January 31, 2006
"Gangsters and silence"
So sounds the title of the article by the Italian journalist Giulietto Chiesa which deals with the scandal of CIA flights in Europe and the inquiry the Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty has been conducting since November 2005 and reported before the Council of Europe last week. In the inquiry Marty accused the United States of “gangster tactics” and the European governments of turning a blind eye to “CIA’s illegal anti-terror activities in Europe”. (see the text of the speech)
Italy is involved in the first place as an investigation is underway in Milan into the disappearance of an Egyptian cleric allegedly abducted by CIA agents. Other 11 cases are reported to have taken place and the Italian secret service is suspected of having known it. In the article on the left-leaning il manifesto the journalist argues that “the European intelligence agencies must have been aware of what was happening in their territories with the ‘extraordinary renditions’. Now we’ll see how they’ll cover it up and tamper with the evidence”. Chiesa goes on by adding that this is the way Europe is acting now: “slavish governments willing to support the international war on terror and, consequently, the violations of fundamental human rights”. George Bush is depicted as "an emperor ready to breach any international regulations and, together with Dick Cheney, to trample on the American laws and Constitution". But, the journalist concludes, “Europe is guilty of letting the American gangsters damage democracy and Western values as a whole”.
Marty’s interim report before the continent’s human rights watchdog was criticised by the British parliamentarians for its lack of unpublished and new evidence (The Independent). The 21st of February is the deadline by which the 46 countries belonging to the Council of Europe will have to reply to a series of questions on the matter. Then the opinion of the Venice Commission on the legality of secret detention centres and the transport of prisoners by other States through the European territory will follow. The Commission is an advisory body of the Council and is expected to adopt its opinion on 17-18 March 2006.
In the meantime, the European Parliament has launched its own investigation. Il manifesto in the same page of Chiesa’s article, runs an interview with Claudio Fava, the Italian member of the temporary commission which will delve into the matter. “We must start from what Marty found. The existence of CIA prisons is not under discussion, our task now is to discover where they were and whether the European governments were involved or not in the violations”.
December 08, 2005
US-Poland Security Meeting
Gazeta Wyborcza reports on a meeting between US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsefeld and his Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski. Poland has a substantial contingent in Iraq - 1,700 men - and has apparently agreed to say on for the medium term, albeit with some reductions and a shift from security operations to training. Sikorski insisted that this was a measure to enhance Poland's security, and not a dig for increases in US aid. Having said that, he then noted that he and Rumsfeld also discussed Poland's expecations of the US, which apparently include help in procuring advanced weapon's technology, communications equipment and smart bombs. Also a Polish priority is American cooperation in the development of the joint Polish-Ukrainian batallion, with the goal of upgrading it to a Polish-Ukrainian-American brigade. This may seem like a distant triviality to American observers, but the Polish goal is actually quite audacious - such a unit would help anchor Ukraine in the Western alliance, and bring US influence right up to the western borders of Russia.
December 06, 2005
A new rendition
Focusing on the legal defenses of the administration, the reporter repeatedly mentions how Rice continues to frame the debate in terms of rendition, or the transportation of alleged terrorists to clandestine sites where they are suspected of being tortured outside the bounds of any legal system.
One of the most gaping flaws in the use of rendition, according to some legal experts, is the claim that it was "necessary in instances where local governments did not have the capacity to prosecute a terror suspect, or in cases where al-Qaida members were operating in remote areas far from an operational justice system."
But the suspects were generally all obtained in dense urban, and therefore infrastructurally sound environments for legal prosecution. One, of course, can argue whether Karachi, and therefore Pakistan, is a suitable location for the due process of law to be enacted, but either way Rice's logic appears to be loosening in the wake of international criticism over such methods.
Interestingly, this and other sources in the European press appear to be unable to ascertain what Washington's (self-admittedly) unique definition of torture is.
December 02, 2005
Taking allies for granted
Though it has been noted by many in the news media that the two-war capacity ended as a result of the Iraq War, an editorial in The Hindustani Times questions another US military assumption: that India will persist as an American ally in any future conflict.
Keeping in mind the lesson of Iran and the U.S. prior to the Islamic Revolution, the author writes,
Mind you, the chances of war with the US are remote since there are no burning conflicts of interest, but it would be foolhardy to argue that the US will never make war on India. There is some truth in that old adage about nations having permanent interests, rather than enemies or friends.
What is particularly interesting is the emphasis on the role of armed response to sudden global shifts. It is understandable that Pakistan and China are highlighted repeatedly as the objects of any future conflagration. That the integrity of the nation must be guarded against any possible aggressors, however, speaks to some anxieties that might not have been helped by a Mideast invasion.
In many ways it reads as a South Asian adaptation of the Rumsfeld Doctrine.
December 01, 2005
A new episode in the Yellowcake case. Today La Repubblica runs an interview with Alain Chouet, French 007 till 2002. The interview controverts the Italian government reconstruction in four essential points:
1. Rocco Martino, the fake Italian 007, did not work for the DGSE (Direction Générale de la Sécurité extérieure), as the Italian government stated.
2. CIA gets the fake documents about the Niger Yellocake in June 2002. That is, when the Italian magazine Panorama gives the fake documents to the American Embassy in Rome in August 2002, CIA already has the documents.
3. As opposed to what stated by the Italian government, the DGSE did not pass the documents to Washington. On the contrary, Washington passed the documents to the DGSE asking to verify them. The DGSE informs Washington that the documents are false since July 2002.
4. Rocco Martino gets in touch with the DGSE only in the summer of 2002, not before.
If what stated by Alain Chouet is true, as it seems to be so far, La Repubblica gets another scoop about the Yellowcake.
November 29, 2005
Black Sites in Eastern Europe - The EU is not amused
It has been some weeks since the revelation that the US has set up a world-wide network of secret prisons to house terror-related detainees out of the jurisdiction of US courts. Two Eastern European countries have been named as sites - Poland and Romania. Although the governments of both states deny the allegations, the White House has so far refused to confirm or deny the existence of these prisons.
Despite the Polish and Romanian denials and the silence from Washington, the EU is taking these charges very seriously and has begun discussion possible disceplinary measures against any European states housing such prisons. Both the BBC and the Guardian report that EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini, the top judicial official in the EU, announced that penalties may include the suspension of Council voting rights for Poland, an EU member. This action would be justified under EU conventions pledging to defend democracy, the rule of law and human rights. For Romania, aspiring to EU membership, the consequences could be even more severe - the head of the EU Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has called for reopening the negotiation process, a backwards step for a country that has already signed accession agreements.
November 21, 2005
Poland and missile defense - interview with a former ambassador
Gazeta Wyborcza publishes an interview with Przemysław Grudziński, security scholar and former Polish ambassador to Washington. There is no news to report - negotiations with the US are ongoing about basing interceptors in Poland - but Grudziński clearly spells out Poland's fairly high hopes for the initiative. He notes that previous Western and US oriented security moves - joining NATO, the purchase of US F-16 fighters, participation in the Iraq war - have yet to pay dividends, but he is optimistic that the logistical, manufacturing and infrastructure requirements of hosting bases will serve to spur economic development in Poland. He also notes that such a move would cement Poland's place among the staunchest US allies. It seems that previous disappointments with the US have only increased Poles' desire to demonstrate thier reliability and loyalty.
A final decision on base locations is expected within a few weeks. Originally, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were considered as possible host countries, but worsening relations between Prague and Washington have ruled out the Czechs. While Hungary still remains a possibility, the odds-on favorite is Poland.
November 18, 2005
Terminator IV: Massive Political Impact (as pitched by Matt Ogdie and Keli Dailey)
"If I would do another 'Terminator' movie, I would
have 'Terminator' travel back in time to tell Arnold not to have a
special election," Schwarzenegger told reporters.
Let's make another Terminator movie, send the Terminator back in time and tell Ghandi and Neru that the Great Migration was going to cost ~30 million lives. The Terminator strongly advises them to take the necessary precautions!
Let's make another Terminator movie, send the Terminator back in time and inform Lloyd George and the political aristocracies of Europe that the Treaty of Versailles would lead to the rise of Nazi Germany and so predominate the historical landscape of the 20th century that it is impossible to separate the Cold War from it's ill-effects.
Let's make another Terminator movie, send the Terminator T-1000 back in time and tell that stupid jerk Reagan that he could engage the Soviets in a catastrophic financial contest without actually spending trillions of dollars on nuclear warheads that we are currently spending trillions of dollars dismantling and tracking as they inevitably bleed into the black market.
Or ...and this could already be in production…
Let's make another Terminator movie, send the Terminator back in time and send him to Iraq, where he would kick some serious Al-Qaeda ass, befriend a little Kurdish boy who brings out the human spirit in his Terminator source code, which emerges in time for him to sacrifice his cyborg life in order to kill Osama bin Laden in some FANTASTIC way that has lots of explosions..more explosions than anybody's ever seen on film!!!!
Why not just have the Terminator arrest Osama before 9/11? Or inform the authorities? It's a Jerry Bruckheimer film, for chrissake.
November 13, 2005
Missile Defense Base in Poland
Gazeta Wyborcza reports that today the new right-wing government of Poland has formally announced its willingness to participate in the American ballistic missile defense program, even to the point of housing anti-missile rockets in Poland. According to the article, secret negotiations have been taking place between Washington and Warsaw for the last six months, suggesting that the former leftist government also supported this policy. It goes on to cite that Pentagon officials will make a decision in the next six months whether to take up Poland's offer of basing interceptor missiles.
"Black Sites" in Eastern Europe
It has been two weeks since the revelation in the Washington Post that the US holds terror-related subjects in secret prisons in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, presumably to keep them out of the jurisdiction of US law. In Poland, one of the Eastern European countries widely suspected to house one such prison, the reaction has been slow and muted. I only found one piece that dealt with the issue, and only in passing in an article on Guantanamo Bay. The article reported the existence of secret prisons in the Middle East and Asia, but questioned whether any were located in Eastern Europe. The piece cites a Polish intelligence officer denying reports of CIA prisons in Poland, but goes on to note that the Czech government has acknowledged receiving a request to set such a prison up. Czech sources insist that that request was denied.
November 08, 2005
Joshua Marshall posted a detailed timeline of the "yellocake case" on his website.
You can also send additions and corrections to the timeline by sending an email to email@example.com
October 15, 2001:
US intelligence agencies receive reports from the Italian intelligence service SISMI of a supposed agreement between Iraq and Niger for the sale of yellowcake uranium. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research considers the report “highly suspect” because the French control Niger ’s uranium industry. The CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Department of Energy consider a uranium deal “possible.”
October 18, 2001:
The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research issues a report stating that there is no corroborative evidence that there was any agreement on uranium transfer between Iraq and Niger, or that any uranium was actually transferred.
February 5, 2002:
The CIA’s Directorate of Operations–the clandestine branch that employed Valerie Wilson–issues a second report including “verbatim text” of an agreement for the sale of 500 tons of uranium yellowcake per year that was supposedly signed July 5-6, 2000.
SURPRISE, ANTIAMERICANISM ‘IN THE BACKYARD’
Bitter discovery for Us, phenomenon in Latin America not only in Europe and the Middle East
“Is this a show for our cameras or are they acting seriously?”. This is what Lou Dobbs of the Cnn asked his reporters when he saw the first images of the riots in Mar del Plata. Stars and stripes flags burning outside the building where the FTAA meeting was being held. Italian newspaper “La Stampa” reports Dobbs’ words and describes the scene. The journalist Paolo Mastrolilli, correspondent from NY, explains that protests against Us and president Bush “are getting into Americans’ living rooms through TV”.
The author states that Americans’ were taken by surprise as they are used to seeing similar behaviours only in the Middle East and, after “the invasion of Iraq”, in Europe. “Now this feeling of anger is spreading at their threshold”, goes on the journalist.
According to Mastrolilli, the United States didn’t expect much positive attitudes from the rest of the continent – “Latin America has always looked at them with a mixture of envy and grudge” - but, still, they should have taken into account that some problems would arise. The journalist reminds the readers that the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, who calls Bush ‘Mister Danger’, and his Brasilian colleague Luiz Inácio Lula were at the meeting. Without forgetting the presence of the Argentinian Diego Armando Maradona (a beloved ex football player in Italy) in a Che Guevara new version.
November 06, 2005
On the Italian newspapers much has been made about the “yellowcake case”.
On the 24th of October the national daily newspaper La Repubblica, a strong Berlusconi opponent, published an investigation revealing that the SISMI (the Italian intelligence agency) made a strong contribution to the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The article accuses the Italian spymaster, General Nicolo Pollari, of knowingly passing forged documents to the United States suggesting that Saddam Hussein had been seeking uranium in Niger, claims that helped justify the case for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. La Repubblica also reported that General Pollari had acted at the behest of Mr. Berlusconi, who was said to be eager to help President Bush in the search for weapons in Iraq.
On the 27th of October the Italian Government categorically denied any involvement in the Niger Fraud, denying any "direct or indirect involvement in the packaging and delivery of the false dossier on Niger's uranium". But nobody seems to really believe that and the debate is still heated in Italy, even after Pollari’s hearing in Rome on the 3rd of November.
While La Repubblica is keeping investigating on the SISMI contribution to the Iraqi war, other right-wing newspapers and blogs are trying to emphasize the errors and the contradictions of its investigation.
In order to have a complete and objective overview of the case, you can look at the Italian blog Paferrobyday.
November 05, 2005
US-Japan Alliance: Cold War again?
In response to the report entitled "US-Japan alliance: For future reforms and regrouping" published at the end of last month, People's Daily, the most influential and authoritative Chinese newspaper, Saturday put the review "US-Japan military alliance reflects Cold War mentality" written by Jiang Xinfeng who is a research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences and World Military Research Institute.
Jiang elevated sense of vigilance against accelerating Japan-US military integration and called it "full of Cold War mentality".
On October 29, Japan-US "2+2" Security Consultation Committee held a meeting in Washington, which reached an agreement on the adjustment of US troops stationed in Japan and the share of duties between Japan's Self-Defense Forces and US troops, and published the report entitled "US-Japan alliance: For future reforms and regrouping". Intensified Japan-US military alliance is manifested mainly in the following aspects:
First, accelerating Japan-US military integration, enhancing joint combat capability. The report points out that the headquarters of US troops stationed in Japan will set up a Japan-US joint combat command post at the Yokota Airport, move the US ground force first headquarters on the land of America to the Camp Zama and set up there a central quick reaction group headquarters of Japan's land Self-Defense Forces, move the aviation Self-Defense Forces headquarters located in Foochow to the Yokota Airport where the Fifth Air Force headquarters of the US army is located. This is aimed to establish a Japan-US emergency mechanism, strengthen coordinated command between Japanese and US headquarters, realize share of information and enhance ballistic missile defense capability, thereby speeding up the process of Japan-US military integration and improving Japan-US commanding and combating abilities. Military integration is also manifested in the shared use of US troops' facilities in Japan by the two countries. US troops in Japan and Japanese Self-Defense Forces can use civil airports and docks and harbors under emergency situations.
