PhD Proposal: Accounting for Differences in Outcome of the Arab Spring


 

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Research Questions, Hypotheses & Variables:

Why did the Arab Spring affect states differently? What accounts for these differences in outcome? This article seeks to address that very question.

In this research, I extend “Wimmer et al’s” model of ethnic conflict & exclusion to include ethno-religious groups in the Middle East. Ample literature has been written on the consequences of minority rule, especially in the Middle East, but there is little research on ethno-religious exclusion as the source of national instability. The typical variables considered are foreign intervention, religiosity or authoritarianism. My argument is that some states are more or less politically developed than others, and as such, exhibit a more sophisticated system that at the very least represents the majority ethnic fabric of the nation-state. Exclusive states tend to be less developed politically, and as such disenfranchise ethnic majorities leading to more instability.

Continue reading “PhD Proposal: Accounting for Differences in Outcome of the Arab Spring”

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The Final Debate & Why Putin Might Actually Prefer Clinton


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The rise of Donald Trump is reminiscent in a lot of ways of Adolf Hitler.

This correlation has been perhaps run dry and overplayed by the media, but there is a deeper ring to it than just the hateful rhetoric and outright evil policy ambitions these two have in common.

Besides Hitler’s ideological madness, beneath it all, was a political man seeking his own ends. Hitler was not just a Nazi – he was a politician. This often meant betraying his own, fellow “Nazis”.

Hitler also betrayed the Soviets once he realized he could. But its important to remember that he was also their ally for some time – the “communists” – the alleged Jewish arch-enemies of Nazism – until that is, he found no more need for such an alliance.

This erratic behavior is consistent with Donald Trump who – perhaps now finds it convenient to rally his followers behind an anti-globalist and pro-fascist tirades  – but soon this might shift as trends do. In other words, Trump is fickle to his own agenda. He doesn’t have one. It is – whatever keeps him in power – in front of the cameras – and his party and entourage behind him. He exercises this privilege because the US is the world’s superpower. It can afford such lunacy. Most other countries that entertain such blatant flamboyant theatrics in politics are third world tyrannies…(North Korea).

The third world dictatorial hitlerian like conspiratorial narrative echoed by Trump and his followers resonates with them because for every troubled soul – blaming society or others is the remedy – and it appears now there are many troubled…white protestant male souls. Sure – there are many injustices in the world – but there is no need to reduce them to YouTube like conspiracy theories – we can address them coherently without diluting them with unscientific conjecture.

Trump’s weakest point in the debate came at two moments – first was his rejection of American norm of democracy. Second was his inability to more tacitly answer questions about his foreign relations with Russia. Whether true or not, his display of incompetence almost made him look guilty. His rejection of the election results not only drew gasps from the crowd – it echoed across the living rooms of Americans nationwide. How could he insult us this way? How could the Republican Party enable him? This is outright betrayal and to be frank – I am fully emphatic of Hillary Clinton when she displays her complete intolerance and outrage at Trump’s complete and utter disrespect of America, and for everything which it stands.

Ultimately the Russians are looking for someone who is willing to fight terrorism and stay out of their sphere of influence. While rhetoric seems contrary, Hillary is much less likely to flirt with the idea of WWIII with Russia then perhaps Donald Trump if the latter determines that he or his cohorts may have interests in such a war – get my drift? I believe much of what Hillary (and all Democrats) are forced to exhibit is a sense of ultranationalism so as to counter the right-wing paranoia encouraged by the GOP and emblazoned across the mainstream media. But in reality, Democrats (and Clinton would follow suit) are less hawkish, relative to the GOP. Compare Obama to Bush, Clinton (Bill) to Bush Sr., JFK to Nixon…The Democratic creed is one of tolerance, diversity, equality, democracy, freedom, opportunity and justice – even when such may be less profitable for the individual. On the contrary, the GOP’s ideal often compromises the collective good for the sake of an individual profit. This is not capitalism – this is abuse of power. The Democrats are a force for freedom and dignity in America; and for unity globally. What needs to be acknowledged however among Democrats is that neither democracy nor justice nor political development can be achieved in foreign countries through interventionism – perhaps Bernie Sanders can rub off on the rest of them.

