The UN’s New Focus: Surviving, Not Stopping, Climate Change

The United Nations’ latest report on climate change contains plenty of dire warnings about the adverse impact “human interference with the climate system” is having on everything from sea levels to crop yields to violent conflicts. But the primary message of the study isn’t, as John Kerry suggested on Sunday, for countries to collectively reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Instead, the subtext appears to be this: Climate change is happening and will continue to happen for the foreseeable future. As a result, we need to adapt to a warming planet—to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits associated with increasing temperatures—rather than focusing solely on curbing warming in the first place. And it’s businesses and local governments, rather than the international community, that can lead the way.

“The really big breakthrough in this report is the new idea of thinking about managing climate change,” Chris Field, the co-chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study, said this week, adding that governments, companies, and communities are already experimenting with “climate-change adaptation.”

Read more. [Image: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

My body is a site
for geopolitical warfare;
borders branded on me
before my birth,
stamped on skin and bone
like meat for the market.
Nationalities forced
onto me against my will,
languages shoved
down my throat.
All in efforts to sell me
to myself, and
even I’m not buying.
—  Nav K
The trite dichotomy that Egypt has “democrats who are not liberals” (the Brotherhood) and “liberals who are not democrats” (the huge crowds in the street), propounded most recently in the New York Times may sound smart at Manhattan cocktail parties, but it doesn’t take us very far into the minds of the Egyptian masses.

The root, the trunk and the branch of the uprisings that began in early 2011, in fact, is the fight for honor and dignity in the face of governments – whether Mubarak’s or Morsi’s — that have demanded submission, delivered few or no benefits, and left the Egyptian people feeling humiliated both at home and abroad.

Egyptians like to think of their ancient country as Umm al-Dunya, the mother of the world, not a struggling also-ran in a global economy dependent on demeaning loans from the International Monetary Fund or cynical charity from the Gulf Arabs who, when they come to Egypt, often treat the men as servants and the women as whores.
Labeling the violent acts of those Muslim Others as “terrorism” - but never our own - is a key weapon used to propagate this worldview. The same is true of the tactic that depicts their violence against us as senseless, primitive, savage and without rational cause, while glorifying our own violence against them as noble, high-minded, benevolent and civilized (we slaughter them with shiny, high-tech drones, cluster bombs, jet fighters and cruise missiles, while they use meat cleavers and razor blades). These are the core propagandistic premises used to sustain the central narrative on which the War on Terror has depended from the start (and, by the way, have been the core premises of imperialism for centuries). That is why those most invested in defending and glorifying this War on Terror become so enraged when those premises are challenged, and it’s why they feel a need to use any smears and distortions (he’s justifying terrorism!) to discredit those who do.

Musket, Map and Money by Jimmy Teng

How Military Technological Changes Shaped Geopolitics and the Fortunes of States and Civilizations

Seventeen years have passed since the publication of Jared Diamond’s groundbreaking Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies - a Pulitzer winning global account on the rise of civilization, which formed the foundations to explain European supremacy in conquering other regions from the sixteenth century onwards, and dismantled unreservedly the theories of racial superiority in vogue with many researchers.

But the question why Europe performed better and why it emerged ultimately victorious in the competition with other civilizations in the second half of the past millennium still puzzles economists, sociologists, historians and the general public. It is now Jimmy Teng’s turn to contribute to the lively discussion on how the world became what we know today, in his Musket, Map and Money – released now fully Open Access by De Gruyter Open.

In Ukraine, We’re Witnessing What Comes After the War on Terror

Maybe this is how the “war on terror” ends.

Since entering his second term, President Obama has signaled his desire to close out a foreign-policy era that he believes has drained America’s economic resources and undermined its democratic ideals. But it hasn’t been easy. Partly, Obama remains wedded to some of the war on terror’s legally dubious tools—especially drone strikes and mass surveillance. And just as importantly, Obama hasn’t had anything to replace the war on terror with. It’s hard to end one foreign-policy era without defining a new one. The post-Cold War age, for instance, dragged on and on until 9/11 suddenly rearranged Americans’ mental map of the world.

Now Russia may have solved Obama’s problem. Vladimir Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine doesn’t represent as sharp a historical break as 9/11 did, but it does offer the clearest glimpse yet of what the post-war on terror era may look like. To quote Secretary of State John Kerry, what comes after the war on terror is the “19th century.”

