The Republican I wish were the candidate.
So this is probably one of the most blindingly generalizing articles I’ve ever read, and it’s assigned reading for my International Relations class.
Its initial premise is fine. National sovereign borders don’t mean what they used to. I get that. There are all kinds of other factors beyond mere nationstates. Okay.
But then the author takes some of the most superficial assumptions about countries and regions and their local politics, and assumes that they create a greater regional political entity.
For example he assumes these run together:
Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela
Led by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, large parts of Latin America are swinging back toward dictatorship and following the pattern of Peronism, with its historical antipathy toward America and capitalism. The Chávez-influenced states are largely poor; the percentage of people living in poverty is more than 60 percent in Bolivia. With their anti-gringo mindset, mineral wealth, and energy reserves, they are tempting targets for rising powers like China and Russia.
And then there’s:
9. Russian Empire
Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, Russian Federation, Ukraine
Russia has enormous natural resources, considerable scientific-technological capacity, and a powerful military. As China waxes, Russia is trying to assert itself in Ukraine, Georgia, and Central Asia. Like the old tsarist version, the new Russian empire relies on the strong ties of the Russian Slavic identity, an ethnic group that accounts for roughly four fifths of its 140 million people. It is a middling country in terms of household income—roughly half of Italy’s—and also faces a rapidly aging population.
I’m sorry, but do you know how much Ukraine hates being lumped together with Russia. To say nothing of the wildly different cultural differences between Armenia and the rest.
And I think this was just lumped together because there are Shia in positions of power in these otherwise very different countries:
Bahrain, Gaza Strip, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria
With oil reserves, relatively high levels of education, and an economy roughly the size of Turkey’s, Iran should be a rising superpower. But its full influence has been curbed by its extremist ideology, which conflicts not only with Western countries but also with Greater Arabia. A poorly managed economy has turned the region into a net importer of consumer goods, high-tech equipment, food, and even refined petroleum.
What is this person smoking? I’m sorry, but I highly question this research.
I published this piece back at the beginning of February. I think the questions still stand:
In vetoing a Security Council resolution calling for Bashar al-Assad to step down in Syria, Russia and China have provided cover for the regime’s on-going brutal crackdown and, as such, criticism from the U.S., France, and a host of other countries and organizations was immediate and forceful.
So now what?
If the Security Council can’t even call for Assad to step down, it’s pretty clear that some more meaningful action isn’t forthcoming. Unless it comes from, for example, NATO. And some of the language we’re hearing today from Obama, Clinton, and Rice makes the possibility seem pretty realistic.
But the point of this post isn’t really to ask whether or not the U.S. — with NATO and the Arab Leagues as allies — will intervene militarily in Syria. Nor is the point to ask whether or not it ought to do so. If you want to know what I think, you can read some of my posts on Libya from last year (here and here, for example). Clinton has said, “military intervention has been absolutely ruled out and we have made that clear from the very beginning.”
But as I watched the social networking reactions to the Security Council proceedings, I started wondering about the reactions of progressives and (some) libertarians. From what I’ve seen from these groups, there’s condemnation of the Syrian crackdown and of the Russian and Chinese vetoes. But that condemnation doesn’t extend to a call for anyone to actually do anything. And that’s to be expected because these are groups who worry about what happens when people start thinking about acting rather than simply condemning. Indeed, I’m fairly confident that these strange bedfellows will resume their complaints about intervention as soon as planes are in the air; they’ll point out that the U.S. keeps targeting Muslims, they’ll insist that the U.S. has ulterior motives for its involvement, and they’ll point to all of the other places in the world in which the U.S. doesn’t intervene as proof for the first two arguments even as they demand that the U.S. stop dropping bombs on people entirely.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with those arguments, though it’s easy enough to disagree with them. The trouble is that it’s tough to want things you can’t have. In this case, it’s tough to want people to be able to choose their leaders and not to be murdered by their government while at the same not wanting to get too deeply involved when they can’t choose and when they’re being killed.
