The Dust Settles: Leviathans After a $400bn Gas Deal (21.8.14)

21 08 2014

Fuente: www.theguardian.com

In The End of History, Francis Fukuyama depicts a liberal society as an end point in human progress, yet the world post the 2008 financial and pursuing economic crises sees a revival of state capitalism rather than any moves towards a less regulated economic structure in the world of international commerce.

The leviathans in this article refer to Russia and China, in particular Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). The two gigantic state owned enterprises (SOEs) concluded a pipeline gas contract that lasts until 2048, with up to 38 billion cubic metres supplied annually underneath the Siberian permafrost.

Though Gazprom shares rose substantially on the news, its forecast for capital expenditure and investment will surely rise as it promises to invest $55bn on building a new pipeline and two supporting gas fields to supply the ever growing Chinese demand for hydrocarbons. Of course, this is necessary for the Russian Federation as a nation, not only for Gazprom as a company. With an economy neither as holistic as that of Western Europe’s nor as fast growing as that of China’s, Moscow relies on its energy exports to supply the national budget. Analysts at Thompson Reuters believe that world oil price below $110 per barrel would lead to a balance of payments deficit at current levels of expenditure for the 2014 fiscal year.

The deal is relatively favourable from a Russian perspective as European Union nations could become more hostile, exemplified by the sanctions in the ever unravelling Ukraine crisis; though the motives of Russia’s actions regarding Ukraine is matter for another article. It is important to keep in mind that Gazprom, and Russia as a whole, still profits far more from pipeline gas export to Europe than to Asia even after this recent mega-deal is taken into account. The short term reality is that Europe cannot do without Russian gas while Russian SOEs can survive via other export routes if Europe reduces its level of import.

The Kremlin is using its hydrocarbon exports to send a clear message to the European Union in the grand bargaining of hegemony over Eastern Europe.

The picture for China cannot be more different. The Chinese has other importing options, including existing and soon to be complete liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals as well as Central Asian pipe lines stretching to Kazakhstan.

Once the American LNG fields become fully productive, the global supply will increase while making the United States a net energy exporter according to most analysts. This market has been heating up in 2014, as firms such as Blackstone Group buys up shale related assets from more conservative stakeholders. Therefore, Russia is understandably exploring its own LNG exporting options. Via Vladivostok, it can easily supply Asian destinations. A notable example is energy hungry Japan that is paying a premium on imported LNG after the shut down of its nuclear power plants. It is currently buying roughly a third of the global LNG exports.

In such an environment, CNPC enjoys a larger bargaining power than Gazprom since the former has wider purchasing possibilities at the present. Both SOEs however, suffer from the almost inevitable faults of inefficient governance and bureaucratic processes that come as part and parcel of being owned by a sovereign state. Perhaps it is time for Gazprom and CNPC to look at Statoil of Norway as an example of a well oiled SOE, it is lean and efficient even if it lacks the obvious potential that Gazprom and CNPC holds. In 2014, six years after the start of the financial meltdown, many SOEs are in a stronger position than before due to the protectionist instinct of many governments. Though Fukuyama will likely disagree, in 2014 we are presented with an unique opportunity for the SOEs to utilise their position in the commercial world to increase multilateral cooperation rather than grow increasingly inward-looking.

Yichen Wu

London, 18th August 2014

To contact the author, please email at message.yichenwu@gmail.com





Praising the Enemy

19 09 2013

Amidst grand statements about intervention in Syria, chemical weapons, Russian diplomatic manoeuvres and death tolls, little attention has been paid lately to one of the biggest and best known enemies of America: Al Qaeda.

Compared to Putin’s letters to American newspapers or diplomatic strategies to settle the Syrian question, the message of Al Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, has passed relatively unnoticed. And still, between the lines of his speech in 9/11 this year, al-Zawahiri gives some of the key points about intervention in Syria. Or better, of why not to intervene in Syria.

