Democracy Arsenal

March 06, 2007


The Failure to Integrate: It’s a Religious Problem Too
Posted by Shadi Hamid

This is one of most amusing pictures I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s even funnier if you let your mind wander a bit (click on it).2006bestshot

On a more serious note, I think this image captures quite well the manifold complexities of a religious culture confronting modernity. Everywhere in the Muslim world, the religious and non-religious find themselves in an uneasy embrace. And it provokes a very fundamental question that people are grappling with from Egypt to England. To what extent can a traditional culture truly become part of a commercial, “hypersexual” society that holds little as sacred? In asking such a question, sex, politics, culture, religion, and economics become inextricably intertwined. It is at once frightening and fascinating.

Two weeks ago, I went to a talk by BBC correspondent and author of Only Half of Me, Rageh Omaar. He downplayed the problems of Muslim integration in Britain and argued that the vast majority of Muslims are mainstream and moderate, while a fringe minority gives them a bad name. He himself is a perfect example of the well-integrated British Muslim who has found a richness and comfort in a “dual identity.” But, as he himself noted, he is a “non-observant” Muslim. That’s important, and it lends credence to something I’ve been thinking about for some time. I would posit that the less observant you are, the easier it is for you to integrate into Western culture. And the more observant you are, the harder it is. Because Western Muslims on average tend to be more observant (or, if you like, “scripturally-aware") than their non-Muslim counterparts, this may help explain why they will find it harder to integrate in Western society than their Irish, Jewish, and African counterparts before them: if you don’t go to pubs, if you don’t date, if you are not at ease with members of the opposite sex, if you can’t sing along to the chorus of “Hey Jude” or “Wonderwall”; if you can’t appreciate just how darn good The Arctic Monkeys are (i.e. because you consider the use of string instruments a violation of Islamic law); well, then, you simply cannot and will not be able to integrate into British culture. In many ways then, the failure to integrate is not simply a structural problem that can be explained away through socioeconomics or politics. Rather, what we're talking about is, at least in some respects, a clash of cultures. I don’t think there should be a clash. I don’t think there has to be. But there is one.

Continue reading "The Failure to Integrate: It’s a Religious Problem Too" »

November 28, 2006


A Fresh Perspective from NATO Summit
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

One of my favorite Brits, Martin Butcher, moved back to the UK from Washington earlier this year...but lo and behold, he's back online already with some fresh reporting from the NATO summit in can see the rest here.

Can NATO transform for the 21st century?

From Acronym Consultant Martin Butcher in Riga, November 27, 2006

NATO heads of State and Government meet in Riga, Latvia, on November 28/29, with many outstanding questions on their agenda. While NATO and national government sources agree that the worst of the conflict from the build-up to the invasion of Iraq has dissipated (and for some in Europe the firing of Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense helped), there is a sense that the organisation is somewhat adrift - carrying out missions from Kosovo to Afghanistan, but with no underlying purpose to tie it together.

The subjects that will be on the agenda at the specially made table in Riga - Alliance transformation, burdensharing, the Comprehensive Political Guidance, and even Energy Security - are far less significant than the subjects that will be overlooked - enlargement, the perennially troubled issues of NATO-EU and NATO Russia relations, and most notably the rewriting of the Alliance's mission statement, the 1999 Strategic Concept, with the role of nuclear weapons in Alliance defence policy at its heart.

All this throws up questions which will have to be answered if NATO is to be an influential and important alliance in the 21st Century - what is NATO's role and how should it accomplish that role. A shiny "transformation" exhibition at the Olympic Sports Complex Summit venue shows what the Riga Summit is meant to be about. But there are those in Riga who fear that the focus on the somewhat loose concept of 'NATO transformation' means less than meets the eye.

Riga 2006 was to have been the 'transformation summit', and settled those questions once and for all. Now, it is merely the latest in a line of summits, leading from Istanbul, through Riga, to another Summit in 2008, followed by a 60th birthday party Summit in 2009. Transforming the Alliance, it seems, is a long and politically contentious process.

read the rest of the article here.

September 29, 2006


Carl Bildt has a blog
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Well, this is fun -- the kind of random thing you find while tooling around the web on a Friday night.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden, former UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, a very smart guy who had a real knack for rubbing American officials the wrong way, has a blog.  I happened upon it because of his comments on the UN Secretary-General race that Suzanne also posted on.

It's mildly interesting but not earth-shattering to read -- a useful barometer of one strand of European thought, I suspect.  But imagine the possibilities.  What if Bill Clinton had a blog?  Come to think of it, why doesn't he?  What if Clinton and George H.W. Bush had a blog together?  What if Bob Dole had a blog?  What if Tony Blair blogs in retirement?  What if Kofi Annan did?

If readers know of other former heads of state/government who blog, let me know.  I think a list would be fun.  (I notice Bildt doesn't have a blogroll yet...) 

