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    Peter Beinart
    "Israel: Have we lost that loving feeling, and can we get it back?"
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    Sturm Hall

    Monday 11/8
    The Muslim Student Association is hosting an Eid Mubarak dinner from 6-8 pm at the Korbel Cyber Cafe.

    Wednesday 11/10
    A Faculty Panel will discuss different issues surrounding the Occupy Wallstreet movement.
    Noon in the Cyber Cafe

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    klkingma@ole.augie.edu

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Obama Shellacs Somali “Criminals” in Midnight Raid that Saves Two Hostages

Say what you will about President Obama’s domestic policies, he’s done nothing if not put the screws to terrorist networks and pirates the world over for the past four years. The latest iteration, again calling upon the US Navy SEALS, involved a nighttime raid in Somalia that resulted in the rescue of two foreign aid workers and the killing of nine hostage takers. Although the Pentagon denied that the hostage takers were linked to al-Shabab, their exact identities remain unknown. For a full rundown of the operation, check out the BBC article.

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Freedom of the Press in Turkey?

Many EU member states, arguing against the admission of Turkey into the Union, complain that the state has yet to take enough serious steps towards democratic transparency. An article in the New York Times today appears to bolster that claim, discussing recent government crackdowns on newspapers and journalists hostile to the ruling Justice & Development Party. Reporter Dan Bilefsky writes,

“At a time when Washington and Europe are praising Turkey as the model of Muslim democracy for the Arab world, Turkish human rights advocates say the crackdown is part of an ominous trend. Most worrying, they say, are fresh signs that the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is repressing freedom of the press through a mixture of intimidation, arrests and financial machinations, including the sale in 2008 of a leading newspaper and a television station to a company linked to the prime minister’s son-in-law.

The arrests threaten to darken the image of Mr. Erdogan, who is lionized in the Middle East as a powerful regional leader who can stand up to Israel and the West. Widely credited with taming Turkey’s military and forging a religiously conservative government that marries strong economic growth with democracy and religious tolerance, he has proved prickly and thin-skinned on more than one occasion. It is that sensitivity bordering on arrogance, human rights advocates say, that contributes to his animus against the news media.”

The article goes on to note that some 97 people associated with the news media – journalists, editors, publishers and distributors – are currently serving time in Turkey’s prisons, many on allegedly fabricated charges. Mr. Bilefsky continues,

“The European Human Rights Court received nearly 9,000 complaints against Turkey for breaches of press freedom and freedom of expression in 2011, compared with 6,500 in 2009. In March, Orhan Pamuk, a Turkish writer and Nobel laureate, was fined about $3,670 for his statement in a Swiss newspaper that ‘we have killed 30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians.’

Human rights advocates say they fear that with the Arab Spring lending new regional influence to Turkey, the United States and Europe are turning a blind eye to encroaching authoritarianism there. ‘Turkey’s democracy may be a good benchmark when compared with Egypt, Libya or Syria,’ said Hakan Altinay, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. ‘But the whole region will suffer if Turkey is allowed to disregard the values of liberal democracy.'”

The article sheds light on the uncomfortable fact that the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP), whose governing majority is now a decade old, has grown too comfortable in its position; that, having blown the door open on non-secularist politics and blazed a trail for economic and democratic development, the AKP is now more interested in preserving and enhancing its own political position than protecting and strengthening the democratic quality of its civil society. Thoughts?

An academic study of the Goldstone Report

Though not the focus of international media, the Goldstone Report remains a controversial issue that has enjoyed little serious debate outside of the political sphere.  “The Goldstone Report on the Gaza Conflict: An Agora” was published in The Journal of Global Governance in June 2010 and appears here courtesy of Professor Rob Prince a lecturer at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies who teaches and engages both undergraduate and graduate students.  His blog provides another perspective of the continuing political struggles throughout the Middle East and North Africa. However, the Goldstone Report remains a subject of controversy and an excellent point for further discussion regarding the limitations–both tangible and ideational–on studies of the conflict. The following introduction to the article was written by former dean Tom Farer:

By concluding that, in its assault on Gaza under the rubric of self -defense, Israel had targeted the civilian infrastructure and consciously “punished” the civilian population and demonstrated indifference to the suffering of noncombatants and engaged in other acts in violation of the laws of war, behaviors that possibly constituted in their totality crimes against humanity, the Goldstone Report became almost as controversial as the events precipitating it.  In this agora, four eminent international lawyers, a mix of scholars and practitioners, assess from their distinctive perspectives the report’s methodology, its compliance with fact-finding norms, and the overall quality of its effort to apply norms of international law to a bloody event in the ongoing multidecade conflict between Jews and Arabs over the governance and division of the former British-controlled Palestinian Mandate.  Dialectically, they help to structure future debates over UN-sponsored fact-finding and also the normative parameters of the use of force by powerful states engaged in asymmetrical conflicts.

