Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

24
Jan

Netanyahu’s back, and Barack Obama needs to find a way to work with him this time around.

BY AARON DAVID MILLER

In the spring of 1996, with Israelis still mourning the late Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres locked in a tough race for prime minister with Benjamin Netanyahu, I quipped to my friend and colleague Dennis Ross in one of the worst political predictions of the modern era: There’s no way Bibi can win this thing. He can’t be prime minister of the state of Israel.

Seventeen years later, Netanyahu has now served for more years as Israeli prime minister than anyone other than David Ben Gurion, and though much weakened by this week’s elections, is about to begin coalition negotiations toward an unprecedented third term.

But looking at the Israeli press this morning, you’d think that he’s already toast. “‘King Bibi,'” writes columnist Bradley Burston, “has managed to plummet to victory in a technical triumph that has every appearance of a debacle.” Bibi’s campaign failed, the inestimable Aluf Benn writes in Haaretz, because he had nothing much to say.

They’re both right, of course. The election results in Israel were a clear defeat for the right, a non-victory for the left, a clear affirmation that there is a center in Israel, and an indication that many Israelis are indeed looking past Netanyahu for something new.

But it would be a mistake in 2013 — just as it was in 1996 — to write off Bibi or to conclude that Israeli politics are somehow on the verge of transformation. Remember: This is the topsy-turvy, volatile world of Israeli politics, where since independence there have been 32 governments, each lasting roughly 1.8 years. And this is a place where principles compete with the rough trade of street politics, coalition horse-trading, and downright meanness. And that is squarely in Netanyahu’s wheelhouse. He knows how to survive in the shark-infested waters of Israeli politics. Indeed, in the curious interaction of domestic politics, national security, and, most importantly, the absence of charismatic leadership, there’s still life left in King Bibi. And here’s why. Read more…

Aaron David Miller is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. His forthcoming book is titled “Can America Have Another Great President?”.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on January 23, 2013.

22
Jan

By Roger Cohen

DIPLOMACY is dead.

Effective diplomacy — the kind that produced Nixon’s breakthrough with China, an end to the Cold War on American terms, or the Dayton peace accord in Bosnia — requires patience, persistence, empathy, discretion, boldness and a willingness to talk to the enemy.

This is an age of impatience, changeableness, palaver, small-mindedness and an unwillingness to talk to bad guys. Human rights are in fashion, a good thing of course, but the space for realist statesmanship of the kind that produced the Bosnian peace in 1995 has diminished. The late Richard Holbrooke’s realpolitik was not for the squeamish.

There are other reasons for diplomacy’s demise. The United States has lost its dominant position without any other nation rising to take its place. The result is nobody’s world. It is a place where America acts as a cautious boss, alternately encouraging others to take the lead and worrying about loss of authority. Syria has been an unedifying lesson in the course of crisis when diplomacy is dead. Algeria shows how the dead pile up when talking is dismissed as a waste of time.

Violence, of the kind diplomacy once resolved, has shifted. As William Luers, a former ambassador to Venezuela and the director of The Iran Project, said in an e-mail, it occurs “less between states and more dealing with terrorists.” One result is that “the military and the C.I.A. have been in the driver’s seat in dealing with governments throughout the Middle East and in state to state (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq) relations.” The role of professional diplomats is squeezed.

Indeed the very word “diplomacy” has become unfashionable on Capitol Hill, where its wimpy associations — trade-offs, compromise, pliancy, concessions and the like — are shunned by representatives who these days prefer beating the post-9/11 drums of confrontation, toughness and inflexibility: All of which may sound good but often get you nowhere (or into long, intractable wars) at great cost.

Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, wrote in an e-mail that, “When domestic politics devolve into polarization and paralysis the impact on diplomatic possibility becomes inordinately constraining.” He cited Cuba and Iran as examples of this; I would add Israel-Palestine. These critical foreign policy issues are viewed less as diplomatic challenges than potential sources of domestic political capital. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on January 21, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on January 22, 2013, in The International Herald Tribune).

21
Jan

By STEVEN RATTNER

As recently as 2006, when I first visited India and China, the economic race was on, with heavy bets being placed on which one would win the developing world sweepstakes.

Many Westerners fervently hoped that a democratic country would triumph economically over an autocratic regime.

Now the contest is emphatically over. China has lunged into the 21st century, while India is still lurching toward it.

That’s evident not just in columns of dry statistics but in the rhythm and sensibility of each country. While China often seems to eradicate its past as it single-mindedly constructs its future, India nibbles more judiciously at its complex history.

Visits to crowded Indian urban centers unleash sensory assaults: colorful dress and lilting chatter provide a backdrop to every manner of commerce, from small shops to peddlers to beggars. That makes for engaging tourism, but not the fastest economic development. In contrast to China’s full-throated, monochromatic embrace of large-scale manufacturing, India more closely resembles a nation of shopkeepers.

