Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

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It’s the blockade, stupid

June 1, 2010

For all the outcry around the Israeli flotilla attacks, perhaps one of the most important things to come out of it is that the world is finally paying much-needed attention to the longstanding Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Ultimately, the international uproar coming out of this situation is not the product of one isolated incidence of violence but of a series of actions that have taken place for years in Gaza and have, until now, been largely ignored by most of the world and certainly by the United States. Israel has imposed an embargo allowing only food and humanitarian aid into Gaza – nothing else. Which means that they can’t build any homes, schools, hospitals or other infrastructure in Gaza because no supplies can get in.

This, in turn, has kept Gaza in a terrible state of poverty for years. And this situation has been going on for far too long with much of the world ignoring it – so maybe now, as a result of the Monday attacks, international attention is finally being turned to Gaza.

As Foreign Policy magazine writer Marc Lynch tweeted today: the focus of coming days should be on Gaza itself, not just the boat.

UPDATE: This extremely interesting graphic from The Economist shows just what is and isn’t blocked from getting into Gaza.

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Thoughts on the Afghanistan speech: we can’t afford more war.

December 2, 2009

Last night, President Obama delivered his much-awaited speech announcing his strategy for the war in Afghanistan moving forward. I covered it, and my reaction to it, over at Care2 so if you have a sec I hope you will check it out — as well as the already very lively debate in the comments section.

In short: I think we shouldn’t be escalating. Our total troop level in Afghanistan will be at 100,000 and although the timeframe for withdrawal is tentatively set at 2011, there’s no guaranteeing that we’ll stick to that timeline. In the meantime, we’re continuing to lose dollars and human lives — two things we can’t afford to lose anymore of.

Feel free to check out my whole post here.

Also, for additional coverage I’d recommend reading other perspectives on the speech from some great writers:

The Washington Independent

David Corn at Mother Jones

And one of the smartest foreign policy bloggers around, Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy mag

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Is America shifting on Israel, or is the media shifting on Israel?

June 16, 2009

One of the things I love almost as much as the news is the narrative being told about the events. It’s difficult for any given person to separate the facts and the actual events taking place from the media narrative being told about it. The Iran story that I’ve been watching lately is a perfect example. No one is really 100% sure what the facts are or what even constitutes fact. MSNBC will spin it one way. Fox and/or Mitt Romney will blame Obama. Bloggers will each try to put their own spin on it. And gradually, the narrative being constructed by the media may or may not reflect the actual facts.

Since Iran has been the Middle East story of the week, and America seems to be able to focus on only one Middle Eastern country at a time, the other big Middle East story of the week hasn’t been getting quite as much attention other than from foreign policy geeks. That story, of course, is the Israel-Palestine peace process.

A few weeks ago President Obama met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. In early June, Obama delivered a speech to the Middle East from Cairo. This past Sunday, Netanyahu addressed his people on the topic of the peace process.

After these three historic events, a new narrative has emerged: America’s relationship with Israel is changing. Over the past couple of weeks have seen a plethora of articles and blog posts from both seasoned journalists and amateur bloggers alike, all suggesting the same ideas: the power of the legendary Israel lobby is weakening. President Obama is pressuring Netanyahu. Obama is the next Jimmy Carter [because Carter was the last US president who put real pressure on Israel to make peace]. Americans are gradually shifting from unconditionally supporting Israel to supporting a two-state solution. America’s relationship with Israel is changing dramatically. It’s a new chapter in the two countries’ relationship.

The question to me is: has American public opinion on support for Israel really changed? Or is this a shift in the media narrative but not actually a shift in America’s opinions and policy? Is the course of American foreign policy really shifting, or is this talk from speculative cable news pundits?

Is it REALLY a new era in America’s approach to Israel and Palestine? Or am I hoping for too much here?

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Why The Al Arabiya Move is So Important for the US and the Middle East

January 27, 2009

I woke up this morning and the first thing, I did, over breakfast, was check my feeds. About 90% of my Google Reader is clogged with news and political feeds from just about every political writer, major news blog, and mainstream media outlet you can think of. Reading the news — and assorted political blogs — consumes like 20% of my day. I can’t leave in the morning without knowing what’s going on around the country and around the world.

So I was really, really excited when I read the news this morning and found out President Obama granted his first official interview as President… to Al-Arabiya, an Arabic-language TV station based in Saudi Arabia.

The symbolic importance alone of this decision is huge. But then you have to examine what he said during the interview:

“Now, my job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect. I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries … the largest one, Indonesia. And so what I want to communicate is the fact that in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I’ve come to understand is that regardless of your faith – and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers – regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams.

And my job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy.”

During the whole campaign he downplayed his ties to the Muslim world for fear that his attackers would use it against him. Now he’s being open about it and reaching out to the most volatile, complex region of the world and offering, above all else, respect — something the past administration refused to offer. And the fact that we have a President that can even make such statements as in that first paragraph is still astonishing on its own.

The last time I got this excited about something in the media was when Colin Powell defended Muslims on Meet The Press and condemned the anti-Muslim attacks used in the election:

“Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian.  He’s always been a Christian.  But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?  Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”

Obama, in his Al Arabiya interview, emphasized that the US will listen instead of just dictating, that the US is committed to Arab-Israeli peace, and that we care about the quality of life of all people — in Israel and Palestine and everywhere else. And the statements that he has made — and that Powell made towards the end of the election — are, I hope, indicative of a new era in US-Arab relations.

Look, I’m normally one to be kind of skeptical of politicians. I know how campaigns work. I know federal government is bogged down by all kinds of bureacracy. And I certainly don’t mean to constantly heap praise on Obama on this blog all the time — I certainly don’t agree with everything he does and I didn’t even vote for him in the primaries.

But, it’s really hard not to be optimistic about the future of the relationship between the US and the Muslim world when we have a President that is committed to honestly, respectfully, engaging the Arab world and actually making progress in the Middle East.

The most important thing he can do is what he has already begun doing: changing the tone of the conversation to one of respect.

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