Global Attitudes Towards America and China

Edit: I apologize in advance for the disjointed nature of this post. It was originally supposed to be about the U.S., but during my research I found interesting material on China as well, which I felt made sense to include given that country’s rise. I figure the data and infographics would be worth sharing anyway.

World powers tend to be polarizing among the global community, and the United States is certainly no exception, especially in light of recent events: aside from the lingering anti-Americanism that arose in response to the invasion of Iraq a decade ago, controversial policies such as drone strikes and foreign spying have incited further disapproval and hostility.

Add to the mix well-publicized domestic problems , such as an increasingly dysfunctional political system and sclerotic economy,  and the U.S. seems a lot less appealing as both an international player and a national role model — indeed, even many Americans themselves appear to concede this point.

So how has America fared abroad given its apparent decline in fortune and moral credibility? And what of China, a country whose growing wealth, rapid development, and subsequent global clout seem to make it ripe as a succeeding superpower?  Well, if the recent Pew Research Center survey of 44 nations is any indicator, the track record remains as mixed as ever, although the results may surprise you.

Here are the top ten biggest critics and fans of the U.S.:

Overall, the U.S. remains fairly popular in Sub-Saharan Africa, much of Asia (particular East and Southeast Asia), Europe, and Latin America. Notably, it is viewed more favorably than its biggest current rival, China (especially in Asia) and has a far more positive image than Russia, with which relations have visibly soured to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

Here are some charts from another Pew study showing China’s standing among roughly the same nations polled for the U.S. survey:

Notice the discrepancy with regard to the Middle East, which is broadly America’s greatest critic and China’s biggest booster. Pew’s assessment of the data goes a bit further in detail on the U.S.’s biggest detractors and supporters:

Anti-Americanism is particularly strong today in the Middle East. In Egypt only 10% of the public favor the United States, which long backed the regime of Hosni Mubarak and failed to oppose the military overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government that succeeded him. Support is not much higher in Jordan (12%) and Turkey (19%), both countries that are notionally Washington’s allies. Those not-so-warm feelings for America have fallen 17 percentage points in Egypt and 13 points in Jordan since 2009, the first year of the Obama administration, when there appeared to be some hope in those nations that Uncle Sam would pursue policies more to their liking.

In addition, less than a quarter of Russians (23%) have a positive view of America, whose image is down 28 points in just the last year, a casualty of Washington’s opposition to Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine.

But there are still corners of the world where America is held in high regard. In European countries surveyed, half or more of the publics in seven of nine nations say they see the U.S. in a positive light. Top of the list are Italians (78%), French (75%) and Poles (73%). Only in Germany, where U.S. favorability is down 13 points since 2009, has the positive image of the United States slipped significantly. And, despite this slippage, roughly half of Germans (51%) still see America favorably.

Asians are also pro-American. In fact, the Filipinos are the biggest fans of the U.S.; 92% express a positive view. South Koreans (82%), Bangladeshis (76%) and Vietnamese (76%) also agree. Even half the Chinese give Uncle Sam a thumbs up. However, Pakistanis (14%) share no love for the United States (but neither do Americans have much affection for Pakistan).

The U.S. is also feeling the love from Latin America, where majorities see the U.S. in a favorable light in eight of nine countries surveyed. Salvadorans (80%) are particularly positive in their assessment, as are Chileans (72%) and Nicaraguans (71%). Notably, despite all the tensions between Washington and Caracas, more than six-in-ten Venezuelans have a favorable opinion of the U.S.

And Africans express particularly positive views about America. Strong majorities in all seven nations surveyed back the United States, including roughly three-quarters or more of Kenyans (80%), Ghanaians (77%), Tanzanians (75%) and Senegalese (74%).

