Archive for September, 2013

Is Macedonia a state?

By Biljana Vankovska – Билјана Ванковска

Recently a short statement (from a longer interview) that “Macedonia and Bosnia are post-Yugoslav states that, in fact, are not states because Bosnia is a protectorate of some kind and Macedonia is a type of an ambiguously collapsed state which never united in order to be able to fall apart” echoed as an earthquake with the public.

Even “Vodno” [President’s office] was visibly upset and angered at the statement of one of the most authoritative professors and public intellectuals from the area of former Yugoslavia, Zarko Puhovski. He is one step away of being labeled persona non grata. The very fact that part of the establishment dramatically took to heart a media statement of a professor from a third country, as if said by an influential political factor or a center or power, is a clear indication of the accuracy of the thesis that we are not a true state. By the way, Puhovski had given statements such as: Serbia is “an unfinished state”, Kosovo is “ a caricature of the other independent states in the region”, and that there is more democracy in the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China than in EU.

Can you imagine a serious state reacting to a media assessment of an intellectual, regardless of his influence? At the same time, our authorities are deaf to the criticism that comes from the citizens, the domestic intellectuals, and even those that come from EU, OSCE, and the State Department. Read the rest of this entry »

The Westgate Mall massacre: Reflections

By Richard Falk

The carefully planned attack by al-Shabaab on civilians in Nairobi’s Westgate Mall carried the pathology of rage and the logic of fanaticism to unspeakable extremes. Imagine deciding on the life or death of any person, but particularly a child, by whether or not they could name the mother of Mohammed or recite a verse from the Koran.

Islamic fanaticism should be condemned with the moral fervor appropriate to such a violation of the most fundamental norms of respect for innocence and human dignity. To gun down at random whoever happened to be shopping at Westgate Mall on the fateful day of September 21st is to carry political violence beyond a point of no return.

Of course, even fanatics have a certain logic of justification that makes their acts congruent with a warped morality. In this instance, the al-Shabab case rests on a vengeful response to the participation of the Kenyan army units in a multinational military operation of the African Union in neighboring Somalia. This AU operation, reinforced by U.S. drone attacks and special forces, has led to the severe weakening of al-Shabab’s political influence in Somalia, provoking an evident sense of desperation and acute resentment, as well as a tactic of making those that interfere in Somalia’s internal politics bear some adverse spillover effects.

But if such an explanation is expected to excuse the demonic actions at Westgate, in any but equally depraved pockets of alienated consciousness, it is deeply mistaken. Read the rest of this entry »

The violence of Psalm 21

By Richard Falk

There is some difficulty in reconciling humanistic ethics with biblical scripture that has disturbed me recently. If a religious text nurtures morally unacceptable impulses that are acted upon either consciously or sub-consciously in political domains, how can these adverse influences be repudiated without purporting to claim a hegemonic status for a secular reader?

Even a religiously oriented person such as myself, who rejects deference to whatever is contained in the most holy of books if it conflicts with conscience, is troubled by this tension between what we believe to be right and what can be found in the holiest of books. In the West, where the specific religious roots of political authority are rarely acknowledged directly, the problem persists, especially in claims by the state to deal with its enemies at home and abroad. Read the rest of this entry »

War is not over when it is over – A review

By Mira Fey

When discussing conflicts and military interventions, the aftermath is neglected by state leaders and the mainstream media. The traumatizing effects of the conflict itself and the following intervention on the civilian population that is supposed to be protected are ignored.

Aside from being in the line of fire and being forced to fight for one of the belligerents, these effects include a mass exodus of refugees, a division of the population into opponents of the intervening force and “collaborators” resulting in persecution and often torture of the latter, and more human rights violations, now by the occupying force.

While men often are the visible victims of forced recruitment, persecution and torture, women, young girls, and children are the silent sufferers. They are subjected to beatings, rapes, and domestic violence from returning tortured husbands trying to regain at least some respect through oppressing the most vulnerable ones.

Ann Jones wants to give these women a voice. (Continue here)

Mira Fey’s CV

Became TFF Associate in August 2013

Avenue de Miremont 46 | 1206 Geneva, Switzerland | • Blog

– M.A. International Relations/Political Science Autumn 2013 to Spring 2015
The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva, Switzerland
– B.A. International Relations Autumn 2010 to Spring 2013
Malmö University, Sweden
Thesis: The Importance of National Discourse for IR – Critical Discourse Analysis of US Congressional Debates on the Secure Fence Act of 2006 (Passing Grade A/Excellent)
– Related Coursework: Global Political Economy, Regionalization and Globalization, Human Rights
Erasmus Exchange Autumn term 2012
Coventry University, United Kingdom
Related Coursework: Global Organized Crime, Comparative Politics and Governance

Various positions, most recent: Vice President and Head of Program Coordination Autumn 2011 to Spring 2013
Malmö Association of Foreign Affairs (UF Malmö) Coordinating the department for program and the communication with other departments and the university
Academic Writing Tutor Autumn 2011
Malmö University
Volunteer in various NGOs
Tumaini Centre, Tanzania Autumn 2008
Project for street children
AIDS-Hilfe Wuppertal e.V., Germany Summer 2008
Organization offering support and counseling for victims of HIV/AIDS
Foyer Keraman, France Summer 2007
Institution for handicapped persons Assisting in social activities Translation for French-speaking clients

Team Work Society, Coventry University
Communication proficient with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010
Languages German, English; limited working proficiency in French and Swedish

Germany for peace and austerity

By Jonathan Power

The Germany of the victorious Angela Merkel, the second most powerful political leader in the world, is the peacenik nation of the West. But it is also the quasi-authoritarian keeper of the “austerity” that uses its economic clout to impose its standards on the rest of Europe, reminding some southern European countries of the Nazi government of Adolf Hitler that imposed a sort of common market on its captured nations. We may like the one and detest the other but Germany, for better or worse, is at the moment a package deal.