Democrats are more inclined towards cooperation with foreign countries. For this reason, despite the theatrics displayed in the election, it might be arguable that the Russians might prefer a President Clinton over Trump. Trump is exploiting Russia’s uneasy relations with the US for his own gain – something which might (and most likely will) change sporadically. Clinton is consistent – and also values reconciliation as evidenced by the Nuclear Deal with Iran which she basically initiated and oversaw. Clinton’s experience, and her humility, is likely to characterize her as more suitable for the position of President of the world’s sole superpower – a position which affects not just Americans, but citizens of the world.

Who Is Tim Kaine? A Brief History


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Tim Kaine has been officially declared as Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate.

As news tabloids emblazon images of the newly chosen “veep” on television and computer screens, many ordinary Americans are left wondering – who is this guy? It is a fair question, since for most Americans, Tim Kaine is a stranger and a new face in politics.

Similarly, in 2008 many Americans found themselves asking the same question about presidential nominee Barrack Obama.

But this is a much different scenario. Still we are left asking, who really is Tim Kaine and what will he bring to the table, if anything?

As Donald Trump’s campaign continues to dominate the headlines, ordinary Americans are left wondering what is left for Hillary to do. Does she have a chance?

Tim Kaine first rose to national prominence when he was purported to be then presidential candidate Barrack Obama’s VP running mate in 2008. Since then, he has been largely out of the national political discussion, that is until now.

But some characteristics of Tim Kaine give reason to believe that he is someone to pay close attention to.

Kaine born in Minnesota but raised in Kansas City, Missouri. He is of humble beginnings as his father was a welder and was raised Catholic. He received his BA from the University of Missouri Kaine and attended Harvard Law School afterwards. During his tenure at Harvard, Kaine embarked on as a missionary with the Jesuits in Honduras. There he learned to speak Spanish fluently. He has on occasion delivered his speeches to Congress in Spanish. In fact, in 2013, Kaine delivered a speech introducing the bipartisan immigration bill drafted by the “Gang of Eight” entirely in Spanish – an unprecedented feat.

Kaine’s political career only began in 1994, therefor Americans are right to be more than inquisitive about their potential vice president, especially given heightened level of polarization between the two candidates and their parties. He political career took off in Richmond, Virginia where he started working for the City Council. In 1998 Kaine was elected Richmond’s Mayor and in 2005 he became the state’s Governor. From 2006-2011 Kaine served as the Democratic National Committee’s Chair and in 2012 he was elected Senator of Virginia defeating sitting governor George Allen.  It appears Kaine’s ambitions were carefully coordinated and executed. This might be underscored by the fact that Kaine has never lost a single election. Scared yet, GOP?

Still, Kaine does not maintain an impressive feat of policy. He is on neither extreme end of the political spectrum, though it might be appropriate to classify him as center-left, but certainly gravitating towards the center. As Governor, Kaine passed massive budget cuts amounting to nearly five billion dollars, which was quite unpopular in his state. With regard to his political positions, he has generally taken center-left positions, recognizing LGBT rights, climate change and the need for universal healthcare, to name a few. But his budget-cuts, promotion of international free trade and his support of American military operations in Afghanistan are indicative of his centrist affinities too, which makes all the more sense why he would be Clinton’s ideal running mate.

His foreign policy experience is limited, and thus enables little analysis. One particular controversy which occurred with his staffer, Esam Omeish, a Libyan-American doctor, who was appointed to the Virginia Commission on Immigration in 2009. Mr. Omeish expressed criticism for George W. Bush & the Israeli Lobby’s influence on US politics, leading to his resignation.

Albeit Tim Kaine is certainly apt for the job. His experiences and mobilization through the ranks of Virginian politics is evidence of that. But will Kaine be the necessary ingredient to Clinton’s recipe for defeating Donald Trump?

Time will tell – on November 8th, 2016 to be exact.

 

The Rebalancing of Powers: From ‘Brexit’ to Babel?


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There is a disconnect between national policy and international relations.

The decision to leave the EU by the UK, or “Brexit”, is a symbol of that disconnect.

But in order to understand the origins of this decision, it is important to highlight the UK’s tradition of reluctance and hesitation towards the EU since its inception.

