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Biden and the Afghanistan crisis | Ticker VIEWS

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President Biden made the right strategic decision on Afghanistan. Here’s why.

On August 11, President Biden was riding high.  The Senate had passed not only the $1 trillion bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, but the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint for the lion’s share of the Biden domestic policy agenda:  education, seniors, childcare, climate change, and much more. It all pointed to victory on Capitol Hill.

Two weeks later, by August 25, Biden had been plunged into the biggest crisis of his presidency: the complete collapse of Afghanistan and evisceration of plans for an orderly withdrawal from that country.  13 soldiers killed, many more wounded, in the worst loss of life by US forces in Afghanistan in a decade.

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Also shocking was the intelligence failure that upended how Biden wanted to see the war concluded and Americans brought home safely. As the Washington Post reported Sunday:

“In June, U.S. intelligence agencies had assessed that the Afghan government would hang on for at least another six months. By August, the dominant view was that the Taliban wasn’t likely to pose a serious threat to Kabul until late fall.

The outcome stunned top U.S. officials, several of whom had been on vacation when the weekend began, having expected the pro-Western government to hang on for weeks, if not months or even years longer.”

The President met the plane carrying their bodies when it arrived in Delaware, and it was an occasion of overwhelming grief

And there may be more murderous acts before the evacuations are complete.  As Biden warned on Saturday: “The threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours.”

Even in the most monstrous atrocities, however, there will be ugly politics – especially in Washington.  Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett struck a high chord of meaning in his meeting with Bide on Friday. “The American service members lost their lives on a mission to save other people’s lives, and that’s the very definition of courage and sacrifice.”

But that comfort does not last long

From the Republicans, there are calls for the resignation of Secretary of State Tony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. Several Republicans are calling for Biden to be impeached.

Western allies are questioning the leadership and judgment of President Biden and his foreign policy team and are wondering how steadfast the US under Biden will really be. 

And there is criticism from some Democrats. Rep Jamie Raskin was a stalwart in the impeachments of Donald Trump. “Up until the point of Afghanistan, people were very impressed by the organization and seriousness and maturity of the Biden presidency and its administration. Whether it fundamentally tarnishes that or not remains to be seen.”

The end of the war in Afghanistan is a part of Biden’s legacy as president – but hardly its totality

Ronald Reagan was scorched in the Iran-Contra crisis and the deaths of 241 Marines in a terrorist truck bomb attack in Beirut. 

Obama was hit hard by fallout from Libya and Syria as was Gerald Ford in the fall of Saigon. But that is not what their presidencies are principally remembered for. Other presidents were defined by historic foreign policy failures:  Jimmy Carter and the hostages held by Iran, Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, George W Bush and Iraq.

This is because nothing matters more than passing the domestic policy agenda

At home, and for what Biden wants to deliver to the American people, it simply does not matter, as long as Democrats in Congress are united, whether Biden lost political capital because of Afghanistan — because nothing matters more than passing the domestic policy agenda. The past two weeks in Afghanistan have no bearing on the vote on any Democrats on Biden’s domestic initiatives.  And they hold the power to enact it.

If they fail to execute this year on a Biden agenda they strongly support, they will suffer truly immense political losses in the midterm elections next year. That, and not Afghanistan, is what will define Biden’s legacy – and theirs.

Read more by Bruce Wolpe here.

World

We’re in a global food crisis… and it’s worse than the COVID-19 pandemic

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Food prices around the world have hit a 10-year high during the pandemic – with the biggest rises affecting some of the poorest countries

According to a new world vision report, soaring food prices combined with lockdown-induced job losses and disrupted nutrition services has fuelled a global hunger crisis

World Vision Australia CEO Daniel Wordsworth joined ticker to share more on World Vision’s Price Shocks report.

Thought the cost of groceries in Australia had climbed during COVID?

Well, we Australia is still the ‘lucky country’, compared to places like Syria, east Africa or Myanmar, where the cost of food has soared by more than 50 per cent since the pandemic began.

That’s the finding of a new World Vision report which has found food prices have not only hit a 10-year high during COVID, but that the biggest rises are hitting the world’s poorest the hardest.

World Vision’s Price Shocks report compared the cost of a basket of 10 staple items in 31 countries and found Australians would have to work an average of one hour to pay for the 10 items, while people in Syria would have to work three days and in South Sudan eight days.

