The Happy Arab News Service

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pakistan's invaluable asset

Last updated: April 24, 2009

April 23, 2009

In other emerging markets, the new, crowd-pleasing IMF has advocated counter-cyclical policies to combat the ill effects of global contraction. But Pakistan has committed itself to narrowing its fiscal deficit to 562 billion rupees ($7 billion), or 4.3% of GDP, by June. This target was set in October before the full horror of the world economic crisis had become apparent. Given the subsequent slowdown, the government’s revenue aims seem aspirational rather than feasible.

The danger was that the government would meet its target by cutting infrastructure spending, thereby undermining the country’s growth prospects. But Pakistan has one invaluable asset that is not quoted on its balance-sheet. It scares the rest of the world. Thus on April 17th a group of 31 countries, called the Friends of Pakistan, met in Tokyo and offered an extra $5.3 billion of friendliness over the next two years. Though the government is precarious enough to arrest the world’s attention, it is still—just—credible enough to earn its financial backing.

Source: The Economist

Pakistan's invaluable asset is backed by a massive Taliban insurgency and nuclear arsenal. These are so convincing that the government can plainly relax about its own credibility.

April 24, 2009

Guys, why don't you read Martin Kramer?

Published: April 22, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pushing deeper into Pakistan, Taliban militants have established effective control of a strategically important district just 70 miles from the capital, Islamabad, officials and residents said Wednesday.

. . .

“They are everywhere,” one resident of Daggar, Buner’s main city, said by telephone. “There is no resistance.”

The Taliban advance has been building for weeks, with the assistance of sympathizers and even a local government official who was appointed on the recommendation of the Taliban, the senior official said.

It also comes 10 days after the government of President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to the imposition of Islamic law, or Shariah, in Swat, as part of the deal with the Taliban.

A local politician, Jamsher Khan, said that people were initially determined to resist the Taliban in Buner, but that they were discouraged by the deal the government struck with the Taliban in Swat.

“We felt stronger as long we thought the government was with us,” he said by telephone, “but when the government showed weakness, we too stopped offering resistance to the Taliban.”

Source: The New York Times

The collapse of all Western liberal fallacies seem to be on display these days in Pakistan as the Taliban are steadily inching their way towards Islamabad. The celebrated departure of Musharraf has laid waste to all notions from how democracy can counter surge of Islamic militancy to how radical Islam can be peacefully co-opted into becoming a political partner. Really, guys. Why don't you read Martin Kramer?

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Old Posts Revisited

April 17, 2009

Resistance Forever

April 09, 2009

9/11 comes to Pakistan: Time to bid Shalom?

April 07, 2009

The first part of The Shape of Things to Come was updated with a link to Solana's report to the European Council...

Those parts of the populations that already suffer from poor health conditions, unemployment or social exclusion are rendered more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which could amplify or trigger migration within and between countries. The UN predicts that there will be millions of "environmental" migrants by 2020 with climate change as one of the major drivers of this phenomenon. Some countries that are extremely vulnerable to climate change are already calling for international recognition of such environmentally-induced migration. Such migration may increase conflicts in transit and destination areas. Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure.

Source: Climate change and international security

March 30, 2009

The King of kings: British Product vs The King of Kings (Gaddafi)

March 16, 2009

To be the First: The situation may get difficult (Syria)

March 14, 2009

This starts getting boring...: Born to Spend (Obama)

Selected Posts are on the sidebar (to the right) grouped under five titles:
Hugo Chavez/Left
Israeli Arabs/Palestinians

Selected Labels are there too

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Why Jews rule the World?

Last Updated: August 8, 2009

December 29, 2008

Honestly, guys, I have no idea...

March 4, 2009

Why Arabs?

Ever since the war in Gaza my blog is awash with searches for "why Jews rule the world". Some even take this for granted and google for "Jews rule the world". I assume that the media and bleeding heart liberals have certainly learned their lesson from the experience of Germany between the two world wars and are fully aware of the consequences this anti Israeli hysteria can lead to. Jews may be a nasty people, but throughout history time and again stoking such sentiments proved to be devastating for too many nations that indulged in this stuff.

However, today my blog was hit by a very different google search, of a kind I am not used to see.

I hate to disappoint conspiracists from the both camps but the fact is that, while a grave danger is indeed looming for the world, it has little to do with either Jews or Arabs. People plainly underestimate Satan's devious ways and so the danger remains overlooked while it only keeps growing. The danger is so grave that I can only second Nizo in this regard: May Allah save us...

April 17, 2009

Some people are just so annoying when they are persisting in their fallacies...

