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The Varsavsky Foundation
Avenida Bruselas 7, Planta 3
28100 Alcobendas
Madrid, Spain

The political blog of a social entrepreneur

Democratic Win Brings America Closer To The World

I would like to build a web site called Basically, what users of this web site would do is register and vote in the American Elections, regardless of whether they are US Citizens or not.

Why do I think foreigners should “vote” in the American Elections? For the same reason that my foundation called for and co-organized the world largest summit ever held on how democracies should fight terrorism: to give a voice to non Americans on matters that Americans think mostly theirs, but affect the whole world. For example America holds the key to cut global warming, but American voters are not yet willing to do what Europe and Asia have done, and that is to tax carbon emissions to discourage consumption. Another example is the invasion of Irak, an invasion that was opposed by the majority of the population of the world, and that still took place with horrendous results.

Of course Americans could completely ignore the voice of non Americans and continue acting regionally or globally against the wishes of the majority of the global citizenship, but if global public opinion could be presented in a coherent way to Americans, I believe that US citizens may be more prone to listen to it and voting in the US election sends a clear message.

In any case, is so far just an idea that my foundation is studying and it is not online. But without it being implemented, I think it is safe to say that probably over 80% of the world population would have voted with the US citizens who gave the Democrats control of Congress. I am also aware that Americans, while quick to intervene around the world, are particularily dismissive of criticism by foreigners; a strong support for the Democratic party from the rest of the world may actually make Democrats less likely to win a US election.

Still, I believe that as Americans begin to see the dire consequences of misguided intervention outside of the USA, they are maybe more interested in hearing what people outside of the USA have to say about their own global policy making.

Posted at Politics on November 12, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Democratic Win Brings America Closer To The World | TrackBack

Don´t Build a Fence, Improve NAFTA

The US Border Fence between Mexico and the USA is advancing in the US Senate. Personally, I think that US Border fence is a wrong concept. My idea is that US should look at what Europe has done in terms of immigration and copy our model.

Mexico, USA and Canada have made something equivalent to the European Union, it is called NAFTA. Still there is a fundamental difference. In Europe we allow free movement of goods and people, within NAFTA goods move, but people stay behind. Interestingly, what Europe has found is that by creating job opportunities throughout the EU migrations inside Europe have actually been reduced. There was a time that Spaniards migrated to Germany in search of jobs. Now there are more Germans migrating to Spain than the other way around.

In my opinion USA should embrace Mexico and Canada and move border control to the South of Mexico (eskimo control does not seem to be a problem in the North NAFTA border…). Doing this and improving controls at a South Mexico, border with Guatemala and Belize –which is controlled jointly by all of NAFTA members– while allowing instead free movement of people between Canada, Mexico and USA is the way to go. To me, a gigantic wall with Mexico is exactly the wrong message to send to Mexico and to the world. It´s a failure of civilization.

Moreover, if Mexicans could move easily back and forth between USA and Mexico many less of them would stay in USA. Many workers stay simply because if they leave they can´t come back. Many in America wrongly believe that the whole world wants to move to the States. There are 450 million Europeans now who don´t even need a visa to visit the States, for example, but illegal immigration from Europe is just not a problem. Indeed, at Fon, the company that I manage, we have the opposite problem: it is easier for us to get visas for Europeans to go over to the USA than to get papers for the Americans who want to work for us in Spain.

I think that Americans have a seriously wrong view of how many foreigners in general and how many Mexicans or Canadians in particular would actually move to America and stay there if they had open borders inside NAFTA. When Europe had the Berlin Wall people would die trying to cross into Western Germany, but when the wall came down the surprise was that most people stay put. Building gigantic fences is the wrong way to go, improving conditions on both sides of the border is the right approach. Strengthen NAFTA, don´t build a wall.

Posted at Politics on September 29, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Don´t Build a Fence, Improve NAFTA | TrackBack

9/11 the Day Nothing Changed?

Foreign Policy magazine´s cover shows a surprising headline this week.

It refers to 9/11 and it calls it “The Day Nothing Much Changed“. The article, written by William Dobson is at first extremely refreshing. In a world in which not a day goes by without us hearing how everything change on 9/11 we read Dobson demolishing myths one by one, argument after argument and proving that nothing much has really changed since 9/11. He argues that global commerce is way up, that global travel is way up, that working visas and student visas in the US are up, that USA did not become fortress America and that the world has gone on “business as usual” for the last 5 years. At the end of his article however he makes a statement that in my view pretty much changes the main point of the article. It goes like this

Consider that between Sept. 12, 2001, and Dec. 31, 2005, 18,944 people around the world died in acts of terrorism. Only eight of those deaths were on American soil.

