The perception of politics as an obstacle to the advancement of the Caribbean must be removed. In Power, Politics and Performance, Winston Dookeran argues that for meaningful change, politics must be visionary and pursued with principled purpose. He argues for partnership through regionalism and explores the issues facing small developing states and their sovereignty. Dookeran identifies the imperatives of financial stability and the structures required for building a knowledge-based economy. Power, Politics and Performance focuses on key issues of leadership and the political processes suggesting that ultimately, leadership is about finding solutions, and such solutions require radical transformation of political parties and political institutions. The book examines and analyses specific problems and distortions in small states and the challenge of building effective leadership while providing a blueprint for the way forward. Power, Politics and Performance is a welcomed addition to the Caribbean Integration arena and sets the stage for a paradigm shift in the governance of small states.
Evolutionary psychologists have suggested that confidence and conservatism promoted aggression in our ancestral past, and that this may have been an adaptive strategy given the prevailing costs and benefits of conflict. However, in modern environments, where the costs and benefits of conflict can be very different owing to the involvement of mass armies, sophisticated technology, and remote leadership, evolved tendencies toward high levels of confidence and conservatism may continue to be a contributory cause of aggression despite leading to greater costs and fewer benefits. The purpose of this paper is to test whether confidence and conservatism are indeed associated with greater levels of aggression—in an explicitly political domain. We present the results of an experiment examining people’s levels of aggression in response to hypothetical international crises (a hostage crisis, a counter-insurgency campaign, and a coup). Levels of aggression (which range from concession to negotiation to military attack) were significantly predicted by subjects’ (1) confidence that their chosen policy would succeed, (2) score on a liberal-conservative scale, (3) political party affiliation, and (4) preference for the use of military force in real-world US policy toward Iraq and Iran. We discuss the possible adaptive and maladaptive implications of confidence.
The Wall Street Journal asks Harris Mylonas to comment on the rise of fringe parties in Greece. After two years of government cutbacks brought on by Greece's debt crisis, the signs of social decay are everywhere in Athens and the mood in the capital is despondent.Downtown Athens today is a shadow of its former self. Its streets, formerly once lined with crowded elegant stores and vibrant cafés, are now scarred by shuttered shopfronts, crime, homelessness and periodic rioting.
Businesses are closing at a record pace, and unemployment in the greater Athens area has soared to more than 23%, above the national average. Regular demonstrations have frightened away tourists, and thousands of the city's hotels and retailers are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.
Beyond the social turmoil, this new reality presents a particular political problem for Greece's main conservative party, New Democracy, which hopes to win Sunday's parliamentary election and lead the next governing coalition. Athens has always been their stronghold, but the city's unhappy residents are abandoning them for fringe parties of the right and left, including the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.
The capital, the core of a wider metropolitan area of some three million inhabitants, has some 700,000 residents and 17 parliamentary seats up for grabs. It serves as a bellwether for broader discontent over the country's austerity policies and, more specifically, over Greece's two leading political parties. The New Democracy and the Socialist Pasok parties have governed Greece for much of the past four decades and are blamed for the country's economic crisis.
Although New Democracy is expected to emerge as the biggest party, the rise of groups like Golden Dawn is cutting into its vote share, of the vote, making it harder to muster a majority in Parliament. At the least, it will have to renew its coalition with the Socialists, and will likely be forced to govern while facing raucous, consistent opposition dominated by far-left and far-right groups firmly opposed to austerity measures.
The government, in response to the decline of the city's center, has implemented increased police patrols, a three-year rebuilding plan and fresh promises to relocate thousands of illegal immigrants to detention camps. around the country. But for many Athenians, those promises come as this is too little, too late."I'm no fascist, but this time I'll vote for Golden Dawn just to shake up the dirty political system," said Kostas Kalatzakos, owner of a small store in Athens. "Robbers have broken into my shop three times in the past two years, and the last time around the police sounded annoyed when I called them to come and investigate. Of course nobody is ever caught."
With such newfound supporters, Golden Dawn, using neo-Nazi rhetoric and a logo of an ancient symbol resembling the swastika, is poised to enter Parliament for the first time. Recent public-opinion pPolls show support for Golden Dawn, hovering between 5% and 6%, well above the 3% minimum threshold needed to enter Parliament and potentially securing them as many as 15 seats in Greece's 300-member legislature.
The party advocates the immediate expulsion of all illegal immigrants and "Jobs for Greeks." Its platform states that e country's borders with Turkey should be sealed with land mines. Immigrant groups have accused Golden Dawn members of abuse, beatings with iron rods and threats of reprisals when the immigrants speak out. The party denies those allegations.
Its economic manifesto includes foregoing all debt repayments, forming "special teams" to investigate corrupt practices, arresting and imprisoning politicians and state servants found guilty of economic mismanagement, nationalizing banks, and returning "to traditional family values."
Such rightist ideology until recently has won gained little traction in Greece. In the 2009 elections, Golden Dawn managed a meager just 0.23% of the vote. In 2010, it the party was able to take took a seat on the Athens city council, its first ever electoral victory. A variety of community initiatives, such as having party members escort elderly residents to the bank and providing food for the needy, those in need, have helped win over local residents."Two very mean-looking but polite boys came with me at the ATM to pick up my pension and then they brought me back home carrying the groceries to my apartment," said 72-year-old Anastasia Petikari, a retired teacher in Athens. "I felt very sorry about this, but to tell you the truth I also felt secure. This country is in a pitiful state."
She declined to say which party she would support in the elections.
Ioannis Vourdis, a candidate for the Athens parliamentary district with Golden Dawn, said: "such programs have long been used by the party to build votes. Our support increased after people saw that we help, and not just during the election period. This has been happening for years."
Harris Mylonas, assistant professor of Political Science at George Washington University, says that a lack of a viable immigrant-integration policy, along with the country' economic problems, have provided fertile ground for a radicalized Greek society. "This has made it possible for parties such as Golden Dawn to appear as the defenders of the Greek people against the rest." he said.In this case, "the rest" seems to include some established elected political leaders.
Daniel Ziblatt may have been born with political science in his DNA. Even if he wasn’t, his fate was sealed to enter the field during a year abroad and a memorable night with a glass of bubbly.
The California native was fascinated as a child by tales about his grandfather, an immigrant from Eastern Europe. He spent the year after high school in southwest Germany amid an era of political upheaval and transformation. Only months before his arrival, the Berlin wall had tumbled amid celebration and shocked surprise.Then, on Oct. 3, 1990, Germany, after decades of partition, officially reunited.“I remember this vivid scene. Everyone came outside, and we were toasting with Champagne. It was such an amazing time, and it really got me excited about studying this part of the world,” said Ziblatt.
Later, a ride through the countryside with a friend, past villages that seemed out of the 1920s, helped to crystalize his sense that history could be a vital window to the past, present, and future. “You could see the legacies of the past were so present there, and there was so much to understand about where these places came from.”