Second, ensuring the containing power of US troops in Japan when they tend to become more capable and flexible. The agreement focuses on adjusting US troops stationed in Okinawa. The Futenma Airport of US forces in Japan will be moved to Camp Schwab, at the same time, US 7,000-member marine corps in Okinawa will be reduced, the majority of which will be shifted to Guam. On the one hand, this can help lighten the burden on the Okinawa Base; on the other hand, it can make US Marine Corps cope with various situations more flexibly. In addition, although US Land Force First Headquarters to be shifted to Camp Zama does not have subordinated army units, once warfare breaks out in the area from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean under its jurisdiction, the headquarters can instantly dispatch crack troops from the US proper and other places to plunge into battles. Despite reduction in the number of US troops in Japan, due to strengthened commanding and controlling functions of US forces in Japan, the containing power of US troops has become stronger.
Third, the substantial upgrading of Japanese military role has made Japan the frontline of US Asian strategy. The report points out that Japan and the United States will strengthen cooperation in a dozen or so fields such as antiaircraft, ballistic missile defense, anti-proliferation and counter-terrorism, the two sides confirm the need to formulate a joint combat plan for dealing with contingencies and stress that Japan will give US troops "unceasing support". The United States regards Japan as a strong point for realizing its Asian strategy, and Japan, on its part, takes advantage of the opportunity to upgrade its military position and role, so as to take more and deeper participation in regional and global security affairs and raise its status in the international community, and thus accumulate capital for realizing its goal of becoming a political power.
Fourth, its intention to contain China and some other countries has become conspicuous. Japan and the United States have clearly regarded the Taiwan Straits and the Korean Peninsula as their common strategic goals in the Asian region. The present adjustment to US troops in Japan and various military cooperation measures of the two countries mainly aim to cope with armed conflicts possibly occur in the Taiwan Straits and the Korean Peninsula in the future, their intention to contain China is obvious.
Amidst the theme of the UN initiation for the establishment of a harmonious world, the act of the United States and Japan in presenting the new military cooperation agreement which is full of Cold War mentality entirely goes against the trend of the times featuring peace and development. It has not only met with severe criticisms from farsighted personages of Japan, but also has aroused the high vigilance of the surrounding countries. That Japan ties itself to the war chariot of the United States will not make itself more secure, but instead will harm its long-term national interests.
The author Jiang Xinfeng is research fellow with the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences and World Military Research Institute; Translated by People's Daily Online
October 31, 2005
The South Korean-American alliance has been one of the strongest in Asia, if not the strongest, since the 1950s. As Professor Moon Chung-in writes for The Korea Times, however, that bond appears to be in attenuating.
Beginning with the desecration of a Douglas MacArthur statue on the part of some Korean radicals, there is reason to think that the relationship has gone south since the golden jubilee of a few years ago. A laundry list of Korean concerns includes: the continual presence of U.S. bases in the center of Seoul, America's persistence in casting North Korea as an enemy despite the Sunshine Policy's successes on the peninsula, and the general lack of autonomy of the Korean military (which itself dates back to MacArthur's era as the nation's prelate).
Professor Moon makes it clear that the overwhelming majority of Koreans still view their ally favorably, but for a country that has been fettered by imperial powers for several centuries, U.S. policy makers would do well to take note.
He concludes with the following:
But one thing is clear. Seoul and Washington may not be able to sustain the current form of alliance, as a threat-based alliance cannot last long. In the medium- to long-run, the current military alliance needs to be transformed into a comprehensive alliance based on such common values as a market economy and liberal democracy. As in Europe, the comprehensive alliance can pave the way to a collective defense system, multilateral security cooperation, and ultimately a community of security that can assure a collective security system. South Korea and U.S. need to plan a positive transition and resuscitate the alliance by looking toward an entirely new horizon that goes beyond an exclusive bilateral alliance system.
US-Japan, Evolving Alliance, Deepening Isolation?
Former Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage called US-Japan Alliance "the most important one" in the world.
There is no doubt that Japan is one of America's staunchest allies and is a key strategic partner in Northeast Asia.
Japanese and U.S. government officials last Saturday put together an interim report on the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan. The report not only details the relocation of U.S. military bases, but its content is aimed at expanding and strengthening the security alliance between Japan and the United States.
In February, both nations confirmed their common strategic targets. In the Asia-Pacific region, both countries will work to maintain peace and stability in Japan and the whole region, in light of China's buildup of its military capabilities and North Korea's development of nuclear arms. Both countries will also team up in such areas as international peace cooperation activities and the prevention of terrorism in the pursuit of world peace.
While called an alliance by both sides, much remains to be done in working out concrete action programs for cooperation between the SDF and U.S. forces.
In line with the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan as part of the United States' global reorganization, the two nations agreed on their respective roles and missions as part of efforts to fill the vacuum in the Japan-U.S. security arrangements.
The United States attacked Iraq in the name of "the fight against terror." It proved, however, that the supposed threat of weapons of mass destruction, the casus belli, was in fact nonexistent. If a similar situation arises, Japan must avoid being automatically dragged into U.S military action.
In its grand strategy, the United States views China as a country that could pose a threat to America's hegemony. But shouldn't Japan ease the possible tension that could build up between Washington and Beijing? Even if Japan takes action in accordance with a U.S. strategy, there should be limits and constraints. Japan should think of its own national interests.
Indeed, there are some concerns within small opposition parties that evolving US-Japan Alliance would be increasing US and Japan's isolation in the world.
Recent online poll conducted by Real time public opinion survey@internet showed almost 60 percenr of Japanese thought the alliance is "essential not only for Japanese security but also for economy, trade, industry and everything".
However, 21.4 percent of Japanese thought "US is untrustworthy as an alliance partner ", and 8.5 percent of Japanese answered "Japan should break up Japan-US alliance and strengthen the alliance between Asian coutries."
October 23, 2005
An astonishing photo appears in the weekend edition of Le Soir, Belgium’s leading French-language daily newspaper: President Bush is looking, bewildered, up at the rain from under his black umbrella—with a headline reading: ‘Absent Man in the White House’ ('L'Homme absent de la Maison Blanche')
Inside, the paper reports on the accumulating number of top Republicans and former Bush administration officials who have launched scathing criticisms of President Bush’s governing style and reliance on compliant advisers. Foremost among the new critics, it cites a talk and discussion given last week in New York City by retired U.S. colonel, Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2002-2005. Wilkerson accused Rumsfeld and Cheney of “subverting the Department of State and American diplomacy with policies that have contributed to the isolation of the United States.” The newspaper cites in in particular his criticism of the conduct of the war in Iraq; alienation of our allies in South Korea and failed U.S. diplomacy with North Korea; and the administration’s long delay—to disastrous effect—in joining forces with the European Union to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear capabilities. In his presentation at the New America Foundation in New York City, Wilkerson criticized the administration’s lack of “grace” in its conduct of foreign affairs:
"If you're unilaterally declaring Kyoto dead, if you're declaring the Geneva Conventions not operative, if you're doing a host of things that the world doesn't agree with you on and you're doing it blatantly and in their face, without grace, then you've got to pay the consequences."
Le Soir includes a comment from political analyst Jurek Kuczkiewicz, who writes that Wilkerson’s revelations suggest how deeply the Bush “cabal”—Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice—have “severed reality from their decision-making.” Referring to the powerful effect that Wilkerson’s revelations will likely have on American’s and the world’s understanding of Bush’s diplomatic failings, he writes: “His [Wilkerson’s] discourse is like a bomb…It’s the cry of a citizen, of the United States, but also of the world, who are looking for the truth from a country of such grandeur. His speech was like a bomb. But it was also, many hope, a dream.”
October 22, 2005
A controversial definition of security
The Bush administration's attempt to overhaul the CFIUS (Committee of foreign investments in the US) gives us the possibility to think about the definition of "national security".
The Financial Times reports on Senator James Inholfe's call for an overhaul that would give Congress greater oversight of CFIUS. His report highlights "a weakness in CFIUS as the panel did non explicitly define 'national security' to include 'economic' security". Mr Kimmitt, deputy Treasury secretary, notes that lawmakers should not force CFIUS to adopt a strict definition of security, since the concept of security is always in motion: "The day you try to define it, it will be out of date".
October 19, 2005
Yasukuni's impact on the US
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine became an explosive issue at home and abroad.
No one realistically worries about today's Japan re-embarking on the road of imperial conquest. But Japan, Asia's richest, most economically powerful and technologically advanced nation, is shedding some of the military and foreign policy restraints it has observed for the past 60 years.
This is exactly the wrong time to be stirring up nightmare memories among the neighbors. Such provocations seem particularly gratuitous in an era that has seen an economically booming China become Japan's most critical economic partner and its biggest geopolitical challenge.
Japanese leading newspaper Asahi Shimbun analyzed that NY Times editorial represented the US national interests in the East Asia.
No approval was shown by Bush administration or even by pro-Japanese group in the US.
Asahi said deterioration of Japan-China and Japan-Korea relations will destabilize the current six-nation framework including North Korea and the US, and will spoil the regional security in East Asia and US national interests there.
October 18, 2005
Evolving security issues
“Most forms of political violence have declined significantly since the end of the Cold War,” states a recent report published by the Human Security Center under the title Human Security Report: War and Peace in the 21st Century.
The situation has improved significantly since 1990 and the end of the Cold War. The report finds a reduction of 80% in genocides, 40% in the number of conflicts, 30% in the number of refugees. The number of deaths in each conflict is declining significantly but the proportion of civilians in relation to combatants is much higher today than it was 20 years ago. (See graphics here).
Human security is a relatively new concept. “Unlike traditional concepts of security, which focus on defending borders from external military threats, human security is concerned with the security of individuals,” explains the Center. It is linked to the Canadian Consortium on Human Security which is funded by the Human Security Program of the Foreign Affairs Canada (FAC).
The French daily Le Monde asked Gareth Evans, chief executive of the International Crisis Group, to comment on the report.
The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization working to prevent and resolve deadly conflict. It is chaired by the former European Commissioner for External Relations Lord Patten of Barnes.
An ex Australian Foreign Minister, Evans sees three major threats for today’s world:
- The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
- “The loss of influence of the notion of international order due to the American administration discourse according to which the world does not need the U.N.”
It is obviously linked to the fact that the Human Security Center Report summarizes its finding by saying that, among other elements, “the best explanation for this decline is the huge upsurge of conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding activities that were spearheaded by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Cold War.”
Interestingly enough the title of Le Monde’s interview only says “Two dangers: Nuclear proliferation, and terrorism.”
The Red Scare, Yellow Peril Style
China's meteoric economic growth figures, combined with it's similarly metereoic ascent into space and sky-high defense budget, has provoked considerable anxiety in the United States. Donald Rumsfeld has called China a threat to Asain peace and stability, citing it's increased military expenditures and claims over Taiwan and assorted island chains. The sabre-rattling has begun to infiltrate the elite media as well - in what must count as one of the most provocative instances of alarmisms since the end of the Cold War, the Atlantic ran the following cover to an article on China's rise by Robert Kaplan:
The article itself, "The Next Cold War - How We Would Fight China," was no less inflamatory. Taking conflict almost as a given, Kaplan discusses Chinese tactics in loaded terms:
China has committed itself to significant military spending, but its navy and air force will not be able to match ours for some decades. The Chinese are therefore not going to do us the favor of engaging in conventional air and naval battles, like those fought in the Pacific during World War II. The Battle of the Philippine Sea, in late June of 1944, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Surigao Strait, in October of 1944, were the last great sea battles in American history, and are very likely to remain so. Instead the Chinese will approach us asymmetrically, as terrorists do. In Iraq the insurgents have shown us the low end of asymmetry, with car bombs. But the Chinese are poised to show us the high end of the art. That is the threat.
His suggestions? Rebuild the NATO alliance to counter China, and build a similar coalition in Asia to encirlce and contain the rising power. And it has found some willing partners - both Japan and India have recently deepened security cooperation with the US.
The response from Chinese sources has been predictable - official media outlets argue the harmlessness of China's growth and try to counter American claims. What is more suprising is that this has been picked up by other media, including in Canada, traditionally one of America's closest allies. In an extensive piece in the Walrus (Canada's most seriously intellecual newsmagazine), Gwynne Dyer argues that is the American strategy of containment, and not China's rise, that threatens regional peace and stability. In his piece, there is no ambiguity about what is at stake, and who is to blame:
If there's anyone left to write the history of how the Third World War happened, they might well focus on June 28, 2005, as the date when the slide into global disaster became irreversible. That was the day when India's defense minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed a ten-year agreement in Washington on military co-operation, joint weapons production, and missile defense - not quite a formal US-Indian alliance, but close enough to one that China finally realized it was the target of a deliberate American strategy to encircle and 'contain' it.'
It's not clear yet what China plans to do about it, but since June the rhetoric out of Beijing has been unprecedentedly harsh. In mid-July, for example, Major General Zhu Chenghu warned in an official briefing that China is under pressure to drop its policy of 'no first strike' of nuclear weapons in the event of a military conflict with the US over Taiwan. 'We have no capability to fight a conventional war against the United States,' he said. 'We can't win this kind of war.' And so China would deliberately escalate to nuclear weapons: 'We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds of [their] cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.
October 16, 2005
The Cuban Embargo: Forty-five years later
To give some sense of the Bush Administration's reluctance to resort to less bellicose moves in relations with North Korea and Iran, it's instructive to think of the role of embargoes in the history of U.S. foreign policy.
The Colombian weekly Semana gives an overview of the American embargo of Fidel Castro's Cuba over the last forty-five years, noting that the decision has ultimately defined the country. After all, "two of every three Cubans was born during the time period of the blockade."
Semana cites a number of alterations to the American policy since 1960, including most recently a 2004 decision by the government to impose harsher penalties on those who do travel to the Caribbean island, including those visiting family members with the blessing of immigration (weight restrictions, cash limitations, etc.)
The article ends with a sense that contemporary Cuban affairs are of little importance to the U.S. government for the time being given its other obligations, but quotes an expert who says that the democratization of the country will only be successfully administered from within, not by a force that "says to the Cubans what they must do.
All of this reckoning comes in the wake of a Ibero-American conference held over the weekend. The represented members agreed on a resolution that, according to Chinese news service, Xinhua, officially condemns the blockade.
October 10, 2005
Public opposed to extending Japan's mission in Iraq: poll
From Mainichi Shimbun
A whopping 77 percent of pollees were opposed to an extension of Japan's noncombatant mission in Iraq while 18 percent were in favor, a Mainichi weekend poll has found.
In December last year when Japan decided to extend the dispatch of the Self-Defense Force (SDF) to Iraq by one year, 62 percent of pollees opposed the move while 31 percent were in favor. The SDF mission expires on Dec. 14 this year.
Several Japanese politicians even from the ruling coalition say the dispatch of the SDF should be reconsidered if British and Australian forces withdraw from the country in May 2006.
The Mainichi polled 1,068 people on Saturday and Sunday and found that 66 percent of pollees who support the ruling Liberal Democratic Party were in opposition to extending the SDF dispatch.
More than 80 percent of those who support the Democratic Party of Japan, Japanese Communist Party or Social Democratic Party were opposed to the extension.
About “the nature of Anti-Americanism”
Anti-Americanism is but a part of the question of “perceptions of the U.S. in the world” that we are trying to tackle here. One of the most common views seems to be that people tend to make a distinction between the Administration, the country, the values, and the people.
