Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Yet more maps on visualizing how the world works

Today (January 14, 2014), the Washington Post published yet another article on some new and fascinating maps, showing us, among other things, how wealth is distributed worldwide, population dynamics, worldwide happiness, and where the ingredients for Nutella come from!

The article, entitled "40 More Maps That Explain the World," is the latest in an installment beginning with, appropriately, "40 Maps That Explain the World" published in August.

Europe in tweets

The world's most and least emotional countries

Check them out - lots of fun!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Burmese child soldier twins reunited

A fascinating story on the "God's Army" twins who fought a guerilla war in the jungles of Burma a decade ago. They were children then, and their adult followers attributed magical, super-human powers to the brothers. After a campaign of skirmishes, battles, and hostage-taking, God's Army was disbanded. The twins have been separated for years, one living in Sweden and the other in a refugee camp in Thailand. They were recently reunited and gave an interview to an AP reporter. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

"The Dissident's Tookit"

Wow! If you want to read a fresh, empirically-based analysis of what make democratic revolutions succeed, take a look at this just-published piece by Erica Chenoweth in Foreign Policy. She stresses that there is no one strategy for success, and provides real insight into the process. 

Here is one of many passages that stand out:

"The results of our research show that opposition campaigns are successful when they manage to do three key things: (1) attract widespread and diverse participation; (2) develop a strategy that allows them to maneuver around repression; and (3) provoke defections, loyalty shifts, or disobedience among regime elites and/or security forces."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Outstanding piece on the South China Sea

Just extraordinary multi-media piece from the New York Times on the struggle for control of the South China Sea, with a fascinating look into how the Philippines government is coping. Go here...

Monday, September 9, 2013

"Putin's Kiss"

Haven't seen this film yet, but the acclaimed "Putin's Kiss" explores the true story of a Russian woman's embrace of the Nashi youth group and her ultimate realization that she had been manipulated and that Nashi was a malevolent force in Russian politics. The film can be downloaded here.

The Shia-Sunni split

From the Economist, a very brief but useful introduction on the Sunni-Shia schism amongst Muslims.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Confidential document surfaces on attitudes and angst inside the Chinese Communist Party

One of the most important articles in years on the attitudes of the highest echelons of the CCP is here in the New York Times. Author Chris Buckley details the contents of "Document No. 9," which blasts “Western constitutional democracy” as well as “universal values” of human rights, Western-inspired notions of "media independence and civic participation," and other insidious ideas creeping into Chinese political discourse. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Japan launches something that looks a lot like an aircraft carrier

Honestly, it isn't an aircraft carrier, and the Japanese say it's a "flat-topped destroyer." It can't launch fixed-wing aircraft, although it will carry fourteen helicopters.

Might come in handy for protecting Japan's assets in the South China Sea...

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Egyptian Economy's Nosedive Since the Revolution

Informative, fascinating piece by Matt Phillips at Quartz on the Egyptian economic mess since Mubarak was overthrown. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Recent information on coltan

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has published a number of recent articles on the coltan boom and how the mining and sale of the mineral funds mafia gangs and fuels conflict and environment destruction - not just in Africa, where we would expect, but now in South America.

Go here for their page on "The Illicit Trade of Coltan." 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

More on China's (bogus) claims to the South China Sea

Excellent article this week by Mohan Malik at World Affairs on the totally specious claims by China to a huge area in the South China Sea. A must-read if you're interested in the topic. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Central Asia's water issues - excellent article!

In a piece from Radio Free Europe, Professor Brahama Cellaney discusses water, the emerging nexus of conflict in Central Asia. Lots of great quotes, but I like this one since it sums up the dilemma faced by weak states such as Kyrgyzstan:

And I think given the fact that Uzbekistan is located downstream, but able to assert its political and military supremacy in the region, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan find themselves hamstrung. They're not able to embark on projects because the downstream power is unwilling to provide consent, and they're too afraid to embark on projects on their own.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Thomas Friedman: "Oh, you were taking me literally?"

Thomas Friedman wrote a rather self-serving piece today at Foreign Policy on the flaws in his "petropolitics" thesis. He kinda, sorta acknowledges the lack of empirical support for his argument, but then says of his chief critic, "I would simply note that [he] focuses on the effects of oil prices, which is a literal reading of the "first law.""

