Failed States and the Threat of Terrorism

In both intro to IR and intro to comparative, we’ve read about failed states and their impact not only on those living in them but those living even thousands of miles away. Rotberg, Krasner, and Sadowski, have all written about the potential dangers of states that do not have complete sovereignty over their territory. In another example of the potential threat posed by failing states, the Associated Press reports on a US attack on extremists in Somalia:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. launched a military airstrike in Somalia to go after a group of terrorist suspects, defense officials said Monday.

“It was a deliberate, precise strike against a known terrorist and his associates,” one U.S. military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the record.

He gave few other details, except to say the targets were believed staying in building known to be used regularly by terrorist suspects.

In the strike early Monday, Somali police said three missiles hit a Somali town held by Islamic extremists, destroying a home and seriously injuring eight people.

The strike follows one last year in which the U.S. shelled suspected al-QaidaU.S. Navy ship off the shore of the lawless East African nation. targets in Somalia, using gunfire from a

Most Recent Issue of the CrisisWatch Newsletter Released

Crisis Group–an NGO that analyzes and tracks extant and potential conflicts around the world–allows individuals to sign up for the monthly CrisisWatch newsletter. This month’s newsletter informs its readers that “twelve actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated in February 2008, and four improved.”

The situation deteriorated in Armenia, where – as CrisisWatch went to press – a violent crackdown sought to suppress eleven days of protests after presidential elections that the opposition claimed were rigged. A state of emergency has been declared, and armed forces are reportedly mobilising for broader repression.

Attacks on Timor-Leste’s president and prime minister underlined the need for security sector reform in the fragile country. Yet their aftermath – including the killing of former head of military police Alfredo Reinado, who led the attack on the president – presents an opportunity for the government to address key issues.

Rebels in Chad launched a major assault on the capital N’Djamena in which hundreds were killed and thousands displaced. A state of emergency is still in place amid reports of a heavy government crackdown. In Darfur, the Sudanese government attacked three towns and an IDP camp from both ground and air, marking the worst violence in the region in months.

The situation also deteriorated in Cameroon, Comoros Islands, DR Congo, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Israel/Occupied Territories, Philippines, Serbia and Somalia.

How do you Prove You’re a Jew?

Gershon Gorenberg has written a new article in the New York Times Sunday Magazine
on the difficulties some Israeli Jews are having proving their Jewishness before rabbinic courts in that country.  The article is interesting and touches upon many of the issues we discussed in intro to comparative that deal with concepts of identity–nationhood, ethnicity, citizenship, etc.  In fact, I think I’ll be including this article in the syllabus during future iterations of this course.  In addition, I did not know that there is no civil marriage ceremony (marriage ceremonies are purely a religious affair in Israel) in Israeli law, but upon further reflection, I probably should have guessed that would be the case.

The story is particularly significant for American Jews, to which the accompanying snippets below attest:

02jewish1-500.jpgOne day last fall, a young Israeli woman named Sharon went with her fiancé to the Tel Aviv Rabbinate to register to marry. They are not religious, but there is no civil marriage in Israel. The rabbinate, a government bureaucracy, has a monopoly on tying the knot between Jews. The last thing Sharon expected to be told that morning was that she would have to prove — before a rabbinic court, no less — that she was Jewish. It made as much sense as someone doubting she was Sharon, telling her that the name written in her blue government-issue ID card was irrelevant, asking her to prove that she was she…

…In recent years, the state’s Chief Rabbinate and its branches in each Israeli city have adopted an institutional attitude of skepticism toward the Jewish identity of those who enter its doors. And the type of proof that the rabbinate prefers is peculiarly unsuited to Jewish life in the United States. The Israeli government seeks the political and financial support of American Jewry. It welcomes American Jewish immigrants. Yet the rabbinate, one arm of the state, increasingly treats American Jews as doubtful cases: not Jewish until proved so.

More than any other issue, the question of Who is a Jew? has repeatedly roiled relations between Israel and American Jewry. Psychologically, it is an argument over who belongs to the family. In the past, the casus belli was conversion: Would the Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to any Jew coming to Israel, apply to those converted to Judaism by non-Orthodox rabbis? Now, as Sharon’s experience indicates, the status of Jews by birth is in question. Equally important, the dividing line is no longer between Orthodox and non-Orthodox. The rabbinate’s handling of the issue has placed it on one side of an ideological fissure within Orthodox Judaism itself, between those concerned with making sure no stranger enters the gates and those who fear leaving sisters and brothers outside.