Using history as a lens to explore future political trends has been a constant throughout Ziblatt’s career and informs his work as an author, educator, and researcher. The Harvard professor of government says he likes to delve into “major, and sometimes understudied historical puzzles that make one rethink big theories in political science.”
He did that with his 2006 book Structuring the State: The Formation of Italy and Germany and the Puzzle of Federalism. Ziblatt wondered how Italy and Germany, two countries that shared so many characteristics and were both forged as modern states in the 1860s, could have turned out so differently: Italy was formed as a centralized unitary state, while Germany became a federal one. His research showed that some well-developed institutional systems long in place in Germany forged the building blocks of federalism. In Italy, those systems were missing, and federalism failed.“The answer,” he said, “led to fundamentally new paradigms for understanding how states form.”
In his forthcoming book he turns his attention again to Germany, comparing its development with Britain’s embrace of democracy. Ziblatt hopes to show how the disposition of conservative parties helps to explain why “Germany’s path of democratization was so murderous and disaster-filled, while Britain’s was relatively smooth.
“In large part, you have to look closely at authoritarian incumbents and how they cope with the process of democratization,” said Ziblatt. “If there are elements inside the regime that are willing to compete with the opposition, democratization has a chance.” People often tend to overlook such political players because they are considered the losers of the democratization process, or opponents to democracy, said Ziblatt. But they are powerful actors who often play pivotal roles in determining a country’s future.
“In a way, the conservative parties are the hinges as to whether or not democracy is stable.”
Can such political lessons be applied to the current situation in Egypt? Ziblatt thinks so. If the old-regime elites who previously served ousted leader Hosni Mubarak are able to reorganize themselves politically and agree to free and fair elections, he said, the democratization process could take hold. Only time will tell.Ziblatt forged his path to political science around a lively dinner table that included heated conversations about politics. His grandmother was a leader in the Democratic Party in the ’50s, his father was a political scientist at Sonoma State University, and his mother and two brothers all studied political science in college.
“I was doomed from the start,” he said, laughing.
He majored in political science and German in college and received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Then he headed east to Harvard.When not teaching, researching, writing, or traveling, Ziblatt spends extra time with his wife and two young daughters. In the future, he hopes to get back to his other love: music. In his office, works by Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin sit piled in a corner. He studied the piano for years, and for a time considered a degree in music.“There were too many interesting political things going on to spend eight hours a day playing and missing out on everything.”
I’m reading a fascinating new book called Why Nations Fail. The more you read it, the more you appreciate what a fool’s errand we’re on in Afghanistan and how much we need to totally revamp our whole foreign aid strategy. But most intriguing are the warning flares the authors put up about both America and China. Co-authored by the MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and the Harvard political scientist James A. Robinson, “Why Nations Fail” argues that the key differentiator between countries is “institutions.” Nations thrive when they develop “inclusive” political and economic institutions, and they fail when those institutions become “extractive” and concentrate power and opportunity in the hands of only a few.
“Inclusive economic institutions that enforce property rights, create a level playing field, and encourage investments in new technologies and skills are more conducive to economic growth than extractive economic institutions that are structured to extract resources from the many by the few,” they write.
“Inclusive economic institutions, are in turn supported by, and support, inclusive political institutions,” which “distribute political power widely in a pluralistic manner and are able to achieve some amount of political centralization so as to establish law and order, the foundations of secure property rights, and an inclusive market economy.” Conversely, extractive political institutions that concentrate power in the hands of a few reinforce extractive economic institutions to hold power.
Acemoglu explained in an interview that their core point is that countries thrive when they build political and economic institutions that “unleash,” empower and protect the full potential of each citizen to innovate, invest and develop. Compare how well Eastern Europe has done since the fall of communism with post-Soviet states like Georgia or Uzbekistan, or Israel versus the Arab states, or Kurdistan versus the rest of Iraq. It’s all in the institutions.
The lesson of history, the authors argue, is that you can’t get your economics right if you don’t get your politics right, which is why they don’t buy the notion that China has found the magic formula for combining political control and economic growth.
“Our analysis,” says Acemoglu, “is that China is experiencing growth under extractive institutions — under the authoritarian grip of the Communist Party, which has been able to monopolize power and mobilize resources at a scale that has allowed for a burst of economic growth starting from a very low base,” but it’s not sustainable because it doesn’t foster the degree of “creative destruction” that is so vital for innovation and higher incomes.
“Sustained economic growth requires innovation,” the authors write, “and innovation cannot be decoupled from creative destruction, which replaces the old with the new in the economic realm and also destabilizes established power relations in politics.”
“Unless China makes the transition to an economy based on creative destruction, its growth will not last,” argues Acemoglu. But can you imagine a 20-year-old college dropout in China being allowed to start a company that challenges a whole sector of state-owned Chinese companies funded by state-owned banks? he asks.
The post-9/11 view that what ailed the Arab world and Afghanistan was a lack of democracy was not wrong, said Acemoglu. What was wrong was thinking that we could easily export it. Democratic change, to be sustainable, has to emerge from grassroots movements, “but that does not mean there is nothing we can do,” he adds.
For instance, we should be transitioning away from military aid to regimes like Egypt and focusing instead on enabling more sectors of that society to have a say in politics. Right now, I’d argue, our foreign aid to Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan is really a ransom we pay their elites not to engage in bad behavior. We need to turn it into bait.
Acemoglu suggests that instead of giving Cairo another $1.3 billion in military aid that only reinforces part of the elite, we should insist that Egypt establish a committee representing all sectors of its society that would tell us which institutions—schools, hospitals—they want foreign aid to go to, and have to develop appropriate proposals.
If we’re going to give money, “let’s use it to force them to open up the table and to strengthen the grass-roots,” says Acemoglu.
We can only be a force multiplier. Where you have grass-roots movements that want to build inclusive institutions, we can enhance them. But we can’t create or substitute for them. Worse, in Afghanistan and many Arab states, our policies have often discouraged grass-roots from emerging by our siding with convenient strongmen. So there’s nothing to multiply. If you multiply zero by 100, you still get zero.
And America? Acemoglu worries that our huge growth in economic inequality is undermining the inclusiveness of America’s institutions, too. “The real problem is that economic inequality, when it becomes this large, translates into political inequality.” When one person can write a check to finance your whole campaign, how inclusive will you be as an elected official to listen to competing voices?
My work has brought me up close to leaders of all kinds. There is one thing they share: highly developed technical and intellectual capacities, many of them graduates of some of the world’s most prestigious educational institutions.
They also share something else; what many of them report as a major leadership challenge: knowing what to do in charged emotional situations. In spite of their technical expertise, they rarely feel confident when faced with subordinates who are experiencing outrage; who feel they are being treated unfairly; whose unacknowledged grievances have changed them into fighting men and women. In other words, they don’t know what to do when faced with people who have experienced repeated violations of their dignity, which are, by definition, highly charged emotional events.
