Friday, April 22, 2011

Borders And Disorder

In dealing with fractured states, particularly those of which are torn apart by ethno-national conflicts, the society of states often overlooks a fundamental issue, the one that lies at the root of such conflicts: Arbitrary nature of international boundaries.

Drawn by war victors and colonial powers in South Asia, Middle East and Africa, in a protracted period beginning in the wake of the First World War up until the end of the decolonisation of 1960s, these artificial boundaries have remained to be one of the major sources of intra-state violence – not to mention various inter-state border wars. Indeed, these boundaries are not social but political constructs; they do not reflect cultural, national and historical realities.

And yet, ironically, they are deemed essential for maintenance of order and stability.

What was the prime motive that drove the European powers to fiddle with centuries-old cultural frontiers is an inquisitive subject that, of course, requires thorough investigation. What became clear, however, in the wake of decolonisation was that both former colonial powers of Europe and the successor states in Africa and Asia were seen determined to defend these unjust arrangements.

In spite of their mutual differences on a host of international issues, such as trade and aid imbalances as well as equal representation in international institutions, both groups of states were, nonetheless, united in preservation of newly established status quo ante: The present international boundaries must remain intact.

Conscious of their legally protected status within international law as “sovereign entities,” the elite of each newly independent state embarked on an aggressive path to create a unitary state, often crushing not only the customs and traditions of small nationalities but also, in some cases, pushing for new settlements in their territories in order to change the demographic facts in the pretext of developments and economic progress. Xingjian in China and Balochistan in Iran and Pakistan are obvious cases in this regard.

Faced with criticism on the foreign front, a series of resolutions were passed by these quasi states (to borrow a term from Robert Jackson) during the 1970s in UN General Assembly, soon, followed by another set of resolutions from African Union: defending the legal norm of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. When questions raised by the former colonial powers over their repressive treatment of minority groups, the leadership of quasi states were quick to invoke international legal norms. Hence, any criticism on their abusive conducts was tantamount to intervention in state sovereignty.

But, as the Cold War came to a dramatic end, so did the myth of inviolability of international borders. From the breakup of Yugoslavia in early 1990s to the recent independence of South Sudan, and the ongoing crisis in Libya, it has increasingly become clear that the legal norms, such as non-interference and respect of state sovereignty, are not applicable when it comes to abusive behaviour of dominant groups, rogue armies or regimes within the quasi states. Sovereignty, indeed, comes with responsibilities.

The following articles reflect major changes underway in international arena. In the past, state sovereignty of a quasi state was seen as a sacred norm by the international society, often overlooking their artificial makeup. But, over recent years that perception has changed; the logic behind this shift is simple: if the status quo ante is not sustainable, it won’t be sustained.

– Belaar –

Breaking Up Is Good to Do
Southern Sudan is just the beginning. The world may soon have 300 independent, sovereign nations ... and that's just fine.

By Parag Khanna

This year will almost certainly see the birth of a new country named Southern Sudan. It might also witness the creation of an independent Palestine, as Palestinian leaders push for unilateral recognition of their national sovereignty within their country's 1967 borders. And within a couple of years, a sovereign Kurdistan might emerge from a still-brittle Iraq. We could be entering a new period of mass state birth: Imagine an independent South Ossetia, Somaliland, and Darfur too. The trend is nothing new, but it's picking up steam again. The most recent sovereign entrant was in 2008, when Kosovo emerged from the breakup of Yugoslavia; nine years earlier, in 1999, it was East Timor gaining independence from Indonesia.

Because of this wave of self-determination culminating in sovereignty, there are today more autonomous political units in the world than at any time since the Middle Ages of a millennium ago. Within a few decades, we could easily have 300 states in the world. Moreover, we are gradually returning to the medieval world of thousands of multilayered communities ranging from the supranational European Union to the magnetic city-states of the Persian Gulf to the indigenous communities of the Inuit of Canada and Greenland.

This instability is the cartographic expression of an underlying geopolitical phenomenon afflicting much of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia: post-colonial entropy. Except for a few, rare cases, many of the colonies that gained their independence a half-century ago have since experienced unmanageable population growth, predatory and corrupt dictatorship, crumbling infrastructure and institutions, and ethnic or sectarian polarization.

Whether or not Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo technically qualify as "failed states," their fates are sealed by their colonial inheritance. Indeed, it's often their borders that are the deepest cause of their conflicts. Many of these national borders are in desperate need of adjustment, and the rest of the world should show more flexibility in allowing them to do so. Europe messed it up the first time, but now the West can support the right regional bodies to adjudicate these new borders -- helping others help themselves in the process.
By this logic, today's hot spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan are not simply "America's Wars." Rather, they are to some extent the unexploded ordinance left over from old European wars, with their fuses lit on slow release. Indeed, the United States had nothing to do with the Sykes-Picot and other agreements that parceled the Levant into French- and British-allied monarchies, or the Congress of Berlin, which drew suspiciously straight lines on Africa's map. Some of these haphazard agreements created oversized or artificial agglomerations like Sudan, which threw together heretofore independent groups of Arabs, Africans, Christians, and Muslims into a country one-fourth the size of the United States but lacking any common national ethos or adequate distribution of resources to sustain commitment to unity. Others did the opposite, like the British officer Henry Mortimer Durand, whose infamous line divided the Pashtun nation between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This growing cartographic stress is not just America's challenge. All the world's influential powers and diplomats should seize a new moral high ground by agreeing to prudently apply in such cases Woodrow Wilson's support for self-determination of peoples. This would be a marked improvement over today's ad hoc system of backing disreputable allies, assembling unworkable coalitions, or simply hoping for tidy dissolutions. Reasserting the principle of self-determination would allow for the sort of true statesmanship lacking on today's global stage.

