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Charles Cogan: Former Congo prime minister ousted, not outed, by CIA

On August 12, after a day of visiting rape victims in lovely, lush Kivu Province, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a town meeting of sorts with Congolese students far, far away in the capital, Kinshasa. When one of the students asked her what Mr. Clinton thought, she blew it. It was understandable; she was tired and he is no longer her hierarchical supervisor. Actually, the exchanges had been friendly enough at the beginning but got a little edgy, according to Jeffrey Gettleman of The New York Times, “when several students pushed her on why Congo, whose first prime minister was ousted with the help of the CIA, should now trust the United States. She then became a little prickly.” Mr. Gettleman chose his words wisely. Others have not been so prudent. Prime Minister Lumumba was probably ousted with at least the encouragement of the CIA, but he was not outed. What would you do in the summer of 1960, as Lumumba was bringing in 1,000 Soviets into the country and acting so weird as to persuade Washington officialdom that he was on drugs? What would you do if you were the CIA Chief in the Congo — the late Larry Devlin, a swashbuckling veteran of World War II in Italy, formerly based in Brussels, where he had taken the measure of Lumumba at a conference the year before? What would you do to advise the rival Binza Group, headed by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, whose life Devlin had saved that summer in warning him of impending attacks. You probably would have encouraged him to oust Lumumba, which the Binza Group did in September 1960.

THE BIG QUESTION — August 13, 2009

THE BIG QUESTION is a new multimedia project on the World Policy Blog.

Medvedev's Warning to Ukraine

With the Sochi Riviera to his back, Dmitri Medvedev chides Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko for his administration's anti-Russia policies in a video posted on the Kremlin's website late Tuesday

Caroline Stauffer: “Elections” Risk to Burma’s Marginalized Ethnic Peoples

BANGKOKIn a field cut off from the rest of Thailand by a muddy mountain pass, 1,000 people have been living under thin tarps for the past six weeks, having fled landmines and shelling in their native Myanmar.  The tarps and wood platforms do not protect them from monsoon rains or the mosquitoes that spread malaria around their makeshift villages. Factions of the Karen people have fought for greater autonomy from the country formerly known as Burma for 60 years, but the Karen villagers I spoke with just seem to be caught in the crossfire. In the last few months, the world has turned its focus to the secretive, military-ruled state. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern over Myanmar-North Korea military links at the July Asean Regional Forum.  The state show trial of pro-democracy leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi attracted international media coverage, brought UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to Burma and garnered a new release of the U2 song dedicated to the world’s best known prisoner of conscience. In an apparent gesture to this global clamor, the Nobel Prize-winning leader of the Burmese opposition was given what for the junta was a slap on the wristanother 18 months of detention where she has already spent half of her adult life under house arrest.

Samuel Breidbart and David Schlussel: Climate Diplomacy and the Poor

Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh urged Hillary Clinton to back off on climate change mandates when the two met in New Delhi last month. "There is simply no case for the pressure that we, who have amongst the lowest emissions per capita, face to actually reduce emissions," Ramesh brazenly told the secretary of state. Not quite the Bollywood ending Mrs. Clinton was expecting. Certainly not the ending desired by scientists and policymakers as they look ahead to December's Climate Conference in Copenhagen as a last-chance-dance for a meaningful international accord. But Bret Stephens, the former editor of the Jerusalem Post, sees the Clinton-Ramesh exchange as a perfect outcome for an unsuspecting group: the billions of humans living on less than $2 a day. “The poor told the warming alarmists to get lost," he writes in his August 4 Wall Street Journal column, describing Ramesh's shut down of Clinton, whose climate policy, Stephens believes, will threaten India’s access to the free market.

