Does the ‘West’ Exist?

Image: U.S Department of State/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by European Geostrategy on 20 July 2014.

In September, the NATO allies will meet at the summit to discuss issues ranging from the end of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan to the reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank.

The agenda and areas of consensus will mostly be prepared by national officials and the NATO staff well in advance of the meeting. Most likely not on the agenda, however, is a philosophical but critical question that hangs over the alliance: does the ‘West’ still exist? » More

Sinking the Next-13-Navies Fallacy

Stephen D Doyle II/Flickr

This article was originally published July 10 2014 by War on the Rocks.

The war against naval factoids is a quagmire! A primary theater in this whack-a-mole struggle is the notion that America’s navy is “stronger” than the next X navies, and thus, we should rest easy about our republic’s strategic position in Eurasia. The usual figure given for X is 13, although a reputable commentator recently inflated it to 16. The latest purveyor of this claim is David Axe, the normally reliable proprietor of War Is Boring. On Tuesday, Axe contended, “By some measures, the U.S. Navy maintains a 13-navy standard. In other words, it can deploy as much combat power as the next 13 largest fleets combined.” » More

Israel’s Wall: 10 Years Justice Denied

Rianne Van Doevern/Flickr

This article was originally published 9 July 2014 by openDemocracy

“I spend up to five or six hours every day travelling just to get to university. Without the wall and the checkpoints, this trip would take 20 minutes.”

English Literature students Hala Liddawieh and Nagham Yassin, both 20 years old, live in occupied East Jerusalem and travel across the wall every day to get to Birzeit university, passing through the infamous Qalandia military checkpoint. Qalandia is one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank: to get past, residents have to walk through G4S-supplied body scanners, while Israeli soldiers check their identity cards.

A decade after its illegal construction, Israel’s wall casts a shadow over every aspect of Palestinian life. » More

The Geopolitics of Ramadan

Photo: DVIDSHUB/flickr

This article was originally published by Stratfor on 28 June 2014.

Ramadan for most people is a religious occasion when Muslims around the world fast from dawn until dusk. During this lunar month, the faithful also try to pray as much as possible and seek to maximize the practice of good deeds. However, Ramadan has a much less talked about geopolitical dimension.

Analysis

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, begins on June 28 in North America this year (2014 on the Gregorian calendar, 1435 on the Muslim Hijri calendar). As is always the case, there are variations in the calendar — usually of one or two days — for Muslims living in different parts of the world. For instance, Saudi Arabia has announced that it will start Ramadan on June 29.

The Koran is believed to have been revealed in this month. The last 10 days are considered the most blessed — especially Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power), which falls on the 27th night of the month. » More

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Virtual Conflict as Cultural Catharsis: Re-fighting Vietnam 2.0

Online Game Call of Duty, courtesy of Movistar Campus Party México

This article was originally published by Strife on 12 June 2014.

Storytelling is a core part of how we communicate with each other, understand complex issues and come to terms with the world around us. The prevalence of so-called ‘talking therapies’ show that such processes are important in helping to overcome and move past negative events and experiences. The experience of 9/11 left long-lasting and deep collective and cultural damage on the US/Western collective psyches. The ‘War on Terror’ has been compared to what Vietnam was for Lyndon Johnson: ‘a vast, tragic distraction in which he must be seen to be winning, lest the domestic agenda he really cares about be derailed.’ Popular culture, in this case Western-developed video/computer games, have become a medium in which the cathartic and curative process of storytelling is taking place on a cultural level, to move past and overcome both of these ‘unfinished’ conflicts.

War and conflict have been staple thematic topics in games for decades, as far back as Space Invaders and Missile Command in the late 1970s. However, the games released after 9/11 show an interesting pattern indicating a marked swing in direction and focus. Between 2002 and 2005 there were two games released that were set during the first Gulf War (Conflict: Desert Storm I & II), at least nine games released set during the Vietnam War (Vietcong, Vietcong 2, Battlefield: Vietnam, Conflict: Vietnam, Shellshock: ‘Nam 67, Wings over Vietnam, Platoon, Men of Valor, Line of Sight: Vietnam) as well as many more set in the modern day in real or analogous Middle-Eastern theatres. One of the most stand-out titles from this period was America’s 10 Most Wanted, whose finale consists of the player fighting Osama Bin Laden in hand-to-hand combat, and subsequently bundling him into a helicopter that flies off into the sunset while the credits roll. From this period mainstream game development began to shift to reflect changing current events. From 2008 games in this thematic field have often adopted Private Military Contractors in both pro and antagonistic roles. after the details of Blackwater’s/Xe’s involvement in Iraq became wider public knowledge and a hot topic of the time.

The ability of popular culture to serve as a space for cultural catharsis and as a coping mechanism isn’t a new one; after the collective cultural trauma of Vietnam a similar process of mourning and understanding took place. The trajectory of tone and content in the ‘war is hell’ films from the 1970s such as Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter shifted dramatically to the restorative and cathartic films from the 1980s like Top Gun and Rambo. These films either painted the US military in a far more positive and victorious light or, in the case of Rambo, literally re-fighting Vietnam on-screen. » More

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