7
Apr

In Europe there is anxiety that foreigners will compromise traditions, writes Ivan Krastev he thousands gathering at Europe’s borders, and the thousands who have already crossed, are widely but wrongly supposed to be refugees of an uprising that failed: the Arab spring. In reality, they embody a distinctly 21st­century revolution that is yet to come.

In 1981, researchers at the University of Michigan in their World Values Survey found that Nigerians were as happy as West Germans despite being materially far poorer. Almost four decades on, that situation has radically changed. In most places, according to the latest surveys, happiness is in direct proportion to per capita gross domestic product.

The spread of the internet has made it possible for young Africans or Afghans to see with one click of a mouse how Europeans live. People no longer compare their lives with those of their neighbours but with the planet’s most prosperous inhabitants. They dream not of the future but of other places.

The soft power so attractive to outsiders is now seen by member states as a source of vulnerability make it easier to cross borders and yet keep their ethnic and religious identities. It is possible to remain Syrian while living and working in London or Berlin. You can keep in constant touch with those left behind or follow the headlines from home.

In this connected world, migration — unlike the utopias sold by the last century’s demagogues — offers radical change instantly. The 21st­century revolution requires no ideology, political movement or political leader. You change not the government but the geography. The absence of collective dreams makes migration the natural choice of the new radical. To change your life you need a boat, not a party. With social inequality rising and social mobility stagnating in countries such as Ukraine and Russia, it is easier to cross national borders than class barriers. But the migrants’ revolution has the capacity to inspire a counter­revolution and remake our democracies. Historically, democracy was the way Europe integrated outsiders and opened to the world; it can just as easily be an instrument for exclusion and closure.

The myriad acts of solidarity towards refugees fleeing war and persecution seen last year in western Europe are today overshadowed by their inverse: a spreading fear that such foreigners will compromise the welfare model and traditions; that they will destroy liberal societies by threatening women’s rights. Conservatives fear that the flow of migrants is a death sentence for the cultures of the European nations. Fear of radical Islam, terrorism, criminality and a general anxiety over the unfamiliar are at the core of a moral panic.

Many in the EU feel overwhelmed — not by the 1m and more refugees who have asked for asylum but by the prospect of a future in which their borders are constantly breached by migrants.

The future ageing and shrinking of the incumbent population painted by demographers is frightening even to some of the more robust Europeans. The majorities who feel under threat have emerged as an influential force in politics. Not only the extreme parties such as the National Front in France and Britain’s Ukip but also Hungary’s governing Fidesz and the ruling Law and Justice party in Poland see their role as advocates of those “threatened majorities”. They fear and loathe the idea of a “world without borders” and demand an EU with clearly defined and well­protected barriers. They are convinced the crisis is the result of a conspiracy between cosmopolitan­minded elites and tribal­minded immigrants.

The situation is radically changing European politics and the world view of many on the continent. If, yesterday, they bet their security on the prospect that Europe would be surrounded by liberal democracies ambitious to become members of the union, today they hope it can be surrounded by friendly regimes, liberal or not, willing and able to turn the human tide. The No voters want to send the message that Europe is unwelcoming not only to refugees but also to societies that dream of one day joining it.

This change of hearts and minds can be seen in relations with Turkey. To secure the country’s support for relieving the pressure from refugees, European governments are silent on Ankara’s growing authoritarianism. They want to signal that Europe is not such a nice place as foreigners believe it is.

In short, EU leaders are trapped between the rhetoric of democratic revolution as an answer to the problems of an interdependent world and the messy reality of migration as revolution.

 

Ivan Krastev. The writer is chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategy in Sofia and permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

www.ft.com

April 6th, 2016

4
Apr

We have reached the one-year mark since Iran and the P5+1 agreed on a set of a parameters that became the basis for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While the history books will likely point to July 14, 2015 as the date both parties signed on the dotted line, those who look closer will point to April 2, 2015—the day the Lausanne framework [1] enshrined the key elements of the deal—as the watershed moment when a nuclear deal went from mere possibility to near-foregone conclusion.

 

So as Lausanne turns one, where are we? The last year has seen numerous successes. After Lausanne, the parties were able to finalize a historic agreement that survived a U.S. Congressional review with surprising levels of support. Iran has implemented key elements of the agreement with unexpected speed, and in February the more pragmatic political elements in Iran, buttressed by the promised sanctions relief of the nuclear deal, made inroads in the country’s parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections.

 

On the other side of the ledger, the last year has also been rife with accusations that the United States was prepared to allow Iran a free pass on its aggressive non-nuclear-related behaviors in exchange for preserving the nuclear deal. Pundits speculated—and partners feared—that U.S. determination to have the JCPOA succeed would result in concessions that would encourage Iran’s most threatening regional behaviors to advance unchecked, now underwritten by new sanctions relief.