Frank Spring: Transatlantic Defense for the 21st Century

One week in July, the United States Senate the court of public opinion in the United Kingdom came down against military spending on two fundamental Cold War-era defense policy staples: a sudden and dramatic escalation in air superiority, and nuclear deterrence. Both developments represent a move toward a modern Transatlantic defense posture better suited to the conflicts of the 21st century. The Senate voted 58-40 to cut funding for more F-22 Raptors, signaling an eventual end to the fighter’s role in defense policy. Current budgeting provides for the United States to have 187 active-duty F-22s by the end of 2011, but the Senate vote on July 21 could have provided $1.7 billion for an additional seven F-22s and left the door open for a larger order. Instead, the F-22 will be phased out in favor of the F-35, a cheaper option that provides more flexibility in supporting ground operations, at a cost to its air-to-air capabilities. Several days before and an ocean away, a poll in the United Kingdom showed that more than half of all Britons oppose renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent--the submarine-based Trident missile system. This is further political bad news for embattled Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who, as chancellor, pledged in 2006 to renew Trident (at the time, 51% of those polled supported the measure), and has occasioned a round of calls for the project’s budget—some 20 billion pounds—to be spent on conventional forces.

Jonathan Power: Democracy Gone to Seed?

The confused situation in Honduras, where elected president Manuel Zelaya has been shown the door by the army and the supreme court, and in Iran, where thousands in the street protest an election they view as bogus, are not especially easy to solve with the simple shout: "Obey the rules of democracy." To many across the developing world, it seems that the West once again is being holier than thou. But is democracy such an intrinsic wonder? “Democracy,” wrote historian Norman Davies, in his monumental study Europe, “has few values of its own: it is as good or bad as the principles of the people who operate it. In the hands of liberal and tolerant people, it will produce a liberal and tolerant government; in the hands of cannibals, a government of cannibals. In Germany in 1933-4 it produced a Nazi government because the prevailing culture of Germany’s voters did not give priority to the exclusion of gangsters.” The Nazis, in three out of the five elections they contested, increased both their popular vote and their election of deputies. In time, they became the largest party in the Reichstag. Despite the party’s street violence and the murders of its opponents, the then-chancellor, Franz von Papen, decided to make Hitler chancellor and himself his deputy. Two years later, Hitler called a plebiscite to approve his elevation to the new position of Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor. He gained 90 percent of the vote—a democratic means to facist ends. Maybe Berthold Brecht was right. We have to change the people. Democracy was a Greek idea. But it did not last and was forgotten for some 2,000 years, until Enlightenment thinkers resurrected the idea, blending their classical knowledge with a romanticized image of ancient Athens. But not all were so taken by these new thoughts. De Tocqueville wrote about “the tyranny of the majority.” Edmund Burke called the democracy of the French Revolution “the most shameless thing in the world.”