Oh. A "literal" reading. Should we have assumed you were being figurative when you stated that your "law" was a causal relationship between oil prices and authoritarianism? 

Remember, we said that Friedman's article was an interesting thought piece but shouldn't be taken too seriously. Nice to know that he kinda, sorta agrees.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

2012: The Year in Unfreedom

As Foreign Policy author Christian Cayle reminds us in this trenchant post-mortem on the world's fledgling democratic states, "Voting does not a democracy make."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Why so many dynasties?

You might want to take a look at this piece in Foreign Policy on the persistence of dynastic regimes in the modern world. The author focuses on Asia, where dynasties thrive in the Koreas, Thailand, Bangladesh, and elsewhere. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Borders of the "New World"

Frank Jacobs and Parag Khanna look at new states and mutating borders of the near future in an article for the New York Times Magazine. We have stressed the permeability of national borders in class and the artificial nature of the Westphalian system, and these two authors speculate about areas where national self-determination, combined with weak states, may create a "new world." 

In class, we also looked at Ralph Peters' article "A Better Middle East." Jacobs and Khanna may have read the Peters article, but their piece has an interactive map and is a fun read.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Radio Free Europe Interview with Robert Kaplan

Kaplan talks to RFE about maps, geographic determinism, the Munich Analogy, Vladimir Putin - basically everything we studied in class. It's a standard (but lively) Realist approach, and Kaplan has been down this road before, but worth reading nonetheless.

Monday, September 10, 2012

CSIS study on attacking Iran

What would it take to cripple Iran's nuclear weapons program? This CSIS study concludes that an Israeli attack would be little more than a nuisance. If Israel were joined by the US in a massive strike, Iran's plans could be derailed for a decade. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pussy Riot sentenced to two years

The verdict was read a few minutes ago, and the latest news is that the girls were sentenced to two years after being found guilty of committing "hooliganism." More details to come.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Increasing unrest in Tibet: A "Tibetan Spring" on the horizon?

From Voice of America, a story on the continuing wave of protests and self-immolations in Tibet and next-door Qinghai, complete with an analysis of the Chinese reaction and the chances for a "Tibetan Spring."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Yet more on the South China Sea

NY Times/International Herald Tribune piece on Beijing's claims to "only 80%" of the South China Sea. And be sure to click on the interactive map (available here)!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

OSCE asks Belarus to drop teddy bear prosecution

Dear students: in what other class would you get the latest news on legal proceedings against Pussy Riot girls and bloggers accused of assisting parachuting teddy bears? (Go ahead - name another class!)

The OSCE is asking the Belarussian government nicely that it drop charges against the teddy bear blogger. This comes after Belarus kicking out the Swedish ambassador (the teddy bear plane took off from Sweden, as you may recall.)

Yulia Tymoshenko: one year in prison, from Radio Free Europe


Friday, August 3, 2012

Fascinating BBC piece on Somalia

Go here for "Somalia: Ten Things We've Learnt"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Readings on WMD

Weapons of Mass Destruction

If there is time, we will dive into nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. It's a lot to cover, and all we can do is skim the surface. To start with, you will find these resources helpful.

Nuclear weapons: PBS (Public Broadcasting System in the US) does a good job with interactive tutorials on WMD. Go here, for instance, and navigate around the site to learn all sorts of information: http://www.pbs.org/avoidingarmageddon/learnTheFacts/learn_02.html

Both recommended: This Op-Ed in the Christian Science Monitor asks skeptically if a nuclear-armed Iran really would be dangerous. However, this article in the Wall Street Journal outlines the dangers to the region that might follow Iran acquiring nukes.

Biological weapons: Go to this PBS site and check out the 'Global Guide to Bioweapons': http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bioterror/global.html

And this PBS site is a very good primer: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/plague/

At the site above you can find a helpful FAQ section: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/plague/etc/faqs.html

Finally, if we have 50 minutes at the end of the day, we will see the chilling documentary "Bioweapons."

Readings on globalization, population dynamics, and environmental issues

For Tuesday's class, we will cover natural resources and globalization - two big topics. We could devote one entire course to globalization alone, for instance. At least we will try to cover the major topics as well as some fascinating case studies.

