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Doing Business with Rouhani’s Iran – the French Connection

February 9, 2016

By Conner Clark

A thorough “reset” played out two weeks ago between France and Iran as global sanctions on the latter were lifted, restoring Tehran’s access to the world banking system. Even as the two nations remain embroiled in contentious issues, Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Paris focused on the positive. This was the first such trip by any Iranian president to France since 1999, and it carried weight in both style and substance. Leaders at the bi-lateral talks promised a “new chapter” – not because relations are likely to become particularly close, but because until recently, they were in such a sharp chill.

France, in fact, took the hardest line against Iran’s nuclear program of all countries present, including the United States. (Israel was not party to the negotiations.) After the November 2015 Paris attacks, France joined the US in extending airstrikes from Iraq into Syria. Tehran, which supports, to different degrees, the governments still standing in Baghdad and Damascus, was implicitly cast as the “enemy of my enemy”. Yet President Hollande resisted German calls to begin talks with the regime of Bashar al-Assad, insisting instead that he step down. Meanwhile, Rouhani’s visit was met with protests from a mix of human rights activists, French citizens sympathetic to Israel, and Iranian exiles.

This all stood in stark contrast to the state reception granted the 120-strong Iranian delegation, setting a wholly positive diplomatic tone and a return to business-as-usual. Already, the implementation of the “JCPOA” nuclear agreement has unfrozen $100 billion of Iran’s oil wealth, 10% of which was held in Eurozone banks. Hollande in particular set to work alongside his counterpart with the formalities of sealing multiple deals. Iran agreed to purchase 100 civilian aiIran Article Picture 1rcraft from European manufacturer Airbus for around $24 billion, and opened itself to car companies such as Renault and Peugot. For its part, Peugot is now slated to manufacture and sell cars in Iran through a local partnership.
Longer-term, Iran seeks foreign direct investment (FDI) in its infrastructure and energy sector, keys to rebuilding its battered economy. To that end, French oil giant Total signed contracts to buy 150,000-200,000 barrels of crude each day from Iran, a substantial fraction of Iran’s overall plans to increase its daily exports by up to 500,000 barrels. The French National Railway Company (SNCF) quickly formalized a partnership with Iranian railways to provide human expertise and physical capital for numerous goals: improving suburban mass transportation, developing high-speed rail, and rebuilding aging train stations.

High-tech firms in France and throughout Europe still face a double-edged sword in Iranian markets due to sanctions unrelated to JCPOA. US companies are barred from most commercial sectors in Iran, outside agricultural, medical and other fields with “humanitarian” aspects. This may cordon off the competition for France, but any French entities who do business with bad actors, as labeled by remaining laws, become blacklisted from operating on American soil. Such actors include the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which continues to control large swaths of Iran’s economy. Paris is also standing in firm agreement with Washington over new sanctions on Iran, after the country’s recent seaboard ballistic missile tests. No sooner had Rouhani departed than French foreign minister Laurent Fabius appeared to request that the EU consider levying its own additional penalties. Amidst such uncertainty, it seems doubtful that enterprises in France would risk access to their American market shares for the tenuous prospect of higher profits in Iran. Instead, they will have to tread carefully in all their mid-eastern dealings to avoid running afoul of sanctions, whether old and new.

Remembrance and Action: 71 Years After the Liberation of Auschwitz

February 2, 2016

Auschwitz at LiberationA doctor, center, with the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army walks with a group of survivors at the entrance to the newly liberated Auschwitz in January 1945



Auschwtiz 71st Anniversary LiberationAuschwitz survivors walk with others through the main gate of the former Auschwitz Concentration Camp on January 27th, 2016

January 27th, 2016 marked the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Army on January 27th, 1945. Eighty former Auschwitz prisoners gathered on the former grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau and were greeted by Andrej Duda, President of the Republic of Poland. The theme of this year’s commemorations was “Returns”, explained by Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz Museum, “Remembering all the victims, in a special way, during the upcoming anniversary, we want to mention people who, despite enormous trauma, attempted to return to normal life.” However, despite triumphant stories of lives rebuilt after the Holocaust, for many the anniversary proceedings were overshadowed by the ways in which the roots of the Holocaust still echo in the present.

