January 2008 Archives

Guest Voice  |  January 9, 2008 12:42 PM

A New Lens on Pakistan

By Steven Kull

A recent poll of the Pakistani public reveals the distortions in the lens through which many Americans view the events in the Muslim world. This lens is based on a narrative of conflict: on one side there are those who are potential U.S. allies—western oriented, relatively secular, moderate; on the other side are those steeped in traditional Islam who hate and fear the “West”, with sympathies for al Qaeda. As we see Pakistan engulfed in the flames of conflict many try to identify who is who, who is on our “team.” Some assume it must be President Musharraf and his supporters.

A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of 907 urban Pakistanis reveals that this image does not fit Pakistan. As if to create a paradox for the American mind, a large majority of Pakistanis wants to see a greater role for Islam and Shari’a (Islamic law) in Pakistani society – but at the same time want more democracy, favoring liberalizing reforms and opposing al-Qaeda.

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Guest Voice  |  January 11, 2008 12:59 PM

Don’t Balkanize Kenya

By Njoroge Wachai

The post-election mayhem that has rocked Kenya is horrifying – and embarrassing. Nearly every American I meet inquires about the plight of my extended family. My response is always that I am praying for politicians to come to their senses and talk to, not at, each other, for the sake of the country instead of for themselves.

It’s depressing to see a country slide into chaos when just a month ago it prided itself on its political and economic gains. Once known as a beacon of peace, Kenya now risks being branded unstable and dangerous to visit, tags that will scare away tourists. Economic gains already realized will fast evaporate into thin air.

The post-election violence has seen the wiping out of whole families by machete-wielding hoodlums, who ostensibly are protesting a rigged election. Why spill innocent blood for a political cause? Is the clamor of so-called justice worth the lives of the 500 innocent Kenyans now stacked in mortuaries across the country?

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Guest Voice  |  January 15, 2008 10:11 AM

Pakistan’s Paradoxes

By Haider Ali Hussein Mullick

Three major paradoxes are shaping U.S.-Pakistan relations. They must be understood before prescribing any set of U.S. policies to stop Pakistan’s continuing descent into political instability.

First, increasing anti-Americanism, caused by blank-check American support for President Pervez Musharraf and a failed pact between Musharraf and Bhutto, have made Americans wary of meddling in Pakistani politics. However, not interfering is not an option while the only predominantly Muslim country with nuclear weapons and al-Qaeda safe havens continues to implode.

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Guest Voice  |  January 15, 2008 3:16 PM

How Washington Fails Colombia

Editor's Note: Readers may find it useful to refer to a Washington Post editorial on the same subject. The author references this editorial in his response to reader comments, which is posted directly below the original op-ed text.

By Mark Weisbrot

It has had the makings of a telenovela – a Latin American soap opera: hostages held for years deep in the Colombian jungle, anxious anticipation and tearful reunions, and most spectacular of all, the boy: Emmanuel. Born three and a half years ago in captivity, of a liaison between a FARC guerilla and captive Clara Rojas, his tiny arm broken at birth by a difficult Caesarean under jungle conditions, surviving leishmaniasis and dumped off on a poor rural family that transferred him to the state – he somehow survived and was found in time to reunite with his mother as she savored her long-awaited freedom.

But for those who had the time to look beyond the headlines, there were important political realities that the drama underscored. Most importantly, the Bush Administration has once again staked out a position on a long-running armed conflict that puts Washington outside the mainstream of the international community.

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Guest Voice  |  January 18, 2008 10:32 AM

It's al-Qaeda, Stupid!

By Bilal Y. Saab

This time in Middle East relations, it is crucial to get it right and fast. Why? Because the stakes are so high.

Failure to have comprehensive peace between Arabs and Israelis is going to have consequences and repercussions of a magnitude we have never seen before. In other words, failure, at the risk of sounding too cliché, should not be an option.

A realist pause would suggest that failure can never be discounted in the Middle East given the miserable record of the many ambitious attempts in the past to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to make serious breakthroughs on the Syrian-Israeli track. So far, those anticipating the failure of Annapolis appear more rational and more confident than those betting on its success. And it's not just a hunch or a feeling. Events on the ground speak for themselves: Israel continues to collectively deny Palestinians their basic rights for what Hamas and other militants do, while Hamas continues to provoke and threaten Israel by terrorizing its people.

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Guest Voice  |  January 22, 2008 11:56 AM

Racing Toward Riches, Together

The Current Discussion: In the future, global prosperity will present more of a threat than poverty, according to a recent Post op-ed. Is this just rich-American rhetoric, or is the world really getting too prosperous for its own good?

By Max Singer

Michael Gerson describes only part of the problem of prosperity. To understand the issue, you need to think of the whole world going down the same road, but starting at different times. Some are further ahead, and we can use their experience to see what those who are coming later can expect.

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Guest Voice  |  January 23, 2008 9:50 AM

Kashmir for the Kashmiris

By Pranay Gupte

Some say it was al-Qaeda, others see the malevolent hand of the Taliban, and still others see shadowy forces aligned with state security services. But regardless of who was responsible for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto last month, the tragedy once again brings the issue of regional terrorism in South Asia to the forefront.

