Some issues of specific and general interest that caught my eye over the past week.
From The Duck of Minverva – Skyfall and Cyberwar: James Bond Enters the Digital Era (warning – spoilers!):
In reality, cyberwar is a tough tactic to utilize. Cyber attacks are not exactly the future of combat, diplomacy, and human relations. While computers shape our lives, it is by no means assured that cyber attacks will take place at a level that will impact our day to day lives, let alone the foundations of British intelligence headquarters. These worst case scenarios are not helpful, if anything they make us less secure by convincing actors that constant cyber warfare is the coming reality.
We must step back from this imagined cyber brink. If James Bond can’t stop the cyberwar future, who can? Our perception of cyber conflict is indicative of a perspective that the world is perpetually insecure and dangerous.
From Eric Garland, on the “informal economy” (also know as the “black market”):
From Forbes (of all places), with a few mentions of Singapore –
Vladimir Putin relies on former German Prime Minister Gerard Schroeder; Equatoguinean dictator Teodoro Obiang purchased the support of a civil rights foundation in the U.S. (the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation) to launder his reputation; the dictator of Angola bought himself Jimmy Carter’s UN Ambassador, Andrew Young (a corrupt, self-styled heir to Martin Luther King); Hugo Chávez first had Jack Kemp and then went Hollywood when he bought Danny Glover for $18 million; and the tyrannies of Singapore and Saudi Arabia have too many servants in the West to list. Beyond the rosy language, post-modern dictatorships all feature heads of state who intend to rule for life, leading dominant statist governments with hardly any real checks on their power. ……
In Washington, DC Nazarbayev has employed the well-connected Alexander Mirtchev, a member of the Atlantic Council’s executive committee, senior scholar at the Wilson Center, and confidant to the former Singaporean dictator Lee Kuan Yew. According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, Mirtchev was paid millions to manage the enormous ill-gotten fortune of the Nazarbayev clan and help the dictator spy on opposition activists.
From international relations scholar John Mearsheimer:
There is some chance that Operation ‘Pillar of Defence’, as the Israelis are calling their current campaign, might become a full-scale war. But even if it does, it will not put an end to Israel’s troubles in Gaza. After all, Israel launched a devastating war against Hamas in the winter of 2008-9 – Operation Cast Lead – and Hamas is still in power and still firing rockets at Israel. In the summer of 2006 Israel went to war against Hizbullah in order to eliminate its missiles and weaken its political position in Lebanon. That offensive failed as well: Hizbullah has far more missiles today than it had in 2006 and its influence in Lebanon is arguably greater than it was in 2006. Pillar of Defence is likely to share a similar fate.
From Arianna Huffington:
During the campaign, even constructive criticism of the administration was seen by some Democrats as simply strengthening the other side. Well, whether you agree with this line of reasoning or not — and I certainly don’t — it is now moot. The election is over. Questioning Obama’s policies and speaking up is not going to result in a Romney presidency. But it can help make the Obama presidency the transformational one it still has the potential to be.
And again on Singapore, from Daunkesom:
The purpose of this article is to highlight a more understated cost of Singapore’s authoritarian developmental path, that of the latent culture of sadism. Sadism, in the way it will be used here, is the desire to inflict punishment on others, especially those weaker than you. It is the exercise of power for the sake of itself to demonstrate superiority or dominance over another. It is of course difficult to truly look into and gauge the hearts of men but to make a case on the evidence available. This is not to say that all Singaporeans are sadists but several factors have contributed to and still seeding these emotions deep within the psyche. We see the fruits of this latency in frivolous lawsuit cases being brought up in courts as well as police reports for many trivial offences which could be resolved through civilized conversation. We see expressions of sadism in public outrage where there is sometimes an almost manic desire to punish transgressors. This can also be derived from the kiasu mentality with its desire to win not so much for the material benefit per se, but for the pleasure of dominance itself. These expressions of sadistic impulses are of concern not only due to its latent visibility but also due to several which cultivate these impulses.
And once again (h/t Forbes), Singapore – HRF Expands Focus to include Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, and Singapore:
New York (September 18, 2012)—In line with the Human Rights Foundation’s expansion from an exclusive focus on the Americas to promoting democracy and freedom in closed societies around the world, HRF announces its commitment to addressing authoritarianism in Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, and Singapore. Though the similarities between these disparate countries are not immediately apparent, each of their governments share a tactic of burying human rights violations under news of economic development as they spend on lobbyists, public relations companies, and purchase the services of former presidents and prime ministers of democratic countries.