France, widely considered by most Americans to be the most anti-American country in the world, is actually one of our key boosters. This may be attributed to the two nations having similarly exceptional foundations in Enlightenment Era revolutions, but there is likely some genuine admiration of U.S. culture as well. Germany stands out for its very divisive attitude towards the U.S., which probably hasn’t been helped by recent revelations of CIA spying in that country. As Europe’s leading economic and political power, Germany may regard America’s traditionally large role on the continent as an increasing rivalry. Of course, differences in foreign policy initiatives and stances certainly don’t help.

Vietnam’s overwhelmingly positive view is pretty surprising given the horrific toll of the war with the U.S., whose scars still linger to this day (the nearly 20-year conflict ended in 1975, not necessarily that long ago in the public memory). Anecdotes from American travelers to Vietnam have also highlighted this warm attitude, which may have a lot to do with demographics — a large chunk of the Vietnamese population was born after the war and thus has little memory of it — as well as history; spanning three thousand years, Vietnamese civilization has contended with many invaders, including centuries of resistance to China. Maybe a comparatively meager two-decade conflict just isn’t as pivotal in the grand scheme of historical memory.

In any case, I can spend hours dissecting the basis of each country’s attitudes towards the U.S. and  China, but sadly, time is short. It is worth pointing out that despite the lukewarm or unfavorable attitudes towards China, even critics can concede one thing: like it or not, the country is the next in line for superpower status:

Note that this poll assesses only 20 countries, albeit many of the same ones covered in the poll of attitudes towards the U.S.

Whatever change in the real or perceived power of either country — and their resultant shift in global image — it can be certain that as long as any nation wields great influence in the world, it will have a fair share of critics and fans alike. But in an increasingly multi-polar world, where power is more diffuse than ever, will any of this really matter? Will any superpower be able to act freely without concern for international opinion? How important is a nation’s brands to its ability to conduct affairs or executed initiatives abroad? What are your thoughts?

Haiti’s Underrated But Out-Sized Influence

It is a shame that so few of us know how unique and influential Haiti’s role in history has been. After gaining independence in 1804 – following a decade-long war against one of the most powerful empires in the world – Haiti became the first and only nation in history to be established as a result of a successful slave revolt; many of its first political leaders were former slaves.

Haiti became the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second independent nation in the entire Western Hemisphere after the United States, and the second republic in the Americas. It produced such prominent military and political figures as Jean-Baptiste Belley (the first black representative in the Western world), Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (the first and highest-ranking black officer in the West), and Toussaint L’Ouverture (brilliant military strategist and along with Dumas the highest-ranking black officer in the West).

Moreover, Haiti’s unlikely success against a major power inspired revolutionaries across the hemisphere, who looked to it for both inspiration and military strategy. Many historians regard Haitian independence as a catalyst for independence movements across Latin America, which picked up pace shortly after; indeed, Simon Bolivar, the seminal figure in Latin American independence, received refuge, money, and military support from Haiti.

Notably, France’s failure to take back what was then the world’s richest colony contributed to its decision to abandon colonialism in the West and sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States.

Needless to say, Haiti’s independence rocked the institution of slavery throughout the Americas, which would unfortunately contribute to its endemic poverty and instability: for obvious reasons, none of the racist or slave-owning nations that dominated that international system at the time wanted to support the first and only successful black republic, especially one born from a slave revolt.

Thus, Haiti would remain isolated and periodically preyed upon for much of its history. Two decades after expelling the French, it was forced to pay 150 million gold francs in reparations to French slaveholders in order to receive recognition and end its political and economic isolation. Though the amount was reduced in 1838, Haiti was unable to finish paying off its debt until 1947, leaving the country deeply impoverished — but no less proud and culturally rich.

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The world’s tallest slum—a “pirate utopia”—is being cleared by the Venezuelan government

Eupraxsophy:

It is fascinating to see people come together autonomously to create an impromptu, self-sustaining, and stable community.

