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Ed Webb

Westphalia to Communicate: Sovereignty, Confusion, and the International Order - 0 views

  • whatever exactly China is doing Westphalia-wise, it’s not good
  • To make matters more confusing, everyone seems to agree that the European Union, built around the idea of countries pooling their sovereignty to become something else, is fundamentally at odds with the Westphalian order. But no one seems the least bit worried about it
  • When invoked casually, the Westphalian order misrepresents both the past and the present, distorting history to dodge hard questions about America’s role in the world today. At worst, the conventional version of Westphalian punditry posits the existence of some centuries-old order based on sovereignty and secularism, suggests that America is merely trying to uphold these time-tested principles, and then berates other countries who don’t immediately want in
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  • the idea of the Westphalian order presents Western hegemony in in the guise of a neutral, rule-based order. The implication is that when other countries object, their issue must be with the rules, not the West’s consistent flaunting of them
  • If no recognizably modern order was present immediately after Westphalia, though, by the 19th century something much more similar to our present-day state system was emerging in Europe. Under this system, countries, for the most part, drew clear borders, engaged in formalized diplomatic relations, and offered nominal deference to each other’s sovereignty. Meanwhile, these same states also set about denying sovereignty to much of the world through their colonial empires. In short, a few centuries after the Peace of Westphalia one version of the “Westphalian order” developed within Europe, and a very different order developed on a global scale
  • The question of who qualifies for sovereignty, and how much, went on to bedevil efforts to institutionalize the international order throughout the 20th century. The Versailles Conference, for example, made it clear that some were entitled to benefit from President Woodrow Wilson’s principles of self-determination and some were not. Eastern Europeans qualified, and the Poles, Hungarians, and others all emerged from the conference with their own states. Non-European subjects of the victorious powers, however, did not qualify, and the Egyptians and Vietnamese who showed up at Versailles to press their claims left emptyhanded. Indeed, the League of Nations mandate system codified the relationship between civilizational status and sovereignty: “Advanced nations” were formally entrusted to rule over those deemed unable “to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.”
  • The purpose of all this is not simply to revisit the sins of Western imperialism. Rather, it is to say that invoking Westphalia as some kind of politically neutral model confuses, rather than clarifies, one of the biggest challenges for anyone trying to envision a viable international order: who gets to make the rules and decide how they are enforced. The tension, inevitably, is between an egalitarian process and one in which more powerful states exercise more power
Ed Webb

Guest Post: The Flag, the Military, and Patriotism | The Angry Staff Officer - 0 views

  • what Washington Post columnist Alex Nowrasteh calls “Patriotic Correctness.” A less kind definition is chicken hawk
  • In a nation where the people actually had a relationship with their military, such obtuse displays wouldn’t be held up as paragons of third-party virtue, they’d be mocked for the shameless appropriation they are. Just a generation ago, the American people understood their military wasn’t a faultless bastion of American virtue; it was an honorable, if fallible institution much the same as churches, courts, and medicine–it wasn’t an abstraction, it was a real thing, worthy of respect and the occasional mocking. It’s an unhealthy pathological consequence of the AVF that we can longer treat the military the same.
  • Military service is just one occupant in the pantheon of national service. It is not necessarily better or more noble than the Peace Corps, Public Health Service, or Merchant Marine. In fact, the material benefits may often be better in the military than other forms of service; disregarding the sacrifices born by others or dismissing them as “just civilians” is mil-splaining at its worst. Only in a police state, where the military and state power are paramount, do those instruments have a lock on “the flag.”

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  • But public sports are hardly such events; they are not martial ceremonies or only mimic them to the extent the public doesn’t understand its military. When did football stadiums of all places become sacrosanct venues of patriotic virtue? Why is a token display by a player more worthwhile than the surely thousands of fans not standing (and who likely don’t know the words)? Revelations about the Pentagon’s “paid patriotism” since 9/11 pile irony on top of this situation.
  • We should applaud those who stand up against injustice or policy errors, especially those who do so at cost to themselves. Doing so says more about belief in America’s potential, the potential to right wrongs and do well by the people than feckless, questioning support of the state. Such an act is intrinsically patriotic no matter how unpopular.
Ed Webb