In the aftermath of the death of four French Jews at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris, 8,000 French Jews moved to Israel during 2015. In 2013, less than 3,300 French Jews moved to Israel. This influx of immigration to Israel, known as aliyah, is credited to security concerns as well as hopes for freedom of expression, such as wearing the Jewish religious skullcap, known as a kippa, in public. A concern about the rise in anti-Semitic attacks, highlighted by the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 as well as the Hyper Cacher supermarket, has caused French Jews to also seek a new life closer to home, such as in London. The 71st Anniversary highlights concern over present day anti-Semitism as well as questions of how genocide, even beyond the Holocaust context, continues into the 21st century. In April 2012, President Obama visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., emphasizing that genocide prevention is central to his administration and calling for the establishment of a new government body called the Atrocity Prevention Board. In his speech, Obama stated that “Remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing.” Why then, even with an Atrocity Prevention Board, has Obama and his administration failed to act while Civil War and atrocities rage on in Syria?

On January 27th, in honor of the 71st anniversary, Obama gave remarks at the Israeli Embassy in D.C. honoring the inclusion of four individuals into the Righteous Among the Nations, a honorific title used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from extermination during the Holocast. His speech represented for some a mending of foreign relations between the two countries, in the wake of arguments over the Iran nuclear deal and failed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It represents also a benchmark of the legacy the Obama administration will leave in regards to lessons of tolerance and action against present acts of anti-Semitism:

Even as the Holocaust is unique, a crime without parallel in history, the seeds of hate that gave rise to the Shoah — the ignorance that conspires with arrogance, the indifference that betrays compassion — those seeds have always been with us. They have found root across cultures, and across faiths, and across generations. The ambassador mentioned the story of Cain and Abel. It’s deep within us. Too often, especially in times of change, especially in times of anxiety and uncertainty, we are too willing to give into a base desire to find someone else — someone different — to blame for our struggles.

Here, tonight, we must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise.  We cannot deny it.  When we see some Jews leaving major European cities — where their families have lived for generations — because they no longer feel safe; when Jewish centers are targeted from Mumbai to Overland Park, Kansas; when swastikas appear on college campuses — when we see all that and more, we must not be silent. 

Certainly government has a responsibility.  As President, I’ve made sure that the United States is leading the global fight against anti-Semitism.  And it’s why, with Israel and countries around the world, we organized the first United Nations General Assembly meeting on anti-Semitism.  It’s why we’ve urged other nations to dedicate a special envoy to this threat, as we have. 

And finally, all of us have a responsibility to speak out, and to teach what’s right to our children, and to examine our own hearts.  That’s the lesson of the Righteous we honor today — the lesson of the Holocaust itself:   Where are you?  Who are you?  That’s the question that the Holocaust poses to us.  We have to consider even in moments of peril, even when we might fear for our own lives, the fact that none of us are powerless.  We always have a choice.  And today, for most of us, standing up against intolerance doesn’t require the same risks that those we honor today took.  It doesn’t require imprisonment or that we face down the barrel of a gun.  It does require us to speak out. It does require us to stand firm.  We know that evil can flourish if we stand idly by.

1,725,700 people visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in 2015, far exceeding the record of 1,534,000 set in 2014. As I mentioned in a post last November, the act of remembering seems for many to be the primary reason to visit the former Nazi Concentration Camp. However, Obama’s words from 2012 still ring true, “Remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture. Awareness without action changes nothing.” Coupled with his present statement that “government has a responsibility” in regards to anti-Semitism, the question still stands, how can we use remembrance to inspire action?

Underwater Archeologists Find 22 Shipwrecks in Fourni, Greece

January 25, 2016

Earlier this fall in September in the eastern Aegean Sea, researchers found an amazing 22 shipwrecks within a two-week expedition. The wrecks were found in a 17 square mile area around Fourni archipelago, which consists of thirteen islands and islets located between the islands of Samos and Icaria. The joint Greek-American expedition was ranked as one of the top archaeological finds of 2015.


It was the first time that an underwater archaeological expedition was organized to the Fourni archipelago. The team consisted of archaeologists from the Greek Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities and RPM Nautical Foundation. The team was able to locate the site with the assistance of local sponge divers, fishermen, and free divers. Financial support was provided by the Honor Frost Foundation, a UK charity that supports research in the eastern Mediterranean through an endowment from pioneer maritime archaeologist Honor Frost.

“Surpassing all expectations, over only 13 days we added 12 percent to the total of known ancient shipwrecks in Greek territorial waters,” Peter Campbell, of the University of Southampton and co-director from US based RPM Nautical Foundation, told Discovery News. It is highly likely that more discoveries in the area will be made, as the team has surveyed only 5 percent of Fourni’s coasts.