A recent essay written by UC-Berkeley Professor Emeritus—Raymond K. Kent--, and published on a liberal Canadian website—Global Research-- takes a provocative position: anti-Americanism is shifting from targeting the Administration to targeting the American people, at least in the Islamic “street.”
In The Nature of Anti-Americanism is Changing, And it is Fifteen Minutes to Midnight, Prof. Kent seeks to address the two following questions:
"(a)Should the U.S. dominate the world, through a combination of Geo-politics, militarism and hard-ball diplomacy focusing, basically, on obedience to its will?
(b)Can it succeed, as the "Indispensable Nation," in shaping and re-shaping other societies and their governments to "make the world safe for Democracy?"
The conclusion, which should become clear in the ensuing pages, is that, so far, the answer to both questions has been " yes." The thesis presented in the text is that our Machiavellians, who promote (without admitting) the pseudo-science of "Geo-politics," and Imperialism of "free trade," "human rights" and spread of Democracy as "rule by the people,"(demos from Greek), are actually self-defeating and suicidal, for the nation as a whole, with or without "Home Security." The immortal words of Lee Hamilton, after the 9/11 Report, "we (just) did not get it," apply equally to both questions posed. Articulated by "the street" in countries with Islam as the state religion, a silent and sullen hate is mutating in the most dangerous sense. Instead of being directed primarily at one or another U.S. Administration or individual occupants of the White House, as used to be the case not long ago, its emerging target today is the American People."
This is not necessarily what appears in some of the surveys mentioned in this blog—see this entry about Europe and the German Marshall Fund—or that one about Latin America and the Chilean social-science institute FLACSO, but it certainly deserves a good debate.
What do you think?
October 07, 2005
Rumsfeld will bypass Japan amid relocation stalemate
Asahi Shimbun reported on Thursday U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has canceled a visit to Japan planned for later this month because of a stalemate in talks on where to relocate a U.S. military base in Japan.
Bloomberg said Rumsfeld's decision not to visit Japan reflects U.S. frustration over the pace of negotiations on relocating a military heliport in Okinawa quating Koji Murata, a professor of diplomacy at Doshisha University in Kyoto, ``Washington expects Tokyo to take prompt action to promote better U.S.-Japan relations. There's likely to be some disappointment.''
Professor Murata analyzed ``Bush's domestic political situation is quite tough, while Koizumi's domestic situation is quite favorable. The U.S. waited and put off pressing Koizumi until the postal issue was resolved. Now, ashington expects action.''
Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese conservative paper, worried it might cloud the future of U.S.-Japan alliance.
The two allies had planned to draft an interim report on the realignment by the end of October so it could be approved at a summit between Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush expected in mid-November. But Sankei said this summit might be cancelled because of realignment issue.
Koizumi, who has been busy with domestic issue such as nation's postal system, has made very few statement on this military realignment issue. Sankei quoted a former Cabinet official as saying that "Koizumi sits on a good personal relationship with Bush," and concluded that it might be difficult to resolve this issue with Koizumi's time.
The current discussions on base realignment are also aimed at improving U.S-Japan military cooperation and giving Japan a bigger role as a strategic hub from which U.S. forces can respond to regional and global threats.
October 06, 2005
Time for amending Japan's pacifist Constitution??
The Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday that lawmakers began deliberations at the Diet on a bill stipulating procedures to conduct a national referendum to amend the top law in a significant step toward revising the Constitution in Japan.
According to the Yomirui, representatives of most parties--including the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito as well as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and New Party Nippon--said they were in favor of such a law. Only the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party expressed opposition to creating such a law, which paves the way to amending the Constitution.
Both of the ruling and opposition parties has been apprehensive about revising the Constitution, especially war-renouncing Article 9, which also bans the threat or use of force to settle international disputes.
However, Japanese people in general appear much more aware of the value of Article 9 than government ministers and lawmakers.
Wednesday's Mainichi Shimbun reported over 60 percent of those surveyed by the Mainichi had said they are opposed to revising Article 9 of the Constitution, even though a majority of the pollees expressed support for constitutional amendment in general. Only 30 percent responded that the clause should be revised.
The article said "The results clearly demonstrate that the majority of people think the pacifist clause should be retained even though the public is increasingly in favor of constitutional amendment amid ongoing discussions in the Diet on such changes."
Asahi Shimbun's poll conducted last April showed the similar result. According to that poll, 51 percent of the respondents said Article 9 should not be changed, in contrast with 36 percent who said it should be revised.
However, the article headlined "Playing the Constitution as a diplomatic card" continued that "the overwhelming majority of those polled also say they support Japan's alliance with the United States."
In fact, 76 percent of respondents to that poll said they approve of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, with only 12 percent disapproving.
Given many influential U.S. politicians including former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, have argued for a revision to Article 9 to allow the Self-Defense Forces to engage in collective self-defense, the article concluded " we can expect the forces urging the amendment to gather momentum by emphasizing the importance of Japan's alliance with the United States."
October 05, 2005
Reaction to one-year extension for law on terrorism in Japan
Japanese Cabinet on Tuesday decided to extend a special measures law on assisting the U.S. military in its battle against terrorism-but for only a year.
This will be the second time Japanese government has decided to extend the special measures law.
Even though Foreign Ministry and Defense Agency officials in Japan wanted another two-year extension, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi insisted that the time period be for just one year.
In response to this extension, Japanese two major newspapers showed two different editorials.
Asahi Shimbun, which is known liberal, said in their October 5th's editorial "We are not surprised at Koizumi's caution. The fighting has ceased in Afghanistan. The country has an elected president and parliamentary elections were held last month. The nation is on its way to reconstruction, at least after a fashion, and these developments certainly warrant a close re-examination of how Japan should help Afghanistan. Is the MSDF(Maritime Self-Defense Force) presence in the Indian Ocean really necessary? If it is effective, how so? How long should this continue? Is this the best form of cooperation for Japan to offer? The Diet must address these questions when it starts deliberations on the government bill."
On the other hand, the Yomiuri Shimbun, which is supposed to be relatively conservative, said in the same day's editorial that "We would like to stress again that a permanent law should be enacted on international peace cooperation activities conducted by the Self-Defense Forces."
In their editorial, Yomiuri even referred to Article 9 and said "MSDF ships have been dispatched to the Indian Ocean since December 2001 based on the Antiterrorism Law. They have been refueling British, French and U.S. aircraft carriers, frigates and other naval vessels that stop and inspect suspicious ships in international waters. From an international viewpoint, refueling such ships effectively means exercising the right to collective self-defense.
If the SDF helps troops of another country in danger, it may be considered as exercising the right to collective self-defense or the kind of use of arms prohibited by the Constitution.
The government is responsible for making clear rules on the right to collective self-defense and the use of arms.
Japan must try to release itself quickly from the spell of the constitutional interpretation of Article 9. "
October 03, 2005
Karen Hughes Mid-East Tour: A Failure of Public Diplomacy
A number of papers are carrying stories related to Karen Hughes’, the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, recently concluded tour of the Middle East. She stopped in Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia where she met with groups screened to be as receptive as possible to her pro-America, pro-Bush message. Even under these carefully massaged conditions, the trip has caused more harm than good for the image of the US in the Middle East. While the Egyptian leg of the trip, by all accounts, went over passably well, even the Bush-loyalist Weekly Standard acknowledged that her attempt to stand up for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia backfired:
Student after student stepped to the microphones in the hall. Peering out from behind their abayas, they denounced the portrayal in the American news media of Saudi women as powerless and abused.
"We are not oppressed. We are not prisoners in our own homes," said one student. "We are all pretty happy." She demanded to know why Americans have such a negative view of the way Saudi women are treated.
The Washington Post reports that her stop in Turkey likewise failed to impress – there she was met with condemnation for the Iraq occupation:
"This war is really, really bringing your positive efforts to the level of zero," said Hidayet Sefkatli Tuksal, an activist with the Capital City Women's Forum. She said it was difficult to talk about cooperation between women in the United States and Turkey as long as Iraq was under occupation.
Slate’s Fred Kaplan suggests that the whole trip may have been as badly conceived as it was badly executed, beginning with the selection of Hughes as an envoy. Illustrating his point, he comes up with a Muslim version of her:
Put the shoe on the other foot. Let's say some Muslim leader wanted to improve Americans' image of Islam. It's doubtful that he would send as his emissary a woman in a black chador who had spent no time in the United States, possessed no knowledge of our history or movies or pop music, and spoke no English beyond a heavily accented "Good morning."
He goes on to point out that while Middle Eastern audiences raise substantive issues relating to American policy (the war in Iraq, for instance), Hughes is reduced to mouthing sugary slogans, emphasizing her motherhood and love of children. This whole approach of public diplomacy embraces the idea that what is necessary to repair the image of America in the Muslim world is not a revision of policy, but a better marketing campaign. If that’s the case, as dubious as it seems, the US should start looking for a better PR hack.
September 27, 2005
Interview with Al Jazeera Host YUSUF AL-QARADAWI
Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential contemporary Muslim scholars, reaches millions each week with his show televized on Al-Jazeera. Der Spiegel talks with him about terrorism, USA and West modernity.
"SPIEGEL: Your eminence, you are considered one of the most influential contemporary Muslim scholars, but even your word is not unconditional. Does Islam need an uncontested spiritual leader -- a Muslim pope?
Qaradawi: Most Muslims would like such a central authority, to avoid constant debate over contradictory and extremist scholarly opinions. But we don't have a pope; we have the Ulama, the association of scholars. To protect the unity of Islam, we urgently need to reach a consensus on the great questions of our time: terror, occupation, and resistance. We took a first step in July 2004, with the foundation of a world union of Muslim legal scholars. I was elected chairman, and my deputies are a Sunni, a Shiite, and an Ibadit (a branch of Islam found mainly in Oman). We thank God for this success.
SPIEGEL: Yet no one in the Islamic world hinders men like Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- bin Laden's lieutenant in Iraq -- from setting themselves up as imams and preaching hate.
Qaradawi: A person can't just call himself an imam or a mufti and hand out fatwas according to whim. For this position there are clear prerequisites regarding professional experience, academic background and character.
SPIEGEL: People like bin Laden or Al-Zarqawi don't tend to worry about that. Nevertheless they have a huge influence on Islam's image.
Qaradawi: The vast majority of Muslim scholars have condemned Bin Laden's deeds; only a small minority stand behind him. What helps his reputation even more than scholarly opinion is the injustice that befalls Muslims every day -- above all in Palestine. You underestimate this in the West: The one-sidedness of American support for Israel has devastating consequences."
September 26, 2005
"Allied troops will stay in Iraq as long as the Iraqi government needs them, chant George W. Bush and Tony Blair, stubbornly singing from the same tired old hymn sheet.
And despite all evidence to the contrary, they are still trying to hammer home to their respective publics the myth of Iraq's sovereignty along with the good works their helmeted legions are supposedly accomplishing there.
In their fantastical universe, Iraq's cobbled together constitution viewed by most as a recipe for civil war could be a face-saver that will clear the way for an exit-plan."
Continue reading the article.
Sino-US ties to progress well if handled with care
From People's daily online (official newspaper of the Communist party of China):
"China's attitude towards the United States is an important part of its foreign policy. The basic tenets of this policy are: On the basis of the three joint communiques, China will strengthen co-operation, reduce differences, avoid confrontation, develop a constructive co-operative partnership between the two countries, and ensure long-term stability and development in bilateral relations.
This policy is founded on a very deep understanding of the Sino-US relationship.
First, the United States is the only superpower with the greatest national strength in the world. This state of affairs is not going to change for a long time. China, in its effort to strive for an environment that is conducive to its peaceful development, regards the cultivation of a positive co-operative relationship with the United States as most important.
Second, there are a vast number of common interests and a high level of effective co-operation in the areas of commerce, trade and security - including regional security, and non-traditional security areas such as prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and counter-terrorism.
However, the two countries have different social systems and ideologies, and both must handle the relationship with each other well if they want to develop their mutual interests and resolve such matters as human rights.
Third, in recent years, the Sino-American relationship has evolved to one between a superpower and a major rising power. Improvement or deterioration of this relationship is increasingly influencing regional and international arenas. China is worried that the United States, in order to sustain its dominant position, is bent on obstructing China's development. This has helped heighten the importance, complexity and sensitivity of the relationship between the two countries. "
Continue reading the article.
September 25, 2005
Changing definitions of security
While the Bush Administration has consistently attempted to frame security issues within the parameters of defense and terrorism, natural disasters have added a nuance to the word. The military has been the most overt face of relief in the days following Katrina, and Rita (as well as other unnamed events) will likely be no different if the president proceeds with his current plan of action.
According to the Guardian, "Bush said he would ask Congress to consider putting the Pentagon in charge of disaster rescues after military leaders indicated the need for such a national plan - a politically sensitive proposal for lawmakers trying to avoid trampling on states' rights."
Meanwhile, The Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), a Canadian think tank, has pointed specifically to his speech in San Antonio as an indication of the militarization of disaster relief. Highlighting his statement that the armed forces will be in a position of coordination of such efforts in the future, CRG implies that there will be a further "militarisation of disaster relief and the subordination of federal, state and mincipal (civlian) institutions by the Military."
September 17, 2005
The World of Egoism
While President Bush continues to receive a flurry of responses after the delivery of his Gulf revitalization plan on Thursday night, the closing of the United Nations summit has Sueddeutsche Zeitung wondering about America's desire to reform a different kind of institution.
"The aversion to a multilateral policy, committee work, and alliance building so typical to the Bush Administration is reflected here," writes the Bavarian paper. Sueddeautsche specifically notes that John Bolton's tenure as ambassador to the body has already been marked by resistance to arms control and nonproliferation, and that such a course does not look to be ended anytime soon.
Instead, the US continues its steady drumbeat to the tune of terrorism, when "[t]he United Nations is union of 191 states, which pursue 191 political interests," not all of them thusly related.
The piece ends with a fairly downcast future of the world body and international government organizations in general by noting that it will take several years to revive agreements on a new security council, the definition of terrorism, a functioning human rights committee, and the principles of disarmament.
"Kofi Annan started as an eagle and now his feathers have been plucked."
July 31, 2005
It's Occupation, not Islamic Fundamentalism
Italian newspapers are reporting today that the suspect held on suspicion of planting one of the failed July 21 London bombs said he and fellow bombers were motivated by the war in Iraq to carry out the attacks.
Thus coming from the words of one of the alleged bombers himself, suspicions that these attacks were spawned from the UK's involvement in the Iraq occupation are justified.
One man knows more about suicide bombings than any other Americans. Robert Pape, Asosciate Professor at the University on Chicago and author of a book on suicide attacks "Dying to Win," has the world's largest database of suicide bombers and their demographics. His findings indicate that the the most prevalant American perception about suicide attackers and their motivations are way off.
His conclusions, as expressed in an interview by Scott McConnell of the American Conservative on July 18 (below), clear up many of these misperceptions. Here are some, summarized or paraphrased:
(from an interview with Robert Pape, used without permission of the author/interviewer)
- Suicide attacks are largely associated with Islamic fundamentalism, when in fact the leader in the world's suicide bombings are the Tamil Tigers in their conflict with the Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Palestinians learned of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.
- The main objective, in more than 95 percent of all incidents, has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw its occupation or military forces from the region considered by the attackers to be their homeland. Not Islamic fundamentalism.
