Focal Points Blog

After the Paris Attacks, What Happens Here?

Peace requires cooperation among nations that have selfishly wrought havoc in the Middle East since the First World War. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Peace requires cooperation among nations that have selfishly wrought havoc in the Middle East since the First World War. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

ISIL’s crusade is reaching out to inflict the horrors of war on civilian populations wherever possible. It has to be defeated — in the Middle East and anywhere it tries to strike.

That can only happen if there is a major shift in policies that contributed much to the horrendous chaos that opened up Iraq and Syria to ISIL. But as we have seen before, acts of terrorism can be exploited to fuel fear, nativist hatreds, and a clamor to unleash US military might. That is exactly what we’re getting from the GOP presidential aspirants. The Democratic candidates have said little so far. Bernie Sanders properly points out he’s “no fan of  ‘regime change’” and cites his vote against the disastrous Iraq war. Hillary Clinton hasn’t said much beyond asserting her toughness.
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Jeremy Corbyn’s Refusal to Launch Nuclear Weapons Shines Spotlight on Flaws of Deterrence

Nuclear deterrence implies an obligation to fulfill its contract and respond in kind if attacked. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Nuclear deterrence implies an obligation to fulfill its contract and respond in kind if attacked. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Newly elected British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn upset the deterrence apple cart when he revealed that he wouldn’t launch nuclear weapons should he become prime minister. Chief of Defence Staff Sir Nick Houghton protested; at Huffington Post UK, Paul Waugh quoted Corbyn’s response:

“It is a matter of serious concern that the chief of the defence staff has today intervened directly in issues of political dispute. It is essential in a democracy that the military remains political neutral at all times.”

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The Only Solution to Nuclear Weapons Remains World Government

World government remains the most likely candidate for a good idea that will never get off the ground. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons )

World government remains the most likely candidate for a good idea that will never get off the ground. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons )

Some of the proposals to control nuclear weapons when they were first developed, but that never saw the light of day, still make eminent sense. Though, admittedly, they are even more light years from implementation now than they were then. One, as presented via the Acheson-Lilienthal Report and the Baruch Plan, was placing all the nuclear weapons in the world under the UN Security Council.

You can understand the resistance: “Can we get 100 of our warheads out of cold storage? The Soviet Union has been a little more bellicose than usual this month.” Another was the concept of world government, which actually gained a couple of feet of traction post-Hiroshima.
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Massive Retaliation to Islamic State Attacks on Paris Can Be as Dangerous as Islamic State Itself

As always, even with the Islamic State, air power, thy name is collateral damage. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

As always, even with the Islamic State, air power, thy name is collateral damage. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)

It’s only natural after the Islamic State’s beyond-barbaric attacks of the past week in Baghdad, Lebanon, and Paris, to seek an end to the madness that is the Islamic Stat. once and for all. But, of course, ramping up bombing (as the United States has already done on the Islamic State’s oil fields) carries dangers to others beside members of the Islamic State. Yesterday Reuters presented the crux of massive retaliation:

So far, however, the United States has refrained from direct bombardment of known Islamic State headquarters buildings in its self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, Syria.

That, individuals with knowledge of the matter said, is in part because of the risk of large-scale civilian casualties.

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Will Russia Turn Its Full Fury on the Islamic State?

Russia may turn its attention from rebels fighting the Assad regime to the Islamic State. (Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr Commons)

Russia may turn its attention from rebels fighting the Assad regime to the Islamic State. (Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr Commons)

If such a tragic event as the crash of Russian Metrojet Flight 9268, the likely result of a bomb on the plane, can be said to have one, a sampling of U.S. intelligence personnel see a silver lining.

Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef at the Daily Beast write:

Now, six U.S. intelligence and military officials told The Daily Beast that they hoped an ISIS attack on Russian civilians would force Putin to finally take the gloves off and attack the group, which the U.S. has been trying to dislodge from Iraq and Syria for more than a year, without success.

“Now maybe they will start attacking [ISIS],” one senior defense official smugly wondered last week. “And stop helping them,” referring to ISIS gains in Aleppo that came, in part, because the group took advantage of Russian strikes on other rebels and militant outfits.

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The Middle East: The Only Way Forward Is Unification

Meanwhile, the post-Ottoman regional order, as envisioned by the Western powers, has collapsed. Pictured: map of the Ottoman Empire. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Meanwhile, the post-Ottoman regional order, as envisioned by the Western powers, has collapsed. Pictured: map of the Ottoman Empire. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Ever since World War I, if there is one region of the world that has been in constant turmoil, it is the Middle East (or West Asia, whichever way you like to call it). European imperialism, post-colonial despotism or neo-colonialism — there are many reasons that can be held responsible for the plight of the Middle East. I discussed the historical factors responsible for the ongoing strife in the Middle East in an earlier article.

