The Idea Department

The Idea Department is a space for the discussion of politics, economics, global affairs, ethics, international relations, and related topics - brought to you by the staff and interns at Project Syndicate.
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Posts tagged "middle east"
Tolerance or War 
In his political commentary for Project Syndicate, David Shinn reviews the current situation of suppression of minority groups, whether they are based on religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender.
"The abuse of minorities, and reactions to it, often are linked to fault lines in conflicted societies. Minorities tend to experience economic inequality and political marginalization. This negative trend shows no sign of waning. While international treaties, national laws, more and stronger institutions, improved education, and efforts by organized religious groups to foster respect for minorities can help to ameliorate the problem, collective efforts have so far fallen woefully short…Moreover, globalization and instantaneous communication technologies have made it impossible to contain conflict within national borders. Domestic economic and political grievances can now buttress discontent across regions and continents.”
In many countries, authoritarian governments threaten the status of minorties, and democratic reform may help resolve tensions in society. However, in the countries that have undergone revolution during the Arab Spring, the changing minds of leaders like Mohamed Morsi in Egypt may provide some relief for minorities.
"Democratic governments are often perceived as more respectful of minorities, given that, unlike autocratic regimes, a democratic system with an elected legislature, independent judicial system, strong civil society, and free press provides citizens with opportunities to express their views and pursue justice. But, while democracies do have a better record of protecting minorities, a democratic system does not guarantee respect for minorities any more than autocracy ensures their repression. An enlightened autocrat can be just as protective of minority rights as a solidly democratic government.
That said, when it comes to respecting minority rights, democracies have a far better record than autocracies. This is one of the main reasons why, throughout history, democracies have rarely fought each other.”
To read the full article, go here.

Tolerance or War 

In his political commentary for Project Syndicate, David Shinn reviews the current situation of suppression of minority groups, whether they are based on religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender.

"The abuse of minorities, and reactions to it, often are linked to fault lines in conflicted societies. Minorities tend to experience economic inequality and political marginalization. This negative trend shows no sign of waning. While international treaties, national laws, more and stronger institutions, improved education, and efforts by organized religious groups to foster respect for minorities can help to ameliorate the problem, collective efforts have so far fallen woefully short…Moreover, globalization and instantaneous communication technologies have made it impossible to contain conflict within national borders. Domestic economic and political grievances can now buttress discontent across regions and continents.”

In many countries, authoritarian governments threaten the status of minorties, and democratic reform may help resolve tensions in society. However, in the countries that have undergone revolution during the Arab Spring, the changing minds of leaders like Mohamed Morsi in Egypt may provide some relief for minorities.

"Democratic governments are often perceived as more respectful of minorities, given that, unlike autocratic regimes, a democratic system with an elected legislature, independent judicial system, strong civil society, and free press provides citizens with opportunities to express their views and pursue justice. But, while democracies do have a better record of protecting minorities, a democratic system does not guarantee respect for minorities any more than autocracy ensures their repression. An enlightened autocrat can be just as protective of minority rights as a solidly democratic government.

That said, when it comes to respecting minority rights, democracies have a far better record than autocracies. This is one of the main reasons why, throughout history, democracies have rarely fought each other.”

To read the full article, go here.

Bye-Bye, Middle East? 
In his most recent political commentary, Zaki Laidi considers the strategic pivot of America- which has become increasingly energy independent- towards the emerging, dynamic Asia countries that have come to demand our foreign policy detention. In light of these international changes, Laidi muses about whether or not the United States can truly divert its attention and energy away from the Middle East.
"This scenario would grant the US three enormous advantages. It would enhance US economic competitiveness, especially relative to Europe, given the lower costs involved in the extraction of shale gas. It would also reduce America’s exposure to growing unrest in the Arab world. Finally, it would increase the relative vulnerability of America’s main strategic rival, China, which is becoming increasingly dependent on Middle East energy supplies.
These facts obviously need to be taken seriously, but their implications for US foreign policy in the Middle East should not be too hastily drawn. Above all, though energy dependence is a key element of US policy in the region, it is far from being the only factor. Israel’s security and the desire to contain Iran are equally important.”
For the full commentary, go to Project Syndicate.

Bye-Bye, Middle East? 

