Saudi Arabia on the Status of Women Commission?

In politics today, anything is possible. Yet sometimes events occur that are so ridiculous that you sit bemused for days, wondering how this could be.

On April 25, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women voted – nearly unanimously – to make the ultra-conservative Wahhabi Islamist nation of Saudi Arabia a member for the next four years. Although it was ranked 134th worldwide out of 145 on gender equality, Saudi Arabia will join the commission’s 45 other countries.   

It makes very little sense to include a nation in which women are so oppressed on a commission with the goals of “promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.”   

Women in Saudi Arabia are treated as second-class citizens. The law requires them to have a male guardian, who oversees them from birth until death and makes all critical decisions. Additionally, a woman is forbidden to obtain a passport, marry, or travel abroad without the approval of her male guardian, usually a family member or spouse.

Women can even be jailed for disobeying their guardians. Last November, a Saudi woman filed a report of abuse against her brother and was arrested for disobedience. Saudi Arabia also limits women’s ability to engage in basic tasks, such as driving, that the West sees as fundamental. It is the only country in the world that will not issue driver’s licenses to women.

Why should women not drive? In 2013, a member of the Ulama, Saudi Arabia’s body of religious scholars, claimed that women’s ovaries and pelvises could be damaged by driving, thus inhibiting their reproductive abilities. He told Saudi news source sabq.org that driving “could have a reverse physiological impact. Physiological science and functional medicine … [have found] that it automatically affects ovaries and rolls up the pelvis. This is why we find, for women who continuously drive cars, their children are born with clinical disorders of varying degrees.” Two years before, the Majlis al-Ifta’ al-A’ala – Saudi Arabia’s highest religious council – published a report in conjunction with a professor from King Fahd University which claimed that allowing women to drive would “provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce,” and that within ten years no virgins would be left in Saudi Arabia.

You honestly can’t make some of these things up.

At the time of Saudi Arabia’s addition, New Zealand’s prime minister said it is important for the UN commission to include countries that are beginning to make changes for women, no matter how slow the change. A Girls Council held in March in Saudi Arabia is supposed to be evidence of this “change.” The only problem – there were no girls on this council. It was composed entirely of men. Women were told to sit in a separate room.

Saudi Arabia has made small improvements by letting women have greater access to education and jobs, but they still lack many basic rights that we take for granted here in America.

Belgium’s prime minister has since stated that he regrets his country’s vote to include Saudi Arabia. (He claims that the vote came unexpectedly, forcing diplomats to choose without consulting colleagues.)

Hopefully the inclusion of Saudi Arabia in the commission will improve the situation for women there, but I doubt it will. The government’s and much of society’s policy toward women draws from Wahhabism – an extremely conservative form of Islam – and the Ulama, who play a large role in influencing governance. It is unlikely that the Ulama that enforced policies which, in 2002, forced girls back into a burning school because their heads were not covered will accept a fundamental shift in beliefs on women’s rights.

We can only hope that Saudi Arabia’s inclusion on the commission will persuade it to relax its policies against women.

Gorsuch Confirmed

The Supreme Court is finally at capacity again. In what seemed like a miracle of miracles, the Senate voted last Friday to confirm Neil Gorsuch as the court’s ninth member. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell led the charge to end the Democrats’ stonewalling of the nomination by changing a long-standing Senate rule. Like many Senate Republicans, he believed Gorsuch had faced immense, unfair opposition from Democrats across the country who wished to see a progressive appointed.

On the morning of April 10 – more than a year after the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia – Gorsuch was sworn in. The ceremony had a nostalgic undertone. With his wife beside him – and the late Antonin Scalia’s widow, Maureen, looking on – the new member took the oath from his former mentor, Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the White House Rose Garden. Gorsuch began his law career as a clerk for Kennedy, who also swore him in as a U.S. Court of Appeals judge eleven years ago.

In a brief speech, Justice Gorsuch thanked President Trump for his appointment, Vice President Pence for his friendship, and White House attorneys, among many others, for their support. “I will never forget that to whom much is given, much will be expected,” he said, “and I promise you that I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.”

Justice Gorsuch’s successful placement on the Supreme Court is a relief for conservatives who, after Justice Scalia died with President Obama still in office, feared that it would take a clearly progressive tilt. It restores a balance. The court now consists of four Democrats and five Republicans, as it did at the start of 2016. Justice Kennedy acts as a swing vote, however, and often does not side with his Republican colleagues. Gorsuch’s court appointment therefore ensures a continued balance between liberal and conservative interpretations of the constitution.  

