Page 1

american foreign policy March 2012

Volume XI, Issue IV

From the Editor-in-Chief

Staff Editor-in-Chief Adam Safadi ‘14

Dear Readers,

Publisher George Maliha ‘13

This year is shaping up to be particularly significant year in terms of elections around the world. In the United States, President Obama has begun airing ads attacking the Republican field. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is ardently defending his economic record in light of France losing its AAA credit rating. Senegal’s president is refusing to give up his seat as his term draws to an end. Also, on the one-year anniversary of the Arab Spring, new governments have finally taken power across the Middle East. As these governments begin to form, it is important for them to develop a system that balances popular representation with functioning democracy. In our cover article, Rahul Subramanian suggests that the most effective government in the Middle East has been that of Turkey. He argues that the Turkish government is a prime example of a secular democracy that arose from an Islamic history. Toward the end of the issue, Jared Isenstein takes a somewhat contrary perspective, contending the Turkish Government does not identify itself much with the West and has drifted to more radical Islamism in recent years. Brennan Robbins explicates the ongoing crisis in Syria, asserting that the United States needs to identify the actors more carefully before determining the course of action to be taken. Regina Wang reviews the current U.S. policies toward Iran. According to her, the current hostile nature of the U.S. and the repeated sanctioning of Iran are counterproductive and we should instead focus on direct negotiations. Launa Greer depicts the recent attacks in Nigeria by Boko Haram and provides an analysis of how to create an effective long-term policy to end ethnic conflict in Nigeria. George Maliha turns our attention to the floundering Russia, arguing that it is critical that the United States provide assistance to the nation lest China solidify its power in states formerly supported by Russia. Finally, Alan Hatfield discusses Myanmar’s emergence in the global sphere, a process which is hindered by continued ethnic conflicts. Going forward, AFP plans on conducting monthly interviews with foreign policy officials. Look for these starting in our next issue!

Sincerely, Adam Safadi Editor-in-Chief

Managing Editors Rachel Webb ‘14 Sunny Jeon ‘14 Joanne Im ‘15 Rahul Subramanian ‘15 Editors Yun Chung Sweta Haldar Jim Hao Natalie Kim Charlie Metzger Jay Parikh Peter Wang Matt Arons Kristie Liao Jonathan Lin Andres Perez-Benzo Christiana Renfro Daniel Toker

‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13

Emily VanderLinden

Audrye Wong Amy Gopinathan Valarie Hansen Jared Isenstein Suchi Mandavilli Simon Segert Conleigh Byers Monica Chon Ryan Low Zach Ogle David Zhao

‘13 ‘13 ‘14 ‘14 ‘14 ‘14 ‘14 ‘15 ‘15 ‘15 ‘15 ‘15


Joe Margolies ‘15 Production Manager Kim Hopewell Amy Gopinathan Kathryn Moore

‘13 Mia Rifai ‘14 Sam Watters ‘15 David Zhao

‘15 ‘15 ‘15

Copy Editors Christina Henricks ‘13 Ben Kotopka ‘13 Editors-in-Chief Emeriti Ben Cogan ‘12 Taman Narayan ‘13

American Foreign Policy is a student-written, student-run publication based at Princeton University. It was founded in the wake of September 11th to provide Princeton students with a forum to discuss the difficult problems and choices facing the United States in the world. American Foreign Policy magazine is sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. No part of this publication should be construed to promote any pending legislation or to support any candidate for office. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Woodrow Wilson School, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the James Madison Program, Princeton University, or American Foreign Policy. AFP gladly accepts letters to the editor, article proposals, and donations, which are fully tax-deductible. This publication endeavors to use all Creative Commons licensed images. Please contact AFP if you feel any rights have been infringed. All correspondence may be directed to: American Foreign Policy, 3611 Frist Center, Princeton, NJ 08544


Business Staff

Kimberly Hopewell ‘13

Zara Mannan ‘13

AFP Advisory Board

Wolfgang Danspeckgruber: Director, Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination Robert P. George: Director, James Madison Program G. John Ikenberry: Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs Christina Paxson: Dean, Woodrow Wilson School

American Foreign Policy

AFP Cover Story

A merican F oreign P olicy March 2012 Volume XI, Issue IV

ta b l e o f co n t e n ts


Democracy in the Middle East Turkey as a Model for Emerging Governments Rahul Subramanian ‘15


Few Good Options The Next Step for Syria Brennan Robbins ‘14


AFP Quiz


Adam Safadi ‘14

Sanctions on Progress Facing the Prospects of a Nuclear Iran Regina Wang ‘14


Global Update


Striking a Balance The Rise of Nigeria’s Boko Haram Launa Greer ‘14


China’s Lengthening Shadow Bolstering an Ailing Russia George Maliha ‘13


In Context


Onto the Global Stage Myanmar’s Newfound Confidence Alan Hatfield ‘15


East or West Creating a Turkish Identity Jared Isenstein ‘14

Joanne Im‘15

Rahul Subramanian ‘15

Photo Credits:,,

March 2012

Cover Image by Joe Margolies ‘15


Middle East

Democracy in the Middle East Applying the Turkish Model of Government


n February 9, 2012, the largest party in the Egyptian Parliament, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Development Party, called for the dissolution of the current transition government backed by the Egyptian military following the death of over 70 Egyptians during a February 1 riot at a soccer match, which the Brotherhood cited as evidence of the government’s failure to provide security. The bitter nature of this dispute highlights the growing discord and sense of disillusionment seeping through Egypt and, to a varying extent, other newly emerging democracies in the Arab world as the metaphorical “spring” of democratic resurgence gives way to a “winter” of despondency. A host of challenges confront these new governments including heavily-entrenched militaries, widespread poverty and unemployment, as well as the possible rise of fundamentalist Islam. In addition, many Americans have begun to question the impact of the “Arab Spring” on U.S. policy in the region as “loyal” autocrats give way to democratic regimes whose future relationships with


Rahul Subramanian ‘15

the United States remain unclear. However, Turkey’s tumultuous transition into a secular democracy with significant Islamic political inf luences serves as a beacon of hope for these newly empowered nations. Turkey’s political model blending moderate Political Islam with economic liberalism could represent a model for democracies emerging from the turmoil of the Arab Spring and significantly enhance American inf luence in the region. In 2002, the moderate Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Istanbul mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept to power. The AKP embraced economic reforms that opened up Turkey’s economy to foreign and private investment, breaking up the state’s control over major industries. Erdogan also ushered in a series of constitutional reforms to protect the rights of prisoners and journalists, ensure religious freedom, and reined in the power of the military Kemalist judiciary that dominated Turkish society since the country’s founding following the First World War. Erdogan’s actions helped cement civilian control over the military and strengthened the power of Turkey’s elected government.

American Foreign Policy

Amnesty Rally in support of Arab Spring. Photo from flickr.