This story is an old one, but everyone in American politics seems to suffer a chronic amnesia over this point. Indeed, it is based on two old stories: the first one, is the American public debt, which caused a great deal of fear during the fateful year of 2008 and the early years of the crisis, but which, also, politicians have tried to relegate to oblivion since the 2000 presidential election. The second is the long record of mistakes that US diplomacy has committed when dealing with jihadist movements and threats, starting with the financing of Osama Bin Laden’s militias in their struggle against the Soviet Union in the 1980’ Afghanistan.

Al-Zawahiri’s speech is at the same time dealing with old and current problems. In his message, Al Qaeda’s leader apparently says nothing new: what he had to say, Osama Bin Laden had already said, and American politicians had already tried to forget. Basically the emphasis of his speech was centred on the goal of straining American economy to the point of bankruptcy. To achieve this objective, Al Zawahiri pretends to “bleed America economically by provoking it to continue in its massive expenditure on security, for the weak point of America is its economy, which has already begun to stagger due to the military and security expenditure”.[1] Nothing that Osama didn’t say in the past, and still, one new word. Note it, for it is the key of this article: “continue”.

Al Zawahiri knows what he is saying, and he is an intelligent man. The American public debt is the largest ever seen in the world, far larger than the debt inherited after the Second World War, the biggest armed conflict in history. The only real threat to American economic hegemony. And still, few remember that the so-called ‘Public Debt Clock’ once stood in the middle of New York city, informing its citizens publicly, not only of the overall debt of the state, but also of each family’s share. Few remember that both candidates to the presidency in 2000, Al Gore and George W. Bush, promised either to get rid of the public debt, or to diminish it.[2] And still, the closure of that clock, along with the huge indebtedness that followed, was the success of one man, and one organization: the man, Osama bin Laden, the organization, Al Qaeda.

After the 9/11 of 2001, the public debt clock was shut down, Al Qaeda’s real biggest victory to the moment. What followed were two of the biggest wars America has been involved in since Vietnam, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Both of them costly failures, but what is worse, both of them made American public debt completely unmanageable. This, as Al-Zawahiri says, as Osama Bin Laden knew, is the weakest point of America’s economy. Especially since most of this public debt is in America’s worst enemy’s hands: China. To put it in a simpler way: Al Qaeda forced, by attracting America to two long military interventions, to sell their sovereignty to the best bidder, which turned out to be China.

The second story, is that of America doing the dirty job for fundamentalist groups. In 2003, America deposed a government that, however dictatorial, had worked for them sustaining a long war against Iran. The outcome was to throw Iraq to the hands of jihadists, to get rid of one of Iran’s worst enemies, and to indebt America. Not happy with that, the intervention in Afghanistan didn’t achieve any other major success: it was costly, it alienated the Afghans against a regime that is perceived as corrupted and imposed by foreigners, and it also alienated one of America’s most crucial ally in the fight against Al Qaeda, Pakistan.

Now, America’s debt is uncontrolled, its capacity to act against threats diminished by their own indebtedness, and their enemies rejuvenated by American weakness and hostility against the US growing in countries that were once strong allies.

But there is still scope for a bit more of American indebtedness, weakness, and alienation. Syria has been respected until now, but it may become Al Qaeda’s next battlefield in its – this is the truth – economic battle against the West.

Even though an agreement was reached on the handing of Al Assad’s chemical weapons through Russian intermediation – a major Russian diplomatic victory –, France, the United Kingdom and the US still seem to be willing to go further in the mud. In Paris, the Foreign Ministers of this three nations agreed to keep supplying the rebels with weapons, and although the intervention is discarded now – by vote in the case of England -, there may arise issues in the future to justify an invasion.[3] It is better then, to see this as intervention postponed, rather than intervention cancelled.

