From the Bulgarian artist Ivan Milev:
Bulgaria is a lot closer to the Orient than, say, France or the U.K. Just look at the style of fashion worn by this woman. It’s amazing!
- Why Czechs don’t speak German Jacklyn Janeksela, BBC
- The Kurds, Sykes-Picot and the quest for redrawing borders Nick Danforth, BPC
- The language of the economy: prices Rick Weber, NOL
- A Balkan border change the West should welcome Marko Prelec, Politico EU
- Turkish underworld joins war on journalists Amberin Zaman, Al-Monitor
- Turkish underworld has long history of working for Ankara Barry Stocker, NOL
- Russia meddles in Greece-Macedonia name bargain Kerin Hope, Financial Times
- The ugly plight of Turkey’s hidden Armenians Kapil Komireddi, the National
And one that does not have to do with Athens’ infamous bookkeeping practices. From the New York Times:
But property ownership in Greece is often less than clear cut. So Mr. Hamodrakas put a padlock on his gate and waited to see what would happen. Soon enough, he heard from neighbors. Three of them claimed that they, too, had title to parts of the property.
In this age of satellite imagery, digital records and the instantaneous exchange of information, most of Greece’s land transaction records are still handwritten in ledgers, logged in by last names. No lot numbers. No clarity on boundaries or zoning. No obvious way to tell whether two people, or 10, have registered ownership of the same property.
Yikes. There is more here. I highly recommend it.
Forget fiscal and monetary policy, Greece needs to instate a decent property rights regime before it can become a wealthy and healthy property-owning democracy.
This should not be surprising for a couple of reasons, but only if one is somewhat familiar with the modern history of the region. The Balkans has been, until very recently, under the thumb of various empires governed from afar (Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian). Once independence from foreign despots was attained (through war) in the nineteenth century, these states then had to survive more war (World Wars), endure more occupation (through the same world wars), and then navigate their young states through the Cold War (where dictatorship was sometimes preferable to ideological considerations, and sometimes integral to ideological considerations). In addition, Balkan states have had to constantly deal with threats from each other as well.
If anything, the inclusion of these states into the European Union is probably the best thing to happen to them in a long, long, long time. It is unfortunate that bureaucrats in Brussels decided to hastily implement a single currency without first ensuring that each of the member states possessed the institutions necessary for protecting clear and well-defined property rights.
Update: On the other hand, entry into the EU was probably (correctly) seen as a way to strengthen institutions associated with protecting property rights.
I appreciate Evgeniy’s recent remarks on the deterioration of Russian and American relations. This is an issue that has not received as much attention as it should.
From my own point of view, I can think of a few items that have caused deterioration on the American side of the relationship. Here is a small and by no means comprehensive list:
- The missile shield being built in Eastern Europe, ostensibly for the prevention of missile attacks from Iran. This is pure garbage. Iran has zero interest in attacking Europe with missiles. The Europeans have proven themselves to be very even-handed when it comes to affairs in the Middle East over the past few decades, and especially in regards to all things Israel. The missile shield in states previously under Moscow’s thumb is a direct provocation towards Russia, and there is absolutely no need for it. Russia, for its part, has no need of attacking Europe either. Moscow currently has a symbiotic relationship with Europe and its energy needs and its own problems in the Caucasus and the Far East.
- The contempt that establishment foreign policy figures in Washington have shown, and continue to show, towards Russia. The remnants of the Cold War have simply refused to go away in Washington. I think this is largely because if the establishment consensus were to acknowledge that Cold War policies are irrelevant, then they would all be out of their lucrative jobs. This contempt spills over into the political arena as well. Remember Mitt Romney’s comments about Russia being the “number one enemy” of the United States? Pure nonsense and both the American people and the Russian people deserve better.
- The continued occupation of the Balkans by Western coalition troops. NATO should have either dissolved or become an all-European alliance once the Warsaw Pact came apart and the Soviet Union split up. Taking sides in the Balkan conflict was designed to do two things at once: 1) stick the West’s thumb in Russia’s eye and 2) convince the Muslim world that the West was paying attention to its needs. A few years after attacking Serbia and initiating the process of splitting it up into smaller states, two skyscrapers full of innocent people were bombed by two jet planes filled with innocent people in New York City. The attacks were done in the name of Islam. In addition to the failure of the Balkan invasion to court the Muslim world, the exercise of power in Russia’s traditional backyard did indeed infuriate the Russians. Instead of an ally or a friend, the policies of NATO have led to cool receptions and deep levels of mistrust in Moscow.
