4 weeks ago

Justice Will Sellers: The necessity of American leadership in a post-COVID world

Thirty years ago, the world seemed like a more stable place.

The United States was at the height of international prowess and had deftly negotiated with almost the entire world to oust Sadam Hussein from Kuwait. President Bush and his foreign policy team had built an international coalition to acknowledge that aggression against another sovereign state would not be tolerated. Even those countries that did not physically participate in the military coalition agreed to refrain from public dissent and allow the United Nations to live up to its charter.

The United States did not engage in appeasement or unilateral military action but initiated a precedent-setting effort that used international resolutions to express the world’s outrage. But unlike most U.N. resolutions, which aren’t worth the paper they are printed upon, the United States simultaneously organized a global military effort to give teeth to the resolutions.

At the same time, in another part of the world, East and West Germany unified. Long the focal point of Cold War tensions, the two Germanys agreed to combine and become a single country. This, too, was no small feat and required a significant amount of fancy footwork to make sure reunification didn’t ruffle the feathers of friend or foe.

A few NATO allies were not at all excited about a unified Germany and its impact on the balance of power in Europe; and, for obvious reasons, several Warsaw Pact allies shared similar concerns. But once Russia, the 800 lb. gorilla of the Warsaw Pact, gave its blessing, reunification could officially begin. Inasmuch as reuniting Germany was akin to the final prisoner exchange at the end of a war, Gorbachev consented to reunification and acknowledged the Cold War was over as the world moved in a vastly different direction.

Rather than dancing upon the grave of Communism, the United States engaged in careful, intentional diplomacy. It would have been tempting to replay the famous Nixon-Khrushchev kitchen debate, engage in triumphalism, and feed the narrative of American jingoistic swagger; but this was not the style of the Bush administration. When the Berlin Wall fell and Eastern Europe began to roll back the Iron Curtain, the Bush team worked behind the scenes to provide aid and comfort to the newly liberated countries, but care was always taken to avoid offending the Russians.

This polite diplomacy allowed the defeated communists to save face and find a new, less aggressive role on the world stage.
Russia had been a longstanding ally of Hussein’s Iraq, supplying it with weapon systems and financing the regime. One might expect that Russia would support Sadam and, perhaps, come to his defense, but Gorbachev chose first to broker a peace deal, which failed, and ultimately supported the conclusions of the U.N. resolutions. Perhaps most importantly, Russia stayed on the sidelines and did nothing to resist coalition forces.

This lack of action was unprecedented and signaled a complete change of tack by Russia. Unlike other Cold War hot spots, the Gulf War did not become a proxy war, but was a global effort; a real “united” United Nations coalition to act as a world police force to enforce the UN Charter militarily.

And it worked. Not only was there diplomatic consensus, but there was also military cohesion. The various and sundry coalition partners and their myriad of commitments and commands worked together, which resulted in Sadam being both isolated by the international community and overwhelmed by a lethal coalition force.

The Gulf War was over almost before it began. The sovereignty of Kuwait was restored, Sadam was humiliated, and it was reasonable to assume his international thuggery was over.

In fact, with the end of the Gulf War and the reunification of Germany, the world community seemed on the brink of a new paradigm in international relations. The United States was the only superpower left standing and reluctant as Americans were to take on a leadership role, the Bush administration was on the cusp of achieving what others had longed for: a stable and peaceful world with international cooperation and a global consensus on the role and implementation of the rule of law.

The world clearly seemed to be moving away from sentimental regionalism and toward a global economy with greater freedoms from governments that appeared to be democratically elected. The communism attributed to Marx and Lenin had died under the weight of a competitive international economy. Even China was developing a hybrid political and economic system that seemed to embrace some facets of capitalism while maintaining state control.

Regrettably, this brave new world that appeared truly transformed was only a mirage. Even though the United States was at the pinnacle of power, its leaders quit before solidifying their gains. As a peace-loving republic, America cashed in her peace dividend before maturity and took a holiday from history.

Too embarrassed to be assertive and advocate for our values, U.S. leadership chose to lead from behind. They assumed to our detriment that if our nation throttled back its role, others would join us. Rather than use our overwhelming might to force change on recalcitrant nations that questioned liberty and freedom, they choose consensus over taking charge—finding the lowest common denominator for action.

Even though past actions indicated otherwise, our leaders choose to bank on the good intentions of other countries with no history of personal freedom or democracy, much less the rule of law. Sadam was still in power, and like any good despot, he refused to accept defeat, consolidated what he had left, and continued to abuse his people with his power.

The U.S. foreign policy apparatus choose to look the other way when China reduced freedoms and clamped down on peaceful protests by killing demonstrators. Perhaps worse of all, Russia was allowed to drift away from true democratic reform and once again embrace autocratic rulers who used the trappings of democracy to gain power and whittle away at citizen self-rule.