9a24df410547f0d468366d42581afc18“It’s an extremely rich area,” says Greek director George Koutsouflakis, an archaeologist with the Hellenic Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. He explained, “In a typical survey we locate four or five shipwrecks per season in the best cases. We expected a successful season, but no one was prepared for this. Shipwrecks were found literally everywhere. What is astonishing is not only the number of the shipwrecks but also the diversity of the cargoes, some of which have been found for first time.”

The reason for the excitement over the find was not just the remarkable number of wrecks in a small area, but also the range of the time periods of the wrecks. The earliest wreck dates to the Archaic Period (700-480 B.C.), while others date from the Classical Period (480-323 B.C.) and the Hellenistic Period (323-31 B.C.). The majority (12 of the 22), however, were during the Late Roman Period (300-600 A.D.). The most recent wreck was from the Late Medieval Period (16th century A.D.).

All 22 wrecks were merSONY DSCchant vessels sailing a common trade route that connected Anatolia, Samos, and the Black Sea region to Rhodes, Cyprus, and even Egypt. While wooden ships generally decompose underwater or get eaten by seaworms, the cargo survive in clay storage jars called
amphorae. Each of the 22 ships was carrying several hundred amphorae. By assessing the size and shape of the jars, archaeologists can infer where and when they were made. DNA analysis and residue will be able to determine what the amphorae contained. “We know from comparable shSONY DSCipwrecks and terrestrial sites that the three major goods would have been olive oil, wine, and fish sauce,” says Jeffrey Royal, a co-director from the RPM Nautical Foundation.

To map the shipwrecks, the underwater archaeologists used photogrammetry to create 3D site plans. Representative artifacts were raised from each wreck site for scientific analysis and rare amphorae will be put on display in Greek museums. However, even if the amphorae themselves are common, the finds still have huge value, says Campbell. “A data set such as this could really change perceptions about ancient trade,” he says. And with more expeditions to Fourni planned for the future, that data set may well continue to grow.  “We know where amphorae were made and when they were made, so they can help paint what some of the major trade routes were over time,” says Mark Lawall, an expert on Greek transport amphorae who was not on the expedition team. He said that “over the years, for instance, amphorae have helped build the case that Greek trade involved “huge ships and highly structured financial systems to support that shipping.”

Among the more unique finds ancient-shipwrecks-fourni-750x347from Fourni were rare teardrop-shaped amphorae from Samos dated to the Archaic Period, four-foot-tall fish sauce amphorae from the Black Sea region that date to the second century A.D., and carrot-shaped amphorae from Sinop, thought to date to the third to seventh centuries A.D.

“It was quite exciting to find actual wrecks carrying these—very exciting and very rare,” Campbell says. “These ships were very much international melting pots. They might have had wood from Lebanon, fasteners from Greece, amphoras from Levant and a crew made up of many different cultural groups.” Ships generally departed filled with amphorae from their point of origin but then acquired others as they made cargo drops from port to port—a fact that could make it hard to determine exactly where the individual Fourni ships came from.

Although the archipelago itself wasn’t a destination for traders, sudden storms in the area were particularly devastating to sailors. “Ikaria and the west coast of Samos have no himage_3422_2-Fourni-Shipwrecksarbors or anchorages, so Fourni is the safest place that ships could stop in the area,” Campbell said. During the Classical Period (480-323 B.C.), many merchant crews consisted of 10-15 sailors. However, by the Late Roman Period (300-600 A.D.), various advances in technology had reduced the number of required crew down to between five to seven. The famous Greek and Roman warships called “triremes” required manpower to row the oars, while the smaller merchant ships used sails and wind-power. According to archeologists, some of the ships around Fourni appear to have encountered sudden storms and strong winds that smashed them against cliffs and rock formations in shallow water.

Peter Campbell explained, “You can look at the spatial patterning of the sites and reconstruct a plausible story about what happened. It looks like some of them were anchored behind cliffs to shelter from a northwest wind, but this made them vulnerable to a southern wind that drove them against the cliffs.” In these storms around Fourni, the ancient sailors’ chances of survival would have been slight. “Of the 22 wrecks we studied, there were probably four where they might have had a chance to swim to a beach or shore. But most of the spots were next to sheer cliffs. There’s no way they would’ve survived in a storm,” said Campbell.