These three policies are a good starting point for understanding why Russian-US relations have cooled considerably since the collapse of the USSR and the presidency of George HW Bush. I think more reaching out is needed on both sides, and I again thank Evgeniy for initiating this discussion. I am hoping for a long and prosperous friendship between free thinkers from two magnificent societies. A friendship that is dedicated to peace and understanding between two peoples who should have never been enemies in the first place.
I have made an effort in my blogging escapades to continually point out the underlying reasons for military intervention in poorer (often former colonial) states. Two things that have stood out to me are (1) the condescending display of arrogance on the part of the interventionist in regards to both differing arguments and the people involved in a conflict and (2) the high levels of confidence that these advocates have in their ability to predict the future based, presumably, on past experiences.
If you haven’t made the connection yet, these two characteristics are often exuded in Leftist intellectual circles, in Leftist popular culture, and in the Leftist’s moral compass.
Oftentimes, when I come across an advocate for humanitarian war (the doublespeak alone is enough to make me wonder), I am presented with the example of the mass slaughter of civilians in Rwanda during the ongoing conflict there in 1994. The gist of the argument seems to be two-fold: (1) that the West was hypocritical in its treatment of Rwanda and (2) that the West could have prevented, or at least, stunted, the horrific massacre of over half a million people in three months time. Continue reading
I have recently been having more than a few back-and-forth debates with my old sparring partner Jacques Delacroix concerning matters of foreign policy. The most recent debate has produced a number of great insights and opportunities to further enhance an understanding of foreign affairs.
Against the backdrop of this lively and hopefully continuing debate is the recognition that both of us are extremely ignorant human beings, and that we know far too little about anything to be in a position to command or direct institutions that are not based upon mutual consent and agreement. The one institution – government – that is widely regarded to be necessary for the use of coercion should have its monopoly on force widely distributed throughout various avenues of power and severely restricted by the use of legal precedent. This small paragraph essentially sums up the foundation of both libertarian and conservative thought in the United States, and as you read through this essay (or any other writings believed to expound upon conservative or libertarian ideals) I would highly recommend remembering this small but important fact.
Indeed, if I had to pinpoint the exact locus of difference between a Leftist and a conservative/libertarian, it would be this fundamentally opposite view of man that each camp harbors. Seldom have I met a Leftist Continue reading
As we speak, the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering his people. Assad is the son of one of the most notorious dictators of the modern Middle East, Hafez al-Assad, and, like his father, is a member of the socialist Ba’ath Party. It worth mentioning that Saddam Hussein’s ruling party was also a socialist Ba’ath Party, though I don’t know how closely connected the Iraqi and Syrian parties were. I just know both parties are Arab nationalist and socialist in nature.
One of our co-bloggers, Jacques Delacroix, has been an outspoken proponent of bombing the Assad regime in the name of democracy lately, and he has not shied away from proclaiming the Iraq War a success, or condemning libertarians (you read that right) to hypocrisy for U.S. refusal to bomb Rwanda during the 1990’s. He is also a proud supporter of the military occupation of the Balkans by NATO troops and the subsequent partition of Serbia into a plethora of different narco-states, and has not hesitated to heap praise upon President Obama for the recent bombing campaign that led to the removal of Muammar Ghaddafi from power in Libya.
I have addressed Professor Delacroix’s arguments for Libyan intervention here (there is a long dialogue between he and I in the ‘comments’ section). I have addressed his arguments for bombing Rwanda and occupying the Balkans here (again, there is another long dialogue in the ‘comments’ section). I have addressed his claims of Iraqi democracy here (it’s in the middle of the dialogue) and recent events in Iraq have, of course, borne out my argument.
I would like to draw attention now to his most recent idea for helping out the rebellion in Syria, and specifically in the city of Homs, close to where Bashar’s father murdered 20,000 in 1982 in the city of Hamah. This is not embarrass Delacroix or to start a fight, but rather to initiate a dialogue and see where it takes us. I had to ask him what his plans for Syria would be, since interventionists are infamous for being beholden to their hearts rather than their heads. From his other blog: Continue reading