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Those who live by the sword


WORLD Radio - Those who live by the sword

Plus, Lloyd Austin’s secret medical absence and China’s plans for Taiwan in 2024

Members of an Iraqi Shiite militant group carry the coffin of the funeral of an fighter who was killed in a U.S. airstrike. Associated Press/Photo by Hadi Mizban

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: New Year, new foreign policy challenges for the United States.

Last Thursday, a U.S. airstrike killed a senior leader of an Iran-backed militant group in Iraq. Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder explained that the militant widely known as Abu Taqwa was planning attacks on American personnel.

RYDER: It is important to note that the strike was taken in self-defense, that no civilians were harmed and that no infrastructure or facilities were struck.

The move comes after months of Iran-backed attacks on American military bases in Iraq and Syria.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Joining us now to talk about this and other stories is Will Inboden. He’s a professor at the University of Florida and a regular contributor to World Opinions. Will, thanks for joining us!

WILL INBODEN: Thank you, Mary, it's great to be with you.

REICHARD: Will, how does this strike factor into the Biden Administration’s policy in the Middle East?

INBODEN: I think the strike was long overdue. Iran and its proxy militias in Iraq and Syria, even its proxies, the Houthis in Yemen, have been attacking American personnel, American interests or allied shipping for months now as part of this escalating pressure campaign to try to erode our support for Israel, and to get us out of the region. And the Biden administration I think has been too slow and too weak in responding overall. And that weakness has been somewhat provocative to the Iranians, they thought they could keep getting away with it. And so this strike was long overdue. I'm glad to see that we took out Abu Taqwa, but more needs to be done. We have learned over time, over the last several decades, that Iran does respond to credible force and deterrence. And if they think we need a more disproportionate response, they're making clear to the Iranians that there is a severe price to be paid for putting our troops at risk, as well as for their ongoing support for Gaza, and other radical Islamist terrorist groups in the region.

REICHARD: Closer to home…Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. He’s been missing in action. Austin didn’t inform the White House for three days that he wasn’t able to work…He checked into the hospital on January 1st, and this week news broke that he’s got prostate cancer and undergoing treatment. All of it concerning, but what makes this a big story is the lack of communication on his whereabouts and health and who was in charge

Now there are calls for Austin to resign. Will, what do you make of this story?

INBODEN: Yeah, it's really stunning. And I, you know, first just on a human level, all of us can understand the desire we have for a certain amount of privacy with our health concerns with familial ones. Prostate cancer, I speak as a man who's not getting any younger, can be a pretty serious disease, right? So I want to start with on a human level of empathy, that we should be praying for Secretary Austin and his family because this is a difficult ordeal. But there's a very important point here. When one takes a position of leadership and public service, of necessity, we give up a lot of our privacy. It is no longer just our personal concerns, we now have the stewardship of leading the country, in this case of leading our armed forces, especially when we are in a situation of active hostilities. And the country needs to know, is the Supreme Commander of the Military Forces, is he healthy? Is he capable of functioning? Certainly his president, the commander in chief, needs to know. And so it was a really stunning omission by Secretary Austin and his team, not only not to notify the American people, but not to notify the White House as well. And so I, I can't pretend to know how or why this happens. I don't want to ascribe any Ill motives here. But it was a very significant mistake. And I'm sure there are some candid and frank discussions happening between President Biden and Secretary Austin right now, even as I return to, we should still be concerned for his health, but also need to make sure that these sort of evasions and hiding important medical truths do not happen again, when there is so much at stake for our country's national security.

REICHARD: One more story. On New Year’s Eve, Chinese President Xi Jingping gave a speech referencing Taiwan. I’ll read here from an English translation: “China will surely be reunified, and all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be bound by a common sense of purpose and share in the glory of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Will, what does that statement say to you about President Xi’s new year’s resolutions?

INBODEN: There's not much new in the way he phrased it. The Chinese Communist Party's position has long been that Taiwan is a renegade province, it has no independence, it should be a part of China, and it will inevitably be reunified with China. So they you know, Chinese dictators going back to Mao have been saying that. The significance here, however, is the timing. This is just two weeks before Taiwan's upcoming presidential elections. There are two main parties in Taiwan, the DPP, which is a little more independence-minded, and the KMT, which is a little more favorable to closer ties with Beijing. Xi Jinping, I think is clearly trying to interfere in Taiwan's elections and threaten the DPP voters saying, Hey, if you vote for your candidate, candidate Lai, that will, you know, jeopardize Taiwan and might might provoke the use of force by Beijing. Usually, those sort of threats have backfired. The Taiwanese people value their autonomy. They do not want to come under the control be recolonized by Beijing. They certainly saw what happened to the people of Hong Kong. So in that sense, I think this will probably backfire. But it's also a reminder to us about what a dangerous world we live in, right? I mean, just as we're dealing with Russia's ongoing aggression against Ukraine, Hamas's aggression against Israel, Iran's aggression throughout the Middle East. Those are all serious strategic concerns, but the biggest one remains China. And the biggest concern there is a potential Chinese use of force or blockade or other coercive measures against Taiwan. And I think Xi Jinping is perhaps hoping that as the world is distracted or as American resolve, and maybe you wouldn't lean a little bit in some of these other theaters that there might be an opening for him to move more aggressively against Taiwan. He's made clear that one of his most important goals and legacies during his time as dictator of China is to recapture Taiwan. And so this is another signal to that effect and so it should certainly worry us, but I'll venture a prediction here that it will not intimidate the people of Taiwan into giving up their own freedoms.

REICHARD: William Inboden is a professor at the University of Florida and a regular contributor to World Opinions. Will, thanks for joining us!

INBODEN: Thanks, Mary. Great to be with you.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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