Gorsuch’s impact upon the court will likely be seen immediately. On Thursday, the justices will convene to begin deciding which cases to consider in the next term. Gorsuch will also have the opportunity to help decide his first case, on April 17. In recent months, the Supreme Court has occasionally split 4-4 on party lines. Justice Gorsuch’s vote will probably be necessary in order to issue rulings on a number of cases in the near future. Tie votes leave the lower court’s ruling in place, but without an endorsement of that decision by the Supreme Court. Because they lack the authority of a majority decision by the Supreme Court, they are not considered rulings.

As the newest member of the court, Gorsuch will also take over certain traditional duties – designed to humble new members and ensure that they keep their humility in one of the nation’s most powerful offices – from Justice Elena Kagan, who President Obama appointed in 2010. These responsibilities include answering the door during the justices’ private conferences and attending meetings of the Supreme Court’s cafeteria committee.

As Gorsuch assumes his position, the world watches to see how he will affect decisions. He developed a reputation for being a sound judge with a high regard for the constitution, and there is no doubt he will continue to act as such. He has large shoes to fill, but undoubtedly will leave behind his own legacy for Supreme Court justices in the future.

 

 

New Terror Tactic: Vehicular Attacks

On Wednesday, March 22, Khalid Masood drove a rented Hyundai Tucson onto the sidewalk of the Westminster Bridge in London. He plowed into the unsuspecting pedestrians before coming to a stop, exiting the vehicle and wielding a knife. In just 82 seconds, Masood killed five people—four civilians and one police officer—and injured 50. He was eventually shot and killed by a nearby officer.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that Masood was a soldier acting in their name. London deputy assistant police commissioner Neil Basu, however, said he might have been a lone wolf attacker. Regardless, police suggest he was inspired and radicalized by ISIS propaganda found online.

In the wake of the attack, the police arrested a dozen individuals they believed were linked to Masood. As of Saturday, though, nine had been released due to a lack of substantial evidence. Masood left no note, no statement of motive or reason; the only potentially related communication police have found is a WhatsApp message he sent shortly beforehand.

This was not the first time Masood displayed violent behavior. Beginning in 2003, he served three years in prison for an assault on a local pub owner with a knife. While in prison, he converted to Islam and changed his name. His radicalization occurred swiftly thereafter. His second wife, Farzana Malik – or Isaq, as her surname has also been reported – fled from their home, insisting upon divorce when he tracked her down. She described Masood as a “psychopath,” and her family members described him as very violent and controlling.

In the last year or so, attacks using tactics similar to Masood’s have increased significantly. In December, Anis Armi killed a Polish truck driver and stole his truck, driving it into the Christmas Market in Berlin. He killed twelve people and injured 65. Last July, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a rented cargo truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France. Eighty-six people were killed and 434 were injured. Similar attacks involving vehicles have taken place in Quebec (October 2014); Valence, France (January 2016); and Jerusalem (this January).

Even the U.S. is not safe from these types of attacks. In November, an Ohio State student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, rammed his car into pedestrians on campus and attacked other students with a machete. He injured eleven before he was shot and killed by a campus police officer.

ISIS has taken to promoting these sorts of attacks by its followers in its propaganda. The attacks are inexpensive, and very efficient in the sense that they often result in high casualties while gaining prominent media attention. In addition, they achieve the primary goal, terror, exceedingly well. ISIS encourages its followers to conduct them in busy areas, particularly tourist attractions, where they will likely attract a large international audience due to wider coverage. Attacks of this sort are also a means by which followers, or those inspired by ISIS or other terrorist organizations, can easily act in the name of their groups.

The biggest challenge for police in the wake of these incidents is preventing similar attacks in the future. Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs are still developing in many cities and countries. While London, for example, has a very successful program and is a hub for CVE research, it’s clear that some attackers still easily avoid detection until it is too late.

Professor Anthony Glees of the University of Buckingham suggests that rental car companies should inquire as to their customers’ motives and report any suspicious people to the police. Doing so will not prevent carjackings or attackers using their own cars. Nevertheless, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice have encouraged similar reporting in the U.S., asking companies to tell the police about customers who are reluctant to provide personal information, pay in cash for large transactions, or appear overly concerned with the size and specifications of their vehicles.

While we may not have a tried-and-true method for preventing these types of attacks at the moment, progress is being made. As academics and think tanks conduct research to help in further development of both government-run and independent CVE programs, police and counterterrorism forces are working to prevent as many attacks as possible and stop the radicalization of people like Masood.

