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Ed Webb

The Donald vs. the Blob | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • To be fair, most of the people who labor in government or in the penumbra of foreign-policy institutions are patriotic, well-meaning, intelligent, and dedicated and sincerely believe in what they are doing. They want the United States to be secure and prosperous, and they would like to make the rest of the world a better place. And sometimes they do just that. But many of these people are also ambitious, and they are imbedded in a system that rewards conformity, rarely if ever questions the value of U.S. “global leadership,” and is quick to marginalize anyone who thinks America’s self-indulgent approach to foreign policy might be doing more harm than good.
  • Hillary Clinton is intimately connected to this community and cannot help being linked to its recent performance. By signing up all those experienced foreign-policy insiders, she reinforces her association with some of the good things the United States has done in recent years. But it also means that she owns the past 25 years of foreign-policy missteps
  • She has little choice but to defend the strategy of liberal hegemony pursued by all three post-Cold War presidents: If anything, she is more enthusiastic about it than President Barack Obama has been. Her problem is that this record is not easy to defend.
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  • Trump is under no such burden. Because his only responsibility over the past 25 years has been mismanaging the fortune he inherited, cultivating celebrity, courting a series of wives, and presiding over a reality TV show, he is free to criticize Clinton and her phalanx of advisors and appeal to the voters’ worst instincts with vague and wildly optimistic promises of his own. Knowledgeable foreign-policy experts have been quick to attack his various proposals, but these experts may not have much street cred this year.
hernandezandy0

Obama Warns Britain on Trade if It Leaves European Union - 0 views

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    The interaction between the U.S. and Britain was given more of a personal aspect when the article characterized the interaction between the two countries to rely solely upon the shoulders of its leaders. This reminded me of the article that unveiled Kennedys personal influence in the United States interactions with states during the Cold war.
Ed Webb

Monsters of Our Own Imaginings | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • Terrorist attacks have occurred in Europe, America, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and many other places, and no level of surveillance, police presence, border controls, drone strikes, targeted killings, or enhanced interrogation is going to prevent every one of them. Even if we could provide absolutely air-tight protection around one type of target, others targets would remain exposed
  • the belief that we could eliminate the danger entirely is no more realistic than thinking better health care will grant you eternal life. For this reason, condemning politicians for failing to prevent every single attack is counterproductive — and possibly dangerous — because it encourages leaders to go overboard in the pursuit of perfect security and to waste time and money that could be better spent on other things. Even worse, the fear of being blamed for “not doing enough” will lead some leaders to take steps that make the problem worse — like bombing distant countries — merely to look and sound tough and resolute.
  • there is no magic key to stopping terrorism because the motivations for it are so varied. Sometimes it stems from anger and opposition to foreign occupation or perceived foreign interference — as with the Tamil Tigers, Irish Republican Army, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Hamas.

    In other cases, it arises from opposition to a corrupt and despised ruling elite. Or it could be both: Osama bin Laden was equally angry at “crusader” nations for interfering in the Muslim world and at the Arab governments he believed were in cahoots with them. In the West, homegrown terrorists such as Anders Breivik or Timothy McVeigh are driven to mass murder by misguided anger at political systems they (falsely) believe are betraying their nation’s core values. Sometimes terrorism arises from perverted religious beliefs; at other times the motivating ideology is wholly secular. Because so many different grievances can lead individuals or groups to employ terrorist methods, there is no single policy response that could make the problem disappear forever.

