Of Widowhood

15 September 2009

Poem by Chinwe Azubuike from ACAS Bulletin 83.

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ACAS Blog Series: The Geopolitics of Petroleum

2 June 2009

Oil issues include a very wide range of problems: food security, scarcity of resources (sometimes referred to as the problem of peak oil), global climatic changes as a result of hydrocarbon consumption, human rights, and resource wars over oil (in Sudan, Chad, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Western Sahara, inter alia). As the price of oil rose to over $100 a barrel last summer, oil issues came to dominate U.S. foreign policy (competition with China for oil, the Bush Administration’s position on Venezuela, and OPEC), as well as domestic policy (tax policy, energy conservation initiatives, preservation of wilderness, etc.). Some issues have been extensively debated (for example, peak oil), but others—such as the impact of the high price of oil on the oil-importing economies of Africa—have scarcely been mentioned in analyses.

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AFRICOM and the Geopolitics of African Oil

2 June 2009

On 1 October 2008, the new Africa Command (AFRICOM) officially became operational as America’s newest combatant command, with its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, to oversee U.S. military activities on the continent. Until the creation of AFRICOM, U.S.-African military relations was conducted through three different commands: the European Command, which had responsibility for most of the continent; the Central Command, which oversaw Egypt and the Horn of Africa region along with the Middle East and Central Asia; and the Pacific Command, which administered military ties with Madagascar and other islands in the Indian Ocean. This reflected the fact that Africa was chiefly viewed as a regional theater in the global Cold War, or as an adjunct to U.S.-European relations, or—as in the immediate post-Cold War period—as a region of little concern to the United States.

From The Geopolitics of Petroleum ACAS Blog Series

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Film Review: ‘Blood and Oil’

2 June 2009

Middle Eastern oil resources have long been considered “a stupendous source of strategic power” by the United States, evidenced by a State Department memo from August 1945. According to progressive energy analyst Michael Klare in the new documentary Blood and Oil, the same oil resources are also a “source of weakness” for the US. Based on Michael Klare’s book of the same name, Blood and Oil examines the relationship between oil and US foreign policy. Serving as the film’s commentator, Klare sheds light on the importance of access and control of oil in presidential doctrines from FDR through the Bush administration. He argues that the control of the world’s energy resources has been foundational to US foreign policy since World War II. Blood and Oil demonstrates how US foreign policy and energy policy are essentially intertwined.

From The Geopolitics of Petroleum ACAS Blog Series

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Reader’s Guide: Crude Democracy

2 June 2009

The central argument of the book is that resource revenues (including but not limited to oil) can support as well as undermine democracy. This, of course, runs directly contrary to the current accepted wisdom of the resource curse, that countries with substantial resources can generate sufficient rents to function as states, often including substantial payoffs to well-connected individuals, without having to get their populations to agree to pay taxes to support them; such efforts would presumably have involved some sort of accountability to the population, leading to democracy.

From The Geopolitics of Petroleum ACAS Blog Series

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‘Syriana’ as a Teaching Tool

2 June 2009

To my way of thinking, the confusion engendered by the film creates a teachable moment. Many Hollywood films are so straightforward that there is little justification for including them in the college curriculum. But this one is so complex as to be a puzzle, an interesting challenge. By the same token, it creates a real opportunity for the discussion leader to serve a real need, to help the students figure out the puzzle. As a discussion leader, I cannot claim any special brilliance or insight. What gives me the edge is the simple fact of watching the film several times. Each time I watch the film, it becomes a bit clearer. On multiple viewing, there are many “Aha!” moments.

From The Geopolitics of Petroleum ACAS Blog Series

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“Everything Must Change So That Everything Can Remain the Same”: Reflections on Obama’s Energy Plan

2 June 2009

Is President Obama’s oil/energy policy going to be different from the Bush Administration’s? My immediate answer to this prophetic question will be philosophical: a firm “No” and a more hesitant “Yes.” The reason for this ambivalence is simple: the failure of the Bush Administration to radically change the oil industry in its neoliberal image has made a transition from an oil based energy regime inevitable and the Obama Administration is responding to this inevitability. Consequently, we are in the midst of an epochal shift so that an assessment of the political forces and debates of the past have to be revised and held with some circumspection.

From The Geopolitics of Petroleum ACAS Blog Series

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Zimbabwe: Human Rights Defenders Under Attack – Act Now!

5 May 2009

Today the government of Zimbabwe rearrested Jestina Mukoko and 15 others on trumped up charges of “banditry, terrorism and insurgency”. The arrest follows the appearance of Jestina and her comrades before a Harare Magistrate at which they were formally indicted remanded in custody. We cannot be silent in the face of this outrageous attack on human rights defenders. The only crime committed by Jestina Mukoko, a long time civic leader in Zimbabwe and her co-accused is standing up against tyranny in Zimbabwe and speaking out in defense of human rights and democracy. As Martin taught us, it takes the silence of good people for abuses of this nature to persist. We call upon people of good conscience all over the world to add your voice in calling for the unconditional release of Jestina Mukoko and her comrades. Zimbabwe’s compromised courts cannot be trusted to deliver justice to activists who have been targeted and victimized for their principled stand on human rights and democracy. There is no chance for these activists getting a fair trial under the unreconstructed judicial system in Zimbabwe.

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South Africa: Political Liberation, Economic Capitulation

28 April 2009

Its that time of year again: shiny posters pasted to lampposts (beckoning people toward the light?); politicians pole dancing for votes, faces (and hands) scrubbed clean of deception; the largely uninformed and inactive flesh-and-blood electorate prying open ‘magic-voting-button’ boxes to retrieve dusty, moth bitten cloaks of idealism, stapled with old newspaper cuttings and dented dreams (its a little banged up, but now is your time!). But the duct tape is coming loose; the dream, unraveling – and this, far from the madding crowd – those swept up in the heady sensationalised narrative of the Mbeki-Zuma drama, fatally reducing the inherited and endorsed economic legacy of apartheid (and often contradictory internal dynamics) to a leadership clash between two pack leaders vying for the alpha or first male’s throne (seated atop the same system, so does it really make a difference?).

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The Future of the South African Dream: Howard University, April 28

20 April 2009

The Future of the South African Dream: Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and the April 2009 Elections. Tuesday, April 28 2009. 6:30PM – 8:30 PM. At Howard University, Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center. 2218 Sixth Street NW. Washington, DC. 20059. Admission free – All are welcome!

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