Foreign Policy In Focus

The “Responsibility to Protect” Is Buried in Iraq

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) is wreaking havoc in Iraq, committing atrocities and leaving death and destruction in its wake.

According to recent data from the United Nations, Iraq saw at least 1,571 civilian casualties with an additional 1,763 wounded in the month of June alone. Furthermore, there has been broad displacement of people, with numbers upwards of 600,000 since the beginning of June. More recently, concern has heightened over ISIL’s threat to the non-Muslim populations in Mosul, giving them an ultimatum to leave, convert to Islam, or pay a tax—if not, they risk execution. The threats have caused many civilians to flee.

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Is Human Rights Watch Too Close to the U.S. Government?

In the realm of human rights advocacy, few organizations enjoy the influence commanded by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

With outposts and contacts all over world, the New York-based NGO enjoys a reputation for assiduously chronicling human rights abuses and leveraging its political clout to hold abusers to account. HRW experts routinely testify before Congress, and HRW scholars enjoy access to a range of media outlets—from the New York Times on down to Foreign Policy In Focus.

The organization employs many courageous and conscientious researchers, but critics say its influence may come at a cost. In recent months, some activists have charged the organization with having a “revolving door” relationship with the U.S. government, which they say gives it a blind spot for abuses that originate in Washington.

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In Gaza, International Law Is Up in Flames

As Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip rages on, ceasefires come and go. Most last just long enough for Palestinians to dig out the dead from beneath their collapsed houses, get the injured to overcrowded and under-resourced hospitals, and seek enough food and water to last through the next round of airstrikes.

“There is nothing left but stones,” Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer quoted an old woman saying as she searched desperately through the rubble of what had been her home.

Casualties are soaring. By late July, Israel had killed more than 1,100 Palestinians — at least 73 percent of them civilians, including hundreds of children. Fifty-six Israelis, almost all of them soldiers, have died too.

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The Contrails Have It: Iron Dome Is a Dud

Contrails, the wake of an aircraft usually created by water vapor in its exhaust. When you hear them mentioned these days, it’s usually an attempt to paints. But contrails happen to be key to the effectiveness ― or lack thereof ― of Israel’s iron dome mobile missile defense program.

Before continuing, if you’re anything like me, you wonder how U.S. missile defense, which (arecent test notwithstanding), has underperformed, while its Israeli counterpart, Iron Dome, has proven successful in stopping rockets launched at it by Hamas and other extremists. First, it behooves us to remember that those are rockets, not ballistic missiles, launched at Israel. Second, where’s the evidence that Iron Dome works anyway? At the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, editor Jon Mecklin frames the question.

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Parsing the East Asian Powder Keg

The past six months have seen an incredible ratcheting up of tensions in the East and South China Seas, where the world’s three largest economies—China, the United States, and Japan—are caught up in an increasingly tangled web of territorial disputes, competing alliances, and historical grievances.

In February, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry assured Japan that the Americans would defend Japan in case of a military confrontation between Tokyo and Beijing.  That same month, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said the Philippines could count on American support if there were a clash with China in the South China Sea.

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A Promising but Precarious New Normal for the Young and Undocumented

Miguel Tapia was 13 when he found out what it means to be an undocumented American.

His parents explained that even though he had lived in Delaware since he was 2, he could not get a drivers license, apply for federal financial aid, or work legally in the United States.

Tapia found the news difficult to handle. The Mexican-born youth considered himself American, spoke accentless English, and saw his Delaware community as home.

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When Diplomats Misbehave: Standoff Between Malaysia and New Zealand

Diplomatic immunity has long been a staple of good-faith diplomatic relations between governments in the modern state system. But although the privilege was designed to reduce the incidence of conflict between states, its abuse has often had the opposite effect.

The 2013 New York arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade triggered a diplomatic rift between Washington and New Delhi. Charged with visa fraud and perjury, Khobragade was also accused of violating U.S. labor law by underpaying her housekeeper while making her work longer hours.

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Let’s End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Once and for All

It goes on…now in its twentieth day…Israel’s punishing military offensive against Gaza. Although it might happen – these conflicts have ended abruptly in the past – at the moment there is no ceasefire in site. The asymmetrical blow-for-blow continues. As many have pointed out, it is not a war, but an Israeli premeditated killing spree of Palestinian civilians. Nor is this the first time. Each day the casualty numbers mount. The published statistics are at best only “guestimates” with the real figures being significantly higher. How many more Palestinian civilians will be pulled from the rubble in the months after the fighting stops? How many bodies will never be found?

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Behind Door Number Three in Iraq

Governments around the world—and their expensive yet oddly clueless intelligence agencies—are watching in shock and horror as militant Sunni radicals sweep from Syria into Iraq.

Yet today’s crisis was both predictable and predicted ever since President George W. Bush made it clear that he and whomever he could persuade to join him were going to invade Iraq. That decision was the first in a long train of bad decisions hurtling toward the situation we find ourselves in today. Indeed, the reality of this post-Saddam world can be traced all the way back to the first plans for a post-Saddam Iraq bruited about by U.S. policymakers—in early 2001.

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Growing up in Transylvania

Agnes Gagyi grew up in the city of Miercurea Ciuc in the Transylvanian region of Romania. More than 80 percent of the population of this city of 50,000 people is of Hungarian ethnicity. Most everyday interactions are conducted in Hungarian. In fact, Gagyi didn’t learn Romanian at home or on the streets, but rather through television and Romanian classes at school.

Life under Ceausescu was not easy for Romanians in general, but it could be particularly harsh for Romanians of Hungarian ethnicity. Ceausescu orchestrated a nationalist turn in the Romanian Community Party that repudiated the cosmopolitan origins of the movement and reinforced the independent position Romania was increasingly taking within the Warsaw Bloc. Instead of a fraternal socialist neighbor, Hungary was for Ceausescu a potential threat, both for its more liberal version of Communism and its putative desire to reclaim lost territory like Transylvania.

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