The snowball starts rolling

NATO has sent Montenegro its much-coveted invitation to join the Alliance, most likely at the Warsaw Summit July 8-9 next year. This is in many ways a small matter: Montenegro is a country of 620,000 people with a military force of fewer than 2000. It is no threat to anyone, least of all Russia, and no big addition to NATO capacities.

It is nevertheless significant. First because Russia saw fit to oppose NATO membership for Montenegro, first through bribery and later through support for unruly anti-government demonstrations. These efforts to block Montenegro’s NATO accession will continue, making it a test of will between Moscow and the West. If Moscow loses, Western spirits will be raised.

Those raised spirits will include people in other Balkans states who want their countries to join NATO. Moscow fears that Montenegrin accession will be a step onto a slippery slope that will lead to Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia all joining the Alliance. The Russians are correct, which makes the Montenegro decision a key one for the region.

Macedonia, though now stalled by its internal problems and long blocked by Greece, has already sent its troops to fight in Afghanistan integrated with US forces. It has recently decided to send a few more. Its eventual accession to NATO is inevitable. Ditto Kosovo, which still lacks a fully fledged security force and faces the hurdle of four non-recognizing NATO members. But Kosovo’s citizens are all but unanimous in wanting membership in a club that saved it from Serbian attacks.

Serbia and Bosnia are less obvious cases. Resentment of NATO bombing among Serbs in both countries is still strong. But sooner or later Belgrade and Banja Luka will come around the way Germans, Italians, Japanese and others bombed and even occupied by the United States have. Surrounded by NATO members, it will make little geopolitical sense for Bosnia and Serbia to align themselves with Russia or even to remain “neutral.” The Serbian chief of staff told me a decade or so ago that his country’s military, which already participates in NATO’s Partnership for Peace, would adapt itself to Alliance standards. Bosnia’s now unified army has been built from scratch with assistance from the US and NATO. The most secure place for Bosnia and Serbia will be inside the Alliance, not outside it.

None of this threatens Russia. Even taken all together the Balkans armies pose no serious challenge to Moscow. What Balkans NATO membership threatens are Russia’s efforts to divide and weaken Balkans states and limit Western influence in southeastern Europe. That for me is a good thing. Montenegro has started the snowball rolling. Dobrodošla, Crna Goro!*

*I’ve corrected a grammatical error made in the original posting. Apologies!


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Arabs casting votes, not stones

On Wednesday, the Palestine Center hosted Member of Knesset Aymen Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, to give a talk entitled ‘Palestinian Citizens of Israel Lead Toward Justice, Freedom, and Equality. The Joint List is a political alliance of the four Arab-dominated parties  and currently the third-largest faction in Israel’s parliament.

Odeh makes an argument for changing Israeli public opinion and politics through Palestinian citizens’ action and participation. Palestinian citizens of Israel constitute 18% of the population, and therefore possess some electoral weight when working together. After 1948, it was important for the Palestinians who remained not to get stuck in nafsiyyat al-Nakba – a Nakba mentality. Early activists, especially in the Communist Party, pushed back against the government, for instance during celebrations for the 10th anniversary of Israel’s founding, in an effort to instead cultivate a mentality of ‘confrontation and challenge’.

There is thus a legacy of Palestinian political action in Israel. Odeh moreover continuously highlighted the themes of “remaining” and citizenship. Palestinians, in his formulation, are a national minority, but a minority stemming from an indigenous population, a portion of whom is now under occupation in their own country. The Joint List is thoroughly politically committed to ending that occupation, but they – and the minority of Palestinian citizens – do not want to isolate themselves from the rest of Israeli society.

The method is political and social action, including the more gradual and nebulous approach of changing Israeli public opinion about the situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The Joint List faces considerable challenges, including balancing the many different political leanings of the members of the alliance. It also faces deliberate slander from Netanyahu, who has called Arab members of the Knesset “ISIS,” and attempts from the religious right to exclude them from politics.