June 07, 2006


British Muslims Want Islamic Britain (but at least their women are attractive)
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I must say I'm a bit troubled by this poll which indicates, among other things, that 40% of British Muslims want Islamic law to be implemented in….ummm….Britain. This particular survey is a few months old but as relevant as ever in light of heightening tensions in Europe over Muslim immigrants. This is bad news. More troubling is the fact that 20% of respondents sympathize with the “feelings and motives” of the terrorists who killed 52 of their countrymen on July 7, 2006. I guess the positive part is that 99% thought the 7/7 attacks were “wrong.” What a relief. Isn’t it strange that we’ve reached the point where “good news” is when Muslims agree that slaughtering people in cold blood is wrong? The moral compass of British Muslims, one suspects, is not in the best of shape. It may even be upside down (or was it knocked over?). 

At least the Blair government is responding constructively, reaching out to the Muslim community, strengthening moderate voices, and encouraging Muslims to play a greater role in mainstream political life. (Then you have the French way of dealing with minorities which is, shall we say, a bit less post-enlightenment). 

The Brits certainly have their work cut out for them in a country where so despicable a personage as Yvonne Ridley is relatively mainstream and even popular among Muslims. You may recall that this is the same woman who was captured by the Taliban in 2001 and then suffered from a rather acute case of Stockholm Syndrome. Once a journalist for the Sunday Express, she is currently Britain’s resident terror apologist. Yes, in case you didn't know, she hates her country. Not surprisingly, she has allied herself with the infamous George Galloway, who Hitchens thankfully dispensed with several months ago. In common, Ridley/Galloway have an irritating way with words. Ridley’s prose style is a study in colloquialism, coarseness, and self-caricature. Not only does she openly sympathize with terrorist attacks against innocents but has managed to write the the closest thing I've ever seen to a pro-Zarqawi missive.

Enough of Yvonne Ridley. I now turn my attention to someone more worthy of attention - Miss England 2005. Her name is Hammasa1Hammasa Kohistani (she is ravishing, by the way). As a Muslim and as someone who fled the Taliban regime when she was a young girl, her victory holds special significance for those working for integration. Britain is quite unique in this regard - there are some British Muslims who are quite well-assimilated (there are Muslims in the House of Commons and the House of Lords) but then are those (and their numbers seem to be growing) who appear intent on recreating a mythical Islamic state in Liverpool, where, God knows, they'd probably ban the Beatles. Now that would be blasphemy.

March 07, 2006


... As Others See Us
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Last week, a European friend sent me this article, "America's rising anti-Europeanism," from the new  journal Europe's World, a European product that appears to be attempting to be like Foreign Affairs, but hipper and, well, European (check out that pink cover -- all it needs is an Hermes tie to match).

I'm still not sure what my friend was trying to tell me -- is this like those adolescent advice columnists who tell you to send your stinky friends deodorant anonymously? -- but the subject is worth some thought.

Dutch security policy thinker Peter van Ham says that we have "a groundswell of annoyance and pessimism in the US about Europe."  True enough, although of course it sounds even better if all one's analysis is based on Fox News, the Wall Street Journal ed board, and right wing talk radio, as this one seems to be.

Continue reading "... As Others See Us" »

February 06, 2006


Munich's Security Conference: Deja Vu or Defining Moment?
Posted by Julianne Smith

While he is out of pocket this week, Derek Chollet asked me to report on the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy (aka Wehrkunde), which I had planned on attending this past weekend. Unfortunately, the flu kept me stateside but thanks to a few calls to friends and the conference website, I can still offer some highlights.

This high-profile conference always has an air of déjà vu to it and this year was no exception. The conference program addressed many of the same topics as in years past: the future of NATO, the state of the transatlantic partnership, and challenges in the Middle East. Like a well-rehearsed script, the Americans asked the Europeans to spend more on defense and the Europeans cautioned against NATO overstretch. Many of last year’s recommendations – to strengthen the EU-NATO relationship, expand NATO’s partnership programs, and deepen the dialogue between the United States and Europe – were repeated. However, three things made this year’s conference different:

One, the arrival of Angela Merkel on center stage. Germany’s new Chancellor made an impressive debut. Her confident and firm delivery of her hard-line position on Iran’s nuclear ambitions was met with a roaring round of applause. She also used the opportunity to state her strong support for NATO (“NATO is the most important body for international conflict management”) while making some rather provocative recommendations, including the rewriting of the Alliance’s 1999 Strategic Concept by 2009. Merkel’s remarks were a welcome departure from the tone and substance of her predecessor whose commitment to the transatlantic relationship remained in question during the last few years of his tenure. Personally, I also appreciated the addition of another female speaker at an event that is so heavily dominated by men.

Continue reading "Munich's Security Conference: Deja Vu or Defining Moment?" »

January 25, 2006


Rocks and All, A Moderate Gone
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

It's worth pausing a moment over the death of Ibrahim Rugova this past weekend, before you hurry back to Iraq, Iran and domestic spy scandals.

Rugova was President of Kosovo; he was also, as Laura Rozen recalls over at, a Sorbonne-educated Shakespeare scholar. 

He was famously eccentric and indecisive -- and even more famous for handing out chunks of Kosovo's native rock to foreign visitors.  (For a while, the size of your rock -- no, I am not kidding -- was a real status question in the Clinton foreign policy establishment.)

