Ayaan Hirsi Ali is back in the news.
Round-the-clock security keeps the Somalia-born Dutch citizen from meeting the same fate as her erstwhile collaborator, Theo van Gogh, who ended up shot eight times and half-decapitated. Hirsi Ali’s death sentence was pinned to his chest with two knives. It said in part:
There will be no mercy shown to the purveyors of injustice, only the sword will be lifted against him. No discussions, no demonstrations, no petitions… DEATH will separate the Truth from the Lies.
Sometime afterwards, Hirsi Ali was forced to leave her safe house, when a judge ruled that her presence contravened her neighbours’ rights to private and family under European law (yes, really). She then resigned from Parliament in a row over her asylum application and was nearly stripped of her citizenship (the Dutch government fell in the ensuing hoo-hah).
And then she set off for an outraged-on-her-behalf land of the free and a job at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, where she stayed until the Dutch cut off funding for her security.
In Washington, she had bodyguards paid by the Dutch government. But now the government says it cannot pay indefinitely, and it is time she took care of herself.
“It has been a considerably long period that she has gotten protection,” Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Friday in his weekly post-Cabinet news conference.
Hirsi Ali returned to the Netherlands on Monday after the government indicated it would give no further extensions to its 12-month offer of protection, which expired in July. She already received two reprieves.
On arrival, she was hustled to a government safe house and has not spoken to reporters. Her lawyer, Bettina Bohler, said in an e-mail that she “cannot comment on any issue regarding her case.”
Earlier this week, Bohler said her client intended to return to the United States and pay for her own protection, but needed time to make the arrangements.
Balkenende said Hirsi Ali should have begun thinking earlier about new security arrangements. “You can also take the initiative yourself,” he said.
This despite the ‘credible death threats‘ she received while in the States.
What has the American government been doing? Has it offered to pay for her protection? For that matter, has the American government thought about establishing a permanent security force that can be called on whenever speakers on Islam feel the need for such protection? Otherwise, the situation will become like that in Europe, and in the Netherlands itself — where many will simply fall silent, and a large part of what constitutes free speech will have been silenced.
Update: Dutch blogger, Klein Verzet (slogan: “a little finger in an increasingly soggy dyke”) says that the Dutch PM (and Harry Potter look-alike), Jan Peter Balkenende, has advised Hirsi Ali to leave the country, while the Justice Minister wrote to her nine months ago to tell her was safe and no longer needed protection (letter here, if you read Dutch).
Balkenende was fresh from celebrating Iftar, the end of Ramadan, with the Saudi and Malaysian ambassadors.The Universal Declaration of Human Rights unites Islam and the West, he told them, arguing that both were inspired for the desire for a world “in which all people are free to choose their religion and express their opinions.”
October 5, 2007 at 6:10 pm | More on Conflict and security, Influence and networks, North America |
You know as well as I do that there are tensions in the Netherlands, which are often linked to religious differences. You also know that there are people in the Netherlands who are afraid or feel excluded. At the same time, you are aware of positive developments here. We are working hard in this country to promote mutual respect, safety and trust. This is an absolute priority for the Dutch government…
The Washington Post has helpfully published a comprehensive list of who is advising which Presidential candidates on foreign policy. Quite how policy coherence and/or a clear pecking order is supposed to be established with so many advisers (Clinton has 20, Obama 23) is anyone’s guess, but if it’s a case of ‘the more the merrier’, then there’s quite a party getting underway.
Among the Clinton highlights are Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, Wes Clark, Richard Holbrooke, Michael O’Hanlon, Strobe Talbott and Joseph Wilson; the Obama camp, meanwhile, is home to Zbigniew Brzezinksi, Richard Clarke, Ivo Daalder, Tony Lake, Rob Malley, Susan Rice, Dennis Ross. (Incidentally, we hope that the latter lot are happy where they are. We have it on good authority that this time around, Team Clinton has put the word out that the usual process – whereby foreign policy advisers to other candidates are allowed to switch horses as and when their candidate gets eliminated during primary season – has been abolished, at least as far as Hillary as concerned. The ‘you’re with us or against us’ ethos is no longer limited to the GOP, it seems…)
What of the Republicans? It’s McCain who wins first prize for sheer surfeit of advice, with no less than 35 foreign policy advisers. Included in his gang, nay, army: Richard Armitage, Max Boot, Lawrence Eagleburger, Niall Ferguson, Alexander Haig, Robert Kagan, Henry Kissinger, William Kristol, Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft, George Schultz and James Woolsey. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, must surely win some sort of special achievement award for including Cofer Black on his team, who the rest of us will forever know affectionately as “the flies on the eyeball guy“.
