26
Apr

By Robert D. Kaplan

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The most appropriate image of the present-day Middle East is the medieval map, which, in the words of the late historian Albert Hourani, depicts an age when “frontiers were not clearly and precisely delimited” and the influence of a regime was not uniform “within a fixed and generally recognized area,” but, rather, grew weaker with distance as it radiated outward from an urban core. Legal borders, where the power of one state suddenly ended and that of another suddenly began, were rare. And thus, Hourani was not the only scholar to point this out.

We are back to a world of vague and overlapping shadows of influence. Shia and Sunnis in northern Lebanon cross the border into Syria and kill each other, then retreat back into Lebanon. Indeed, the military situations in Lebanon and Syria are quickly fusing. The al Assad regime in Damascus projects power not unto the legal borders of Syria but mainly along parts of the Sunni-dominated Homs-Hama corridor and also on the Mediterranean coast between Latakia and Tartus, where the regime’s Alawite compatriots are concentrated. Beyond that there are literally hundreds of small rebel groupings and half-dozen major ones, divided by their own philosophical and Islamist orientations and those of their foreign patrons. Then there are the half-dozen or so Kurdish factions controlling parts of northern and northeastern Syria. As for the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, there are two main Kurdish groups that are basically sovereign in different sectors. Significant Sunni areas of Iraq, particularly in sprawling Anbar between the Euphrates River and the Syrian border, are in varying degrees independently governed or not governed at all. Even Shiite central and southern Iraq is not completely controlled by the Shia-dominated Baghdad regime, owing to a half-dozen parties that in some cases exercise a degree of sovereignty.

Rather than a temporary situation, this is one that can last for many years. For example, Bashar al Assad’s regime need not necessarily crumble immediately but may survive indefinitely as a frail statelet, supported as it is by Russian arms arriving via the Mediterranean and from Iran across the weakly governed Iraqi desert.

Gone is the world of the Ottoman Empire, in which there were relatively few battles for territory among the various tribes and ethnic and sectarian groups, because the Sultan in Istanbul exercised overarching (albeit variable) sovereignty between the mountains of Lebanon and the plateau of Iran. Gone is the colonial era when the British and French exercised sovereignty from the capital cities unto the fixed legal borders of newly constituted mandated states and territories. Gone is the post-colonial era when tyrants like Hafez al Assad in Syria and Saddam Hussein in Iraq ran police states within the same fixed borders erected by the British and French. Further down the road, the only states left that wield real sovereignty between the eastern edge of the Mediterranean and Iranian plateau could be Israel and Iran. Read more…

Robert D. Kaplan is Chief Geopolitical Analyst for Stratfor, a private global intelligence firm, and a non-resident senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

As published by Stratfor on April 24, 2013.

25
Apr

Financieros-sin-Fronteras

From April 10th  to April 17th , two students from the current IE Master in International Relations intake went on a study trip to Ghana with the Financieros sin Fronteras (FsF) microfinance NGO. The two students will be working with the founder of FsF, Maria Luque, towards a final project on financial inclusion and gender equality in Ghana that they will present in July. This is some of the feedback the students had upon their return.

“The trip to Ghana to work on our thesis with Financieros Sin Fronteras was an enriching and valuable experience. We met with and interviewed state officials in charge of policy-making, executives from international organisations and institutions working at the grassroots level as well as people from the small towns and villages who are actually the target audience for micro-finance. Not only was it a great opportunity to research for our papers but we also had the opportunity to meet and interact with students from various Finance masters and get a sneak peek into the world of Consultancy.  It was our first time in Africa and we were pleasantly surprised at how different Ghana was from our stereotypical expectations. The experience of being immersed in a totally new and different culture with warm welcoming people was wonderful and we only wish we could have stayed much longer!”  –Naushita Jaising and Xuyang Ma

24
Apr

Is Tourism the Most Destructive Enterprise? Tourism explodes with globalization, enriching lives but destroying nature and culture.