The Joint List is also committed to advocating for other underrepresented or marginalized groups in Israel, such as Mizrahi Jews and disabled persons. The aim is to use the full 18% to maximum effect, but also to collaborate with other groups in Israeli society. The imperative is to advance a moral alternative to the status quo to for all of Israel’s citizens.

Odeh drew comparisons with other historic struggles, particularly with the civil rights movement in the US. He finds more sympathy with the method of Martin Luther King, Jr., than with Malcolm X, at least until the latter changed his politics later in life. For Odeh, the joint struggle of both white and black Americans toward a more just and equal society was the most effective orientation. The Joint List has its work cut out for it, but it may be that its members can use this method to good effect in advancing the causes of justice and equality in Israel, too.

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Princeton’s problem isn’t just Wilson

Woodrow Wilson was a key president in Princeton’s rise as a serious university, a reformist and progressive Governor of New Jersey, and an internationalist President of the United States, one who led the country into a successful intervention in World War I and championed self-determination of oppressed peoples as well as making the world safe for democracy. He was also an unrepentant racist and white supremacist, one who refused to speak out against lynching of black people, segregated US government workers and excused the behavior of the Ku Klux Klan.

Princeton has long deified Wilson, whose name graces one of its major dorms as well as its school of public and international affairs. When I was a doctoral student there (yes, I got my PhD at Princeton), the head of my program made it clear that Wilson was an ideal to which we all needed to aspire, even if our lowly beings could never hope to achieve such perfection. I knew nothing of Wilson at the time. His lofty status being far above my dreams, I ignored the paragon. It was the Vietnam war era. Princeton’s then motto, “in the nation’s service,” sounded more like a threat than a virtue.

Now Princeton’s motto is “in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” That change should have made Wilson’s racism harder to ignore. But the reexamination has awaited instead the protests of some of its current black students, who are asking for his name to be removed from its most privileged perches.

I have to confess that opinion in my family is divided. Its three African American members (remember the one-drop rule, increasingly outmoded but still appropriate when discussing racism) are for keeping his name where it is. One thinks the students unjustified in wanting it removed because it is part of the hostile environment Princeton presents to black students. Just wait, he says, until they get to the real world, when things will be worse. Better to prepare for the hostility at Princeton, as Michelle Obama did.

Another thinks the Wilson name should hang around Princeton’s neck like an albatross, one it will have to explain to every incoming freshman. Why make life easy for an institution that was always known as the ivy closest to the south? The third doubts the wisdom of cleansing our history of its hypocrites. What will become of “greats” like Jefferson, who wrote that all men are created equal with inalienable rights but still kept slaves (and only freed the ones he had sired upon his death).

My own feeling is that fifty odd years is long enough for a racist and white supremacist to grace the lintels of one of America’s greatest academic institutions. He was a product of his times. Let him retire and give way to someone more worthy according to the standards of our times. Of course that will not be a governor or a president. Princeton will just turn around and sell the naming rights to the highest bidder. If you’ve ever read a Princeton alumni publication, you know that could involve a very large quantity of money. Or maybe a free mash up would do: the Woodrow Wilson/Louis Farrakhan school of public and international policy? After all, Farrakhan did a lot of good in America’s prisons I am reminded, despite his anti-Semitic racism. Let that hang around Princeton’s neck to balance out Wilson.

I suppose that’s the problem: I can think of a lot worse names than the existing one. The way the world works, Princeton is likely to get one of those. There isn’t likely to be a “good” solution. But I suppose the conversation, as we like to say these days, will be a useful one. After all, the issue really isn’t Wilson, it is the history of race in America.

Real with consequences

This week’s Paris meeting on climate change will move a lot of electrons heralding action on climate change. But the outcome is guaranteed to be disappointing if you are worried about the consequences of continuing to burn fossil fuels. The national pledges (known in the trade as “intended nationally determined contributions” or INDCs) will fail to stop global warming short of the 2 degrees (centigrade) that would be required to avoid a substantial increase in sea levels and worsening of the storms and heat extremes that have already become all too common. Some will say this is a good start, as it will stop global warming at perhaps 3 degrees.

