Quinta-feira, 30 de Setembro de 2010

Brazil

"Taking the world by storm: Brazil’s new global reach still faces many hurdles" (ISPI Commentary, 29 September 2010).

 

Pedro Seabra

 

As President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva gets ready to hand over Planalto Palace in a few months, he will undoub-tedly leave behind a new Brazil, increasingly vocal in every global stage and with a strong desire to further partici-pate in the international arena. However, questions remain regarding the level of sustainability of such foreign policy in the coming years, given the apparent rush in achieving it.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 13:48
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Terça-feira, 28 de Setembro de 2010

IPRIS Viewpoints 20

Russia's energy strategy: Between keeping the grip on the European Union and diversifying into Asia

 

Philippe Conde

 

If as agreed Russia is able to enter the Chinese gas market by 2015, it will get the ultimate weapon that any energy exporter could dream of: great leverage over two big markets. Then, almost nothing would prevent Russia from setting energy volumes and prices, depending on its political will, in Europe and in Asia.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 15:37
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Quinta-feira, 16 de Setembro de 2010

PJIA 3: Turkey - A new foreign policy? (2)

Diogo Noivo, "Turkish disappointment: How the European Union contributed to Ankara's new foreign policy" (Portuguese Journal of International Affairs, No. 3, Spring/Summer 2010): 24-32.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 18:02
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Quarta-feira, 15 de Setembro de 2010

The international day of what?

By Vasco Martins

 

September 15th is the International Day of Democracy. It is also a good day to reflect on the meaning of the word and its recent development.

By principle, democracy would mean that the people hold the power. Not the king, the aristocracy or the oligarchs. The people have the right and the obligation to participate in state affairs, choose their leaders, laws and the overall future of the country. Democracy may represent the pillars of liberalism, open markets, capitalism, human rights and freedom.

Today there are several semantic issues regarding the word democracy. There are also several countries that use the word in their official name. But questions do arise: is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea a democracy? Was the former German Democratic Republic as democratic as the UK or France? Can Russia consider itself a sovereign democracy?

All these questions are important when one is to define and understand democracy. It is important not to lose perspective and accept that not all forms of democracy are actually democratic.

Fareed Zakaria makes the argument that democracy is fairly different from constitutional liberalism. The first recognizes the power of the people, regardless of the regime. The second encompasses a free, liberal, law abiding society.

However, in this important day, one can read the words “while democracies share common features, there is no single model for democracy” at none other than the UN’s website description of the event.

True, there are different paths towards building a democratic society. however, if no single model for democracy exists, how does one know his/her country is democratic? The ambiguities in this statement are overwhelming. Not only because of its abstract nature, but because it allows for a very broad understanding of the word and what it means.

If, on the one hand it empowers one to say that Sudan is a democracy because it holds elections, regardless of the situation in Darfur, on the other hand, it states that Spain is not democratic because the Basque people are not able to “determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of life.” If so, does democracy itself mean the Basque people have the right to self-determination? Certainly not.

There exist several ways to understand and build democracy. However, stating that it does not have a single model only strengthens those who would use it to achieve or maintain their power, while casting a shadow on its true constitutional liberal value.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 21:30
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PJIA 3: Turkey - A new foreign policy?

Dario D'Urso, "Shifting Turkey: Ankara's new dynamics under the AKP government" (Portuguese Journal of International Affairs, No. 3, Spring/Summer 2010): 15-23.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 21:09
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Terça-feira, 14 de Setembro de 2010

PJIA 3: Abkhazia and Russia

Vasco Martins, "The geopolitics of Abkhazia's sovereignty" (Portuguese Journal of International Affairs, No. 3, Spring/Summer 2010): 3-14.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 19:52
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Nine years after 9/11: Past achievements and the road ahead

By Diogo Noivo

 

Almost a decade after the terrorist attacks of September 11, one naturally tends to do a balance of achievements and failures in the fight against al-Qaeda. Many analysts and commentators have their own interpretation of what happened in the course of these nine years.

Daniel Byman notices the triumph of counterterrorism policies in the US, as well as the pressure on al-Qaeda that the war in Afghanistan has successfully created, although he is cautious enough to recognize that the problem is far from being resolved.

Bruce Riedel goes straight to the point: al-Qaeda remains alive and deadly. Riedel then continues with his own reading into the nebulous and controversial organizational structure of al-Qaeda.

Bruce Hoffman highlights the increased complexity and diversity of the threat. Hoffman also points out the terrorist radicalization and recruitment taking place within the US.

The above mentioned analysts provide examples of the many possible evaluations of what has happened since 2001.

Here are some other facts and ideas that can be useful for the future:

[1] The main victims of jihadism are and always have been Muslims and Islam. Hence, al-Qaeda and similar groups have lost popular support in Islamic countries. Although its structure is quite atypical if compared with terrorist groups from the recent past, al-Qaeda cannot work (or survive) without a constituency. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy chief, is well aware of that since he has repeatedly tried to moderate the modus operandi of Abu Musaib al-Zarqawi, the former and ruthless leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

[2] The war in Afghanistan has had significant costs at the human, financial and political levels. At the same time, it has crippled bin Laden’s organization.