Read one or two articles on natural resources and one or two pieces on globalization

Natural resources: Water as a resource crisis

Water may be the next big source of environmental conflict. We will look at Central Asia as a case study where fresh water is needed for irrigation by downstream countries while it is being dammed by upstream states. See this article (optional) from Radio Free Europe for an examination of the issue.

The Aral Sea has been described as "the world's number one environmental disaster." The catastrophe was not caused by globalized markets but by short-sighted planning in the former Soviet Union.

Optional: Here is a great, short article by Dave Holley of the Los Angeles Times. Dave writes about how the northern half of the Aral Sea is beginning to recover, thanks to enlightened environmental policies and a World Bank loan.

Blood diamonds, minerals, etc. A huge topic. Here are a couple of great pieces...

Required: See "The Dirt in the New Machine"which appeared ten years ago in the New York Times Magazine. The Coltan issue is still a painful one, and mining this mineral--which is in your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, etc--has fueled the African Civil War, the largest war since World War II. It is sometimes called "The Coltan War." The issue is still relevant and largely unresolved.

Resource curses, democracy, etc.
Be sure to ask about "resource curses" in class. What are they? Look into Thomas Friedman's somewhat controversial assertion that there is a negative relationship between the price of oil and democratic development - at least in oil-producing, authoritarian or semi-authoritarian states.

Required: Go here for his famous article on "petropolitics." And see one of his graphs below. Don't take it too seriously; it's an illustration designed to encourage discussion. You may have to register with scribd to read the article.

I will discuss population growth at some length in class. There's already too much to read (given our schedule of meeting every day), but you might want to familiarize yourself with Thomas Malthus, especially his theory of population growth, sometimes called the "Malthusian Catastrophe" or the "Malthusian Disaster," etc. Here is a pretty good Wikipedia article on the subject. (This is optional reading.)

Female infanticide and sex-selective abortions
This is a huge problem in much of the world, including India, China, Russia, and the Caucasus.

Required (if you have time): See this recent piece on the mysterious "birth ratio imbalance" in Armenia.

Readings on globalization

We will talk about the so-called "race to the bottom," which includes the scramble for cheap labor and natural resources. This too, is part of the globalization trend where corporations (and other actors) go where they can to minimize costs and maximize profits.

Required: Please read Nick Kristof's "Two Cheers for Sweatshops" which is available here. It's an eye-opening essay.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sandmonkey on President Mursi the "human being"

Insightful, funny and sad commentary on what Mohammed Mursi has gotten himself into brought to you by Sandmonkey.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Readings on terrorism

Sunday night reading assignment:

Optional and fun: For laughs, go here for a compelling argument that many terrorists are "nitwits": http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-case-for-calling-them-nitwits/8130/

In a more serious vein, try to get a sense of a theoretical approach to suicide terrorism by reading at least one interview with Robert Pape, of the University of Chicago.

Read one of the following two interviews with Bob Pape

Either this: Interview with Robert Pape here: http://www.amconmag.com/article/2005/jul/18/00017/

Or this: And here is another interview with Pape. Note his emphasis on democracies and why they make tempting targets for suicide bombers: http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people6/Pape/pape-con3.html

Recommended: For an altogether different approach to understanding terrorism, go to this interview with Brian Jenkins in 2006, many years after the publication of his most seminal work. 

Optional - this is a cool piece in Wired on the "next-gen terror watchers" and their "granular" approach to understanding and combating terrorism.

Optional - This isn't assigned reading, but it's a definitive contribution to our understanding of terrorism by the always insightful Brian Jenkins. The article, a long, scholarly piece, is "International Terrorism: the Other World War," published by the RAND Corporation. Save a copy of the pdf only if you can use it in the future. 

Here is another RAND paper, published in 2006. It's a realist-oriented study of terrorism and is a valuable insight into how political scientists look at terrorism as a rational strategy. Don't bother reading it now (it's 36 pages) but it might be of use if you continue to study the topic. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Clash of Civilizations

On Monday and Tuesday, we will discuss Samuel Huntington's provocative 1993 article "Clash of Civilizations?"

Think about these issues when you read his main essay: What is his hypothesis? How does he support his argument? What evidence does he use? Do you agree with him, or are there flaws?

On Monday morning: Read in depth the booklet "Clash of Civilizations."

