Biden’s Latest Policy Failure: West Africa

Newsweek – While the Biden administration’s feckless foreign policy team continues to flounder in the Middle East, in sub-Saharan Africa it has invited humiliations of historic proportions. In March, the government of Niger, a military junta that overthrew that country’s democratic government in July 2023, demanded that the United States remove its troop presence, which consists of 1,100 Army and Air Force personnel mostly stationed at a $110 million base built just six years ago.

Last-minute diplomatic attempts to reverse Niger’s decision failed. On April 19, Biden’s State Department acknowledged that the decision was final and that the withdrawal will be faithfully carried out. Just before the final agreement was reached, neighboring Chad demanded that a smaller but significant deployment of U.S. forces in that country leave, and threatened to cancel a standing agreement governing U.S. deployments there.

Until Niger changed governments last year, American military personnel in the country had engaged in successful anti-terrorism operations via drone deployments and joint patrols with the Nigerien armed forces. After the July revolt, however, the Biden administration suspended much of the U.S. military cooperation, citing Niger’s lack of democratic government. Last October, the State Department provocatively declared the change in government a “coup.” Under U.S. policy, this measure required the full suspension of all U.S. military operations in the country, except for self-defense, and resulted in a $500 million reduction in non-humanitarian foreign aid. The State Department also affirmed that its highest objective is the restoration of Niger’s democratic government, presumably over counterterrorism operations.

That sat poorly with the junta, which responded by declaring the U.S. military presence “illegal” and demanding its withdrawal. Its decision has been supported by popular protests in Niger’s capital, Niamey. Earlier, the junta had expelled a French deployment of about 1,500 troops, as well as the French ambassador, citing France’s colonial past in the country. French forces and diplomatic representatives in Mali and Burkina Faso have also been expelled in recent years.

The 1,100 U.S. personnel in Niger have idled for months, even as the country and the larger Sahel region—where six other national governments have been overthrown in the last three and a half years—have become increasingly destabilized and dangerous. Niger has rejected or not responded to requests for military overflights that would allow U.S. personnel in the country to leave or new personnel to arrive. Attacks by ISIS and al Qaeda affiliates in Niger increased fourfold in the month after the July coup alone, in the absence of the joint U.S.-Nigerien military efforts.

“The Americans deployed here have not been able to perform their primary mission and have been told to ‘sit and hold,'” wrote an anonymous serviceman stationed in Niger in a whistleblower letter to Congress published by the Washington Post last month. Referring to the prolonged diplomacy and lack of flight clearances, the whistleblower added that U.S. servicemen “are essentially being held hostage from returning home to their families while the State Department continues with failed diplomacy.” The author specifically blamed U.S. Ambassador Kathleen FitzGibbon and her defense attaché, Colonel Nora J. Nelson-Richter, for having allegedly “suppressed intelligence information” and “failed to be transparent” with U.S. personnel in Niger, potentially leaving them exposed to serious danger.

The rot goes much higher, however. “The administration’s distracted, sputtering performance in Africa is having painful consequences for our priorities,” says Alberto Fernandez, a retired U.S. diplomat who served as ambassador to Equatorial Guinea and is currently vice president of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

As terrorist forces revive, national governments in West Africa are looking to Russia to fill the gap. Unlike Washington under Biden, Moscow takes no position on the nature of national governments and does not predicate military cooperation on democracy.

While Russia’s paramilitary Wagner Group has operated in Africa since 2017, its deployments to the Sahel have increased since Biden entered office, recently replacing the French in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Even before the departure of U.S. troops from Chad and Niger, the governments of those countries began inviting the Russians in—”taking advantage,” as former U.S. special envoy to the Sahel J. Peter Pham told me, “of an opening creating by the Biden administration’s ham-fisted approach.”

According to Chadian media, 130 Wagner mercenaries arrived in that country in late April. Last week, an unspecified number of Russian troops arrived in Niger, ostensibly for “training” purposes. In a bizarre changing of the guard, they are being housed alongside, but separately from, American servicemen at a soon-to-be-former U.S. airbase adjacent to Niamey’s airport.

Worrying reports also hold that Iranian agents are in the country seeking uranium rights in exchange for military exports. Predictably in the current climate, U.S. efforts to stymie the deal have reportedly failed.

U.S. Marine Corps General Michael E. Langley, who commands AFRICOM—headquartered in faraway Stuttgart, Germany—told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that Russia is “trying to take over central Africa as well as the Sahel” at an “accelerated pace.” That’s hard to deny, but the acceleration comes courtesy of Joseph R. Biden and his execrable foreign policy team.

