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Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House of Al-Busaid

[ 0 ] August 19, 2007 |

In 1505, a Portuguese naval expedition established control over the island of Zanzibar, long a trade destination in the Western Indian. Archaeological evidence indicates that the island has been used as a way station since Assyrian times. The first mosque was established in the 12th century. The Portuguese ruled the island for 190 years, until the Sultan of Oman pushed the Portuguese out and took control of Zanzibar. The island continued to be a commercial hub, now servicing mainly the clove and slave trades.

The Al-Busaid dynasty, descended from Yemeni tribal chieftains, achieved power in Oman in 1744. Zanzibar came to occupy an ever more important place in their empire, and in 1840 Said bin Sultan shifted his capital from Muscat to Stone Town. After Said bin Sultan’s death, several of his 36 children struggled over succession to the throne. In April 1861 the realm was divided, with Zanzibar going to the sixth son (Majid Ibn Said), and Oman going to the third.

Zanzibar controlled a fair portion of the close East African coastline, but German and the British slowly cut into this territory. The British in particular took a strong interest in Zanzibar, not only because of the cloves but also the slaves; the British Empire had taken it upon itself to destroy the slave trade. By 1890, Zanzibar became a British protectorate. A succession crisis in 1896 led to a brief war between the British and the Zanzibari, resulting in British victory and the formal end slavery in Zanzibar.

On December 10, 1963 Zanzibar received formal independence from the United Kingdom. Sultan Sayyid Jamshid bin ‘Abdu’llah became the first independent Sultan of Zanzibar in 73 years. However, his independent reign (he had come to the throne in July 1963) would last only one month. On January 12, 1964, a revolutionary government headed by former bricklayer John Okello deposed the Sultan and established control over the country. Okello, an odd duck in his own right, was shortly thereafter expelled from Zanzibar, and was probably murdered by Idi Amin in 1971. Okello ordered the Sultan to kill himself and his family, but the Sultan had already escaped to Britain. Three months later, Zanzibar would be annexed into Taganyika, the resulting state being called Tanzania. It is believed that roughly 5000 Arabs were killed during the revolution.

Jamshid continues to live in Great Britain, where he has seven children. The Al-Busaid dynasty continues to rule Oman, where the current occupant of the throne is Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Sa’id. Prospects for a return to the throne of Zanzibar appear grim. Oman had indicated neither the interest nor capacity to “take back” Zanzibar from Tanzania, and no apparent pro-monarchy groups exist in either Zanzibar or Tanzania.

Defining "Statesmanship" Downward

[ 0 ] August 18, 2007 |

Cap’n Crunch is quite excited by Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to Tikrit:

The personal appeal, coming directly to the heart of Saddam’s former power base, is a spectacular move by Maliki. Up to now, he’s mostly been known as a sectarian forced to deal with Sunnis and Kurds by circumstance. He may have finally taken the necessary steps to become the statesman Iraq needs, and the father of their liberated national unity most of them desire.

Um. Sadly, no.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the purpose of PM Nuri al-Maliki’s visit to Tikrit (Saddam Hussein’s old home base) was to convince some tribal notables there to accept ministerial positions in his government. The main Sunni Arab party, the Iraqi Accord Front, is boycotting al-Maliki’s government, and he is therefore desperate to find some Sunnis somewhere who would be willing to join his government. The problem is that although there are prominent Sunni Arab figures in Tikrit, they would not represent anyone but themselves if they joined the government. The Iraqi Accord Front won 44 seats in parliament. A seat is 40,000 votes, so the IAF represents 1,760,0000 persons out of Iraq’s 11 million voters. Some son of a tribal sheikh in Tikrit represents no one but himself and maybe some close family members.

That’s some mighty effective statesmanship there. Did I miss the political “benchmark” that recommended gaining inconsequential support from tribal leaders whose memories of the departed regime are somewhat less than bitter?

The other piece of hilarity here is that the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council — one of the four parties that make up al-Maliki’s new (sub-majority) coalition — is almost universally perceived by Sunnis (correctly or not) to be an Iranian proxy, while the militias acting on behalf of the SIIC have participated in the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis throughout the southern provinces. I can’t wait to see how this “spectacular move” draws the Iraqi Accord Front back into the government.

Then again, Iraq’s football squad won the Asia Cup, so anything’s possible!

More on Silverstein To Come

[ 0 ] August 18, 2007 |

The stitches come out tomorrow, at which point I’ll chime in with my two cents on Helena Silverstein’s book, Girls on the Stand, which Scott reviewed for The American Prospect yesterday. While I agree with much of Scott’s review, I think that a lawyer (to be) and a social scientist read Silverstein’s book very differently…

Kick Me Again!