Originally posted on Quartz:

On a rainy night in September 2007, hundreds of squatters made their way into the third-tallest skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, and set up a temporary encampment. The unfinished, 45-story building—intended as a bank headquarters in the center of the capital—had sat vacant for more than a decade, after the developer’s death and the country’s 1994 financial crisis put construction on hold.

Eventually, nearly 3,000 of the city’s poor—many of them refugees from insecure shantytowns—would join the initial squatters, creating a makeshift city with apartments up to the 28th floor, even though there are no elevators or, in some places, even a facade. The squatters organized their own electricity, running water, and plumbing, along with bodegas, a barbershop, and an orthodontist. The improvised community became known as Torre David, or the Tower of David, after the developer, David Brillembourg.

Torre David in the skyline of Caracas

Torre David in the Caracas skyline.

Yesterday, the Venezuelan government began a long-threatened eviction of Torre David’s residents. They are…

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Eighty-Five People Have More Wealth Than Half The World

It is undeniable that wealth and income inequality is growing in the U.S. and across the world. But the scale and extent of it is far more than previously imagined. Although about six months by the time of this post, the report by  Oxfam International — titled “Working for the Few” — is no less stark and relevant in its identification of a “growing tide of inequality” (to use the report’s own description).

You can read the report yourself, but Laura Shin of Forbes did a good job of breaking down the sobering statistics:

  • Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.
  • The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population [3.5 billion people].
  • The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.
  • Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
  • The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
  • In the U.S., the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

The following chart compiled from this data highlights just how much the problem has grown: while every country saw some growth in inequality, the U.S. by far saw the most dramatic increase:

Although the report makes clear that some economic inequality is necessary to foster growth (in line with mainstream economics) it also warns that wealth concentration at this severity “threaten[s] to exclude hundreds of millions of people from realizing the benefits of their talents and hard work” — also in line with what we’ve learned from both history and economic research.

In particular, the Oxfam report emphasizes the corrosive effect that such inequality can have on democratic governance and social mobility, due mostly to the fact that “when wealth captures government policymaking, the rules bend to favor the rich, often to the detriment of everyone else”

According to polls conduct by Oxfam in Spain, Brazil, India, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. — a mix of developed and developing economies — the majority of people in these countries believe that “laws are skewed in favor of the rich” in a variety of areas, including financial deregulation, tax laws favoring the wealthy, economic austerity, policies that disproportionately harm women and the poor, and the use of oil and mineral revenues.

Despite all the grim news, the report does point out that such trends aren’t irreversible: there are plenty of historical examples of countries minimizing inequality and creating broader prosperity (notably the U.S. and Europe following the Second World War). In fact, since the turn of the century, Latin America has made significant inroads in reducing its historically high rate of inequality and underdevelopment, although it still has a long way to go.

Is there enough political will in each country, not to mention on a global level, to resolve this problem before it worsens? Or is this issue overblown? What do you think?

Prisoners and the Art of Winemaking

There are many things wrong with the U.S. justice system, but perhaps the chiefest problem is high recidivism: as of 2011 (the most recent reliable data I could find) an average of 43.3 percent of prisoners fall back into crime. Clearly, the rehabilitation system isn’t living up to its name.

One of the key causes of this is the lack of skills and opportunities among the largely poor and marginalized groups that make up the prison population. Easing up on the restrictions imposed on the formerly incarcerated, while imparting them with marketable skills, would go a long way in improving their lives and those of their families and communities (which in turn would help the U.S. economy as a whole, given the size and proportion of this population).

Italy is another country struggling with this problem — in fact, the rate of re-offense is as high as 80 percent, and Italian prisons meet similar criticisms regarding the poor and counterproductive treatment of prisoners. So some enterprising reformers decided to address the matter in a uniquely Italian way: teaching prisoners the art of winemaking, which is being spearheaded in the penal colony of Gorgona in Tuscany. As the New York Times reported:

For the past two years, Frescobaldi enologists and agronomists have imparted their know-how to a group of the island’s inmates as part of a rehabilitation program that aims to provide skills for life after their release.

