Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Paul Rogers, "A world in the balance," openDemocracy, November 13, 2008.

[These summary articles nearly always leave out something major. In this case, climate change is mentioned briefly under the section on the global economic recession, not as a causal factor, certainly not as a bigger market failure than the Great Depression (a view put forward several years ago by Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist of the World Bank), but as one of a list of factors including unsustainable inequality, social tensions, dysfunctional or absent governance that have to be "factored in" to a solution.

At UNEP, climate change is understood to be part of a different kind of package that includes major biodiversity loss, loss of fisheries, and deforestation which are effects of what we like to call prosperity. These are not "Third World problems;" they are our own stench. They stand as critiques of "successful" market economies. And they make the Soviet gulags look like Sunday School picnics. Quite a bit more than "factoring-in" will be called for.

On the other hand, inclusion of Russia as an emerging item on the international short-list is a welcome contribution. -jlt]

It can be useful at moments of transition to stand back from the flux of immediate events and try to identify wider patterns that can help make sense of them - and where they might be heading. The election victory of Barack Obama in the United States provides such an opportunity. This column outlines five principle areas of concern that the new president will inherit: Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, the al-Qaida movement, tensions between the west and Russia, and the security implications of the global economic recession. The analysis here is developed further in the Oxford Research Group's latest international-security monthly briefing (see "The Tipping Point?", ORG, October 2008).

Iraq: time of flux

The security situation in Iraq has eased over 2007-08, for a mix of reasons that reflect the changing dynamics of conflict there. The American military's "surge" strategy has undoubtedly had an effect, though the singling out of this by its neo-conservative and other supporters in the United States as the main or even the sole factor is misconceived. The enforced division of Sunni and Shi'a communities as a result of violence and insecurity, involving the displacement of millions of people, has also played a role; as have the ceasefire by the Mahdi army of the radical Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and the Sunni "awakening movement" which turned against al-Qaida and established an alliances of convenience with the Americans.

Read the rest here =>
Recommend this Post

Sphere: Related Content