 

And Iran has often appeared eager to promote that impression in ways both big and small: live military exercises and drone flights conducted near and over U.S. and allied naval vessels; repeated illegal testing of long-range ballistic missiles in contravention of still-active UN Security Council Resolution provisions; U.S. sailors taken into Iranian custody (later released); and continued regional belligerence in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

 

It is worth looking at whether and what the United States has really conceded in the last year, and whether the U.S. response has actually been appropriate and responsible. More importantly, at this one-year mark, it is worth reviewing what opportunities are on the horizon for the United States to demonstrate that it is not turning a blind eye to Iran’s provocations, and that its response will be strong, appropriate, and consistent with its interests in the region. America has a balance to strike—maintaining a firm posture where necessary, but also keeping the positive momentum of the nuclear deal intact. Read more…

 

April 2, 2016; http://nationalinterest.org/

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1
Apr

The definition of war, according to military scholar Gen. Carl von Clausewitz, is “an act of violence intended to compel [your] opponent to fulfill [your] will.” In other words, nation-states establish militaries so that they can force an opponent to do what they want. However, a military’s role can also be more complex than just fighting an enemy. Despite the fact that no major global war is currently being fought, many of the world’s nation-states still maintain large standing armies with hundreds of thousands of active military personnel. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, there are over 20 million military personnel on active duty throughout the world. If you take into account reserves and paramilitary forces, that number climbs to well over 60 million.

The first reason countries maintain large militaries is that nation-states cannot be too optimistic – they must be prepared for armed conflict and develop military capabilities according to their own unique threat environments. But the second reason is that national militaries often help maintain national unity.

Take China for example. China has a mass-mobilization army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), that was designed to fight a type of war that isn’t fought anymore. But the PLA is not just a military force – it is a political force too. It serves both as the ultimate guarantor of the Communist Party’s rule and it is an institution for advancement for poor Chinese young men with dismal prospects. The PLA has to be strong enough to fend off a potential attack from Russia or Japan – but before it can do that, the PLA must be part of the glue that holds China together. Without that stabilizing effect, China is at risk of fragmenting along regional lines, as it has numerous times through its history. Read more…

 

Published on 29 March in https://geopoliticalfutures.com

31
Mar

Economic sanctions have become the “silver bullet” of American foreign policy over the past decade, because they’re cheaper and more effective in compelling adversaries than traditional military power. But Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warns of a “risk of overuse” that could neuter the sanctions weapon and harm America.

Lew made his unusual case against “sanctions overreach” in an interview last week and in a speech prepared for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His caution against overuse comes as some Republican members of Congress are fighting to maintain U.S. sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program, despite last year’s deal limiting that Iranian threat.

By highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of sanctions, Lew is raising an important question about the nature of American power in the 21st century. Sanctions have clout because U.S. financial markets are the central nervous system of the globalized economy. But if so many sanctions are applied that the U.S. system becomes too complicated and cumbersome for foreigners, they will eventually find ways to do business outside U.S. markets — weakening both our sanctions and our underlying economy. The magic bullet will become a poison pill.

Lew notes that U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program showed how effective this weapon can be when it’s carefully fashioned as part of a broad coalition. America’s program of so-called “secondary” sanctions didn’t just ban U.S. companies from doing business with Iran; they banned any company operating in Iran from using U.S. banks or other financial institutions. That made Iran a no-go zone for most Western companies. Read more…

 

Published in the nyt.com

Opinion writer March 29

 

 

Contrast the success of this coordinated effort in bringing Iran to the table with five decades of unilateral U.S. sanctions against the Castro regime in Cuba, which Lew rightly notes were “ineffective,” to put it mildly.

Lew’s larger point is that sanctions won’t work if countries don’t get the reward they were promised — in the removal of sanctions — once they accede to U.S. demands.

23
Mar

I HAVE worked for the United Nations for most of the last three decades. I was a human rights officer in Haiti in the 1990s and served in the former Yugoslavia during the Srebrenica genocide. I helped lead the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haitian earthquake, planned the mission to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons, and most recently led the Ebola mission in West Africa. I care deeply for the principles the United Nations is designed to uphold.

And that’s why I have decided to leave.

The world faces a range of terrifying crises, from the threat of climate change to terrorist breeding grounds in places like Syria, Iraq and Somalia. The United Nations is uniquely placed to meet these challenges, and it is doing invaluable work, like protecting civilians and delivering humanitarian aid in South Sudan and elsewhere. But in terms of its overall mission, thanks to colossal mismanagement, the United Nations is failing.

Six years ago, I became an assistant secretary general, posted to the headquarters in New York. I was no stranger to red tape, but I was unprepared for the blur of Orwellian admonitions and Carrollian logic that govern the place. If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again. Read more…

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