Campbell posted a Youtube clip of the expedition. For more information, read sources used in writing this blog, including the National Geographic article and the Smithsonian Magazine article.

Unfortunately, smugglers haHT_shipwreck_01_jef_151105_4x3_992d already plundered some of the wrecks before the team arrived. Local fishermen and free divers reported seeing strange activity near certain sites. Conservation is key for the Greek government, and all governments seek to protect their national historic sites. With the team’s help in pinpointing exact locations for 22 of the area’s shipwrecks, it has made it easier for Greek authorities to supervise the sites. The archaeologists also hope that the knowledge gained during excavations will give local communities a stronger sense of connection to their history. According to Campbell, “An engaged local population is the best form of protection.”

Indiana University actually offers one of the world’s most famous underwater science program that teaches submerged cultural resource management. The IU Center for Underwater Science is administered by the School of Public Health. Director Dr. Charles Beeker, is a Professional Archaeologist, PADI Master Instructor, and the Director of both the Center for Underwater Science and the IU Academic Diving Program. Dr. Beeker discovered the 1699 shipwreck of Captain Kidd in 2007, and IU students in the Center for Underwater Science gain valuable experience working with the government of the Dominican Republic on conservation of the dive site, especially the Living Museums of the Sea (LMS). LMS is an environmental and park management model that aims to protect submerged cultural resources and associated biology.

Break Up or Make Up: the United Kingdom’s frought relationship with the European Union

January 19, 2016



Since its beginning, the European Union and its predecessors: the European Economic Community and the European Communities, have experienced periods of growth and stagnation in membership, but as of yet not regression. This makes the movements that David Cameron’s Britain is making to limit or even remove its presence from the European Union so novel. The United Kingdom has a history of trying to leave the European Union, or at least of avoiding complete acquiescence to the desires of the EU. Currently, the United Kingdom has obtained the right to keep their own currency – the pound – and thus opts out of the Economic and Monetary Union and the need to have the euro as sole legal currency. Additionally, the United Kingdom (and Ireland) do not take part in the Schengen Agreement and have an opt-out on police and justice matters. In one further step, the UK has an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

After announcing in January 2013 that David Cameron would pursue a referendum to amend the United Kingdom’s place in the European Union, talk increased greatly about the possibility of the UK exiting from the European Union – commonly referred to as ‘Brexit’. The parties who believe that Britain would fare better leaving the EU entirely think that the EU is holding British businesses back with their restrictions and regulations and/or do not like the idea that the European Union’s goal is to create an “ever closer union”. David Cameron would prefer to stay in the European Union, but strengthen the United Kingdom’s ability to choose policies and operate for themselves. In a letter to Donald Trusk, the president of the European Council, Cameron outlined some of his main goals for changes. For instance, restricting the benefits that the UK needs to provide to European Union migrants, opting out of participating in even further political integration, prohibiting bias over non-euro currencies within the EU, and giving the UK more sovereignty over blocking EU legislation. Cameron and the other people who support staying in the EU think that being within the union allows for more trade markets, which helps with economic growth, and that being a member of the EU gives the United Kingdom more political and international clout than they would have without membership. For a more in-depth analysis of what the financial and political ramifications of this decision would be, check out this explanation of the most probable situations for each of the more possible outcomes.83670578_000733050-1

David Cameron has said that the vote on his proposed referendum will happen by the end of 2017, though Prime Minister Cameron said that he would like it to be held as soon as possible. At one point there had been rumors that it would be held in May 2016, but the government has denied that will happen, so June and July of 2016 are the most likely dates now – if Cameron manages to get an early vote. The ability to have the referendum put to a vote in June or July would depend on a positive experience at the EU summit in Brussels on February 18-19. The next summit – to be held in March, would still allow Cameron to get his referendum on the ballots in the fall of 2016 – one of the last chances he’ll get to hold a vote on it this year.83670572_013229355-1