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  • Compared with other risks to human life and well-being, contemporary international terrorism remains a minor problem
  • The Islamic State killed 31 people in Brussels on Tuesday, but more than half a billion people in Europe were just fine on that day. So when the British government raised the “threat level” and told its citizens to avoid “all but essential travel” to Belgium following Tuesday’s attacks, it is demonstrating a decidedly non-Churchillian panic. Needless to say, that is precisely what groups like the Islamic State want to provoke.
  • the same toxic blend of media and politics that brought us Donald Trump’s candidacy makes it nearly impossible to have a rational assessment of terrorism
  • Newspapers, radio, cable news channels, and assorted websites all live for events like this, and they know that hyping the danger will keep people reading, listening, and watching. The Islamic State and its partners really couldn’t ask for a better ally, because overheated media coverage makes weak groups seem more powerful than they really are and helps convince the public they are at greater risk than is in fact the case. As long as media coverage continues to provide the Islamic State et al. with such free and effective publicity, why should these groups ever abandon such tactics?
  • The Islamic State wouldn’t have to use terrorism if it were strong enough to advance its cause through normal means or if its message were attractive enough to command the loyalty of more than a miniscule fraction of the world’s population (or the world’s Muslims, for that matter). Because it lacks abundant resources and its message is toxic to most people, the Islamic State has to rely on suicide attacks, beheadings, and violent videos to try to scare us into doing something stupid. The Islamic State cannot conquer Europe and impose its weird version of Islam on the more than 500 million people who live there; the most it can hope for is to get European countries to do self-destructive things to themselves in response. Similarly, neither al Qaeda, the Islamic State, nor other extremists could destroy the U.S. economy, undermine the U.S. military, or weaken American resolve directly; but they did achieve some of their goals when they provoked us into invading Iraq and when they convinced two presidents to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into the bottomless pit in Afghanistan.
  • Terrorism is not really the problem; the problem is how we respond to it
  • At the moment, the challenge of contemporary terrorism seems to be bringing out not the best in the West — but the worst. Instead of resolution and grit, we get bluster and hyperbole. Instead of measured threat assessments, patient and careful strategizing, and a realistic sense of what can and cannot be achieved, we get symbolic gestures, the abandonment of our own principles, and political posturing.
  • how would a grown-up like Marshall or Dwight D. Eisenhower respond to this danger? No doubt they’d see it as a serious problem, but anyone who had witnessed the carnage of a world war would not be cowed by intermittent acts of extremist violence, no matter how shocking they are to our sensibilities. They’d use the bully pulpit to shame the fearmongers on Fox and CNN, and they’d never miss an opportunity to remind us that the danger is not, in fact, that great and that we should not, and cannot, live our lives in fear of every shadow and in thrall to monsters of our own imaginings. They would encourage us to live our daily lives as we always have, confident that our societies possess a strength and resilience that will easily outlast the weak and timorous groups that are trying to disrupt us. And then, this summer, they’d take a European vacation.
Ed Webb

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

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    "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

Here's what will happen if Iran joins the WTO - The Washington Post - 1 views

  • While it remains uncertain whether economic and financial sanctions would be technically permissible under the WTO’s national security exception — which allows a member to take measures that it “considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests”– these actions would clearly violate the spirit of the WTO and have therefore been rarely used.
  • the United States has switched to using other tools for coercive diplomacy to punish other recent WTO entrants.
  • Congress therefore created the China Commission, which was specifically formed to monitor China’s human rights practices and maintain pressure on it. Similarly, Congress passed measures designed to allow it to more effectively use visa restrictions and financial asset freezes to coerce Russia, and foreign aid to extract concessions from Vietnam, after these states joined the WTO.
Ed Webb

Could We Have Stopped This Tragedy? | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • President Barack Obama erred when he jumped the gun in 2011 and insisted “Assad must go,” locking the United States into a maximalist position and foreclosing potential diplomatic solutions that might have saved thousands of lives
  • Obama’s 2012 off-the-cuff remark about chemical weapons and “red lines” was a self-inflicted wound that didn’t help the situation and gave opponents a sound bite to use against him
  • More than 200,000 people are now dead — that’s approaching 100 times as many victims as 9/11 — and numerous towns, cities, and villages have been badly damaged, if not destroyed. There are reportedly some 11 million displaced people either internally or out of the country, about half Syria’s original population. A flood of refugees and migrants has landed in Europe, provoking a new challenge to the European Union’s delicate political cohesion and raising the specter of a sharp increase in right-wing xenophobia. The carnage in Syria has also helped fuel the emergence and consolidation of the so-called Islamic State, intensified the Sunni-Shiite split within Islam, and put additional strain on Syria’s other neighbors
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  • is it possible that those who called for swift U.S. intervention several years ago were right all along? If the United States, NATO, the Arab League, or some combination of the above had established a no-fly zone and stood ready to intervene with ground forces, might the Assad regime have fallen quickly and spared Syria and the world this bleak and open-ended disaster?
  • I still believe intervening in Syria was not in the United States’ interest and was as likely to have made things worse as to have made them better.
    I take no pleasure in my conclusions; it would be more comforting to think that even seemingly intractable problems can be solved.
    I take no pleasure in my conclusions; it would be more comforting to think that even seemingly intractable problems can be solved
  • The Limits of Air Power. Proponents of “no-fly zones” typically exaggerate their impact and in so doing overstate the capacity of air power to determine political outcomes.
  • Assad’s “Gamble for Resurrection.” From the very start, a key problem in Syria was the lack of an attractive exit option for the entire Assad regime. As the titular leader of the Alawite minority that has dominated Syria since 1970, Assad and his followers saw relinquishing power as a mortal threat.
  • What About the Jihadis? Intervening to push Assad out faced another obvious objection: It might open the door for al Qaeda or other violent extremists. This concern also complicated proposals to arm anti-Assad forces like the Free Syrian Army. How could Washington ensure U.S. weapons didn’t end up in the wrong hands?
  • only thing worse than a truly awful government is no government at all
  • Face It: The United States Is Toxic. The ineffectiveness of U.S. training efforts and other forms of advice may be partly due to the negative opinion most people in the Middle East have of U.S. policy. America may be admired for its democracy, its achievements in science and technology, and the friendliness of its people, but U.S. Middle East policy is widely reviled.
  • Whose Interests Are Truly Engaged? There is a clear humanitarian interest in ending the Syrian civil war. But neither great nor minor powers typically run big risks or bear large costs for strictly humanitarian reasons.
  • the least bad option at this point would be a re-energized effort to end the fighting. The United States should stop insisting Assad must go, and listen carefully to the other powers with a stake in the outcome, including Russia
  • I don’t know if it will be possible to reconstitute a unified Syrian state; if not, then an organized and internationally supervised partition plan will have to be negotiated and implemented
Ed Webb