But let me be clear about this last point. I am well aware that, in the process of using force to help people in Syria, some of the people we intend to help will be harmed. This is the point on which my critics will hang their hats, as they did the last time we had this conversation. And so I’ll say again what I think is a pretty important point when it comes time to consider the costs and benefits of military intervention on behalf of people who are suffering under a murderous regime:
The choice we face is between people being killed and people being killed. I don’t want to sugar-coat that at all. In both instances, people die and it’s violent and bloody and awful. But in one instance — when we eschew intervention — the people who generally die violently are those who are attempting (and failing, due to inferior military capabilities) to throw off a tyrant. In those instances, it’s my position that to fall back on pacifism or isolationism because all warfare is awful or imperalistic or costly amounts to something of a moral failing insofar as it amounts to siding with the tyrant.
Choosing not to involve ourselves in what happens overseas doesn’t mean that people in Syria will suddenly be safe and happy and alive; it means that we can fool ourselves into thinking that we don’t have any blood on our hands because we didn’t directly harm anyone.
We can all be outraged with the choice that the Russians and the Chinese made today. And we surely ought to be outraged about what the Assad regime has been doing for months and months now. But if that outrage just means that we wag our fingers at Assad, the Russians, and the Chinese, rather than actually doing something about the terrible crimes being committed in Syria, then how outraged are we, really?
Most of the people who didn’t want the U.S. to get involved in Syria have gotten pretty quiet in the past six months because the U.S. hasn’t really gotten involved … at least not in the way that the U.S. got involved in Libya, to the endless breast-beating of these same people. In fact, there’s very little discussion of Syria from the non-interventionists these days, though the violence there continues apace.
Honestly, I’m curious: Do people think the Libyans are better off now than they were? And how do people think the Syrians would answer that question?
Personally I’ve always leaned towards intervention. I know it’s not in America’s interest to get involved in any quagmire again, but if you do look at the Libyan example…
What they did was fly over and minimize the damage that Qaddafi’s forces could inflict on the rebels, and then washed their hands of it. Libya is a bit of a mess now but I’m pretty sure Libyans can’t claim any hand of imperialism to be involved in the choices they are making now. Indeed, Libya seems to get less disapproval than the drone flights in Pakistan.
It might suggest that, if such a thing were possible in Syria, that such a low level intervention were implemented, and then the interveners would wipe their hands of any further military involvement… And therefore avoid further political fallout…
Maybe that would work. Just thinking out loud.
I saw this video from Crash Course History (excellent channel by the way, subscribe to it if you don’t already) and had some thoughts. Feel free to watch the video first to get some context, indeed I recommend it.
So this video is a crash course about Imperialism, specifically 19th century imperialism.
His closing remarks are essentially that while overall imperialism was a mostly horrible system, it is essentially the precursor to the global economic and trade system we have today.
Colonialism was mostly propelled by economics. In order to fuel industrial and economic growth in Europe, they had to secure vital resources from colonies, usually at the most preferential rate possible, hence all the conquests since Europe had pretty much the monopoly on the most advanced destructive technology.
Things work almost the same way today in the sense that rich countries import raw materials and resource from poorer countries, which are then reliant on these low-sophistication industries and tend to lack the opportunity to develop further. If your country is dependent economically on agricultural products, most of your people will be in that industry, and not move into cities. Urbanization is the real economic sign of growing prosperity and development, since city people demand and produce highly different things from rural people. So if people don’t really move into cities, those societies as a whole don’t really move past more basic hierarchical structures.
This rather linked into the class I had today about sustainable development. Conventional wisdom about development is that poverty begets a vicious cycle. Poor people will tend to use cheaper but more environmentally detrimental methods of making money, and because those methods are environmentally detrimental poor people are still kept poor, and therefore have to keep resorting to those sources of income. For example, illegal deforestation.
The point is that the global supply chain is this amazing thing. The world has never been more connected, and indeed more people have never been better of in regards to their standard of living. More people everywhere are being brought above the poverty line and able to enjoy more than they were before.
And yet this is nevertheless a rather exploitative system. As developing countries industrialize, the system is less and less about the global north and west taking from the global east and south, and much more about just city people moving forward while rural peoples work their butts off in order for that to happen.
China is a lovely example. China’s eastern cities are really impressive, and more full than ever of its growing middle class, and its new billionaires. All of which is following liberal economic theory that letting rich people get richer fuels economic growth. This is true.
