Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WHAT IS 'PERMANENT NEUTRALITY'? THE CASE OF TURKMENISTAN

The non aligned movement came into being during the Cold War, as a way for countries to declare their independence from the multinational defense alliances of the Western and Soviet power blocs. It's essentially the same meaning today: independence from a military alliance organized by a  power bloc. What we look at in my class South and Central Asia, INTL 5665,  are the relative strengths of the military alliances formed by the power blocs of the NATO (Western and Central Europe, US) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) (China, Russia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan) . Each engages in military exercises.

 Turkmenistan is not a member of the SCO or NATO.  Turkmenistan in Central Asia  made a formal declaration of 'Permanent Neutrality' in the UN in 1997 refusing to be  part of multi-national defense organizations. It says PM focuses on  peace and human rights. In fact, Turkmenistan's human rights record has been heavily criticized

Trading with other countries doesn't indicate necessarily a lack of autonomy on the part of Turkmenistan.

This is  how 'permanent neutrality ' is described, at  a press conference given by the President of Turkmenistan in 2010:

"Originally, neutrality was conceived as non-alignment with conflicting parties during wars. However, there later appeared a concept of permanent neutrality. Switzerland was the first country to declare itself permanently neutral, and it has strictly adhered to this status until now. In XX century, Austria, Japan, Laos, Cambodia, Malta and Turkmenistan became permanently neutral states. So, we are certainly not the first to choose neutral status as a major form of interaction with the outside world. At the same time, there is probably no other country that treats neutrality as a defining set of aspirations in all spheres of human activity, as it occurs in Turkmenistan."http://www.turkmenistan.ru/en/articles/14407.html (Links to an external site.)

WHAT IS 'PERMANENT NEUTRALITY'? THE CASE OF TURKMENISTAN

The non aligned movement came into being during the Cold War, as a way for countries to declare their independence from the multinational defense alliances of the Western and Soviet power blocs. It's essentially the same meaning today: independence from a military alliance organized by a  power bloc. What we look at in my class South and Central Asia, INTL 5665,  are the relative strengths of the military alliances formed by the power blocs of the NATO (Western and Central Europe, US) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) (China, Russia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan) . Each engages in military exercises.

 Turkmenistan is not a member of the SCO or NATO.  Turkmenistan in Central Asia  made a formal declaration of 'Permanent Neutrality' in the UN in 1997 refusing to be  part of multi-national defense organizations. It says PM focuses on  peace and human rights. In fact, Turkmenistan's human rights record has been heavily criticized

The latter wants cooperation with its partner countries in Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

 Trading with other countries doesn't indicate necessarily a lack of autonomy on the part of Turkmenistan.

This is  how 'permanent neutrality ' is described, at  a press conference given by the President of Turkmenistan in 2010:

"Originally, neutrality was conceived as non-alignment with conflicting parties during wars. However, there later appeared a concept of permanent neutrality. Switzerland was the first country to declare itself permanently neutral, and it has strictly adhered to this status until now. In XX century, Austria, Japan, Laos, Cambodia, Malta and Turkmenistan became permanently neutral states. So, we are certainly not the first to choose neutral status as a major form of interaction with the outside world. At the same time, there is probably no other country that treats neutrality as a defining set of aspirations in all spheres of human activity, as it occurs in Turkmenistan."http://www.turkmenistan.ru/en/articles/14407.html (Links to an external site.)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

BREXIT AND THE LEFT

A friend wrote: ''Do you think the fearful northern worker is right to be against the immigrant worker? I don't. ' She was alluding to the alleged racism of the UK population in the Northern part of England who voted BREXIT June 23, 2016.