Now to me here lies the key to this problem and it is because of this that I believe that a LOT has changed after 9/11. The fact that USA has been both better and luckier than say the UK or us in Spain to prevent further terrorist attacks after 9/11 does not mean that the world has not changed after 9/11. To me the biggest effect of 9/11 other than the tragic death of so many innocent people, has been to encourage masses of radical islamic youths to fight our civilization with pretty effective tactics. What the few terrorists of 9/11 proved is that Western Democracies are relatively easy to attack. Madrid and London followed with a new kind of terrorism, less linked to Al Qaida and more to the resentment of immigrant groups. By invading Afghanistan and Iraq America and Europe moved the war with islamists into their turf, many times aggravating the problem with poor management and tremendous civilian casualties thereby helping recruiters of terrorist organizations gain more adepts. The fact that we got hit in Europe and America did not yet get effectively attacked again does not mean that tomorrow a terrorism of the kind that is described by Graham Allison, nuclear terrorism, cannot be the Islamic radicals next big thing. What is America and Europe to do with this threat? Personally after hearing a lot of the work that was published at the Safe Democracy conference that my foundation and Club de Madrid hosted last year on Terrorism, I think that less military work, better police and judiciary work mixed with social policies that show the Muslim world that we care and are willing to cooperate, trade and befriend the 99% plus Muslims who are not terrorists in Europe, USA and the Muslim world is the way to go. Military intervention, be in Irak or recently Lebanon on behalf of Israel has fueled more terrorism that it has avoided. Whatever we may think about Hezbollah now I am sure that after the recent destruction of Lebanon it is easier for Hezbollah to recruit adepts than it was before the Israeli invasion. Money spent in cooperation as opossed to weapons and active collaboration with the vast majority of moderates muslims against the radicals muslims is the best way forward. Terrorism has never defeated democracies because in the end most people, no matter how extreme their views are, want a compromise, even with people whose views they hate. We have to rally the moderate against the radicals something that a Europe that is becoming more Muslim every day is particularily well prepared to do.

Posted at Politics on September 11, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on 9/11 the Day Nothing Changed? | TrackBack

The United States and Europe: Immigration

In FON we are having some serious problems attracting people to come from the United States to work in Spain. The same is happening in reverse as well, when we want to bring Europeans to the United States to work. The situation of closed borders is absurd, considering that even if the United States and Europe were to mutually open their borders, there would be no massive migration in either direction.

I think that it is time that the US and the EU make an agreement to allow for people to move freely from one continent to the other. Balanced immigration enriches countries that embrace it. Europe created the European Union, among other things, to facilitate the free movement of its citizens throughout the labor markets. The US created NAFTA so that Mexicans would have more jobs in assembly plants and would stay in Mexico.

Posted at Politics on September 8, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on The United States and Europe: Immigration | TrackBack

African Dream

Spain has been receiving more and more illegal immigrants from Africa who, fleeing poverty, have been sailing hundreds of miles from places as far as Senegal to make it over here. On some days this week as much as 1000 illegal immigrants arrived in the Canary Islands in one day. Hundreds have died while trying to make it.

This crisis is similar to that of the Southern border of the United States. Our Rio Grande is the Atlantic Ocean, Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. Latin America and USA have similar income inequality as Africa and Europe. In Spain the problem is even greater as there are twice as many Africans as there are Latin Americans and they are even poorer. Spain, at the same time, has only 20% the population of USA. But as I was researching migration flows between Spain and Africa I ran into an extremely surprising fact. I am currently in the island of Menorca where I have a farm that faces the South side of the island, around 200nm north of Africa. As I was wondering if Africans were ever going to make it to my farm, I found out googling “African migrations to Spain” that in the first half of the XIX century human traffic went the other way around and as much as one third of the inhabitants (in Spanish) of this now very prosperous island were forced to emigrate to Africa, because of lack of economic opportunity and famine.

I guess this ads a little historical perspective to the ups and downs of economic opportunity. It´s hard to imagine thousands of Spaniards going out to pursue the African dream, but it happened.

Posted at Politics on August 22, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on African Dream | TrackBack

Israel Lost

Israel is managed by a generation of leaders who grew up wondering how could six million Jews walk to their death without putting up a fight. Maybe this explains why these leaders are so ready to over react when Israel is attacked and why Israel consistently loses the war that matters most, the war of global public opinion, even against the most unlikely candidates: Syria and Iran.

