By Matt Baron
As the largest Islamic constitutional republic in the world, Pakistan has always had a very divergent relationship with the United States. While fairly unpopular among the Pakistani citizenry, America has often come to rely upon the nation’s leadership, especially in the past decade. Though the alliance is logistically critical to both parties, it has not always been the most honest. The worst kept secret so far is that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) frequently colludes with and shelters extremist leaders. In response, the U.S. has progressively increased their presence on the porous Durand Line that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, often crossing into Pakistan to capture or kill militants. Public condemnations from Pakistani leaders receiving billions in American aid has caused personal relationships to become key when making deals in this surreal and mercurial relationship. This has become increasingly clear with the recent restructuring of the American defense leadership, which along with the death of Osama bin Laden has caused a massive shift in how we will perceive and work with Pakistan in the future.
While Defense Secretary Robert Gates has expressed his desire to retire since 2008, he will go through with his departure this summer and will be replaced by the director of the CIA, Leon Panetta. Taking Panetta’s place is the capable Army Gen. David Petraeus, who is in command of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan and was formerly recruited by President Bush to oversee the 2007 surge in Iraq.
At first glance this move is extremely prudent for President Barack Obama, especially domestically. With budget fights looming over the horizon, the formerly sacrosanct defense budget has had to trim programs without causing security holes. Though many believe that Gates will be a hard act to follow in this department, Panetta has had a history of forging deals as former President Bill Clinton’s budget director and chief of staff. In addition, as head of the CIA, he already has relationships with many of the key leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as a familiarity with the entire situation.
Moving Petraeus might appear to be odd with the situation in Afghanistan still raging, but it is subtly clever. Petraeus has stated before that he wants to leave the military after eight years in the battlefield, but his full career is far from over. Some have commented that he might run for the Republican nomination for the presidency, a rumor that has caused many a Democratic analyst to wake up in a cold sweat. Thankfully for them, this is incredibly unlikely, with Petraeus repeatedly denying that he would run against his former employer. However, there would be the serious possibility of Petraeus writing policy briefs critical of Obama for the conservative American Enterprise Institute, which would be a major thorn in the president’s side. Keeping him on Team Obama removes what some generals have slyly started calling “the Petraeus problem.”
Abroad, the shift in leadership will also cause major changes, some more controversial than others. The most apparent message America is sending the world by having a four-star general become the director of the CIA is that the line between our intelligence agency and the military is blurring. This trend has become progressively more brazen over the past two years, and has become most apparent in the operation to kill Osama bin Laden. Though the actual operation was executed by the famed Navy SEAL Team Six, both President Obama and Panetta have stated that the operation was CIA-run. Though both can and should share the credit, it raises questions about numerous issues, most notably American policy on assassination. While the US has had a policy since the 1970s rejecting political assassination, Osama’s targeted death – planned and mainly executed by intelligence officers – is reminiscent of the brutal anti-Communist regime changes of the 1960s and 1970s.
In accordance with President Obama’s desire to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan, more weight has been placed on intelligence officers and field agents, a fact that has become most poignant with the recent Raymond Davis affair. This will only increase with the defense bureaucracy led by a former intelligence chief and vice versa. As spies act like soldiers, it is more likely that America will conduct far more lethal engagements on foreign ground without full agreement by the host nation.
This is most troubling to Pakistan, whose position has become clear after bin Laden’s death. Judging by the fact that bin Laden was hiding out about forty miles from Islamabad in a highly guarded and relatively enormous compound, it is obvious that Pakistani military officials were aware that something had to be amiss. Instead of being incensed that the world’s number one criminal was hiding out in their suburbs, state media instead decried America for violating their national sovereignty after their operation came to light. The greater issue may be that their populace agrees, with a recent poll stating that 75 percent of respondents disapprove of America’s hunt for terrorists on Pakistani ground, and 66 percent believing that the man they killed wasn’t even bin Laden. In a possibly more worrying note, that poll was conducted online, and so excluded more rural and less educated civilians. Though bin Laden has been killed, the War on Terror is by no means over, and tensions will likely escalate in Pakistan as further encroachments over the border continue.
