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Politics

Archive | Politics

Could Huntsman beat Clinton on Foreign Policy in 2016?

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Gage Skidmore; Eric Bridiers
Gage Skidmore; Eric Bridiers

Gage Skidmore; Eric Bridiers

Republicans have agonized over the Party’s failure to capture the White House in 2012. A large emphasis of that campaign, and indeed much of the GOP’s efforts since 2010 to reclaim power in Washington, has focused on economic issues. Seeming to invoke James Carville famous adage, “it’s the economy, stupid,” Mitt Romney never failed to mention unemployment numbers and the rise of welfare recipients while campaigning in 2012.

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Dismantling the Republican Party’s “Conservative Expert-Interventionist” Hypothesis

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Gage Skidmore
Gage Skidmore

Gage Skidmore

Presidential hopefuls are nearly universally mocked for their non-committal prior to their official announcements. Stephen Colbert, famed for his tongue-in-cheek runs for the White House in 2008 and 2012, began his first campaign with the firm declaration that “I, Stephen Colbert, am officially announcing, that I am officially considering whether or not I will announce that I am running for President of the United States.”

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The Takeover of Margaret Thatcher

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DoD Photo
DoD Photo

DoD Photo

When she was first elected, Margaret Thatcher was one of only twenty-five women in the British parliament. During her first years in office she was ridiculed by her peers who viewed her as weak because of the tone of her voice and appearance. However, the election of 1979 demonstrated her ability to change minds. Many still resented Thatcher for her strict policies, but her ability to relate to the common man and woman helped her to gain the majority vote and to become Britain’s first female prime minister.

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Lewinsky, Clinton and ‘Zippergate’ Redux 2014

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In the late ‘90s, Monica Lewinsky became part of US political lore and pop culture, inspiring this Los Angeles mural. So what can she add to her story now? Hector Ponce 1999/Flickr

It’s scarcely a surprise that, a decade on, we’re still interested in hearing from a president’s mistress. It’s even less surprising that, a decade on, that mistress still wants to talk.

In the late ‘90s, Monica Lewinsky became part of US political lore and pop culture, inspiring this Los Angeles mural. So what can she add to her story now? Hector Ponce 1999/Flickr

In the late ‘90s, Monica Lewinsky became part of US political lore and pop culture, inspiring this Los Angeles mural. So what can she add to her story now? Hector Ponce 1999/Flickr

The whys of our fascination, and the whys of Monica Lewinsky’s forthcoming Vanity Fair essay, seem fairly obvious. Humans like to talk about each other. Salacious stories stimulate, salacious stories sell. Much more interesting are the allegations of Lewinsky finally breaking her silence, of her putting the past behind her once and for all.

Memoir is well established as a thoroughly beleaguered genre. This doesn’t make the medium worthless – far from it – but the limitations need to be acknowledged. Memoir is one person’s side of a story and – and this is where the forthcoming Lewinsky essay gets interesting – it’s a tale told at a fixed point in time. It’s useful as a psychological exercise, sure, and valuable as a piece of storytelling, but limited in its contribution to history. Limited, and perfectly illustrative of literature’s Unreliable Narrator.

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The Creeping Hand of Repression: Indefinite Military Detention and the NDAA

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Demonstrators against the NDAA in January, 2012. Photo: Justin Norman

“In declining to hear the case of Hedges v Obama and declining to review the NDAA, the Supreme Court has turned its back on precedent dating back to the Civil War era that holds that the military cannot police the streets of America.” – Carl Mayer, Attorney for Chris Hedges, May 2014

Demonstrators against the NDAA in January, 2012. Photo: Justin Norman

Demonstrators against the NDAA in January, 2012. Photo: Justin Norman

President Barack Obama’s administration has that curious quality that marks it as authoritarian even as it embraces principles of liberty; an enemy of freedoms even as it claims to be promoting them in bookish fashion. The tendency is part schizophrenic, part conscious bloody mindedness when it is found out. Obama has shown a particular liking for various draconian laws which he hopes will sail past judicial and congressional scrutiny. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, signed by the President last December, was devil spawn, engendered by a security atmosphere that has the executive and law makers enthral.

