Even those in America who call for a more humble American foreign policy and recognize the need to listen to foreign populations and global public opinion persist in deploying at every possible moment the most patronizing of monikers in describing their preferred allies: “moderate.” Over the past eight years, the condescending label of moderate has been applied to a variety of potential interlocutors in regional conflicts — with never a positive result. Negotiations with so-called “moderate Taliban” proved a failure; Taliban interests and unity certainly outweighed any incentives the U.S.-backed Karzai regime could muster. The much lauded effort in Iraq’s […]

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had a pleasant, two-day summit last week in Beijing. The agreeable nature of their public encounter was evident when Hu thanked the Russian government for its assistance to the victims of the May 12 earthquake in southwest China, which may have killed as many as 80,000 people. “Between friends, there can be no other kind of relations,” Medvedev replied, while offering to provide additional help. Their only unpleasant comments were directed at third parties. The two governments expressed resentment of Western criticism regarding their human rights practices and actions abroad. A […]

The irony of great tragedies is that their smallest moments are the ones that truly touch us. Statistics and death-counts impress strategists and historians. But the image of a terrified boy crouching behind his father in the crossfire of armed fighters — and then dying in his father’s arms — has the power to melt hearts, ignite fury, and move people to action. Such was the case with Mohammed al-Dura, the Palestinian boy supposedly killed by Israeli soldiers in September 2000 during a gun battle with Palestinians. His story sparked outrage around the world and added fuel to a raging […]

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan — As the United States prepares for its presidential election, many Afghans are anxiously watching the race that will bring an end to the administration that triggered the 2001 U.S. intervention in their country and that has designed much of the continued military and development strategy there. Given that Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, has become almost completely dependent on the foreign assistance the U.S. intervention has brought, Afghans perhaps have good reason for their anxiety. “The important issues to Afghans are Afghanistan — and Pakistan,” said 29 year-old Roya Aziz, an Afghan-American filmmaker […]

USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS WANING — Fewer conflicts in the world today involve the use of child soldiers, but children remain on battlefields in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, according to a report released May 20 by the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. The number of conflicts involving child combatants has dropped from 27 to 17 over the last four years, the Coalition’s “Child Soldier Global report 2008” found. Tens of thousands of children remain on the world’s battlefields, with tens of thousands more former child soldiers suffering from a lack of available assistance […]

Two years ago, the U.N. created the “Human Rights Council” to replace the erstwhile “Human Rights Commission.” One of the instruments that the new body was given in order to overcome the glaring failings of its predecessor is the so-called country review. In the periodic reviews, the human rights record of each of the 192 U.N. member states is examined and recommendations are made for improvement. The review sessions are supposed to be marked not by the rich Western democracies making paternalistic and condescending reproaches against the world’s most brutal governments and most notorious rogue states, but rather by a […]

Earlier this month, Royal Dutch Shell and Spain’s Repsol pulled out of a proposed Iranian natural gas development project that was estimated to be worth over $10 billion. The decision by the two European energy firms to pull out of phase 13 of the South Pars project was seen as a setback for Iran’s efforts to court foreign interest in its energy sector at a time when the Bush administration is actively trying to discourage it. Shell and Repsol executives did not publicly comment on their reasons for pulling out of South Pars. But whether it was due to concerns […]

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov traveled to the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol May 10-11 to mark the 225th anniversary of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. During that weekend, he made several inflammatory comments to the effect that the port and city still legally belong to the Russian Federation. Luzhkov’s remarks have further strained relations between Russia and Ukraine, which also differ on other issues, especially Ukrainian aspirations to join NATO. The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) responded by designating the Moscow mayor persona non grata. The SBU claimed that Luzhkov ignored “a warning regarding the unacceptability of actions harming Ukraine’s national interests […]

HONG KONG — The sight this weekend of an emotional Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon surveying the devastation wreaked by the Sichuan earthquake should allow the rest of the world to breath a collective sigh of relief. Gone was the Beijing-manufactured nationalistic nonsense that had been gaining in fiery strength with every leg of the Olympic torch relay. Instead, the human face of China was visible, humbled by a tragedy inflicted with a brute force that only mother nature is capable of delivering. It wasn’t always like that. Initial offers of help for quake victims […]

