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Blog Roundup

Linked Up: G-20 Supercountries, Terrorism in Somalia, Women and Girls Policy

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling writes in the WSJ that “international cooperation is the way out of the financial crisis.” And that the G-20 is super.

The LA Times editorial board warns (again) that we need to work with moderate Islamists in Somalia in order to prevent it from becoming a terrorist haven. (Uh, might that be just what they are doing on their own?)

Ruth Levine, at the Center for Global Development blog, praises President Obama’s creation of a “White House Council on Women and Girls,” but urges him to make sure the focus extends to international relations, too. My take: it’s a good sign that the Council is being chaired by Valerie Jarrett, a longtime Obama confidant and senior power broker. READ MORE

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Linked Up: Big Population, Congressional Blogging, Drugs, and Space Ships

Andy Revkin at Dot Earth marvels at the prospect of nine billion people — at least — dotting the Earth by 2050.

California Representative Ed Royce, the Republicans’ ranking member on the terrorism, nonproliferation, and trade subcommittee, has a blog, called Foreign Intrigue. Domestically intriguing.

The Guardian melodramatically laments that the UN’s drug strategy has amounted to “ten wasted years.” Well, the U.S. has been fighting its war on drugs longer than that, right?

And finally, the UN will be hosting a panel discussion with producers and cast members of the sci-fi TV show, “Battlestar Galactica.” Whoopi Goldberg is moderating, naturally. READ MORE

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Linked Up: Bashir hosts, R2P, and Talking with Iran

Who says an indicted war criminal doesn’t make a nice guest? Eritrea has pointedly invited Omar al-Bashir of Sudan to Asmara for a little cup of tea (support for opposing rebel groups couldn’t possibly be an item on the agenda, could it?). A Sudanese rep has already set a busy schedule for his boss, who he says “will attend all Arab summits and all African summits.”

Law of War blogger (and self-averred neocon) Ken Anderson offers a contrarian perspective on the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine, asking what the big fuss about “R2P” is really about, given that the bombing of Kosovo in 1999 pretty much established the ability of NATO to go around the Security Council and intervene in a country.

And a few pieces from a couple days ago all make the case for the Obama Administration to engage with Iran: Mohammed Hassan Khani, a professor in Tehran, urges both sides to drop the confrontational vocabulary, be honest about interests, and make genuine efforts; this LA Times editorial counsels communication and confidence, not confrontation and contempt; and Joshua Gross, in The Christian Science Monitor, says the best place to start a “constructive dialogue” is right here at home, with Iranian-Americans. READ MORE

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Human Rights Round-up

To go with the powerful images that Dispatch readers from around the world have sent in, here are what some op-eds and blog posts are saying about what today’s 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights means.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter makes an appeal for the new American administration to leverage the full weight of the United States’ “moral footprint” to support and protect freedom and democracy in places like Egypt, Pakistan, and DR Congo. (On the same WaPo pages, Michael Gerson shares my irritation at the EU’s sidestepping of peacekeeping responsibilities in the latter country.)

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Prevention and International Protocols, All Wrapped Up in One

Marc Ambinder on pre-emption preclusion of “the greatest existential threats” — weapons of mass destruction, but also, as he hypothesizes that the Obama administration might contend, the interconnected danger posed by failed states:

But that also means: if suddenly, somewhere, a vulnerable population is being slaughtered, the United Nations, or the United States, or NATO, shouldn’t dither; they should intervene to stop it. The UN — and the US — have no moral authority to compete in this marketplace if they step away from these challenges and then demand that failing states acquiesce to various international regimes and protocols.

Of course, the intervention — if it is truly to be pre-emptive — in the case of mass atrocities must occur before the slaughter begins. Even in a case like Rwanda, which exploded “suddenly,” leaving the international community in paralysis and setting off a relentless pace of killings, the signs of something dangerous — and destabilizing, to look at the situation in eastern DR Congo right now — were evident for a long time.

But Ambinder is right; the prerogative to demand failing states’ compliance to international protocols must be accompanied by an actual willingness to engage the problems at hand. Moreover, it also requires that the states doing the demanding — Member States of the UN all — must themselves meet international protocols. This leads to a moral — and practical — obligation for the United States in particular to sign on to and fully adhere to these internaional agreements, which include not only big obvious ones like the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, but also lower-hanging fruit like the ban on cluster munitions.

Interestingly, one such international compact — one that has been formally adopted by all UN Member States — exists that could provide exactly the framework for preemption and prevention that Ambinder is seeking: the Responsibility to Protect. And if Obama’s pick for UN ambassador is any indication, the United States may be throwing more of its support behind this high-potential strategy in the near future. READ MORE

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Who Susan Rice Will and Won’t Be Calling

Dayo Olopade at The Plank picks up Susan Rice’s 2007 post for Dispatch, and juxtaposes her outlook toward the crucial interconnectedness of poverty, disease, and conflict with the condescending skepticism of Heritage Senior Fellow Peter Brookes.

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Now, the UN is good at lots of things, like handing out food and giving kids shots. [Laughter] You know, I’m not one to denigrate those things. What–they eradicated what, yellow fever in Africa by giving kids shots, that’s great. But we have to be a lot smarter about realizing its limitations, and that’s militarily. When you call in the UN you get a bunch of guys in uniforms standing around without guns, or they can’t use them unless it’s to defend themselves. I don’t believe in global federalism; I also don’t like the idea of the U.S. as the world’s policeman. But the UN is ineffective, period, at defense of any kind. So we need to look somewhere else.

Olopade then relays her conversation with Rice about whom she’ll be turning to for advice when she settles into her office at UN headquarters.

We chatted about Africa policy and World AIDS Day, on which both conferences took place. (Obama statement here.) I mentioned some of Brooke’s comments to her, which she took in stride, with a sort of “guess who’s in charge now” bemusement. Though she declined to speak on the record about UN policy, she again emphasized that she would take a radically different approach to the position, and mentioned wanting to call up former holders of the position for advice–with one notable exception: John Bolton.

It’s heartening to hear that Obama’s ambassador the UN won’t be seeking to learn how she can “lop off 10 floors of UN building in New York, [and] not make a difference.” Conversely, it’s equally reassuring that she will be looking to folks like former UN ambassador and seasoned diplomat Thomas Pickering, whose interview with Mark is below.

(image from flickr user aussiegall under a Creative Commons license) READ MORE

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