Turkey’s success could make it a model for the nations involved in the Arab Spring. Tunisia would likely stand the best chance of successfully implementing Turkish-style reforms, given its relative economic prosperity, the emergence of a moderate Islamist party, Enhada, which views the AKP as its mentor and possess a history of adopting moderate positions, as well as a strong tradition of secular thought and a powerful liberal lobby. With the right guidance and resources, a relatively impoverished Egypt could also follow Turkey’s path. While the emergence of the fundamentalist Salafi party al-Nour and the failure of new secular parties to organize themselves remain causes for concern, the Muslim Brotherhood’s moderate platform and willingness to form a coalition with secular parties remains promising. Turkey stands out as an example of a secular democracy with an Islamic heritage, a model Tunisia and Egypt could follow. The AKP’s ability to appeal to voters’ desire for a government acknowledging Islamic values while ensuring a separation between religion and politics represents a possible method in which moderate Islamic political movements can provide their populations with the freedoms often attributed to Western society and the values of an Islamic one. Furthermore,

the AKP’s excellent record of economic development and liberalization provides a blueprint for how the economic integration of Middle Eastern nations can lead to prosperity for their citizens. Finally, the emergence of Turkey illustrates the necessity of establishing civilian control of the military. Politicians in countries such as Egypt, where the military continues to play an overbearing role in the transition to democracy, will likely take note of the techniques used by Erdogan to curb the once all-mighty Turkish military. Clearly, Turkey’s prominence as a democratic, prosperous Middle Eastern power serves as a beacon of hope for newly emerging democracies. While Turkey presents a good model in some regards for newly emergent democracies to follow, any country that seeks to emulate the AKP’s success should avoid the pitfalls of the Erdogan regime. In particular, countries should beware of restricting journalistic freedom. In spite of his promises, Erdogan failed to protect the rights of Turkish journalists to question their government. In addition, Turkey’s record on securing rights for ethnic minorities remains abysmal. In spite of Erdogan’s reforms, Kurds remain largely marginalized in Turkish society, fueling the newly resurgent PKK insurgency. Countries with large ethnic or religious minorities such as Egypt, whose Coptic Christian minority has been involved in clashes with Muslims and security forces in recent months following the fall of the Mubarak regime, should refrain from emulating the Turkish model in this regard. Furthermore, the lack of significant political movements opposed to the AKP poses additional concerns for those who view Turkey as a model for future democracies. The Kemalist opposition remains in disrepute due to its prior corruption and reliance on the military for support. Until a viable opposition party manages to check the power of the AKP, Turkey cannot be classified as the true multi-party democracy it proclaims itself to be. The emergence of democracy in Middle East raises concerns regarding the effect of the Arab Spring on U.S. power and inf luence in the Middle East. Many pessimists argue that the

Middle East

replacement of “reliable” autocrats such as Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia with potentially “unfriendly” democracies will cripple U.S. power in the region. This line of thinking has shaped U.S. policy in the region dating back to the Cold War. In 1951, the democratically-elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, attempted to nationalize Iranian oil wells. Fearing that Mossadegh could threaten U.S. economic interests, the U.S. backed a military coup that overthrew Mossadegh in 1953 and restored the Shah. This action fueled a deep-seated mistrust of the U.S. among the Iranian public, causing the power of the secular, democratic opposition to be co-opted by fundamentalists. The Mossadegh debacle illustrates that the longer a dictatorship remains in power, the harder it will be for a democratic, moderate opposition to take control. When political dissent is repressed, Islamic groups become an outlet for political expression, a key example being the prominence of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood under the Mubarak regime. Cleary, the United States should embrace efforts by the citizens of Middle Eastern countries to establish democracies of their own. While U.S. support for dictatorships yields devastating results for U.S. hegemony, the emergence of democracy in the region will greatly enhance U.S. inf luence in the region by promoting economic liberalization and international humanitarian involvement. The dictatorships overthrown in the Arab Spring utilized cumbersome, closed, state-run economies which they associated with a secular, socialist state. The vast majority of citizens developed a distaste for both; thus, like the AKP, most moderate Islamic parties strongly support the free market. Should these countries open up their economies to foreign investment, the United States and its allies will obtain considerable economic benefits as attested by Turkey’s significant trade with the West. Furthermore, significant economic inf luence in a democracy yields far greater hegemony than military aid to a dictatorship. While dictatorships can simply request assistance from another power in lieu of a loss of funds, economic realities can-

March 2012

not be altered overnight, as evidenced by the significant inf luence exerted by Chinese economic investment in the U.S. against the debatable leverage of U.S. aid to Pakistan. In addition, democracies may prove more supportive of more idealistic objectives such as human rights preservation or genocide prevention. Popular support for idealistic endeavors can force democracies to act where dictatorships may have lain dormant. For instance, public outrage prompted Erdogan to call for Gadhafi’s resignation and that of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in spite of strong economic ties. Clearly, democratic regimes will enhance long-run inf luence in the region of the United States far more effectively than any autocracy. Turkey’s progress makes it a model for the emerging democracies of the Arab Spring to follow that would meet the needs of their citizens and enhance the inf luence of the United States. Most newly empowered nations such as Egypt and Tunisia will likely adapt aspects of the Turkish to suite their own respective circumstances. Turkey’s ability to blend Islamic values with a secular democracy, embrace of free-market principles, and success in establishing civilian control over military forces represent positive aspects of a democracy that emerging democracies would do well to emulate. While certain aspects of the Turkish model such as restrictions journalistic freedom and minority rights remain areas of concern, Turkey nevertheless represents the premier example of a stable, functioning democracy in the Middle East. The progress made by the emerging democracies in the year since the Arab Spring bodes well for the United States, whose economic inf luence will increase on the heels of economic liberalization should they succeed in their quest. Instead of lending its support to increasingly doomed, irrelevant autocracies, the world’s oldest democracy should lend its support to the word’s newest democracies as they secure the benefits of liberty and prosperity for their citizens. Afp Rahul may be reached at


Middle East

Soldier in Syria. Photo from

Few Good Options The Next Step for Syria


ver the past year, the government of Bashar al-Assad has murdered thousands of Syrian civilians. Snipers on rooftops shot demonstrators and those who tried to help the wounded. Armored tank columns lay siege to cities controlled by badly outgunned local rebel groups. The situation appears to be headed towards a civil war. Approximately two-thirds of the Syrian Army reserves have failed to report to duty, while 75 percent of the Syrian Army that has reported for duty appears to be confined to barracks for fear that many units could fall apart if forced to fire on civilians. Security units with ethnic allegiances to the Assad family direct much of the government’s response, and the Assad regime, an ostensibly Syrian nationalist regime that is dominated by the minority Shia Alawi sect, has armed Alawi Shia communities near the Lebanese border. Iran and Hezbollah have moved to back the Syrian regime as Sunni Arab states appear to be arming the rebels. After a mild UN resolution was vetoed by China and Russia, the Assad regime has only strengthened its attacks. American policy-makers have expressed outrage at the Syrian regime but are rightly concerned that the options at the U.S.’s disposal are unappealing. No-fly zones, additional sanc-


Brennan Robbins ‘14 tions targeted at the high levels of the regime, direct military intervention by Western forces, intervention by Turkey and Gulf States, creation of safe zones within Syria for refugees, and increased arms sales to the fledgling Free Syrian Army (FSA) have all been proposed as possible responses to the escalation in violence, but each approach has serious drawbacks. For the U.S., the ideal course of action is one that reduces violence within the country and allows for a stable and less murderous, if not democratic, Syrian government. The ideal course of action would also not significantly alienate Russia or China, destabilize neighboring regimes, or involve a significant U.S. combat role. Unfortunately, no course of action is likely to meet all of these parameters. In this article, I hope to describe some of the unknown variables that could complicate military and diplomatic solutions. Many of the ideas that have been proposed as “prescriptions” for the violence in Syria might very well make the situation worse. The conflict in Syria is highly dynamic and complex, and while the status quo is a humanitarian disaster, there may be no politically feasible and effective way to intervene. Before a course of action can be pursued in Syria, the U.S. needs to get a better sense of who actually composes the opposition to Bashar-al