Their default reaction is often to use their authority and the power of their position to control the situation, often leaving the aggrieved people angrier, more resentful, and less willing to extend themselves in their jobs or their roles within an organization. The dignity violations remained unaddressed, contaminating the work environment.A reason why the default reaction is to exert authority and control over a volatile emotional situation is that they are afraid of it. They are especially fearful of being exposed and embarrassed by a bad move or a flawed policy for which they were responsible.I have seen otherwise brilliant leaders get caught in all of the predictable traps that ignorance of how to best handle dignity violations creates. They are not bad people who deliberately try to make life difficult for those whom they lead; they simply don’t have the knowledge, awareness and skills they need to navigate through emotional turmoil. Without an education in matters related to dignity, a most vulnerable aspect of being human, even technically gifted and well-intentioned leaders can unknowingly create an undignified work environment.
The need has never been more urgent for people in leadership positions to be educated in all matters related to dignity; both the human vulnerability to being violated, and the positive effect it has on people when they feel seen, heard, understood, and acknowledged as valuable and worthy. The emotional impact of treating someone well and honoring their dignity has benefits that are incalculable. It’s the easiest and fastest way to bring out the best in people. The opposite is equally as true: treat people as if they don’t matter and watch how fast a destructive, if not violent, emotional storm erupts.
Leading with dignity means that leaders recognize this; that they are willing to embody what it looks like to treat others as valuable, to know what to do with people when they have been violated, and to know what to do when they have violated them. Below are some steps leaders can take to establish a culture of dignity in the workplace:
1. Make a company-wide commitment to learn about the role dignity plays in establishing a healthy and productive (and profitable) work environment.
2. Make a conscious effort to honor the dignity of your employees; both in everyday interactions and in the policies you create.
3. Create a work environment where your employees feel safe to speak up about the dignity violations they are experiencing. Make it easy for them by inviting them on a regular basis to talk to you about ways that you or company policies may be unknowingly harming them.
4. When it is reported to you that other managers and supervisors are violating the dignity of others, take action to address the situation. Make it company policy to take responsibility for the harm one causes others. No one should be above accountability.
There is no greater leadership challenge than to lead with dignity, helping us all to understand what it feels like to be honored and valued and to feel the expansive benefits that come from experiencing it. Employees yearn to see good leadership from their executives and managers. They all knows how difficult it is for their leaders to take courageous steps that could leave them vulnerable such as overriding the need to save face by admitting to having made a mistake; stepping beyond what is safe and comfortable by apologizing for hurting employees; confronting a fellow leader who has repeatedly violated people; championing one’s employees when their voices are not strong enough to speak up to a failed policy that violates their dignity.
While we all recognize how difficult leadership can be, we still have the expectation that the title of leader means something. We want it to mean that by watching dignified leadership, we, too, can expect more of ourselves and not succumb to the all-too-familiar default mode of making excuses for not opting to do what is right.
My work has brought me up close to leaders of all sorts. There's one thing they share: highly developed technical and intellectual capacities, most of whom are educated in colleges and universities between Guam, Hawaii, and the US mainland.
They also share something else: leadership challenge and how they navigate emotionally charged situations. For all their technical expertise, they lack confidence when dealing with outraged subordinates; those who feel they were treated unfairly or the inconsistency of the boss who says one thing and does the exact opposite.
Unacknowledged grievances change the attitude of these folks into fighting men and women who'd snap at the slightest insult, even from co-workers. In other words, their bosses don't know what to do when faced with people who have experienced repeated violations of their dignity, which are by definition highly charged emotional events, explained Donna Hicks, PhD, an associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University and author of Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict.
“Their default reaction is often to use their authority and the power of their position to control the situation, often leaving the aggrieved people angrier, more resentful, and less willing to extend themselves in their jobs or their roles within an organization. The dignity violations remained unaddressed, contaminating the work environment. A reason why the default reaction is to exert authority and control over a volatile emotional situation is that they are afraid of it. They are especially fearful of being exposed and embarrassed by a bad move or a flawed policy for which they were responsible,” according to Dr. Hicks.
“I have seen otherwise brilliant leaders get caught in all of the predictable traps that ignorance of how to best handle dignity violations creates. They are not bad people who deliberately try to make life difficult for those whom they lead; they simply are clueless how to navigate through emotional turmoil. Without an education in matters related to dignity, a most vulnerable aspect of being human, even technically gifted and well-intentioned leaders can unknowingly create an undignified work environment.
“The need has never been more urgent for people in leadership positions to be educated in all matters related to dignity; both the human vulnerability to being violated, and the positive effect it has on people when they feel seen, heard, understood, and acknowledged as valuable and worthy.
“The emotional impact of treating someone well and honoring their dignity has benefits that are incalculable. It's the easiest and fastest way to bring out the best in people. The opposite is equally as true: treat people as if they don't matter and watch how fast a destructive, if not violent, emotional storm erupts.
“Leading with dignity means that leaders recognize this; that they are willing to embody what it looks like to treat others as valuable, to know what to do with people when they have been violated, and to know what to do when they have violated them. Establishing a culture of dignity in the workplace would go a long ways.”
Personally, I've pushed people to the hilt, not that I want to be mean-spirited but to bring out the best in them. They may have seen it otherwise. For instance, I've encouraged former employees to take up courses at NMC to upgrade their skills and eventually place their AAs under their belt. An AA degree would soon become the minimum requirement in future jobs. It's the only reason why I've pushed for the acquisition of lifetime skills.
Definitely, the attitude of royal misfits could be found in some government employees. They neglect the fact that it is taxpayers who pay for their salaries. Yet there's the acquired attitude of arrogance as though it is taxpayers who owe them an arm and a leg. No sir! It's the other way around, like it or not.
Excuse me, sir, how about some sense of common decency and courtesy? How about going the extra mile to assist those who come for help? Do taxpayers owe you their livelihood? Why the arrogance and fiesta de la mañana when we are paying for your biweekly loot? Isn't it time that you buckle down and fulfill your duties and responsibilities?
In all interactions, personal dignity is the most important aspect of any and all employees. I will not rob them of it given that they have earned their stripes. In short, they have earned the respect of others, respect being a two-way street; grant them generously. I'd rather talk with them rather than to them. Respect, after all is reciprocal, never commanded nor demanded. At the end of the day, a happy worker goes the extra mile to do his best, contributing generously to the overall goals and objectives of the organization.Need for desk auditAs scarce government revenues slide deeper south, it becomes mandatory that the local government seek desk audits of all departments and agencies to determine where real cuts ought to be made. You'd be surprise what this audit could reveal upon completion.It probes positions and the qualifications of employees, demonstrating in no uncertain terms real qualifications or the lack of credentials and experience. It recommends cuts in salaries where qualifications are lacking. It may not be met with big smiles from employees, but this is how we build credibility into the merit system. You want a certain salary you must earn it and not be a beneficiary of political corruption at the expense of other equally deserving employees.It also ensures retaining a truly qualified cadre of public servants fully aware of their roles in assisting the needs of the general public.A desk audit was performed at the Department of Public Land six years ago. It shows how unbridled salary spikes have violated certain laws like there's no tomorrow. When the desk audit came, I implemented it accordingly, much to the displeasure of those who were making tons of money illegally. It obviates strengthening the merit system. It's the fairest way to earn your stripes and dues.* * *Indeed, how pleasant it is meeting highly motivated and fully trained employees in private industries, i.e., banks, hotels, or the service industry. I am proud of these employees who flash common courtesy as they assist you in your need. When it's done, they simply say, “Have a nice day.” We don't hear nor see common courtesy in government other than a constipated “hafa adai.” Embarrassing, huh?
Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Should we allow corporations to pay for the right to pollute the atmosphere? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars? Auctioning admission to elite universities? Selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay?In What Money Can’t Buy, Michael J. Sandel takes on one of the biggest ethical questions of our time: Is there something wrong with a world in which everything is for sale? If so, how can we prevent market values from reaching into spheres of life where they don’t belong? What are the moral limits of markets?
In recent decades, market values have crowded out nonmarket norms in almost every aspect of life—medicine, education, government, law, art, sports, even family life and personal relations. Without quite realizing it, Sandel argues, we have drifted from having a market economy to being a market society. Is this where we want to be?In his New York Times bestseller Justice, Sandel showed himself to be a master at illuminating, with clarity and verve, the hard moral questions we confront in our everyday lives. Now, in What Money Can’t Buy, he provokes an essential discussion that we, in our market-driven age, need to have: What is the proper role of markets in a democratic society—and how can we protect the moral and civic goods that markets don’t honor and that money can’t buy?
The monarchical presidential regimes that prevailed in the Arab world for so long looked as though they would last indefinitely—until events in Tunisia and Egypt made clear their time was up. The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life exposes for the first time the origins and dynamics of a governmental system that largely defined the Arab Middle East in the twentieth century.Presidents who rule for life have been a feature of the Arab world since independence. In the 1980s their regimes increasingly resembled monarchies as presidents took up residence in palaces and made every effort to ensure their sons would succeed them. Roger Owen explores the main features of the prototypical Arab monarchical regime: its household; its inner circle of corrupt cronies; and its attempts to create a popular legitimacy based on economic success, a manipulated constitution, managed elections, and information suppression.Why has the Arab world suffered such a concentration of permanent presidential government? Though post-Soviet Central Asia has also known monarchical presidencies, Owen argues that a significant reason is the “Arab demonstration effect,” whereby close ties across the Arab world have enabled ruling families to share management strategies and assistance. But this effect also explains why these presidencies all came under the same pressure to reform or go. Owen discusses the huge popular opposition the presidential systems engendered during the Arab Spring, and the political change that ensued, while also delineating the challenges the Arab revolutions face across the Middle East and North Africa.
Syria’s uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, which began peacefully in Damascus a year ago, has become increasingly brutal and splintered. As the death toll nears 9,000, calls for international intervention have increased—but what worked in places like Libya won’t necessarily succeed in Syria. The country’s political and military elites have always been secretive about their power and how they make important decisions, leading to several misconceptions about the regime. Let’s dispel some myths about Syria and its upheaval.
1. President Bashar al-Assad’s departure would end the violence.
International efforts to stop the violence in Syria have focused on forcing Assad to step down. But even if he did, there would be no change in the government’s policy of crushing the Free Syrian Army’s activities and demonstrations with force.
Surrounding the president is a tightly knit group of military and security officials, mostly from the Alawite minority, who have grown enormously wealthy over the past two to three decades, beginning under the rule of Assad’s father, Hafez al-Assad. In regime circles, especially among the older men who were close associates of his father, Bashar al-Assad is seen as a figurehead with some credibility among parts of the Syrian population. But he is easily replaceable by someone much tougher and even more committed to repression and facing down international condemnation.
2. It’s hard for outsiders to really know what’s going on in Syria.
As with any regime that has been in power for decades, Syria’s ways of dealing with dissent are well-known, beginning with the partial destruction of the town of Hama in 1982 to eliminate the threat posed by Muslim Brotherhood rebels.
So when the present revolt broke out a year ago, there could be little doubt that Assad, his close family and his Alawite advisers would respond in more or less the same way, blaming the uprising on a few foreign-inspired malcontents, controlling the media and using loyal army units to try to crush the opposition.But today, unlike in 1982, it has proved much more difficult to hide what is going on. Through personal testimony, such as Syrians’ telephone calls to relatives abroad; graphic videos and cellphone images; and whispered conversations with the few foreign journalists and Arab League investigators whom the Assad regime has allowed in — in an effort to convince the outside world that all is well - the rebels have presented a picture of brutal crackdowns and repression.
Not only are the country’s long borders impossible to seal off, but the Internet makes it virtually impossible to prevent news from getting out. The tactics being used in Homs—shutting off electricity, seizing parts of the city, going house to house to arrest young men and terrorizing the few remaining inhabitants—are desperate signs of weakness from a regime that can think of no other way to stop news of its crimes from spreading.
3. Syria is headed for civil war.The Assad regime, the Obama administration and the West are constantly predicting a civil war. But the country is already in one. Cities such as Homs and Hama have split into regime-friendly and regime-hostile quarters, with their residents often forced to move from one to the other in search of protection.Meanwhile, on a larger scale, there is plenty of evidence of sharp divisions, some of them militarized, within the larger sectarian communities such as the Alawites, the Christians and the Kurds.Many families are split between regime critics and supporters, each heavily invested in rival discourses about who is to blame. The result, as seen in other major civil wars such as in Lebanon or Bosnia, is violence and hatred between fellow citizens, an atmosphere of kill or be killed—with an intensity that often surpasses that in conventional wars between nations.Reluctance to call Syria’s uprising a civil war largely comes from those advocating international intervention. For if a conflict is recognized as a civil one, it is much harder to persuade outside nations to get involved because of the danger that such a conflict will spill over into neighboring states.
4. Libya’s regime change is a model for Syria.
Libya is being invoked as an example: outside intervention that would start with pressure to allow humanitarian aid, followed by the establishment of secure corridors to be guarded, perhaps, by foreign planes operating no-fly zones. However, the Assad government is well aware of such aims and is prepared to counter them.For one thing, it is a much more cohesive regime than that of Moammar Gaddafi and has much more popular support. For another, with its loyal brigades of largely Alawite troops and its pervasive network of informers, thugs and intelligence operatives, it has been preparing to confront an internal threat for decades.Syria also has the advantage of diplomatic and other support from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, its main supplier of military equipment.
5. The international community has to intervene to stop the violence.Daily news reports and images on social networks of the destruction of Syrian cities, and of the systematic torture and killing of thousands of people, are almost impossible for Western governments and international human rights organizations to ignore. But then so, too, are the problems of doing anything immediate to halt the violence.As the recent history of such interventions demonstrates, the desire to put an end to what are regarded as the evil policies of an evil regime can easily cause politicians to neglect the other side of the balance sheet: the number of civilian lives that will undoubtedly be lost in the attempt to save them. Think, for example, of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who’ve been widowed since the Russian invasion some 30 years ago.
