Gringo Lost

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Archive for August 2009

Case by case: Drugs, rebellion and terrorism – Peru.

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Some governments in the world have problems with a combination of illicit trafficking, international/regional terror movements, and local insurgencies.  On their own these problems are considerable, but when combined together they give governments serious headaches without easy solutions.

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is morphing into an attempt to address these issues together. (*With the results of this countering strategy being debatable).  What many do not realize is that OEF concerns more than just Afghanistan, but The Philippines and Horn of Africa as well.   And in each of these areas, there is a blurry separation between what constitutes a trafficker, rebel and terrorist.  This blurry line is what makes them difficult to counter.

For example:

  • Afghanistan has its poppy growers, Taliban-like insurgents, and al Qaida affiliated groups.
  • The Philippines has the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Abu Sayyaf, human-trafficking and banditry economy.
  • The Horn of Africa has its warlords, pirating, and similar al Qaida-like groups.

But with each of these countries, an attempt to eliminate one problem can detriment attempts to counter another.  As is the case with the debatable counter-drug policy in Afghanistan which could lead farmers into the hands of the Taliban.  Or the counter-terrorism policy against Abu Sayyaf which can conflict with a reconciliation approach towards the MILF.  Not to mention, that trying to do too much with too few resources can be counter-productive in its own right.

Peru is a special case, just like all the others.

There are two main rebel groups and a significant cocaine trade in Peru.  Sendero Luminoso (or “Shining Path”) is the most internationally renown and violent of the two rebel groups.  The second is Túpac Amaru, which gained worldwide notoriety after it took hostage Japanese embassy personnel in an attack that lasted over 4 months.  Both of these organizations have been seriously weakened by decapitation that resulted in the arrests of top-level leadership.

In the Shining Path case, the arrest of Abimael Guzmán fractured the organization.  While the Japanese hostage situation resulted in the deaths of 14 members of Túpac Amaru’s high-level command.  These two episodes, occurring in 1992 and 1997, reduced the threat to the Peruvian state.

Yet, the danger for Peru is that both rebel groups will come back in force.  However, it appears that both groups have shifted their focus from leftist rebellion to drug trafficking.  Now Peru’s main countering strategy should be against the illicit drug economy, and not counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency.

But what is the best way to stop trafficking without stirring up rebellion?

Peru will have to diminish cash incentives for farmers that produce illicit crops, while simultaneously giving them economic alternatives.  Intimidation spread by traffickers must be policed without corruption.  And consumption must be reduced in a way that doesn’t necessitate interdiction or crop eradication, mainly this is because interdiction rises the profit-motive while eradication strengthens the link between farmers and rebels.

All of this is much easier said than done.  But, in my opinion, the US can reduce the illicit drug economy if it truly takes on the problem with “smart power,” as is claimed to be the renewed focus of US foreign affairs.

Smart power would encompass an approach that was both domestic and international.  It would include treatment at home with support for economic development abroad. It would include strategies that seek to address the drug problem at the two key nodes where it starts and ends:  The farmers who produce and the users who consume.  It would do this in a way that reduces criminality at both of these non-violent nodes of the production cycle.

Other gringo lost posts with a similar bend:

The ‘Wedge’: creating divisions between terrorists and insurgents in the Philippines

This is your counterinsurgency.  This is your counterinsurgency on drugs.

Counter-narco woes

Synchronized drug gang violence across the State of Michoacan

I’m in Mexico. So, I should write about Mexico

Voy a salir Mexico.

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IMG_0240I’m leaving Mexico tomorrow to return to mi casa, mi tierra, the great United States.  Thus, my internship with Foundation Proacceso ECO is coming to an end. I wish ECO the best of luck and will miss the place.  Here are some other things I’ll miss:

History lessons

Good and affordable food

Odd Mexico

Things that I won’t miss:

Mescal hangovers

Written by gringolost

August 24, 2009 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Mexico, Proacceso ECO

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Some substance when talking about Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy

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I’m a fan of Hillary Clinton.  As well, I should be (and so should everyone else).  After all, she was a good first lady, is a good diplomat, and as far as senators go she wasn’t bad either.  I find complaints about her tend to be shallow or sexist; small-minded lambasting about her dress or attitude that obfuscates what she actually contributes to this country.

So to my relief, this morning’s Washington Post printed an article by David Rothkopf which was actually substantive and fair-minded; a look beyond the pantsuits to explain what type of American foreign policy Sec. Clinton has set in motion.

As Rothkopf notes, Sec. Clinton’s foreign policy is focused on promoting broader inclusions of international actors, both state and non-state.  There is a forward-looking dimension to it which emphasizes international institutions and multi-actor partnerships, while building on relationships with rising powers in the global system.

According to Rothkopf, “The recurring themes [of Clinton’s foreign policy] include ‘partnership’ and ‘engagement’ and ‘common interests.’ Clearly, Madeleine Albright’s ‘indispensable nation’ has recognized the indispensability of collaborating with others.”

Now there is another part of the article which I’d like to pullout, mainly because of its significance to my current capacity as a development intern with Foundation Proacceso ECO. Proacceso ECO’s goal is to reduce Mexico’s internal digital divide and make information technology more widely available, while simultaneously promoting e-learning opportunities that expand economic possibilities for Mexico’s poor.