- Because suicide attacks are mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force can only be expected to increase the number of suicide attackers.
- The evidence shows that the presence of American troops clearly trumps the idea of a cultural hatred of the West or the idea of democracy when it comes to the reasons for suicide attackers to act.
- Iraq never had a suicide attack before American troops invaded.
- "If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people-three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia-with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However, there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran." Sudan, too, has an extremely Islamic fundamentalist government but there has never been an al-Quaeda suicide attacker from Sudan.
- Two thirds of the suicide attacks from 1995 to 2004 are from countries where the United States has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990, and not from Islamic fundamentalist countries.
- History shows that once occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of attackers, they often stop, and often on a dime.
The Logic of Suicide Terrorism: It's the Occupation, Not the Fundamentalism
By Scott McConnell
July 18, 2005
Last month, Scott McConnell caught up with Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, whose book on suicide terrorism, Dying to Win, is beginning to receive wide notice. Pape has found that the most common American perceptions about who the terrorists are and what motivates them are off by a wide margin. In his office is the world's largest database of information about suicide terrorists, rows and rows of manila folders containing articles and biographical snippets in dozens of languages compiled by Pape and teams of graduate students, a trove of data that has been sorted and analyzed and which underscores the great need for reappraising the Bush administration's current strategy. Below are excerpts from a conversation with the man who knows more about suicide terrorists than any other American.
The American Conservative: Your new book, Dying to Win, has a subtitle: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Can you just tell us generally on what the book is based, what kind of research went into it, and what your findings were?
Robert Pape: Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. This research is conducted not only in English but also in native-language sources-Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil, and others-so that we can gather information not only from newspapers but also from products from the terrorist community. The terrorists are often quite proud of what they do in their local communities, and they produce albums and all kinds of other information that can be very helpful to understand suicide-terrorist attacks.
This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.
This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.
TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?
RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign-over 95 percent of all the incidents-has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw.
TAC: That would seem to run contrary to a view that one heard during the American election campaign, put forth by people who favor Bush's policy. That is, we need to fight the terrorists over there, so we don't have to fight them here.
RP: Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies over there, if you would, is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us.
Since 1990, the United States has stationed tens of thousands of ground troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and that is the main mobilization appeal of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. People who make the argument that it is a good thing to have them attacking us over there are missing that suicide terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand-driven phenomenon. That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.
TAC: If we were to back up a little bit before the invasion of Iraq to what happened before 9/11, what was the nature of the agitprop that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were putting out to attract people?
RP: Osama bin Laden's speeches and sermons run 40 and 50 pages long. They begin by calling tremendous attention to the presence of tens of thousands of American combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula.
In 1996, he went on to say that there was a grand plan by the United
States-that the Americans were going to use combat forces to conquer Iraq, break it into three pieces, give a piece of it to Israel so that Israel could enlarge its country, and then do the same thing to Saudi Arabia. As you can see, we are fulfilling his prediction, which is of tremendous help in his mobilization appeals.
TAC: The fact that we had troops stationed on the Arabian Peninsula was not a very live issue in American debate at all. How many Saudis and other people in the Gulf were conscious of it?
RP: We would like to think that if we could keep a low profile with our troops that it would be okay to station them in foreign countries. The truth is, we did keep a fairly low profile. We did try to keep them away from Saudi society in general, but the key issue with American troops is their actual combat power. Tens of thousands of American combat troops, married with air power, is a tremendously powerful tool.
Now, of course, today we have 150,000 troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and we are more in control of the Arabian Peninsula than ever before.
TAC: If you were to break down causal factors, how much weight would you put on a cultural rejection of the West and how much weight on the presence of American troops on Muslim territory?
RP: The evidence shows that the presence of American troops is clearly the pivotal factor driving suicide terrorism.
If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people-three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia-with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However, there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran.
Sudan is a country of 21 million people. Its government is extremely Islamic fundamentalist. The ideology of Sudan was so congenial to Osama bin Laden that he spent three years in Sudan in the 1990s. Yet there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Sudan.
I have the first complete set of data on every al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from 1995 to early 2004, and they are not from some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world. Two thirds are from the countries where the United States has stationed heavy combat troops since 1990.
Another point in this regard is Iraq itself. Before our invasion, Iraq never had a suicide-terrorist attack in its history. Never. Since our invasion, suicide terrorism has been escalating rapidly with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004, and over 50 in just the first five months of 2005. Every year that the United States has stationed 150,000 combat troops in Iraq, suicide terrorism has doubled.
TAC: So your assessment is that there are more suicide terrorists or
potential suicide terrorists today than there were in March 2003?
RP: I have collected demographic data from around the world on the 462
suicide terrorists since 1980 who completed the mission, actually killed themselves. This information tells us that most are walk-in volunteers. Very few are criminals. Few are actually longtime members of a terrorist group. For most suicide terrorists, their first experience with violence is their very own suicide-terrorist attack.
There is no evidence there were any suicide-terrorist organizations lying in wait in Iraq before our invasion. What is happening is that the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion.
TAC: Do we know who is committing suicide terrorism in Iraq? Are they
primarily Iraqis or walk-ins from other countries in the region?
RP: Our best information at the moment is that the Iraqi suicide terrorists are coming from two groups-Iraqi Sunnis and Saudis-the two populations most vulnerable to transformation by the presence of large American combat troops on the Arabian Peninsula. This is perfectly consistent with the strategic logic of suicide terrorism.
TAC: Does al-Qaeda have the capacity to launch attacks on the United States, or are they too tied down in Iraq? Or have they made a strategic decision not to attack the United States, and if so, why?
RP: Al-Qaeda appears to have made a deliberate decision not to attack the United States in the short term. We know this not only from the pattern of their attacks but because we have an actual al-Qaeda planning document found by Norwegian intelligence. The document says that al-Qaeda should not try to attack the continent of the United States in the short term but instead should focus its energies on hitting America's allies in order to try to split the coalition.
What the document then goes on to do is analyze whether they should hit Britain, Poland, or Spain. It concludes that they should hit Spain just before the March 2004 elections because, and I am quoting almost verbatim: Spain could not withstand two, maximum three, blows before withdrawing from the coalition, and then others would fall like dominoes.
That is exactly what happened. Six months after the document was produced, al-Qaeda attacked Spain in Madrid. That caused Spain to withdraw from the coalition. Others have followed. So al-Qaeda certainly has demonstrated the capacity to attack and in fact they have done over 15 suicide-terrorist attacks since 2002, more than all the years before 9/11 combined. Al-Qaeda is not weaker now. Al-Qaeda is stronger.
TAC: What would constitute a victory in the War on Terror or at least an improvement in the American situation?
RP: For us, victory means not sacrificing any of our vital interests while also not having Americans vulnerable to suicide-terrorist attacks. In the case of the Persian Gulf, that means we should pursue a strategy that secures our interest in oil but does not encourage the rise of a new generation of suicide terrorists.
In the 1970s and the 1980s, the United States secured its interest in oil without stationing a single combat soldier on the Arabian Peninsula. Instead, we formed an alliance with Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which we can now do again. We relied on numerous aircraft carriers off the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, and naval air power now is more effective not less. We also built numerous military bases so that we could move large numbers of ground forces to the region quickly if a crisis emerged.
That strategy, called "offshore balancing," worked splendidly against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and is again our best strategy to secure our interest in oil while preventing the rise of more suicide terrorists.
TAC: Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders also talked about the
"Crusaders-Zionist alliance," and I wonder if that, even if we weren't in Iraq, would not foster suicide terrorism. Even if the policy had helped bring about a Palestinian state, I don't think that would appease the more hardcore opponents of Israel.
RP: I not only study the patterns of where suicide terrorism has occurred but also where it hasn't occurred. Not every foreign occupation has produced suicide terrorism. Why do some and not others? Here is where religion matters, but not quite in the way most people think. In virtually every instance where an occupation has produced a suicide-terrorist campaign, there has been a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied community. That is true not only in places such as Lebanon and in Iraq today but also in Sri Lanka, where it is the Sinhala Buddhists who are having a dispute with the Hindu Tamils.
When there is a religious difference between the occupier and the occupied, that enables terrorist leaders to demonize the occupier in especially vicious ways. Now, that still requires the occupier to be there. Absent the presence of foreign troops, Osama bin Laden could make his arguments but there wouldn't be much reality behind them. The reason that it is so difficult for us to dispute those arguments is because we really do have tens of thousands of combat soldiers sitting on the Arabian Peninsula.
TAC: Has the next generation of anti-American suicide terrorists already been created? Is it too late to wind this down, even assuming your analysis is correct and we could de-occupy Iraq?
RP: Many people worry that once a large number of suicide terrorists have acted that it is impossible to wind it down. The history of the last 20 years, however, shows the opposite. Once the occupying forces withdraw from the homeland territory of the terrorists, they often stop-and often on a dime.
In Lebanon, for instance, there were 41 suicide-terrorist attacks from 1982 to 1986, and after the U.S. withdrew its forces, France withdrew its forces, and then Israel withdrew to just that six-mile buffer zone of Lebanon, they virtually ceased. They didn't completely stop, but there was no campaign of suicide terrorism. Once Israel withdrew from the vast bulk of Lebanese territory, the suicide terrorists did not follow Israel to Tel Aviv.
This is also the pattern of the second Intifada with the Palestinians. As Israel is at least promising to withdraw from Palestinian-controlled territory (in addition to some other factors), there has been a decline of that ferocious suicide-terrorist campaign. This is just more evidence that withdrawal of military forces really does diminish the ability of the terrorist leaders to recruit more suicide terrorists.
That doesn't mean that the existing suicide terrorists will not want to keep going. I am not saying that Osama bin Laden would turn over a new leaf and suddenly vote for George Bush. There will be a tiny number of people who are still committed to the cause, but the real issue is not whether Osama bin Laden exists. It is whether anybody listens to him. That is what needs to come to an end for Americans to be safe from suicide terrorism.
TAC: There have been many kinds of non-Islamic suicide terrorists, but have there been Christian suicide terrorists?
RP: Not from Christian groups per se, but in Lebanon in the 1980s, of those suicide attackers, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were Communists and Socialists. Three were Christians.
TAC: Has the IRA used suicide terrorism?
RP: The IRA did not. There were IRA members willing to commit suicide-the famous hunger strike was in 1981. What is missing in the IRA case is not the willingness to commit suicide, to kill themselves, but the lack of a suicide-terrorist attack where they try to kill others.
If you look at the pattern of violence in the IRA, almost all of the killing is front-loaded to the 1970s and then trails off rather dramatically as you get through the mid-1980s through the 1990s. There is a good reason for that, which is that the British government, starting in the mid-1980s, began to make numerous concessions to the IRA on the basis of its ordinary violence. In fact, there were secret negotiations in the 1980s, which then led to public negotiations, which then led to the Good Friday Accords. If you look at the pattern of the IRA, this is a case where they actually got virtually everything that they wanted through ordinary violence.
The purpose of a suicide-terrorist attack is not to die. It is the kill, to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the target society in order to compel that target society to put pressure on its government to change policy. If the government is already changing policy, then the whole point of suicide terrorism, at least the way it has been used for the last 25 years, doesn't come up.
TAC: Are you aware of any different strategic decision made by al-Qaeda to change from attacking American troops or ships stationed at or near the Gulf to attacking American civilians in the United States?
RP: I wish I could say yes because that would then make the people reading this a lot more comfortable.
The fact is not only in the case of al-Qaeda, but in suicide-terrorist
campaigns in general, we don't see much evidence that suicide-terrorist groups adhere to a norm of attacking military targets in some circumstances and civilians in others.
In fact, we often see that suicide-terrorist groups routinely attack both civilian and military targets, and often the military targets are off-duty policemen who are unsuspecting. They are not really prepared for battle.
The reasons for the target selection of suicide terrorists appear to be much more based on operational rather than normative criteria. They appear to be looking for the targets where they can maximize the number of casualties.
In the case of the West Bank, for instance, there is a pattern where Hamas and Islamic Jihad use ordinary guerrilla attacks, not suicide attacks, mainly to attack settlers. They use suicide attacks to penetrate into Israel proper. Over 75 percent of all the suicide attacks in the second Intifada were against Israel proper and only 25 percent on the West Bank itself.
TAC: What do you think the chances are of a weapon of mass destruction being used in an American city?
RP: I think it depends not exclusively, but heavily, on how long our combat forces remain in the Persian Gulf. The central motive for anti-American terrorism, suicide terrorism, and catastrophic terrorism is response to foreign occupation, the presence of our troops. The longer our forces stay on the ground in the Arabian Peninsula, the greater the risk of the next 9/11, whether that is a suicide attack, a nuclear attack, or a biological attack.
July 20, 2005
Thanks for the Help
By Frej Jackson
Bush´s 17-hour visit to Denmark on July 5 and 6 proceeded without much turmoil but a few demonstrations encompassing a few thousand Danes, largely ignored in the international media. Some protesters burned the American and the Danish flags because of the Danish participation in the American-led Iraq war. Ironically, these flag-burners will likely receive punishment for burning the American but not the Danish flag, since according to Danish law it is only illegal to burn foreign flags.
International news media primarily depicted Bush´s brief birthday visit as a “thanks for the help” to the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as a tribute to the steadfast Danish U.S. backing in Afghanistan and Iraq, writes Politiken.
The visit did not get much international attention and was generally described as an insignificant quick stop-over before Bush´s participation in the G-8 meeting in Scotland. As a case in point, FoxNews even managed to mix up where Bush was: “Bush wants to show the people how much he values the leadership of the Dutch Prime Minister”.
In Denmark, however, the visit received immense attention, and according to subsequently conducted polls Bush´s visit actually made a few Danes slightly more positive towards Bush than before his visit. This illustrates how small nations like Denmark appreciate to be paid attention.
Bush used a press meeting in Denmark to claim that the prisoners in Guantánamo receive fair treatment and good food, and that there is full transparency since Red Cross has access to inspections. However, the Danish President of Red Cross, Joergen Poulsen, afterwards criticized Bush for avoiding the most important criticism by Red Cross: That the Guantánamo detainees are not treated in accordance with the Geneva conventions. By ignoring this important problem, Poulsen believes that Bush is making it easier for dictators and despots all over the globe to ignore international rules about treatment of prisoners of war.
July 07, 2005
India's reaction to a U.S. visa denial
A prominent Indian minister was recently denied a US visa on grounds that he violated religious freedom.
The official, Narendra Modi, heads India’s western state of Gujarat, a hub of Hindu-Muslim tension. In 2002 rioters in the state killed more than 1,000 Muslims. The carnage was in retaliation for the torching of a train car carrying Hindu radicals, killing nearly 60 (see this BBC analysis).
Some human rights groups accused Modi of complicity in the anti-Muslim violence.
While Modi, a fringe figure of the Hindu right, is little loved by most Indians, the snub wasn’t received well. Local newspapers ran the visa denial story front page with banner headlines. A current affairs list-serve for Indo-Americans scored more than 100 messages on the incident both angry and adulating. One careless poster called for a renewal of anti-Muslim riots.
The ruling Congress party, arch rival to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, protested the decision, while some leading editorialists, better accustomed to demanding Modi’s scalp, pinched their noses and called it unjustified and “simply bad”.
