Adapt or die: what the EU can learn from 19th century Ottomans


On a crisp November day in 1839, in the Gülhane rose gardens of Istanbul, the Sublime Porte of the Ottoman Empire, Grand Vizier Mustafa Resid Pasha recited a proclamation direct from the Sultan in the fresh morning air. It was to change the course of the region’s history for the next 70 years. Before numerous distinguished European guests and dignitaries, including the third son of King Louis Philippe, the decree from recently crowned Abdülmecid I espoused religious equality, modernisation and secularised Ottoman citizenship. It called for the abolition of corrupt tax farming, reform of conscription, and proclaimed the rights of all children to free secular education. 

The proclamation triggered the Tanzimat movement from 1839-1870s, the most extensive programme of modernising reforms the vast empire ever saw. It’s aim: to wrestle back power from local hands and win over the support of entrenched interest groups, including powerful religious minorities. It launched the Ottoman empire into industrial modernity. Tanzimat would enable the Ottoman Empire to compete with the European great powers in its own right, and most importantly, to unify and strengthen itself from within to face its threats without. Its method: using a strong, integrated bureaucratic class to create a new, inclusive secular identity, attempting to rob internal dissenters of their arguments that they faced discrimination at the hands of the Sublime Porte.

As the Pasha spoke, the empire was in turmoil. The millets, religious minorities, had gained extensive new powers, setting their own laws and collecting their own taxes. The once Ottoman governor of Egypt, Mehmet Ali Pasha had declared Egypt an autonomous khedivate no longer part of the Empire, invading Ottoman Syria in 1831 with a modernised, formidable Egyptian army. Meanwhile, in the background Western Europe was flexing its muscles in the Near East; Algeria was conquered by the French in 1830, the Persian Gulf had emerged as an East India Company sphere of influence despite Ottoman claims to suzerainty and West Europeans and Russians readily intervened in the internal affairs of Muslim states over the treatment of the Christian populations. The Ottomans had to act, and Tanzimat became their new hope. 

Fast forward to 2017. The same European countries which feasted their eyes on the Ottoman prize with colonial covetousness have formed a union of their own, which now faces a hostile and uncertain new world. They face a Russia flexing its muscles in Eastern Europe, emerging powers ready to challenge the privileged economic and diplomatic role of the EU, and an American White House reluctant to commit to defending them. Just as the Europeans had vested interests in a weak Ottoman empire so do Russia and emerging superpowers today. As European states argue amongst themselves, competitors like Turkey, China, Russia, quietly ascend.

To counter this, the EU must learn to structure its support from within its borders in order to be taken as a strong, credible and unified force. As with the Ottomans, the task that lies ahead is to steal from its populist enemies their most powerful political tools; passionate appeals to democracy. No longer can the EU afford to ignore concerns, particularly from the fringe parties eroding their authority, about democratic deficit, isolated, unaccountable elites underestimating of the power of identity and a cumbersome, inaccessible EU legal framework. It cannot rest on technocratic laurels to achieve its vision but learn to bridge the gap between authority and the people. It must seek to find its advocates right down to the local grassroots in each of its member states and work hard to simplify and justify itself to the people it claims to serve. 

The EU must learn, as the Ottomans did, to rob its adversaries of their arguments; a directly elected president of the European Commission, for instance, would go some way to silencing the battle cries of European populists. The Union must take seriously concerns about democratic deficit. The EU is not on the brink of collapse, as the Eurosceptics claim, but it could face real danger should it not continue its current course. 

Tanzimat, ultimately, was a failure. In the face of European colonial greed, social inequality and bitter sectarian division Tanzimat never fully achieved its aims before the final death of the Ottoman empire in 1918. However, Europe can succeed where the Ottomans have failed. It has a strong, centralised institutional framework and, more importantly, counts among its members some of the most prosperous economies in the world. It has resources capable of uniting people as vast as the internet by which it can connect with citizens, resources the imperial class in Istanbul 200 years ago would have envied. Like the 19th century Ottomans, the EU’s time is running out. To combat its threats it must unify itself from within.

A Climate of Peace? The role of Climate Change in International Diplomacy


The Paris climate agreement represents so much more than a commitment to limit rising global temperatures; climate change poses an equal threat to all nations, and efforts to tackle it signify a worldwide community united in its shared goal to ‘protect all of creation’, in the words of Chancellor Merkel. In a world so fragmented by currents of racism, xenophobia, nationalism and the likes, the role of climate change in ascribing a dynamic of commonality to international diplomacy and foreign policy is often overlooked. The 2015 Paris agreement commits the United States and 194 other countries to ‘holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change’.


In signalling America’s exit from the accord on June 1st, Trump not only crystallises his blatant disregard for the sustainability of our planet, but he consciously withdraws America from a worldwide endeavour which surpasses borders and dissonances so that we may communicate with one another and work together towards finding solutions to an environmental crisis that impacts us all. Michael Brune, from US environmentalists, the Sierra Club, said the expected withdrawal was a "historic mistake which our grandchildren will look back on with stunned dismay at how a world leader could be so divorced from reality and morality”. The only other countries in the global community which have not signed up to the Paris climate accord are Syria and Nicaragua.


The powerful link between climate change and international diplomacy is brought to the fore when we examine the origins of the agreement itself and the reactions of the international community in the wake of Trump’s recent decision. The key relationship that brokered the Paris accord was that of the United States and China, as President Obama and President Xi Jinping collaborated to build a so-called “coalition of high ambition”. On June 2nd, an EU-China Summit took place in Brussels, whereby leaders from both parties reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change and, as major energy consumers and importers, highlighted the importance of fostering cooperation in their energy policies. EU and Chinese leaders also look forward to co-hosting, along with Canada, a major ministerial gathering in September to advance the implementation of the Paris agreement and accelerate the clean energy transition. At the joint press conference following the Summit, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: "As far as the European side is concerned, we were happy to see that China is agreeing to our unhappiness about the American climate decision. This is helpful, this is responsible, and this is about inviting both, China and the European Union, to proceed with the implementation of the Paris agreement.” The news that a US pullout is on the cards represents so much more than Trump’s obvious ignorance; it signals a move towards American isolationism, as the president seeks to raise yet more barriers between the United States and the rest of the world, following from his decision earlier this year to implement a Muslim travel ban.


External to the Paris climate accord are other international schemes and programmes designed to protect the environment. The Copenhagen Agreement was drafted by the United States and the BASIC countries (a bloc of four newly industrialised countries - Brazil, South Africa, India and China) who committed to act jointly at the Copenhagen climate summit of 2009, whereby a fund was created dictating that high income countries would give 100 billion USD each year to developing countries by 2020 to ensure they could invest in renewable energy without sacrificing economic growth. “Climate finance” is thus indicative of the way in which climate change has driven foreign policy and international cooperation, uniting HICs, MICs and LICs, whilst also partially responding to the claim that developed countries should make a more concerted effort to tackle environmental issues given that they have up until recently been responsible for the lion’s share of emissions. A similar multilateral scheme is the Kyoto protocol which went into force in 2005. Ratified by nearly all nations, this agreement was the first of its kind to mandate country-by-country reductions in yearly emissions of carbon.


The Clean Development Mechanism was introduced to help achieve these targets, and allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2. These may be traded in emissions trading schemes, with developed countries having the ability to purchase CERs from developing countries, thus investing in emission reductions and green technologies where it is cheapest globally. This work, driven primarily by the demand for low-cost emissions reduction credits from the EU Emissions Trading System (EU-ETS), has resulted in the creation of a burgeoning global market for greenhouse gas emission offsets. Similar to a domestic cap-and-trade programme between companies, international emissions trading enables the transfer of emissions allowances, each worth one ton of greenhouse gases, from one country to another while keeping the total amount of allowable emissions constant.


These strategies are not without their flaws, but it is what they represent - the coming together of nations to protect our shared future through economic and environmental ventures - that is so critical to the shaping of a more sustainable and harmonious international global community. The CDM has made a considerable contribution to the development and transfer of knowledge and technology in developing countries, and has positively impacted on local communities through the creation of jobs and infrastructure. This process of cross-cultural dialogue and interaction, combined with the transfer of knowledge, international trading schemes and foreign investment represents the opening up of our borders and the shared values of humanity that Trump’s decision last week so strongly undermines.


Developed countries are subsequently recognising and accepting responsibility for their contribution to global warming, and are making concerted efforts to devise innovative means by which less developed countries can undergo the same process of economic growth whilst using renewable technologies, rendering them less dependent on fossil fuels such as coal. The UN World Meteorological Organisation said that in the worst scenario, the US pullout could add 0.3°C to global temperatures by the end of the century. I view Trump’s decision as not only entirely selfish (he argued that the agreement “punished” the US and would cost millions of American jobs), but as a provocation of joint diplomatic efforts to overcome one of our generation’s greatest challenges.


Reactions both within and outside the United States testify to the moral obligation we all share topreserve this planet for future generations. Democratic former US Secretary of State John Kerry branded this an ‘extraordinary moment of self-destruction’ which ‘isolates the United States after we had united the world.’ Mayors across the country have stood firm against Trump’s explosive revelation that he would withdraw America from the 2015 Paris climate accord, with the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, asserting: "This decision is an immoral assault on the public health, safety and security of everyone on this planet. On behalf of the people of New York City, and alongside mayors across the country, I am committing to honour the goals of the Paris agreement with an executive order in the coming days, so our city can remain a home for generations to come."


One link that has yet to be researched further but which bears great relevance to the role of climate change in foreign affairs is that between climate-fragility risks and non-state armed groups (NSAGs). A Climate Diplomacy report entitled ‘Insurgency, Terrorism and Organised Crime in a Warming Climate: Analysing the Links Between Climate Change and Non-State Armed Groups’ published in 2016 highlights how the complex risks presented by conflicts, climate change and increasingly fragile geophysical and socio-political conditions can contribute to the emergence and growth of NSAGs. Climate change is thus inextricably linked with matters of security, since the former acts as a risks multiplier in regards to NSAGs. Large-scale environmental and climatic change contributes to creating an environment in which NSAGs can thrive and opens spaces that facilitate the pursuit of their strategies. Climate change increasingly contributes to fragility, namely by initiating conflicts surrounding natural resources and livelihood insecurity. NSAGs proliferate and can operate more easily in these environments where the state has little to no authority (‘ungoverned space’) and lacks legitimacy.


Sometimes, NSAGs also try to fill the vacuum left by the state by providing basic services in order to gain legitimacy and secure trust and support among the local population. Food insecurity and water/land scarcities render the affected population groups more vulnerable to recruitment by NSAGs, since these groups can offer alternative livelihoods and economic incentives, responding to political and socio-economic grievances. The report comprises four case studies to highlight this point: Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region, ISIS in Syria, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and urban violence and organised crime in Guatemala. 

 Environmental history emerged in the United States out of the environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Having only recently assumed prominence as a methodology and discipline of historiographical literature, it emphasises the active role nature plays in influencing human affairs. A study of environmental history documents the transition over time from an ancient and medieval worldview which interpreted environmental catastrophes as orchestrated by God, to a modern-day global acceptance of the impact of human beings on their environment. A unified effort on behalf of the global community to tackle climate change offers opportunity for integration, the transfer of knowledge, cross-cultural exchange, international trade and foreign investment, which bring with them open dialogue and communication, as well as a diplomatic attitude which prizes community and the vision of a shared future over division and barriers. Trump’s signal to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord resembles so much more than an abandonment of America’s commitment to reduce its carbon emissions; it represents an undermining of the values we should be pressing so hard to maintain and reinforce in light of the contemporary tensions and challenges we face.


Tracing Treason: Between Civil Liberties and Collective Security


It was the golden age of Athenian civilisation when Socrates was called to trial by a polis facing political reformulation following defeat in the Peloponnesian War. Under charges of moral corruption and impiety, the great philosopher faced his jury.  For crimes against the city-state of Athens he was found guilty, and sentenced to death. Faithful to his teachings of respect for the rule of law, he drank the contents of his ascribed poison as if a draught of sweet wine.  

For some, the trial represented the disparity between democratic ideals and popular rule in practice. For others, his sentence was a reasonable defence of a democracy at peril and its steadfast principles. For Plato, the execution - of whom he called the wisest and most just of all men - inspired a body of work that marked the culmination of ancient Greek philosophical thought and laid the foundations for the Occidental philosophical tradition.

Beyond the polis of Athens, the court room has acted as a theatre for reflection on the relationship between the citizen subject and the society to which they belong. Within the binary constraints of the law, judgements are passed. The drama of the court room provides for negotiations on the relationship between individual identity and the authority of the state, as collective identities are forged through the narrative of public trial. With a protagonist accused and a captive audience, a stage for moral lesson is built.


Moving forward to the foremost horror of the twentieth century, it was not until the 1960s - when the trial of Adolf Eichmann demonstrated the banality of an evil wholly obedient to authority - that the Holocaust gained its metaphysical and cultural symbolism. 

