Browsing articles in "Security"
Oct 18, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

The winners of the Shalit Deal

The green flags must be all over Rafah. If all goes according to plan, Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will be freed today in exchange for the release of 477 Palestinian prisoners now and 550 more in two months, in a big victory for Hamas. What will this mean for the fractured Palestinian politics?

For one, the Fatah camp is very worried about the boost to Hamas’ popularity. While it may be short-lived, the rulers of Gaza are back in the game now. The deal, after all, comes at a crucial time for Hamas: It happens about a month after Fatah started an attempt to reposition itself with the UN bid for statehood, and externally, the islamic group is watching the erosion of their base of support in Syria, which is going through deep troubles of its own.

Albeit those two recent elements renewed pressure on Hamas, many would say that they have been slowly setting the stage for a comeback for some time now. A few weeks ago, in a seminar in Georgetown, analyst Helena Cobban argued that “Hamas is in a better position to claim what a [Palestinian] State is than Fatah. Hamas control borders, and Gaza looks a lot more like a State than the West Bank does”. (The other panelist present at that seminar, Salim Tamari, replied that, given a choice, he would much rather live in a corrupt State than at the police State that Gaza has become, but that is beside the point).

On another note, there is much concern about the “message” the swap conveys. Hamas’ policy of resistance might look like a winner this morning, while negotiations are deemed a failure. “This deal has definitely improved the public position of Hamas and the perception of resistance,” admitted one Fatah member to Reuters.

Right now, Abbas is trying to portrait the exchange as a non-partisan Palestinian accomplishment, but there are serious doubts as to whether that will fly. Perhaps it could help in some tiny way with prospects of reconciliation for the two camps?

I suspect Salim Tamari would be skeptical, though. He is the one making a point about “the sad way in which Fatah and Hamas became accustomed to separation of their regions. No elections, no new agreements. You are now complacent with this kind of division. In the mean time, the territories are undermined, eaten from within.” With or without 1,027 freed prisoners.

Oct 17, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Undoing the Lord’s Work

Joseph Kony is a murderous thug who likes to hang around with little boy soldiers and little girl sex slaves. It’s worthwhile for US troops to help eradicate his brutal Lord’s Resistance Army.

Oct 14, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

What Iran Can Do for Mexico

In the wake of the alleged foiled iranian plan to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., here comes Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, suggesting once again that Mexican drug cartels should be designated terrorist organizations. That was quick.

Ros-Lehtinen, who is not, how should we put it… “appreciated” in many Latin American circles, is far from the first to come up with this idea. But she was without a doubt very fast in using the opportunity to revive it, while everybody else seems more preoccupied with figuring out what to do about Iran.

Yesterday, the chairman spoke about “the threat posed by the narco-trafficking networks (…) as ready-made networks to facilitate and support other terrorist activities throughout the Hemisphere, including right here in the United States”.

There shouldn’t be much argument about whether the threat exists. However, it is debatable how appropriate and beneficial it would be to label the cartels as terrorist groups.

First of all, they don’t care. At all. It wouldn’t be comparable to designating a government agency or a political group as terrorist. These are not organizations that enjoy any sort of legitimacy anywhere, and they already operate in the shadows. Preventing them from doing legitimate business, trips, propaganda, or from establishing international connections won’t have any impact over their operations. Charging them with an extra crime will not stop them _there are sufficient laws around. The death penalty? They are in it to kill or die already.

 Second, Mexicans have a point when they say the connection between cartels and terrorists is being overblown. If the accusations are solid, they point more to the use of individual hitmen than to a pervasive organizational linkage. The supposed plotters wanted mercenaries, and the brutal Mexican cartel members just happened to be available.

 Third, cartels have few political objectives beyond getting politicians out of their way. They are not using violence to attain an ideological goal. What they want is to control the market. Its business. And, in that sense, as the Mexican based analyst Alejandro Schtulmann observed, these “criminal groups have no interest in upsetting the U.S.”. The terrorist label has little place here.

That being said, some good could come out of the discussion if the U.S. starts to worry a little bit more about the extent to which Mexican drug cartels operate in its territory. Few would go as far as Rick Perry, who said he would consider sending American troops to fight in Mexico (Mr. Perry, did you ask the Mexicans if they support that??). But more resources could come in handy.

Sep 30, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Weapons to Bahrain

The Department of Defense’s timing is funny. It notified Congress about two weeks ago that it plans to go ahead with a US$ 53 millions weapons sale to Bahrain, including 44 Humvees, over 50 missiles and night vision technology.

Meanwhile, the administration continues to express its “concern” over the crackdown on protesters at the arab nation. Obama met with the royal family in the past months to press for reforms and investigations against abuses. The White House has classified the repression with terms like “mass arrest”, “brute force” and “violence”.

Human rights groups are already complaining about the incongruence. Now there is some State Department official telling the press that “the proposed sale would help Bahrain’s defense force develop its capabilities”, according to the Washington Post. He also said the purpose is to defend against external, not internal, threats.

Ah, then it is ok. Nevermind that they are putting doctors who treat injured protesters in jail.

The leverage the US has on Bahrain is complicated enough without shipping weapons to them at such a delicate time. Not only the island hosts the 5th fleet and is considered important to contain Iranian influence and fight terrorism, but its rulers have been defiant of Washington for ages.

One could say that it is not Washington’s problem. But it is. Bahrain is an ally, and the US has a big stance over the future of its government.

Maybe the relationship between the two countries is so strained that you need to oil it a bit with a few Humvees. It is hard to believe the DoD would really need those US$ 53 million that bad.


Sep 27, 2011
Center for Democracy and Civil Society


All else equal, it’s harder to win a fight when the guy who can help you the most appears to want the other side to win.

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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