Saturday, April 08, 2006

Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy

This paper, authored by two of today's foremost political scientists - John Mearsheimer (of the University of Chicago) and Stephen Walt (of Harvard University) - is really something you wouldnt expect of political scientists coming from these sorts of institutions. Moreover, the report arrives at some conclusions that people talk about behind closed doors - never in a report that the entire world has access to.

Having mentioned this, Walt and Mearsheimer have said the unspeakable, and are now being criticized for their "unscholarly work" as well as "anti-Semitism". The mass media isnt reporting this in their outlets, but the report has been very much like a bomb thrown in the center of a serene, peaceful village with everyone now awake and screaming. The report is so critical of the Israeli lobby and its pervasive influence on American foreign policy, that no publication here in the US was ready to publish it. An edited version of the report was eventually published in late March by the London Review of Books.

Here's the LRB article and here's the report in its entirety, and here's an abstract of the paper from Harvard's website:

"In this paper, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago's Department of Political Science and Stephen M.Walt of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government contend that the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy is its intimate relationship with Israel. The authors argue that although often justified as reflecting shared strategic interests or compelling moral imperatives, the U.S. commitment to Israel is due primarily to the activities of the “Israel Lobby." This paper goes on to describe the various activities that pro-Israel groups have undertaken in order to shift U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction."

More info/news on this report to come, though in the meantime please do leave comments.

Friday, April 07, 2006

US not to apply for membership to UN Human Rights Council

The weekend hasnt even started and i'm already a happy camper!

Jokes aside, I do feel this is a positive move. Not only was I initially upset at how a country like the US with its checkered history of perpetrating war crimes and then calling foul on others could apply for membership, but then even vie for a leadership position? It was not a pleasant feeling.

With this latest development, I believe it will give states the opportunity to work effectively and efficiently without having the influence of a hegemon peering over their shoulders. At the same time, it does raise the question of whether the US will continue to indulge in the activities it has been rebuked on now that it will not be a member of the HRC. The US has not signed or ratified several treaties, conventions and statutes, thereby absolving it of any responsibility vis-a-vis those documents. This move could potentially backfire.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Newly created UN Human Rights Council

Why can't the US play a responsible role in the international arena?

I ask this question as a concerned citizen who hails from a developing country which bore the brunt of US hegemony for most of its existence - Pakistan. Now that this new Human Rights Council (HRC) has come into existence, the US is still contemplating whether it should become a member or not. I, for one, have mixed views. I know they're only worth two cents, but here they are: The US should not be a member of the HRC because of its record of human rights violations during times of conflict.

Need I say more?

I can, but will save my breath for when I get into a heated argument with Ambassador John Bolton. I wouldnt be surprised if the US became a member and even ran for the position of Chair, but the HRC is fundamentally different from the former Human Rights Commission in terms of membership: human rights violators will not be allowed in this time. Well, then the US should be kept out! Guantanamo Bay is the biggest example I can give.

Applications are being accepted for HRC membership, and this Washington Post article gives some useful information regarding the process involved. Some excerpts:

The new council will be elected by the General Assembly on May 9 and hold its first meeting on June 19 in Geneva.

Under the rules for the new council, any U.N. member can announce its candidacy any time until the vote is completed; members of the council must be elected by an absolute majority of the 191 U.N. states _ 96 members. The United States lobbied unsuccessfully to have the new council elected by a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to keep out rights abusers.

To ensure global representation, the resolution gives Africa and Asia 13 seats each, Latin America and the Caribbean eight seats, Western nations seven seats, and Eastern Europe six seats.

Algeria is the only African candidate so far. The only Asian candidates are Bangladesh and Pakistan. Five countries have submitted their names for the six East European seats _ the Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Ukraine and Latvia. Five countries are also seeking the eight Latin American and Caribbean seats _ Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Nicaragua.

The United Nations Association (UNA), which i've often mentioned in my blog, is a great organization and one whose ideals and vision I share, but I just cant agree with them on this particular stance. They've compiled some great information from a US legislative point of view, and it gives several sides to the issue. A must read for anyone interested in the domestic angle of the debate.

In conclusion, the US shouldnt apply for membership, let alone a leadership position, in the HRC, until it cleans up its own act. Every country has human rights violations, but the question is, should we let the US, of all nations, get away with them? The US must learn to deal with the consequences of being a superpower in an increasingly globalized world. Dealing with these issues must begin at home first.

Pakistan to move quake-hit city

The moment I read this headline, I thought of Hurricane Katrina and the city of New Orleans - or what remains of it.

In the aftermath of the disaster that struck the Gulf Coast in the Fall of 2005, I had several discussions with people of all backgrounds, and suggested - while making sure I didnt offend! - that perhaps the city of New Orleans could be geographically shifted elsewhere. This obviously means you take a lot away from the city, because relocating inherently suggests that changes will be made. I suggested this more with the intention that the city's inhabitants would be made better off. According to environmental experts, the city is still unsafe to go back to. A lot of toxic chemicals are still present in the water and soil, and on top of that, homes will probably need to be demolished and rebuilt from scratch: a process that will take a very long time.

So, when I read that the historic city of Balakot (which was all but razed to the ground in Northern Pakistan's October 2005 earthquake), was going to be rebuilt elsewhere, I was pleasantly surprised. Why rebuild when you have knowledge of natural disasters and can foresee something similar happening in the future? The same can be said of many cities along the Gulf Coast. But the difference with Golf Coast localities are that one can build according to the climate and hopefully not worry about such an event happening in the future. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said or done for a developing country like Pakistan.