I’m less patient. I was a United Nations young staffer in 1972 at the first UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. The “greenhouse effect” and global warming were already well-known then. So too were the difficulties of coming to grips with an issue that threatens global economic growth and pits already wealthy fossil fuel burning countries against aspirants from what we then termed the Third World. Who would bear the burden of cutting back on greenhouse gases? Would it be those who have already benefited from fossil fuels, or those who would like to do so in the future? And how will efforts to cut back on emissions affect prospects for economic growth worldwide?

The issue has gotten worse since then: China, not a “rich” country, has become a major contributor to the global load of carbon dioxide, overtaking the US in 2005. Its pledge in Paris will entail peaking emissions by 2030, or perhaps few years earlier. Still very poor India’s will continue rising to 2030, possibly making it a bigger contributor to global emissions than either China or the US. While the US has contributed a great deal to the problem to date, its emissions are already declining. Washington aims for a 28% reduction from 2005 levels by 2025.

But none of this will enable the world to escape the consequences of global warming. They are not all bad. Nor are they necessarily all induced by human activity. But a lot of them will require major adjustments, especially for land areas lying close to sea level. I won’t be investing in beach-front property for my grandson. It could well be submerged, or the beach carried off by storms, well before he inherits. More seriously: Bangladesh, Mauritius and other poor, vulnerable countries may well find themselves without the land they cherish, or suffering far worse consequences from tsunamis than they did in the past.

Nor are rich countries immune: remember Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New York City? Not necessarily caused by global warming, but still a clear harbinger of what is becoming more likely in the future, including in China’s prosperous coastal cities. Climate change is already costing the US Federal government over $20 billion per year. States and local governments are spending billions more to prevent the worst consequences.

No doubt the White House staff is busily working on making the Paris meeting a successful one for President Obama, who is wisely attending for two days at the opening (as invited by President Hollande). The main diplomatic drama will occur behind the scenes at the end of the 12-day affair. No one there will have forgotten the clamorous failure of negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, where the President was personally embarrassed. The obvious answer to the equity issues global warming raises is money. The President has pledged $3 billion to a Green Climate Fund for developing countries that has already topped $10 billion. That’s not small change, but it barely scratches the surface of the total financial requirements, as the Indians are quick to point out.

A key issue in Paris will be whether the voluntary national commitments already made will be legally binding. That’s what the French, and I imagine the Europeans more generally, want. It’s hard to picture, at least with respect to the emissions targets or financial commitments. Making them legally binding would virtually guarantee non-approval of any international legal instrument in the US Senate, where there is still a lot of skepticism about global warming. Some marginal, procedural  changes to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, negotiated parallel to the UN Conference on Environment and Development (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), may still be possible. The big procedural issue is when the next review of INDCs will take place: the US wants it in five years, to keep the pressure on, while developing countries prefer ten.

Somehow the White House will make the President’s two days in Paris sound like a resounding success. But no one should be fooled: global warming is not only real, it will also continue far beyond the point at which most reputable scientists believe it will cause catastrophic effects.

PS: a SAIS climate change guru read this critically, which inspired me to make some changes in the original. The changes are in bold.

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Peace picks November 30 – December 4

