Friday, March 23, 2012


This is the Notes from this class, Week 1: HOW DID THE ‘MIDDLE EAST’ GET NAMED? It's a relatively modern term, popularized by Alfred Mahan in early 1900s, an American imperialist. It is a political term, and does not denote a geographical region. “Writing for London's National Review [in 1902], Mahan used the new term in calling for the British to strengthen their naval power in the Persian Gulf. 'As scholar Roderic Davison explains, Mahan’s Middle East "was an indeterminate area guarding a part of the sea route from Suez to Singapore.’ The new coinage played off the terms Near East and Far East,"already in use. “ Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, Additional thoughts: Today, the “Middle East” is still an indeterminate political region. There is no consensus internationally, as to what countries should be included. One could equally include Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan or Georgia. In the 19th Century, Turkey was the 'Near East,' and India, China, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia were the 'Far East.’ TURKEY It is believed that 40% of the Turkish population have European origins. Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1952, considered itself a part of Greater Europe and joined various European institutions. The question becomes, does the government and state of Turkey, today consider itself to be part of the Middle East? This question has economic ramifications, and that is why it’s so sensitive. The Turkish state believes it has fulfilled the criteria to join the European Union. It is therefore not making official claims to be part of the Middle East. See this: The Turks themselves consider this question of whether Turkey is part of the Middle East, to be highly controversial. There are various thoughts. Some want Turkey to be seen as straddled between Europe and the Middle East, but not always facing the West or identified as a “Middle Eastern” country. Some want more of a cultural identification with the Middle East. The question also revolves around Turkish attitudes towards Israel. Recent events (the killing of a Turkish humanitarian activist by Israeli forces) have precipitated a shift against the UK/US/Israeli alliance, and towards Arab and Iranian anti-Zionist sentiments. What is clear is that Turkey is a pivotal 'swing vote' in the region. Given the controversy, I was faced with a hard choice, and decided to simply leave Turkey out of the list of assigned "Middle Eastern" countries in this class! However, it can be part of a topic for your final paper, for example, on Turkish-Syrian relations.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I continue to be amazed by students' final papers in my INTL 5400 International Political Economy class. Here are some recent extracts. Jose wrote in my INTL 5400 2010 class about corruption and the World Bank: Today, the World Bank has lost focus of its primary mission and has developed into an ineffective bureaucracy. Of the 66 less developed countries receiving money from the World Bank for more than 25 years, 37 are no better off today than they were when they received such loans. Of these 37 countries, most (20 in all) are poorer today than they were before receiving aid from the Bank...The underlying corruption of the World Bank is evident in its encouragement of the activities of corrupt government officials across the globe. Reference: Johnson, Bryan. The Heritage Foundation. 16 May 2006. Michael wrote in my 2011 Spring class about US subsidies: To shed light on a wider analytic frame concerning US cotton subsidies and protectionism, it is important to have a short look at the country’s history of agricultural subsidies as well agricultural facts: There are an estimated group of 400 crops, which are grown in the US for agricultural usage. While this represents a good biodiversity range, Kwan point outs that from these 400 food and cash crops grown in the US, the minority of five crops receives the vast majority of all US agricultural subsidies. These commodity crops are corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, and wheat. She notes that “ALTHOUGH THE UNITED STATES PAID $164.7 BILLION IN FARM SUBSIDIES FROM 1995 TO 2005, OVER SEVENTY PERCENT—APPROXIMATELY $115.5 BILLION—WAS SPENT ON JUST THOSE FIVE CROPS”(Kwan,575). From these five crops, cotton and cotton farmers receive the biggest share. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, calculates that “THE UNITED STATES SPENDS $34 BILLION A YEAR SUBSIDISING COTTON: MUCH OF THE COTTON IS GROWN IN AREAS WHERE THEY SHOULD NOT BE GROWING COTTON[…] SO IT IS NOT ONLY BAD FOR OUR ECONOMY, BUT IS ALSO ACTUALLY BAD FOR OUR ENVIRONMENT.” (Stiglitz,6). References: Kwan, Charlene C. "Fixing the Farm Bill: Using the "Permanent Provisions" in Agricultural Law to Achieve Wto Compliance." Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review 36.2 (2009): 571-606. Stiglitz, Joseph E. Fair Trade for All. How Trade Can Promote Development. Brooks World Poverty Institute Inaugural Lecture., Manchester, UK. Clovis Ouangraoua, in the same class, wrote about Malaysia's bid for independence from World Bank: In fact, MALAYSIA IS THE ONLY EXCEPTION, WHERE EXTRAORDINARILY LARGE FDI INFLOWS (6.6 percent of GDP) WERE LARGER THAN BANK AND PRIVATE SECTOR BORROWING (3.6 percent of GDP). (Steven Radelet, Jeffrey D. Sachs “The Onset of the East Asian Financial Crisis” in Currency Crises, , University of Chicago Press, January 2000, P. 122, 91, accessed 03/07/2012). This exceptional result, the country owes it to a competitive realism strategy that allowed it to shelter its financial markets against foreign markets’ intervention. By rejecting IMF’s policies, Malaysia stood out. The IMF would later be forced to admit that the strategy did pay off despite initial claims of the contrary.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


