Gwynne Dyer (Continuación)

Whac-a-Mole sex slavery

There is an old fairground game called Whac-a-Mole. You whack a (fake) mole on the head and drive it down into its hole — and instantly one or more other moles pop up out of other holes. It’s an excellent metaphor for humanity’s inability to abolish sexual slavery.

Late last month, we had the long-overdue full apology by the Japanese government for the enslavement of up to 200,000 young “comfort women” from countries conquered by Japan to provide sexual “comfort” to Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government finally ended decades of haggling over the scale of Japan’s crime and the form of words in which it should apologise.…  Seguir leyendo »

A decent year for most people

If historical ingratitude were a crime, most of the people writing year-end pieces this month would be in jail.

This year was not like 1919, when 3 percent of the world’s population died of influenza, or 1943, when World War II was killing a million people each month, or 1983, when we came very close to World War III (though the public didn’t realize it at the time). For most people, in most places, 2015 has been a pretty good year.

Yes, of course, the war in Syria, and millions of refugees, and the downturn in China dragging the world economy down with it, and terrorism here, there and everywhere.…  Seguir leyendo »

The outcome of the Spanish election? Disarray

“I’m going to try to form a government,” said Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as the results of the national election came in last Sunday night, “but it won’t be easy.” His right-wing People’s Party (PP) still won the most seats in parliament — 129 — but that was far down from the 176 seats it would need for an absolute majority, let alone the 186 it had before the election.

Pablo Iglesias, the man who founded the Podemos (We Can) party only two years ago, agreed with Rajoy on this, if on little else. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking in the name of Podemos,” he told a rally during the campaign.…  Seguir leyendo »

The fact is that the Russian plane, by Turkey’s own admission, was in Turkish airspace for precisely 17 seconds. That’s a little less time than it takes to read this paragraph aloud. The Turks shot it down anyway — and their allies publicly backed them, as loyal allies must.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declared: “We stand in solidarity with Turkey and support the territorial integrity of our NATO ally, Turkey.” President Barack Obama called his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to assure him that the United States supported Turkey’s right to defend its sovereignty. But privately, they must have been cursing Erdogan.…  Seguir leyendo »

Erdogan’s war strategy may lead to his defeat

The death toll from the twin suicide bombs at a peace rally in Ankara on Saturday has reached 128. The Turkish police were not present to provide security (they never are at “opposition” events), but they did show up to fire tear gas at the mourners afterward.

Who did it? Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu offered three possibilities: the Kurdish separatist organization PKK; anonymous “extreme leftists”; or Islamic State. Selahattin Demirtas, the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP party that organized the rally, offered a fourth alternative: people trying to advance the interests of President Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) Party.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last Friday, Turkey joined the war against Islamic State, the terrorist-run entity that now controls eastern Syria and western Iraq. After four years of leaving the border open for supplies and recruits to reach Islamic State, the Turkish government sent planes to bomb three Islamic State targets in Syria.

At the same time, Ankara ended a four-year ban on its anti-Islamic State “coalition” allies using the huge Incirlik airbase near the Syrian border. There was rejoicing in Washington, since coalition aircraft (mostly American) will now be much closer to Islamic State targets in Syria, and Turkey will also presumably close its border with Syria at last.…  Seguir leyendo »

The hardest word to say …

It’s hard to say sorry, but it’s even harder to say you’re sorry for a genocide. The word just sticks in the throats of those who should be saying it, as the Turks have been demonstrating for the past hundred years in the case of the Armenians of eastern Anatolia. And the Serbs have just shown themselves to be just as tongue-tied in the case of the Bosnian Muslims slaughtered at Srebrenica.

Saturday, July 11, was the 20th anniversary of the murder of between 7,000 and 8,000 people when Srebrenica was taken by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995. The town’s population was swollen by refugees who had fled there to escape the “ethnic cleansing” that was being carried out against Muslims elsewhere in eastern Bosnia, because it was a United Nations-designated “safe area” defended by NATO troops.…  Seguir leyendo »

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable,” said John Kenneth Galbraith, the wisest American economist of his generation. (“A paltry honor,” he would have murmured.) But you still can’t resist wondering when the Chinese economy will be bigger than the U.S. economy — or the Brazilian bigger than the British, or the Turkish bigger than the Italian — as if it were some kind of horse race.

The latest document to tackle these questions is “The World in 2050,” drawn up by HSBC bank, which ranks the world’s hundred biggest economies as they are now, and as (it thinks) they will be in 2050.…  Seguir leyendo »

“I think, once a dictator, always a dictator,” said Sonnie Ekwowusi, a columnist for Nigeria’s This Day newspaper. “Many people are afraid that if (Muhammadu Buhari) wins, they will go to prison.”

Well, Buhari did win the presidential election, and there are many people in Nigeria who really should go to prison, mainly for corruption while in political office. Quite a lot of them worked with or for the outgoing president, Goodluck Jonathan, whose six years in office were marked by corruption that was impressive even by Nigeria’s demanding standards.

The problem is that the last time Muhammadu Buhari was president, from 1984 to 1985, he was a general who seized the office in a military coup and jailed not only the elected president, Shehu Shagari, but some 500 politicians, officials and businessmen.…  Seguir leyendo »

Another civil war in Yemen

The last American troops are being pulled out of Yemen after al-Qaida fighters stormed a city near their base last week. Houthi rebels who have already overrun most of the country are closing in on Aden, the last stronghold of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

And last Sunday, the Islamic State group sent suicide bombers into two big mosques in the capital, Sanaa, killing 137 people.

