Browsing articles from "September, 2009"
Sep 23, 2009
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Smears of a clown

Joel Rubin at Democracy Arsenal makes a good point about Ahmadinejad’s persistent holocaust denials:

Ahmadinejad is a master of distraction…Ahmadinejad is attempting to change the conversation about what’s going wrong inside of Iran by using the Holocaust as bait.  He doesn’t want to be questioned about his government’s behavior surrounding the June 12th elections, or about the show trials of political opponents underway in Tehran.  And he certainly doesn’t want to answer the hard questions being posed by the international community about his country’s nuclear intentions.

Poking his finger in the eyes of Israel and the West is also a cheap way for him to look good for the home audience.

Sep 22, 2009
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Obama’s zero-sum politics on Afghanistan

zero sum 3The Washington Post‘s Karen de Young hits the basic zero-sum political calculation that the Obama adminstration faces on Afghanistan squarely on the head:

One observer, characterizing the president’s dilemma at its most extreme, said: “He can send more troops and it will be a disaster and he will destroy the Democratic Party. Or he can send no more troops and it will be a disaster and the Republicans will say he lost the war.”

According to Steven Thomma, Jonathan S. Landay and David Lightman at McClatchy,

With the military and Republicans publicly pressuring him to send more troops to Afghanistan soon and his own administration now deeply divided about how to proceed there, the eight-year war against al Qaida and the Taliban has become an increasingly urgent policy and political dilemma for President Barack Obama.

He can escalate an unpopular and open-ended war and risk a backlash from his liberal base or refuse his commanders and risk being blamed for a military loss that could tar him and his party as weak on national security.

Obama seems to be up against the wall here.  Is the administration calling for additional strategy reviews because they don’t know the best policy, because they are looking for support for a decision they have already made, or because they don’t know the best political choice?  While these are not mutually exclusive reasons, I place 10% on the first, 30% on the second, and 60% on the third.  Then again, I am a cynic.

Ken Silverstein has more.

Sep 21, 2009

US Democracy Stance in Honduras

Many folks familiar with the situation in Honduras (President Manuel Zelaya was removed from power on June 28 following a judicial and legislative consensus that he violated the constitution) believe that our government incorrectly condemned the action.  President Obama condemned the move as a coup d’etat, cut off diplomatic ties with the interim government, and halted $30 million in non-humanitarian aid to the country.

Now it turns out that even other parts of our government aren’t too sure about the validity of these diplomatic decisions. The Congressional Research Service recently released a report indicating that the Honduran Supreme Court was acting within its rights.  (Here’s an excellent editorial from the WSJ explaining it more.)

If this country wants to be taken seriously in its democracy promotion efforts, we need to be a little more careful in how we assess democracies abroad. The Honduran government took laudable action to prevent a president seeking unconstitutionally to remove his term limits.  We should have condemned former President Zelaya’s attempt and offered our assistance in an interim election. Our support of this man despite his undemocratic actions just portrays us as being confused about what democracy really means. If we wanted unconditionally to support those who win elections regardless of what they do while they’re in power, we need to start making amends with Hamas, Hugo Chavez, and many others.

Sep 21, 2009
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Democracy Assistance jobs and events

Michael Allen at Democracy Digest has lots of good information on jobs and events.  Also, the Carter Center is looking for Medium-Term Observers for Sudan’s voter registration.

Sep 19, 2009
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

A do-over in Afghanistan?

Three of my fellow election observers in Afghanistan, William Maley, Marvin Weinbaum, and Rani Mullen have posted an article about Afghanistan’s election crisis on Foreign Policy’s website that reaches a conclusion I find troubling:

A second round of elections before the end of October offers the best way to demonstrate that Afghans can still have a free choice and, with better voting procedures and international supervision, a more honest outcome. Even if Karzai ultimately wins, it is important to demonstrate that the international community is united in its determination to back a democratic process…

Below is an excerpt of an email I sent to Rani, expressing a number concerns:

Democracy inaction?

Democracy inaction?

Do you really believe that Afghanistan can hold an election in the near future that will be more credible than the last one?  It seems to me that all of the signs are pointing to a deteriorating situation since the election, not an improving one.  Is the government capable of holding an election?  How can we ensure there will be less fraud and better security than the previous one?  What if voter turnout is even lower than the first?  Believing that ISAF and the Government of Afghanistan will be really serious for the do-over election doesn’t seem sufficient.  How can we be certain of this?  Were they not serious the first time?  Even if they are more serious, the situation may be out of their control. Don’t we need to be honest about this as well?  Finally, if we call for a do-over, doesn’t this suggest that we want a new election because we didn’t like the result we got the first time?  We have a history of this kind of behavior (e.g., Palestine 2006). Seems like a big risk to me.

Let’s see what she says.

Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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