All of which just leaves one burning question. Amid this extraordinary roster of expertise, how many women are included on each team? Well, bearing in mind that we may be a little out in cases where it’s not immediately clear what gender is implied by the forename in question, here’s our reckoning of the overall ranking:
- Barack Obama: 4 out of 23 – 17 per cent
- Hillary Clinton: 2 out of 20 – 10 per cent
- Rudy Giuliani: 1 out of 33 – 3 per cent
- John Edwards: 0 out of 11 – 0 per cent
- Mitt Romney: 0 out of 25 – 0 per cent
- John McCain: 0 out of 35 – 0 per cent
It’s lucky that Team McCain has Robert Kagan on board to explain why they don’t need any women. Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus, remember?October 5, 2007 at 8:41 am | More on Influence and networks, North America |
Research out today shows that Republican voters in the US have swung solidly against free trade.
32% agree that “Foreign trade has been good for the U.S. economy, because demand for U.S. products abroad has resulted in economic growth and jobs for Americans here at home and provided more choices for consumers.”
59% that: “Foreign trade has been bad for the U.S. economy, because imports from abroad have reduced demand for American-made goods, cost jobs here at home, and produced potentially unsafe products.”October 4, 2007 at 9:36 am | More on Global system, North America |
I spoke with a number of European diplomats who are keeping track of the issue, and I found a near uniform analysis. These diplomats believe that the United States will launch an air war on Iran, and that it will occur within the next six to eight months. I am therefore moving the hands of the Next War clock another minute closer to midnight and putting the likelihood of conflict at 70%.
Ron Paul, meanwhile, continues with his web-powered, insurgent candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination (our post on him and the UN here). He raised $5m last quarter – about as much as John McCain.
It’s enough money, Reid Wilson thinks, to keep him around for the long haul.October 3, 2007 at 7:37 pm | More on Middle East and North Africa, North America |
It’s like buses: you wait months for David Miliband to resume his blog, and then no less than six officially sanctioned FCO bloggers come along at once – ranging from Her Majesty’s Secretary of State himself to a new fast stream entrant who hasn’t even started yet.
But the real stand-out blog here is from Sherard Cowper-Coles, our man in Kabul. Apart from the fact that he’s written far more content than any of the other bloggers (and posted four YouTube videos in a week), it’s also much more interesting. This is less for what he says about policy (not much, for obvious reasons, though he is forthcoming about differences with the US over aerial spraying), and more for what you learn about operational realities. It’s intriguing, for instance, to learn that the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency has “a big presence” in Afghanistan, and still more so to discover that HM Ambassador whiles away his Friday nights getting thrashed by DFID Kabul’s head of comms on a Nintendo Wii.
Still, if there’s one piece of content in particular that’s worth a look, see Cowper-Coles’ interview with Brig. John Lorimer, the outgoing Commander of Task Force Helmand. Asked by Cowper-Coles to offer “a few thoughts” about Helmand, Lorimer emphasises “good progress”. How? Well, relationships with the Governor and some of his line ministers are “much improved”. And levels of cooperation between the military team, the FCO and DFID are “a real step forward” [from what? - ed.] But, er, what about the military side?
The aim has always been to say goodbye to the enemy and that’s what we’ve done and we have beaten them many many times during the last six months.
