Friday, November 30, 2007

Quote of the Day

"CNN films the launch of the missile. Al Jazeera films what happens where it lands.”

- Josh Rushing, former US Marine Captain, now Al Jazeera’s U.S. defense and military correspondent.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Prince Faisal: International Community "Unfairly" Denigrates Saudis

Prince Faisal has distanced the Saudi government from a court's condemnation of a gang-rape victim to 200 lashes, but said "the judgment was being used to vilify the Saudi government." However ridiculous this statement is, it does tell concerned citizens something about the audience they need to persuade with their letters and phone calls.

Why not lobby the Saudi government on its own terms? One hardly must invoke Western standards of women’s rights or universal human rights to oppose this ruling: the sentence is unjust even according to Saudi standards (for a discussion of her lawyers' arguments click here). The ruling challenges (and justifies) King Abdullah’s efforts at judicial reform. And since the rapists were Sunni and their victim Shi’a, failing to commute the sentence will only make the “Girl from Qatif” a flashpoint for ethnic tensions in the Kingdom - something the authorities might care to defuse.

If advocates were to play on these concerns rather than invoking Western notions of gender justice or calling for invasion, they are likeliest to provoke a constructive response, rather than defensiveness.

In between calling the Saudi embassy, they might also lobby the Western media to stop giving a bully pulpit to the Justice Ministry’s claims that the victim has “confessed to adultery,” which if true can carry a sentence of death, rather than flogging.

Instead, reporters should focus on other under-reported aspects of the story:

The courage demonstrated by the victim’s husband in standing up for his wife in a culture where he is expected to kill her himself.

The fact that she is at as much risk from members of her extended family as from the state.

And how about the politically incorrect fact that both her companion and their rapists face flogging (up to 1000 lashes) as well? These too are human beings, eh?

Human rights? We've got your rights, now where's the human?

While breaking my fast today, I idly scanned the latest headlines, and was both amused and saddened (though hardly surprised) to find the State Department tap-dancing around whether the Geneva convention applies to those interned in Guantanamo Bay, our very own latter-day Hanoi Hilton.

The Administration's stance remains that because the prisoners are "non-state actors", that is, they were alleged to be fighting with a guerrilla group at the time of their capture, that we needn't trouble ourselves with the Geneva Convention, not to mention the Constitution, the Magna Carta, or the Ten Commandments.

Consider the reverse implications; we've bewailed the treatment of US servicemen captured in Vietnam, but by our own interpretation of the "rules", there should have been two very different standards applied to US prisoners during the Vietnam War; those captured by the NVA, the military branch of a recognized state, should in fact have received their rights under the Geneva Convention (including between 8 to 75 Swiss francs monthly, depending on their ranks) - while those prisoners captured by the Viet Cong, an unrecognized insurgent group, could have been tortured, errr, I mean of course, questioned with no regard to any pesky "rights"...

Let's decipher the State Department's pontificating. What they're really trying to say is "When is a human not a human?" When kidnapping becomes "extraordinary rendition", when torture becomes "robust interrogation", when politicians and state-sponsored lawyers begin rewriting the lexicon; when Nationalist sentiment is on the rise, when you're a Jew in Berlin in the 1930s, when you're a Muslim in Iraq just after the turn of the millenium, it makes you wonder.

To paraphrase the Bard; "If you prick me, do I not bleed? If you tickle me, do I not laugh? If you torture me, do I not scream?"

Apparently, there are no screams in Guantanamo, just the hearty exclamations of "robust answers".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gitmo Psychologists

Earlier this month, Wikileaks publicized the USG's operations manual for the running of the Gitmo detention center. Last weekend, Stephen Soldz of Psyche, Science and Society and Julian Assange penned an op-ed about the document, entitled "Guantanamo Document Confirms Psychological Torture: Will the APA Protest?"

They write:

"It is time for the APA to stop word parsing and make clear, unequivocal statements about what in their view is and is not ethical. I, for one, feel that the use of isolation, is well over the line into unethical territory. Does APA agree?"

While the use of psychological expertise to abet human rights violations is certainly unethical, one wonders what these authors hope the APA will accomplish by taking a position on broader matters of US policy. The purpose of such associations are to provide guidelines for practitioners in a profession, not to pronounce on national security matters.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Ender's Game" and Human Security

A funny thing happened when I first told some friends and family about this blog and explained the title and epigraph: some were shocked.

This is because the epigraph is drawn from a book that apparently "glorifies child soldiering." [Admittedly, in Card’s Ender’s Game, Ender Wiggin enters “Battle School” at age six and battle itself at age nine, and by age ten is a full-fledged, if unwitting, xenocidaire.] My admiration for the story puzzles people because I run with a pack that tends to lobby against child recruitment as it is practiced by certain countries and rebel groups today.

The easy answer to this question (besides: "duh, it's just a book") is that the Ender series doesn’t so much promote the conscription of children as suggest that children can be and are moral and political actors much like adults.

But this frame does indeed have political implications. These will no doubt be revisited by critics once the Ender’s Game film, now in the screen-writing stages, hits the box office. After all, if the original novel can be interpreted as pro-child-recruitment (debatable), it’s certainly easy to suppose a bastardized film version will.

An obvious “negative” side-effect from a human security perspective is that images of child combatants as heroic political agents could adversely affect international standard-setting against child recruitment. It might do so by problematizing the simplistic stories transnational advocacy groups trade in: stories that tell us children are victims not actors, abductees rather than willing volunteers, and innocents rather than strategic, rational actors.

Then again, isn’t challenging stereotypes also perhaps a good thing?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Welcome, For Better or Worse.

We are a junior political scientist and a soldier of misfortune who have been arguing since childhood about political ethics and global social order. The basic question that informs our discussions is how, whether and on what terms the gap might be closed between national and human security. Can global governance "as if people mattered" be achieved?

As you will see, this range of interests gives us plenty of room to maneuver. Besides military doctrine, international law, and global civil society do not be surprised if you find the topics on this blog to include, among others: 1) the care and feeding of young megalomaniacs; 2) the relationship of science fiction and video games to geopolitics 3) and the so-called universality of human rights (cannibalism: barbaric primitive practice, or the other, other white meat?).

Why blog at all, and why now? We have different reasons.

Diodotus: "Political science today prizes abstract theorizing and number crunching over practical wisdom for citizens and statespersons. But as Einstein said, 'Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.' Theory may be my bread and butter, but one hungers to be of use to the real world. It has taken me a few years and some inspiration from other academic bloggers to recognize that six hours a week with students is not enough."

Cleitus the Black: "Why, I choose to blog so the radiance of my inspired eloquence may illuminate the the grey matter of the downtrodden masses, of course! People should actually thank me for doing their thinking for them; it's "outsourcing" at its very best!"

Our blog’s name reflects the influence of Orson Scott Card, who foresaw the political blogosphere back in the late ‘80s when writing his famous novel Ender's Game. In the story, two brilliant middle-schoolers manage to influence world events by writing polemical commentaries under the pseudonyms “Locke” and “Demosthenes.” Of course all possible variations of those derivative titles were snapped up by other Card fans long before we took to the blogosphere ourselves, so we drew on one of our favorite Card quotes instead.

As for our own psuedonyms, interpret them as you please. We hope you enjoy reading and participating in our virtual debates, and if you find the material useful or illuminating, please feel free to recommend this page to your friends and enemies alike.

"; urchinTracker();