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Following Up EA's Stories: Strikes on Pakistan, Flotilla Raid, US Military v. Obama, Israel's Settlements, Twitter and Activism

Putting this week's stories on EA WorldView into context....

The Strikes on Pakistan: On Tuesday, we considered, "Stepping Up the Drone Killings (And How to Accept Them)".

The political tensions continue to increase. Dr Zalmai Rassoul, the Afghan foreign minister, has issued a pointed warning: "On many occasions from this podium, the Afghan delegation has drawn the attention of the global community to the reality that terrorism and the ideologies of extremism and radicalism are spawned beyond the borders of Afghanistan." 

Rassoul said that, as long as" certain state and non-state actors" provide Al Qaeda and its affiliated individuals and entities with sanctuary, arms and financing, they would remain formidable and murderous adversaries.

Yesterday Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari said to members of his party that "international forces were whipping up a storm against the government" and pledged not to bow to the pressure. 

Stopping the Gaza Flotillas: Ali Yenidunya noted yesterday's interception of a Gaza-bound aid ship by the Israel Defense Forces.

Now passengers from the "Irene", organised by Jewish and Israeli activists, have claimed that they were struck and hit by a taser during the takeover, countering the military's official version claiming that the boarding had been uneventful.

The US Military v. Obama on Afghanistan: On Monday, Scott Lucas analysed the handling of reporter Bob Woodward's account in Obama Wars of the path to American escalation in Afghanistan, claiming that this was a case of the "US Military and the White House's Crocodile Tears".

Andrew Bacevich goes beyond Woodward's "gossip-mongering" to raise the key issues:

Here we confront a series of questions to which Woodward (not to mention the rest of Washington) remains steadfastly oblivious.  Why fight a war that even the general in charge says can’t be won? What will the perpetuation of this conflict cost?  Who will it benefit?  Does the ostensibly most powerful nation in the world have no choice but to wage permanent war?  Are there no alternatives?  Can Obama shut down an unwinnable war now about to enter its tenth year?  Or is he -- along with the rest of us -- a prisoner of war?

President Obama has repeatedly stated that in July 2011 a withdrawal of U. S. troops from Afghanistan will commence.  No one quite knows exactly what that means.  Will the withdrawal be symbolic?  General Petraeus has already made it abundantly clear that he will entertain nothing more.  Or will July signal that the Afghan War -- and by extension the Global War on Terror launched nine years ago -- is finally coming to an end?

Israel-Palestine Talks and the Settlements: On Monday, Ali Yenidunya reported on the politics around the end of Israel's 10-month moratorium on settlement expansion in the West Bank. 

Juan Cole adds this provocative claim:

The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot is reporting, according to the London daily al-Quds al-`Arabi, that Obama pleaded with Netanyahu to extend the settlement freeze for a month or two. If at the end of that period, Obama is said to have pledged, there had been no progress in the peace talks, then the US would not object to the freeze lapsing. Moreover, he was willing to given written assurances of American commitment to Israeli security. Netanyahu declined to accept Obama’s pleading.

Setting the "Twitter Revolution" Right: Yesterday Scott Lucas took issue with Malcolm Gladwell's portrayal of activism and social media with "An Open Letter to All Experts Bashing the 'Twitter Revolution': Please Go Away --- People Are Working Here".

Others have offered sharp and, in my opinion, productive responses to Gladwell. Jillian York writes:

The problem with Gladwell’s piece, then, is not his pessimism about the popular media line on digital activism, but rather, the choice he makes to ignore the utility of digital tools for “real-world activism.”  Or as Alaa Abd El Fattah points out: “it’s not like “real world” activists are going to abstain from using the net to prove their analogness.”

In other words, “Digital activism” alone is fairly useless, but the utilization of digital tools can make traditional activism infinitely stronger.

A column in The Economist assesses:

Mr Gladwell misses a number of crucial things. One mistake is to assume that social media merely increases weak ties. In my experience, it strengthens ties generally. Networks like Twitter and Facebook reduce the cost of minor interactions, which leads to more minor interactions. Mr Gladwell sees this and notes the rise in minor interactions between thousands of quasi-friends. What he misses is that repeated minor actions are also the means by which stronger relationships are kept strong. These platforms make it easier to maintain friendships through trying times and circumstances.

The Atlantic also features a series of incisive responses from readers.

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