Archive for March, 2011

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Obama Opens Libyan Pandora’s Box

March 29, 2011

President Barack Obama speaks about U.S. and NATO involvement in military action against Libya during a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, DC, March 28, 2011. AFP Photo / Saul LOEB

While hindsight is 20/20, the scope of vision into what lies ahead for Libya is limited at best, making Obama’s decision inevitably controversial.  Limited intervention was decided upon based on the evidence indicating eventual violence against the Libyan people.  President Obama authoritatively stated Monday night, “I refuse to let that happen.”

By only committing the U.S. to protecting lives and not facilitating a regime change, Obama hopes to hold an already fragile U.S. coalition together.  “To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq,” the President said.  “Regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars.  That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.”

Many are opposed to the implementation of a no-fly zone, claiming a drain of resources already spread too thin, while others feel Obama took too long to reach the decision.  In defense, he cited the one-year time frame the international community needed before intervening on the slaughter in Bosnia.

But will Obama’s move with Libya implicitly commit the U.S. to any of the other protests breaking out in the region?  Where do America’s obligations begin and end with facilitating democracy?  Obama noted: “There will be times when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are. Challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security, responding to natural disasters, for example, or preventing genocide…these may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us…In such cases we should not be afraid to act.”

However vague he left his criterion for instigating U.S. intervention in Libya, the President reaffirmed: “Wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States.”

-By Kaeleigh Forsyth, Contributor

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Contagious Unrest Reaches Yemen

March 18, 2011

Girls shout slogans during a rally demanding the ouster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa March 18, 2011. Yemen's beleaguered president declared a state of emergency on Friday after gunmen including snipers shot dead at least 25 protesters at an anti-government rally, but denied his police forces were behind the violence. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Over 50 people have been declared dead and more than 200 have been reported wounded following a March 18 government crackdown on protesters in Sanaa, Yemen.  President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Yemeni National Defense Council have consequently declared a state of emergency, further fanning the flames of the protests nation-wide.

Similar to the recent uprisings in neighboring countries, the driving force behind these Yemen protests was the conspicuous corruption of those in power.  The resignation of President Saleh and his politically empowered relatives is the objective.  Another parallel between the Yemeni rebellion and those in Northern Africa is the apparent lack of unifying factors or collective goals among the protestors beyond the resignation of the government; citizens of all ages, incomes, and levels of political awareness are working together to dismantle the regime.  This may result in obstacles similar to those that Egypt is currently facing—what direction does the country go together after these immediate goals are achieved?

Yemen’s government will use the protests as an opportunity to impose curfews and restrict media access, but these undertakings won’t be any easier than they’ve been elsewhere in the region.  Saleh’s family is so entrenched in all branches of the country’s political structure that a route of civil cooperation or opposition-regime communication doesn’t seem plausible.  The Yemen armed forces also fall under the umbrella of the Saleh family influence, which is already resulting in major factions within the army.  The protests will likely only inflate until Saleh announces his departure.

 

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Hope in the Destruction

March 11, 2011

The earthquakes and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan yesterday were undoubtedly devastating.  But amid the tragedy and destruction, there are things to be grateful for.

The investments in downtown structural engineering that paid off

These swaying skyscrapers give us only an idea about how many lives were saved by Japan’s new judicious building codes.

The persistence of humanity

Photo from AP

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote yesterday:

“Japan’s orderliness and civility often impressed me during my years living in Japan, but never more so than after the Kobe quake. Pretty much the entire port of Kobe was destroyed, with shop windows broken all across the city. I looked all over for a case of looting, or violent jostling over rescue supplies. Finally, I was delighted to find a store owner who told me that he’d been robbed by two men. Somewhat melodramatically, I asked him something like: And were you surprised that fellow Japanese would take advantage of a natural disaster and turn to crime? He looked surprised and responded, as I recall: Who said anything about Japanese. They were foreigners.

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Rising Food and Energy Prices Fueling Unrest in Latin America

March 6, 2011

By Oscar Montealegre

Recently, the World Bank announced that rising food prices throughout the world have reached ‘dangerous levels.’ According to the World Bank, international food prices have increased by 30 percent since February 2009. Even more alarmingly is that it is estimated that oil and metal prices have skyrocketed 100 percent compared to a year ago.

In certain parts of Latin America, citizens have passionately voiced their concerns with rising prices. For instance, in Southern Chile, protestors assembled in opposition against the Chilean government intentions to increase gas prices. Eventually, the Chilean government reached a compromise, agreeing to only increase prices 3 percent, instead of a whopping 16 percent.

Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, had planned to increase gas prices by 73 percent and diesel fuel by 83 percent. This announcement did not go well with the Bolivian people. A five-day national protest resulted, causing a dent to Bolivian commerce, business and daily operations. No resolution or compromise has been reached as of yet.

In Venezuela, food prices are getting out of control, increasing at the tune of almost 40 percent.  In Argentina, independent economists and analysts reported that Argentine wage increases are being diluted with the rapid rise of food prices. To make matters worse, inflation in Argentina reached anywhere between 25 to 30 percent in 2010, with no stabilization in sight for the near future.

The unrest with higher food prices can be seen in other continents. Algeria suffered numerous fatalities due to protests that quickly evolved into violent riots. Just last year Mozambique was jolted with angry protestors fighting against the increase of bread prices, leaving more than ten deaths. In fact, food inflation was one of the many factors that sparked the Egyptian revolution this year.

The lesson for governments in Latin America and others is that food inflation cannot be taken lightly. Obviously, food is a basic necessity, and the humanitarian spirit in me adheres to the notion that food should be a basic right for all of humanity. However if food becomes unaffordable and unattainable, societal unrest is to be expected. For the purpose of Latin America, which is experiencing a positive outlook, it’s economic momentum can easily be derailed if food and energy prices continue to increase without governments making an effort to tame its’ inflation. Just look at what happened to Mubarak and his reign on Egypt.