Although the civil war in Syria has been overshadowed by recent events between Israel and Hamas, the instability in the region is still quite apparent. From the looks of it, Syria is going the rout of Afghanistan. Let’s recap, after the Soviet Union pulled out of Afghanistan, the country was quickly taken over by a civil war between the weak regime and the Taliban. After years of fighting, the Taliban were able to exert their fundamentalist rule upon most of the country, while loose bands of Afghanis that resisted them still clung on to guerilla fighting against the Islamists.
Now, Syria is looking more and more like it is getting run over by the Islamists, and even if Bashir Assad steps down or is toppled and some form of a loose-knit government is put in place, Islamist groups will continue on fighting to make the Quran their constitution and enact an Islamic state. Iraq has many fighters that are willing and will take up arms against any Western-backed government. Iran will play and important role. Turkey will not be able to stand the onslaught of fundamentalists on their borders and most likely will be involved in a local conflict. Israel, with all of its current problems will be dragged into action against Islamists in Lebanon and Syria, if the influx of Jihadis is not curbed and eliminated. Egypt is not the same after the Arab Spring and is now looking more like it will be backing any anti-Israel opposition in Gaza and the West Bank. Let’s not forget about the Wahabbi-ruled Saudi Arabia, which is keeping quite for now due to discontent within the country. The region may in the end fall into a chaos of infighting between various groups separated by religious views. Even within the Muslim world, Sunnnis, Shia, and other factions will be fighting themselves. Others will be fighting with the Jews. Turkey will be fighting the fundamentalists. Iran will step in to supply weapons and military power to whomever they decide to favor on a religious basis.
The region will fall into a mess. Question is – how far is the West willing to go to protect their interests in the region? With a great percentage of the world’s oil coming from the Middle East, neither Europe or the United States can risk the drying up of the supply. All may end up entangled in a conflict, which is necessitated by the demand to keep the country moving.
In the end, what must happen is strict enforcement of secular rule and erosion of fundamentalist thought in the Middle East region. This is done through education, integration, and employment. Education must focus on science, not religious thought. Integration of currently disenfranchised minorities into society will eventually go a long way generations from now. Employment gives people something to lose if they decide to change the system and revolt. Just a thought.
I haven’t posted on this blog for a while, and I’ll try to take it in a direction of getting people to think about some issues in more depth, rather than listen to hollow arguments constantly put out by mass media and politician’s staff. And the first thing I would like to do is discuss education in the United States.
First of all, how a country that is as rich and powerful as the United States has such a crushing problem with education. Moreover, pressing problems persist not only in one level of education – it is across all educational institutions. Let’s state clearly before further pondering on the subject, that education is not a business. Every school is not like a for-profit or a non-for-profit company that operates to churn out a good or a service. Education is a necessity of a civil society to sustain itself and moreover, it is the foundation of a democratic republic, which the United States is. It is not something that should be cut or should be disregarded. Education should be started early and without asking a child whether he wants to take a certain subject or not – it should be started out strong and sustained throughout the first 20 or so years of a human’s life so that person can be a comprehensive part of our society as well as a resource upon which the nation can rely.
*As a side not, I’d like to state that by the word “nation” I mean everyone living in the borders of a country that reaps benefits of the government’s functions and others’ contributions.
Although it sounds like it’s the democratic and the just thing to do to for all to give children choices of their classes, it is actually harmful. Schools, of course, love the system of giving students a choice of levels such as intro, advanced, AP, etc in High School because then they have higher average GPA to show when bidding for their few bucks from the government. However, it ultimately hurts the nation as a whole. When a student is given a choice of an easier class and a higher grade point average, or a harder class with more homework and potentially a lower GPA, their choice is obvious. The students need a good GPA to get into a good college of their choice, they also want good grades for scholarships and of course for self esteem.
However, even though a Chinese teen with a C average in advanced physics and molecular biology may sound like he is doing worse than our Jimmy in Averageville, USA with a 3.8 / 4 GPA but in Intro to Natural Sciences and Beginner’s Algebra, the Chinese teen still will know more and will in the end contribute a lot more for his society than Jimmy. See the picture? A recent article by CNN titled Why would-be engineers end up as English majors asked a very good question. And so, why do students go from being engineers to being English majors? Because English is easy. It is essays and BS discussions that usually end up getting you through. Engineering requires high knowledge of math and science prior to entering college, and that is what the American education system lacks.
