Author Archives: Justin Schon
This was the line to vote in a township outside of Johannesburg.
Greetings my American friends (and readers of other nationalities if you somehow made it over to this blog)! With voting in South Africa’s elections having taken place on Wednesday, I feel it is time for me to share a bit of insight about what is going on.
The title of this post comes from this New York Times article on the election. Before you interpret this as an endorsement of the article, please note: THE ARTICLE IS RUBBISH!
Yes, I said it. I say that the article is rubbish for two reasons.
The first reason is that there was no question that the ANC would win. Not a single analyst even considered an outcome to the contrary, and supporters and members of the opposition parties themselves would admit that they never expected the ANC to lose. It is absolutely pointless for a news agency to spend time telling people what they already knew would happen, yet unfortunately the New York Times has done exactly that. Focusing on this aspect of the outcome of the elections takes away from the aspects of the election that actually are noteworthy.
You’ll understand the 1st and 3rd pictures better after reading this post
Last night, I was able to attend an election debate for the coming elections here in South Africa. The debate featured representatives of four political parties: COPE (Congress of the People), DA (Democratic Alliance), ANC (African National Congress), and ID. Coming off of all the time I spent watching debates in the United States during the campaign, it was very interesting to compare the issues South Africans are talking about to what the United States is talking about, as well as to try and understand how the ANC has managed to control government ever since it took power in 1994 at the end of apartheid.
Hillary Clinton has royally pissed off human rights groups. I hate to say it, but she really has. On Friday she told reporters that issues like religious freedom and human rights “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and security crises. We have to have a dialogue that leads to an understanding and cooperation on each of those.” While this does subordinate their interests to other issues, these groups need to stay quiet on this one. Hillary is right here.
Secretary Clinton’s commentsÂ prompted Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, to say:
“Secretary Clinton’s remarks point to a diplomatic strategy that has worked well for the Chinese government – segregating human rights issues into a dead-end â€˜dialogue of the deaf.’ A new approach is needed, one in which the US engages China on the critical importance of human rights to a wide range of mutual security interests.”
Before I get to my response to these statements, I will add this response from Secretary Clinton:
“We know we are going to press them to reconsider their position about Tibetan religious and cultural freedom and autonomy for the Tibetans, and some kind of recognition or acknowledgment of the Dalai Lama. I have had those conversations for more than a decade with Chinese leaders, and we know what they are going to say about Taiwan and military sales.”
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Keep this map in mind for the followingÂ post. Countries bordering Afghanistan include Tajikistan, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Just as Barack Obama plans to send an additional 17000 troops into Afghanistan, with an additional 13000 expected to follow, the last thing he needs is for the situation to get any worse or more complicated. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening. On Thursday, Kyrgyzstanâ€™s parliament voted to evict the United States from its air base at Manas, near Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan. This takes away an option for staging troops and equipment en route to Afghanistan. The development is a sign of how difficult it will be to improve the situation in Afghanistan.
The Manas air base is the last American airbase in Central Asia. Currently, 15000 soldiers and 500 tons of cargo pass through it each month. Given the Talibanâ€™s demonstrated capability to disrupt supply routes from Pakistan through the Khyber Pass, transportation through this base has been vital to efforts in Afghanistan. Losing it will hurt.
On February 2, at the African Union’s summit in Ethiopia, LibyanÂ President Muammar el-Qaddafi assumed leadership of the African Union. Already, he has made waves.
There was already plenty of controversy with his election as president. The African Union’s past three presidents have been from Tanzania, Ghana, and Nigeria, countries who are all democratic. Qaddafi has been in power for 4 decades, and can safely be called a dictator. Countries like South Africa have been very critical, and when Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf commented on the matter, she simply said, “I have accepted it.” When Qaddafi took over the summit on its second day, half the seats were empty.
An Australian man was caught with two live pigeons tucked into envelopes and held in with tights in his pants on an international flight from Dubai to Melbourne. The man was questioned by Customs after two eggs and some seeds were found in his luggage. Â Associated Press
Big number isn’t it. This is the current inflation rate in Zimbabwe, according to the Cato Institute. Read more about the situation here.
Foreign Policy Magazine has an interesting article discussing the counterinsurgency model created under the leadership of General Petraeus, as well as an interview with the General. The article discusses the controversy of this new doctrine, as well as the importance for the United States to change strategies in Afghanistan.
The interview with General Petraeus is what I would like to focus on for this post though. It’s clear in the interview that General Petraeus has been listening to critics of the status quo, which is a very encouraging sign. He begins the interview with the following statement:
In looking at which lessons learned in Iraq might be applicable in Afghanistan, it is important to remember a key principle of counterinsurgency operations: Every case is unique. That is certainly true of Afghanistan (just as it was true, of course, in Iraq). While general concepts that proved important in Iraq may be applicable in Afghanistanâ€”concepts such as the importance of securing and serving the population and the necessity of living among the people to secure themâ€”the application of those â€˜big ideasâ€™ has to be adapted to Afghanistan. The â€˜operationalizationâ€™ will inevitably be different, as Afghanistan has a very different history and very different â€˜muscle memoryâ€™ in terms of central governance (or lack thereof). It also lacks the natural resources that Iraq has and is more rural. It has very different (and quite extreme) terrain and weather. And it has a smaller amount of educated human capital, due to higher rates of illiteracy, as well as substantial unemployment, an economy whose biggest cash export is illegal, and significant challenges of corruption. Finally, it lacks sufficient levels of basic services like electricity, drinking water, and educationâ€”though there has been progress in a number of these areas and many others since 2001.
One cannot adequately address the challenges in Afghanistan without adding Pakistan into the equation. In fact, those seeking to help Afghanistan and Pakistan need to widen the aperture even farther, to encompass at least the Central Asian states, India, Iran, and even China and Russia.
For all of you who think the United States Air Force just goes around dropping bombs and flying stealth bombers all the time, think again. As this post from the excellentÂ blog Danger RoomÂ points out, the Air Force is also engaged in many missions around the world to use soft power.
To get an idea of the scale of this soft power that the Air Force is generating, check this out. The highlight in my opinion is that every day, there are an average of 900 airlift and air refueling missions, moving nearly 2000 tons of cargo and 6000 passengers. One of these missions involves providing humanitarian aid to Darfur.
Backing this up for a second, you may be wondering what soft power is. For that answer, I turn to the guy who coined the phrase, Michigan of the East (Harvard) Professor Joseph Nye. In a talk on Thursday, Professor Nye spoke about this concept, and how China could expect the United States to act on the world stage.
Nye noted that an effective strategy in the real world is the combination of hard and soft power in effective ways. “Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments of hard power. Knowing how to combine hard and soft power instruments is smart power,” he said.
In case anyone missed it, hard power thus involves the bombing and forceful activities that are conventionally associated with the armed forces. Soft power involves things like humanitarian aid.
Smart power is what Hillary Clinton talked about during her confirmation. It is exactly the kind of concept we should be talking about. The important thing will be to make sure that the balance that is struck for our smart power involves much more soft power than we have used under the Bush administration. The soft power that the Air Force already employs is excellent. We need more of that. Bombs and M-16s won’t succeed alone in the most pressing problems that the world faces.
This plane is in the air, where it’s supposed to be
The Wall Street Journal has a bunch of photos from the scene of the plane crash on the Hudson River. The pilot showed remarkable skill in being able to land the plane like this with EVERY PASSENGER SURVIVING. I want that guy flying any planes I go on. Rescue workers were also quick to arrive on the scene. Here is an article about the event.