Still, China’s rural areas are still pretty bad. People are better than they were before but the margin is still somewhat low. 200 million people in just a few years raised above the poverty line is a good thing, but it’s not necessarily very high above that poverty line. There was an interesting segment on, I think, CNN where they travelled to different parts of China to see what people thought.
They took comments from a man in a rural area and asked whether things were better now than under Mao. He said that he got to eat real meat a few times a month, and therefore things were better.
The thing is that these countries still rely mostly on natural resources to bolster their economies: oil, rubber, rare earths, and so on. If they were to develop to a Western standard, where would their natural resources come from?
Quite often, as it is, they come from within their countries. China’s industrialization of its eastern cities is fueled by vast exploitation of its natural resources in its west. Java is wildly urbanized compared to the rest of Indonesia, and most of its natural resources from from Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, all of which contain disgruntled locals resentful of the wealth of their lands being dug out and shipped to Java or foreign companies with little benefit to them.
As someone interested in science fiction, I wonder about the future of this kind of system. Attaining Western standards of living requires exploitation of other places for their resources. And so there will always be some place, somewhere, that’s going to be a shithole so that another place can prosper.
And so in that sense the Star Trek vision of a peaceful future for everyone is virtually impossible, just because it takes a lot of effort just to do it for a relative minority of the human population.
This isn’t completely a negative picture, though. Like I said, more and more people have more and more opportunities. As technology gets better and more accessible, the means of extracting resources will tend to get cleaner and cheaper, and with any luck it’s enough to be compared to say, agriculture in Europe.
Western agriculture is amazingly efficient, which allows people to move off of farms and into cities. Mining is less labour intensive than it was before too, and less dangerous. If these basic standards were raised in the still dangerous mines and inefficient farms of the developing world, people would, generally, be encouraged to move to cities, urbanize, and raise their own general standards of living.
And it’s more and more people than ever before. This is important. The colonial, imperial and especially any monarchial system exploited far more people for the benefit of far less people, than what we have today. There are more literate, more healthy, more socially equal people today than we have ever had before. It just seems like there are always going to be people at the bottom.
The leaked statements by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney once again betray the dangerous relationship between U.S. domestic politics and U.S. national strategic interests. To be clear, this is not the first time U.S. presidential candidates and party institutions made statements contradicting long-standing U.S. policy to improve their electoral chances. The examples are too many to mention and they all end up back-pedaling once they assume office.
However, the damaging effects such statements have on U.S. credibility and its role as an honest broker are immense. The tragedy is that this kind of expedient politics — and the damage to U.S. standing in the world — keeps recurring. It is time for American politicians to show real statesmanship and focus on the next generation, not the next election.
|—||Maen Rashid Areikat, PLO ambassador to the US.|
The story of WikiLeaks, once an exciting tale of overcoming government secrecy and empowering online activists and journalists, is now a story primarily concerned with the vagaries of diplomatic immunity, British-Ecuadorean relations, and Swedish rape laws. It’s a safe bet that it’s not the scenario that Julian Assange — who is reportedly now holed up in a windowless backroom of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, sleeping on an air mattress — had in mind when he founded the whistle-blowing website six years ago.
As Assange remains in international legal limbo, granted asylum in Ecuador but with no foreseeable way to get there, and as WikiLeaks struggles to stay afloat in the face of money problems and denial-of-service attacks, it’s worth reflecting on how we got here. How did an organization that once touted itself as the future of journalism — and for a time seemed to have a credible case for the claim — devolve into one man’s soap opera? If one looks back, several key tactical errors landed WikiLeaks in its current predicament.
if you believe in white privilege you have obviously never been to the Balkans
It’s a concept for racism in the US that clearly can’t apply to the world - despite some people’s insistance that it does.
The problem is, most the academia that is “popular” right now is coming from the States, which limits the scope of it’s study. There is certainly white privilege in the States, but it loses tread outside the US. The Balkans are an excellent example, Poland, Russia, and a number of predominantly white countries disprove this though.