For his part Modi, who was popularly elected, told a news conference that the denial was "an attack on Indian sovereignty."
"Will India also consider what America has done in Iraq when it processes visa applications of Americans coming to India?" he asked.
The snub did one good thing and two bad things. For the good, it condemned religious bigotry and burnished the US record toward Muslims.
But, it also gave Mr. Modi a chance to grandstand.
And most importantly, it hurt nationalist sentiment. The aspiration for global belonging has emerged in the last decade as a dominant force in India, a nuclear power with more degree-holders than the population of France and more English speakers than the US and UK combined.
India is also one of only a handful of countries which still view the US favorably, according to a new Pew Global Attitudes Poll. Even a minor slight from Uncle Sam is received here like a punch in the stomach.
[Photo from the Hindustan Times]
July 06, 2005
U.S. versus “G8” : No Change for Climate Change ?
The Group of 8 summit is set to highlight differences
of opinion between the United States and the
remaining 7 nations represented. A highly contentious
issue is on the agenda: climate
change. Britain’s prime minister Tony Blair, who will
preside over the summit, hopes to stimulate efforts by
forming a joint call to action between the nations, of
which the U.S. is the only one left to not have signed
the Kyoto Protocol.
Opinions in the European press have been vastly
pessimistic as to the outcome of the summit,
predicting little hope of seeing the U.S. budge from
its current position. Instead, it seems that a
watered-down version of the text, revised by U.S.
negotiators, will be the only option offered up at the
G8 summit. A version that French president Jacques
Chirac, who had previously threatened to veto any
weakened version, seems nevertheless poised to sign :
“We’ve had difficult negotiations, and it seems that
we are orienting towards an agreement,” he stated on
July 4 to Liberation.
The draft of the G8 joint statement, first divulged to the New York Times on June 18 shows the signs of U.S. pressure
by deleting the introductory
statement “Our world is warming.” Newer versions show
that while President Bush would be ready to state that
“climate change is a reality” and that the problem
must be dealt with through new technologies, U.S.
negotiators have also taken out any mention of the
role of humans in climate change. Bush, in a broadcast
for British TV station ITV, stated that he would
indeed refuse to sign anything that resembles the
Will the remaining nations feel that what is left of
the original statement, however weakened, is better
than nothing? will nothing be signed? or will they
instead choose to issue a “G7” statement excluding the
U.S., thereby strengthening the gap between the U.S.
and the rest?
For Denis Delbecq, environmental writer for the French
newspaper Liberation’s online blog, there is no
possibility of a “G7” document excluding the U.S. on
the subject. While Blair, under pressure from French
and German officils, has made threats to that effect,
these, according to analysts in Europe, are empty.
While the outcome is as of yet unclear, what emerges in many
analyses by the European press is that the issue is
yet another one that sets the U.S. at odds with
July 02, 2005
Bush Facing Another Tough Crowd
Tuesday 5th of July, George Bush will pay his first ever visit to Denmark on his fourth trip to Europe during the last 6 months, demonstrating a renewed interest for the European continent.
Bush will celebrate his birthday in Denmark with his good friend and supporter, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. But as it was recently the case in the Netherlands, in Denmark Bush is also facing a tough crowd. Only 13 percent of Danes approve of Bush’s foreign policy while 50 percent perceive it negatively, according to a new poll cited in Politiken.
For the last 4 years the Danish right wing government has cooperated very closely with the U.S. administration, and Denmark participated with troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The quoted poll shows, however, that only 28 percent consider this close cooperation an advantage for Denmark, whereas 36 percent think it is damaging to “Denmark and Denmark’s recognition in the surrounding world”. Not even among the Prime Minister’s own voters, the Liberals, does a majority approve of the U.S. leaning policy. But this has not yet affected the Danish government’s very U.S. friendly line. The poll indicates that a majority of Danes would prefer a more critical policy towards the Bush administration as suggested by the Social Democrats and other left wing parties. Because of the large frustration with Bush’s foreign policy, demonstrations are expected to take place during his visit in Denmark.
June 28, 2005
GMO Ban Holds in Europe
Responding to ongoing controversy over genetically modified food in Europe, the EU’s Council of Ministers voted to uphold a ban on engineered corn and rapeseed that has been maintained since 1997. Five countries—Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg—had banned the varieties between 1997 and 2000, and were under pressure by the European Commission to lift their bans. But the Council of Ministers voted 22-3 to uphold the ban on June 24. The move made front page news across Europe.
In Belgium, the main national daily Le Soir headlined on page 1: “GMO’s are now growing on unstable ground.” The vote carries powerful weight—as it upholds the ability of individual member states to impose national bans on gmo’s based on “public health and safety” considerations, which the Commission had wanted to restrict when it comes to gmo’s.
The vote, according to the French daily Liberation, was a “complete disavowal of the opinion of the EU’s Agency on Food Safety (AESA), which had declared in July 2004 that gmo’s presented “no risk for health or the environment.” The Council of Ministers disagreed—representing a major victory for environmental groups in Europe, which have long been lobbying against the dissemination of gmo’s in Europe.
The vote represented a major blow to U.S. efforts to obtain EU clearance for the sale of gmo seeds. The world’s major producer is Monsanto, based in St. Louis. But it was Monsanto’s actions that helped build the heavy majority against further gmo introductions across the continent, as Liberation reported.
Last month, as we posted on this site as we reported on this site, a study conducted by Monsanto scientists in Germany was leaked to the press—and suggested that a new corn seed it hoped to introduce could have toxic effects on test animals. Monsanto’s unwillingness to share the information with the public fueled skepticism as to its transparency with the public. By the time a German court forced Monsanto to reveal the results, the tide—already highly skeptical—had turned. Monsanto’s bid to introduce three other corn varieties, and an effort by the German company Bayer to put a corn and rapeseed variety on the market, was skewered.
The issue is continuing to cause discord--as these and other European bans are now subject to ongoing challenge by the United States and other nations in the Worled Trade Organization.
June 05, 2005
From Giacomo Chiozza on Anti-Americanism
Giacomo Chiozza is a post-doctoral fellow at Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University. He will join the faculty in the Department of Political Science at UC-Berkeley in the Fall of 2005. In this letter, Chiozza answers three questions posed by Worldandus.
WorldAndUS: Why is it interesting to study perceptions of the US in the world (or anti-Americanism)?
GC -- Anti-Americanism appears to be a pervasive phenomenon of our times. But despite all the attention that it receives in the media, in the statements of political leaders, and among policy pundits, it still remains a poorly understood phenomenon. We should first acknowledge that anti-Americanism subsumes patterns of behavior and attitudinal stances that span the entire spectrum from the murderous hatred of the 9/11 hijackers to the fleeting and superficial opinions of ordinary people captured in opinion polls. And we should also acknowledge that when we say America, we evoke a large array of images, sentiments, aspirations, and ideals. This combination of competing and contradicting feelings makes the study of anti-Americanism particularly interesting.
A second set of reasons should also be considered. When we study international politics, we focus on the distribution of power and the patterns of interests. These two variables indeed help us understand a great deal of what happens in the international arena. But, as we try to understand the features and characteristics of the American world order, we very well observe that such an international order entails more than power and interests. It entails a normative and ideational dimension. The study of foreign attitudes towards the United States allows us to grasp such an ideational and normative dimension insofar as it tells us what is accepted and what is rejected, under what political conditions, by ordinary people.
-- WorldAndUs: Which effects might be expected from rising anti-Americanism?
GC -- We don't really know much about the political consequences of anti-Americanism. Conjectures abound about how popular opposition to the United States would affect the ability of the United States to pursue major policy initiatives and how such an opposition would create an international political context detrimental to American security. Several scholars have pointed out how the exceptional position of the United States in the current international system is buttressed by a special feature of America's, its soft power, to use Joseph Nye's catchy expression. If popular anti-Americanism is mounting, it might very well undermine American soft power, one of the pillars of the American world order. But, I think, we should avoid the temptation to draw immediate and linear connections between mass level negative attitudes towards the United States and the state choices in the international arena.
-- WorldAndUs: How is it possible to study the evolving nature of this phenomenon in a way so that it can be used as a policy tool?
GC -- When we think of the policy-implications of the scientific and academic research on anti-Americanism, we have to keep two aspects into consideration.
On the one hand, we have the aspiration to a "Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind," which is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.
On the other hand, we have the statements of policy makers in the realpolitik tradition, such as Dean Acheson, who argued about 40 years ago that American political leaders should disregard any infatuation with the image of America abroad and, instead, place the course of America's foreign policy on the firm ground of the pursuit of American national interest. In more recent times, the neoconservative intellectuals who have framed American foreign policy under the reign of George W. Bush have made a similar argument and claimed that America should be "unapologetic" and not concerned about the views of foreign publics.
In other words, the policy implications of the study of anti-Americanism are indeed a politically contested battleground. But, regardless of the view we adopt, the knowledge produced by systematic analyses of anti-Americanism would have much more relevance if it followed from well-crafted research design. All too often the treatises on anti-Americanism simply "sample on the dependent variable," that is, select only instances of opposition to America for their analysis. In so doing, they do not show how mass attitudes vary over space and time and over the infinite features of the United States.
Once we start to analyze the rich variation in how America is perceived and appreciated abroad, we can start having a more realistic understanding of the phenomenon. We can start understand what exactly riles opponents and detractors of America, and what about America appeals to so many people. No sound policy advice can follow from analyses that only focus on the "hate" part, and miss out that America is also much loved as well.
May 22, 2005
POSADA CARRILES, BUSH AND ITALY
“Posada Carriles and us” is the title Maurizio Matteuzzi chose for his article on the Leftist Italian newspaper Il Manifesto. The piece talks about the anti-Castro militant’s request for political asylum to the U.s. , where he was under arrest during 48 hours last Tuesday (for illegal immigration). Italy, too - says the author - could play a role in handling this difficult situation.
Matteuzzi points out that Posada Carriles case is a “hot potato” the American president doesn’t know how to deal with, because the Venezuelan is at the same time a former CIA “friend” and a terrorist, responsible for several attacks against Cuba and its people (but, still, a terrorist).
“Bush can’t grant Posada Carriles the asylum – states Matteuzzi- it would be a scandal. Giving him to a European country, like Italy, would be the best solution ”. Italy, among the Eu nations, is the one which would be most interested in prosecuting Posada Carriles for terrorism because an Italian citizen, Fabio di Celmo, got killed in 1997 in one of Posada’s bomb attacks.
The Italian government, though, hasn’t shown any signs of interest and made no request for extradition to the U.s. so far.
The journalist foresees a future scandal arising in Italy out of Berlusconi’s lack of interest. What's more, according to Matteuzzi, the Italian premier could well help his friend Bush, but he might decide not to do it now that relations between the two countries are so bad, following the Calipari affair and Italy’s controversial announcements of withdrawal from Iraq.
Matteuzzi reminds the Italian readers that Bush is facing a hard dilemma with the Posada Carriles case and Castro knows it. “Bush senior – recalls the journalist – did not have the same problem when granting the asylum to Orlando Bosh, one of Posada Carriles’ friends and collegues. The double standard he followed to imprison or reward ‘bad’ or ‘good’ terrorists is no longer applicable after September 11”.
May 19, 2005
A British MP who does not bow before the US Senate
Comments in the foreign media abound like this one found in the Deccan Herald (“An institution that has completed 50 glorious years of chronicling the joys and sorrows of the people of Karnataka, India and the world.”):
The US Senate hearings are dignified affairs and those called, appear before it with great reverence. It can affect the careers of politicians and administration officials. Even a foreign head of state such as Afghanistan’s Hameed Karzai, sat below the level of his US interrogators and answered questions politely.
Mr Galloway is made of sterner stuff, having survived the rough and tumble of British politics. At the end of the hearing, his accusers didn’t know what hit them. The piece of political theatre witnessed in a dignified chamber of Capitol Hill proved that there is one thing that the British still do well.
April 13, 2005
Why doesn't Bush want to be our amigo?
”Never despair” seemed to be the Spanish Government's slogan. And now Madrid has launched a new "offensive" to try to regain George W. Bush's friendship.
Almost a year after José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced the pullout of Irak -which started the "ice age" between Spain and the US-Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos has flown back to the US, in another attempt to restore the relationship between both countries.
And the "offensive" doesn't stop here. After Moratinos returns to Spain, four other ministers will soon meet members of the American government. Yet the main symbolic gesture, a "real" meeting between Zapatero and Bush instead of just a short "hola, amigo", still remains unfulfilled. And, according to the Spanish press, we won't see such a meeting for a long while.
But why? Why does Bush hate or despise Zapatero so much? Why has he
forgiven German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder or French president Jacques Chirac and not our president? "El País" newspaper says the main problem is that Bush felt deceived when Zapatero announced the withdrawal of the Spanish troops, because he didn't think it would happen as fast as it did. Moreover, Bush didn't expect Zapatero to call other countries to do the same, a move he felt as disloyalty.
Besides, Zapatero, knowing the popularity of this measure in Spain and
Europe in general, still mentions it every time he can, which seems to hurt American feelings.
Also, Bush didn't like that Spain pushed forward the elimination of some of the EU's sanctions against Cuba -that never really worked- nor the sale of warplanes to Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. Even though the US buys 15 % of its oil to the same Chavez it officially calls a dictator.
Some analysts consider that Zapatero won't set foot in the White House while Bush still holds the presidency. Let alone the Crawford Ranch.
At least someone's very happy about this situation; former Spanish
conservative president José María Aznar, a very close "amigo" of Bush -he has been invited, more than once, to Crawford- likes to remind everybody of their friendship. And he has done it again in a book that will be released later this month. In "Retratos y Perfiles, de Fraga a Bush" (Portraits and Profiles, from Fraga to Bush), Aznar underlines the close friendship he still mantains with his "amigo George", whom he supported even through the Irak war, which, in the end, cost him the presidency. At least he still has a big amigo overseas. Meanwhile, Zapatero is making big friends at this side of the Atlantic, in the still same “old Europe”.
Chile faces U.S. opposition in the OAS Election
The tie in the OAS election last Monday and the United States´ clear decision to back the Mexican candidate, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Ernest Derbez, and not his contender, Chile´s Interior Minister José Miguel Insulza has raised many questions in Chile about the country´ s relationship with the Bush Administration.
It is well-known that since September 11, the U.S. has called for greater intervention of multinational organizations such as the U.N or the OAS in troubled countries such as Haiti and Venezuela. It is such policy that led the Bush Administration to support the removal of former President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004 and to indirectly back up the attempt to depose leader Hugo Chavez in 2002.
And that’s where problems start for Chile. According to Peruvian analyst Alvaro Vargas Llosa, Chile’s friendly relationship with Chavez´ government has everything to do with the U.S. opposition to Chile’s leadership in the OAS.
“The reason (of the U.S. opposition) stands in the friendship that Chile has been forced to develop with Chavez government in this campaign to build a solid south American front in a context in which Bolivia was always ruled out, Perú was a tough cookie to crack and Paraguay - because of the Foreign Secretary’s aspiration to obtain the second most important position in an organization that assigns positions according to geography- was never taken into consideration. To Washington, this reality led Santiago to put Chavez in a position of “factotum” to the Chilean candidacy. Venezuela was sometimes more visible than Brazil in Insulza´s effort to obtain the support of the Caribbean countries”, Vargas LLosa wrote in the Chilean newspaper La Tercera, last Sunday.