A century has passed since the First World War, and while the rest of the world has moved on, the Middle East still continues to be in trouble, with a new issue arising every other day. As painful as it might be, the fact remains that the Middle East still has a long way to go, and the region has, so far, not risen from the ashes of the First World War.

What lies ahead for the Middle Eastern people and countries?
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Constructive Conflict Applications in Obama’s Foreign Policies

(Source: The Official White House Photostream / Flickr)

President Obama’s foreign policy is characterized by minimizing U.S. resort to violence, narrowing targets and drawing upon multilateral support. (Source: The Official White House Photostream / Flickr)

President Barack Obama’s foreign policies have had important successes that demonstrate creative applications of the increasingly recognized constructive conflict approach. However, Obama is widely attacked as if he were responsible for the many ongoing terribly destructive foreign conflicts. Criticisms of Obama’s administration have usually come from the political right in the United States and others committed to opposing Obama. They attack him for being naïve and insufficiently tough. Even analysts sympathetic to Obama’s foreign policies are sometimes critical of his failure to rely more on coercion and military force.

Indeed, Obama appears to minimize U.S. resort to violence, while narrowing the targets and drawing upon multilateral support. In addition, he has used diplomacy to restructure conflicts and taken into account how adversaries view a conflict so as to maximize the effectiveness of non-coercive inducements. These qualities are central in the constructive conflict approach, which synthesizes conflict resolution and peace studies, fields contributing empirically grounded knowledge about ways to reduce destructive conflicts. Indeed, Obama has had notable foreign policy successes by acting in accord with the constructive conflict approach.   Furthermore, some seeming failures might well have been averted, not by more militancy, but by more prompt and consistent use of constructive conflict strategies.
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Little-Known UN Provision Could Solve Syria

bashar-al-assad-syrian-civil-war

The UN actually has a provision for placing a state that’s threatened by internal forces under the trusteeship of a designated state. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

I know it’s already appeared on Foreign Policy in Focus, but a recommendation by Don Kraus, the Chief Executive Officer of Citizens for Global Solutions, for peace in Syria are so fresh and unique that it deserves to be tossed into the progressive media echo chamber. Kraus writes:

The Syrian conflict threatens the peace and security of the entire world. Perhaps it’s time to use the UN for its founding purpose: to end the scourge of war. The other 192 UN member states, including Assad’s allies Russia and Iran, should suspend Syria’s UN membership, which can be done under Article 5 of the UN Charter.

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Insights Into the Resistance Movement in Turkey (First in a Series)

Blatant disrespect by the AKP government for the victims of the recent Ankara bombing show that a sanctioned societal and psychological war as well as military conflict was taking place against the Kurdish movement. (Photo: Kesk)

Blatant disrespect by the AKP government for the victims of the recent Ankara bombing show that a sanctioned societal and psychological war as well as military conflict was taking place against the Kurdish movement. (Photo: Kesk)

As a student of international relations and journalist, I spent a week in Istanbul and Ankara interviewing those I consider activists in a resistance movement in Turkey. What happened to turn them against their government? What did they think of the Kurdish movement and its guerrilla forces? This was originally intended to be a dispassionate research trip, however, it was impossible for me to be apolitical once war began to rage in Northern Kurdistan. Already biased toward the left-leaning People’s Democracy Party (HDP) and Kurdish rights, I found myself becoming a member of this resistance after the bombing in Ankara—the worst mass murder in modern Turkey—due in large part to the chilling response of the governing party and its supporters.
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Portugal’s Democracy Crisis

Despite a left majority in the parliament, Portugal’s President Aníbal Cavaco Silva reappointed the right-wing alliance’s leader, Pedro Coelho, as prime minister. (Photo: © European Union 2013 — European Parliament / Flickr Commons)

Despite a left majority in the parliament, Portugal’s President Aníbal Cavaco Silva reappointed the right-wing alliance’s leader, Pedro Coelho, as prime minister. (Photo: © European Union 2013 — European Parliament / Flickr Commons)

Within a week, Europe will face one of the most serious challenges to democracy it has seen in many decades. On Nov. 10 Portugal’s minority right-wing government will likely lose a vote of confidence, initiating a series of events that will determine whether voters in the European Union (EU) still have the right to a government of their own choosing.

The crisis was set off by the Oct. 4 elections that saw the right-wing Forward Portugal coalition, which has overseen austerity policies that have driven 20 percent of the population below the poverty line, lose its majority in the parliament to three parties on the left: the Socialist Party, the Left Bloc, and a Communist/Green alliance.
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