It is 67 pages, but I don't expect you to read all of it. You can skip the following essays:

- The essay by Liu Binyan
- The essay by Albert Weeks
- The essay by Gerrard Piel

Apart from the other articles in the book, make absolutely sure that you read the first article on pp 1 - 25 as well as Fouad Ajami's response entitled "The Summoning," which appears immediately after Huntington's main essay.

Then definitely read Ajami's reflection on the Huntington thesis written in 2008 in the New York Times here. How has Ajami's thinking evolved over the years? Why? What arguments does he present?

Also, if there is time in the first hour of class on Monday, we may ask you to read this short but devastating critique of Huntington by Edward Said - the late, erudite English literature scholar and social critic.

Optional: If time, skim the final essay (by Samuel Huntington) including pp 62 ("Got a Better Idea?") to the end of the book.

For Monday afternoon and on Tuesday, we will apply Huntington to current "inter-civilizational" conflicts. We will look at the war in Chechnya as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh struggle between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We will also talk about ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Turkey is one of Hungtington's favorite case studies, and we will discuss Turkey in detail on Tuesday.

Optional for Tuesday:

Read this short piece by the historian Niall Ferguson in Newsweek magazine, published in late June, and compare Ferguson's main point with Huntington's thesis as well as with Ajami's comments in the final paragraph of page 29.

Oh, one more thing: On  June 22, 2012, two American Muslims were sentenced to long prison terms for threatening to kill South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone in retaliation for a South Park episode in which the prophet Muhammad was depicted in a zip-up bear suit. Remarkably, one of the defendants apologized to the court for "attempting to create a clash of civilizations." 

Op-Ed sources

You will write one Op-Ed. First draft due on Wednesday. Final draft due on Monday of the final week. I would like to see bibliographies, although real Op-Eds do not utilize them. You should use at least three legitimate (non-Wikipedia) sources. 

Op-Eds (Opinion Editorials) are guest editorials written by distinguished thinkers, former or present government officials, and other news makers. They are also written by columnists of distinction. For instance, the New York Times publishes Op-Eds not only by former government officials and Nobel prize winners, but also those written by a stable of reporters and columnists of note.
Here is a great resource for New York Times Op-Eds:

Scroll down to the lower right corner, where you will find a box labeled “OpEd Columnists.”

The best-known New York Times Op-Ed columnists are listed there. You can go to any of them and click on “Columns” for a new page with the latest Op-Eds by that columnist, along with a search menu for their previous Op-Eds. (For instance, you can click on “Columns” under Frank Rich, and then on the new page, you can enter “Iraq” in the search field. After you hit the “go” button, you will get all columns by Mr. Rich with the word “Iraq.”)

This is a gold mine that you should take advantage of.

I recommend Op-Ed columnists Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich, and David Brooks.

One very respected Op-Ed columnist and analyst is Charles Krauthammer, a fascinating fellow who is a physician, but who spends most of his time writing about world affairs.

Go here for a list of some of his Op-Eds: 

More recent Krauthammer Op-Eds in the Washington Post are here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/charles-krauthammer/2011/02/24/ADJkW7B_page.html

Here is a very useful page of Op-Eds by faculty at the Kennedy School of Government: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/news-events/news/op-eds

Here are some of his Pulitzer Prize-winning articles: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/08/nyregion/_08commentary.1.htm?ex=1162702800&en=123c4911cffd3e26&ei=5070
Also, here is "The Daily Op-Ed," a compendium of Op-Eds from US newspapers, updated every day.

Your Op-Ed can be written on just about any topic in international politics that interests you. It should be roughly 700 words – that is about two and a half pages, double spaced. Use the word counter on your word processing application. Easy.

Do not use footnotes in your Op-Ed. The Op-Ed style is not formal enough for that. It is the sort of article that should be both readable and well-argued. You can mention a source (and certainly mention evidence supporting your argument) in your Op-Ed, but tread lightly.

So you could do it something like this:

"Surely now is the time to end the mining of dilithium in Norway. Non-toxic, synthetic dilithium is widely used in Klingon and Romulan spacecraft, and according to the Federation Dilithium Study Group, continued mining of the mineral is not only unnecessary but will lead to genetic mutations of Norwegians for generations to come."