American Foreign Policy

Assad. Though this opposition clearly exists, it can hardly be described as unified. The primary military opposition to the regime seems to be the FSA (Free Syrian Army) – a very loose coalition of military defectors. Complicating matters is the recent creation of another armed group – the High Syrian Council for the Liberation of Syria – by an army general who also recently defected. The presence of the Syrian National Council, a partially recognized shadow government that seems to have some disagreements with the FSA, further obscures this picture. Ethnically, the military opposition seems to be comprised of mostly Sunni Arabs, who constitute about 66 percent of Syria’s population. President Assad may force other minority groups to pick sides by escalating military action and inviting ethnic conflict. Christians (10 percent of population), Kurds (another 10 percent of the population), and other minority groups in Syria may be persuaded to align themselves with Assad if they feel the opposition takes on too much of a Sunni-Islamic character, or if they worry that Assad will punish them for remaining neutral. Iran and Hezbollah are already offering assistance to their political ally and fellow Shia, Assad, as other Gulf States arm the Sunni opposition. Even if demonstrations against the regime began as a religiously diverse affair, intensifying conflict could lead to a situation in which religious minorities seek the Assad regime’s protection, leading to a violent sectarian conflict. Perhaps the greatest question about the

Syrian opposition, however, is the extent to which it is comprised of religious extremists. President Assad, in a feeble attempt to justify his tremendous crimes, has tried to paint the entire opposition movement as a combination of criminals and Al-Qaeda fighters – a very inaccurate portrait. There are legitimate concerns, however, especially after elections in Egypt led to great success for Salafi parties, that rebellion against secular dictatorial regimes may eventually empower religious extremist groups. In Syria, Liberal opponents of the Assad regime have expressed concern at the overuse of Islamic rhetoric by the opposition. According to one liberal opposition figure, Kamal al-Labwani, quoted by Reuters, “The bloody repression has given the opportunity for clerics to pump Jihadist Islamist values into the street.” Even if the vast majority of opponents of the regime do not espouse a radical Islamic ideology, most plans that do not involve direct intervention by foreign states will rely on arming Syrian groups. The U.S. needs to be careful about whom it arms and also be wary of sending weapons to non-state actors in the region in general, because these weapons could later be sold to or captured by radical groups. The efficacy of arming Syrian resistance forces, creating safe zones for Syrian refugees and rebels, or enforcing a no-fly zone will depend in part on the strength and loyalty of Syria’s military. Many Syrian troops have already defected, while an estimated two-thirds of the Syrian reserves have not shown up for duty. For all the cracks in the Syrian military apparatus however, some believe a limited air operation is still unlikely to succeed. Syria’s military is likely strong enough that a no-fly zone will not be powerful enough to shift the tide towards the rebels. Unlike Libya, Syria does not depend on air power and most of the violence is concentrated in urban areas: thus an aerial campaign would risk many civilian casualties. Furthermore, Syrian anti-aircraft capabilities are formidable, and the disorganization of the FSA would inhibit it from disabiling them on the ground. Others have argued that Turkey and/or the Gulf States could effectively enforce a no-fly zone in Syria and help to create safe havens for the Syrian resistance to congregate. A virtue of such an approach is that it would not foster the type of “clash of civilizations” or “imperialist” rhetoric that might accompany a U.S. or European-led intervention. Nonetheless, the extent to which major Turkish interference in an Arab country would be accepted in the Arab world seems unclear. Moreover, a foreign Sunni alliance of Turkey and the Gulf States against the

Middle East

Iranian-backed Assad regime might encourage a broader ethno-religious conflict between Sunni and Shia forces. Another problem with a limited intervention is the possibility of a long and draw-out civil war. A more forceful invasion of ground troops might initially cause a large number of casualties, but would probably end the conflict more quickly than a Syrian rebel army could. That said, no nation is ready to commit significant ground forces to Syria at this time. The situation in Syria certainly demands action, but the options at the disposal of the U.S. are no better than the status quo. Creative diplomacy with Russia and China might yield an unexpected result, but those nations opposed a resolution that called for the resignation of President Assad, the withdrawal of military forces from towns, and the formation of a transitional Syrian government, but made no mention of military action. If the U.S. cannot obtain Russian and Chinese condemnation of the Syrian regime, the U.S. will almost certainly not obtain Russian and Chinese support for the use of force in Syria. Some argue that Russia may be willing to back a resolution against Syria if Russia was guaranteed the use of the Tarsus port in a postAssad Syria. China, in turn, may not be willing to veto without Russian cover. Even if Russia and China were to back a resolution similar to the one that they previously vetoed, though, it is not clear how much the situation in Syria would change, as neither nation is very likely to support military action in Syria. Perhaps the Arab League and Western nations could actively support Syrian rebel groups and create no-fly zones in Syria without the support of the UN, but such an action would likely infuriate Russia and China. A unilateral action in Syria without the support of the UN Security Council could be quite damaging to U.S. interests in a number of other areas in which Chinese and Russian cooperation (Iran’s nuclear program, for instance) is necessary. While the status quo in Syria is untenable, the US should be careful to ensure that any intervention does not help radical groups to sweep into power, cause a protracted and bloody civil war, foment ethno-religious conflict in the region, nor badly damage relations with Russia and China. As bad as the situation is at present, even a limited military intervention in Syria might make the situation far worse or greatly damage critical diplomatic relationships. Afp Brennan may be reached at

March 2012

AFP Quiz Multiple Choice Monthly Adam Safadi ‘14 1. On what day will the verdict for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak be announced? A. 5 May B. 2 June C. 14 July D. 25 April 2. Against requests from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, China is continuing its process of repatriating how many North Korean refugees? A. 12 B. 51 C. 30 D. 124 3. A temple of which ancient civilization collapsed in February due to drought conditions? A. Maya B. Ancient Egypt C. Ancient Greece D. Inca 4. Which currency recently hit a sevenmonth low against the U.S. dollar after the central bank of that nation announced various stimulus measures? A. Euro B. Rubles C. Australian Dollar D. Yen 5. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez travelled last month to which country to receive cancer treatment? A. United States B. Switzerland C. Cuba D. Canada


Middle East

Sanctions on Progress Facing the Prospects of a Nuclear Iran Regina Wang‘14


n recent years, Iran’s nuclear program has received continuous coverage by the media, following a trend of failed negotiations and increased sanctions. This histor y of unsuccessful engagements between Iran and Western nations has resulted from mistrust on all sides, especially a Western suspicion that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. While a nuclear-armed Iran will certainly disturb the Middle East and ultimately the world, the mistrust and punitive nature of current U.S. interactions with Iran actually prove counterproductive and provide disincentives for Iran to cooperate. Iran’s nuclear program first started in the 1960s under the Shah and was abandoned in 1979. The most recent efforts at nuclear enrichment started in 2006 after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. While the Bush administration failed to engage with, or even officially acknowledge, Iran’s government with war hawks in the administration led by Vice President Dick Cheney pushing for aggressive measures including air strikes, President Obama started off his term with efforts to diplomatically engage with Iran. In late 2009, after the U.S., UK, and

“The intention of the sanctions is to drive Iran to the negotiation table and possibly buy time for a regime change that would bring rise to more moderate leadership.” 8

