The Blog

Death in Benghazi: The Dark Side of the Citizens’ Revolt in Libya

September 12, 2012 by

The American delegation in Benghazi has been left reeling by the deaths of four of its staff, amongst them Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The deaths occurred in an effort to evacuate the consulate, which came under attack from a heavily armed mob. History is tinged with irony. It was only last year that President Barack Obama, along with then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, saw Benghazi as a place of promise against a vengeful Gaddafi regime.

Christianity and Islam in Africa

September 11, 2012 by

The highly respected Pew Research Center has published a series of reports on religion that add to our knowledge about the subject in Africa. In 2010, it published a study titled “Tolerance and Tension: Islam and Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The study noted that while sub-Saharan Africa has almost twice as many Christians as Muslims, on the entire African continent the two faiths are roughly balanced with 400 to 500 million followers each.

Does India have the Potential of Besting the Chinese?

September 9, 2012 by

In China’s struggle to rise to its perceived natural place at the “center of the earth,” its key competitor is not the United States but India. Of China’s neighbors, only India can challenge China as a regional hegemon. This regional conflict has the potential of escalating into a military confrontation over the sovereignty of the South China Sea. However, only time will tell if this comes to pass. India’s civilian government has made clear that it views balancing against China a high priority. In late 2011, Vietnam sold blocks of oil and gas rights in the South China Sea to India’s state-owned oil company (ONGC Videsh Limited or OVL). Disregarding a warning from China, India followed through on the purchases.

Public Sector Jobs Are Real Jobs

September 4, 2012 by

In 1976 at a time when economists thought more about unemployment, the US economist Charles C. Killingsworth wrote a paper entitled “Should full employment be a major national goal”. He was a long-time advocate of public employment programs and understood how deficient the economics profession was when it came to caring about people. I thought about this paper recently upon reading an article in the Daily Beast by the always insightful Michael Tomasky, “The Real Obama Needs to Fight Five GOP Myths About the Imaginary Obama” .

Picking Sides in November

September 2, 2012 by

November’s Presidential election is coming down to the wire. And with neither candidate holding a clear and decisive lead in the polls, it is still anyone’s guess as to who will be America’s next President. In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial the argument is made, “If America were in a better place, Mr. Obama would be cruising to a second term. But most Americans have come to realize the country is in trouble and is heading for worse on its current path. Mr. Romney’s life experience makes him more than qualified for what Mr. Ryan aptly describes as a ‘turnaround.”

Brazil as a Positive Force in Africa

September 2, 2012 by

Policy makers in the U.S. have exaggerated Chinese involvement in Africa, even though other rising powers are attempting similar inroads. For example, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil are trying to expand their ties with the region in spite of China’s safari. While on a recent trip to Luanda, the capital of Angola, I discovered that the Chinese are overcrowding the suburbs having built their own Chinatown’s. Perhaps there are more than 80,000 Chinese nationals residing in Luanda alone.

Burma: Legacies of Political Activism and Authoritarian Rule

August 28, 2012 by

In the past 18 months, Burma, also known as Myanmar, unexpectedly released more 600 political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Laureate and de facto leader of the opposition movement. Internet websites such as the BBC and Gmail have ceased to be blocked. Parliament passed legislation that included a labor law that allows unions, illegal since 1974, and laws outlawing forced labor. The Press Censorship Board no longer requires publications to have all articles approved in advance. The National Human Rights Commission was established by President Thein Sein to investigate current incidences of rights violations by the government.

Tehran’s NAM Summit

August 28, 2012 by

The 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement kicked off in the Iranian capital of Tehran on August 25 and the 120-member organization is slated to discuss international developments ranging from the civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s nuclear program.
During the summit, the rotating presidency of NAM will be conferred to Iran by Egypt. Consisting of nearly two thirds of the United Nations body, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is the second largest international organization and its members are said to be politically independent.

Diplomatic Showdown Looms Between Britain and Ecuador

August 20, 2012 by

The political asylum granted by Ecuador to the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may devolve into a mess if Britain resorts to a military option against Ecuador to forceably remove him from their Embassy. Despite a stern British warning coupled with a threat to the government of Ecuador to strip it of its diplomatic status and storm its embassy in London to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Ecuador granted political asylum to Assange on Thursday ignoring British threats not to do so.

ICG and Somali Transition Process

August 20, 2012 by

The International Crisis Group (ICG) in a brief commentary on 20 August 2012 titled “Somalia: From Troubled Transition to a Tarnished Transition?” excoriated the ongoing process to establish a replacement government for the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The ICG said “the current process has been as undemocratic as the one it seeks to replace, with unprecedented levels of political interference, corruption and intimidation.” The ICG added that “the extremist Islamist movement Al-Shabaab is down but not out, and it is evolving, and plots to take advantage of the resulting chaos to regain power.”

Israel and the Iran Nuclear Weapons MacGuffin

August 15, 2012 by

I think there is some misunderstanding about Israel’s concern over Iran’s nuclear program. To use Alfred Hitchcock’s term, the Iranian bomb is simply “the MacGuffin”, the psychologically potent but practically insignificant pretext for action, reaction, and drama. To my mind, the main object of Israel’s foreign policy as practiced by Benjamin Netanyahu, is to preclude US and European rapprochement with Iran.

Shifting Truths in Sinai

August 14, 2012 by

Two Toyota Land Cruisers filled with about 15 well-built gunmen in ski masks and all-black outfits appear seemingly out of nowhere. Behind them is vast, open desert. They approach a group of soldiers huddled around a simple meal as they prepare to break their Ramadan fast. The gunmen open fire, leaving the soldiers with no chance of retrieving their weapons. This is not an opening scene of a Hollywood action movie. The massacre actually took place at an Egyptian military post in northern Sinai on August 5.

Russia in Africa

August 14, 2012 by

Ghanaian Kester Kenn Klomegah, Inter Press Service correspondent in Moscow has done some excellent reporting and analysis on Russia’s recent engagement with Africa. In a nutshell, he argues that Russia is under performing in Africa, especially as compared to countries like China and India. I particularly recommend his 10 August 2012 piece in Think Africa Press titled “Russia’s Relations with Africa Floundering.”

Tensions Mount over The Liancourt Rocks

August 14, 2012 by

South Korea and Japan have never been the most amicable neighbors. Ill-feelings resulting from Japan’s treatment of Korean’s during the Second World War still haunts many South Koreans. A fresh diplomatic row between South Korea and Japan over The Liancourt Rocks, that dates back several centuries, may permanently damaged relations between these two Asian powers. South Korea refers to the islets as “Dokdo” while Japan refers to them as “Takeshima”.

Djibouti’s Role in the Horn of Africa

August 11, 2012 by

Djibouti’s Minister of Economy, Finance and Planning, Ilyas Moussa Dawaleh, spoke at Chatham House in London on 11 July 2012. His remarks were surprisingly frank. He noted that stability in Djibouti “has been achieved mainly thanks to the international community whose presence, especially that of the French army, was a stabilizing factor.” He added that Djibouti’s stability depends on stability in Somalia. As a result, Djibouti hosts international armies and forces in order to contribute to efforts to combat piracy and terrorism.

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