Polio Wars: Conspiracy and Democracy in Pakistan

A doctor in Pakistan checking children for Polio vaccination. Image: CDC Global/Flickr

This article was originally published by OpenDemocracy on 18 September, 2015.

Between December 2012 and early 2015, 78 people were murdered and dozens of others injured because they tried to administer a polio vaccine to children.  They were killed because of a claim that the vaccines in their coolboxes were actually chemical devices in a western plot to sterilise Muslims.

These killings all took place in Pakistan, the archetypal ‘failed state’. What better evidence can there be that the country is a nest of terrorists than that it cannot stop the murder of medics trying to wipe out a deadly, crippling disease – all because of a conspiracy theory? » More

The Latino Politics of the Cuba Deal

Newspaper depicting President Obama in Che Guveara fashion. Image: Mark Hillary/Flickr

This article was originally published by the World Policy Blog on 17 September, 2015.

True to Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to directly engage radical regimes without preconditions, and in spite of having no diplomatic relations with them, his administration negotiated a breakthrough diplomatic deal. Meanwhile on the domestic front, the president has thus far prevailed over vehement congressional opposition and a storied, ethnically-based foreign policy lobby in pursuit of such an agreement.

While this capsule description fits the “Iran deal,” that titanic political battle has eclipsed a similar case that preceded it only seven months before: the agreement to restore normal diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba. And rather than any negotiation with Iran, it may be the Cuba precedent that is more clearly instructive of the political strategy accompanying Obama’s use of his executive powers in the context of divided government and acute partisan polarization in Washington. » More

Moldova: Examining the Russian Media Factor in Protests

Vladimir Putin at the Russia Today studios. Image: Kremlin.ru/Flickr

This article was originally published by EurasiaNet.org on 11 September, 2015.

The ongoing protest in the Moldovan capital Chișinău is posing a fresh test of Russian state-controlled media’s ability to project Kremlin geopolitical preferences.

Regional analysts assert that Moscow is viewing the protest as another Western-orchestrated, Euromaidan-like disturbance that constitutes a threat to Russian national interests. Not surprisingly, then, Russian broadcasters and print outlets are striving to shape a news narrative in which the protest is an expression of the population’s discontent with Moldova’s European Union integration efforts. » More

(W)Archives: Cooking the Books on the Islamic State and the Viet Cong

A Viet Cong guerilla fighter with an AK-47. Image: SSgt. Herman Kokojan/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 4 September, 2015.

According to recent press reports, the Pentagon’s Inspector General is investigating whether officials from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) have skewed intelligence assessments to show more progress in the fight against the Islamic State than the facts would justify. Allegedly, these politicized assessments have made their way to senior officials right up to the president.

We do not yet know the full truth but these are serious allegations; politicization is one of the most profoundly unethical acts that intelligence officers can engage in. If the charges are substantiated, this will not be the first time that the U.S. military has cooked the books on a war. In 1967, the U.S. Intelligence Community produced Special National Intelligence Estimate 14.3-67, “Capabilities of the Vietnamese Communists for Fighting in South Vietnam,” which is available at the CIA’s Freedom of Information Act website. The sordid story of this estimate encourages us to take a hard line on politicization. It also reminds us, however, that intelligence is an inherently uncertain business. » More

The West Should Not Hold Its Breath in Expecting Real Change to Emerge from the 2015 Presidential Election in Belarus

Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin at the 2012 CSTO meeting in Moscow. Image: The Presidential Press and Information Office/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by LSE EUROPP, a blog hosted by the London School of Economics and Political Science on 27 August, 2015.

On 21 August the Central Elections Committee of Belarus announced that five presidential candidates had submitted enough signatures to run in elections scheduled for 11 October this year. In the 2010 presidential elections, the authorities saw the Belarusian opposition as the main threat and crushed protests, putting several presidential candidates in jail. After the recent events in Ukraine the authorities seem to view Russia as a more serious threat although they would not publically admit it.

Belarus only had real elections during a brief period of competitive politics in the early 1990s, prior to the election of current President Alexander Lukashenko in 1994. This is why for many Belarusians, particularly older generations, elections are not an opportunity to change their leadership but something of an old ritual. » More

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