Posted by: bklunk | July 10, 2007

Wanted: A Few Good Triumphalists

Hello, I’ve been away for awhile attending to pleasant summer activities. But I’m back now. This piece in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye. Beware editorialists decrying “moral equivalence.”  I’m under no illusions about the subtlety of Bush administration public diplomacy, mistaking as it does public relations for public diplomacy.  What is suggested here, seems worse by far. What we need is a public diplomacy that not only helps Muslims understand what is positive about the United States, but that also helps us understand the complexity of the 1500 year old Islamic tradition.  The truth is that for many Muslims their alternative story is also a fundamentally good one. Simply writing it off as negative will only confirm the view of Islamists that the story of the West is essentially negative. Taking a point of view seriously is not the same as treating it as equally plausible.

Global View – WSJ.com

As the scholar Carnes Lord notes in his useful book on public diplomacy, “Losing Hearts and Minds,” America’s public diplomatists “are today no longer as convinced as they once were that America’s story is after all fundamentally a good one, or believe an alternative, negative story is at least equally plausible.” Hence someone like Mr. Riccardione can say, when asked about discrimination in Egypt (where a Coptic population amounting to about 10% of the population has one member in the 444-seat parliament) that it “happens everywhere, even in the U.S.”

No doubt a dose of moral equivalence served Mr. Riccardione’s purposes in getting through his interview without a rhetorical scrape. No doubt, too, maintaining (or pretending) a blissful ignorance about the ideology being propagated by the Islamic Center served Mr. Bush’s political purposes. But if effective public diplomacy is really as vital in the war on terror as everyone appears to agree it is, we need better ambassadors, better administrators and a better sense of who we need to engage and how. At least Mr. Taylor has a clue. The administration could stand to learn from him.

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Posted by: bklunk | June 21, 2007

Pacific Mascot Reconsiders Plans for Asian Tour

Tigers, or how China will treat them, has become an interesting point of friction between China and its neighbors like India. PowerCat, beware.

The Hindu News Update Service

New Delhi, June 22 (PTI): A senior government official on Thursday sharply reacted to China’s reported plans to review its 14-year-old ban on trade in bones from captive-bred tigers for traditional medicines and vowed to oppose the move.

“If they do any thing like that we will strongly and seriously oppose the move again. They have signed a resolution at the global forum to work for the protection of Asian Big Cats,” Rajesh Gopal of Tiger Conservation Authority of India said here.

He was referring to the recent meeting of the 171 members of the Convention of International Trades for Endangered Species (Cites) which in a recent meeting at The Hague had warned China that lifting the ban on the trade could drive wild tigers to extinction.

“They are bound by the Cites’ regulation,” Gopal said. Conservationists too have expressed their concern over China’s move, saying that it would prove death-knell to the Asian big cats in the wild.

“China has got a clear message from the world that it doesn’t want any trade of tiger’s body parts. If China decides so, it will be opposite to the what world wants,” Belinda Wright, prominent conservationist said.

Quoting Wang Wei, deputy wildlife director at the State Forestry Administration, China’s state media reported that “the ban would not be there forever, given the strong voices from tiger farmers, experts and society.”

Ravi Singh, secretary General of World Wildlife Fund was of the similar view saying that it (lifting of ban) would prove disaster to the tigers in the wild.

“China has its own internal trade of tiger’s body parts. But there is no method to segregate wild tiger from those bred in captivity,” he said.

Presently China has only about 50 tigers in wild but about 5,000 in captivity.

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Posted by: bklunk | June 19, 2007

A Difficult Observance

World Refugee Day is June 20. War and refugees go together like omelets and broken eggs. Refugees are supposed to be protected under international law, but that depends on (a) international institutions having sufficient resources to respond and (b) states being willing to provide asylum for refugees.

BBC NEWS | Special Reports | Refugees’ fate ‘getting harder’

Conditions for asylum-seekers are becoming tougher in many countries because of fears of terrorist attacks, the UN refugee agency has warned.

Speaking on World Refugee Day, UNHCR head Antonio Guterres said some nations had curbed immigration to the point where refugees were being excluded.

He told the BBC that refugees were not terrorists, but the victims of terror.

After a five-year fall, the number of refugees is rising again because of violence in Iraq and Somalia.

The UN estimates that nearly 44m people have left their homes because of violence or persecution.

It says that some are forced abroad, many others are displaced within their own countries.

“The international community is not paying attention and is not giving enough support,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.

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Posted by: bklunk | June 19, 2007

Just An Oversight I’m Sure

What the People’s Daily fails to mention is that China insisted on rules that would make it more difficult for the UNHRC to single out a specific country for criticism.

People’s Daily Online — UN human rights watchdog formally adopts new working rules

The UN Human Rights Council formally adopted new working rules on Tuesday that oblige all member states to submit to periodic scrutiny of their records.

The 47-state Human Rights Council finally approved a compromise proposal on its future work with 46 votes. Only Canada came out against, citing concerns about the permanent mentioning of Palestinian Territories in the council’s future agenda.

Under the new rules, all UN member states must submit to periodic scrutiny of their human rights records.

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Posted by: bklunk | June 14, 2007

If You Really Want to Help

Here is an interesting plea for MORE military intervention in the Global South. If rich countries are to take the “Responsibility to Protect” seriously, they may have to consider argument’s like Kristof’s.  Better find some more puppies.