'Lone wolf' or 'terrorist'? How bias can shape news coverage | Poynter - 0 views

  • take a moment to remember U.S. history (or even a few seconds to do an internet search) and it’s easy to find many examples of far deadlier shootings. It’s a sad reality that most victims of the worst massacres that don’t rate a mention were people of color: Native Americans and African-Americans
  • there have been much worse atrocities and mass shootings committed against Native peoples going back to the beginnings of our country’s history
  • after mass attacks perpetrated by brown Muslim assailants, such as the Orlando Pulse massacre or the San Bernardino, California, killings, the media, authorities and politicians were quick to label them “terrorism” even before we had full information
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  • Just 100 years ago this June, armed whites rampaged through East St. Louis, slaughtering more than 100 African-Americans. In Tulsa in 1921, white mobs attacked a wealthy black neighborhood, killing as many as 300 people and leaving 8,000 homeless in what was wrongly labeled a “race riot” and left out of history texts until recently.
  • The unwelcome title of largest massacre might belong to Bear River, Utah, where at least 250 Native Americans were slaughtered in 1863; Native American historical accounts put the number at more than 450. In 1890, Native American men, women and children were massacred at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, with estimates of the death toll ranging from 150 to 300.
  • Just because someone’s angry or even mentally ill doesn’t mean their actions aren’t those of a domestic terrorist (see U.S. Code definition above). As Joshua Keating points out in Slate, being distraught and a terrorist are “not mutually exclusive.” A 2013 study of violence by far-right extremists in America in Criminology and Public Policy found 40 percent of “lone wolf” domestic terrorists had a history of mental illness
  • Fox News dubiously described the shooter’s father’s life as “colorful,” as if it were entertaining that the man’s father robbed a string of banks, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and busted out of a federal penitentiary. Can you imagine a black, Muslim or Latino’s long criminal record being described in the same way?
  • Underlying this bias is the implication that Muslims or brown immigrants are more dangerous to Americans’ safety than white attackers. That is provably false, based on government statistics – yet it was the central narrative of President Trump’s campaign
  • according to an analysis by the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh of fatal terrorism on U.S. soil from 1975 through 2015 – including the staggeringly high toll of the 9/11 attacks – the chances of an American being killed in a terror attack on U.S. soil by a foreigner was a miniscule 1 in 3.6 million per year. The chances of being killed by an illegal immigrant in the same 41-year period was an infinitesimal 1 in 10.9 billion per year.
Ed Webb

Trump is making Americans see the U.S. the way the rest of the world already did - The ... - 0 views

  • The Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie once observed that there are “two Americas” — one at home and one abroad. The first is the America of Hollywood, work-in-progress democracy, civil rights movements and Ellis Island. The second is the America of coups and occupations, military dictators and CIA plots, economic meddling and contempt for foreign cultures. The rest of the world knows both Americas. But as Shamsie has written, Americans don’t seem aware of the second one at all.