But who are this rebels that the US is so obsessed with helping? How is the outcome to prove so beneficial for the US so as to justify further expenditure when the American economy is just recovering? There is not a unified front against the Syrian government. A IHS Jane’s report published before Kerry’s threatening words in Paris informed that only around 30,000 fighters out of 100,000 may be secular nationalists, with an estimated of 10,000 that openly belong to Al Qaeda-linked bands. Charles Lister, the author, stated that “the idea that it is mostly secular groups leading the opposition is just not borne out”.[4]

Barbaric behaviour is not exclusive of Assad’s government. Catholic webpage Alerta Digital reported crimes committed by opposition combatants against Christians in Syria. One of them, the rape and murder of a Christian under-aged girl,[5] the second, the rape and murder of Miriam, a 15 year-old Christian girl killed by militants associated with the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra.[6] The difference is that Assad commits his crimes with his own chemical arsenal, while these Christian girls were probably killed by American-paid bullets. This news, is worth noticing, can be found only in Spanish or Arab; no attempt has been made to report them in English of French.

Does this not resemble American support of Bin Laden’s militias in Afghanistan? Not only that. Al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden knew the game they’re playing. Didn’t the Soviet Union finally collapsed when Reagan and Thatcher decided to start a weapon run that the Soviets couldn’t finance because they were still clearing their debts after their Afghan war?

Obama faces a difficult position now. Intervention most clearly will mean leaving Syria in jihadist hands and to threaten the small economic recovery loading the burden of the state. Compliance to Russian diplomacy means weakness. In an analysis published the 12th this month, Global Agency Stratford already accepted Russian manoeuvres as a pretended trap to gain leadership at America’s expense.[7] If it certainly was, then the Russians may win or lose. It is America who has let herself be in a lose or lose position: if they just accept the status quo after the handling of the chemical weapons, Russia has won. If they intervene, they will be following Al Qaeda’s predicted policy, and Al-Zawahiri wins.

America’s major mistake has been to let themselves be caught in this double front, and still, the best option would probably be to let the Russians gain the initiative (which they may lose in their own dealings), rather than to follow Al Qaeda’s agenda. For as crude as it seems, the US has been doing, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and maybe Syria, what Al Qaeda not only expected, but wanted: waste of money, instability, greater debt, greater numbers of jihadists. The US political class must not keep blind and deaf to their own mistakes and keep proposing military interventions. The American economy is strong enough to handle the Great Crisis after the debt of Iraq and Afghanistan, but a conflict of the same scale can prove to be unbearable.

Juan José Rivas


[2] Fergusson, Niall, The Ascent of Money





The crescent moon of Hamas

20 10 2012

Fuente: mererhetoric.com

Nearly two years after the start of the Arab Spring there are many questions left unsolved, and many situations that are yet to be defined, in one way or another. The future of many revolutionary movements that spread like fire throughout the Arab World, mainly in the North of Africa, is not clear to detail, but in general terms one thing can be assured: the Arab Spring has thoroughly reshaped the balance of power in the North of Africa and the Middle East, and the Muslim World as we knew it has entered in a new, utterly different, phase.

It is a thesis vividly defended in this Association (and in many other think tanks and Academies) that the Muslim World is experiencing now its own war of religion between Sunnis and Shiites, a war that started in the early years of Islam,[1] but that after the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 was renewed with unprecedented vigour. Since that year, Sunnis, championed by Saudi Arabia, and Shiites, led by Iran, have engaged in a series of proxy wars, mainly Lebanon 1975-2000, Iraq-Iran 1981-1989 and the civil war of Iraq 2005-2008. The result of this wars has been the establishment of a “Shiite Axis of Resistance” that comprised Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and, to some extent, Hamas. After the victory of the Shiites in the Iraqi elections of 2005, Iraq can be considered, though with extreme reserves due to the still large influence of Sunnis in the country and in the Government, as part of this Axis of Resistance. Needless to say, Iran has tried to expand this Axis of Resistance to every country where there is a Shiite population strong enough as to can have an impact, like Bahrain, Afghanistan or even Saudi Arabia´s Eastern Province[2], but they have not succeeded.

