13
Sep

The Christian Exodus

Written on September 13, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Culture & Society, Foreign Policy, International Conflict, Terrorism & Security, Middle East

The Disastrous Campaign to Rid the Middle East of Christianity

By Reza Aslan

Egyptian Coptic Christian holds cross during a demonstration outside Egyptian embassy in Athens

A Coptic Christian holds up a cross in Cairo, Egypt (Courtesy Reuters)

As I write, the city of Maaloula in Syria has become a ghost town after being briefly occupied by members of the al Qaeda–linked jihadist group al-Nusra Front. Conflicting reports claim that al-Nusra fighters have desecrated churches and statues in what may be one of the oldest Christian cities in the world, a place where residents still speak Aramaic, the language presumably spoken by Jesus. 

Sadly, the experience of Maaloula’s residents is becoming all too common in the Middle East, where examples of brutality against Christians have been mounting in recent weeks. In Egypt, the coup against President Mohamed Morsi was followed by a wave of Islamist pogroms against Christians in which 42 churches were attacked, 37 were burned or looted, and an untold number of Christians were assaulted or killed.

As tempting as it may be to attribute these events to the atmosphere of post-insurrectionary anarchy in Egypt and Syria, that is not the best vantage point from which to view the problem. Take a step back, and it becomes clear that the recent assaults are part of a bigger offensive against Middle Eastern Christians, one that can be traced back to decades-long developments in regional politics and Islamic society. The Arab Spring may be the proximate cause of some of the worst violence, but its roots run much deeper — and the stakes are much higher than one might think. What we are witnessing is nothing less than a regional religious cleansing that will soon prove to be a historic disaster for Christians and Muslims alike.

At the start of World War I, the Christian population of the Middle East may have been as high as 20 percent. Today, it is roughly four percent. Although it is difficult to be exact, there are perhaps 13 million Christians left in the region, and that number has likely fallen further, given the continued destabilization of Syria and Egypt, two nations with historically large Christian populations. At the present rate of decline, there may very well be no significant Christian presence in the Middle East in another generation or two.

This would be a profoundly important loss. Christianity was born in the Middle East and had a deep, penetrating presence in the region for hundreds of years before the rise of Islam. In the fourth and fifth centuries, when tens of thousands of heterodox Christians were forced to flee a Roman Empire that considered them heretics, the lands of the Middle East and North Africa became a haven for them. In the years thereafter, the region became the epicenter of Christian theology. In the Arabian peninsula, a large, thriving Christian population played a pivotal role in influencing the early theological and political development of Islam. During the Inquisition (the twelfth to fourteenth centuries), Christian sectarians found refuge under Islamic rule, which classed all Christians, regardless of their doctrinal differences, as “people of the Book” and accorded them protected, albeit inferior, societal status. Read more…

Reza Aslan is Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As published in www.foreignaffairs.com on September 13, 2013.

12
Sep

Los comicios alemanes del 22 de septiembre son cruciales para el futuro de la UE

Por José Ignacio Torreblanca, Profesor Asociado de IE School of International Relations

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El problema es que, en la UE actual, las cosas son exactamente al revés o, al menos vistas desde Alemania, adoptan un cariz muy diferente. Como ponen de manifiesto las encuestas, una mayoría de alemanes rechaza cualquier tipo de mecanismo que suponga asumir o mutualizar las deudas en las que han incurrido otros países. De ahí que mientras que una gran parte de los europeos querría que las elecciones alemanas pusieran en marcha una dinámica de cambios que llevara a completar la unión monetaria con aquellos elementos de los que en la actualidad carece (eurobonos, un presupuesto propio, un mecanismo de gestión de crisis bancarias común, etc.), los alemanes parecen querer a toda costa que las elecciones no introduzcan cambios de importancia en la actual política europea de su gobierno. Como señala la encuesta recientemente realizada por el Instituto Open Europe, en Alemania no hay apetito por políticas que profundicen la integración europea sino que, al contrario, por “más Europa” se entiende “más control” sobre el resto de los países.