The story reminds me of a friend of mine who–of Croatian parentage but born in Canada– upon her arrival in Croatia (she had decided to move there during the middle of the war in the 1990s) had gone to the local police station with the aim of registering her presence (at that time, all foreigners were required to report to police within 24 hours of their arrival).  When she took out her Canadian passport, a clerk at the Ministry of Internal Affairs asked her the names of her parents.  After my friend responded, the clerk refused to allow her to register as a foreigner and insisted that she take out Croatian citizenship on the spot.  When my friend insisted that she was a Canadian citizen, the clerk responded “your father is ours, your mother is ours, that makes you  one of us also.”


Janjaweed Militia Renews Scorched-Eart Policy in Darfur

The New York Times reports that the notorious Janjaweed militia is once again active in Darfur.


Abu Surouj, Sudan, after government forces and allied militias burned the town last month. Such attacks in Sudan are a return to the tactics that terrorized Darfur in the early, bloodiest stages of the conflict.

Photo: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

 SULEIA, Sudan — The janjaweed are back.

They came to this dusty town in the Darfur region of Sudan on horses and camels on market day. Almost everybody was in the bustling square. At the first clatter of automatic gunfire, everyone ran.

The militiamen laid waste to the town — burning huts, pillaging shops, carrying off any loot they could find and shooting anyone who stood in their way, residents said. Asha Abdullah Abakar, wizened and twice widowed, described how she hid in a hut, praying it would not be set on fire.

“I have never been so afraid,” she said.

The attacks by the janjaweed, the fearsome Arab militias that came three weeks ago,, were a return to the tactics that terrorized Darfur in the early, bloodiest stages of the conflict.

Such brutal, three-pronged attacks of this scale — involving close coordination of air power, army troops and Arab militias in areas where rebel troops have been — have rarely been seen in the past few years, when the violence became more episodic and fractured. But they resemble the kinds of campaigns that first captured the world’s attention and prompted the Bush administration to call the violence in Darfur genocide.

I noticed the same pattern during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, with militia groups acting in close concert with government support.  In my study of the Croatian region of Baranya, I noticed that the villages in which civilians were killed all had one thing in common–they were on (or very near) a major regional road.  This meant that government military forces (with their tanks and armed personnel carriers) had easy access to these villages, allowing the militias to swoop in and do their thing.

Cross-National Comparisons in Incarceration Rates

Every time I hear or read about a numerical fact, I always ask myself “is this high, low, average” for this particular phenomenon.  In order to answer this question, I’m required to make at least an implicit comparison.  So when I read today that for the first time ever, 1 in 100 American adults is incarcerated, I wondered how that compared to other countries.  The information is not hard to find.  Here’s a chart for your perusal.  What do you think accounts for the variation in incarceration rates across countries?

Here are some snippets from ABC News:

incarceration-oecd.jpg For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report documenting America’s rank as the world’s No. 1 incarcerator. It urges states to curtail corrections spending by placing fewer low-risk offenders behind bars.

Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it’s more than any other nation.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

The steadily growing inmate population “is saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime,” the report said.

Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said budget woes are pressuring many states to consider new, cost-saving corrections policies that might have been shunned in the recent past for fear of appearing soft on crime.

King Abdullah II of Jordan Speech at the Woodrow Wilson School

In intro to IR, we examined the role of individuals this past week and their effect on international politics.  Elites, other private individuals, and mass publics all have an impact on the shape of international politics.  One such individual–a foreign policy elite–was Woodrow Wilson, who said:
 “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together. There must be, not a balance of power, but a community of power; not organized rivalries, but an organized peace.”
You can’t get a more concise expression of Wilsonian liberalism (idealism).  King Abdullah II of Jordan spoke to an audience at the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs on the subject of peace in the Middle East.  Here are his remarks in their entirety.  (H/t to A. Gunlicks)


Embassy of Jordan – Washington, DC

Information Bureau


Remarks by His Majesty King Abdullah II

Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Princeton University

29′ February 2008


Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim


king_abdullah.jpg            Fifty-seven countries are not at peace with Israel today.


Fifty-seven countries out of 193 countries in the world.


            Fifty-seven countries with a total population greater than Europe and the United States combined.


Fifty-seven countries, representing one third of the members of the United Nations.


Fifty-seven countries for whose citizens the conflict in Palestine is the issue of their time.


We must, therefore, ask the important question. What are the implications for global stability if this continues?


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