France announced the existence of a secret underground plant near Qom, negotiations began between Iran, the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany. Iran initially agreed to export most of its enriched uranium for processing, but eventually rejected the deal. By the next Februar y, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced extensive evidence of efforts by Iran to develop a nuclear warhead, and in November 2011, a United Nations weapons inspectors’ report presented new evidence of Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear device. In response to the November report, the United States and other Western powers announced coordinated sanctions targeting Iran’s central and commercial banks while falling short of a complete cutoff. While failing to formally sanction Iran’s central bank, a move that would cut off all foreign banks that did business with Iran’s central bank from the US market, the U.S. did not rule out the possibility and labeled Iran’s banking system as a “primar y money laundering concern” in an effort to deter foreign banks from conducting business with it. U.S. delegations visited Iran’s major customers and rival oil suppliers to discourage purchasing of Iran’s oil; Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil producers assured Japan, South Korea, and China they would make up the difference if the Asian nations limited oil purchases from Iran. However, analysts warned that these replacements would be temporar y as rival countries could only maintain increased output for a short time, and the ensuing rise in oil prices would threaten the global economy. While the sanctions have been directed at Iran, they also function to reduce the risk of a militar y

American Foreign Policy

“Any military option, from air strikes to an even riskier invasion, comes with serious risks, including a full-blown war if Iran decides to retaliate against U.S. troops or allies.” strike, especially by Israel. While Israel has publicly announced several times that plans to strike Iran are far-off, it has also issued warnings about the need to stop Iran’s nuclear program, and it now tentatively awaits the results of increasingly strict sanctions. These sanctions have provoked a mixed response from Iran. Some of the responses has been promising: this Januar y, Iran expressed willingness to resume talks with the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany, suggesting that the sanctions may have had a positive effect.. Nonetheless, Iran has overall proved defiant with a renewed determination to proceed with its nuclear strategy. In early Januar y, it announced plans to begin production at the enrichment site near Qom. Buried deep underground and welldefended, this new site would be more resistant to air strikes than the existing enrichment site at Natanz, and this facility, once operational, will prove much harder to destroy. Iran has also threatened to block shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil transit point, in response to an embargo on Iranian petroleum products. The U.S. has warned Iran that closing the Strait would cross a “red line” and result in a militar y response by the U.S., but the closing seems unlikely since Iran lacks the militar y capacity to close the Strait for more than a few days and would devastate its own economy in doing so for any longer. Thus far, the policy of increasingly tight sanctions has prevailed

Middle East

Nova Tankers A/S and Frontline, with a combined 93 vessels, said Feb. 9 and 11 they won’t ship Iranian crude. Photo Courtesy of Frontline Ltd. via Bloomberg.

over militar y operations and more intense efforts at diplomacy. On Februar y 6, the Obama administration continued to tighten sanctions with new warnings to foreign financial institutions of the consequences of continuing business with Iran’s central bank and a freeze on property of Iran’s Central bank, government and other financial institutions. The intention of the sanctions is to drive Iran to the negotiation table and possibly buy time for a regime change that would bring rise to a more moderate leadership. Iran, however, has endured some form of sanctions throughout the past 30 years, and it has demonstrated its ability to enforce austerity during tight times. While tight sanctions will certainly put pressure on the Iranian government, they will also put pressure on the Iranian people, and may push them to rally around the government and its nuclear program. Nonetheless, sanctions ser ve as a more moderate option that pressures the Iranian government without resorting to the militar y action. Long pushed by Israel and hawks within the U.S., any militar y

option, from air strikes to an even riskier invasion, comes with serious risks, including a full-blown war if Iran decides to retaliate against U.S. troops or allies. The militar y option would certainly increase tension in the already volatile Middle East, and encourage the people to rally around the government and against the United States. Compared to the militar y option, sanctions involve much fewer risks. While their immediate effect right now is uncertain, they may in the long run actually turn Iranians against their government and result in an revolution favorable to the U.S. Ultimately, the net effect of sanctions is unclear: they may be buying more time for the U.S. and other countries to negotiate with Iran and hope for internal change, or they may be buying more time for Iran to continue construction of nuclear facilities while rallying the people against Western countries. While less alienating than a direct attack, sanctions alone will not engage the Iranian government or its people, which makes Iran’s willingness to negotiate all the more crucial. When the U.S. and Iran do engage in negotiations,

March 2012

the U.S. should not only use threats and warnings to influence Iran’s policies, as the histor y of threats and sanctions has shown little progress. Instead, the U.S. should remind Iran of the benefits of transparency and flexibility, including support for the current regime and openness to continued nuclear research and technology in Iran. The best option would be to allow Iran the knowledge and technology to build a nuclear weapon while demanding Iranian transparency to assure the world that no such weapon is in construction. The Iranian government could save face after years of defiant resistance of UN regulations, and a new dialogue would be predicated on a relationship of trust and openness rather than suspicion and deceit. While the U.S. and other nations have attempted to use sanctions to influence Iran’s nuclear program, it is time now to stop viewing Iran as an enemy but instead as a nation with which we need to make serious negotiations and compromises. Afp Regina may be reached at


A: Still stuck in the sovereign

debt crisis, GREECE passes new austerity measures which includes a 22% cut in the minimum wage to appease creditors.


After the burning of four copies of the Koran, demonstrations erupt all over AFGHANISTAN, prompting President Obama to issue a public apology.

G: Intense rains and severe flood- H: Ethnic clashes have arisen in

ing in BOLIVIA cause the govern- LIBYA’s southwest province of alment to declare a state of emergency. Kufra, which poses a challenge for the government to maintain control of the various militias vying for power in the country.


American Foreign Policy

C: In EGYPT, former President

Hosni Mubarak pleads innocent in the murder of protestors during the uprising last year.


diplomat and Major General Shavendra Silva from participating as the Asian representative on a peacekeeping committee.

D: The EU imposes an oil embar- E: A conference of world leaders

F: A growing movement in AR-

J: Mass protests break out in SPAIN K: The UN names former Secre-

L: President Abdoulaye Wade of

go on IRAN in response to concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. Fears over a potential war with Iran have been pushing up oil futures as investors consider the possibility of oil supply disruptions.

over the government’s attempts to reform the labor market which the trade unions claim will erode workers rights.

pledges to increase efforts to combat terrorism and political instability in SOMALIA, releasing a seven-point plan promising more humanitarian aid and better international coordination.

tary-General Kofi Annan the special envoy to SYRIA in an effort to mitigate the violence that has arisen in past months.

March 2012

GENTINA is questioning the government’s efforts to obtain the Falkland Islands from the British, urging the government to allow the island’s residents to decide the issue.

SENEGAL is refusing to abdicate power and is currently seeking an illegal third term despite his age and ailing health.



Striking a Balance The Rise of Nigeria’s Boko Haram


or the past six months, the violent Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has devastated northern Nigeria and the nation’s capital, Abuja, in a wave of increasingly sophisticated terrorist attacks targeting Christian and governmental centers. Last August, a suicide bomber crashed his station wagon into the United Nations headquarters in Abuja and detonated 125 kg of explosives, which killed 38 people and completely obliterated the facility. On Christmas Day, members of Boko Haram bombed churches in Abuja and the northeastern city of Damaturu, killing 39. This January, 180 died in a series of bombings that targeted eight governmental security buildings in Kano, a major political and religious center. In total, the group has killed nearly 550 people in 115 separate instances over the past year and roughly 1,000 people since its founding in 2002. In response to these repeated attacks, President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in the hardest-hit northern states. Yet, while sending ground troops to seal off borders, make searches and arrests, and conduct counter-terrorism operations serves a vital purpose in protecting Nigerians and preventing new attacks, it may not be enough to stem the group’s recruitment of foot soldiers. To effectively uproot the radical sect, one must understand the complex factors that have contributed to its rise and, in the words of Jonathan, “cancerous” growth. Of course, constructing a narrative of Boko Haram’s growth presents an enormous challenge for intelligence agents, security officials, and social scientists. How should one describe it? As a group driven by religious fanaticism in a region rife with sectarian conflict? As the inevitable byproduct of a society plagued by high rates of poverty and unemployment? Or as the failure of a state with a poor human rights record, struggling with internal corruption and unable to remedy economic inequality? The answers that officials give for these various questions are extremely important because they create frameworks in which to view the conflict as a whole. These frameworks then affect what specific public policies