Recidivism is high, around 80 percent, for the inmates of Italian prisons, “but instead, if you give people education, training, or access to a job, recidivism drops to 20 percent,” said Lamberto Frescobaldi, president of Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, and the driving force behind the project.

Giuseppe Fedele, an educator at Gorgona, where training programs have been going on for years, said that “the best thanks a prisoner can show when he is released from here is not to be sent back to prison.”

As you would imagine, the details of this program are both interesting and inspiring:

First opened in 1869, the prison operates like a working farm. Some inmates carry out agricultural chores — growing fruit and vegetables, raising livestock, and making cheeses and bread — while others work in maintenance or in the kitchen and commissary.

“It’s still a prison, but the day flies because you’re working. It’s one thing to be in a cell for 12 hours, another to be outside, busy doing something,” said Santo Scianguetta, who has six years to go on a 16-year sentence, adding that the experience of working in the vineyard was building his confidence. “I think a lot about getting out. And now I see hope in the future.”

Most of the inmates here are serving the final years of long sentences for serious crimes, including murder. Prison officials asked that for reasons of privacy, reporters refrain from specifying their individual crimes.

Projects like the Frescobaldi initiative make inmates feel like “the protagonists of their incarceration, and not passive recipients where the state is the enemy,” said Mr. Mazzerbo, the prison director, who has lobbied to extend similar programs to other Italian prisons.

“It costs nothing to change the mentality” of an inmate, Mr. Mazzerbo said. “You can do that anywhere. You don’t need an island.”

Several penitentiaries are already involved in economic activities, and at least two others produce wine. Some penitentiaries are involved in food or fashion initiatives, and products can be ordered from the Justice Ministry website.

Prisoners here receive a monthly wage, about two thirds of what they would get on the outside, based on the provincial agricultural labor contract. “It’s good not to depend on our families for money,” said Ciro Amato, who is serving a 30-year sentence. “At least here you get an opportunity. In many cases people leave prison angrier than before.”

It’s a small start, and not without its challenges, but it is definitely worth trying. While there are similar initiatives in the U.S. (albeit many of which are accused of being exploitative and underpaying), we should definitely take steps to make such programs the norm, along with minimizing such an unusually high rate of incarceration to begin with (although that is a different story for another post).

Hero of the Week — Maria Bashir

Maria Bashir II Maria Bashir

 

Maria Bashir is the Chief Prosecutor General of Herat Province Afghanistan (the second largest jurisdiction in the country), the only woman to hold such a position thus far. Her fifteen years of experience as a civil servant has brought her into conflict with criminals, the Taliban, and corrupt policemen. When the Taliban took power in 1996, she was barred from working and instead spent her time illegally educating girls at her home. 

She was called back into service in 2006, focusing on rooting out corruption and eradicating the oppression of women. She has handled hundreds of cases amid death threats and assassination attempts, one of which nearly killed her children; subsequently, she has a retinue of around 20 or so bodyguards while her children are in virtual hiding.

For her courage and tenacity, Bashir has received the 2011 International Women of Courage Award and been recognized among The 2011 Time 100. I recommend reading her interview with the United Nations here; unfortunately, most of the information about her is three or four years old, so I am unaware of her current efforts and predicaments. Thankfully, she seems to still be alive and working as a prosecutor, doing everything she can to better her country and its future .

Needless to say, Maria Bashir is an incredible hero and role model, to say the least. 

National Pride Around The World

With the rise of the nation state — whose conceptual origin is disputed but typically traced back to the Treaty of Westphalia in the 17th century — has emerged the idea of patriotism and pride in one’s civic and national identity — equally contentious and amorphous concepts.

As a life-long American, I am intimately aware of the impact, prevalence, and subsequent controversy of patriotism — indeed, national pride is seen as one of the definitive elements of American identity, coinciding with and emerging from notions such as American exceptionalism and the American dream.