“In many countries around the world where well, visions working, you already have environments that are very fragile. So they’re already struggling, maybe with conflict, maybe with large scale people movement in a place like Lebanon, for example,” Daniel told ticker NEWS.

He said when you put on top of that COVID, it’s plunged the World Food System in a kind of crisis, you have less food being made, because there are less workers and less ability to get into those spaces, the movement of that food into marketplaces are restricted because of COVID, the ability to process it, then the ability to take it into micro places and sell it, all of this has been threatened by COVID.

“You have 3 billion people going to bed at night without enough food.”

Price Shocks found between February 2020 and July 2021, while Australian food prices rose by just 3.5 per cent, prices increased in Myanmar by 54 per cent, Lebanon 48 per cent, Mozambique 38.3 per cent, Vanuatu 30.9 per cent, Syria 29.2 per cent and Timor-Leste 17.7 per cent – affecting mainly people who could least afford it.

Daniel said the report confirmed the aftershocks of COVID-19 had the potential to exact a greater toll on the world than the virus itself.

“Job losses and lower incomes from the pandemic are forcing millions of families to skip meals, go for cheaper, less nutritious food, or go without food altogether,” Daniel said.

The report also cites a recent study which estimated by the end of 2022, the nutrition crisis caused by COVID-19 could result in 283,000 more deaths of children aged under five, 13.6 million more children suffering from wasting or acute malnutrition and 2.6 million more children suffering from stunting. This would equate to 250 children dying each day from pandemic-related malnutrition.

“As always, children suffer the most – they are the most vulnerable to hunger because they have a greater need for nutrients, they become undernourished faster than adults and are at a much higher risk of dying from starvation,” Daniel said.

Daniel said World Vision had been responding to the hunger crisis, reaching 12 million of the world’s most vulnerable people in 29 countries with food and nutrition in 2020 alone.

And he was confident Australians would step up to help organisations like World Vision provide emergency food and cash assistance to those in need. World Vision has also urged the Australian Government to commit $AU150 million famine-prevention package to avert a worsening of the crisis.

“Generosity in the face of need is in our DNA, so I am certain Australians will respond – the same way we responded to the Boxing Day tsunami, the Ethiopia famine and the Beirut port explosion.”

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Business

Trade war fires up as U.S companies pass tariffs onto consumers

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Japan Exports

The trade war between the United States and China is continuing to heat up, but this hasn’t stopped American businesses from leaving the Chinese mainland

This all follows the US implementing tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese consumer products in a bid to bring manufacturing back to American shores.

A new report has found this is hurting the US economy and has not been successful in pressuring China to change any of its economic policies.

Meanwhile, businesses based in either China and America have remained “deeply integrated” with the other… with foreign investment into China hitting a record high of US$144.4 billion in 2020.

This comes as Joe Biden moves to review US policy towards China, including the previous policies of Donald Trump.

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Sport

Team USA to require vaccination for 2022 Winter Olympians

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Staff and athletes will be required to be fully vaccinated before the Beijing Winter Olympics, according to a policy announced by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) announced the policy on Wednesday.

The USOPC won’t consider unvaccinated athletes for the Beijing games, who will need to provide proof of vaccination by December 1st. The Winter Olympics will begin on the 4th of February next year.

The Associated Press obtained the letter CEO Sarah Hirshland sent to athletes and staff detailing the decision to implement the policy for future Olympic and Paralympic Games, starting with the 2022 Tokyo Winter Olympic Games.

“Effective Nov. 1, 2021, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee will require all USOPC staff, athletes and those utilizing USOPC facilities – including the training centers – to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Hirshland wrote.

“This requirement will also apply to our full Team USA delegation at future Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Athletes will be given the opportunity to apply for an exemption, and Hirshland hopes most COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted in time for the Games.

“The stark reality is that this pandemic is far from over,” Hirshland wrote.

“This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for Team USA athletes and staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and service to athletes.”

The USOPC also revealed data on vaccination rates at the Tokyo Olympics via their website, with 83% of Team USA, and 86% of international athletes at the Olympic Village being fully vaccinated.

Athletes previously weren’t required to be vaccinated by the International Olympic Committee to attend the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, although they encouraged athletes to get vaccinated.

-by Parker McKenzie

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