LD – Mar/Apr ’16 – Promoting democracy in Middle East

This is also being listed as FX, due to the topic area and the Friedman article.

My first post on this topic had an article about Tunisia; how does the following article affect the message of the previous one?

Tunisian Town Simmers With Unrest Over Lack of Jobs and Investment

Egypt’s experience with democracy, and a quick summary of events in several other countries in the region.

Five years after Egypt’s Arab Spring – ‘We didn’t need a revolution’

Mustafa Akyol, the author of the book Islam Without Extremes – A Muslim Case for Liberty, discusses politics and Islam; how does what he says impact the resolution?

Akyol – How Politics Has Poisoned Islam

The following article may answer the question I just posed. We tend to think of democracy as what the political scientists call liberal democracy; is that what the Middle East would adopt? If it were an illiberal democracy, would it meet the terms of the resolution?

Hamid – The Future of Democracy in the Middle East – Islamist and Illiberal – The Atlantic

In January I posted about foreign policy realism. Friedman’s article, which should be in everyone’s FX files (it covers the entire region), might be the best example of arguments that could be used on the Neg side of the resolution (summary: it’s hopeless). Is this applied Realism?

Friedman – The Many Mideast Solutions

Watching the Arab Spring uprisings several years ago, one name kept coming up on the question of transitioning to democracy – Gene Sharp. He’s a specialist on nonviolent methods. The following work of his may also be of use.

From Dictatorship To Democracy


FX – Syria

With guest appearances by Russia, China, Iran, ISIS, Jordan, and US.

Are we to the point where we should just give up on Syria?

Abandoning Syria – Few Options Left for Stopping the War – Spiegel Online

O’Hanlon – The case for deconstructing Syria

The people left there:

Most Syrian refugees are just too poor to flee to Europe

Hospitals Devastated in Syria, War-Wounded Seek Treatment in Jordan

There are a lot of fingers in the pie:

Assad’s position strengthens in Syria with renewed Russian and Iranian support

Russia’s move into Syria upends US plans

Friedman – Syria, Obama and Putin

China’s Role in the Syria Crisis, Revisited – The Diplomat

Thousands Enter Syria to Join ISIS Despite Global Efforts

FX – Around the World

Yemen: This is not a pleasant story to read (be forewarned), but this is the reality of war. And this story could be from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any number of other countries. It’s much of why I question the Neocon military-first (-only?) approach. War always means this outcome, so do not choose it lightly.

Kutabish – In Yemen, Death From Above, Grief Below

Syria: The people we like are fighting a two-front war – against Assad’s forces and against Islamic extremists (ISIS and Al Qaeda’s Nusra front mostly). And refugees actually impact Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon more than the ones we see in the news entering Europe impact that continent.

Syria – Administration searches for new approach to aiding rebels

Are Syrian refugees a security threat to the Middle East – Reuters

Iran: “U.S. demoted from Great Satan to Lesser Satan; Republican exceptionalists immediately denounce the move!”

Post-Deal Iran Asks if US Is Still ‘Great Satan,’ or Something Less

The Castro brothers in Cuba, and Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, have made it a business to demonize America as a means of rallying their troops to the cause. Iranian hard-liners and and the GOP have long used each other to scare their base supporters in a similar fashion. (Exploiting the Us/Them dichotomy, an old trick for political gain.) If we’re no longer the worst thing in the world to Iranians, where does that leave the people here who use that tactic?

Thailand: Ah, the joys of military dictatorship. An acquaintance once spoke, with no fondness, of her husband’s several-year experience in an ‘attitude adjustment’ camp in Vietnam after the Americans left.

Thailand’s ruling generals threaten critics with an ‘attitude adjustment’

Malaysia: Note the racial/ethnic elements.

Pro-Government Rally Ends in Malaysia Capital After Standoff – Bloomberg Business

China: More on their economic zombie epidemic, and an evaluation of that trend. Plus, is China a friend or an enemy?