  1. Renewed Violence in the Central African Republic: The Roots of a Political Crisis | Monday, November 30th | 12:30-2:00 | US Institute of Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Leaders and citizens of the Central African Republic, with the support of the international community, are currently focusing resources and energy on laying the groundwork for a peaceful constitutional referendum and elections in the coming months. But sustained peace in in the country will require longer-term efforts as well, because the recent crisis is rooted in decades of poor governance and persistent insecurity. After the elections, Central African Republic policymakers and the international community will be challenged to lay the groundwork for the new government by addressing the longstanding grievances that contribute to the cyclical nature of the violence in CAR. The panel will bring together some of the foremost experts on the Central African Republic’s recent history of rebellion and instability, including the two most recent coups, international intervention efforts, the country’s political economy, and the ongoing series of United Nations and regional peacekeeping efforts. The experts will draw on their contributions to Making Sense of the Central African Republic, published by Zed Books, to make policy recommendations for the crucial remaining steps in CAR’s political transition and beyond. Panelists include: Louisa Lombard, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Yale University; Tatiana Carayannis, Deputy Director Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum (CPPF), Social Science Research Council (SSRC); Ambassador Laurence Wohlers, Senior Fellow, Meridian International; Ledio Cakaj, Independent Consultant, Expert on the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Séléka; Roland Marchal, Senior Research Fellow, National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), based at the Center for International Studies (CERI), Paris Institute of Political Studies; and Faouzi Kilembe, Independent Researcher, Expert on Central African Civil Society and Local Development. Nancy Lindborg, President of USIP, will moderate the discussion.Pose questions for the panel on Twitter with #CARUSIP.
  2. 3-D Printing the Bomb? The Challenge for Nuclear Nonproliferation | Tuesday, December 1st | 10:30-12:00 | The Carnegie Endowment | REGISTER TO ATTEND |3-D printing has opened the world to a revolution in manufacturing. But this new technology may enable the most sensitive pieces of a nuclear weapons program to be more easily produced and transferred undetected around the globe. The United States should‬ ‪lead an international effort to prevent a 3-D printing-enabled cascade of nuclear weapons proliferation before it is too late. Tristan Volpe and Matthew Kroenig will launch their new article, “3-D Printing the Bomb? The Nuclear Nonproliferation Challenge,” and explore how the United States can adopt both top-down and bottom-up strategies to combat this threat to international security‪. ‬Bruce Goodwin will moderate.
  3. Developmental Approaches to Countering Violent Extremism | Tuesday, December 1st | 11:00-12:30 | Center for Strategic and International Studies | RSVP to | Join us for an expert discussion on the role of development actors in addressing the drivers and manifestations of violent extremism. Although the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001 forced governments around the world to develop new counterterrorism tactics, the rise of ISIS and other violent extremist groups has focused international attention on the underlying risk factors and risk processes that make young people, in particular, vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment.
    Development actors have invested significant time and resources into understanding the drivers of violent extremism and developing an evidence-based approach to address these factors. Yet, many questions remain about the most salient development-related drivers and the viability of taking a holistic, developmental approach to violent extremism. Panelists will discuss the contributions that development actors can play in preventing violent extremism and uncovering the limitations to these approaches. Daniel F. Runde, director of CSIS’s Project on Prosperity and Development, and William A. Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis, will give opening remarks, followed by a panel discussion featuring: Farooq Kathwari,Chairman, CEO, and President, Ethan Allen Interiors, Inc.; and Susan Reichle, Agency Counselor, U.S. Agency for International Development. The discussion will be moderated by Shannon N. Green, director of CSIS’s Human Rights Initiative.
  4. Berets are OK, Headscarves are not | Wednesday, December 2nd | 12:30-2:00 | Georgetown University | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Relations between the French state and public visibility of religion, particularly Islam, became openly confrontational in the late 1980s with the infamous “headscarf affair” in public schools, where Muslim students were expelled from school for wearing a hijab (Islamic headscarf). With respect to public displays of religion, the initial response of public authorities was a lenient application of laïcité towards the general public but a rigid one towards civil servants. In the 2000s, there were escalating public struggles between public manifestations of religious affiliation and politicians increasingly fighting for a restrictive application of laïcité that regards religious displays as a violation of public order. This increasing politicization of laïcité, where religious freedom was seen as an assault on cultural and republican values, has resulted in a toughening of the legislative speech on religious signs, particularly against Muslims who were seen as more openly violating French cultural norms. While restrictions of expression of religious affiliation of students began in public schools, we are now observing an extension of this control to people in public spaces. This expansion of repressive policies will end badly not only for Muslim minorities in Europe, but also the overall legitimacy and integrity of modern European liberal values. Rim-Sarah Alouane, Ph.D. candidate in Public Law at the University Toulouse-Capitol, will give a presentation on the subject, in the Intercultural Center, room 270.