An Iranian American friend wrote to me "As you know, Islamic feminism is currently enjoying mainstream acceptance in the West to a great extent. Personally, I suspect that this is because they support the status quo in an international political context and only advocate small reforms rather than revolutionary changes."

But there is no blanket approach by the West to support a conservative status quo. In Syria and Libya, the West supports an opposition that includes Al Quaeda and other fundamentalist elements. Same in Egypt, after the Arab Spring of 2011. In Iraq US military forces ousted the secular Sunni and brought the conservative Shia to power in 2003. But in Afghanistan the US is fighting the Taliban and in Yemen and Somalia, the US is engaged in overthrowing fundamentalist groups. As the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said, there is no cookie cutter when it comes to foreign policy. Each case is decided on its own 'merits' (if it fulfills a high stake dash to secure access to the world's oil reserves.) For example:

"Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in Somalia, with the government offering humanitarian aid and security assistance in the hope of a stake in the beleaguered country's future energy industry.
Riven by two decades of conflict that have seen the emergence of a dangerous Islamic insurgency, Somalia is routinely described as the world's most comprehensively "failed" state, as well as one of its poorest. Its coastline has become a haven for pirates preying on international shipping in the Indian Ocean."

• Mark Townsend and Tariq Abdinasir
•, Saturday 25 February 2012 21.04 GMT

Media analyst Eduardo Cohen responds:

"People in the West are told that Somalia has been a failed and violent state for over 20 years.

It's simply not reported that in 2006-7 there were two years of peace when a group known as the Islamic Courts took control of Mogadishu and most of the country. They were Muslim fundamentalists but not nearly as hard core as the Taliban or even the government of Iran. There were members who were sympathetic with Al Quaeda but the organization had no ties to Al Quaeda, though the US government claimed they did.

They implemented law and enforcement and for the first time in over a decade and a half women and families could safely walk the streets. They outlawed Khat, the amphetamine like drug that helped fuel more violence.

There was peace. For two years. The US couldn't tolerate that, so they worked with the Ethiopian government to organize, finance and support an invasion by Ethiopia to drive out those who had brought peace. The press act as if that didn't even happen. The Islamic Courts, who also seriously reduced Somalian piracy, were dislodged years ago by the Ethiopians working with the support of US covert (CIA) and special forces (military) and US aerial support (US air and naval forces).

Their removal led to the rise of Al-Shabab who ARE ultra conservative fundamentalists and who ARE connected with Al-Queda.

That, and the current military/covert campaign against Al-Shabab, also led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Somalis who are now refugees."

What is the West' interest in Somalia? As well as Somalian oil, the Bab El Mandeb chokepoint is a highly strategic waterway, through which hundreds of millions of oil barrels pass by Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, 30 miles across from Yemen.