Romney Obamacare

Obamacare & New Democrat Political Dilemmas

If the mainstay of the debate surrounding the forthcoming American presidential elections centres on Obamacare, the  President will not be staying in the White House for a second term.

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Romney Obamacare

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n what seemed to add insult to injury the Democrats trounced the Republicans, 18-5, in the 75th annual Congressional Baseball game in Washington last night. Chants of ‘We won healthcare!’ from the Democratic staffers and supporters at Nationals Park echoed through the stadium, referencing the largely favorable Supreme Court ruling on the Obamacare law earlier that day. For a moment, the energy felt like the massive electoral victories of 2006 or 2008. While supporters of the law and President should indeed celebrate the Court’s ruling, they should also be cautious and consider some unintended political consequences that could arise:

  • The win could be an energizing factor for the Republican base in November. Democrats will have to carefully balance how they frame the victory while on the campaign trail. The country is sharply divided over the ruling as shown in a recent Gallup poll and many independents could be pushed away if the law is a central talking point. Republicans can easily be critical of the law and demand a repeal. Democrats need to avoid making November an effective referendum on the law.
  • Governor Romney will attempt to make the election a referendum on Obamacare. In his response to the ruling the presumptive Republican nominee said ‘What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States. And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare.’  The Romney narrative is that ‘Obamacare’ is a tax hiking, deficit increasing, job killing, personally invasive law. This rhetoric doesn’t need to be true in order for it to be effective. If every Obama campaign stop is a retort to Romney’s claims and the defense of a law that the President expended substantial political capital to pass two years ago, it will eat up valuable time and resources that could be spent talking about other issues (job creation, counter-terrorism success, and Wall Street reform to name a few).
  • Key Senate races have become a lot more interesting. While the House can pass a repeal now it will most certainly stop in the Senate. The Republicans will frame the Senate (and the Presidency) as operating against the will of the people (true or not) and claim that controlling the upper house as central to removing the law. With vulnerable open seats in ND, WI, and VA and Senators Tester (MT), McCaskill (MO), and Nelson (FL) on the chopping block there is a substantial risk of the body turning red. While the Republicans will not gain a supermajority in the Senate (enough to overcome a filibuster), forcing a potential Senate Democratic minority to resort to a procedural road block to defend the law will push tensions to an all time high and will be extremely unpopular politically. The worst-case scenario for supporters of the law is moderate Democrats voting for repeal out of political fear.

Democrats should indeed be happy with the Court’s ruling however one must ask the question whether a negative decision on Obamacare would have made things easier in November. Democrats in sensitive districts will need to defend the law while simultaneously downplaying their support for it. The President is unable to downplay his support for the law but will need to balance his response to Romney’s attacks with the discussion of policy successes in other realms.  If the debate is focused around Obamacare, the President will lose.

Ed Miliband

The Return of Blue Labour

Ed Miliband’s most recent speeches on immigration and Englishness may well be an attempt to rejuvenate something borrowed, old and Blue but certainly not ‘New’-Blue Labour.

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Ed Miliband

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[dropcap]L[/dropcap]abour has not been shy in commencing numerous self-renewals. In fact the Labour leadership contest was perceived to be one great cathartic exercise to promote fresh ideas and reject certain aspects of the past. It was for this reason Blue Labour was captivating when it began its intellectual rise and seeped into popular mainstream debate. Here was a political project as backward looking as it was forward. To quote one of its architects and lead thinkers, Maurice Glassman, it was re-engaging with the party’s history when Labour’s renewal lied dormant.

Blue Labour was re-launched and popularised by the publication of The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox in 2011 with a foreword from the Labour leader. It was primarily concerned with community not commodity. In this respect it was not too dissimilar to the Big Society and Red Toryism which aimed to detoxify a political brand and suffered similar intellectual booms followed by busts. Commentators and academics were willing to engage with it because it offered a critique of Labour on markets and globalisation and attempted to appeal to voters lost at the 2010 election. According to Glassman, the opposition to traditional Labour values in politics always see “the benefits but not the distress, the efficiencies but not the disruption, the choice but not the coercion of markets whereas Labour has always understood both”. Blue Labour lamented New Labour for being recklessly naïve and aloof about finance capital, but too draconian and managerial when it came to the State.

Aside from presenting Ed Miliband with an exceptional opportunity to appeal to centre-right voters without committing himself to excessive public sector reform agenda, Labour intellectuals believed ‘Blue’ could be the new ‘New’ when it came to achieving cross-class support. However, Blue Labour offered an implausible construction regarding the identity and values of the working classes. Equally, it claimed to appeal to concerns that transcended working and middle class boundaries including austerity, immigration, identity, housing, and ‘a something for nothing’ welfare culture.

It suffered a catastrophic and potentially fatal PR disaster – Lord Glassman. Comments made between April and July last year by Glassman suggested that Britain should freeze immigration and broker a common good with English Defence League supporters. Labour quickly distanced itself from Lord Glassman and the Blue Labour project subdued.

Blue Labour’s restitution can be linked to its key mantra of supporting ‘Faith, Flag and family.’ Another of its architects, Jonathan Rutherford claimed Blue Labour was interested in “a new kind of patriotism, in the value of family and community”. Ed Miliband gave a speech amidst the Diamond Jubilee hype to criticise the parties historic approach to ‘Englishness’ and vowed to do more and talk more about it. He also demonised those on incapacity benefits in a speech on responsibility in June last year in pursuit of the support of the honest family (whatever that means).  More recently, in a speech to IPPR he recognised Labour’s detachment with voter’s immigration concerns. He disregarded studies that found Eastern European migration from 2004 had no impacts on native unemployment or wages or those that found that the new migrants made a substantial and disproportionately positive contribution to the public finances. Instead he chose to acknowledge the political reality of public perception (that hard working families are destabilised by migrant work and New Labour was in-part, responsible). His response was positively Glassman – a re-evaluation of the nature of our economic model. It appears the Blue Labour project (and its perceived political merits) are not easily forgotten.