Launa Greer ‘14 the president and legislature advance—leading Nigeria to concentrate its financial resources in job creation versus the public promotion of religious tolerance, for example. In addition, emphasizing certain factors like religious conflict when telling the narrative of Boko Haram might affect how the public perceives the group’s violent assaults and thus, how it responds to the group’s attacks. Because the country is divided among a majority Muslim north (50%) and majority Christian south (40%), describing Boko Haram in terms of religious divisions, especially when attacks are geared towards Christians, could spark retaliatory killings of innocent Muslims. The leader of the Christian Association of Nigeria has already warned that if the government fails to protect the Christian community, Christians “will be left with no other option than to respond appropriately if there are any further attacks on [their] members, churches and property.” Creating effective long-term public policy requires understanding how religion, poverty, and politics work, both individually and in unison. Although Boko Haram’s rise is fueled by Islamic extremism, that extremism is, in many ways, a response to state corruption and high levels of poverty and unemployment. Ten years ago in Maiduguri, the capital of the Borno state in northern Nigeria, a group of ethnic Hausa-Fulani Muslims formed the radical sect Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’ awaiti Wal-Jihad—“People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” Its founder, Mohammad Yusuf, preached that Western education, or boko in the Hausa language, was responsible for the region’s poverty and suffering. He then went further by declaring that boko, which also means “foreign,” was strictly forbidden, or haram, according to the Koran. Locals informally referred to the group as the “Taliban,” but the name Boko Haram soon stuck. Yusuf built an Islamic school and mosque and quickly gained a following of unemployed and disheartened young men. Initially, he appeared to be a peaceful leader, but his verbal assaults on the government and hints that the group was stockpiling weapons soon became a

American Foreign Policy

source of alarm for authorities. In 2009, police attacked Boko Haram’s central mosque. Members retaliated by destroying a police station in Bauchi, which triggered a five-day uprising that spread across the north to Maiduguri and killed nearly 800. Amid the chaos, security forces shelled Boko Haram’s headquarters and captured the 39-year-old Yusuf, whom they found hiding with relatives. The army placed him in police custody, where he was interrogated on video and then shot. After quelling the violence, officials assured the public that the violent group had been eliminated.They were wrong. Since its founders’ death, Boko Haram has regrouped under a new unknown authority and, as previously discussed, targeted churches and governmental centers for terrorist attacks. The group’s demands include: the release of arrested members, the expulsion of Christians from the majority Muslim north, and the enactment of sharia law across the whole country—despite the fact that 12 northern states have already adopted sharia. Their demand for sharia stems from a belief that Islamic governments like the Caliphate that preceded their current democratic government would uphold the Islamic tenet of Zakat, or sharing of wealth, and thus reduce economic and social inequality. Spokesperson Abu Qaqa, whose name is a pseudonym, has said in media interviews that “the secular state…is responsible for the woes we are seeing today.” “People should understand that we are not saying we have to rule Nigeria, but we have been motivated by the stark injustice in the land,” he said. “People underrate us but we have our sights set on [bringing sharia to] the whole world, not just Nigeria.” While Boko Haram’s extremist ideology is alarming, the greater threat at this point is the increasingly sophisticated and unpredictable nature of the group’s terrorist attacks. Its evolution from petrol bombs and isolated drive-by shootings on motorbikes to large-scale coordinated bombings suggests that members have received technical support from an established terrorist group like al-Qaeda. Officials estimate that a handful of Boko Haram’s leaders have received explosives training outside Nigeria through the North Africa-based al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM). Boko Haram has explicitly stated that the two organizations are one in spirit. In a press release, Qaqa said: “We are together with al Qaeda. They are promoting the cause of Islam, just like we are doing. Therefore, they help us

in our struggle, and we help them, too.” In two video tapes released to the public last month, spokesperson Abubakar Shekau told Nigerian Christians and the president to repent or be destroyed. “In America, from President Bush to Obama, Americans have always been fighting and destroying Islam,” he said, posed in front of two AK-47 rifles in a scene reminiscent of Osama bin Laden. “They have tagged us as terrorists and they are paying for it. It is the same in Nigeria, and we will resist.” Judging from Boko Haram’s statements and suspected collaboration with al-Qaeda, one might categorize its violence as stemming from religious fanaticism and then link it to the broader global jihad. Although fairly accurate, this assessment nevertheless presents an incomplete picture of the group. Boko Haram discusses global jihad, yet so far, its activities have only addressed domestic concerns. Furthermore, media report that Boko Haram’s foot soldiers are not religiously-minded, but rather, poor and unemployed. Many join the group to receive money, food, and a sense of purpose and belonging. Thus, while religious motivations have certainly led the group to issue violent ultimatums toward Christians and Muslims who do not share its extremist viewpoints, in this case, they should also be seen as symptoms of a deeper problem: Nigeria’s troubled political and economic climate. The national unemployment rate in Nigeria is currently 23.9 percent; however, this figure is much higher among those under 40, who compose the majority of its population. The country also has one of the highest rates of economic inequality in the world: although the nation is Africa’s top oil exporter, wealth is heavily concentrated in the oil-producing south, which has higher literacy rates and better access to healthcare than the north, where some communities live on less than $1 per day. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the media characterizes most of Boko Haram’s foot soldiers as “disillusioned youth with only loose ties to religious ideologies, easily drawn in because there are little or no opportunities elsewhere.” Finally, one cannot fail to address the role of government corruption in the group’s rise. Recently, 12 top health officials, two former health ministers, and a daughter of a former president were charged with embezzling around 470m naira ($4 million USD). Graft is also a problem, as well as violent contested elections. The state’s corruption has served as a major justification for the formation of


Boko Haram and has facilitated its rise: since the group considers Nigeria’s democracy a Western import, state corruption justifies its belief that Western education is harmful and forbidden. In addition, state corruption has provided Boko Haram with manpower. During the last national election, local politicians hired thugs to intimidate voters and selectively seize ballot boxes; afterward, the unemployed men, already trained for following violent orders, were apt to be recruited by Boko Haram. Police distrust has also fueled the movement. Citizens aware of the identities of Boko Haram members refrain from reporting names to the police not only because of possible vengeance from the sect, but fear of police brutality. According to Amnesty International, the joint military task force in Maiduguri has been behind dozens of unlawful killings, house raids, and burnings. Addressing religion, poverty, and politics together creates a more cohesive narrative of the group’s rise than analysis of any one of those factors could do alone. Overall, the peoples’ lack of trust in their government and the nation’s high rates of unemployment, poverty, and social inequality have created an environment ripe for Boko Haram’s recruitment and the perpetuation of violence. Religious extremism may explicitly drive the sect’s attacks, but the political climate encourages them. Effective policy combined with military action should reform this climate and choke off Boko Haram’s life support. For example, locating and severing the group’s exter-

nal funding sources and cooperating with neighboring countries like Niger, Cameroon, Chad, and Benin to track the movement of Boko Haram’s weapons and members should restrict the group’s ability to produce expensive explosives and train new members under AQIM. In addition, the government could redistribute Nigeria’s oil resources to alleviate economic inequality, improve its image in the eyes of the public, and thus, lessen social discontent. Other strategies might involve public campaigns to reaffirm religious and ethnic tolerance, or job-creation programs to prevent the sense of desperation that lead young men to join or sympathize with the group. Finally, President Jonathan should continue to press Boko Haram for negotiations; although it rejected his first overture as “insincere,” factions within the group might eventually become dissatisfied with its leadership and seek to compromise. Overall, multifaceted approaches to defeating Boko Haram are appropriate considering the complex factors that contributed to its rise: As Nigeria’s national security adviser, General Owoye Azazi, said of Boko Haram last year, insisting that the group should be attacked from certain perspectives: “If you go back to history, there are religious concerns, there are concerns about governance, and of course, political implications. It’s a combination of so many things.” Afp Launa may be reached at