For most Americans, U.N. peacekeeping is something the rest of the world does. Indeed, the U.N. monitoring mission that is currently in Syria to enforce a floundering ceasefire features blue berets from 35 countries — including Burkina Faso, China, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Russia, and Yemen — but none from the United States. The absence of American personnel partly reflects Syria’s antipathy toward the United States, which has called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. But it also reflects the fact that U.S. blue helmets have become an increasingly extinct species.
It wasn’t always that way, however.
In 1948, when the United Nations set up its first peacekeeping mission in the Middle East to monitor a truce between Israel and five Arab countries, it placed 21 American observers under the command of a Swede, Col. Count Thord Bonde. As the United Nations branched out into Africa and South Asia, the U.S. Air Force provided the airlift capacity, ferrying thousands of international peacekeepers to duty from Congo to the Sinai.
The United States still contributes generously to U.N. peacekeeping operations, paying for about 27 percent of the organization’s $8 billion budget, and European governments pay much of the remainder. But Western nations have withdrawn from the most ambitious operations, particularly in Africa. Where they remain, they serve alongside U.N. forces, as in the case of the French forces stationed in Ivory Coast.
A tour of the U.N. photo archives shows just how the complexion and nationality of U.N. blue helmets has changed over time.
One of the things to realize about Malaysia is that it is only partially a democracy. It has all the government functions, like a parliament, pretty free elections, changes of leadership. But there are censors, and heavy handed crackdowns. The government is generally highly conservative and Muslim, promoting a preferential racial agenda.
In the hopes to communicate a desire for more racial equality and representation in parliament, as well as less government preference of one particular race, people started protesting last summer, calling it the Bersih movement.
So, yeah, right on BBC. Censorship is never cool.
By Stephen Haggard:
Whatever the opposite of the Midas touch is, North Korea’s leaders seem to have it. Located in a region where all of its neighbors have experienced remarkable economic growth, the North Korean economy has stagnated for more than two decades. For the last several years, the North Korea leadership has promised a new dawn of prosperity by April 15, 2012, the 100th birthday of the country’s founding leader Kim Il Sung. Instead, the country has bounced from an avoidable famine in the mid-1990s to a disastrous currency reform in 2009 to a costly — and failed — missile launch earlier this week. The country now has an annual per capita income of about $1,000, roughly the same as Pakistan. Did it have to be this way?
The International Criminal Court has just this morning handed down it’s first ever verdict, finding Thomas Lubanga guilty of conscripting child soldiers. Lubanga was the leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots and stands accused of being the military authority behind the abduction of children as young as eleven to serve the Patriotic Forces of the Liberation of Congo in the 1998-2003 war. Lubanga was handed over in 2006, the first suspect to be detained by the ICC, and has been on trial since 2009.
This guilty verdict is great for the DR Congo and wonderful for the International Criminal Court. Last year former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz told ICC judges: “Let the voice and the verdict of this esteemed global court now speak for the awakened conscience of the world.”
I think the last time I wrote about the ICC proceedings against Lubanga was back in 2010, when the trial was suspended in order to ensure that proper procedures were being followed. As I wrote back then:
Regardless of Lubanga’s guilt (which really doesn’t seem to be in much doubt), the Court is setting an important precedent here: instead of proceeding with a trial that might later be decried as sham justice, the ICC is putting its foot down now … about the fair trial standards that must be followed. The prosecution cannot keep information from the defense and it cannot flout the Court’s orders, not if we’re to look back on these trials and confirm that justice was done.
With so much talk in the past week about Joseph Kony — another warlord indicted by the ICC for conscripting child soldiers — it’s good to see the the Lubanga trial brought to a close with a guilty verdict. International justice efforts, though still slow and selective, are beginning to take a toll on the long-standing culture of impunity for human rights abuses.
Of course, the only way to see more criminals in the dock is to arrest them …
What I worry about this is the media making a direct link from men like this to Joseph Kony.
Kony is currently an almost non-actor. He’s estimated to have about 500 in his force, which may be generous. They’re spread around in rough territory mostly outside of Uganda.
But by telling his name in the same place with Lubanga, they add legitimacy to a ham-fisted approach to Kony, rather than one of finesse.
If you’ve been reading anything online in the past 24 hours, you’ve probably noticed that a whole lot of people seemingly just discovered the existence of an organization called Invisible Children.
Some people got excited about their new film about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army and then some people got concerned about that excitement.
