Now what? This is not my field, by a long shot. But I just don’t get what the endgame is.
Fruits & Votes is the Web-log of Matthew S. Shugart ("MSS"), Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis.
Perspectives on electoral systems, constitutional design, and policy around the world, based primarily on my research interests.
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17 March 2011
Now what? This is not my field, by a long shot. But I just don’t get what the endgame is.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (5)
02 March 2011
This item, near the end of an Al Jazeera article on the pro-Gaddafi offensive against the rebel-held city of Marsa El Brega, surprised me:
Such a request would go a step or more beyond the previously requested imposition of a “no-fly zone.” However, even the latter operation would entail airstrikes and complex logistics, implying the operational distinction is not as great as it at first seems. Tactically, it would be a much bigger intervention, however. It would go beyond merely denying Gaddafi the means to use loyal air forces and entail destruction of fighting assets, and, obviously, significant casualties.
So my question for readers: is armed intervention (of what ever form) a good idea?
This is well beyond my field of specialization. But, for what it may be worth, part of me suspects the US and allies will end up intervening anyway. This regime and its maniacal leader are not going quietly, and there is a serious risk of a “failed state” situation. Such a result on the northern shores of the Mediterranean is, without exaggeration, a serious threat (shipping lanes, refugee flows, potential terrorism, etc.) that Europe and the US can’t abide. So is it better to intervene sooner than later?
Of course, there is another side of me that says foreign intervention can only make a bad situation worse.
I don’t know, but I am sure glad I don’t have to make the decision.
13 January 2011
(Substantially extended from the original, with some personal observations from having lived in and walked around this general area.)
Confused by the Shepherd Hotel controversy that has burst (back) into the news this week? You should be. It is a confusing situation. Certainly not as simple as most of the voices in the media (of whatever position) make it seem.
If you want to cut through the confusion, read Yaacov Lozowick’s “virtual tour” of the area.
I know this area, although by no means intimately. But the maps and satellite views Yaacov posts include the area where I lived for about three months last year. One of the things that most struck me about this area, which is over the Green Line, is just how intermixed it is. The neighborhood in question, Sheikh Jarah, as well as where I stayed, French Hill, were both in the Jordanian-occupied zone from 1948-67 and are typically, if misleadingly, referred to in the media as “East Jerusalem.” In French Hill, the population is mostly Jewish (including a substantial community of post-1967 immigrants from English-speaking countries, as well as academics and staff at Hebrew University), but there is a large minority of Arabs. Both the Jerusalem municipality bus lines and the Arab East Jerusalem bus lines course through the area. (Yes, there are separate bus lines; one sees Arab passengers on the Jerusalem buses, but evidently not Jews on the Arab buses, and the company running the latter does not appear to have a website in either English or Hebrew, only Arabic.) A short walk southwestward from the Student Village in French Hill, where my University-provided accommodation was, one passes by Arab-run falafel shops and Arab houses, with some consular residences mixed in. Other apartment complexes in the area are mostly Jewish, including some Haredi (ultra-Orthodox). A walk towards the east takes one past Hadassah Hospital, at the entrance to which there is an Arab-run kiosk (cigarettes, ice cream, etc.) and a series of mostly Arab-populated apartment complexes on one side of the street and more HU student housing on the other side. The University student population is itself quite mixed. Sheikh Jarrah and French Hill blend in to one another, although Sheikh Jarah is clearly mostly Arab-populated. Right between these neighborhoods are the National Police HQ and several other government buildings, as well as some international hotels (where the staff seems mostly Arab) and consular facilities.
It is far from an ideal “integrated” set of neighborhoods, and tensions in Sheikh Jarrah have been high for some time. But my point (and Yaacov’s) is that it is misleading to see a sharp division between the “Jewish” and “Arab” cities of Jerusalem, as most media accounts suggest.
The idea of drawing a border through this region as part of a “peace agreement” mystifies me. I can’t see how it could be done, honestly.
The comment form is open–I think, and for how long, who knows.
24 September 2010
Go over to Yaacov Lozowick’s blog to see an absolutely brilliant political cartoon, regarding the current Israeli-Palestinian talks, by Shlomo Cohen.
