“In a leak that could signal a crossing of President Obama’s “red line” on the increasingly deadly conflict in Syria, the State Department has investigated and concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military forces used poison gas in a deadly attack on the city of Homs last month”
“France plunged headfirst into the conflict in its former colony last week, bombarding the insurgents’ training camps, arms depots and safe houses in an effort to shatter the Islamist domination of a region many fear could become a launching pad for terrorist attacks on the West and a magnet for extremists from around the world.”
“By proposing to use the independent power of his office, Mr. Obama is inviting political attacks by gun owners who have already expressed fear that he will abuse that authority to restrict their rights.”
This morning at the CSAD conference panel “Assessing the Arab Spring and Democracy in the Middle East” panelists broadly addressed the recent uprisings in the Middle East. Panelists included Danya Greenfield, deputy director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council, Karan Bhatia, General Electric vice president and senior counsel for international law and policy and former deputy U.S. trade representative, James Zogby, president and founder of the Arab American Institute and John Agresto, former provost and dean at the American University of Iraq and former Kenyon professor. For the purposes of full disclosure, I was Dr. Zogby’s intern last summer at the Arab American Institute, and am currently interning with Yalla Change, a collaborative campaign of which AAI is a partner organization. Continue reading →
Tonight, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad kicked off the Center for the Study of American Democracy’s conference with a keynote address on the question of whether or not the United States should promote democracy abroad. Khalilzad, an international relations expert, served as the United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan under the Bush administration. He focused most of address on how questions of democracy promotion relate to our most recent conflicts in the middle east. Continue reading →
The AV is TKO’s occasional foray into politics via multimedia.
This video contains disturbing footage
Shameful stuff. The video (one of five) is part of a fascinating article on the rise of mercenary soldiers by Charles Glass in this past week’s Harper’s magazine. The article is eerily appropriate for the coming CSAD conference. Glass describes how mercenary soldiers have tacit agreements with Western nations to carry out quasi-imperialist ‘interventions’ across the globe without having to use the intervening nation’s flags in the process. It’s a convenient out for governments who wish to exert influence quickly, cheaply and powerfully without the pesky eye of the media or international watch dogs. This lack of accountability results in the type of stuff you’ll see in the video. Be forewarned, it’s pretty ugly.
With over fifty military contracting firms operating in Afghanistan alone, the mercenary industry is booming and its primary theaters are Iraq and Afghanistan. As Glass says “The golden age of the freelance soldier is now, and its end is anything but nigh.”
One of the most interesting discussions at this past week’s Agora was the distinction between moral impulses and normative effects. Ideals versus their application. It’s all well and good that we want to export democracy, but if this is what it looks like, we ought to think twice.
EDIT: I have been informed that shooting at oncoming cars is standard procedure in populated areas within Iraq as insurgents often attack coalition forces by ramming cars strapped with explosives into humvees and other vehicles. The shooting you see on this video may then not be inadvertent but warning or defensive shots in response to cars that are approaching the convoy. The first shot in the video seems to confirm this while the rest are more ambiguous.