The problem is not in colleges, or in children, it is in the parents and those that run the country. They want indicators so they get reelected or not hassled by their children for giving them a hard time. Well, stop being afraid. If you stop focusing on grades as driving factors that schools MUST use to get their share of federal and state funding, then teachers will begin to push their student. Grades will drop, but the knowledge base will increase. It is about more than just indicators, it is about unquantifiable results of education. You cannot make rules and grids showing student performance. Education is an investment into developing logical thought and a base of knowledge through which genius is developed. College freshmen students find it hard to go into world level universities that expect higher performance out of students who do not posses the basics to begin to understand that material!
So, if you are truly concerned with the poor levels of education in American and especially the ability of America’s future leaders to compete globally – call on your Congressmen to take action that is not driven by money or grades. Education is a REQUIREMENT for a civil society, not a privilege.
FULL ARTICLE From the way the world is going, the region where a cataclysmic event may happen is in the Middle East. There are too many sides fighting for power and dominance of the region, and each is pushing the envelope further and further, currently testing the other sides’ patience and diplomatic ability.
The world today does not want to see war, necessarily. However, the veterans of World War II are dying out. They are the ones that have seen how devastating and brutal a world war can be, and how even the most civilized countries are ready to indiscriminately kill civilians and demolish whole cities in order to gain a simple ability to sell something that is located in a different land.
Commerce is the name of the game, and those that have the most resources have the best commercial ability. Commerce is power and leverage. It is control of whole economies. The United States has been very discreet about imperial aspirations. The basics of empire expansion are control of resources for a purpose of selling them. Not everyone has the power to expand in such a manner, and most take the old-school route — that is, guns blazing and bombs flying, with tanks sweeping in and destruction in the armies’ path.
The most important resource allocation in the world right now is located in the Middle East. Also, the biggest rivalries are in the Middle East. The interesting thing is that it was Europe and the United States that created the reason for there to be conflict in this area. They sparked old rivalries anew in the Middle East by creating Israel as a state. It was a gesture of good will from the Allies and the USSR. However, dislocating a large portion of people and telling them that their rivals are now the owners of the soil is bound to get one side pissed off.
And guess who that side is: the whole Arab world. Now, I am not against the State of Israel, but it is the reason for instability in the Middle East today. With European and mainly America’s backing and support, Israel was able to muster up one of the…FULL ARTICLE
The Caspian basin has long been a point of contention between Russia and other world players for many years. It is the second largest oil reserve in the world and has enough resources to fuel all parties interested for many decades, also enriching those that take part in the extraction and sale of the resources. It was called the ‘Great Game’ in the 1800s, now some call it ‘Great Game II’. The Great Game was ‘played’ between the Russian and the British empires. Now, the British are part of a larger force called NATO and all nations in the alliance share Britain’s interests.
Russia is not about to give up the fight for its area of influence. Control of the Caspian would be a tremendous blow to the EU because Russia then would be controlling nearly every possible source of energy in EU’s close proximity. Since the USSR fell apart, old rivalries resurfaced and new ones emerged in Central Asia. Many European nations would love to get a piece of the Central Asian riches and, with the region being in an unstable shape, it is much easier to accomplish than it was if the old USSR or the Russian Empire was still around.
The Nabucco Pipeline
Not too long ago, Georgia signed a deal to be a part of the Nabucco pipeline that would essentially reduce Europe’s dependency on Russia as its energy supplier. Ever since the project was decided upon in the early 1990s, it has been full of intrigue, conspiracy theories, and some experts even tried to link it to the war is South Ossetia in August of 2008. The possible issues that Russia may have with this pipeline are evident. If it is completed, Russia loses its market share of EU energy imports and loses an opportunity to expand its energy exports.
It can be hypothesized that Georgia went to war in South Ossetia in order to show the rest of the world that it has a strong military and leadership that it is able to provide security for the potential pipeline and energy routes going through it. If it were successful, the EU and the US would most definitely see Georgia as a worthy partner in Central Asia and invest heavily in the country’s economy. If Russia lost, NATO would be able to draw a line in the Caucasus region between a Russian and Western area of influence.
However, Georgia showed that it was not up to the task of providing security for potential investments in Nabucco and further energy routes feeding Europe. Russia’s campaign showed that it will not settle on such a close area of influence border and is willing to further fight for its right to oversee Central Asia. In addition, Russia is planning its own pipeline, but one which would connect the Caspian and the Black Seas. That pipeline would feed Europe as well, but now with Russia controlling the flows.
Georgia’s instability and their approach to solving territorial disputes have shown the EU that Georgia is not a good guarantor of security to a possible pipeline that would be essential to Europe’s import of energy sources. On the other hand, the EU needs a second pipeline going around Russia in order to insure themselves against possible incidents like the one that happened with Ukraine in the early months of 2009, when Russia cut off the gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine. If Georgia were able to provide the needed security on their own, they would be a perfect partner for NATO, the EU, and the US to claim more territory for their area of influence in Central Asia.
