Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Saturday, July 27, 2013

India: Making the Most of a Tough Geopolitical Position

So, now that I've discussed China and Japan, let me deal with the third major power in the Asian balance-of-power system--India. India has features of three of the great powers of the classical European 19th-20th century system. India today is a country divided between a backward, rural agrarian economy and a modern urban economy based on industry, services, and high-tech. In this it resembles China, but it is not as far along as China began her economic liberalization a full decade before India did. India thus resembles in this aspect Russia in the late 19th and early 20th century say from 1890 to 1917. But unlike Tsarist Russia, India is a democracy and a mature one at that--thus resembling the French Third Republic in this aspect. But in her difficult geopolitical position between Pakistan and China, both on her northern borders, India resembles Germany from 1870 to 1945 and Poland from 1919 to 1939.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Japan as the New (Pre-1914) France

In a previous post, I argued that India could be compared to France when comparing the present Asian balance-of-power system with the classical 19th century European system. Former Economist Asian editor Bill Emmott argued in his book Rivals that the present and near-future Asian system consists of three Asian great powers: China, Japan and India. One could then add two Pacific powers to the mix: Australia and the United States. It has now become normal to compare China to Wilhemine Germany and the U.S. to the late 19th century and early 20th century Great Britain. Australia could best be compared to the United States during the early 20th century--a possible future replacement for Britain down the road and an ally in the meantime. This leaves us with Japan and India to compare.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Do EU Clarifications on Israeli border threaten negotiations?

It was announced earlier this week that the European Union would officially not fund any projects in Israel involving input from over the green line (1949 armistice lines). The Israeli government, predictably, denounced this as evidence of European anti-semitism reminiscent of the Holocaust era. In reality instead of discriminating against Israel, it treats Israel like any other country by making clear that the EU recognized UN Security Council Resolution 242 and international law as well as decades of American government policy towards the border. Labor MK Yitzhak Hertzog said that it was a de facto boycott. In reality it is like the limited boycott that American Orthodox Jew and liberal Zionist Peter Beinart has promised as a means of pressure towards implementing a two-state solution. Here for an argument that the new guidelines are anti-semitic.

Some Israeli commentators have said that this will imperil the present American attempt to restart negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. But aren't these negotiations already endangered by the composition of the Israeli composition? Or by the failure of Prime Minister Netanyahu to expel Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon for stating that the two-state solution was not government policy and that the coalition would vote against it if it came to a vote?  Or by statements by Housing Minister Naftali Bennett that the Palestinians are like a piece of shrapnel in the ass? Here diplomatic correspondent Chemi Shalev of Ha'Aretz makes the case that it will actually strengthen Kerry's mission. And here is a Jerusalem Post editorial arguing that it is out of touch with reality. While here is 972's take on it. And here is the Lebanese Daily Star's take on it. And a rather revisionist take it is, by stating that we are back where we were 46 years ago this overlooks the Khartoum summit resolutions--the three no's--and the subsequent Arab rejectionism that continued until after the time of Sadat.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

China: Germany or Italy?

In recent years as China has begun to emerge as a rising naval power in both the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, there have been many comparisons between Germany between 1898 and 1914 and China. Henry Kissinger made this comparison in his latest book, On China, but noted that unlike in Europe in the early 20th century it did not have to end in disaster. In this comparison the United States is naturally cast in the role of Great Britain--the satiated status quo power and major naval power. Presumably India can be cast as France, the lesser naval power and continental power that has been a past rival to Great Britain but is now available as an ally.

In the 19th century/early 20th century European balance-of-power system half of the powers, all located in Eastern or Central Europe, were weak states on their way down: Russia, Austro-Hungary, the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and Italy. The Ottoman Empire had been "the sick man of Europe" for three-quarters of a century as it lost its European colonies in the Balkans (much like Spain in North America in the 19th century) and would furnish the battleground and casus belli for the start of the First World War. It lost Greece and Serbia in the 1820s, Bulgaria in the 1870s, Bosnia in 1908, and Albania in 1912. Russia was full of national minorities and had suffered from a failed revolution in 1905 as a result of its humiliating defeat to Japan in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. Austo-Hungary suffered from the fact that both the Austrians and the Hungarians were minorities in their respective portions of the Empire and the conservative Magyar landed interests were opposed to turning the dual monarchy into a triple monarchy by sharing power with the Slavs who made up a majority of the Empire's subjects.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sinn Fein and the Border Poll

Under the Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland must conduct a border poll of the population about entering a united Ireland whenever there is sufficient demand for one, but with a maximum of one every seven years. Sinn Fein is now agitating for a border poll. This would, on the face of it, seem a rather strange time to do so as the economy in the Republic is still reeling from the 2010 collapse (caused by a property bubble similar to the one that caused the 2008 recession in the U.S.) and few Catholics in the North are interested in joining a failed economic system at the moment. Indications are that only about half of nationalists, or about a quarter of the population over all would vote for unification. But as Basil McCrea lets on here in a speech to the SF Summer School in Belfast, this might be smart politics for the party. By setting the bar low, any future gains can be looked upon and sold as major achievements and hopefully have a snowball effect.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Egypt's Military: The Kingmaker

On Sunday the Egyptian military made an ultimatum that President Morsi and his opponents--mostly liberal pro-democracy and old regime types--had 48 hours to agree on a way forward or the army would intervene. Here is a link to a video from PBS Newshour on that development. This follows on a massive rally held in Tahrir Square in Cairo held by anti-Islamist protesters who want to claw back some of the power that President Morsi has taken for himself.

Developments in Egypt parallel developments in Iran in 1979 in some respects. Then there was a broad revolutionary spectrum composed of Marxists, nationalists, liberals, and Islamists that all banded together to overthrow the monarchist regime. Once the Shah left the country and power was given to the revolution the coalition began to collapse. For the first year moderate nationalists ruled and the force behind the Islamists, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his followers in the clergy, moved to radicalize the revolution and provoke a confrontation with the West by seizing control of the American Embassy in Tehran. The Islamists drew their support from the rural poor who had been migrating to Tehran and living in poor neighborhoods during the Shah's reign. Khomeini promised them sharia, dignity, and economic improvement. The Islamists benefited from a clandestine network that they had used and built over 15 years of opposition to the Shah. Moderates were purged from the revolutionary committees (komitehs) and the government found itself controlling less and less, as in the days of the Russian Revolution. The komitehs were the equivalent of the Russian soviets or soldiers' and workers' councils.