Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

21
Jan

Jose-Antonio-Zorrilla (2)In his very interesting lecture on January 20, Ambassador Jose A. Zorrilla addressed the highly relevant theme of self-determination, one of the cardinal principles in modern international relations. It states that nations have the right to freely choose their soverignty  with no external interference. Retracing history, Ambassador explored the struggle for self-determination throughout the ages and focused more specifically on the dissolution of the Ottoman, Russian and Austrian/Habsburg empires. He also discussed the blocs of influence that were created during the Cold War and the USSR’s very special status and circumvention of the self-determination principle as defined in 1941 in the Atlantic Charter signed by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Paradoxically, the Atlantic Charter was a direct attack on the British Empire and foresaw the end of colonialism by the European Powers. While central in international relations, the right to self-determination contains an inherent contradiction that challenges the principle of sovereignty.  It implies that a people should be free to choose their own state and its territorial boundaries. However, there are far more self-identified nations than there are existing states and there is no legal process to redraw state boundaries according to the will of these peoples. Hence the ongoing struggle for self-determination in many parts of the world such as Africa, Kurdistan, Chechnya, Cyprus and even Spain.

The Master in International Relations students had many questions for Ambassador Zorrilla, including whether or not regional integration in Asia in a model similar to the European Union would ever be possible. The ambassador responded that it was quite unlikely that China, Japan and Vietnam (to name a few examples) would ever integrate. One of the reasons is that, unlike Western Europe, they had never been part of a single empire (the Roman empire). This lack of unifying polity made possible integration today unlikely. Another student asked about the situation in Afghanistan. On a pessimistic note, Ambassador concluded that he believed the problem in Afghanistan to be unsolvable precisely because of the number of very distinct peoples and tribes in an arbitrarily drawn country.

Ambassador Zorrilla is a career diplomat with postings in Milan (1989) , Toronto (1993), Shanghai (2001), Moscow (2004), Georgia and the Caucasus (2009). He has published a book on the rise of China “China la primavera que llega” and shot two documentary films  (“Los Justos” and “El desierto y las olas”) and one full length film “El Arreglo” that won the Opera Prima Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1983.  He has just published a novel “El espía en Saratov” (De Librum Tremens) and is a frequent contributor to El Confidencial. His articles focus mostly on current affairs.

 

17
Jan

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…

 

16
Jan

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 http://www.irishtimes.com

7
Jan

by Graham Allison

Precisely a hundred years ago today, the richest man in the world sent New Year’s greetings to a thousand of the most influential leaders in the U.S. and Europe announcing: mission accomplished. “International Peace,” he proclaimed, “is to prevail through the Great Powers agreeing to settle their disputes by International Law, the pen thus proving mightier than the sword.”

Having immigrated to the US penniless, created the steel industry as a pillar of America’s rise to preeminence, and become fabulously wealthy in the process, Andrew Carnegie had the confidence of a man who had achieved the impossible. When he turned from making money to spending it for public purposes, his goals were universal literacy at home (funding public libraries in cities and towns across America), and perpetual peace abroad, starting with the great powers of Europe and the US.

Events in the year that had just ended convinced Carnegie that 1914 would be the decisive turning point towards peace. Just six months earlier, his decade-long campaign culminated in the inauguration of the Peace Palace at the Hague, which he believed would become the Supreme Court of nations. The Palace was built to house the new International Court of Arbitration that would now arbitrate disputes among nations that had historically been settled by war. As theEconomist noted, “the Palace of Peace embodies the great idea that gradually law will take the place of war.”

Carnegie’s Peace Palace captured the zeitgeist of the era. The most celebrated book of the decade, The Great Illusion, published in 1910, sold over two million copies. In it, Norman Angell exposed the long-held belief that nations could advance their interests by war as an “illusion.” His analysis showed that conquest was “futile” because “the war-like do not inherit the earth.”

However inspiring his hopes, Carnegie’s vision proved the illusion. Six months after his New Year’s greeting, a Serbian terrorist assassinated the Austro-Hungarian Archduke. Nine months on, the guns of August began a slaughter on a scale that demanded a new category: “World War.” By 1918, Europe lay devastated, and a millennium in which it had been the creative center of the world was over. Read more…

Graham Allison is Director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.  Published on Jan. 1,  2014

6
Jan

The Mint countries: Next economic giants?

Written on January 6, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in International Development, News, Regions

In 2001 the world began talking about the Bric countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – as potential powerhouses of the world economy. The term was coined by economist Jim O’Neill, who has now identified the “Mint” countries – Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey – as emerging economic giants. Here he explains why.

 

So what is it about the so-called Mint countries that makes them so special? Why these four countries?

 

A friend who has followed the Bric story noted sardonically that they are probably “fresher” than the Brics. What they really share beyond having a lot of people, is that at least for the next 20 years, they have really good “inner” demographics – they are all going to see a rise in the number of people eligible to work relative to those not working. This is the envy of many developed countries but also two of the Bric countries, China and Russia. So, if Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey get their act together, some of them could match Chinese-style double-digit rates between 2003 and 2008.

 

GDP in 2012 and 2050

 

Something else three of them share, which Mexican Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Meade Kuribrena pointed out to me, is that they all have geographical positions that should be an advantage as patterns of world trade change.  For example, Mexico is next door to the US, but also Latin America. Indonesia is in the heart of South-east Asia but also has deep connections with China. And as we all know, Turkey is in both the West and East. Nigeria is not really similar in this regard for now, partly because of Africa’s lack of development, but it could be in the future if African countries stop fighting and trade with each other.  Read more…

Published on January 6th, 2014 in the BBC Magazine, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine

 

 

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