Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

7
Jun

By Philip Stephens

The concept of freedom to act is as compelling as it is unrealistic

cd9b2573-711f-460a-a41c-857b303055d4.imgThe state is back. The post-1945 multilateral order is falling into disrepair. Everywhere you look, nationalism is on the march. States, established and rising, are disinterring traditional notions of national sovereignty. They want to reclaim the international system created by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. They are chasing a chimera.

For a moment, after the collapse of communism, the future belonged to a postmodern state. This state would remain the essential building block of political organisation, but would recognise shared interests. Governments would discard narrow concepts of national interest in favour of co-operative security and prosperity. Strange though it seems to say after the tumult of recent years, but the EU was seen as a model for the new international order.

There was more to this than utopian daydreaming. Globalisation has tightened the ties of economic interdependence. Threats to nations are recognisably international in character – from climate change to pandemics, from terrorism and the proliferation of unconventional weapons to mass migration. Mobile capital, cross-border supply chains and the connections of the digital age leach power from individual states. The way to recapture lost authority is to act in concert.

The mood has changed. As the rising have become risen powers they are reluctant to embrace a rules-based system – the more so since the rules were largely written by the established powers. For its part, the US is stepping back from the role of global policeman. Even postmodern Europe, where rescuing the euro demands another leap towards integration, is wrestling with tensions between the national and supranational. Read more…

As published in www.ft.com on June 6, 2013.

6
Jun

By Fareed Zakaria

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In February 1972, Richard Nixon went to China and restored Sino-U.S. relations that had been broken for 23 years. During that visit, Nixon held a series of critical meetings with China’s premier, Zhou Enlai, and they discussed the broad strategic framework that would guide bilateral relations. President Obama’s meetings with President Xi Jinping this weekend have the potential to be a similarly historic summit — but with an important caveat.

China has always played a weak hand brilliantly. When Mao Zedong and Zhou met with Nixon and Henry Kissinger, China was in the midst of economic, political and cultural chaos. Its per capita gross domestic product had fallen below that of Uganda and Sierra Leone. Yet Beijing negotiated as if from commanding heights. Today, it has tremendous assets — but it is not the world’s other superpower, and we should not treat it as such.

The United States has been accused of having a confused, contradictory foreign policy, as each administration reverses its predecessor. This is often a mischaracterization, never more so than with China policy. Since Nixon and Kissinger opened the door, U.S. foreign policy toward China has been remarkably consistent over 40 years and eight presidents. Washington has sought to integrate China into the world, economically and politically. This policy has been good for the United States, good for the world and extremely good for China.

But many of the forces that pushed the two countries together are waning. For the first two decades of relations, Washington had strategic reasons to align with Beijing and shift the balance of power against the Soviet Union. While China was in its early years of development, it desperately needed access to U.S. capital, technology and political assistance to expand its economy. Today, China is much stronger and is acting in ways — from cyberattacks to its policies in Africa — that are counter to U.S. interests and values. For its part, Washington must respond to the realities of Asia, where its historic allies are nervous about China’s rise. Read more…

As published in www.washingtonpost.com on June 5, 2013.

5
Jun

Turks rise up against Islamist

By Benny Avni

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Washington foreign-policy circles have long treated Turkey as a role model — a place where political Islam and democracy live in harmony. Reality just shattered that ideal.

A small protest that started late last week at the heart of Istanbul has spread to Ankara and other cities, mushrooming into nationwide rallies against Turkey’s increasingly imperious prime minister, Recep Tayyep Erdogan.

One graffiti splashed across an Istanbul storefront declared in English, “Tayyep is a d–k.”

A bit crude, but Erdogan was just as insulting on TV Sunday, calling his critics “looters” and vowing never to bow to their demands. And his police were more than insulting: They attacked protesters with tear gas and water cannons, injuring over 100 and, according to some reports, killing at least one.

As Erdogan arrogantly leaves the country for a North African tour, Turkey’s largest trade union is organizing a nationwide strike in solidarity with the protests.

It all began with a rally against the looming loss of Gezi Park, an open space graced with ancient trees near Taksim Square, Istanbul’s liveliest section.

A former Istanbul mayor, Erdogan came up with the plan to demolish the green patch and convert it to a shopping mall designed to look like Ottoman-era military barracks. It’s part of a larger drive to erase all symbols of the secularist past, including the Ataturk Center in the heart of Taksim Square — a building dedicated to the founder of Turkey’s post-Ottoman democracy, which Erdogan wants to replace with a mosque. Read more…

As published in www.nypost.com on June 4, 2013.

3
Jun

Has the government of Prime Minister Erdogan finally succumbed to the authoritarian impulses that doomed so many other Turkish leaders before him?

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As I write these words in my Ankara hotel in the early morning hours, I can still hear the distant voices of massed demonstrators chanting slogans a few blocks from the presidential palace and the prime minister’s residence. Thousands of people are continuing to protest the government and its deeply undemocratic actions. The TV is showing images of the brutal police attack against peaceful demonstrators that took place earlier today in Istanbul’s Taksim Square.

The clashes in Istanbul go on as I write: Emergency rooms in the hospitals near Taksim are struggling to cope with the hundreds of people injured by the police. Earlier today in Ankara, where the protests have so far remained largely peaceful, I’ve watched protestors linking arms to form human chains blocking the streets. What struck me the most was the reaction from ordinary people. Rather than protesting the snarled traffic caused by the demonstrators, Ankarans passing by in their cars supported the protestors by honking and waving victory signs from their windows.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been taking some of my students from the United States on a trip around Turkey. The aim of our trip has been to explore the pros and cons of the country’s development experience. We started with the early days of the republic (overshadowed by the war for independence, ethnic cleansing, authoritarianism, forced cultural modernization, and economic failures) and have worked our way up to the challenges that shape the country today (democratization, the Kurdish conflict, the rise of the current Islamist government, and the tensions between secular Kemalism and religious politics). I’ve done my best to help my students see the forty shades of blue separating the empty half of the glass from the part that’s full. Read more…

Firat Demir teaches in the Department of Economics at the University of Oklahoma.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on June 1, 2013.

31
May

By Charles Krauthammer

“This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises . . .”

     — Barack Obama, May 23

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Nice thought. But much as Obama would like to close his eyes, click his heels three times and declare the war on terror over, war is a two-way street.

That’s what history advises: Two sides to fight it, two to end it. By surrender (World War II), by armistice (Korea and Vietnam) or when the enemy simply disappears from the field (the Cold War).

Obama says enough is enough. He doesn’t want us on “a perpetual wartime footing.” Well, the Cold War lasted 45 years. The war on terror, 12 so far. By Obama’s calculus, we should have declared the Cold War over in 1958 and left Western Europe, our Pacific allies, the entire free world to fend for itself — and consigned Eastern Europe to endless darkness.

John F. Kennedy summoned the nation to bear the burdens of the long twilight struggle. Obama, agonizing publicly about the awful burdens of command — his command, which he twice sought in election — wants out. For him and for us.

He doesn’t just want to revise and update the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which many conservatives have called for. He wants to repeal it.

He admits that the AUMF establishes the basis both in domestic and international law to conduct crucial defensive operations, such as drone strikes. Why, then, abolish the authority to do what we sometimes need to do?

Because that will make the war go away? Persuade our enemies to retire to their caves? Stop the spread of jihadism? Read more…

As published in www.washingtonpost.com on May 31, 2013

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