But in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the Holocaust was not recognised by the international community as the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews. Rather, it was seen as one aspect of the atrocities committed by the Nazi fascists in their war of aggression. It was as an active participant in this violent nationalism that William Joyce would be tried by the British government for the crime of treason. 

Joyce, whose fascist career had begun under the guidance of Sir Oswald Mosley, was drawn towards the world of Adolf Hitler. Shortly before war was declared, he fled the British authorities to a place where his views did not elicit the prospect of arrest. In Germany, he was quickly employed to issue broadcasts and write scripts on an English language radio station. At the peak of his popularity, the rhetoric he had perfected as a young fascist activist was used to deliver German propagandist messages to 18 million British listeners – inciting subversion against the Allied war effort.

His career lasted the war, but in 1945 Joyce was brought to the Old Bailey under charges of high treason. Pleading not guilty, he offered himself as a case for a prominent public trial by a nation reeling from the material and emotional toil of war. For his prosecutors, this was a chance to affirm the collective identity of a British front that had won military success. 

It was the particularity of his association with the Nazi regime whilst in possession of a British passport that served as the key indicator of Joyce’s guilt. For his jury, the failure to uphold allegiance to the Crown in favour of the fervent nationalism of the German fascists was an offence that demanded his life. William Joyce went defiant to his noose, the last person to be executed for treason in Britain.


But with that special capacity of time to alter any idea, the nature of treason is shifting. Just as it was the multipolar order of the Second World War system that generated that particular brand of fascist treachery, it was the bipolar order of a new world system that shaped the path of those called to conspire in the Cold War.  

In the climate of Cold War intrigue, treachery could be achieved through the weakening of the ties that formed an ideological front. The Soviet Union willed the identification of its agents amongst the internal workings of Western ally states as a way to sow distrust and generate imbalance between the various atoms of its enemies. As the tactics of conceit changed, so too did the means by which its actors faced judgement.

The trial of Klaus Emil Fuchs on 1 March 1950, for his role in sharing atomic secrets with the Soviet enemy, judged his espionage as an act of treason. His defence held that he was acting in principled protest against government demands for secrecy that violated his commitment to truth as a member of the global scientific community. The conduct of his trial highlighted the changed nature of the world order. Unlike that of Joyce and his fellow fascists, whose trials were intended as a moral lesson for a nation, Fuchs was tried quickly, quietly, and without spectacle. He was handed the maximum sentence available under the Official Secrets Act. 

Such patterns of communist conspiracy were repeated, replicated in action and then in art, forming a body of work that gave immortality to the workings of this secret global society. Then, with the peculiar dramatism that remains the preserve of history, this world too crumbled. Its people rose, its walls fell, and a seemingly deep rooted ideological grip sank into the earth from which it aspired to build. 

The collapse of the bipolar world order was taken by some to represent the triumph of liberal democracy and capitalism over alternative world visions - the end of history in a post-ideological age. Globalisation - taken to mean the state of complete transnational integration, encompassing all the people of the world within a single network of economic and cultural connections informed by a common consciousness - became the byword of the millennia, believed by both optimists and pessimists to represent the potential of a new age.


Since then, this imagined condition has become the latest utopia to collapse before our eyes. The implications of the contemporary ‘globalised’ world - neoliberal market hegemony, the homogenisation of mass consumerism against the sharpened heterogeneity of cultural relativism, mass migration in a world of hyper information, and the ubiquitous spectre of environmental destruction - have raised a host of new and challenging questions to contend with.

In this transnational age, the nature of nationalism, and its counterpart treason, takes on new meaning. The social contract that dictates a state provides protection in return for citizen obedience has broken its national boundaries, subject to treachery on a universal scale. 

US citizen Edward Snowden took the decision in 2013 to blow the whistle on human rights abuses by the United States National Security Agency. His revelation outed the extent of global mass surveillance, showing how governments without consent are scooping up the private communications of individuals. He chose to share this information because he believed that the citizens of his country and the world needed to confront the truth of this mass violation of civil liberties. His betrayal of state information in favour of public interest means he now faces decades in prison under charges of espionage outdated and ill-suited to deal with the nature of his crime. His treason was not in support of a contained enemy ideology, but as a transcendent universal aim for the protection of individual freedoms to which all nations must be accountable.

But the apparent goodwill that inspired Snowden’s revelations is not a consistent thread in contemporary acts of treason. Terrorism committed by citizens of a state willing to murder their compatriots in the name of ideology is a gross breakdown of a social contract that demands some collective duty of society. 

In Britain, the 2015 murder of left-wing politician Jo Cox by a far right extremist and the 2017 fatal attack on the Houses of Parliament in Westminster are tragic examples of how perceptions of difference in a globalised world breed a fatal brand of treason at home.

Jo Cox’s murderer was locked away swiftly; Thomas Mair chose to enter no plea and gave no defence at his trial. But his murderous cries of “Britain First!” rang out through the courtroom as evidence of the extreme nationalism that inspired his act. Khalid Masood, the Westminster attacker, was shot in his tracks as he tried to inflict more death on an innocent public. Despite the speed with which the radical terrorist organisation Islamic State claimed him as one of their own, the exact motivations that took Masood over that bridge remain subject to speculation. 

Beyond the media headlines and the commemorative processions, true justice for the victims of such criminal acts will come from achieving solutions that ensure innocent civilians are not killed in the street by those who feel that is a legitimate way to express dissatisfaction with their society. 

But, so often, in the climate of fear that follows an attack on the values of a state, citizens are willing to grant their government extraordinary powers in the name of protection. After 11 September 2001, the community of nations took the opportunity to combat terrorist activities by cracking down on domestic political opponents. In democracies and authoritarianisms alike, the war on terror has been extended to restrict civil liberties in the name of national security.

France, following the 2015 Islamic State terror attack that killed 130 people in Paris, has recently entered its longest uninterrupted state of emergency since the Algerian War in the 1960s, accompanied by the restriction of civil liberties that this entails. In the vying for political power, the provision of security is central to the promises of leaders in a nation whose children have died by the guns of an enemy ideology. But with the insistent recurrence of such violence, the impossibility of absolute security becomes painfully clear, begging the question how much freedom is one willing to give up for the sake of collective safety, and at what cost.

In contemporary Turkey there is evidence of the dangers of this security narrative to the values of democracy. The presidency of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has seen the harassment, arrest and imprisonment of intellectuals, teachers and artists whose commitment to rights of expression puts them in opposition to his entrenching regime. Dissenters condemned as traitors, the act of treason is used as a reason for the extension of power, in violation of civil liberties that should transcend the nation. 


Socrates, when drinking his sweet poisoned wine, believed that reason could dictate a conscientious disobedience to the state, while agreeing that he had to accept the legal sanctions of his polis. But with no natural correlation between law and justice, an individual must walk this line between respecting the democratic rule of law, and fighting for those values whose intangible nature pulls more at the human heart than those of decrees or documents. 

As it was seen in Eichmann, it is with absolute obedience to the orders of authority that the banal nature of human evil is given space to prosper. The memory of such obedience practiced en masse should provide the guidance to our contemporary treasons. 

The accompanying balance between civil liberties and collective security is for the social contract as the Odysseyan passage between Scylla and Charybdis, respectively.

Odysseus and his ship faced an ocean passage between the Charybdis whirlpool and the cave dwelling, man-eating monster Scylla. One route, Charybdis, presents the possibility that the entire ship will be swallowed by the sea, taking with it all men on board to certain death. The other, Scylla, guarantees the loss of some men to the hungry monster, but ensures that the ship will pass intact. A terrible choice, but pragmatism and idealism alike demand that the mouth of the monster is chanced. The potential to lose all men aboard to the depths of the ocean, the ship and all its previous achievement sinking into oblivion, is too high a risk to take when the journey ahead will promises so much for the vessel and its crew. 

Refugees, National Security and Crime: a Perspective from Dunkirk


The migrant situation in Europe and the Middle East is an undeniable human crisis that we cannot ignore. Regardless of political standpoint, this situation has to be talked about and acted upon in a way that acknowledges the lives that have been put on indefinite pause. Let us at least give the dignity of recognition and dialogue to the human beings who have been forced to leave their own countries due to persecution, war, or a stagnant economic situation.
Our world is now experiencing the highest levels of displacement on record. By July 2016, European Union reports were indicating that more than 1 million refugees had arrived in the EU throughout the previous two years, having fled from oppression, conflict, or extreme poverty in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. There are unofficial camps from Lesbos to Calais, with transient populations of people seeking a better life, and looking for safety. Their lives feature small tents, charitable donations, and no clear or official way to find security. Yet, how much do we really acknowledge this reality?
It has been a month since I returned from spending 5 weeks at La Linière refugee camp near Dunkirk, and it is evident that this reality is so rarely discussed. Before the camp suffered a significant fire and was subsequently closed by local authorities, those living there were rarely reported on. Sporadic and, frankly, sensationalist reporting would comment on cases of rape and abuse, or on the fighting and fire that took place on 10th April 2017, leading to the immediate closure of the camp. Such reports were important, and highlighted significant events and social situations that absolutely should be discussed. However, their isolation in a sea of journalistic silence creates destructive problems that must be addressed.
Silence on migrants in our mainstream media is only broken occasionally with articles that focus on violence, abuse, and manipulation. This Guardian article addressed rape and domestic violence in the former camp, and this piece from Deutsche Welle addressed the violence of mafia networks within the refugee population. Such narrow journalistic focus on the very worst and most destructive stories depicts a migrant population that is violent and immoral, incapable of achieving the standards of western civilisation. In demonising the refugee population, their situation is thus exacerbated, as empathy for refugees evaporates with every new article that shows abuse and manipulation committed by a small number of refugees.
I do not mean to demonise these articles themselves, because in essence they are correct and well-intended. Undeniably, it is right of these journalists to give a voice to the women who would rather wear incontinence pants than go to the toilets at night for fear of being assaulted, or the child who is being abused by a parent whose anger is aggravated by the powerlessness of their situation. It is not the fault of the journalists who concentrate on these stories that their articles have such a devastating effect on the perception of migrants. Rather, it is the failure of the journalistic community as a whole that devotes so little of its website space to this human crisis, so that the only stories to make it through are the ones of such violence.
Of course, being a refugee does put you in a vulnerable situation, and we should be doing all we can to get people out of these circumstances. It is a tragic reality that, if you take a cross-section of any society, it will contain a minority of people who do not respect others. Amongst myriad parents, doctors, models, builders, and marine biologists, our world contains people who would harm others. The refugee populations are no different: amongst the majority of people just looking for safety and to be able to start living again, there is a minority who gain from the suffering of others. Yet, can we turn our backs on thousands for the sake of a few? By only breaking our silence on the migrant problem for the most devastating of stories, we reduce our conception of the migrant population to one of demonic qualities, and fail to recognise the majority of refugees as vulnerable people, looking to live real lives again.
Furthermore, forcing refugees to remain in camps significantly raises the levels of human suffering that emerge in the aforementioned news articles. Whilst migrants remain deserted in unofficial camps across Europe and the Middle East, there is no way to monitor who is being manipulated or abused. When you’re not being recognised legally, there is no one to even notice when a minor is being trafficked and beaten, or a family is being manipulated in return for safe passage, and no legal structure with which to provide protection for those at risk. Whilst volunteers can do what they can to identify those who would be considered most vulnerable, the transient nature of the migrant community makes these circumstances difficult to assess, and even harder to act on. Abandoned to a constant state of non-existence, no protection can be offered and no steps can be taken for the prevention of harm. In doing so, this causes us to disassociate ourselves from the refugee community and to fail to recognise the majority of people just looking for security, instead leaving them trapped in a life unacknowledged and unprotected.
Moreover, such sporadic attention allows us to forget that this is an everyday reality. These people are not living lives that are spotted with tragic moments, but are living lives that are continuously vulnerable. There is no visible light at the end of the tunnel. When our information about the refugee crisis only appears on our newsfeeds in violent and shocking statistics, we lose focus from the stories of isolation and displacement that would show us the unending and hopeless fatigue of never knowing when you will have stability again. With the closure of La Linière camp towards the beginning of April, even the little stability there was - living in wooden boxes, knowing that volunteers would arrive with donations of food at the same time every day - became lost. Migrants went from having nothing to having so much less than nothing. Your food, your hygiene items, your phone credit - each day is a reminder that you cannot sustain yourself or support your family. There is the hope that, one day, you will find asylum and be able to start your life anew, but until that day comes, each day is another day stuck in limbo. Being suspended with no right to protection, and no right to sustain yourself, each day is another day without rights, and without official recognition as a human being.
At the end of the day, the starting point of any further action relies on the recognition of migrants as human beings who fully deserve the implementation of their fundamental human rights. Human beings have a right to clean water and a roof over their heads, but also the right to education, and the right to be self-sufficient. Living in a tent, surviving on food and clothing donations, and being denied the right to have any more purpose to each day than getting up, eating, smoking, and then sleeping again, is not a life. We have to recognise that migrants should have the right to really thrive, and not just survive. As individuals, we can volunteer our time for short term aid, or support those who feel capable of doing so.

