On the Origin of Pirates

I write this from a position of relative ignorance on the issue of the Somali pirates, except for that information widely available in the press. However, after reading this article from the New York Times, I felt empowered to make some mildly dubious gratuitous historical comparisons to two periods of piracy along the Chinese coast.

Despite the headline, the article mostly discusses the Obama administration’s efforts to downplay the likelihood of expansive military action, especially raids against pirate bases on shore. However, with both NATO and EU anti-piracy forces in the region, it is clear that more military solutions are being sought. This should not be the only course of action. Piracy, like banditry, is largely a product of economic circumstance and the weakness of local government – these causes must be addressed in addition to military action.

More on the flip. (more…)

Published in: on April 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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Not the Change We Need: Part II of a Continuing Series

Yesterday, the Obama administration formally adopted the Bush administration position that the state secrets privilege could be used to dismiss a civil lawsuit on the theory that any adjudication would endanger national security. This is a dangerous position that undermines citizen access to the courts. See Gleen Greewald for a more complete discussion of Obama’s flip-flop on this issue. ABC News is reporting the same.

A source inside of the Ninth U.S. District Court tells ABC News that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn’t changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The DOJ lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.

This is a depressing turn of events. The case revolves around claims made by five men that they were extraordinarily renditioned rendered to prisons overseas where they were tortured. This assertion of the privilege is especially disconcerting in light of the claims coming from Britain that the Obama administration has been pressuring British courts to block the release of information regarding the potential torture of a British national. (Although the Telegraph is reporting that the British Government suppressed the evidence because MI6 was involved in the torture, which included slicing his genitals with a scalpel.)

This is not change, it’s more of the same.

Hypocrisy: Not the Change We Need

Jonathan Turley points out some potential hypocrisy in the Obama administration.

In a striking departure from the Bush Administration, Ambassador Susan E. Rice, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, called for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by Israel in the recent Gaza fighting. While correctly noting such violations by Hamas, Rice noted that there are now credible accounts that need to be investigated. The question is now whether the Administration will apply the same standard to the investigation and prosecution of war crimes that are now clearly identified in the Bush Administration involving an official torture program.

I’m pleased to see a more balanced approach to Israel (on this, see Glenn Greenwald) and the allegations of the use of white phosphorus by the Israelis is disturbing. However, I’d be more pleased to see us address the war criminals at home before we tackle them abroad.

Israel: A One State Solution?

It is a very strange turn of events that I find myself agreeing on anything with Muammar Qaddafi. He argues that the two-state solution of Israel and Palestine isn’t possible, and calls for a single state that would include the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The history of Israel/Palestine is not remarkable by regional standards — a country inhabited by different peoples, with rule passing among many tribes, nations and ethnic groups; a country that has withstood many wars and waves of peoples from all directions. This is why it gets so complicated when members of either party claims the right to assert that it is their land.

In absolute terms, the two movements must remain in perpetual war or a compromise must be reached. The compromise is one state for all, an “Isratine” that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it.

I certainly don’t agree with all that he says, but I do agree that a Palestinian state in just the West Bank, or in the West Bank and Gaza, is not likely to be viable. In addition to the unacceptable long-term security threat to Israel that Qaddafi cites, there is also the issue of water security. Currently, Israel controls the vast majority of water resources for the region, and consumption is already at unsustainably high levels. Salt water intrusion into aquifers is the cost of making the desert bloom. A Palestinian state would be in constant fear of a water shortage, especially in the face of population growth, which would contribute to on-going security crises with Israel.

I don’t know that I agree that a single ‘Isratine’ is the solution. I suspect that any resolution will need to involve considerable absorption of refugees, and perhaps territory, into Egypt and Jordan, or other Arab states. But I do think that the on-going international commitment to the two-state solution hampers the creation and discussion of other alternatives. Palestinians have for generations been fed on false promises. Everyone in the region needs to take a harsh look at reality.

Published in: on January 23, 2009 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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