Rather than continuing to advocate for American values on the international stage, our leaders were content to be part of a timid chorus rather than standing as a loud voice for reason, practical diplomacy and strength.

The world is safer when America is fully engaged. The international community needs a strong America to provide leadership and, when necessary, to use the overwhelming might of its military. Our foreign policy aims must be clear and focused on self-interest and the significant implications of trade to expand our economy. With enlightened self-interest, America can provide global leadership and peace to the world. The United States can help create a stable world by advocating for a global framework which allows individuals within nation states to pursue their respective political economies, peacefully and under rules of enforceable equity.

Will Sellers is an associate justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama.

4 hours ago

Alabama basketball completes the sweep against Auburn

Fresh off of winning the SEC regular season championship for the first time in 19 years, the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday completed a sweep of Auburn for the first time in six years after defeating the Tigers at home 70-58.

Jayden Shackelford led the way for Alabama in Tuscaloosa, as the talented sophomore guard went 5-9 from behind the arc to finish with 23 total points in the win over Auburn.

Sophomore Jahvon Quinerly scored 11 points off of the bench and provided sparks for Alabama in crucial moments of the game.

While Alabama led by as much as 16 points in the first half, Auburn was able to cut the lead to five in the second. However, Alabama’s defense began to stiffen up, and seniors Herbert Jones and John Petty stalled the Tiger’s offense out before they could get too hot.

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For the Tide, the three-ball has become a major part of their offense. Second-year head coach Nate Oats always tells his players to get at least one touch in the paint first before shooting. This green-light mentality is becoming more and more popular throughout college hoops.

Bama has done really well with this philosophy by becoming one of the most dominant teams from downtown in the conference. Tuesday’s game showed that even when the three doesn’t come through for the Tide, they have other ways of scoring.

Alabama drove the basketball extremely well in the second half against Auburn and proved to be the more physical team in their win on Tuesday night. When tournament time begins, they may have to lean on this more physical style of play in certain games.

The Tide have one more regular season game against Georgia in Athens on Saturday. Bama will look to finish the regular season on a win before the SEC Tournament in Nashville gets underway.

The Tide are currently projected to be a two seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 hours ago

Alabama House recap: Bills to increase executive branch oversight, update sex ed language pass chamber

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama House of Representatives met Tuesday and passed six pieces of legislation, including bills that would increase oversight of executive branch agencies and update language in the state’s policy on sex education.

After convening shortly after 1:00 p.m. the chamber spent much of the next five hours in extended debate on two bills, with members of the Democratic Party engaging in protracted discussions of legislation they began their remarks saying they would ultimately vote for.

Seeing the most debate were HB 392 from Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) and HB 103 from Rep. Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville).

Jones’ bill creates a joint legislative committee to oversee large financial agreements made by the executive branch, and Kiel’s would prevent the state government from picking which businesses close during states of emergency.

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More information on Kiel’s bill is available here.

The legislation from Jones, chair of the powerful Rules Committee, would create the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Obligation Transparency. The committee would have the authority to approve or disapprove of contracts, leases and agreements by the executive branch and the agencies therein.

Under the proposed law the committee would meet to review any financial agreement greater than $10 million or 5% of the agency’s annual appropriation from the State General Fund.

Making up the committee would be the chair, vice-chair and ranking minority members of the committees in each legislative chamber that oversee taxation.

The proposed oversight committee would be able to meet when the legislature is in or out of session. It would have to issue approval or disapproval within 45 days of a state agency submitting a proposed contract.

If the proposed committee disapproved of a contract it would be delayed from going into effect until the end of the current or next occurring general session of the legislature.

Jones noted in remarks on the floor that this delay would give lawmakers time to address via legislation the proposal disapproved of by the committee, and added that new legislation would be required to put a halt to any state contract of which the proposed committee disapproved.

HB 392 ultimately received unanimous support in the House, with a final vote of 98-0.

Also passing the House on Tuesday was HB 385 sponsored by Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville). The bill updates language in the legal code that governs how Alabama educators must teach sex ed.

It also deletes from the Code of Alabama language that requires those teaching sex ed to emphasize that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) and Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery), two staunch conservatives with backgrounds in education policy, spoke in favor of the legislation on the House floor and voted for its passage. The bill passed the House on a vote of 69-30.

Three other pieces of lower profile legislation passed the chamber on Tuesday:

HB 255 from Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) that would add a tenth member to the advisory board of directors of the Department of Senior Services, and let ex officio members name a designee to serve in their place.

HB 330 from Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton) that would change the outdated language in the state legal code concerning video depositions in criminal prosecutions.

