Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | May 17, 2013

Middle Eastern Christians, Ken Waltz, and Other Assorted Links of Interest

1. “Catholic soldier says her Muslim-sounding name made her a target for harassment in US Army”: the Washington Post has the story of a Farsi linguist: “Sgt. 1st Class Naida Hosan is not a Muslim — she’s a Catholic. But her name sounded Islamic to fellow U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and they would taunt her, calling her ‘Sgt. Hussein’ and asking what God she prayed to. So before deploying to Afghanistan last year for her second war tour, she legally changed her name — to Naida Christian Nova. This did not solve her problems. … Nova complained to her superiors about constant anti-Muslim slurs and jokes. She says they responded with a series of reprisals intended to drive her out of the Army… . A Farsi linguist who works in military intelligence, Nova’s multicultural background exemplifies the kind of soldier Army recruiters prize — U.S. citizens with ethnic ties to a part of the world many Americans can’t find on a map. Nova’s father, Roy Hosein, was born into a Muslim family on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, where his parents had emigrated from India. He converted to Christianity after meeting Nova’s mother, a Catholic from the Philippines, and became a U.S. citizen shortly after his daughter was born in New York.” (H/T: Rodger Payne.)

2. Rod Dreher points to an essay by Andrew Doran in The American Conservative about how various US policies in Middle East have had the effect of enabling and aggravating the persecution or harassment of native Christian populations in the region. (H/T: Professor Bainbridge.) This is a bipartisan failure, implicating the Bush and Obama administrations. Trouble began after the US invasion in 2003:

Amid the chaos and sectarian violence that followed, Iraq’s Christians suffered severe persecution. Neither the military nor the State Department took action to protect them. In October 2003, human rights expert Nina Shea noted that religious freedom and a pluralistic Iraq were not high priorities for the administration, concluding that its “diffidence on religious freedom suggests Washington’s relative indifference to this basic human right.”

Over the following decade, terrorists especially targeted Christian clergy, including Paulos Rahho, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul.

During this campaign of systematic violence, the U.S. military provided no protection to the already vulnerable Christian community. In some instances, the clergy went to local American military units to beg to for protection. None was given. As Shea noted two weeks later, the administration and the State Department—whose record on Christian minorities and religious freedom leaves much to be desired—still refused to “acknowledge that the Christians and other defenseless minorities are persecuted for reasons of religion.”

Rosie Malek-Yonan, an Assyrian Christian who testified before Congress, would call the Bush administration a “silent accomplice” to “incipient genocide.” Anglican Canon Andrew White of Baghdad’s Ecumenical Congregation captured the reality with blunt precision: “All of my leadership were taken and killed—all dead.”

The denialism by the American executive branch also has had consequences for Iraqi Christians who seek asylum in the United States (emphasis added):

Those Iraqi Christians who fled to America would fare little better in seeking asylum. Many Chaldeans and Assyrians were detained, until their cases were heard, in what an attorney familiar with Chaldean-asylum cases describes as “prisons,” adding that she “never worked on a case where a Chaldean was granted asylum, but I heard that it happened.” Throughout these deportation proceedings, the administration and the State Department steadfastly refused to recognize the conditions–which the U.S. had helped to bring about–as “persecution.” In consequence, most were deported.

This is depressing stuff. It would be embarrassing for the American government to admit that the new Arab democracy it helped establish in Iraq had made life worse for Iraq’s religious minorities. As noted previously, the fall of Mubarak’s authoritarian regime in Egypt has exposed that country’s Christian minority to persecution from a segment of their Muslim neighbors. It is small wonder that Syria’s Christians, on the whole, have continued to back Assad during the Syrian Civil War.

On the general subject of Syria, Marc Lynch has an article, “How Syria Ruined the Arab Spring.” Writes Lynch: “the Syrian nightmare has destroyed the spirit of fun, hope, and positive change of the early Arab uprisings. The promise of the Arab Spring has given way to Syria’s highly visible and protracted violence, divisive identity politics, focus on international intervention, crushing of expectations, fragmentation of the media landscape, state failure, and strategic proxy warfare.”

Dan Drezner has a response to Lynch’s article, and so does Kellie Strøm. Writes Strøm:

In thinking of what is likely, we shouldn’t forget how unlikely, or at least unusual, the events of 2011 were. It would be wrong to think of cascading revolutions as a new normal that was interrupted by an abnormal war in Syria. It’s easier to point to regional precedents for Syria’s war than precedents for 2011’s multiplicity of revolutions.

