July 2013 Archives

July 23, 2013

Israel and Palestine: Here We Go Again

Abdel Bari Atwan, former editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, made the following observation about the outcome of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s most recent visit to the Middle East:

US Secretary of State John Kerry is currently on his sixth visit to the West Bank and Jordan since March and made optimistic noises regarding his self-declared mission to revive the peace talks with Israel. He announced on Friday (July 19, 2013) that Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a basis for returning to peace talks.

“We’ve been here too many times before not to be slightly cynical about this news,” Mr. Bari writes.“The first question, then, is ‘why now’?”

For more, please see “Is Kerry’s Middle East diplomacy a smokescreen for another war?”

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South Sudan’s Salva Kiir Dismisses Cabinet

South Sudan President Salva Kiir “issued a decree” on July 23, 2013, “dismissing all ministers and deputy ministers, as well as Vice-President Riek Machar,” according to the BBC. See “South Sudan's Salva Kiir sacks entire cabinet.”

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July 22, 2013

What’s Happening in Syria?

Hamid Dabashi, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York, USA,and author of Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism (2012), makes this observation about Syria in a July 22, 2013, opinion piece at Al Jazeera

As the world attention is rightly drawn to Egypt, the carnage in Syria has gone under the radar. This is all but natural - at a time when attention spans are limited not just by the frequency but also by the rapidity of headlines, in and around the Muslim world, in the rest of Asia and Africa, in Europe and the Americas. Getting lost in the thicket of the woods might also be the best way to see the bigger picture and the terrains of history unfolding.

Mr. Dabashi adds: “What is happening in Syria, however, is perhaps even more critical than what is happening in Egypt - for in Egypt we have a democratic uprising having reached its own logical conclusions and unfolds dialectically towards newer horizons, but in Syria, the retrograde forces of the old world are putting a stiff resistance and muddying the water and clouding our vision.

For more of Mr. Dabashi’s perspective, please see “Syria: The Crucible.” I highly recommend it.

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July 15, 2013

The Difficult Part of Modern Diplomacy

China’s Global Times has an informative interview with Chen Jian, China’s former ambassador to Japan and former under-secretary-general of the United Nations, The interview took place at the World Peace Forum 2013 in late June and was published on July 14, 2013.

Mr. Chen Jian “oversees the Department of Outward Investment and International Cooperation.”

Here’s what he had to say about China’s diplomatic image:

Q: There are two opposing views of China's diplomatic image. The international community says China's diplomacy is becoming aggressive, but Chinese people always criticize China's diplomatic moves as being weak and disadvantaged. How do you see such contradictory comments?

Chen: This is truly the most difficult part of modern diplomacy, and this problem exists in almost every country.

It is mainly caused by two reasons. On the one hand, the development of an information-based community has given ordinary people access to massive amounts of information. On the other, the deepening of globalization has closely interconnected the national interests of most countries.

Few diplomatic policies can meet with approval from both the inside and outside, no matter what country you are in. Easy access to information has tremendously increased public involvement in international affairs, fueling the rise of nationalism. A tough stand to protect their own national interests is usually what they expect from their governments. But if all countries resort to such an aggressive policy, then the job of the foreign affairs ministry could be taken over by the national defense ministry.

To some extent, those expectations for "toughness" are misleading ordinary people into a wrong view of diplomacy. By its very nature, diplomacy is about "compromise." As long as the "compromise" can be made within a cooperative and reciprocal framework and thus the national interests and other countries' interests can be balanced, diplomacy will help address international issues in a peaceful way.

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Citizen Diplomats and Statecraft

“Professional diplomats are, in some ways, a cursed lot,” asserts Adam Kaplan,  Membership Director for Sister Cities International, the national association for U.S. sister city programs,

“Often endowed with creativity, commitment, ambition, and in-depth knowledge, they all too often find themselves bound protocol, policy, and bureaucracy, Mr. Kaplan contends in a July 10, 2013, post at The Diplomatic Courier.  “After two or three years, right when their networks and country specific insight are maturing, diplomats find themselves transferred to new and even more taxing assignments. Citizen diplomats, however, know no such constraints.”