Notice how the author worked in the reference to the Federation Dilithium Study Group but did not do it in such a way that it was plodding or overly technical – nor was a footnote used.

Oh, this is why you should never use Wikipedia as a source for a paper:

The above is an article by journalist John Seigenthaler, who was defamed by false information published on Wikipedia.

Ironically, Wikipedia has an article of its own on the controversy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Seigenthaler_Sr._Wikipedia_biography_controversy

Readings on ethnic clashes in Russia and elsewhere

Readings for Tuesday's class: After we get comfortable with Huntington's model, we will apply the Clash of Civilizations hypothesis to various conflicts around the world. One place where we see this is in Russia, where the government is fighting what Huntington would call a "civilizational war," but might just be a (less catastrophic) nationalist struggle. 

So take a look at one or two of the articles below that report on recent developments in Chechnya. We will also see the devastating film, "Greetings from Grozny."

When warlord Shamil Basayev was killed, the Russians (and many others in the region) breathed a sigh of relief. Here is an article by Chris Chivers at the New York Times, summarizing Basayev's life.

Here is another piece by Chivers on the Chechen premier, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Very optional: here is a recently published scholarly article on the aftermath of the war, asking if Moscow has won. It's 16 pages, and is very readable. 

And our TA Lauren will have some enlightening comments on ethnic clashes in Russia, where some Russians have targeted national minorities, a disturbing phenomenon. 

Op-Eds and presentation notes: what you should do with them

Just to make this as clear as possible: When you've finished your first and final drafts of your Op-Ed, please a) give me or Lauren a hard copy (stapled), and b) email me a copy. Use this address: karlrahder at yahoo dot com. Re your presentations: I need to see the narrative you wrote that guided your oral presentation in class. This should include at least three solid, serious, non-Wikipedia sources. 

For your Op-Eds, I don't want to see footnotes, but I do need a three or four source bibliography. Same as the presentation - solid, serious, non-Wikipedia sources.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

UN gets ticked off in DRC!!

OMG! UN peacekeepers shoot back in the Dem. Rep. of Congo - finally!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reading on Asia/Pacific

Read if time:

Robert Kaplan has written a new book, Monsoon, on this increasingly important region. Go here for the text-only version of an interview with Foreign Policy magazine.

We will discuss several states in the region, with an emphasis on ethnic groups, resource competition, and alliance formation.

The following are optional - read what you like if there is time:

China is a multi-ethnic state dominated by the Han ethnic group. The most contentious issues are Xinjiang, home of the Uighur people, and Tibet. Here are two NY Times articles that shed light on current Tibetan attitudes. Go here for article one on Tibetans who are "fed up" with peace, and go here for a piece called "The Terrified Monks," both by Nick Kristof.

This piece on the BBC site looks at the Uighur question.

The ethnic angle is fascinating since SE Asia, for instance, is home to dozens of ethnicities and tribes. Here is the web site of the Kachin resistance group, which has been fighting a guerilla war for independence against the totalitarian Burmese government for many years.

Apart from North Korea, Burma is the most repressive regime in East Asia. Go here for an interview with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize winning human rights leader who has recently been elected to Parliament in a stunning concession by the ruling military junta.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wikileaks Syrian cable site

Here is the main page for Syrian diplomatic cables. Navigate around to get used to how searches can be carried out. And go here for a narrative from Wikileaks on the cables and their meaning.

Remember, as of early July this huge reservoir of information is just a trickle. Watch the world's best newspapers for in-depth articles on particular aspects, but it's going to take a while for this process to really get into gear: 2.4 million cables is quite a lot of information, and the total size of the inventory will be 100 times greater than the US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks earlier.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"Why Russia Supports Syria"

A no-nonsense analysis by a Russian political scientist - really hones in on the Realpolitik motives of Putin, here at the New York Times/International Herald Tribune.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

"The Dictators Are Smarter Than You Think"

Go here for a review of Will Dobson's new book ("The Dictator's Learning Curve") on why dictators are not an endangered species and how they adapt.

Why Iran Should Get the Bomb

Ken Waltz, realist par excellence, on why Iran should get nuclear weapons: pretty standard "they can be deterred, and besides, it will stabilize the region" stuff. Go to the current issue of Foreign Affairs, although to get the entire article, go through the Skidmore College library site. Type in "Foreign Affairs" in the "journals" field and then choose Academic Search Elite of any other database that takes you to the current issue. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why the US and Russia are estranged - from Foreign Policy.