The revolutions were the exception, and while the post-revolutionary normal will hopefully be better than the pre-revolutionary normal, it is to be expected that it will in a fundamental respect resemble it more than it will resemble the revolutionary period, namely that after the revolutions daily politics will mostly be the business of an elite of practised politicians and not the populace. Most people don’t want to spend their lives on political struggle. They will only take part in exceptional circumstances, and if they do take part, most hope to finish their part as soon as possible…

The common failure of foresight pre-2011 was in not appreciating the vulnerability of long-established regimes to disruption by loosely organised popular movements. Nonetheless, common to all the 2011 Arab revolutions has been the further lesson that established well-organised and disciplined political groups are still more effective over the long term than less experienced loosely organised political groups. None of this is new, but we get to learn the old lessons again.

3. International Relations scholar Kenneth Waltz passed away earlier this week. Dan Nexon at the Duck of Minerva has a nice obituary, which includes this: “Waltz was a giant in the field. His two most important works – Man, The State, and War and Theory of International Politics – provided the framework within, and against, international-relations scholars have argued for much of the post-WWII period.”

Robert Farley, Michael C. Desch, and Rajesh Rajagopalan all have tributes to Waltz. (Hat tip to Dan Nexon for those last three links.) Stephen Walt has a touching tribute to Waltz as a teacher (all italics in original):

The first time I laid eyes on Ken was the orientation meeting for new grad students at Berkeley in 1977. Ken was director of graduate studies that year and had to give the welcoming speech. I don’t remember most of what he said, except that he emphasized that grad school took too damn long and that we should all plan on finishing in four years … or at most five. His message was simple: “Get your coursework done, write your MA paper, pass your qualifying exams … then write the thesis … four years! Why wait?” The average at Berkeley in those days was more like seven or eight years, so he was raising the bar from the very start.

I also remember my first day in Poli Sci 223, his graduate seminar in IR theory. I was already convinced that everyone else in the room knew more than I did, and Ken began by setting out his basic ideas about the field and about theory. At one point he made some critical remarks about two professors I had studied with as an undergraduate — nothing overly disparaging, just some critical comments on their conception of theory — which immediately made me think that not only did I know less than every one else in the room, everything I had learned up till then was wrong. The real lesson, however, was that grad school was not about learning what other people thought, it was about learning to think for yourself. And Ken gave us the freedom to do that. He never tried to force his students to agree with his views or to write books and articles designed to reinforce his own work or burnish his own reputation.

LFC has some reflections at his blog, including a few paragraphs on Waltz’s two major books. Steve Saideman also discusses those two books in this post:

He produced two of the most important books in the business. One of the ways you can tell someone was truly terrific is how the ideas seem so much like common sense after the person wrote them but not so much before. Man, The State, and War was a simple book that made a simple point–that we can look at different levels of analysis and see very different causes of war. He gamed the book, of course, favoring the third level of analysis–the systemic level–setting the stage for the second book. MSW was and still remains assigned in heaps of intro to IR classes, as it is quite readable, refers to heaps of political theory that students read for other reasons in other classes, and just gets one primed to think about IR.

The second book, Theory of International Politics, shaped the field ever since. It is still relevant more than thirty years later, casting a huge shadow on all subsequent IR theory. I think only Wendt’s Social Theory has a similar level of ambition and impact. Keohane and Nye’s Power and Interdependence is almost as influential but not nearly as ambitious in terms of making us think differently about the world.

I realized in grad school when I did a supplementary reading course that Waltz was not creating stuff out of thin air but building on John Herz and others. Still, Waltz’s TIP is simply THE book that IR scholars must read if they want to be IR scholars. I can think of many over-rated books that one can skip or just read the article version. But you have to read TIP or read most of it as it appears in Neo-Realism and Its Critics.

Prof. Saideman also includes this tid-bit: “I had dinner with Ken Waltz when he visited Montreal for a talk at Concordia (I think). All I remember was that he was very kind and very engaged. If I can be half as engaged at 80+, I will be most happy.”

Kenneth N. Waltz, 1924-2013. RIP.

4. Chris Blattman: “Dani Rodrik on seeing like an economist.”

5. “UN urges people to eat insects to fight world hunger”: “Eating more insects could help fight world hunger, according to a new UN report. The report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that eating insects could help boost nutrition and reduce pollution. It notes than over 2 billion people worldwide already supplement their diet with insects. However it admits that ‘consumer disgust’ remains a large barrier in many Western countries. … Most edible insects are gathered in forests and serve niche markets, the report states. It calls for improved regulation and production for using insects as feed.” Yeah. Good luck with that. (Via Anderson.)

The Colbert Report had a segment about this story on Wednesday.



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