Africa’s World War – New York Times

One essential kind of help that the West can provide — but one that is rarely talked about — is Western military assistance in squashing rebellions, genocides and civil wars, or in protecting good governments from insurrections. The average civil war costs $64 billion, yet could often be suppressed in its early stages for very modest sums. The British military intervention in Sierra Leone easily ended a savage war and was enthusiastically welcomed by local people — and, as a financial investment, achieved benefits worth 30 times the cost.

Josh Ruxin, a Columbia University public health expert living in Rwanda, notes that a modest Western force could have stopped the genocide in 1994 — or, afterward, rooted out Hutu extremists who fled to Congo and dragged that country into a civil war that has cost millions of lives.

“Had an international force come in and rounded them up, that would have been the biggest life-saving measure in modern history,” he said.

So it’s time for the G-8 countries to conceive of foreign aid more broadly — not just to build hospitals and schools, but also to work with the African Union to provide security in areas that have been ravaged by rebellion and war. A starting point would be a serious effort to confront genocide in Darfur — and at least an international force to prop up Chad and Central African Republic, rather than allow Africa to tumble into its second world war.

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Posted by: bklunk | June 13, 2007

Time Waits For No One

Well, it has only been 28 years since the Vietnamese invasion that brought down the Khmer Rouge. It is hard to think of a country as devastated by war and violence as Cambodia. The extent of international support required for Cambodia to get this far has been remarkable.

JURIST – Paper Chase: Khmer Rouge tribunal judges adopt internal court rules
Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] said Wednesday that they have unanimously adopted [press release, PDF] internal rules for the ECCC following the conclusion of a two-week meeting that convened [JURIST reports] on May 31. The judges said the new rules would facilitate “fair, transparent trials before an independent and impartial court.” The rules are designed to integrate Cambodian law with the structure of the UN-Cambodian hybrid court, and cover a range of issues, including establishing the burden of proof for a conviction at the beyond reasonable doubt standard, and allowing victims to join lawsuits as civil parties, but without the right to obtain individual financial compensation. In addition, the ECCC will guarantee that defendants have “an effective team of Co-Lawyers, one Cambodian and one foreign.” Prosecution teams will also be structured in the same manner.

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Posted by: bklunk | June 12, 2007

Number Four With a Bullet

Despite all our talk about the democratic peace, the benefits of globalization, and the replacement of the war-making state with the trading state, states still seem to think that maintaining expensive military forces is worthwhile. Go figure!

China becomes Asia’s biggest military spender – Turkish Daily News Jun 12, 2007

China overtook Japan as Asia’s biggest arms spender in 2006 as global military expenditures grew 3.5 percent to US$1.2 trillion, a Swedish research institute said yesterday.

The United States remained by far the world’s top military spender last year, devoting about US$529 billion on weapons, up from US$505 billion in 2005, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.

“The large increase in the U.S. military spending is to a great extent due to the costly military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,” SIPRI said in its annual report.

Britain and France were second and third, respectively, while China’s growing military expenditures reached nearly US$50 billion, making it the fourth biggest arms spender in the world, SIPRI said in its annual report. Japan was fifth with US$43.7 billion.

The figures cited were in 2005 dollars.

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Posted by: bklunk | June 11, 2007

Anti-Social Networking

Apparently YouTube opens up whole new possibilities for international misunderstanding.

Turkey-Greece relations sour on the Internet – Turkish Daily News Jun 11, 2007

While bilateral trade sparks hope for the easing of tensions between Turkey and Greece, the skies over the Aegean Sea are witness to something contradictory. Few months ago a video on Youtube that showed a Greek combat aircraft intercepting a Turkish F-16 jet launched a virtual battle of words on the Internet between Greeks and Turks. The quarrels were reanimated this time by another video, put on Youtube by a Turkish pilot nicknamed DavidNorum, on which Turkish pilots lock onto Greek Mirages and F-16s. Viewers can hear Turkish pilots’ radio conversations, watch how they �share� Greek combat aircraft and how they teach flying techniques to each other. The video came at a time when the Web site of the Turkish General Staff reported twenty interceptions by Greek fighter jets against Turkish combat aircraft on training missions since the beginning of June.

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Posted by: bklunk | June 7, 2007

On Second Thought

First things first. Once upon a time Sheryl Gay Stolberg
was my student. Okay, now that I’m finished bragging, Putin’s offer should keep the inter-agency process churning until a new president is elected.

Putin Presents Bush With Plan on Missile Shield – New York Times

After months of angrily rejecting a White House plan for missile defense in Europe, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia surprised President Bush on Thursday with an offer to build a joint system in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.

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Posted by: bklunk | June 5, 2007

Happy World Environment Day

There are many ways to slice this news: who will gain and who will lose from environmental change? who will be best able to adapt to changing conditions? what kind of cooperation will be needed or possible to mitigate the impact of climate changes?

UN: Global Warming Will Change the Lives of Millions

TROMSO, Norway, June 5, 2007 (ENS) – As the Earth warms, hundreds of millions of people worldwide will be affected by melting snow covers, ice and glaciers, according to a new United Nations report issued to mark World Environment Day, observed on June 5 each year.

The availability of water supplies for both drinking and agriculture will also be impacted, while rising sea levels will affect low-lying coastal areas and islands, said the report, “Global Outlook for Ice and Snow,” compiled by the UN Environment Programme, UNEP, and a group of about 70 world experts.

The report and another UNEP report on the negative impacts of the rising tide of tourists to newly fashionable polar destinations were launched in Tromso, Norway, where the main observances for this year’s World Environment Day will be held.

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