Yet it is obvious that the true power to change the damaging and bleak reality of the refugee situation lies with European governments. No, we cannot take full responsibility for the creation of this refugee problem, but we can offer safety to those who have been abandoned, and restore the rights of those who have been denied them. Every day that we do not even discuss this issue is another day that these people are reduced to a tragic-but-frozen mural on the wall. This is not a question of blame, but a question of the imminent needs of vulnerable people. This will not alter unless we keep the dialogue open, and acknowledge the daily reality of having been forced from your country of origin, and then had every other door slammed in your face. None of those now affected had a choice in the genesis of the migrant problem, but we do have a choice in how we respond to it. Regardless of political perspective, there is something fundamentally inhuman to not acknowledge these people. This is not a statistical problem to be solved, or a cloud of locusts to be wafted away; these are human beings to be recognised.


The 'Organized Hypocrisy' of Western Refugee Policy


Barely a week after coming to office, US President Trump signed an executive order suspending the US refugee program for 120 days, specifically barring Syrian refugees from entering the country until further notice. Confusion erupted across US airports while shockwaves of protest gathered full force.

Although Trump’s executive order seemed extreme considering its direct repudiation of the international community’s commitment to refugee protection, the policy actually resembled asylum policies utilized by other western, refugee-receiving states; the only difference is the rhetoric. For example, Hungary recently passed a new set of anti-migration laws to prevent non-Europeans who do not intend to apply for asylum in the country from passing through its territory. In the wake of Europe’s recent migration crisis, only Germany offered mass protection thanks to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door policy. However, even Merkel has recently admitted that her policy might not have been the best decision for Germany: “If I knew what change in refugee policy the people in Germany want, I would be prepared to consider it.”

In this case, is Trump really radical? Not really. His language is rudimentary and direct but not radical. The reality is that rich western states have been restricting access to their territories ever since the end of the Cold War, when refugees and asylum seekers no longer represented weapons against communism. Now that refugees no longer have value—their labor is no longer needed and they do not serve a political agenda—states are doing what they can to turn them away while also proclaiming their commitment to refugee protection in the international community. Matthew Gibney, a leading political theorist in refugee studies, calls this organized hypocrisy: “Northern states claim to support the principle of asylum, pointing to their status as signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention, and their well-developed semi-judicial bodies that determine asylum claims, as well. However, they construct visa and control regimes that prevent asylum seekers from arriving lawfully at their borders.” These practices create negative attitudes towards refugees, attitudes that many individuals and human rights groups are working hard to subdue. 

Alas, I am tired of begging people to see refugees as human beings. As one of the many individuals working to reverse discriminatory attitudes against refugees, I confess that sometimes I feel like I am hitting my head against a wall as states and leaders push for more rigid non-arrival measures. My documentary about Zaatari Syrian Refugee Camp in Jordan, talks, and discussion groups seem to have little influence against the tide of discrimination and organized hypocrisy. And, I am not the only one doing this work; several human rights groups and sincere individuals across sectors are also begging people to recognize refugees as human beings with rights. So, why is nothing changing? Why are we stuck with hate and mass hysteria against refugees? Why are our leaders reinforcing this hate and getting away with it? 

Looking at possible solutions for today’s refugee crisis might offer some answers. Leading scholars and organizations in the humanitarian sector have recently put forward new and creative solutions for ‘fixing’ the international refugee system. For example, a new group named Europe in Africa (EIA) advocates for the founding of a new city-state on an artificial island built on the shallow Tunisian Plateau right between the Exclusive Economic Zone of Tunisia and Italy. The aim of EIA is “to provide a secure place for people who have to flee their country and want to reach Europe.” The group’s website provides a colorful map that lays out the infrastructure of the island, including hospitals, schools, churches, mosques, a soccer stadium, and even an airport. Reading this colorful map along with the organization’s objectives makes you question the seriousness of the proposal. My immediate response was “this cannot be for real.” 

At the same time, leading scholars in the field of refugee studies have also offered interesting new solutions. In their attempt to reconcile the disconnect between the international commitment to refugees and what actually happens on the ground, scholars Alexander Betts and Paul Collier recently release a book titled ‘Refuge’ in which they argue for a new solution to refugee protection based on comparative advantage, an old school principle in international relations theory. However, many have criticized this solution as exacerbating the very problem it is trying to fix.

Why is it so hard to fix this problem? Why do all our solutions seem farcical and incomplete? The simple answer is that the system is flawed. An international regime based on nationalism inherently creates refugees. Emma Haddad, a political theorist, argues that refugees are not only an inevitable consequence of the international state system, but also a constitutive part of the structure. Refugees reinforce the insider/outsider relationship, which is essential for the nation-state concept. Refugees lie betwixt and between nation-states.  Ultimately, Haddad argues, the ideal of the state-territory-citizen nexus on which international society is based will breakdown, and people will fall outside the state system, requiring that they receive a pathway back into that state system through asylum. These people represent “deviations from the normal model of international society.” Hence, they become anomalies, aliens left at the mercy of various communities willing to integrate them. 

Of course, there are other factors that create or have created refugees in the past such as decolonization, failed states, structural poverty, and conflict. However, the source of the problem—especially of the discriminatory attitudes towards refugees—is the rooting of peoples in physical territory. Anthropologist Liisa Malkki questions the assumptions scholars and politicians make about the rooting of cultures and the territorialization of national identity. In other words, why are we obsessed with rooting cultures in soils and, therefore, peoples in places? Internalizing this idea makes it easy to reject people seeking asylum in our countries because they do not ‘naturally’ belong here. Hannah Arendt eloquently described this new political awareness in 1951: 

Suddenly, there was no place on earth where migrants could go without the severest restrictions, no country where they would be assimilated…This, moreover, had next to nothing to do with any material problem of overpopulation; it was a problem not of space but of political organization.

The refugee problem, therefore, is a product of the international state system, and the only way to fix the problem is to fix the system. 

It is not enough to beg people to see refugees for their humanity. Many groups and individuals are doing just that. We cannot change attitudes without changing the structural implications for their creation in the first place. The system is inherently flawed, frozen in time and space. Our current world leaders are not only reinforcing the structure but expanding it with new laws and restrictions. Groups like EIA do the same but with different intentions. We need a new world order if we really want to ‘fix’ the refugee crisis—a world order not rooted in sovereign nations but in common humanity. 

The Computer and the Telegraph: Influence Channels Between Technology and International Relations


J.C.R. Licklider, a pioneer of computer science, once said the computer is also the direct descendant of the telegraph as it enables one… “to transmit information without transporting material.” Separated by centuries of innovation, the computer and telegraph were revolutionary technologies that undeniably had significant effects in the domain of international relations. To better understand those effects, it is important to specify influence channels between technological developments and the conduct of international relations. This post starts with the computer to outline three general spectrums in which technological developments affect military strategy and warfare. Then, it specifically examines how the prospect of cyberattacks disrupts traditional threat assessments, based on the offense-defense paradigm. In the latter half, it highlights the development of the telegraph and its effects on international institutions and globalization. 

Technological change is intimately linked to military strategy. From the Lee Metford rifle, which enabled the British army to fell the Sudanese Dervishes in 1898, to the U.S. nuclear weapons monopoly in World War II, technological change has played an important, sometimes decisive, role in many conflicts. To more coherently conceptualize technology’s impact on warfare, this post sketches out three broad spectrums of influence: quantitative and qualitative improvements, independent and derivative effects, power diffusion and power concentration. Quantitative changes, operationalized as marginal increases in indicators such as force mobility or payload, are more likely to affect the tactical level of warfighting. For instance, one can see how computers enabled efficiency improvements in war simulations by tracing war gaming from sand tables drawn by Roman war generals to strategy board games to mathematical algorithms resembling calculators to digital programs.

On the other hand, qualitative improvements, which fundamentally affect how war is fought, are more likely to influence strategic decisions in military affairs. For instance, computers are essential for the operation of precision weapons, which Cohen argues ushered in the end of the mass army age. The quantitative-tactical/qualitative-strategic relationship is a tendency rather than a strict function. For instance, a quantitative change in reducing the “launch-to-target” timeframe for a nuclear missile launch may the tip the balance of whether a state could credibly threaten a retaliatory second strike, thereby shaping the other state’s strategic decision regarding a nuclear first strike.

A clear-eyed assessment of how technological change affects military strategy also requires an understanding of the spectrum between technology’s independent and derivative effects. Three main theories explain the emergence of military technology: the “corridor-and-doors” theory (military planners just need to walk down the corridor, unlock doors, and pick up chests of tech), the “form follows function” theory (military technology evolves to meet specific military needs), and the “form follows failure” theory (military technology is produced as a response to some failure in existing technology). Technological changes explained better by the second and third theory are positioned on the “derivative” end of the spectrum, and they put more weight on the surrounding material contexts rather than the technological innovation itself.

As for the “corridor-and-doors” theory, the independent effect of technological change is more readily identifiable. One possible test to differentiate between independent and derivative emergence is to consider whether the technology came from the civilian sector or the military realm. Innovation from within the military will be based on existing strategic considerations, whereas innovations from the civilian sector are not constrained by the status quo military context. For example, both the computer and telegraph were civilian technologies, originally designed to reduce human error in solving complex mathematical problems and facilitate long-distance communication, respectively. When applied to the military sphere, their contributions fundamentally altered the existing assumptions of the possible scale of warfare, as evidenced by the telegraph’s influence on the rise of the mass army as the dominant unit of war. In contrast, Germany’s use of motorized armor during World War II could be viewed merely as an epiphenomenon of their blitzkrieg doctrine to avoid a prolonged war and their military needs to overcome French machine guns, trenches, and barbed wire. Once again, the relationship between this civilian-military test and the independent-derivative spectrum is fuzzy not crisp. The development of nuclear weapons by the U.S. military is a notable exception; it has produced a rich body of literature focusing on nuclear weapons themselves as an independent variable.

But far too often, research into the effects of technological change in international domains focuses solely on military applications. There are two ways in which technological change influenced the development of international institutions. First, revolutionary communication technologies like the telegraph create coordination problems, which serve as demand pressure for international institutional development. The telegraph certainly revolutionized interactions between peoples, dropping communication times between Britain and India from six months in the 1830s to the same day in the 1870s. However, electronic telegraphy also presented significant coordination problems, such as one described by Ruggie concerning what happened to messages when they reached a border. Eventually, the European communications complex evolved from a series of bilateral treaties into several multilateral arrangements and, finally, into the International Telegraph Union (ITU). The ITU was the first standing intergovernmental organization, representing the rise of permanent institutions of global governance. This trend holds for other technologies as well; Murphy notes that a new generation of international organizations emerged as a regulatory response to revolutionary communication technologies, citing the ITU, the Radiotelegraph Union in 1906, and the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization in 1964. But the ITU set the precedent for the shape of multilateral arrangements to come: it codified rules of the road regarding the network of telegraph lines connecting Europe (and later the world), it established a permanent secretariat to administer those rules, and it convened periodic conferences to review the rules.
The second pathway of technological influence on international institutions and order is more intangible. While there were concrete effects of communication by telegraph – e.g. diplomats could send and receive messages without long delays– the intangible effects of virtually instantaneous communication may be more significant. Buzan and Lawson argue that the telegraph created a qualitatively different interaction capacity, linked peoples in a more intensely connected global economy, and generated a “19th century discourse” that shrank the world and allowed humanity to view themselves as one global body. Snapchat and Tinder have had a similar impact on modern love, changing the choice capacity of our romantic entanglements and resulting in interactions defined by transience, as noted by the influential thinker Aziz Ansari.

Indeed, technological innovations have significant effects on the military strategy and the development of international institutions. In the military domain, the type of influence, the independence of influence, and the power distributional effects of influence are important dimensions to examine, as demonstrated by military applications of the computer. The revolutionary impact of the telegraph is reflected in two channels – coordination problems as a push factor for international institutional emergence and change in how people conceive of the world and international order – through which technological innovations have altered international relations.  

Passage from Africa: a continent stifled by foreign ‘benefactors’


Between 1980 and 2009 the African continent, the world’s second most populous land mass, lost approximately US$1.4 billion (adjusted for inflation) owed in taxation that foreign governments and multinational corporations had illegally evaded. Today these illegal transfers of money out of the continent amount to three times as much as they valued at the start of the century — growing to more than US$50 billion a year.

The US$1.4 billion figure, which excludes money lost to organised crime, and thus underestimates the extent of the illicit outflows, roughly equates to Africa’s GDP today. The loss of this much-needed capital for some of the world’s poorest and most unstable economies has stymied national investments into development projects and the provision of basic services. The result has been a vicious cycle of underdevelopment that has had profound social, political and economic impact upon people across the continent.