To read the entire post, please see “Statecraft Comes to the Cities.”

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July 14, 2013

Israel’s Doomed Foreign Service

Recommended: “In memoriam: The troubled times and inevitable fall of Israeli diplomacy, 1948-2013,” Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev’s July 12, 2013, post describing the genesis for what he contends is  “…the utter decimation of Israel’s foreign service that is going on today.”

According to Mr. Shalev, this decimation “has deep roots in the country’s history and ethos.” He writes:

The unprecedented months-long strike by Foreign Ministry employees that has paralyzed its operations abroad is the product of inexorable evolution rather than sudden revolution. Decades of degradation, marginalization and discrimination in favor of soldiers, spies, politicians and machers have yielded a demoralized diplomatic corps that finally feels it has nothing left to lose.

Mr. Shalev said the Israeli foreign service was doomed from the day it was born and that current events surrounding the ministry is the coup de grace.

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Salon.Com’s Q&A With Glenn Greenwald

Falguni A. Sheth, a professor of philosophy and political theory at Hampshire College, in Amherst, Massachusetts who writes about politics, race, and feminism at translationexercises.wordpress.com, has posted an interview with Guardian Columnist Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com that I highly recommend. It’s refreshing to read a post in which the interviewee’s comments aren’t filtered or the journalist feels obligated to criticize the subject to show how patriotic he or she is.

To read the Q&A, please see “Q&A with Glenn Greenwald: Americans’ reaction “surprising and gratifying”

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July 13, 2013

Glenn Greenwald on the Reuters Article

Columnist Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian commented on July 13, 2013, about the mostly critical reaction, especially in the United States, to a Reuter’s wire service report on his interview  with La Nacion of Argentina regarding U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden’s unprecedented revelations about the United States’ comprehensive, global spying operations, including on its own citizens. According to Mr. Greenwald:

When you give many interviews in different countries and say essentially the same thing over and over, as I do, media outlets often attempt to re-package what you've said to make their interview seem new and newsworthy, even when it isn't. Such is the case with this Reuters article today, that purports to summarize an interview I gave to the daily newspaper La Nacion of Argentina.

Mr. Greenwald said, “Like everything in the matter of these NSA leaks, this interview is being wildly distorted to attract attention away from the revelations themselves. It's particularly being seized on to attack Edward Snowden and, secondarily, me, for supposedly "blackmailing" and "threatening" the US government. That is just absurd.”

To read Mr. Greenwald’s response, please see “About the Reuter’s Article.” The columnist, who has been the subject of vicious attacks for reporting on the NSA’s spying program, views the article as the “latest effort to distract attention from the NSA (National Security Agency” and that, “it is more absurd than most.”

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July 10, 2013

The Brotherhood and the Generals

Recommended: “Editor’s letter: Brothers and generals; the end of coexistence” in Egypt, a July 10, 2013, article by Maher Hamoud, Editor in Chief of The Daily News Egypt.

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Is U.S Commentary on Egypt Banal?

Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, writes in a July 9, 2013, post at Now that, “The upheaval in Egypt inevitably produced a torrent of American commentary, a great deal of which was clichéd, glib, or simply banal. But four articles stand out as particularly instructive examples of how not to write or think about change in Egypt and the broader Arab world.”

He comments on those articles in “How Not to Write About Egypt.” The article was reprinted in Egypt Daily News.

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U.S’ Emerging Diplomacy in Somalia

The Associated Press reported July 9, 2013, that, “Twenty years after the U.S. military's "Black Hawk Down" disaster, the Obama administration is slowly stepping up relations with Somalia even though security requires American officials to be sheltered behind blast walls and unable to see nearly any of the chaotic country.” See “US slowly steps up diplomacy in Somalia.” 

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