkey rebuffed those accusations and said that the Kurds themselves were intentionally releasing the prisoners. Regardless of how these prisoners are escaping, the fact remains that hundreds and potentially thousands of ISIS members are now loose in the region causing further chaos and likely extending the need for American troops throughout the Levant.
Finally, there is the issue of Turkey itself. In its invasion of Kurdish territory, Turkey, an ally of the US, is openly at war with the Kurds, an ally of the US. The conflict has soured American-Turkish relations significantly, with Turkish President Erdogan allegedly tossing a letter from President Trump in the trash. Simultaneously, Turkey’s relationship with Russia continues to grow, and all of this comes after Turkey upset the United States by buying a Russian missile defense system in the summer. The growing divide between America and Turkey could have catastrophic effects on NATO and Europe as Turkey has played an important role in deterring Russian influence but now seems to be distancing itself from its Western allies and aligning closer with Russia. Currently the Levant is in utter chaos despite claims of multiple ceasefires from the White House and more chaos will likely follow as the US is continuing to conduct military operations in the region, now heavily occupied by Russia and pro-Russian forces.
For the second time this year, the Trump administration has threatened to start a war with Iran. Throughout his time in office, President Trump repeatedly attacked Iran and the nuclear deal signed under his predecessor’s tenure, so these threats of war can be seen as a natural response to escalating tensions between Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. Verbal attacks on Iran tend to play well with American voters as Iran’s approval rating with American citizens has not risen above 20% in the past 3 decades. However, Trump’s oral assault on Iran is a massive shift in tone from the previous administration and is changing the direction of the relationship between the two countries. Three years ago, tension with Iran seemed to be cooling and global sanctions were being lifted, contrast that with today where Iran’s economy is suffering under crippling sanctions, primarily from the US, and an increasing threat of war. These three years have seen an almost complete reversal of US-Iranian relations, so how did we get here?
Iranian History, in short:
Modern Iran did not arise until 1921, when Reza Khan staged a coup d’etat and declared himself the Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty and renamed the country from Persia to Iran. During WWII, the Allies deposed Reza in favor of his son, Mohammad, who was much more friendly toward them than his father. After a brief exile, Mohammad returned to Iran and in 1963, began his “White Revolution” to westernize Iran despite strong opposition from his citizens. This attempt to westernize led to a revolution against the Shah resulting in his exile and the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. During this revolution, the US embassy in Tehran was stormed by students and 52 Americans were taken hostage for 444 days, sparking tension between the two countries. Several years later a US naval ship shot down an Iranian passenger plane killing 290 people on board; further inflaming relations. These events of past help explain the existing tensions of today.
The current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei came to power in 1989 and under his rule, relations have continued to sour. In 1995, the first US sanctions were placed on Iran. Then, in 2002, President Bush called the country a part of the “axis of evil” and claimed Iran was developing nuclear weapons, which Iran refuted claiming their uranium enrichment was for civilian purposes. US-Iranian relations in the 21st century have been dominated by this nuclear issue, with each president attempting, in their own way, to reign in the Iranian nuclear program. Under President Bush, most issues concerning Iran and their nuclear program were handled through the UN and the power of the P5+1 (the UK, France, Russia, China, the US, and Germany). The UN first attempted to negotiate a halt to uranium enrichment and after that failed, began imposing increasingly restrictive sanctions. Sanctions continued to increase under President Obama through the US Congress and the UN until late 2013 when Iran and the P5+1 agreed to the Joint Plan of Action. This plan included easing sanctions from the US and EU in exchange for Iran reducing its enriched uranium stockpile and would go on to become the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal. The nuclear deal was not well received in the US with 57% of Americans disapproving of the deal in 2016. This displeasure with the nuclear deal was famously expressed by then then-candidate, Donald Trump who called it the worst deal ever negotiated and vowed to renegotiate the deal despite resistance from the rest of the P5+1.