Such is the extent of the capital flight, its forms multifarious; smuggling, money laundering, trade mispricing, and profit-shifting mechanisms that conceal taxable revenues, that despite the perception that Africa has received vast quantities of foreign aid and private-sector investment, and that little has been received in return, Africa has in fact been a net creditor for decades, with the illicit outflows of capital from the continent — arranged by governments and multinational corporations — valuing more than the total amount of foreign aid reaching Africa. Moreover, the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) think-tank has estimated that whilst perhaps only 3% of illicit outflows stem from bribery and embezzlement — activities which feature strongly in the public imagination — this is dwarfed by the estimated 60-65% of capital flight caused by multinationals seeking to avoid taxation.

Although it is broadly clear what needs to be done: there must be greater effort to eradicate corruption, increased transparency in the extractive resource sector, and a clampdown on financial institutions that participate in fraudulent transfers of capital, a recent report by the African Union and the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) accused both African and non-African governments, and private-sector corporations, including oil, mining, banking, legal and accounting firms, of continuing to participate in money laundering schemes and corporate tax avoidance. 

Indeed, during a UN financing for development summit in Addis Ababa in 2015, the US, UK and Japan blocked efforts to upgrade the current UN tax body to an intergovernmental one — claiming that such a move would interfere with the work that the OECD (an economic group of high-income economies) already conducts on tax. However, for Jayant Sinha (India’s Finance Minister), “the lack of an ambitious decision on upgrading the UN Committee of Experts on international cooperation on tax matters into an intergovernmental body … is a historic missed opportunity,” since it would have given less developed nations greater influence over policy decisions on global tax arrangements made at the UN. Ultimately, there has been little appetite on the part of rich nations to intervene to the perceived detriment of their own corporations — who hold considerable domestic political influence.

Ironically, despite the West’s opposition, regulations that would improve anti-money laundering institutions would help prevent funding reaching terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, while a global tax body would remove the confusion and inconsistency from international trading, halt the race to the bottom when it comes to tax loopholes and incentives, and put an end to the phenomenon of individuals being taxed in two jurisdictions.  

With countries from across the continent, whether it be in West Africa where it is believed that Nigeria has lost over US$220 billion since 1970, or in an East African nation like Ethiopia that is losing as much as 11% of its production to illicit financial flows each year, such a pernicious economic problem — man-made by the world’s most powerful nations — is clearly overdue rectification. It has long been time for members of the OECD to take meaningful action on the international stage in order to level the economic playing field for all nations — ending an unjust, neocolonialist power dynamic which has improved the lot of rich nations at the direct expense of those that are less developed.

What is Britain For?




Renewed calls for Scottish independence, the looming possibility of the severance of Ulster from the United Kingdom, and the departure of Britain from the EU again bring to the forefront questions of national identity and the purpose of the British state. Those who desired this departure, but who wish to maintain the Union of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have some serious questions to answer. I was one of these people. I still am one of those people. But only a fool would deny that Brexit has potentially serious consequences on the Union. In light of this it is once again necessary to state what we see Britain as being for. That it is actively for something used to be accepted without question. But the last seventy years have changed that, possibly forever; the loss of Empire, Britain’s entry into the EEC and then the EU have both damaged the British state.

Following the loss of Empire, Britain was famously ‘yet to find a role’. Its politicians mistakenly saw its role as part of a European state, and so undermined the British state’s own claim to loyalty from all its subjects. That, combined with its defeat to Irish nationalists following the Good Friday Agreement, and the unnecessary and damaging creation of a Scottish ‘Parliament’, has created a situation in which the attempt to restate the sovereignty of the British state endangers the unity of our country. But Brexit is not a cause of this division, Scotland and Northern Ireland were being torn away from the rest of Britain long before June 2016. People in Scotland and Northern Ireland (and indeed in England and Wales) rightly question what the purpose of Britain is in the modern world. For seventy years their leaders have doubted its purpose, have denied its claims to loyalty, damaged its confidence in itself, attacked its history and its institutions. Is it any wonder that people argue for its dissolution?

The threat posed to the Union is a direct result of Britain’s self-abasement in European and world affairs. In 1902 Lord Curzon made a famous speech in Birmingham where he stated his belief in the necessity of an international role for Britain. For what would be the fate of the people of Britain if they retreated from the world stage? They would be reduced to a people ‘with no aspiration but a narrow and selfish materialism’, without the Empire, Britain would ‘become a sort of glorified Belgium’. Even earlier, in 1871, R.D. Nash warned in ‘The Fox’s Prophecy’ that:


Trade shall be held the only good,

And gain the sole device;

The statesmans’ maxim shall be peace,

And peace at any price.


Her army and her navy

Britain shall cast aside;

Soldiers and ships are costly things,

Defence an empty pride.


Such predictions have, in many respects, come to pass. Britain has, for many decades, denied its own history and, in doing so, has led to its very existence being placed under threat. When a country ceases to have pride in itself, it is little wonder that people should wonder why bother defending it.

The source of the current instability of the British state is, then, a direct consequence of the failure of British pride in itself as an international power and its inability to exist as ‘merely’ the union of four independent nations. The stresses and strains, the complexities, the inconsistencies, are too great to be ignored without a sense of driving purpose. Such drive and purpose existed when Britain was an expanding power, or when it fought in wars which threatened its shores. But, now, the memories of such power and such wars are – regrettably – distant enough that the bonds they created can be ignored by significant chunks of the population.

Such bonds have been further weakened by policies pursued by politicians, in their infinite wisdom. The divisions between England and Scotland are exacerbated by the fact that so few Scottish students study at English universities. The sense that we are one people is lessened by an ignorance of our own history. I am a British person – born in Scotland, educated in England, with an English father, a Scottish mother, and Irish ancestors. So it perhaps no wonder that I am in favour of the Union. But what are the bonds uniting us today, as opposed to the memories of previous bonds? What is being done today, to re-forge the unity that undoubtedly existed in previous times? Can anything be done? It is hard not to be too pessimistic when one wonders at the failures of the British state to defend itself, to support itself, and to make itself necessary to all the people of these islands.

We are left asking what is Britain actually for? If we provide economic answers then we are doomed to failure. No country can sustain itself by simply saying that it makes one richer. As Curzon knew, ‘narrow and selfish materialism’ cannot be enough to stir hearts in the way that is necessary to create a nation that is confident in itself. If we provide merely historical answers then we are also doomed to failure. Whilst we should not be shy of stressing our historical bonds and our historical achievements, such facts of history cannot be used indefinitely.

Answers might, however, be found when we look at post-Brexit Britain. Paradoxically, the opportunities afforded by an independent, sovereign Britain may allow us to re-create the dynamism that characterised the Union in the past. Our role in international affairs may yet enable us to rescue our sense of ourselves. The next few years are fraught with danger. There is a possibility that Scotland will vote for independence before we have even been able to begin reasserting ourselves. That is a risk that has to be taken. Continued membership of the EU made the dissolution of Britain inevitable. But we do now have an opportunity to change the course of history and reverse the inevitable.

Nash’s poem ‘The Fox’s Prophecy’ painted a bleak picture. In some respects this is reassuring, since Britain was able to last as a coherent nation for a hundred years after it was written, and able to weather two of the greatest and most disastrous wars in human history. Nash, while pessimistic, does give us hope:


Taught wisdom by disaster,

England shall learn to know

That trade is not the only gain

Heaven gives to man below.


The greed for gold departed,

The golden calf cast down

Old England’s sons again shall raise

The Altar and the Crown.


Britain is for something. It has been for something in the past and can be so again. The rediscovery of that purpose can be found in the wider world. To limit ourselves is to invite disaster and disunion. We must look to the role Britain can play in the world in order to demonstrate to ourselves the desirability of this union of nations. To do otherwise is to ensure that the Fox’s prophecy will have an unhappy ending.

The Study of Syrian Refugees: From the Academic to the Actual

Dunya Habash

Out of the baking desert heat, I stepped into the even hotter eight-by-three meter corrugated metal box stamped with UNHCR’s logo. Eight faces turned to look up at me as I stumbled across the room with my camera equipment. I bowed in respect to the family’s father and kissed his wife on both cheeks in an attempt to thank them for allowing my intrusion into their cramped lives at Zaatari Syrian Refugee Camp. The mother ordered her daughter to prepare the coffee as I set up my equipment. I was nervous and the sweat rolling down my neck only made the situation worse. After months preparing for this moment I found myself hesitating to turn the camera on: Maybe I should chat with them first before starting the interview? I turned to a young girl sitting in the corner holding a baby. “What’s your name?” I asked in Arabic. No response. She stared blindly at the floor. I found out later that she was fourteen and the baby was her son, only three days old.

I met this teenage mother, Amira, the summer of 2014, while filming my documentary about Zaatari, itself only two years old.  Built in 2012 to accommodate the thousands of Syrian refugees who were crossing the border in search of safety, the camp now houses about 80,000 Syrian refugees in the middle of the Jordanian desert.

Recounting Amira’s story will reveal a tragic narrative of war, violence, death, and displacement--a narrative that almost justifies her decision to marry young. Almost. However, my intention is not to add yet another story to the plethora of violent snippets we receive about the war in Syria and the mass exodus it created. Our newsfeeds do a good job of this already. I want to illustrate the resilience of the Syrian people, their willpower to survive and succeed despite the world standing against them. Thinking about Syrian refugees in this way, seeing the beauty in their survival, will help us empathize with them more than when seeing them as victims,  or worse, seeing them as beggars who can do nothing more than wait for international handouts.

And Amira’s story is not the only one I have about Syrians living in camps in Jordan or who made it to Europe.  There are more.  All gathered first-hand.  All true.  None romanticized for a good read.  The details are real.

Ameer was sixteen when he left the love of his life in Damascus to cross the border into Jordan with his family in 2013. At the time, Zaatari was barely a year old and most people were still living in tents. As the oldest son, he worked hard to help rebuild his family’s life in the camp, trading what he could to upgrade the free tent from UNHCR to a corrugated metal trailer known as a caravan, registering his family members with all the NGOs in the camp so they could have access to various services such as healthcare and schooling, and, most importantly, finding a store to purchase minutes for his cell-phone so that his family could stay connected with loved ones left behind in Syria.  The thought of Tasneem never left  him, no matter how busy he was with bettering his life in this new home.   He often replayed the scene of his final night in Damascus, the one at his aunt’s house because she lived in the same building as Tasneem’s family. After everyone went to bed, he left the flat  and called  to her, imploring her to join him outside. They spent the next few hours in each other’s arms, arms that would soon be empty. In Zaatari, Ameer uses this memory to ease--and to sustain-- his yearning.

Rana left Aleppo about a year ago. She watched her father cry at the doorway of her childhood home as he said goodbye to his only daughter. He didn't stop her from leaving. She couldn’t stop from leaving.  She spent about a week traveling through Turkey via bus and train, crossing the Aegean Sea by inflatable boat and continuing through Eastern Europe until she made it to a "camp" in Austria. There are now dozens of these camps across Europe, housing refugees until their ‘status’ is determined. My aunt, who lives in Linz, offered to host this young refugee so that she would not have to live alone in one of these camps. I recently met Rana while visiting my aunt between terms. At first, I did not believe Rana had taken this journey, but the details of her story were too sharp, too vivid, not to be true. She told me how she barely slept for a week, afraid to miss a bus stop or have her only bag with all her belongings stolen. She told me about the mud field she crossed on foot, walking for hours without rest, trying to help the older women who were making the same journey alone.

“How did you feel crossing the Aegean sea on an inflatable boat?”

“I didn’t. I couldn’t feel or think. I was just moving, trying to get as far as I could as fast as I could. Being with other Syrians making the same journey gave me some comfort.”

Back in Zaatari, Ameer dutifully called Tasneem at least once a day. He did this for a year, holding on to the hope that her family would decide to cross the border and move to Zaatari one day. He asked her to wait for him.  Someday, he promised her, he was going to be with her again, and they would get married. He didn’t know how or when, but he knew it would happen. In the meantime, he found a job with one of the NGOs and used his paycheck to help his family improve their situation in the camp. The little he could save for himself, he put away for his future life with Tasneem. Time passed. One day, he heard the news that would change his life--his girl was moving to Zaatari.

Rana got married a few weeks ago to a Syrian refugee working as a chef in Linz, Austria. Their wedding was cozy and elegant, full of love, friends in exile, and good Syrian food. I held Rana’s cell-phone throughout the evening so that her family could see the wedding via Skype. I watched her mother cry as she watched her only daughter’s wedding through a computer screen thousands of mile away, back in war-torn Aleppo. I watched Rana beg her mother to stop crying as she, herself, could not hold back the tears on her wedding day. Even so, she looked so beautiful.



Yes, Hindi and Urdu are the same language

Sparsh Ahuja

"We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say." - Pico Iyer

If you sat a Hindi and an Urdu speaker next to each other in a bar and asked them to have a ten-minute conversation in their native tongues, chances are that both would understand each other without hesitation. Nonetheless, many across the subcontinent consider these two languages to be fundamentally different - and it is often a matter of honour for native speakers to assert this difference when asked what language they speak. This is not unexpected - in India and Pakistan, the language you use ties you not only into a specific culture, but frequently a religion or moral framework with which you supposedly identify. Yet, whilst this feeling of belonging has led to the patronage of a beautiful literary tradition whose influence spans well beyond the subcontinent, it can often have the ugly consequence of creating false division. With Hindutva on the rise and Kashmir suffering the flames of sectarian tension, it is pertinent now more than ever that we take another look at a bitter linguistic debate that undoubtedly shaped the largest mass migration in human history. Are Hindi and Urdu really different languages?