Over time, as Kosovars lost faith in the international community's promises, and violence created facts on the ground where negotiations had not, Rugova was pushed further and further aside, and this -- along with a deep Kosovo fatigue -- accounts for how little attention his passing received here.

But he remained Kosovo's last best unifying force, the living incarnation of all that was unbendable yet humane in the Kosovar spirit, the embodiment of a decade-long campaign of non-violent protest that built alternate institutions alongside those imposed from Belgrade and kept civil society functioning until the hard men took over.  Compare his political longevity, even with attenuated powers, to the fate of moderates in Bosnia, or Iraq.  Consider the size of the hole his passing has opened up in Kosovar politics.

My favorite Balkan wiseman says there is considerable question about whether Rugova's political party, still Kosovo's largest, can even survive his passing. 

With Rugova, the EU and US could still imagine that we might not have to choose between better government in Kosovo and the Kosovars' absolute determination to achieve independence.  With him gone, that dream -- which is what it was -- is gone as well.

Even given the ambivalent legacy of present-day Kosovo, and Rugova's often-frustrating passivity, I'm not sure one person could ever do more to lead a country toward democracy, moderation and secularism than Rugova.

December 07, 2005

Europe, Terrorism

'The Sky Is Black With Planes?'
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

In my bucolic 70s-80s suburban childhood, that was how the execs at the Fortune 500 media company where my dad worked described the cascading chains of management transfers among media properties.

Today, though, I'm looking at some of the CIA-torture-plane reporting coming out of Europe, counting up the national inquiries -- the BBC and Le Monde between them report eight into CIA activities on or over their territories -- and thinking two things.  First, the scandal is going to stay alive and bedevil our relations with Europe for a long time, as these national inquiries feed off each other.  In addition to the eight above, questions have been raised in Austria, Italy, Germany and the UK that I know of.   Der Spiegel and The Guardian reported 437 CIA flights to Germany since September 11, and 210 into Britain.

Second, that sounds like a lot more activity and many more flights than would have been needed for the 26 "ghost detainees" Human Rights Watch has listed.  The Washington Post said earlier this week that there had been eight prison facilities, which seems to suggest rather more than 26 individuals.

Continue reading "'The Sky Is Black With Planes?'" »

December 06, 2005

Europe, Iraq, Terrorism

Euro-Leaders to Rice: Thanks, We Needed That (Not.)
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

Ever have a life partner, colleague, or friend who interrupted your brilliant storytelling at cocktails with the words, "that's not how you told it last time?"

That's more or less what Secretary Rice, who had been getting oodles of good press for her diplomatic abilities,  did to our European allies this week.

But today in Germany it seems that two can play at that game.

Continue reading "Euro-Leaders to Rice: Thanks, We Needed That (Not.)" »


Secrets Overshadow Rice Visit to Europe
Posted by Julianne Smith

Derek Chollet has asked me to guest blog this week.  Who am I?  Click here

Anytime transatlantic tensions have soared in recent years, Atlanticists on both sides of the pond have found solace in the fact that counter-terrorism cooperation between the two continents remains rock steady.  Even at the height of the Iraq debate, when the French were creating a multipolar moment with the Germans and the Russians in an attempt to block the U.S. invasion, French and American security officials were busily sharing intelligence on suspected terrorist cells, ironing out extradition agreements, and strengthening judicial cooperation.  No matter how many times the headlines have said we hate each other, no matter how many polls have highlighted our “values gap,” and no matter how loud the shouting has become at Munich’s annual security conference,  the counter-terrorism community has slogged on.   

But new accusations about secret prisons in Europe run by the CIA, coupled with other concerns about U.S. policy on torture and rendition, now threaten to erode the mainstay of transatlantic security cooperation.  American policymakers have been inundated with requests for more information on the so-called “black sites,” and the EU has launched an official investigation, threatening to suspend the voting rights of any EU member state that is found to have hosted such sites.  Unlike past transatlantic debates over the EU arms embargo or Iran, this one threatens to damage the Teflon-coated world of intelligence sharing and law enforcement cooperation across the Atlantic.  Intelligence sharing between Europe and the United States certainly won’t grind to a halt but European political elites are coming under increasing pressure from their angry publics to distance themselves from any U.S. practices that infringe on human rights and international law.  That spells trouble for European intelligence officers who cannot say with certainty how the intelligence they share will be used by their U.S. counterparts. 

In an effort to preempt the barrage of questions she will face on the subject in Europe this week, Secretary Rice hosted a press conference yesterday just before her plane left Andrews Air Force Base.  But her broad reassurances that the U.S. does not condone torture and promises to look into the matter are unlikely to prevent this black cloud from following the Secretary across Germany, Belgium, Ukraine, and Romania.  The Europeans want details and dialogue – two things the State Department isn’t providing at the moment.  Until that changes, attempts to focus on any of the multiple items on our common transatlantic agenda will be tough. 

Daniel Benjamin (who just wrote a great piece in Time tied to this subject) and I leave for Holland later today for a dialogue with Europeans on terrorism-related issues.  Time allowing, I will report back with fresh insight from the land of wooden shoes.

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