In Sudan, the United States has certainly placed itself on the right side of this trend. It has been a key architect of the internationally sanctioned referendum that will likely result in Southern Sudan's independence, making clear that the eventual split is not a U.S.-led conspiracy to hack apart the Arab-Muslim world. Such a legitimate process has given cover to China to reorient its policy as well, balancing its staunch support for the regime of Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum with upgraded relations with the Southern government in Juba, which has in return promised to honor the China National Petroleum Corp.'s contracts. (Sixty percent of Sudan's oil exports currently go to China.)

But there is more to ushering new nations into existence than preventing neighboring antagonists from invading one another (as fundamentally important as that is). All three of the world's current quasi-states -- Southern Sudan, Palestine, and Kurdistan -- will be effectively landlocked and vulnerable unless they are provided with viable infrastructure to connect to external markets. In addition to the existing Sudanese north-south pipelines, Southern Sudan needs a new pipeline across Kenya to the Indian Ocean to export oil through additional routes. Likewise, Kurdistan needs pipelines via Turkey and Syria to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, and Palestine needs the Rand Corp.'s proposed "Arc" of road and rail corridors to link the West Bank and Gaza into an integrated unit. These linkages to the outside world are insurance policies against dependence on and domination by neighbors, whether Sudan, Iraq and Turkey, or Israel, respectively. While the White House remains obsessed with "security guarantees" for Israel that rest on empty or short-lived gestures of goodwill, it is infrastructure, rather, that is the prerequisite to peaceful coexistence. Nation-building is as much physical as institutional; independence without infrastructure is impossible.

The entropy afflicting the post-colonial world will not stop anytime soon. States like Congo, Nigeria, and Pakistan, which are internally diffuse and often intentionally unevenly developed, will soon be too large to manage themselves. It is less likely that they will gather the competence, capacity, and will to become equitable modern states than that they will continue to inspire resistance to the legacies of centralized misrule.

The coming partitions must be performed with a combination of scalpel and ax, soft and hard power. Above all, the world must recognize that these partitions are inevitable. Our reflex is to fear changes on the map out of concern for violence or having to learn the names of new countries. But in an age when any group can acquire the tools of violent resistance, the only alternative to self-determination is perpetual conflict. After genocidal campaigns such as Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds and Serbia's brutal repression of the Kosovars, it is impossible to imagine those groups again living under one government. Rather than delay, the emphasis should be on diplomatic efficiency: Speedy partitions can lead to more amicable outcomes, such as the "velvet divorce" between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Both are now members of the European Union, within which they respect one another's borders even as such borders have largely become irrelevant.

Finally, we must be weary of status quo conservatism motivated by selfish concerns. Russia and China staunchly opposed Kosovo's independence for the sake of their own quasi-imperial possessions, but did a sovereign government in Pristina really undermine Russia's ironclad rule over Chechnya or China's grip on Tibet?

Each territorial conflict has a particular mix of historical, geographic, and diplomatic conditions that will breed unique solutions. But one thing is certain: The way to create a peaceful and borderless world is, ironically, by allowing ever more nations to define themselves and their borders. Then, and only then, will they seek openness and integration with the rest of the world. Breakups are sometimes the path to better friendships.


To Partition or Not to Partition?

By Ted Galen Carpenter

The recent referendum [3] in southern Sudan endorsing the secession of that region will produce a newly independent country. And it appears that the central government in Khartoum will peacefully accept [4] the loss of more than a third of its territory—something that it violently opposed over the past several decades.

The outcome in southern Sudan suggests that, contrary to the long-standing bias of current governments in the international system, partition can sometimes be a solution—perhaps the only solution—to irreconcilable differences between ethnic or religious groups within a country. Admittedly, one can point to cases in which the strategy has not worked well, for example Britain’s decision to divide its South Asian colony between the newly independent states of predominantly Hindu India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan. A few cases have even produced disastrous results (the division of Palestine being the premier example). But it is equally possible to cite examples in which the results have been positive, and were certainly better than the alternative. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia’s “velvet divorce” are clear instances of that outcome.

As I suggest here [5], chronically dysfunctional Bosnia-Herzegovina ought to be considered a prime candidate for partition. Despite the utter failure of that artificial entity to forge anything even faintly resembling national cohesion—much less a competent government and functioning economy—in the more than 15 years since the Dayton Accords ended a violent civil war, U.S. and European leaders still [6] insist [7] on keeping Bosnia intact, even if it must remain indefinitely on life support from international agencies. That is an appallingly short-sighted strategy.

Western policy makers grasp at ever more fragile straws to make their case that Bosnia will eventually turn out to be a success story. The favorite recent panacea [8] is that once Bosnia joins the European Union, the petty ethnic quarrels among the country’s Serb, Croat, and Muslim communities will become irrelevant.Not only does that assumption underestimate the depth of the continuing ethnic hatreds, it is wildly optimistic about the probability of the EU admitting Bosnia anytime soon.

There is more and more grumbling within the major EU states about some of the existing smaller and weaker members. That is especially true in Germany, which has had to shoulder primary responsibility for the financial bailouts of some of those members. The EU already has to deal with such members states as Greece, Portugal, and Ireland that have severe economic problems. It already has one member (Cyprus) that has a huge, unresolved territorial issue (with Turkish troops occupying the northern 37 percent of the country) and another member (Spain) with two simmering secessionist issues. EU governments are likely to be very reluctant about acquiring Bosnia as a member when the country has both political and economic defects that are intractable.