25 January 2009
11 January 2009
Gideon Levy (one of my favorite Israeli columnists) on Ayman Mohyeldin (whom he describes as “My hero of the Gaza war”);
Frustrating indeed. As Levy notes about Mohyeldin’s employer:
I have watched a lot of news from many sources during these last two weeks of fighting in the Gaza Strip. The US media has been, unsurprisingly, embarrassingly bad. Unforgivably, horrendously bad. (Typical example: Corresponded in flak jacket on Israeli side of border saying “We can hear there is fighting over there.”) What Israelis are seeing from their own broadcasters could hardly be worse, but certainly is not better.
From my limited exposure (via Mosaic) I agree with Levy that Al Jazeera English is excellent and balanced. I would not necessarily say the same about the Arab language services (from which I get snippets, dubbed, also on Mosaic).
Regular updates from beneath the cloud of the US media are available at the Al Jazeera English website.
11 August 2008
I am not going to weigh in on the Russia-Georgia war, partly because it is well outside my areas of professional competence, partly because it is just depressing, and partly because I have seen the sort of comments other blogs are getting1 since this simmering conflict broke into the world’s headlines on (not coincidentally) the day the Olympics2 started.
However, just before the fighting erupted, I received, via a Google news alert, the following item about the aftermath of the (partial) opposition boycott of Georgia’s recent parliamentary elections. It is interesting inasmuch as it provides some insights into the domestic political situation facing the Georgian government in recent months. It also notes challenges parties might face in coordinated action (including election boycotts) in electoral systems that are at least partly nominal (such as Georgia’s MMM system), as well as the problems multiple (small) opposition parties have coordinating with one another:
Propagation: Seeds & scions (1)
15 January 2008
Planted by MSS
Planted in: Peace and war
Excerpted and re-posted from two plantings of previous years.
Seventy nine years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr., was born.
Spend some time today, or any day, on the drmartinlutherkingjr.com website, listening to and reading some of his inspiring speeches of peace and unity.
As great a speech as his famous “I have a dream” is, another has always inspired me even more: “I’ve Been To The Mountain Top.” In this speech he says, in part:
And, of course:
The very next day, April 4, 1968, Dr. King was assassinated.
I want to thank Tom Grant for the link to the site that contains text and audio clips of King’s speeches. And I want to second Tom’s own words of remembrance:
And how many Americans are aware of Dr. King’s words, largely suppressed by our media, against imperialism and militarism?
–Address to the Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam,
Riverside Church, New York City April 4*, 1967
by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
04 September 2007
Fortunately for all of us who missed APSA, Robert Farley has a summary of a panel on withdrawal options from the Iraqle.1 The panel featured James Wirtz of the Naval War College, John Mearsheimer, Juan Cole, and Stephen Biddle.
Biddle noted that the only intellectually defensible options regarding Iraq lie at the extremes–escalation or complete withdrawal. The former has little chance of success and complete withdrawal is preferable to virtually any scheme involving residual forces.
Mearsheimer argued that because of domestic politics and institutional dynamics we’ll still be there in five years and beyond. Quoting Robert now, referring to Mearshimer’s remarks:
That last part shows as much as an concrete policy problem what is so fundamentally wrong with the two-party straitjacket and the presidential form of government, but in the presence of such death, destruction, and depression, I’m not in the mood to use the Iraqle to make the case against American political institutions. I leave it as an exercise for the interested reader.
05 July 2007
Six more Canadian soldiers were killed yesterday in Afghanistan while riding in a “mine-resistant vehicle.”
Meanwhile, BBC World Service ran a radio documentary this morning about rampant corruption in Afghanistan. Police jobs are auctioned, because people are willing to pay to get in for the graft opportunities. The corruption may be driving more people to support Taliban insurgents. For all their brutality, the Taliban is remembered for being relatively clean, the BBC reported.
With the ever-present possibility of an early election given Canada’s parliamentary system and current minority government, the question of when to bring an end to the Afghanistan commitment is very much a matter of debate between the parties in that country. Yet the operation is almost totally noncontroversial in the US.