It is perhaps unwise for Ed Miliband to continue down this tract. One frequent criticism of Blue Labour was that it was too nostalgic, an accusation quickly repudiated by its supporters. A significant amount of its thinking was entrenched within the early history of the Labour party and how the politics of then is fitting for the politics of today. I agree that Blue Labour has no nostalgia for post war old Labour or New Labour. However the presence of nostalgia altogether is undeniable. It flirts romantically with the parties past, constructing politics of virtue and utopian English socialism. It wrongly criticises the doers of post 1945, idolising forgotten heroes and thinkers. I always believe there is a place for history in contemporary politics but Blue Labour remains a construct confused. ‘Small c-conservatism’ mixed with socialism. Against a managerial state but proud to campaign to keep the forests in state ownership. Establishing a particularly English tradition based upon a German model of high levels of democratic interference in the economy. Blue Labour has been useful in getting Labour talking but that is where its utility ends. Blue Labour is more about a ‘politics of anti’ – an intellectual distaste with a great number of issues with little or no competent alternative programmes and Ed Miliband should be wary of trying to re-introduce its romanticism.

Tahrir Square

A Revolution On Sexual Violence In Egypt

Talk of democracy, civil liberties, and human rights should not be carried out in vain; Egyptians need to come out and speak up against the barbarity of sexual violence.

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Tahrir Square

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[dropcap]N[/dropcap]atasha Smith is one of the many reasons why I am a feminist and why Egypt still has a long way to go as it continues its revolutionary journey.

The detailed and harrowing account of Natasha’s unfortunate ordeal has left many women reeling, ashamed and disgusted. Prominent journalists and feminists took to twitter to express their disgust at the sexual assault which took place in the very heart of Egypt’s revolution – Tahrir Square.

Her brave and courageous openness about her experience should not be called an eye opener. The eyes are already open, but, in Egypt, sexual harassment, assault, rape and other forms of sexual violence are unfortunately ignored or selectively dismissed. Some are ignored for risk of shame and tarnishing the reputation of the girl or man, and in many cases, there is utter denial of the incident. Just as Natasha’s piece describes, the apathetic reaction and subsequent attitude of doctors and nurses, at the hospital where she was being treated in the aftermath, means many Egyptian women are forced to remain silent about their own experiences for fear or certainty that their story will fall on deaf ears. Add to that the risk of interrogation regarding their marital status and whether one is a virgin or not: such questions can only further add insult to injury and alludes to the idea that the victim could be blamed.

Natasha’s experience, with that of Lara Logan and countless other western and Egyptian women who endure sexual harassment, is also indicative of the attitude of a religiously and culturally conservative society that has overlooked the severity of the nature of sexual violence and its implications. A society and culture that advocates a sense of purity and shame with regards to the treatment of oneself and of its fellow human beings, informed by Islamic tradition and principles, has some serious deep underlying issues which need to be addressed if Egypt is to move forward and make solid progress.

If denial of incidents of sexual violence and blaming the victim is the norm of how these incidents are viewed and consequently dealt with, then if anything has to change, it is society’s awareness of and attitude towards sexual violence, support and counsel for victims and punishment of perpetrators. However, Natasha’s account and Egyptian women fearful of voicing their own experiences demonstrates the rarity of such resolve.

A common notion of feminists and commentators of the Arab world claims, that, the underlying cause of this behaviour of men towards vulnerable women goes much deeper to the male psyche in the Arab world where women are still treated as second class citizens against their male counterparts. This understanding is also informed by misinterpreted and man-made Islamic traditions juxtaposed with old Bedouin ideas where women are subjugated to obey, and their individual freedom is curtailed.

The reverence of man in religion and culture has culminated in a centuries old attitude, which has only purported to obstinate the progress of women in wider society. Additionally, the evolution of religious forces over time has tightened man’s grip and control over women. Consequentially creating a society where some men feel women are at their disposal, and therefore, can treat a woman how they please: an attitude that is deeply entrenched in their mind and will be very difficult to eradicate.

To counter such attitudes, feminists, and women have worked hard to depict their image of how a woman should be perceived. Religious fanatics and Islamists have all spurted rhetoric about the vulnerability and value of a woman, and how she needs to be protected. The veil is symbolic of these ideals, but has only further caged women to another submissive religious role – many have adopted this wilfully. However, the progressive cultural and social status of women in Egypt and the Arab world still remains far out of reach. Women also carry the burden of responsibility to make sure her reputation remains intact and that of her family’s. However, when a man lays a hand on a woman, what happens to his reputation?

On the whole, the acts of a few bad apples do not represent Egypt. Natasha attests to this, so can many Egyptians and I can too, having experienced life in Egypt and gauging the cultural lifestyles of many Egyptians.

However, sexual assault in Egypt is endemic and chronic. It is not just someone groping a lady on the street, or on a busy tram or bus, it also functions as a form of torture. Sex as a subject matter is increasingly suppressed in Egypt, it is still very taboo, hence the rarity of open discussion about sexual violence. Egyptians can change their attitudes, and can change how they choose to perceive sexual violence as a menace in their society. Again, this is up to the nation that has just democratically elected their first President in nearly 30 years. So talk of democracy, civil liberties, and human rights should not be carried out in vain and Egyptians need to come out and speak up against this barbarity.

It is therefore encouraging to know that Natasha has not allowed this incident to cease her mission to expose sexual violence and increase awareness of it. She is indeed a courageous young girl, who despite her own experience will hopefully be a catalyst for real change in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world in countering sexual violence and empowering more women to fight it.

DWP

The Welfare System: Encourage The Lazy, Enrich The Needy

If we can spend £32 billion on an extra fast train to Birmingham and back, then I think we can afford a few changes in the welfare system to encourage the lazy to give something back, whilst lending the needy a true helping hand.

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DWP

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‘[dropcap]S[/dropcap]lash’, ‘axe’, ‘strip’ and ‘scrap’ have been the most popular verbs used to describe PM David Cameron’s latest proposals in relevance to housing benefits for young people.

Coming from someone adamant on dismantling elitism, whilst Cameron may be blindly accused of merely trying to please his Tory backbenchers, some of his suggestions make absolute sense – notably in relation to community work. If Cameron’s wishes were to be commanded, 5000-10,000 people under the age of twenty-five could be forced to take part in community work if they do not find employment or training after two years. Am I the only one who thinks being able to live comfortably without having to work a single hour in two entire years has First World spoilt brat written all over it?