But how deeply is patriotism ingrained in the  U.S. collective consciousness, especially nowadays, amid so much declinism and cynicism about our future? What of the effects of globalization on our and other nations’ sense of national belonging: in an increasingly globalized world — with so many people traveling and living abroad, exchanging one another’s cultures, and forging deep emotional and social ties across borders — how influential is the nation state on our psyches?

Well, data from the 2010-2014 World Values Survey (which is still being completed) offer some interesting insight on how citizens of select countries feel about living there. Citizens in 52 participating countries were asked the following: “How proud are you to be [insert nationality]” to which they could select “Very Proud”, “Quite Proud”, “Not Very Proud”, “Not at All Proud”, or “Unsure”.

Here are the maps courtesy of Vox.com.

Note that this only signifies people who selected the highest option of “very proud”. The total percentage of citizens who are proud of their country is much higher when you add the follow data showing those who are “quite proud” (the second highest option, although it does not sound that much lower than “very”).

Moreover, a redditor named DMan9797 put together the following custom chart based on the total responses, which I feel does a better job of giving us the bigger picture globally and for each individual country (click the image to see it bigger).

So in total, there are 48 out of 52 participating countries in which 70 percent of respondents are proud or very proud to be a part of; the four notable exceptions are Japan, Germany, Ukraine, and Taiwan (although Russia, Estonia, and Belarus were not that far off). The Vox articles offers some interesting  explanations as to why these countries stand out:

For Germany and Japan, it suggests that the post-World War II hangups about nationalism may have not quite gone away. Since their defeats, both countries have developed a much more complicated relationship with national pride — in some ways, German and Japanese nationalism run amok were responsible for the whole thing. This sense of national guilt, or at least a wariness of too much national pride, might be making it harder for German and Japanese folk to feel immense amounts of national pride.

In Ukraine, the issue may be the country’s ethno-linguistic divides. As many know by now, eastern Ukrainians and Crimeans tend to be more sympathetic to Russia than the rest of Ukraine. That divide was one of the underlying causes of the current crisis between Ukraine and Russia. So it’s likely that eastern Ukrainians and Crimeans, many of whom were less than thrilled about being Ukrainian even when the survey began in 2010, reported abnormally low levels of Ukrainian pride. Estonia’s results may support that theory as well: the Baltic country just barely dodged the sub-70 percent prideful club, and it has a significant ethnic Russian minority.

Then there’s Taiwan, whose results are almost certainly about tension with mainland China. 20 percent of Taiwanese outright favor reunification with China, and 43.5 percent of Taiwanese also identify as Chinese (“Zhongguo ren,” which could mean Taiwanese, mainland Chinese, or both). This complicated relationship with the People’s Republic probably explains why Taiwanese people aren’t quite as proud of their country as other peoples are.

Personally, I think these explanations make sense, although it is interesting to note that Germany’s national pride has presumably been growing in light of the country’s renowned economic performance and subsequent international clout. It may be that Germans are simply sheepish about being more explicit in their patriotism.

In any case, it is interesting to see such a mixed bag of countries at the top: Qatar, Ghana, Ecuador, Uzbekistan, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Philippines could not be any more different from each other. Whether a country is authoritarian or democratic, rich or poor, or developed or underdeveloped doesn’t seem to impact peoples’ sense of national pride; nor are certain linguistic, ethnic, or religious compositions more or less likely to feel strong national pride.

All this probably speaks to the complex factors that go into one’s sense of belonging to a nation and feeling proud of it. Plenty of poorly governed and impoverished nations are nonetheless rich in culture, history, or national achievement (Qatar is an outsized player in the Middle-East affairs, Ghana paved the way for African independence movements, etc).

Conversely, having a high quality of life and an enviable socioeconomic system, even in combination with a rich culture and much accomplishment, doesn’t mean everyone will feel a strong sense of national identity or pride — Germany and Japan can speak to that, albeit for reasons unique to themselves.