Read more. [Image: Reuters/Ina Fassbender]

The world as envisioned by Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin in Foundations of Geopolitics


Aleksandr Dugin is a Russian political philosopher. He co-founded the National Bolshevik party in Russia. This map illustrates his geopolitical preferences as he laid out in his 1997 book Foundations of Geopolitics. He has close ties to the General Staff Academy, where his work serves as a textbook.

The declared purpose in his book is the rule of ethnic Russians “from Dublin to Vladisvostok.” In Dugin’s words, the basis of this Empire is “A negation of Atlanticism, a repudiation of the strategic control of the United States, and the rejection of the supremacy of economic, liberal market values…which will prepare the way for a strong political and strategic union.”

These ends are not to be sought by militaristic means, but by a complex mix of subversion, destabilization and disinformation spearheaded by special services and supported by tough use of gas, oil and other natural resource riches to pressure other countries to bend to Russia’s will. They are three axises which are to be established in this quest. One with Germany, one with Japan and one with Iran.

According to Dugin, “The task of Moscow is to tear Europe away from the control of the U.S. (NATO), to assist European unification, and to strengthen ties with Central Europe under the aegis of the fundamental external axis Moscow-Berlin. Eurasia needs a united, friendly Europe.” With the Berlin-Moscow axis, Dugin advocates giving the Kaliningrad oblast back to Germany. Germany and Russia are then to divvy up de facto spheres of dominance across Europe and thus mutually decide issues facing the region. A strong Franco-German axis is to be encouraged, allowing Germany’s sphere to extend beyond central and southern Europe to Iberian countries and Italy. France and Germany are considered to be bastons of anti-Atlanticism. Only the United Kingdom is to cut off and shunned from this Europe-Eurasia, it being an Atlantist ‘floating base’ of the US. Finland will be annexed directly into Russia. The countries of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are to be granted ‘special status’ in the Eurasian sphere. ‘Belorussia’ and the eastern regions of Ukraine will be direct parts of Russia. Catholic regions of Ukraine are to be a seperate federation. Finally, Dugin expects the ‘Russian South’ (orthodox Balkans) will be constituent parts of the Eurasian Empire.

In regards to Asia and the Japanese-Russian axis: The Kuriles are to be given to Japan, and Japan will being constructing its ‘new order’. A security belt will be established between Russia and China from seperatist regions of China and China given a sphere of dominance to its south, excluding Vietnam. Mongolia will be absorbed directly into the Empire.

Moving westward, Dugin argues a Russian-Islamic alliance is to the detriment of Atlanticism. Russia will get naval bases on the Indian ocean in the Iranian Empire’s territory. Russia will have all eastern access to the Caspian, and the Central Asian and Caucasian states are to be Russia’s again, at least for awhile. Armenia is an exception and will be a Russian partner, getting Armenian-populated regions. Georgia goes to Iran as booty in return for being a prickly problem for Russia. Azerbaijan goes as well in return for its ‘pro-Turkish orientation’. Any minorities in Turkey will be stirred up to rebellion. Turkey will be allowed southward expansion only.

India, the two Koreas and Vietnam will be allowed to join in efforts to constrain China’s threat to Dugin’s Russia.

"China has been moving sand onto reefs and shoals to add several new islands to the Spratly archipelago, in what foreign officials say is a new effort to expand the Chinese footprint in the South China Sea. The officials say the islands will be able to support large buildings, human habitation and surveillance equipment, including radar."

A Page from the Drawing Papers Archive

This page from Drawing Papers 64 features a pencil on paper drawing from Tomislav Čeranić’s Star City series, created from 2001 to 2004.

Čeranić’s  work was featured in Selections Fall 2006: Common Destination, an exhibition that brought together artists from different backgrounds who shared the characteristic of making drawings based on both their experience of and their imagined encounters with contemporary geopolitics. Čeranić envisions what his imaginary global perspective might yield visually if one could stand back far enough to take in the scene- suggesting both the world of science fiction and the Renaissance.

The Drawing Papers are a series of publications documenting The Drawing Center’s exhibitions and public programs and providing a forum for the study of drawing. For more information about Drawing Papers 64, click here.

-Kate Robinson, Bookstore Manager

Why the LBJ of 1964 Wouldn’t Succeed In Washington Today

The LBJ Library recently held a multiday program to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and by all accounts, the program was stirring and stimulating, up to and including President Obama’s speech.