Better, as the Obama administration is doing, to undertake a more long-term strategy of isolating the Assad regime with punitive sanctions designed to cripple the Syrian economy, coupled with travel warnings and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s statement that Assad fits the definition of a war criminal.
This is an interview with Michèle Lamont and Nissim Mizrachi about the special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies: Responses to Stigmatization in Comparative Perspectives: Brazil, Canada, Israel, France, South Africa, Sweden, and The United States.Related Links
About the IssueThis special issue offers a first systematic qualitative cross-national
exploration of how diverse minority groups respond to stigmatization in a
wide variety of contexts. This research is the culmination of a
coordinated study of stigmatized groups in Brazil, Israel, and the USA,
as well as of connected research projects conducted in Canada, France,
South Africa, and Sweden. The issue sheds light on the range of
destigmatization strategies ordinary people adopt in the course of their
daily life. Articles analyze the cultural frames they mobilize to make
sense of their experiences and to determine how to respond; how they
negotiate and transform social and symbolic boundaries; and how
responses are enabled and constrained by institutions, national
ideologies, cultural repertoires, and contexts. The similarities and
differences across sites provide points of departure for further
systematic research, which is particularly needed in light of the
challenges for liberal democracy raised by multiculturalism. Weatherhead InitiativeThis special issue is the first set of papers to come out of the 2007 Weatherhead Initiative, ″A Comparative Study of Responses to Discrimination by Members of Stigmatized Groups.”
This special issue offers a first systematic qualitative cross-national exploration of how diverse minority groups respond to stigmatization in a wide variety of contexts. This research is the culmination of a coordinated study of stigmatized groups in Brazil, Israel, and the USA, as well as of connected research projects conducted in Canada, France, South Africa, and Sweden. The issue sheds light on the range of destigmatization strategies ordinary people adopt in the course of their daily life. Articles analyze the cultural frames they mobilize to make sense of their experiences and to determine how to respond; how they negotiate and transform social and symbolic boundaries; and how responses are enabled and constrained by institutions, national ideologies, cultural repertoires, and contexts. The similarities and differences across sites provide points of departure for further systematic research, which is particularly needed in light of the challenges for liberal democracy raised by multiculturalism.Related Links
Empirical testing of competing theories lies at the heart of social science research. We demonstrate that a well-known class of statistical models, called finite mixture models, provides an effective way of rival theory testing. In the proposed framework, each observation is assumed to be generated either from a statistical model implied by one of the competing theories or more generally from a weighted combination of multiple statistical models under consideration. Researchers can then estimate the probability that a specific observation is consistent with each rival theory. By modeling this probability with covariates, one can also explore the conditions under which a particular theory applies.We discuss a principled way to identify a list of observations that are statistically significantly consistent with each theory and propose measures of the overall performance of each competing theory. We illustrate the relative advantages of our method over existing methods through empirical and simulation studies.
One of the most rigorous methodologies in the corporate governance literature uses firms' reactions to industry shocks to characterize the quality of governance. This methodology can produce the wrong answer unless one considers the ways firms compete. Because macro-level shocks reverberate differently at the firm level depending on whether a firm has a cost structure that requires significant adjustment, the quality of governance can only be elucidated accurately analyzing a firm's business strategy and their corporate governance. These differences can help one determine whether the fruits of a positive macro-level shock have been expropriated by insiders. Using the example of Indian firms, we show that an influential finding is reversed when these differences are considered. We further argue that the conventional wisdom about tunneling and business groups will need to be reformulated in light of the data, methodology, and findings presented here.
One of the most dramatic changes in the fiscal federalism landscape during the postwar period has been the rapid growth in state budgets, which almost tripled as a share of GDP and doubled as a share of government spending between 1952 and 2006. We argue that the greater role of states cannot be easily explained by changes in Tiebout forces of fiscal competition, such as mobility and voting patterns, and are not accounted for by demographic or income trends. Rather, we demonstrate that much of the growth in state budgets has been driven by changes in intergovernmental interactions. Restricted federal grants to states have increased, and federal policy and legal constraints have also mandated or heavily incentivized state own-source spending, particularly in the areas of education, health and public welfare. These outside pressures moderate the forces of fiscal competition and must be taken into account when assessing the implications of observed revenue and spending patterns.
Dionysius the Areopagite, the early sixth-century Christian writer, bridged Christianity and neo-Platonist philosophy. Bringing together a team of international scholars, this volume surveys how Dionysius’s thought and work has been interpreted, in both East and West, up to the present day.
One of the first volumes in English to survey the reception history of Dionysian thought, both East and West
Provides a clear account of both modern and post-modern debates about Dionysius’s standing as philosopher and Christian theologian
Examines the contrasts between Dionysius’s own pre-modern concerns and those of the post-modern philosophical tradition
Highlights the great variety of historic readings of Dionysius, and also considers new theories and interpretations
Analyzes the main points of hermeneutical contrast between East and West
How is democracy made real? How does an undemocratic country create new institutions and transform its polity such that democratic values and practices become integral parts of its political culture? These are some of the most pressing questions of our times, and they are the central inquiry of Building Democracy in Japan. Using the Japanese experience as starting point, this book develops a new approach to the study of democratization that examines state-society interactions as a country adjusts its existing political culture to accommodate new democratic values, institutions and practices. With reference to the country's history, the book focuses on how democracy is experienced in contemporary Japan, highlighting the important role of generational change in facilitating both gradual adjustments as well as dramatic transformation in Japanese politics.
Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence? Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.
Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:
China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?
Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?
What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?
Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.
Several centuries ago, there was a nation that rose to become a world power on the strength of its innovation and its dedication to capitalist enterprise. It became a major center of trade, a financial powerhouse whose name was well known across the planet. It was blessed with an unusual society that rewarded talent and hard work, not social position—one of the few places where a person who had nothing could realistically dream of a far better life. And then this vibrant place, the envy of the world, suddenly collapsed. Its economy shrank; its people left.The place was Venice, and if it is hard to imagine the charming tourist destination was once one of the richest places on the Earth, then that is precisely what MIT economist Daron Acemoglu wants me to understand. I had come to the Sloan School of Management cafeteria, its tall windows framing the Charles River, for coffee and a discussion of his favorite topic—why nations fail.
It is a question that has intrigued people for thousands of years, but now Acemoglu and Harvard’s James Robinson offer an answer in an ambitious new book. Their theory, the fruit of a long intellectual partnership and research that digs back to the origins of agriculture, explains why some countries succeed and others do not, why some are awash in prosperity, while others are consumed by poverty and suffering. It explains how a city-state like Venice can rise to prominence, then quickly fail. And it offers a chastening message about the prospects for our own country.
So why do nations fail? Acemoglu has a one-word answer: “Politics.’’