  • The rest of the world doesn’t figure much in U.S. lesson plans. A majority of states have phased out international geography from their middle school and high school curriculums; according to the most recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, from 2014 , three-quarters of eighth-graders place “below proficient” in the subject. And although many Americans know the major flash points in the nation’s international history — the Vietnam War and the Iran hostage crisis, interventions in Central America, the invasion of Iraq — few learn about the complexities of our relationships with so many other nations, especially the diplomatic, military and economic entanglements of the Cold War.
  • I remember the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine portrayed in my ’90s-era education as great international acts of charity, of which Turkey had been among the lucky recipients. But when I moved to Istanbul, Turks taught me about the more complicated aspects of the United States’ long relationship with their country: that thousands of U.S. soldiers had occupied Turkish soil in the 1950s, and how, throughout the darkest days of the Cold War, most Turks believed that the United States was manipulating their military and their citizens. I had come expecting Turks to be foreign to me. It turned out we were profoundly, tormentedly, related
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  • Thousands of Americans arrived in Athens as part of the Truman Doctrine, propping up an authoritarian regime against Greek communists and leftists and demanding that Greeks imitate the American way of life. From the late 1940s to the 1970s, American military personnel, diplomats and spies provided ample support to the Greek government as it tortured and persecuted its citizens. This history, our history, was part of them. I haven’t met any Americans for whom it was part of their identity — most never knew about it.
  • Holding onto an image of ourselves as freedom-loving individualists who determined our own fates and championed the same for others, Americans didn’t have any idea how far we’d strayed from this ideal in the eyes of the rest of the world. This appeared to be true everywhere I went: in Egypt, in Afghanistan and, perhaps most important, in Iran, where tens of thousands of Americans once worked in service of a brutal ruler.
  • the United States’ Cold War architects deliberately constructed an empire that concealed its existence through language. As critics such as Nils Gilman have chronicled, academics working for the U.S. government in the mid-century knew not to use the word “Westernization” to describe their economic or political interventions abroad, for fear they might be compared to their European imperialist predecessors.
  • Many Americans have long accepted this idea of our superiority and goodness as if it were a self-evident truth, not postwar propaganda created to justify imperial intervention. Without these beliefs, who would Americans be? That ours is the most successful and evolved country in the world is the basis of most Americans’ sense of reality. 
  • This kind of American exceptionalism is a product of 200 years of disconnection from our country’s acts around the world — a geographic, intellectual and emotional isolation
  • Trump may contradict everything many of us believe about ourselves, but the first question we might ask is whether what we believe is true.
Ed Webb

Two New Books Spotlight the History and Consequences of the Suez Crisis - The New York ... - 0 views

  • The Eisenhower administration relied on the advice of officials who admired Nasser as a nationalist and anti-Communist: a secular modernizer, the long hoped-for “Arab Ataturk.” The most important and forceful of the Nasser admirers was Kermit Roosevelt, the C.I.A. officer who had done so much in 1953 to restore to power in Iran that other secular modernizer, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
  • To befriend Nasser, the Eisenhower administration suggested a big increase in economic and military aid; pressed Israel to surrender much of the Negev to Egypt and Jordan; supported Nasser’s demand that the British military vacate the canal zone; and clandestinely provided Nasser with much of the equipment — and many of the technical experts — who built his radio station Voice of the Arabs into the most influential propaganda network in the Arab-speaking world.
  • Offers of aid were leveraged by Nasser to extract better terms from the Soviet Union, his preferred military partner. Pressure on Israel did not impress Nasser, who wanted a permanent crisis he could exploit to mobilize Arab opinion behind him. Forcing Britain out of the canal zone in the mid-50s enabled Nasser to grab the canal itself in 1956. Rather than use his radio network to warn Arabs against Communism, Nasser employed it to inflame Arab opinion against the West’s most reliable regional allies, the Hashemite monarchies, helping to topple Iraq’s regime in 1958 and very nearly finishing off Jordan’s.
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  • “The Middle East is in the throes of an historical crisis, a prolonged period of instability. American policy can exacerbate or ameliorate the major conflicts, but . . . in the Middle East, it is prudent to assume that the solution to every problem will inevitably generate new problems. Like Sisyphus, the United States has no choice but to push the boulder up a hill whose pinnacle remains forever out of reach.”
  • the deepest drivers of the Arab and Muslim states, namely their rivalries with each other for power and authority
  • Eisenhower’s humiliation of Britain and France in the Suez crisis of November 1956 weakened two allies — without gaining an iota of good will from Arab nationalists. Rather than cooperate with the United States against the Soviet Union, the Arab world’s new nationalist strongmen were transfixed by their rivalries with one another
  • The grand conspiracy was doomed to fail. The canal was blocked for months, causing a crippling oil shortage in Europe. The Arab-Israeli conflict worsened, and the Muslim world was inflamed against its old overlords in the West with lasting consequences. The botched invasion occurred just as the Soviet Union was crushing a rebellion in Hungary, its Eastern bloc satellite. When the Kremlin, seeing the opportunity to divert international attention from its own outrages, issued a letter widely interpreted as a threat to attack London and Paris with nuclear weapons, the great powers seemed for an instant to be lurching toward World War III.

    The turmoil and danger created by the Suez crisis and the Hungarian rebellion have largely faded from popular memory.

