The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Difficulty of Changing the Status Quo in the U.N. General Assembly

The annual meeting of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly is the sort of gathering that should be a big deal, but passes without incident or much consequence most years. Almost every major world leader speaks, and the assembled United Nations delegates might as well be listening to their iPods on those translation headphones. (Ever notice that in comic books, villains are frequently attacking gatherings of world leaders? A good plotline would be the villains taking over and realizing how many countries can operate just fine with their heads of state held hostage.)

The big story of this year’s gathering is President Trump meets the world, and he may be able to get some institutional reforms adopted:

The U.S. drafted a 10-point document, “U.N. Reform Declaration,” and asked member states to sign it to attend Monday’s event with Mr. Trump, diplomats said. More than 100 out of 193 member states did so.

The declaration, seen by the Wall Street Journal, combines the U.S.’s agenda for change — including a commitment to reduce redundancy within U.N. organizations — with [Secretary General] Guterres’s vision for management and bureaucratic overhauls.

In the declaration, countries will “commit to reducing mandate duplication, redundancy, and overlap including among the main organs of the United Nations.” The signatories encourage Mr. Guterres to “pursue impactful and field-centric management reforms,” the document said.

Maybe this is a meaningless piece of paper, or a wish list, or just “kumbaya” good feelings that won’t lead to consequential action. But it does say something that when America has a president that the rest of the world allegedly disdains, we can still get a good chunk of the world to sign on to an idea. (It helps that it is, in fact, an actual good idea.)

Then again, Anne Bayefsky, friend of National Review, writes at Fox News that she expects the reform initiative to have no real effect:

It’s an old UN game trotted out whenever Americans get fed up with throwing money down the UN drain or paying for a global platform used to trash the USA’s best interests and spew anti-semitism. It goes by the name of “UN reform.” And President Trump appears to have taken the bait — hook, line and sinker.

The London Bomber Was a . . .  Teenage Refugee?

The fact that a young refugee placed a bomb in the London tube train Friday morning doesn’t mean that the United States shouldn’t accept any refugees. But it does mean that a system of “extreme vetting” and barring refugees from countries where the local government cannot or will not help us determine that they have no ties or sympathies to jihadism is just common sense.

The arrest of the London bomber showcases another colossal problem for our friends in the United Kingdom: This guy entered the country as a 15-year-old refugee . . .  and within three years, he had become a terrorist.

The 18-year-old, who is suspected of placing the powerful device on a rush hour tube train on Friday morning, was detained by Kent police as he tried to purchase a ferry ticket to Calais.

The teenager is thought to have arrived in Britain three years ago as an orphan refugee, who had travelled across Europe to get to the so-called Jungle camp at Calais.

As an unaccompanied child he was allowed entry to the UK and after being processed through a migrant centre in Kent, was found a home with a foster family in Sunbury on Thames.

 . . .  However detectives will [now be] seeking to establish if those responsible for the failed attack had travelled to Britain as genuine refugees, or if they were actually members of Islamic State of of Iraq and the Levant who had been sent to specifically carry out an attack.

Will Geddes, CEO of security consultants ICP, said he believed those responsible may have “infiltrated” the UK.

He said: ‘“I think the age of the man arrested is significant, we are not talking about people in their 40s or 50s we are talking about young people. This is a generational struggle that will be difficult to root out.”

Notice the reference to “failed attack.” Thirty people injured, 19 taken to the hospital, a pregnant woman trapped in a pile of people, others injured by the stampede . . .  this was “failed’ in the sense that it didn’t kill anyone, thank God.

The notion that this young man was some sort of ISIS sleeper is, in a twisted way, reassuring; it means that he was always secretly driven by a hateful ideology that he successfully hid from everyone. The more unnerving — and, I’d argue, plausible — possibility is that he came to London as a terrified teenage orphan, given an opportunity to start a new life with a (presumably) caring foster family in one of the greatest and freest countries of the world . . .  and he absorbed the enthusiasm for radical jihadism and terrorism that is incubating in certain corners of society in the United Kingdom. If all of this checks out, it indicates that the danger to society doesn’t really come from refugees . . .  it comes from how life in the U.K. can change refugees.

