This Week at the ISN…

It's week 44 on the ISN's editorial calendar, Photo: Eva Ekeblad/flickr

We’ll highlight the following topics:

  • In ISN Insights on Monday, Robert Cutler discusses energy politics on the complex chessboard of the Caspian Sea basin.
  • On Tuesday, we report on last week’s conference, “The Arab World: Where is it heading to?” — jointly organized by NCCR Democracy and the Center for Comparative and International Studies at ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich.
  • In Wednesday’s ISN Insight,  Dean Baker, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, weighs in on the European Commission’s proposed Financial Transaction Tax.
  • On Thursday, we’ll feature the holdings of our Digital Library on Syria.
  • In Friday’s podcast, Shiraz Maher discusses the impact of multiculturalism on extremism.

And in case you missed any of last week’s coverage, you can catch up here on: China’s currency policies; the Swiss elections; post-war reconciliation and reintegration in Sri Lanka; Geopolitics and Afghanistan, and Terrorism as an instrument of coercion

Journalism Terrorism

LNOTA – Media Self-Censorship to Fight Terrorism?

Could limited media coverage help fighting terrorism?

9/11 and media

What Al-Qaeda achieved on 9/11 was arguably not only the most extreme and effective terrorist attack ever carried out, but also a highly effective media spectacle with unprecedented return on investment. The loss of human life aside, Al-Qaeda was known all over the world within hours, at the cost of eleven airline tickets and some box-cutters. Indeed, Al-Qaeda, like other terrorist organizations, could count on the readiness of the world media to broadcast their acts to the world live on television and the internet, as well as in print.

International Relations Security

Keyword in Focus: Geopolitics & Afghanistan

Greater Persia and Afghanistan at the beginning of the original 'Great Game'
Greater Persia and Afghanistan at the beginning of the original ‘Great Game,’ in 1814 Image: Wikimedia Commons

With the death of Muammar Gaddafi last Thursday and President Barack Obama’s announcement the following day that all troops would be leaving Iraq by the end of the year, Americans might have been forgiven for waking up this week with withdrawal symptoms.  By the end of the year, America’s ‘three wars’ will be down to just one (unless you count Uganda).  According to the latest schedules, the last war standing — the ongoing conflict that began with the invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001 — will not be over until 2014.

As Americans were told from the beginning, Afghanistan had long been an important battleground of great powers and civilizations.

Social Media Technology Internet Human Rights

The Youth of the Arab Spring

Libya's youth demonstrating against the Gaddafi regime
Game over for Gaddafi. But who's next? Photo by Collin David Anderson/Flickr

Young men and women have formed the core of the recent uprisings across the Arab world. Yet media outlets have often generalized coverage of the Arab spring and overlooked individual contributions. So the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs’ (FDFA) decision to invite six activists to its Annual Conference was an opportunity to hear the hopes and fears of the region’s youth. Their message was a mixture of genuine ambition, cautious optimism and concern for the future.

Despite recent clashes between Coptic Christians and the security forces of the interim military government, Egyptian youth remains confident that the ‘Tahrir spirit’ is alive and kicking. Confidence also remains high that genuine democratic change will happen and that upcoming elections will be free and fair. The Egyptian representative, Sondos Asem, also emphasized that relations between Muslims and Copts are generally good. While Islamists continue to grow as a significant political force, it is by no means guaranteed that they will eventually hold the reins of power. As a result, the Conference was told ‘not to fear the Arab spring’.

Libya’s Loay al-Magri offered a more substantive vision of the aspirations of the country’s youth. Demands have been made for the swift establishment of the rule of law with no ethnic distinctions. This should be accompanied by social and economic policies that review Libya’s education system, encourage vocational training, redevelop the commercial sector and revitalize the jobs market. It is also hoped that a full and frank exchange of ideas across Libyan society will result in similarly proactive foreign policies. It remains to be seen whether the recent death of Muammar Gaddafi will accelerate or temporarily derail these ambitions.

Government Elections Foreign policy

Switzerland: Less Polarized, More Fragmented

Switzerland’s political landscape after the elections: less polarized but more fragmented. Photo: twicepix/flickr

Last Sunday’s elections unexpectedly bucked the trend of growing polarization in the Swiss political landscape. All major established parties lost support, while two new center parties – the Liberal Greens and the Conservative Democrats – were the big winners.

But, to many, the biggest surprise was the weak showing of the Swiss People’s Party, the SVP. For two decades, the proportion of the electorate voting for the anti-immigration, anti-European party had steadily increased. With a number of controversial popular initiatives and xenophobic campaigns (most famously the ‘black sheep‘ campaign, which the UN denounced as racist), the party mobilized voters and more than doubled its percentage between 1991 and 2007.