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ISN Weekly Theme: Gulf State Diplomacy

A highway in Kuwait City / Photo: Fawaz Al-Arbash, flickr

A highway in Kuwait City / Photo: Fawaz Al-Arbash, flickr

This week we’re highlighting the shifting diplomatic ties between the US and the Gulf states and the linkages between these monied monarchies and East Asia, starting with our Special Report, Gulf States Go Global, where Phillip McCrum argues that the US’ declining influence in the area has allowed regional players to stretch their diplomatic muscles. Because of this shift, according to Christopher M Davidson, not only are regional actors asserting themselves, East Asia is also becoming a major player.

In keeping with our theme, also check out The Consolidation of Gulf-Asia Relations: Washington Tuned In or Out of Touch? from the Middle East Institute in our Policy Briefs.

By the way, the Gulf Cooperation Council Charter in our Primary Resources section makes for good reading too.

We’re featuring the Gulf states throughout the ISN website this week, so be sure to check your RSS feeds, subscribe to our Twitter feed and join our Facebook fan page.

A Kinder, Gentler Army?

Sigmund Freud's sofa / Photo: Konstantin Binder, Wikipedia

Sigmund Freud's sofa / Photo: Konstantin Binder, Wikipedia

For some reason I thought this practice was already in place, but the US Army has announced that it is starting an obligatory “emotional resiliency” program for its troops.

According to the NY Times the program is meant to head off the plethora of mental health issues soldiers bring back with them from their tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The move comes after the military has faced criticism for failing to provide proper care for its troops, which some say has led to an “epidemic of suicides” due to post-traumatic stress disorder and what’s termed ‘Gulf War syndrome.’

The weekly, 90-minute sessions will involve exercises in which participants will examine methods “to defuse or expose common habits of thinking and flawed beliefs that can lead to anger and frustration — for example, the tendency to assume the worst.”

Off topic comment: That’s not just needed for the military.

In an atmosphere in which a person is formed into, for all intents and purposes, a killing machine, this type of program is/was sorely needed. But it does go against the normal military culture; one of bravery, manliness and keeping a stiff upper lip in the face of danger, or worse.

“Psychology has given us this whole language of pathology, so that a soldier in tears after seeing someone killed thinks, ‘Something’s wrong with me; I have post-traumatic stress,’ ” or P.T.S.D., Dr. Seligman said. “The idea here is to give people a new vocabulary, to speak in terms of resilience. Most people who experience trauma don’t end up with P.T.S.D.; many experience post-traumatic growth.”

And perhaps give a new definition to “bravery.”

Strange Things in the Sky

Arnold_crescent_1947

American businessman Kenneth Arnold pointing out a drawing of an UFO he saw on June 24, 1947 while flying his private plane near Mount Rainier, Washington.

The UK Ministry of Defence has released some 4000 pages of previously classified files on UFOs. The sightings documented were between 1981 and 1996 and include observations by private citizens and members of the military such as fighter pilots and other personnel.

Interestingly enough, according to the Times, the yearly sightings of UFOs in the UK increased after the first screening of the X-Files. However you want to interpret this, some disturbing facts remain:

As Nick Pope, a former head of the MoD’s UFO desk is quoted by the Times:

“There are some fascinating cases here [in the released files] and while we could explain 95 per cent of the sightings, the rest were a genuine mystery. We were particularly concerned by near misses with aircraft and cases where UFOs were seen close to military bases.”

So the MoD admits that there are unknown flying objects that can’t be explained and that show up around military bases. Yet people doing research on UFOs are frequently ridiculed and named lunatics by the media and academia.

Can anyone who takes his job in security policy seriously disregard the fact that something is flying around over our heads and we have no idea what it is?

Homo Homini Lupus

“When you try to terrorize people and you burn their houses, when you desecrate graves and when you make death threats, to me that is way beyond activism and I would call this clearly terrorism,” Daniel Vasella, CEO of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, told the media.

Some days before, the “Militant Forces against Huntingdon Life Science (MFAH)” burned down his hunting cottage in Austria and desecrated his mother’s grave in Chur, Switzerland. The MFAH is said to be linked to the British campaign “Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty” (SHAC); Huntingdon being Europe’s largest and, seemingly, most controversial contract animal-testing company. Cynically, Huntingdon’s slogan could also be the MFAH’s credo: “Working for a Better Future.”

Animal liberation / Photo: ThinkVegan/flickr

Animal liberation / Photo: ThinkVegan/flickr

Incredibly enough, according to the Swiss domestic intelligence service, Dienst für Analyse und Prävention (DAP), investigations related to militant animal rights groups amount to as much as 10 percent of their daily workload.

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But Timber Doesn’t Sink, Right?

Rambo with a missile, photo: Andrew Becraft / flickr

Lego Rambo with a missile, photo: Andrew Becraft / flickr

In one of the most bizarre stories of the month, a Finnish-owned ship with a timber load belonging to Stora Enso (a Finnish company and the second largest paper producer in the world) worth an estimated 1.3 million euros, vanished (yes, vanished!) as it was passing through the English Channel nearly three weeks ago on its way to Algeria. The ship and its all-Russian crew have not been heard from since. Reports state that the ship was hijacked off the Swedish coast in July and subsequently released by suspected pirates who had reportedly boarded the vessel dressed up as Swedish anti-narcotics police. The ship, upon failing to bring its load to Algeria on 4 August was reported missing.

While the Finns seem oddly indifferent and blasé about the whole thing, Putin is already flexing his well-toned muscles and threatening to launch a Rambo-mission to find the poor hijackees (with the help of his sidekick, Medvedev, of course). We needn’t worry though- apparently timber can’t sink, so the ship will be found, intact or as a sea of floating Finnish timber in the Atlantic.

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