No, idiot. We are not, but New Zealand IS...

August 8, 2009

why jews rule the world wars?

A question comes from Google Australia:

Well, regarding the whole world it's a bit complicated. As to the world wars, that's an easy one, boy. If you want to rule the world, you have to rule the world wars too. It's part of the business. Simple really.

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Go to Nizo

Last updated: April 17, 2009

April 5, 2009

Thank you, but I am not interested. Try Nizo.

April 17, 2009

"With the birth of Hana, Iran is among five countries in the world cloning a baby goat," said Isfahani, an embryologist.

Source: Iranian scientists claim they have cloned a goat

You too, go to Nizo

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The True Convergence

Last updated: November 27, 2009

April 15, 2009

Lieberman's idea of a land swap between Israel and the future Palestinian state has received an unexpected endorsement from Israel's leading demographer Sergio DellaPergola. Critics are wrong, he says, to reject this idea just because of Lieberman's general political orientation. Such a land swap may be necessary for Israel's political and demographic stability.

Most Israelis know that Israel must withdraw from the West Bank if it is to remain both a Jewish and a democratic state. But even if Israel does so, the underlying demographic dynamic will continue to yield a constant erosion of Israel’s Jewish majority.

In 2008, Arabs comprised 21% of the inhabitants of Israel (including East Jerusalem but not West Bank Palestinians). Because of higher Arab fertility rates, however, 25% of all births in Israel are to Arab families. Moreover, because of a much younger age composition, Arabs account for only 10% of all deaths in Israel. Thus, in 2008, excluding international migration, 30% of Israel’s natural population increase was in the Arab sector.

The present trend generates a steady growth of the Arab share of Israel’s population. Israel’s Arab population is expected to reach 23% in 2020 and 27% in 2050, while the share of Arabs among children younger than 15 will likely be 30% by 2020.

These numbers point toward a bi-national state, not to the Jewish state that most Israelis prefer. With two small adjustments to the Green Line, however, this demographic outlook can be radically transformed.

The Triangle region has an Arab population of some 250,000; another 250,000 Arabs reside in East Jerusalem. Together these two areas cover about 3% of Israel’s territory but are home to more than a third of Israel’s 1.4 million Arabs. By redrawing the frontier between Israel and the West Bank to place the Triangle and East Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian control, the Jewish proportion of the Israeli population would increase from the current 79% to 87%.

Under this scenario, the Jewish share of the population would remain well above 80% into the 2030s and beyond. Concern about Israel’s demographic composition would be postponed to a distant future, by which time the respective growth rates of the Jewish and Arab populations may well have converged.

Source: Avigdor Lieberman’s Bright Idea

SDP is known as a demographic centrist. Recently Arnon Soffer who was known as an alarmist moved to the center encouraged by rapid decline in Arab fertility while Yoram Ettinger and others have created a very aggressive demographic right that claims for existence of a Jewish demographic superiority in Israel and the West Bank. Their work seems to have been endorsed by Nicholas Eberstadt who is a big name among the world's leading demographers.

Now what's interesting about SDP is this. First of all to lose 3% of Israel's territory for getting 50 years of peace of mind is certainly worth it. And SDP is right to point out that Lieberman is not unique and not the first. This idea surfaced before Lieberman and has supporters on both sides of the political spectrum. However, SDP leaves the crucial point largely unanswered since his working assumption should be that Israeli Arabs will never voluntarily agree to join their brothers in the West Bank. It's pointless to consider such an idea, if one is not ready for unilateral decisions. This idea is a much better candidate for Olmert's convergence plan than the original unilateral convergence has ever been.

Two, SDP's numbers look pretty modest - Arab population is expected to reach 27% by 2050. This is a far cry from the Jewish majority to be threatened in a critical way. However, life threatening instability may create one if internal unrest pushes too many Israelis into emigrating.

Three, SDP is talking about convergence in the future. However, even though this is no reason for getting complacent, data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics does not show so much of convergence. Convergence may be happening in Lebanon where Muslim birth rates are catching up with the already anemic Christian birth rates. For some reason in Israel Jewish and Arab birth rates are moving in opposite directions, the Jewish one is edging up while the Arab fertility is very much collapsing. And if what's happening between the Jews and Christians/Druze is any indication of the shape of things to come, then what's happening is not convergence.

Jews and Arabs - demographic divergence

Source: Central Bureau of Statistics

The data for the Druze and Christian Arab sectors suggests that these have already dropped out of the demographic race. This may be less evident from crude birth rates. However, the Druze sector should be much younger than the Jewish sector due to its intense recent demographic history and so parity in crude birth rates can be only achieved through disparity in fertility rates. This means that young Jewish women should be expected on average to have more children these days than their Druze counterparts and, anyway, the current parity in crude birth rates should be temporary given the overall trends of the last 10 years.