Even Bill Richardson, the only candidate among those with some realistic chance of getting the Democratic nomination who is calling for a complete withdrawal from Iraq–”no residual bases left behind” –calls for increasing the US role in Afghanistan:
That was a defensible position in 2004. Is it still in 2007?
Will any contender for the leadership of the USA dare suggest moving towards closure to the open-ended commitment in Afghanistan? Don’t count on it. Not even Dennis Kucinich mentions Afghanistan prominently on his issues page. Mike Gravel at least mentions it, sort of in passing, in the context of opposing military action against Iran (which he makes his second issue after Iraq). There appears to be almost total consensus that the commitment is worth continuing. Maybe it is, but it might be nice to debate the question.
01 April 2007
Planted by MSS
Planted in: The Iraqle
A “huge exodus” is underway from Iraq.
How will those responsible for this humanitarian disaster that has followed the destruction of the Iraqi state atone for what they have done?
01 February 2007
Planted by MSS
Planted in: The Iraqle
Far too little attention is being paid, especially in the USA, to “one of the world’s great man-made disasters” taking place in Iraq: Forcible population displacement. The UNHCR estimates that 50,000 Iraqis per month are being forced out of their homes. Patrick Cockburn, in the Independent (one of the world’s great English-language newspapers), notes that “Iraq is experiencing the biggest exodus in the Middle East since Palestinians were forced to flee in 1948 upon the creation of Israel.” About two million so far have fled the country–with Syria being the one neighbor that has “formally recognised a need for temporary protection for Iraqis”–and another 1.5 to 2 million are internally displaced.
One man from Baghdad told Cockburn, “Sometimes I have asked myself if it is not better to die than to live like a Bedouin all my life.”
As a result of these massive population movements:
What a tragedy. What an utterly preventable tragedy. What a Made-in-the-USA tragedy.
Meanwhile, all is not quiet on the northern front. The LA Times quotes an International Crisis Group report as saying, “Kirkuk is as likely as Baghdad to produce a calamity that can fracture Iraq.” Later this year, as mandated by the Iraqi constitution, there will be a referendum on the status of Kirkuk province. Kurdish officials are already taking steps to ensure the “correct” outcome.
17 January 2007
In an update to the previous post, I note the possibility (suggested by The Head Heeb) that the Israel-Syria peace initiative that was leaked earlier this week could be part of a move by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her supporters to move against Olmert. A new government without Olmert (and Peretz) could be in a stronger position to re-start talks that apparently have been stalled for six months.
The timing of Halutz’s departure–and the pressure it puts on Olmert and Peretz to assume political responsibility–and the leak on peace talks may not be coincidental. Stay tuned.
16 January 2007
The “People’s Movement” of last April that forced King Gyanendra to back down from his claimed absolute powers and that led to a cease-fire in the long-running internal war bears significant institutional fruit this week.
The Nepalese House of Representatives is being formally dissolved as the Maoist rebels lay down their arms. An interim constitution will come into effect, and members will take their seats in a 330-member Interim House. The Interim House will consist of 83 delegates appointed by the rebels, 83 by the leftist party CPN-UML and 85 by the Nepali Congress Party. (I wonder how that balance of representation was determined; it also is not clear to me how the remaining 79 seats were distributed, but Nepal has quite a stew of political parties.)
Under the interim constitution, all powers formerly vested in the monarchy will be transferred to the post of Prime Minister.
Elections to a constituent assembly to draft a permanent constitution are scheduled for June.
The United Nations has played a key part in brokering the peace process, which includes the rebels’ locking up their weapons at designated camps, while the army locks up a similar quantity of its weapons. The rebels are to remain in the camps through the elections.
Update: See Jonathan Edelstein’s post of 23 January, in which he notes that the Maoists’ success in recruiting civil-society and Dalit representatives for some of their seats in parliament lends “support to the theory that their organization and discipline will allow them to continue to drive the political process. Given that the Maoists’ long-term democratic credentials are still in considerable doubt, this raises questions about exactly where the transition might lead.”
17 Jan. Updated below
Haaretz reports that Israeli and Syrian representatives, in a series of meetings between September, 2004, and July, 2006, formulated “understandings” for a comprehensive settlement leading to a peace treaty. (more…)
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