[3] Osama bin Laden is still at large. His arrest or death would be an unequivocal political victory, but would have little (if any) positive effect on the overall counterterrorism efforts. Ideas do not die with the men that advocate them. Furthermore, jihadism is based on a sense of community, and regardless of what we make of al-Qaeda, its affiliates and offshoots, it is now clear that Islamist terrorism is bigger than bin Laden and ‘al-Qaeda Central’.

[4] In spite of its religious outlines, the problem is political. Therefore, it is important to find an efficient and common counter-narrative to debunk al-Qaeda’s speech.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 01:21
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Quinta-feira, 9 de Setembro de 2010

Foreign Direct Interference in Angola?

By Vasco Martins

 

The party in power in Angola, the MPLA, has accused the opposition, UNITA, of inciting civil disobedience through its affiliated radio channel Despertar and attempting to mobilise the population into protesting against the current regime.

In its last meeting, MPLA released a report which mentions a “strategy followed and supported by several identified foreign institutions, organisations and individuals, including national citizens, recruited to serve as the ‘tip of the sword’ in denouncing and criticising the executive’s actions and decisions”. This report makes reference to “people whose sole purpose is to mitigate MPLA’s popular support by lifting suspicions and false accusations, in an attempt to handle over power in the next elections to those who have always served their interests”.

Regardless of MPLA’s judgements of who serves whose interests, the fact that foreign institutions and organisations might be involved in political agitation could lay a path that would threaten the country’s stability in years to come.

It is not uncommon for foreign organisations to lobby and pressure governments to take this or that course of action for their own benefit, especially in a country ripe with natural resources and economic growth like Angola. However, MPLA’s suggestion that foreign organisms are attempting to disrupt the established power by inciting civil disobedience is indeed very serious.

It is in no one's interest, except possibly for some opposing the current status quo, to agitate the population into resorting to violent protest with the single purpose of gaining political leverage in order to “mitigate the differences in the next elections”.

Just like in Mozambique, the Angolan society and political leaders have not fully understood that elections and democracy, albeit not constitutionally liberal, serve as a platform to project these political struggles, as an alternative to popular agitation which always has serious consequences for the economy and for the functioning of society. The fact that foreign organisations might be involved in such internal struggles only shows that Angola’s democracy is flawed and sensitive to foreign pressure. In order to avoid future problems, the government must educate the population about democracy, active participation and civil responsibility. An educated, active population is the backbone of any democracy. Without popular participation, democracy in Angola will continue to be exploited by those who wish to gain or retain power at any cost. It is shameful that after almost thirty years of civil war, some in Angola still opt for dodgy protests instead of demanding true democratic representation.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 19:11
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Quarta-feira, 8 de Setembro de 2010

The Brazilian FX-2 novel goes on

By Pedro Seabra

 

Just when one of the most coveted and high-profile military purchases of all times in South America appeared to fall under the radar – leaving many to wonder whether it would ever see the light of day – it suddenly bounced back into public light, thanks to a timely official declaration. Such was the case when Brazil’s Defense Minister Nelson Jobim announced that a final decision on the long awaited FX-2 fighter program would only be issued by President Lula da Silva after the October 3rd elections. But truth be told, the supposedly ‘pending outcome’ has been publicly known for quite a while now.

When the process was reignited back in 2008, three finalists were selected: Boeing's F-18 Super Hornet, Saab's JAS-39 Gripen NG and Dassault’s Rafale. Nevertheless, is was clear from the start that the French offer was always considered the frontrunner, given the public political preference, especially after other significant military purchases already formalized a strategic partnership between Brazil and France on matters of defense. In September 2009, both President Lula and President Sarkozy went as far as to announce the beginning of direct negotiations to acquire 36 Rafale, until someone later reminded them that the Brazilian Air Force was still required to conduct their own technical assessment.

Curiously enough, reports surfaced that the military preferred the Swedish option – which favors more transference of technology – over the French product, considered more costly: but these concerns were quickly shoved aside. Ultimately, it was perfectly clear that it would come down to a political and strategic decision, rather than a technical or exclusively military one.

Even so, despite strong French lobbying to close the sale, Lula has consistently endured every pressure and has postponed his decision endless times during the past year, under the pretext of the upcoming elections. Legitimate as that option may be, it will not overshadow the inevitable, although it may leave some officials in the Elysée on the edge of their seats for the coming months.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 21:27
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IPRIS Viewpoints 19

ECOWAS and the Brazilian foothold in Africa

By Pedro Seabra

SEPTEMBER 2010 -- As his second term gradually comes to an end, President Lula da Silva seems keen on leaving a noticeable legacy in Brazil's foreign policy. Amidst an overreaching agenda it has been the consistent improvement of ties with the African continent and Brazil's newfound role in South-South international relations that has won him the widespread praise and respect of developing nations.

 

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publicado por IPRIS às 19:05
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