Members of the EU have expressed concerns about allowing policies that discriminate against other EU nationals, with some countries especially opposing the notion that the UK would not provide benefits to EU migrants. Within the UK, alternatives to the exact measures Cameron wants to put in the referendum are to limit number of immigrants to the UK, creating a two-tier membership in the EU, which would allow the UK to not be a part of the “ever closer union”, and changing laws within the UK to be stronger than the EU laws and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The possibility of the United Kingdom leaving, or at least lessening their presence in the European Union, comes at an interesting time. With the Syrian refugee crisis expanding into Europe, the EU has been very anxious to find a way to best respond to the situation, recently brokering a deal worth approximately 3.2 billion 018822430_30300euros with Turkey, stipulating that it was to be spent to care for the refugees who land on Turkey’s soil (some of whom were traveling further into Europe). With this, the EU began accession talks with Turkey, and many reports are state that the EU has strongly been implying that in aiding with the refugee crisis – and shouldering the majority of the refugees – Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union might be expedited. Though there are conflicting reports and evidence that many European Union members are very hesitant to accept Turkey among their ranks – observable in the fact that Turkey has struggled for decades attempting to meet standards and pass the regulations needed to be accepted to the EU.

Will the recommencement of talks with Turkey affect how the members of the EU view the United Kingdom’s referendum discussions? Will wanting to maintain at least some sort of relationship with the United Kingdom make member states more likely to accept the concessions, or will the hesitancy they feel about Turkey joining force them into a more defensive corner, where they try and call the UK’s bluff, that when offered an all-or-nothing option with the EU, they would choose to remain? Certainly the next few months will see interesting updates to this debate.


For more information on David Camron’s referendum and the proposed timeline for the referendum, then check out these news pieces run by the BBC.


Blog Post by Erin Arnold

Christmas in Europe

December 11, 2015

In the spirit of the holiday season, the Institute for European Studies would like to share with you the Christmas traditions of some countries in Europe. As we decorate our trees, hang lights on our houses, and plan out what to have for Christmas dinner, it can be fun to remember how many of these Christmas traditions came to be, with many of their origins in Europe.


The outdoor lights that we hang on our houses in the U.S. actually have their origins in England, where lights are hung more often on streets and public buildings. Caroling is also a major component of the English Christmas tradition, highlighted not only by local choral groups but also by the Christmas Eve Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge that is broadcast worldwide. In addition to carols, the weeks leading up to Christmas also traditionally feature “mumming”, masked street performances that travel from house to house featuring funning and satirical renditions of hero-combat plays, sword plays, and wooing plays. Father Christmas, distinguished by his red and white outfit with an unbelted robe and pointed hood, is the English gift-bringer on Christmas Eve, placing presents for children both underneath the tree and in stockings. Dinner on Christmas day features a plum pudding which is made on the Sunday preceding the first Sunday of Advent, known as “Stir-Up Sunday”. On this day it is customary for family members to stir the pudding counter-clockwise and make a wish. Christmas dinner also features a Christmas “cracker” that is placed on people’s plates. Made out of a small, cardboard tube covered with a twist of colored paper, Christmas crackers pop when pulled from both ends, revealing a written joke, riddle, or a small toy. After eating Christmas dinner, many families listen to the monarch’s annual Christmas Day message.


The beginning of Christmas or Weihnachten in Germany is celebrated in accordance with Advent on December 1st, where families will open the first of the 24 windows of their Advent Calendar (a German invention), that contain such tokens as a picture, a biblical verse, or a piece of candy. Advent also marks the beginning of many of Germany’s Christmas markets, featuring a seemingly endless supply of food and decorations, accompanied by traditional singing and dancing. December 6th, the day of St. Nicholas, is celebrated by a feast and used to be when most gift-giving was carried out. Though presently, gift giving has primarily switched to Christmas Eve, many German children still look forward St. Nicholas’ visit. On the eve of December 5th, St. Nicholas traditionally appears in person clad in bishop’s robes and asks children how they’ve behaved throughout the year. For those children who behave badly, St. Nicholas is accompanied by the Krampus, a hideous goat-like creature with a blackened face, dark beard, long tail, and red serpentine tongue. That night children leave their shoes out, to be filled with treats from St. Nicholas or for some, coal from the Krampus. On Christmas Eve, parents will decorate the house Christmas tree, revealing it to the children once it’s completed and presents have been placed underneath. Parents will tell the children that the “gift-bringer” has come; in Protestant households, the gift bringer is Weihnachtsmann, a Santa Claus figure, and in Catholic families it is the Christ Child that brings them. Christmas Eve is also a time to complete the seasonal baking, featuring such treats as lebkucken (spiced cookies with candied fruit) and stolen (candied fruit loaf or fruit cake) to be enjoyed on Christmas Day.