NATO’s plans to hold exercises in Georgia are a bold step towards showing Russia that Tbilisi’s will not be allowed to fall and that Georgia as a whole is NATO partner. Europe’s and US leadership, along with Western press have been very quiet about events in Tbilisi and protests against Saakashvili. In the shadow of NATO’s exercises, the West cannot show that it is unsupportive of Saakashvili, for regardless of his actions they need someone friendly to them in power in order to have a foothold in the Caspian basin.
NATO’s exercises are not supposed to show Georgia’s military abilities. Their abilities were exemplified in August of 2008 in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. However, it is to make a statement that the EU will now begin to bolster the security of Georgia and that Russia will better allow the West to build its pipeline. NATO is reluctant to let Georgia join because it would truly anger Russia and ruin any sort of cooperation that the West was planning to get from Moscow. However, these military exercises would prove to Russia that Georgia is now under NATO protectorate and a second South Ossetian/Abkhazian incident would not be allowed to happen.
Europe needs to diversify their energy dependence. Too much of it is on Russia, as events in January of 2009 have shown. Russia is reluctant to allow that to happen, because Europe’s energy dependence is a trump in Moscow’s hands. The Great Game II is unfolding and it is gaining momentum. Recently, Russia won Kyrgyzstan from the West in that the Manas base is no longer available to the NATO forces for military purposes. NATO needs to answer. Their answer is military exercises in Georgia. Georgia is a strategic partner to the West because it lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.
If NATO is successful in making Georgia a secure state and able to stave off Russia’s aspirations at building its own pipeline, Georgia would become the jewel of Central Asia for the West. It would spell a large victory in the second Great Game and would cause Russia to step back from further aspirations in expanding its influence beyond the Caucasus. More importantly, Europe will be able to diversify energy exports. That in turn would mean weakening Russia’s political leverage.
So, the gears are set in motion now as Barack Obama has sent an official letter to President Medvedev proposing to cease the European Missile Defense efforts in Poland and the Czech Republic if Moscow collaborates with Washington on pressuring Tehran to stop its nuclear enrichment program. This is not the way talks should begin over the European anti-missile shield and Iran between Moscow and Russia. Obama has not yet made a name for himself in the international arena, if anything, Hillary actually tainted the view of the way the world views the foreign policy of the new administration in Washington. At a press conference with the Spanish prime minister, Dmitriy Medvedev stated clearly that he is not going to settle for any exchanges with regard to the anti-missile defenses in Europe and that he viewed it as an unproductive approach. The implications of decisions made on the subject of cooperation between Moscow and Washington regarding Iran were discussed in an earlier article, so now, things start moving, and it looks like not in the direction which will actually bring the results intended.
Foreign Policy of the US
It is clear to anyone paying attention to politics that Obama does not have much experience with foreign policy and most likely will stumble along the way in his first year as he learns how other countries operate and how to deal with different nations. Entrusting his foreign affairs to Hillary is more than an indication that he is not yet at the level of knowledge about the international arena as one might hope. Obama won purely because of his domestic policy promising change to save the US from total collapse and good marketing. His foreign policy platform was only concerned with telling the Americans what they wanted to hear – stopping the war in Iraq.
Now, the reality sets in, and it is not as easy as it looks. America does not have the leverage that it had in the nineties over Moscow, when Yeltsin would pull back on certain national interests in return for support for the new Russia from the West. Obama’s letter to the Kremlin seems to indicate a lot of false assumptions over the way Russia has set itself in the international politics. The White House seems to put a lot of emphasis on the European anti-missile defense, not realizing that Russia is not really concerned with it as much as it is with further extending its influence in Central Asia and cooperation with Iran on weapons trading and technological research and development.
It is extremely wrong of Obama to try and put Russia in a position that would be beneficial only to the US national interests. International politics does not work like that. In the international scene today, if one county wants to further their national interests abroad they have to take into consideration the other side’s interest as well in order to facilitate cooperation in any given area. The new administration should not put pressure on Russia’s national security in order to get what they want. They need to give Russia something to benefit their national interest abroad in order to get Moscow’s cooperation. Considering the possible benefits of Moscow-Tehran relations for Russia, Washington will have to find another way and give a lot to with regard to Russian national interests.