The columnist added that in any circumstances the “Chavez factor” would have put U.S. support at risk, but that the situation is all the more delicate now that Caracas has ordered the acquisition of combat planes, helicopters, patrol ships and rifles from Brazil, Russia and Spain. Also, Venezuela increasing subsidies to Cuba has made the situation even more complicated.
The Venezuela factor, however, does not necessarily mean that Chile has already lost the election, says Vargas Llosa.
“Chile is the only Latin American country that has reduced its poverty level in the last decade and that offers to the continent an alternative “model” to the Andean chaos or to the revival of the populist left-wing. This logic indicates that there may be countries that will think twice before turning their back to Santiago”, says the analyst.
Ideological warfare and Anti-Americanism
The respected and conservative Heritage Foundation just published a very interesting research paper on anti-Americanism (with considerations on why and how the United States should fight it) that includes a worrisome confusion.
At the core of this paper, one finds the idea that: “ideological warfare can be highly successful.” Efforts to counter anti-Americanism during the Cold War were effective. They “took a sabbatical” in the nineties though, and it’s time to get back to them through a set of means that is outlined in the document.
Helle Dale, the author, explains that one should not mix up anti-Americanism as it can be found in France (as well as in Europe “thanks to the BBC”) and the Al Qaeda type. The difference being “lethality.” After all:
[…] dislike of the United States will not cause France to declare war on the United States, or vice versa.
This is a useful contribution that analysts won’t miss.
To deal with serious anti-Americanism, Helle Dale, who is Deputy Director of the Heritage Foundation, proposes a strategy that includes, among other points, holding “foreign governments accountable for their support of anti-American propaganda,” investing money in “free media” and “revitalizing the Voice of America,” as well as seizing “opportunities” like stepping up aid to “tsunami-stricken areas of South Asia.”
All this belongs to what a serious conservative institution is expected to say.
The confusing issue though lies in the definition of the less threatening form of anti-Americanism.
For instance, anti-Americanism in France can indeed be a heavy inconvenience for traveling Americans, who may find themselves on the defensive regarding whether or not they support the Bush Administration's policies.
Delle consciously assimilates critiques to the Bush Administration and anti-Americanism. This is dangerous.
If anti-Americanism does exist in Europe and can lead to unpleasant moments for tourists (see this note). That’s not the whole picture. WorldAndUs has recently published an illuminating testimony of a University of California student in France that expresses critical nuances and contradictions that one should try to understand.
The French will make the distinction that their perceived animosity towards Americans (their so-called anti-Americanism) is directed, for the most part, at the Bush administration. […]
On the whole the French public is kind and respective to Americans living in their country. […] they loathe our president yet love our culture.
Conservatives like to assimilate any critique of George Bush and its policies to anti-Americanism. What might be good tactics internally might prove misleading when they try to understand the rest of the world and build a strategy to confront anti-American sentiments.
Many foreigners may value America without thinking that what is American is necessarily good. They observe a certain distance, they value their differences, and they may formulate criticisms without being anti-American.
This might be true even in the Arab and Muslim worlds.
Criticism of George Bush, the U.S. Government, and even America, does not an anti-American make.
April 08, 2005
Only 10% of Chinese consider Bush "friendly"
In a recent government-sponsored survey, more than half (56.7%) of the Chinese respondents said that the US government is trying to "contain China's development", while 66% said they liked American people. Asked "why you do not like the US government", 37.6% mentioned the American support to Taiwan. 41% of the responders said that Taiwan could trigger a war between China and the US. The survey was done by Beijing-based Global Times (a government-run newspaper focused on international news) and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences that acts also as a governmental think-tank. China Daily, the government-run English language newspaper, published this story with more details on the survey.
BEIJING, Mar. 2 -- More than half of Chinese said the United States government is containing China, while 66.1 per cent said they liked American people, a recent survey showed.
The survey, done by Beijing-based Global Times in cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, found that 49.2 per cent of the responders consider the United States a competitor, and 60.5 per cent said that how to resolve the Taiwan issue will definitely influence Sino-US bilateral relations.
By picking 1,175 persons in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Wuhan, five of China’s biggest metropolises, the survey found only 10.4 per cent considering Washington a friendly government, and 56.7 per cent saying it is trying to contain China's development.
Asked why "you do not like the United State government", 37.6 per cent said that Washington supported Taiwan regime by selling it weapons, 31.7 per cent said Bush administration launched the Iraqi war under false claims, and 7.9 per cent based their dislike on increasing military ties between the United States and Japan, which till today refused to apologize to the Chinese people for the enormous hurt it inflicted on China during WWII.
And, 45.0 per cent anticipated status quo of bilateral ties during the 2nd Bush term, while 29.4 per cent said that the relations will improve. Those expecting worsening relations account for 11.7 per cent.
More than 46 per cent said that growing economic links in the past years has helped political exchange and promoted friendship between the two peoples. Those who admire or accept American culture make up 59.4 per cent.
Up to 41.2% of the responders said that China and the United State could possibly enter into hostility and conflict because of Taiwan in the future.
Yan Xuetong, a foreign policy expert with Beijing's Qinghua University, said in an interview that the survey results proved his long-time belief that although the majority of Chinese do not like Washington government, because of its unfriendly China policy, they like American people and appreciate American culture.
"It's a blend of love and hatred," Yan said.
Tao Wendao, another foreign policy expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, shared the same belief. He said that American people are also divided on China. A survey by CNN and the USA Today, in September 2003, showed that 9 per cent of Americans consider China an ally, while more than 40 per cent consider China a potential enemy.
That's why the joggling of engagement and containment (of China) is going on in Washington, Tao said.
Professor Yan Xuetong said that Chinese holds clear-cut different attitudes of American people, American society and American government. The major factor of Chinese people's discontent with the United States government is Washington's foreign policy, especially, its selling weapons to Taiwan.
(Source: China Daily)
March 30, 2005
George Bush, the Europeans and the Middle-East
The former French foreign affairs minister Hubert Védrine launched the debate again on "The Great Middle-East" on the columns of the weekend's edition of French daily Le Monde.
It is too early to say if Mr. Vedrine's opinion represents an increasing number of people in Europe, yet it proves the skepticism the Europeans showed in the beginning of 2004 might change to a different perception of George W. Bush's project of a Great Middle-East.
The starting point of this potential change is the recent events in the Middle-East and especially the Iraqi and Palestinian elections.
The success can become a fiasco if Ariel Sharon doesn't give Mahmoud Abbas other political perspectives than the retreat from Gazza. In Lebanon, the situation is not calm yet while in Iraq, the cooperation between the minorities and the shiite majority will be a condition for stability. So it's too early to say mission accomplished, says Hubert Vedrine.
For the French diplomat, it is relatively easy to organize elections. What is really complicated is to set democracy as a culture. The multiple attempts to modernize the arab world have failed since the 19th century. Why would it work this time? Are Arab societies really willing to change? And most of all, are we (Americans and Europeans) ready to accept the results of democratic elections if they imply the victory of Islamists?
But for the moment, it's the wait and see. If the Americans succeed in bringing a wind of change in the Middle-East, it will be interesting to see how Europeans will react. Hubert Vedrine explains why Americans and Europeans should work together on things that unite them, like stability in the Middle-East while avoiding a new neo-colonial age.
March 24, 2005
Kyrgyzstan: Chinese, and Russian perceptions
Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, has been expelled by protesters who overtook the presidential palace in Bishkek early March 24. What happens next is anybody’s guess at this point, but perceptions of the US and its intentions will play a siginficant role.
These are some extracts taken from George Friedman’s Intelligence brief published today by Stratfor.com:
What makes all of this particularly interesting is that both Russia and China have a tendency to view any upheaval in regions where they take interest as part of a conspiracy orchestrated by the United States in order to challenge their hegemony.[...]
This might be paranoid thinking. It might be prudent "worst-case scenario" planning. Or it might be a rational appreciation of Washington's intentions. Whichever it is, the simple fact is that both regional powers regard any instability in any country in the area as being generated by the United States and intended to harm them.[...]
The Russians […] see the United States turning its attention from al Qaeda to other issues, and they don't buy the Bush administration's line that its political involvement in the region -- specifically in Ukraine, where Washington helped secure a win by pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko late last year -- is simply about the American love for free elections. They believe the United States sought to install a pro-U.S. government in Kiev in order to bring Ukraine into NATO and undermine Russian national security.[...]
The Chinese don't believe the United States is obsessed with al Qaeda any longer. They believe the Americans are obsessed with China, and they see events in Kyrgyzstan as a security threat.
March 22, 2005
From ex Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen
Mr. Uffe Ellemann-Jensen served as Denmark’s Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1982-1993. He was president of Venstre (the Liberal Party) from 1984-1998, leading Venstre to become the largest Danish party. In this letter he answers two questions posed by worldandus.
1. How can a small country like Denmark influence the policy of a superpower like the United States?
We can do that first of all by demonstrating our qualities as a trustworthy friend and partner – in words as well as in deeds. Our motives have to be cut out crystal clear: We share the values behind our alliance – and we are not looking for ways in which we can act as a “counterweight” to the role of the United States on the global scene. On this point a small European country has probably got a better position than some of the big countries, who seems to find it hard to put their glorious past in a modern context. (It is after all so many years ago that the Danes ruled over England, that we can no longer be suspected of dreaming of a restoration of past positions).
The above mentioned policy has been followed by Denmark since the end of the Cold War: We were active participants in the first Gulf War, i.e. by sending a warship to the Gulf – we sent special forces to Afghanistan – and we are part of the Coalition in Iraq. By doing that, we demonstrate our earnestness as a partner – and that of course earns us a right to be listened to, also when our views might be different from those of the United States.
2. Does it matter whether the US listens to the world’s perceptions of US foreign policy or not?
Yes, of course it matters! Being the only superpower left the US will always be suspected by everybody else for not caring about anything but narrow American interests. And the only way to do away with that suspicion is to listen – and react to what differences of opinion might arise, either by changing positions or explaining (patiently) why positions are not changed.
The US needs partners – even small ones like Denmark – to share the burdens of keeping the moral high ground in international policy. Therefore we also share an interest in securing an international rule of law.
March 17, 2005
Will Wolfowitz follow McNamara’s example?
Paul Wolfowitz nomination by President Bush to head the World Bank, after the designation of conservative John Bolton as US Ambassador to the United Nation is not a good sign for multilateralism according to the French Le Monde.
The Elysee Palace (where the president works and lives) said it would study the nomination “in the light of the Bank’s critical mission in favor of development.” Some observers fear Wolfowitz might be tempted to use his new position more as a tool in his quest for democracy in the Middle East.
Le Monde's correspondent in New York highlights opposition to the nomination coming from the United States but ends its story with a positive note: “some executives at the World Bank hope he [Wolfowitz] will follow Robert McNamara’s example.” After organizing the war in Vietnam McNamara became one of the staunchest promoters of development.
March 14, 2005
Improving the image of the U.S. abroad
Karen Hughes’s nomination as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy shows President Bush’s interest for improving perceptions of the U.S. in the world, and the difficulties he is facing.
In an article published… by the Christian Science Monitor Linda Feldman writes:
The White House sought in its Monday announcement to highlight Hughes's foreign experience, such as accompanying Bush on foreign trips and working to promote women's rights in Afghanistan, but no one is pretending that foreign affairs is her forte. And two years after a US- dominated coalition invaded Iraq, hurting America's image throughout much of the world, Hughes will face a tougher audience than any in Texas or the bluest of blue Democratic states.
Her two predecessors in the post - advertising executive Charlotte Beers and Margaret Tutwiler, a onetime aide to former Secretary of State James Baker - both left with limited records of accomplishment.
But, analysts say, don't count out Hughes before she begins, particularly as recent elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories have given Bush's vision for Middle Eastern democracy a boost.
Skepticism exists on the conservative side too. For the Heritage Foundation, for example:
Instead of crafting campaign messages—for which she has a knack—Karen Hughes will have to leverage her influence with the President to clean up a botched merger at a time when challenges in foreign communication are the greatest since the beginning of the Cold War. Moreover, she will have to buck those in the Administration who think effective public diplomacy is repeating a slogan slowly and loudly enough until the audience “gets it.”
In fact the Heritage Foundation demands not less than a complete overhaul of Public Diplomacy. Among other advices it suggests that:
[...]she should urge the White House to establish a public diplomacy coordinator position at the National Security Council to put other agencies with missions like information warfare, media development, and foreign broadcasting in sync.
It would be interesting if that meant that conservatives open themselves to the very liberal notion of “Soft Power” promoted by Joseph Nye.
Reactions abroad (where Hughes is not really famous yet)are still slow to come, and came in a trickle.
“Propaganda War Gets a New General” is the title of a dispatch from Inter Press Service. IPS presents itself as “civil society's leading news agency, […] an independent voice from the South and for development, delving into globalization for the stories underneath. It’s headquarter is in Rome, Italy.
The story quotes an American Middle East specialist:
”You need someone who knows something serious about the Middle East publics and is willing to engage them on their terms,” Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan and an authority on the Middle East, told IPS.
”Ms. Hughes could be effective, but she needs to get good advice from non-toady Arabs and others. There is also the question of how much you can dress up the U.S. support for Israeli occupation and annexation of Muslim lands or the U.S. heavy-handedness in Iraq. PR without policy changes is most often not very effective.”
March 09, 2005
Reflections on Iraq
Now, let's think about it again.
Was the aspiration to democracy a reason to invade Iraq? asks the columnist Bernard Guetta in the French newsmagazine L'Express.
The author is really questioning the legitimacy of this invasion, so decried by the anti-war movement but encouraged by neo-conservatives who say a new "democratic regime" in Iraq can maybe encourage a change in the region's regimes.
Is the crisis in Lebanon the premise of a small revolution? After the success of the elections in Palestine and in Iraq, should we believe democratic polls will rule from now on?
Even in Syria, some people speak up against the regime. In Egypt, President Moubarak announced constitutional reforms. In Saudi Arabia, first elections were organized and more changes are to come.
All these are good news, but they don't prove George W. Bush was right. It only tells the world that Ariel Sharon realized peace was impossible without a first concrete step, that Lebanese people aspire to govern their country by themselves and that sooner or later, Syrian citizens would have asked for reforms in their country.
As for the Iraqi elections, their price was really high.
But George W. Bush certainly assimilated the "lesson". He proved it in the Lebanese crisis, when the U.S. and France let the U.N. take charge. The U.S. policy might be on the right path to change.
Bolton's nomination greeted with skepticism in Germany
John Bolton's nomination for the post of American Ambassador to the United Nations was seen as questionable by mainstream German media. The Financial Times of Germany called him a hardliner in their headline and the Tagesspiegel said that European Diplomats must have dropped their breakfast pastries when they heard the news.
Bolton is known for being a staunch neo-conservative, with uncompromising beliefs about Taiwanese independence, Iran's nuclear ambitions and Middle East policy. In its report, the Tagesspiegel wrote:
"Many will see Bolton's nomination as a revision to Bush's conciliatory course of the last week."
Is this an obvious slap in the face to the UN and the US's European allies, or as the New York Times reported it, simply a debatable choice?
