Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from FaithWorld:

Will the Arab Spring bring U.S.-style “culture wars” to the Middle East?

(From left: Olivier Roy, Cardinal Angelo Scola and Martino Diez of the Oasis Foundation at the conference on San Servolo island, Venice, June 20, 2011/Giorgia Dalle Ore/Oasis)

Where is the Arab Spring leading the Middle East? What will be the longer-term outcome of the popular protests that have shaken the region since the beginning of this year? Of course, it’s still too early to say with any certainty, even in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt that succeeded in toppling their authoritarian regimes. Some trends have emerged, however, and they’re on the agenda at a conference in Venice I’m attending entitled “Medio Oriente verso dove?” (Where is the Middle East heading?). The host is the Oasis Foundation, a group chaired by Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Roman Catholic patriarch of this historic city, and guests include Christian and Muslim religious leaders and academics from the Middle East and Europe.

In one of the most interesting -- and hotly debated -- presentations, the French Islam specialist Olivier Roy described the Arab Spring as “a break with the culture and ideologies that dominated the Arab world from the 1950s until recently.” It marks a clear change in the demographic, political and religious paradigms operating there, he said. The old dichotomy of the authoritarian regime or the Islamist state has broken down, he argued, and Islam is taking on a new role in the political process. In the end, the region -- or at least the states where the Arab Spring brings real change -- could see democratic politics marked not by major efforts to establish an Islamic state but by Muslim “culture war” controversies not unlike the way hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage emerge in U.S. political debates.

(Newly wed Egyptian anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 10, 2011/Dylan Martinez)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Taliban talks: the new mirage in Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has just said in public what many have been saying for months in private, that the United States is holding talks with the Taliban to try to reach a settlement to the decade-long war in Afghanistan.  "Peace talks are going on with the Taliban. The foreign military and especially the United States itself is going ahead with these negotiations," he said in a speech in Kabul.

We have been hearing reports about these talks for months. In the climate of disinformation that threads through the Afghan war, it is hard to say exactly when they started, but I first heard last November that the Americans had begun direct talks with representatives of the Taliban and if that was correct, they must have begun some time before that. 

“Fearsome risks” driving policy over-reactions

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In China, where a rash of protests, sometimes violent, have recently flared up and been slapped down, echoes from this year’s ‘Arab Spring’ of rebellion against iron-fisted rulers in the Middle East and North Africa are resonating loudly.

Not so much among the people, who in the main want reform and social justice rather than revolutionary overthrow, but in government, where much of what it does is driven by worry about threats to its control.. Authorities are scared foreign political unrest might inspire trouble at home, but instead of engaging with ground-level grievances, the Chinese government’s method of addressing discontent is the heavy hand.

from Afghan Journal:

Ten years on, still trying to frame the Afghan War

U.S. President Barack Obama is in the midst of a wrenching decision on whether to quickly bring home the 100,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan or stay the course in the hope that the situation will stabilise in the country.

The problem is it is still not clear what the huge operation estimated to cost $100 billion a year is intended to do.  Here is what Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said last week when asked what would constitute success : “I think we’ll have a much better fix in terms of clarity towards the end of this year in terms of longer-term … potential outcomes — and when those might occur — than we do right now."  The military were in the middle of the fighting season and once that ends when winter arrives, they would be in a better position to make a call. But how many fighting seasons has the military gone through already in Afghanistan ? Their logic is that the 30,000 additional troops that Obama sent in December 2009 have started to turn things around in the southern bastions of the Taliban, and more time is needed to extend the gains in the east where the insurgency is just as stubborn.

from Reuters Investigates:

No room at the Inn … but maybe a job in the Outback

By Rebekah Kebede

You wouldn't think you'd have to make hotel reservations months ahead of time in Karratha, a small, dusty town on the edge of the Outback  a 16-hour drive from  Perth, the nearest city. But with Australia’s commodities boom, Karratha is bursting at the seams and nowhere is it more apparent than when trying to find a place to stay.

(Above photo: A kangaroo stands atop iron ore rocks outside the remote outback town of Karattha in Western Australia. Reuters/Daniel Munoz)

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

A slow-burning revolution in Pakistan

Rarely does the perennial struggle for power between civilian and military authority punch to the surface quite so openly in Pakistan, yet thanks to the increasing use of the internet, it is now being played out in public across websites, Twitter, blogs and online newspapers. It is a struggle that is every bit as important as those taking place in the Middle East,  and like those of the Arab spring, one that has the potential to tip the country into even greater instability or steer it onto firmer ground.

The renewed and very public debate started with the May 2 raid by U.S. forces which found and killed Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. That unleashed an unprecedented wave of criticism against the military -- both for failing to find the al Qaeda leader, and for apparently failing to detect and react to a U.S. raid in the heart of the country.  The anger rose after militants attacked a naval air base in Karachi, and swelled further when the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency was accused of beating to death Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad - an allegation it denied.

from The Great Debate:

What is the best strategy against Chinese cyberattacks?

By Ian Bremmer
The views expressed are his own.

All eyes should be peeled on China, but not for the reason you think. While the biggest structural risk right now is global rebalancing, especially between China and the U.S., there is another important threat from China: cyberwars. Cyberattacks are one of the biggest fat tails (along with climate and North Korea).

It’s no surprise that the latest Google hack attack came from China. The presumption is that the vast majority of cyber attacks hitting the U.S. are coming from the Chinese government. It’s very hard to know where threats are originating – country-wise and/or person-wise -- because it’s very difficult to go back and figure out the paper trail. But at a minimum, there is an environment in China that tolerates cyber attacks.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Ilyas Kashmiri reported killed in drone strike in Pakistan

Ilyas Kashmiri, commander of the al Qaeda-linked Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI), has been reported to have been killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan in Pakistan. He had been pronounced dead before in 2009, only to have his death disproved through an interview he gave to the late Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. So any assessment of the significance of his death needs to carry a big health warning.

That said, there appears to be rather more evidence this time around of his death, including a statement faxed to Pakistani media from someone who claimed to be a spokesman for HUJI. And if accurate, it would be very significant for reasons which go far beyond one man.

Party wins big in Vietnam, but with a few twists

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As has happened every few years since the mid-1940s Vietnam’s Communists won parliamentary elections last month by a landslide, claiming 91.6 percent of the chamber’s 500 seats, officials announced on Friday. No surprises there. The Communist Party has a constitutionally-mandated monopoly on power.

We noted in a story on election day that the vote was rigged to retain party control although the outcome would allow for the legislature’s role in policymaking to continue to grow incrementally.

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