Both the United States and the EU should accept the manifest [9] desire [10] of the Serb minority (some one-third of Bosnia’s population, and one that inhabits a reasonably compact territory) to secede and either form an independent country or merge with Serbia. The United States and its NATO allies have tried to dictate policy in Bosnia for far too long. Their meddling has produced a festering, unsustainable situation. They need to change course and approve a political transition based on partition. Their sole goal should be to orchestrate that process to maximize the probability that it will be peaceful.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Avoiding a U.S.-China cold war

By Henry A. Kissinger
Friday, January 14, 2011;

The upcoming summit between the American and Chinese presidents is to take place while progress is being made in resolving many of the issues before them, and a positive communique is probable. Yet both leaders also face an opinion among elites in their countries emphasizing conflict rather than cooperation.

Most Chinese I encounter outside of government, and some in government, seem convinced that the United States seeks to contain China and to constrict its rise. American strategic thinkers are calling attention to China's increasing global economic reach and the growing capability of its military forces.

Care must be taken lest both sides analyze themselves into self-fulfilling prophecies. The nature of globalization and the reach of modern technology oblige the United States and China to interact around the world. A Cold War between them would bring about an international choosing of sides, spreading disputes into internal politics of every region at a time when issues such as nuclear proliferation, the environment, energy and climate require a comprehensive global solution.

Conflict is not inherent in a nation's rise. The United States in the 20th century is an example of a state achieving eminence without conflict with the then-dominant countries. Nor was the often-cited German-British conflict inevitable. Thoughtless and provocative policies played a role in transforming European diplomacy into a zero-sum game.

Sino-U.S. relations need not take such a turn. On most contemporary issues, the two countries cooperate adequately; what the two countries lack is an overarching concept for their interaction. During the Cold War, a common adversary supplied the bond. Common concepts have not yet emerged from the multiplicity of new tasks facing a globalized world undergoing political, economic and technological upheaval.

That is not a simple matter. For it implies subordinating national aspirations to a vision of a global order.

Neither the United States nor China has experience in such a task. Each assumes its national values to be both unique and of a kind to which other peoples naturally aspire. Reconciling the two versions of exceptionalism is the deepest challenge of the Sino-American relationship.

America's exceptionalism finds it natural to condition its conduct toward other societies on their acceptance of American values. Most Chinese see their country's rise not as a challenge to America but as heralding a return to the normal state of affairs when China was preeminent. In the Chinese view, it is the past 200 years of relative weakness - not China's current resurgence - that represent an abnormality.

America historically has acted as if it could participate in or withdraw from international affairs at will. In the Chinese perception of itself as the Middle Kingdom, the idea of the sovereign equality of states was unknown. Until the end of the 19th century, China treated foreign countries as various categories of vassals. China never encountered a country of comparable magnitude until European armies imposed an end to its seclusion. A foreign ministry was not established until 1861, and then primarily for dealing with colonialist invaders.

America has found most problems it recognized as soluble. China, in its history of millennia, came to believe that few problems have ultimate solutions. America has a problem-solving approach; China is comfortable managing contradictions without assuming they are resolvable.

American diplomacy pursues specific outcomes with single-minded determination. Chinese negotiators are more likely to view the process as combining political, economic and strategic elements and to seek outcomes via an extended process. American negotiators become restless and impatient with deadlocks; Chinese negotiators consider them the inevitable mechanism of negotiation. American negotiators represent a society that has never suffered national catastrophe - except the Civil War, which is not viewed as an international experience. Chinese negotiators cannot forget the century of humiliation when foreign armies exacted tribute from a prostrate China. Chinese leaders are extremely sensitive to the slightest implication of condescension and are apt to translate American insistence as lack of respect.

North Korea provides a good example of differences in perspective. America is focused on the proliferation of nuclear weapons. China, which in the long run has more to fear from nuclear weapons there than we, in addition emphasizes propinquity. It is concerned about the turmoil that might follow if pressures on nonproliferation lead to the disintegration of the North Korean regime. America seeks a concrete solution to a specific problem. China views any such outcome as a midpoint in a series of interrelated challenges, with no finite end, about the future of Northeast Asia. For real progress, diplomacy with Korea needs a broader base.

Americans frequently appeal to China to prove its sense of "international responsibility" by contributing to the solution of a particular problem. The proposition that China must prove its bona fides is grating to a country that regards itself as adjusting to membership in an international system designed in its absence on the basis of programs it did not participate in developing.

While America pursues pragmatic policies, China tends to view these policies as part of a general design. Indeed, it tends to find a rationale for essentially domestically driven initiatives in terms of an overall strategy to hold China down.

The test of world order is the extent to which the contending can reassure each other. In the American-Chinese relationship, the overriding reality is that neither country will ever be able to dominate the other and that conflict between them would exhaust their societies. Can they find a conceptual framework to express this reality? A concept of a Pacific community could become an organizing principle of the 21st century to avoid the formation of blocs. For this, they need a consultative mechanism that permits the elaboration of common long-term objectives and coordinates the positions of the two countries at international conferences.

The aim should be to create a tradition of respect and cooperation so that the successors of leaders meeting now continue to see it in their interest to build an emerging world order as a joint enterprise.

The writer was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Interview: Pakistan's Road to Disintegration

Interviewee: Stephen P. Cohen, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor

January 6, 2011

In the first few days of this year, Pakistan's coalition government was thrust into crisis after losing a coalition partner, and then a top politician--Punjab Governor Salman Taseer--was assassinated. A leading expert on the country, Stephen P. Cohen, says these incidents are symptoms of the profound problems tugging the country apart. "The fundamentals of the state are either failing or questionable, and this applies to both the idea of Pakistan, the ideology of the state, the purpose of the state, and also to the coherence of the state itself," Cohen says. "I wouldn't predict a comprehensive failure soon, but clearly that's the direction in which Pakistan is moving." On a recent trip, he was struck by the growing sense of insecurity in Pakistan, even within the military, and the growing importance of China.
What's the situation in Pakistan these days, given a key partner's withdrawal from the coalition government, and the assassination of a leading member of the ruling coalition, who opposed the blasphemy law which has support among the country's Muslim population?
These are symptoms of a deeper problem in Pakistan. There is not going to be any good news from Pakistan for some time, if ever, because the fundamentals of the state are either failing or questionable. This applies to both the idea of Pakistan, the ideology of the state, the purpose of the state, and also to the coherence of the state itself. Pakistan has lost a lot of its "stateness," that is the qualities that make a modern government function effectively. So there's failure in Pakistan on all counts. I wouldn't predict a comprehensive failure soon but clearly that's the direction in which Pakistan is moving.
Given Pakistan's possession of nuclear weapons and its strategic location between Afghanistan and India, for the United States this is a looming crisis, isn't it.