Burnt roofing pieces on the ground after fire in Madiduguri, Nigeria. Photo from

March 2012



China’s Lengthening Shadow Bolstering an Ailing Russia


hen asked the secret of politics, Otto von Bismarck is said to have responded “make a good treaty with Russia.” Despite Russia’s long decline, the advice is still relevant today. In the two decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has sought to reassert itself in both European and world affairs and has seen a fair measure of success in opposing U.S. interests. However, its results have been limited by years of political and economic underdevelopment. Russia’s decline, while on its face a domestic issue, has immense geopolitical implications. This newfound weakness is most acutely felt at the far eastern reaches of the Russian Federation, where the juxtaposition of China’s growth and Russia’s stagnation is most stark. To forestall its decline and to counter Beijing’s growing influence, Russia must realign, providing the United States and its allies an opportunity to repair and strengthen relations with Moscow. Although Moscow has shown hostility to the U.S. and Europe on several notable occasions over the past few years, Russia cannot sustain this assertiveness indefinitely. Much of Russia’s clout comes from its vast reserves of oil and natural gas, which Europe needs in order to lessen its dependence upon the Middle

George Maliha ‘13

East and sustain its economy. However, Russian production has fallen in recent years as traditional reserves have been depleted and lack of investment has prevented the introduction of new extraction technologies. Indeed, to meet its gas delivery commitments, Russia, rather than dip into its own reserves, must purchase these resources from its Central Asian neighbors, which have begun to divert shipments into China to break the Russian monopoly. Furthermore, ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has been unable to replace raw materials and low value-added items as the backbone of its economy. On top of this, Moscow must contend with a demographic crisis that affects its military apparatus and future growth prospects. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the population has fallen by more than 30 million, a decrease of approximately 20%. Men’s life expectancies have fallen to a little more than 50 years (from over 70 in the 1980s) due to the widespread prevalence of alcoholism, drug abuse, and HIV/AIDS, all of which strain Russia’s already dilapidated health care system. Skilled professionals have left en masse to seek higher paying jobs and better living standards in Western Europe and America, resulting in a brain drain. This trend can reverse only with

Russia’s Vankor Oil Field. Photo from


American Foreign Policy

a prosperous Russia providing economic opportunities, adequate health care, and a social safety net for its entire people as opposed to concentrated wealth and benefits for the oligarchs and elites. Loose borders along mineral and natural resource rich areas have allowed for an influx of Chinese immigrants. While migration of this sort occurred before the creation of the Soviet Union and the closing of its borders, its population fears that an increasingly assertive China might seek to restore its control of the border region. As China has over ten times the population of Russia squeezed into half the area, depopulated Siberia is potentially tempting. Indeed, as China increasingly aids Russia with investments and exports of manufactured goods, Moscow has found it more difficult to be assertive with Beijing. Despite agreements on certain foreign policy goals, there are signs that Russia feels threatened by Beijing. Moscow has lost its monopoly over Central Asian oil and gas as Beijing has financed

“Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the population has fallen by more than 30 million, a decrease of approximately 20%.” the construction of new pipelines from the region into China. In the wake of the global economic crisis, Beijing extended generous credit lines to Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and other Russian allies, while Moscow was unable to provide such assistance. On other fronts, Russia has sold advanced military technology to nations in conflict with China, such as Vietnam. In fact, Vietnam has become one of the largest purchasers of Russian military equipment. As conflicts in Southeast Asia over oil and gas resources continue, the potential for China to confront nations armed with Russian-made weapons will grow. Thus, a unique opportunity exists for the United States and its allies to reengage Russia. Without its alliance with China, Russia will need international partners

in order to remain assertive on the world stage. In addition, Russia’s economy desperately requires new investments in technology to extract the resources locked in Siberia. Europe and the U.S. can provide both. In order to achieve its foreign policy objective of international influence and power, Russia needs a thriving economy funding its ventures— and aid budgets—to provide neighbors with economic development and fill a vacuum that otherwise China would happily fill. It is thus not in the United States’ interest for Russia to continue to decline. As India and Australia have increasingly acted as a check on Chinese influence and aggression in Southeast Asia, Russia can and should play a similar role in the north. Moreover, the raw materials of Central Asia and Siberia should not become the exclusive dominion of Chinese interests. Those same resources can find use in places such as India or Western Europe. No one denies China’s right to seek resources outside its border, but allowing Beijing to gain more exclusive use of Central Asia will weaken American influence in the region—especially as calls to close U.S. bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan continue to mount. The United States and Russia have come to loggerheads in recent years. However, such antagonism is not productive for either nation in the long run. Encouragingly, the recent protests against Vladimir Putin reveal that the Russian people are ready for a fundamental change. Although Washington and Moscow must reach accords on certain issues, among them NATO and the European Missile Defense Shield, these issues should not prevent the formation of a long-term strategic alliance. Without the help of the U.S., Russia is only able to support itself economically by exporting unsustainable amounts of oil and natural gas. The U.S. can offer Russia economic aid and development of its lucrative resources. Russia can become a bulwark against China and can foster American influence in Central Asia. The Cold War has been over for two decades. It is time for a new rapport to deal with today’s geopolitical challenges. Afp


In Context

Compiled by Rachel Webb ‘14 “I need an urgent operation.”

Edith Bouvier-French journalist requesting evacuation

from Syria following her injury in an attack which killed fellow journalists Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik in the Baba Amr suburb of Homs.

“Australians are rightly sick of this.”

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announcing a ballot for leadership of the Australian Labor Party following

rumors of a comeback attempt by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

“The battle for Russia goes on!” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

at a rally in support of his bid for the Russian Presidency

organized by the United Russia party ahead of upcoming elections.

“The true dilemma is: either sacrifices with prospects, or complete destruction with no prospects. Either cuts which are harsh... or the inability to pay salaries and pensions.” Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on the passage of a debt-swap deal necessary to receive an additional loan from the International Monetary Fund.

“We are scared of tomorrow”

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, leader of the transitional government in Somalia, at an international conference in Mogadishu to fight piracy, terrorism, and political instability in the region.

“We need to say ‘no’ to a distinction between ‘peripheral’ and ‘central’ member states” Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti addressing the European Parliament on February 15, defending austerity measures passed by his new government. Source: BBC News.