March 08, 2005
An assessment for Bush's policy in Middle-east
As an introduction to George W. Bush's speech on Middle east situation and war against terrorism, the French daily Le Monde published on Tuesday March 8th a long article about the reaction of the media, the politics and the Americans on Bush's policiy.
For Corine Lesnes, the Bush's administration avoid avery kind of triumphalism regarding the changes happening in middle east and eastern Europe. She quotes Condoleezza Rice:
"there is no need for triumphalism, because if there's a triumph here it's not America's triumph; it's the triumph of the human spirit; it's the triumph of human will to live in freedom."the Secretary of State said on Friday March on PBS. Lesnes insists however on the fact that Ms Rice added, "when the American president says things, it matters".
Then she makes a quick review of the US press. Only one word comes to her mind : "historic". She quotes the editorial of the New York Times(march 1rst) :
"The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance."She also quotes Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, who wrote that Bush's vision of a new mideast was "fondamentaly right", "maybe because of his relative ignorance of the area".
The "Neocons" are in the best position to show their support to the president. William Kristol, one of the thinkers of the movement, estimates that January 30th - the Iraqi's elections - will probably remain one of the key-dates for a validation of Bush's policy as the best response to 9/11. Kristol wrote in the Weekly Standard
"If Bush manages to succeed in Iraq, to force Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and to weaken Iranian mollahs, then the historians will say: Bush was ready to fight and he was right."
Even the Democrats seems to join the congratulations for president Bush, says Corine Lesnes. She quotes Senator Ted Kennedy, who said that the changes in mideast are "extremely constructive", stressing the importance of the president's role and his "reflexion" on the democratization of the Arab world. She also quotes diplomat Nancy Soderberg, who worked with Bill Clinton, saying last week in New York that "if Bush succeds [in the area] it is over for the Democracts for the twenty next years".
However, some Democrats keep attacking George W. Bush, like Congressman Charles Rangel, who said that
"What we [The USA] want is to catch terrorists, not Americans to die just for elections."
Lesnes also gives the point of view of experts, especially Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan :
"Much of the authoritarianism in the Middle East since 1945 had actually been supported (sometimes imposed) by Washington for Cold War purposes. The good thing about the democratization rhetoric coming out of Washington (which apparently does not apply to Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Uzbekistan, and other allies against al-Qaeda) is that it encourages the people to believe they have an ally if they take to the streets to end the legacy of authoritarianism. But Washington will be sorely tested if Islamist crowds gather in Tunis to demand the ouster of bin Ali. We'll see then how serious the rhetoric about people-power really is" he wrote for his blog, antiwar.com.
She finally insist on the Americans opinion, quoting a CBS-NYTimes poll which reveled that Bush priorities are out of step with Americans. Indeed, 59% of them care more about the economic situation and the local matters than about the international situation.
March 05, 2005
A serious incident
Upon her arrival in Italy Giuliana Sgrena declared that the US soldiers shot at her car “without motives” (see this note). Her statement was confirmed by an Italian secret agent who survived besides her. They said that the shooting came from a patrol and not from a check-point.
This screen shots of the home page of La Repubblica taken just before 6pm local time on Saturday March 5th, gives a sense of the tension.
According to La Repubblica Sgrena declared:
“The most difficult moment was en I saw the man who saved my life die in my arms.”
The Corriere della Sera gives importance to a declaration from Pier Scolari, Sgrena’s companion according to whom Giuliana’s had been told that “they” would try to kill her. Italian Secret Service answers that such is not the case and that it would have been a very silly way to go. More covert actions could have been implemented, and what happened could endanger the “collaboration of an allied service.”
An article in Today’s New York Times ends with this paragraph:
"This incident will increase popular anti-Americanism," said James Walston, a political scientist at the American University of Rome. “But it won't seriously prejudice the official Italian position of keeping troops in Iraq."
March 04, 2005
Elation and bafflement in Italy
The liberation of Italian Journalist Giuliana Sgrena by her Iraqi kidnappers and the accidental killing of secret service agent Nicola Calipari triggered emotions that might influence the perception of the US in that country.
The titles of two of the most important Italian newspapers are revealing.
The middle of the road Corriere della Sera highlights the fact that the US have declared it was “a mistake”.
The more liberal La Repubblica writes that Calipari was killed by “friendly fire from the USA.” (The screenshots were taken slightly before 8 AM local time on Saturday March 5th).
In the following hours, a significant place has been given to Bush’s phone call to Berlusconi, and to the accidental nature of Calipari’s death.
Nevertheless, the whole sequence might have an impact on perceptions of the US in this European country whose government is a close ally of George Bush while the population does not favor the war in Iraq.
Europe – New realities that the U.S. cannot ignore
One of the most delicate issues when trying to track “perceptions of the United States in the World” might be to gauge the impact of facts on feelings. In particular of changing realities.
The war in Iraq or the growing trend towards democracy in the Middle East is obvious elements about which much has been written.
There are deeper shift though that deeply affect perceptions… on both sides. This excellent article by Mark Schapiro titled “New Power for ‘Old Europe’” is a case in point.
It shows that decisions taken at the EU level may have a serious impact on major US companies that can’t do as much as they would like about it. Schapiro studies in particular the case of REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals), a directive that:
[...]represents an upheaval in the basic philosophy of chemical regulation, flipping the American presumption of "innocent until proven guilty" on its head by placing the burden of proof on manufacturers to prove chemicals are safe--what is known as the "precautionary principle."
The chemicals industry and the State Department have done what they could to derail it, but it’s difficult to influence a democratic body of 25 countries and a market of 450 million consumers.
When Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State for President Ford in 1977, he famously asked in frustration, "What telephone number do you dial to reach Europe?" Today, the area code for that number is clear: 32-2, for Brussels […].
And he adds:
Every European diplomat I spoke with was careful to insist that Europe's new generation of environmental directives is not intended to "impose" Europe's will upon the United States. Camilo Barcia Garcia-Villamil, the Spanish consul in San Francisco, who spent fifteen years working with the EU in Brussels, comments: "The European Union now has increased decision-making capacity. And if American companies want to be active in the European market, they must take account of European rules. We are not imposing our standards. We are making foreign companies respect our standards when they are in Europe."
Such an evolution might influence perceptions of the US abroad, and of the American perception of the problem.
That is less complicated than it sounds.
On one hand, the US might appear as less relevant to some, less all-powerful. On the other, Americans resenting the loss of importance might be tempted to conclude that anti-Americanism is growing.
That’s not necessarily the case, and still this is an essential shift that can’t be ignored.
What do you think?
March 02, 2005
Turkey - Can public opinion affect the relations between two states?
It is tempting to say “no”, and this might be taken as a satisfying answer in traditional circles. In today’s world though, with the growing impact of democracies, and the emergence of everyday more powerful civil societies it looks insufficient and potentially dangerous.
Let’s take the case of Turkey on the basis of a fascinating story published yesterday by the Turkish Daily News about the tensions between Ankara and Washington.
Turkish public opinion is not favorable explains TDN. Iraq is a great cause of concern.
[...] religious Turks, […] are infuriated by what they see as the persecution of Sunnis in Iraq. Secular Turks, for their part, are frustrated by what they perceive as American efforts to pave the way to the creation of an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq.
As usual, it can take some exacerbated forms:
Some eccentric Turkish newspaper reports even blamed the United States for the tsunami that hit southern Asia late last year, killing more than 250,000 people. Accusations ranged from "causing the tsunami with a secret nuclear test" to deliberately failing to inform the region's people in time.
Also, Turkey's new best-selling novel, “Metal Storm,” although it is pure fiction, highlights the deep fear and anger that many Turks feel toward the United States. The book is about a U.S. invasion of Turkey in 2007.
100,000 copies of “Metal Storm” have been sold since its publication in December. It strikes a chord with Turkish fears, and is said to be cautiously read by political and military leaders (according to this story published in Middle East Times.)
Could all this alter the relation between Ankara and Washington? TDN is very ambiguous about that.
Nothing seems to have changed behind the scene except for some tension at the beginning of each bilateral meeting. The “fundamental of ties between Ankara and Washington remain unchanged” in particular in the military cooperation field.
This is traditional diplomacy in tense situation. And a Turkish Foreign Ministry official went further when, according to TDN, he commented that:
“The anti-American sentiment in the Turkish public opinion has very limited leverage on the government. Has anyone ever seen a fundamental change in historic ties between two states because of negative public sentiment?”
In fact US officials seem to have a different view and they let it be known. They complain about the media, and, according to TDN:
remarks by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy […] made a major impact in Ankara. “It's crucial,” said Feith, “that the appreciation of our relationships extend beyond government officials down to the public in general, because otherwise the relationship is really not sustainable ... We hope that officials in our partner countries are going to be devoting the kind of effort to building popular support for the relationship that we build in our own country.”
Feith’s understanding of how a government should deal with public opinion may be a subject of interesting controversies, but it clearly reveals that the US administration is paying attention to anti-Bush, and anti-American sentiments in the world.
Politicians, diplomats and scholars who see the world in terms of Realpolitik may still believe that public opinion does not matter much in state to state relations. They cannot ignore the fact that it is a cause of serious concern for the most powerful of them.
The US government is learning that even with unchallenged military power it cannot ignore the feelings of the people abroad. That is becoming a fact of international relations that everybody will have to adjust to. And we might discover on the way that civil society is becoming a major actor of foreign relations.
March 01, 2005
Is everything okay between the US and the EU?
If you believe this summary of the EU-US meetings in Brussels last week, it is. Published in Die Welt, Germany's third-largest, and conservative, non-tabloid newspaper, this article looks at some points of contention between the US and the EU. For something that is not an opinion piece, it expresses a surprisingly strong belief in the unity between the US and the EU on a number of foreign policy issues. This is a word-for-word translation of the article.
Convergence or Differences?
The bridge across the Atlantic is strong again – at least the US and the EU are giving this impression. In Brussels, George Bush and the European Union demonstrated united forces. Washington and the EU members have officially buried their disagreement over Iraq, but there are still differences of opinion on bigger political questions. However, in some points there is a move towards consensus.
The EU wants to lift the weapons embargo on China, which was put into place fifteen years ago as a result of the suppression of the democracy movement there. Germany and France lead this charge, and only Ireland and Sweden still have reservations. The US is against the removal of sanctions on the grounds of human rights issues. From Washington’s standpoint, the end of the arms embargo would endanger the stability of the region, especially the relationship between China and Taiwan. A possible compromise could come through an agreement to determine which goods are allowed to be exported, and which ones not.
Both the EU and the US are denying Iran’s right to develop nuclear weapons. However, beyond this, there are differences of opinion. Great Britain, Germany and France have been trying to practice diplomacy for months, to convince Tehran to give up its uranium enrichment program. The EU asks proof from Iran that their program is for a peaceful use of the energy. So far, the US has shown no readiness to accept the EU’s line of negotiating. Bush said multiple times in Brussels that the military option is not on the table. Bush called the assertion ridiculous that concrete plans for an attack are ready.
The European Union wants to arrange an international Iraq conference together with the US. At the meeting, aid for Iraq should be coordinated. The EU is ready to organize this conference. From this, Brussels wants to open an EU office in Baghdad. Bush has signaled acceptance that Germany didn’t send any soldiers into Iraq.
The US and the EU share the viewpoint that Syria should be called on to reduce its security forces in Lebanon. The EU – led by France – wants to achieve this goal without imposing trade sanctions. Both the US and EU support a jointly sponsored UN resolution to investigate the murder of former Lebanese president Rafik Hariri.
The Middle East
The EU and the US want to undertake a joint effort to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East. The chance for peace has never been this apparent as now, Bush pointed out. EU council President Jean-Claude Juncker said it is clear “that we’re not going to move forward, unless Americans and Europeans pull together.”
On the question of NATO-reform, Americans and Europeans demonstrated extensive unity. Bush praised NATO as the “most successful alliance in the history of the world” and called for an intensive political dialogue between Europe and the US. On the issue, Gerhard Schroeder has expressed agreement for the most part, over the form there “will be discussions.” In the closing discussions, it appeared that the strategic partnership with the EU should be further developed. Schroeder recently made the suggestion of NATO reform and a strengthening of the direct dialogue between the US and the EU. While the European NATO states are for the idea of direct dialogue, the US rejects this request. In the final communiqué reads – “NATO remains the decisive forum for political security consultations between Europe and America.”
“The US and the EU are again bound to each other,” EU Commission president Jose Barroso said. Bush spoke of a “new era of transatlantic relations.” Belgian host Guy Verhofstadt said, a new understanding should arise out of the disputes of the past. And all political observers are of the opinion that the meeting between the US and the EU has ended the transatlantic ice age.
Bush and French President Jacques Chirac renewed their relationship at a communal dinner. A relationship that suffered during the Iraq war. A California wine and French fries were served at dinner as a sign of reconciliation. Chirac wants to visit the US this year. The bilateral relations to Bush’s second antagonist on the question of Iraq, Gerhard Schroeder, will be at the center of discussions during Bush’s visit to Germany.
February 23, 2005
U.S. Brands Threatened by Rising Anti-Americanism?
A couple of days ago I ran across mention of an article, "US Businesses Overseas Threatened by Rising Anti-Americanism" (also posted here under a different title), saying people around the world are increasingly avoiding brands perceived as "American" as a way of expressing discontent with the United States -- voting with their euros, pesos, and yen, as it were. Citing a recent poll by Seattle-based market research firm Global Market Insite, the article notes that sales for Marlboro and McDonalds were down in some countries, for example, and some German restaurants had stopped accepting American Express credit cards in a kind of reverse-Freedom-Fries phenomenon (see also this Reuters article from 2003). The story was also reported on by MSNBC, Time magazine, the Financial Times, and other media fixtures.
A look at the poll data itself, however, reveals that its results may be a little more complex. While it's true that 20 percent of Europeans and Canadians said they would boycott American products to protest U.S. foreign policy, the numbers don't seem too dire, on balance, for U.S. brands (although I haven't found data from previous years for comparison's sake). A significant majority of respondents, for example, said they "trust American companies." Similarly, solid majorities are also fond of American films and TV programs, "how Americans do business," and even "American multinational companies" (in this last category Americans themselves score lower than many countries: Mexicans, Japanese, Brazilians, Polish, Russians, Malaysians, Chinese, and Indians are all bigger fans of multinationals).
U.S. corporations also get high marks for tsunami disaster relief efforts. (Although it should be noted that many of these questions are pretty leading. Example: Coca-Cola has provided bottled drinking water, basic foodstuffs, among other things to tsunami victims. Has this improved your image of the Coca-Cola brand? Is it really a surprise that the response was positive in three-quarters of the countries surveyed?)
Perhaps most interesting of all is this chart, which plots corporate brands according to how "American" they are perceived to be, and how likely respondents who said they would boycott American products were to avoid certain brands. Marlboro cigarettes seems to be the worst-off, perceived as "extremely American" by about 65 percent, with 60 percent promising to avoid purchasing the brand. Kodak, Visa, Kleenex, and Gillette fare the best, scoring in the low teens in both categories.
For an analysis of the chart, see this Daniel Gross column on Slate:
In the end, however, some of the rankings defy rational inquiry. How is that Jack Daniels, with its u-r-American name, is considered less American than German-sounding Budweiser? And some of the other results make me think that the people polled are just dumb. Chrysler, which polls in the danger zone as very American and unlikable, is owned by a European company!