The pullout from Rothkopf’s article:

At the center of Clinton’s brain trust is Anne-Marie Slaughter[.] Now head of policy planning at the State Department, Slaughter elaborated on the ideas in Clinton’s speech. “We envision getting not just a new group of states around a table, but also building networks, coalitions and partnerships of states and nonstate actors to tackle specific problems[.]

[…]

A new team has been brought in to make these changes real. Clinton recruited Alec Ross, one of the leaders of Obama’s technology policy team, to the seventh floor of the State Department as her senior adviser for innovation. His mission is to harness new information tools to advance U.S. interests — a task made easier as the Internet and mobile networks have played starring roles in recent incidents, from Iran to the Uighur uprising in western China to Moldova. Whether through a telecommunications program in Congo to protect women from violence or text messaging to raise money for Pakistani refugees in the Swat Valley, technology has been deployed to reach new audiences.

Before this summer, I honestly hadn’t put much thought into the power of IT to change status-quo disadvantages.  And now, not to be cliché but knowledge is power.  Promoting innovation and broader telecommunications access is rightly to be placed high on America’s foreign policy agenda.

Similarly, I think Sec. Clinton’s emphasis on women’s issues should be seen as more than a personal goal but one that furthers our greater national interest of liberty and justice. As Clinton herself said, “the social, political and economic marginalization of women across Africa has left a void in this continent that undermines progress and prosperity.”

Note: If at all interested in information technology or Mexico’s economic development please read this previous post about a World Bank report titled “No Growth Without Equity.”

Today in odd international news

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Here’s a compilation of today’s international news stories which I thought particularly odd:

Item 1:  Iran accused Argentina of a “zionist plot” because of comments made by Argentina’s foreign ministry regarding the appointment of Ahmad Vahidi as Iran’s defense minister.  Vahidi is wanted by Interpol for his apparent involvement in a terrorist attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.  Which means Argentina’s complaints about Vahidi being in charge of Iran’s military is solely rooted in a zionist conspiracy.  Seriously?

Item 2: The New York Post reports (obviously very credible) that Libyan president Muammar Khadafy (funny I always thought it was Gaddafi) will be camping out in a New Jersey suburb while in The States for an upcoming UN General Assembly meeting.

Item 3: Man outruns hungry hungry hippo in Uganda.

hippo-chase-pic-charles-hotham-371803949

Written by gringolost

August 23, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Lunch is awesome when it’s seafood.

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I haven’t posted food in a while, so it’s time I do.  Today’s lunch cost me a whopping 75 pesos (or about USD $5.80).  What I got for 75 pesos: three courses and a goblet of fine Mexican beer.

IMG_0239

1st course: caldo de camarron (shrimp soup)

1st course: caldo de camaron (shrimp soup)

Caldo de camaron ranks high as one of the best soups in Mexico.  Also on the list: sopa Azteca (tortilla soup) and consome ranchero (chicken and broth with peppers, lime and cilantro)

Arroz con huevos estrallado (Rice with an egg sunny-side up)

2nd course: arroz con huevos estrallado (Rice with an egg sunny-side up)

3rd course: pulpo en su tinta (Squid cooked in its own ink)

3rd course: pulpo en su tinta (Squid cooked in its own ink)

And now I’m hungry again.

Written by gringolost

August 22, 2009 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Food, Mexico

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Discombobulation and the Afghan vote

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The BBC says, “Afghan poll hailed a success

Spiegel Online says, “Taliban Attacks Scare Off Voters

Washington Post says, “Afghan Voting Proceeds Despite Taliban Threats

Time Magazine says, “Afghanistan Vote: Threats and Empty Polling Stations

CNN International says, “Officials hail Afghan vote a success despite deaths

Wall Street Journal says, “Attacks, Fraud Reports Weigh on Afghan Turnout

And finally…

El Universal dice, “Afganos van hoy a urnas para elegir presidente

Written by gringolost

August 20, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Afghanistan, violence, Voting

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How economics and security meet: US-PRC relations

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Dr. Kissinger just penned this article titled Forging a New Agenda with China about how, like-it-or-not, the US and China are locked in an economic relationship that neither country can afford to ignore.  The article is worth a read because it neatly breaks down how our two economies have become so intertwined.  But, I’d like to pullout some quotes that concern global power relationships and how forging collaborative economic institutions can have spillover effects into other realms like international security.

To make this effort [Sino-American partnership] work, American leaders must resist the siren call of a containment policy drawn from the Cold War playbook. China must guard against a policy aimed at reducing alleged American hegemonic designs and the temptation to create an Asian bloc to that end. America and China should not repeat the process that, a century ago, moved Britain and Germany from friendship to a confrontation that drained both societies in a global war. The ultimate victims of such an evolution would be global issues, such as energy, the environment, nuclear proliferation and climate change, which will require a common vision of the future.

[…]

[The US & China] must not slide into a 21st-century version of classic balance-of-power politics. It would be especially pernicious if opposing blocs were to form on each side of the Pacific. While the center of gravity of international affairs shifts to Asia, and America finds a new role distinct from hegemony yet compatible with leadership, we need a vision of a Pacific structure based on close cooperation between America and China but also broad enough to enable other countries bordering the Pacific to fulfill their aspirations.

Emphasis added by me because I found this line peculiar coming from the 20th-century’s foremost proponent of realpolitik.