[ 0 ] August 18, 2007 |

The WaPo comes out for arch-reactionary Leslie Southwick. If I understand their criteria, the Senate has an obligation to confirm any nominee smarter and less overtly racist than Harrold Carswell, no matter how little the lily-white 5th Circuit needs another doctrinaire right-wing statist appointed by an exceptionally unpopular lame duck President.

Next year: an editorial expressing shock and outrage that Southwick always casts conservative votes. After all, Dianne Feinstein called him “circumspect,” just like that nice Sam Alito!

Publius has more, taking on the silly argument that the president can consider ideology in judicial appointments but the Senate cannot.

One of Them

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

I’m not going to link to her, but in case anyone is wondering, Althouse devoted an entire post today to the question of whether the NY Times was deploying subliminal messages to evoke sympathy for Jose Padilla. Strangely, she didn’t wonder why authorities didn’t drape Padilla’s head after the verdict to prevent him from blinking messages to the people who last saw him in 2002.

The comment thread, of course, is brimming with the sort of trigonometry that only someone of Althouse’s seriousness can attract. Fortunately, the the extremely desperate homeless person’s Robin Givhan has filmed the entire conversation for her next vlog.

Behold:

OhMyGod, Gagne With A Spoon

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

Speaking of bad trades — although in this case, of course, only ex post facto — the Gagne trade in turning into a catastrophe of Slocumbesque proportions (on the receiving end, at least.) Several teams must be happy that they didn’t “win” that particular bidding war right now…

Centrist Abortion Regulations: They Don’t Work

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

I have a review of Helena Silverstein’s new study of judicial bypass provisions in parental involvement statutes up at TAP. My bottom line:

The particularly salient lesson to draw from Silverstein’s book is that it’s important to ask whether abortion regulations actually accomplish anything, even on their own terms. “Basing a policy that regulates the right to abortion on confidence that the law stands outside of politics and free of bureaucratic red tape,” writes Silverstein, “is a mistake fraught with consequences for those whom the right ostensibly protects.”

Support for these laws is often more about the assumption that compromise on abortion is inherently desirable rather than arguments about what benefits will come from the legislation. Is there any evidence, for example, that the lack of abortion regulation makes the decisions of Canadian women less responsible? Whatever their merits in the abstract, in practice “centrist” abortion regulations do little but put up obstacles in the path of the most vulnerable women while not accomplishing any useful objective. Parental involvement laws — which are largely superfluous for young women in good family situations and potentially dangerous for young women in bad situations — are a case in point, especially since the safeguards intended to protect the latter don’t work. Silverstein makes a careful, meticulous, and ultimately powerful case that even those who support the ends of parental involvement laws should reject them in practice.

Most abortion regulations that represent the compromise beloved by so many pundits are bad laws, for two different reasons. The first is that the regulations usually have no rational connection to the asserted state interest: statutes that allegedly advance goals such as “not using abortion at birth control” or “only allowing abortions that William Saletan thinks are appropriate” in fact obstruct some classes of women from obtaining abortions irrespective of the circumstances and do little to stop other classes of women from obtaining abortions irrespective of the circumstances. With parental involvement laws, there is at least a connection between the policy and the asserted interest, and the problem becomes that the policies just don’t actually achieve the results.

Making A Bad Policy Worse

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

A great article by Erwin Chemerinsky about the latest appalling cutback on habeas corpus rights. The odious Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act gave a one-year time limit to file a habeas petition in federal court. The limit could be cut down even further to six months, but only if the state provided lawyers for a federal appeal. You can probably see the classic Republican bait-and-switch coming:

When it reauthorized the Patriot Act last year, Congress added a little-noticed provision that lets the attorney general, rather than federal judges, decide whether states are complying with the 1996 law. No one paid much attention, until now.

Gonzales, it has been widely reported, is about to certify California and other states as being in compliance with the 1996 law, in essence just giving them the six-month statute of limitations. But these states have done nothing that this law requires. Everywhere but Arizona, death row inmates still have to pay for their attorneys (unlikely), get pro bono representation (difficult) or represent themselves (unwise). Any “certification” is a lie.

Those who favor the shorter statute of limitations are frustrated by the long delays before executions are carried out. But Gonzales’ move is not about preventing delays; at most, it speeds things up by six months. It is about preventing some inmates from having a habeas corpus petition heard at all.

Gonzales continues to exemplify the remarkable Van Halen trend in the AGs office, where somehow things started with John Ashcroft and yet have gotten much worse. The other lesson, of course, is that as is often the case the Patriot Act contained a number of provisions that had nothing whatsoever to do with fighting terrorism but were simply longstanding reactionary-statist proposals warmed over and repackaged under a more appealing label.

