The United Nations has once again blocked Taiwan’s quest for membership. A key UN committee rejected a proposal from Taiwan’s allies to put its bid on the agenda of the general assembly, which met in New York in mid-September. This is the 15th consecutive year that Taiwan’s quest for membership of the United Nations has been rejected, even though, until 1971, the Chinese seat at the UN was held by Taiwan under its formal title, the Republic of China. It is shameful that the UN adopts such a stance, even on “legal grounds”, given its supposed role as a multilateral, impartial forum and the long-term and popular bid for recognition from Taiwanese.
Taiwan and mainland China split in 1949 amid civil war. Taiwan became the stronghold of the nationalists and the mainland became the communist People’s Republic of China. China, which claims Taiwan as a province, is adamantly opposed to UN membership for the island, but should demonstrate its maturity by allowing an even-handed debate.
It is surprising to hear US Secretary of State publicly announcing that Palestine must be recognised if peace talks are to make progress. Surprising partly because it is the same person that provided much of the authority for invading Iraq and partly because it is against the wishes of the Israeli propaganda machine which has such a strong US lobby.
Condoleezza Rice said there was no point inviting the Israelis and the Palestinians to the upcoming Middle East peace summit, expected in November, just for show. She noted it must address substantive issues and advance the cause of a Palestinian state. Wouldn’t it be great if this is the start of real progress …?
That’s my conclusion after reading an essay on torture by The Economist. The analysis indicates that generally torture is not effective or justified, though the argument that it might save lives is that of the devil’s advocate and does not stand up to ethical scrutiny. Its justification can only ever be self-serving and therefore unbalanced.
Religion can be a useful guide to morality, but history has shown that it should be separate from politics. This is more so today than ever before because there is such diversity of belief and there is no majority view, even on a nominal basis, let alone a practising one.
The current US president has evangelised his own beliefs throughout the administration, even requiring official schedules to include prayer meetings. While spiritual engagement should be applauded, and is grossly neglected by most of us, it has been inappropriate to evangelise in a position supposed to represent ALL the people of a nation.
It seems that this will subside with the next administration. Of the front runners in the Republican party, none are expected to take their own religion on the campaign trail to the extent that Bush did. This will be good for America.
Tension over Iran’s nuclear programme is building. While Iran is obviously behaving badly, they have not been given the kind of out required to encourage more conciliatory behaviour. The US continues to pressure a halt to the nuclear programme but has not responded to Iran’s request for an equal policy (which is not actually written in to any non-proliferation treaty).
The war of words continues to escalate with Iran retaliating to threats with threats. On September 18, General Mohammed Hassan Koussechi responded to American threats in an interview with IRNA news agency: “The Americans are around our country but this does not mean that they are encircling us. They are encircled themselves and are within our range. If the United States is saying that they have identified 2,000 targets in Iran, then what is certain is that it is the Americans who are all around Iran and are equally our targets”. America must set an example of putting down weapons before expecting others (weaker nations) to do the same.
Dr Strangelove showed us that the threat of Doomsday does not work.
Though Brussels is the centre of Europe it seems that Belgium is coming to the realisation that its nationhood is of no use any more because of bickering between Walloon and Flemish politicians.
The Economist points out that Belgians themselves are asking whether or not it is better to split the country down the middle along language lines, and proposes that the Walloon side becomes part of France and the Flemish side part of Holland. If they can not elect a government because of bickering, perhaps the split is a good thing. The Economist Article
The frustration of Belgians is demonstrated by the amusing eBay posting which offered Belgium for sale! “For Sale: Belgium, a Kingdom in three parts … free premium: the king and his court (costs not included).” Read the story on Yahoo News here.
Jean-Pierre Lehmann eloquently describes the opportunity to include Iran in globalisation which would benefit the world, rather than consuming resources needlessly. The benefits include participation of the nation with the fifth largest oil reserves, access to a great world civilisation and a balance to fundamentalist culture. We support his suggestions following:
- Stop treating Iran as a pariah nation;
- Recognize and apologize for the abuses committed in the past, especially during and in the decades following the 1953 coup d’état;
- Engage more non-Western actors in the conflict resolution process in the Middle East, with India potentially playing a key role;
- Lift all economic sanctions against Iran unconditionally, giving strong encouragement for Western businesses to invest in and trade with Iran;
- Provide Iranian executives with management education — and encourage Iranian entrepreneurs to engage with Western markets; and
- Accelerate and intensify Iran’s accession process to the WTO.
If this inclusive approach is not adopted, but rather the aggressive stance of western powers is maintained, the costs of a belligerent middle east will remain and probably increase. Divisiveness in our interdependent world of today has no benefits.
While we have come around to the notion that peace is an appropriate minimum standard of behaviour for developed countries it has never been an easy argument to make in our world today. The difficulty of fighting minds with armaments
George Friedman, eminent strategic analyst, offers a sobering perspective on the fall-out from the American “war on terror”, without having to reveal the awkwardness of embarking upon a virtual objective: to achieve a military victory in a psychological war. The challenge was made more difficult by the complexity and scale of the military objective: to conquer a nation in an unfamiliar part of the world and dictate a completely different social infrastructure and culture. The consequence has been a failure of the military objective, compounded by the terrorising of America by continually bombarding people through media with belligerent language and images of fear, as well as an extraordinary regression of civil liberties.
See Friedman’s piece War, Psychology and Time here. He notes as he sums up:
The effect on the United States is much more profound. The war, both in Iraq and against al Qaeda, has worn the United States down over time. The psychology of fear has been replaced by a psychology of cynicism. The psychology of confidence in war has been replaced by a psychology of helplessness. Exhaustion pervades all.
As various reports on progress in Iraq are discussed by the US administration The Economist offered a briefing on Strategy in Iraq. You may browse Waiting for the general (and a miracle) America agonises over the pitfalls of staying in Iraq – and of leaving. This table sums up the dire situation, and, yet again, underlines the need for a more enlightened approach.