Foreign Policy

Political Realism Needs to Discover Nonviolent Social Change

When I start to hear in forums around Washington in the last few months that the people of Syria might have been better off without a violent revolution then we are witnessing a slow learning curve of the political realists. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria they are beginning to see the absurdity of embracing guns that give rise to everything they fear the most from the Middle East. The horror of the present makes the courageous crowds in Syria of 2011 something of a wondrous miracle, a proud pluralistic mass movement of social change, without the insanity of ideological extremism.

The lesson is simple. We activists must be much more prepared to massively support every nonviolent turn in social history across the world, but we also must be accompanied by policy makers who at the very least stay out of the …

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Ineffective tightening of sanctions on Iran

by mgopin on December 12, 2011 · 7 comments

This article originally appeared on the Al Jazeeera English website on Dec. 12, 2011.  You can view it by clicking here .

Washington, DC – There is a long record of the grim effects of sanctions in international struggles against those states deemed as “rogue”. Sanctions are seen as righteous instruments, a non-violent way to pressure problematic regimes to change. But when you really don’t care about a country or its people, then your true attitudes emerge in the way in which you use the sanctions instrument of policy.

Let’s take Iraq. Based on estimates of the massive increase in child mortality rates through the years of the sanctions in the 1990s, anywhere from 300,000 to a million people lost their lives. But no one in Saddam’s inner circle, none of the wealthy, and none of the killers, died from those sanctions. Such sanctions were touted as an enlightened and …

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From the explosion of Osama Bin Laden into our consciousness on that terrible day in 2001, all the way to his death, feels like a frame of existence, a distinct period of our history and fate as an American community. There have been many deadly wars since then that America has participated in or supported. As an American Jew and a veteran peacebuilder in the Middle East, I also feel like this decade has been a whirlwind of violence, from Iraq to Lebanon to Gaza, and now to Arab countries in which I had worked, especially Syria where I put my heart and soul.

Every war, every massive act of violence, always makes me reflect anew on the origins and nature of human violence, and on its opposites, empathy, compassion, and love. We humans have made so many efforts through the millennia to create one political arrangement after another in …

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I am trying to figure out what kind of United States has developed where the toughest Israelis in the world, the top Israeli military brass, want a U.S. ambassador in Syria, and other gestures, whereas the true impediment to that are right wing Republican Senators supported by a militant wing of the American public goaded on by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and of course Charles Krauthamer. Where do these Americans get the arrogance to be even more violent in their politics than the Israeli military? I think it is legitimate to take sides within the Israeli debate, but I do not understand being to the right of the right of the Israeli military. Of course, there is no logic to politics, there is only the logic of vote grabbing, and one gets votes in America today by demonizing any and all foreigners you can get your hands on, …

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Secretary Clinton’s apology for the Afghan civilian casualties was profuse and heartfelt, which is good. And her commitment to additional measures of addressing the conflict beyond the military one is welcome. But the standard alternatives, as usual, are about economic development and are rather long-term. There are other interventions afoot, however, that could have a more dramatic effect if the United States pursued them. This may have to challenge a tendency in the United States and Israel to always find a bad guy, even as you are engaging in nonviolent alternatives. In this case the ‘bad guys’ are the Taliban, who have a horrible human rights record. But evidence from the ground from our colleagues in the field, which I cannot share at this point, suggests that there are significant numbers of Taliban, young and old, who are trying to pull away from the extremist leadership who have no regrets …

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An important debate is raging on the future of the Western intervention in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Congressman Michael Honda has two important articles, here, and here. CRDC expert and ICAR student Neamat Nojumi, a former mujahaddin,  has an important piece here.

Central to these analyses is that military force alone will never solve the Afghanistan conflicts, nor will an intervention work that does not directly address the role that Pakistan has played in perpetuating this conflict for decades. Another more difficult question is the Taliban, how to compete with them more effectively,  how to defeat them, and whether to engage any of them.

All of the recommendations seem excellent. I also recommend reading The Kite Runner which has profoundly affected my life and my appreciation for what Afghanistan has gone through and who or what is responsible. I never cease to be amazed at how effectively …

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A New Baptist Approach to Muslims?

by mgopin on October 8, 2008 · 3 comments

This article highlights the important role of Richard Land, one of the most famous conservative religious spokesmen in the country, in the development of the report on U.S.-Muslim Engagement. A responsible approach to United States foreign policy has to include a bipartisan approach. That is why our project reached out to moderate evangelicals in an effort to create a new basis of multi-faith relations at a global scale.…

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The recent U.S. report on Muslim engagement was crafted carefully by a very bipartisan group in which I played a role, but this article argues that it strongly favors Obama’s foreign policy.

U.S.: Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World

WASHINGTON, Sep 24 (IPS) – In an implicit indictment of President George W. Bush’s “global war on terror” and the hawkish pronouncements by Republican candidate John McCain, a bipartisan group of nearly three dozen U.S. leaders called here Wednesday for Bush’s successor to place much greater emphasis on high-level diplomacy — including direct engagement with Iran and Syria — in dealing with the Middle East and the Muslim world.

In a 152-page report, the group, which included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Bush’s former Deputy Secretary of State and McCain adviser Richard Armitage, also called for any new administration to work “intensively for immediate de-escalation of the

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A New Direction for US-Muslim Relations

by mgopin on September 25, 2008 · 7 comments

Yesterday Marc participated in panels on Capitol Hill and at  The National Press Club to coincide with the release of a seminal report entitled “Changing Course: A New Direction for Relations with the Muslim World” issued by The US-Muslim Engagement Project. Marc was one of thirty four Americans who constituted the Leadership Council on U.S. Muslim Engagement. It was a bipartisan group of leading Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, secular and religious, liberal and conservative. They met over a period of two years to create this report which has detailed recommendations for the United States Government, NGO’s, and for the governments of the Muslim world. The convening this extremely diverse group was also meant as a model of how to change course and what kind of negotiations need to take place in the United States in order to create positive change, as well as in the global …

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McCain’s Temper and Global Conflict

by mgopin on September 23, 2008 · 4 comments

I have been uneasy for eight years with the trend in American politics of anointing men with tempers. This is not safe in terms of global conflict. I think of the incredible pressures of the White House, and the reality of having the ability to destroy the earth many times over. I think of the Cuban Missile Crisis and how we might have all died when I was six years old if John and Bobby Kennedy had uncontrollable tempers. I opposed John Silber and Howard Dean, two Democrats, for president because of their tempers, which I personally witnessed. In conflict, character is everything, far more important than strategy, though strategy matters. More will emerge in the future about anger and George Bush, and about the conduct of the war, but in many ways that is history now. What matters now is whether Americans make a wise decision about their future.…

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