Rights & Wrongs: China, U.N. Peacekeepers, Cambodia and More

CONTINUING CONCERNS ABOUT CHINESE HUMAN RIGHTS — The spectacular Olympic picture China has sought to paint for a world audience continues to be marred by human rights abuses, as media outlets, human rights groups and international diplomats put pressure on the Olympic host to ease controls on the Chinese people. U.S. President George W. Bush made several public calls for China to end repression during his high-profile visit to Asia and the Games, including an appeal outside a Beijing church, where Bush told journalists “God is universal and God is love, and no state, man or woman should fear the […]

ELDORET, Kenya — As he stands amid the rows of mud-strewn tents, Eliud Njoroge recounts a familiar tale in the narrative of this country’s recent post-election crisis. Njoroge, an ethnic Kikuyu, had lived for 32 years in the Kalenjin town of Soy, a stronghold of Raila Odinga, the opposition candidate in last December’s presidential election. When violence erupted following the contested victory of the incumbent Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, Njoroge’s house was burned by machete-wielding youth, and his life threatened by neighbors who demanded that he and his family return to Central Province, the Kikuyu ancestral homeland, where they’d never […]

As the world was fixated on the Beijing Olympics and Russia’s incursion into Georgia, a fledgling peace process between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels fighting for autonomy in the country’s restive south was beginning to unravel. The Philippine Supreme Court’s suspension of a key peace agreement fanned the flames of violence in the region, sending insurgent factions storming into villages. One hundred fifty thousand people fled their looted and torched homes, while the Philippine military pounded rebel hideouts with heavy artillery fire. The United Nations expressed alarm, while the International Red Cross said more than 80,000 people were displaced. […]

As Venezuela prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of its Bolivarian Revolution, Hugo Ch├ívez has little cause for celebration. His stewardship of the state economy has largely resulted in failure: Income inequality is on the rise while inflation has skyrocketed to nearly 30 percent. Basic food staples — such as milk, eggs, and meat — are scarce, raising fears of a looming food crisis. Violence is rife. Venezuela’s murder rate has grown so ruinous — with more than12,000 homicides in 2007 — that the country no longer releases official data. On the political front, matters are equally troubling. In the […]

TOKYO — Reports last week that Georgia was hit by a coordinated cyber attack that compromised government Web sites offered a reminder of the additional front governments must protect when diplomatic or military hostilities break out between nations. Last year, high-tech Estonia suffered a sustained cyber attack that one Pentagon official described at the time as a “watershed” in terms of society’s awareness of its vulnerability. Over several weeks, numerous government Web sites and the country’s two largest banks came under sustained attack from abroad, overwhelming some sites and forcing some to block access from abroad. It is with these […]

The War in Georgia has seriously exacerbated relations between Russia and Ukraine’s pro-Western government. On Aug. 12, Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko joined the leaders of four other former Soviet states in Tbilisi to show solidarity with Georgia and its embattled president, Mikheil Saakashvili. Yushchenko told the crowd that had assembled in Tbilisi’s central square: “You will never be left alone! . . . We have come to reaffirm your sovereignty, your independence, your territorial integrity. These are our values. Independent Georgia is and independent Georgia will always be!” The following day, President Yushchenko boldly imposed severe restrictions on the movement […]

AUGUST BLUES — “August is the month when wars start,” wrote the late Al Aronowitz, the rock writer. Both World War I and II started in August, and now the Georgia-Russia conflagration has followed suit. In planning their attempt to retake South Ossetia, did the Georgians think the Russians would all be on vacation and not notice? Their second miscalculation was to forget the lesson of the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and somehow believe that their patron, the United States, would step in. That’s what the Hungarians believed when they launched their revolution against the Soviet presence, based mainly on […]

Lost in the news cycles of presidential politics, the Olympic Games and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is a brewing crisis in South Asia. The United States’ strategic posture toward South Asia has largely focused on terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan and on nuclear proliferation. This approach has largely ignored the historical conflict over Jammu and Kashmir, which has sparked two major hot wars in the last 60 years. Growing unrest in Kashmir is threatening to cause open conflict between India and Pakistan once again, and American policy makers can’t afford to sit this one out. For almost seven years, […]