The U.S. State Department spokesman put the best possible face on it, saying that “due to the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, the U.S. government has temporarily relocated its remaining personnel out of Yemen.” He even said that the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

The first round of the battle for the euro is over, and Germany has won. The whole European Union won, really, but the Germans set the strategy.

Technically everybody just kicked the can down the road four months by extending the existing bailout arrangements for Greece, but what was really revealed in the past week is that the Greeks can’t win. Not now, not later.

The left-wing Syriza Party stormed to power in Greece last month promising to ditch the austerity that has plunge a third of the population below the poverty line and to renegotiate the country’s massive $270 billion bail-out with the EU and the International Monetary Fund.…  Seguir leyendo »

Does democracy in Malaysia really depend on Anwar Ibrahim?

If it does, Malaysia’s 30 million people are in trouble. Anwar is back in jail: at least five years’ imprisonment, and another five years’ ban from political activity after that. He says he doesn’t care: “Whether it’s five years or ten it doesn’t matter to me anymore. They can give me twenty years. I don’t give a damn.”

But of course he cares. By the time he’s free to resume his role as opposition leader, he’ll be at least 77. The People’s Alliance, the three-party opposition coalition that he created, can’t afford to wait 10 years for him to be free.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nigeria: an election under fire

Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has lived up to his name again. Three minutes after he left an election rally in the northern city of Gombe on Monday, a suicide bomber blew herself up in the nearby parking lot.

“The president had just passed the parking lot and we were trailing behind his convoy when the explosion happened,” said a local witness, Mohammed Bolari. But Jonathan’s luck held.

His rival for the presidency in the election on Feb. 14, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, also has his share of luck. Last July he barely escaped an assassination attempt in the northern city of Kaduna.…  Seguir leyendo »

Three elections that offer hope of better times

Sunday, Oct. 26, was a busy day: three elections, in three different continents, all of them offering at least the hope of better times.

First, Brazil, where President Dilma Rousseff eked out a second-round victory with 51.6 percent of the votes versus 48.4 percent for the challenger, Aecio Neves, who was quick to acknowledge her victory. She was equally prompt in admitting that things had to change. “Sometimes in history, close outcomes trigger results more quickly than ample victories,” she said.

Most people took that as an admission that she will have to give more attention to growing the economy and a little less to redistributing the proceeds.…  Seguir leyendo »

Containing exponential Ebola

Here are two good things about the Ebola virus. It is unlikely to mutate into a version that can spread through the air, as some other viruses have done. And people who have been infected by Ebola cannot pass it on to others during the incubation period (between two and 21 days). Only when they develop detectable symptoms, notably fever, do they become infectious to others, and only by the transfer of bodily fluids.

Here are three bad things about Ebola. The “bodily fluids” that can transmit it include even the tiniest droplet of sweat: Just the slightest touch can pass the virus on.…  Seguir leyendo »

An imperfect Afghanistan

“We have to recognize that Afghanistan will not be a perfect place, and it’s not America’s responsibility to make it one,” said President Barack Obama last May.

No, it isn’t, and Afghanistan is a strikingly imperfect society in almost every respect: politics, economy, security and human rights. But it isn’t entirely a lost cause, either.

President Hamid Karzai, who was given the job of running Afghanistan after the United States invaded in 2001 and who subsequently won two deeply suspect elections in 2004 and 2009, finally left office on Sept. 22, although he didn’t move very far. (His newly built private home backs onto the presidential palace.)…  Seguir leyendo »

You mustn’t expect politicians in a democratic system to come up with ideologically pure, intellectually consistent policies. Their job is to put together a winning coalition of voters who have different and even conflicting interests, and if that requires compromises and even contradictions, so be it.

But they must appear to be consistent, and Marina Silva has mastered the art.

Until last month Silva was the vice presidential candidate of the smallest of Brazil’s three main parties, a woman with a national reputation as an environmental activist but little prospect of high political office. President Dilma Rousseff was cruising serenely toward re-election in the first round of the elections on Oct.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Listen to your caliph and obey him. Support your state, which grows every day,” said Abu Mohamed al-Adnani in announcing the rebirth of the caliphate in the broad territory between Aleppo in northern Syria and Diyala province in eastern Iraq.

It hasn’t actually grown much more in the past couple of weeks, but it certainly intends to go on expanding.

The radical Sunni Muslim organization that conquered almost half of Iraq in a whirlwind week at the beginning of June has changed its name. Before, it was ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/al-Sham — the old Ottoman province that used to include Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel).…  Seguir leyendo »

Every disaster creates opportunities for somebody. If the Kurds of Iraq play their cards right, they could finally end up with the borders they want, fully recognized by a government in Baghdad that has been saved by Kurdish troops.

The Kurds have this opportunity because the large but totally demoralized Iraqi Army has fallen apart over the past week. The Sunni Islamist fanatics of ISIS are closing in on Baghdad, and Peshmerga, the army of the Kurdistan Regional Government, is the only military force left in Iraq that could take the offensive against them.

It is very unlikely that the ISIS fighters can take Baghdad.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Iraqi Army will have to destroy Mosul in order to save it — and it’s not clear whether it can do the job even then. It isn’t so much an army as a vast system of patronage providing employment of a sort for 900,000 people.

When fewer than a thousand ISIS jihadis fought their way into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, over the past few days, most of the government’s soldiers just shed their uniforms and fled.

The government troops never felt comfortable in Mosul anyway, for they are mostly Shiite Muslims and the vast majority of Mosul’s 1.8 million residents are Sunni.…  Seguir leyendo »