All U.S. policies toward Pakistan are bad, and some are perhaps worse than others. We don't know whether leveling with Pakistan is going to improve things or make it worse. Ideally, we would own a time machine in which we could roll back history and reverse a lot of decisions we made in the past. Hopefully, we won't make any more fundamentally wrong decisions in the future, but that may not prevent Pakistan from going further down the road to disintegration. Someone in the State Department was quoted in a WikiLeaks document [as saying] that if it weren't for nuclear weapons, Pakistan would be the Congo. I would compare it to Nigeria without oil. It wouldn't be a serious state. But the nuclear weapons and the country's organized terrorist machinery do make it quite serious.
If it is anybody's problem in the future, it is going to be China's problem. I just spent several weeks in Pakistan. One thing I discovered was the country insecurity in a way I had never seen it, even in military cantonments. The other was that China's influence in Pakistan was much greater and deeper than I had imagined it to be. In a sense that's India's problem, but in the long run, it will be China's problem.
Describe China's influence.
China is Pakistan's major military supplier. Of course, they supplied military technology and probably put Pakistanis in touch with the North Koreans for missile technology. The Chinese have one concern in Pakistan and that is the training of Chinese militants and extremists inside of Pakistan. The Chinese have no problem with the Tiananmen Square-type of crowd control. When the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) was blown up in Islamabad in 2007, it came after some ten Chinese were kidnapped and the Chinese complained publicly. The Pakistanis had ignored our protests about the Mosque for many years. But they moved quickly when the Chinese protested, killing many women and children in the process. That was one of the turning points in President Pervez Musharraf's career, because that turned many militants against him. Before that time, he had either ignored or supported them, but after Lal Masjid, they became his enemy.
How important are the militants or terrorists? Can they control the state?
Militants--whether you call them anti-American, anti-liberal, or anti-secular--seem to have a veto over politics in Pakistan, but they can't govern the state. The parties control the elections but they can prevent others from governing, and they may prevent the military from governing as well.
Some people have been hoping for a military coup, but you don't think that will happen?
We have to do what we can do and prepare for the failure of Pakistan, which could happen in four or five or six years.
I don't think the military wants to be in that position now. I don't think the military chief Ashfaq Kayani has such a game plan. He is as smart and calculating as President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq [military president from 1977 until his assassination in 1988] was. He is quite different from Musharraf--not an Islamist himself, but he has certainly supported them in the past. I know the Pakistan military cannot govern Pakistan. They've tried it three times in the past and each time failed. This time they would have to deal with more active militants. The liberal forces are in retreat, and I don't see the army supporting the liberal forces in Pakistan.
Talk about the anti-American feeling. How did it develop into such a strong national sentiment?
Historically, the Pakistani elite have created a narrative of U.S.-Pakistan relations which always shows the United States letting Pakistan down. A turning point was the Iranian revolution of 1979, [which] showed a lot of Pakistanis that standing up to the Americans, embarrassing the Americans, humiliating the Americans felt good. Whether they were Sunnis or Shiites in Pakistan, it felt good. It all goes back to everyone in Pakistan concerned about American policy toward Israel and the Middle East. They seem to care more about Israel and Palestine than they do about themselves. The irony of Pakistan is that their major foreign policy obsessions are ones that they can't do anything about, including Israel and Palestine. When the U.S. and NATO forces moved into Iraq and Afghanistan, that was seen as a direct threat to Pakistan. They feared that the Islamist states were being knocked off one after another, beginning with Iraq, and going on to Afghanistan, and winding up with Pakistan. Most of that is imagined, but many Pakistanis believe it is true.
We've had a breakup of the coalition government, which happens all the time around the world, but why was so much gloom and doom expressed in Pakistan?
It's the incapacity of the Pakistani state to educate its own people in a modern fashion; it's the failure of the Pakistani economy to grow at all. If this was an American analogy, you would say Pakistan is a house under water. Except for its territory, which is strategically important, there is not much in Pakistan that is of benefit to anyone. They failed to take advantage of globalization. They use terrorism as an aspect of globalization, which is the negative side of globalization. Go down the list of factors, they are almost all negative. There is not one that is positive. They need outsiders for economic help. The conflict with India drains most of their budget. They can't resolve foreign policy differences with India. They have quarrels with us over Afghanistan, although they are probably right that we don't understand the Afghanis either. The question in my mind is whether these are irreversible so that Pakistan can become a normal state.
Militants--whether you call them anti-American, anti-liberal, or anti-secular--seem to have a veto over politics in Pakistan, but they can't govern the state.
What do you think?
Hope is not a policy, but despair is not a policy either. We have to do what we can do and prepare for the failure of Pakistan, which could happen in four or five or six years.
Talk about the terrorists.
There has been an accommodation with the government. Terrorist attacks are down. There seems to be an agreement by the security forces to accommodate the terrorist groups. I don't see the government regaining its position in the frontiers. The Pakistani Taliban is a designated enemy, but the army cannot move against them. The army is worried about its integrity itself.
Discuss Taseer's assassination.
He was like Sherry Rehman, a close associate of Benazir Bhutto. Rehman had introduced a private member's bill to repeal the blasphemy law, and [Taseer] backed her, and that apparently led to his guard killing him. The blasphemy law makes the medieval Catholic Church look liberal. Anyone who stands up and criticizes the law has his life in danger. Rehman is prominently mentioned in press coverage. I don't think she will back down. She is a lady of strong principles, like Benazir.
Is the fear of India genuine?
It is genuine, because it goes back to the identity of Pakistan. They can't figure out how to reconcile their strategic necessity of accommodation with India. Of course, India takes a hard line on a lot of issues, not just Kashmir. India has allowed China to acquire Pakistan as a strategic asset. It is now a trilateral game between the Chinese and Indians with the Pakistanis on the Chinese side.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Please, not again

