Keynesian Spirits

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the politics category.

Statistical Analysis of Retaliation in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

The summary from Johannes Haushofer’s empirical paper on retaliation in the Palestine – Israel conflict (with all caveats of econometric limitations, particularly when dealing with political and historical matters):

“Ending violent international conflicts requires understanding the causal factors that perpetuate them. In the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Israelis and Palestinians each tend to see themselves as victims, engaging in violence only in response to attacks initiated by a fundamentally and implacably violent foe bent on their destruction. Econometric techniques allow us to empirically test the degree to which violence on each side occurs in response to aggression by the other side.

Prior studies using these methods have argued that Israel reacts strongly to attacks by Palestinians, whereas Palestinian violence is random (i.e., not predicted by prior Israeli attacks). Here we replicate prior findings that Israeli killings of Palestinians increase after Palestinian killings of Israelis, but crucially show further that when nonlethal forms of violence are considered, and when a larger dataset is used, Palestinian violence also reveals a pattern of retaliation: (i) the firing of Palestinian rockets increases sharply after Israelis kill Palestinians, and (ii) the probability (although not the number) of killings of Israelis by Palestinians increases after killings of Palestinians by Israel.

These findings suggest that Israeli military actions against Palestinians lead to escalation rather than incapacitation. Further, they refute the view that Palestinians are uncontingently violent, showing instead that a significant proportion of Palestinian violence occurs in response to Israeli behavior. Well-established cognitive biases may lead participants on each side of the conflict to underappreciate the degree to which the other side’s violence is retaliatory, and hence to systematically underestimate their own role in perpetuating the conflict.”


Mad as Hell

As a student of economics, and hopefully (mostly) a rational human being, I am supposed to offer intelligent policy proposals to deal with our substantial and increasing social and economic ills. However, considering the great vision and courage our democratic leaders have shown during these numerous and currently unfolding crises, it can be hard to stop oneself from engaging in the behaviour exhibited below.


All Hail The Guardian

The newspaper industry has been under great financial pressures for the last decade or so, pressures that have intensified with a severe economic downturn and the rise of the internet and social media. In the past few years, newspapers have seen large falls in subscriptions, and sales in general, as we shift our ways of getting news. A large number of advertisers have pulled back partly due to the recessions and weak recoveries, but mostly because more channels of communication are now available to them and they are preferring to target consumers through the internet. Many newspapers have been shut down, many others restructured substantially by hastily arranged new owners and the survivors have been cutting jobs furiously, but they nevertheless continue to bleed.

However, great reporting by newspapers such as the Guardian continues to remind us of the central role newspapers play in our democracies and why they must be protected. For many years now, the Guardian has strongly pursued the story of phone-hacking by the Murdoch-owned tabloid, News of the World. The Guardian was criticised by some for pursuing this line due to a political agenda. Rebekah Brooks, former editor of the News of the World and former head of News International even wrote a letter in 2009 to the Chairman of the Commons culture committee stating that News International would “refute allegations that illegal phone tapping was a widespread practice” and that the Guardian had “substantially and likely deliberately misled the British public.” Many others, including high-up police officers like Yates, were equally dismissive. However, today it is the Guardian and its high quality journalism that stand vindicated.

Nick Davies, the extraordinary investigative reporter who doggedly pursued the phone-hacking scandal until it actually led to some accountability was also a major player in the Wikileaks’ US embassy cables’ release. Many of his early reports failed to generate much reaction and it is nearly after more than five years of hard work that the issue got the attention it deserved. It is such investigative, dogged, principled and unstintingly honest and righteous journalism that every nation requires to prosper. Reporting must be without fear or favour.

Russia’s Chechnya Problem

The recent bombing at Moscow airport was very tragic and the loss of so many innocent lives highly condemnable and deeply painful. One can but feel immense sorrow at such bloodshed. However, the tragedies that have actually bred such mindless violence deserve more attention too, if we are ever to solve such problems.

To this end, Fareed Zakaria (Time Magazine/CNN) wrote an article in Time that deserves some our…time. You can head over to their website to read the full article;  some interesting parts are excerpted below and commentary follows after it.

In 1944 he [Stalin] deported most of the Chechen population — nearly half a million people — to central Asia and burned their villages to the ground.

Over the course of the past two decades [90s/00s], it has fought two ferocious wars, killed tens of thousands of Chechen civilians and razed large parts of the republic, flattening its capital, Grozny. Moscow finally subdued Chechnya and installed as President a pliable local warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose regime has managed to make Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst list of the most repressive governments on the planet.

As the once secular secessionist movement in Chechnya continued to be brutally suppressed, it became more extreme, taking help anywhere it could find it, including from Islamic extremists. Chechen groups, always fractious, fragmented and became uncontrollable. As Russia destroyed Chechnya’s civil society, the place became a wasteland characterized by anarchy and gang warfare. And as tales of Russian brutality spread, Muslim warriors who were searching for jihad traveled to the Caucasus to do battle with the unbelievers. Muslim fundamentalists from Saudi Arabia and other countries have provided funds to some of these groups. Even today, despite the surface calm in Chechnya, Russia maintains a brutal reign of terror there and in its surrounding regions. Any signs of religious behavior are viewed with hostility.

The last point is particularly telling for it concerns not just Chechnya, but based on my moderate amount of knowledge, other conflict areas such as Kashmir and Occupied Palestine as well. For many years (generally decades) after the gross initial atrocities and commencement of oppression, no major resistance appeared in these areas, if any at all. It is only after very long periods that indigenous/local resistance movements appeared (late 1980s in Kashmir, 1970s in Occupied Palestine) and they too generally tended to be less religious-minded, more secular, nationalistic and relatively ‘moderate’ (in the sense used by Zakaria). I believe this to be the case in Somalia as well.

Thus, ideally, world powers should have engaged with these people, alleviated their just grievances and put pressure on oppressive states to allow greater democracy, freedom and actually, just on a more basic level, an end to these regimes’ murderous campaigns against innocent civilians. These humanitarian concerns are, however, generally subsumed by so-called strategic imperatives. While not wishing to single out the USA, the atrocities in Chechnya increased after the September 11 attacks as the USA turned a blind eye toward  this oppression as it sought another ally in its ‘War on Terror’.


Some useful reports on Chechnya

Chechen Refugees Describe Atrocities by Russian Troops

War Has No Rules for Russian Forces Fighting in Chechnya

Human Rights Watch testimony in US Congress

Just four years ago [2003] the United Nations still called Grozny the most destroyed city on earth. Ravaged by two wars, it had not a single building left undamaged.

Russian forces have committed grave abuses, including war crimes, in their campaign in Chechnya