Focal Points Blog

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

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.
Read More

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
Read More

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.
Read More

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.”
Read More

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.
Read More

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.”
Read More

Page 29 of 183« First...1020...2728293031...405060...Last »