Without boldness from Barack Obama there is a real risk of war in the Middle East
The United States, Israel and the Arabs

Dec 29th 2010 Leader
NO WAR, no peace, is the usual state of affairs between Israel and its neighbours in the Middle East. But every time an attempt at Arab-Israeli peacemaking fails, as Barack Obama’s did shortly before Christmas, the peace becomes a little more fragile and the danger of war increases. Sadly, there is reason to believe that unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive such war for many years.

One much-discussed way in which war might arise stems from the apparent desire of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons at any cost, and Israel’s apparent desire to stop Iran at any cost. But fear of Iran’s nuclear programme is only one of the fuses that could detonate an explosion at any moment. Another is the frantic arms race that has been under way since the inconclusive war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbullah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon. Both sides have been intensively preparing for what each says will be a “decisive” second round.

Such a war would bear little resemblance to the previous clashes between Israel and its neighbours. For all their many horrors, the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009 were limited affairs. On the Israeli side, in particular, civilian casualties were light. Since 2006, however, Iran and Syria have provided Hizbullah with an arsenal of perhaps 50,000 missiles and rockets, many with ranges and payloads well beyond what Hizbullah had last time. This marks an extraordinary change in the balance of power. For the first time a radical non-state actor has the power to kill thousands of civilians in Israel’s cities more or less at the press of a button.

Related itemsAmerica and the Middle East: Great sacrifices, small rewardsDec 29th 2010
Related topicsHezbollahIranDiplomacyInternational relationsPeace Talks
In that event, says Israel, it will strike back with double force. A war of this sort could easily draw in Syria, and perhaps Iran. For the moment, deterrence keeps the peace. But a peace maintained by deterrence alone is a frail thing. The shipment to Hizbullah of a balance-tipping new weapon, a skirmish on the Lebanese or increasingly volatile Gaza border—any number of miscalculations could ignite a conflagration.

From peace process to war process

All of this should give new urgency to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. To start with, at least, peace will be incomplete: Iran, Hizbullah and sometimes Hamas say that they will never accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. But it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen. Give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and it will become very much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.

Easy enough to say. The question is whether peacemaking can succeed. After striving for almost two years to shepherd Israeli and Palestinian leaders into direct talks, only for this effort to collapse over the issue of settlements, Mr Obama is in danger of concluding like many presidents before him that Arab-Israeli diplomacy is a Sisyphean distraction. But giving up would be a tragic mistake, as bad for America and Israel as for the Palestinians. The instant the peace process ends, the war process begins, and wars in this energy-rich corner of the world usually suck in America, one way or another. Israel will suffer too if Mr Obama fails, because the Palestinians have shown time and again that they will not fall silent while their rights are denied. The longer Israel keeps them stateless under military occupation, the lonelier it becomes—and the more it undermines its own identity as a liberal democracy.

Don’t mediate. Legislate

Instead of giving up, Mr Obama needs to change his angle of attack. America has clung too long to the dogma that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are the way forward. James Baker, a former secretary of state, once said that America could not want peace more than the local parties did. This is no longer true. The recent history proves that the extremists on each side are too strong for timid local leaders to make the necessary compromises alone. It is time for the world to agree on a settlement and impose it on the feuding parties.

The outlines of such an agreement have been clear since Bill Clinton set out his “parameters” after the failure of the Camp David summit a decade ago. The border between Israel and a new Palestine would follow the pre-1967 line, with adjustments to accommodate some of the bigger border-hugging Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and land-swaps to compensate the Palestinians for those adjustments. But there is also much difficult detail to be filled in: how to make Jerusalem into a shared capital, settle the fate of the refugees and ensure that the West Bank will not become, as Gaza did, an advance base for war against Israel after Israeli forces withdraw.

Mr Clinton unveiled his blueprint at the end of a negotiation that had failed. Mr Obama should set out his own map and make this a new starting point. He should gather international support for it, either through the United Nations or by means of an international conference of the kind the first President Bush held in Madrid in 1991. But instead of leaving the parties to talk on their own after the conference ends, as Mr Bush did after Madrid, America must ride herd, providing reassurance and exerting pressure on both sides as required.

The pressure part of this equation is crucial. In his first round of peacemaking, Mr Obama picked a fight with Israel over settlements and then backed down, thereby making America look weak in a region where too many people already believe that its power is waning (see article). This is a misperception the president needs to correct. For all its economic worries at home and military woes in Iraq and Afghanistan, America is far from weak in the Levant, where both Israel and the nascent Palestine in the West Bank continue to depend on it in countless vital ways.

The Palestinians have flirted lately with the idea of bypassing America and taking their cause directly to the UN. Going to the UN is well and good. But the fact remains that without the sort of tough love that America alone can bestow, Israel will probably never be able to overcome its settler movement and make the deal that could win it acceptance in the Arab world. Mr Obama has shown in battles as different as health reform and the New START nuclear treaty with Russia that he has the quality of persistence. He should persist in Palestine, too.