But there was one downside: the reactivation of one of the most enduring memes and myths about the presidency, and especially the Obama presidency. Like Rasputin (or Whac-A-Mole,) it keeps coming back even after it has been bludgeoned and obliterated by facts and logic. I feel compelled to whack this mole once more.

The meme is what Matthew Yglesias, writing in 2006, referred to as "the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics," and has been refined by Greg Sargent and Brendan Nyhan into the Green Lantern Theory of the presidency. In a nutshell, it attributes heroic powers to a president—if only he would use them. And the holders of this theory have turned it into the meme that if only Obama used his power of persuasion, he could have the kind of success that LBJ enjoyed with the Great Society, that Bill Clinton enjoyed in his alliance with Newt Gingrich that gave us welfare reform and fiscal success, that Ronald Reagan had with Dan Rostenkowski and Bill Bradley to get tax reform, and so on.

If only Obama had dealt with Congress the way LBJ did—persuading, cajoling, threatening, and sweet-talking members to attain his goals—his presidency would not be on the ropes and he would be a hero. If only Obama would schmooze with lawmakers the way Bill Clinton did, he would have much greater success. If only Obama would work with Republicans and not try to steamroll them, he could be a hero and have a fiscal deal that would solve the long-term debt problem.

If only the proponents of this theory would step back and look at the realities of all these presidencies (or would read or reread the Richard Neustadt classic, Presidential Power.)

Read more. [Image: JD Hancock/Flickr]

Mackinder’s geopolitical map

The Geographical Pivot of History, sometimes simply as The Pivot of History is a geostrategic theory, also known as Heartland Theory. “The Geographical Pivot of History” was an article submitted by Halford John Mackinder in 1904 to the Royal Geographical Society that advanced his Heartland Theory. In this article, Mackinder extended the scope of geopolitical analysis to encompass the entire globe.

Rebel Leader Gives Bizarre Account of Plane Crash - Bodies at the crash site that should have been fresh were “drained of blood and reeked of decomposition”


A top pro-Russia rebel commander in eastern Ukraine has given a bizarre version of events surrounding the Malaysian jetliner crash — suggesting many of the victims may have died days before the plane took off.

The pro-rebel website Russkaya Vesna on Friday quoted Igor Girkin as saying he was told by people at the crash site that “a significant number of the bodies weren’t fresh,” adding that he was told they were drained of blood and reeked of decomposition.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 was shot down Thursday, killing all 298 people aboard. The plane was flying 10,000 meters above an area where Ukrainian forces have been fighting separatist rebels. Each side accuses the other of downing the plane.

U.S. intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile brought down the plane, and U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the U.N. Security Council in New York on Friday that the missile was likely fired from a rebel-held area near the Russian border.

Girkin, also known as Strelkov and allegedly a former Russian military intelligence agent, said he couldn’t confirm the information. But it’s sure to add to the intense emotions surrounding the crash, with the rebels accused of shooting down the plane.

Girkin said “Ukrainian authorities are capable of any baseness.”

He claimed that a large amount of blood serum and medications were found in the wreckage.

Here’s an interesting story that somehow flew under the radar. I also like how the article was titled plainly and uninterestingly as “bizarre account” rather than a more objective title describing the account.

A new military doctrine signed by President Vladimir Putin identified NATO as Russia’s number one military threat and raised the possibility of a broader use of precision conventional weapons to deter foreign aggression.

The new doctrine was signed on Friday, and it maintains the provisions of the 2010 edition of the military doctrine regarding the use of nuclear weapons.

The doctrine, which came amid tensions over Ukraine, reflected the Kremlin’s readiness to take a stronger posture in response to what it sees as US-led efforts to isolate and weaken Russia.

Russia’s relations with the West have plummeted to their lowest level since Cold War times, and NATO cut off ties to Moscow after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March.

The doctrine says Russia could employ nuclear weapons in retaliation for the use of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction against the country or its allies, and also in the case of aggression involving conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence” of the Russian state.

For the first time, the new doctrine says Russia could use precision weapons “as part of strategic deterrent measures”, the Associated Press reported.

Examples of precision conventional weapons include ground-to-ground missiles, air- and submarine-launched cruise missiles, guided bombs and artillery shells.

The document does not spell out when and how Moscow could resort to such weapons.