Abolishing Diversity Statements Is an Empty Gesture at MIT

Chronicles – Last week, media reports revealed that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will no longer require diversity statements in faculty hiring. The news did not break in a proud official press release from that institution, but in response to an e-mail inquiry to MIT from the journalist John Sailer, who published excerpts from the reply he received from an MIT spokesman.

In use since the late 2010s and now required by almost half of large universities, diversity statements have become an element of applications for many university professorships. They can also be required at later career stages, including in applications for promotion and tenure. Some graduate study programs require them for prospective students. The relevant instructions typically ask applicants how they conceive of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and what proactive steps they have taken, are taking, and plan to take to promote the controversial ideology in their work.

Critics of the practice hold that it is a political litmus test used to ensure ideological conformity on college campuses. A 2020 report revealed that 76 percent of applicants for professorships across eight life science programs at the University of California, Berkeley, for example, were disqualified on the basis of their diversity statements alone, ahead of any consideration of their academic qualifications. That same year, a study of the practice at the University of California, Davis suggested that this was true for more than half of applicants to certain schools at that institution. State legislatures in Florida, Texas, Utah, and Idaho have banned the practice, with other states following suit.

Even supporters of diversity statements, including the dean at Berkeley’s law school, Erwin Chemerinsky—recently in the news for an embarrassing video in which he objected to a pro-Palestinian protest speech at a dinner he hosted at his private home—have said they believe such statements can be misused. Chemerinsky should know. In September 2023, The New York Times reported that a psychology professor primed to join the Berkeley faculty who submitted the required diversity statement was rejected after graduate students objected to him for having questioned years before whether diversity statements should be used.

MIT’s decision to abandon the practice came from its embattled president Sally Kornbluth, supported by MIT’s provost, chancellor, and all six academic deans. In a widely quoted statement, Kornbluth said, “We can build an inclusive environment in many ways, but compelled statements impinge on freedom of expression, and they don’t work.”

Last December, Kornbluth appeared alongside former Harvard president Claudine Gay and former University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill in a congressional hearing in which all three infamously testified that “context” would determine whether it was acceptable to call for the deaths of Jews on campus. Gay and Magill subsequently resigned from their posts after massive public outcries. Earlier this week, so did former Cornell University president Martha Pollack, who said she was retiring amid similar objections.

Kornbluth did not indicate why diversity statements “don’t work,” but there is no indication that she has seen the light. Even if diversity statements are out, DEI appears to be at MIT to stay. A survey of its website indicates that virtually every division continues to incorporate the concept at a fundamental level, guided by an institution-wide “strategic action plan” that announces more than 50 DEI-related “actions” to unfold by 2027. There is no indication that the plan has been scrapped, suspended, or subjected to even the slightest critical scrutiny.

Even before MIT introduced its DEI-infused strategic action plan, it employed DEI deans in all six of its main schools. Notably, two of those individuals, Tracie Jones-Barrett, initially of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and now deputy DEI chief for all of MIT, and Alana Anderson, formerly of MIT’s Schwarzman College of Computing (she voluntarily left MIT in 2023 for a private-sector DEI job), stand accused of plagiarism in a 71-page complaint filed on Saturday and excerpted in the Free Beacon. The allegations include information strongly suggesting that they copied entire passages without attribution for their doctoral dissertations. In Jones-Barrett’s case, this extended to her section on “ethical considerations.”

MIT has yet to comment on the plagiarism allegations, but its “Institute Equity and Community Office” employs 16 individuals who work on what appears to be exclusively DEI programing. Only four of them are male, only two appear to be white, and just one appears to be a white male. MIT’s Human Resources Office separately offers an exhaustive list of “resources” specifically intended “to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)” and insists that DEI is “necessary for a full realization of the potential of any group and organization.” MIT’s Discrimination & Harassment Response Office lists not merely a (female) Title IX coordinator, but 13 Deputy Title IX coordinators, only two of whom are male.

Virtually all MIT departments include thorough DEI programming. The Department of Mechanical Engineering’s website says that it “has pledged to develop and implement actions that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our students, faculty, and staff” and includes a lengthy departmental strategic action plan intended “to build a community that is actively anti-racist.” The department also intends to raise over $500,000 for “DEI and mentorship programs” and additional funds for “underrepresented group (URG)-focused fellowships to increase graduate student diversity.” It commits further resources to “attract and retain” underrepresented faculty and staff. There seems to be no internal debate about whether these initiatives might violate non-discrimination laws, laws against affirmative action hiring, or last June’s Supreme Court ruling banning the use of race in college admissions.

