Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

16
Oct

Palestinians mark Nakba Day in Jerusalem

The British vote in parliament recognising a Palestinian state alongside Israel is seen by many as a landmark moment in British policy on the Palestinian question. The vote comes shortly after Sweden’s newly elected prime minister, Stefan Löfven, expressed his readiness to recognise the state of Palestine. But Sweden’s gesture is the more significant one, since Britain’s Conservative-led government has made it abundantly clear that the parliamentary vote will not change its positionon the Israel-Palestine issue.

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13
Oct

Mexico’s Deadly Narco-Politics

Written on October 13, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Op Ed, Security

IGUALA, Mexico — STUDENT protesters in rural Mexico have long dealt with heavy-handed police officers. But on the black night of Sept. 26, students who attended a rural teachers’ college realized they were facing a far worse menace in this southern city. Not only were police officers shooting haphazardly at them, killing three students and several passers-by; shady gunmen were also firing from the sidelines.

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6
Oct

WWI Analogies: Missing the Role of Culture

Written on October 6, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Culture & Society, Foreign Policy

One hundred years ago began the war to end all wars. World War I, or the Great War, was a war based on unilateral actions, miscalculations and misunderstandings. This inauspicious centenary has been an opportunity for the foreign affairs commentariat to indulge in one of the things it is best at: drawing historical analogies.

It is true that aspects of the global landscape look eerily similar to a century ago. States push the boundaries of international law and act unilaterally, causing regional alarm and global unease. Events in Ukraine and East Asia suggest a return to old-school territoriality. The “Great Game” after all originally referred to Russia’s 19th century contest with Britain over central Asia, including Crimea.

Once again, there is a major redistribution of strategic and economic weight. New superpowers emerge and agitate for a place at the high table of international affairs. This time the shift is seismic, moving across entire continents. Today it is China, India, and other Asian states, as well as Brazil and South Africa. Alongside the growing multipolarity, many have pointed to the increasing great-power rivalry and divergence over major strategic issues like Ukraine and the South and East China Seas, economic cleavages with the BRICS’ New Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement, and India’s stance at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Countering these voices of doom is the argument that the interconnectedness of today’s world prevents a global catastrophe. It was in response to WWI that great minds like Leonard Woolf suggested the option of collective security, an idea that gained policy momentum, eventually culminating in the League of Nations. The League failed, in part due to disengagement by then rising powers like the U.S. Following World War II, nations tried again, leading to the institutional faces of today’s interconnected world order: the United Nations and economic institutions like WTO, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund.

Opponents of the WWI analogy argue that the integration of the global economy ensures that any state’s cost-benefit analysis regarding war is skewed towards the negative – it’s just not worth it. It could also be argued that modern technology, advances in intelligence gathering, and the ease with which global leaders can speak directly to each other, has made WWI-style “misunderstandings” near impossible. Media coverage of war has, since America’s involvement in Vietnam, meant the public are intimately aware of the realities of the battlefield, shifting the burden of justification further onto advocates for military action. In response to WWI, international pacifist Lord Bryce stated the “impossibility of war…would be increased in proportion as the issues of foreign policy should be known to and controlled by public opinion.”

Something that seems to have evaded the attention of both the voices of doom and the optimists, however, is that today’s power shifts have far more complex implications than last century’s. While Samuel Huntington’s famous “Clash of Civilizations” analysis may discount key factors, it draws our attention to an important and long-ignored aspect of international relations – culture. Unlike the United States and Germany in the 19th century, today’s emerging powers encompass entire civilizations – some with thousands of years of cultural continuity. While Japan’s modernization beginning with the Meiji restoration in 1868 included an adoption of existing foreign policy institutions, the same may not be true for China and India.

Culture is making a comeback as a factor in international relations. And it is not merely via chauvinism manifesting itself in the form of nationalist politics that we have seen since the end of the Cold War; not just states saying “my culture is better than yours.” Culture’s influence in the future will be more deeply felt. Its interaction with foreign affairs will be in a way that has long been shunned as too mystifying to serve as a basis for policymaking. Culture will make an impact through values.

Published on Oct. 5th in http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/wwi-analogies-missing-the-role-of-culture/

Dr. Kadira Pethiyagoda is a former diplomat whose PhD and upcoming book investigated Indian foreign policy. He was a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford. A shorter version of this article first appeared on East Asia Forum.

3
Oct

 

This week, Brazil’s stock index dipped sharply and the national currency, the real, slumped after polls showed incumbent Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff securing a lead in the run-up to Sunday’s first round of voting. This reaction by capital markets reflects misgivings about the continuation of statist policies that have dried up jobs, driven up debt and led the world’s seventh-largest economy into a recession.

