Why India has never seen a military dictatorship -Quartz India

Standard

Here is an interesting article looking at the durability of civilian rule in India. While all of India’s neighbors -Pakistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Sri Lanka- have experienced military rule, the Indian army has stayed in the barracks.

The article is particularly interesting for two reasons. First, it is a good example of comparative poli-sci methodology. It compares the Indian experience to that of Pakistan, a state that emerged from the same historical roots as India. By looking at the similarities and differences between the two cases, the authors tries to isolate the key factors that have led the two countries down very different paths. Second, the analysis does not focus on the “usual suspects” so to speak. It does not explain the persistence of civilian rule in terms of political culture or the lasting influence of the British. The author correctly points out that Pakistan had the same historical experience with the British and and yet the Pakistani military has intervened repeatedly in civilian governance. The article also does not place a great deal of emphasis on military professionalism of leadership. Instead, the authors focuses on the relative strengths and weaknesses of civilian political institutions. Relative to Pakistan, the Indian state has been relatively robust and the country’s main political party, Congress, has been well organized and coherent. In Pakistan, the civilian institutions have been a mess, and the military has been the best organized institution in the country.

See: https://qz.com/418468/why-india-has-never-seen-a-military-dictatorship/

Three flawed ideas are hurting international peacebuilding -Monkey Cage

Standard

According to , while “policymakers and practitioners often admit that many standard peacebuilding techniques are ineffective. In the absence of compelling alternatives, these faulty templates continue to be used all over the world by default. Further, “effectiveness can be improved significantly if foreign peacebuilders avoid three widespread assumptions:

Assumption No. 1) Good things promote peace and bad things undermine peace.

Democracy, liberalization and education may actually fuel conflict. Conversely,  corruption, the drug-trade and other illegal activities can foster stability -at least in the short term.

Assumption No. 2) It takes formal peace efforts to control violence.

“ordinary people can engage in everyday actions to reduce tensions, such as avoiding topics that might be contentious. Or they focus on being polite to members of other groups — or they reach out to local civil-society organizations, rather than state law enforcement, when there is a problem.”

“In these cases, formal, externally led peace initiatives may not be necessary because local people are already coping on their own. In fact, external support may actually jeopardize local efforts rather than support them.”

Assumption No. 3) Inhabitants of conflict zones aren’t capable of resolving their own predicament.

“outsiders don’t necessarily have the knowledge to build peace in host countries. They may not speak local languages, understand local customs or have the in-depth knowledge of local history necessary to comprehend and resolve the deep sources of tensions. And all societies — even those at war — tend to have local systems and skills to resolve conflicts.”

 

In the final analysis, its all about context: “peace efforts must draw on the knowledge, competencies, perspectives, networks, assets and leverage of both insiders and outsiders.”

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/03/15/avoiding-these-3-assumptions-may-actually-help-bring-peace/?utm_term=.091678e2f659

 

 

 

Rapid Increase of Diabetes Strains Middle East’s Health Agencies -New York Times

Standard

With all of the violence and ideological strife, issues of health and poverty are often overlooked in the Middle East. They may seem mundane in comparison, but they are no less important. Thanks to Shaelee M. for pointing this article out to me.

  • “Six countries in the region are among the top 10 globally with the highest prevalence of diabetes. They include the United Arab Emirates, showing the second-highest rate in the world — behind only the tiny Pacific island state of Nauru — followed by Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
  • The International Diabetes Foundation estimates that 26.6 million adults in the Middle East and North Africa currently have diabetes, accounting for 9.3 percent of the world’s adults with the disease. The region spends $5.5 billion annually on diabetes, accounting for 14 percent of its total health care expenditure. In Qatar, expenditure is as high as $2,960 per person.
  • The figures are already worrying, but the foundation predicts worse to come. It says that over the next 20 years the number of people with diabetes in the region will almost double, reaching 51.7 million by 2030.”

Neoliberalism: Oversold? -IMF and Salon

Standard

A recent article published by the IMF, “Neoliberalism: Oversold?” suggests a long overdue ideological reappraisal is taking place. The article challenges standard neo-liberal beliefs about austerity, capital controls, economic inequality and the one-size-fits-all approach to economic planning. Below are links and a few highlights from the article and a discussion published at Salon.com, “Wrong all along: Neoliberal IMF admits neoliberalism fuels inequality and hurts growth”.

