Opinion

David Rohde

The global middle class awakens

David Rohde
Jun 21, 2013 18:09 UTC

People stand during a silent protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 18, 2013.  REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Alper, a 26-year-old Turkish corporate lawyer, has benefited enormously from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule. He is one of millions of young Turks who rode the country’s economic boom to a lifestyle his grandparents could scarcely imagine.

Yet he loathes Erdogan, participated in the Taksim Square demonstrations and is taking part in the new “standing man” protests in Istanbul.

“The prime minister is continuing to blatantly lie about the demonstrations,” said Alper, who asked that his last name not be used because he feared arrest. “People are actually scared that if they stop this momentum, then the government will feel free to exercise more force.”

From Turkey to Brazil to Iran the global middle class is awakening politically. The size, focus and scope of protests vary, but this is not unfolding chaos — it is nascent democracy. Citizens are demanding basic political rights, accountable governments and a fairer share of resources.

Obama’s ‘best bad choice’ in Syria

David Rohde
Jun 14, 2013 17:58 UTC

Damaged buildings and debris in Deir al-Zor, June 13, 2013.Picture taken June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

UPDATE: The final passage of this piece criticizes the “Shia fundamentalists who are holding Iran’s staged elections.” Early results from Tehran suggest that reformist candidate Hassan Rohani has achieved a stunning victory. Iran’s green movement, which was crushed in 2009, is apparently alive and well.  The country’s conservative clerics are apparently unwilling to steal another election and risk another round of protests. The results reinforce the point at the end of the piece: we focus too much on the region’s fundamentalists and too little on its moderates.

Syria, of course,  is not Iran. A peaceful protest movement has devolved into a sectarian civil war. Gen. Selim Idris, the Free Syrian Army commander who is receiving American small arms, is a moderate who taught at the Syrian Army’s Academy of Military Engineering for twenty years.  Arming Idris now may be too little, too late. But as I argued in this February 2012 piece, the US should have supported moderate members of the Syrian opposition far sooner.

The ‘secrecy industrial complex’

David Rohde
Jun 11, 2013 22:30 UTC

An undated photo of National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. REUTERS/NSA/Handout via Reuters

An odd thing is happening in the world’s self-declared pinnacle of democracy. No one — except a handful of elected officials and an army of contractors — is allowed to know how America’s surveillance leviathan works.

For the last two years, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have tried to describe to the American public the sweeping surveillance the National Security Agency conducts inside and outside the United States. But secrecy rules block them from airing the simplest details.

Obama’s overdue reckoning on secrecy

David Rohde
Jun 7, 2013 17:01 UTC

President Barack Obama on the White House South Lawn in Washington, June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing

All day Thursday, officials from across the political spectrum scrambled to explain reports in the Guardian and Washington Post of unprecedented government collection of phone and Internet records.

James R. Clapper, director of National Intelligence, issued a rare public statement confirming the existence of a classified phone program but said it did not involve the surveillance of American citizens. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee, asserted that the government needed the information to catch those who might become a terrorist.

Iran’s election will not be tweeted

David Rohde
Jun 7, 2013 13:37 UTC

Co-authored by Clare Richardson.

As Iran’s tightly-controlled June 14th presidential election approaches, observers worldwide are scouring the Web for tweets, photos and videos that offer hints of events inside the country. Yet to the dismay of overseas opposition groups, the Iranian government has mounted a sophisticated — and so far largely successful — effort to choke off Internet access inside the country.

“More than a month ago, we saw how the speed of the Internet shut down,” said Trita Parsi, president of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council. “They started to make it much more difficult for people to Skype with the outside world.”

A computer engineer checks equipment at an internet service provider in Tehran, February 15, 2011. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

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