Weekly Discussion:Prospects for US Involvment

How involved should the United States be during these revolutions and protest movements throughout the Middle East? Do we try to do good, or try to do what best serves American interests?  Can we do good if the assumption will be that we are only serving American interests?

Here is my response:

While the US may be tempted to get involved in the situations happening in the Middle East, it should resist temptation to do so, unilaterally at least.  If we recall when Mubarak was still in power, President Obama issued several statements that were perceived by the people of Egypt to straddle a fine line between supporting the popular movement and supporting our former ally.  This was damaging to the US reputation in Egypt.  We must now recover by urging our allies in the Egyptian military to carry out the reforms and elections promised to the people.  This is a time when the US can not be looking out for its own interests, but instead must support the movements for democracy and freedom.

However, this is difficult especially in places such as Bahrain and Yemen which are integral to the national security policy of the US.  Bahrain serves as the home of the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, while Yemen’s government is a strong ally in the fight against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  But when these allies turn to violent repression against their people, the US must not stand back and watch, instead it should condemn these acts and support the right to protest and free speech.  Post 9/11, the US is no longer seen as the human rights champion of the world, but the US can regain some of this status by publicly supporting the protesters basic human rights.  This does not mean that the US is no longer an ally of a countries regime, but instead signals that we will not stand by idly and watch our ally oppress its people.  Human rights and movements for democracy should always be respected and supported by the US.  If a change of government does occur in a country, they are more likely to have a warmer view of the US if we legitimized their movement.

The current situation in Libya does seem to require some form of US response.  A humanitarian crisis is occurring and the US must participate with other world powers in creating a united consensus of action by the United Nations.  Unilateral action by the United States will not be viewed kindly in the region and will provide Ahmadinejad and Bin Laden with more fuel in which to deride the US.  A united response must be composed to deal with this issue.  If it can’t be done through the UN, then perhaps through NATO or a coalition of countries that are willing to help the people of Libya.  But once Gaddafi and his band of goons are gone, power must be returned to the Libyan people to form a new government just as the people of Egypt and Tunisia have created new governments…without the influence of the United States.

 


Discussion Topics – Western Involvement

It’s Monday, so I’m going to post a discussion topic and on Friday we’ll see responses from some of the MEDG officers.  Feel free to weigh in with comments here, or with responses on Friday.

So the question is, How involved should the United States be during these revolutions and protest movements throughout the Middle East? For example, the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt were American allies.  So are the leaders of Bahrain and Yemen.  Does that create requisite US involvement?  Over involvement results in calls from leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claiming that the United States is interfering in the domestic affairs of Middle Eastern states.  But situations like the current one in Libya almost beg for outside involvement (Qatar has called for UN Security Council intervention).  So where is the line? Do we try to do good, or try to do what best serves American interests?  Can we do good if the assumption will be that we are only serving American interests?

(I know that this is similar to a discussion question from two weeks ago, but a lot has happened since then)

Weekly Perspectives: What should the Obama administration do about the situation in Egypt?

Welcome to the MEDG weekly perspectives.  I will be posting the first response to this question to be followed by my fellow MEDG officers.

 

The handover of power from Hosni Mubarak to the military is the best outcome that could have occurred for the Obama administration.  The Egyptian military is one of the most loyal patrons to the United States.  The relations between the US and Egyptian militaries are described as extremely close.  The Obama administration must now encourage the Egyptian military to restore order and lift the emergency laws in place.  They must also support the building of democratic institutions.  Elections will not take place right away, but it must be ensured that the Egyptian military leadership walks the path towards free and fair elections.

The administration should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The protests were not led by them, but instead by people that were frustrated with their country and wanted democracy.  The US must support this movement for democracy and cannot in any way influence the outcome of the elections.  If Obama wants Egypt to continue to be a friend of the US, then the elections must be free of any outside influence.  The Egyptian people are very proud of their country and will do what is best…and I feel that they know an Islamist state is not the answer.  They know the oppression that exists in Iran and they do not want that.

The Egyptian military leaders need the support of the Obama Administration in this crucial time.  Egypt’s economy needs to be restarted and institutions need to be built.  The rule of law needs to be followed and progress towards elections must occur.  Goodwill from the administration in this time will pay off in the long run once Egypt becomes truly democratic.  Egypt needs a friend at this historic moment and Obama must respond.

Introducing MEDG’s Weekly Perspectives Feature

This week we’re starting several new features on the MEDG blog.  On Mondays and Fridays we will be debating a timely and interesting issue impacting the Middle East.  On Monday we will post the discussion topic, and then on Friday we will have two of our officers from the group state their own perspective/opinion/outlook and encourage any readers to chime in with their own comments. Some weeks this may take the form of a pro/con debate while in others we’ll throw out a more open-ended question. For this week, our question is thus: What should the Obama administration do about the situation in Egypt? Make sure to check out the blog on Friday for our perspectives. Until then, happy reading!