Focal Points Blog

The Network of East-West Women in East-Central Europe a Product of Willful Ignorance

Ann Snitow is a writer and teacher, as well as activist with the Network of East-West Women, composed of movement activists on both sides of the former Iron Curtain. (Photo: John Feffer)

Ann Snitow is a writer and teacher, as well as activist with the Network of East-West Women, composed of movement activists on both sides of the former Iron Curtain. (Photo: John Feffer)

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

The literary scholar Viktor Shklovsky once attributed Tolstoy’s success as a novelist to the “energy of delusion.” The Russian writer was committed to constant trials and experimentation. He had a seemingly endless capacity to put himself in the position of what the Russians like to call a “holy fool” and look at the world as if through a child’s eyes.

Journalists also frequently adopt the attitude of holy fools. They are so often out of their depths and must rely on others to provide them with the information and contacts that sustain their work. It doesn’t help a journalist to assert knowledge – or feign knowledge – in an interview when the objective is to obtain as much information as possible.
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Former U.S. Nukes Commander’s Steps to Keep Ukraine Crisis From Mushrooming Into Nuclear War

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The Ukraine crisis has renewed calls by retired Gen. James Cartwright, former U.S. nukes commander, to wean the United States and Russia from launch on warning. (Photo: D. Miles Cullen / U.S. Dept. of Defense)

 

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, whose last job was Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, served as the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (nukes, et al) from 2004 to 2007. In recent years, he’s served in capacities as, uh, as diverse board member of Raytheon and chairman of the Global Zero Commission on Nuclear Risk Reduction. Those of you who follow nuclear weapons news may recall that, in the latter capacity, he called for reducing the U.S. nuclear-weapons arsenal to 900 warheads with none of them set to launch on warning.
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European Union Slow to Address Migrant Smuggling and Rescue

The EU has offloaded migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean on to merchant ships. (Photo: Noborder Network / Flickr Commons)

The EU has offloaded migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean on to merchant ships. (Photo: Noborder Network / Flickr Commons)

The captain of the migrant-smuggling boat that capsized Sunday in the Mediterranean not far from Libya has been charged with multiple homicide. In the New York Times Dan Bilefsky reports that he drove his boat into the Portuguese merchant ship coming to its rescue, though if it’s unclear if that was intentional and to what extent it contributed to the actual capsizing.

Why was a merchant ship tasked with a rescue operation? At the Daily Beast, Barbie Latza Nadeau explains: “Maritime law dictates that every vessel must respond to a maritime distress call whether they have rescue equipment or not.”
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Kenya’s Sorrow and How the U.S. Fueled Al-Shabab in Somalia

Conspicuous by its absence from the mainstream U.S. media is an examination of the role the U.S. played in fueling Al-Shabab in Somalia. (Photo:  Abayomi Azikiwe / Flickr Commons)

Conspicuous by its absence from the mainstream U.S. media is an examination of the role the U.S. played in fueling Al-Shabab in Somalia. (Photo: Abayomi Azikiwe / Flickr Commons)

The systematic murder of 147 Kenyan university students by members of the Somalia-based Shabab organization on April 2 is raising an uncomfortable question: was the massacre an unintentional blowback from U.S. anti-terrorism strategy in the region? And were the killers forged by an ill-advised American-supported Ethiopian invasion that transformed the radical Islamic organization from a marginal player into a major force?
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Is Al Qaeda Waxing or Waning?

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri may be deferring to the Islamic State. (Photo: Andres Pérez/ Flickr Commons)

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri may be deferring to the Islamic State. (Photo: Andres Pérez/ Flickr Commons)

In Politico Magazine, David Gartenstein-Ross and Bridget Moreng make the surprising claim Al Qaeda Is Beating the Islamic State. They write that, though the Islamic State “still controls more overall than Al Qaeda—most prominently, Tikrit and the southern half of the Salah al-Din province. … [it] has lost territory during this period.” The “jihadist group that has won the most territory in the Arab world over the past six months is Al Qaeda.”
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Diplomacy Is the Only Plausible Solution to Syria and Yemen

Saudi Arabia is the de facto face of the Gulf. (Photo: Marviikad / Flickr Commons)

Saudi Arabia is the de facto face of the Gulf. (Photo: Marviikad / Flickr Commons)

When it comes to the Middle East, everything happens at a pace that is too fast to comprehend. Proxy wars, manipulations and unjustifiable violence — unfortunately, a region so blessed and so beautiful is nowadays mostly known for all the wrong things.

As of now, Iran-Arab relations are turning from bad to worse with sectarian rhetoric and regional rivalries resulting in a weird form of power struggle that will have many losers, and probably zero winners. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have entered into a stare-down in Yemen, and with nearly all the major states of the region taking sides, the flames of these tensions are reaching as far as Turkey and Pakistan. Add to it the fact that the recent nuclear deal between P5+1 and Iran can affect regional strife even further, and the chances of a zero sum game look even bleak.

At this point, one needs to wonder: what can be the possible solution for Middle East?
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Will Israel “Bounce the Rubble” in Gaza?

Not much for the IDF left to bomb in Gaza. (Photo: Andlun 1 / Flickr Commons)

Not much for the IDF left to bomb in Gaza. (Photo: Andlun 1 / Flickr Commons)

Winston Churchill said: “If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce.” By which he apparently meant that nuclear war would devastate everyone and everything so completely that, after a while, a blighted landscape itself is being bombed.

In an article in Foreign Policy titled Gaza Is a Tomb, Bel Trew provides us with a poignant image of homes bombed by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces):

People paint their names and phone numbers onto the concrete heaps, in case an aid agency bothers to turn up and start the reconstruction efforts.

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How Aggression Went From an Act of War to a Pathology

Viewing a state’s aggression as pathology incurred punishment, not the understanding one might expect. (Photo: Bettman / Corbis)

Viewing a state’s aggression as pathology incurred punishment, not the understanding one might expect. (Photo: Bettman / Corbis)

I’ve been re-reading Sir Lawrence Freedman’s landmark work The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy (Third Edition) for a book I’m attempting to write about the rationalizations and counterintuitive strategies that inevitably attend a state’s development of nuclear weapons. (For his part, Freedman has written around 20 books.)

In the first part of The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, Freedman chronicles the rise of air power during the 20th century. He writes that, in the nineteenth century, the concept of aggression referred to a “‘military attack by the forces of a state against … another state.’” But, even before World War I, “the term had become pejorative, referring to a military attack that was not justified by law.”
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Providing Future Generations With a Voice at the Table

Future generations will wonder why we didn’t take their rights into consideration when failing to stop environmental wastelands from being created. (Photo: Raed Qutana / Flickr Commons)

Future generations will wonder why we didn’t take their rights into consideration when failing to stop environmental wastelands from being created. (Photo: Raed Qutana / Flickr Commons)

At Aeon magazine, in a piece titled Once and future sins, Stefan Klein and Stephen Cave ask, as the sub-head reads: “In 2115, when our descendants look back at our society, what will they condemn as our greatest moral failing?” In the course of identifying likely candidates they raise the issue of rights for future generations.
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Naypyidaw: Burma’s Potemkin Capital

Naypyidaw MAE:F : Flickr

There are few signs of life in Naypyidaw, the capital Burma built, in part, to thwart demonstrations against the government. (Photo: MAE/F / Flickr)

 

In the Guardian, Matt Kennard and Claire Provost write about Naypyidaw, the grand capital city that Burma’s military regime unveiled in 2005.

In recent years, the city’s bizarre urban plan and strange emptiness has become something of an international curiousity.

The effect is accentuated by its size. 
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