Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, photo: Chesi- Fotos CC/flickr
Nicolas Sarkozy, two years into his office as president, continues to chart a bold, if unfocused course in French foreign affairs. Although rhetoric has so far been stronger than action, Sarkozy has forged warmer ties with the US, assumed an active role in regional crisis management and pushed for further European integration. And with the Lisbon Treaty ratified Sarkozy seems to have gotten what he wanted on this crucial front.
Lone girl in Afghanistan, photo: Papyrrari/flickr
As the world anticipates Obama’s long-awaited strategy review for Afghanistan, the debate around the war intensifies with politicians, experts and laymen weighing in on the desired course of Afghan policy.
A war that has lasted eight years, and that costs the US $3.6 billion a month, has become a source of intense historical and strategic debates about the nature of conflict in South Asia, the region’s geopolitical significance, and the role of US power in the modern era. With America’s Vietnam legacy in mind the pressure to deliver something positive is immense.
But in these debates about strategy- how to quell the Taliban insurgency; how to address the region as a whole, particularly with Pakistan’s shortcomings in mind, and how to strengthen the Afghan government without giving Karzai carte blanche, etc – the humanitarian focus is exactly what seems to be missing.
Photo: woodwalker/wikimedia commons
In late July, Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd set out for a hike in the mountainous border region between Iraq and Iran. The three hikers had been warned not to hike in this area, as the border between the two countries is not clearly marked. The hikers went anyway – and they were promptly detained by Iranian border guards when they unintentionally crossed into Iran.
The trio’s recklessness played into the hands of the Iranian government. The three Americans have become a kind of cheap trump card for Tehran, which claims that the hikers are ‘spies’ sent by the reviled US. The incident gave the Iranian government a convenient pretext to distract from domestic problems and divert popular attention toward a common outside enemy.
Meanwhile, there is the story of the adventurous British yachting couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler, who set out on a dangerous voyage in the pirate-infested waters of East Africa. They had also been warned. The manager of the yacht club in the Seychelles from where the Chandlers disembarked had strongly advised them against undertaking their planned journey to the African mainland due to pirate activity. They went anyway. And the pirates caught them.
For the pirates, the two Brits are a valuable prize – they are citizens of a wealthy country in exchange for whom a lucrative ransom can be expected.
Adventure tourism is in vogue. Perhaps life has become too predictable, too mundane, too pedestrian inside the protected cocoon of western consumer societies. So at least in our spare time, some of us like to go for the real adventure and smell real danger.
But what if something goes wrong? What if you get caught or kidnapped?
No worries. Your government will do everything within its power to bail you out.
The Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution / Photo: US Navy/Wikipedia
Maybe it’s that Beoduin-style tent he likes to pitch in the most interesting places, or maybe his fashion sense, but Colonel Muammar Gaddhafi has made it his task to keep himself and his country in the international spotlight. But what may not be apparent is Libya’s importance in the geopolitical sphere – our theme for this week.
Parag Khanna of the New America Foundation gives his views on Libya’s position on the regional and global scale in the latest edition of ISN Podcasts.
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