Over in MIT’s Biology Department, “Diversity” is the first item in a drop-down list under “About.” Clicking on it reveals that the department “promotes diversity and inclusion as one of our core values.” This is no idle platitude. The department employs a full-time “diversity officer” who has no apparent training in science but does hold a master’s degree in “community engagement,” as well as a separate “Director of Diversity and Science Outreach.” The department also has an in-house DEI Council and a separate Faculty DEI Committee. Yet another departmental initiative recruits post-doctoral fellows from underrepresented backgrounds to the department, again without any apparent consideration of relevant anti-discrimination laws and rulings. The Biology Department publishes an annual diversity report, but, perhaps tellingly, access is restricted to MIT community members.

MIT’s Sloan School of Management is ranked among the nation’s most prestigious business schools. “Diversity” is the second tab on its website. Clicking reveals a lengthy section claiming that “systemic challenges require systemic solutions” and calling on “the MIT community to develop a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive working and learning environment.” Like MIT’s other major schools, Sloan employs a DEI dean, who appears to be an academic sociologist with no degrees in business. It also employs an “Associate Dean for Innovation and Inclusion,” who appears to hold degrees in applied science but, like her colleague, no academic business credentials. Sloan’s publicly accessible annual report describes “a wide variety of projects and activities to build diversity, equity, and inclusion across all parts of the MIT Sloan community” and aims to make DEI a permanent feature of the business school’s landscape.

These are only three examples, but a search of all MIT programs yields largely the same DEI-drenched results. Diversity statements may be out, but unless and until Sally Kornbluth ousts DEI from all other areas of her troubled institution—as the University of North Carolina’s Board of Trustees did on Monday—she has no business leading it and should resign or be removed in disgrace.

Confused Ivy League Presidents Should Look to the Sunshine State

Chronicles  – “The University of Florida is not a daycare,” declared Steve Orlando, a spokesman for the flagship institution of the state’s public university system—consistently rated the country’s best—in an official statement released Monday evening. “We do not treat protesters like children,” he continued, “they knew the rules, they broke the rules, and they will face the consequences.”

Late last week, UF’s student office issued a simple one-page directive advising pro-Hamas protesters that while their First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly will be respected, disrupting university operations will not be tolerated, and instead, will be subject to swift disciplinary action. Offenders who block access to campus, occupy public spaces, violate Florida trespassing and public nuisance laws, or commit harassment or assault can expect to be arrested, barred from campus for three years, and—if they are enrolled students—suspended for the duration of that time. Faculty and staff members who violate the rules can likewise be banned from campus and “separated from employment.”

This falls somewhat short of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s earlier public call for disruptive student protesters to be expelled and, if they are foreign citizens present on student visas, deported. But the point was clear.

When protesters tested UF’s resolve on Monday, law enforcement moved in after giving final warnings. The campus police and Florida Highway Patrol officers arrested nine people on charges including failure to obey a lawful command, resisting arrest without violence, and, in one case, battery. Their names and mugshots were released to the media.

UF has confirmed that they have all been banned from campus for three years. That same day, at the University of South Florida, three more protesters were arrested at a demonstration organized by the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, a campus organization that previously had been suspended and thereby lost its right to organize campus activities. On Tuesday evening, 10 more USF protestors were arrested. Other protests on Florida’s public college campuses have unfolded without serious contention.

Compare this highly effective balance of constitutional rights and public order at Florida’s state institutions to the multiplying disasters that were once our nation’s most prestigious universities. Inside their crumbling ivory towers, radical students and faculty members alike are now seizing buildings, harassing Jews, assaulting police officers and journalists, and blocking access to study, while weak-kneed administrators cower in their offices issuing meaningless directives and threatening consequences that most often never materialize, though some universities have, under considerable public pressure, removed encampments and authorized police action.

Many of our once-elite institutions are reaping the whirlwind they have sown. They are overrun with dubious “activist-scholars,” they’ve admitted students for ideological conformity and racial box-checking rather than demonstrated academic ability, and they’ve filled their staff rosters with worthless diversity, equity, and inclusion personnel. If the demonstrations over the past days have proved anything, it is that the progressive left has no respect for education, no interest in dialogue, and zero tolerance for any opinion other than its own. The liberal administrators twisted the concept of basic fairness to let these malign and disturbed individuals pass their gates. They have neither the courage nor the scruples to challenge them and would rather watch their facilities be smashed and their honest charges live in fear than avail themselves of basic laws, property rights, and police protection.

If these vaunted institutions truly were possessed of open minds and strategic sense, they would look to Florida’s thriving universities and at least mimic their constitutionally minded resolve.

“Columbia will burn,” wrote pro-Hamas protestors at New York City’s Ivy League institution, in mockery of an earlier communication from Columbia President Nemat Shafik telling them to remove their campus encampment. She at least appears to be looking to Florida for guidance. Whether she stays the course or not, there’s no danger that her counterparts in Florida will let their universities burn.