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Showing posts from February 20, 2014

Drones: The dark side of power

Hatem Bazian

The use of drones against combatants and civilians is a pressing ethical question [EPA]

In "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith", Anakin Skywalker's defection to the Dark Side is a critical moment of personal weakness and the political abandonment of the Jedi Order. In order to save his ailing wife but tricked into believing that the Jedi Knights are corrupt, Skywalker kneels before Darth Sidious and pledges his allegiance to the Sith Order. Upon rising, he is reborn as Darth Vader, thus cementing his transformation to the Dark Side of the Force - with the power of the Sith, the Empire's vast fleet, the clone armies, and the Death Star already under development. The Death Star becomes the most powerful military weapon and mobile base to pursue and destroy the Rebel Alliance.

The successful "Star Wars" franchise captivated generations of worldwide audiences not only because it was - and still is - an enthralling science fiction drama, but a…

Venezuela's Pro-Government Activists Play a Role in Protest Violence

Anti-government students run away from tear gas shot by riot police during a protest in Caracas on Feb. 15. JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images


Venezuelan pro-government political activists -- known as "colectivos," or collectives -- have been at the center of political violence since the recent wave of protests began. Members of the colectivos reportedly have opened fire on several protests since Feb. 11, leading to deaths in at least one case. Although the government does not publicly sanction the colectivos' violent actions, members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela have historical ties to these groups. National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello was particularly influential in founding the colectivos. His ties to these groups are close enough that he was the one who announced the death of a pro-government Carapaica movement leader during a confrontation with opposition protesters Feb. 12.

The colectivos are an important support base for the government…

Sunni Militants in Lebanon May Be Nearing Rogue Status

Emergency personnel at the scene of the bombings in Beirut on Feb. 19. (-/AFP/Getty Images)


The leaders of Hezbollah and of the moderate Sunni political parties both want a truce, but the militant groups responsible for a string of attacks in Lebanon may have strayed too far to be reined in. Attacks have grown more frequent -- the most recent, a double bombing in Beirut on Feb. 19, killed five and wounded more than 100 -- but there is no clear increase in their magnitude or sophistication. This lack of progress is likely the result of shortcomings in the attackers' planning and surveillance. The attacks still generate some psychological pressure, but they do not inflict the devastating physical damage the Sunni groups intend. Nevertheless, Hezbollah is striving to do more to neutralize the threat.


Suicide bombers detonated two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices during morning rush hour Feb. 19 in Beirut's southern suburbs near the Iranian Chancellery. P…

What Thailand Means for Southeast Asia

Robert D. Kaplan and Matt Gertken

Once upon a time Thailand was the bulwark of American power in the heart of Southeast Asia. It was a strong, anti-communist state that was easy to govern because of a rich agricultural heartland protected by mountains and the relative absence of ethnic or religious conflict. Great moral authority emanated from the royal palace under King Bhumibol Adulyadej, still on the throne today, whose pillars of power were the Royal Thai Army, noble families and bureaucratic elites and the reverent masses. The military was, in turn, buttressed by force of arms, the king's aura, American patronage and control of state corporations. Rice farming was the basis of the economy, and the peasant farmers revered the king, who dispensed wisdom, infrastructure funds and development aid. The oldest U.S. ally in the region, Thailand served as a staging post for the American military during the Vietnam War.

Thailand had other advantages, too. It formed an identifiable natio…

In Ukraine, a Military Reshuffle Raises Questions

Riot police take down a Ukrainian flag hung by protesters on a streetlight in Independence Square, Kiev, on Feb. 19. (BRENDAN HOFFMAN/Getty Images)


Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich fired Commander of the Armed Forces and Chief of the General Staff Volodymyr Zaman on Feb. 19, replacing him with Navy Commander Vice Adm. Yuriy Ilyin. The reshuffle comes as Yanukovich is facing a decision about whether to use the Ukrainian military to quell uprisings across the country.

The Ukrainian government thus far has restrained from using the military to crack down on protests, which briefly intensified Feb. 18 in Kiev. So far, police forces have been relatively successful in containing more radical protesters within Independence Square, also known as Maidan, but have not yet attempted to clear them -- something for which Yanukovich could theoretically use the military. Rather than use the military, Yanukovich has capitalized on the protests' radicalization, increasing sentiment ag…