Focal Points Blog

Not All the Migration After the Fall of the Berlin Wall Was From East to West

Johannes Becker

Johannes Becker

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

When the Berlin Wall fell, a tremendous number of people headed for the West, permanently. Between 1989 and 1990, nearly 4 percent of the population of East Germany moved to West Germany. The outmigration rate dropped considerably once the new common German currency was introduced and reunification became an irrevocable fact. But it rose again between 1995 and 2002 when the unemployment rate in the east spiked from nearly 15 percent to 18 percent (twice that of the west). Overall, between 1989 and 2010, over four million people from the east moved to the west.

But not everyone moved from east to west. In fact, over the same period from 1989 to 2010, more than two million people from the west moved to the east. For a brief period, Johannes M. Becker was one of those people. A political scientist, he taught for two years at Humboldt University in East Berlin beginning in 1990. He wrote a book about his time in the east and continues to give public presentations about the experience.
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Is the House Tea Party Caucus Paving the Way to Campaign Finance Reform?

Tea Party Caucus member, I mean hominid bust at the National Museum of Natural History’s David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Tea Party Caucus member, I mean hominid bust at the National Museum of Natural History’s David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Apologies for veering off topic from foreign policy this morning, but I feel compelled to weigh in on this eye-opening new trend among House of Representatives Republicans. In a New York Times article on October 9 titled Business Groups See Loss of Sway Over House G.O.P., Eric Lipton, Nicholas Confessore, and Nelson D. Schwartz report:

As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain. … [Business] leaders and trade groups said … the tools that have served them in the past — campaign contributions, large memberships across the country, a multibillion-dollar lobbying apparatus — do not seem to be working.
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Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (10/9)

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Sanctions Represent a Failure of Imagination

Why pass new sanctions that will drain Iran’s moderates of domestic political capital, slam shut the window for what may be the last best chance to constrain Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy, and risk shattering international unity on Iran?

The most disingenuous argument for sanctions yet, Jamal Abdi, the Hill’s Congress Blog

Self-Respect Is in the National Interest

I would like to say that suspending aid to Egypt is now in America’s national interest. Maybe it’s not; maybe it’s a wash. So I will say instead that it has become a matter of national self-respect. Democracies have to be able to look at themselves in the mirror, and to accept, if not like, what they see.

Speak Softly and Carry No Stick, James Traub, Foreign Policy
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The Government Shutdown From a European Perspective

ObamaBoehner

As a German student studying in Washington, it’s sometimes hard for me to believe the absurdities the U.S. political system produces. The ongoing U.S. government shutdown—the product of an inability by political elites to forge lasting compromises, as well as the conservative party’s distorted view of social rights—is but the latest example.

The problems underpinning the shutdown are not inherent to democracy, as European models show, but on the contrary are antithetical to it.
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Netanyahu Unfazed by Historic Diplomacy Between U.S. and Iran

Netanyahu

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dedicated the lion’s share of his UN General Assembly Speech last week to rebuking the recent diplomatic efforts of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Netanyahu, who last year took to using cartoons at the UNGA to demonstrate the “threat” posed by Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, delivered a speech this year that was less overtly ridiculous—but no less calamitous—in its warnings about Iran.

“It’s not that it’s hard to find evidence that Iran has a nuclear program,” Netanyahu said. “It’s hard to find evidence that Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapons program.”
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Did Kenyan Army Use Shock Doctrine in Nairobi Mall Attack?

Westgate

It’s bad enough that the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, site of the vicious Al Shabab attack last month, has reduced to ruins, but it’s been looted to within a month of its life, too. The New York Times reports:

Witnesses said that the most they saw militants loot was a couple of cans of soda, and shopkeepers cited no instances of panicked shoppers helping themselves to merchandise as they ran for their lives, leading to the widespread conclusion that the security forces must have been involved.
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Leak of an Al Qaeda Plot Presents Larger Problem for U.S. Intelligence Than Snowden

Snowden, Edward

In the New York Times, Eric Schmitt and Michael S. Schmidt report that documents Edward Snowden released might have caused less short-term damage than leak of an Al Qaeda plot in August. After media reports, Al Qaeda significantly reduced its use of a major communications channel that U.S. intelligence had been monitoring. In the interim, they write:

 One way the terrorists may try to communicate, [an] official said, is strictly through couriers, who would carry paper notes or computer flash drives. If that happens, the official said, terrorists will find it very difficult to communicate as couriers take significant time to move messages.

“The problem for Al Qaeda is they cannot function without cellphones,” said one former senior administration official. “They know we listen to them, but they use them anyhow. You can’t run a sophisticated organization without communications in this world. They know all this, but to operate they have to go on.”
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Latin American Leaders Bring Drug Policy Debate to the UN

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina

Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina

At the annual UN General Assembly meeting held in New York, presidents from around the world have the chance to state their views on the key international issues of the day. Not surprisingly, the crisis in Syria, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Millennium Development Goals took center stage this year. Yet a careful viewing of the speeches of the Latin American presidents illustrates the growing voice of Latin American leaders calling for meaningful reform of drug control policies. Across the region, a dynamic debate – focused on the failure of present drug control policies to achieve their desired objectives and the need for more effective and humane alternatives – is underway, most recently evident in an innovative report on drug policy released by the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Declaration of Antigua from the June 2013 OAS General Assembly meeting calling for an Extraordinary Session focused on drug policy to be held in 2014. Last week at the UN, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico united in bringing this regional debate to the General Assembly meeting, calling for consideration of alternative approaches to the drug issue, and for the efforts underway within the OAS to be used as tools for debate within the UN in the lead up to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs to be held in New York in 2016.
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Syria and What Exactly the Constitution Says About the Use of Force

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

President Obama has been criticized from both the left and right for his handling of the ongoing civil war in Syria. One of the most curious critiques, however, has to do with his decision to seek Congressional approval for a military strike against regime targets in Syria. Even several of his senior advisors were reportedly surprised by his decision and were opposed to seeking Congressional approval.

Since then many other prominent foreign policy practitioners have publicly endorsed this critique denouncing President Obama’s appeal to Congress. Former Defense Secretary Panetta just last week said he too would have advised against doing so observing that “this Congress has a hard time agreeing as to what the time of day is.”  Richard Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations who served in senior foreign policy positions in previous administrations, characterized seeking Congressional approval “as inept as asking Putin to save him from having to send in the cruises [missiles].”  Several others have expressed concern that doing so will establish a historical precedent that will restrict future presidents in their ability to undertake military action overseas.
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Bashir Embarrassment Avoided. Now What?

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Cross-posted from the United to End Genocide blog.

A colossal embarrassment was avoided when Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, apparently changed his mind about coming to the United States to address the United Nations.

But what is to be done to avoid future similar situations that call into question the commitments of the United States and UN to human rights, genocide prevention, and international justice and accountability?

First, the UN General Assembly and/or the UN Secretary General could act to waive the U.S. obligation to facilitate Bashir’s travel to UN Headquarters. As argued by law professor John Cerone on Opinio Juris “The General Assembly could authorize the Secretary General to waive the US obligation by a majority vote of those member States present and voting.” Given the 122 countries that are party to the ICC Statute and the number of delegations likely to have walked out on Bashir, this does not seem such an unachievable number.
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