May 16, 2013 by Brett Daniel Shehadey
The international system is in a rut and the archaic Westphalian global system of nation-to-nation dialogue is eroding. Short-term self-interest, sporadic technology attempts, and neo-realism appear to have divided the world. Country’s use diplomacy sparingly or in heavy handed ways. Cooperation is seen as a lost cause without hope. Militarism is on the rise and wars loom on the horizon.
Diplomats used to have face-to-face meetings with their counterparts in an embassy setting; replete with wood paneled meeting rooms. Today, diplomats enter a virtual world of international relations using avatars from thousands of miles away. Prior to any agreements, dignitaries and envoys review their options together with open simulations, ensuring themselves the most peaceful outcomes and stable relations. Rival nations compete through the use of war games with their own strategists and military attachés as national players.
Nations evaluate the results of virtual diplomacy and virtual war with a sophisticated team of experts and artificial intelligence arbiters. Peace is achieved. The winners gain fame in annual competitions, prize money or real territory is exchanged—no human beings needlessly lose their lives in the process of international relations.
May 9, 2013 by Mitchell Bustillo
When thinking of U.S.-Cuba relations, the trade embargo, or el bloqueo, is first and foremost on people’s minds. In 2009, President Barack Obama eased the travel ban, allowing Cuban-Americans to travel freely to Cuba, and again in 2011, allowing students and religious missionaries to travel to Cuba, as recently demonstrated by American pop culture figures, Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z. Despite a history of hostile transgressions, the U.S. is inconsistent with its implementation of the embargo, which sends mixed signals to Havana and displays our weak foreign policy regarding Cuba.
Undoubtedly, Cuba is capitalizing on this weakness by using the embargo as a scapegoat for all of its woes without any immediate fear of reinstated restrictions. Because the goal is to promote Cuban democracy and freedom through non-violent and non-invasive means while refraining from providing any support to the current oppressive Cuban government, the current legislation regarding the embargo and travel ban against Cuba needs to be modernized and strengthened. The need for an embargo has never been more important or potentially effective, even considering the current human rights and economic arguments against the embargo.
April 10, 2013 by Thomas Hauschildt
Thatcher did more to release Nelson Mandela out of prison than any of the other hundreds of anti-Apartheid committees, in Europe.
– Pik Botha, last foreign minister of the Apartheid regime
Margaret Thatcher stirred up sentiments among many in the UK, but her foreign policy characterized by the Falklands War, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the way she dealt with the South African Apartheid regime were no less controversial, the latter of which – as David Cameron admitted – resulted in Thatcher standing on the wrong side of history.
Nearly two decades after the end of Apartheid, Thatcher remains a controversial figure in South Africa. Whilst Jacob Zuma sent his condolences, former Cabinet Minister Pallo Jordan accused her of supporting the Apartheid regime by preventing sanctions. He does not consider Thatcher’s death as a great loss.
April 5, 2013 by Binoy Kampmark
What happens to Australian delegations when they go overseas? They whimper, whine or fawn; they stumble into positions of prostrate foolishness. They resemble, as Malcolm Muggeridge described British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s meeting with the Soviet Union’s Nikita Khrushchev, Don Quixote mounting Rocinante, with Sancho Panza by his side. In this instance, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has several Panzas – the foreign minister Bob Carr, Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten. It is a true fools cast, and one fitting for a secondary power which is only relevant by the speed it digs up its resources and sends them to imperial powers, current and future.
A previous visit by the current prime minister went wrong. It seemed like an afterthought, clumsy, ill-executed. Her speech was appalling. As with her visit to the United States, the current leader of Australia is incapable of finding gravitas. She is, however, able to hit the hidden shallows. The latest is her insistence on pressuring China to “rein in” North Korea’s belligerent stance, a view that shows how ill-informed the Australian delegation is by the influence Beijing can exert over Pyongyang.
Aside from the usual blunders, Gillard’s press briefings have been slightly better, though the size of this Australian delegation comes across as overcompensation. The Australians want to make their small presence felt at the Boao Forum, a premier trade gathering that hasn’t previously figured too highly on the current government’s list of priorities. No high level representatives went last year.
