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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

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Eric Watson

Eric Watson has 13 articles published.

Poland Shocks The Visegrad Group: An Uncertain Future For The V4

in Diplomacy/Europe/Security by
Vise grad Group Meeting Prague

The Visegrad Group (V4) made up of Poland, Slovakia, The Czech Republic and Hungary are an often overlooked bloc of Central European powers. Originally a “triangle” of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary created in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the now four members (after 1993) of the Visegrad Group have worked together with various degrees of closeness and success. Originally set with the task of developing capitalist and democratic institutions in the post-Soviet era, the largely informal meetings between the V4 countries helped achieve remarkable results for countries who had until then stagnated under the Soviet system. Following this success, it was no surprise when the raison d’être of the group shifted towards joining NATO (1999 except for Slovakia in 2004) and the EU (2004), further integrating the former Soviet countries into the larger European system. Now integrated into a well established institutional political framework, the members of the V4 no longer had much reason for the Visegrad Group. Indeed, the ethnic and linguistic differences between the Slavic Poles, Czechs, and Slovaks with the Hungarians means that little cultural unity existed beyond a shared bond of Soviet-subjugation. Then perhaps unsurprisingly it was Russia’s response to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the…

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Do Economic Sanctions Work? The Answer is Still No.

in Diplomacy/Human Rights by
UN security council

With the seeming success of sanctions in Iran and the end of similar measures against Cuba, the debate on the efficacy of sanctions looks to begin anew. Economic sanctions have long been the preferred tool for the US government for a variety of reasons stretching back to the Cold War, where the US imposed economic sanctions against a variety of Communist-leaning countries around the world. The track result however, as scholars like Robert A. Pape point out, has been mixed at best. Sanctions against Latin American countries failed to directly be responsible for desired changes and appear to have more often than not led to greater instability in such countries. Cuba, where longstanding US sanctions have only began to thaw is perhaps the best example of a country where US sanctions failed to work despite drastically affecting the country’s economy. This latter point brings up one of the fundamental challenges of sanctions, the enforcement and participation of all parties. In the case of Cuba, a Communist sphere was there to support it for an extended period and more recently nearby politically aligned states. The end of sanctions against Cuba is near, and rather than coinciding with the end of the Castro…

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Israel’s Other Human Rights Catastrophe: The Negev Bedouin

in Human Rights/Law/Middle East/Politics by
Bedouin Israel Child

The plight of the Negev Bedouin continued as Israel’s Supreme Court recently ruled that the village of Umm al-Hiran would be destroyed and its inhabitants removed to make way for Israeli settlers. The NGO Human Rights Watch criticized the ruling, which also applied to a similar village in the West Bank, with its Middle East and Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson stating “The court decisions in the Umm al-Hiran and Susya cases ignore international law in upholding discriminatory evictions by the Israeli authorities in Israel and the occupied territories”.

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Something’s Rotten in Silicon Valley

in Business/Politics/US by
google campus sign

Silicon Valley has long been trumpeted as both the ideal and center of America’s entrepreneurial energies and business acumen. It has been an envious example for foreign governments, particularly in Asia, seeking to spur creativity and international success stories in their economy. Most recently, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to help small Japanese firms enter Silicon Valley in an attempt to help jumpstart the Japanese economy and promote its firms long term competitiveness. Beyond the economic capital Silicon Valley has generated among Americans, increasingly these firms are starting to command considerable domestic social and political capital. In the debate over net neutrality it was these tech firms that came out on the side of the “common man” that led to considerable positive coverage from bloggers on these companies. While Silicon Valley may be the shining exemplar of America’s best on the surface, lurking just below the warm shimmer is a growing rot that is going largely unnoticed. As Mark Ames of Pando Daily first uncovered, from 2005, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt illegally agreed not to recruit each other’s employees, share compensation details, and to publish workers who violated these terms. As discovered by Ames, the agreement grew in scope to cover…

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Lee Kuan Yew & The Curious Legacies of “Benevolent Dictators”

in Asia/Economics/Human Rights/Politics by

As has been widely reported in global media, the former prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew has passed away at the age of 91. Immediately following his passing, coverage of the conflicting nature of Singapore’s political system and the man responsible for it has proliferated. One of the most widely read is The Economist‘s piece which succinctly summarizes the phenomenal economic success that has come to represent Singapore. Lee remarkably was able to turn a tiny nation that had went through British and Japanese occupation in addition to being unceremoniously booted from its larger neighbor Malaysia, without fresh water or natural resources, into a global success story that has inspired many as a political and economic model. At the same time, Lee is also known for his decades-long (31 years as PM and 21 years as an advisor) authoritarian rule in Singapore. In addition to the famous tough definition and punishment of crimes, Lee also used defamation suits against those in the media and the opposition who opposed his rule. One recent point of criticism has been the way in which his family members have benefitted from their father’s position. His eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, can be considered the most prominent,…