Perhaps the people in protest of this concept seemingly don’t know enough of the facts to be resentful. Maybe if they were aware that two billion pounds made up of their tax money is going towards perfectly competent people because they are “workshy”. Not working whilst the rest of the world works is criminal in the sense it means one is not merely borrowing, but taking other people’s money with no need or intention to return it. Community service is therefore not only the perfect opportunity for one to put back some of what society has given them , but will inevitably stand as an incentive for young people to work for money.

Nonetheless, there are unquestionably a handful of young people in desperate situations who are genuinely not popping kids out like pringles for a bit more wonga; the character Link from the nineties novel ‘Stone Cold’ is a perfect example, considering he was forced into a life of tramp-hood after fleeing from an intolerable household. This  is why simply ‘slashing’, ‘axing’, ‘stripping’ or ‘scrapping’ housing benefits for young people is not efficient. The welfare system instead needs to be approached with positive reform – changes to improve, not merely abolish.

For instance, whilst Cameron suggested the “culture of entitlement” must be addressed in order to boost the economy, the problem desperately needs to be addressed from a social perspective rather than a terribly (and typically Tory), economic one. Long term efficacious change is only possible with internal reform in the welfare system – reform that goes further than mere policy alterations to please political party members. More investment must go in to really addressing the situation of those sincerely in need of state support, such as analysing individual cases in order to really appreciate who needs what. It is time for the system to work with the individual as opposed to the collective, because a general outline of who qualifies for housing benefits for example is clearly not sustainable.

This is not an optimistic, costly ideal, but a promising solution that has the potential to pave the path to positive change. Ultimately if we can spend £32 billion on an extra fast train to Birmingham and back (the high-speed rail network), then I think we can afford a few changes in the welfare system to encourage the lazy to give something back, whilst lending the needy a true helping hand.

Russia and China

The Sino-Russian Relationship: The Next Axis Of Power?

The fear for future joint military operations led by the Sino-Russian axis remains vivid, while the relevance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an alternative to the Western power alignment cannot be overlooked.

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Russia and China

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he 2001 Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation, signed by China and Russia, has thrust the two countries towards growing relationships and economic cooperation in the last ten years. As a matter of fact, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization that followed just one month later, provided the general framework conducive to improve relations among its members (China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) on economic, security and energetic issues, while on the other hand the organization, by covering the 60% of the Eurasia landmass, posed itself as the political bulwark against further U.S. penetration in the region.

Political and economic ties between China and Russia, former Cold War rivals, have deepened steadily in the afore-mentioned fields, as the last SCO international meeting held in Beijing on the 6th and 7th June has confirmed. According to the Russian press agency Interfax, Sino-Russian bilateral trade approached $100 billion this year, backed by an impressive 40% annual rate in the past two years. In addition, the two partners have called to further stabilizing their economic ties, by signing a mutual fund of $4 billion worth, in order to develop reciprocal and broader investments in mining and consumer goods industries, infrastructure, agriculture and power plant construction, and to double trade figures to $200 billion by 2020.

Another relevant point discussed in Beijing has concerned military and security cooperation in the Asiatic area. The Chinese PLA relies massively on Russian military technologies purchasing, even though the higher devices are not being sold to Chinese anymore. Despite this partial refusal due to Russian security concerns, both the major Asiatic powers are willing to maintain naval joint exercises in the Yellow Sea, as opposed to the U.S.-Vietnamese ones which occurred in the last months. Indeed, by publicly promoting these operations as pillar in guaranteeing regional security on the bases of international law, the strategic non-declared objective is to limit the American influence in the region after the announced 60% redeployment of its naval forces in Asia.

Finally, both Russia and China, as permanent members of the UN Security Council, have stressed rejection of military intervention in the affairs of Syria, in order to halt all acts of violence on those territories and to respect comprehensive national dialogue on the basis of Syria’s unity, sovereignty and independence. The shady statement, adopted by the Organization’s six members of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, put together different and contradictory principles, on one hand by calling upon the international community to respect the principles and basics of the UN Charter and the rules of the international law, on the other by recalling the independent choices of the region’s peoples.

Alongside common strong economic, security and diplomatic positions, the relationship between Russia and China suffers from some minor disagreements, mostly due to disputes over Russian unwillingness to sell its fighter jets and other military hardware to China, and the longstanding wrangle between Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corp. about the price of gas to be delivered by two Siberian pipelines: Russia prefers to link gas prices to oil prices, as it does in Europe, while China wants a lower price.

Despite these marginal questions, the strategic and political alliance between Russia and China is improving day by day, partially disguised by the shroud of fog provided by the SCO. As a matter of fact, it’s clear how its two major powers and their respective national interests lead such a multilateral organization, whose most important concern is to promote a multipolar world and, accordingly, to limit the influence of the United States both in East and Central Asia. In fact, it’s no coincidence that in the last SCO summit the special guest was the Afghan President Hamid Karzai (along with the Iranian President Ahmadinejad): in order to secure Chinese and Russian energetic and geopolitical interests in the country after the first U.S. troops withdraws, Putin and Hu Jintao have both declared a desire to increase their military presence throughout Central and South Asia. In addition, this new alignment should be, according to the Chinese head of state, the regional tool of management in the foreseeable future.

In conclusion, the future alliance between Russia and China could be seen through two different perspectives: from a more naïve and cooperative standpoint, it should not be viewed as a threat to U.S. strategic national interests, rather as a new form of collective security concurrent with the American strategic and regional interests related to the prevention of terrorism in Central Asia (as a form of “thanksgiving” towards the U.S. and NATO after years of Russian and Chinese free-riding). Conversely, leaving the Eurasia heartland to Russia and China, along with the likely strengthening of the Chinese presence in East Asia, could be a risky bet to win for the U.S. Indeed, recent rumours by the Persian service of the Fars News Agency have revealed an imminent joint war game in Syria, according to which 90,000 forces will be involved, along with 400 warplanes, 1,000 tanks, plus several Russian and Iranian battleships, submarines and 12 Chinese warships (whose passage through the Suez Canal would be granted by Egypt). Even if Syrian and Russian officials have promptly denied the news (that has coincidentally come out with the worsening of the Syrian situation on international level), the fear for future joint military operations led by the Sino-Russian axis remains vivid, while the relevance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an alternative to the Western power alignment cannot be overlooked.

kony hitler bin laden

Kony & Justice: A View From Uganda

There is no option but for the UPDF to continue their pursuit of LRA until Kony and all his commanders are captured and have them answer charges of crimes against humanity at the ICC.