Can ISIS overcome the insurgency resource curse? - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • IS  is also gaining momentum in the struggle to control two natural resources that have defined the history of the Middle East – oil and water.
  • If control of oil has driven economic development in the modern Middle East, control of water has been a fundamental component of civilization itself. For decades, both the Syrian and Iraqi governments focused on hydrology in their bids for socioeconomic development, building a bevy of dams, canals and other infrastructure to control floods, improve agricultural irrigation and generate electricity for their populations. Denying or diverting water, though, was also tantamount to war. During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) Saddam Hussein fretted that Iran would destroy dikes and dams on the upper Tigris River in order to cause flooding in Baghdad. In the early 1990s Syria and Iraq nearly went to war with Turkey over plans to divert part of the Euphrates River, and in 1992 Iraq famously cut off the water to the marshes of southern Mesopotamia in order to destroy the terrain where Shiite insurgents were hiding out. Punishing drought conditions in rural Syria may even have caused social unrest that helped precipitate the beginning of the March 2011 uprising.
  • In February 2013, IS took control of the Tabqa Hydroelectric Dam (Syria), once a showcase in Hafez al-Assad’s development plan and a major electricity source for Aleppo. Earlier this spring, IS opened up dikes around Fallujah to impede the Iraqi army as it tried to besiege the stronghold, causing flooding as far away as Najaf and Baghdad. With its recent advances, IS now controls the hydroelectric dam at Mosul, Iraq’s largest, and IS  is poised to take the dam at Haditha, the country’s second largest. With the tables turned, the Iraqi government finds itself considering a preemptive opening of the Haditha floodgates to block IS’s path.
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  • According to New York Times reporter Thanassis Cambanis, IS  left the staff at the Tabqa Dam unharmed and in place, allowing the facility to continue operations and even selling electricity back to the Syrian government. Similarly, oil fields under IS  control continue to pump. Indeed, IS  has shrewdly managed these resources to help ensure a steady and sustainable stream of revenue. As one IS fighter told the New York Times, while Assad’s loyalists chant “Assad or burn the country,” IS retorts “We will burn Assad and keep the country.” Beside revenue from oil and water, IS  collects a variety of commercial taxes, including on trucks and cellphone towers.
  • Whereas resources like diamonds or drugs motivate rebel forces to take as much as they can as quickly as they can, the need to manage capital and technology-intensive natural resources has actually increased the interdependence between IS and civilians. Already in effective control of significant amounts of oil and water, the Islamic State is one step closer to becoming a reality.
Ed Webb

Petro-aggression: How Russia's oil makes war more likely - 0 views

  • A Russian natural gas embargo is a trick that can probably only be pulled once (not unlike the 1973 oil embargo).  So in a sense, European dependence on Russian energy does not imply short-term vulnerability – except that European policymakers’ perceptions of vulnerability can become its own reality.
  • Russia’s resource curse.  Russia’s energy revenues (from both oil and gas) have ensconced Vladimir Putin as an autocrat and given him a free hand in foreign policy.  Russia is so heavily dependent on its energy revenues that it is a classic petrostate, making it more susceptible to corruption, autocracy and violent conflict.
  • Russia’s incursion into Crimea can be seen as a close cousin of petro-aggression.  A state is more likely to instigate international conflict when it has a combination of (a) oil income and (b) a leader with aggressive preferences.  A lot more likely: 250 percent more military conflict than a typical non-petrostate, on average.  Oil income means more military spending, increasing the state’s scope for potential conflicts.  Even more importantly, it distorts the domestic politics of the state, reducing the leader’s domestic political risk from military adventurism and aggressive foreign policy.
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  • Here lies the real risk of Europe’s energy situation: So long as it continues to buy Russian oil and gas, it is sending massive amounts of cash to a neighboring dictator.  By keeping the taps on, Putin consolidates his power as Russian dictator.
  • Diversifying away from fossil fuels would bring security benefits (in addition to some obvious environmental ones), in part by reducing the money sent to petrostates like Russia.
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