April 3, 2013 by Daniel Wagner
Although the restoration of ties between Israel and Turkey is welcome news for both countries, it is premature to gauge how close Jerusalem and Ankara will become given their continued conflicts of interest. The ‘thaw’ in bilateral relations is likely to be slow, with the two countries’ divergent objectives in Palestine and Syria remaining an obstacle to significantly warmer relations. Nonetheless, as the Syrian crisis continues to threaten the security of all the Levantine states and the Iranian issue continues its slow boil, greater cooperation should be expected between the two. The rapprochement is real; the question is, does it matter?
From Israel’s perspective, improved ties with Turkey help to alleviate the plethora of security concerns arising events of the past two years – ranging from the change of leadership in Egypt, to the Egyptian/Iranian rapprochement, to growing concern over the stability of the Jordanian Monarchy., to an Iran that is increasingly assertive and defiant of the West, to the consolidation of power by Hamas in Gaza, and the ongoing stalemate in peace talks with the Palestinians. Israel has a full plate of security issues to contend with, none of which either appear to be easing or are likely to dissipate in the near term.
March 2, 2013 by Daniel Wagner
With Hugo Chavez apparently near death, the question of who will inherit his legacy as the vanguard of 21st century socialism in Latin America is foremost in the minds of many. With Chavez soon out of the picture, and the Castro brothers in Cuba not far behind him, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa – who has an established record of promoting socialism, has effectively challenged conventional wisdom in the region, and who is likely to remain a force to be reckoned with — seems a natural choice to fill that role.
During last month’s presidential election, in which he won 57% of the vote, Rafael Correa secured a mandate to advance his “Citizen’s Revolution”. But the head winds associated with fluctuating oil prices, a worsening foreign investment climate, rising violent crime, isolation from international financial institutions, and a growing domestic opposition will undoubtedly have an impact on his ability to be as successful as he has been in the past. If Correa plays his cards wisely, and has a bit of luck, he may still be able to pull it off.
Although Rafael Correa’s record in office is mixed, his popularity is attributable to greater political stability, poverty reduction and greater economic equality. No Ecuadorian president in the past century has remained in power as long as Correa, nor has had the ability to actually implement a long-term agenda. Although nearly one in three Ecuadorians currently live below the poverty line, this is five percent lower than in 2007. And the share of income earned by the wealthiest ten percent declined from 43% to 38% from 2007 to 2009.
February 27, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
An Israeli-Turkish rapprochement is unmistakably underway, but unlike the heyday of their political alignment of the 1990’s, the revamped relationship is likely to be more guarded and will pose a greater challenge to Turkey rather than to Israel. Israeli media referenced a report by the Turkish newspaper Radikal with much interest, regarding secret talks between Turkey and Israel that could yield an Israeli apology for its army’s raid against the Turkish aid flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, which was on its way to Gaza in May 2010. The assault resulted in the death of 9 Turkish activists, including a US citizen.
The attack wrought a crisis unseen since the rise of the Turkish-Israeli alliance starting in 1984, followed by a full blown strategic partnership in 1996. But that crisis didn’t necessarily start at the Mavi Marmara deadly attack, or previous Israeli insults of Turkey. Nor did it begin with the Israeli so-called Operation Cast Lead against besieged Gaza in Dec 2008, which resulted in the death and wounding of thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians.
According to the Radikal report (published in Feb 20 and cited by Israeli Haaretz two days later), Israel is willing to meet two of Turkey’s conditions for the resumption of full ties: an apology, and compensation to the families of the victims. “Turkey has also demanded Israel lift the siege,” on Gaza, Haaretz reported, citing Radikal, “but is prepared to drop that demand.”
January 26, 2013 by Kerry Sun
On January 14, 2012, 58 UN Member States coordinated by Switzerland petitioned the UN Security Council to refer the current crisis in Syria to the International Criminal Court for investigation and possible prosecution. Over 60,000 Syrians have died since the uprising begun in March 2011 and 600,000 have become refugees. War crimes and crimes against humanity have clearly been committed by both sides; a referral to the ICC is long overdue. Why does the ICC need the UN Security Council’s referral? Syria is not a party to the ICC and thus, the court has no jurisdiction to indict its citizens, including Bashar al-Assad and other members of his regime, without referral by the UN Security Council.