By Elizabeth Becker

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The world has serious concerns over fiscal crises, security crises and environmental crises including climate change. 

And then there are vacations. Yes, vacations – the getaways when we can put aside lofty concerns and remember what living is all about: seeing friends, hosting family reunions, discovering a new artist at a provincial festival and running barefoot on the beach with salt air stinging our cheeks.

At least that was the definition of a vacation before globalization took off. 

Now vacations have joined the ranks of the biggest global industrial complexes. While few noticed, travel and tourism grew into a giant business sector and the world’s largest employer – beating out health care, education and retail. At least one out of every 11 people works in the industry, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Tourism contributes at least $6.5 trillion to the world economy every year. Since the 2008 recession, its growth rate has rebounded faster than manufacturing and financial services. And if frequent-flyer miles were a currency, they would be the most valuable in the world, even with all those blackout dates.

It turns out that tourism is the poster child for how to benefit from the global marketplace, for obvious reasons. Wholesale travel and tourism depends on open borders. With political developments and technology – new long-distance airliners that cross half of the globe in a single flight and the internet revolution – countries off the beaten path in South America, Africa and the Middle East are more accessible.

A chart of the rise of international tourist trips is a thumbnail history of globalization.

The modern era of “Europe on five dollars a day” began in 1960. That year 25 million trips were taken across foreign borders.

Ten years later the figure rose to 250 million, a significant increase but not earth-shattering.

Then came globalization and the opening of borders. The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s accomplished just that – opening long closed borders in Eastern Europe and Asia, a wide swath of nations behind what used to be called the Iron Curtain and the Bamboo Curtain. This newly opened territory represented nearly one third of the planet, and by 1995, when most had opened up to tourism, there were 536 million trips.

Last year, the 1 billion mark was broken with the UN World Tourism Organization celebrating the event at its Madrid headquarters.

I dissect and explore this explosion of the tourism industry in Overbooked. The elusive octopus-like industry is everywhere and nowhere. Everyone takes vacations, but few see the industry behind them. Nowadays, any endeavor can be transformed into a travel package. Read more…

Elizabeth Becker is a former New York Times correspondent and senior foreign editor at National Public Radio.

As published by YaleGlobal Online on April 23, 2013.

23
Apr

In an interview with Waya Quiviger, Executive Director of IE’s Master in International Relations, Ricardo Añino talks about public diplomacy and the importance of communication with foreign publics in establishing a dialogue designed to inform and influence.

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19
Apr

China and the U.S. both want a rules-based cyberspace, but do not see eye to eye. A potentially dangerous Cyber Cold War awaits if they cannot agree on some rules of engagement.

By Trefor Moss

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Cyberspace matters. We know this because governments and militaries around the world are scrambling to control the digital space even as they slash defense spending in other areas, rapidly building up cyber forces with which to defend their own virtual territories and attack those of their rivals.

But we do not yet know how much cyberspace matters, at least in security terms. Is it merely warfare’s new periphery, the theatre for a 21st century Cold War that will be waged unseen, and with practically no real-world consequences? Or is it emerging as the most important battle-space of the information age, the critical domain in which future wars will be won and lost?

For the time being, some states appear quite content to err on the side of boldness when it comes to cyber. This brazen approach to cyber operations – repeated attacks followed by often flimsy denials – almost suggests a view of cyberspace as a parallel universe in which actions do not carry real-world consequences. This would be a risky assumption. The victims of cyber attacks are becoming increasingly sensitive about what they perceive as acts of aggression, and are growing more inclined to retaliate, either legally, virtually, or perhaps even kinetically.

The United States, in particular, appears to have run out of patience with the stream of cyber attacks targeting it from China – Google and The New York Times being just two of the most high-profile victims – and which President Obama has now insisted are at least partly state-sponsored. Read more…

As published by The Diplomat on April 19, 2013.

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