MILLER: Ceasing To Invest In Failed States Is Common Sense American Policy


With President Donald Trump talking and acting tougher than ever on Iran, it’s a common reflex in progressive and mainstream media circles to label the commander-in-chief as “reckless.” But let’s consider that one man’s bellicosity is another man’s common sense.

President Trump pulled America out of a nuclear deal that handed the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism over $100 billion in sanctions relief. He’s leading a sterner approach to a nation known for its frequent “Death to America” chants. What’s the problem here?

Simultaneously, President Trump is acknowledging that America has nothing to gain from his predecessor’s rapprochement with a failed state. Renewed U.S. sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy, with the rial’s value plummeting about 60 percent during the past year.

A similar approach is reflected in U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority (PA). By signing into law and then enforcing the Taylor Force Act, President Trump signaled that the U.S. is no longer squandering taxpayer dollars on a “pay-to-slay” scheme that funnels hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorists and their families rather than prioritizing the well-being of the Palestinian people at-large. Although the disputed territories don’t comprise a “state,” the PA’s pay-to-slay policy and infamous kleptocracy are certainly hallmarks of a failed state.

Further, by pulling out of the Syrian Civil War, President Trump affirmed that the U.S. has no business continuously investing in attempts to resolve a foreign conflict that has no end in sight.

America’s failed state wars appear over, for now. But that doesn’t mean the U.S. has exhausted all its options for a leaner, wiser foreign budget.

In the interest of leaving no stone unturned, the Trump administration can take a closer look at policy toward Armenia, which possesses a number of characteristics that meet the profile of a failed state. Armenia has a declining population — and that population displays the greatest prevalence of anger in the world, according to Gallup’s Global Emotions 2019 poll.

Armenians’ anger is partially explained by a bleak economic outlook. One of Armenia’s own politicians has acknowledged that the country is “bypassed by all regional and international routes — transport, railway, oil, gas, any others … we simply do not exist in the Caucasus, and this situation has not changed in last 20 years.” By contrast, Armenia’s neighbor Azerbaijan is leading the $41.5 billion Southern Gas Corridor project, whose three linked gas pipelines will span nearly 2,200 miles across seven countries while permanently transforming Europe’s energy map.

In turn, one of the roots of Armenia’s economic malaise is another failed state attribute: The failure and refusal to negotiate peace. Armenia’s occupation of the internationally recognized Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is the source of a decades-long conflict — and any population mired in a seemingly endless conflict is susceptible to being consumed by it. Upon his election in 2018, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan swiftly exhibited the typical doublespeak of failed state leaders. Pashinyan stated his readiness “to continue peaceful talks” with Azerbaijan, yet simultaneously urged “self-determination” for Nagorno-Karabakh, which the State Department doesn’t recognize as independent. Concurrently, on U.S. soil, the Armenian lobby’s rejection of the Madrid Principles eerily resembles the notorious history of Palestinian rejectionism in the peace process with Israel.

The “Velvet Revolution” led by Pashinyan before his election has failed to deliver on the sweeping changes it promised the Armenian people. Broken promises breed anger, and an angry population lashes out at its minorities — in Armenia’s case, Jews. A Pew survey found last year that 32% of Armenians would refuse to accept Jews as fellow citizens.

Failed states don’t operate in isolation. They act in unison. Armenia maintains close economic ties with Iran and is entangled in the Syrian conflict — drawing the ire of the U.S., which earlier this year rebuked Armenia for its engagement with Syrian military forces under the guise of a “purely humanitarian” mission.

If ceasing to invest in failed states is indeed becoming a Trumpian staple, the administration would be well served to more carefully examine aid to Armenia, as the $6.75 million in requested foreign assistance to Yerevan for the fiscal year 2020 is more than double the $2.7 million request for Azerbaijan. And given its welcome crackdown on aid to the terror-sponsoring PA, it would be consistent policy for the administration to vocally oppose ideas like 35 lawmakers’ proposal of an inexplicably bloated $100 million package for Armenia and the unrecognized territory under its occupation, Nagorno-Karabakh.

Like Wall Street, American foreign policy is too big to fail. That means the U.S. should continue to distance itself from failed states and territories. It’s anything but “reckless.” It’s pure common sense.

Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter at @pauliespoint.

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