Hezbollah kidnapped two soldiers and threw rockets over Israel, a minor incident. Israel instead, invaded Lebanon, killed over a thousand people, caused billions of dollars worth of damage and managed to drive the majority of the Lebanese, who were not sympathizers of Hezbollah, into Hezbollah´s arms. Hezbollah as a movement needs two main resources, Iran´s and Syria´s money and angry young men. After the tremendous damage that Israel inflicted on Lebanon Hezbollah will have more of both. Especially now that it will be seen by most Lebanese as the only force ready to defend Lebanon.

Posted at Politics on August 21, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Israel Lost | TrackBack

Ahmadinejad Outsmarts Olmert, Civilians on Both Sides Pay the Price

When I was a teenager I once heard somebody say that wars were a conspiracy by old people to get rid of young people. While I know this vision is simplistic lately I see that wars seem to be a conspiracy of combatants to get rid of civilians on the other side. The Iraqi war has been like that with the United States conducting air bombardments knowing that in many cases civilians and not terrorists will bear the brunt and with terrorists targeting civilians either directly or indirectly. And now the same is true in the Israel/Lebanon war.

First some background. Over the last two years I was in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Israel, something that very Jews have done. I am not a Middle East expert but my Spanish based foundation Safe Democracy brings together many Middle East thinkers and analysts from different sides to Madrid or to what we believe is constructive dialogue in our internet publication. Still as a non expert I would like to summarize my analysis of the war going on between Lebanon and Israel and comment on what I see as the three most likely outcomes of the conflict.

My view of this war is simple. Until a few weeks ago, Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President was very concerned because Europe and USA were focusing too much on Iran´s nuclear policy. While Europe and America were divided over Iraq they were united over preventing Iran, a country publicly committed to the destruction of Israel, become a nuclear power. But because Ahmadinejad is one of the smartest leaders in the Middle East he prepared an exit strategy that so far has worked extremely well for him. Basically Ahmadinejad instructed Hezbollah, his proxy army in Lebanon to attack Israel. He also provided them with enough rockets to create significant destruction in Israel. Israel reacted in the way that Ahmadinejad was hoping for, namely not only attacking South Lebanon but also attacking Beirut and blockading all of Lebanon. Attacking all of Lebanon was exactly what Ahmadinejad and the Syrians were hoping for and it was huge mistake on the part of the Israelis as it served both nations. Iran is now seen as less of a threat to the region than Israel and Syria, the traditional occupier of Lebanon, a country who´s leader most likely personally ordered the assassination of Hariri and who was falling out with Lebanon is now again seen as a friend by many Lebanese. Hezbollah was but a minority faction in Lebanon, a multi cultural, multi religious country. Before this war support for them was relatively weak. But just as the US government has made it very easy for Al Qaida to attract recruits after its invasion of Iraq, by attacking all of Lebanon, Israel is now making it very easy for Hezbollah to increase in popularity. Less than a year ago I met with Ohlmert together with a group of around 8 peace activists in Jerusalem. Frankly I was not impressed. Olhmert is probably the least prepared leader that Israel has had in a long time and he fell for the Ahmadinejad “ambush”. Now he is losing on both counts, on international support and in the battlefield.

So what is going to happen now? I see three scenarios. One is that Israel prevails in its main objective which is to bring an international force to the Lebanon/Israel border to guarantee that Hezbollah stops attacking Israel with rockets thrown from the south of Lebanon. Paradoxically the only way to get this force to come is for Israel to keep killing innocent civilians in Lebanon and creating tremendous economic damage so the democracies that supply the soldiers can justify the mission. So this is what Israel is doing now, escalating the conflict and forcing the UN to come in. Israel realizes that it would have a very hard time itself in policing south Lebanon and wants the world to do the job so in this way the world can witness that with Lebanon, as opposed to with Palestine, there really is no territorial dispute.

Now, a second scenario is that this war becomes a second Iraq, namely that nothing radical happens and it becomes a war of attrition in which a few soldiers and terrorists fight, not each other but each other’s civilian populations and it is mostly civilians who die. Iraq´s war is about human bombs and car bombs. Lebanon/Israel’s could be about rockets vs air strikes: a pretty horrid prospect.

