Watching the developing spat between the PRC and the U.S. over the latter’s decision to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, one is reminded of the reality that security affairs have remained part and parcel of “low politics,” if that type of politics can be redefined as politics where suspicion, the dark shadows of zero-sum-related competitiveness, and one-upmanship are still lurking and ready to poison the ties between these two important actors. Contrast that version of low politics with its counterpart, “high politics,” if that phrase can be redefined as a description of the new realities where China is catching up with the United States, and the latter is beginning to look like an old curmudgeon, getting grumpy about its declining economic power and the related effects.
Continue reading “China and the U.S.: Between “Low” and “High” Politics”
The Iranian protest as a social movement
The mounting protest against the Islamic Republic in Iran is in the process of becoming a social movement. Sidney Tarrow, a specialist on the subject, defines a social movement as collective challenges (to elites and authorities) by people with common purposes and solidarity in sustained interactions with elites, opponents, and authorities. He specifically distinguishes social movements from political parties and interest groups; and that is an important distinction. Social movements in the context of this essay are not known for bringing about incremental political changes in the existing political system. More often than not, they result in radical changes leading to regime change. If the Iranian government is facing a rising tide of social movement, then that can be the best news for the United States, which has always despised the Islamic Republic for humiliating it through the “Iranian hostage crisis” in 1979. The ties between these two countries have remained tense since then. Iran, under the Ayatollahs, has consistently and virulently opposed the U.S. hegemony of its region. It has viewed that strategic affair as threatening to its stability and, indeed, to its very survival. The most recent cause of conflict between the two antagonistic countries is Iran’s nuclear research program. A regime change brought about through a social movement might also be the best news for Israel, who wishes to maintain its own nuclear monopoly, which has remained an ignored reality. However, that reality has created an ostensibly permanent military asymmetry between the states of that region and Israel. The Arab states have remained silently resentful of it. Iran, on the contrary, has decided to challenge it by staring its own nuclear research program.
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The saga of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship may best be described by the phrase “use and abandon.” That happened during the years following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when Pakistan eagerly became America’s ally. But when the Soviets were defeated and ousted from Afghanistan, the U.S. went home. Pakistan was left alone to deal with the consequences of militant Jihad, which America was too happy to revive in order to defeat the communist superpower.
Continue reading “Pakistan’s Gift to America: Turbulence Unlimited”
The Bush administration has thus far failed to resolve the nuclear conflict with two so-called “rogue states”–Iran and North Korea. In the final three months of his tenure, George W. Bush is making last-ditch deals with Russia and China to put pressure on Tehran and Pyongyang, respectively. The focus of those deals is to persuade North Korea, through China, to unravel its nuclear weapons program and dismantle its nuclear weapons. Though the Six-Party Talks–involving the U.S., China, South and North Korea, Russia and Japan–have been helpful, they have not succeeded in extracting a political solution to the conflict. In the case of Iran, Washington is persuading Russia to cooperate in passing tough U.N. sanctions unless Iran agrees to abandon its nuclear program. Even though Iran has been insisting that it has no aspirations to develop nuclear weapons, the Bush administration continues to pooh-pooh that explanation and states that Iran’s real intentions are to do just that.
Continue reading “Last Call: Denuclearizing Iran and North Korea”
America’s presidential election debates are driven by a regular fear-mongering drumbeat on Iran. Both Barack Obama and John McCain are involved in it. Iran is frequently described as a source of regional turbulence and a sponsor of terrorism. A similar type of drumbeat on Iraq led to America’s “war of choice.” Those–especially the critics of George W. Bush’s style of unilateralism that resulted in his decision to invade Iraq–who think that Democrats somehow will not fall into the same type of wrong-headed decision regarding Iran are patently wrong.
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The confluence of the waning months of the Bush presidency–when the lameduck factor is looming large– the continued insistence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the U.S. set a timetable of withdrawing from Iraq, the Russian invasion of Georgia, and the forced resignation of General Pervez Musharraf–President Bush’s favorite strongman in Pakistan–are creating a new buzz globally. That buzz can be highlighted along the lines that “Washington is forced to watch other powers shape events,” that a superpower is reborn (in reference to Russian military action against on Georgia), that a new world order is emerging, and that America’s decline will not easily be reversed.
Continue reading “The Birth Pangs of A Multipolar World Order”