  5. Examining the Puzzle of Non-Western Democracy | Tuesday, December 2nd | 12:15-1:45 | The Carnegie Endowment | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Many people in non-Western countries say that they want a democratic system of governance—but just not Western-style democracy. Yet what is meant by non-Western democracy often remains unclear, and at times is merely a cover for non-democratic practices. A new book by Carnegie senior associate Richard Youngs, The Puzzle of Non-Western Democracy, examines the growing search for variation in democratic practice and the implications of this search for Western democracy assistance providers. Youngs argues that it is most useful to focus on the common challenge of democratic renewal in both Western and non-Western countries, and he identifies areas of democratic variation that may help to productively channel efforts for such renewal. Richard Youngs will present the core arguments of his book in a roundtable event. Shadi Hamid, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Sandra Pepera, director for gender, women, and democracy at the National Democratic Institute, will offer comments on the different regional applications of these issues. Thomas Carothers will moderate the discussion.
  6. 6th Annual Conference on Turkey | Thursday, December 3rd | 9:00-4:15 | Middle East Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Center for Turkish Studies at The Middle East Institute and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation are pleased to present the Sixth Annual Conference on Turkey, held at the National Press Club. The conference will assemble three expert panels to discuss the country’s tumultuous domestic politics following recent elections, the future of democracy in the country, and Turkish foreign policy. The keynote speaker for the conference will be the co-leader for Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, in discussion with MEI’s Gönül Tol. The full program can be viewed here.
  7. U.S. and Western Policy Towards Russia: Cooperation, Containment, or Something Else Entirely? | Thursday, December 3rd | 10:00-11:30 | Center for Strategic and International Studies | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Russian annexation of Crimea has led to over two years of debate regarding Washington’s strategy towards Moscow. Today, with Ukraine somewhat quieter and seeming progress towards cooperation on Syria, are more cooperative approaches possible? What should be Washington’s goals in engaging with Russia, or responding to it on the global stage? Are there tools that have not yet been tried, and what can they attain where other efforts have failed? Vladislav Inozemtsev, prominent Russian economist and visiting fellow at CSIS, will outline his views of what’s possible, what’s likely, and what should be done by the United States as it reevaluates its Russia policies. Olga Oliker, Director of the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program, will provide commentary. The event will be moderated by Jeffrey Mankoff, Deputy Director of the CSIS Russia and Eurasia.
  8. The State of Religious Freedom in the US and Europe | Thursday, December 3rd | 2:00-4:00 | KARAMAH | REGISTER TO ATTEND | It has become increasingly clear that even countries that champion international religious freedom still apply laws and regulations that restrict religious minorities’ rights with respect to many issues including their dress, their ability to have places of worship, and even the validity of their religious marriages.During this event, we will discuss how countries around the world, especially those that ostensibly defend religious freedom, can uphold these values and make sure they are fully reflected in their respective societies. Please attend and discuss with global leaders and advisers how violations of international religious freedom are impacting marginalized communities, especially the fundamental rights of Muslim women and girls. Speakers include David N. Saperstein, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom; Aisha Rahman, Esq., KARAMAH executive director; and Engy Abdelkader, Esq., Adviser with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. The event will be held at The General Board of Church and Society 100 Maryland Avenue, NE Washington, DC 20002.
  9. Building Regional Stability: Addressing Pakistan’s Conflict – Displaced Persons | Thursday, December 3rd | 3:30-4:30 | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Given the recent international attention on global refugee issues, including the flow of Afghan and Syrian refugees to the European Union, efforts to keep conflict-displaced persons in their home countries and repatriate them quickly and effectively has become more significant. Pakistan has over 1 million people still displaced from the conflict in FATA that could join those refugee outflows if an effective and resourced strategy is not in place. Recognizing this, Secretary Kerry announced a $250 million US commitment to help resettle and sustain civilians displaced by the Pakistani military’s campaign against militant group, and this month a $30 million USAID-supported FATA livelihoods and education recovery program launched as part of that pledge. John Groarke, USAID’s Pakistan Director, will join us to discuss this challenge facing Pakistan and the region. Bharath Gopalaswamy, Director of Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, will moderate the discussion.
  10. Yemen between War and Political Solution | Friday, December 4th | 9:30-11:00 | The Woodrow Wilson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Yemeni conflict is in its 8th month with no end in sight. What are the prospects for a solution, military or political? If the conflict is nothing more than a proxy war for Saudis and Iranians, what are the prospects for third party solutions? Finally, what are the long-term consequences of this conflict down the road for the region and beyond? Speakers include Mohammad Al-Shami, a youth activist and advocacy trainer in Yemen, and former Leaders for Democracy Fellow, Maxwell School of Syracuse University; Amat Alsoswa, founder of the Yemeni National Women’s Committee, first Yemeni female ambassador, former Human Rights minister, and former UN Assistant Secretary General; and Barbara Bodine, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy and Director, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, The Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, and former Ambassador to Yemen. Henri J. Barkey, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program, will moderate the discussion. There will be a live webcast of the event.
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Precious little Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is when Americans, who constitute only about half peacefare’s readers, join with family and friends to acknowledge their many blessings. This year that means relative prosperity across much of the country, a parade of giant balloons in New York City, and a lot of good food and cheer–plus a bit of intra-family political controversy–at the single serious meal most of us indulge in today.