The Arab Spring probably didn´t start as one of these proxy wars, as it originated in a part of the world (the North of Africa) were Shiite presence is virtually inexistent, but when it came to the Middle East it could not escape that dynamic. Revolutions that could have begun as an honest mean to improve the civil society status were quickly kidnapped by one of the two parties, therefore destroying any legitimacy they could have hold and turning them into a mere extension of the sectarian war. This is true especially in the cases of Bahrain, where the revolt against the Khalifa monarchy was brutally crushed by Saudi and Emirati troops with the acquiescence of the USA, fearful that the ousting of the Sunni monarchs could result in an Iranian intervention in the country[3], and Syria, where the El-Assad regime, backed by Iran, is fighting for survival against rebels and militia men funded by Sunni Gulf States and where the presence of jihadist fighters is not to be underestimated. Overall, the initial winnings of the Shiite block during 1979-2009, and especially after 2001 (with the fall of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, the two main menaces to Iran), have been contested by the events of the Arab Spring, where Sunnis have seized power in many regions in dispute, and can still, should Syria fall, seize more.

One actor has been especially blessed by this reshaping of the balance of power: Hamas.

We have mentioned before that Hamas has been part of this Shiite Axis of Resistance, assertion that may sound strange, since Hamas is a purely Sunni movement. The reason for this “unholy” alliance was merely a practical one: they didn´t have any support from other Sunni countries or actors. Egypt had signed a peace agreement with Israel on 1978, and so had Jordan done in the beginning of the 1990s. Sunnis in Lebanon were engaged in wars against Shiites, Christians, Druzes and between them, Saudi Arabia was too busy hunting down the ghosts of Imam Ali and his heirs, and Sunni Gulf States were worried only about making money and building skyscrapers. No one cared for the Palestinian trouble, no one but the non-Sunni, non-Arabic Iran. This involvement was consequence of Persian Realpolitik: being extremely unpopular in the mainly Sunni Arabic World, they decided to fully embrace the only cause that was so popular between Arabs that they could forgive Iran for being Shiite and Persian in exchange for his support: the Palestinian cause. Guiding their efforts through Syria, that, as an Allawite regime fearful of Sunni influence, was more than happy to counter this influence by an alliance with Shiite Iran, the Ayatollahs spearheaded all the initiatives dedicated to battle Israel, something that had been widely discussed in the Arab League summits (one is tempted to say that it was the very reason for its creation) but abandoned after 1973. Iran was doing what no other Arab State was willing to do, no matter how intensely they had promised it. In this situation, Hamas was forced to walk the path with the Persians: no other nation would do what they were doing.

Things changed when the fall of Mubarak in February 2011 increased the power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Mubarak, due to its alliance with the USA, had denied all moving to Hamas outside the Gaza strip, but the Muslim Brotherhood lifted those restrictions. Not only that: it offered his hand to Hamas, and retired the support that their enemies of Fatah had enjoyed from Mubarak, their strongest and most committed patron. The speech of Mahmoud Abbas at the UN on September 2011 can be considered a last and desperate intent on not losing all his support from an Arab World where the Muslim Brotherhood and akin movements, all of them closer to Hamas than to Fatah, were starting to take control of the streets. If we consider that Hamas is the ideological Palestinian son of the Muslim Brotherhood, we see that Abbas’s fears are substantiated.

However, a mere ideological connection cannot be considered a reason strong enough as to build an alliance in the extremely pragmatic world of Arab politics, especially if loyalties are confronted. Hamas was still part of the Shiite Axis of Resistance, and had its main headquarters in Damascus, the same place where the “apostate” Bashar El-Assad was holding his ground against a rebellion that with time has been more and more influenced by positions nearer to that of the Muslim Brotherhood… not to mention Salafism or even the jihadist ideology of Al-Qaeda. The same Arab street that was willing to support the fairly popular, fairly dying Palestinian cause was demanding Hamas one thing in exchange: to abandon the Shiite (therefore apostate, blasphemer, immoral and so on) Axis of Resistance. Unfortunately for them, that Axis of Resistance was demanding the same statement of unconditional support, especially in Syria, the only Arab country that had truly and incessantly backed Hamas. So they got caught in the crossfire.