Bad Deals

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

Carlos Guillen coming to town and making Derek Jeter the third best shortstop in yesterday’s game reminds me that The Left recently had a post about bad trades. Evidently, Bill Bavasi has provided us with many classics of the genre, but while you might think that Rafael Soriano-for-Horacio Ramirez would be tough to top, Carlos Guillen-for-Ramon “The Worst Regular on the Worst Team of the last 40 Years” Santiago-so you can sign the moldering corpse of Rich Aurillia seems very likely to stand as the worst trade of the decade. As an Astros fan, however, I’m surprised that Norbiz hasn’t been made aware of Spec Richardson’s world-historical Nixon administration run, which involved giving away Joe Morgan, Mike Cuellar, and John Mayberry.

Meanwhile, there was the time I was furious at Dan Duquette for trading Delino DeShields for Pedro Martinez. In retrospect, this may not have been entirely fair.

Not Making The Case

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

My favorite part of the VDH rant that d. links below:

First is fiscal sanity. For most Americans piling up debt is as much an emotional and spiritual crisis as it is an economic one. [Most Americans? Evidence? --ed.] An indebted America makes all of us feel collectively lousy—weak, dependent, and self-indulgent. Who likes to be lectured by the Chinese, Germans, or Japanese that we are spendthrifts? Tax cuts are great and really did bring in more gross revenue, but who cares if we still spent far more than we took in? The first four years of this administration did more to discredit the sound policy of tax cuts that any other: had they just kept spending rises to the level of inflation, the ensuing surpluses would have proved that budgets can be balanced through the stimulation of less taxation.

The thing is, I think there is considerable value in reading the classics. But when the lessons you draw from them include laughably incorrect supply-side crackpottery, you’re not a very effective spokesman for the position. I particularly like the apparent assumption that large federal spending increases have no effect on federal revenues, a hack classic.

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson

Book Review: Negotiating Change

[ 0 ] August 17, 2007 |

This is the eighth of a nine part series on the Patterson School Summer Reading List.

1. China’s Trapped Transition, Minxin Pei
2. The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs
3. Illicit, Moises Naim
4. In Spite of the Gods, Edward Luce
5. The Utility of Force, Rupert Smith
6. The Box, Marc Levinson
7. Fair Play, James M. Olson
8. Negotiating Change, Jeremy Jones

Negotiating Change, by Jeremy Jones, is about democratization and political change in the Middle East. Jones, a Research Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government and a Senior Research Associate at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, is extremely, if often implicitly, critical of US policy in the Middle East and in particular the process through which policy is made. In short, I think Jones would say, American policymaking has made cultural illiteracy a virtue, with disastrous effects.

Jones point is that context is important. Readings of Middle Eastern politics that don’t understand the local meaning of party politics and civil society inevitably fail to capture a reliable picture of what’s going on. For example, Jones argues that the success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt doesn’t necessarily indicate that the movement is politically popular, or that it has achieved success on its own merits. Rather, the repressive Egyptian state has limited the capacity of civil society to develop. The state, however, is reluctant to invade the mosque, meaning that Islamic groups have a freedom to organize and assemble that other societal groups lack. The result of political oppression, then, is the production of a movement that may be more dangerous to the survival of the Egyptian state than the forces that the state is trying to repress. Although Jones recognizes that their may be cross-national similarities, he doesn’t apply the same lens to every country; again, context matters, and superficially similar events may have entirely different political meanings in different countries.

Jones is also keen to point out that the complexity of politics in the Middle East (and I think it would be fair to say in any region), makes facile surface evaluation of events nearly useless. It’s difficult to determine whether Middle Eastern states are democratizing, because the process of social change is radically different than what we would expect to see in, say, Eastern Europe. For example, he gives an excellent discussion of the role of monarchy in the Gulf states, noting that monarchy does not necessarily imply authoritarian, anti-democratic politics. In his discussion of Oman, he notes a variety of cultural mores that make it difficult for an outside analyst to determine whether particular institutions

Given his approach, Negotiating Change is necessarily fragmented and episodic. The main theme that comes through, though is that the statements of US policymakers on democracy in the Middle East are almost universally myopic and ill-informed. Without understanding Middle Eastern societies, it’s impossible to craft a policy likely to promote, rather than foreclose, democratization. I would add that this insight is particularly unfortunate for a foreign policy group that purports to believe that a) democratization should be the primary goal of US Middle Eastern policy, and b) virtually all experts on the Middle East are ideological poison. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a world in which the combination of those two traits could lead to any success at all.

Negotiating Change is a solid entry, valuable not only for its overall argument, but also for the detail it lends about the political and cultural systems of its subjects. Jones knows a lot about what he’s talking about; he’s traveled extensively in the Middle East, and conducted numerous interviews of policymakers and others. His book has few direct policy recommendations, but for those with an interest but not specialization in the Middle East, it’s a valuable resource.

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