Monday, February 20, 2012

Iran and nuclear weapons

As tensions are growing once again in the Middle East, it is generally thought that a nuclear armed Iran would be a nightmare. I do not think so. Instead of isolating the country further and fuelling anti-Western sentiments, the world community should end its sanctions and instead try to integrate Iran in the world economy. In particular, visa procedures should be streamlined and student exchanges promoted, things that will make young Iranians feel welcome in the world.

Meanwhile, the United States should deploy a range of tactical nuclear weapons to the Persian Gulf while maintaining its strategic nuclear deterrent and explicitly target Tehran with ICBMs. The United States should also state, in no uncertain terms, that if Iran ever uses its nuclear weapons, the country will be annihilated within hours. Knowing this, any attack on for instance Israel would be utterly suicidal for Iran. At the same time, the fact that Iran now has nuclear weapons will make it clear to the United States and others that they can never risk a pre-emptive strike. In essence, terror balance. But as tensions would diminish through increased economic and cultural integration of Iran, its days as a theocracy will hopefully be counted.

Do you agree? If not, why? Because of the assumption of rationality on behalf of all parties? Or for some other reason? I wilfully admit that my understanding of Iran is limited. At the same time, the current policies towards Iran do not seem to be working either. Clearly, a pre-emptive strike at this stage would be an obvious recipe for disaster as it would not mark the end but rather the beginning of a conflict that could possibly drag on for decades as a humiliated Iran would retaliate.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Overnight delay

After close to three weeks in Japan, I felt ready to return to Korea and the final preparations before teaching starts later this week. But United apparently wanted otherwise. When trying to check in for my evening flight to Seoul, I learned that the flight would have an “overnight delay” and that I would instead fly tomorrow morning at 10 am. These are the moments when I am really thankful for the academic flexibility which my job offers. I wonder how many Korean employers that will be happy with having their employees trapped at Narita on a Monday morning? Knowing this and the sheer desperation that this will cause to some of the other passengers, I quickly decided to not use my Star Gold standby list privileges but rather take it slow, spend a last night in Japan and reflect on the journey ahead.

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Monday, February 13, 2012


The first time I travelled to Japan was in April last year. It was not long after the March 11 earthquake but I still remember that Tokyo felt very normal and safe at the time. Since then I have been back three times and every time it feels like I am uncovering more and more of its secrets and its strange mix of stifling rigidity and childish playfulness.

It is a country that does not trust its government. And a government that does not trust its people. Instead of investing in its young people, the Japanese society appears obsessed with saving for its retirement. In the next 50 years, Japan is expected to go from 127 to 87 million people as the fertility rate continues to fall.

From a Swedish perspective it is not difficult to think of possible remedies: public childcare, openness to migration and, not the least, a radical change in terms of gender roles. But I am not here to give advice. At the same time, I wish I could show all this to conservative people back home, to make them understand that this is what you get if you kick downwards in society, if you do not listen to young women and if you mistrust the future. The other day, Anna and I finished our paper on aspirational cosmopolitanism that we will present in Oregon in March. Writing it reminded me of how important that last part about the future really is; that it is first when we believe in an undetermined and open future that political change becomes possible. Basically, it is about believing that people can and will change, that simple transformative hope that always has separated the right from the left in politics.

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