But the world is not in good shape and we all know it. Civil war rages in Syria, Libya and Yemen, three former dictatorships that failed to make the transition to democracy after political upheavals in 2011. Islamic State and Al Qaeda-linked terrorists have attacked in Beirut, Sinai, Bamako, Paris and elsewhere. Syrians, Afghans and Africans from many sub-Saharan countries are flowing into Europe, driving politics to the nationalist/nativist right and raising difficult security questions, with echoes in the US.

The Turkish downing of a Russian warplane has upped the ante. I don’t doubt that the Russians violated Turkish airspace or that the Turks warned the Russian pilots. It would be impossible to bomb along that portion of the Syrian/Turkish border without crossing into Turkish territory. But those are not the only reasons Turkey acted. The Russians were bombing Turkmen rebels fighting Bashar al Assad’s forces. Erdogan was making Obama’s rhetorical point with bombs: Russia is welcome to fight the Islamic State, but not to fight relatively moderate rebels opposing the dictatorship.

The escalation is nevertheless dangerous. The Syrian civil war is already a proxy war between Shia Iran and Sunni Arab Gulf states plus Turkey. The Turkish move risks engaging NATO and the US, which are understandably loathe to come to blows directly with Russia. I’d anticipate increasing pressure to produce results at peace talks to be convened early in January. But impending peace talks will also provide an incentive for the warring parties inside Syria to grab as much territory as possible, before a ceasefire freezes them in place.

The situation in Libya, Yemen and Iraq is no more promising. The Islamic State is using the impasse in Libya to deepen and expand its footprint, especially in and around Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte. In Yemen the fighting continues, with Houthi rebels only slowly yielding ground to Saudi- and UAE-supported ground forces (reportedly including Colombian mercenaries) while Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula deepens and expands its footprint in more desolate parts of the country. Iraqi forces are making gradual but agonizingly slow progress against the Islamic State in Anbar, but Mosul and much of western Iraq remain out of Baghdad’s control.

Little of these Middle Eastern dramas are reflected directly in the United States. The numbers of refugees President Obama wants to take in are small even compared to what the Europeans are accepting, who in turn are less than 25% of the total who have already left Syria. The West is unwilling to throw its doors open to desperate Syrians, especially the Muslim ones, fearing that there may be terrorists hiding among them and neglecting to notice how refusal to admit refugees will help Islamic State and other extremist recruitment efforts. John Oliver captured the irony well with this:

There was only one time in American history when the fear of refugees wiping everyone out did actually come true, and we’ll all be sitting around a table celebrating it on Thursday.

I hope Americans will remember this bit of irony and try to spare some sympathy not only for the natives we displaced but also for the Middle Easterners who have so little to celebrate this year.

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