Another factor that will likely escalate enmity between the two nations is the issue of drone strikes in the region. As a way of conducting attacks without fear of counterattack against human lives, President Obama has become a major proponent of bombing runs from Predator drones, and he’s not alone. Both Petraeus and Panetta have discussed the critical role these new war machines have played in America’s engagements in Afghanistan, and many expect the drone strikes to only increase with the leadership change. Though often effective, these drone strikes can unfortunately result in civilian collateral damage, something that Pakistan is clearly very indignant over.
While there are many ways in which the recent move for Petraeus and Panetta can result in worse relations with Pakistan, it was not the only major event the US military did last week. Though they are opposed to the violation of national sovereignty, the Pakistani citizenry are also opposed to bin Laden’s actions, with the most recent poll showing that only 18 percent of Pakistanis expressing some level of confidence in him, down from 52 percent in 2005. His death could result in a shift in US policy towards dealing with the touchy issues of international insurgency, as President Obama begins looking for political options to end the conflict in Afghanistan as quickly as possible. Similarly, extremist Al-Qaeda affiliates who relied on bin Laden may branch off, especially with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s promises of reconciliation to all who surrender. The US will need those who can take a more subtle approach to the War on Terror, and the new leadership looks like it may just be up to the challenge.
By Will McChesney
Revolution is a lot easier than administration.
For South Africa, 1994 is remembered something like a mush-up of the endings to your favorite movies. President F.W. de Klerk announced the end of apartheid after three years of negotiations, free elections took place in South Africa, the African National Congress took more than 60 percent of the vote, Nelson Mandela became president, Ferris Bueller wasn’t expelled, John McClane threw Hans Gruber out of a window, and Humphrey Bogart wistfully watched Ingrid Bergman leaving on the plane.
The ANC’s reforms from 1994 to 1999 were meteoric, both in the speed with which they were adopted and their general efficiency overall. Describing itself as the “restrained and disciplined force of the left”, the ANC defended worker’s rights, universal access to clean water, and reintegrated the previously isolated country into the international community.
Fifteen years later, the party is barely recognizable as the same organization.
Thabo Mbeki’s presidency radically changed the ANC’s focus, enacting progressive, laissez-faire economic reforms that rejuvenated the ailing economy of South Africa; economic growth averaged 4.5 percent during Mbeki’s tenure, and South Africa quickly became one of the strongest exporting states in international markets. However, this increased output was criticized as being overly dependent on an educated, professionally-trained workforce, and for failing to create jobs for the largely uneducated South African populace.
Concerns about the ANC’s commitment to its self-declared slogan of “power to the people” have persisted even after Mbeki’s resignation three years ago. Allegations of corruption, privilege and exemption from the law of the political and economic elite have increased, due in no small part to current president Jacob Zuma’s criminal trial for rape in 2005, for which he was acquitted. Most recently, several ANC politicians were seen at the lavish birthday party of former professional criminal Kenny Kunene, during which they were seen consuming $1,300-a-bottle Dom Pérignon champagne and eating sushi off of a semi-nude model. This display of wealth by the ruling party – especially in a country in which a quarter of the population is unemployed and one-fifth receives government aid – has prompted rebuke in South African media.
Even in 1994, it was feared that a lack of organized opposition to the ANC would allow for consolidation of power, and the recent Protection of Information Bill seems to confirm these fears. Under the proposed bill, the government would be able to institute newer censorship standards, and criminally charge journalists critical of ANC policies. The ANC’s procedure of legal reprisals against the media is not a new one: in 2006, Jacob Zuma tried to bring charges of libel against political cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro. Intensive efforts to consolidate opposition parties against the ANC have multiplied, also in conjunction with the Protection of Information Bill. Earlier this month, opposition parties walked out of the National Assembly in protest of the bill, which was harshly criticized by ANC spokesmen the next day.
