In a world of populist tyrants, this still was a good week for democracy

Democracy goes through ups and downs, even experiencing recessions like the stock market. This is a particularly tough time for democracies around the world, with some places once judged to have turned the corner on their authoritarian past coming back as bigger, badder, anti-democratic governments. Hungary, Poland, Italy, Russia, the Philippines and several other countries are riding on the edge of populist electoral sentiment.

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This week, however, was a particularly good one for people yearning to be free. It was an especially good week for those wanting to keep or to take back their government. Three nations showed us the way: Turkey, Ethiopia and the Czech Republic.

Let’s face it, democracies around the world are getting challenged by dictators and demagogues. My Hoover Institution colleague Larry Diamond’s new book, “Ill Winds,” assesses this abysmal global state of democracy, finding that these ill winds are whipping up “Russian rage, Chinese ambition, and American complacency.” READ MORE

The death penalty? Kill it off, around the world

Newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing is the latest high-profile example of a sovereign meting out extreme justice and capital punishment. CIA analysts concluded that Khashoggi was brutally killed last October inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.

And, shockingly, it was legal.

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One reason the Saudis have not faced international retribution in the courts or official diplomatic blowback for the killing is simple: Death is a legal form of punishment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Like it or not, the sentence was handed down, perhaps by Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, and the cruel execution was conducted within the consulate and on what is arguably Saudi Arabia’s diplomatically sovereign territory. READ MORE

NBA player goes one-on-one with the petulant President Erdoğan

Shoot a 3-pointer, go to jail.

If Turkey’s spoiled-sport president gets his way, he will soon be locking up Enes Kanter, a Turkish-American star center for the New York Knicks.

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The reason for a just-requested Interpol “Red Notice” arrest warrant is not Kanter’s aggressive defensive style, it is his offensive speech calling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, among other things, the “Hitler of our century.” Erdogan returned the favor and labeled Kanter “a terrorist.

Unlike in the United States, where public figures can’t be libeled, criticism of the Turkish president is illegal. I can write that President Trump is a boob and feel pretty secure that the black helicopters won’t descend on my home. Well, maybe not totally secure as the U.S. Attorney General nominee William Barr recently told the Senate that he “can conceive” of instances where journalists might be arrested. READ MORE

This is not what Vladimir Putin wanted for Christmas

Vladimir Putin won’t find many great presents under the Christmas tree this year.

Orthodox Christian religious leaders worldwide are weakening an important institution that gave him outsize power and legitimacy.

The Russian Orthodox Church is being broken up, and an independent Ukraine Orthodox Church will be established. The Ukrainian flock soon will be led not by the Moscow-based church and Patriarchate, but rather by its own independent church and youthful leadership. Ukraine and its political class are suddenly freed from an influential Russian institution that has been fiercely loyal to Putin.

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This was not on Putin’s Christmas list. Instead, the news is like a lump of coal in his stocking.

Russia’s wider designs on — and power over — Ukraine have included a wide hybrid war from the Donbass to the recent naval blockade in the Black Sea. Moscow has its fingerprints on the shoot-down of the Malaysian MH-17 passenger plane over Ukrainian territory and its paw prints on an annexed Crimea. Every step of the way, Putin has found legitimacy in his actions and the nation’s military activity through reignited Russian nationalism and the silent acquiescence of Moscow’s spiritual leadership and clergy. READ MORE

The truth of Khashoggi‘s death is buried under a mountain of Saudi lies

Osama bin Laden was killed by American special forces on foreign soil. His body was secreted off to a U.S. Navy ship and received ablutions, prayers. It was wrapped in a white sheet out of respect for the dead and flollowing Islamic custom. He was then given a sea burial and returned to his maker.

Jamal Khashoggi‘s body remains desecrated and his spirit despoiled.

This is the sad tale of the death of two Saudis, one a targeted terrorist, the other an innocent journalist. 

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No matter how you feel about giving mass murderer bin Laden a proper and respectful burial, you have to credit the United States for giving a sworn enemy his last rites. It’s only a small part of what makes America great. It’s also what makes America big. READ MORE


Kanye West can help Trump recognize the Armenian genocide

Armenia is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Kanye West and the Kardashians. Truth is, however, Kanye has always cared and sang about justice and his wife's Armenian-American family has always felt strongly about the need to recognize one of the world's greatest crimes and injustices — the Armenian genocide.

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Kanye should leverage his newfound kinship with President Trump to prod him towards doing what no other sitting American president has done: Use an executive order to declare that the murderous events of 1915 were the world’s first modern genocide.

Genocide means a single group is targeted for systematic and premeditated death and extinction. Armenian families who survived the genocide await the world’s recognition of this reprehensible event. America officially regards it as regrettable, unfortunate, and tragic, but does not recognize it as the event that spurred the word “genocide.” It is time.  READ MORE

Hostile Turkey warns U.S.-backed Kurds, aims to sideline Washington

Simmering for years, the full outbreak of hostilities between American-backed forces and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkey is now finally at a boil. Turkey, an unreliable NATO ally at best, has again made clear that the U.S. is not welcome in the neighborhood.

President Erdogan just threatened to crush the “terror army” — what he calls the American-armed and supported Kurdish troops assembling on Turkey's Syrian border — by putting the developing 30,000 Kurd anti-ISIS force directly in Ankara’s crosshairs. Erdogan promised to “strangle” this U.S.-backed force “before it’s even born.”

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Turkey’s aggressive threats and active troop movements dissolve U.S. hopes for a more stabilized region and further diminish America's already waning influence in the broader Middle East. An increasingly present and embraced Russia and more regionally assertive Iran also further sideline America. The newly developing anti-American power dynamic certainly dashes any plans to “take the oil” from Iraq and Kurdistan, as candidate Donald Trump suggested in 2016.  READ MORE