From Salon:

  • “The world’s largest evangelist of neoliberalism, the International Monetary Fund, has admitted that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
  •  Neoliberalism refers to capitalism in its purest form. It is an economic philosophy espoused by libertarians — and repeated endlessly by many mainstream economists — one that insists that privatization, deregulation, the opening up of domestic markets to foreign competition, the cutting of government spending, the shrinking of the state and the “freeing of the market” are the keys to a healthy and flourishing economy.
  • Yet now top researchers at the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, the economic institution that has proselytized — and often forcefully imposed — neoliberal policies for decades, have conceded that the “benefits of some policies that are an important part of the neoliberal agenda appear to have been somewhat overplayed….”
  • “In analyzing two of neoliberalism’s most fundamental policies, austerity and the removing of restrictions on the movement of capital, the IMF researchers say they reached “three disquieting conclusions.”
  • One, neoliberal policies result in “little benefit in growth.”
  • Two, neoliberal policies increase inequality, which produces further economic harms in a “trade-off” between growth and inequality.
  • And three, this “increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth.”
  • The top researchers conclude noting that the “evidence of the economic damage from inequality suggests that policymakers should be more open to redistribution than they are…”

For more from the Salon article, see: http://www.salon.com/2016/05/31/wrong_all_along_neoliberal_imf_admits_neoliberalism_fuels_inequality_and_hurts_growth/

From the IMF:

  • “Moreover, since both openness and austerity are associated with increasing income inequality, this distributional effect sets up an adverse feedback loop. The increase in inequality engendered by financial openness and austerity might itself undercut growth, the very thing that the neoliberal agenda is intent on boosting. There is now strong evidence that inequality can significantly lower both the level and the durability of growth..”

It will be interesting to see if this critique has an impact on IMF policy. It is after all a research paper. There will doubtless be bureaucratic and political push-back from within the IMF and from some of the donar countries.

For the IMF article, see: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2016/06/ostry.htm

Are coups good for democracy? -Washington Post

Standard

There was a lot of optimism when Ben Ali, Mubarak and Qaddafi were ousted, then a lot of disappointment. This study suggests we should not be surprised:

“since the end of the Cold War, regime change of some sort increasingly follows successful coups (68 percent pre-1990 compared with 90 percent afterward, with the rest simply reshuffling the leadership). Though more of these changes now end in democratization, the most common outcome is still the replacement of one dictatorship by a different group of autocrats …..56 percent during the Cold War and 50 percent since the end of it.”

“The bad news does not end there. Using annual data on repression, we find that coups that launch new dictatorships lead to higher levels of repression in the year that follows than existed in the year leading to the coup. Moreover, in daily event data for the 49 coup attempts that have occurred since 1989, we find that there is only one case of a coup followed by a drop in state-caused civilian deaths during the subsequent 12 months.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/02/22/are-coups-good-for-democracy/

U.N. peacekeeping and transactional sex -Washington Post

Standard

“Yesterday, the United Nations’ Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) released a rather scathing report on enforcement and remedial assistance efforts for sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. peacekeepers. The report draws on research that we conducted in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia…”

“In 2003, the U.N. banned its peacekeepers from engaging in transactional sex (the exchange of money or anything of value for sex). Despite this ban, our survey of 475 18- to 30-year-old women in greater Monrovia revealed that about half of them report having engaged in transactional sex, and within that group of women, over three-quarters report having done so with U.N. personnel. Over 90 percent of the women who have engaged in transactional sex report that they usually receive money in exchange. And underage girls are at particular risk: 58 percent of the women who report the age at which they engaged in their first sexual transaction say they were younger than 18.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/06/16/u-n-peacekeeping-and-transactional-sex/

Brazil’s coming recession: The crash of a titan -The Economist

Standard

A gloomy look at Brazil’s economic woes and the state’s increasingly ineffective economic policy instruments:

“Faced with (two) poisonous options, a middle path is most likely. Interest rates will be too high for households and firms, so subsidised funding will grow. But they will be too low to protect the real, so swap costs will rise, too. Both subsidies put extra pressure on the government’s finances. By mixing monetary and fiscal policy in this way, Brazil is slowly rendering both ineffective.”

http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21645248-brazils-fiscal-and-monetary-levers-are-jammed-result-it-risks-getting-stuck