What this means, he explains, is that nations succeed in the long term when they are able to share power broadly. They either develop inclusive institutions or “extractive institutions,’’ designed to plunder wealth for the few.
Throughout history, says Acemoglu, “the great struggle is between the masses and elites who seek to capture the government and put it to their own uses.’’
It is a less obvious answer, with more surprising implications, than is immediately apparent.To begin with, consider the factors that the two reject. Geography, for example, has long been a favorite explanation for the success of nations. Some places are blessed with natural advantages, while others are not. Certainly, sitting on coveted goods brings great wealth: witness Saudi Arabia or, for that matter, Russia. But over the long reach of history, geography fails to explain which nations have staying power. One can make a convincing list of all the geographical benefits that have accrued to the United States, but when Europeans first arrived in the 15th century, it was South America, not North, that was rich and (relatively) thickly settled.
The rich world’s troubles and inequalities have been making headlines for some time now. Yet a more important story for human welfare is the persistence of yawning gaps between the world’s haves and have-nots. Adjusted for purchasing power, the average American income is 50 times that of a typical Afghan and 100 times that of a Zimbabwean. Despite two centuries of economic growth, over a billion people remain in dire poverty.
This conundrum demands ambitious answers. In the late 1990s Jared Diamond and David Landes tackled head-on the most vexing questions: why did Europe discover modern economic growth and why is its spread so limited? Now, Daron Acemoglu, an economist at MIT, and James Robinson, professor of government at Harvard, follow in their footsteps with “Why Nations Fail”. They spurn the cultural and geographic stories of their forebears in favour of an approach rooted solely in institutional economics, which studies the impact of political environments on economic outcomes. Neither culture nor geography can explain gaps between neighbouring American and Mexican cities, they argue, to say nothing of disparities between North and South Korea.They offer instead a striking diagnosis: some governments get it wrong on purpose. Amid weak and accommodating institutions, there is little to discourage a leader from looting. Such environments channel society’s output towards a parasitic elite, discouraging investment and innovation. Extractive institutions are the historical norm. Inclusive institutions protect individual rights and encourage investment and effort. Where inclusive governments emerge, great wealth follows.
Britain, wellspring of the industrial revolution, is the chief proof of this theory. Small medieval differences in the absolutism of English and Spanish monarchs were amplified by historical chance. When European exploration began, Britain’s more constrained crown left trade in the hands of privateers, whereas Spain favoured state control of ocean commerce. The New World’s riches solidified Spanish tyranny but nurtured a merchant elite in Britain. Its members helped to tilt the scales against monarchy in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and counterbalanced the landed aristocracy, securing pluralism and sowing the seeds of economic growth. Within a system robust enough to tolerate creative destruction, British ingenuity (not so different from French or Chinese inventiveness) was free to flourish.
This fortunate accident was not easily replicated. In Central and South America European explorers found dense populations ripe for plundering. They built suitably exploitative states. Britain’s North American colonies, by contrast, made poor ground for extractive institutions; indigenous populations were too dispersed to enslave. Colonial governors used market incentives to motivate early settlers in Virginia and Massachusetts. Political reforms made the grant of economic rights credible. Where pluralism took root, American industry and wealth bloomed. Where it lapsed, in southern slaveholding colonies, a long period of economic backwardness resulted. A century after the American civil war the segregated South remained poor.Extractive rules are self-reinforcing. In the Spanish New World, plunder further empowered the elite. Revolution and independence rarely provide escape from this tyranny. New leadership is tempted to retain the benefits of the old system. Inclusive economies, by contrast, encourage innovation and new blood. This destabilises existing industries, keeping economic and political power dispersed.Failure is the rule. Here, Venice provides a cautionary tale. Upward mobility drove the city-state’s wealth and power. Its innovative commenda, a partnership in which capital-poor sailors and rich Venetians shared the profits from voyages, allowed those of modest background to rise through the ranks. This fluidity threatened established wealth, however. From the late 13th century the ducal council began restricting political and economic rights, banning the commenda and nationalising trade. By 1500, with a stagnant economy and falling population, Venice’s descent from great power was well under way.
Moves towards greater inclusivity are disappointingly rare. The French revolution provides an example, but also demonstrates the authors’ unfortunate habit of ignoring historical detail. Revolution put paid to absolutism and led, after a long and messy struggle, to the creation of an enduring republic. Institutions, in the form of a fledgling merchant class, provided momentum for reform, making the difference between the successful French revolution and failed uprisings elsewhere. But the authors give short shrift to the presence and meaning of Enlightenment ideals. It is difficult to believe this did not matter for the French transition, yet the intellectual climate is left out of the story. History is contingent, the authors apologise, but history is what they hope to explain.
The story of Botswana is also unsatisfying. There, a co-operative effort by tribal leaders secured the protection of the British government against the marauding imperialism of Cecil Rhodes. Despite its considerable diamond wealth, which might have spawned a corrupt and abusive elite, Botswana became a rare success in Africa, assisted by the benevolence of its leaders and by having a tiny population. At times the authors come dangerously close to attributing success to successfulness.The intuition behind the theory is nonetheless compelling, which makes the scarcity of policy prescriptions frustrating. The book is sceptical of the Chinese model. China’s growth may be rooted in the removal of highly oppressive Maoist institutions, but its communist government remains fundamentally extractive. It may engineer growth by mobilising people and resources from low-productivity activities, like subsistence agriculture, toward industry. But without political reform and the possibility of creative destruction, growth will grind to a halt.
Rich countries determined to nudge along the process of institutional development should recognise their limitations, the authors reckon. The point is well taken. It is hard to ignore the role of European expansion in the creation of the underdeveloped world’s extractive institutions which, in self-perpetuating fashion, continue to constrain reform and development. Evidence nonetheless hints that contagious ideals, propitious leadership and external pressure matter. The promise of European Union membership encouraged institutional reform in central and eastern Europe. America eventually eradicated extractive southern institutions and placed the South on a path toward economic convergence. There is no quick fix for institutional weakness, only the possibility that steady encouragement and chance will bring about progress.
The field of political demography—the politics of population change—is dramatically underrepresented in political science. At a time when demographic changes—aging in the rich world, youth bulges in the developing world, ethnic and religious shifts, migration, and urbanization—are waxing as never before, this neglect is especially glaring and starkly contrasts with the enormous interest coming from policymakers and the media.
“Ten years ago, [demography] was hardly on the radar screen,” remarks Richard Jackson and Neil Howe of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, two contributors to this volume. “Today,” they continue, “it dominates almost any discussion of America’s long-term fiscal, economic, or foreign-policy direction.”
Demography is the most predictable of the social sciences: children born in the last five years will be the new workers, voters, soldiers, and potential insurgents of 2025 and the political elites of the 2050s. Whether in the West or the developing world, political scientists urgently need to understand the tectonics of demography in order to grasp the full context of today’s political developments. This book begins to fill the gap from a global and historical perspective and with the hope that scholars and policymakers will take its insights on board to develop enlightened policies for our collective future.
