Archive for the ‘Op Ed’ Category


By Dominique Moisi

This analysis first appeared in Les Echos

Bashar al-Assad is still in power in Damascus and al-Qaeda’s black flag was recently waving above Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq. Not only has the process of fragmentation in Syria now spilled over to Iraq, but these two realities also share a common cause that could be summarized into a simple phrase: the failure of the West.

The capture, even though temporary, of the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi by Sunni militias claiming links to al-Qaeda, is a strong and even humiliating symbol of the failure of the policies the United States carried out in Iraq. A little more than a decade after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime – and after hundreds of thousands of deaths on the Iraqi side and more than 5,000 on the American side – we can only lament a sad conclusion: All that for this!

In Syria, the same admission of failure is emerging. Assad and his loyal allies – Russia and Iran – have actually emerged stronger from their confrontation with the West. Civilian massacres, including with chemical weapons, did not change anything. The regime is holding tight, despite losing control of important parts of its territory, thanks to its allies’ support and, most importantly, the weakness of its opponents and those who support them.

In reality, from the Middle East to Africa, the entire idea of outside intervention is being challenged in a widely post-American region. How and when can one intervene appropriately? At which point does not intervening become, to quote the French diplomat Talleyrand following the assassination of the Duke of Enghien in 1804, “worse than a crime, a mistake?”

When is intervention necessary? “Humanitarian emergency” is a very elastic concept. Is the fate of Syrian civilians less tragic than that of Libyans? Why intervene in Somalia in 1992 and not inSudan? The decision to intervene reveals, in part, selective emotions that can also correspond to certain sensitivities or, in a more mundane way, to certain best interests of the moment.

Intervention becomes more probable when it follows the success of some other action; or, on the contrary, a decision to abstain that led to massacre and remorse. The tragedy of the African Great Lakes in 1994 – not to mention the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995 – certainly contributed to the West’s decision to intervene in Kosovo in 1999. In reality, the intervention of a given country at a given time is typically driven by multiple factors: the existence of an interventionist culture, a sense of urgency, a minimum of empathy towards the country or the cause justifying the intervention, and, of course, the existence of resources that are considered, rightly or wrongly, sufficient and well-adapted. Read more…



Failing elites threaten our future

Written on January 16, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Foreign Policy, Op Ed

In 2014, Europeans commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the first World War. This calamity launched three decades of savagery and stupidity, destroying most of what was good in the European civilisation of the beginning of the 20th century. In the end, as Churchill foretold in June 1940, “the New World, with all its power and might”, had to step “forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old”.

The failures of Europe’s political, economic and intellectual elites created the disaster that befell their peoples between 1914 and 1945. Their ignorance and prejudices allowed catastrophe: false ideas and bad values were at work. These included the atavistic belief, not just that empires were magnificent and profitable, but that war was glorious and controllable. It was as if a will to collective suicide seized the leaders of great nations.

Complex societies rely on their elites to get things, if not right, at least not grotesquely wrong. When elites fail, the political order is likely to collapse, as happened to the defeated powers after first World War. The Russian, German and Austrian empires vanished, bequeathing weak successors succeeded by despotism. The war also destroyed the foundations of the 19th century economy: free trade and the gold standard. Attempts to restore it produced more elite failures, this time of Americans as much as Europeans. The Great Depression did much to create the conditions for the second World War. The cold war, a conflict of democracies with a dictatorship sired by the first World War, followed.

Epic failures
The dire results of elite failures are not surprising. An implicit deal exists between elites and the people: the former obtain the privileges and perquisites of power and property; the latter, in return, obtain security and, in modern times, a measure of prosperity. If elites fail, they risk being replaced. The replacement of failed economic, bureaucratic and intellectual elites is always fraught. But, in a democracy, replacement of political elites at least is swift and clean. In a despotism, it will usually be slow and almost always bloody. Read more…


Martin Wolf is chief economics commentator with the Financial Times. As published on Jan. 15, 2013 in


In this new bi-monthly MIR Alumni Update, we feature different MIR alumni around the world.

Ou first post will feature Kirit Patel, MIR 2011/2012 Alumnus who has just joined the United Nations in New York as Associate Economic Affairs Officer.

