Focal Points Blog

Upstart Parties Crash the Ball in Spain

A failure by the left to unite in Spain and the Eurozone will open the door for Europe’s resurgent far right.

A failure by the left to unite in Spain and the Eurozone will open the door for Europe’s resurgent far right.

For the past quarter of a century there have been few watershed moments in Spanish political history. Like a well-choreographed pas de deux, the center-left Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and right-wing Popular Party (PP) have taken turns governing the country.

But the 2015 election changed all that. Upstart parties on the right and left crashed the ball, punished the two major parties, and forced another round of voting on June 26 that could be a turning point in a growing campaign to roll back austerity policies that have spread poverty and unemployment throughout the continent.
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When It Comes to Arms Control, Clinton Might Be Even Weaker Than Trump

The idea of putting our national security in the hands of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton does not engender confidence. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr Commons)

The idea of putting our national security in the hands of either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton does not engender confidence. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr Commons)

Disclaimer: This post by no means represents an endorsement of Donald Trump for president.

On June 1, Hillary Clinton gave a national security speech that served, in large part, as an attack on Donald Trump. “We cannot put the security of our children and grandchildren in Donald Trump’s hands. We cannot let him roll the dice with America.”

Between Trump’s bluster and an uncertainty about who he might appoint to positions such as secretary of state and defense, it’s difficult to speculate about the danger a Trump presidency might pose to national security. Though should he be elected and rumors that he might appoint Ron Paul secretary of state come true, we would likely see the least interventionist American administration since Thomas Jefferson’s. If only from her record as secretary of state, we already know that Hillary Clinton sees the United States as the world’s arbiter, a task better left to a world body, as well as a promulgator of democracy. Both necessitate armed intervention.
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Muhammad, Christ, Buddha, and … ibn Abd al-Wahhab?

Arab map

High on the list of the important religious figures relevant today are three names known to most in the East, Near East, and West: Muhammad, Jesus Christ, and the Buddha. But the fourth is unknown to most in the East and the West – Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. In eighteenth century Saudi Arabia, he founded the fundamentalist Salafi movement of Sunni Islam, which insists on practicing Islam as it was during Muhammad’s time and seeks the implementation of sharia law. Salafists don’t shy away from politics, to the point of militant jihadism.

To further their aims, Salafis are aggressively missionary. Funded by the state of Saudi Arabia, which seeks their imprimatur, as it were, they have more or less infected Sunni Islam in Pakistan, Egypt, India, and other states. In a piece for the New York Times titled How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS, Carlotta Gall provides a case study on how the Saudis finance the spread of Salafism in one such state, Kosovo.
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Muhammad Ali: Early American Adopter of Islam

Not many are aware that, years ago, Muhammad Ali shifted from being a Black Muslim to a traditional Sunni and then to a Sufi. (Photo: Morocco World News)

Not many are aware that, years ago, Muhammad Ali shifted from being a Black Muslim to a traditional Sunni and then to a Sufi. (Photo: Morocco World News)

Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer this world has ever known, is no more. The fact that he is gone is difficult to come to terms with — for years, Ali was renowned as a larger than life figure, the Greatest as he would call himself, and the demise of a man of such a high stature is surely a void that can never be filled.

In the world of sports, Muhammad Ali will forever be known as the boxing legend who won 56 bouts over the period of a 21-year career. In popular culture, he will be remembered as the man who was not afraid when it came to speaking his mind — someone who was not shy of talking about things unrelated to boxing, and would always take the right stand when needed.

But that is not the only reason why this world will miss Muhammad Ali.
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What if the U.S. Dismantled China’s Internet Firewall?

Messing with another country’s Internet can lead to a smackdown. (Photo: Ubergizmo)

Messing with another country’s Internet can lead to a smackdown. (Photo: Ubergizmo)

China’s domestic Internet censorship, sometimes called the Great Firewall of China, is considered the most comprehensive web screening established by a state anywhere in the world. Is there any chance it can be taken down? Yes, but under less-than-ideal circumstances. In the National Interest, National Interest, Chen Pokong imagines a scenario in which the United States has removed China’s Internet screen.