Of course, every country — like every individual — has its own unique characteristics, history, social dynamics, and other factors that explain its standing among its own citizens and the world at large. It goes to show just how complicated the concepts of nation and state are, let alone the political and psychological relationship with these entities and ideas.

What are your thoughts?

 

Ten U.S. Supreme Court Cases That Strengthened Corporate Personhood

Although last week’s Hobby Lobby decision brought much attention to the complex concept of corporate personhood — put crudely, that companies are entitled to some of the same legal rights as individuals — there is a long history of jurisprudence in the U.S. that has consistently blurred the distinction between corporate entities and flesh-and-blood humans.

Courtesy of Mothers Jones is a list of  ten key cases (including Hobby Lobby) that have increasingly strengthened the legal rights and privileges of corporations (not necessarily always for the worst, but certainly with some problematic implications and potential abuses).

1809 (Bank of the United States v. Deveaux): In the early days of the republic, when state and federal courts were still working out their jurisdictions, the Bank of the United States—a precursor to the US Treasury—sued a Georgia tax collector named Peter Deveaux for property he had seized when the bank failed to pay state taxes. Deveaux argued that, because corporations weren’t people, they couldn’t sue in federal court. Chief Justice John Marshall agreed. This meant businesses could only sue or be sued in federal court if all the shareholders, and at least one member of the opposing party, lived in the same state. According to Burt Neuborne, a corporate law professor at New York University, Wall Street banks hated this decision because it restricted suits to state courts where judges were partial to the banks’ local clients—typically Midwestern farmers.

1844 (Louisville, Cincinnati, and Charleston Railroad v. Letson): It soon became apparent that Marshall’s decision in Bank of the United States was unworkable because it put corporations outside the reach of the federal courts. Thirty-five years later, after hearing the Louisville, Cincinnati, and Charleston Railroad case, the Supreme Court shifted course, ruling that corporations were “citizens” of the states where they incorporated. Still, it was difficult for a corporation to sue or be sued in federal court unless all its shareholders lived in the same state.

1886 (County of Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad): Now that corporations were legally citizens, corporate attorneys worked to expand their rights. When California officials levied a special tax on the Southern Pacific Railroad, the railroad sued, arguing that singling out the company violated its rights to equal protection under the 14th Amendment, which was intended to protect freed slaves. In a strange twist, the court reporter—a former railroad man—wrote in the published notes on the case that the 14th Amendment did, in fact, apply to the company. Even though this notion appeared nowhere in the high court’s actual ruling, 11 years later the court declared it was “well settled” that “corporations are persons within the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment,” citing Santa Clara.

1898 (Smyth v. Ames): Building on the Santa Clara decision, the court voided a Nebraska railroad tax, ruling that it was akin to the government taking a corporation’s property without due process—a violation of its 14th Amendment rights. (The decision was overturned in the 1944 Federal Power Commission v. Hope Natural Gas decision.)

1906 (Hale v. Henkel)Having blocked unlawful seizures of corporate property, the court went on to shield companies from other kinds of intrusion. Writing for the majority, Justice Henry Billings Brown found that corporations, like people, are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment (although the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination did not apply).

1931 (Russian Volunteer Fleet v. United States): A Russian shipbuilder, Russian Volunteer Fleet, sued the US government, claiming that government officials had unlawfully seized property worth more than $4 million. The high court sided with the company, ruling that even foreign corporations are protected from unlawful government seizures under the Fifth Amendment, which ensures fair treatment by the legal system.

1977 (United States v. Martin Linen Supply Co.): After a criminal trial for two linen companies and their owner was dismissed due to jury deadlock, federal prosecutors appealed the decision. The Supreme Court ruled that a second trial violated the companies’ rights to be tried only once, expanding the double jeopardy rule to include both humans and corporations.