  • he was not well. “His flashes of temper and fragile nerves led some to wonder about his genetic inheritance,” von Tunzelmann writes. “His baronet father had been such an extreme eccentric — complete with episodes of ‘uncontrolled rages,’ falling to the floor, biting carpets and hurling flowerpots through plate-glass windows — that even the Wodehousian society of early-20th-century upper-class England had noticed something was up.”

    As prime minister, Sir Anthony took to calling ministers in the middle of the night to ask if they had read a particular newspaper article. “My nerves are already at breaking point,” he told his civil servants. In October 1956, he collapsed physically for a few days. According to one of his closest aides, he used amphetamines as well as heavy painkillers, and a Whitehall official said he was “practically living on Benzedrine.”

  • About two-thirds of Europe’s oil was transported through the canal; Nasser had his “thumb on our windpipe,” Eden fumed. Eden made Nasser “a scapegoat for all his problems: the sinking empire, the sluggish economy, the collapse of his reputation within his party and his dwindling popularity in the country at large,”
  • Eisenhower was not always well served by the rhetoric of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles or the machinations of his brother, Allen Dulles, the director of central intelligence. And Eisenhower had a temper. “Bombs, by God,” he shouted when the British began striking Egyptian air fields. “What does Anthony think he’s doing? Why is he doing this to me?” But Eisenhower was shrewd and he could be coldly calculating. Understanding that the British would need to buy American oil, he quietly put Britain into a financial squeeze, forcing Eden to back off the invasion.
  • the take-away from von Tunzelmann’s book is obvious: When it comes to national leadership in chaotic times, temperament matters.
Ed Webb

Why the Islamic State is the minor leagues of terror | Middle East Eye - 0 views

    "The sole advantage the Islamic State has when it comes to this country is that it turns out to be so easy to spook us."
Ed Webb

Blaming Islam for ISIS: A convenient lie to prepare us for more war | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • We can’t defeat ISIS if we misrepresent what and who ISIS actually is. Far from being the apocalyptic Islamist group that Wood contends they are, actual IS documents and blue prints reveal IS to be methodical state builders, led by secular Baathists – who aim to restore Sunni-Baathist power in Iraq. These documents also make clear that Saddam’s former generals (anti-Islamists) use Islam as a recruitment tool. “They [ISIS founders] reasoned that Baghdadi, an educated cleric, would give the group a religious face,” notes the German newspaper Der Spiegel.
  • recruits are drawn to ISIS for reasons that have little to do with extremist Islam. “They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the Caliphate,”
  • the media welcomes only those who blame Islam or “radical Islam” and not those who speak to the conditions that make ISIS appealing
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  • blaming Islam makes us feel good about ourselves. Blaming Islam is good for television ratings. Blaming Islam makes it easier to sell new wars
Ed Webb

"Arabian Street Artists" Bomb Homeland: Why We Hacked an Award-Winning Series | Heba Amin - 0 views

    Love this so much
Ed Webb

Obama: Global arms dealer-in-chief | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • A newly released report reveals Obama is the greatest arms exporter since the Second World War. The dollar value of all major arms deals overseen by the first five years of the Obama White House now exceeds the amount overseen by the Bush White House in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion
  • I knew there were record deals with the Saudis, but to outsell the eight years of Bush, to sell more than any president since World War II, was surprising even to me, who follows these things quite closely. The majority, 60 percent, have gone to the Persian Gulf and Middle East, and within that, the Saudis have been the largest recipient of things like US fighter planes, Apache attack helicopters, bombs, guns, almost an entire arsenal
  • The Congressional Research Service found that since October 2010 alone, President Obama has agreed to sell $90.4 billion in arms to the Gulf kingdom.

    “That President Obama would so enthusiastically endorse arming such a brutal authoritarian government is unsurprising, since the United States is by far the leading arms dealer (with 47 percent of the world total) to what an annual State Department report classifies as the world’s “least democratically governed states,” notes Micah Zenko, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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  • In 2008, the United Nations banned the use of cluster munitions - an agreement the US is yet to ratify. Why? Cluster bombs are the number one seller for Textron Systems Corporation – a Wall Street-listed company located in Providence, Rhode Island
  • In February of this year, the Obama administration announced it would allow the sale of US manufactured armed drones to its allies in the Middle East
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