A decision was needed, and one that clearly showed that Hamas sided with one part of the Muslim World and, no matter how hard this could be, abandoned the other. Let alone moral considerations of gratitude towards Syria, they could see the harmful effect that Nasralla´s support to the Syrian regime was causing on the popularity of Hezbollah, making the movement lose all the support they had gained with the 2006 war against Israel. They did not want to suffer the same, and not only that, they had no reason at all to suffer it: Hezbollah, as a Shiite movement, was too implicated in the Shiite Axis of Resistance, but that was not the natural place of Hamas. Its natural place was with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Sunni Islamist world, and they ultimately had to accept they could not be between Shiites and Sunnis in a non-accepted mediating effort between the two. Hamas decided to go back home.

Irony also has a place in the complex world of Arab politics: the mosque of El-Azhar, in Cairo, is one of the most important places of Sunni Islamic learning, but was founded by the Fatimids, a Shiite dynasty. This is the place where Ismail Haniyeh delivered a speech on 24 February 2012, breaking with the Shiite Axis of Resistance, siding clearly with the Sunni world and declaring the sympathy of Hamas towards the Syrian rebellion. The leadership of Hamas also abandoned Damascus and settled in Sunni countries like Egypt, Jordan, Gaza, Turkey and, especially, Qatar.

Notwithstanding this, such a rupture cannot be considered total. It is for the relation Syria-Hamas, but it isn’t for the relation Iran-Hamas, because it can’t be. Iran cannot afford to lose his main contact with the Sunni World and a Muslim Brotherhood whose star is on the rise, as well as the only gate to the Arab Sunni countries, and neither can Hamas forget Iran, the only country that is still sharing the same objective of totally and unconditionally making war against Israel, and the only country that still offers Hamas more than beautiful words. Not only that: Iran is the only supporter country of Hamas that is not, to any extent, allied with the USA. All of the others mentioned above are, to some degree, allies of the USA in the region, and would Hamas fully embrace them, this alliance could backfire: ties with the Sunni world, linked with the USA, can ironically result in a loss of liberty to achieve the supreme goal of Hamas, which is no other than the utter eradication of Israel. Retaining ties with Iran can assure the Islamic movement that it will always have a friend not subjected to American demands, as well as it serves Iran as the key to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose power and influence has sharply risen, as we have seen.

We can, to conclude, observe how this reshaping of power and influence spheres has largely benefited Hamas, probably more than it has benefited any other state or non-state actor in the region. Hamas has emerged from the turmoil as the only actor capable of playing in the two leagues, strengthened by the empowering of the Muslim Brotherhood and not weakened by the Shiite cataclysm. His main enemy at home, Fatah, has lost the support of Mubarak, and we can foresee an important loss of the control it still holds in the West Bank if Hamas can seize the opportunity. As for the outside, the ending of its long-lasting relation with Damascus is nothing compared to the opening of new countries like Turkey and Qatar, especially since it has not meant the complete rupture with Iran. Clearly the sun (the moon) is rising on Hamas.

Francisco Rivas


[1] Concretely after the death of Muhammad, when a small group of Muslims didn´t recognize the right of Abu Bakr to become the first Caliph, demanding that Ali should be chosen instead.

[2] The main procedure has been the training and funding of the Hezbollah groups, Islamic terrorist factions devoted to expand the religious and political structure of the Islamic Republic. Four Hezbollah groups were created, in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The two latter are virtually non-existing now, and Iraqi Hezbollah agreed to stop violence on January 1st 2012 following the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraqi soil, though, unlike many other Iraqi terrorist organizations that made the same declaration, they have not given their weapons to the Iraqi Government.

[3] Bahrain was for many years part of the Shiite Safavid Empire of Iran, and claims of Iranian sovereignty over the island are frequent. In addition, approximately 70% of Bahrainis are Shiite.