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US-Israeli Tension Increases With Kerry’s Remarks

in Diplomacy/Middle East/Security/US by

The behind the scenes moves of the players involved in the high-stakes US-Iran negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are continuing to fester out into the open. It appears that the Obama administration is increasingly loosing patience with Netanyahu’s meddling. Illustrative of this, tension between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached a new height on Wednesday. Speaking to the US Congress in the run-up to Netanyahu’s planned congressional visit in March, Kerry reminded US officials that the last time Netanyahu spoke before the Congress back in 2002 he was giving his strong support for a US invasion of Iraq. To observers aware of the increasing conflict between the administration and Netanyahu, the implication of Kerry’s statement should be clear, “He cannot be trusted”. Behind closed doors is a continued sense of anger and tension between US President Obama and the Israeli leader. Only weeks ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Obama had called and demanded that Netanyahu stop interfering with US lawmakers. Netanyahu is reported to be personally lobbying US senators and congressman for increased sanctions on Iran, an action that would effectively abort any progress on negotiations between the White House and Tehran. Thus, Kerry’s public remarks seem to be expressing…

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Does Obama’s New AUMF Really Matter?

in Diplomacy/Law/Middle East/Security/US by

As reported on February 11th, US President Obama announced his plans to request the authorization to use force against the Islamic State (IS). In preparation for this, the White House released the proposed document, which it notes may be referred to as the “Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (AUMF-ISIL). Although there has been signifiant fanfare and media coverage over the implications of the document, the proposal itself is not as game changing as reported. Largely, this has been a result of overeager media coverage concerning the document. Outlined in the three page draft are the administrations arguments as to why they are requesting authorization against the IS, in addition to limitations of the scope of action and on the executive branch’s powers.  Most notable among these limitations pertains to Subsection (a) of the draft which formally requests authorization. In defining this subsection, the draft notes that it “…does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations”. In essence, this prevents additional deployment of ground troops beyond those which already are present in what is defined as the scope of the theater. In addition, under Section 3…

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What Goto’s Murder Means for Japan and East Asia

in Asia/Diplomacy/Middle East/Security by

On January 31st, various news outlets reported that a video showing the murder of Japanese journalist Kenji Goto had been released by the Islamic State (IS). A similar video had been released a week earlier purportedly showing the murder of Goto’s friend, Haruna Yukawa. These events followed negotiations between the Japanese and Jordanian Government’s with the IS over the release of prisoners. Negotiations between Japanese officials and the IS are currently being reported to have broken down following demands for a US $200 million ransom. In the video released, a member of IS addresses the Japanese government, saying: “Because of your reckless decision to take part in an unwinnable war, this knife will not only slaughter Kenji, but will also carry on and cause carnage wherever your people are found. So let the nightmare for Japan begin.” Within Japan, government officials have begun to debate the nature and role of Japan’s international activities. The result of these debates among interests holding contrasting views of Japan’s role internationally come at a time when Japan’s identity as a nation is itself in flux. Abe and other nationalist politicians have struggled to convince the Japanese public of the need for changes to Article 9 of the constitution, where the country has renounced war and…

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A Needed Inquiry: Interview with The Hon Michael Kirby

in Asia/Human Rights/Interviews by

Note: The following interview was published in the Yonsei Journal of International Studies Vol. 6 Issue 2 and can be found online at their site. The Commission’s full report can be found at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. A NEEDED INQUIRY Interview with The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Established in 2013 by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has provided new and valuable information to those concerned with the situation inside North Korea. Through the conducting of public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London and Washington D.C., the commission collected information and released a report in February 2014 which detailed many crimes that had occurred within North Korea, including crimes against humanity. The Hon Michael Kirby, former Justice of the High Court of Australia, was appointed to lead this inquiry. During a recent visit to Yonsei University in Seoul, Editor in Chief Eric Watson was able to interview The Hon Michael Kirby. Eric Watson: How did you become involved with the commission? Michael Kirby: I was at a…

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US Amb. Lippert’s Statements and the State of US-ROK-JPN Relations

in Asia/Diplomacy by

Earlier today, January 27th, the Korea Times reported that the US Ambassador Mark Lippert reaffirmed the US’ support for the Murayama statement. The Murayama statement, released in 1995 by former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologizing for Japanese actions towards its Asian neighbors, is often pointed to as the official apology for Japan’s wartime aggression. Lippert’s remarks follow recent statements by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe seemed to indicate in a recent interview that on the upcoming 70th anniversary of the end of WWII his statements may differ from the wording used by past Japanese prime ministers. At a time when the relations between Japan and Korea are as poor as they ever have been since establishing official ties, Abe’s remarks immediately drew the attention of the US. A close ally to both, the US relies on both countries for its presence in Asia and has so far preferred to avoid applying any direct pressure to the two countries in regards to their territorial and historical disputes. Lippert’s statement appears to be an indication of a heightened sensitivity to provocations that would threaten the uneasy relationship between the two democracies. Lippert seemed to try to preempt others from drawing this conclusion…

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