A ‘Sense Of Crisis’ Now In A Chinese Boomtown Gone Bust

Is the China Growth Model Dead – The Diplomat

Obama and China – Trying to play well with a close frenemy

(The source of the second article above  – The Diplomat – covers the Asia-Pacific region far more thoroughly than I do/can, which might make it a good source for hard core FXers.)

Sri Lanka: Admitting to the past to help move forward.

UN Urges Sri Lanka to Establish Court to Investigate War Abuses

Brazil: A very succinct headline.

Brazil’s economy tanks as multibillion-dollar corruption scandal expands

Guatemala: Any hope of success?

Next Test for Guatemala’s Protest Movement – Improving Citizens’ Lives

Russia: The veneer of democracy…

Trudolyubov – Russia’s Latest Fake Election

FX – Iran

Let’s break down an article:

Gerson – Iran thumbs its nose at the United States

First off, the author: Michael Gerson started out with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, before becoming a speech writer for President George W. Bush. Does this put him in the Neocon circle of thinkers? I previously posted an article talking about the subset of conservatives for whom no diplomatic solution would ever be acceptable. Is Gerson in that camp? If he isn’t, just what should diplomacy be able to achieve?

Issues: Gerson suggests a link between the visit of an Iranian military official to Russia, and the shipment of weapons by Russia to Syria. Does Gerson mean to suggest that the Quds Force commander snaps his fingers and Putin jumps to respond? Does that fit what we know about Putin? Might it be that Putin has his own priorities? What about evidence elsewhere that Putin’s shift towards Syria means a lessening of military resources for Ukranian separatists?

Iran announces new uranium resources after the agreement is reached. Why is that a problem? Doesn’t it actually mean that those resources will now be subject to the inspection protocols if Iran exploits them? And given the uranium vs. plutonium bomb distinctions (mentioned elsewhere), does it matter?

Iran is developing new non-nuclear weapons, and engages in buying and selling weapons. Given that the agreement is about nuclear weapons, why does this matter? They were developing non-nuclear weapons before, and would be afterwards, regardless of the agreement. Wouldn’t that happen anyway if there had been no nuclear deal? And isn’t the ability to buy and sell weapons simply a part of national sovereignty, whether we like it or not?

Hasn’t Iran been intent on demonstrating U.S. impotence for a long time? How has the nuclear deal changed that? Was the purpose of the nuclear deal to undercut their ability to do this? Are their past, present, and likely future activities to that end simply examples of demonizing the ‘other’? (Is Gerson doing the same thing?)

If Iran was behaving badly before, is now, and will likely do so in the future, how does this reflect badly on Obama? Carolyn Hax, the Washington Post advice columnist, wrote today that “When changing someone else’s thoughts or feelings is your goal, you hand control of the outcome to that person.” By what means could any American president change Iran’s thoughts or feelings (the things that drive them to make the choices they do)?

I love questions – they make you think.

CX and FX – Cyberwarfare

There’s a subfolder in the Extemp Files labeled US Military-Cyber; I combined the two because of the blurring of lines between business hacks and cyberwarfare – where does one end and the other begin?  (North Korea hacked Sony.) One of the results of that blurring of lines is the following article, which poses the question of how we are responding to that sort of threat. (Cyber-retaliation? Sanctions? What works?)

It involves CX to some extent because some of the industrial espionage may be a threat to U.S. security interests. If that’s the case, then counter-efforts will likely involve working with U.S. businesses – and that gets us back to the point of whether or not that allows the government access to the business’s collection of information on American citizens, and whether that could be used for domestic surveillance purposes.

Cyberthreat Posed by China and Iran Confounds White House

FX – Around the World, part 2

Global Warming: More on the question of what would happen if we used up all the fossil fuels. While it gives gigatonne amounts, I still want to know what the atmospheric CO2 levels would be.