The Economist

Moving Forward in Sudan

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies

The people of south Sudan began voting January 9 on a referendum to separate from the north. Polls will remain open until January 15, with the final results announced February 6 at the earliest. The electoral law's requirement that 60 percent of registered voters participate will likely be easily met. Though there are already reports of violence involving Khartoum's soldiers and southern civilians, and there will probably be irregularities, the margin of votes favoring independence will be so huge there will be little doubt as to the intention of the southern Sudanese. In the week before the referendum, Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, an indicted war criminal, stated publicly that he would abide by the results. But as the Cote d'Ivoire standoff between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara reminds, a credible vote does not always resolve the underlying issues.
South Sudan has been semi-autonomous since 2005's internationally brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ended a twenty-year civil war between north and south that had acquired a religious and ethnic coloration and killed an estimated two million people, mostly southerners, and displaced an additional four million. South Sudan now has an organized government based in Juba derived from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) that led the south during the civil war.
The many unresolved issues between the north and a fully independent south include division of the oil revenue, citizenship, and the boundary between the two states. The CPA anticipated such issues being negotiated in the run-up to the referendum. That did not happen, however, with Khartoum dragging its feet and the south unwilling to jeopardize the January 9 start date for the referendum.
The oil-rich province of Abyei has already proven to be a flashpoint and will likely continue to be. Here, as in other troubled parts of Africa, ethnic, religious, and economic boundaries coincide, and there is space for outsiders to stir the pot. Both northern and southern politicians claim the territory, an area where nomadic pastoralists, the Messiria, and farmers, the Ngok Dinka, collide. The former are predominately Muslim with ties to Khartoum; the latter are Christians and Animists who look to Juba. The International Tribunal at The Hague divided the province, but al-Bashir has not accepted its judgment, and some southern politicians are insisting the entire province should become part of southern Sudan.
Even if he shows good faith over the referendum, al-Bashir will need to watch his back in Khartoum against forces upset with the apparent softening of his stance. Just before the referendum, the Sudanese Comprehensive Conference, an umbrella of opposition parties to al-Bashir's ruling National Congress, publicly accused the president of failing to maintain national unity. International Muslim opinion will also impact Khartoum's response to south Sudan's secession. Thus far, however, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League have been largely silent.
Despite the challenges, a credible referendum vote will be a foreign policy success for the Obama administration, which has been heavily committed to supporting the CPA. Looking ahead, the unresolved issues will require the administration to continue its intense engagement to manage the potential flashpoints that could reverse the significant progress that has been made. Already there are reports that over a hundred thousand southerners living in the north are trekking south, some out of fear of the unknown and others with enthusiasm for their new homeland. But the Juba government is ill-equipped to meet their needs for food, water, and shelter. It is likely that the international community led by the United States will be required to respond to forestall a humanitarian disaster.

Five myths about why the South seceded

By James W. Loewen
Sunday, January 9, 2011; 12:00 AM

One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War began, we're still fighting it -- or at least fighting over its history. I've polled thousands of high school history teachers and spoken about the war to audiences across the country, and there is little agreement even on why the South seceded. Was it over slavery? States' rights? Tariffs and taxes?

As the nation begins to commemorate the anniversaries of the war's various battles -- from Fort Sumter to Appomattox -- let's first dispense with some of the more prevalent myths about why it all began.

1. The South seceded over states' rights.

Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states' rights -- that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.

On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina's secession convention adopted a "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union." It noted "an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery" and protested that Northern states had failed to "fulfill their constitutional obligations" by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states' rights, birthed the Civil War.

South Carolina was further upset that New York no longer allowed "slavery transit." In the past, if Charleston gentry wanted to spend August in the Hamptons, they could bring their cook along. No longer -- and South Carolina's delegates were outraged. In addition, they objected that New England states let black men vote and tolerated abolitionist societies. According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.

Other seceding states echoed South Carolina. "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery -- the greatest material interest of the world," proclaimed Mississippi in its own secession declaration, passed Jan. 9, 1861. "Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. . . . A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization."

The South's opposition to states' rights is not surprising. Until the Civil War, Southern presidents and lawmakers had dominated the federal government. The people in power in Washington always oppose states' rights. Doing so preserves their own.

2. Secession was about tariffs and taxes.

During the nadir of post-civil-war race relations - the terrible years after 1890 when town after town across the North became all-white "sundown towns" and state after state across the South prevented African Americans from voting - "anything but slavery" explanations of the Civil War gained traction. To this day Confederate sympathizers successfully float this false claim, along with their preferred name for the conflict: the War Between the States. At the infamous Secession Ball in South Carolina, hosted in December by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, "the main reasons for secession were portrayed as high tariffs and Northern states using Southern tax money to build their own infrastructure," The Washington Post reported.

These explanations are flatly wrong. High tariffs had prompted the Nullification Crisis in 1831-33, when, after South Carolina demanded the right to nullify federal laws or secede in protest, President Andrew Jackson threatened force. No state joined the movement, and South Carolina backed down. Tariffs were not an issue in 1860, and Southern states said nothing about them. Why would they? Southerners had written the tariff of 1857, under which the nation was functioning. Its rates were lower than at any point since 1816.

3. Most white Southerners didn't own slaves, so they wouldn't secede for slavery.

Indeed, most white Southern families had no slaves. Less than half of white Mississippi households owned one or more slaves, for example, and that proportion was smaller still in whiter states such as Virginia and Tennessee. It is also true that, in areas with few slaves, most white Southerners did not support secession. West Virginia seceded from Virginia to stay with the Union, and Confederate troops had to occupy parts of eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama to hold them in line.

However, two ideological factors caused most Southern whites, including those who were not slave-owners, to defend slavery. First, Americans are wondrous optimists, looking to the upper class and expecting to join it someday. In 1860, many subsistence farmers aspired to become large slave-owners. So poor white Southerners supported slavery then, just as many low-income people support the extension of George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy now.