Druze and Christians - the disappearing minorities

One thing that begs attention is two massive blows Arab demographics suffered between 2001-2002 and 2003-2005. For the first one I have no explanation. Maybe it's the economic crisis triggered by the second Intifadah. The second one should be probably termed Bibi's effect and has something to do with his cuts in social spending, child subsidies in particular. In fact, between 2002-2003 Druze and Christians can be seen recovering from the first blow, however Bibi's reforms seem to have inflicted on all three Arab sectors a blow they could no longer recover from.

The Bibi Effect

It should also be mentioned that the downward trend started several years before Bibi in the Druze and Christian sectors and spread to the Muslim Arab sector later. So child subsidies should be only a contributing factor. Bibi's cuts have certainly accelerated the process, but the process was there before Bibi. The pattern of Christians and Druze leading a demographic transition and followed by Muslim Arabs is reminiscent of Lebanon. Lebanon may be irrelevant for understanding Jewish vs Arab birth rates dynamics, but it seems to be very relevant for understanding the dynamics within the Arab sector itself. The chart seems to suggest that in the future the Druze and Christians will be completely sidelined by Jews and Muslim Arabs. In this sense diversity will suffer (my heart goes out to all those folks whose lives are going around celebrating differences and diversities).

In general the decline of Arab fertility in Israel was surprisingly sharp. This seems to be in line with the regionwide trends of the last decades (the Middle Eastern demographics now increasingly looks like this). Even more impressive is how disconnected and disintegrated from the rest of the region Israeli Jews are in demographic terms. It is as if the Jewish crude birth rate lives a life of its own. The two blows Israeli Arab birth rates suffered between 2001-2005 seem to have been a local event that happened inside the Arab sector alone. Israeli Jews are probably the only group in the region that's experiencing a demographic renaissance and their demographic indicators compared to their neighbors look anything but anemic these days.

Now where it all takes us? The experience shows that it's usually very easy to knock down TFRs in developing nations, even in Muslim ones, and these rarely stop before reaching sub replacement zone (Egypt is being one such exception due to its unfinished demographic transition). TFRs for sure have almost never been seen going back up. In demographic terms the last three decades were marked by a massive slide into sub replacement fertility in the third world with the experts having been caught completely off guard when this process invaded the Middle East and other parts of the Muslim world. In particular the absence of many factors we usually associate with demographic transition is baffling many.

When such factors can be positively identified, women's emancipation seems to be the ultimate killer of all Arab and Muslim demographics whatsoever. Even religion is not that important. From the moment polygamy stops and women can work and study demographic booms stop. In this sense there are no Muslim/Arab demographics as such. By all accounts there are far more women wearing headscarves on the streets of Algeria today than in any other period of its post colonial history. However women now outnumber men in university enrollments and the TFR is accordingly already below 1.9 (The replacement level is generally 2.1. It can be 2.2 and 2.3 for some countries in the region).

In terms of demographic policies this dictates a very obvious course of action to take. The state should ensure that in all sectors including Arab ones young girls receive their share of education. The authorities should get involved and see to it that girls are not snatched from schools and married at the age of 15. A few things things should be mentioned in this regard. First, Arab societies are liable to fail to adapt to increased women's participation in society without experiencing an acute social and family crisis. It's a sure bet that the male gender in these societies will be lagging behind developments given how much male dominated the traditional Arab/Muslim culture is. Two, in empowering Arab women Israel may find unexpected allies among some groups who are currently working hard to undermine its Jewish orientation from within as such groups tend to be leftist and feminist. Three, such policies may have little effect on the demographic surge in the ultra orthodox sector where women are often encouraged to work while their husbands immerse themselves in studying Jewish sciences. Some ultra orthodox women are actually better educated in a conventional sense of the word than their husbands.

In terms of child subsidies a compromise should be sought with the ultra orthodox sector. In fact it's more about deepening the current compromise between the ultras and Lieberman. The current subsidies should be compressed. The government should take subsidies paid to a family with eight children and compress them into subsidies for the second, third and maybe fourth children and the subsidies should stop after this. The ultras should use their charities and non governmental funds to subsidize their families with more children. In short, the state should establish a correct division of labor between itself and the ultras charities. The ultras are big on charities anyway and so the compromise should be along the lines that the state takes care of the first four children, while the charities take care of the rest. Such approach would stop discrimination against the secular sector on one hand and will remove stimulus for Arabs to make more children on the other.