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kony hitler bin laden

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[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter all the mayhem visited upon the people of northern Uganda by the notorious Joseph Kony’s Lords Resistance Army (LRA), it is unfortunate that there are those in the political realm who are pushing for amnesty to be granted to Major General Caesar Acellam, one of LRA’s top commanders, who was captured by the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) this month.

This group of Kony and Acellam sympathizers need to be reminded of the horrendous crimes committed by the rag-tag LRA bandits against their fellow country men. The mobile LRA gang was started by Kony and his henchmen in January 1987 and went on to wreck havoc in northern Uganda for over 20 years, killing and maiming thousands of innocent civilians and driving well over 2 million people out of their homes. One of their killing fields was at Purengo, where they executed 30 civilians in 1989 and later massacred another 400 in Lamwo county, Kitgum district. They did not even spare young children when they raided St. Mary’s college in Aboke Apac district on October 10, 1996 and abducted 139 students taking them as sex slaves and enlisting others in the LRA army.

Kony and his group of butchers have murdered an estimated 30,000 people during the execution of their two-decade, ruthless rebellion in the northern part of the country. Under Kony and the now captured Acellam’s command, the LRA used machetes and hoes to maim their victims, chopping lips and ears off their captives. They raided schools and forced students to fight and kill their own relatives. Many of the surviving victims will never recover from the trauma visited upon them by the blood-stained hands of Kony, Acellam and those under their command.

Because of this near unprecedented cruelty, Kony, Acellam, and the wider LRA deserve no sympathy in the civilised world.

It has been 12 years since the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (often referred to as the International Criminal Court Statute or the Rome Statute), the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome. The statute, which came into force on July 1, 2002 and has since been ratified by 110 countries including Uganda, has drastically changed international criminal law as we have come to know it .

The Rome Statute, and its implementing agency the International Criminal Court, has in the short period of its existence ensured that perpetrators of crimes against humanity do not escape the rule of law. And the list of indicted suspects grows by the day; the latest being those accused of perpetuating crimes against humanity during the 2007/8 post election violence in Kenya.

Kony’s deputies – Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo and Raska Lukwiya – have also been indicted but are yet to face trial at the ICC. They stand accused of 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the people of northern Uganda in the last 20 years. Acellam, although not indicted by the ICC, was part of the criminal acts of Kony and the LRA for all these years: Acellam must not be allowed to hide from justice under the amnesty law.

Kony and Acellam have long duped the international community and the leadership in this country, costing the Ugandan taxpayer billions of shillings in wasted spending on the joke that was the Juba peace talks. It was clear from the onset of the talks that Kony – aware of the heinous crimes he has committed against humanity – would never surrender without putting up a fight.

That’s why there is no option but for the UPDF, supported by Uganda’s regional and international allies, to continue their pursuit of LRA until Kony and all his commanders are captured and have them answer charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the ICC either here in Kampala or at the Hague.

Once a person has committed war crimes, as spelt out in the Rome Statute, then that person should not benefit from the provisions of our amnesty law. War crimes and crimes against humanity are international in nature and suspects can be picked from anywhere in the world by any spirited individual or state to arraigned them at the ICC for trial.

The UPDF should use all its capabilities and bring all resources to bear in this new effort to find Kony and his commanders to have them answer for their criminal acts. The UPDF should earn the support of the people of Uganda and hope our brothers and sisters in northern Uganda never suffer again the vicious brutality of Kony and the LRA.

American passport

The Implications Of Immigration Reform United States v. Arizona

While immigration reform may be less salient an issue than the economy in this election year, the relationship between the executive and the legislature over the course of President Obama’s first term is set to be a recurring feature of debate

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American passport

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[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Monday, the Supreme Court upheld a provision of an Arizona state law that requires the police to check the immigration status of individuals they stop for offences of any kind.  Simultaneously, however, the court struck down provisions that would, amongst other things, authorise the arrest of immigrants without a warrant for crimes that could lead to deportation. Explaining the decision to strike down elements of the law, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that ‘Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.’ Despite this watering down of Arizona’s law, the court’s decision has nonetheless been met with various criticisms.

On the one hand, conservatives such as Justice Antonin Scalia have gone so far as to argue that all provisions should have been upheld by the court. On the other hand, the Mexican government has articulated concerns that the remaining provision alone could threaten the civil rights of its citizens. Meanwhile, in the context of the US presidential election, the ruling has provided Republican hopeful Mitt Romney with an opportunity to both criticise President Obama’s lack of action on the issue of immigration and defend the right of states to take matters into their own hands.

Romney has responded to the Supreme Court ruling by suggesting that it is the result of states being forced to act because of dithering at a federal level. Romney has argued that because President Obama ‘didn’t act, state and local governments have had to act, the courts have got involved and it’s a muddle.’ As highlighted by commentators, this analysis suggests significant disagreement with the Supreme Court given that the court opinion explicitly prioritises federal law over state law. Moreover, Romney has  advocated state legislation on the issue whilst simultaneously criticising the President for failing to pursue national solutions, stating ‘I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to states, not less’, adding in a statement that ‘I believe that each state has the duty – and the right – to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities.’ The statement, which also maintains the need for a ‘national immigration strategy’, thus reveals an attempt to emphasise both a reverence for small government and the importance of federal involvement.

President Obama’s reaction to the decision shifts emphasis away from state legislation and towards federal solutions, focusing on the importance of progress on the issue in Congress. In a statement, Obama responded to the court decision by saying, ‘What this decision makes unmistakably clear is that Congress must act on comprehensive immigration reform. A patchwork of state laws is not a solution to our broken immigration system – it’s part of the problem.’ This statement follows a speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) last week in which the President said that, ‘In the face of a Congress that refuses to do anything on immigration, I’ve said that I’ll take action wherever I can,’ in reference to an executive order to stop the deportation of young people enacted in mid-June. The President’s remarks can be viewed as a part of his wider effort to motivate Congress into action on the economy, recently centred around a five-point ‘To-Do List’ for the legislature to work on before the summer recess. More broadly, however, there is also an attempt here to draw attention to obstructionism in Congress as an explanation for what Obama’s critics label as his own inaction.