With the economy in decline as South Africa’s currency has appreciated beyond that its trade partners, many wonder if the ANC will be unable to wield the same popular support it did during its “glory days”. The last remnants of legitimacy that the ANC held as “the party of the revolution” are withering away, and continued failure to reconnect with the working class will mar the ANC’s chances for successful elections in the National Assembly in 2014.
Will McChesney is a junior Political Science/International Studies student from Evanston, IL.
By Rachel Poletick
“There’s a massive fire in Parliament Square – police believe it may be Nick Clegg’s pants”
On December 9, 2010, all of England was abuzz with the news of potential tuition fee rises that would be put to a vote that evening. Students rallied together, gathering in huge crowds around the city of London and other metropolitan English cities. The National Union of Students (NUS) was at the helm of political action during this time with Aaron Porter, the union’s leader and major negotiator, purportedly paving the way for maintaining fee levels.
But in December, the NUS was not so much the subject of news as were the protests in London. One of the largest of these demonstrations took place in Parliament Square, a protest running straight from morning until late in the evening, getting more and more riotous all the time. Police could hardly contain the large mass of angry demonstrators, even after the vote had already passed, securing an increase in tuition fees.
During the day, several policemen on horseback were seriously injured, not to mention countless protestors. The statue of Winston Churchill that watches so proudly over the square was reportedly vandalized. In the evening, a fire broke out, albeit a small one. But it was enough to garner the notice of spectators not only in person, but through the internet.
It would be impossible to quantify how many re-tweets the “Nick Clegg’s pants” Twitter message had in the space of a few hours. As the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Clegg was being held responsible for pledges the party made. Even after the fire in Parliament Square subsided, Clegg’s pants were still on fire because of his party’s betrayal of a promise to keep Parliament from raising tuition fees for English university students.
Now, nearly three months later, Porter, the man who helped coerce Lib Dem MPs into agreeing to side with the Labour position to maintain tuition fee levels, is planning to leave his post as President of the NUS.
This did not come as much of a surprise, considering Porter’s downward-spiraling support and increasing opposition to his power at the NUS. He has been the subject of heckling at several rallies in the past few months from students still angered by the outcome of the education budget cuts and fee increase.
Prior to a rally in Manchester, disgruntled students yelled angry remarks at Porter, calling for his resignation and even throwing in snide anti-Semitic commentary despite Porter not actually being Jewish.
This is the sort of behavior that really disgraces the students who fought against fee rises three months ago. It was well within the rights of these irritated Mancunians to protest a speech that they felt represented missed opportunities and mistakes on the part of the NUS. But their decision to call for the resignation of a man who tried to institute change on their behalf by working (although unsuccessfully) with the Liberal Democrats could really serve to undermine the ability of the union to make any progress in fixing this issue, or at least prevent tuition fee levels from worsening.
In response to Porter’s announced resignation, a new candidate for the job has surfaced in preparation for an election in April: Mark Bergfeld. Bergfeld, who identifies himself as a member of the Socialist Workers party, is also spokesman for Education Activist Network. This group was responsible for many of the demonstrations regarding fee hikes that ended in violence back in December.
With the prospect of Bergfeld as potential new leader of the NUS, a new question arises of whether pairing a militant constituency with a radical professional is really the right path to take.
Ultimately, the demonstration on December 9 was an event to be cherished in English history as a terrific symbol of how students can band together and really raise public awareness of their struggles. But that’s really all it was: a symbol. The result was clearly not what the students intended since tuition fees increased despite their vehement action. This might lead a sound mind to consider that militant protesting of the students did little to curb the actions of Parliament. And thus, a conclusion may be drawn that the real culprit behind Parliament’s mistakes was not the NUS at all, but in fact, Parliament itself.