Second and more important, belief in white supremacy provided a rationale for slavery. As the French political theorist Montesquieu observed wryly in 1748: "It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures [enslaved Africans] to be men; because allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christians." Given this belief, most white Southerners -- and many Northerners, too -- could not envision life in black-majority states such as South Carolina and Mississippi unless blacks were in chains. Georgia Supreme Court Justice Henry Benning, trying to persuade the Virginia Legislature to leave the Union, predicted race war if slavery was not protected. "The consequence will be that our men will be all exterminated or expelled to wander as vagabonds over a hostile earth, and as for our women, their fate will be too horrible to contemplate even in fancy." Thus, secession would maintain not only slavery but the prevailing ideology of white supremacy as well.

4. Abraham Lincoln went to war to end slavery.

Since the Civil War did end slavery, many Americans think abolition was the Union's goal. But the North initially went to war to hold the nation together. Abolition came later.

On Aug. 22, 1862, President Lincoln wrote a letter to the New York Tribune that included the following passage: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union."

However, Lincoln's own anti-slavery sentiment was widely known at the time. In the same letter, he went on: "I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free." A month later, Lincoln combined official duty and private wish in his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

White Northerners' fear of freed slaves moving north then caused Republicans to lose the Midwest in the congressional elections of November 1862.

Gradually, as Union soldiers found help from black civilians in the South and black recruits impressed white units with their bravery, many soldiers -- and those they wrote home to -- became abolitionists. By 1864, when Maryland voted to end slavery, soldiers' and sailors' votes made the difference.

5. The South couldn't have made it long as a slave society.

Slavery was hardly on its last legs in 1860. That year, the South produced almost 75 percent of all U.S. exports. Slaves were worth more than all the manufacturing companies and railroads in the nation. No elite class in history has ever given up such an immense interest voluntarily. Moreover, Confederates eyed territorial expansion into Mexico and Cuba. Short of war, who would have stopped them - or forced them to abandon slavery?

To claim that slavery would have ended of its own accord by the mid-20th century is impossible to disprove but difficult to accept. In 1860, slavery was growing more entrenched in the South. Unpaid labor makes for big profits, and the Southern elite was growing ever richer. Freeing slaves was becoming more and more difficult for their owners, as was the position of free blacks in the United States, North as well as South. For the foreseeable future, slavery looked secure. Perhaps a civil war was required to end it.

As we commemorate the sesquicentennial of that war, let us take pride this time - as we did not during the centennial - that secession on slavery's behalf failed.

Sociologist James W. Loewen is the author of "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and co-editor, with Edward Sebesta, of "The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader."

Test yourself to find out how much you know about the Civil War.


The Myth of Defensible Borders

Omar M. Dajani and Ezzedine C. Fishere

OMAR M. DAJANI is Professor of Law at Pacific McGeorge School of Law and was a legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team during peace talks with Israel. EZZEDINE C. FISHERE is Professor of Politics at the American University in Cairo and a former adviser to the United Nations and the Egyptian foreign minister.
In her December 10 Middle East policy speech, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated the United States' commitment to a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians, calling for an agreement that would enable Palestinian leaders "to show their people that the occupation will be over" while allowing Israeli leaders to "demonstrate to their people that the compromises needed to make peace will not leave Israel vulnerable."

Although Clinton suggested that these aims are compatible, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed a different view. Demanding the establishment of what Israeli officials call "defensible borders," Netanyahu's government seeks to annex or exercise security control over large blocs of West Bank territory -- along the Jordan River in the east and along Israel's border in the west, from the north-central settlement of Ariel to the Gush Etzion settlements south of Bethlehem.

In addition, it seeks to operate early-warning stations on high ground near the Palestinian cities of Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron and maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley for decades to come. This package of arrangements would create, in the words of Israeli negotiators, a "protection envelope" surrounding the new Palestinian state.

Such arrangements, however, will do little to respond to the real security challenges faced by Israelis, the Palestinians, and others in the region. As WikiLeaks recently revealed, other governments in the region are no less concerned than Israel about nuclear proliferation, the destabilizing role of nonstate actors, and the threat of cross-border missile attacks.

A U.S. peace plan built on the notion of defensible borders will neither address the threats perceived by Israel's neighbors nor win the support of their domestic constituencies, who demand faithful implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative. A different approach is needed, one that situates Israeli-Palestinian security arrangements within a regional security framework -- involving the Arab states, Turkey, and eventually Iran -- that can facilitate durable responses to the threats faced by the peoples of the Middle East.

Israeli security orthodoxy has long been built on two related premises: first, that Arab and Muslim hostility toward Israel is both inexorable and irrational -- so neither withdrawal nor peace is likely to offer Israelis major security dividends -- and second, that foreign powers and international institutions cannot be trusted to protect Israel.

To be sure, Israel's leaders have at times questioned the continuing relevance of these premises. Indeed, when seeking the Knesset's support for the Oslo agreement in 1993, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared, "No longer are we necessarily 'a people that dwells alone,' and no longer is it true that 'the whole world is against us.'"

Over the last decade, however, widespread disillusionment with the Oslo process, and the sense that their unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip served to embolden, rather than placate, enemies such as Hezbollah and Hamas, have led many Israelis to conclude that genuine peace is an elusive dream. Moreover, they cite the perceived failure of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and the European Union Border Assistance Mission in Gaza to prevent rocket attacks on Israel as evidence that when the going gets tough, Israelis can rely only on themselves for security. Presented with this bleak security picture, many Israelis see the retention of West Bank territory -- i.e., the concept of defensible borders -- as not only politically desirable but also a strategic necessity.