But long before al-Qaeda and the Taliban emerged as destabilizing forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, long before indigenous Islamists began raising money to disrupt national life, there was the issue of Kashmir: the 60-year dispute with neighboring India over a mountainous region that both countries claim.

It was an issue on which Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif remained unified. And it is an issue that will be conspicuous on the agenda of a new Pakistani administration after next month's expected elections – not the least because of the resurgence of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party in India, which has won important state polls in which party leaders more than once implicitly reasserted India's claim to all of Kashmir.

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Guest Voice  |  January 24, 2008 3:57 PM

Creative Capitalism? No Thanks, Bill

By Pranay Gupte

"Creative capitalism" was the phrase Bill Gates coined today at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. As if the vast body of literature on economic development didn't already overflow with warm, fuzzy concepts for growth in the 135 countries of what used to be called the Third World. As if catchy but mystifying phrases such as "sustainable human development" (is there "sustainable canine development"?) didn't already clog the playbooks of povertycrats.

"We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well," the Microsoft founder, and one of the world's wealthiest people, said. "If we can spend the early decades of the 21st century finding approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce poverty in the world."

He added: "In the coming decades, we will have astonishing new abilities to diagnose illness, heal disease, educate the world's children, create opportunities for the poor, and harness the world's brightest minds to solve our most difficult problems."

Wait a minute. Haven't we heard all this before?

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Guest Voice  |  January 25, 2008 1:23 PM

VIDEO: Interview Excerpts with Muhammad Yunus

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Interview with Muhammad Yunus (Excerpts)
Managing Director, Grameen Bank
January 23, 2008

This interview was conducted and originally published by www.BigThink.com. View the full interview here.

Capitalism’s Strengths and Weaknesses

“I criticized capitalism for what is lacking in it, but I’m not saying that abundant capitalism . . . There is an alternative here. That’s not what I said. I said capitalism can be improved. I am not asked in my argument that you closed on something as a profit maximizing business, or philanthropy, or free market. I said everything is very positive, but some things missing in the whole structure; and that missing piece has to be installed. That way capitalism will be complete, and it can be a balanced theory fitting to the human nature. And it will address all the problems which is left behind by the incomplete capitalism. So I’m kind of moving from incomplete capitalism to the complete capitalism, or towards completion. Maybe there are other pieces missing. Other people will find it out. But I’m saying a big piece missing because of which we created a lot of problems. We created problems. Not only we created, we don’t have the ability to solve them. So if we complete the capitalism, at least to this stage – the second stage of completion – I will say we will not ___________ them. And existing ones can be addressed and removed.”

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Guest Voice  |  January 28, 2008 3:07 PM

Peacemakers Unfit for Peace

By Njoroge Wachai

Amid the ongoing post-election bloodbath in Kenya, peace troubleshooters have descended on Nairobi. They’re from all walks of life: sitting and former presidents, career diplomats and religious leaders. They all have one mission: to bring President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to talk to each other and to encourage them to stop the spiral of violence, which a recent Associated Press report claims has killed close to 800 people and left some parts of the country in ruins.

The Kenyan crisis is of monumental magnitude, necessitating outside mediation, but I detest the free-for-all diplomatic theatric that’s slowly unraveling in Nairobi. Even Libya’s strongman, Muammar Gaddafi, a tyrant dictator to the core, has, according to the Office of Kenya’s government spokesman, dispatched his minister for African Union Affairs, Ali Tirku, to encourage President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga to share power. How can a dictator who grabbed power by the barrel of a gun 39 years ago, and has since never shared it with anybody, encourage others to do so? Libya has never held a democratic election. Until two years ago, it was a pariah state for its support of terrorism and abuse of human rights. A campaign strategy document for Mr. Odinga’s Orange Democratic Party (ODM) (which Human Rights Watch accused last week of systematic killing of members of one ethnic tribe in Western Kenya) shows that Saif al-Islam al-Gadaffi, Gaddafi’s son, offered material support to the opposition. In light of these reports, it’s preposterous for Libya to think it can mediate in the current crisis.

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Guest Voice  |  January 28, 2008 5:42 PM

How Suharto Got It Right

By Pranay Gupte

In the cascade of condemnations and condolences that followed the death of Indonesia’s former strongman Suharto on January 27, one voice was conspicuously missing. That voice was of Dr. Haryono Suyono, the Chicago-trained sociologist who served for almost two decades as Suharto's minister of population and family welfare.

Those two decades represented the most benign of Suharto's authoritarian rule, not the least because of Dr. Haryono's emollient personality. If there was an architect of Suharto's social development policies - one that resulted in a dramatic drop in what had been a galloping rate of population growth in the world's largest Muslim country - it was Dr. Haryono.

He didn’t bring about that drop by coercion. There was no forced sterilization, as there had been in 1975-1977 during then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's "emergency" rule in India, when the Constitution was suspended and the only daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru (India's first prime minister and co-founder, along with Mahatma Gandhi) assumed dictatorial powers that far exceeded anything that Suharto ever exercised. There were no penalties imposed on families with more than one or two children, as had been done for quite a while in nearby China.

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