El curso político europeo 2013-2014 se abrirá con las elecciones generales alemanas el 22 de septiembre y se cerrará con las elecciones al Parlamento Europeo el 25 de mayo de 2014. En teoría, las primeras deberían tener una importancia secundaria y las segundas ser cruciales. Pero, paradojas de la vida política europea, la situación es más bien la contraria: las primeras son cruciales para el futuro de Europa mientras que las europeas tendrán una importancia marginal. Previsiblemente, un gran número de europeos, que desde 1979 tienen derecho a elegir a un Parlamento, por cierto, bastante poderoso, ni se molestarán en acercarse a las urnas en mayo de 2013 (recuérdese que en las últimas elecciones europeas, celebradas en junio de 2009, la participación fue del 43%). Sin embargo, conscientes la importancia que para su futuro ha adquirido Alemania, es bastante probable que, si se les diera la oportunidad, muchos europeos sí que tuvieran interés en votar en las elecciones alemanas.

Todo ello nos habla de la gigantesca disociación sobre la cual está organizada la Unión Europea: mientras que bienes, servicios, capitales y personas circulan libremente en un enorme territorio articulado en torno a una moneda común, la política sigue organizándose sobre la base de una serie de unidades nacionales sumamente fragmentadas y de muy desigual tamaño y capacidad. Esta incoherencia entre las fronteras de la política y la economía es lo que llevó al Emperador Marco Aurelio Antonino a extender la ciudadanía a todos los habitantes del Imperio Romano. El edicto de Caracalla, promulgado en el año 212, utilizaría un argumento de bastante actualidad: “es legítimo que el mayor número no sólo esté sometido a todas las cargas, sino que también este asociado a mi victoria”. Está asociación entre los impuestos y la legitimidad de un régimen político es pues una constante en la historia y ha llegado hasta nuestros días en forma de una regla de muy sencilla: uno debe votar donde contribuya con sus impuestos y financiar con sus impuestos sólo aquello sobre lo que pueda votar. Seguir leyendo…

Artículo publicado por El País el 9 de septiembre de 2013.

 

11
Sep

All lives have the same value, but the political and legal consequences of the use of chemical weapons have to be different

By José Ignacio Torreblanca, Associate Professor at IE School of International Relations

Torreblanca

Chemical weapons are responsible for only about one percent of the deaths in the Syrian civil war. To propose military intervention on account of 1,429 deaths, among more than 100,000 victims of conventional weapons, is sheer hypocrisy – or worse, proof that the US has hidden intentions in the region. If all deaths are equal, what does it matter how you cause them?

This is an oft-repeated argument of late. But it’s a wrongheaded one. All lives have the same value, but the political and legal consequences of the use of chemical weapons have to be different. The international community has placed nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in a special class, as weapons of mass destruction, under a special statute, regulating their possession and proliferation and prohibiting their use. This expresses a conviction that, although war appears to be intrinsic to the human condition, there should be limits to it.

It is true that this approach, of trying to humanize what is essentially inhuman, is fraught with contradiction and paradox. Remember, for example, that most of the 800,000 victims of the genocide in Rwanda were hacked to death with machetes imported from China, while the international community looked on and did nothing. Likewise, apart from “strategic” nuclear bombs capable of destroying whole cities and killing millions, there are states that possess stocks of “tactical” nuclear weapons, whose destructive power is only of a slightly higher order than that of conventional weapons.

Be that as it may, the international community has classified conflict not merely in terms of the number of deaths, but has rightly drawn a red line against the use of weapons of mass destruction. To trivialize the use of chemical weapons not only degrades us morally; precisely because we know there are regimes prepared to use them, it also opens up intolerable prospects for the future. In the case of Syria, as we await the final report from the UN inspectors, the mass of evidence brought forward by the US, France and Germany is more than sufficient to conclude that they have, in fact, been used. To render this use more costly is not only justified, but necessary.

Military intervention is justified not only retrospectively, to punish their use, but prospectively, to ensure that Bashar al-Assad does not use them again, and thus, as a future warning to those who may think that the prohibition is only relative. Read more…

As published in www.elpais.com on September 10, 2013.

10
Sep

rowan

Rowan Palmer
Student of the 2012-2013 IE Master in International Relations (MIR)

IE School of International Relations

 

 

In your opinion, what is unique about the Master in International Relations program at IE School of International Relations?

IE is uniquely positioned to provide a truly interdisciplinary education through its association with IE Business School. International economics and finance tie the broad discipline of International Relations together. Having access to the resources of one of the world’s top-ranked MBA programs gives the MIR students of IE an advantage in understanding crucial elements of the international system, which translates into deeper understanding of current global issues. By combining a focus on international business with more traditional elements of an International Relations curriculum, the MIR is an education that transcends traditional distinctions between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. In addition, IE’s location in Madrid provides students with an international environment and an excellent opportunity to learn a new language—a skill that is crucial to a successful international career.