George may be reached at

March 2012



Onto the Global Stage Myanmar’s Newfound Confidence


ntil recently, the name Aung Sun Suu Kyi represented the extent of conventional public insight into the isolated Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar. The 66-year-old Nobel laureate has been the bastion of democratic opposition to the longtime military regime in the country, a regime that recently dissolved its longtime military State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in March of 2011. The continuing reform of stringent administrative structures previously maintained by a quiet, authoritarian junta is leading to Myanmar’s emergence on the global stage as a nation in the process of reevaluating its characteristically withdrawn economic and foreign policies. Yet despite optimistic support from the international community, lingering ethnic conflict threatens to stall the country’s transition. The second-most populous nation on the Indo-Chinese Peninsula, Myanmar has extensive natural resources that have propelled it to economic prosperity and relative regional prominence after securing independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, when it was known as Burma. A 1962 military coup led to almost three decades of authoritarian military rule and Soviet-style economic management that severely crippled the nation’s economic development and kept its government relatively isolated. By the late 1980s, domestic frustration over deteriorating conditions for the nation’s poor and ethnic minorities led to free elections in 1990, which were swept by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) with an 80% victory in parliament. Yet what seemed to be a victory for freedom in the country was swiftly halted by the military government’s refusal to recognize the election results and the subsequent imposition of almost two decades of house arrest for the popular


Alan Hatfield ‘15

pro-democracy leader. In 2010, after a shorter stint under house arrest, the resilient leader was finally freed. Less than a year later, the military SPDC was dissolved and a civilian regime put in place. The new direction of Myanmar’s leadership communicates a message about the open future the government envisions for the impoverished nation. In an extremely rapid series of reforms, the government is becoming increasingly transparent, with officials giving public statements for the first time about the catastrophic state of the economy and a desire to engage with the World Bank and IMF, which it cannot do while under current economic sanctions imposed in the 1990s by the United States. Leadership appears to have taken a much more realistic, pragmatic stance, essentially admitting the failure of the idealistic “Burmese Path to Socialism” of the 1960-1980s and the false crony capitalism of the past three decades. A prospective law in parliament aims to turn its hostile atmosphere towards journalists into a

more liberal and open one. Additionally, labor reform has given workers the right to form unions and to picket. What came as a surprise opening to the global community has led to a year of significant reform in Myanmar’s politics, represented by the country’s first free, multi-party elections that are scheduled for April of this year. After a series of elections in 2010, which the primary opposition National Democratic Party boycotted and most international observers deemed fraudulent, the newly scheduled elections are expected to deliver a sound victory to the opposition across the 48 of 664 contested seats, a small, but significant triumph. Express permission was even given to UN human rights observers to enter the country in time to witness April’s voting. The potential implications of such a political shift are wide-ranging. After a visit by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in December of last year, the first to the country by a foreign secretary in 56 years, confidence in Myanmar’s reform process is optimistic. On January 13, the United States restored diplomatic relations; if future reforms are deemed adequate, Myanmar could see the removal of extensive American economic sanctions. Early in February, President Obama offered support for Myanmar’s transition process when he waived previous sanctions against international financial institutions such as the World Bank conducting assessments of the

Generals of the former State Peace and Development Council. Photo from

American Foreign Policy

country’s economic situation. Current sanctions targeting Myanmar’s previous laxity in preventing human trafficking still preclude the U.S. from allowing international organizations from funding the regime. The recent release of thousands of political prisoners, however, has drawn praise and support from American lawmakers, furthering Myanmar’s potential as a sanctions-free entity in the future. As hopeful a year as 2012 seems to be for Myanmar, lingering ethnic and political conflicts provide the biggest obstacle to the country’s political transition and recognition by the international community. The nation’s ethnic minorities have historically resisted central authority, many operating semiindependent states along the Chinese border with indigenous schools and administrative services. Throughout the 2000s, the ruling junta led fierce military operations against members of the Karen and Kachin ethnic minorities, which recently escalated in the mountainous border country with China. The use of forced conscription, rape, torture, and burning of villages, claimed by international human rights groups to be the national army’s mainstay, has led some to brand the conflict a civil war. As recently as this Febru-

“Leadership appears

to have taken a much more realistic, pragmatic stance, essentially admitting the failure of the idealistic “Burmese Path to Socialism” of the 1960-1980s and the false crony capitalism of the past three decades.”


Aung Sun Suu Kyi. Photo from

ary, the government took a changed stance, attempting to broker a ceasefire with the Karen people. The agreement, however, was rejected by Karen military leaders who wished to further clarify terms and conditions. The situation gives some insight into the reluctance of minority groups to put their trust in a government claiming to be on the path to major reform as, despite its best efforts, the government remains caught up in fighting against at least three major ethnic groups that demand more autonomy than Napyidaw seems willing to concede. Decades of nonstop conflict and oppression by the central government have created a rift in ethnic relations that has authorities scrambling for solutions to shore up Myanmar’s international image. Human rights groups have long derided the central regime as a frequent violator of international rights conventions throughout decades of ethnic conflict. The country appears to be positioning itself in a uniquely cooperative stance, but can only half-heartedly court the international community with serious questions concerning its human rights record still unanswered. The United States has serious incentive to critically analyze its relationship with the country, a reality made apparent by CIA Director David H. Petraeus’s upcoming visit to the country in the next month. The U.S. appears to be capitalizing on the friendly stance President Thein Sein

March 2012

has taken, as administration officials described President Obama’s November trip to Asia as a significant shift to the Asia-Pacific Region as a central focus of foreign policy. An amiable relationship with Myanmar could provide a foothold for the U.S. in improving its relations with both Southeast Asian nations and China, Myanmar’s longtime closest partner through decades of isolation. Myanmar’s relatively large population, fond of Suu Kyi’s democracy movement, would also provide a valuable regional ally and restore confidence to the U.S. in a region fraught with a history of American interventionism. America’s position in the region would be enhanced by a relationship with a democratic Myanmar and could potentially invite further positive involvement with neighbors, which would provide a positive image of cooperation that may bolster Chinese confidence in future cooperation between the two powers. This will be a crucial year for Myanmar as it decides how far out of the shadows of poverty and conflict it wishes to emerge, further engaging the international community and reforming longstanding failed institutions and methods. Yet the nation’s terrible human rights record still separates it from its goals and from acceptance in a newfound role. Afp Alan may be reached at


Middle East

East or West Creating a Turkish Identity


n the midst of the chaotic upheavals following the Arab Spring, it is easy to overlook the one country in the region that has gradually and electorally drifted towards Islamism: Turkey. Once a pillar of stability in the Middle East, Turkey has seen its relations with the West grow more complex, yet more important, than ever. This shift reflects Turkey’s desire for regional hegemony. When Western sanctions take their inevitable toll on another Muslim power in the region, Iran, Turkey can be expected to fill the resulting power vacuum. A little more than a decade ago, a dominant Turkey would have been seen as a great comfort to U.S. policymakers, but today an ascendant Turkey is of the utmost concern. It is incumbent on the U.S. to understand the recent changes in Turkey, their origins, and the impact they will likely have on Israel. Turkey’s decade-long drift toward

Jared Isenstein ‘14

Islamism, marked by increased relations with Iran and other hostile parties as well as declining popularity for Western institutions, coincided with its rebuffed attempt to join the European Union. As a member of NATO, Turkey expected this privilege and had worked for the better part of a century to attain it. Despite enacting farreaching human rights and freedom of expression legislation from 1999 to 2002, Turkey ultimately saw its membership bid stymied. Already under a deluge of Muslim immigration, many European nations, especially France, saw Turkey as a risk both to their Union and to their respective national characters. While it is difficult to say whether Turkey’s rejection contributed to its Islamization or vice versa, the situation has certainly created a positive feedback loop of growing Islamization in Turkey as a result of this rejection. Turkey certainly now identifies itself with the east rather than the West.

US President Barack Obama meets with Turkish President Abdullah Gul. Photo from Indie News.