Here are the facts:
The higher your income was the more you were likely to be a Remainer.  The main concern among Leavers was that immigrants were undercutting local labor costs and overburdening social services.  The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, wrote that the government had ignored calls to strengthen existing legislation that could stop employers undercutting British employees' wages by recruiting cheaper staff from overseas. The London School of Economics blames the 2008 recession for the lowering of wages, not immigrants. 
The Leave vote was a working class vote perceived as the only way it could voice its discontent, and of course, no one blames how the international capitalist system always drives wages to the bottom.. But should the Leave vote  be overturned l by insisting only the middle classes and MPs know what's best?  Or that rushing back into the arms of the EU is going to solve the after effects of the 2008 crisis? The EU is a corporate led behemoth which was used to undercut labor costs and strip state assets in a war by the richer countries against the poorer Eastern and Southern European countries. 

Yes, the debate got hijacked by flag waving right wingers, mainly because the Blairite Labor Party didn't adhere to its original LEXIT position, but that shouldn't obfuscate class divisions and underlying structural crisis.
 

The sovereignty issue has played a big part in making up people's minds as well. The  left wing of the Labor Party has been anti EU.. and about half the trade unions....even Jeremy Corbyn at one point....was that a factor in the Leave vote? Was racism really the main reason for BREXIT or did people worked out the issues for themselves despite the fear-mongering from the political elite.

What about the human rights the European Union espouses?  my friend countered.


There are two sets of human rights, political and economic.  Economic public rights are  the obligations of the state to shelter, provide health care, ...etc...none of which can happen when a country is in economic free fall as Greece is, thanks to the EU and IMF debts.  The European Central Bank bailouts to Greece were done under the condition of  higher taxes, cuts to government pensions and a liquidation of 50 plus billion pounds of  Greek  state assets (which affect social services).  So, while in the UK you have some good decisions about public housing, thanks to the European Court of Human Rights, countries like Greece have been punished heavily by the EU. The sovereignty issue is about political rights, because the EU is undemocratic. European Parliament members can't introduce or repeal laws and have very limited veto power. For example, defense policy imposed by the European Commission unelected members can't be vetoed.

. I was surprised how many of my Remain friends seem to think I was some kind of Nazi. I even got trolled on Facebook.  There was a principled socialist principle advocating Lexit which got overwhelmed by the right wing Leave campaign.  This was mainly because the Blairite Labor Party gave up its principled Lexit position.


There has been an uptick of racist incidents in the UK, but Farage and Boris, Leave campaigners, have left positions of power. Fears promulgated by Remain elites have caused a downswing on the pound. Time will tell about how all this will play out.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

HOW DO WE EXAMINE THE BEHAVIOR OF STATES?

The mainstream study of international relations focuses on behaviors of states as a unit of analysis,  often called the realist view.   How should we study states' motivations and goals? I suggest four methods:
1) Research and quote from, official policies. Define US 'geostrategic' objectives in the regions we are examining.  China, Russia and the US make official pronouncements, either as official policies posted on the internet, or at press conferences and in international meetings. Identify key official strategies.
2) Bear in mind there is a gap between what is said, and what is actually done. There is also a potential  gap between what you believe and what you find out. The lens of cognitive dissonance is helpful in understanding both gaps.
3) Do what CIA analysts do. Don't assume you know what 'the other side' is thinking.  View relations from the other side. View for example, how Putin sees the situation in C and S Asia from his perspective, i.e. US planned bases near Russia's borders, in Poland;  Central Asia as Russia's 'backyard', similar to the way the US views Latin America.. China is concerned with a planned build up of US naval power in the Pacific, but its military power hardly rivals that of the US. Instead, it's taking an economic expansionist route through its creation of another "World Bank", the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
 4) Is a state acting under international law. Many believe that the US had United Nations Security Council approval to enter into a war with Afghanistan - but that was not the case. Many believe that Russia's intervention in Syria is illegal but if a state is in a military pact to defend another state, as is Russia with Syria, it is legal under international law.