Kavitha Rajagopalan: China's Architect of the Good Life

I did not know who Ben Wood was when I pulled up the cushy, black barstool at his chic martini bar, DR, in the Shanghai entertainment playland he has built. He immediately set out to educate me. “Let me tell you a crazy story,” he said, leaning into my personal space and draping a thick, soft hand on the nape of my neck. He proceeded to describe, in leisurely tones, how he had stopped for a sandwich at the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Kunming Airport when a man sat down next to him and began smoking a cigarette. He paused for effect. It should be noted that people in China regularly smoke in restaurants, and with little or no concern for the anti-smoking sentiments of their fellow diners. But Wood didn’t like this guy’s nerve. And so, he recounted, he asked the guy to refrain. The smoker continued to chatter away on his cell phone. Incensed, Wood reached over, grabbed the man's wrist, plucked the cigarette from his mouth, and ground it out into the table. The smoker finished his phone call, and then stood up and began screaming. So Wood stood as well, drawing himself up to his full American-built height and thrusting forward his barrel chest, and offered to fight the man. Good thing the guy finally stood down, said Wood. "The poor guy didn’t stand a chance, he was about half my size.” Story completed, masculinity firmly established, Wood leaned back and wrapped his arm around the waist of the indifferent, slender Asian woman smoking and sipping cocktails at his side. Ben Wood is famous here in Shanghai, and increasingly, throughout the world. Once based in Boston, the architect was hand-picked by billionaire Hong Kong developer Vincent Loh to turn the site of the first conference of the Communist Party of China into a capitalist playground for wealthy adults, called Xintiandi, or “New Heaven on Earth.” Wood received only one vote at the board meeting to develop the place, he told me, but that vote was Vincent Loh’s. Six years after its opening, the wildly successful boutiques and cafe district has become the model for similar entertainment complexes all over China. Flanked on all sides by looming glass buildings, investment properties of the likes of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, and the shells of would-be five-star hotels begun but not finished by overeager American-born investors, Xintiandi is a maze of stone pathways, restored traditional shikumen buildings, and European-style plazas. On any given night of the week, leggy models and moneyed expats gather in its bars, restaurants, and cafes, seeing and being seen. With its sleek, packaged, restored historicity, Xintiandi seems like a cross between Colonial Williamsburg and Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. (Colonial Williamsburg was something of a vanity project for the Rockefellers, who “restored” the former colonial capital city to an imagined former glory, replacing hardscrabble vegetable plots with manicured English-style gardens and transforming dank roads festering with sewage and manure into sandy, tree-lined promenades.) This reference is not lost on Wood, as Shanghai and its surrounding cities are rife with new Chinese Rockefellers, who need just a little bit of guidance into how to live the good life, à la Americain. “Shanghai has always been a world city. A world city dormant, asleep for 40 years, and it has just woken up.” And Wood is well-placed to be China's crowing rooster for the pleasures of extreme wealth. On the evening we met, Wood had just returned from signing a lucrative deal for one of these Rockefellers—a power tools magnate, who had asked Wood to design him a private luxury island. Most of China’s billionaires, said Wood, were unschooled in the art of living, staining their teeth with cheap tobacco, pouring cheap cognac down their throats, entertaining themselves with tawdry karaoke parties. But this man, he said, was different. He wanted to know how to live. He had built a successful company, made scads of money, and now he wanted to do something else. Wood was impressed at the man’s interest in self-improvement. But the billionaire in question had never driven a British sports car, ridden in a private plane, or owned a yacht. Heaven forbid. Wood has taken him on as a personal charge. “I’m his lifestyle coach,” he grinned. The following morning, he and his charge would be flying to a yacht show, where he was going to show the man how to select a “real” yacht, not the tacky white plastic abomination he had originally planned to buy. This is, of course, mere philanthropy on Wood’s part. “I already have all these things.” Which things? Well, all of them: the fancy cars, the private planes, the luxury yachts, homes on Martha’s Vineyard and in Shangri-la.

THE INDEX — August 7, 2009

Turkish President Recep

THE BIG QUESTION — August 4, 2009

THE BIG QUESTION is a new multimedia project on the World Policy Blog.

Peter Wilson: A Chávez/Obama Showdown?

Peter WilsonU.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Patrick Duffy resumed his post in Caracas last month after being expelled by President Hugo Chávez in 2008. But he better not unpack his bags just yet. Rising tensions between the two countries are growing again, making a fresh rupture possible. There are two flash points threatening to bring promises of better relations tumbling down. One is Colombia; the other is Chávez's moves against the country's press. Both pose challenges to U.S. president Barack Obama's policy of seeking a less confrontational accommodation with Chávez. Colombia, for now, is drawing most of the attention. Chávez has yet to explain how anti-tank arms acquired by the Venezuelan Armed Forces in 1988 ended up in the hands of Colombia's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Colombia said last week that three of the weapons had been confiscated last year when a FARC camp had been overrun. Colombian officials have repeatedly accused Venezuela of providing assistance to FARC, which is classified by both the U.S. and European community as a terrorist organization. Until now, they lacked a "smoking gun," directly linking Venezuela to the rebel group.

THE INDEX — July 31, 2009

A spokesman of the Nigerian national police on Friday said that "life is back to normal" after Muhammed Yusuf, the leader of the so-called "Nigerian Taliban", was

THE BIG QUESTION — July 30, 2009

THE BIG QUESTION is a new multimedia project on the World Policy Blog.