In Ireland, Christmas is celebrated from Advent through Epiphany on January 6th. Christmas decorations include holly wreaths and candles placed in the window of the household for Mary and Joseph. The candles are based on a legend that every Christmas Eve Mary and Joseph would retrace their steps to Bethlehem, and the candles both help show the way and mark places that can offer them shelter. Each family typically has a “principal candle” that is two feet tall and is placed in the house’s central window. After lighting their own candle, families will walk around their neighborhood to enjoy the lit candles of other households. Presents are brought to children on Christmas Eve by Father Christmas, and are placed either on stockings or in pillowcases left by the foot of the bed. Epiphany on January 6th is also known as “Women’s Christmas” where women spend the day to enjoying each other’s company and relaxing as the men clean up the house.


Italy, like Germany, is well known for its Christmas markets, sponsored by nearly every city and featuring various kinds of food and sweets, as well as presents and nativity scene, one of Italy’s most popular Christmas symbols. The primary gift giving occurs on Epiphany, where traditionally children receive gifts from La Befana, a mythical witch very similar to the Russian Baboushka. The legend goes that an old woman was sweeping her house when the three Magi passed by on their way Bethlehem. They invited her to accompany them, but she refused, claiming that her housework prevented her from taking a long journey. After they left, she repented and, after collecting a few toys for the Christ Child, set out to overtake the Magi. Because she found neither them nor the Christ Child, she returns annually via her broomstick and descends into chimneys on Epiphany Eve and examines each sleeping child in hopes of finding Jesus. La Befana then fills the stockings or pockets of deserving youngsters with gifts. For the naughty, she leaves a piece of coal. Children write letters to her, describing what gifts they desire, and they hang effigies of the witch as decorations. In some regions, Babbo Natale, Father Christmas, has replaced Befana as the bringer of gifts. On Christmas Eve, there is a small amount of gift-giving centered around the “Urn of Fate”, an urn of bowl that is filled with gifts. Family members reach into the bowl and see what “fate” has in store for them. Christmas Day in Italy is celebrated with a feast and such traditional desserts as panettone (fruit cake). A distinctive Italian Christmas Day tradition is letters written by children to their parents, asking forgiveness for misdeeds committed during the year and voice their appreciation.

2015 Holiday Card_Page_1

Adrift, Permanently: When it Comes to Refugees, the Crisis is Normal

November 19, 2015

On October 1st, the Institute for European Studies hosted a panel on the refugee crisis in Europe. Three of our panelists have posted their remarks from that panel on a forum run by the Consortium for the Study of Religion, Ethics, and Society at Indiana University. The remarks by one of our panelists, Timothy Waters, is posted below. To see the remarks of the other two panelists, click here

Adrift, Permanently: When It Comes to Refugees, the Crisis is Normal

Waters imageTimothy Waters – Professor of Law at Indiana University, Associate Director of its Center for Constitutional Democracy, and affiliated faculty at its Institute for European Studies

“If a man would lose his little finger tomorrow, he would not sleep tonight; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren.” That is Adam Smith – one of the architects of our modern world – in his Theory of Moral Sentiments. It’s hard to conceive a bleaker or more profound truth about humanity, and anyone contemplating the running sore of the Syrian refugee crisis would do well to remember it.The only thing Smith gets wrong is the seeing: You can google pictures of a Kurdish boy photogenically washed up on the Turkish coast – one of thousands in the Aegean and Mediterranean – but observing the suffering of others doesn’t ensure loss of sleep, or an effective response. In truth, it is not in our nature – our system – to do otherwise.Not a message we like to hear. But even in today’s academy – more Sparta than Athens, and an increasingly self-funded Sparta at that – sometimes our purpose should be to see the world as it is, not propose remaking it. So, at the end of this essay, you won’t find a handy list of three things we can all do to fix the refugee problem. It’s not a problem we can fix, because the problem is the system. It is predicated on proximity, self-defined obligations, and self-interest; we are simply seeing it work.

Consider the contours of this crisis: Grinding war in Syria has displaced millions. Hundreds of thousands – together with Afghans, Eritreans, others – are making their way to Europe, across the Mediterranean, up the same Balkan valleys armies have traversed for millennia. Most head for the wealthy north. This migration and European states’ clumsy oscillations – opening borders, closing them, stringing barbed-wire, shooting teargas, throwing food – have triggered a political crisis in Europe.

But when did this become a crisis? While millions languished for four years in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey – or when they began arriving in Italy, Greece and Hungary? The current flow, though large, is a rich man’s problem: European Union leaders struggled to distribute 120,000 refugees, but even 500,000 or a million, in a wealthy continent of a half billion, is objectively manageable.