This should not be a question of ousting a perfectly qualified president such as Porter from his position as head of a union. What really needs to be done to institute change in this situation is a reorganization of power within Parliament. Without a party sympathetic to the needs of the student individual – in other words the Labour Party – at the helm of government, there really is no hope for a union such as the NUS to make a huge difference in Parliamentary action. This is because inevitably, a Conservative party with a majority of MPs will continue to vote and win against fee reductions, even with only minor support from the Liberal Democrats.
If a new, uncensored president like Bergfeld who represents a more militant constituency is put in power, then Nick Clegg’s pants won’t be the only thing on fire. The entire fabric of student union organization may be at stake as well. And is that really worth sacrificing?
By Safiya Merchant
The recent sexual assault of CBS News correspondent Lara Logan in Cairo, Egypt is a painful reminder of the struggles female foreign correspondents often have to endure while on assignment. Besides finding sources, covering their stories, and staying away from the violence of war-torn lands, they must also protect their bodies from being abused or exploited. According to The New York Times, Logan was viciously attacked the day that the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced from power. While covering the celebrations, a mob of more than 200 people separated Logan from her team and attacked her.
The fact that Logan’s attack did occur and occurred amid a sea of people reveals three unsettling truths: gender discrimination still pervades the field of journalism (just like any other job), there aren’t enough safety measures in place to prevent sexual crimes against female reporters, and the strength in numbers proverb is not always foolproof when it comes to foreign correspondence.
In Judith Matloff’s 2007 Columbia Journalism Review piece, “Foreign Correspondents and Sexual Abuse,” she states that many women who have endured sexual harassment or assault while reporting overseas do not report these crimes to their bosses because they don’t want to be viewed as special cases or pulled off assignments for safety issues. Instead of being able to confide in their bosses and colleagues, these women cover up their secrets like the drug lords or dictators they cover for the news. Like all rape victims, they have the right to refuse to talk about it for fear of looking vulnerable. However, why should female journalists have to worry about being punished because of their gender? Why should they worry that they will no longer be able to progress in their careers by admitting that they had been ruthlessly attacked?
One of the reasons why there is a lack of measures to protect female journalists from sexual harassment is that there is a lack of quantitative data on the subject. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, they do not have much data on the subject because these types of crimes are not commonly reported. Many female journalists who do give them their stories often ask them to not share their experiences publicly. Once again, this goes back to the idea that female journalists need to keep their experiences a secret in order to maintain their careers, dignity, and reputation in the workplace. If the workplace provided the atmosphere in which female journalists could talk about their encounters with sexual harassment, there would be more data with which to form new methods to prevent these types of crimes from occurring in the first place.
Like Logan, many other journalists – both female and male – have been sexually assaulted on the job. Some of the more notorious cases include the May 2000 raping, kidnapping, and beating of Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya after reporting on far-right paramilitaries, the 2003 brutal rape and murder of Iranian journalist Zahra “Ziba” Kazemi, and the 2010 rape of Umar Cheema. Rape is an instrument of war, and as messengers of these wars, foreign correspondents can end up becoming victims in the sexual crossfire. Sometimes, the female journalist’s supposed allies, such as translators, security guards, policemen, and colleagues, are actually their enemies and attackers.
As a journalist myself, the continuously undocumented, undetected, and ignored sexual violence against female foreign correspondents is both heartbreaking and terrifying. It influences young female reporters to stay away from the war zones and the foreign bureaus. Publications and television stations need to realize that without proper protection and trustworthy security, women reporters will continue to be sexually abused. Self-defense programs must be developed to teach women how to defend themselves before going overseas. However, besides preventing future attacks, we must punish those who have committed previous ones. By not actively pursuing reparations for the women and men who have suffered in the past, we disregard the suffering of these journalists.
When we think of wars or politically unstable countries, the victims that often come to mind are the soldiers and the residents. Journalists are the unknown victims. Ironically, their own faces and lives are erased as they attempt to uncover the voices and lives of others. Women face the greater risk of being a victim, for their sexuality is seen as a tool to exploit, to conquer, and to destroy.
