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Commentary

Archive | Commentary

Netanyahu: “We must defend Israel”: But from what? ISIS of Course

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Michael Shvadron
Michael Shvadron

Michael Shvadron

The Arab world is in turmoil. Syria and Iraq are breaking apart, the thousand-year old conflict between Muslim Sunnis and Muslim Shiites is reaching a new climax. A historic drama is unfolding around us. And what is the reaction of our government? Benjamin Netanyahu put it succinctly: “We must defend Israel on the Jordan River, before they reach Tel Aviv.” Simple, concise, idiotic.

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Law and Order in 1990′s Manhattan: Dreaded Jury Duty

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MGM
MGM

MGM

My memories of the judicial system in New York City in the 1990s evoke blistering summers of relentless heat blasting you in the face as you step outside the cool marble buildings in Manhattan. Although I have fond memories of the locale, lunchtime in the Chambers Street neighborhood, which abuts Chinatown with delicious Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese restaurants and dessert in Little Italy and although virtually all the court buildings are marble and the courtrooms themselves are air-conditioned, I hope to never tread those corridors again.

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Three Kidnapped Israeli Teens and the Failed Peace Plan

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Israel Defense Forces
Israel Defense Forces

Israel Defense Forces

One side’s terrorists are the other side’s freedom fighters. That is not simply a matter of terminology. It is a difference of perception, which has far-reaching practical consequences. Take prisoners, for example. For the freedom fighter, achieving the release of imprisoned comrades is a sacred duty, for which he is ready to sacrifice his life.

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Modi, The Messiah

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Adnan Abidi/Reuters
Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Ever since Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India, Mohan—my younger brother is a changed man. Previously, I never saw him so animated about anything, he just plodded along, did his work, and took care of his small family. But right after the recent general elections, when it became clear that Mr. Modi would be the undisputed leader of the largest democracy in the world, Mohan’s demeanor has undergone a drastic change. He became more animated, more vocal, and more optimistic.

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The Redemption of Shimon Peres

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World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum

If there is a God, he surely has a sense of humor. The career of Shimon Peres, who is about to finish his term as president of Israel, is clear evidence. Here is a life-long politician, who has never won an election. Here is the world-renowned Man of Peace, who has started several wars and never done anything for peace. Here is the most popular political figure in Israel who for most of his life was hated and despised.

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The Arab League: To Dissolve or not to Dissolve

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Jean-Marc Ferré
Jean-Marc Ferré

Jean-Marc Ferré

From the inability to speak with one voice, a lack of shared norms, and being chronically conflict prone, one must wonder how the Arab League has managed to exist for as long as it has. Suspending, then either reinventing or dissolving the Arab League seems to be the best route in addressing future conflicts within the region.

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Time for Turkey to Support an Independent Iraqi Kurdistan

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Reuters
Reuters

Reuters

For a few years now, Turkey has been engaged in a delicate balance between the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. Ankara has not wanted to anger Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki by implying support for an independent – rather than autonomous – Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turkey has never been interested in such an outcome anyway because of the incentives it would create for Turkish Kurds to push harder for their own independent state.

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A Pivotal Time for the European Project

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Lawrence Jackson/White House
Lawrence Jackson/White House

Lawrence Jackson/White House

This past month, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study and visit with officials from both the German government and various branches of the European Union in Brussels. None of this would have been possible without the help of a few people. First, Old Dominion University arranged and offered a great deal of support for the trip. Second, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation provided both a theoretical and physical base for the Berlin leg of the trip. Third, John Callahan of the Ambassador Club made a healthy contribution with a visit and tour of the Battlefield at Waterloo. It was a fantastic ten day trip that, for me, was another step in a study of the European Union that I began over a year ago.

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Europe: The Sky’s Not Falling

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Alexandros Vlachos/EPA
Alexandros Vlachos/EPA

Alexandros Vlachos/EPA

Now that the dust has settled from the recent elections for the European Parliament it is time to take a deep breath and see what really happened. No, Britain is not about to toss its immigrant population into the sea. No, France’s Marine Le Pen is not about to march on the Elysee Palace. And, as repulsive as the thugs of Hungary’s Jobbik Party and Greece’s New Dawn are, it was the continent’s left to whom the laurels went in last month’s poll.