The 2008/09 World Financial Crisis underlined the importance of social responsibility for the sustainable functioning of economic markets. Heralding an age of novel heterodox economic thinking, the call for integrating social facets into mainstream economic models has reached unprecedented momentum. Financial Social Responsibility bridges the finance world with society in socially conscientious investments. Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) integrates corporate social responsibility in investment choices. In the aftermath of the 2008/09 World Financial Crisis, SRI is an idea whose time has come. Socially conscientious asset allocation styles add to expected yield and volatility of securities social, environmental and institutional considerations. In screenings, shareholder advocacy, community investing, social venture capital funding and political divestiture, socially conscientious investors hone their interest to align financial profit maximization strategies with social concerns. In a long history of classic finance theory having blacked out moral and ethical considerations of investment decision making, our knowledge of socio-economic motives for SRI is limited. Apart from economic profitability calculus and strategic leadership advantages, this article sheds light on socio-psychological motives underlying SRI. Altruism, need for innovation and entrepreneurial zest alongside utility derived from social status enhancement prospects and transparency may steer investors’ social conscientiousness. Self-enhancement and social expression of future-oriented SRI options may supplement profit maximization goals. Theoretically introducing potential SRI motives serves as a first step towards an empirical validation of Financial Social Responsibility to improve the interplay of financial markets and the real economy. The pursuit of crisis-robust and sustainable financial markets through strengthened Financial Social Responsibility targets at creating lasting societal value for this generation and the following.
The killing of 16 Afghan civilians - nine of them children—by a rogue U.S. soldier is a tragedy in several senses. First, because of the loss of innocent life. Second, because the alleged perpetrator is likely someone whose psyche and spirit broke under the pressure of a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign. And third, because it was all so unnecessary.
Because Barack Obama has run a generally hawkish foreign policy, his Republican opponents don't have a lot of daylight to exploit on that issue. But if they weren't so preoccupied with sounding tough, they could go after Obama's foolish decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan back in 2009, which remains his biggest foreign policy blunder to date.A brutal reality is that counterinsurgency campaigns almost always produce atrocities. Think My Lai, Abu Ghraib, the Haditha massacre, and now this. You simply can't place soldiers in the ambiguous environment of an indigenous insurgency, where the boundary between friend and foe is exceedingly hard to discern, and not expect some of them to crack and go rogue. Even if discipline holds and mental health is preserved, a few commanders will get overzealous and order troops to cross the line between legitimate warfare and barbarism. There isn't a “nice” way to wage a counterinsurgency—no matter how often we talk about “hearts and minds”—which is why leaders ought to think long and hard before they order the military to occupy another country and try to remake its society. Or before they decide to escalate a war that is already underway.
And the sad truth is that this shameful episode would not have happened had Obama rejected the advice of his military advisors and stopped trying to remake Afghanistan from the start of his first term. Yes, I know he promised to get out of Iraq and focus on Central Asia, but no president fulfills all his campaign promises (remember how he was going to close Gitmo?) and Obama could have pulled the plug on this failed enterprise at the start. Maybe he didn't for political reasons, or because commanders like David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal convinced him they could turn things around. Or maybe he genuinely believed that U.S. national security required an open-ended effort to remake Afghanistan.Whatever the reason, he was wrong. The sad truth is that the extra effort isn't going to produce a significantly better outcome, and the lives and money that we've spent there since 2009 are mostly wasted. That was apparent before this weekend's events, which can only make our futile task even more impossible. Here's what I wrote about this situation back in November 2009:“America's odds of winning this war are slim. The Karzai government is corrupt, incompetent and resistant to reform. The Taliban have sanctuaries in Pakistan and can hide among the local populace, making it possible for them simply to outlast us. Pakistan has backed the Afghan Taliban in the past and is not a reliable partner now. Our European allies are war-weary and looking for the exits. The more troops we send and the more we interfere in Afghan affairs, the more we look like foreign occupiers and the more resistance we will face. There is therefore little reason to expect a U.S. victory.”
It didn't take a genius to see this, and I had lots of company in voicing my doubts. It gives me no pleasure to recall it now. Indeed, I wish the critics had been proven wrong and Obama, Petraeus, McChrystal, et al. had been proven right. I concede that the situation in Afghanistan may get worse after we depart, and the more civilians will die at the hands of the Taliban, or as a consequence of renewed civil war. But the brutal fact remains: the United States can't fix that country, it is not a vital U.S. interest that we try, and we should have been gone a long time ago.
I did a brief interview for All Things Considered last Friday, on the topic of media handling of the current war scare over Iran. Here's a link to the story, which ran over the weekend.The interview got me thinking about the issue of media coverage of this whole business, and I'm sorry to say that most mainstream news organizations have let us down again. Although failures haven't been as egregious as the New York Times and Washington Post's wholesale swallowing of the Bush administration's sales pitch for war in 2002, on the whole the high-end media coverage has been disappointing. Here are my Top Ten Media Failures in the 2012 Iran War Scare.#1: Mainstreaming the war. As I've written before, when prominent media organizations keep publishing alarmist pieces about how war is imminent, likely, inevitable, etc., this may convince the public that it is going to happen sooner or later and it discourages people from looking for better alternatives. Exhibits A and B for this problem are Jeffrey Goldberg's September 2010 article in The Atlantic Monthly and Ronan Bergman's February 2012 article in the New York Times Magazine. Both articles reported that top Israeli leaders believed time was running out and suggested that an attack might come soon.#2: Loose talk about Iran's “nuclear [weapons] program.” A recurring feature of Iran war coverage has been tendency to refer to Iran's “nuclear weapons program” as if its existence were an established fact. U.S. intelligence services still believe that Iran does not have an active program, and the IAEA has also declined to render that judgment either. Interestingly, both the Times' public editor Arthur Brisbane and Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton have recently chided their own organizations for muddying this issue.
#3: Obsessing about Ahmadinejad. A typical insertion into discussions of Iran is to make various references to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, usually including an obligatory reference to his penchant for Holocaust denial and his famously mis-translated statement about Israel “vanishing from the page of time.” This feature is often linked to the issue of whether Iran's leaders are rational or not. But the obsession with Ahmadinejad is misleading in several ways: he has little or no influence over Iran's national security policy, his power has been declining sharply in recent months, and Supreme Leader Ali Khameini - who does make the key decisions - has repeatedly said that nuclear weapons are contrary to Islam. And while we're on the subject of Iranian “rationality,” it is perhaps worth noting that its leaders weren't goofy enough to invade Iraq on a pretext and then spend trillions of dollars fighting an unnecessary war there.