These methods will allow you to have a more  "360 degree' of the states' relations that you are examining.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

GLOBAL TRADE AND NAVAL POWER: SLOCS AND CHOKEPOINTS

What is the relationship between economic trade and military power'?  Here one could explore the topic of SEA LANES OF COMMUNICATION (SLOC) which are the primary maritime routes between ports, used for trade AND naval military forces. SLOCs  are strategically significant, and may come under dispute, such as the case of the  current stand off between China and Japan over the East China Sea Islands (known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, Diaoyu Islands in China).
What are the world's most important SLOCS?  This map shows us visually why  countries want control over sea lanes. Source: https://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/sea-lines-of-communication/
Regarding SLOCS, military control over choke points (narrow sea passage way)  is crucial for trade flow. So for example, the Straits of Hormuz is vital for oil supplies, but may in the future be contested by Iran and the US. This is where military power is a factor in controlling trade flow, or blocking access to it.
There are eight major oil choke points in the world. Here they are visually:
oil chokepoints

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

THE VOLCKER RULE

The US bank bailouts following the 2008 economic crisis, have been called 'corporate welfare'. The irony is, that the very people who suffered because of lack of regulations and casino type investment gambling, are the ones who paid the bill of the bailouts. Simplistically, this amounts to victims being made to pay  perpetrators for their crimes..
The idea behind this tortuous logic, is that the banks were 'too big to fail.' In the case of Greece, the public was also required to cut back on their social services (which had already been paid for by the taxpayers).
What is puzzling to me is why the private banking system wasn't given a radical overhaul. There have been some mild attempts at reform, such as the Volcker Rule.This was part of the  landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2013. This required  five federal financial regulatory agencies – the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Act to stop risky short term  trading activities, and terminate private equity funds and hedge funds.

Bear in mind the Volcker Rule is just a rule.  The trick about policies is not that they are legislated, but whether they are being implemented. As one New York Times reporter wrote 'The main issue now is whether the regulators force enough additional transparency so that it is possible to see the new ways that proprietary bets are hidden.....Will data be available on trading activities, allowing independent researchers to look for patterns that might otherwise elude officials?" 
http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/making-the-volcker-rule-work/?_r=0 (Links to an external site.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

THE SCANDINAVIAN SUCCESS STORY



From capitalist innovation to social equity indexes,  from security to happiness indexes,  by all accounts Scandinavian countries are setting the bar for the rest of the world. What  factors can we examine?

Politically: Their form of government is proportional representation (PR), not as most other countries, majority rule democracy. They focus on transparency, rigorous scrutiny, which means less cronyism and corruption by elites. Some countries have 30% quotas of women in parliament, but all have around 50% women representatives at all levels of government. This ensures a focus on policies of health and education, which are traditional interests of women.  Government is trusted.
Economic and Social Rights. The focus on rights is shared equally between political/civil rights and economic/social rights (look up these terms in the Political Economy glossary in my classes). Both sets of rights are considered indivisible. In other words, as Martin Luther King said, what is the point of voting if you can't afford the bus fare to the voting booths? Economic rights ensure a shift via the taxation base, of wealth to the poor and a robust social welfare program. The private sector is robust.

Culturally. The Nordic countries have a strong historical culture of democracy and also, capitalist innovation. They legalized human rights such as freedom of the press before anyone else - in the late 18th century. They have a tradition of independent farmers and seafarers. They didn't go through a highly militarized  feudal period.
Some of their policies that prioritize family life  and education include: Universal free education including university. Up to one year paid maternity and paternity leave, and universal day care, recognizing the fact that both parents work. Separate taxation of spouses which allows spouses  to be  more independent financially. There are high levels of security.

Population: Are Scandinavian countries successful because of their small populations? There are smaller populations that Sweden that have higher levels of poverty.  Iceland has one of the smallest populations in the world (pop. 300, 000 approx) , but experienced a major economic crisis in 2008 after its banks were privatized and deregulated. Its recovery through nationalization of its main bank, is a success story.

On the other hand, these countries have high levels of consumption of alcohol and anti depressants -- due to the long winters and lack of sun? Norway has huge wealth, but it's mainly due to its dependence on its oil production, which makes it vulnerable. Students end up in debt, because they, not their parents, are expected to pay for living expenses.