Here is what he writes:

“My role as Associate Economic Affairs Officer is quite broad. I work in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in a Division called ‘Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination’, and within that division I work in branch of about 10 People called ‘Policy Coordination Branch’. Our work is to help the Economic and Social Council reach consensus and then ensuring an integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to what is agreed at various ECOSOC conferences and summits.

This week, our branch hosted an Expert Group Meeting/Workshop on the following “Addressing on-going and emerging challenges for meeting the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and for sustaining gains the future”. Experts from UN System Partners, NGO’s, and other multi-lateral institutions were in attendance. The main topics for debate were the role of institutions in supporting sustainable development, inclusive development, measuring development progress, and the lessons learned from previous ECOSOC administrative practices (to support the ongoing reform process).

My role was to organise and stimulate debate amongst participants and I am currently drafting the summary note of the workshop. Other tasks I am involved in include reviewing DESA editorials, speech writing, and drafting internal communications between the Secretariat and the Member State representatives.

This has been a whirlwind experience. When I landed in NY at midnight I started practically immediately – the next morning! There is a lot of energy here with very interesting people and good social dynamic. This post was initially temporary but the good news is that I was just offered a permanent contract in the UN Young Professionals Program (YPP) in the position I am currenty in! “


Europe’s Supernova Moment

Written on January 10, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, News, Op Ed


HAMBURG, Germany — More or less since its birth, the European Union has been a subject of apocalyptic talk — a permanent crisis mode that has worked beautifully to enhance ever-closer integration.

Today, though, the situation is different, and it is serious. Never before have Europeans been more tired and disillusioned with the promises of the Brussels mandarins. In the run-up to the European parliamentary elections in May, the gap between what’s economically necessary and what’s politically justifiable is growing dangerously wide.

Europe has come through the last years of crisis with a new momentum, and yet the situation is reminiscent of how a star reaches its greatest density just before it explodes. If that is so, is there a remedy for what the analyst Roderick Parkes has called the “supernova moment”?

There is. But it would require Germany, the union’s largest and most powerful driver, to support an idea that the country has always fiercely rejected: to activate the thrust reverser for certain parts of the unification project as a way to reduce the Continent’s political stress. It would mean, more specifically, listening to the ideas being laid out by the British prime minister, David Cameron.

Integration, Mr. Cameron argues, should be cut back in a variety of policy-making realms — social and employment laws, for example, or environmental legislation — and shifted back to the individual countries. That would allow Brussels to focus on other areas more central to its vision, like monetary unification, energy security and enlargement.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has been ignoring these ideas with a mixture of anxiety, denial and lack of vision. For the sake of Europe, she should think again. Read more…

Jochen Bittner is a political editor for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit. As published in the International New York Times on Jan. 9, 2014


Bienvenidos a la Edad de Oro del conflicto

Written on January 9, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in News, Op Ed

José Zorrilla


Cuando el ganador de la II Guerra Mundial, el general George C. Marshall, pasó a ejercer como Secretario de Estado (Exteriores), los periodistas le preguntaron cómo se sentía ante un cambio tan radical. Su respuesta es legendaria. “En ambos cargos hago lo mismo: administro los límites del poder”. Estas palabras pertenecen a un general que había recibido un Ejército de 50.000 hombres, todos en suelo americano, y lo había transformado en otro integrado por diez millones de efectivos desplegados por los cinco continentes. En aquellos días, EEUU venía a representar el 50% del Producto Nacional Bruto del mundo.

Pero, así como los espectadores de Esquilo olvidaban la catarsis de la tragedia en cuanto llegaban a su casa en Atenas o nosotros hemos olvidado el horror de la Guerra Civil, Estados Unidos también olvidó los límites del poder durante los años de la ‘Pax Americana‘. Washington llegó incluso a hablar de “guerras de elección” y “guerras necesarias”, abandonando la tradicional división entre guerra justa e injusta. La realidad, sin embargo, ha terminado por imponerse. El ascenso de China ha hecho entender a EEUU que, para contener al coloso, no tiene más remedio que concentrarse en el Pacífico y dejarse pelos en la gatera en otros grandes escenarios estratégicos.

Hagamos un breve repaso de los acontecimientos más destacados en la agenda internacional del año que termina para perfilar los escenarios que se convertirán en los puntos candentes de 2014. Leer más…


Publicado en El Confidencia el 30 de diciembre de 2013,

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