#4: Ignoring Iranian weakness. As I've noted before, Iran is not a very powerful country at present, though it does have considerable potential and could exert far more international influence if its leaders were more competent. But its defense budget is perhaps 1/50th the size of U.S. defense spending, and it has no meaningful power-projection capabilities. It could not mount a serious invasion of any of its neighbors, and could not block the Strait of Hormuz for long, if at all. Among other things, that is why it has to rely on marriages of convenience with groups like Hezbollah or Hamas (who aren't that powerful either). Yet as Glenn Greenwald argues here, U.S. media coverage often portrays Iran as a looming threat, without offering any serious military analysis of its very limited capabilities.#5: Failing to ask why Iran might want a bomb. Discussions of a possible war also tend to assume that if Iran does in fact intend to get a nuclear weapon, it is for some nefarious purpose. But the world's nine nuclear powers all obtained these weapons first and foremost for deterrent purposes (i.e., because they faced significant external threats and wanted a way to guarantee their own survival). Iran has good reason to worry: It has nuclear-armed states on two sides, a very bad relationship with the world's only superpower, and more than three dozen U.S. military facilities in its neighborhood. Prominent U.S. politicians repeatedly call for “regime change” there, and a covert action campaign against Iran has been underway for some time, including the assassination of Iranian civilian scientists.
#6: Failing to consider why Iran might NOT want a bomb. At the same time, discussions of Iran's nuclear ambitions often fail to consider the possibility that Iran might be better off without a nuclear weapons capability. As noted above, Supreme Leader Khameini has repeatedly said that nuclear weapons are contrary to Islam, and he may very well mean it. He could be lying, but that sort of lie would be risky for a regime whose primary basis for legitimacy is its devotion to Islam. For another, Iran has the greatest power potential of any state in the Gulf, and if it had better leadership it would probably be the strongest power in the region. If it gets nuclear weapons some of its neighbors may follow suit, which would partly negate Iran's conventional advantages down the road. Furthermore, staying on this side of the nuclear weapons threshold keeps Iran from being suspected of complicity should a nuclear terrorist attack occur somewhere. For all these reasons, I'd bet Iran wants a latent nuclear option, but not an actual nuclear weapon. But there's been relatively little discussion of that possibility in recent media coverage.#7: Exaggerating Israel's capabilities. In a very real sense, this whole war scare has been driven by the possibility that Israel might feel so endangered that they would launch a preventive war on their own, even if U.S. leaders warned them not to. But the IDF doesn't have the capacity to take out Iran's new facility at Fordow, because they don't have any aircraft that can carry a bomb big enough to penetrate the layers of rock that protect the facilities. And if they can't take out Fordow, then they can't do much to delay Iran's program at all and the only reason they might strike is to try to get the United States dragged in. In short, the recent war scare-whose taproot is the belief that Israel might strike on its own-may be based on a mirage.#8: Letting spinmeisters play fast and loose with facts. Journalists have to let officials and experts express their views, but they shouldn't let them spout falsehoods without pushing back. Unfortunately, there have been some egregious cases where prominent journalists allowed politicians or government officials to utter howlers without being called on it. When Rick Santorum announced on Meet the Press that “there were no inspectors” in Iran, for example, host David Gregory didn't challenge this obvious error. (In fact, Iran may be the most heavily inspected country in the history of the IAEA).
Even worse, when Israeli ambassador Michael Oren appeared on MSNBC last week, he offered the following set of dubious claims, without challenge:“[Iran] has built an underground nuclear facility trying to hide its activities from the world. It has been enriching uranium to a high rate [sic.] that has no explanation other than a military nuclear program - that has been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency now several times. It is advancing very quickly on an intercontinental ballistic missile system that's capable of carrying nuclear warheads.”
Unfortunately, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell apparently didn't know that Oren's claims were either false or misleading. 1) Iran's underground facility was built to make it hard to destroy, not to “hide its activities,” and IAEA inspectors have already been inside it. 2) Iran is not enriching at a "high rate" (i.e., to weapons-grade); it is currently enriching to only 20% (which is not high enough to build a bomb). 3) Lastly, Western intelligence experts do not think Iran is anywhere near to having an ICBM capability.In another interview on NPR, Oren falsely accused Iran of “killing hundreds, if not thousands of American troops,” a claim that NPR host Robert Siegel did not challenge. Then we got the following exchange:
Oren: “Imagine Iran which today has a bunch of speedboats trying to close the Strait of Hormuz. Imagine if Iran has a nuclear weapon. Imagine if they could hold the entire world oil market blackmailed. Imagine if Iran is conducting terrorist organizations through its terrorist proxies - Hamas, Hezbollah. Now we know there's a connection with al-Qaida. You can't respond to them because they have an atomic weapon.”
Siegel: “Yes. You're saying the consequences of Iran going nuclear are potentially global, and the consequences of a U.S. strike on Iran might also be further such attacks against the United States...”
Never mind the fact that we have been living in the nuclear age for some 60 years now, and no nuclear state has even been able to conduct the sort of aggressive blackmail that Oren suggests Iran would be able to do. Nuclear weapons are good for deterrence, and not much else, but the news media keep repeating alarmist fantasies without asking if they make sense or not.Politicians and government officials are bound to use media moments to sell whatever story they are trying to spin; that's their job. But It is up to journalists to make this hard, and both Mitchell and Siegel didn't. (For another example of sloppy fact-checking, go here).#9. What about the human beings? One of the more bizarre failures of reporting on the war debate has been the dearth of discussion of what an attack might mean for Iranian civilians. If you take out some of Iran's nuclear facilities from the air, for example, there's a very real risk of spreading radioactive material or other poisonous chemicals in populated areas, thereby threatening the lives of lots of civilians. Yet when discussing the potentially dangerous consequences of a war, most discussions emphasize the dangers of Iranian retaliation, or the impact on oil prices, instead of asking how many innocent Iranian civilians might die in the attack. You know: the same civilians we supposedly want to liberate from a despotic clerical regime.#10. Could diplomacy work? Lastly, an underlying theme in a lot of the coverage is the suggestion that diplomacy is unlikely to work, because it's been tried before and failed. But the United States has had very little contact with Iranian officials over the past thirty years, and only one brief set of direct talks in the past three years. Moreover, we've insisted all along that Iran has to give up all nuclear enrichment, which is almost certainly a deal-breaker from Tehran's perspective. The bottom line is that diplomacy has yet to succeed - and it might not in any case - but it's also never been seriously tried.I'm sure you can find exceptions to the various points I've made here, especially if you move outside major media outlets and focus on online publications and the blogosphere. Which may be why more people are inclined to get their news and analysis there, instead of from the usual outlets. But on the whole, Americans haven't been well-served by media coverage of the Iran debate. As the president said last week, “loose talk” about an issue like this isn't helpful.
We report on a study that used observations, conversations, and formal interviews to explore literacy instruction in 24 lower-primary classrooms in coastal Kenya. Specifically, we report the ways literacy instruction is delivered and how that delivery aligns with practices understood to promote reading acquisition. We find (1) prioritization of developing oral language skills over teaching the relationships between sounds and symbols, (2) enablers to literacy instruction that are the result of teachers’ efforts, and (3) constraints to successful literacy instruction as perceived by the teachers. We identify challenges and opportunities to improve literacy instruction in English and Swahili.