By nature, the UK, like America, prefers to play a conservative role in international affairs, dabbling in just enough to get the benefit, but not enough to bear the burden.

But the armed crises in the Middle East have created a storm in UK & EU politics, with the migration crisis being the crux of the problem.

Evidently, the UK prefers to leave such matters in the hands of its European counterparts, which is ironic because the UK is America’s closest ally in Europe – both countries are directly responsible for destabilizing the Middle East in the first place, under the premise of liberalization. This is where the disconnect begins.

At least half of the UK truly feels undermined by the concentration of power, underrepresented and almost collectivized by being part of the EU.

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But is the decision to leave the EU a right-wing populist scheme exploiting frustrations of the ordinary Brit? In South America, both right and left wing populism have failed to their more centered opponents. The US is still determining its fate.

Has this decision created a more or less secure world? Is this decision likely to produce positive or negative results in the UK’s social, economic and political fabric? How will this impact the rest of Europe? What will happen to the migrants?

It is in fact the people who have decided, through referendum, to leave the EU. Despite a targeted and well-developed “leave” campaign, the decision is also inspired by  general discontent towards the EU in Britain. But the facts and rhetoric surrounding the campaign reveals “Brexit” is more about xenophobia & Islamophobia than it is about sovereignty.

The majority of those who voted to leave the EU were above the age of 40. The vast majority of those who voted against were in their 20s ad 30s.

Given that London just elected its first Muslim mayor, there is reason to believe that unfounded, prejudiced paranoias about migrants and Muslims have stoked fears and insecurities in society, just enough to feed into the allure of right-wing populism and fear.

UK MP Nigel Farage proclaimed victory, ushering the 23rd as the UK’s modern independence day. He went on to claim that such a victory was achieved without any blood spilled. But only last week, British MP Jo Cox was violently murdered by a right-wing extremist who shouted “Britain First” as he committed the murder. Has this been understated by the media? Compared to reporting on terrorism linked to one or more Muslims, it is difficult to say that the media is not biased.

Notable international relations theorist John Mearsheimer predicted the disintegration of the EU as a result of the current international political dynamic which has seen America as the world’s sole superpower since the dissolution of the USSR. That dissolution has almost removed the security incentive for unity, or balancing that brought the EU together in the first place. There appears to be a growing rift among NATO members, particularly between European states and the US on how to manage international affairs. The differences stem from foreign policy on the Middle East primarily. Is the UK’s decision to leave the EU an inching towards or away from subservience to US leadership? That depends on the direction US democracy goes. If the American people also give in to fear, Donald Trump might be the next US president. This suggests that the two of the world’s most influential powers, the UK and America, are juggling between the past and the future – traditions of colonialism, racism & global mischief – and the equally traditional struggle against those forces, political enfranchisement, and socio-economic equality.

Europe is drifting towards a center-left progressive “utopia” – something despised by the British traditional-mentality. The same could be said of the US. This is vindicated by the statistics surrounding the ‘Brexit’ vote which saw the majority of the “leave” supporters being over the age of 40.

Without delving deeply into history books, the average person might not know that much of the US’ post-WWI behavior was determined by the British, by prompting fear and insecurity about illusory global threats. In 1952, it was the British who convinced the US that movements for sovereignty in the Middle East were a threat. Initially the US had actually empathized with the struggles for independence in the Middle East. The UK convinced the US to overthrow a democratically elected leader in Iran, and the US agreed because of the paranoias injected by the UK about the so-called “communist menace”.

To some it may be surprising that racism, Islamophobia and fascism are creeping into US and UK politics. To others, perhaps more victimized by these forces, it is more dangerous than surprising. If the US decides to follow suit and elects Donald Trump, there is reason to believe that global tensions might intensify. Remember that European history is bloody. Wars between France, England, Germany were commonplace. The UK’s exit from the EU might disturb this legacy of peace and harmony in Europe which has endured since WWII. Furthermore, it might reintroduce fascism into the West – long thought gone and dead.