BEIJING — In the aftermath of a dazzling opening ceremony dubbed by the world’s media its “coming out party,” China appears to be experiencing a premature hangover. Less than a week after Beijing claimed center stage for the inauguration of the 29th Olympics, a growing chorus of Chinese and foreign voices is criticizing the ceremony, albeit for slightly different reasons. Among Chinese critics, the consensus is that the the ceremony did not live up to artistic and cultural expectations, while Western commentators have tended to focus on the symbolic meaning of the ceremony, and the methods by which it was […]

The participation of the American basketball player Chris Kaman in the Beijing Olympics as a member of the German basketball squad has caused some eyebrows to be raised — not least, those of Kaman’s own father LeRoy. “You’re not German,” Yahoo Sports reports LeRoy telling his son: “You’re an American citizen.” But the story of Kaman’s blitz naturalization is not only one of a basketball mercenary in search of a chance for glory at the Olympics or of the German national team’s desperation to find a usable center to line up next to star forward Dirk Nowitzki. It also reveals […]

When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates unveiled his first (and presumably last) National Defense Strategy (NDS) on July 31, he argued that the best single word to describe it would be “balance.” Although the document is comprehensive and eclectic in its listing of possible security threats to the United States, its real function is to counterbalance what the secretary sees as the U.S. Defense Department’s natural tendency to focus excessively on winning conventional conflicts rather than “irregular wars” such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. The NDS also aims to promote a more balanced U.S. national security policy by bolstering […]

Editor’s note: Rights & Wrongs covers the world’s major human rights-related news and appears every week in World Politics Review. To browse past editions of Rights & Wrongs, click here.MELANCHOLY BURMA COMMEMORATES 8-8-88 — Pro-democracy supporters both inside and outside Burma last week marked the 20th anniversary of that country’s Aug. 8, 1988, uprising against military rule with demonstrations around the globe, but few held out much hope of impending change. The military presence inside Burma was high for the anniversary though no major demonstrations were reported. Millions of Burmese took to the country’s streets in the summer of 1988 […]

ABOARD THE U.S.S. KEARSARGE — There was something strange about the U.S.S. Kearsarge amphibious assault ship as she left Norfolk, Virginia, last week for a four-month South American cruise. Instead of the usual solid ranks of white-clad sailors lining her huge flight deck, the size of two football fields, there were hundreds of military medical personnel in the green, blue, gray or tan uniforms of the Canadian Army, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force and the Brazilian and Dutch militaries — not to mention scores of civilian aid workers in blue jeans and t-shirts. For decades, the U.S. Navy’s […]

On July 8, a bipartisan National War Powers Commission called upon the next administration to replace the controversial 1973 War Powers Resolution. Co-chaired by former Secretaries of State James A. Baker and Warren Christopher and composed of high-ranking former officials such as former Congressman Lee Hamilton, Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Judge Abner Mikva, the privately-sponsored commission recommended the change to create more effective cooperation between the legislative and executive branches on when and how to deploy U.S. forces overseas. The U.S. Constitution gives both branches a role in approving the use of military force, but over the […]

August is when official Washington shuts down and heads off for vacation. Congressmen and senators travel to their districts to politick, especially in these even-numbered years, and presidents travel to their ranches or beach houses or, this year, to the Olympics. But that wasn’t the case during the administration of George H.W. Bush. In fact, it was during these dog days of summer that the elder Bush was busiest. The next president could learn a thing or two from the 41st — about what to do and what not to do. It’s regrettable that Bush’s presidency is usually mentioned in […]

A cool, comforting indigo blue sea laps gently against several kilometers of lonely shoreline. Fig trees and olive groves dot the landscape above a stark white sandy beach where no one treads. In the distance can be heard the faint murmur of a lone car rolling down a craggy, mountainous road. There are still pieces of Turkey’s shoreline that remain undiscovered, but droves of foreigners are fast gobbling it up. The Turkish coastline has witnessed a construction bonanza fueled by moneyed Europeans seeking a relatively affordable place in the sun. Much of Turkey’s once pristine coastline has metamorphosed into a […]

The outbreak of hostilities between Georgia and Russia demonstrates the speed with which Eurasia’s frozen conflicts can rapidly transform into destabilizing shooting wars. Indeed, the fighting in South Ossetia highlights the danger of allowing these conflicts to simmer under the veil of international management. Over the last decade, the United States and international partners failed to directly challenge the logic of Russia’s dual status as both mediator and spoiler in the Georgian peace process. In the current environment, this failure has allowed Moscow to claim the role of peacekeeper as it pursues its own agenda in the Caucasus. For almost […]

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