By Edwin Rios
Will Hosni Mubarak’s resignation threaten Egyptian-Israeli relations? Probably not.
But that seems to be the prevailing fear in the minds of the Israeli people, as life in the streets of Cairo returns to normal. The protests have risen from below; the same police who attacked anti-Mubarak protestors in Tahrir Square now call for higher wages and refuse to return to their jobs until their voices have been heard. The shouts for reformation of the 18-day People’s Revolution have ceased for the moment, as the government’s future rests in the hands of the military, leaving an uncertain impression in its aftermath. Hope persists in this moment of solidarity, but an unpredictable future in the realm of international relations lies in the balance. This future may not only affect the Israeli-Palestinian peace accords, but may also dictate the tone of diplomacy between two need-driven countries.
From the early 1920s until 1947, the land that is now Israel was under British Mandate. That year, the United Nations adopted the U.N General Assembly Resolution 181, a resolution which terminated the mandate and
partitioned the territory into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, in an attempt to appease the competing Zionist and Arab movements over land. After 1949, a new status quo arose as Israel achieved its independence, Jordan annexed the West Bank, Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip and Palestinians dispersed across the surrounding areas.
In 1967, in what is known as the Six-Day War, Israel issued a pre-emptive strike and occupied the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights and the occupied Palestinian territories. Six years later, a surprise attack from Egyptian and Syrian fronts initiated the Yom Kippur War of 1973, serving as the precursor to the Camp David Accords in 1979. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, in which Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the Sinai in exchange for peace with Egypt.
Since then, Egyptian-Israeli relations have held together under the Hosni Mubarak regime. But transition calls for much greater expectations from abroad.
In an article published last week in The New York Times Magazine, Bernard Avishai, author of “The Hebrew Republic: How Secular Democracy and Global Enterprise Will Bring Israel Peace at Last”, wrote:
“Israelis understand that their occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza are sources of rage in the Arab street, but many have come to believe that the peace process is futile–especially since President Obama seems to have despaired of achieving meaningful negotiations–and they fear democracy will bring Islamists to power, or at least encourage anti-Israeli politicians. They feel a strategic pillar has been kicked from under them, and the regional unrest only strengthens their sense that they must defend themselves against, rather than make peace with, the Palestinians.”
To an extent, Avishai is right. The regional unrest does strengthen their sense of self-defense against the Palestinians in that the way Israel goes about the peace process will depend on another Arab state with visions of democracy, spurring a debate rather than an agreement. But isn’t that the beauty of democracy, to present the forum for conflicting views in fluid debate, representative of its people?
Sure, in the Western world. But in the Middle East, democracy starts with the people under the silhouette of informal practices, beginning over casual conversations in the market square. In Egypt, public discontent over longstanding grievances, which once hid behind closed doors in the older generation, resonates in interactions with the country’s educated youth. The rise of political parties in the region, they fear, would bring Islamist groups to power, putting their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in question. Some members in the Muslim Brotherhood have said, however, they would work to maintain the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, calling for a reassessment rather than an overhaul. Other members, of course, want to break Egyptian-Israeli relations altogether.
More importantly, the pluralism would allow conflicting views to come together and debate over its direction. Perhaps this practice should be taken with reluctance in a newly reformed Egypt, but pluralism does not necessary equate to “the rise of Islamist parties.” With the reformation of the current government in relative obscurity, the approach to impending peace process rests in uncertainty–a thought that initially scared Israelis and threatens the only democratic state in the region.
But initial talks from the protests have worked in the Israel’s favor. As of now, there is no clear opposition leader; one opposition leader, Ayman Nour, called for Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel to be “reassessed.” In the aftermath of the protests, however, Nour is one potential in a pool of many, whose views focus more on establishing proper democracy in the region through fair elections, the reintroduction of political parties and government transparency.