Go here for a great little thought piece by Michael Weiss today in Foreign Policy, provocatively entitled "Putin's Got America Right Where He Wants It."

Cool, quirky map source!

Wow! I just found out about Geocurrents, and if you are interested in the ways that human events can be mapped (pizza delivery, corpse transportation, "overlooked news events, Hungarian hyper-nationalism" etc, etc), you should definitely check out this site!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A good article on the meaning "appeasement" (with references to Munich, of course!)

Here is the full-on version, written by Yale historian Paul Kennedy. And here is a condensed version, written for the History News Network.

More on the Munich analogy

Had enough on the Munich analogy? Of course you haven't! 

First up are two articles on the Munich analogy and the 2008 Russo-Georgian war. This Op-Ed by a British journalist, entitled "'Munich' Shouldn't Be Such a Dirty Word," takes a careful and skeptical look at the analogy used for decades by presidents to justify going to war. Conversely, here is a letter to the NY Times from an American professor who argues that doing nothing to punish the Russians for attacking Georgia in 2008 is disturbing similar to appeasement at Munich in 1938.

And go here for an essay on the History News Network on mis-use of the analogy.

Here is an analysis by Robert Kaplan of those two favorite evoked sets, Munich and Vietnam. 

Finally, here is a New York Times piece on the use of the Munich analogy in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Russian warships headed for Syria

This is one reason the Russian government is so obdurate on the Syrian human rights issue: they have a naval base there! And now they are sending warships to Syria, just in case the west gets any ideas...

And here's another piece (June 19) on the Russian naval base from Radio Free Europe.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Things get nasty in Russia

Summer term is approaching, and I'm posting again in anticipation of Session 1 at Skidmore College. Here is the latest news from Moscow on mass protests today and sudden arrests by Russian police of opposition figures. 

Here is a guide to a few of the major opposition activists, including talk-show host Ksenia Sobchak. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On the Middle East

On Wednesday of this week we will discuss in depth the Israeli-Palestinian issue, going back at least to the 1967 war (and actually as far back as 1948). After that, we will talk about what is going on in the Arab world today.

Note: not all of this is required reading. Once you log on and look around at, say, the BBC web site, feel free to navigate to areas that interest you. The point here is to educate yourself on two topics: Israel-Palestine and the Arab Spring. No one is an expert on the latter since it is a work in progress, so pick and choose from the reading below during study session.

For some of the articles below, you will have to register at scribd.com. Do it please.
On Israel/Palestine: first, familiarize yourself with the background.
Go here for a timeline with maps:
Click on the various time periods to familiarize yourself with the chronology and how Israel and the region have changed.
For the latest information (2012), go here and navigate for various topics.
The two most important UN resolutions concerning Israel are UN 181 (which formed the Jewish and Palestinian states) and UN 242.
We will read UN 242 together in class. Please don't look it up on the web.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has a website here.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has a site here.
Required: Make sure you read this by Thomas Friedman and understand what the the "one state solution" and "two state solution" are.
Required: On the future of Jerusalem, go here for an interesting Op-Ed (scribd.com registration is required). 

On the Arab Spring: we will discuss the situation on Wednesday and Thursday.
Try to read some of the following:
Here is a great interactive timeline of the Arab Spring, courtesy of The Guardian, one of Britain's finest newspapers.
Required: Go here on the demographics of the Arab protests (good stuff on youth bulges, etc).
On the powerlessness of the US to influence events in the Arab world, read this short OpEd in the New York Times.
Facebook was crucial in starting and sustaining the Egyptian revolution. Here is an informative article from the New York Times.
Here is an Op-Ed from the Los Angeles Times on what the US response to the Egyptian revolution should be (written in February).
This article from the Atlantic does a good job of looking at Egyptian attitudes toward the Muslim Brotherhood.

Also, here is a thought-provoking piece on the "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine and whether it legitimizes the NATO intervention in Libya. 

Of interest but optional: This penetrating analysis by Joshua Kurlantzick looks at what the Arab Spring really means in the context of the trend toward democracy since the end of the Cold War. Kurlantzick is a skeptic about this "trend" for good reason.