Germans themselves would like to shed the responsibilities of the second and concentrate on the first, encouraging Europe to use its underlying strength to do good and bring peace to the world. After all, not only is this the land of Hitler, his war and his Holocaust, it is the land of Bach and Beethoven which produced, along with Mozart of neighbouring German-speaking Austria, the most exquisite religious music of all time; it is the land of remorse for what its fathers, mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers did in supporting Hitler; and it is the land of Immanuel Kant, one of the greatest of European philosophers. In his treatise on “Perpetual Peace” he wrote of the need for a federation of free states bound together by a covenant forbidding war. Read the rest of this entry »

Bravo, Pope Francis

By Johan Galtung

The Catholic–meaning universal–Church matters to all of us as a major part of Western civilization. And the Pope lives up to both his Jesuit heritage and that of his great namesake St Francis–see this column six months ago, 18 Mar 2013, when he was elected.

We shall permit ourselves to extrapolate a little from what he told in an interview to the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica (IHT, 20 Sep 13). The Roman Catholic Church had become “obsessed” with abortion, gay marriage and contraception. The church should become a home for all and not a small chapel. “We have to find a new balance”, the Pope says, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the gospel”.

Turn the page of that issue of the International Herald Tribune and on p. 2 Muslim Salma Yacoob, a former Birmingham Council woman, raises the same type of question: “Is this (the veil) the biggest issue we face in the U.K. right now?” Read the rest of this entry »

The great Syrian deal

By Jonathan Power

One way of measuring the success of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in forging a plan with Russia to rid Syria of chemical weapons is to think how the scenario would have been conducted if George W. Bush were still president. He wouldn’t have taken the issue to Congress. He would have distrusted any Russian initiative and not delayed his timetable for an imminent military strike. Strike first, talk afterwards, is how he would have seen it.

This makes President Obama look good. But not as good as he might have been. From the beginning he made it clear he would neither wait for the UN on-the-ground inspectors’ report or the approval, which he knew he would not get, of the UN Security Council. At the same time he made no convincing case why the US should ignore its solemn commitment to the UN Charter, opening the way for Russia, China or anyone to ignore it when they had, in their own opinion, reason to do so.

He also never answered the conundrum of why Read the rest of this entry »

A crisis averted: Now time for serious work to bring peace to the Middle East

By Farhang Jahanpour

The “framework document” (1) agreed by US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Saturday 14 September has averted an imminent crisis and has provided hope for the eventual resolution of the Syrian civil war by peaceful means. The document stipulates that Syria must provide a full inventory of its stockpile within a week, all production equipment being destroyed by November, and all weapons being removed from Syria or destroyed by mid-2014. This certainly is a positive development compared to the alternative that entailed a military attack on Syria with all its unpredictable consequences.

Both Russia and Iran played the leading role in persuading the Syrian President Bashar Asad to get rid of his chemical weapons. President Barack Obama and President Vladimir Putin welcomed the agreement. China, France, the UK, the UN and NATO have also expressed satisfaction at the agreement. This agreement has clearly a number of winners and losers.

The Winners of the Kerry-Lavrov Agreement

1- Clearly, the greatest winner has been the cause of peace and common sense. In 2007 when running for office, the then candidate Obama said that the President “does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” (2) Yet now, President Obama was insisting that he had the authority to attack Syria even without Congressional approval. However, a military attack, even if it had received the approval of the Congress, which seemed unlikely, would have been illegal, would have compounded the problems, and would have portrayed the United States as an aggressive country.

The Kerry-Lavrov accord has changed the pattern of behavior Read the rest of this entry »

Syria: Three conflict levels – and the solutions?

By Johan Galtung

There seem to be three levels to the Syrian conundrum.

On top is the conflict over who is to rule Syria, the Assad minority Shia, 13%, mainly Alawite – or Baath rather, more secular, socialist–dictatorship respecting other minorities – Christians, Armenians, Assyrians, Druze, Kurds, Turkoman, or a majority Sunni, 73% dictatorship with no such respect. Both groups fight with brutality, the list of crimes on both sides is long, and the world is watching the unbearable suffering of the Syrian people, even from nerve gases.

Then, in the middle, is the usual geopolitical game of states and regions. In the background are huge alliances, the 28 mainly small NATO countries against the 6+ SCO-Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries with two enormous members. The five veto powers of the UN Security Council are openly involved – USA, UK, France, Russia and China, and Turkey, for their economic, military and political interests, paralyzing the UN Security Council (like the USA blocking a UNSC resolution after the February 2013 Damascus bombing).

And then, at the bottom, feeding into it all, two cultural, religious fundamentalisms. Read the rest of this entry »


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