The indefinite detention clause – section 1021, more specifically 1021(b)(2) – allows for the “indefinite detention of American citizens without due process at the discretion of the President.” It actually made its ignominious debut in the NDAA Act of 2012. The wording is astonishingly bruising to civil liberties, and has received considerable criticism from a range of sources. Public polling by OpenCongress.com showed a 98 percent disapproval rating. The ACLU considered the statute “particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield.” It can, in fact, be argued that the provision makes the entire domestic and global space of US policy a potential battlefield, governed by executive fiat.

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Is the Clinton Coterie Pushing Obama Further into Lame Duck Territory?

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President Barack Obama arriving in Manila, Philippines

Uh-oh. Looks like things are getting somewhat Ides-of-Marchy within the Obama administration. I think the coterie of Hillary Clinton supporters and enthusiasts have something to do with it.

President Barack Obama arriving in Manila, Philippines

President Barack Obama arriving in Manila, Philippines

From today’s LA Times: “Those who want him to act more forcefully include not only Republicans but also liberal internationalists and some members of his staff [emphasis added].” I should say I’m pretty much on board with President Obama’s hesitations about using military force, which I would gloss as “Don’t use stupid actions to follow up on stupid policies.”

The US foreign policy establishment has come up with a series of stupid policies that it would like to get bailed out of with some showy military action. Case in point: the anti-Russian enthusiasts (Victoria, I’m lookin’ at you) in the State Department overreached with the Kyev coup, now Obama won’t back them up by threatening to employ the U.S. military to buck up the government and deter Russia.

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Hypocrisy and the Surveillance Stand-Off: Feinstein and the CIA

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, listening during the nomination hearing for John Brennan as CIA director, Feb. 7, 2013. Source: Wikimedia

Senator Dianne Feinstein’s blistering attack on the CIA’s conduct in searching the computers used by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was deemed a remarkable salvo.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chair of the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, during the nomination hearing for John Brennan as CIA director, Feb. 7, 2013. Source: Wikimedia

The search was engendered by the Committee’s official request for a final version of the named “Internal Panetta Review.” The Review had been created for internal use by the CIA as a record of assessing what documents should be turned over to the Committee in connection with its investigation of the torture program. Once the CIA got wind that their precious internal documentation was finding its way into the hands of the committee, the hackers got itchy.

Senator Feinstein herself charged the CIA with violating the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and Executive Order 12333. This raises the first problem. The CFAA is a legislative creation that exempts authorised law enforcement and intelligence activities. Legal commentary from former Chief Counsel for the House Permanent Select Committee for Intelligence, Chris Donesa at Lawfare puts the question as whether “the CIA’s investigation and search was in fact ‘lawfully authorised’ or merely a pretext for deliberate efforts to obstruct or interfere with the SSCI investigation.”

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Easing Congressional Gridlock: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide

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'Easing Congressional Gridlock' by Carol Bailey. Download here.

The United States is ungovernable.

‘Easing Congressional Gridlock’ by Carol Bailey. Download here

Or at least it has been every time, post-Reagan, the White House has been controlled by a Democrat while Congress is in the clasps of a Tea Party infested Republican party.

An exasperated electorate is watching the gridlock. A playful, yet serious, manifestation of the resulting frustration is the pamphlet that my dear friend, Seattle divorce lawyer Carol Bailey, published recently and distributed to members of Congress in situ herself. It is, you guessed it, a divorce lawyer’s guide to easing congressional gridlock. (Click here for a relevant article in Politico).