What skills has the program provided you with?

Through its use of diverse and creative teaching methods, the MIR degree provides students with both the “hard” and the “soft” skills necessary to excel in today’s global sphere. These include the capacity to produce and present policybased research and analysis, strategic planning, quantitative and financial analysis, applied projects such as the creation of business plans, and, perhaps most important, the capacity to effectively manage collaborative work in diverse settings and within a peer group composed of individuals from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for someone who wants to work in the field of international relations, and how does the program help you face these challenges?

One of the biggest challenges currently facing any new graduate, but especially one in a field in which public sector employment has traditionally played a large role, is job availability. In this respect, mobility is a key asset, and in creating a multicultural environment in an international location, the program prepares students to go where the work is. The student body and faculty also serve as a diverse and extensive network of friends and colleagues. In addition, the business aspect of the program imparts skills that make graduates highly employable in the private and nonprofit sectors, as well as the public sector and academia.

What career paths are open to students in the program?

Do you feel this degree guarantees relevant professional development? The diversity of MIR graduate placements is one of the things that attracted me to the program. The faculty is composed of not only academics, but also instructors from policy think tanks, NGO boards, and the private sector, and as such, students are exposed to a variety of potential career paths. IE’s career center offers excellent support services—interview skills and CV building, for example—to help students take advantage of the opportunities available to them. In addition, the MIR curriculum includes professional development material adopted from the MBA program. This means that we have classes and workshops in leadership training, innovation, cross-cultural understanding, dispute resolution, and negotiation—skills that are valuable no matter what role you fill or what sector you work in. Read more…

ie-school

IE Master in International Relations
www.ie.edu/mir
Email the school

As published in www.foreignaffairs.com on August 26, 2013.

9
Sep

By Bill Keller

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The United States has just spent thousands of American lives in a distant land for a victory that now seems hollow, if indeed it can be called a victory at all. Our own country, moreover, is emerging from a recession, dispirited and self-absorbed, worried about the fragility of the recovery and the state of our democracy. Idealism is in short supply. So, as another far-off war worsens, Americans are loath to take sides, even against a merciless dictator, even to the extent of sending weapons. The voices opposed to getting involved range from the pacifist left to the populist right. The president, fearful that foreign conflict will undermine his domestic agenda, vacillates.

This is the United States in 1940. Sound a little familiar?

I’ve been reading two engrossing new histories of that time — “Those Angry Days” by Lynne Olson and “1940” by Susan Dunn — both focused on the ferocious and now largely forgotten resistance Franklin D. Roosevelt had to navigate in order to stand with our allies against Hitler.

Of course, 2013 is not 1940. The Middle East is not Europe. President Obama is not F.D.R. But America is again in a deep isolationist mood. As a wary Congress returns from its summer recess to debate Syria, as President Obama prepares to address the nation, it is instructive to throw the two periods up on the screen and examine them for lessons. How does a president sell foreign engagement to a public that wants none of it?

The cliché of the season is that Americans are war-weary from our long slogs in Iraq and Afghanistan. That is true, but not the whole story. To be sure, nothing has done more to discredit an activist foreign policy than the blind missionary arrogance of the Bush administration. But the isolationist temper is not just about the legacy of Iraq. Economic troubles and political dysfunction have contributed to a loss of confidence. Add to the mix a surge of xenophobia, with its calls for higher fences and big-brotherly attention to the danger within. (These anxieties also helped give rise to the expanding surveillance state, just as nativism in that earlier period gave license to J. Edgar Hoover’s obsessive eavesdropping.)

Isolationism is strong in the Tea Party, where mistrust of executive power is profound and where being able to see Russia from your front yard counts as mastery of international affairs. But sophisticated readers of The New York Times are not immune, or so it seems from the comments that arrive when I write in defense of a more assertive foreign policy. (In recent columns I’ve advocated calibrated intervention to shift the balance in Syria’s civil war and using foreign aid to encourage democracy in Egypt.) Not our problems, many readers tell me. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on September 8, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appears in print on September 9, 2013, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: Our New Isolationism).
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