The sniping between Barack Obama and the GOP over negotiating with rogue state leaders and other unsavory characters is even more removed from reality than the usual campaign rhetoric. The question of whether a President Obama would sit down with Iranian leaders grabs attention, but is largely irrelevant. Far more relevant is the fact that in Iraq — the highest-stakes arena of U.S. foreign policy — Americans already routinely negotiate with their enemies. From American soldiers and Marines meeting with Sunni insurgents and Shiite militiamen, to American diplomats meeting with their Iranian counterparts, negotiation has been at the heart of […]

David Ignatius’s May 15 Washington Post column, “The Squeeze on the Middle East’s Moderates,” is yet another manifestation of American elites’ fallacious and increasingly dangerous tendency to blame Iran for all of the troubling developments in the Middle East. The moderate “center” of Arab politics is portrayed as “under siege” in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian territories by forces variously described as “Iran’s proxies,” “Tehran’s friends,“ and “Iranian-backed extremists.” This overgeneralization of the many complex problems the United States must confront in the region is a recipe for Middle East policies that ignore important local factors driving upheaval in the […]

On the basis of preliminary returns and exit polls, President Mikheil Saakashvili declared an overwhelming victory for his party in yesterday’s legislative elections in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Many observers had hoped that the vote would end the protracted and vicious political infighting that has characterized Georgian politics in recent years, but Saakashvili’s opponents immediately contested his claim. A prominent opposition leader, David Gamkrelidze, accused the government of the incumbent president of falsifying the results and called for new legislative elections. Nine political parties and three blocs competed for representation in the 150-member parliament. Half of the seats […]

GENEVA — Hold in your hand a moral Geiger counter, a tool to find the place where the noblest ambitions of humanity have turned into the coldest machinations of tyrants. The western shore of Lake Geneva, in Switzerland, sets the counter buzzing. The setting looked ideal for the dreams of the League of Nations, the doomed predecessor of today’s United Nations. Founded on the ashes of World War I, when a devastated world sought ways to avoid more devastating wars, it attempted to bring together the moral power of humanity to resolve disputes peacefully and, quite plainly, make the world […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — Ten years after the fall of Dictator Suharto, is Indonesia’s democracy a glass half full or half empty? If one looks only at the news headlines that often portray the archipelagic country as a hotbed of terrorists, radical Islamists and corrupt politicians, it would seem that things have worsened since the student-led Reformasi movement forced Suharto to relinquish the power he had held for the past 32 years. That was 10 years ago, on May 21, 1998. Skeptics also point out that Indonesians have little trust in political parties, and that the country’s political and business elite […]

An investment bank economist first grouped the nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China together based on two shared characteristics: large populations and rapid economic growth. The so-called BRIC nations had little else in common — they covered the full scale of democratization, with varying degrees of financial transparency and vastly different economies. Yet after Goldman Sachs’ 2001 report that coined the acromym was released, the BRIC nations became inexorably linked, at least in the collective mind of the investment community. Last week, the BRIC nations took their union out of the realm of analyst reports and formed a political […]

KENYA RIGHTS BODY URGES TRIAL OF OFFICIALS — Kenya’s minister of defense and other high-ranking officials should face trial on charges that thousands of civilians have been abused during a government crackdown that began in March in the Mt. Elgon region, the country’s state-funded Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said in a May 15 report. The commission’s report cited numerous cases of abuses perpetrated by Kenyan security forces, including sexual violence, severe food and sleep deprivation and beatings of around 4,000 victims that have no apparent connection to a militia group the government has been battling for the last […]

In the typically polarized debate on Iraq, the significance of the “Sons of Iraq” — the predominantly Sunni militias now allied with the U.S. military against insurgents and terrorists — can easily be lost. Depending on one’s point of view, the U.S. military’s new Sunni friends are either “concerned local citizens” or “opportunist insurgents” — with pro- and anti-war camps each using the phenomenon to support pre-existing political positions. As Iraq approaches provincial elections in October, however, and the United States nears its own presidential vote, it is high time to abandon easy slogans and to examine the fresh challenges […]

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