Paul Collier Critique: Military Intervention

21 05 2012

Fuente: 20minutos.es

Within his book, The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier discusses the issues that surround the bottom sixth of the world’s population. Along with this, Collier attempts to provide potential solutions that could alleviate the plight of the “poorest people… [a plight] that is growing inexorably worse”[1]. One such solution that Collier presents is military intervention, in those poorer states that are failing. Although he goes into detail about the pro’s and cons of restoring order, maintaining post conflict peace and protecting states from coups, he makes little effort to justify the “clear cut case for international interventionism: expelling an aggressor”[2]. For indeed, far from being a clear cut justification to utilise a nations armed forces, the last 100 years has shown that military intervention to expel an aggressor group is wrought with problems, especially if one invades without international support. This article, thus, attempts to show that far from clear cut, the only time that military intervention to expel an aggressor is justifiable is when mandated by the international community, and conducted by a coalition of willing partners. Although in doing so it would be easy to degenerate this article into a lengthy diatribe against the moral wrongs of ‘policing the international community’ the article will instead stick to three major issues that the invading state will incur to some extent if it decides to take on aggressor nations unilaterally. These problems being: the reduction in international, diplomatic, support for your state and the destabilization within the entire region that the conflict originates from. From this, the clear conclusion that will be drawn is that military intervention to expel aggressors is acceptable only when conducted multilaterally, where the possibility for these negative reactions to your states use of force is largely mitigated.

When one looks at the diplomatic preamble that preceded American intervention in Iraq in 2003, George W. Bush appears to indicate their actions will have wide ranging, positive security benefits for their international colleagues: “The United States and other nations did nothing to deserve or invite this threat. But we will do everything to defeat it.”[3] Although he is correct in mentioning later in his speech that the US can rely on a coalition of willing partners in the impending violence[4], the fact that they went into war without UN Security Council clearance resulted in a largely negative response around the world. The rationale for this apparent turn around in global public opinion towards the United States, who after 9/11 had experienced great outpourings of empathy from most of the global community, appears to be most succinctly worded by Nelson Mandela, who wrote: “Because what [America] is saying is that if you are afraid of a veto in the Security Council, you can go outside and take action and violate the sovereignty of other countries. That is the message they are sending to the world. That must be condemned in the strongest terms.”[5] The clear message from this piece was that unilateral intervention (for although the United States called upon other nations to support their war effort, for a large part their forces were tokens, and had little direct affect on the overall war effort) was doomed to diplomatic failure. This can be largely explained by the fact that states operating in an anarchic system, who will be inherently suspicious of competitors actions, will not be able to tolerate a state that has the capabilities and willingness to forgo any international body, and law, that it itself created. With this in mind it becomes clear that unilateral intervention is doomed to breed negative, and even hostile responses from the international community. Although nations such as the United States do not require military assistance when conducting these types of strike operations, breeding a culture of inherent distrust towards the United States will do nothing but weaken future, peaceful, US-led initiatives in the global community. For this reason, clearly unilateral intervention provides little benefit, unless mandated and authorised by the international community.

Throughout history, many interventions have been conducted in order to maintain stability within the region that they are being conducted. Indeed, this was no different for the War in Iraq, where George W. Bush alluded to the threat of a Weapon of Mass Destruction (WMD) wielding Saddam, and the trouble that posed for the global community. However, this has largely not been the case when looking at the aftermath of most major unilateral interventions. Indeed, despite taking command of major military operations in Vietnam for the better part of 15 years, with the stated aims of containing, if not eliminating the Communist threat arising within the nation, the United States failed. Although this is not due to the policy of interventionism, the United States intervention, in hindsight made the entire region less stable, and more likely to fall to Communism. For indeed, despite being a member of an expansionist ideology, Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Communist party in Vietnam was passionately anti-Chinese, and insular thinking[6]. Thus in the wake of the US withdrawal from Vietnam, when a hostile China was threatening Vietnam from the North, Ho Chi Minh began spreading Vietnamese influence throughout South East Asia, not as a means of expanding Communism, but in order to prop up and ensure Vietnams survival in the face of a growing Chinese threat. Although this is not to say that military interventionism bred the hostility that caused the Sino-Vietnamese war, the weakening of Vietnams military capabilities did provide an opening for the Chinese to apply pressure on Vietnam, which in turn increased the likelihood, and eventually caused Vietnams direct intervention and subversive action along the Indochina Peninsula, which resulted in the manifestation of Communist governments all along the peninsula, the outcome that the United States was so passionately fighting against. A similar trend is being played out in the contemporary world, indeed with ethnic violence still sporadically erupting in Iraq, Iran is using the instability caused by the weak interim government, to strengthen its hold over the country that had for decades provided a counter balance against its own growth and power.[7] And with the potential of Iran’s nuclear weapon now dominating the thinking of much of the global community, the instability in the region that allowed for Iran to adopt its Nuclear weapons program unmolested was caused largely by America’s unilateral intervention in Iraq. Although it would be easy to suggest that even a multi-lateral intervention in either of the case studies mentioned would have provided a similar result, given the shared burden of the military campaign, and the feeling among the general population that the war is legal provides a sturdiness to the campaign that would provide the necessary impetus to have ensured that the defeated nation was rebuilt to acceptably strong and stable conditions. In contrast, unilateral operations are often conducted at the whim of one presidency, and completed by the next, who more often then not is concluding them in order to overcome domestic political pressure. As a result, the argument that unilateral intervention is justifiable, and useful due to the stability it creates is untenable due to the fact that it creates major instability and usually creates conditions for larger conflicts, due to the hastiness with which the campaign is wrapped up.

