Category: Middle East

War and Drugs in Afghanistan

by Vanda Felbab-Brown

Since 2001, Afghanistan has become synonymous with the term “narcostate” and the associated spread of crime and illegality. Though the Afghan drug economy peaked in 2007 and 2008, cultivation this year still amounted to 325,000 acres, and the potential production of opium reached 6,400 tons (.pdf). Narcotics production and counternarcotics policies in Afghanistan are of critical importance not only for drug control there and worldwide, but also for the security, reconstruction and rule of law efforts in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, many of the counternarcotics policies adopted during most of the past decade not only failed to reduce the size and scope of the illicit economy in Afghanistan, but also had serious counterproductive effects on the other objectives of peace, state-building and economic reconstruction.

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Do New Democracies Support Democracy?: The Multilateral Dimension

by Ted Piccone 

The world’s six most influential rising democracies—Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey—are at various stages of democratic consolidation. Freedom House ranks them all as Free in terms of political rights and civil liberties except for Turkey (which is at the top of the Partly Free category), and all six have enjoyed remarkable economic growth and improved standards of living in recent years. Yet when it comes to supporting democracy and human rights outside their borders, they have differed quite a bit from one another, with behavior ranging from sympathetic support to borderline hostility.

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Social media and the Arab Spring: Where did they learn that?

by Will Stebbins

In my work as an external affairs consultant in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) division of The World Bank, I have had the opportunity of becoming very familiar with the region’s development literature. One of the key questions the literature attempts to answer is the source of the incredibly high unemployment rates in Middle East and North Africa: Far higher than any other developing region, and especially high among college graduates.

This is a key economic context for the ‘Arab Spring,’ and one of the sources of the mass frustration that led to the protests. The literature identifies a number of well known culprits: non-diversified economies, highly dependent on oil, both for those that have it and those that don’t, and very small private sectors, as the state continues to dominate MENA economies and hence the labor markets. Yet, it’s the  public sector that is under stress as a result of the global financial crisis.

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We May Be Witnessing the First Large Global Conflict Where People Are Aligned by Consciousness and Not Nation State or Religion

By Naomi Wolf
They’re fighting a “corporatocracy” that has bought governments, created armed enforcers, engaged in systemic economic fraud, and plundered treasuries and ecosystems.
America’s politicians, it seems, have had their fill of democracy. Across the country, police, acting under orders from local officials, are breaking up protest encampments set up by supporters of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement – sometimes with shocking and utterly gratuitous violence.

In the worst incident so far, hundreds of police, dressed in riot gear, surrounded Occupy Oakland’s encampment and fired rubber bullets (which can be fatal), flash grenades and tear-gas canisters – with some officers taking aim directly at demonstrators. The Occupy Oakland Twitter feed read like a report from Cairo’s Tahrir Square: “they are surrounding us”; “hundreds and hundreds of police”; “there are armoured vehicles and Hummers”. There were 170 arrests.

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Preventing a Syrian Civil War

by Salman Shaikh

Last week, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Syria, dealing a blow to the stability of the country and its neighbors. The double veto could even lead to civil war.

The inability of the Security Council to act has created a dangerous political vacuum, sending a clear message to President Bashar al-Assad that he can continue to kill with impunity and signaling to Syrian protesters that they are on their own.

While Russia and China have emphasized dialogue over confrontation and are proposing a more “balanced” resolution, the reality is that the Syrian street has been explicitly calling for the fall of the Assad regime for months.

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