The Trump Presidency
In May of 2018, after years of declaring his contempt for the JCPOA, President Trump announced a formal withdrawal of the United States from the agreement and plans to place the “highest level” of sanctions on Iran. Despite the US’ withdrawal, British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emannuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed continued support for the agreement as long as Iran continues to abide by its regulations. Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal naturally upset Iran and launched a war of words between Trump and Iran best displayed by on Twitter. Trump’s decision also upset leaders of the European Union who see the JCPOA as necessary to ensure the EU exists free of the threat of a nuclear Iran. It is worth noting that the International Atomic Energy Agency never found Iran to be in violation of the JCPOA until they announced they would no longer abide by the deal in response to US sanctions in May of 2019 a full year after the US withdrew. Following this announcement, tensions between the two nations rose sharply. In mid-July 2019, Iran announced the seizure of a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, accusing the ship of violating regulations while US officials claim Iran seized a second ship, both illegally. A week later, a US drone was shot down in the same area, Iran claimed this drone was illegally in Iranian airspace while the US said it was in international airspace. In response, President Trump approved a military strike against Iran but ultimately called off the strike.
Saudi Oil Field Attack
Finally, we come to September 14th, 2019 where several oil fields in Saudi Arabia were attacked in a series of explosions of unknown origins. A group of Houthi rebels in Yemen, which are in a brutal war against the Saudia Arabian backed Yemen government, have claimed responsibility for the attack, yet the Saudis blame Iran. The attack on Saudi oil fields, which crippled the country's oil production, was well planned and used drones similar to models previously displayed by Iran lending credibility to the belief that Iran either carried out the strikes itself or supplied the drones to the Houthis. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has become one of the United States’ strongest allies in the Middle East, despite their connections to the 9/11 attacks, and that relationship has become even stronger under Trump who had business ties with the Saudi royal family prior to becoming president. Though Iran denies involvement with the attacks in Saudi Arabia, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the attack an “act of war” by Iran and has sought to build an international coalition to respond to Iran’s alleged aggression similar to the coalition in the Iraq War. President Trump has been mulling a retaliatory strike on Iran, though he publicly stated he desired a more peaceful resolution and announced an increase in sanctions on Iran. Iran has vowed that any action against them would lead to “an all out war” with Saudi Arabia, the US, and any other potential allies. To be frank, nobody knows what to expect from this. President Trump has proven to be quite mercurial with regards to military intervention in Iran and any global conflict could spur the impending recession which would likely be catastrophic to his re-election campaign.
The controversial statements of Beto O’Rourke in the most recent Democratic debate, have sparked polarizing opinions from both sides over the divisive issue of gun ownership. This debate has been shared by both heavy advocates of control arguing for progressive reform, to opponents enraged by the idea of disrupting the current status quo.
However, in order to unpack this situation, we must first look at the cause of such discussion: mass shootings. This year, 304 Mass shootings have occurred, causing a total of 10,782 deaths. Of almost all of these major mass shootings, the grand majority have been accomplished through the use of an AR-15.
With these statistics, it seems clear that the obvious solution is to make reforms to gun legislation. Currently, our federal government lacks laws that enforce background checks (one of every five Americans buy a gun without a background check), laws mandating a permit to purchase firearms, and restrictions on the selling and ownership of assault weapons at the federal level. With the overabundance of mass shooting deaths correlated to one variable, it seems only logical that reforms be put in place to curb such tragedies from reoccurring. But its not, and here’s why.
Arguments Against Gun Control
There are a few schools of thought and regurgitated rhetoric that advocates of anti-control use to make their case, most are simply illogical. Of these are arguments like self-defense, sport, protection against tyranny, and most daunting of all: constitutional right. We will respond to these in order of their appearance, first of which is self-defense. The argument that an AR-15 is necessary for the best form of self-defense is, quite frankly, dumb. Even gun owners themselves recognize this. AR-15’s are one of the most difficult guns to fire accurately in self-defense scenarios; mobility is extremely difficult and accuracy is successful only when sitting and scoping. Gun sites themselves, report that both pistols and shotguns both act as a better tool in self-defense situations. Sport is another argument for owning assault rifles like AR-15’s, however, yet again this argument is inadequate. This assault rifle for the use of hunting is an anomaly, and if it is used, it's quite embarrassing for the hunter, wrote one hunter on americanhunter.org. “I served in the military and the M16A2/M4 was the weapon I used for 20 years. It is first and foremost designed as an assault weapon platform, no matter what the spin. A hunter does not need a semi-automatic rifle to hunt if he does he sucks and should go play video games… These are not hunters but wannabe weekend warriors,” he wrote. Next is the argument of protection against tyranny, which when conceptualized, is the most humorous of them all. The United States military has a total of 1.3 million troops, and 133 million firearms; if the government wanted to take over your local militia of 35 members, it would. Clearly, none of these application-based arguments offer a defense, even Ronald Reagan himself didn’t buy them. Yet, their claims of Constitutional Right, despite its controversy (D.C v. Heller), have adequately sufficed as protection against new regulations. Yet, even this is insufficient when we hold the standard of Constitutional Right, in comparison to another key historical instance.