I’m not going to wade into this controversy. There are lots of good resources online that you can read about what Invisible Children does with the money it raises and also about whether they have played a bit fast and loose with the facts in order to make the LRA seem worse than it is.
What I want to write about instead is a second problem that people have raised, specifically about the new film “Kony 2012” The film seems a whole lot like a call for military intervention to capture Joseph Kony and put a stop to the LRA atrocities. This might mean providing military aid to foreign governments that aren’t themselves exactly paragons of human rights observance, and it might mean putting foreign troops on the ground in one or more of the African states where Kony hides out. One thing it seems to mean for sure is an imperialistic Western attitude when it comes to solving the world’s conflicts.
At bottom, there seems to be a general discomfort with the idea that the U.S., for example, should get into the fight against the LRA. And so there’s a fair amount of backlash against the film and against Invisible Children, who have worked with other NGOs to try to convince the Obama administration to do just that. Of course, we should probably also remember that well-meaning liberals jumped all over Rush Limbaugh back in October because he said that the Obama administration shouldn’t be fighting the LRA.
This raises an important question, I think, because it seems pretty clear that Kony and the LRA are human rights violators on a serious scale. If we don’t want the U.S. to help track down and arrest Kony and we don’t like it when someone says that the U.S. shouldn’t be tracking down and arresting Kony, what do we want?
My guess is that we’d like someone else to do it or we want it to be very easy to accomplish.
I say this because I know that we like the idea of human rights and we generally want there to be less suffering in the world. We just don’t want to have to pay in any way to make that happen. We want all conflicts to be resolved by the parties to the conflict or, if we are going to get involved, we want the conflict to be absolutely clear-cut so we can step in on the side of the good against the bad. Or we want to talk in retrospect about how we ought to have done something, even as we know that we’re almost certainly not going to do something in a similar situation in the future.
“Never again” is apparently quite specific. It means we’ll never let Germans systematically exterminate six million Jews. And we’ll never let Rwandan Hutu militias murder eight hundred thousands Tutsis and moderate Hutus again. With other cases, we’ll have to wait and see.
At bottom, this question about Kony and our inability to figure out whether we should get involved or not speaks to one of the central problems that has always faced the creation of a robust international human rights regime, especially for those who really do want to help others but without seeming like thoughtless bullies: Do we want human rights that are actually enforceable, that actually mean something? If so, how do we propose to make them enforceable if not by actually going and arresting human rights abusers?
I don’t mean to suggest that this is an easy question to answer, as I think that every one of these situations will lead to problems (both foreseen and unforeseen) and casualties. Nonetheless, I think it’s a question that we absolutely must start thinking about pretty seriously. If we honestly care about the suffering of others, what are we going to do about it?
The Price of Civilization: Economics and Ethics after the Fall
Speaker(s): Professor Jeffrey Sachs
Chair: Professor Lord Richard Layard
Recorded on 5 December 2011 in Old Theatre, Old Building.
The world economy remains in a precarious state after the global recession. Jeffrey Sachs will discuss why we must – and how we can– change our entire economic culture in the time of crisis.
Jeffrey Sachs is director of The Earth Institute and Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and professor of health policy and management at Columbia University.
Once Putin is elected, Russia is going to look remarkably similar to before he was elected. Why? Because Putin, in a sense, never left. Putin was running the government and the economy on a day to day basis. While he had ceded the presidency, and therefore foreign policy, to Dmitri Medvedev, it was really a charade - Putin was behind most of the most important decisions anyway.
If Putin wins this election, which he’s almost certainly going to do, and if he wins the next election, which he is allowed to run for, he will have been in charge of Russia for over twenty years, maybe twenty five years. This is longer than Stalin.
European Community of Democracies - Towards a New Foundation of Europe
Editor’s note: Unfortunately the beginning of the chairperson’s introduction is missing from the podcast.
Speaker(s): Professor Ulrich Beck
Recorded on 20 February 2012 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building.
German euro-nationalism is not inevitable. Europe’s crisis is an opportunity to enlarge democracy. Ulrich Beck is professor of sociology, University of Munich and British Journal of Sociology LSE Centennial Professor in the Department of Sociology.