Global Market Insite's news page has links to discussion of the poll in other news outlets.
Other, non-business questions in the survey are also interesting: The United States gets fair overall ratings; the American people score pretty high; American values, fair; and U.S. foreign policy and President Bush, predictably abysmal.
See also this previous discussion of U.S. brands flying the flag cautiously abroad.
February 22, 2005
The Economist (Part I): Special Report on Anti-Americanism
This week's print issue of the Economist (Feb. 19-25, 2005) has a three-page analysis of world perceptions of America and Americans, in the aftermath of two recent polls (one conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, previously discussed here; and another from the BBC). The article is premium content, but the site sometimes runs free-access days sponsored by advertisers (as is the case today, Feb. 22). In any case, it's an intelligent, well-written analysis of the current state of anti-Americanism around the globe -- well worth locating in print if you can’t get it online. (Excerpts inside.)
Though anti-Americanism spans the globe, the phenomenon is not everywhere the same. It mutates according to local conditions, and it is seldom straightforward.
No wonder. Most people's feelings about America are complicated. "America," after all, is shorthand for many other terms: the Bush administration, a Republican-dominated Congress, Hollywood, a source of investment, a place to go to study, a land of economic opportunity, a big regional power, the big world power, a particular policy, the memory of something once done by the United States, a set of political values based on freedom, democracy and economic liberalism, and so on. It is easy to be for some of these and against others, and some may wax or wane in importance according to time, circumstance, propaganda or wishful thinking. So it should be no surprise that some people can hold two apparently contradictory views of America at once. The incandescent third-world demonstrator, shrieking "Down with America!" in one breath and "Can you get me a green card?" in the next, has become a commonplace.
The piece begins with France, which it calls "the locus classicus of anti-Americanism." One source of anti-Americanism here, the author writes, is
the rivalry between France and America, based on their remarkably similar self-images; the two countries both think they invented the rights of man, have a unique calling to spread liberty round the world and hold a variety of other attributes that make them utterly and admirably exceptional. Jealousy also plays a part ... French anti-Americanism tends to rise when France has just suffered a setback of some kind, whether a defeat at the hands of the Germans, a drubbing in Algeria or the breakdown of the Fourth Republic.
The author then goes through many of the world's nations, from Angola to Vietnam, examining the state of anti-Americanism and identifying underlying causes in each:
In Iran, for example, anti-Americanism is a tool exploited by the regime "to divert attention from its many failures."
In Indonesia, it’s "largely an armchair affair."
The piece concludes by pointing out that recent polls show anti-Americanism in many cases may have much to do with the reelection of George W. Bush and policies specific to the current administration, then saying:
That is the, perhaps short-term, view of some non-Americans. It is accompanied by another view, increasingly common among pundits, which holds that America is losing its allure as a model society. Whereas much of the rest of the world once looked to the United States as a beacon, it is argued, non-Americans are now turning away. Democrats in Europe and elsewhere who once thought religiosity, a belief in capital punishment and rank hostility to the United Nations were intermittent or diminishing features of the United States now see them as rising and perhaps permanent. Such feelings have been fortified by Mr Bush’s doctrine of preventive war, Guantánamo, opposition to the world criminal court and a host of other international agreements. One way or another, it is said, people are turning off America, not so much to hate it as to look for other examples to follow—even Europe’s. If true, that could be even more insulting to Americans than the rise in the familiar anti-Americanism of yesteryear.
But where is the world’s navel?
In a quite acid op-ed piece, one of the most respected El País’s editorialists pokes fun at the anti-American discourse, so common in Europe, and in Spain these days.
Hermann Tertsch underlines the pleasure that some people take in giving lessons to the Americans. Isn’t Bush a “rufián” (scoundrel?) Aren’t they “esquisitos” (exquisite?)
In the mean time important things are happening elsewhere. Bush is in Europe, but Latin America looks towards China; Tokyo and Washington just signed an important defense pact related to common threats in the Pacific “the probable new geostrategic center of the world.”
“Our villain was clearly wrong when he thought he could reorganize the world all by himself. We keep being wrong when we think we are its navel.”
Un rufián entre exquisitos
Ya está aquí. Ya tenemos entre nosotros al gran rufián del nuevo siglo, George W. Bush, al que en Madrid unos equiparan a Hitler, y en París, otros al camboyano Pol Pot, el gran villano responsable directo de que los terroristas islamistas asesinen a la población en Irak, de los muertos de hambre en Sudán, de que no se alertara a tiempo del tsunami en Indonesia y de la malaria africana, de robar a los pobres para enriquecer a los ricos. Ha llegado, al iniciar su segundo mandato como gran jefe del Imperio del Mal, con la peor de sus sonrisas porque esta vez no viene a amenazarnos como otras veces, sino -algo mucho más perverso aún- a intentar embaucarnos. Pero aquí, en una Europa cada vez más convencida y autosatisfecha con su papel como Reino exquisito del Bien y exportador neto de bienaventuranzas al mundo entero no nos vamos a dejar engañar. Sabemos que, lejos de haberse caído del caballo, de confesar y expiar sus pecados, errores y perversiones, Bush está aún lejos de aceptar el hecho incontrovertible de que nuestro gran eje de la bonhomía ha tenido y tiene siempre razón cuando se opone frontalmente a él y a su política. Adalides de la franqueza y el talante y el diálogo hasta con los enemigos declarados de la democracia, los europeos sabemos que Bush, igual que Condoleezza Rice -traidora ha de ser siendo negra y mujer en la siniestra corte de allende el Atlántico-, viene a lograr los mismos fines monstruosos con diferentes argucias. Y además no han pedido perdón.
Estos vienen a ser -y perdón por la burda caricatura en la que nada he inventado yo- los trazos gruesos de argumentación que se han prodigado en la prensa europea estos días con motivo de la gira europea del presidente de los EE UU. Los políticos europeos por su parte -nobleza obliga- destacan en público como éxito propio el nuevo tono del presidente norteamericano hacia la Unión Europea, pero con igual énfasis dejan claro quién ha de cambiar su política de forma radical para recibir la bendición de esta gran Tabla Redonda del humanismo que se consideran.
Nadie defiende aquí a la Administración de Bush de unas acusaciones más que fundadas de indigencia política, de sus aberraciones retóricas, de los graves desastres de su gestión en el Irak de posguerra, ni sus reformas fiscales tan ajenas al llamado "conservadurismo compasivo" -detestable término- que en su día propugnó. Muchas serían las rectificaciones justificadas y bienvenidas por todos los que creen que un buen funcionamiento de la alianza transatlántica es vital para la seguridad de EE UU y la UE, y más para la de esta segunda. Pero no deja de tener gracia la autosuficiencia con que responden algunos de los grandes adalides del mundo multipolar a los intentos de la nueva Administración norteamericana de cerrar heridas.
Quienes durante más de dos años han celebrado con mayor o menor disimulo las dificultades de EE UU en Irak y apenas han ayudado simbólicamente a poner fin a una situación que amenaza la seguridad de Europa más aun que a la de EE UU, ahora adoptan una pose de superioridad moral que fácilmente puede volverse contra todos y la imprescindible cooperación en Oriente Medio, ahora que surgen esperanzas tanto en Irak -gracias a los esfuerzos y muertos iraquíes y norteamericanos- como en Palestina, en gran parte gracias a la muerte de aquel adoptado favorito de la Europa biempensante. Los errores, exquisitos humanistas, no son sólo del villano tejano.
Y mientras aquí se da lecciones a Bush, Washington y Tokio han firmado un importante pacto de defensa para hacer frente a amenazas comunes en el Pacífico, probable nuevo centro geoestratégico del mundo, e Iberoamérica mira a China. Está claro que nuestro villano se equivocó cuando se creyó poder reorganizar por su cuenta el mundo. Nosotros nos seguimos equivocando cuando nos creemos su ombligo.
February 17, 2005
Why many Iranians are pro-Americans and pro-Bush
Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Friedman, and many others keep saying that pro-American feelings are very strong in Iran. A presidential Poll organized by the BBC last year even showed that 52% of Iranians favored Bush over Kerry.
There are many reasons to these feelings that differ from perceptions elsewhere in the world: access to satellite television, opposition to the anti-American regime, and support for a peaceful transition in Iran by Republicans, among others.
"Spain and Anti-Americanism": A dissenting voice from Spain
"According to the polls, Spain is the most anti-American country in Europe," writes Carlos Alberto Montaner in "España y el antiamericanismo."
Montaner is a Cuban-born author, academic, and journalist who has lived in Madrid (in exile from Fidel Castro's Cuba, one wonders?) since 1970 and contributes to, among other publications, the Miami Herald. He also maintains a webpage of his writings (in Spanish, English, German, Russian, Slovak, Czech, and Polish) at www.firmaspress.com.
In this article from June 2004, Montaner considers the historical and contemporary causes of anti-Americanism in Spain, then concludes:
The Spanish democratic left should recognize that it's absurd to continue attacking an ally vital in all terrains. It's time they understood that we live in a cultural and economic space that is absolutely interrelated, in which we all benefit from the successes of others and suffer from their failures. The need to understand that to be anti-American is also a form of being anti-Spanish...
He's right that U.S.-Spain relations aren't exactly at their zenith these days. In an October 2004 poll, Spain was the only country surveyed where fewer than half of respondents had "a favourable or unfavourable opinion of Americans," and only 5 percent said events during the past few years had improved their opinion of the United States. And current Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero famously irked the Bush administration by withdrawing Spanish troops from Iraq after his Socialist party swept into power in March 2004 in the wake of an al Qaeda attack on trains in Madrid that killed some 200 people.
But in "Spain and Anti-Americanism," Montaner traces Spanish anti-American sentiment much further back than the Iraq war, identifying its roots in 19th-century tensions between the U.S. and the Spanish right, which were then "reinforced" during the Spanish-American war, as well as in the Spanish left's resentment of the U.S. for not taking a harder line on Spain's Fascist dictator Francisco Franco (during the Cold War, the U.S. cozied up to Spain -- which was seen as strategically important in large part since it controlled access to the Mediterranean Sea).
Montaner takes a hard line of his own toward the Spanish left, arguing that U.S.-Spanish relations were vital to the country's transition to democracy following Franco's death in 1975, and suggesting that Spain cannot afford to turn its back on the United States.
Excerpts from the article (translated from the original Spanish):
According to the polls, Spain is the most anti-American country in Europe. As a consequence, the electoral strategy of the Spanish Socialists during the recent elections to the European Parliament was based on trying to demonstrate that their conservative adversaries were pro-American.
The origin of this negative perception is in the intense campaign launched by the Spanish right in the 19th century, when it identified the United States as a country that was Protestant, the wicked inheritor of the "perfidious Albion," materialistic, masonic, ignorant, dominated by the "Chicago sausages" or by the "Jewish bank." To this ridiculous stereotype, reinforced by the War of 1898 [The Spanish-American War] and partially in effect still today, was added the Marxist vision after the Bolshevik Revolution, and began to describe the United States as a soulless, imperialistic group of multinational corporations dedicated to the exploitation of weak countries and the looting of workers.
The truth is that, contrary to the opinion of the left, the close ties between the Americans and Francoism contributed decisively to the subsequent democratization and development of Spain. The Spanish military, victors of the Spanish Civil War, most of whom were adherents of Fascism, were influenced by the American military, formed from the cult of democratic values, which became a general trial for the subsequent entry of Spain into NATO. Also, the economists and functionaries of Francoism, at the time submerged in the Fascist mythology of economic nationalism, autarchy, and state-controlled economy (as dictated by the right's own Socialist ideology), had access to an American perspective based on the free market and openness to the exterior.
It's unfair, then, to attribute to the United States the kind of complicity with Francoism that supposedly retarded the establishment of democracy. On the contrary, it's very likely that the democratic tendency of King Juan Carlos, vital during the transition, was reinforced by his own pro-American attitude. And it's certain that, following the death of Franco, every time Washington had the opportunity to make its weight felt, it did so in the direction of fomenting the incorporation of Spain to the international mechanisms integrated by democratic nations, be it the European Union or NATO, given that American diplomats were convinced that [Spanish philosopher and essayist José] Ortega y Gasset was correct when he stated that "Spain is the problem, and Europe the solution."
It's a demagogic error on the part of the Socialists to insist on anti-Americanism as a formula for attracting voters. Just as conservative politicians – at least the controlling wing – buried their phobias toward Washington, the Spanish democratic left should recognize that it's absurd to continue attacking an ally vital in all terrains. It's time they understood that we live in a cultural and economic space that is absolutely interrelated, in which we all benefit from the successes of others and suffer from their failures. The need to understand that to be anti-American is also a form of being anti-Spanish, just as being anti-European is a foolish way of being anti-American.
Full text of article (Spanish): http://www.firmaspress.com/388.htm
Recent Montaner articles in English:
Election shows desire for peace
American strategists believe that the consolidation of a democratic state by Palestinians will contribute to the stability of the entire region and that, in due course, that climate of peace will lead to a radical reduction of the levels of anti-Americanism.
Zapatero's dangerous diplomacy
The first consequence of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's foreign policy was to chill Spain's relations with Washington.
February 06, 2005
Measuring Anti-Americanism in the World
In the process of tracking, understanding, and discussing anti-Americanism in this group blog, we can learn a lot from the comprehensive international survey conducted by BBC in the summer of 2003. The survey was carried out in 11 countries asking 11,000 people different questions about their views and opinions towards America to be used in the television program What The World Thinks of America. The countries included in the survey were the UK, France, Russia, Indonesia, South Korea, Jordan, Australia, Canada, Israel, Brazil and the US.
The results show that there is a huge difference in people’s attitudes towards America and towards George W. Bush (please click here to watch the graphs). This clearly indicates that the policies of the present US administration matters a great deal to the world, and might even contribute to the level of anti-Americanism. Therefore, I think we need to dig into the question of which policy issues turn people on - and off.
The survey shows that people from the 11 countries to a fair extent agree with US policies on the spread of HIV/AIDS, and to a lesser degree on the fight against terrorism. The world, on the other hand, disagrees with US policies on the issues of world poverty, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and especially on the Israeli/Palestinian question. The general skepticism regarding the latter might explain the very positive reaction, in at least the Danish media, to Bush’s state of the union announcement this Wednesday of a $350 million contribution to the Palestinian cause. The survey shows that all but the Americans are unsatisfied with the US policy towards Israel and Palestine, including Israel.
But how does the world perceive Americans? The respondents think that Americans can best be described as free, arrogant, united, and religious. But the picture here is not very clear. This point towards that identifying values and labels for a whole population is a complicated endeavor.
On the question of the big dangers in the world, an average of 46 percent think that America is more dangerous than Iran. Among the respondents 48 percent think that the superior military power of the US makes the world a more dangerous place, whereas only 12 percent of Americans think the same.
In sum, there seems to be a great divide in the world perception of the US, most often with the US on one side of the table and the rest of the world on the other. Not a very fortunate situation for the world’s greatest power. The world seems to be more frustrated with US policies than with Americans as such. This indicates that the roots of anti-Americanism aren’t to be found in American values, but rather in the actual conduct of US foreign policy regarding the global issues of poverty, environment, and conflict solving.