While immigration may be less salient an issue than the economy in this election year, the relationship between the executive and the legislature over the course of President Obama’s first term is set to be a recurring feature of debates until the polls close in November. The ruling in United States v. Arizona has undoubtedly drawn attention to the interlinked relationships between the separated powers, and has served as another point of political contention between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Egypt Arab Spring

Egypt’s New President: A View From Cairo

Allowing Mursi to become President represents a certain acceptance by the military council that, in order to go forward, a few steps backward must be accepted.

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Egypt Arab Spring[dhr]

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he announcement that Mohammad Morsi is to become President of Egypt is, to state the blindingly obvious, intriguing. Neither the future of the country, nor the exact role that SCAF wants to play, are any clearer than 48 hours ago. Sitting on an 11th floor balcony overlooking the Al-Jazeera camera crew, it was not hard to hear the celebratory roar unleashed by partisans of the president-elect. This, to them, must surely feel like a releasing of the shackles that have weighed them down for the vast majority of the recent past.

That being said, this by no means indicates a newfound willingness of the ruling military council to relinquish power. Rather, it could be that this is merely a new move to simultaneously maintain their strength while attempting to defuse tension. It must be stated that any conjecture about the country’s politics is, at best, an exercise in hypothesis, and dichotomizing may reveal a picture that is in fact not so black and white.

Nevertheless, this situation could result in more control by a civilian government, however it is unlikely that an institution, that of the military elite that has ran the country for recent decades, would suddenly be eager to cede power to another body, not to mention one which it has battled for over half a century. Egypt has gone from colony, to a monarchy, to a government run by the military, and the idea of allowing a staunch adversary effective control over affairs is simply not realistic. It could be that this is merely a ploy to create the illusion of a democracy, in the hopes of lessening opposition and ultimately maintaining control.

The other standpoint is that the military is actually eager and willing to allow someone else control over affairs, and are trying their best to manage the transition. This is not completely outside the realms of possibility, however if the past is any indicator of the future, one should be doubtful of such a possibility. This story is not one that will be finished soon, and there are many pages left to turn. What is certain is that today marks a certain crossroads of Egyptian history, and it is anyone’s guess which direction events will take. Until proceedings indicate otherwise, I am of the opinion that this development represents a certain acceptance by the military council that, in order to go forward, a few steps backward must be accepted. It is no longer possible to maintain absolute rule over the people, and power sharing will become a constant theme. The idea that they simply want to retreat to the sidelines, however, I cannot accept.

Reaper Drone

Drones & The Missing Moral Compass

The US is sending out the message that it can target whom it wants, whenever it wants, with no repercussions for themselves. Other states will undoubtedly follow their dubious moral lead.

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Reaper Drone

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[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n the 18th June, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions called on the United States to clarify its legal justification for killing, rather than capturing, those they suspect to be terrorists. As noted in many reports, these killings are now usually achieved by the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, aka drones. Praised for their speed and supposed accuracy, drones represent the greatest advance in military technology in the past ten years, and perhaps the greatest step backward in morality.

The use of drones in killing those assumed to be terrorists is seen as causing a loss of the moral high-ground and as a failure in moral leadership by the United States. The most recent high-profile death by drone was that of Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was killed by a drone strike in Pakistan on the 4th June. The operation was deemed ‘inhumane’ both by al-Libi’s brother and human rights campaigners. Al-Libi, second-in-command in Al-Qaeda, was obviously a strategically important target for the US, who stated that his death brought the organisation ‘closer to its ultimate demise than ever’.  Yet his death provoked moral outrage and statements of condemnation from Pakistan and international human rights organisations.

The technology, ostensibly the most accurate and least likely to cause civilian death, while used by many States (including the UK) finds its champion in the United States, who have embraced drones for reconnaissance and strategic targeting operations. With the ability to be controlled by a person in a room thousands of miles away from the scene of the operation, the immediacy of war disappears; some have called drone operating as akin to playing a video game. Whilst the use of drones is steeped in just war rhetoric, it is difficult to term such a strike ‘just’ when almost all of the losses are sustained by one side, while the other remains safely ensconced in a room far away.

The use of drones in the context of the al-Libi killing and other killings in Pakistan and Yemen represent a transgression of international law. Drone strikes, when undertaken in an armed conflict scenario against a combatant or civilian directly participating in hostilities (such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan) are sanctioned under international law. The U.S. is not engaged an armed conflict with Pakistan or Yemen. It is not possible under international law to be in an armed conflict with a transnational non-State organisation such as Al-Qaeda – an armed conflict requires violence between two or more States. Violence between a State and a terrorist organisation is governed by international human rights law. Human rights law requires that an individual be captured rather than killed if possible. Typically referred to as the ‘capture or kill’ dilemma, it appears that “the capture part has become largely theoretical.” Recent reports revealed that President Obama personally goes over a list of those deemed a threat to the US, and more often than not chooses to kill. Another worry rests on the fact that the remote drones used in the al-Libi killing and other such strikes are operated by the CIA. CIA agents are non-combatants, and thus have no right to take part in an armed conflict, if, as the US claim, that is what the violence between the US and Al-Qaeda is. The US invokes the rhetoric of war and law of war in order to legitimise their targeting of individuals away from the battlefield.

There are serious concerns raised by the lack of transparency of the drone programme, which has expanded in the three years since Obama took office. Prior to 2008, there were 48 targets killed by drones in 5 years ; 51 were targeted and killed in 2009 alone, and the attacks continue to increase. These figures account only for publicly recognised drone strikes – the programme is top-secret, and as such it is impossible to know exactly how many drone strikes have occurred. This also makes it exceedingly difficult to ascertain how many civilians have died as a result of drone attacks. The US figure ranges from between 50 to 60 in the past eight years, and in 2011 it was stated that civilian casualties were in single figures that year from drone strikes. This contradicts other reports, such as that from the Pakistani Human Rights Committee, which places the number of Pakistani casualties at 957 in 2010 alone, and by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which places the figure in the thousands.

We have almost no knowledge of what criteria must be fulfilled in order to be put on the ‘death list’- what constitutes a militarily strategic target, under what parameters a terrorist is defined, what threat level they must hold or how imminent a threat an individual must be. For those targeted for aiding terrorist activity, we do not know what falls under ‘aiding’, be it the providing of financial funding or the storing of weapons.  If an individual is wrongly targeted, we have no knowledge as to whether there is a system of accountability or who in the chain of command might be held responsible for the death of an innocent civilian.

