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Ed Webb

Obama to World: Bad News. The American Empire Is Dead. | The Cable - 0 views

  • "The United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries," he said in his address before the 193-member General Assembly. "The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn't borne out by America's current policy or public opinion."
  • The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war -- rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world -- may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill
  • In addressing the conflict in Syria, Obama said U.S. aims were largely humanitarian.

    "There's no 'great game' to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring it does not become a safe haven for terrorists,"

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  • a rather modest account of American "core interests" in the Middle East and North Africa: countering military aggression against U.S. partners in the region, protecting global energy reserves, and confronting the dual threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation
  • The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests in the region," he said. "But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action -- particularly with military action. Iraq shows us that democracy cannot be imposed by force. Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and people of the region."
Ed Webb

Krasner on democratization - 0 views

  • Elections pose a particular problem. They are attractive and salient for political leaders in the United States. They get media attention. They provide concrete evidence that the United States is supporting freedom and democracy. Pushing for free and fair elections, however, is often a bridge too far. Even if elections are held, they may make things worse rather than better. There is no guarantee that winners will be committed to democratic values. Once in power, new rulers may try to disempower their opponents, as was the case with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza, and they will resist election outcomes, often violently, that would force them out of power.
  • The assumption that countries could confidently be put on the path that would end with consolidated democracy — including not just elections but rule of law, physical security and protection of political and property rights for all — has been the fundamental cause of American failures in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also a major reason for Washington's inability to devise a coherent policy for Egypt, Syria and other countries in the Middle East.
    A realist critique of US democratization policies.
    A realist critique of US democratization policies.
Ed Webb

Iran: This time, the west must not turn its back on diplomacy | Mohammad Khatami | Comm... - 0 views

  • Those who are trapped by bitter experience make every effort to disrupt the progress of diplomacy once again. These people fail to realise a simple point about the relationship between domestic and foreign policy.

    President Rouhani's government was elected by a society seeking positive change, at a time when Iran and the wider region was desperately in need of prudence and hope. This vote was not limited to a specific political camp; as well as many reformers, many political prisoners and a significant body of conservatives had a share in Rouhani's victory. For the first time there is an opportunity to create a national consensus above and beyond partisan factionalism – one that may address the political predicaments of the country, with an emphasis on dialogue and mutual understanding globally.

  • A peace-seeking Iran can contribute as a willing partner not only to solving its own differences with the global powers, but also to overcoming some of the region's chronic political disputes. But it requires a degree of courage and optimism from the west to listen to the voices of the Iranian people who have been painfully targeted by unjust sanctions, which have threatened the very fabric of civil society and democratic infrastructures.
  • The Iranian people's vote for Rouhani and his agenda for change has provided an unrivalled and possibly unrepeatable opportunity for Iran, the west and all local and regional powers. With a foreign policy based on dialogue and diplomacy at the heart of the Middle East, we can imagine a better world for the east and the west – including the diplomatic resolution of Iran's nuclear issue, which is utterly feasible if there is goodwill and fairness.
Ed Webb

Senators Authorizing Syria Strike Got More Defense Cash Than Lawmakers Voting No | Thre... - 0 views

  • Senators voting Wednesday to authorize a Syria strike received, on average, 83 percent more campaign financing from defense contractors than lawmakers voting against war.
Arabica Robusta

Ukraine and Other People-Powered Revolutions Are Overrated | New Republic - 0 views

  • Tales of those who stood for months in the square will be told and retold. But that doesn’t mean that the protesters will necessarily have triumphed. On the contrary, Ukrainians are about to learn that the exhilaration of “people power”—mass marches, big demonstrations, songs, and banners—is always an illusion. And sooner or later, the illusion wears off.
  • In both Thailand and Turkey, an educated middle class has recently taken to the streets to protest against democratically elected leaders who have grown increasingly corrupt and autocratic, but who might well be voted back into office tomorrow. In Venezuela, elections are not fair and the media is not free, but the president is supported by many Venezuelans who still have faith in his far-left rhetoric, however much his policies may be damaging the country.
  • The suited Ukrainians in the room, none of whom looked remotely revolutionary, all asked the same kinds of questions: What laws do we need? What rules must we have? How can we make sure that this time the changes are real? That conversation won’t attract photographers, but it holds out the promise of something permanent.
Arabica Robusta

Pro-Russian and Pro-Kiev Camps Dig In Amid Uneasy Calm in Eastern Ukraine - - 0 views

  • “As far as I believe, nobody is going to protect us except for Russia,” Mr. Sopin said. “Do you think that he would have died if they were here?”
  • The instability set off by the revolution in Kiev last month and a wave of pro-Russian demonstrations in eastern cities has produced a split among local politicians and businessmen, including fabulously wealthy oligarchs like Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s richest man, who warily supports the government in Kiev.