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Deep in the Trough: The Politics of EU Corruption

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Corruption isn't unique to the EU. Photo: Jason Mrachina

“The Member States of the EU are not immune to this reality. Corruption varies in nature and extent from one country to another, but it affects all Member States.” – European Union Anti-Corruption Report

Corruption isn’t unique to the EU. Photo: Jason Mrachina

It has become one of those curious organisations: sanctimonious yet delinquent; aspiring and failing. Riddled with ordinances, directives and suggestions about the rule of law, the European Union has found itself in another round of financial bother. Money speaks, and money has spoken rather loudly through the European Commission – to the tune of €120 billion. The EU Anti-Corruption Report, authored by the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament is filled with bureaucratic stodge (“Eurobarometer surveys” on perceptions of corruption, to take one example) and themes. It was clear, claimed EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstroem, that Europe lacked “corruption-free” zones.

In what is an at times painful read, the report suggests in contorted fashion that “Member States can be characterised in different ways” in terms of experiences over who gets bribed or who doesn’t. That is when the report gets interesting. Perceptions and prejudices, in various measures, combine to create a landscape of stringency, or laxness. “Answers confirm a positive perception and low experience of bribery in the case of Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Sweden.” In those countries, the expectation that a bribe had to be paid lay at less than 1 percent.

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Taming the NSA: Obama’s Lukewarm Recipe

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President Barack Obama delivers remarks presenting the outcome of the Administration's review of the NSA and U.S. signals intelligence programs. Pete Souza/White House

“A number of countries, including some who have loudly criticized the NSA, privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower.” – President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama delivers remarks presenting the outcome of the Administration’s review of the NSA and U.S. signals intelligence programs. Pete Souza/White House

President Barack Obama offered it as a small olive to a public he had been lecturing for months. Ever since the disclosures by Edward Snowden of massive surveillance programs, the White House has had to play a form of political catch-up, its capacious tail dragging along in the process. Suggestions have been made about reforming aspects of the National Security Agency, most notably on its bulk collecting facility.

The theme in these deliberations has been uncomplicated. Activities on the part of the NSA and the Foreign Intelligence Service Court (FISC) have been regarded, in the main, as necessary and noble ventures. They are legal. They are needed. The Obama administration’s August white paper was a true whitewashing of the bulk surveillance program. Congress endorsed it. It had been reviewed by the FISC. According to former NSA director Michael Hayden, it was created and reviewed by all three branches of government. Those questioning it might well be suffering mild bouts of paranoia.

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Leaders Wanted

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Pro-European Union rally in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo: Ivan Bandura

Since late November, when Ukraine’s president, Victor Yanukovych, refused to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union, protesters have congregated in downtown Kiev.

Pro-European Union rally in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo: Ivan Bandura

They are defying what they see as a blatant attempt to maintain a post-Soviet world order in a country aspiring to the European system based on the rule of law and respect for citizens. While the protesters have braved frigid temperatures and attacks by government riot police, no credible opposition candidate appears capable of harnessing the protestors’ outrage to negotiate on their behalf. To the southwest, in Bulgaria, protests are now entering their seventh month. Sparked by a controversial cabinet nomination but now largely focused on rampant corruption and poor governance, the protestors are voicing their frustration with a political class they see as rapacious, venal, and uninterested in resolving serious issues such as widespread poverty, wage stagnation, and rising unemployment.

And while the protesters’ calls for greater transparency and an end to the kleptocratic rule of successive governments in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, institutionalized since the fall of the Berlin Wall, no unifying figure has emerged around which the protestors have been able to coalesce. Similarly to Ukraine, the movement for political change, however extensive it may be within the country, has stalled, leading protestors in both countries with little recourse but to shout their demands at an increasingly deaf leadership who will not heed their cries for new elections.

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Is India’s Congress Party Facing Electoral Trouble?

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India's Rahul Gandhi

Voting for India’s five states assembly elections ended on December 4th.