The answer is deceivingly simple - No. According to linguists, Hindi and Urdu, whether spoken in Chandni Chowk in New Delhi, or the old Walled City of Lahore, are standardised registers of the same language. This is not to say that contrasts do not exist between the two registers - indeed, at the most basic level, each are written differently, with Hindi adopting the Devanagari alphabet and Urdu the Perso-Arabic script. In the most formal of settings - the high echelons of literature, for example, or religious ceremony, “shudh” or “pure” Hindi tends to borrow far more heavily from Sanskrit and Prakrit whereas prestige Urdu draws a significant stock of its lexis from Persian, Arabic and Turkish influences. This is, however, as far as the differences go - the grammar and base vocabulary are practically identical, and, insofar as mutual intelligibility is concerned, all of the language in between the two poles - the vernacular Hindustani of the bazaar - is employed far more often than any highly formalised equivalent.                                

Despite these commonalities, it is not hard to find Hindi speakers who would rather display affinity to a liturgical Sanskrit than to the flowing nasta’līq that adorns road signs across India, conveniently ignoring the fact that just over a century ago, there were twice as many Urdu newspapers circulated in the British Raj than Hindi ones. It is equally as frequent to hear their Urdu counterparts argue that the register is a direct descendant of Persian and Arabic whilst classification clearly places it in the Indo-Aryan language family. Across the subcontinent, sibling communities - communities that could be rejoicing in the togetherness of their poetry and prose - are increasingly becoming polarised by a dangerous mix of nationalism and linguistic purism. Unfortunately, much like any tension in the region, one simply has to reflect on the past to figure out why this is the case.

When the Delhi Sultanate reached its zenith in the 13th century, it infused the local Khari Boli languages with a mass of loan words from Arabic, Persian and Chagatai origins. As the Sultanate was replaced by the Mughal empire, this Persianised culture grew stronger, and the “prestige” dialect that emerged from this amalgamation was known as either Hindustani (language of Hindustan) or Dehlavi (language of Delhi). Some of the most famous poets of the subcontinent, such as Amir Khusrow, flourished during this period, writing in Persian and the newly hybridised Khari Boli. The military influence continued to grow as the empire expanded, and by 1800, another name for this same language, written in the Perso-Arabic script, had emerged – Zaban-e-Urdu (language of the army) – a result of the interactions between Persian speaking soldiers and locals in Old Delhi. Each of these terms were used interchangeably.

The divisions began after the collapse of the Empire. Recognising that Persian, the official language of the Mughals, was rarely spoken by the common people, the government of the newly colonised British Raj decided to replace it with Hindustani, written only in the Perso-Arabic script. This triggered a reaction from Hindus across the subcontinent, for many who had grown up with the local Devanagari alphabet now felt pushed aside by the new policy. Politics started erecting linguistic barriers between communities who were heretofore united. This was not because of the contents of the dialects themselves, but because Muslims were simply more likely to be familiar with the Perso-Arabic script and thus benefited from the change. It wasn’t long after that the terms Hindi and Urdu started to take religious connotations – with Hindi being seen as a language for Hindus, and Urdu for Muslims.

The steady divergence of these two communities ultimately resulted in the bloody Partition of 1947, and the Hindustani language was unfortunately caught in the crossfire. Linguistic purism is not endemic to the subcontinent -  however, few would argue that the heavy Sanskritisation one sees in “shudh” Hindi today is a natural evolution of the language. Rather, politically motivated ‘standardisations’ are often recursive attempts at purging common Arabic and Persian loanwords in the hope of ‘de-Islamifiying’ the prestige dialect. Similarly, official Urdu, as spoken in Pakistan today, is being pushed to absorb more and more vocabulary from Arabic as it seeks to shed its colonial roots. It has come to the stage where even the longstanding word for goodbye, “Khuda hafiz”, a Persian borrowing literally translated as “may God protect you”, is being attacked by a Deobandi religious movement asserting that the Arabicised “Allah hafiz”, pointing to the Qu’ranic conception of the divine, is purer. Not all differences are politically motivated - an average speaker in Karachi will inevitably use more Perso-Arabic terms than one in Madhya Pradesh, even in normal conversation, but this is expected - each language exists on a continuum. The danger of intolerance arises, however, when we feel the need to isolate a particular dialect of that language from the rest of that continuum – because, let’s face it - neither Hindi, nor Urdu, would exist as they are today without the beautiful fusion of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit that shaped their development.                                                                                              

Does knowing any of this history entail losing pride in our linguistic heritage? No, of course not. Urdu speakers can still rejoice in the words of Iqbal and Khusrow much like their Hindi speaking brothers and sisters draw strength from Kabir and Tulsidas. Nonetheless, it is up to our generation, increasingly attuned to global values, to push this line just that little bit further. Last week, I was speaking to a mufti from Gujarat, who seemed surprised that my father, a devout Hindu, enjoyed listening to the Urdu qawwalis of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a prominent Pakistani Sufi musician. Yet this never struck me as something strange – the poetry speaks to his heart as much as it does to the Lahori youth who carry Nusrat’s flag today. Embracing the monolith of South Asian culture does not necessarily mean stripping oneself of all identity.  

Perhaps, however, as a self-identifying Hindi speaker, I should think again before I brazenly assert my individuality over the dinner table when asked whether I speak Urdu or not. For in the end, it is my gratitude towards my language that matters, not whether I say “dhanyabad” or “shukria” to express it.



Yashaswi Bagga

On the seventeenth of December, 2016, the Indian government designated Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat as the new Chief of Army Staff, the most senior position in the Indian Army. The appointment itself was controversial, and since it was announced Lt. Gen. Rawat has already made a series of pronouncements which are of immense interest. One of the most important of these was the first official recognition of the existence of the Cold Start doctrine which is a strategy regarding rapid and small-scale war with Pakistan that has been more-or-less accepted to exist for over a decade. 

While it may have been drowned out by the noise over Trump’s inauguration and the surrounding protests, not to mention the Syrian conflict and the associated refugee crisis, this was a significant appointment, not just for India, but also for Asia as a whole. It may have significant consequences for Sino-Indian and India-Pakistan relations and hence on the stability of the Asian Subcontinent. The importance of the appointment stems from three reasons.

The first is that this appointment offers a unique opportunity to understand the approach of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to India’s often conflict-ridden civil and military relations with India and China. A primer to these:

 The BJP, whose electoral appeal and ideology are centred to large extents around a more aggressive nationalism, is known for its relatively hardline stance on these conflicts, especially on ending Pakistani state-sponsored terrorism. One of the justifications given for the recent withdrawal of high-value notes was that these were faked and put into circulation from Pakistan in order to weaken the Indian economy, and to fund terrorism.

Initially, after coming to power in 2014, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi made several efforts to improve relations with Pakistan, including a highly publicized visit to the his opposing number on the Pakistani side, Nawaz Sharif, on his birthday. However, there were several terrorist attacks in 2016, including the Pathankot attack in January and the Uri attack in September, both on military bases. The latter was especially significant, being on a base that is placed within the controversial territory of Jammu and Kashmir, contested territory (including Chinese claims to some parts) since the two countries attained Independence in 1947. After this, relations fell apart, as they have rather depressingly tended to. This tendency was enhanced by the BJP’s more aggressive ideology itself, and political and electoral compulsions to keep its core demographic happy. In his speech on August 15th, India’s Independence Day, PM Modi upped the ante by indirectly thanking the people of Balochistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for their support. Balochistan is a region in Pakistan, which has long had movements for autonomy and even Independence. This statement was widely seen as support for these independence movements, and elicited angry reactions from Pakistan, which described them as evidence that India had been supporting these movements in order to weaken Pakistan. Pakistan has since responded by increasing their statements in condemnation of Indian actions in Kashmir.

After the Uri attack in September, India launched a cross-border strike on terrorist camps based in Pakistan. These camps were considered to be staging camps for militant preparing to infiltrate India, and to exist with the complicity, if not support, of the Pakistani authorities. The strikes were seen as a departure from a usually more cautious approach to the use of direct military action, which resulted from hesitance to escalate conflict between two nuclear powers. It was also often considered that this reluctance used to use force was seen as a carte blanche by the considerably more aggressive, impulsive, and military-dominated Pakistani establishment.  The so-called ‘surgical strikes’ were greeted with considerable enthusiasm by the Indian public.

However, this was all only a direct function of the politicians heading the government. The opportunity to appoint a new Army Chief after the scheduled retirement of the previous one gave the BJP a chance to directly influence the military through its choice.

Secondly, the controversy surrounding the appointment also holds valuable information. In the Indian military, such appointments are done on the basis of seniority, i.e. length of service. However, in this case, two senior personnel were superseded. This is a rarity; the last time it happened was in 1983. The appointment of the new Chief of Air Staff followed this principle. This led to protests by opposition parties, who accused the government of politicizing the military. Due to the government’s willingness to weather this opprobrium, which they surely knew had to come, we have reason to believe that the government specifically wanted Lt. Gen. Rawat, and nobody else. This indicates that this appointment is not a mere formality, and will have tangible effects.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the statements made by Lt. Gen. Rawat give us reason to pay attention to him.

Immediately after his appointment, he said that the Army would not "shy away from flexing its muscles, if the need be", indicating the possibility of a more proactive army. While this could be passed off as a rather generic statement holding no new information, it was the Chief’s comments regarding Cold Start doctrine that are the most significant, and may mark a shift in Indian attitudes to both, preventing and engaging in conflict, along with a willingness on the part of the government to square up to both, Pakistan, and the flipside of the coin, a possible increase in the likelihood of nuclear war. He said in an interview with India Today, that ‘’The Cold Start doctrine exists for conventional military operations.’’

What is the Cold Start doctrine? It originated in 2001, when the Indian Parliament was attacked by Islamist terrorists, from groups believed to be supported, if not funded, by Pakistan. India initiated a full mobilization along the border. However, this mobilization took a whole month, and illustrated the weakness of India’s strategic practices, which were obsolete and based around the concept of large 'holding corps', intended to halt hostile advances. It was slow and insufficient for offensive purposes, especially because the possibility of nuclear retaliation necessitated speed. The slowness of Indian action allowed Pakistan time to counter-mobilize, the international community to intervene, and allowed Pakistan to make public statements against terrorism, thus reducing Indian justification for military action. As such, India did not attack, and withdrew after a lengthy standoff. It was unable to prove to Pakistan that it was both capable and willing to resort to war.

After this strategic failure, India initiated a reformulation of battle plans. Instead of three large strike corps located in the centre of India in many individual blocks reminiscent of German Blitzkrieg tactics and with their own associated air support and artillery they were to be placed at the border itself. No doubt  with the aim of decreasing Pakistani confidence that India couldn’t respond. The fact that this change made ‘small-scale’ war a prospect effectively reduced the threshold for India military action to begin, with the intention that Pakistani confidence in its ability to engage in asymmetric warfare be reduced. The overall goal is to ‘inflict significant harm on the Pakistan Army before the international community could intercede, and at the same time, pursue narrow enough aims to deny Islamabad a justification to escalate the clash to the nuclear level.’

Pakistani military personnel and politicians have responded by claiming to have reduced their own threshold, or ‘red line’ for the use of nuclear weapons, making repeated statements about their willingness to initiate nuclear war. This has led to an atmosphere of reduced stability.

However, despite the fact that the Cold Start doctrine is well-known, it’s existence has never been officially admitted- until now. In fact, it has been denied by a former Defence Minister and by a sitting army chief (who now happens to be Minister of state for defence, a role somewhat like an assistant Defence Minister). This was led perhaps by 'Indian security managers who might have believed that the ambiguity surrounding the concept’s status and the Indian Army’s ability to implement it had generated enough uncertainty in the mind of Pakistani decision-makers to deter their support for militant attacks within India', according to an article in The Hindu by Vipin Narang and Walter C. Ladwig. It is also quite possible that they did so to limit the risk of Pakistan lowering its nuclear threshold.

Coming back to the present, Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat’s open acceptance of the existence of such a doctrine seems to indicate a recognition of the fact that the above hypothesis seems not to hold in the face of brazen attacks from Pakistani territory, and a de facto refusal by the Pakistani government to eliminate terrorists conspiring against within its borders. This is likely also a product of the aforementioned aggression of the current government. As such, this represents a momentous shift in the dynamic of India-Pakistan relations, with consequences for the whole world, by having effects on the prevalence of Islamic terrorism and risking the first use of nuclear weapons since the Second World War. What exactly these consequences will be, only time will tell.



