Tag Archives: international news

The Real Problem with the Gaza Blockade

9 Jun

Much more important than the back-and-forth about Israel’s (lethally bungled) raid on a boatload of (deliberately provocative) protesters trying to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip is the bigger question it raises: what to do about the blockade? Without a doubt, its critics are right to say it inflicts terrible human suffering on civilian Palestinians. But it’s also a fact that without it, Hamas would smuggle in even more rockets to lob at Israeli civilians, not to mention whatever other weapons they could get their hands on to help further their goal of wiping Israel off the map.

But here’s another fact about the Gaza blockade: as a tactic, it just doesn’t work. This kind of attempt to pressure another nation into doing your will by squeezing them materially almost never does. It pretty much only ends up hurting innocent civilians. The economic sanctions imposed on  Serbian-controlled Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war didn’t make Belgrade stop supporting Bosnia’s genocidal Serbs. They just made life incredibly difficult for ordinary people, without changing the behavior of their leaders at all. Ditto the sanctions on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Ditto, for that matter, the bombing of civilian centers in World War Two. (There might be a case to make about sanctions having helped end  apartheid in South Africa, but to me that looks more like they at best hastened something that was inevitable anyway. Very different from these other situations.)

If anything, this kind of collective punishment tends to make the locals rally around their leaders, not seek their overthrow. There’s nothing to suggest Hamas is losing popular support in Gaza because of the blockade – probably the opposite. I don’t know what the solution is, but it’s pretty obvious the status quo just isn’t working, and never will.

One of the Gaza flotilla ships, impounded in Ashdod. Thanks, Guardian.co.uk.


Qadhafi Jr. and the Hollywood Jew

25 May

One’s a suburban American Jew, the other’s the son of an Arab tyrant, but hey – everyone loves movies! As the Wrap reports, Saadi Gadhafi, middle son of the famously wacko Libyan dictator, is putting $100 million in financing into a film company run by one Matt Beckerman, a New Jersey-born Jew.

“He loves movies,” explained Beckerman. “He’s seen ‘Lost’ 30 times. He has stacks of DVDs of American films.” OK, but will he come for Shabbat dinner at Matty’s mom’s house?

Matty and Saadi. Courtesy of The Wrap.

Jamaican Drug Lord Takes on Government

24 May

Seems Mexico isn’t the only North American country where drug gangs aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with security forces. When the Jamaican government tried to extradite alleged drug lord Christopher “Dudus” Coke (yep, apparently his real name), his gang soldiers attacked three police stations and have so far killed two cops and injured more. Authorities have declared a state of emergency in parts of Kingston. U.S. prosecutors say Coke sells loads of cocaine and marijuana  in the States, where he uses the proceeds to buy guns to send home to Jamaica. Good thing pot is illegal but guns aren’t, eh?

U.S. Military Retreats from Haiti

17 May

The American military is getting out of the helping-Haitians business. U.S. soldiers hit the ground within hours of the earthquake, and played a crucial role in the emergency relief effort, getting the airport back in business, delivering tons of aid and maintaining order. There were over 20,000 of them in-country or on nearby ships by the end of January. But that number has dropped to some 850 and will soon be down to eight, according to my confreres at Wired.com’s Danger Room.

Now, I’m rarely someone who cheers for American military involvement in other countries. It tends not to work out well either for us or for them, and it’s usually them that get the worst of it. And of course what with Afghanistan and Iraq still dragging endlessly on, it’s understandable that the Pentagon would want to disengage as quickly as possible from a third theater of operations. But. There are still over a million Haitians living in tents, and the hurricane season starts soon. Personally, I wouldn’t mind taking a few troops off Taliban-hunting in Helmand so we could deploy more of them for nation-building in Haiti.

Photo courtesy of Stacy Bourne, stacy.haiti@live.com

Mexico’s Drug War Hits New Depths

17 May

This is crazy stuff even by the standards of Mexico’s out-of-control drug violence. In recent weeks, brawling drug gangs have taken over entire parts of Monterrey, the country’s wealthiest city,  previously a haven of calm. As the LA Times reports,

“drug gangs repeatedly blocked off city streets, snarling traffic and preventing police and soldiers from patrolling. Regular gun battles in and around Monterrey…  claimed 164 lives this year as of May 7, almost the same number as in the two previous years combined. The dead included two popular engineering students caught, apparently, in crossfire at the gates of their prestigious university.

On April 21, 50 gunmen overran the downtown Holiday Inn, a high-end hotel popular with business travelers, forced the receptionist to ID guests and yanked four men and a woman from their fifth-floor rooms.”

It’s bad enough when you have drug gangs shooting each other by the dozens in border towns and drug-growing areas. But when they can shut down traffic in the middle of a major city, or take over an entire upscale hotel long enough to find a few people they’re looking for, you’ve really lost control. This isn’t over-the-top crime, it’s a breakdown in state authority on the level of a full-fledged insurgency.

What’s interesting about Mexico, though, is that the government isn’t fighting a group dedicated to seizing state power or at least keeping the state out of its own fiefdom, as in Afghanistan or Congo. The drug gangs aren’t interested in taking over the government; they just want to be left alone to keep doing business. I’m not sure if that makes them a more or less difficult problem.

How Much Help is Haiti Getting?

10 May

It’s really hard to know. CBS News has a dispiriting breakdown of how it is that aid groups are reporting to their donors that they’ve installed over 10,000 new latrines – but the UN counts barely half that number actually on the ground. What’s the deal? According to CBS, “One group may pay for a latrine, two others install it, and all three count it among the total help they’ve provided. There’s nothing improper about that, but what looks like three latrines – may really be just one.”

Meanwhile, at least there’s a little good news next door in the Dominican Republic, according to the Associated Press, via Bloomberg Business Week. After losing business to the recession in 2009, hotels in Santo Domingo have been full since January 12 – thanks to aid workers en route to Haiti.

ESPN Goes to Haiti

10 May

I’m not much interested in sports – actually, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about sports if I was paid to  care less about them. But the new issue of ESPN-The Magazine has an interesting angle on the Haiti quake, a minutely detailed account of the contrasting fates of the two guys who ran the  Haitian Football Federation. Some really vivid you-are-thereness, like this bit describing the Federation president’s flight from his office as the earthquake comes on:

“The building sways. The president slips and falls on the stairs, bricks and pieces of concrete dropping all around him, like shells pocking an invasion beach. One lands on his right hand, crushing the tips of the ring and middle fingers. … A brick lands on his back, another on his shoulder. This is how he’ll die, a few feet from safety, crushed by the building he ruled. But his legs still work. He feels them, feels strength remaining, so he struggles to his feet….”

Thanks to sports journalist extraordinaire David Davis for sending me the link.