Tag Archive 'Middle East'

Frank Miller’s Geostrategic Theory

Frank Lovece sat down with Frank Miller for Newsday to discuss his upcoming film The Spirit. Toward the end of it Lovece asked Miller about remarks he’d made in 2007 in support of the Iraq War, and offered him an opportunity to clarify/retract. Miller was unapologetic:

Miller: When the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor, we didn’t just declare war on Japan, we declared war on Germany. It was an international fascist effort. And so when I said that the attack on Iraq made sense, it was the same way we had to attack not just Afghanistan. Instead we had to attack the center of Islamofascism.


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Implications of the Pletka Purge

Roland picks up an interesting piece by Jacob Heilbrunn for the National Interest, describing an ongoing purge of neoconservative intellectuals from the American Enterprise Institute, allegedly instigated by Vice President Danielle Pletka. So far Michael Ledeen and Reuel Marc Gerecht are gone, with Joshua Muravchik soon leaving. Others are said to be soon in following.

This could signal the reemergence of an old conflict over machtpolitik and just war doctrine, which used to exist in Republican security policy circles (ie, coercion-for-values vs. coercion-for-interests). If Pletka is indeed purging with intent, we may even expect AEI to shift its attitude toward the Middle East, Asia and Africa, given how much more amenable authoritarian regimes tend to be to interest pressure.

And the idealism of the AEI departed is considerable. Gerecht for instance wrote a fascinating but bizarre book I read in the late 1990s under the pen name Edward Shirley, in which he smuggled himself into Iran in the trunk of a car, essentially for the romance of it.


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The Tidal Empires of War

Bashar Assad stickers in Syria
(photo: Charles Roffey - Charles & Fred)

Someone once said that in Damascus you truly can get a little bit pregnant. It’s a good aphorism, because if you asked the foreign minister of almost any state in the Middle East or the Mediterranean what his government’s policy relationship was with Syria, he would automatically furrow his brow and call it “complicated.” You always seem to be about half-way somewhere with Syria. Lately that appears to be true even for Tzipi Livni. If so for Israel, doubly so for Lebanon.

Surveying it, Jihad Yazigi describes the situation that exists between the two countries as customarily “complicated”, but the dimension of complication he’s seeing is something relatively new. Where before thirty years of Syrian military occupation (and often not very covert political subversion) might be the most obvious locus, Yazigi is today talking about labor and direct investment in Syria by Lebanese:

Syria would probably not be liberalizing its economy and going through a revival of its services sector without the thousands of Lebanese managers that are running Syrian firms. Lebanese managerial know-how is being exported throughout the Arab world and Syria will continue to need it if it wants to further the opening up of its economy.
(The Syria Report)

That’s a very new economic relationship, as historically it is Syrian labor that has traveled to liberal and cosmopolitan Beirut. It is Syrian enterprise that has worked to create a paternalistic relationship between the two countries with one-way investment, generally government directed.


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A Retreating Periphery

Indian Frontiers
(photo: Mani Babbar)

After 9/11 widened Al Qaeda’s ambitious war against most of the world, Osama bin Laden described his own axis-o-evil as being composed of “Crusaders, Zionists and Hindus.” But at some point, without anyone much noticing, that seems to have changed for Hindus.


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Scrambling for Africa: A Conversation with John Ghazvinian

Niger Delta Oil Shell oil venting
Gas flaring in the Niger Delta (photo: Ellie)

John Ghazvinian is a journalist and historian of considerable insight into African affairs. He also happens to have written one of the best recent books on the emergent international struggle for African petroleum: Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil (the paperback edition is due out in April). Whilst being an enormously valuable investigation of a very serious issue, it is also a page-turning and literate adventure into exotic and dangerous places. Indeed, one that’s practically impossible to put down once you’ve picked it up.

As John writes therein, since 1990 the oil industry has invested $20 billion in oil exploration and production in Africa, with $50 billion more planned before 2010. Over the next five years Chevron alone is devoting $20 billion in investment for Africa. Taken collectively, this exercise represents the largest commercial investment in African history. But such a spectacular windfall for some of the world’s most impoverished countries can be a poisoned chalice, where the brutal economic forces of the so-called “resource curse” hollow out states, eviscerate agricultural economies and break traditional cultures.

Populous and promising Nigeria for example, is one of the oldest and most well established oil producing countries in Africa. But with the expansion of Nigeria’s oil extraction industry, she has seen only the systematic erosion of her economic and civil society. As well as witnessing the transformation of her oil bearing region in the Niger Delta (one of the richest in the world), into a vast social wasteland of extreme poverty, rapacious crime and guerrilla warfare. As John notes, “Nigeria” is now a shorthand expression in Africa for what everyone with oil desperately wants to avoid.

John took some time out of his morning yesterday to sit down with me for a telephone interview. We were able to discuss a variety of subjects related to issues raised in his book. Including among other things, US oil supply diversification, the political consequences of offshore exploration in the Gulf of Guinea, the resource curse and rentier states, instability and post-nationalist militancy in the Niger Delta, oil field subculture, the labor problem, Chinese energy strategy in Africa and the difficulty of talking about Africa “without lapsing into sanctimoniousness” (as John puts it in the preface of his book). As I did, I believe you’ll find this to be a rather rewarding and unconventional discussion.


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How has Palestinan opinion evolved?

Stealing from Harry’s Place we find these fairly encouraging results:

Here’s the results of last November’s polling amongst Palestinians:

Support or opposition to a peace settlement with Israel

Support 72%
Oppose 25.5%

Support or opposition to the Palestinian participation in the peace conference that will be held at the end of the month.

Support 71%
Oppose 26.5%

Should Hamas maintain its position on the elimination of the state of Israel?

Hamas should maintain its position on Israel 31%
Hamas should change its position regarding Israel 69%
Other interesting results here.

Main issue that makes you feel concerned

The economic hardship 31%
The absence of security 25%
The internal power struggle 29%
The Israeli occupation in general 6%
Family problems 3%

The security situation in the Gaza Strip now is better than before Hamas took over, worse, or it did not change?

Better 14%
Worse 79%
The Same 6%

Trust in Abu Mazen versus trust in Ismael Hanieh

Abu Mazen 78%
Ismael Hanieh 22%

Factional trust

Fatah 46%
Hamas 13%
Others 9%
None 32%

(Hamas trust was 41% in January 2006. Fatah v Hamas trust is 46% v 16% in the Gaza strip)

Support or opposition to early PLC elections

Support: 77%
Oppose: 23%

Voting preference if early PLC elections are held next week

Fateh 69%
Hamas 15%
Others 16%

Attitude about the nature of the state, refugees, and Jerusalem

Two states for two people 53%
A one bi-national state in historic Palestine 15%
A Palestinian state on all historic Palestine 32%

Return to their original place of residence 61%
Return back to the new Palestinian state 24%
Compensation 15%

Jerusalem as an international capital 19%
East Jerusalem for Palestine and West for Israel 29%
A unified capital for both states 14%
A capital only for Palestine 38%

Note, the Israeli occupation in general is the primary concern of only 6% of respondents. Western policy continues to tilt toward assuaging the priorities of the few, and the violent, and the irreconcilable.  No wonder our efforts continue to founder.

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