    One of those rich men is Gennady A. Kernes, the eccentric mayor of Kharkiv, who has publicly opposed talk of separatism here, theoretically allying himself with Kiev.

Arabica Robusta

Obama to Putin: Do as I Say Not as I Do by Ralph Nader | Dandelion Salad - 0 views

  • As you ponder your potential moves regarding President Vladimir V. Putin’s annexation of Crimea (a large majority of its 2 million people are ethnic Russians), it is important to remember that whatever moral leverage you may have had in the court of world opinion has been sacrificed by the precedents set by previous American presidents who did not do what you say Mr. Putin should do – obey international law.
  • Compare, by the way, the United States’ seizure of Guantanamo from Cuba initially after the Spanish-American War, which was then retained after Cuba became independent over a century ago.
  • Russia is tightly intertwined with the European Union, as a seller and buyer of goods, services and assets, and to a lesser but significant degree with the United States government and its giant corporations such as oil and technology companies. Sanctions can boomerang, which would be far worse than just being completely ineffective in reversing the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Arabica Robusta

Fukushima and Crimea - Crisis Mis-Management 101 by William Boardman | Dandelion Salad - 0 views

  • That’s not to predict an end-of-the-world scenario for either disaster, just to remind people that, at the extreme end of these uncontrolled events, there are horrendous logical risks that our leaders are amiably accepting (or urging) on behalf of the rest of us. And they seem to expect our gratitude for their efforts in Ukraine or their lack of efforts in Fukushima, more or less equally.
  • By stark contrast, the history of Crimea’s integration with Ukraine is all but non-existent in history. In the mid-1400s, Crimea was a Tatar state founded by a descendant of Genghis Khan. In 1478, Crimea became a tributary of the Ottoman Empire until 1774, when it became an independent state, essentially liberated by Russia (until Russia annexed it in 1783). Crimea remained part of Russia until 1917, when it declared its independence again (which lasted about a year before it was occupied by the Soviet Union, then the Germans, then the Soviet Union again).

    In 1921, Crimea was granted “autonomy,” which was interrupted by the German occupation (1941-1943), then stripped by the Soviet Union in 1945. Still part of the Soviet Union in 1954, Crimea was organizationally transferred to Ukraine, also part of the Soviet Union. In 1991, Crimea became the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, within the Soviet Union, followed by a power struggle with the Kiev government in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s break-up. In early 1992, the Crimean Parliament proclaimed its independence as the Republic of Crimea and adopted its first constitution (which it amended the same day to say Crimea was part of Ukraine); within weeks, Crimea dropped its proclamation of self-government in an apparent trade-off for greater autonomy from Kiev, but the dispute over the status of Crimea continued to feed political turmoil until Ukraine executed a constitutional coup. On March 17, 1995, the Kiev government scrapped the Crimean constitution, sacked the Crimean president and eventually established, with obvious irony, the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea” – which still had periodic anti-Kiev eruptions and now (as of March 16) has voted to join the Russian Federation.

Arabica Robusta

In Kiev, Ukrainians want revolutionary change - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • He came to the Maidan — Independence Square — on New Year’s Eve from a region east of the capital to demand good government. He stayed. The Viktor Yanukovych government ran off. Now the new government wants the militias that formed to defend the protesters to turn in their weapons. Vygupaev doesn’t think so.
  • The 2004 Orange Revolution did not. It overturned the fraudulent presidential election of Yanukovych but produced new authorities who bickered, botching their work so badly that a frustrated citizenry turned back to Yanukovych in 2010. Then, he managed to emerge as the only real alternative, winning by a tiny margin and going on to demonstrate new depths of corruption and chicanery.
Arabica Robusta

Our war-torn world needs a new mediating body to resolve conflicts | Gabrielle Rifkind ... - 0 views

  • Institutions do not decide to go to war or to make peace or decide who to destroy or kill; those actions are the responsibility of individuals. So to try to understand the root causes of conflict only in terms of power politics and resources, without also understanding human behaviour, undermines our effectiveness in preventing war and making peace.
  • Such questions no longer seem relevant once a conflict has hardened. For instance, what started as a popular uprising against the Assad family was quickly stimulated by regional actors in a proxy war, the key players being Saudi Arabia and Iran.
  • For this to be effective, strong working relationships are necessary and credible mediators would have shuttled between the parties, primarily Iran and Saudi Arabia, to address the differences between these guarantors of an emerging new architecture. Only after such informal negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia had taken place would negotiations between opposing Syrian warring parties have had a better chance of succeeding.
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  • Traditional attempts at peacemaking have created complex bureaucracies, circuses of diplomats, frequent flyers around the global terrain with insufficient evidence of success in the resolution of conflict. Indeed, current structures have proved to be cumbersome and ill-attuned to the skills of mediation. A new form of mediation is now required that recognises the competing narratives of the parties involved in the conflict.
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