The Patriot Act
Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the American federal government took drastic steps to ensure the protection of American citizens. Most specifically, the law passed to prevent terrorism, infringed on our constitutional rights. This act, allowed governmental agencies, primarily the NSA, access to private information of its citizenry without their consent. By doing this, The Patriot violates the Constitution in four core ways:
However, the issue arises for those who defend this act, while also opposing gun control regulation. The argument of protection versus constitutional right is not only limited to the Patriot Act. We as well can look at our limits within the First Amendment (Schenck v. United States, Whitney v. California). If our speech endangers or explicitly harms others, it is not protected. It is clear: our constitutional rights go only as far as their assurance of our protection. If our rights enfringe on these protections, they are restricted. Therefore the real question to ask is: have and do assault weapons, like AR-15’s, endanger our protection enough to limit its Constitutional guarantee of ownership and distribution. If it does, then just as our legislation for the Patriot Act and Schneck v. The US achieved, restrictions regarding these rights need to be put in place to ensure the safety of American citizens. Luckily, we have data over these topics, and the evidence that these guns endanger our citizenry is an overwhelming: yes.
The Only Rational Conclusion
The arguments for self-defense, sport, and tyranny, are insufficient. The only defense that still stands is the one of a constitutional right. However, history has shown that even these rights have restrictions when they prevent the safety of its citizenry; the support for the Patriot Act and limitations on free speech show that Americans advocate this exact logic. If a right infringes on our protection, restrictions must be placed on them. Just as terrorism and threats of violence through speech, evidence shows that AR-15’s put our citizenry in the same if not more amounts of danger. The next step to deal with these dangers should be no different than how we have dealt with them previously. Action must be taken to put limitations on these Constitutional rights for the safety of our people, just as legislators did by passing the Patriot Act and restricting the First Amendment for our safety. What our nation must do now, is the same thing that it has always done: ensure the defense of its people, over irrational dogmatism.
- Noah Woods
Co-Founder, RAMBLER Magazine
In 1980, Republican Presidential Candidate Ronald Reagan conducted a campaign to gain the mass support of right-wingers nationwide on his journey to the White House. Following the Democratic Presidency of Jimmy Carter that produced stagnating wages and inflated prices, Reagan looked to redirect our economy through conservative policies that would lead our country back to growth and stability. In retrospect, most Republicans felt he did just that. Supporters go so far as to say that his Presidency resembles the epitome of what the Republican Party should look like.
Advocates of Reagan dogmatically cling to his libertarian policies. They fervently boast in the successes of deregulation, free-market economics, government spending reduction, and more crudely speaking: getting their government out of their business. But to their credit, they have a reason to cling this political ideology. Overall, America was in good shape; there was peace internationally, economic growth at home, and hope in their country again. What Reagan had done was nothing out of the sort, these were mainstream beliefs that Republicans had endorsed for years. From here forth, Republicans embraced Reagan’s ideology as the basis of their platform. However, by approving of President Trump, what Republican congressmen seemingly back today, is contrary to everything their party has previously stood for before.
Economically speaking, Donald Trump’s political system is more indicative of authoritarian-socialism, than laissez faire economics. In fact, some of Donald Trump’s policies align so far left, that progressive Democrats wouldn’t even agree with them.
Trump’s America utilizes big-government through intervention, directly opposite of what any conservative has advocated for prior to him.
Let me explain, what we’re talking about.