India’s Rahul Gandhi

The exit polls are predicting the results of the elections with the Congress party likely to lose in all five states while the BJP can expect to hold on to Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, where it has ruled for the last two terms, and will defeat the Congress party in the state of Delhi and Rajasthan. Also in the state of Mizoram, a small state located in northeast India, the ruling Congress party is expected to lose against the local opposition party, Mizo National Front. If these exit polls turn out to be accurate, the Congress party will lose in all five states which will definitely be reflected in next year’s parliamentary elections.

The key reason for the possible defeat of Congress party in the state assembly elections is its lack of focus on real and crucial public issues, such as corruption and rising food prices. For the first few months of 2013, the Congress party engaged in BJP’s internal politics and it lost respect by meddling in the opposition party’s internal politics. Party leaders, consciously and actively, kept making statements adding extra fuel in the brawl between L K Advani against BJP and Modi. This was an unprecedented gesture of desperation to prevent Modi from becoming a prime ministerial candidate.

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Navigating Yemeni Politics

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A young girl in a Yemeni  refugee camp.  Photo: Paul Stephens

Chances are dim that elections will be held in Yemen next February.

A young girl in a Yemeni refugee camp. Photo: Paul Stephens

Yet without elections, the push for reforms and change that were inspired by the Yemeni revolution would become devoid of any real value. Yemenis might find themselves back on the street, repeating the original demands that echoed in the country’s many impoverished cities, streets and at every corner.

It is not easy to navigate the convoluted circumstances that govern Yemeni politics, which seem to be in a perpetual state of crisis. When millions of Yemenis started taking to the streets on January 27, 2011, a sense of hope prevailed that Yemen would be transformed from a country ruled by elites, and mostly beholden to outside regional and international powers, to a country of a different type: one that responds to the collective aspirations of its own people.

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Who Votes for a Mayor like Rob Ford?

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Not just fans of free candy. Photo: Jason Verwey

Toronto politics has never been the stuff of international headlines. A prosperous and cosmopolitan metropolis that has attracted a million new residents every decade since the end of the World War Two, Toronto’s quiet virtue has been honest, uncontroversial, and competent government.

Not just fans of free candy. Photo: Jason Verwey

But, as any connoisseurs of Twitter or late-night comedy television will tell you, all that has changed. After police surveillance revealed his friendly relations with known drug dealers and his public admission of having smoked crack cocaine while in “one of my drunken stupors”, Mayor Rob Ford has finally put Toronto on the map in a way that countless tourism promotions and investment development campaigns have never managed.

Questions abound: who exactly is Rob Ford? How did he get elected in the first place? What may enable him to hang onto office, and possibly be re-elected, when lesser scandals have felled much mightier politicians? These questions are closely linked through Rob Ford’s singular appeal to an important and under-appreciated segment of Toronto’s electorate.

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Political Wheel may be Turning on the NSA’s Surveillance Program

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NSA director Keith Alexander has been forced to defend his agency’s operations after a series of revelations, exposing mass data gathering and surveillance programs on US citizens and world leaders. EPA/Shawn Thew

It is now clear that the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) has undertaken an unprecedented surveillance program. NSA’s aim is to monitor all communications of every American, and this is no secret.

NSA director Keith Alexander has been forced to defend his agency’s operations after a series of revelations. Shawn Thew/EPA

During a recent Senate hearing, Democrat senator Mark Udall asked NSA director Keith Alexander, “Is it the goal of the NSA to collect the phone records of all Americans?” Alexander bluntly replied, “Yes, I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search when the nation needs to do it. Yes.”

The NSA has achieved significant inroads into realising this aim. It has collected and stored incomprehensible quantities of data in the form of voice records, emails, phone call records, texts and financial information. The NSA now possesses vast amounts of information on world leaders, foreign citizens and ordinary Americans. The general picture painted by these releases is of an immensely powerful, out of control, secretive government agency. And this is not completely wrong. The executive and legislative branches, whose primary job it is to direct the actions of agencies such as the NSA, have apparently been shut out or negligent in their duties.

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