Lastly the third possibility I see is that Israel, discouraged by the success of Hezbollah in killing civilians and disrupting life in Israel and with the blessing and help of the USA, decides to wage an air war with Iran, the real source of the Hezbollah attacks. But this war would create many more civilian casualties, this time in Iran. What may precipitate this option is that an air war is the only war that USA and Israel can win against Iran so they may choose to fight it together. The problem with this type of war is that as long as it is an air war leaders are generally able to protect themselves in expensive bunkers and it is mostly innocent civilians who die. And should this be the case and America and Israel decided to go for Ahmadinejad the through an invasion using a strategy similar to the one used to depose Saddam Hussein, the invading armies would find themselves fighting in a very hostile environment as Ahmadinejad truly is a popular leader in his country.

Lastly I wanted to say that other than the fact that I had to lie about being Jewish and having been to Israel I loved my visit to Beirut and I believe that Beirut and Jerusalem are paradoxically very similar cities, and Israel and Lebanon paradoxically very similar countries with diverse societies. It is a tragedy that citizens of these two countries cannot visit each other as most of them would like each other countries more than any other in the region.

Posted at Politics on July 28, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Ahmadinejad Outsmarts Olmert, Civilians on Both Sides Pay the Price | TrackBack

Is Oil to Chavez what Biodiesel is to Kirchner?

Most large exporters of energy are LDCs (less democratic countries). Oil seems to do that to countries. Venezuela for example, a nation that had been a democracy for decades is now more and more an LDC. How does this happen? Easy, a democratically elected president gets control over growing oil revenues and buys himself political power. Fast forward to Argentina. Argentina is a modest energy exporter nowhere near the ranks of Venezuela. Argentina however is a very large agricultural commodity exporter. Now that energy importing democracies (EU, USA) are beginning to use food to fuel their cars, namely biodiesel, and now that the prices of some agricultural commodities are beginning to track the price of oil, will we see the same tendency to power concentration in Argentina? Will we see Argentina joining the ranks of the LDCs thanks to Kirchner´s ability to control a few exports? Hopefully not but the combination of the autocratic tendencies of Kirchner with a very high price of agricultural commodities concerns me.

The temptation to buy votes using state resources becomes hard to resist. And at a global scale I have another concern with biodiesel. I used to wonder about how was it possible that Argentina, one of the largest food exporters in the world, and Brazil, another one, had starving children. The question then was, should a country with starving citizens export food to other countries? But now the moral dilemma is even worse. Should a country with starving citizens export food so others in rich countries feed…. their SUVs?

Posted at Politics on May 7, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Is Oil to Chavez what Biodiesel is to Kirchner? | TrackBack

Iran and World War III

Global conflicts tend to start in small places over relatively small issues that somehow get out of hand when other countries divide themselves along different sides of the dispute in question. Unfortunately this is happening with Iran. Iran could be just another country that goes nuclear, like Pakistan, or Israel, but because of Iran´s aggresive foreign policy which directly clashes with America´s plans for the Middle East, the Iranian violation of the nuclear proliferation treaty is dangerously dividing the world in two. These two blocks could potentially be the two sides of WWIII. All the authoritarian countries are on one side, the democratic countries on the other.

Democracies are strongly opposing Iran becoming a nuclear power. These include USA, the European Union, Japan, India and others. Authoritarian countries including most Muslim countries, Russia, China, and the authoritarian countries of Latin America, are with Iran. This division is dangerous for the world. How did we get to this point? The US invasion of Iraq combined with the respect that North Korea got out of developing nuclear weapons made it clear to Iran that if the Bush Administration was going to call them names (axis of evil) they better be evil….and smart. By destroying Iraq and ignoring North Korea America rewarded the nuclear power. As a result the Iranians want nuclear weapons and they want them now. The Bush administration seems to have a tragic ability for escalating conflict into war.

Posted at Politics on May 7, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Iran and World War III | TrackBack

Hugo Chavez´s gift to OPEC

Hugo Chavez has recently been a very good OPEC member. He´s been keeping oil production down. But this reduction has not taken place because Hugo Chavez wants to be a good OPEC member. The paradox of authoritarian leaders who nationalize oil production is that oil production goes down simply because they are bad at running their own, inefficient state oil companies. And the price of oil goes up. Personally I don´t believe that oil multinationals are the solution either. The best way for a country to get the most for its citizens is to blend well regulated intervention by multinationals with a very good schooling of local energy professionals. Rushed decisions a la Chavez simply fail.

Posted at Politics on May 7, 2006 | # Permalink | Comments Off on Hugo Chavez´s gift to OPEC | TrackBack