American Foreign Policy

In 2002, Turkey democratically ousted its pro-Western leadership in favor of the “moderate Islamist” Justice and Development Party (AKP) in what was widely seen as a protest election against the corrupt former ruling party. Since then, the role of the military, for decades the guarantor of Turkish democracy and secularism, in influencing Turkish policy in favor of Western interests is waning. This is due in no small part to the arrest of much of the Turkish military command last summer and the subsequent wave of protest resignations. Most recently, Turkey arrested General Basburg, former chief of the army’s general staff, on charges of collaboration with the terrorist group Ergenekon in 2003. A total of 200 military officers have been jailed in connection with the plot, although no convictions have been made so far. This domestic shift represents yet another sign of mistrust between the secular military and civilian religious establishments and mirrors a greater demographic trend, concentrated in the last year, of rising Islamism and Turkey’s internal shift toward the Arab Spring states. Many of these nations saw Islamist parties do well in recent elections, which was accompanied by a complementary shift in foreign policy like Egypt’s reopening of its Gaza border last May. Some of Turkey’s policies have also alarmed the U.S., none more so than Turkey’s growing economic ties with Iran, especially in light of U.S. calls for Turkish participation in sanctions against the regime. While the U.S. pushes for an international boycott of Iranian oil, Turkey has made Iran its second largest supplier of natural gas. The number of Iranian companies operating in Turkey has increased fivefold in the last decade and Iran is now Turkey’s largest trading partner in the Middle East. In short, Turkey provides an economic lifeline for an Iran feeling the brunt of U.S. and EU sanctions. In the past, Israel, with its strong ties to the U.S., has been an important link between the U.S. and Turkey and has at times lobbied on behalf of Turkish interests, such as when Israel lobbied against America to stop Russian placement of S-300 missiles in Cyprus. The Arab Spring, the Iraq withdrawal, and America’s inability to impede Iran’s nuclear ambitions all speak to America’s declining influence in the Middle East. In this new landscape, Israel in its role as America’s conduit to the region has become less of a strategic asset to Turkey. The

mutual personal dislike between the Israeli and American governments has further strained diplomatic relations between the two countries, making Israel’s potential to lobby for pro-Turkish U.S. policy even less relevant. Israel’s relations with Turkey are complicated by the latter’s “zero problems” strategy, which states that a country that wishes to be a regional power must have relations with all relevant countries and factions. This strategy has driven Turkey to nurture relations with Hamas and other controversial groups and has been responsible for the seemingly diminished emphasis on relations with Israel. Cordial Israeli-Turkish relations, however, are essential to keeping Turkey in the Western bloc, which is all the more important as a result of the instability of the Arab Spring, the situation in Syria, and the need for cooperation on Iran. The Gaza flotilla dispute, in which Israel intercepted several ships running its Gaza blockade, resulting in a struggle on board the vessels, and Operation Cast Lead, a three-week Israeli military operation in Gaza, are perhaps the most well known complicating incidents between Israel and Turkey, but perhaps just as significant, and often forgotten, are the Turkey-brokered Israel-Syria negotiations. Shortly after Hamas’s first visit to Turkey, Turkey tried to come into its own as a regional peacemaker, offering to mediate discussions between Israel and Syria. These discussions continued for two years and weathered many controversies, most notably Israel’s use of Turkish land in its strike on Syria’s nuclear reactors, but it eventually became clear that Israel’s security interests and Syria’s desire for the Golan Heights were, for the moment, irreconcilable. Negotiations came to an abrupt end following Cast Lead and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have interpreted the failure of negotiations, as well as the absence of notification from Israel in advance of Cast Lead, as signs of disrespect. Relations deteriorated further following the Gaza flotilla incident the next summer. Turkey still demands an apology from Israel for the deaths of nine Turkish citizens in the Gaza flotilla raid while Israel sees the deaths as unfortunate but necessary collateral in maintaining its blockade of Gaza. As a result of this dispute, Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador to Israel. The heated debates still raging within the Israeli body politic illuminate the differing and often

Middle East

conflicting reactions to a rising Turkey. On the one hand, much of the Israeli military advocates an apology and an immediate rapprochement for security reasons. They argue that good relations with Turkey, a rising power, are crucial and that pride should not govern foreign policy. The Israeli political leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Senator Lieberman, on the other hand, see an apology as a sign of weakness. Though it betrays a pessimistic outlook for Turkey, the Israeli political leadership is in this case correct in its assessment. Israel rarely issues apologies, since they erode its already fragile international credibility, in effect opening an avenue for international attack on Israeli policy to which it cannot respond and are tantamount to a confession that invites international judicial action. But, in an attempt to salvage relations with Egypt, Israel did offer an apology last September for the accidental deaths of three Egyptian soldiers. Despite this gesture, there were rallies outside Israel’s embassy, culminating in a violent attack and the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Such a response has been the most frequent result of Israeli apologies. The Muhammad al-Dura incident, in which Israel took responsibility for the death of a young boy in the Second Intifada despite it being later cast into doubt, led to further incitement of violence and worldwide condemnation of Israel. Apologies betray weakness and guilt, so broadcasting a willingness to back down when surrounded by countries, such as Egypt, that threaten unilateral changes to a peace treaty is folly and an invitation for more demands from more countries. Furthermore, while in the best case, an apology would lead to a return to a higher level of diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey, a relationship based on an apology is one already lost. Its durability is limited and a relationship saved by such a trifle cannot be relied upon when the situation is dire, as in the case of an attack on Iran. Besides, none of this mentions the accompanying Turkish demand for withdrawal of the Gaza blockade, which is not only strategically untenable from an Israeli perspective in preventing even more weapons from entering the region, but would also demonstrate a vast amount of Turkish influence over Israeli policy and set up a clear appeasement policy. When viewed in connection with the Hamas visit to Turkey early this year, Turkey’s footing is set for strengthening relations with Hamas, a bad

March 2012

sign for Israel and the peace process. However, Israel’s cooling relations with Turkey have not been without benefits. Its relations with Greece, Cyprus, and Bulgaria, nations long suspicious of Turkey, have improved significantly. Greece prevented the 2011 flotilla ships from leaving its ports, saving Israel the international commotion. Israel and Greece have held multiple official state visits and joint air force exercises since. Moreover Israel-Cyprus cooperation has been building over the Leviathan gas field, which Israel is now free to explore without the worry of Turkish retribution. Israel even used Cypriot airspace to confront a Turkish ship last September. It is clear that Turkey is in the midst of a long-term shift in its self-image and where it sees itself on the east-west spectrum. While an apology from Israel might, in the best case, stay such a change, it cannot reverse the arc of Turkish politics. With Israel refusing to apologize and Turkey refusing to drop this condition to return to diplomatic normality, it seems relations have reached a stalemate without sufficient costs to induce cooperation. There have been some recent, hopeful signs; while Israel has just recently reiterated its refusal to apologize, on unofficial channels the two countries came together over the construction of a village made in Turkey from Israeli humanitarian aid for the 2011 earthquake and Turkey has begun airing Shoah, a documentary film about the Holocaust, which makes Turkey the first Muslim country ever to do so. More serious and impactful steps, however, still need to be taken for these actions to be more than simply isolated episodes. As subjects of the former seat of Ottoman power, the Turks seek to revive their importance in world affairs and will seek farther-reaching

Jared may be reached at

AFP Quiz Answers Multiple Choice Monthly 1. B 2. C 3. A 4. D 5. C


The Secret’s Out

I Read AFP!

AFP March/April 2012 Issue  

Princeton's American Foreign Policy Issue IV