Month: October 2017

Three major lessons from recent referendums in Kurdistan and Catalonia

International Relations theorists don’t have the opportunity to conduct lab experiments like scientists. They have to rely on natural experiments, or in other words, deduce and infer from events that shape and transform in front of our eyes, happening in real time.

Recent events on the Catalan crisis and the Kurdistan referendum are important case studies for a few ideas that IR theorists have talked for, for a while.

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Weinstein, Trump, and the crisis of confidence in rule of law

Donald Trump’s politicization of the Justice Department hurts faith in rule of law when it is sorely needed. Film producer Harvey Weinstein has been investigated before for sexual abuse, and now, with many more allegations coming out publicly, it is likely that he might have faced serious investigations under any administration.

Yet the appearance of conflict-of-interest and the demonstrated intent of applying law politically casts an inescapable lack of confidence under anything the Justice Department does now. The admissions by Trump that he made explicit political calculations when staffing the Department of Justice and pressured the DOJ to investigate his enemies (Trump says he wouldn’t have picked Sessions if he knew he’d recuse himself, After attacking AG Jeff Sessions for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton, Trump won’t say if he will fire him, Comey documented Trump request to drop Flynn investigation in memo) imply that he would use, or try to use, his power to attack any political enemy he can.

Now it is reported in the Daily Mail that the FBI is opening up an investigation into Weinstein at the behest of the DOJ (although “it is unknown whether the DOJ order came directly from Sessions”). There’s a 90 percent chance that this is justified entirely on the facts of the case. In almost any other administration, there would be closer to 99 percent confidence.

We know how Trump responds to crimes committed by his political allies: he pardons them.

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Q+A with Dr Jacqueline L. Hazelton, Asst Prof at the Naval War College

For over a decade, United States and NATO have been involved in counter-insurgency operations across the Islamic world. A new ground breaking paper by Dr. Jacqueline Hazelton, challenges the established COIN dogma, and suggests that the usual operational process of good governance, democracy promotion, nation building, and dependence on human rights, are actually counter-productive.

In simpler words, perhaps more brutality is needed to actually win a war. 

To explain further, Dr Hazelton kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Bombs + Dollars on US COIN operations, grand strategy, and what changes might be needed urgently to re-calibrate a failed Western counter-insurgency strategy.

You can follow her on Twitter @DrJLHazelton.

You can also find other Q+As here.

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One month after Hurricane Harvey: Texan Resilience

I’ve been here in Houston for about three weeks now and the atmosphere remains positive in the outer rim of the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area. Granted, I understand that the inner city was hit hard, particularly 3rd Ward and South Houston (which is actually its own separate municipality entirely resulting in FEMA and state oversight), but the fact remains that people were still hit hard out in rural areas. Rich or poor, a flood still takes a painful if not deadly toll.

I did mud and muck removal in hard hit areas of New Caney, Glen Loch in The Woodlands, River Plantation up near Conroe. We trudged through unimaginable filth. Some homeowners had left copious amounts of meat inside the refrigerator before the deluge forced them to evacuate. My time moving furniture and appliances for St. Vincent de Paul lulled me into a complacency of thinking that I was an expert at moving a fridge, but not this kind of fridge. I found out the hard way that fridges are not waterproof (why did I assume they were?). Not only did the floodwater get into the fridge, but when the waters around the fridge receded, somehow the water inside the fridge stayed. We encountered the fridge at about 23 days after the flood—23 days of meat marinating in essentially sewer water.

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The political meaning of Korean makgeolli

An excerpt of my latest travel article from my travel blog China Travel Writer:

Koreans have a saying, “Eat once in Jeonju, and you’ll be spoiled for life.” The city of 600,000, which is the capital of North Jeolla province, is a UNESCO Creative City for its gastronomical heritage.

On a visit this past July, I was excited to taste Jeonju’s legendary fare. So why, when I went with two Koreans to a famous dining district, was I staring down at a plates full of silkworm pupae, jelly made of smashed acorns, and a fish that has been fermented in its own urine?

We were at the Jeonmun Makgeolli Town, one of seven makgeolli towns prominently featured on tourism maps. Makgeolli is a Korean “farmer’s wine” made from rice and traditionally served in bowls. It has a reputation as being an honest, working man’s drink. It’s a drink that old men drink straight from the plastic bottle outside convenience stores at 3 in the afternoon. In fact, the national security law during the period of military rule was jokingly called the “Makgeolli Security Law” because so many people were arrested for things they said in casual conversation.

In short, makgeolli seemed to me to be a representative drink for the progressive stronghold of Jeolla, which was the site of both the 1894 Donghak Peasant Rebellion in Jeonju and the 1980 Gwangju Uprising to the south.

Read the full article: Silkworm pupae, urine fish, and farmer’s wine: A meal to remember in Korea’s culinary capital

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