Jonathan Power: Russia, Europe's Other Half

Read it for yourself, and don’t dismiss it, as most western commentators have. The Pan-European Security Treaty, proposed by Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, is worth a read. Doubtless it can be modified, improved and ambiguities removed. But it makes a lot of sense, and it would be another step forwards to what the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, urged—the creation of a “European house”, that contains Russia as one of its inhabitants. Only those “with one foot in the Cold War,” to quote President Barack Obama on the eve of his recent visit to Moscow, should find it objectionable. Indeed, play down Bolshevism and the Cold War. The moment communism, the Cold War and all its baggage were over, Russia itself quickly revived. This was, after all, a period of only 70 years in Russia’s long history—which began even before Prince Vladimir, its ruler, accepted Orthodox Christianity for himself and for his people a thousand years ago. It is 500 years since Byzantium Orthodoxy handed over the torch of the Church’s leadership to Russia. When Constantine in 326 AD moved the throne of the Roman emperor to Constantinople and took his newly adopted Church with him, the city became the headquarters of the Christian faith and its patriarch. When it was overrun by the Ottomans in 1453, the only place for both the spirit and the headquarters of the Church to move to was Orthodox Russia and the Slavic lands.  The “legitimate Church” was now the heritage of Russia. And 1453 was also the end of the Roman Empire. The consequences for Europe have been immense. The cushion of Orthodoxy in Russia saved Europe from the full impact of the eastern nomads and Islam. A Muslim Russia would have meant a very different history for the West. In 1767, the Empress Catherine categorically stated that “Russia is a European state.” In his ambitious study of Europe, Norman Davies wrote that “Fears of the ‘Bear’ did not prevent the growth of a general consensus regarding Russia’s membership in Europe. This was greatly strengthened in the nineteenth century by Russia’s role in the defeat of Napoleon, and by the magnificent flowering of Russian culture in the age of Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky, and Chekov.” Indeed it is clear that when it comes to the proficiency in all the arts, Russia has no peer in Europe. Even in the worst of times under Soviet totalitarian rule many individual Russians, not only Gorbachev, in their hearts wanted a European identity—not difficult to believe among those who were conscious of the natural links of their country’s artistic talents and their (repressed) Church. The end of the communist dictatorship enabled Russians and many of the other peoples of the former Soviet Union to greet, in Vaclav Havel’s phrase, the “Return to Europe."

Maria Repnikova: Patriotic Eclipse

As much coverage as the recent solar eclipse received in the Chinese and the international media, relatively little attention (if any at all) has been devoted to this occasion as a nationalist spectacle in China. Having observed the eclipse at the Tiananmen Square on Wednesday morning, I was struck by the degree to which the celebration of an astrological event became so interwoven with an apparent celebration of China. On Wednesday morning, July 22, Tiananmen Square, the scene 20 years ago of what's known here as the June Fourth Incident, and elsewhere as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, one of the largest and most violent protests against the communist government, was overrun last weekend by spectators—cosmopolitan but most certainly with the majority still coming from China. For the latest event, however, tour groups, photographers, families, students—all occupied the square in anticipation of a full solar eclipse, which takes place only once every 500 years. The eclipse was scheduled to peak at 9:20 AM, but photos were already being snapped as of 8:30. Mothers brushing their daughters’ hair, young couples, old people in wheel chairs—all ensured that what was happening on the ground was a spectacle worth taking in. Most notable, however, was the number of Chinese flags in the crowds, the marching party youth, and the extent of security personnel present in the Square on that morning. Couples holding hands were holding flags in their spare hands, while posing for photos. Kids raised the flags over their tiny heads, posing for their parents, and even some foreigners held onto the flags in an attempt to better blend into the crowd.