Clearly, a larger investigation is necessary to definitively prove the case that unilateral military intervention, without the consent of the international community, is entirely unacceptable. However, with the words provided, this article should have helped add to the international condemnation of the growing trend for larger powers to indiscriminately intervene in regional conflicts, and sovereign states. The reasoning, that this article has provided; that intervening in other nations in contravention, or without international recognition will retard larger diplomatic initiatives, and that without the longterm political willpower to stay in the nation being intervened in, will only lead to greater regional instability, stands in contrast to most of the major critics of the policy. For indeed, while Mandela and others have critiqued the U.S. intervention in Iraq on philosophical and legal grounds, this has had a rather insignificant impact on Western, and in particular, U.S. policy. However, moving the debate towards providing practical explanations for why unilateral, unendorsed, military intervention is unsuitable as a tool in international politics should hopefully see the elimination of this growing, useless, costly and bloody, policy.

 Ryan Bartlett


[1]Collier, Paul. The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are failing and What Can Be Done about It. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Bush, George W. Full text: Bush’s Speech: A transcript of George Bush’s ultimatum speech from the Cross Hall in the White House. The Guardian, 2003. Web.

[4] Ibid.

[5]Ali, Amir. “Nelson Mandela: The U.S.A. Is a Threat to World Peace.” The Article Collection of M. Amir Ali, Ph.D. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://www.ilaam.net/Opinions/USAThreat.html>.

[6] Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. Penguin. P. 153. 1983. Print: “You fools! Don’t you realize what it means if the Chinese remain? Don’t you remember your history? The last time the Chinese came, they stayed a thousand years. The French are foreigners. They are weak. Colonialism is dying. The white man is finished in Asia. But if the Chinese stay now, they will never go. As for me, I prefer to sniff French shit for five years than to eat Chinese shit for the rest of my life.”

[7] Jakes, Lara. Boston News: Iranian influence seeping into Iraq. Boston Times, November 7, 2011. Web.





The Hide-and-Seek of the Boogeyman (Facing new enemies and fears)

24 02 2012

Source: publico.es

As children we are usually scared about the idea of an amorphous and unknown figure than can take us out of our beds in the middle of the night in order to, either torture us, either eat us, when not both of them. The Boogeyman[1], as named in the UK and US or Canada, represents the most irrational and, at the same time, natural fear deep into human being thoughts. In order to escape or not being attacked by this character of many creepy tales we need to follow a few and simple rules; just like going to bed early, not arguing with your parents, do your homework or simply not misbehave. If we do not follow these rules we will be weak and unprotected to this unknown entity, having the only protection of our blankets against him.

Now that we are all awarded about the danger of the Boogeyman, we have to interact with the idea of this issue and the International Relations; especially related to the last ten years geopolitics situation of the world.