It’s worth recalling that the U.S. Supreme Court permitted a good portion of President Trump’s executive order barring certain refugees and countries of origin — at least for now. In June, the Court approved a limited version of the ban  that temporarily blocked refugees and citizens of six Muslim-majority countries. Last week, the court “blocked a federal appeals court ruling that would have exempted refugees who have a contractual commitment from resettlement organizations from the travel ban while the justices consider its legality. The ruling could impact roughly 24,000 people.”


In about a week, the Kurds of Iraq will hold a referendum on whether they want to become an independent state.

Iraqi Kurdistan is already “semi-autonomous,” and the referendum has no legal effect; it’s sort of a giant poll of Iraqi Kurds. But quite a few Kurds, including Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, want international support for “an eventual negotiated exit from Iraq and the declaration of a new UN-recognized state, probably within the next five to ten years.”

The Iraqi government in Baghdad does not like this one bit. Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi denounced the upcoming referendum in an interview this weekend with the Associated Press:

Al-Abadi: Well, our position is that it is unconstitutional, it is illegal, there is nothing that will be taken seriously out of it. It’s like taking public opinion but for us it is illegal, it clearly contradicts the constitution. And especially when it’s done with a vision that there is a problem within the region itself, the Kurdish region. The parliament hasn’t been held for 22 months, so there is a constitutional, legal crisis inside the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) and this is a very, very bad move for the Kurdish population, the Iraqi Kurdish population.

 . . . This is a public invitation to the countries in the region to violate Iraqi borders as well would be a very dangerous escalation.

AP: Is the use of force on the table?

Al-Abadi: It will only come into effect and we will only resort to this to protect our population, to protect our Kurdish population and our Arab and Turkmen and other ethnic populations of our own country. If they are threatened by the use of force outside the law, then we will intervene militarily.

Turkey and Iran don’t want an independent Kurdistan on their borders, lest their own adjacent Kurdish populations get the same idea. The Trump administration doesn’t like the referendum, either:

“The United States does not support the Kurdistan Regional Government’s intention to hold a referendum later this month,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday. “The United States has repeatedly emphasized to the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government that the referendum is distracting from efforts to defeat [the Islamic State] and stabilize the liberated areas.”

This probably won’t lead to an all-out shooting war, but if the referendum passes, we can expect increased tensions between the Kurds and the Iraqi government. The Iraqi government, the Kurds, and the United States and its allies have beaten the tar out of ISIS and driven them out of Mosul, but there’s still enormous amounts of work to be done. Most of the cities liberated from ISIS are largely wrecked, and the International Monetary Fund had to loan the Iraqi government $5 billion last year to ensure they had the money to run a government and fight ISIS simultaneously. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Kurdistan says, “to hell with all of you, we’re formally declaring independence,” and then the Middle East finds a new way to have a messy, complicated, violent conflict.

ADDENDA: The Fourth Annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner is about five weeks away! We hope you can join us Wednesday, October 25, at Gotham Hall in New York City.

The theme of this year’s dinner is “Books, Arts, & Manners,” honoring world-class journalist and novelist Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff, The Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, I Am Charlotte Simmons, and Back to Blood.

The National Review Institute will also honor Bruce and Suzie Kovner with the WFB Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty. The Kovners have supported and led organizations that defend private enterprise, free markets and free trade, protect individual rights, promoted scholarly research that strengthens American democratic principles; fought for education reform, particularly charter schools; and helped ensure the future of the major performing arts institutions of New York City. The master of ceremonies will be James Rosen of Fox News, who I hope will do his William F. Buckley impression at some point during the evening. It’s like he’s possessed.

The event will also feature performances by students of The Juilliard School. More information about tickets and sponsorship can be found here. Hope to see you there.


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