It is a crisis not because of refugees, but because of Europe. The EU is neither fish nor fowl: If it were a state, refugees would be a problem, not a crisis. But its present, interim position – with its so-called Schengen zone allowing borderless travel – is a design that, like the euro, cannot bear the weight of events. That is a flaw of EU governance, not the refugee system.

Under international law, countries have obligations to offer asylum, but in practice that means the place of first refuge; states regularly expel applicants who had a ‘realistic opportunity’ elsewhere. Refugees off the Libyan coast who destroy their documents understand this; migrants crying ‘Germany’ are not just fleeing danger but seeking the best possible life. They want something the system is not designed to give.

And not inclined, because states only have the obligations they choose – that’s the system too. Refugee law rests on the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Jordan and Lebanon aren’t even parties. Turkey is, but only accepts the original Convention’s obligation to receive refugees from Europe.

So the poor states ringing Syria have no obligations under the Convention – or obligations to waves of hypothetical European refugees – while wealthy Europe take a fraction of the burden; America, Asia, and the Gulf states take even fewer. And there are tens of millions more: The European flow is merely the spillover from a standing pool of human suffering, festering between the clashing plates of the state system.

That system is the creature of countries seeking to do something humanitarian without contradicting their own interests. It works this way because the governance of our globe works this way. The academic world, where I live, has become besotted with visions of a post-national world of hybridity, polycentrism, and decentralized networks. But a hybrid, polycentric network is not necessarily a pretty one, in the way a hydra is not pretty. The marks of multicephaly are auto-interpretation, self-dealing and ox-goring – ‘coordination’ but not ‘decision.’

Global governance is not global government. The more we chase the chimeras of shared society, the more we must acknowledge: In a real sense, there is no international legal order deserving of the name. Without centralized institutions of decision-making – without world government – this is the kind of regime we can expect.

One can imagine better systems. But implementing them is like the pacifist dream that ‘if every soldier laid down his arms, war would be over.’ A beautiful idea, full of pathos, but structurally implausible: It only happens at the end, when demoralized, dispirited, defeated forces mutiny, when there is chaos, collapse and desperate flight – rather like a refugee crisis.

This is the system we have; we are not likely to make a better one. ‘Improvement,’ if it comes, is likely to mean more effective border controls — like the great ring forts circling Spain’s enclaves on the African coast, or its highly effective shore patrols to keep boats away from the Canary Islands, or Australia’s high seas interdiction efforts that divert refugees to other countries for processing.

And as for the human beings, we can do some things: The impossibility of more than marginal reform means we should focus on the margins – granting asylum to a few more refugees, giving more funding for UNHCR. There’s your take-away. But it is a palliative, proffering a bandage, not providing real haven. The bandage is the system too, making life marginally less miserable in the permanent camps.

The crisis is real. Tonight, on the Aegean, men will put their wives and children into rubber rafts and push out from the Turkish shore, overloaded, motors failing, adrift. Some will make it; but others will sink, and those on board will die, tonight.

But, the crisis is also normal, and the ocean is wide: Sleep well tonight – you can see it all on the news tomorrow.



Contextualizing the ISIS Attacks in Europe

November 18, 2015

The Event
     Friday November 13 in Paris, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks killed at least 129 people and wounded at least 352. Eight men working in three teams attacked a concert hall, two restaurants, and the Stade de France where France and Germany were playing a football match. French President Francois Hollande was at the game and was rushed away. One American was killed, 23 year-old Nohemi Gonzalez. She was a junior at California State University, Long Beach, and was in Paris studying abroad for a semester at Strate College of Design.

These attacks were horrific, and the murders senseless. Who did this, why, and how can it be prevented from happening again?

The Enemy
     ISIS is the political entity that claimed responsibility for the attacks. What is ISIS? An acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS is a Sunni Muslim organization that wants to reconstruct the old Islamic Caliphate. What is the Caliphate? The short answer is a single Islamic empire functioning as a unified government for the Islamic world. Just as Christianity expanded in step with the Roman, Byzantine, and Carolingian Armies, so too, Islam spread under its armies. Between the time Muhammad received his revelation (the Quran) in 610 A.D. to 750 A.D., Islam spread at an amazing rate from a single person outside Mecca to covering the entire Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and most of Central Asia.