 

 

Mike Dubke

Graduates of Hamilton College boast a number of impressive accolades. Perhaps one of our most notable alumni, at least in recent years, is Mike Dubke, class of 92, who has been tapped as President Trumps new communications director. Dubke is poised to take over the position from Sean Spicer, who has been serving as both press secretary and communications director for the White House.

Dubke, a native of Hamburg, NY, graduated from Hamilton with a degree in government. While here, he was involved in the College Republicans, The Spectator, and WHCL, and played on the mens rugby team. Ted Eismeier, a retired Hamilton government professor, says Dubke was one of [his] favorite students. Later, as an alumnus, he was always very supportive” of Eismeiers Semester in Washington groups.  

After leaving the Hill, Dubke served as the executive director for the Ripon Society, a Republican public policy organization in Washington, and for the Ripon Educational Fund. Under his leadership, the Ripon Society re-emerged as a vigorous actor in national politics. Dubke also co-founded Americans for Job Security, a pro-business advocacy group, and served as its president from 1995 to 2008. Together with his co-founder, David Carney, who served as political director for President George H. W. Bush, Dubke grew the organization across 45 states.

Dubkes career reached further heights when he founded Crossroads Media in 2001. Crossroads bills itself as the premier Republican media services firm, specializing in advertising strategy and placement for political candidates, issue advocacy organizations and trade associations.Notable clients include the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rudy Giuliani, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, the New York Stock Exchange, Westinghouse, and Walmart, among many others. In addition to serving as a partner at Crossroads Media, Dubke co-founded the Black Rock Group, a strategic communications and public affairs firm based in Alexandria, VA.

Those who know Dubke suggest that hell work well opposite Sean Spicer, who is known for his combative attitude. Mike is a relentlessly positive person, kind of a happy warrior,said Brian Jones of Black Rock Group. Mike is not interested in being a public face. He's interested in rolling up his sleeves, trying to figure out how to make sure the messages that the White House wants to get out are getting out through the right channels. Knowing Sean for a long time and having worked with Mike for quite a long time, I think they will complement each other. They have different skill sets.

Although he is a Republican insider, Dubke’s appointment has generally met with messages of approval from the right. Having played an active role in politics since his college days, and armed with his extensive background in political communications, Dubke will, without a doubt, be a valuable member of the Trump team. As Trump continues to wage war with the media, he desperately needs a skilled captain like Dubke to guide his administration’s communications through the tumultuous waters.

When asked about his new appointment, Dubke told Enquiry: I can say that I am excited and honored to be working in the White House. I'll be taking my Hamilton cane to the West Wing in case relations with the media get out of hand. This Hamiltonian, for one, looks forward to seeing that cane in action.

Mad for "Mad Dog"

Many of President Trump’s top cabinet picks have been controversial. Arguably, the least so is Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis. A highly respected general in the U.S. Marine Corps, Mattis earned a reputation as a strong, capable leader and a force to be reckoned with. He was confirmed as Secretary of Defense on January 20 in a 98-1 Senate vote.

General Mattis is a lifelong military man. He enlisted in the Marines in 1969 as a reservist – while studying history at Central Washington University – and in 1972 was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Mattis steadily climbed in the ranks, serving in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. Following his promotion to lieutenant general in 2005, Mattis assumed command of the corps’ Combat Development Division and later the I Marine Expeditionary Force. Later that year, President Bush promoted him to the rank of general, and he was given command of the United States Joint Forces headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia. Mattis was promoted to four-star general in 2007, and in 2010 President Obama named him as commander of the United States Central Command (the armed forces in the Middle East and neighboring countries). Mattis retired from the Marine Corps in 2013.

His appointment and confirmation as defense secretary were met with tremendous approval in both the Department of Defense and the military. “Knowing General Mattis, I thought he would be a great choice,” said retired Col. Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who served under General Mattis from 2006 to 2007. “He relishes that role, the Warrior Monk, he thinks of himself that way, as the warrior but also the monk -- the contemplative, the thoughtful.” Many suspect that General Mattis will counterbalance Trump’s unpredictability, and that his military expertise will provide the administration with more of the experience it lacks in that area.

Military members on Twitter and other social media erupted in cheers and praise when Mattis was confirmed. A Marine who earned the respect of everyone he served with, he had a favorable reputation for getting down and dirty with even the lowest-ranking soldiers in the trenches. “General Mattis is an expert and scholar in warfare—he’s a “Marine[‘]s, Marine” —aggressive, but astute. He leads by example—this is what people idolize about him,” stated Marine Corps special operations command operator Sean Conner in an article in the Independent Journal Review.   

“Mattis is a scholar, a humanist, and a venerated Warrior who has successfully led our nation’s most elite forces within some of our most arduously precarious battles, and won,” wrote retired Marine Capt. Eric Kirsch.  