It isn’t hard to imagine what would happen if the US did in fact follow suit. Two blocs would eventually form in the global order – a rebalancing of powers if you will. The UK and the US would be together on one side; Russia, China & Iran on the other. India would likely play an indirect role, but ultimately throwing most of its support behind the latter bloc. The contrary would apply to the Gulf states in the Middle East, Israel and Pakistan, who would likely remain under the auspices of the UK & the US. Altogether this can be described as the modern world order. In this scenario, the EU disintegrates completely. The fault line will likely split between France & Germany – to no surprise, with much of eastern Europe balancing against the UK & the US. The war between fascism and collectivism ensues. The ideologies of capitalism and culture are at war – they are mutually exclusive. In reality, capitalism fully realized is fascist, and collectivism fully realized is communist – both authoritarian to some extent. But the latter is conditional and retaliatory. In a perfect world, neither would exist, and universal democracy could flourish without capitalism and communism. Till then, we must pick sides and lesser evils or resort to anarchism.

There is still hope for the world and America. Clinton is not our salvation – but in politics there are no angels; only lesser devils – or so it seems.

How Should America Respond to Terror?


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The invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition in 2003 produced a new dilemma for Iraq – a vacuum of power. For almost 4 decades, the brutal reign of Saddam Hussein centralized power, and despite its brutality, stabilized the country politically. But many critics of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East blamed the vacuum of power on the brutality of the dictator himself. The rise of ISIS, and other terrorist organizations, are the products of the stubborn grasp on power held by dictators like Saddam. In Syria, the situation proved to be more difficult. What was initially a similar plan as Iraq broke down into an international competition for spheres of influence, particularly between Russia and America. The crises in the Arab world, spread like a domino effect. It seems that, since the 2003 invasion, toppling leaders was the agenda, but instead of resulting in progressive governance, it has produced a security disaster with an unprecedented rise in terrorism. Libya looks a lot like Iraq, but perhaps worse. It is in shambles – which is a hotbed for terrorists. Since Islamic radicalism appears to be the global menace to security, figuring out how to address these crises are crucial to America’s interests. How should the US respond? Well, the US has already chosen a trajectory of intervention. Based on the literature, I will argue that a reversal of US tradition of interventionism will reduce terror and the threat of insecurity caused by it (Kleveman 2006).

Terrorism rose sharply after 2003. This is supported by the global terrorism database. I argue this directly correlates with the highest period of foreign interventionism in the Middle East, from which terrorism is exported. Central Asia too is equally important as it exports much of the Islamic radicalism we see today (Rashid 2006). In Central Asia, terrorism rose sharply after 2004 – around the same time that the US administration began coordinating cooperative efforts with Central Asia’s most authoritarian dictator, Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov, in efforts to suppress Islamic movements, radical and non (Olcott 2007).

Complete disengagement from the internal political affairs of sovereign states both in the Middle East and Central Asia will allow the natural course of events to unfold – whether that means conflict or not is uncertain. Citizens may choose to overthrow or support their leaders. But involvement by the US has complicated and enflamed tensions. It has blindsided progression in many of these underdeveloped parts of the world, resulting in higher terror recruitment, which ultimately affects the US.

Contrarily, it could be argued that the US ought to engage with rebel groups fighting against both extremists and authoritarians who together, are thwarting any progress and thus further inciting terrorism. In the case of Syria, it appears to be more complex, with the government cooperating against terrorism, unlike for example, the Mubarak, Gaddafi or Hussein regimes. Perhaps, a transitional process in phases could emerge here in which disenfranchised Sunnis can be reintegrated into the political process. But the intransigence of the leadership could prove to be detrimental to this cause. Perhaps this is precisely why the US has been unresolved in its Syrian-policy.

Who Partakes in Political Violence?


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Terrorism is a tactic adopted by particular groups for a political objective. The individuals that partake in this violence often exhibit common characteristics. One of these characteristics is impoverishment (Lee 2011). In parts of the world where state capacity to serve the public is low, terrorist group participation is more likely. In other words, these individuals come from poor backgrounds. But contrarily, individuals from higher economic classes, also tend to be involved. This suggests that the middle class is least likely to join in, while the lower middle and upper class are more vulnerable (Kavanagh 2011).