Related reports and discussion show that the cyber operation, codenamed “Airborne Freedom” and launched by the United States, is in fact retaliation for a cyberattack by China. China has for some time been carrying out cyberattacks and cyberespionage against U.S.-based websites, and repeated warnings from Washington to end the attacks have met with only temporary pullbacks by Beijing, followed by renewed onslaughts. Reaching the end of its patience, the United States has finally decided to take action, and a full-scale cyberwar has been launched between China and the United States.
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Pakistan Still Suffering from the Delusion That It Can Control the Taliban

President Obama didn’t bother to notify Pakistan of its drone strike on Afghanistan Taliban chief Mansour on Pakistani soil. (Photo: Newsonline)

President Obama didn’t bother to notify Pakistan of its drone strike on Afghanistan Taliban chief Mansour on Pakistani soil. (Photo: Newsonline)

Nobody deserves to be the victim of a drone strike, even Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban. Even if, as John Feffer wrote in Foreign Policy in Focus last week, citizens of FATA (the Federally Administered Tribal Areas), however counterintuitively, actually favor drone strikes. Perhaps that’s because the Pakistani government doesn’t seem up to the task of rolling back the Taliban.
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Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump Are Symptoms of Creeping Caesarism

Democracies are finding themselves led by autocrats. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr Commons)

Democracies are finding themselves led by autocrats. (Photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr Commons)

‘Charisma’ is usually what most people think of when recalling the German theorist Max Weber (1864-1920), leaving his original deliberation on ‘Caesarism’ (1917) ignored. Weber conceptualized Otto von Bismarck’s plebiscitary leadership as a sort of Caesar-type governance, and although he did not define this term systemically, it was mainly about the interactive dynamics between a ‘charismatic leader’ and an ‘irrational mass’ with ‘disdain for parliament’ [Note 1].

The unorthodox but much better than expected political success of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump have brought back Weber’s hundred-year-old idea to the 21st century with a new perspective. What we can see right now is a global horizon of favor, among the masses of different nations in democratic states, towards a new batch of charismatic leaders who appear to be unconventional, taking risk boldly, and ‘politically incorrect’. The recent tide of warnings that Trump is endangering the American democracy is perhaps an echo to Oswald Spengler’s prediction in his Decline of the West (1923) that the triumph of democracy during 1800-2000 would be eroded by the emergence of Caesarism in this century.
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The Missing 28 Pages from the 9/11 Report Could Make Us Safer

The free pass the Bush administration gave the Saudis for 9/11 remains a national scandal. (Photo: YourNewsWire.com)

The free pass the Bush administration gave the Saudis for 9/11 remains a national scandal. (Photo: YourNewsWire.com)

The sheer volume of crimes that the George W. Bush administration committed will keep historians busy chronicling them for decade. Among them were: 1. Hiding the role that Saudi officials in not only Saudi Arabia, but the United States, played in financing and supporting the planning of the 9/11 attacks. 2. Keeping the relationship with Saudi Arabia status quo afterward. (Nothing to see here. Move on.)

Especially flagrant was that in 2002 the Bush administration removed the 28 pages that dealt with the Saudis from the report of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks. The Obama administration hasn’t been of much help in revealing those pages.
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Why Exactly Does Saudi Arabia Fund the Spread of Wahhabism?

Wahhabi missionary work is a result of efforts by the House of Saud to appease religious leaders. (Photo: Russia Today)

Wahhabi missionary work is a result of efforts by the House of Saud to appease religious leaders. (Photo: Russia Today)

Many in the West may be unaware of the significance of an event in Saudi Arabian history for the rest of the world. In an article titled Saudia Arabia and Iran: The Cold War of Islam (sic – the “i” in Saudia still stands two weeks after the article was posted), Spiegel International reports that in November of 1979, the same year as the Iranian revolution

…Sunni terrorists seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca and took thousands of pilgrims hostage. Their leader came from the heart of Saudi Arabia and claimed to be the Mahdi, or redeemer — and he called for the overthrow of the king. The royal family saw little choice but to call for assistance from French special forces — infidels — to liberate the mosque.

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No End in Sight for Israel’s Rightward Drift

Israeli officials have forfeited the moral high ground in their denunciations of Palestinians. Pictured: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

Israeli officials have forfeited the moral high ground in their denunciations of Palestinians. Pictured: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons)

As Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu serves his fourth term in office, the effects of his long leadership have become strikingly apparent. A country that was seen for so long as a small secular democracy surrounded by hostile Arab kingdoms has completed its transition to a regional military power that is currently dominated by a combination of ultranationalist and orthodox religious parties. Throughout this change Israel has had the unwavering support of the United States, which has given the Jewish state a total of $118 billion over the years and continues to give it upwards of $4 billion a year in military aid.

Israel’s swing to the right had its most telling consequence in late May when the minister of defense Moshe Ya’alon resigned and Netanyahu replaced him with Avigdor Lieberman. Ya’alon, a political centrist, is a former general and chief of staff as well as a former commando leader. Lieberman left the army as a corporal, and as an ultranationalist, has expressed no interest in peace talks with the Palestinians.
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