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Flogging a dead horse?

Well, let’s hope not.  But, according to Gareth Evans, this is what we’re at risk of if the General Assembly session on the Responsibility to Protect continues casting the debate in terms of humanitarian intervention. 

Contrary to what Noam Chomsky would have us believe, R2P is not humanitarian intervention.  In fact, the concept involves a wide range of policy options short of the use of force to prevent military intervention when mass atrocities are already occurring. 

As Gareth Evans, co-chair of the historic International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) clearly stated, “the core theme [of R2P] is not intervention but prevention”.  Instead of dwelling on morally questionable cases of “humanitarian intervention” past, States should look forward to define policy options across the spectrum of prevention, capacity building and response, to ensure such unthinkable crimes as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda are never repeated. 

Fiery rhetoric which re-ignites neo-colonial fears will do nothing to ensure Kofi Annan’s famous words of “never again” are realized.  Let’s hope this afternoon’s session, where States will have the opportunity to make formal remarks on the Secretary-General’s report, will move the debate forward, not back.

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Jakarta bombing

By now you have heard of the twin suicide bombing attacks at the Marriot Hotel and Ritz Carlton Hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia.  At least 8 people were killed and 50 injured. Smart money is that Jemaah Islamiya is behind the attack. I found this video depicting the chaos following the explosion. 

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Sanctions tightening around North Korea

The facts that China appears to be on board -- not to mention that the UN panel on North Korea sanctions may come to consensus before its deadline -- do not bode well for a defiant Pyongyang.

The U.N. Security Council neared agreement on Wednesday on North Korean firms and individuals to be added to a blacklist for involvement in Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs, diplomats said

"We are very close" to agreement, Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu told reporters. Diplomats from several countries said a council committee that has been discussing the issue for a month was on target to meet a weekend deadline for completing its task and could do so as early as Wednesday.

Meanwhile, North Korea insists that its "sovereignty" be respected before negotiations can recommence. This seems to have it completely backwards. North Korea's leaders aren't exactly the ones to place conditions here; they're the ones who will need to reconsider their country's nuclear program if they are interested in, say, having unfrozen bank accounts or being able to travel anywhere.

Yet I wouldn't be surprised to hear some off-the-mark commentators continue to insist that an utterly isolated North Korea somehow has "the upper hand" in this drama.

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July Already the Deadliest Month for Foreign Troops in Afghanistan

A harbinger of things to come or a temporary spike?

The death toll for foreign troops in Afghanistan halfway through July equalled the highest for any month of the eight-year-old war, tallies showed on Wednesday, as a U.S. escalation has met unprecedented violence.

Authorities announced a U.S. soldier had been killed by a bomb and two Turks had died in a road accident, raising the toll of U.S. and allied foreign fatalities in the first half of July to 46, equal to full month highs set in August and June 2008.

In the two weeks since U.S. and British troops launched massive assaults, Western troops have died at an average rate of three a day, nearing the tempo of the bloodiest days in Iraq and almost 20 times the rate in Afghanistan from 2001-04.

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Did North Korea Launch a Sophisticated Cyber Attack Against the U.S.?

President Obama's recent decision to name a national cybersecurity chief seems auspicious in light of this:

A widespread and unusually resilient computer attack that began July 4 knocked out the Web sites of several government agencies, including some that are responsible for fighting cyber crime.

Suspected cyber assaults also paralyzed Web sites of major South Korean government agencies, banks and Internet sites in a barrage that appeared linked to the attacks in the U.S., South Korean officials said Wednesday.

The Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department Web sites were all down at varying points over the holiday weekend and into this week, according to officials inside and outside the government.

As we saw in the Russia-Georgia conflict, cyberspace is becoming the new global battlefield:

According to Internet technical experts, it was the first time a cyberattack had coincided with a real war. But it will likely not be the last, said Bill Woodcock, the research director of Packet Clearing House, a nonprofit organization that tracks Internet traffic. He said cyberattacks are so inexpensive and easy to mount, with few fingerprints, that they will almost certainly remain a feature of modern warfare.

As far as the July 4th attack, North Korea appears to be the main suspect:

South Korean intelligence officials believe North Korea or pro-Pyongyang forces in South Korea committed cyber attacks that paralyzed major South Korean and U.S. Web sites, a lawmaker's aide said Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the National Intelligence Service told a group of South Korean lawmakers it believes that North Korea or North Korean sympathizers in the South "were behind" the attacks, according to an aide to one of the lawmakers briefed on the information.

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Mogadishu “descending into chaos”

MSF just put out a warning that the majority of the populaiton of north Mogadishu has fled as fighing escalated in the Somali capital.  They have even had to close a pediatric hospital and three health clinics in the city. 

MSF just put out a warning that the majority of the populaiton of north Mogadishu has fled as fighing escalated in the Somali capital.

 Somalia has displaced people in clusters throughout the country; 1.2 million people are now displaced. Things there are so bad and dangerous that you can find people fleeing to the same places others are fleeing from, as each family tries to calculate their best odds for safety. The capital, Mogadishu, is an example; it’s got ten years of internally displaced persons (IDPs) accumulated in camps in and around the city. Right now, people from conflict-affected villages are heading for Mogadishu even as people are leaving the city in droves. 204,000 people have been displaced from Mogadishu since May, one of the worst waves that has been seen. At the same time, about 30,000 have arrived to the city since February. Reliefweb has an excellent map of population movements.

 That was a really long introduction to possibly the only good news you will hear about Somalia for the next year. Women’s groups in Mogadishu are doing their best to help IDPs in the city. Asha Sha'ur, an activist, described in IRIN Africa how women’s groups can access IDP camps. “We have had problems but both sides to the conflict have been good at allowing us [women] to help the needy. When they see a bunch of women they don’t bother us…” Larger agencies are trying to tap into that ability to move freely and understand local context; the UN is looking for consultants from the Somali diaspora willing to do 3-6 month consultancies in-country.