By all History we have found many Boogey-men; it represents the unknown enemy, a powerful and unstoppable enemy that increases fears and the will for self-defense. There are many examples; thus, in the XX century we can find the Nazis during the second stage of WWII or the Communist (USSR and allied parties of the Warsaw Pact at Cold War) as the truly representatives of the idea of Boogey-men; far away enemies that sole mentioning cause fear (including all false ideas about their acts; just like the idea that spread over the Witch Hunt about Commies, assuring that they ate babies; or the one, unhopefully true, about the Nazi experiments) and that are, in most cases, completely ignored to their citizens before they are highlighted as “the enemy”.

Anyway, adapting the idea of the Boogeyman to our days was not easy, and there was a need of it for the Western World. Why this need for the spreading of fear among population? Because afraid people is less self-conscious about reality, and somehow more reliable to be (re)directed. Probably the “best” Boogeyman ever was born in the days after 9/11, as the world was collapsed by ignorance and fear; the ignorance of what to do and the fear to the unknown people or organization that held the attack to WTC. Bush administration was in the edge of their unpopularity, and the best solution to increase it and gain the respect both of the world and their unhappy voters was to pint the index finger onto the most believed to be the responsible; and if not, to the most likely enemies-to-be. This is the way the “Poker Deck of Evil Masters” was born, and presented as the most evil, bloody and life disrespectful enemies to the US and the Western civilization; according to a Poker deck, the enemies of the USA were allocated into the deck, placing Osama Ben Laden at the honor place of it, what is to say the Ace of Hearts.

If the remember the genius of Orwell about this idea of fear to the unknown enemy, it is mandatory to compare it to the Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania empires related on 1984, whether away from dystopian fiction it has something to due about reality and the world today. 9/11 attacks set out the fear to terrorism and to the Muslim world, representing on them the complete opposite to the American values and progress dream, as well to the idea of the Democracy’s spread that took several importance at the Iraqi war. The enemy wanted to end with the beloved American Dream and Democracy, so as Liberty Fighters and Human Rights Defenders, the US had the obligation to end with that Boogeyman. Reality and time has shown us that it is impossible to fight Terrorism by regular of frontal war; and the situation about security did not improve comparing to the very next days to that Black Day in Ground Zero. However the main aim was not to truly fight and defeat the enemy, but to have the push and support of their citizens; mission accomplished.

Today, with the Afghan war directed into failure, with US troops out of Iraq, and with the death of some of the aces and heavy cards of the “Poker Evil Deck” (like Kim Jong-Il, Sadam Hussein or Ben Laden), Western World needs to look for a new Sack-man; and the solution might be inside of our very same borders and actions.

World financial crisis has awarded people all over the world, and specially to the South European Countries, about the respect and fear to a more powerful and spread enemy, bigger than the biggest empire ever; Economy. Whether in the US or the rest of the world people is afraid of this huge monster, that, unlikely to a frontal war, can affect them from one day to another (unless you don’t live in the Western World, where Economy most of the times it’s just subsidiary). For the last weeks, during the Republican Party’s Elections, most candidates talked about the Markets as if the enemy was; paying more attention to macroeconomics rather than other issues like social security, immigration or, incredibly, security. As China is today’s  main US debtor, this problem must be taken into account.

Other new Boogey which is not directly related to security, as it was the tonic during the past ten years, is the issue about the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China). These countries have an enormous power and had an incredible improvement in economic subjects; a four-side menace to the World’s First Economy. The human factor (as these are very highly populated countries) they own and the really fast growth they had in the last 5 years confronts the protectionism policies of the US, which does not know how to face this opposition. BRIC are not facing the US directly, but the fear of American population to them is growing, seeing in them a more dangerous enemy in order to keep their hegemonic position in World Economy.

As in the past the Boogeyman was clearly defined and placed, today’s world has no direct enemies to face; there are no higher dangers to our security than ten years ago (with the exception of Iran, but that is an special case) but to our growth and live standards. From facing the image of a Muslim terrorist or a crazy North Korean with nuclear bombs, the Sack-man has changed its appearance to the one of a banker or a broker, with the most powerful army and weapons ever: Money and Debt.

José Enrique Conde

 


[1] El Hombre del Saco, in Spain








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