Which just about says it all where fourth generation warfare is concerned… Still, top marks to Cowper-Coles for public diplomacy. (Has he been reading David Kilcullen?) There’s something refreshingly un-Foreign Office about an ambassador who talks you through a visual tour of the Kabul skyline while a member of his Royal Military Police close protection team obligingly acts as cameraman.October 3, 2007 at 4:55 pm | More on Global system, Influence and networks, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia |
William Lind is back from his summer holidays:
October 3, 2007 at 10:09 am | More on Influence and networks, Middle East and North Africa | October 2, 2007 at 9:36 pm | More on Africa, Economics and development, Influence and networks |
If [the downward spiral of events in Europe before the First World War] reminds us of the Middle East today, it should. There too we see a series of crises, each holding the potential of kicking off a much larger war. There are almost too many to list: the war in Iraq, the U.S. versus Iran, Israel vs. Syria, the U.S. vs. Syria, Syria vs. Lebanon, Turkey vs. Kurdistan, the war in Afghanistan, the de-stabilization of Pakistan, Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and the permanent crisis of Israel vs. the Palestinians. Each is a tick of the bomb, bringing us closer and closer to the explosion no one wants, no one outside the neo-con cabal and Likud, anyway.
A basic rule of history is that the inevitable eventually happens. If you keep on smoking in the powder magazine, you will at some point blow it up. No one can predict the specific event or its timing, but everyone can see the trend and where it is leading.
In the Middle East today, as in Europe in the decade before World War I, the desperate need is for a country or a leader to reverse the trend. Then, the two European leaders most opposed to war, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, were able to do little more than drag their feet, trying to slow the train of events down. That was not enough, and it will not be enough today in the Middle East either.
Where do we see a leader who can turn aside the march toward war? Not in the Middle East itself, nor among American Presidential candidates, only two of whom, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, represent a real change of direction. Not in Europe, whose heads of government are terrified of breaking with the Americans. Not in Moscow or Beijing, both of which are happy to see America digging its own grave. No matter where we look, the horizon is empty.
Hurrah – Dani Rodrik has a blog. Rodrik is a great international development thinker and a co-author – together with Nancy Birdsall and Arvind Subramanian – of my favourite development think piece of 2005, which was absolutely required reading in DFID when it came out.
Anyway, Rodrik’s just been blogging about food prices and poverty, where he observes the existence of two camps cheerfully talking past one another. On one hand, advocates of the Doha Development Round trumpted that higher food prices from agricultural liberalisation will benefit the poor. On the other hand, people worried about the effect of biofuels on food prices (like me) argue that higher food prices will be bad news for the poor. But Rodrik points out that:
The real answer of course is that it depends on whether a poor household is a net seller or buyer of food (that is, whether it grows more or less food than it consumes). This means that the rural poor generally tends to benefit from higher food prices, whereas the urban poor generally get hurt. How large the impact is depends, in turn, on the size of the food account as a share of total expenditures or income of a household. And whether the change is good or bad for a nation’s poor as a whole depends on the geography of poverty in a country.
So as an economist loves to say, it depends. But it depends in predictable ways on household and country characteristics.
A fair point. But Rodrik overlooks the gorilla in the room: climate change. As we’ve argued here before, the effect of biofuels is just one driver of rising food prices – along with other factors like weather variability, water scarcity, rising demand in China and India and so on. While biofuels is the the key driver among these for now, it’s climate change that is likely to become the real biggie over time.
And the thing about climate change, as IPCC assessment reports make clear, is that while climate change will likely lead to higher food prices, farmers in the poorest countries are likely to become worse rather than better off – since they’ll be hardest hit by the effects of climate change. William Cline, an expert at the Center for Global Development, has a new book out about this which should be required reading in donor agencies:
October 1, 2007 at 3:50 pm | More on Climate and resource scarcity, Economics and development, Global system |
Developing countries, many of which have average temperatures that are already near or above crop tolerance levels, are predicted to suffer an average 10 to 25 percent decline in agricultural productivity by the 2080s, assuming a so-called “business as usual” scenario in which greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, according to the study. Rich countries, which typically have lower average temperatures, will experience a much milder or even positive average effect, ranging from an 8 percent increase in productivity to a 6 percent decline.
Individual developing countries face even larger declines. India, for example, could see a drop of 30 to 40 percent. Some smaller countries suffer what could only be described as an agricultural productivity collapse. Sudan, already wracked by civil war fueled in part by failing rains, is projected to suffer as much as a 56 percent reduction in agricultural production potential; Senegal, a 52 percent fall.
