How the U.S. drone strike on the Pakistani Taliban undermines Sharif’s government


No one will cry for the death of Waliur Rehman.USflagPakistan Flag Icon

As the second-in-command of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (i.e., what’s commonly referred to as the Pakistani Taliban), he’s responsible for many of the destabilizing attacks that the TTP effected in the lead-up to the May 11 parliamentary election.  In selectively targeting the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP, پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی‎) and its allies, it effectively prevented the leaders of the PPP from openly and publicly campaigning, and they actually forced the son of the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, out of the country during the last days of the campaign.

Rehman, in particular, is also responsible for attacks in Afghanistan as well, including perhaps seven CIA employees in a strike on Afghanistan, according to the U.S. government, and it added him to its list of specially designated global terrorists in September 2010.

So, in a vacuum, the U.S. drone strike that has killed him (and five other individuals) Wednesday morning is good news, right?

Probably not, especially if you’re cheering for a more secure Pakistan. Continue reading How the U.S. drone strike on the Pakistani Taliban undermines Sharif’s government

Entinhaltlichung: the best thing you’ve read so far on German politics this year

Angela Merkel gibt Einblicke in Privatleben

Neal Ascherson turns his gaze toward German chancellor Angela Merkel, her opponent Peer Steinbrück, the former East German ghosts that haunt Germany, and the Hartz IV labor reforms that also haunt it, in a superb essay for the London Review of Books that’s probably the best thing you’ve read so far this year on Germany, its politics, the importance of regional governance in an increasingly federal Europe and the north-south (and west-east) European divide.Germany Flag Icon

On Berlin, Ascherson captures in one paragraph the idiosyncratic nature of Berlin, which is really unlike any other city in Europe, which he argues ‘will never be a real capital again’:

When people talk about ‘Berlin’, they usually don’t mean the government of the most powerful nation in Europe. They mean Klaus Wowereit, the gay mayor, or the film festival, or a new café on the Oranienburgerstrasse, or the botched plan for yet another unnecessary airport. There is no centre. Even Bonn, in the years when the federal government was there, seemed more in command than Berlin is now.

Ascherson uses reunification as an analogical point — it’s the moment the West German social welfare model fell apart, for better and for worse:

And when the West Germans won that war and annexed East Germany (the best word for it), the aftermath was uncannily like Reconstruction after the American Civil War. Here was repeated the economic collapse, the inrush of greedy carpetbaggers from the victorious West, the purging of an entire elite from management, teaching and social leadership, the abolition of institutions and, of course, the liberation of the slaves – this time, into mass unemployment.

And as for Merkel herself, Ascherson nails it:

As for Merkel, sometimes she looks placid, sometimes she looks cross and disappointed, sometimes she smiles politely at foreigners over coffee and cakes. So she reminds people of Mum, and those who want to keep holding her hand think they know what she wants. Others, in despair, confess they have no idea what she wants. These days, she seems to have no policy of her own. Instead, after a suitable delay, she takes on opposition policies in a diluted form. Intellectual critics complain that she has no ‘idea’, no ‘concept’. And to describe what she does, or rather doesn’t, they have coined a frightful new German word: Entinhaltlichung. ‘It means what it says,’ a Berlin friend tells me: ‘Decontentification.’

Spiegel journalist Dirk Kurbjuweit summarized Merkel’s Entinhaltlichung earlier this month by comparing it to the Biedermeier era — the sleepy, happy period between 1815’s Congress of Vienna and the return of revolutionary spirit in 1848:

At the federal level, though, Merkel’s Germany is by and large somnolent, in part because of the government’s failure to present new ideas and plans. The chancellor gets by without them, and even the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), the junior partner in the ruling coalition, can’t seem to muster up much of an alternative, happy to avoid any danger of becoming a target of hostility…

By and large, things are calm in Merkel’s republic — and that really is something new…. as chancellor, she quickly became “mommy,” a nickname that seemed silly at first but has since proved apt, in the sense that a “mommy” is someone who takes care of the home, makes life pleasant and keeps worries at bay.

Ascherson’s essay strikes many parallel notes, even its title: ‘Hanging on to Mutti,’ a reference to an informal term for the German word for mother, Mutter, and both Kurbjuweit and Ascherson wrangle with the fundamental question of why Merkel herself remains so apparently popular despite leading a government that’s neither incredibly remarkable or popular.

What’s been clear for some time, at least since late last year when it became clear than the rather wooden Steinbrück would be the chancellor candidate of the center-left Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD, Social Democratic Party), is that the September federal election is going to be all about Angela. Continue reading Entinhaltlichung: the best thing you’ve read so far on German politics this year

First Past the Post: May 31, 2013


South Asia

Bhutan gets ready for only the second set of parliamentary elections in its history.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (i.e., the Pakistani Taliban) confirms death of second-in-command Wailur Rehman and suspends pending peace talks with the incoming Sharif government.

Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf will stay in Pakistan to face his various charges.

East Asia

One out of every four elderly Chinese live under the poverty line.

Now the Philippine economy is overpowering everyone in Asia, including China.

North America

Two more staffers of Toronto mayor Rob Ford have resigned.

Latin America / Caribbean

Thoughts on U.S.-Caribbean relations.

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles goes to Colombia (pictured above with Colombia president Juan Manuel Santos).

U.S. president Barack Obama will host a state dinner for Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff this October.

Argentina gets a cabinet reshuffle.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Both houses of Nigeria’s parliament have now passed a bill criminalizing same-sex marriage.

The International Criminal Court’s top prosecutor entertains repatriating the case against Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta to Kenyan courts.

Who ‘owns’ the Masaai brand?

Is Senegal becoming more susceptible to Islamic extremism?

Guinea’s election campaign kicks off in advance of June 30 voting.

Considering the end of the 27-year regime of Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.

Jeune Afrique interviews Rwandan president Paul Kagame.  [French]

Western Europe

Spain’s two main parties agree a broad anti-austerity pact before next month’s European Commission meeting.

French president François Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel finally agree on something — the Eurogroup needs a full-time boss.

Belfast residents and Northern Irish survivors of the 1972 shooting are not fun of London’s new ‘Bloody Sundae’ cocktail.

Economists argue that Alex Salmond’s vision of Scottish independence isn’t quite so independent.

Iceland’s new government puts EU accession negotiations on hold.

Central and Eastern Europe

Poland’s economy, one of Europe’s few bright spots, slows significantly.

Serbian prime minister Ivica Dačić hopes for confirmation of EU accession talks by June.

Cyprus’s economy will contract by nearly 9% this year.

Russia and Former Soviet Union

As the European Union moves toward lifting its ban on providing weapons to the Syrian opposition, Russia considers loosening restrictions on weapons to the Assad administration.

Ukraine’s constitutional court postpones Kyiv’s municipal elections through at least 2015.

Moldova gets a new coalition government.

Middle East and North Africa

The Wilson Center’s invaluable May 30 Iran election update.