HB 136 from Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger’s Island) that would designate the aquarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab as the Official Aquarium of Alabama.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

8 hours ago

Alabama House passes bill that would block the government from picking and choosing which establishments close during states of emergency

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would prevent the state government from designating which types of businesses were allowed to stay open in situations such as the one experienced during the advent of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020.

Sponsored by Rep. Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville), HB103 would not infringe on the governor or state health officer’s ability to implement public health guidance. It would only say that any business or house of worship that followed public health guidelines would be allowed to open.

“I think if it is safe enough to go to the liquor store and wear a mask and socially distance, then it is safe enough to go to church and wear a mask and socially distance,” argued Kiehl on the House floor.

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The vote on the floor was 75 in favor and 22 opposed with three members abstaining.

The bill applies to declared states of emergency that involve a “pandemic, epidemic, bioterrorism event, or the appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious disease or biological toxin,” per the text of the legislation.

In explaining what inspired him to author the legislation, Kieh said of last spring, “I saw businesses in my town that were suffering,” adding that some small business owners he knew were “scared to death they were going to lose their livelihoods.”

Governor Ivey’s “Stay At Home” order, in place for most of April 2020, allowed major retailers like Walmart to remain open while smaller retail stores that did not sell groceries were forced to close.

Kiehl feels that this arrangement was unfair, and that small shops and establishments deserved the chance to stay open if able to implement the health guidelines. Ivey has expressed regret in recent months about creating the distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses.

“[W]hat we were really doing is were we driving all the customers that would have been in all these other stores — in the small mom-and-pops, the Hibbetts of the world — we were driving all those to one central location to buy clothing. That cannot be good for the spread of the pandemic — to bring everybody together in one location or a few locations,” Kiel told FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show.”

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is strongly supporting the passage of the legislation.

Kiel’s bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

9 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act

MONTGOMERY — On a party line vote, the Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed SB 10, the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act.

Sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville), the bill would ban the performance of medical procedures and the prescription of puberty-blocking medications and sex-change hormones used as transgender therapies for minors, with certain exceptions.

The vote was 23-4, with the only four Democrats present all dissenting: Sens. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton), Vivian Figures (D-Mobile), Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham).

Shelnutt, since first introducing a version of the legislation last year, has said his goal in bringing the bill was to simply protect children from making harmful longterm decisions that they may later regret once more mature.

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“The primary concern here is the health and well-being of Alabama’s children,” stated Shelnutt. “We must protect vulnerable minors who do not have the mental capacity to make life-altering decisions of this caliber. The efficacy and effects of these particular surgeries and methods of treatment are not well-sustained by medical evidence, and actions of this severity cannot be undone.”

“I believe it is our responsibility as lawmakers to do all we can to keep our children out of harm’s way,” he added. “Protecting minors from these powerful drugs and consequential procedures will help ensure they do not feel responsible to make a decision they may wish to later undo, ultimately causing more harm.”

The House Judiciary Committee last week approved as amended the lower chamber’s companion version of the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy). HB 1 now awaits consideration on the House floor.

In response to the passage of SB 10, Scott McCoy — SPLC interim deputy director for LGBTQ Rights & Special Litigation — released a statement.

“The Alabama State Senate is dangerously close to passing yet another piece of discriminatory legislation that likely will lead to long and expensive litigation at high cost to Alabama taxpayers,” McCoy decried.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Alabama GOP Senate candidate Lynda Blanchard: 2020 election ‘stolen from President Trump’

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Lynda Blanchard on Tuesday called upon the Alabama House Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections Committee to vote down a bill that would legalize no-excuse absentee voting in the state, among other alterations of Alabama’s elections laws.

The committee is set to meet on Wednesday regarding HB 396, which is sponsored by State Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville). The bill was originally backed by Secretary of State John Merrill, although he has now withdrawn his support for the measure.

Blanchard served in the administration of President Donald J. Trump as his ambassador to Slovenia, the home country of then-First Lady Melania Trump.

The Montgomery resident is Alabama’s only declared U.S. Senate candidate ahead of the 2022 race to replace retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). Blanchard in a written statement said HB 396 significantly weakens Alabama’s absentee balloting rules.

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“Absentee balloting invites corruption, cheating, and fraud, so it should be allowed only in rare and unavoidable cases,” she said. “The bill that has been introduced in the Legislature leaves the door wide open for ballot harvesting and other abuses that allowed the recent presidential election to be stolen from President Trump.”

“The bill also begins a dangerous process of watering down Alabama’s election laws, which could lead to the repeal of our photo voter ID requirements and other safeguards that Republicans have put in place,” Blanchard continued.

She concluded, “Alabama should focus on strengthening, not weakening, our honest election reforms, and we certainly shouldn’t implement no-excuse absentee voting, which is often used by liberal Democrats who have refined election fraud and ballot stuffing into an art form.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) and Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) have already voiced opposition to HB 396.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn