Focal Points Blog

The Expansion and Contraction of the Fourth Estate in East-Central Europe

Stanislav Holec

Stanislav Holec

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

When Communism collapsed in 1989 in East-Central Europe, many industries collapsed with it. Factories closed, workers were out of jobs, and economies shrank. But one sector of the economy grew: the media. Where there had once been a state monopoly, now there was pluralism. There was suddenly an explosion of reporting, commentary, TV debates.

All these new media outlets – newspapers, radio programs, TV stations – needed journalists. So, many young people switched jobs and became the new reporters. During my travels in 1990, I met many of these newly minted journalists. One of them was Stanislav Holec.

We met in London in March 1990, when he was part of a delegation of Czech journalists. He was new to the profession at that time, having enlisted in the ranks at the time of the Velvet Revolution. He’d gone to school to study engineering but had soon discovered that he was more interested in rock climbing and foreign travel. The revolution couldn’t have come along at a better time.
Read More

Turkey and the Middle-East Realignment

Turkey. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Turkey. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

The news broke less than three weeks ago, on October 3, that Turkey, a longtime, staunch NATO member, just broke an unwritten rule of that global military alliance: it has announced it is considering a major $3.2 billion arms purchase from China of an advanced missile defense systems. The announcement triggered something approaching a panic in NATO circles. A number of commentators argue that this is Turkey’s revenge, Turkey being dissatisfied with NATO’s refusal to engage more militarily in the Syrian conflict, and worse, the U.S. change of gears – or seeming one – from an attack mode to negotiating.

This is undoubtedly true to a certain extent, but other, weightier factors are most likely at play, among them a regional shift in U.S. Middle East policy – a shift, in the aftermath of the popularly supported Egyptian military coup away from supporting the Muslim Brotherhood towards once again, giving Saudi Arabia a freer hand in helping to implement Washington’s regional strategic objectives. Enhancing the Saudi role – which bodes ill for the region – entailed somewhat downgrading Turkey’s role and slighting Ankara, after having courted and encouraged them to play a more active role in the Arab World. All that blew up in Turkey – and Washington’s face – in the Syrian conflict.
Read More

Social Control Not Just Aim of Drone Surveillance, But of Drone Strikes, Too

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In a Boston Review article titled The Sound of Terror: Phenomenology of a Drone Strike, Nasser Hussain attempts to

… provide a phenomenology of drone strikes, examining both how the world appears through the lens of a drone camera and the experience of the people on the ground. What is it like to watch a drone’s footage, or to wait below for it to strike? What does the drone’s camera capture, and what does it occlude?
Read More

When It Comes to Nuclear Weapons, Austerity Has a Silver Lining

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

“Omne trium perfectum” goes the Latin saying — “everything which comes in threes is perfect.” Let’s see: the spiritual perfection of the Holy Trinity, the cinematic perfection  of the Three Stooges, and … the nuclear triad. Those dubious that the Three Stooges help prove the rule are advised to reserve the bulk of their doubt for that third leg.
Read More

Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (10/17)

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Not Enough Stock Dividends From a Peace Dividend

In 2001, military spending, as a function of the over-all American economy, was, at six per cent, the lowest it had been since the Second World War. … In much the same way that the peace dividend expected with the Allied victory never came because of the Cold War … a peace dividend expected after the end of the Warsaw Pact, in 1991, came but didn’t last. Instead, after 9/11 the United States declared a “global war on terror.”

The Force: How much military is enough?, Jill Lepore, the New Yorker
Read More

The Geo-political Reverberations of a Government Shutdown

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

As political gridlock continues to grip Washington, the prospect of the United States defaulting on its debt looms ever more prominently on the horizon. Such an event – were it to occur – would have far-reaching consequences. Not only for the short-term interests of certain politicians or political parties, but for the greater geo-political stature of the United States.

The weakening of U.S. soft-power is already evident. As politicians wrangle with one another in the halls of Congress, rival powers are watching with concern and no doubt grim satisfaction as the United States takes the world economy to the edge of a cliff.
Read More

Humanitarian Intervention: Destroying Nations to Save Them

Map Richard D. Vogel. Permission to copy

Map Richard D. Vogel. Permission to copy

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

The fate of Iraq is a sideshow, the terrorist threat is a red herring, and the radical Islamist’s dream of a worldwide jihad against the west is a fantasy, but the attempt to revive Pax Americana is real.
Gwynne Dyer

The notion of “humanitarian intervention” by former imperialist and now neo-colonial powers is as old as the hills. One can trace such pretexts back far in modern history. Two examples, among many, suffice: the 1898 U.S. invasion of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines was done in the name of saving those peoples from the Spanish yoke. Hitler used it as the excuse to annex the Sudetenland regions of (then) Czechoslovakia to supposedly “save” the poor German residents of that country.
Read More

Applied to Nuclear Weapons, Realism is the Road to Ruin

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In an op-ed at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled Why nuclear realism is unrealistic, Benoit Pelopidas writes that “adopting the point of view often called nuclear realism—the notion that technology and careful management will keep us safe—is a dangerous course.” Since the early days of the Cold War, he writes “it was considered ‘realistic’ for the United States and the Soviet Union each to build ever more nuclear weapons, so as not to fall behind in the arms race with the opposing country.”

Furthermore

The quest for a realistic nuclear outlook is shortsighted today when it portrays the bleak prospects for a new round of US-Russian nuclear arms reduction as the definitive verdict of the “real” world.
Read More

President Obama’s Meeting With Malala Yousafzai Was Riddled With Irony

Malala Yousafzai with President Obama. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Malala Yousafzai with President Obama. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

To one Nobel Peace Prize winner from one who isn’t:  “Drones are fueling terrorism.”  So spoke Malala Yousafzai to President Barack Obama. She’s the 16-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to urge the schooling of girls. She was nipped in the running for the prize by the team of chemical weapons experts seeking to corral Assad’s arsenal. Some pundits actually opined that Malala should take consolation in the fact that she is young and will have many more years to garner her own Nobel. The falseness of that note owes as much to its commodification of peace efforts as to the fact that Malala has indicated her intention to return to Pakistan, where the Taliban has vowed to execute her.
Read More

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.
Read More

Page 29 of 184« First...1020...2728293031...405060...Last »