Posts Tagged ‘ democracy ’

Syria vs Obama: duplicity’s consequences

Simultaneously venerable yet duplicitous. If the US is to use force to respond to the Syrian conflict, the discouragement of chemical weapons is a worthy ends, yet the means are hardly beyond reproach. It is a bit ironic, indeed, that the US is playing the role of the UN (with Russia, of course as Syria’s ally, debilitating any serious action with its veto power in the Security Council) and enforcing the agreements from the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), one of the few major international agreements ratified by the US. For every supposedly venerable reason to make war, there’s two or three more international treaties the US has not ratified or has ratified yet violates.

Still, President Obama’s decision was a cunning one from a domestic policy and an international relations (IR) perspective.

I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.

Domestically, his decision to welcome the debate and leave it to Congress to have the final say when it’s his authority ultimately as Commander in Chief is a wise one. Not only does this allow Obama to share responsibility should things go awry, he also creates a difference between himself and his predecessor’s assumption of power. Of course it is also placative for the US war-tired public that he has promised the omission of ground troops. Let’s hope this isn’t him leaving the door open for a drone showcase–yet another controversy (note the date of linked article).

Concerning an IR perspective, Obama walks a tight rope of (supposedly) humanitarian interventionism between warmongering and pure-hearted assistance. Again, Obama is clear in claiming that he desires to have no political impact with the strike than to discourage the CWC breach. According to these statements, Obama has no intention in affecting the outcome of the war, lingering in Syria, imposing the Washington Consensus, or meddling in Syria’s politics to influence their resources.

(It should still be said that the US’ decision to dish out the punishment for international treaty violations is controversially overstepping to put it mildly, let alone absolutely hypocritical as far as international agreements are concerned. The US is trying to exemplify Syria, but does this set the precedent for the US’ responsibility to enforce the CWC?)

Even after Saturday, we have no idea what cards Obama is keeping close to his chest or to what extent the content he has revealed is intended as a cover for undisclosed incentives. But if Obama doesn’t follow through with what he assured on Saturday, that the “… action will be limited in time and scope,” he will be held responsible by not only the international community, but his own Congress and people. And if Obama means what he says, he’s got a hell of a road ahead of him and obstacles to overcome before he’ll be able to follow through.

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Comparing elections: U.S. and Venezuela

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors voting internationally and advocates for honest and transparent elections. The United States has encouraged the OSCE in its missions, provides American monitors for elections in other countries and, in fact, has invited the OSCE to monitor our elections since 2002.

In 2012 presidential elections were held in both the U.S. and Venezuela. According to the Bipartisan Research Center the 2012 turnout was 57.5% of the eligible voters. The 2012 election was similar to that of previous elections, as reported in internationalcomparisons.org. According to the New York Times the 2012 turnout in Venezuela was 80.5%.

The OSCE summary of the American election was generally favorable but did single out some areas for improvement, including voting rights, voter list accuracy, voter suppression by Republicans, campaign finance transparency, and recount procedures. The OSCE also noted what many other observers had commented on, that financing U.S. campaigns with huge amounts of private funds is a cause for concern for democracy.

The OSCE did not observe the 2012 election in Venezuela, but the Carter Center, also an expert organization in election evaluation, was there. The Carter Center has monitored 92 elections. Jimmy Carter, former American president, announced that Venezuela’s election was the cleanest of those the Center has observed. The Carter Center particularly praised Venezuela’s simple yet secure and transparent voting procedures.

American mainstream media claimed that the Venezuelan election was tainted by fraud and intimidation, but had little to say about defects in the American election.

Reports by objective election observers indicate that the Venezuelan election was better run and had more participation than that of the United States. Multilateral, independent observers are needed to counter the power and propensity of the mainstream media to mislead and provide a sound basis for improving elections in the United States as well as abroad.