Tariffs on Imports: Candidate Trump ran his campaign on the slogan “MAGA.” Essentially what he meant by this phrase, entails the intent to reform the American economy. Trump plans to accomplish this objective, by placing taxes on Chinese imports. He’s doing this in response to the trade deficit, arguing that China does not buy enough American products. His solution to this situation is to use government interference to help the American economy shrink the existing deficit. The only problem with supporting this as a Republican, is that it goes against everything the free market stands for. By placing tariffs, Trump directly is using the government to interfere within the private sector. This action prohibits markets to operate freely and indicates an administration focused on incorporating mercantilist policies over open market ones.
Eminent Domain: Most Republicans rejoiced in the rhetoric Trump used on the campaign trail to limit illegal immigration through the building of the wall. However, what conservatives seem to forget they’re supporting is the seizure of private property for federal usage. Universally, private property is a right that Republicans hold near and dear to their hearts. It symbolizes independence and the opportunity to survive in a capitalist nation; to call a plot of land your own. But Trump seems to disregard this deeply rooted belief in the Republican party. In order to achieve his objective of building a wall, Trump would have to take thousands of acres away from ranchers whose families have had ownership of for centuries. Yet despite these clearly socialist policies, Republicans haven’t even flinched.
Control of Corporations: On August 23, Donald Trump tweeted his intent to remove American companies out of China in response to an ongoing trade war. He insisted he would block funds from entering China, preventing all future developments regarding production to be halted in the Communist nation. Conservatives everywhere seemed to boast in this accomplishment, justifying it as a fair punishment for China’s response to the U.S.’s tariffs. However, libertarians and true conservative economists are puzzled by this mass approval. This decision by nature, puts the federal government into a system of interference, as it directly interrupts the flow of the private sector. Leaders like Hitler and Mao Zedong implemented policies through authoritarian tactics to enforce how domestic companies can manufacture. However, the idea that this practice could occur within a free-market economy, under a conservative President, is staggering.
Subsidizing Farms: For most, associating Trump within the frame of socialism is an egregious miscalculation. This is only true if we think of socialism manifests itself only as an undeserving beneficiary for the poor. While Trump is in the midst of ending support for socialism for the poor, he is exponentially widening the system for another group: farmers. Simple economics will show you that without assistance, our farmers could never compete with cheap exporters from Latin American countries. But to ensure that these individuals remain competitive, Trump defeats capitalism in its natural form by subsidizing them. This year, Trump plans to throw over 16 million dollars at agriculture workers to keep them in business. This government handout repels any notion of capitalism, as it undermines the market from developing on its own. Once again, in order to support these policies of President Trump, conservatives must retract their beliefs in small government, and rather embrace the thought of an overbearing one.
Exploding the Budget: One of the most unifying and non-debatable principles of conservatism is that fiscal responsibility is of the utmost importance; unless your Donald Trump. The budget the White House has recently administered, contains the largest expenses ever recorded by an American President. Trump’s plan asks for a whopping 4.75 trillion dollars, with increases in military spending and cuts to domestic middle-class programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Yet once again, the party of small spending has remained silent.
Where We’ve Arrived
Outside of generic social beliefs, it is impossible to pretend that in any way, Trump’s ideology aligns with the beliefs conservatives have traditionally held. Under Trump, the suggestion of small government, non-interference, and decreased spending, is frankly; out the window. Yet despite this drastic shift in political dogma, Republicans are still standing steady by his side, compromising everything they have formerly believed in. This situation is strange, and leads us to ask the question: why?
Here’s why, politics is no longer about policy anymore, it’s about identity. Being a Republican doesn’t mean you have a set of beliefs, if it did, Republicans could not rationally condone Trump’s platform. Being a Republican simply means you don’t like Democrats. There is no rational explanation for this, given these Republicans are loathing the politicians who seemingly endorse the ideology that they support. No, being a member of a political affiliation simply means you want to align yourself with a group, a person, regardless of what they stand for. It would be absurd or illusory to believe that this debate is exclusive to Republicans only; the same event happens on the Democratic side too. The real crisis in our democracy is that polarization exists today more than ever, but yet these individuals can’t explain their polarization. The situation in our country is a dire one for the fate of democracy. It is one that shows that politics is no longer about rational viewpoints or even pragmatic solutions, but rather identification and group thought. This path is one of mindlessness, one of manipulation, and ultimately one of devastation. If we don’t wake up and ask the question of why we believe what we do, the democracy we have forever cherished, will be lost.
Co-Founder, RAMBLER Magazine