On the other hand, terrorism has a different motive. In this case, terrorism is analyzed from the individual perspective, versus the structural perspective. Concepts like emotion and humiliation are considered here to be powerful motivators towards violence. The underlying belief is that, particularly in the Islamic world, a sense of humiliation drives individuals to terror. This humiliation stems from cultural factors such as shame-based traditions as much as it does from a history of subordination to outsiders such as Europe and America, through arrangements like Sykes-Picot. Humiliation can be exacerbated by internal inequalities within nation-states (Fattah & Fierke 2009). Perhaps a less romanticized perspective argues that existential factors like desire and glory motivate individuals among other factors that are political to engage in terrorism (Cottee et al 2011).

The most compelling argument seems to focus on the political orientation of terrorism through the individual lens. This is because it considers the cultural dimension of politics which drives individuals to retaliation or aggression. Social factors like poverty and authoritarianism cannot be separated from the external powers at play, and their influence historically and in today’s world on regions where terrorism is most prevalent. Equally, we cannot ignore the complicity of national governments in worsening conditions and enabling terrorism.

 

Cottee, Simon and Keith Hayward. 2011. “Terrorist (E)motives: The Existential Attractions of Terrorism.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 34: 963-986

Fattah, Khaled and Fierke, K.M. 2009. “A Clash of Emotions: The Politics of Humiliation and Political Violence in The Middle East.” European Journal of International Relations 15(1): 67-93

Kavanagh, J. (2011). Selection, Availability, and Opportunity: The Conditional Effect of Poverty on Terrorist Group Participation. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 55(1), 106-132.

Lee, A. (2011). Who Becomes a Terrorist? Poverty, Education, and the Origins of Political Violence . World Politics , 203-245.

The Fate of Terror – What We Can Learn From Brussels, Ankara, Paris & Beirut


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The only question that should be raised in response to the Brussels attack – why is this happening?

If you think the answer can be reduced to Islamic extremism or a clash of civilizations – you are ignoring the reality that much of the extremism which encourages violent terrorism in the Middle East emanates from countries that are closest to the US – Saudi Arabia. Not to mention, ISIS, which has claimed responsibility, is made up of primarily foreign fighters and funded by the Gulf states.

Also, the existence of ISIS, like al Qaeda is a product of western support for these types of groups. Regime change, as the US has pressured, has caused the sort of imbalance in the ME that allows for increased terrorism at home and abroad.

Islamists have been largely propped up by democracies in order to justify foreign invasions and regime change – only where it is convenient.

The notion that Islam is more prone to violence is incorrect. Furthermore we have to differentiate between terrorist groups who seek to confuse the public and cause political upheaval, and militias, like Hezbollah, which seek to confront nation-states like Israel militarily, instead of arbitrary attacks and an “Islamic” agenda. Islamists focus on theocracy where as Muslim militias aren’t necessarily – they simply seek the sovereignty of their land.

Until Western countries stop double-dealing with terrorists in order to justify foreign escapades; until countries like Saudi Arabia are isolated; we will continue to witness terrorist attacks like those in Brussels, Ankara, Istanbul, Beirut & Paris.

We must learn to separate the nationalist, and rather secular conflicts between the Arab-Palestinian & Israel factions from the ideological war being waged both by extremist networks of violent persuasions (al Qaeda; ISIS) which pollute the discourse with extreme religious rhetoric. National sovereignty, human rights and self-determination supersede regime-type. Until this is realized, conflict will ensue in the Middle East; and violence will be exported. If the US & its cohorts continue foreign campaigns aimed at forcing regime-change under the premise of “democratization”, there is more reason to believe that balancing could occur. But as the Obama Doctrine has demonstrated, this hasn’t been entirely the course or agenda of the US – in fact, since the Bush Administration, it seems the US has been pursuing a less “hawkish” course.

The US must realize that its cozy relationship with Israel & Saudi Arabia are the primary stimulators of global terrorism. It fuels fanaticism; directly through Saudi Arabia; indirectly through occupation & socio-economic paralysis. If the US wishes to maintain the role of global hegemony & leader, it is not a matter of “morality” but of “rationality” that the US separates itself from the co-dependent relationship it has established with these two religiously charged nation-states.