Throughout his military career, General Mattis was known for his intellectual persona and cool, contemplative, but never soft demeanor. Those around him saw his deep thought in action, as well as an unwavering drive when it was called for. Though he is sometimes criticized as being too blunt, Mattis’s supporters argue that this attitude is what strikes fear in his enemies. When commanding his troops in Iraq, he told them: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

Despite the seemingly overwhelming support for Mattis, some opponents argued that he had not been retired from the military long enough to head the Pentagon, due to our country’s constitutional and cultural tradition of civilian control of the armed forces. Federal law says that retired military members cannot be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years of their retirement. General Mattis has been retired for just four. In order to confirm him, Congress voted to make an exception, for Mattis, to the law mandating the retirement period.  

Some have expressed mixed emotions over the appointment. In a conversation with one of our staff writers, a Department of Defense insider said: “I think Mattis will eliminate the PC culture. It does not have a place in the military. The military believes he is a strong leader, so there will be a morale boost with his appointment. I believe he will establish a more dominant presence with our military. I think we may be quicker to escalate situations where diplomacy was needed, though. He’s called ‘Mad Dog’ for a reason. His tact may be a little too harsh for the position he’s in.”  

Despite a few concerns, the general consensus seems to be that Mattis will make an excellent Secretary of Defense. His experience demonstrates extensive knowledge, and his resilience will allow him to balance Trump’s headstrong tendencies, providing stable guidance for the military and other Defense Department operations. “America's enemies weep,” stated Army Sgt. Steven Hildreth, “and all I can do is smile.” People are going mad for “Mad Dog.”

Reflecting on Communism After Castro

In the wake of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s death, it’s time for the world to be reminded of a very important truth. Communism doesn’t work. While the philosophy seems popular among

young millennials, most of them were not even alive during the most recent periods of

communist oppression to see its horrors and failures. Not only is it economically unfeasible, but

in nearly every modern communist state, its governing structure has led to the immense

suffering of the people. In smaller communistic societies where violence was not employed, the communities have rarely lasted more than a generation or two before they dissolved on account of tension with members’ human desires to work for themselves and own property. History shows that communism always fails.

Cuba happens to be a prime example. Castro’s guerrilla army overthrew the government of Cuba by force in the late 1950s, installing a communist regime. Once his regime was in place, he resorted to violence to keep power. His enemies often met their ends with non-judicial

sentences, firing squads, and assassinations. Thousands of individuals died. An estimated 78,000 more died attempting to escape the Castro regime. In total, more than 1.5 million fled Cuba, seeking asylum in the United States and other countries.

Beyond Cuba, plenty more examples of communist oppression occur in recent history.

The Soviet Union similarly mistreated its people, leading to the deaths of millions of citizens.

After emerging from behind the Iron Curtain, many of the formerly Soviet-dominated nations are still struggling to find their ground, economically and culturally, more than two and a half decades later.

Just looking at the attitudes of the citizens of those countries toward communism, one can see – as I did during my recent semester in Poland – exactly how they felt that system failed them. The Polish people in particular have vehemently anti-communist attitudes. Their country has found itself the object of Russian aggression for centuries, and they received horrid treatment under the Soviets, including being subjected to famine and frequent shortages, and to violence when they tried to gain any semblance of control.

Communism fails on a smaller scale as well. It can only be successful when all members of society are active, willing participants. Interest tends to wane.

Upstate New York, for example, has had its fair share of communistic societies. The “Burned-Over District,” site of arguably the greatest religious revival during the Second Great Awakening, had a high number of religious communal societies. The Oneida Community, not far to the west of Hamilton College, is a major example. Now known for their silverware empire, the Oneida Community began as a religious communal society in 1848. It remained successful for years as new members continued to join. However, the next generation of Oneidans, most of whom were brought to the commune by their parents, became disenchanted with the community’s ideals. They disbanded it in 1881.

The Oneida Community is not alone in this problem. Often, children who grow up subjected to communist ideals, much like anyone forced to live under a flawed system of

governance, become disaffected. This disaffection is also prevalent in large-scale communist societies – including Cuba, for the many who fled and among many who couldn’t leave. Almost anyone old enough to remember living under the Castro regime has terrible memories of it, and thus abhors the principle of communism.

Now, after Fidel Castro’s death, we should stop to reflect on his legacy of violence

and hate. Although he is gone, his brother Raul still reigns, continuing his legacy. Although some changes have been made in Cuba’s economy at times, the Cuban people are still suffering. We can only hope its condition will improve soon, and that the death of Castro can help to bring positive change.