Thursday Reads

Efforts To Free Hostages Mired In Bureaucratic Infighting
Administration officials tell Foreign Policy’s Shane Harris that efforts to free Americans held by the Islamic State are uncoordinated, inconsistent, and crippled by bureaucratic infighting.

“Based on long-standing practice and presidential orders, when an American is taken abroad, a network of experienced officials from law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the military, the State Department, and the White House is supposed to snap into place and marshal all the resources of U.S. power to free the person.

“But that isn’t happening now. And in the absence of a coherent strategy about how to win the Americans’ release, the process has languished — and so have the final two American hostages: Peter Kassig, a 26-year-old humanitarian aid worker from Indiana, and a female aid worker, who, like Kassig, was kidnapped in Syria,” he writes.

Russian-Iranian Relationship Is Complex
Maxim Suchkov of Al Monitor examines the shared interests – and differences – in the complex relationship between Russia and Iran.

While Tehran and Moscow have never been the closest of allies, but international sanctions imposed on Russia is forcing the nations to reevaluate and reformulate their alliance.

Suchkov share some commonalities, such as both have concerns that US involvement in combating ISIS in Syria might inflame the situation in the Middle East. And both suspect the Obama administration is merely engaging in Syria as a means to another end – invading Iran.

While both are international pariahs, their alliance is based on four key foreign policy dimensions, says Suchkov.

“Along with the energy issues, these include the nuclear program, the stabilization of Afghanistan — more widely, the security of the Central Asia and the dramatic events in Syria, Iraq and the greater Middle East,” he writes.

Is Stability Better Than Overthrowing A Dictator?
Christiane Hoffmann has a column in Der Spiegel which contends that the stability of a dictatorship may be better than the chaos freedom may unleash.

“The last decade has shown that there is something worse than dictatorship, worse than the absence of freedom, worse than oppression: civil war and chaos. The “failing states” that currently stretch from Pakistan to Mali show that the alternative to dictatorship isn’t necessarily democracy — all too often, it is anarchy. In the coming years, global politics will not be defined by the polarity between democratic and autocratic states as much as it will by the contrast between functioning and non-functioning ones,” she writes.

In the end, the question remains: Is stability a value in and of itself?

Hoffman says that as unseemly as it may be, “the uncomfortable truth is that dictatorship is often preferable to anarchy” and “most people believe that a more-or-less secure livelihood and a modicum of justice are more important than individual freedoms and unimpeachable democracy.”

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