In his most recent political commentary, Zaki Laidi considers the strategic pivot of America- which has become increasingly energy independent- towards the emerging, dynamic Asia countries that have come to demand our foreign policy detention. In light of these international changes, Laidi muses about whether or not the United States can truly divert its attention and energy away from the Middle East.

"This scenario would grant the US three enormous advantages. It would enhance US economic competitiveness, especially relative to Europe, given the lower costs involved in the extraction of shale gas. It would also reduce America’s exposure to growing unrest in the Arab world. Finally, it would increase the relative vulnerability of America’s main strategic rival, China, which is becoming increasingly dependent on Middle East energy supplies.

These facts obviously need to be taken seriously, but their implications for US foreign policy in the Middle East should not be too hastily drawn. Above all, though energy dependence is a key element of US policy in the region, it is far from being the only factor. Israel’s security and the desire to contain Iran are equally important.”


For the full commentary, go to Project Syndicate.

Even before the latest cease-fire took hold, it had become clear that the dilemma facing Israel in Gaza entails more than simply developing military answers to the challenge posed by Hamas. The real question is whether Israel’s leadership is capable of using new, non-military tools to address the anti-Israeli rage that has gained momentum across the region in the wake of the Arab Spring. And now, in the wake of Palestine’s resoundingly successful bid for observer-state status at the United Nations, Israel’s conundrum has become particularly acute…
Israel is now in a strategic trap, owing not only to the Arab Spring, but also to its own diplomatic blunders, particularly the disintegration of its alliance with Turkey. No display of military muscle could help; only robust peace diplomacy could end Israel’s isolation. Unfortunately, Israeli leaders are unable to summon the statesmanship required to manage the strategic readjustment occurring in the region.

When hostilities flared in Gaza last month, it seemed like the same old story was repeating itself. The world again witnessed a bloody and senseless surge of violence between Israel and Hamas, in which the main victims were innocent civilians maimed and killed on both sides.

This time, however, things were not what they seemed, because the Middle East has undergone a significant change in the past two years. The political epicenter of this troubled region has shifted from the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians toward the Persian Gulf and the struggle for regional mastery between Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and now Egypt on the other. In the emerging struggle between the region’s Shia and Sunni powers, the old Middle East conflict has become a sideshow.

The New Middle East’s New Problems, Joschka Fischer
America’s Perilous Pivot
As America’s foreign policy interests shift in focus towards Asia, our political and military entanglements in the Middle East may swallow up much of our politician’s energy, with negative results on the international stage. In his recent article, Javier Solana discusses how our interactions with the looming threat of Iran might change the course of America’s future in international relations.
"If the Iran crisis were to boil over, the pivot to Asia would no longer be America’s main foreign-policy priority. But if the dispute with Iran is resolved diplomatically, the Middle East might, perhaps, be relegated to a position of lesser importance, as Obama clearly desires. The question, therefore, is whether the US will find itself drawn into another war in a region on which it depends less and less for energy…
Peaceful resolution of the Iranian question would help the US to complete its shift toward Asia. China may not wish for that outcome, but its own vital interest in the security of Middle East energy supplies should compel it to cooperate. After all, another Middle East conflict would poison and distort relations in the region for decades, which would be the worst of all possible consequences – for the US and China alike.”
To read more, go to Project Syndicate.

America’s Perilous Pivot

As America’s foreign policy interests shift in focus towards Asia, our political and military entanglements in the Middle East may swallow up much of our politician’s energy, with negative results on the international stage. In his recent article, Javier Solana discusses how our interactions with the looming threat of Iran might change the course of America’s future in international relations.

"If the Iran crisis were to boil over, the pivot to Asia would no longer be America’s main foreign-policy priority. But if the dispute with Iran is resolved diplomatically, the Middle East might, perhaps, be relegated to a position of lesser importance, as Obama clearly desires. The question, therefore, is whether the US will find itself drawn into another war in a region on which it depends less and less for energy…

Peaceful resolution of the Iranian question would help the US to complete its shift toward Asia. China may not wish for that outcome, but its own vital interest in the security of Middle East energy supplies should compel it to cooperate. After all, another Middle East conflict would poison and distort relations in the region for decades, which would be the worst of all possible consequences – for the US and China alike.”

To read more, go to Project Syndicate.