In 2003, Indo-American public intellectual Fareed Zakaria published an influential book titled “The Future of Freedom: Liberal Democracy at Home and Abroad.” Democracy — the rule of and by the people — is not inherently good in and of itself, Zakaria argued, but needs to be tempered by liberalism. Liberty and economic freedom have to be anchored in the rule of law, a separation of powers and the protection of basic rights. Zakaria’s thesis seems relevant both to the world’s oldest democracy, the United States, and the biggest democracy, India.
India continues to be robustly, even chaotically, democratic. But its freedom is under growing threat.… Seguir leyendo »
On Dec. 23, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 2334 by a vote of 14-0. By abstaining, the United States chose not to veto the resolution’s criticism of Israeli settlements in lands occupied since the 1967 war. About 600,000 Jews live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A large number of settlements are unauthorized, although some have been retroactively legalized.
By contrast Palestinians’ requests for building approvals are routinely rejected and unauthorized constructions are promptly demolished by army bulldozers. With de facto colonization by stealth, the maze of barriers, checkpoints and fences no longer correspond to internationally recognized demarcation lines.… Seguir leyendo »
The dream of a world freed of the existence of nuclear weapons, and of the resulting existential threat to humanity and to all life on planet Earth, is an inalienable element of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Revived for a brief shining moment by U.S. President Barack Obama in Prague in 2009, it has gradually faded from view since then as the world witnessed nuclear modernization and upgrades, growth in warhead numbers, continued testing and a rise in geopolitical tensions in several high-risk theaters involving nuclear powers in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea.… Seguir leyendo »
The latest crisis in India-Pakistan relations was caused by terrorists who came across the border from Pakistan, attacked a fortified army base in Indian Kashmir on Sept. 18 and killed 19 soldiers before being neutralized. Many Indians are demanding Pakistan be taught a harsh lesson with a disproportionate retaliation under the principle of “a jaw for a tooth.”
With each fresh terrorist attack, the clamor for military strikes grows stronger from an outraged citizenry. The political cost of inaction is higher for a Hindu nationalist party. Prime Minister Narendra Modi risks cementing a reputation for bluster: in the Texan vernacular, all hat and no cattle.… Seguir leyendo »
After seven years to complete the inquiry and publish its findings, the Chilcot report on Britain and the 2003 Iraq War is devastating. There are two reasons for this. On the one hand, Iraq itself has become a powerful symbol of a post-invasion failed state and humanitarian disaster, the epicenter of a widening circle of destabilization in the Middle East whose ripples are being felt in acts of terrorism and out-of-control refugee flows even in Europe. On the other hand, Britain itself is consumed with a deeply divisive debate about its place in Europe and the world.
The report offers a compelling narrative of the need for accountability for grave international crimes.… Seguir leyendo »
Like the first, the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) was held in Washington, with others in Seoul (2012) and The Hague (2014). This article makes six arguments by way of a summary stock-take of nuclear security.
First, the threat of nuclear terrorism is real. With 15,000 nuclear warheads, around 1,400 metric tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and 500 tons of separated plutonium held at over 100 sites in more than 30 countries, there is enough nuclear materials to increase the world’s stock of nuclear bombs to 10 times their present number.
The risk is threefold. Terrorists could acquire HEU or plutonium, make a nuclear bomb and explode it in a target of their choice.… Seguir leyendo »
Looking at Iraq, Libya and Syria together, it seems safe to conclude that Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi and Hafez Assad were, and Bashar Assad is, the lids on their respective pots of sectarian tensions that boil over into large-scale violence, killings and displacement if the lid is removed. The uprisings of 2011 by the end of 2015 had produced more autocracy in some Gulf states, a return to military dictatorship in Egypt, anarchy in Libya and a brutal civil war in Syria. Velvet revolutions they were not. The “Arab Spring” darkened into the Islamist Winter and then the restoration of the authoritarian state as it failed to make the transition from the politics of street protests to the politics of democratic good governance.… Seguir leyendo »
Fifteen years ago, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (I was one of the 12 commissioners) presented the innovative doctrine of the responsibility to protect — widely known as R2P — as the principle around which the world could forge a new consensus on how to rescue civilians under threat of atrocities.
No one would claim that the world has been free of mass atrocities since then. Yet no country has called for R2P to be rolled back, and it would be unlikely that such a call would be heeded by the United Nations. Those competing tensions sum up the indispensable attraction and considerable limitations of R2P.… Seguir leyendo »
On Sunday, results were declared for a state election in India that was the most politically significant, intensely watched and one of the most bitterly contested since the general election in May 2014. Bihar has a population of 100 million to 110 million. Lying in the Hindi heartland, it is one of the poorest, most illiterate, violent, lawless and caste-riven states in the whole country. In theory, no other state is as ripe for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s core message of corruption-free development, efficient administration and good governance.
In last year’s election, the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won Bihar’s seats in the central parliament by a massive margin.… Seguir leyendo »
You couldn’t make this up. Some months ago, Australian customs and immigration services were integrated with a new paramilitary-type organization called the Australian Border Security Force, known as the ABF, which began operations July 1. People remarked at the time that their uniforms — a rebranding exercise that cost us overburdened taxpayers 10 million Australian dollars — were reminiscent of some sinister forces in history, but then forgot about it.
Maybe the ABF suffered from attention deficit syndrome. Last Friday, they came back into the nation’s focus with a vengeance. And then some.
The regional commander for Victoria and Tasmania, Don Smith, issued a public warning that ABF officers would be positioned “at various locations” downtown, “speaking with any individual we cross paths with” over the weekend.… Seguir leyendo »
On March 3, Washington witnessed political theater at its most distasteful. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came not to praise President Barack Obama but to bury a nuclear deal with Iran.
