May 19, 2011

Summary

This issue of Diplomaatia continues our series of analysis of the events in North Africa. We also reflect on issues of international law and take a look at the recent parliamentary elections in Finland. During the last weeks, we have witnessed the passing away of several historically significant figures, although their significance is very different in kind and effect.

This issue of Diplomaatia continues our series of analysis of the events in North Africa. We also reflect on issues of international law and take a look at the recent parliamentary elections in Finland. During the last weeks, we have witnessed the passing away of several historically significant figures, although their significance is very different in kind and effect.

Summary

This issue of Diplomaatia continues our series of analysis of the events in North Africa. We also reflect on issues of international law and take a look at the recent parliamentary elections in Finland. During the last weeks, we have witnessed the passing away of several historically significant figures, although their significance is very different in kind and effect.
In the opening essay, journalist Vahur Koorits analyses the ‘Arab Spring’ from the vantage point of Francis Fukuyama’s theory of the ‘end of history’. Koorits sees the events in North Africa as proof that people all over the world eventually long for freedom and democracy. He argues that the fears that unleashed political developments in the region would bring Islamist movements to power have proven unwarranted. He admits that there always will be wars and conflicts, but he claims that Fukuyama was right in his main point – these conflicts are no longer fuelled by ideological disagreements.
Defence policy analyst Kaarel Kaas takes a look at al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden’s background, finding that his development towards becoming the most sought after criminal in the world began early in his youth. Kaas describes the school that Bin Laden attended in Saudi Arabia, the teachers that may have influenced his ideology and the political situation in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world, in which the future jihadist was raised. As the name Osama means ‘young lion’ and Bin Laden himself had called the US a ‘paper tiger’, Kaas notes that the ‘paper tiger’ eventually caught the ‘lion’ after all.
Defence policy analyst Erik Männik writes about the current conflict in Libya. Männik raises the question to what extent values and strategies can be reconciled and replies that the answer is more complicated than we may be willing to admit. He indicates in his analysis that the goals of the military operation in Libya can hardly be fulfilled by military means alone as long as Gaddafi remains in power, but at the same time the removal of Gaddafi has not been included among the goals of military action. These contradictions mean that the conflict may last long and the situation forces us to think about the nature of our responsibilities in a globalised, interconnected world.
In his review of Evgeny Morozov’s book The Net Delusion. The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, politician Silver Meikar writes about the meaning of the Internet and the social media for democratic developments in different parts of the world. Morozov warns his readers not to be too optimistic about the modern media as a road to freedom – he reminds us that authoritarian regimes are willing and capable of restricting online freedom as well as using it for their own propaganda purposes.
A Finnish journalist Katja Boxberg analyses the significance and background of Finland’s parliamentary elections in April. In Finland, three largest parties – the Centre Party, the National Coalition Party and the Social Democrats – have shared power in relative harmony for years, but now a populist, EU-sceptical and nationalist party – the True Finns – suddenly became the third biggest party in the Parliament, winning 19% of the votes, compared to just 4% four years ago. Boxberg argues that a major reason for this was the ‘consensus policy’ that dominated Finland’s politics for years, preventing real change and open debate on issues that Finnish voters consider important.
Mare Tropp, a lawyer specialising in international law, assesses some recent developments in the International Court of Justice and, in particular, the introduction of a new legal category – ‘crimes of aggression’. This new category enables the international community to deal with such crimes as the occupation of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein in 1990 by making heads of states legally responsible for their actions. The most prominent person for whom an arrest warrant has been issued is Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Even though the process of bringing criminals to justice remains complicated in practice, Tropp claims that the introduction of the new category is an important step on the way towards global justice.
The last two articles in this issue are obituaries. Diplomat Riina Kionka remembers her colleague Max van der Stoel who was the representative of the CSCE, the predecessor of the OSCE, in Estonia. As an official responsible for the rights of minorities, van der Stoel paid close attention to the rights of Russian speakers in Estonia. This was experienced as an obstacle to Estonia’s admission to the EU, but Kionka concludes that in the end, his pressure on Estonia ensured Estonia’s strict adherence to the highest international standards in its citizenship policies. This helped to pave our way to all the international organisations of which Estonia now is a member.
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves remembers his colleague and friend Ronald Asmus who passed away on April 30 at the age of only 53. Ilves and Asmus had worked together as researchers at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty already in the 1980s and later their roads crossed again in connection with Estonia’s accession to the EU and NATO. In Ilves’s view, it is impossible to overestimate Asmus’s role in these processes and in the very fact that the Baltic states were accepted to the EU and NATO. “Had there been no Ron Asmus,” Ilves argues, “we would be, if not a different country, certainly living in a dramatically different security climate here on the eastern littoral of the Baltic Sea.”

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