With Russian, Chinese and even American vetoes standing in the way, would an ICC referral even happen? The short answer is not likely. However, there might be light at the end of that tunnel. China has reversed its objection to ICC referrals twice in the past, allowing the referral of Sudan over Darfur in 2005 and allowing the referral of Libya in 2011.
January 10, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
What does a Palestinian farmer who is living in a village tucked in between the secluded West Bank hills, a prisoner on hunger strike in an Israeli jail and a Palestinian refugee roaming the Middle East for shelter all have in common? They are all characters in one single, authentic, solid and cohesive narrative. The problem however, is that western media and academia barely reflect that reality or intentionally distort it, disarticulate it and when necessary, defame its characters.
January 3, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
Reading the text of a bill that was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama would instill fear in the hearts of ordinary Americans. Apparently, barbarians coming from distant lands are at work. They are gathering at the US-Mexico border, cutting fences and ready to wreak havoc on an otherwise serene American landscape.
Never mind that crazed, armed to the teeth, homegrown American terrorists are killing children and terrorizing whole cities. It is the Iranian menace that we are meant to fear according to the new law. When compounded with the other imagined threats of Hezbollah and Hamas, all with sinister agendas, then the time is right for Americans to return to their homes, bolt their doors and squat in shelters awaiting further instructions, for evidently, “The Iranians are coming.”
December 6, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
Palestine has become a “non-member state” at the United Nations as of Thursday November 29, 2012. The draft of the UN resolution beckoning what many perceive as a historic moment passed with an overwhelming majority of General Assembly members: 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.
It was accompanied by a passionate speech delivered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But decades earlier, a more impressive and animated Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat sought international solidarity as well. The occasion then was also termed ‘historic’.
November 24, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
Many key phrases have been presented to explain Israel’s latest military onslaught against Gaza, which left scores dead and wounded. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is flexing his muscles in preparation for the Israeli general elections in January, suggested some. It is Israel’s way of testing the administration of Egyptian President Mahmoud Morsi, commented others. It was a stern message to Iran, instructed few. Or that Israel is simply assessing its ‘deterrence’ capabilities. And so on.
November 22, 2012 by Shahram Akbarzadeh
Israeli air-raids on Gaza have stopped. Palestinian rockets are not being fired at Israel. The cease-fire seems to be holding. After seven days of war, and 157 Palestinian deaths (the great majority of whom were hapless civilians), international leaders are congratulating each other for achieving an end to hostilities. But the obvious question is, how long will it last?
The war and the ceasefire negotiations highlighted a number of factors that are less than reassuring for the prospects of peace.
November 1, 2012 by Conn M. Hallinan
Two years ago Turkey was on its way to being a player in Central Asia, a major power broker in the Middle East, and a force in international politics. It had stepped in to avoid a major escalation of the 2008 war between Georgia and Russia by blocking U.S. ships from entering the Black Sea, made peace with its regional rivals, and, along with Brazil, made a serious stab at a peaceful resolution of the Iran nuclear crisis.
Today it is exchanging artillery rounds with Syria. Its relations with Iraq have deteriorated to the point that Baghdad has declared Ankara a “hostile state.” It picked a fight with Russia by forcing down a Syrian passenger plane and accusing Moscow of sending arms to the regime of Bashar al-Assad. It angered Iran by agreeing to host a U.S. anti-missile system (a step which won Turkey no friends in Moscow either). Its war with its Kurdish minority has escalated sharply.
October 13, 2012 by Binoy Kampmark
One wonders whether having a peace prize makes an assumption about redundancy and diminishment in advance. Ever year, the arguments seem to mount. This year, the choice of the European Union being the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize struck many as daft, dangerous and redolent with black humour. In a more distinct sense, it suggested that Alfred Nobel would turn in his grave. When you start considering that the man who fronted the cash and the name for the award was a dynamite fiend and pioneer, very little will be making him stir. From the start, the prize has been something of a running joke, an award susceptible to manipulation. What has struck some critics as peculiar is that of awarding an entity rather than an individual. Not only that, it is an entity that does not work.