Your Protest Means Nothing

Emily Roper

Protests and rallies are no rarity to this world. Consider the protests in Colombia against the barbarity of bull fighting, calling for the constitutional court to make the practise illegal. Think of the protest marches in Venezuela against a government whose rule has seen severe economic decline in the country, or the protests this month against the continued presence of a US military base in northern Italy.

But your protest means nothing. A protest is meaningless in itself, made completely redundant in isolation. Your protest means nothing unless something happens next. A protest is a mechanism for change. It’s a catalyst for action. It’s a trigger for reform. Your protest means nothing and it’s what follows that makes it count.

January 21st 2017 was the day of the Women’s March, and the world witnessed an outstanding turnout in solidarity with America. Many were protesting against Donald Trump and his divisive rhetoric throughout the US presidential campaign, and many were highlighting the persistent issues of gender rights that have come to the fore throughout said campaign. It was a day filled with witty placards and cutting comments, many using humour to cut to the core of a patriarchal mindset and advocate women’s rights as human rights. An estimated 2.5 million individuals stood with America across the globe, and, quite honestly, if you weren’t there then you suffered from some serious FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out, for those who are out of the loop). Topics of misogyny, the treatment of refugees, and healthcare were raised in rhyming chants and the sound of marching feet. These protests managed to demonstrate that we are still in dire need of feminism, that there are still issues ingrained in even those societies considered developed, and that persistence in pursuit of equality is still relevant. This cannot be action which stops at January 21st 2017.

The facts are inescapable: on Saturday 21st January we marched for gender equality and women’s rights globally. On Monday 23rd January, President Trump was pictured signing a policy to prevent all NGOs funded by the US federal government from carrying out abortion services across the world, forcing NGOs to either forego a major source of funding, or to stop providing a choice for women who feel they need the second chance that abortion offers. Whilst abortion is a controversial topic, the picture of Trump signing this policy betrays the heart of the problems that the Women’s March attempted to address: Trump, signing these documents, surrounded by seven other men. Alarm bells ringing yet? Two days after the world stood up and stood together for equal gender rights, that protest was already being concealed by legislation. The reproductive rights of women globally have been altered in an action that was overseen by a group of men. Whatever your standpoint on the issue of abortion, this imbalance cannot go unnoticed. Of course, men can sympathise with issues that affect the lives of women, and the simple fact that they were involved in these decisions does not make them misogynistic demons. But unless you have experienced living as someone not endowed with male privilege, should you really be the ones exclusively making those decisions? The proximity of this moment to the Women’s March demonstrates that such huge problems cannot be solved in the adrenaline of a one day protest – the fight goes on.

Organisers of the Women’s March are encouraging people to write to their senators, or Members of Parliament, and to articulate their voice to the people who make the decisions. Hold them accountable, and make them aware that there is a demand for equal gender rights. To share support on social media keeps the dialogue active, and to remain aware of changes in governmental policy keeps parliament accountable. Whether it is a march against governmental decisions to remove pro-democracy lawyers from practise in Hong Kong, or to raise awareness of the conditions and pay issues that caused nurses in France to strike towards the end of 2016, any ultimately successful campaign must be sustained. Your protest means nothing unless it lasts beyond the march.

A protest is not enough. Yes, there is a power in joining your voice with thousands of others, but history is not written by protests alone. Background noise will not protect your rights, and a series of rhyming chants will not drown out inequality. There was an absolute buzz on the day of the Women’s March, even amongst those who weren’t there. But where is the point in marching with 100,000 people in Trafalgar Square, if every other day of the year there is a woman being denied her rights to equal pay and no voice stands up for her? Where is the point in chanting in the streets, if on the other side of the road someone who identifies as non-binary is being harassed and no one steps in? Where is the point in raising your voice, if, behind closed doors, a child is being taught that it’s okay to ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ when you’re famous, and no other voice is telling him that respect for others is the most important virtue of all?

In all honesty, I thought twice about writing an article on the Women’s March. I thought about it more than twice. It felt over-done, over-analysed, and I was convinced that people would read it with a sigh: ‘not the Women’s March again’. Globally, the struggle for equal gender rights has been ongoing for years: the first country to allow women the vote was New Zealand in 1893, leading the way in an equal and representative democracy. We’re not there yet. It’s been a slog, and we’re still going to have to keep walking that walk. Yes, gender rights get talked about a lot. Yes, the Women’s March received a lot of publicity. Despite this, we need to continue to give it our attention. It is relevant, and it is pertinent, and it is of imminent concern. This affects you. We need this discourse to still be alive, and we need to keep this conversation open.

If this march is to have a legacy, don’t let it be the piles of discarded protest signs at the end of the day that are waiting to be recycled. If our voice is to have traction, we cannot let it be silenced by time and inaction. A protest is a powerful thing until it no longer exists. Your protest means nothing until it changes something. Don’t let your chant stop here.


Reviewing Graeme Wood’s 'The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with Islamic State'

Ruari Clark

Graeme Wood’s book The Way of the Strangers: Encounters with Islamic State has not yet been received with much fanfare on this side of the Atlantic. Which is odd, because reading it one has the sense that it is a book that ought to be essential reading. It is the latest book which attempts to enter the mind of the Islamic State and should be read by anybody with an interest in Middle Eastern politics. Moments of high drama are interceded with bizarre encounters with strange individuals who nevertheless pose a considerable threat to European and international security. It is the kind of book you imagine being approvingly shared between journalists, knowingly passed around Whitehall corridors, and helpfully given to government ministers. Described as ‘indispensable and gripping’ by Niall Ferguson and positively reviewed by David Aaronovitch, Way of the Strangers should be receiving a lot of attention. It is therefore surprising that it was only recently that Wood was interviewed by The Times.

Any delayed reaction to the book’s publication is probably due to Brexit and Trump dominating the vast majority of media attention. Despite occasional newsflashes from Syria and rather hysterical warnings about the Russian ‘threat’, British Middle Eastern policy is no longer an active concern for most people. This means that a book about ISIS, even one as good as this, will have to be lucky if it is to gain wide media attention. To see how luck can play a part in the success of books one merely has to look at J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, which was published at the same time as Trump’s rise to power and so has become the book commentators use to explain that rise.

But it also might be something to do with the book’s central message. Which is this: that, contrary to much of what is publicly said by politicians, the Islamic State is Islamic. This sounds simple enough, and it probably is, but it doesn’t sit well with much received opinion, David Cameron and Barack Obama have both claimed that ISIS is not Islamic. Similar statements have been made by almost all politicians in the Western world. This is understandable, since politicians do not, of course, want to appear to be attacking all Muslims. But, as Wood forcibly points out, it is not true. Indeed, as Way of the Strangers makes clear, there is a grim and hard to deny Islamic logic in much ISIS propaganda and violence. As Wood has said in an interview with NPR, “ISIS has looked into Islamic history with historical accuracy, with intellectual rigour.” This is difficulty for moderate Muslims to accept, and Wood’s work has tended to receive much criticism from those Muslims who are attempting to challenge the theological justifications used by ISIS, but it doesn’t make it any less true.  

It is Wood’s ability to engage seriously with the ideology of the Islamic State that is the most valuable part of the book. Like his original Atlantic piece on which Way of the Strangers is based, Wood has gone around the globe interviewing various supporters of ISIS. From Egypt, to Australia, America and then to London, he is on the trail of those who advocate the creation of a Caliphate through violence. Engaging in conversations with figures like Musa Cerantonio, an Australian supporter of ISIS. In the West ISIS has been able to find a significant number of such converts. Why young men from respectable families (like the American son of a retired soldier) should want to join ISIS is only hinted at by Wood. Though it seems to me that behind many scholarly defences of ISIS is a narcissism and the arrogance of stilted youth. Certain statements bring to mind the kind of teenager who enjoys getting into arcane arguments on the internet (where much of this kind of debate does take place).

Just as interesting – though less bizarre and more frightening – is what Wood reveals about the real players within the Islamic State. Men like al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi. These are thinkers who are part of a tradition which in its modern incarnation dates back since the middle of the century. But which is inspired by Wahhabi variants of Islam and has been compared to other sects from as far back as the 8th century. That such a variety of sources and traditions are used by supporters of ISIS demonstrates the difficulty moderate Muslims will have when denying the Islamic nature of their ideology. Their ideology of violence is well thought out and, some say, must be continually carried out if the leaders of the Caliphate are not to remove themselves from their own version of Islam.

Yet most importantly Wood argues that mistaking the Islamic nature of the Islamic State might also be dangerous, since by misunderstanding the nature of ISIS we are unable to find solutions. He writes that ‘pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.’ It is hard to look at such violence without merely recoiling, or denying the nature of its existence, but it is not helpful. Perhaps disappointingly, though perhaps inevitably, Wood himself does not offer any hard and fast policy prescriptions. However, he does say that a military defeat of ISIS would perhaps be a fatal undermining of its necessary claim to statehood, which suggests that a military solution is necessary. Though of course this would not ‘drain the swamp’ completely. This means that Wood is able to avoid the mistake made by many foreign policy commentators of providing ‘solutions’ to various Middle Eastern ‘problems’ which often reveal little more than the ignorance of the commentator.

At the beginning of this review I said it felt like the kind of book that might find its way around various corridors of power and influence. The problem, of course, is that such books do not appear to be required reading amongst those who direct foreign policy. Or, if they are, the perceived requirements of a narrowly defined domestic policy trumps all other considerations, leading politicians to make bland statements which fail to capture the truth. Way of the Strangers at least allows the proper questions to be asked and the most fruitful conversations to be had. Until these things are done, then no serious solutions to the threat of ISIS will be found.  


Narendra Modi and the BJP: Hindutva on the march

Fergus Peace

There was a time in early 2014 when Western media was greatly preoccupied by the rise of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader, Narendra Modi. Many column inches were spent worrying about the implications of a newly ascendant Hindu nationalism, and telling the world about the darkest moments of Modi’s time as Chief Minister in Gujarat. But since the BJP won (as expected) an electoral landslide in May of that year, Indian politics has largely slipped off the radar again.

If we were expecting the worst – a repeat of the large-scale anti-Muslim violence that wracked Gujarat in 2002, with Modi complicit at the very least through complicity – then the lack of attention is perfectly justified.

But the more likely scenario was always a more subtle and pervasive extension of the BJP’s Hindutva ideology throughout Indian life. The BJP’s rapid political growth since the early 1990s has centred on an awkward coalition of traditionalist Hindu organisations and a growing, globally-oriented upper-middle class. The glue that keeps these elements together is a vision to remake India as a strong, muscular nation, with a powerful economy and military built on the power of cultural unity.

This ambition manifests itself in three policy agendas: a pursuit of rapid, disruptive economic modernisation, military and political escalation against Pakistan, and the depiction of Hinduism as essential to Indian identity. As Modi’s government draws to the end of its third year in office, all three have been proceeding apace.

On the economic front, the government has finally succeeded in pushing through a national Goods and Services Tax, meant to come into force in April and replace a range of state and federal sales taxes. No doubt a sensible reform, it was heralded by Modi as putting an end to ‘tax terrorism’. The same kind of overheated rhetoric has surrounded the even more controversial ‘demonetisation’ policy, Modi’s bolt-from-the-blue announcement that 500 and 1000 rupee notes would no longer be legal tender. The chaotically implemented move appears to be aimed at jolting Indians to keep more money in banks and use electronic payments rather than cash, in order to modernise the country’s economy by increasing financialisation. But government figures have defended the policy – and the immense pain it’s inflicted, particularly on the poor and those in rural areas – as part of a national campaign against corrupt, ‘anti-national’ elements. Demonetisation is increasingly referred to as ‘note bandhi’, recalling the similarly disruptive (though much more violent) ‘nas bandhi’ policy of forced sterilisation implemented in the 1970s. In the week after announcing demonetisation, Modi gave a speech darkly commenting that “the forces up against me … may not let me live”. Nobody knows quite what he was referring to – certainly there hasn’t been any attempt on his life – but the language fits perfectly into what is, across the world, a common nationalist theme: that the country needs to be restored to its past glory by a period of shared sacrifice to fight a common enemy.

The most obvious enemy for Hindutva, of course, is Muslim Pakistan. The BJP is yet to follow through on its election promise to review India’s no-first-use nuclear policy, aimed at deterring Pakistan fromsparking a conventional conflict. But there has been escalation by other means. After a September terrorist attack along the de facto border in Kashmir, the PM gave a speech in which he claimed to be ‘reaching out’ to Pakistani citizens. In reality, Modi’s words – “Pakistan, ask your leaders that both the nations became independent at the same time, but why is that India exports software while Pakistan exports terrorism?” – were aimed at the old Hindu nationalist goal of portraying Pakistan as a constant menace to Indian security, to unite Indians against it. A few days later, the Indian Army launched a military operation inside the Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir, widely feted as a ‘surgical strike’ by BJP politicians. Firing across the border has occurred at an increased rate ever since; in the aftermath the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association has banned Pakistanis from working in Bollywood and a number of sporting associations have cut off bilateral ties.