Chris Giles in the FT has a useful corrective to a commonplace nostrum that often does the rounds: namely, that the UK has become so dependent on strong performance in the financial services sector that if the Square Mile’s economy goes belly-up, it’ll take the rest of us with it. “So wealthy are the thousands of workers in the City of London, and so skilled is the Square Mile at trumpeting its success,” he writes, “you would be forgiven for thinking it represented the beating heart on which the whole country depends.”
But it’s not so, he continues:
…the City’s pivotal role in the economy is, at best, an exaggeration. Banking and finance accounted for only 5.85 per cent of the total value of the British economy in 2004, according to the Office for National Statistics, and even if insurance, pension funds and other financial services are added in, the figure reached is only just above 8 per cent of the economy.
In fact, Giles reckons, the real losers would not be “lawyers, accountants and other people in business services”, but instead Her Majesty’s Treasury:
October 1, 2007 at 3:15 pm | More on Global system, UK |
The well-paid folk of the City contribute heavily to the exchequer because their high salaries ensure they pay more tax than they receive in services. Financial Times research this spring estimated London was running a budget surplus of 6.2 per cent of London’s gross domestic product…
…if the City takes a nasty hit from the global credit squeeze, the big loser is likely to be the government, which is reliant on its success both for meeting its ambitious economic growth forecasts and sustaining above inflationary rises in public expenditure.
September 29, 2007 at 4:38 pm | More on North America |
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton dominates the airwaves, the Sunday political talk shows and the polls. And it turns out she’s also dominating one of the hottest new media platforms in politics — but not in a way she would like.
The largest pro- or anti-candidate group on the popular social-networking site Facebook is an anti-Clinton cluster named Stop Hillary Clinton (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary), according to Facebook statistics.
So, what to make of the UN Secretary-General’s high level event on climate change in New York earlier this week? First, a few quick observations in no particular order:
- Heavyweight proposal of the day: Angela Merkel stepped up her call for future climate policy to be based on the principle of national emissions entitlements converging towards equal per capita levels, calling for this approach not only at the climate summit but in a subsequent speech to the entire UN General Assembly too.
- Intriguing leftfield idea of the day: Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa offered to leave 920 million barrels of oil in the ground, to avoid the emissions that would result from burning it. And in return: “Ecuador requests to the humanity a small contribution of 5 dollars per barrel” – $4.6 billion, in other words. By a very rough reckoning, that works out at a little over $10 per tonne of CO2 of emissions reduction – when current market prices for crude are $80 a barrel. Someone draw up a contract, quick.
- Speaker of the day: Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana, who strode up the podium and spoke brilliantly, without notes, making eye contact with everyone in the room. And everyone sat up and took notice. Especially good was the moment when Jagdeo singled out EC President Barroso and with exquisite politeness, kicked him round the room for Brussels’ cack-handed reform of the EU Sugar Protocol. Just goes to show: oratorical skills still count. Especially at UN summits where everyone else mumbles through their script.
- Charmer of the day: Arnold Schwarzenegger. Anyone who begins their speech to the UN General Assembly by asking a room full of heads of state to “give a big hand” to his wife has considerable panache (video here).
Here‘s the SG’s full summary document, which makes explicit reference to limiting warming to two degrees C – which is excellent – and to the need to halve emissions by 2050. The latter is a bit odd, given that in its fourth assessment report, the IPCC’s policy working groupmakes clear that as far as limiting warming to between 2 and 2.4 degrees is concerned, a global cut of 50 per cent by 2050 is the bare minimum (the range the IPCC uses is between 50 and 85 per cent by 2050); but still, there’s time to correct this confusion before the Bali summit in December.
What to make of the summit overall?
First, this was a big win for Ban Ki-Moon. He garnered a great tally of heads of state and heads of government, and successfully raised the stakes on climate change ahead of Bali – which was the central objective in holding this summit.
Second, virtually all speeches made concurred on the level of urgency on tackling climate change, and that too is significant progress.