Evidence of Direction
Every time a person representing a foreign policy speaks to anyone, they usually think about the way their words will be viewed else where. Clinton seems to miss this point. If there are two countries bumping heads, and a third country comes in and pledges support for one of the sides, it becomes an enemy of the other. As the saying goes, “My worst enemy’s worst enemy is my best friend.” So, ipso-facto Clinton’s words… CONTINUE READING HERE
FULL ARTICLE HERE Russia halts their weapons deal with Iran until they finish talks with the US President Barack Obama. This is seemingly small news. However, the results of this can lay the foundation for long term international relations between the two countries and the way both nations’ foreign policies will be formed for many years to come. The reason is that there may be two outcomes. One potential outcome is the Russia continues on trading weapons with Iran. Another outcome is that Russia stops weapons trading and joins US in persuading Iran to halt their weapons build up and potential nuclear program.
The first outcome to consider is that Russia keeps on trading weapons with Iran, sending over experts and increasing cooperation between the two countries. Iran’s weapons build up and increased might will help it achieve its result of becoming the center for the Islamic world and will put it on the map as a country to be dealt with regarding any outside nation’s interests in the Middle East. This will help Iran further its interests in global affairs and will help them decrease the pressure that US and most of the West is putting on it with regard to its military and internal affairs.
For Moscow, there are benefits in this deal coming out of cooperation with Iran. Russian domestic weapons production will have huge sales contracts with Tehran and considering that Iran most likely will not buy weapons from the West Russian weapons and military production industry will hit the jackpot in the near future. They will basically supply all of Iran’s military with the equipment needed to make its military up to par with Western counterparts.
In addition, Russian gas and oil companies will be able to get huge contracts with Iranian oil and gas industries with regard to Caspian basin natural resources. Since Western companies will not be allowed to participate in the sale of contracts, Russian companies will most likely be the winners of most, if not all, contracts that Tehran may offer to build up their oil and gas industry. Considering this, United States currently sees it as in the national interest to keep Tehran out of the oil game because US and Iran bump heads very often and it will put in jeopardy the continuous flow of natural resources because US will have to use Tehran’s pipelines if it wants to diversify places from which it imports resources.
The next possible outcome is that Moscow will decide to stop trading weapons with Tehran and will start siding with the US to get Iran to cease their military build up and nuclear program. Although on the surface it looks like Russia will not gain as much from this deal with US, it actually has the potential to benefit from the externality that comes of this. That externality is a large influence in Central Asian countries, former Soviet Republics, which have access to the Caspian and all of the natural resources that …CONTINUE READING
Why is Africa all of a sudden coming up in the news more often? Evidence to that is the fact that news sources are coming out with more small stories about different African nations.
The caning of teachers in Tanzania, Zimbabwe’s elections, the civil war in Congo, the Ethiopian government, the potential to create an African Union and many other stories are appearing as headlines in many newspapers.
The answer is very simple – the continent with a lot of natural resources has been neglected for way over half of a century. Business opportunities are present in many parts of Africa. However, the instability of the regimes all over the continent turns potential investors away. Nations should participate actively in brining about stability in Africa for the sole reason of providing their domestic industries with business opportunities.
Most of the Middle East has been divided among corporations already. It is expensive and difficult to make a big name for a company in the Middle East unless it already has an extensive history and a world-wide recognised name. Nevertheless, this begins to create a sense of status quo in the business world because only the big players are allowed to participate in the extraction and sale of natural resources. Thus, it is time to move to new lands that have not yet been conquered by the corporate world.
Here’s a list of some African countries and their resources listed on the website of the University of Iowa:
– Congo (Former Zaire): copper, cobalt, diamonds, crude oil, coffee
– Tanzania: cotton, coffee, sisal, cashew nuts, tobacco
– Nigeria: oil, minerals, rubber, cocoa
– Kenya: tea, coffee, horticulture products, petroleum products
– Ghana: gold, diamonds, timber, aluminum
– South Africa: gold, diamonds, metals
– Ethiopia: small reserves of gold, platinum, natural gas, hydropower
What is important to note that all of these countries, except for Congo (due to its instability), have been recently provided with financial help from the World Bank and the IMF – the two giants of global politics that have the power to decide whether certain countries sink or float. Looking at the map of the world it is easy to see the strategic location of many of these few African nations. Some provide access to ports, some provide resources, and in most cases those that provide access to ports also provide a connection to nations that are rich with resources.
Africa may become the next business ‘El Dorado’. China is already taking advantage of this ‘unconquered’ continent. By the end of 2006 direct Chinese trade with Africa has reached $US 50 billion. That’s not considering the growth in the last two years and the investments made by the IMF and the World Bank. All things considered, expect more extensive media coverage of Africa in the close future and more international interest in the continent in the years to come.