And demonising Pakistan as an object of national anger is a short step from the continuing Hinduisation of Indian life. When Modi announced a crackdown on irregular migration from Pakistan and Bangladesh, he made an exception: Hindu and Buddhist migrants would be allowed to stay, but not others – that is, Muslims – who he accused of having ‘political purposes’, leaving implicit what those nefarious purposes might be. By and large, the government itself has been cautious around religious issues, but the broader family of Hindu nationalist organisations – the Sangh parivar, of which the BJP is one part – has stepped up its activity. The Bajrang Dal, a youth Hindu organisation, has engaged in vigilantism to enforce a ban on cow slaughter. The RSS and VHP have organised a series of mass conversions to Hinduism, often under a cloud of coercion when people were brought to ceremonies on the pretence of signing up to receive government benefits. Revealingly, the campaign is titled ‘Ghar Wapsi’ – Hindi for “homecoming”, reflecting nationalists’ view that all Indians are Hindu by rights and that conversion to Hinduism isn’t conversion at all, just a return to your origins. Modi himself maintains silence on most of these issues, but a number of other BJP politicians have been enthusiastic supporters of ‘reconversion’ and bans on cow slaughter. The Hindutva goal of fusing Hindu religiosity with India’s national identity has not been so far advanced since the demolition of a major mosque in 1992.

Nationalist victory, that is to say, has not plunged India into theocratic authoritarianism. But it has caused a steady advance of a militarised, aggressive idea of Indian nationhood and the increasing marginalisation of those outside the religious majority. It may be a worrying sign for the rest of the world 2017 that the West’s fear of the worst can seemingly blind us to a less extreme but still deeply troubling reality.

Western Media and ISIS Terror Attacks

Emily Dillistone

Charlie Hebdo, a controversial French magazine that publishes satirical cartoons, was never considered particularly heroic before the 2015 ISIS attack that killed 12 in their headquarters. The reporting on this event, along with the numerous fatal attacks that have occurred over the past few years, forms a powerful and essential part of terrorism’s tyranny over people’s psychology across the world. The current attacks hark back to 11 September 2001 and 7 July 2005 when the Western World was shaken by a foreign and terrifying force. Since these traumatic events, the West, and increasingly the whole world, has begun to live in fear of attacks. These past few years have seen a multitude of terrorist attacks across Europe and central Asia. To put it in context, while the Global Terrorism Database recorded 1,395 attacks in 1998, in 2012 this figure reached a record high of 8,441. Likewise, the total number of casualties from terrorist attacks in the past 15 years has soared from 3,387 to 15,396.

Since Bin Laden’s attack on the Twin Towers, the world has witnessed an increasing hostility towards Muslims, with islamophobia forming the backbone of the rhetoric propounded by Trump’s Presidential Campaign, Britain’s UKIP, France’s Front National, and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland. Fear and anger, along with resentment of the establishment, have propelled Europeans towards a far-right extremist politics with a keenness to ‘protect their own’ from foreign terrors. Extremism and extremist politics seem to be on the rise, not just in Europe, but globally.

Terror attacks are unique in their kind due to several factors: the organization required for them to take place, and the visibility they reach in the media. Media threats are reported, no matter whether they are small or large. Michael Jetter, an academic researcher in Germany and the US, analysed more than 60,000 terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2012 and found that terrorist attacks drew a disproportionate amount of media attention. He discovered that 42 people die every day from terrorist attacks, compared with 7,123 children who die from hunger-related causes, yet the former receives far more attention.

In the early 2000s, terrorist organizations relied on pamphlets and video cassettes while media appearances were seldom, so the few pieces of propaganda that were released tended to hit big. In 2004, Zarqawi, a formerly unknown ex-convict, became a world-famous Islamic militant when his video of the execution of a young American contractor called Nicholas Berg was downloaded half a million times in 24 hours. In 2006, the 3-minute video of Saddam Hussein’s hanging was leaked and viewed by millions around the world. Even more so today, groups such as ISIS manipulate the media and new technology to their advantage. Many of the attacks in Paris were reported using photos and videos taken by passers-by and people targeted by the attacks. ISIS no longer needs to equip its killers with cameras because the public will publicize the event for them. And this soon becomes a vicious cycle: research shows that sensationalist media coverage of terrorist acts results in further acts of terrorism.

Terrorism is commonly defined as criminal acts intended to create a state of terror among a group of people deemed by the terrorists to be ‘morally objectionable’. But here is where one must be careful with terminology. A key component to terrorism is that it is a foreign threat, and therefore terrorism is and by nature subjective and situational. During the Indian struggle for independence, for example, those who fought in the resistance were a kind of ‘terrorist’ to British soldiers, but for the people of India they represented freedom.

In the West, ISIS’ brand has more than tainted the image of the supposed Religion of Peace. Muslims have become an all too easy target for racial abuse and many Western newspapers pounce on any new opportunity to exacerbate the already well-embedded islamophobia prejudices that exist in Europe and the United States. A key example of this is the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice earlier this year on 14 July 2016. A man drove a lorry down the Promenade des Anglais, killing 84 people. The Telegraph’s headline read “Nice terror attack: 'soldier of Islam' Bouhlel 'took drugs and used dating sites to pick up men and women'”. Newspapers were determined to depict the attacker as a sleazy ISIS-supporter, despite the lack of hard evidence to link his attack to the terrorist organisation.

Reporting on the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris was similarly misleading. In the immediate aftermath of the attack the journalism firm was masqueraded as the modern proponent of free speech. Facebook even enabled its users to change their profile picture to a French flag to ‘stand in solidarity’ with the people of France. The reaction to the attack was so far-flung that when Ankara was attacked a few months later on 10 October, many people on social media asked why there was no such public outcry in response to the attack. With 103 dead and 400 injured on 10 October, later 13 dead and 125 injured at the bus stop bombing on 13 March 2016, and on 17 February 2016 29 dead and 60 injured left by the military convoy attack, Ankara is the city that has suffered some of the greatest losses of any ISIS attack. So where is the hashtag #benakarayim?”

Of course, from the UK’s perspective, the Paris attacks are more alarming due to the city’s geographical proximity: Ankara is almost 3000km further away from London than Paris is. However, this is not simply an issue of geography. Facebook’s headquarters are in the United States, yet while on 13 November 2015 people in France could mark themselves “safe” to reassure their friends and family, no such function was provided to the survivors of attacks in Ankara. This is not for lack of Facebook users in Turkey; according to Reuters, in 2011 Turkey already had 30 million Facebook accounts, making it the fourth largest country of Facebook users in the world. Numerous other attacks have occurred in the East, such as the June 2015 Dayarbakiir rally bombings, in which four were killed and 400 were injured, and the suicide bombings in Istanbul and Bursa, which also had high death tolls. Yet none were reported with as much fervour and panic as were the attacks on the West. Between 2015 and 2016, the attacks that made headline news were the attack in Brussels, the Russian plane attack, the Paris attack, and the San Bernardino attack. It is worth noting that the lattermost attack was the smallest of the major ISIS attacks. The issue cannot be ignored: the Western media overwhelmingly opts to report on white deaths and casualties comparatively to deaths and causalities in countries where white is not the dominant race.

The discrepancy is evident still in issues extending beyond race. In January 2015 Paris witnessed several attacks, but the attacks on Jewish supermarkets seemed to almost pass the international news stations by. On 9 January French police were called in to deal with two hostage-taking situations taking place in Jewish supermarkets in Paris, yet this was not deemed altogether that newsworthy. By contrast, the attack of the high-speed Thalys train on 21 August 2015 made international news, though, likewise, there were no fatal casualties. A notable difference: the involvement of three US citizens, two of whom were soldiers.

Many will remember the tragic case of Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 276 girls in Nigeria in April 2014. The group have since kidnapped over 2,000 girls. The hashtag #bringbackourdaughters reached Michelle Obama, but the case still did not receive even half as much attention as the abduction of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann in 2007, despite the fact that this is a time when social media and online reporting were not half as developed as they are now. The truth is, the abduction and rape of hundreds of black women is not half as appealing to a Western audience as the disappearance of a cute little American white girl.

This August the suicide bombing of a hospital in Quetta yet again brought to the fore the double standard the West manifests in its news reporting. The bombing left at least 70 dead and more than 100 wounded, making the attack one of the most fatal to have been carried out in Pakistan. Survivors of attacks in the East are rightfully outraged by the comparative lack of coverage and recognition of their suffering in the rest of their world. So what is to be done? The French media has stated that it will not show pictures of terrorists, but one could argue that the damage of racial profiling has already been done: the ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’ stereotypes are so regularly conflated and misrepresented that the two have become virtually indistinguishable in the mind of the Western citizen. Moreover, it is somewhat difficult to support the notion that France is successfully dealing with its prejudices given Marine le Pen’s standing in the presidential polls. It seems evident after this discussion that the most proactive way forward is to cease using the term ‘terrorism’ to describe attacks, as it seems to obscure the crime. Moreover, naming the perpetrator of a crime a ‘terrorist’ can sometimes afford the killer more attention than necessary. So is it the fault of the media? I believe that news sites do have a responsibility, though not a mandate, to be objective, and to report news fairly and without bias. Efforts to be disinterested when it comes to reporting attacks is yet to manifest itself in many Western newspapers, and it seems to me that this is the main factor fuelling racial hatred and prejudice in the Western world in 2016. 

Is the EU shooting itself in the foot with Brexit negotiations?

Olivia Rohll

Just over five months on from the UK’s vote to leave the European Union on the 23rd of June 2016, there seems to have been almost no progress on what a post-EU Britain will look like. This is partly because of domestic disagreement - the Economist recently reported an almost perfect 50:50 split of opinion over the key free trade/free movement trade-off in the Brexit negotiations - but also because of the reactions of EU leaders nervous of right wing populism in their own backyards. The situation appears at times to have reached a total stalemate which only the goodwill of the negotiators can dissipate. Unfortunately for Theresa May the inner insecurity about the EU aroused across the bloc by Brexit has made goodwill hard to come by because an easy exit for the UK would encourage others to follow suit. 


However the resistance by French President François Hollande and, more recently Germanfinance minister Wolfgang Schäuble is unlikely to achieve the neutralisation of anti-EU sentiment they seek. Even among ‘Remain’ voters in the UK, the hostility sensed behind statements that the UK could face EU budget commitments up to 2030 and the like, have stirred up the feeling that Brussels has ambitions that override the sovereignty of EU member states. Britain has become a hazard to ‘The Project’ and is being punished for it - not a sight that is likely to appease nationalists. What is more, seeing leaders scrabbling to maintain their positions at the expense of their allies will do nothing to dispel feeling that the world is being run by a small group of elites uninterested in the concerns of the ‘everyday man’. Elitism even seems to be being felt at the state level, with Italy threatening to veto the EU budget due to what they see as a lack of support from EU countries with handling asylum seekers and immigrants. This is no doubt partly a political move by prime-minister Matteo Renzi, who is currently facing a referendum which, like the Brexit vote, is becoming as much about anti-establishment feeling as the constitutional reform it proposes. However the almost childish move to veto the budget also reflects the power imbalance between members which EU leaders like Renzi are finally pushing back against. The upshot is that whatever strategy European governments employ to handle Brexit they are eventually going to have to face internal unease about the EU face on, both at a domestic and national level. An easy Brexit may well encourage further departures, but throwing up barriers simply demonstrates the qualities of the European Union its people are coming to resent. 


The possibility of closer ties between the UK and US since the election of Donald Trump will do nothing to lower the tension. A British-American trade deal, although far from certain, would substantially strengthen the UK in the face of a weakened post-Brexit economy. Trump’s protectionism could well lead to complete abandonment of the work done towards a US-EU free trade deal, and his open enthusiasm for Brexit only adds insult to injury. While the scrapping of what has now been several years of complex negotiations would be an understandable blow for Brussels, failure must not be pinned on Trump or Brexit. At the end of August 2016 European politicians such as French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl began calling for the end of EU-US negotiations because of unmeetable demands from the Americans. In light of the possibility that the proposed deal was never going to come into fruition it is just worth wondering whether Angela Merkel’s calls on Trump not to give up on the deal would be as forthcoming if it weren’t for the remote possibility that the UK might get there first. 


The worrying possibility that the EU is being held together more because it is uncomfortable to leave, than because it is an attractive group to be in has not gone completely unnoticed however. As recently as 16th November, ex-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, writing in the Financial Times has stated ‘the rift between Europe and its citizens is wider than ever before.’ He recognises the legitimacy of the concerns of British people and extends the hope that they may choose to rejoin the Union once it has been reformed to better serve its members. The refreshing sentiment that rejoining the EU is an option for Britain also makes a welcome change from the finality Brexit is generally spoken about with. Before being defeated in the French primaries on 20th November, Sarkozy was seeking the Republicans’ (‘Les Républicains’) nomination for the 2017 French presidential election and was clearly hoping that EU reform might attract voters away from the far right better than Hollande’s defensiveness. This may just be another political manoeuvre by a member of ‘the elite’, but it might be the only way to save the EU and keep its people on board. If the UK must be punished for leaving, let it be done by making Europe better than it’s ever been before, not by making an example of it for those that might follow. 