To be sure, India has achieved enviable success in business services, like the glistening call centers in Bangalore and elsewhere. But in the global jousting for manufacturing jobs, India does not get its share.

Now, after years of rocketing growth, China’s gross domestic product per capita of $9,146 is more than twice India’s. And its economy grew by 7.7 percent in 2012, while India expanded at a (hardly shabby) 5.3 percent rate. Read more…

Steven Rattner, a long-time Wall Street financier, led the restructuring of the auto industry in 2009 as counselor to the Treasury secretary under the Obama administration.

As published in www.nytimes.com on January 19, 2013 (a version of this article appeared in print on 01/20/2013, on page SR12 of the NewYork edition with the headline: India Is Losing The Race).

18
Jan

By Haizam Amirah-Fernandez, Associate Professor at IE School of Arts & Humanities

Egypt has squandered its constitutional moment and the Muslim Brotherhood has been shown up as a group eager to accumulate power even at the risk of splitting the country down the middle. If a constitution’s quality is gauged according to its capacity to create a consensus, respect diversity and make coexistence easier, it is evident that the recently-adopted one in Egypt is highly deficient and polarising, with the potential to give rise to more problems than it resolves. The methods employed in its drafting and approval deprive Egypt of the hope of acquiring political stability and of allowing its economy to take off in the short and medium terms.

From a short-term point of view, the first six months of the presidency of Mohammed Morsi, the candidate presented by the Freedom and Justice Party –the Muslim Brothers’ political wing–, suggest that the Brotherhood has won all the political battles it has engaged in over the past 22 months. It could be argued that it has been able to consolidate its position as the leading political force of the post-Mubarak era, winning the legislative elections at the beginning of 2012 and then the presidential elections, having dislodged the military from power and drafted a constitution to its own liking and subsequently having it approved in a referendum.

Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s apparent successes, its leaders rush to acquire and accumulate power has led them to resort to authoritarian means, abruptly pushing aside all those who think differently. This has generated widespread rejection and set against them the rest of non-Islamist political forces, several state institutions, the religious authorities of Al Azhar and the Coptic Churches, in addition to the non-governmental media. Furthermore, several presidential advisors and other high profile personalities have resigned in protest at decisions made by Morsi and his hierarchical superiors within the Brotherhood. Read more…

As published by Real Instituto Elcano on January 18, 2013.

17
Jan

By Mohammed Ayoob

Because of its strategic location between the two twentieth-century centers of Arab power, Egypt and Iraq, Syria has been for many decades a bellwether of Arab politics, viewed widely in the region as the heartland of Arab nationalism. The fact that the first major pan-Arab nationalist party, the Baath, was established in Syria and the leading roleplayed by Syrian (including Lebanese) intellectuals and activists in making pan-Arab ideology popular contributed greatly to this perception.

Moreover, whichever ideological or political trend emerged victorious in Syria came to dominate, more often than not, the Arab political scene. This was true in the 1950s and 1960s during the time of a “cold war” between “revolutionary” military regimes espousing the cause of Arab nationalism and conservative monarchies determined to hold on to their power and privilege. According to one analyst, today’s regional politics are showing signs of a new cold war, “and, once again, that broader conflict is manifesting itself in a struggle for Syria.”

But this new cold war extends beyond the Arab world. Saudi Arabia is being challenged by non-Arab Iran. Also, the ideological lines of conflict are blurry. Arch-conservative Gulf monarchies, steadfastly opposed to democracy in their own countries, support democracy in Syria, along with non-Arab democratic Turkey. Meanwhile, the authoritarian Assad has the support of Iran, whose hybrid political system encompasses both clerical and representative institutions.

Some argue that Iran’s role in the current regional cold war has introduced sectarian (Shia versus Sunni) as well ethnic (Persian versus Arab) divisions into the region. But Tehran supports Assad largely for strategic rather than sectarian (leave alone ethnic) reasons. Syria has been Iran’s only loyal Arab ally, even during the devastating Iran-Iraq War imposed on Iran by Iraq. All other Arab regimes, principally the Gulf monarchs newly flush with petrodollars, not only supported Iraq but largely financed Saddam’s war machine. Equally important, if not more so, is the fact that since the 1980s Syria has been the principal conduit for Iranian military and financial assistance to the Lebanese Hezbollah and, until recently, to Hamas.

The relationship’s economic dimension also is important. Syria has become a crucial economic lifeline for Iran. As one analyst puts it, “As both countries become increasingly isolated from the international community their economic ties have become exceedingly more important.” These ties have included a $10 billion agreement signed just before the Syrian uprising began for the construction of a gas pipeline running though Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and reaching Europe via the Mediterranean. Read more…

Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor of International Relations at Michigan State University, and Adjunct Scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

As published by The National Interest on January 16, 2013.

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