Although Rousseff has recovered her lead over the 10 other candidates, she will likely fall short of obtaining an outright majority and will be forced into a run-off Oct. 26 against free-market maverick Marina Silva. And while most observers expect Rousseff to win re-election by challenging Silva’s lack of executive experience, the campaign has exposed profound popular doubts about the president’s own management of Brazil’s economy.

Silva’s steady rise in the polls buoyed private-sector hopes, but markets tumbled this week after a series of polls showed Silva losing her lead over the incumbent in the projected second round of voting. On Monday, Petrobras shares fell more than 11 percent – the largest one-day loss in nearly six years. Shares in the state-run Banco do Brasil fell nearly 8.5 percent, while the real lost as much as 2.5 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar.

Published on Oct. 2nd, http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2014/10/02/brazilians_may_opt_for_experience_over_change_in_election_110732-2.html

Roger Noriega was U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States and assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the administration of President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005 and is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. His firm, Vision Americas LLC, represents U.S. and foreign clients.

30
Sep

Gobal debate in recent weeks has centered on President Barack Obama’s initiative to prevent the advance of ISIS. But another force has emerged as an unlikely rampart against the barbaric and delusional leaders of the self-proclaimed caliphate: Lebanese pluralism. Indeed, despite the shortcomings of its political system, Lebanon can provide a template for managing cultural diversity and rejecting radicalism in an unstable and fragmented setting.

Last month, the Lebanese Army showed considerable fortitude as it fought ISIS militants in the Bekaa town of Arsal, near the border with Syria. Though the Army has sustained heavy losses – including two soldiers who were beheaded – it has managed to compel the militants, who were operating inside a Syrian refugee camp, largely to withdraw. And it continues to fight when the need arises. International aid is now flowing toward the Army, with Saudi Arabia alone pledging more than $3 billion.

But the international community should move beyond military aid to support Lebanon’s real strengths: its moderate, pluralist and vibrant society. After all, that is what has enabled the country, against all odds, to avoid all-out conflict, making it a beacon – however faint – of hope in a crisis-ravaged region.

Lebanon’s resilience has confounded expectations, given its lack of a shared national identity – a result of deep social divisions that resemble, to some extent, those besetting Iraq – and notoriously weak state institutions. In fact, Lebanon’s political system has been paralyzed by disagreements over Syria’s civil war, the consequences of which have been pouring over the Lebanese border. The country has not had a president since May; the Parliament is not functioning; and the Cabinet is practically powerless.

When ISIS arrived at the border, however, most of Lebanon’s political parties, media and civil society rallied together. Billboards were erected appealing to Sunnis to preserve moderation. Media outlets informally agreed not to provide a platform to radical militants. And performing-arts festivals featuring international figures went ahead – signaling the Lebanese people’s refusal to give in to radicalism and violence.

Moreover, the Army received an outpouring of public support, which is understandable, given the lack of any other unifying institution. Even the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which has caused deep fissures in Lebanon by helping to shore up Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, supported the Army’s campaign (though the party’s desire to allow others to die fighting Assad’s opponents was undoubtedly a key motivation).

Ironically, the weakness of the Lebanese state may be contributing to the strength of its civil society. In Lebanon, unlike in other Arab countries, no single religious group enjoys a majority. Shiites and Sunnis compete to ally themselves with the Christian community, recognizing its vital social and political role in the country.

Lebanon’s acceptance of cultural diversity and pluralism has enabled the country to emerge whole from 15 years of civil war, to withstand decades of Syrian and Israeli occupation, and finally to stand up to ISIS. It may have taken years of violence, but Christians, Sunnis and Shias seem to have internalized the lesson that they cannot impose their will on one another.

Today, Lebanon is bustling with the cosmopolitan spirit and energy that once characterized the entire region. And the impact of its people’s creative activities is increasingly visible worldwide, with, for example, the fashion designer Elie Saab dressing Hollywood stars and Lamia Joreige’s art being exhibited in the permanent collection of London’s Tate Modern. Furthermore, both pluralism and moderation remain the dominant forces in the country; tellingly, ISIS could not find a single Lebanese to volunteer to act as its emir over Lebanon.

But this inspiring model is under threat, as Lebanon struggles to cope with a massive public debt and the spread of abject poverty in rural areas, especially among Sunnis. Making matters worse, more than a million Syrian refugees have poured into Lebanon since the start of the war in Syria in 2011 This is the equivalent, in proportional terms, of 80 million Mexicans suddenly arriving in the United States.


Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Opinion/Commentary/2014/Sep-30/272421-against-barbarism-an-imperfect-lebanon-deploys-pluralism.ashx#ixzz3EnttDMhH

Published by Marwan Muasher on Sept. 30th.