Though what that means is unclear, the Egyptian military has said it would abide by all its international and regional treaties, the New York Times reports. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel views the 1979 treaty as “the cornerstone of peace and stability, not only between the two countries, but in the entire Middle East as well.” With Egypt under military control, however, the “cold peace” established in 1979 appears to remain, so long as the military elite follows through on their plans for the people. In the short term, it would be in the Egyptian’s best interest to maintain stable international relations at a time where national direction is unclear.
Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule over Egypt came down to 18 days of fervor. The next six months will dictate not only the direction of a country but also stability in the Middle East.
By Will McChesney
You don’t have to have a triple-digit IQ to realize that the next few weeks will be crucial for the future of Europe.
The continued failure of Europe’s leaders to restore short-term faith to its markets has led to infighting and harsh strain on less-powerful, peripheral states. Without any long-term plan, individual nations have continued to bicker about exactly where relief should come from. Governments of prosperous states such as Germany, Finland and the Netherlands argue that their taxpayers should not bear the weight of failing markets in Ireland or Greece. Portugal’s declaration that the government would be able to purchase 9 billion euros’ worth of junk bonds was greeted with a high degree of skepticism, with calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Jose Socrates. With elections approaching for many European member states, it seems uncertain whether any kind of solution will be reached, and if not, what the consequences for Europe will be.
America is not at all removed from this issue. Europe imports almost 160 billion euros’ worth of American imports annually; in the wake of Europe’s financial woes, many exporters are questioning Europe’s ability to continue to do so. The high degree of exchange between American banks and European financial brokers is another cause for concern, as the collapse of any heavily-invested European firm could create a ripple effect on this side of the Atlantic.
Through it all, the question on political strategists’ minds is, “Where will the United States stand on this?” The answer: I have no idea. The White House has remained strangely ambivalent on the issue, with President Obama offering little to no commentary on the worsening debt crisis. If anything, the Obama administration has presided over increasingly frosty relations with Europe, with the president appearing less and less at diplomatic summits with European leaders and notoriously failing to appear at a policy meeting in Madrid last year.
Perhaps most irritating to Europeans looking to America for support was the utter absence of commentary on the situation during the State of the Union Address last month. Despite the attention the president drew to Europe’s infrastructure and healthcare system, comparisons between American and European financial markets were nonexistent.
The issue is certainly important, so why the lack of a stance? Well, that’s the gag, folks. It’s just that important. Too important to talk about, in fact. With continued uncertainty on Wall Street and the downward spiral of the dollar in currency markets, drawing attention to a problem that could slow down economic recovery is probably not the smartest course of action. Furthermore, any discussion of Europe could be seen as a preemptive move to support an international bailout of some kind. Given recent surveys which reveal that the national debt is the second-most important political issue to voters, this is also a bad image to project.
But perhaps the best reason why President Obama is staying quiet on the issue is the fact that it shows how weak we are becoming in the international community. The days of the Marshall Plan are over, and the U.S. is no longer capable of supporting a ruined Europe. However, our economic adversaries might be: Russia and China have both made some kind of declaration regarding European debt since the beginning of the New Year. China’s Vice Premier announced last month China’s intent to buy 6 billion euros’ worth of Spanish debt, citing the strength of demand for Spanish bonds despite the crisis.
Russia, despite considering a wholesale purchase, announced mid-January that it would not be purchasing Spanish debt. This, however, is most likely a power play to put pressure on European markets. If it is, it’s working. Portuguese costs of borrowing money shot up to 7.63% in fewer than two weeks. And there is simply too much at stake for Russia to back out of the market now: 40% of Russia’s liquid reserves are held in euros, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has supported recovery efforts by France and Germany up until now. Also, there’s just been too much schmoozing between Moscow and Europe for the last few years, notably with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian soon-to-be ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
So don’t expect any kind of declaration about Europe from Obama any time soon. As far as the White House is concerned, we have more than enough problems of our own and it only makes us look impotent. And it would be hard to make Russia and China look better than they already do.