2010 (Citizens United v. FEC)In the run up to the 2008 election, the Federal Elections Commission blocked the conservative nonprofit Citizens United from airing a film about Hillary Clinton based on a law barring companies from using their funds for “electioneering communications” within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. The organization sued, arguing that, because people’s campaign donations are a protected form of speech (see Buckley v. Valeo) and corporations and people enjoy the same legal rights, the government can’t limit a corporation’s independent political donations. The Supreme Court agreed. The Citizens United ruling may be the most sweeping expansion of corporate personhood to date.

2014 (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby): Corporations are legally people with the right to free speech, but do they have religious rights? Apparently, they do. In 2012, Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based craft store chain, sued the federal government, arguing that a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring it to provide contraception coverage for employees violated shareholders’ constitutional rights to freedom of religion. The Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby and found that corporations can assert the religious rights of their owners, greatly expanding the power of shareholders while creating a world of confusion for corporate attorneys.

Given that the U.S. operates along a common law system — whereby law is developed by and built upon preceding legal decisions — these cases often have tremendous weight and influence long after they’re settled in court, and Hobby Lobby is certainly no exception. In many instances, Congress would need to step in and create clearer laws governing these matters — provided that the courts do not reign in on such efforts on behalf of legally-entitled corporations.

This is complex stuff, and I am hardly a legal expert given my own limited studies of law. What are your thoughts?

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In the United States, in a far more simple time, it took eight years following the end of fighting in the American Revolution to establish the American government. In France, 50 years. In Britain, 210 years. Nobody should expect that the current turbulence is going to subside and that there will be a neat solution within a few years.

In fact, what is happening now is that the global order established following the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire is itself collapsing and is going to be replaced by a new order. And you should concentrate on helping the people build up that new order.

Finally, the order established after the First World War replaced the Ottoman Empire, which for 400 years dominated the region based in Turkey. And Iraq at that time … for 400 years was three administrative districts operated separately by the Ottomans. The notion and nation of Iraq is a recent construct. It’s less than 100 years old, and it’s undergoing great strain now which it may not be able to survive.

George Mitchell, quoted in Taking the Long View on the Middle Eastby Uri Friedman of The Atlantic.

In the United S…

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Calling the invasion and slaughter that followed a mistake papers over the lies that took us to Iraq. This assessment of the war as mistake is coming mostly from well-intentioned people, some of whom spoke out against the war before it began and every year it dragged on. It may seem like a proper retort to critics of Obama (who inherited that war rather than started it). But it feeds a dangerous myth.

A mistake is not putting enough garlic in the minestrone, taking the wrong exit, typing the wrong key, falling prey to an accident.

Invading Iraq was not a friggin’ mistake. Not an accident. Not some foreign policy mishap.

The guys in charge carried out a coldly though ineptly calculated act. An act made with the intention of privatizing Iraq and using that country as a springboard to other Middle Eastern targets, most especially Iran. They led a murderous, perfidious end run around international law founded on a dubious “preventive” military doctrine piggybacked on the nation’s rage over the 9/11 attacks. An imperial, morally corrupt war. They ramrodded it past the objections of those in and out of Congress who challenged the fabricated claims of administration advisers who had been looking for an excuse to take out Saddam Hussein years before the U.S. Supreme Court plunked George W. Bush into the Oval Office.

The traditional media did not make a mistake either. They misled their audiences through sloppiness and laziness because it was easier and better for ratings than for them actually to do their jobs. For the worst of them, the misleading was deliberate. They fed us disinformation. Lapdogs instead of watchdogs.

Meteor Blades, “Stop pretending the invasion of Iraq was a ‘mistake.’ It lets the liars who launched it off the hook“, Daily Kos. 

Read the linked article above and decide for yourself. Personally, I think it makes a compelling case, although even if it were genuine ineptitude, there’d be just as much culpability given the horrific scale of the consequences.

Don’t Call The Iraq War A Mistake