Ruthie Ackerman: Liberia's Difficult Path Toward Reconciliation

Ruthie Ackerman's Rebuilding Liberia, One Brick at a Time was published in the Summer 2009 issue of World Policy Journal. The blog post below addresses recent developments in Liberia, including the trial of former president Charles Taylor at the Hague and the implication of current president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Recently in Liberia, the nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission shocked foreign observers by implicating President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, widely admired in the United States and in the international women's community, in the destructive 14-year civil war. It recommended that she be banned from holding public office for 30 years. The TRC’s final report recommends nearly 100 names for prosecution, including Sirleaf, who, ironically, set up the commission when she took office in 2006, outraging many of her supporters as well as the warlords who took part in the conflict. The TRC believes Sirleaf did not show remorse or give a full account of her involvement with former president Charles Taylor, whose defense has begun at The Hague for war crimes against the citizens of Sierra Leone. In contrast, warlord-turned-preacher Joshua Milton Blahyi, better known as “General Butt Naked,” was judged to show sufficient remorse for killing up to 20,000 people and was left off the TRC’s prosecution list.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Many Liberians are angry at what seems like arbitrary justice. And anger can easily bubble over into violence. The problem is that the peace in Liberia is fragile—for example, sexual violence against women is as high as it was during the war—and the uncertainty and chaos caused by the TRC’s recommendations may foreshadow even more trouble ahead. After the commission recommended that Sirleaf be barred from office at the end of her tenure in 2011, commissioners began receiving death threats. Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson, a former warlord of the rebel group Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia, reportedly warned of violence if there are any attempts to arrest him based on the TRC’s recommendations. Leymah Gbowee—who was recognized with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for her efforts organizing the women’s protests that played a central role in ending the Liberian civil war—says the report has a lot of potential to wreak havoc on the country. But she does not think Sirleaf will step down as president, something her critics are urging her to do. “She’s a fighter and I think she will work through her mandate,” says Gbowee, who is the star of Abigail Disney’s award-winning documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.” “The worst case scenario,” Gbowee believes, “is that as a result of the report she wouldn’t seek a second term.” In order to write its final report, the TRC statement takers traveled around Liberia for three years, hearing the testimony of more than 22,000 people affected by the civil war, which left a quarter of a million dead, millions displaced, and a majority of the women raped. Yet even the commission acknowledges that the public is likely to be disappointed, in expecting “that the TRC will produce a one-size fits all remedy to decades of injustice and violent armed conflict in a neatly bow-tied end product.” The next step is to create a separate human rights commission responsible for implementing all the TRC’s recommendations, including investigating individuals further and following through with prosecutions. Even in the best of circumstances none of this will happen immediately. Nor should it. The TRC act calls for a quarterly report on the progress of the implementation of its recommendations. But they are only recommendations. The commission itself cannot decide if an individual has committed a crime, or even award reparations. That would require a go-ahead from the government, and it is unclear whether the political will exists.



Nauru: A Cautionary Tale 


Vlad Sokhin documents life in Nauru, a tiny, once-wealthy Pacific island where land has been stripped bare and the hulking shells of the phosphate mining industry have been left to rust.

Those the Jasmine Revolution Forgot 


Photographer Nicholas Linn and writer Sam Kimball capture the struggles of the Tunisian underclass following the 2011 Revolution. 

Tough Love: Las Amorasas Más Bravas 


Bénédicte Desrus and Celia Gómez Ramos explore Casa Xochiquetzal, a shelter in Mexico City that allows sex workers to age with dignity.

Iran's House of Strength 


Jeremy Suyker penetrates the tight-knit community of zurkhanehs, traditional rooms for training warriors dating back to the Persian Empire, and the modern efforts to preserve this Iranian cultural heritage. 


Bolshoi Babylon 


Director Nick Read examines the dysfunction that led to an attack on Sergei Filin, artistic director of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, before Russian President Putin stepped in to restructure the Bolshoi’s leadership.



When the Senate Worked for Us:
New book offers untold stories of how activist staffers countered corporate lobbies in the U.S.

Are the U.S. and China on a collision course?
Get the facts from Amitai Etzioni in “Avoiding War with China.”

MA in International Policy and Development
Middlebury Institute (Monterey, CA): Put theory into practice through client-based coursework. Apply by Nov. 30.


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