Drone use and strikes will continue to increase as the technology becomes more widespread. On an individual state level, the international community has remained remarkably silent on the US’ excessive drone attacks, inadvertently lending them a tacit legitimacy. This will likely encourage the use of similar tactics by other states. Based as it is on reciprocity, the blatant flouting and disregard by the US of international law weakens the law as it discourages others from abiding by it. The lack of transparency is the most damaging aspect of the programme, both for America’s standing as a moral leader (which many will argue has been in decline for years) and for morality in war. The argument that drone strikes may not be the most moral option, but that they are the best option, is not good enough- capture may not be the easiest or most practical option but it should at the very least be considered. The US is sending out the message that it can target whom it wants, whenever it wants, with no repercussions for themselves. Other states will undoubtedly follow their dubious moral lead.

EU-Israeli Relations

EU-Israeli Relations: Time For Sanctions?

EU-Israeli relations must drastically change if the EU wishes to uphold the values they claim to embody. If they do not, the EU will bear part of the responsibility for the Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.

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EU-Israeli Relations[dhr]

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f there is anything the politicians in the European Union’s parliament have become experts on, it is devising and applying economic and diplomatic sanctions on countries they deem as ‘outlaw’ states. Their list of targets is wide-ranging: Syria, Belarus, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and, of course, Iran. In many cases, the justification for the implementation of sanctions is sound, usually instigated by the abuse of human rights and a lack of political freedom.

If we accept these reasons as sufficient for the implementation of sanctions against a foreign country, then we should ask why none are being applied to Israel. To be sure, one could immediately object that it is useless to engage in such talk since the EU does not regard Israel as an ‘outlaw’ state such as the examples mentioned above.

It is at this point that the interesting fact of the matter lies. Recently, the EU has published two reports outlining the persistent violation of international law and human rights on behalf of Israel against the native Arab population. Before asking further questions, some factual quoting is in order.

The two reports are the EU Heads of Mission report on East Jerusalem published in 2011 and the European Neighbourhood Policy on Israel published in mid-May of this year.

The latter highlights irregularities in most areas it investigated. In the field of “freedom of association and freedom of expression and the media”, the report notes that “an increasing number of bills that can be labelled as potentially discriminatory or even anti-democratic” were proposed in the Knesset and the ones which have been passed “are examples of laws that raise concerns, as they can…alienate the Arab Israeli minority”.

Moreover, the “progress on the situation of the Arab minority was limited”. Furthermore, “the exercise of media freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly remained problematic in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2011”, “Israeli detentions of Palestinian journalists…continued” and “the situation of Palestinian human rights defenders remained critical”.

The report also noted that due to the acceptance of Palestine as a member of UNESCO, “Israel temporarily suspended the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority, contrary to its obligations under the Paris Protocol”, the document which outlines the economic relations between Israel and Palestine signed in April 1994 as part of Oslo 1.

The report went on to highlight that “settlement construction and expansion continued in the West Bank…with a surge in settlement activity at the end of 2011” and that “this undermines the prospects for a two-state solution”.

On the issue of administrative detention, the report notes that “there was a sharp increase in the number of administrative detainees” and that “the EU has repeatedly conveyed its concerns about this practice to the Israeli authorities in the framework of regular political and human rights dialogue”.

Not even children were spared. The report informs us about “insufficient protection of children during arrest and detention” with the abominable “cases of solitary confinement of children” continuing.

Further complaints include breach in freedom of religion for the Arab Christian minority, Palestinian social and economic rights being “hampered by Israeli restrictions on freedom of movement” and property rights coming under “particular strain…due to the demolition of their homes by Israel” in Area C of the West Bank.

If you find these findings harsh, then take a look at the EU Heads of Mission report on East Jerusalem. Here we find out that “Israel is actively perpetuating its [i.e. East Jerusalem’s] annexation by systematically undermining the Palestinian presence in the city through the continued expansion of settlements, restricting zoning and planning, ongoing demolitions and evictions, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care and the inadequate provision of resources and investment”.

The report explicitly acknowledges that “Israel’s actions in East Jerusalem have run counter to its stated commitment to a sustainable peace with the Palestinians” and “in accordance with international law, the EU regards East Jerusalem as occupied territory” thus considering “the construction of the separation barrier illegal under international law where it is built under occupied territory.”

The document continues with extensive and detailed criticisms of Israel’s settlement policy, archaeological projects supposedly searching for biblical artifacts, “planning, demolitions, eviction and displacements”, the “residency status”, “access and movement” of the native Arab population and inequalities in the allotment of education and health resources for local Arabs.

In a few words, the two reports highlight the almost total disregard of basic human rights on behalf of the Israeli political establishment when dealing with its native Arab population. They explicitly demonstrate violations of international law and the adoption of discriminatory policies on the behalf of Israel.

If the EU is fully aware of these facts, the obvious question is not only why the Union does nothing to put real pressure on Israel, such as its beloved threat and implementation of diplomatic and economic sanctions, but especially why it is doing the exact opposite by increasing its economic and diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

If the politicians in the European parliament want to uphold the values they claim the EU embodies, and if they do not want to smack of hypocrisy, they need to drastically change its relations with Israel and begin to consider the use of sanctions. Until they do so, they bear part of the responsibility for the Israeli occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people.

How Well Do You Know Africa: Answers

1) The Sahara is the largest desert in Africa.
2) Egypt shares a border with Libya.
3) Abuja is the capital of Nigeria.
4) The second longest river in Africa is the Congo; the longest is the Nile.
5) Idi Amin gave himself the title ‘His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular’.
6) Arabic, in its various forms, is the most widely spoken language in Africa.
7) Former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie is considered to be the messiah by Rastafaris.
8) There are 54 countries in Africa (including the recently created South Sudan).
9) Nelson Mandela assumed leadership of South Africa on the 10th May 1994.
10) The ancient Greek word Aphrike means ‘without cold’
11) The current President of Rwanda is Paul Kagame.
12) The equator passes through 6 non-island African countries: Gabon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Somalia.
13) Egypt, until the recent political turmoil, was the most popular African tourist destination.
14) Mussolini invaded the Ethiopian Empire in 1935.
15) The Empire regained its independence in 1941.
16) Timbuktu is situated in Mali.
17) Mohamed Bouazizi’s actions catalysed the ‘Arab Spring’.
18) Lake Volta is situated in Ghana.
19) Muammar al-Gaddafi said that he could recognise neither the Israeli nor the Palestinian state owing to their respective idiocy.
20) Boko Haram, when literally translated, means ‘Western education is sinful’.

the White House

White House Leaks: Where’s Joe The Plumber When You Need Him?