The political party that prides itself on being more patriotic than its rival produced the spectacle of genuflecting to a foreign leader who used his podium in the U.S. Congress to criticize the U.S. president. Extraordinary!
The rest of the world shook its head in collective disbelief. History is littered with the corpses of those who were too clever by half for their own good.
Netanyahu presumably intended his speech to harden U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
The slaughter of 132 schoolchildren and nine adults in an army school in Peshawar on Dec. 16 by the Pakistan Taliban marked a new low in terrorist depravity. The massacre of the innocents brings to a head several pathologies that need addressing and to that end could prove a catharsis for Pakistan.
The intertwining of religious terrorism, colonization of the state by the army, and obsession with India as the existential threat has mutated into a virulent toxin feeding parasitically on Pakistan. The shock and horror must be channeled into a determination to do whatever it takes to root out the poison.… Seguir leyendo »
The Middle East has had more Nobel peace prizes awarded than any other region yet peace remains as distant a prospect as ever. It is also the setting for repeated failures to meet agreed deadlines. The failure to convene a conference on a zone free of weapons of mass destruction has put at risk the outcome of next year’s NPT Review Conference. The latest example is the failure to conclude a comprehensive agreement to end Iran’s nuclear program in order to eliminate suspicions about possible weapons dimensions to the program as a condition of lifting sanctions on Iran.
Iran may be paranoid but, as the saying goes, even the paranoid have real enemies.… Seguir leyendo »
The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa) have just concluded their sixth annual meeting in Brazil. The major deliverable was economic in form and content, but its major significance is primarily geopolitical.
Last October, President Dilma Rousseff was to be the first Brazilian leader to attend a White House state dinner in two decades. Instead, angered by revelations that her phone calls and email had been intercepted by the National Security Agency (NSA), she became the first leader to cancel a state dinner hosted by a U.S. president, lambasting U.S. surveillance as a violation of international law and a “totally unacceptable” infringement of Brazil’s sovereignty.… Seguir leyendo »
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair calls to mind a Charles Dickens character in “Bleak House”: “Sir Leicester is generally in a complacent mood. When he has nothing else to do, he can always contemplate his own greatness. It is a considerable advantage to a man, to have so inexhaustible a subject.”
Blair popped up recently to deny that the lightning advance of the ruthlessly efficient ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) could be blamed on the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Rather, in his parallel universe, the fault lies in not intervening in Syria last year to topple President Bashar Assad.… Seguir leyendo »
Three key questions may address the competing, starkly different U.S.-Western narratives of the crisis:
1. Should Ukraine be the organizing principle of relations with Russia?
Does the West want to make the fate of Crimea and, by extension, Ukraine the central organizing principle of structuring relations with Russia? Sentiment might motivate the West to formulate a Ukraine policy and base relations with Russia accordingly. Realism dictates the West should first formulate a Russia policy, and then address the Ukraine crisis within that strategic framework.
There is a serious imbalance of interests for the two sides. For Russia, the loss of Crimea in particular could pose an existential threat, with its Black Sea Fleet headquartered there and access to the littoral states.… Seguir leyendo »
Forty-four years after the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into force, the world still finds itself perilously close to the edge of the nuclear cliff. The cliff is perhaps not quite as steep as it was in the 1980s, when there were more than 70,000 nuclear weapons compared to today’s 17,000, but going over it would be fatal for planet Earth.
Authoritative road maps exist to walk us back to the relative safety of a denuclearized world, but a perverse mixture of hubris and arrogance on the part of the nine nuclear-armed states (China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) exposes us to the risk of sleepwalking into a nuclear disaster.… Seguir leyendo »
Australia recently completed the first year of its two-year term on the United Nations Security Council. Meanwhile, on Dec. 1, Australia assumed the presidency of the Group of 20, which will meet in Brisbane this year. As in the difference between form and class, Australia’s membership on the Security Council is temporary while that on the G-20 is permanent.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants the Brisbane summit to focus on “removing the international impediments to trade, jobs and growth” (The Australian, Dec. 2). This misses two key features about the G-20: how it reflects the changing geopolitics and the resulting need to move beyond economics as its sole remit.… Seguir leyendo »
Nuclear weapons pose an existential threat to humanity that is unmatched by any other contemporary threat in magnitude, gravity and urgency.
Consider the indicators of the high policy salience of the nuclear weapons challenge: the new START Treaty between Russia and the United States, President Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin in June 2013, North Korea’s third nuclear test in February 2013, tightening sanctions on Iran to compel it to abandon a suspected nuclear weaponization path, unresolved tensions between India and Pakistan, growing nuclear arsenals of China, India and Pakistan, and the fear of an act of nuclear terrorism that lies behind the series of past and forthcoming nuclear security summits.… Seguir leyendo »
There are eight common elements in the two big breakthrough stories on Iran and Syria from New York on Sept. 26.
First, both crises are in the Middle East, a region racked by turmoil and upheaval since the outbreak of the Arab Spring two years ago. The regional fault lines, and the ways in which they connect to global major power fault lines, have been deeply unsettled and the contours of the new Middle East are anything but clear.
Second, both crises have been about weapons of mass destruction, nuclear (Iran) and chemical (Syria). Iran is party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but has long been suspected of using its technology-accessing benefits as a cover to acquire and develop components, material, facilities and skills to be just one screwdriver away from the bomb if and when it chooses to cross the threshold.… Seguir leyendo »