Third, the nascent battle between a future based on targets and timetables versus a future of voluntary action and technology partnerships is starting to get intense. Merkel is emerging as the most articulate and clear-sighted proponent of the former. But to see what she’s up against, see the speeches made by Condi Rice and – especially – Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer. The latter set out seven key principles for an “equitable and effective post-2012 international climate change arrangement”, as follows – with words like “binding” and “targets” notable by their absence (the word “aspirational”, on the other hand, appeared in Downer’s speech three times):
- First, the principle of comprehensiveness. This means that all economies contribute to shared global goals in ways that are equitable, and environmentally and economically effective.
- Second, is the need to respect different domestic circumstances and capacities.
- Third, is the importance of flexibility and recognising diverse approaches and practical actions.
- Fourth, is the important role for co-operation on low and zero emissions energy sources and technologies, particularly coal and other fossil fuels.
- Fifth, is the importance of addressing forests and land use in the post-2012 arrangement.
- Sixth, is the importance of promoting open trade and investment.
- And, seventh, is the importance of support for effective adaptation strategies.
Much of the media coverage of the summit interpreted Ban Ki-Moon’s summary comment that “All other processes or initiatives should be compatible with the UNFCCC process and should feed into it, facilitating its successful conclusion” as an implied swipe at the US / Australian approach. But the AP6-ers can handle that tactic. Over the autumn, we’ll probably find that they’re more than happy to pledge their loyalty to the UNFCCC process: it’s just that their vision for it is as the home for adaptation, financing and technology, while mitigation is “dealt with” elsewhere.
All in all, it’s going to be a pretty interesting few months between now and Bali…September 27, 2007 at 10:18 am | More on Climate and resource scarcity |
Archbishop Francisco Chimoio, the head of Mozambique’s Catholic Church, talking to the BBC:
“Condoms are not sure because I know that there are two countries in Europe, they are making condoms with the virus on purpose,” he alleged, refusing to name the countries.
“They want to finish with the African people. This is the programme. They want to colonise until up to now. If we are not careful we will finish in one century’s time.”
Around 16% of the country’s population are HIV positive. 37% of women and 84% of men have had casual sex in the past year. When asked, 29% of women and 33% of men said that they used a condom when they last had casual sex.
Update: It’s a good time to re-read Adam Graham-Silverman’s four-part series from 2005, on AIDS in Mozambique. Note, in particular, the US government’s role in downplaying the importance of condoms:
Rules list seven points that condom programs must mention, only one of which actually deals with the use of condoms. The rest involve abstinence, condoms’ limited effectiveness, and ways to reduce the risk of transmission. What’s more, the Bush AIDS initiative restricts distribution of condoms to “high-risk” groups such as sex workers, members of the military, and migrant laborers. It forbids discussing condoms with people under age 14.
These messages have been eagerly taken up by American evangelists:
In the dimly lit church made of mud brick and corrugated metal, the young people gathered here believe it is a given that safe sex is anything but safe.
“From what I know, some condoms have got holes,” said 23-year-old Zodwa Ubisse, rising from a wooden bench to address 20 of her peers. “I’ve tried taking some new ones, but water comes out, so they’re not safe.”
“So abstinence is the key, isn’t it?” summed up Nelda Nhantumbo, the 25-year-old student-teacher, drawing nods and murmurs of assent.
That is the message going out to young people in schools, churches and social clubs across Mozambique, where about 500 people a day become infected with HIV and AIDS. The message is being delivered, in this case, by Baltimore-based World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, and the United States is paying for the effort.
World Relief’s defense:
- The church is on the front line in the battle against AIDS – providing 30-70% of sub-Saharan Africa’s health infrastructure.
- Condoms haven’t worked – abstinence will.
- We’re pretty moderate really – we don’t mind if hookers play it safe.
Fancy taking control of a highly desirable online property? Well, get moving because there’s only just over a day left to run in the auction for iraq.com. The highest bidder has offered 600,000 euros, but the (undisclosed) reserve is yet to be met…September 26, 2007 at 3:32 pm | More on Off topic |
The BBC on Burma’s cyber-dissidents…September 26, 2007 at 10:38 am | More on Global system, Influence and networks |