What Would Happen If We Burned All the World’s Fossil Fuels – CityLab

ISIS: Drone effectiveness – not?

Data shows drone attacks will not work against ISIL in Syria

Iran (and the whole Middle East): The best article so far to give a concise analysis of where the U.S. and Iran both agree and disagree, covering the whole region. Keep this one in your files.

US and Iran Both Conflict and Converge

Australia: Where the Liberal Party is the conservatives, and a guest appearance by Canada in the second article.

Malcolm Turnbull Defeats Tony Abbott to Become Party Leader and Prime Minister of Australia

Great Britain: Krugman tackles the link between Corbyn and the British economy.

Krugman – Labour’s Dead Center

El Salvador: “How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?” – history lesson time.

US Wants Former Salvadoran Ally to Face Justice in 1989 Massacre

Venezuela: The top two stories coming out of there right now.

Free Venezuela’s Leopoldo Lopez

Rojas – Venezuela’s Politicized Border

FX – Around the World

Middle East first, EU and migrants last…

Iran: With whom does Obama need to mend fences? Are they fences worth mending?

Nuclear Deal Sealed, Obama Must Now Make It Work, and Mend Fences

Egypt: This one caught me by surprise – but it doesn’t mean new elections like it might in some countries, just a new cabinet.

Egypt’s Government Resigns Amid Corruption Probe

Syria: Note the author’s qualifications. While it’s obvious that we need a better solution for Syrians in Syria itself, it isn’t exactly surprising that the author would advocate for a solution that would also keep everyone from showing up on his doorstep the way they are now.

Steinmeier – Break the Gridlock on Syria

Turkey: For a long time, the Turkish military was the guarantor of a secular Turkish society; whenever civilian rulers would get too religious, the military would take over for a while to straighten out that problem. Erdogan is the first politician there to make the country noticeably more Islamic – a larger role for religion in the public square – and he did that by sidelining major portions of the military establishment that might have challenged him. While I didn’t see Erdogan’s use of the military against the Kurds as something that would upset the new religious balance he established, this author argues that I’m wrong. So now it’s a four-way contest: Erdogan and allies, the Kurds, ISIS, and the military. Definitely not a boring country to follow…

Karaveli – Turkey’s Military Rulers

Burma: Speaking of the military’s influence over government…

Min Zin – In Myanmar, a Soft Coup Ahead of an Election

Singapore: Election results, and hard-ball politics…

Singapore Voters Give Ruling Party a Resounding Victory

A blogger dared to question the Singapore miracle, and now the prime minister is trying to bankrupt him

Malaysia: More hard-ball politics…

Investigations Stymied in Malaysia, Critics of Najib Razak Take Their Case Global

Venezuela: And really hard-ball politics.

A Venezuelan opposition leader’s absurd sentence

Harsh sentence for Venezuela opposition leader widely condemned

Opposition in Venezuela Is Unsettled by Leader’s Sentence

Cuba: Someone who just might outlast the Castro brothers.

For Pope Francis, an unfinished mission in Cuba

Spain: While Spain is considered to be on the EU’s periphery rather than the core, even periphery countries have their internal core-periphery issues. Is Spain’s core area trying to dump the periphery slackers?

Catalans Campaigning for Independence March in Barcelona

Northern Ireland: Deja vu all over again.

The Political Crisis in Northern Ireland

Great Britain: Now there’s a liberal! (America has shifted to far to the right that our liberals would be centrists elsewhere.)

Leftist Jeremy Corbyn elected leader of Britain’s Labour Party

With Jeremy Corbyn Elected as New Leader, Britain’s Labour Party Takes a Hard Left Turn

Migrants: Not exactly a consensus yet.

Quota Proposal Fails to Gain Traction as Germany Prepares for More Arrivals

Hungarians Say Images of Harshness Toward Migrants Are Unfair

Eastern Europe Is Resisting Aid for Refugees