Israelis have learned the wrong lessons from the wars of the last decade. Although defensible borders would preserve Israel's latitude to act independently in the short run, it would undermine, rather than promote, its long-term security. Israel's refusal to relinquish territory occupied in 1967 would give its enemies increased motivation to attack -- and bolster the perceived legitimacy of violence among Arabs disillusioned with the international community's failure to make good on the promise to deliver land for peace. And it would only marginally limit the capacity of Israel's enemies to inflict damage: Israel's efforts to shift its population away from its crowded coastline, along with steady advances in the range of missiles and rockets possessed by militant groups and nearby states, will leave Israelis vulnerable regardless of where the state's borders are drawn. And as the international community presses further toward accountability for war crimes, Israel will find it increasingly costly, legally and politically, to use overwhelming military force to deter attacks.

A policy of defensible borders would also perpetuate the current sources of Palestinian insecurity, further delegitimizing an agreement in the public's eyes. Israel would retain the discretion to impose arbitrary and crippling constraints on the movement of people and goods, and Palestinians would remain vulnerable to harassment by Israeli extremists and attacks by the Israel Defense Forces, whether unprovoked or in retaliation for the acts of Palestinian militants. For these reasons, Palestinians are likely to regard defensible borders as little more than occupation by another name.

If the Obama administration is genuinely committed to achieving a Middle East peace agreement that provides effective and durable responses to the risks and threats confronting both Israelis and Palestinians, it should pursue peace within a regional security framework that is built upon four pillars: the establishment of a regional security apparatus; the deployment of a multinational peace-implementation mission in Palestine; the integration of Hamas into Palestine's national political and security institutions; and Israel's full withdrawal behind the 1967 line, as revised pursuant to equitable, mutually agreed-upon land exchanges.

The first pillar -- a new regional security apparatus coordinated initially by the United States -- could integrate existing early-warning and missile-defense infrastructure in Israel and the Gulf and link it with future systems in eastern Turkey and Jordan, permitting more effective detection, tracking, and disabling of long-range missiles from the east. In addition, such an apparatus could provide a vehicle for intelligence sharing among the governments in the region. It could also help deter Iranian nuclear ambitions and provide a forum for arms control negotiations, allowing contentious nuclear proliferation issues to be addressed in tandem with conventional arms reductions.

Israel's participation in such a regime would enable it to strengthen its cooperation with Egypt and Jordan, rebuild its relationship with Turkey, and develop formal security relations with the Gulf states, rather than the tenuous and unofficial contacts it currently maintains. Embedding Israeli-Palestinian security relations within a regional framework could also help resolve issues that have divided the parties in the past. Israel could achieve far greater strategic depth by partnering with Jordan, Turkey, and the Gulf states in the realms of air security, early warning, and missile defense than it ever could by installing radar stations and a standing force in the West Bank.

Second, a multinational peace-implementation mission could be deployed to continue the process of training Palestinian security forces, supervise the withdrawal of Israeli forces, mobilize rapid-reaction forces in areas of strategic importance, and monitor and verify compliance with security provisions of a peace agreement. An international mission would complement the regional security apparatus by bolstering the Palestinians' growing capacity to prevent smuggling, infiltration, and short-range rocket fire.

Several features would differentiate such a mission from the failed efforts of the past. It would be charged with reinforcing and facilitating the implementation of a peace agreement, rather than stabilizing the situation in the absence of one; it would have the authority and capacity to use force to implement its mandate, which would expire only with the consent of both Israel and Palestine; and it would operate under U.S. leadership while also drawing on the assistance of other nations. The unblemished record of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai makes clear that international missions can be successful even in the Middle East if they have the proper mandate, the right force composition, and the support of both sides.

Third, integrating Hamas into Palestine's political and security institutions would bolster the durability of a peace agreement, reduce the risk of conflict, and substantially strengthen Israel's security. Israeli analysts have acknowledged that it is far easier to deter governments than militant groups -- a lesson that Israel recently learned in both Gaza and Lebanon -- while the continuing isolation of Hamas would give it every incentive to undermine political progress, making reaching a peace agreement difficult and implementing one impossible.

Hamas officials have dismissed the Quartet's call to recognize Israel. But Hamas has demonstrated that it will not be forced off the scene by either Israel or the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank. And in a series of recent statements, the movement's Gaza leadership has made clear that it would accept an agreement embraced by the Palestinian public. If Hamas leaders are convinced that a peace agreement establishing a Palestinian state on the territory occupied by Israel since 1967 is imminent, they are more likely to seek a role in implementing it than to risk estranging public opinion by standing in its way.

Fourth, Israel's full withdrawal of its armed forces behind the 1967 line -- with minor and mutually agreed upon territorial exchanges -- would establish the political legitimacy of a peace deal across the Arab world, ensuring that the agreement can actually be implemented.

Securing the agreement of all relevant stakeholders to a framework of this kind will obviously present many challenges. However, the fragility of the current situation and the proven inadequacy of piecemeal approaches suggest that a regional approach is vital. The foundation for such a regime is already in place. The United States is pursuing a missile shield in eastern Turkey under the auspices of NATO and has invested heavily in early-warning and missile-defense systems in the Gulf states, and its allies in the area are seeking both to upgrade their own systems with U.S. technology and establish stronger cooperation. The United States can also draw on the important lessons learned by peacekeeping missions over the last decade by immediately convening a planning forum to ensure that an international mission can be operational the day after a peace agreement is signed.

Discarding the dead-end concept of defensible borders and pursuing a regional security strategy would give the next phase of the Obama administration's Israeli-Palestinian peace effort much-needed focus and credibility. And it would give the United States a leadership role in erecting a security framework that is good not only for Israel but also for the Palestinians and other U.S. allies in the Middle East.