An alternative exit strategy for Jacques Chirac

Who knew Chirac was so personally popular in the Lebanon? More popular than he is in France?

Marc Lynch carries the results of a poll of Lebanese public opinion with some fascinating results. Apparently, a majority of Lebanese admire El Presidente, although not a majority of Shia. They rather like Hugo Chavez! In fact, they admire Chavez more than Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, although they would rather have Ahmedinejad in charge than him.

Nobody has confidence in the United States. Neither does anyone believe in “spreading democracy”. The biggest level of support for an Islamic state, among the Sunnis, didn’t break 5 per cent. (Is that the famous Jihad Chill?) Everyone said they were Lebanese first. Only the Christians put their religion second. (Everyone else put Arabness second.) 71 per cent overall said an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 green line would improve their opinion of the US. Over 50 per cent of Shia (i.e. Hezbollah’s base) supported a two state solution.

When asked which nation should be a superpower for preference, France came out marginally ahead overall, with Russia in second place, then China, then the US. Germany drew 10 per cent of the Shia vote but no votes from anyone else. Britain wasn’t an option. Interestingly, the Shia were the only group not to pick France, with Russia no.1, then China, then Germany. Everyone except the Druze picked France as a candidate for emigration by a large majority. The Druze were the only group to go for the US, but only by a bare plurality. Asked where they would rather send a family member to study, France was the first choice of all groups but the Druze, who plumped for Germany. (Curiously, no two groups agreed whether Germany or Britain was more democratic, but everyone thought France was more democratic than the US, Germany, or Britain.)
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One goes up, one goes down

An unacknowledged fact of world economics is the role of command or planning mechanisms in what is held to be a global market economy. J.K. Galbraith raised the point that large companies are in a sense planned economies within their walls, with technical and commercial decisions made by management, wage and pricing structures determined either managerially or by negotiation with trade unions, and the whole enforced through targeting and budgeting exercises.

Hence, China announces a cut in petrol prices, presumably passing-on some of the $20 drop in the oil price since the summer of 2006, or perhaps trying to supply-manage inflation. Sometimes, though, decisions driven by nonmarket procedures can be just as quick as market ones..

Iran, Venezuela and other oil exporters are lobbying for an OPEC production cut. I think Jerome of Eurotrib suggested that the Saudis were targeting US stock levels. Here is, perhaps, another interesting indicator.

A 21st Century Kind of Question

At his delightful blog, Timothy Burke takes up whether qualitative research about virtual worlds is best served by the methods of anthropology or history.

Douglas Thomas just pointed out that when we talk about qualitative methods in virtual world research, we always tend to define that as ethnography, when there are other kinds of qualitative methods that are potentially important, including history.
I think that’s right, and it struck me how odd it is that I, as a historian, generally talk about virtual worlds methodology in terms of my habitual dissatisfaction with the tendency of anthropology to visit its own ethical obsessions on all discussions of ethnography as a method. I don’t talk about historical narratives or events in virtual worlds, even though what I think is most interesting about virtual worlds is that they are historical, processual, dynamic, iterative. …
I had a discussion earlier today about a parallel problem in simulations of emergent phenomena, which also seem deeply historical and processual by their nature.

Read it all. Stretch yr brain.

So what does the US *really* think of EU defence?

Getting away from the eternal baboon threat displays and absurd disinformation for a moment, what do we know about EU and US defence? The lazy/cowardly/decadent/anti-imperialist Euros refuse to do anything, spend any money, or fight, and the US is permanently and increasingly stronger, right? Let’s see what the professionals think. The latest issue of Parameters, the journal of the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute at Fort Carlisle, is out and it’s a special on Europe. (Mmm, a treat.)

Stephen J. Coonen writes that the EU’s efforts in the security arena should not be seen as competitive with NATO, but complementary and providing means to act if NATO does not – something which cannot be overemphasised enough, in my opinion. He assesses EU and US capabilities and concludes that the power gap is small, and specifically concentrated in a few areas such as strategic airlift and satellite reconnaissance. He argues that “sound plans” exist to reduce the gaps, for example, the NATO C-17 purchase and the SALIS project, which jointly leases Antonov-124 aircraft to support NATO and EU-RRF operations, the Anglo-French Stormshadow missile and more (see note 29, if you’re like that, or for a more sensational argument read all about France’s latest ICBM test).
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More Stages of the Globalisation Process

Who knew Hungary has an entire shopping centre devoted to Chinese-owned businesses? Der Standard reports on the “Asia Centre” in the 16th district of Budapest, home to a community that has made Hungary the biggest entrepot for Chinese goods in central Europe. Last year, $4bn of Chinese exports entered Hungary, of which two-thirds was re-exported. The centre is 90 per cent utilised and is going to expand. Not entirely surprisingly, its owners are the Austrian construction group Strabag and the Austrian mutual banks’ investment arm, Raiffeisen Investment AG.

Apparently, there may be as many as 60,000 Chinese in Hungary, the flourishing legacy of a botched late-communist trade agreement. In order to keep up appearances after the two sides failed to agree anything substantive, they ended visa requirements between China and Hungary. This came into its own a year later, when large numbers of people quit China after the Tiananmen Square massacre and arrived in a Hungary that was about to be the first mover in the wave of revolutions. Originally, their businesses shot out of the ground around the eastern railway station’s freight yards. Later, the Austrian investors built the new centre.

It’s striking that they will be very well placed if this railway project comes to fruition.

On the other hand, there’s a fist. Jörg Haider’s election posters this time around carried photos of two “violent Chechens”, whose access to social services was then cut off. They haven’t been accused of an offence, and neither does the Klagenfurt police know of any case involving a Chechen.