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Paris Wants to Know: Where is U.S. Leadership in the World?

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Facebook
Facebook

Facebook

While in Paris this week someone asked me when the U.S. will take a leading role in helping to resolve any number of the world’s ongoing crises – from Syria to Ukraine to the Central African Republic. My reply was that this will not happen for several reasons, including a reticence to become more engaged among the American people, limited financial resources, and above all, the debilitating political gridlock in Washington. If the U.S. Congress cannot marshal the political will to extend benefits to the long-term unemployed, how on earth can it be expected to find the common ground necessary to pass resolutions to address such global concerns?

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A Massacre, Remembered

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Youtube

This video is very, very hard to watch. But I think it should be watched, and remembered. It’s the immediate aftermath of the June 2 attack on the regional administrative building in Lugansk, eastern Ukraine, which was serving as the HQ for the anti-Kyiv apparatus in the town.

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Patagonian Dreams

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Osservatore Romano/AFP Photo
Osservatore Romano/AFP Photo

Osservatore Romano/AFP Photo

During his short visit to Israel, Pope Francis laid a wreath on the grave of Theodor Herzl. That was not a usual gesture. Foreign heads of state are obliged to visit Yad Vashem, as did the pope, but not the grave of Herzl. It is not like the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris.

So why Herzl’s grave? Obviously, this gesture was intended to emphasize the Zionist character of the state.

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Recognising the Third Gender

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Biswaranjan Rout/AP Photo
Biswaranjan Rout/AP Photo

Biswaranjan Rout/AP Photo

It is a matter of great relief, satisfaction and jubilation that India’s Supreme Court has directed the government to consider a ‘third gender’- those who are neither males nor females and have hitherto been categorised as eunuchs. It is an historic judgement decided upon from a petition filed by Lakshmi Narayan Tripathi, a so-called eunuch. This long, drawn-out battle was being waged by a ignored and mocked minority community who desired to be recognised as a third gender. As a result, eunuchs will be treated as a ‘third gender’ in India with all accompanying benefits.

Discarding the dominant view

With this judgement, India’s top court has challenged the dominant view of gender identity in Indian society, which has long been defined by binarism. This is, in fact, revolutionary. In the decision, the court recognised that “individual experience” of gender is one of the most fundamental aspects of “self-determination, dignity and freedom.” Further, it relates the right to freedom of expression to one’s right to express one’s self-identified gender. Thus, the idea of gender is transformed from social acceptability to individual choice and experience.

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Obama to let Bibi and Mahmoud ‘Stew in their Own Juice’

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Toru Hanai/Pete Souza/Issam Romawi
Toru Hanai/Pete Souza/Issam Romawi

Toru Hanai/Pete Souza/Issam Romawi

According to press reports, President Barack Obama has decided to let Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas “stew in their own juice.” That sounds fair. The United States has tried very hard to make peace between Israel and Palestine. Poor John Kerry has devoted almost all of his considerable energies to getting both sides to meet, to talk, to reach compromises. At the end of nine months, he found out that it was a false pregnancy. No baby, not even a fetus. Nothing at all.

So American leaders are justified in feeling angry. Angry at both sides. Neither of them has shown any willingness to sacrifice its interests in order to do a favor to Obama or Kerry. Ungrateful, these Middle Easterners. So it seems that the reaction is justified. You don’t want to fulfill our wishes? Go to hell. Both of you.

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Only Tourism can Save Thailand

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Associated Press
Associated Press

Associated Press

In the tortured modern political history of Thailand military coups have become commonplace, the result of the growing fissure between the political and economic power of the Bangkok elite versus the rural poor. Thailand has endured 12 military coups and 7 attempted coups since the absolute monarchy ended in 1932 and the army’s right to intervene in political affairs has even been enshrined in law, making Thailand one of the world’s most coup-prone countries.

Coups have become such a permanent component of the political landscape that they are actually good for business. Based on the country’s economic performance over the past 40 years, coups have generally had a net positive benefit on the country’s economic performance. In the years following the 1976/1977 coups, GDP nearly doubled. GDP more than doubled following the attempted coup of 1985 and rose slightly following the coup of 1991. It was only in the years following the 2006 coup, after the current battle lines had been clearly drawn by Thaksin Shinawatra, that GDP took a precipitous decline.

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