Escalating Tensions in Myanmar: Conflict Between the Rohingya Muslim Minority and Security Forces

Justin Graham

On October 9th, militants in the north-western Rakhine state of Myanmar launched three simultaneous, coordinated strikes against border-police posts held by government security forces.  The militants, numbering anywhere from 250 to 800 strong, armed with knives, slingshots, and a few firearms, killed 30 police officers, and escaped with at least 50 guns and over 10,000 rounds of ammunition.  Over the last month, there has been an escalation in armed clashes between security forces and this militant group. 

The troubling part of this story is who the attackers were: members of Myanmar’s oppressed Rohingya Muslim minority group.  Both government and local sources corroborate that fact, and a video circulating around Myanmar’s social networks, purporting to be of the attackers, shows one member of the group calling on all “Rohingya around the world to prepare for jihad and join” the attackers in their assault.  As the International Crisis Group puts it: the video, “the need for local knowledge to carry out the assaults, and the difficulty of moving large numbers of people around this area are all suggestive of local Muslim involvement – possibly organized with some outside support.”  The group could potentially be a resurgent form of the RSO, or Rohingya Solidarity Organization, which operated in the 1990s as a terrorist organization advocating a form of Rohingya nationalism.

Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority have essentially become a stateless nation within Myanmar, as the country refuses to recognize members of the Rohingya group as citizens, and tensions with Buddhist-majority Myanmar have exploded in the past, particularly in 2012, when conflict resulted in the deaths of 200 people, and 150,000 members of the Rohingya forced into squalid camps where most still languish, four years later.  In Rakhine, tensions are further compounded by the fact that 90% of all people living in the region are Rohingya community members.  Even with a democratic transition ongoing in Myanmar, the Rohingya have largely been left out of the process – marginalized and persecuted by Buddhist leaders.

Myanmar’s brutal mistreatment of the Rohingya community leaves them ripe for recruitment into terrorist organizations, as evidenced by the attacks carried out last month.  However, the government’s response to the attacks has been a string of high-handed, poorly targeted, ethnic revenge killings, instead of a legitimate counter-terrorism strategy.  Since the October 9th attacks, security forces have killed more than 100 people, most of whom were civilians, and burned down over 430 homes across Rohingya villages.  Over the last month, 3,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to seek shelter and China, and more than 500 people entered refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh just last weekend.

While Myanmar’s government should pursue terrorists, killing civilians and pursuing a campaign of ethnic-based persecution will only lead to a riper recruiting ground for whichever organization(s) carried out the attacks last month.  The real pathway to peace lies in ending attacks by security forces against civilians and entire villages, moving Rohingya members out of squalid camps, and giving the group real rights, incorporating them into Myanmar’s larger society.  That however, seems unlikely, as even the vaunted Aung San Suu Kyi has taken to calling Rohingya members “Bengalis,” in an attempt to emphasize their foreignness – and some might say, to dehumanize people, who like it or not, are part of her country.

Is the end of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan near?

Gal Treger

Since twenty-six year old Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire and sparked the Arab Spring not much has been stable in the Middle East; Tunisia, Mohamed’s home country, ousted their long time President Zine Ben Ali. In Libya, rebel forces lynched Gaddafi in the streets of Sirte. Syria will soon enter the sixth year of a ferocious civil war. Egypt managed to democratically elect the first ever leader of a country from the fundamental Muslim Brotherhood movement, overthrow him and replace him with an old-school military general. Yemen is on the verge of complete disintegration. Iraq is already there. And even the wealthy, agile kingdoms of the gulf suffered their concussions. There seems to be just one Arab country that was not affected: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. However, there are good reasons to think that Jordan is up next.

With a population of 9.8 million people, Jordan has been home to over 1.5 million refugees of the Syrian Civil War. That is an increase of over 15% in Jordan’s population in just six years. It is analogous to Germany welcoming 12.2 million immigrants by 2021 or the United States offering asylum to some 49.5 million refugees over the same time period.

Most refugees live in dire conditions in camps on the northern border with Syria. According to UN estimates, two-thirds live below the national poverty line and one in six households is in abject poverty, living off less than $40 per person per month, or just over $1.30 a day. With the battlefields of the civil war behind them and the wealthy cities of Amman, Irbid and Zarqa in front, their struggle for jobs, homes and recognition will eventually have political consequences.

The economic situation is a stressor on the political order as well. According to the World Bank, unemployment rates reached 13% in 2015. The annual growth in GDP per capita was zero percent in 2015 and is projected to be lower than one percent in 2016. Total productivity growth slowed for the first time since 2010. Foreign aid, investments, remittances and tourism, the fundamental growth sectors, are in persistent decline. Deflationary pressures persist due to lower oil prices, the weakness of the euro and slow economic growth, while the Central Bank of Jordan tries to stimulate the economy with a loose monetary policy.

The danger of high inflation, the precursory of revolution, is discernible. The scenario of a sudden surge in the prices of basic goods seems highly probable; whether due to a sharp rise in the prices of global commodities, a government tax-reform aiming to secure an IMF loan, geopolitical pressures or drastic changes in exchange rates of the dinar.

The current political structure in Jordan is also facing a perilous ideological threat. The Islamic groups in Jordan are moving towards a more militant, proactive and jihadist Islam, affiliating themselves with fundamental groups in the region, primarily Al-Qaeda.

Additionally, Islamic State propaganda is ubiquitous, not just in mosques but also in universities, sports clubs and youth groups. Youth are futile ground for radicalization, with unemployment for those under the age of 30 – which account to 70% of the population – just over 30%, twice the world average. Furthermore, there are growing indications that Sunni militants, Salafi groups, Syrian opposition and ISIS supporters are smuggling more and more arms into the country.

When a car drives over a bridge and the bridge collapses we tend to focus on the specific car, the driver, the time and place the accident took place. We rarely discuss the structural stability of the bridge. The political system in Jordan is an unstable bridge. We have good reasons to believe that one of the cars driving over will make the entire bridge collapse.

Why Mosul matters: security, sectarianism and stability in a post-ISIS Iraq

Katherine Pye

As Iraqi government Special Forces enter the outskirts of Mosul and Kurdish forces advance from a new front in the north, the world witnesses the beginning of the end of the great black banner which once sprawled across the Levant.

Relief, however, will be short lived. The defeat of ISIS is by no means the dawn of a new Iraq. If the current course is pursued, the events of 2016 will continue a cycle of insurgency and jihad which has spanned decades. It may lead the country to the same fate as its Syrian neighbor with global repercussions to match.

However, Mosul presents an unrivalled opportunity to reverse this. Firstly, the battle for Mosul will be the largest deployment of Iraqi forces since 2003, significant in itself as a push by the weak Iraqi state to assert its dominance in a region of Iraq where they had never traditionally exerted much control. If the government is successful it is a promising first step for a stable new Iraqi state.

Secondly, Mosul embodies political and strategic problems in the nation; the Iraqi army are leading forces inside the city whilst their supporters are disparate and disjointed. They form a highly unstable fractious coalition including Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Sunni tribal units and Shia militia. Such a multilateral attack will set an important precedent for how ethno-religious groups are able to work with each other as Iraq begins reconstruction.

Furthermore, unlike previously liberated cities such as Tikrit and Fallujah, the northern city of Mosul is religiously diverse, meaning the way in which anti-ISIS forces handle their victory and treat Mosul’s inhabitants in the immediate aftermath could have crucial implications for ethno-religious politics in Iraq in the future. 

Government responses to divided communities such as Mosul will also have a real impact on geopolitics in the region. Whilst the USA has poured funds into Pershmerga coffers, Turkey has been watching the situation closely. Erdogan’s government have been eager to play a more dominant role since interventions in Jarabulus last September which threatened the Kurds with full-scale retreat.

Iran too has demonstrated strategic interests in the region, with the government funding the launch of a "United Shia Liberation Army", linking sectarian conflict in Iraq to Shia ‘struggles’ in Yemen and Syria. Should sectarian violence break out after Mosul is liberated, there are more than enough key players to intervene. A Syrian-style proxy war is never far away.

Yet despite this, groups fighting ISIS have not yet all met and there is no agreed verdict on what victory would look like in a political rather than military sense. As in 2003, troops move in once again without a clear strategy or any plans beyond the immediate term. Astoundingly, even US strategy in the region is overwhelmingly  ‘short term’, as outlined by Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. Instead, each stakeholder will most likely rush to fill the ISIS vacuum by grabbing as much power as possible. This risks collapsing back into turmoil after fighting finishes, in a settlement where central government authority has never been assertive even in peacetime.

But what is often forgotten is that in the months that follow a defeat of ISIS on the ground, an estimated 30,000 foreign fighters will travel back to their home states. Like Al-Qaida after the US invasion of Afghanistan, these brutalised individuals represent an urgent yet invisible security threat, transforming from a state to a “brand”, maintaining an ability to inspire and recruit all over the world.

ISIS itself was born under conditions dangerously similar to those we see in Iraq today. The founder of Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, the Iraqi Sunni insurgency which became ISIS, was Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi was a Jordanian fighter living in Afghanistan under the Taliban when the US invasion forced them out. Moving to Iraq, he worked underground to build a new Islamic state, carrying out suicide attacks in Shia areas to heighten underlying sectarian tensions. Aggression against Sunnis from the Iraqi government, allied Shia militias or US-backed Kurds would provide perfect propaganda for insurgents in a fragile post-war Iraq.

What can the Iraqi government and its allies do to break this cycle of insurgency, or avoid sliding into total sectarian warfare in the absence of a common enemy? As a matter of urgency all groups opposed to Daesh must meet before invading Mosul, which the US can help facilitate. Religious communities and tribal leaders in and around Mosul need a platform on which to correspond and cooperate before hostilities are further entrenched. The Iraqi government also needs to set a precedent of much lower tolerance for Shia militia brutality. The recapture of Mosul is a critical time for the state to demonstrate post-ISIS Iraq is inclusive and even handed, robbing any Sunni extremist insurgency of the chaos it needs. Addressing Iraq’s long-term security issues requires strong leadership, cool-headed pragmatic decision making and a long-term outlook. At the moment, all are in dangerously short supply.  

Duterte Money: Geoeconomics, America, and the Philippines

Michael Green

“I announce my separation from the United States, both militarily and economically” proclaimed Rodrigo Duterte in mid-October to an audience of Chinese businesspeople. “America has lost.” Having called Obama a “son of a whore” - among numerous other disparaging remarks about America and its president - Duterte has launched an ostensible rebalancing towards China. He speaks of “realigned… in your ideological flow “. This constitutes a drastic break from the policies of his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, the pro-American foreign policy of whom was epitomised by pursuing a case against China in the Permanent Court of Appeals for UNCLOS. What does this rejection of American security cooperation mean for US policy in Asia? How should the State Department regain favour with the erstwhile linchpin of its much-vaunted ‘pivot’?

Before formulating a prognosis, it is important to note the prior advantages possessed by the US in terms of relations with the Philippines. 90% of Filipinos view the US favourably, there is a millions-strong diaspora therein, and America is its second largest trading partner. Colonial links stretch back decades. There is a longstanding security relationship, including five bases and an American program to help train Philippine forces against insurgents on the southern region of Mindanao. Indeed, the Filipino establishment is outraged by the apparently reckless behaviour of Duterte, and even dignitaries within the government explicitly downplay Duterte’s iconoclasm. In the words of Trade Minister Ramon Lopez, “the statement the President made maintains the relationship with the West”. The US-Philippines alliance is unlikely to disintegrate any time soon.

Nevertheless, overtures to China are clearly being made. This is for two reasons: firstly, Duterte’s brutal and merciless anti-drugs campaign has flagrantly contravened commitments to Human Rights and the Rule of Law, both championed by the US and ignored by China; secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Duterte feels that the economic benefits to be gained by alignment with China outweigh the geopolitical costs. The US thus faces the challenge, without abandoning its values, of convincing ordinary Filipinos that the fruits of pursuing quasi-suzerain obeisance towards China will not match the largesse of the United States.

The US already provides over $40 million per year in military aid to the Philippines, but this is not felt by average Filipinos. Given the already overwhelming military superiority of the US armed forces in the region, there is scope for replacement of some of this military aid with direct investment in development and infrastructure. Certainly, the US already provides significant non-military aid to the Philippines ($150 million in 2012), and is a massive contributor to multilateral institutions like the Asian Development Bank that attempt to achieve these aims. Even so, in order to pre-empt geostrategic realignment on the part of the Philippines, the US could transition into providing a greater amount of more visible non-military aid. Although unable to emulate the Chinese by using State-owned Enterprises to build infrastructure, the US can encourage investment through various incentives, including giving greater support to providers of FDI. This, in conjunction with augmentation of extant aid, can increase both economic ties and American soft power. Tax incentives could even play a part. With enough trade and investment, Filipinos might be convinced of the relative gains of siding with the US. Duterte may have announced separation from the United States, but American munificence could lead to rapprochement.