Over time, the leadership of the Islamic Caliphate transitioned from the Arabs to the Ottoman Turks, reaching its zenith 1600s – 1850s. Iran emerged as a separate entity and under the Safavid dynasty, Iran converted all subjects to Shia Islam by the 1600s. Here we see a history of two empires, one Sunni and one Shia, fighting along the border of their empires that mark the borders of modern day Iraq-Syria.




By the early 1900s, the Caliphate had declined in power and was known as the “sick man of Europe.” In World War I, the Ottoman Caliphate supported Germany and paid the price for backing the loser, as Ottoman lands were carved up into the modern Middle Eastern states we have today, each under a protectorate of a European power. Eventually, these protectorates became independent, usually by a protracted insurgency against the European powers. A critical point is that these insurgencies were usually led by nationalist ideologies, rather than a unifying Pan-Islamic force.


What is the goal of ISIS and why is it a threat to Europe? ISIS believes it has reestablished the Caliphate and is calling for a Pan-Islamic Jihad aimed at the reconstruction of the original Caliphate as a single state under a Sunni theocracy. To do so requires regaining control of the lands of Shia, including Iraq, Iran, and Bahrain, and as well as reconquering the lost lands in Europe, including Spain and the Balkans. The following map was posted on the ISIS website.


This is the same goal as al-Qaeda, yet there is a critical distinction between al-Qaeda and ISIS. Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, the two founding fathers of the al-Qaeda movement, had a vision of recreating the Caliphate using global terrorism carried out by a diffuse network of cells to spur a war between Muslims and non-Muslims that would last for decades. ISIS has flipped the equation, and has declared that it has already established the Caliphate, and is now in a war of conquest to expand it to its historic rightful borders. ISIS has separate military and civil bureaucracies, taxes, a territorial base, and selling oil on the global market.

The International Political Problem
     Fundamental problem with ISIS is that it is an organization that has both a religion and centuries of history that can mobilize individuals to its cause from around the world. ISIS can point to a real period in history where its vision was realized, where Europe was weak, the Caliphate dominated, Israel and Shi’ism did not exist. It is a vision that can be sold easily to the disenfranchised and disempowered youth looking for a life of meaning. Unlike Nazi ideology that is based on a racial superiority of a small few that has the inherent right to dominate all, the Islamic extremist Takfiri ideology of ISIS does not discriminate or fracture based on race, ethnicity, language, and as a result it is highly successful at recruiting globally. We have seen thousands of young Muslims travel to Iraq and Syria to join, including hundreds residing in “Western” countries. A global revolution with a goal of overturning the global system of modernity, and it is a revolution that anyone can join.

The Domestic Political Problem in Europe
     Based on current reports, the attackers were a Muslims born in Europe and its is still uncertain if any of them or their logistics chain crossed into Europe as Syrian refugees. This presents a huge problem for European states, and the essential question facing Europe is:

How can individual European states and Europe as a collective protect themselves from attacks, maintain internal freedoms, and destroy the existential threat of ISIS, which is constantly infiltrating and recruiting Muslims within European borders to work as a fifth column to conduct more attacks?

Clearly a key point is how to improve the mechanisms used to integrate and assimilate existing Muslim residents into European states. While some immigrants are happy, well adjusted, and assimilated into the host country, some immigrants do not wish to assimilate, but prefer to create a little Islamabad, or little Cairo in their new country. Europe must decide what degree of assimilation it will require of its immigrants, and what mechanism it will use to encourage and assist immigrants in becoming “Europeans.”  At the very foundation of this, is that Europe will have to wrestle with what it means to be French, Italian, German, Greek, etc., and overall European, which also means identifying what is not European. Identities change over time and can be quite flexible.  For the present and the future, Europe must grapple with first defining those characteristics, beliefs, and values, and second figuring out how to acculturate those key things, while simultaneously giving freedom of diversity on the characteristics, beliefs, and values that are deemed non-essential to European identity. For the EU and NATO, it may be impossible for member states collectively to agree on those essentials.

These are extremely difficult issues for the “West” that prides itself on openness, cosmopolitan values, and the desire to assist those refugees in need. It is impossible to know the best mix of policies, or how the future will unfold. Yet the future of Europe, its values, and its freedoms will be determined by the policies of assisting and assimilating its Muslim citizens and Muslim immigrants, its policies and strategies for destroying ISIS, and its policies for assisting in the creating viable successor states in the Middle East.


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