Re-Christianise to fight genocide!

Europe must re-Christianise to resist terror!

A Roman Catholic nun has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for her role in the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Theophister Mukakibibi was jailed by a traditional Rwandan court for helping ethnic Hutu militiamen kill Tutsis hiding in a hospital where she worked.

Mukakibibi is the first nun sentenced by a Rwandan court for crimes committed during the genocide.

Two other Catholic nuns were found guilty by a Belgian court in 2001, and male priests have also faced trial.

Theophister Mukakibibi worked at the National University Hospital in the town of Butare during the genocide.

Protection

According to Jean Baptiste Ndahumba, president of the local gacaca court in Butare, the nun selected Tutsis sheltering in the hospital and threw them out for the militias to kill.

He said she did not spare pregnant women, and was also accused of dumping a baby in a latrine, the Reuters news agency reports.

“She used to hold meetings with militiamen and had an army officer as her escort during the killings,” Mr Ndahumba said…

Posted, as they say, without comment.

A new take on Eurobashing

Thomas P.M. Barnett, Pentagon pet intellectual and 4th Generation Warfare theorist, comes up with a new variant of the Eurabia meme I don’t think we’ve seen before. According to Barnett,

Nothing predicts Europe’s growing strategic irrelevancy more than their growing navel-gazing over the perceived threat of “Eurabia,” which speaks to a continent that’s gotten so fat, dumb and lazy that they’re fatalistically succumbing to fears of invasive species destroying their habitat. The reality is, of course, that thriving, self-aware societies can handle that influx and integrate the differences to make the whole stronger.

This is fascinating. All the usual US hard-right tropes are there, until the second sentence. There’s the blithe assumption of economic superiority (no mention, of course, of the US trade deficit with both the EU and China, currently 7% of GDP and climbing fast, nor for that matter the EU’s trade surplus with both..), and the corollary complacency that this will last (no mention of the gap in energy intensity between the US, the EU and Japan, for example). There’s the rhetoric of purity as applied to economics. There’s the complacent assurance of permanent strategic primacy, with (of course) no mention of Iraq or Afghanistan. But the really interesting thing is that he sees people like the Vlaams Belang’s representatives on Earth over at Brussels Journal as part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Which should make Barnett far more worth reading than, say, Mark Steyn or any of the European far-right’s growing Washington lobby. His notions about “the Core and the Gap”, the “sysadmin force” specialised in postconflict reconstruction, counterinsurgency and peacekeeping, etc should make him that anyway. In a sense, I see him as a reasonable man struggling to get out of the husk of a hidebound reactionary, rather like his fellow guerrilla warfare theorist John Robb—they both make sense, but find it necessary to convince themselves and their audience that they aren’t perhaps turning – gasp – European by talking nonsense about nonexistent civil wars and cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

It’s tempting to use a Freudian reading.
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OSCE Upbeat on American Election

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which looks into these sorts of things from Vancouver to Vladivostok, gave a generally positive assessment of the elections held in the United States on Tuesday, November 7.

“The overall election administration, including the processing of voters on election day, seemed professional and efficiently organized in most polling stations we visited,” said Giovanni Kessler, who headed the mission.

“However, the swift introduction of Direct Recording Equipment (DREs), at times without a voter verifiable audit paper trail, appeared to negatively impact on voter confidence. This remains a challenge for the future.”

Commenting on the campaign, Kessler raised his concern that a large number of political advertisements consisted of personalized attacks on opponents.

From the full initial report, an issue important to me:

No provisions have, however, been made to address the long-standing issue of representation of those residents of Washington DC who are not elegible to vote in another State.

Lack of representation is a constitutional quirk, but the fact remains that half a million Americans (more than the population of the state of Wyoming, for example) have no real representation in either the House or the Senate.

The mission consisted of 18 international election analysts from 15 OSCE participating States who were deployed to 14 [US] States to assess the electoral environment and procedures, meet representatives of State and local election administration, political parties and candidates, and civil society.

A limited number of polling stations in California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia and Washington were visited by OSCE/ODIHR, but no systematic observation of polling and counting procedures was conducted.

You may have heard about the results. Good news, I think.

Bahrain blogger Mahmood censored

This falls under the category “Not Europe” here at AFEM but on the internet the world is a global village and one of the voices in that village has just been silenced, albeit in his own neighbourhood, along with a few others. Mahmood from the Bahrain weblog Mahmood’s Den was presented with a site blocking order and, as he wrote yesterday:

I just heard confirmed news that this site (Mahmood’s Den) will be blocked effective immediately, together with 6 others (don’t know which yet) by order of the Minister of Information. The memo has been printed and delivered to all the ISP’s this afternoon apparently. I am yet to receive my copy. But if I go off the air for too long, you know the reason, and it’s not inconceivable that prisons will be used to silence criticism.

This is not good. And really bad PR for the Bahrain government.

Update (November 6th): Mahmood has been unblocked. Long live Bahrain!

Dutch Diplomat Dooced

Apparently the Northern European fondness for plain speaking is an art not full appreciated by the genocidal government in Sudan.

Jan Pronk, a Dutch national working for the United Nations in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, was declared persona non grata for writing on his weblog that Sudan’s army had suffered hundreds of casualties in fighting against rebels in northern Darfur. Pronk, the top UN official in the country, was given 72 hours to leave.

Technically, of course, Pronk has not been dooced, because he still has his job with the UN. Still, he’s been shown the door, and the blog was the ostensible reason. Was he surprised that his blog was read in Khartoum? Was it a deliberate provocation? No word yet from the suddenly tight-lipped diplomat.