The leaking of top secret information by the White House combined with the heavy-handed prosecution of Bradley Manning make it easy to claim hypocrisy. But, compared to the Bush Administration and the Valerie Plame affair, Obama is arguably an angel.

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the White House

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he White House is currently under fire from Republicans, who say the Obama administration has leaked sensitive national security information. Senator John McCain has called for a special counsel to investigate the leaks to be appointed. Under this pressure, the Justice Department announced that they would investigate the leak accusations.

While the President himself has strongly denied this, his administration has leaked information to journalists and authors. This isn’t that unusual. Every White House gives select journalists information they can’t give publicly in an attempt to spin news or draw attention to certain actions of policies. There is a long history of leaks involving national security information.

The Obama administration seems to be leaking successes of its national security policy, which wouldn’t get attention otherwise. This is especially true of the drone campaign. While controversial, the campaign has killed hundreds of suspected terrorists (along with a significant amount of civilians) in Yemen, and elsewhere. The drone campaign puts lie to the conservative accusation that Obama is some kind of dovish peacenik. While the drone campaign began under George W Bush, they have increased exponentially under Obama.

But the campaign should be secret. Revealing in detail things such as “signature strikes” allows the targets to come up with ways around them in the future and renders them less effective. While it is understandable that the administration would want to highlight what is sees as a major success, a drone campaign in nominally friendly countries like Pakistan should at least have a veneer of deniability. The administration itself knows this, as can be seen by the fact that it had always avoided comment on it until last month (coincidentally, just as the 2012 election kicked off).

As well as information about the drone campaign, the White House has also leaked detials about last March’s raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. According to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, it had been agreed in the Situation Room that they wouldn’t release any more information about the Abbottabad raid. But over the last twelve months there has been a steady stream of information shared with the media, including for a History Channel documentary in which President Obama himself appeared (this documentary particularly angered Robert Gates).

Showing how much information is leaked for political purposes, the White House has allowed the film-makers of a movie about the raid an unprecedented amount of access. The movie by Kathryn Bigelow (of Hurt Locker fame), is going to be released right before the election in the fall by Democratic mega-donor Harvey Weinstein.

There’s a major hypocrisy factor with the way senior officials are sharing information with friendly reporters. The Obama White House has prosecuted whistleblowers in a much more zealous way that it’s predecessors. The most famous of these is Bradley Manning, the Army private who leaked hundreds of thousands of documents to Wikileaks. While Manning has been made an example of, facing life imprisonment, members of the White House staff have leaked even more sensitive information. A lot of the Wikileaks information wasn’t classified as top secret, unlike information about the Bin Laden raid or the drone program.

But as with so many others issues, this administration looks better when compared to its predecessor. As well as the usual leaks to people like Bob Woodward there was also a much sleazier leak, the Valerie Plame affair. In that instance, the cover of an undercover CIA officer was blown after her husband criticized the administration’s case for war with Iraq. Ultimately Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby was punished, though it was likely more senior officials had also leaked the name. In that instance, the Bush White House had ruined the career of someone who had spent her life defending her country as a CIA officer in order to attack her husband. In terms of motivation at least, that is an order of magnitude worse than the Obama administration’s desire to trumpet its success.

Freedom Monument Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands: Has The Game Changed?

With ‘new players’ on the scene and China’s expansion pushing the international situation ever closer to a bi-polar order, perhaps the most vital question is whether the international community is prepared to accept an Argentinian occupation of the Falkland Islands.

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Freedom Monument Falkland Islands

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[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was announced this week that the residents of the Falkland Islands will hold a referendum on their political status in 2013. The main focus of which will be their links with the United Kingdom, with 1,600 registered voters on the Islands deciding whether to remain under British rule or back Christina Fernandez’s view that ‘Las Malvinas’ should be a part of Argentina.

Views are mixed as to the seriousness of the escalated tension between the British and Argentine governments over the last few months. Some see the situation as harmless sabre rattling which should have been anticipated given that 2012 is the 30th anniversary of the 1982 War. Others are choosing to read more into the rhetorical exchanges between David Cameron and Mrs. Fernandez. Governments are rarely prepared to answer too many questions on their willingness to enter into global conflict through fear of provoking unnecessary alarm, but what can we divulge from the rhetoric so far, and what are the main areas of concern?

A different kind of Cold War?

Whilst categorically denying that their own country is willing to enter into a new conflict, both governments are doing their best to show that the other one might be. Britain is accusing Christina Fernandez of pandering to the staunch nationalists in Argentina and using bullish language, on the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, to increase her approval ratings. For its part, Argentina has accused Britain of stepping up its military presence on the Islands and viewed Prince William’s recent visit as an obvious sign of disrespect.

Underlying all of this, the Falklands dispute has always involved, to an extent, concerns over natural resources, particularly oil. According to Argentine observers the Falklands are an important strategic asset for the UK and give them an important route into Antarctica, which is seen as a potentially crucial area for future oil extraction. Many Argentines also recognise the cost of allowing the British to seize important natural resources so close to their own shores. Indeed, a significant part of the Military Junta’s reasoning 30 years ago was the possibility of improving their economic situation at home, and turning public opinion in their favour as a result.

The Dangerous Mrs. Fernandez?

Christina Fernandez is not leading a military junta. As a democratically elected figure, she is accountable to the people of Argentina and has historically shown her support for international law. There is also an unwritten rule in International Relations theory that democracies have much more to lose from war, and are therefore less likely to instigate a conflict than, say, dictatorships.

However, recent activity suggests that the President has tapped into a real sense of Argentine nationalism and has provoked criticism from financial institutions and fellow world leaders by her actions. Firstly, she has put aside concerns over the size of Argentina’s debt, and decided to raid state coffers to pay for increased public spending. Secondly, earlier this year she took the decision to nationalise 51% of YPF, thus scuppering a deal between Spanish oil firm Repsol, the previous owners of the YPF shares, and the Chinese. Instead, Fernandez has sold 8% of YPF to Carlos Slim, a Mexican telecommunications mogul.

This is certainly one area of concern the British government would do well to take seriously. The response to increased State intervention in Argentine politics has been insignificant so far, and there is really no way to measure the extent to which public support is capable of pushing an increasingly popular President like Christina Fernandez towards the unthinkable.

It’s now fairly clear that she wants to re open the debate about Britain’s claim to the Islands she insists on calling Las Malvinas. In an emotionally charged speech to the UN’s Decolonisation Committee, she called on Britain to enter into dialogue and to stop abusing its power as a member of the UN Security Council. She also accused Britain of acting as a ‘bully’ and urged David Cameron to act with more intelligence and compassion. Fernandez did not help her cause by refusing an offer for negotiations from the Falkland government, but still has the ability to portray Britain as the stubborn roadblock to peaceful talks.

By refusing to offer any indication that her country wants to enter into another conflict, Fernandez appears to be playing a rather shrewd game. In terms of international politics, calling for dialogue can win you friends, and is more likely to provoke sympathy than Britain’s current stance of ruling out negotiations altogether.

The other slight advantage facing Argentina is the overall political situation in South America, which is unrecognisable from the 1980’s. Thanks in some part to US aid and support, the continent has seen an increase in foreign direct investment, particularly in the north. South American economic growth hit 5.9% in the midst of the economic crisis in 2010. Some countries, including Colombia, have seen growth four times that of the European Union in recent years. The continent is also home to Brazil, who has recently stepped up its trade links with China.

This has gone some way to producing economic and political integration throughout the continent. Political matters, like the Colombian and Venezuelan conflict, are now increasingly dealt with by UNASUR rather than the OAS. Also, the ‘Bank of the South’, a Hugo Chavez inspired project now offers South American nations alternative borrowing options to the IMF.

The last OAS summit in Colombia this year was arguably the most divisive event the American region has witnessed in recent times. Argentina and Brazil felt willing to oppose the USA on matters from Cuba’s involvement in future summit proceedings to the legalisation of the drugs trade. Christina Fernandez also used this summit to bring up the Falklands debate and called for negotiations to take place between the OAS and Britain.

Mrs. Fernandez has certainly recognised this change to the American region. She now describes British claims to the Falklands as outdated clichés and an affront to a world ‘we all dream of’. ‘The world has changed’ she argues, and there are now ‘new players’ to consider.

With these ‘new players’ and China’s expansion pushing the international situation ever closer to a bi-polar order, perhaps the most vital question of all is whether the international community is prepared to accept a 21st century Argentinian occupation of the Falklands. Britain can currently rest assured that the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination is legally backed up by a UN resolution. The referendum in 2013 will undoubtedly return a verdict of support for the status quo, limiting Argentina’s options to regain the Islands through diplomatic means. If the extreme scenario were to occur, the future of the Islands would depend on both Britain’s capability to retaliate, and the willingness of the international community to intervene.

There are certainly enough examples from history to show that a nation’s public are willing to tolerate an increase in military spending, even in times of austerity, if it means protecting an ally and scoring a victory over an old enemy. However, with cuts to defence spending starting to take place already, the British public may not even be able to make this decision whereas the Argentines might. With South America carving out its own identity away from the United States and Europe, and Argentina’s increased economic ties with China, the veto wielding UN Security Council member, Britain cannot rely on the willingness of NATO or the UN to intervene in what would be a relatively minor conflict in their eyes. Argentina may just have enough leverage and motivation to reclaim the islands, and unfortunately, a referendum may not be enough to stop them.

Battle of Beersheba, 1917

Water Wars, A Realistic Prospect?

As history has shown scarce resources cause wars; we should downplay the wider issues of water shortage at our peril.

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Battle of Beersheba, 1917

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he simple answer to this is yes, they have already happened. The Battle of Beersheba in 1917 is one example. It was a crucial battle during World War One in the Sinai in defeating the Ottoman Empire. The conflict was principally fought over securing water wells in the area. More recently, conflict arose in 2000, during the Cochabamba Water Wars in Bolivia. Here protests against high water rates escalated into more violent protests and disturbances in the region. Water scarcity in both these examples is prevalent, but could this occur on European soil?

Only speculation can be used to see if incidents such as those of Cochabamba could ever occur, but it is not entirely inconceivable. Is it not the case that more than half of England was in drought up until a few weeks ago? Of course this was by no means as acute of water shortage problems in Africa and South America, but it does show how we as ‘Westerners’ are not immune from the issue. Hypothetically, water could become scarce enough due to a drought that people begin to fight over control over stand pipes for example, or steal water from rationed amounts. The regional variations of Britain and England are also notable here. As we saw with the drought, the North and West escaped drought conditions, due to different climate and population density. In an acute water crisis, of course it would be up to the government to provide methods of dispersing water to the regions that needed it most. This could then easily escalate, just as it did in Bolivia only a decade ago.

The concept of water wars looks into the future, and flirts with the wider concept of resource wars. However, it is just this perception, which is dangerous, water wars are not something to worry about in some far away distant future, they are on our doorstep. Resource wars are definitely more conceivable, if we define resources as essentials such as oil for example. Such a war can be seen in the 1967 Biafran War in Nigeria, where Biafra seceded, enabled by its oil rich territory. Countless examples can be found once again throughout history. However is this conceivable in Europe, which imports most of its resources? Scholars such as Bulloch and Darwish predict this type of crisis in the Middle East, not in Europe, citing population growth as a prime cause of water shortage (Bulloch and Derwish, 1993). Other theorists, such as Shiva predict that ‘the water wars of the twenty-first century will surpass the oil wars of the twentieth’ (Shiva, 2002), suggesting that conflicts could easily arise in ‘the West’, with shortages already experienced in Texas and more famously, Las Vegas.

It is clear that in Britain today the closest inconvenience we have with water shortage is a hosepipe ban. In Africa, the Middle East and now the USA, water is becoming a scarce resource. Scarce resources are ultimately what wars are fought over. Therefore we should downplay the wider issues of water shortage at our peril.