In fact, similar policies should be adopted by all nations, rich and poor. They can be extended by punitive measures against people who fail to make children or enough children by say discriminating against them in pension funds and by delisting from social payrolls those who keep procreating exceeding their quota in the manner of China's one child policy. Demographic policies should aim at stabilizing TFRs at between 2-3 children. The idea is to create stable demographics that on one hand would act against demographic explosions like one that has wrecked the Arab world, and on the other prevent demographic implosions the style of that in Europe that will soon send welfare states in quite a few countries crashing.

When it comes to the demographic future of Israel, the question is really not if the Arab birth rates continue declining, they will, but whether the Jewish demographics continue going strong. Without a detailed breakdown of demographic statistics per sector it's difficult to make predictions about the future. In particular the ultra orthodox demographics are very important for the Jewish sector while in the Arab sector Bedouins should play a disproportionate role. However, between these two demographic powerhouses, Bedouins should be much more vulnerable to the effects of modernization and deliberate government policies, unlike Jewish fundamentalists who are making children like mad just because God commanded them to prove Malthus wrong.

Anyway, the demographic outlook for Israeli Jews may be indeed brightening. In fact, it may be even brighter than SDP thinks. Demographics are a fluid and unpredictable business. Within the next 50 years the roles may be even reversed with the Jews surging at the Arabs expense. Yet, there exists no reason to get complacent. No chances should be taken in this regard. If an opportunity to completely solve the demographic problem for the next 50 years exists, and in this region even 20 years are eternity, then it should be taken advantage of without asking for anybody's opinion. This is a true convergence.


Jews and others in the slang of CBS means Jews and all those people, mainly FSU immigrants, who came to Israel because they are married to a Jew or because they are Jewish by patrilineal descent. The correct word for this group of people is of course not "Jews and others", but Israelis.

May 19, 2009

The Demographic History of Israel

Total Fertility Rates (1970-2007)

Source: Central Bureau of Statistics

The graph is attached to provide a historic perspective on the demographic situation of Israel. The graph does not really need explanations and, so, I will make only a few comments on its most prominent features.

The first thing that calls attention in the graph is the relative stability of Jewish fertility rate over many years. I believe the stability is misleading and conceals a very turbulent demographic history. Probably a separate graph is required to chart separately Ashkenazi, Sepharadi and ultra orthodox fertilities to show the continuously shifting underlying reality behind this stability.

Christian Arab fertility can be seen lingering for a quite a while under the Jewish rate until it finally tunnels South searching for Europe. It should be mentioned however that all groups in the graph are still well above Western averages. The Holy Land is not populated by demographic pushovers.

Now the truly interesting dynamics can be seen in the Druze and Muslim Arab sectors and this is where the mystery starts. By 1980 fertility rates of the two converged, but shortly after 1985 the Muslim Arab rate has stabilized and remained largely unchanged all the way until 2000. I was not digging professional literature for explanations, but from those bits I encountered on the Internet there is no consensus as to why this happened. What also seems to be seen clearly in the graph is the effect of 1997 when child subsidies were both increased and extended to all sectors including Muslim Arabs and Jewish ultra orthodox. There was a certain uptick in the Muslim Arab fertility immediately after 1997, but it was not particularly dramatic and quickly ran out of steam.

Meanwhile, demographic transition continued in the Druze sector uninterrupted and a few years ago the parity was achieved with the Jewish sector in fertility rates. The fertility rate seems poised to converge with the Christian Arab sector within the next few years digging a hole for the birth rate to collapse into in the near future.

To the best of my knowledge, no consensus exists either as to why the Muslim Arab fertility resumed declining around 2000. The drastic overhaul of child subsidies and other social payments under Netanyahu has certainly contributed to this, but the decline was plainly present a few years before Netanyahu's reforms went into effect. There is a certain difference between the Druze and Muslim Arabs - the former serve in the army and in general are better integrated into Israeli society. This may explain the divergence between the two sectors that happened after 1985. In this sense the later drop in the Muslim Arab fertility can be also seen as the nature resuming its course.

Another factor to consider is this. During the Oslo process the government has significantly increased funds for education in the Arab sector effectively ending what was frequently claimed to be an outright discrimination. The state was with one hand hampering demographic transition in the Muslim Arab sector through mismanagement of child subsidies and other welfare, but with the other hand it may have been preparing the ground for the transition's next stage. In fact, in my view the impact of child subsidies is overrated. While without doubt a factor, child subsidies should be less crucial than say education and integration.

The CBS per district tables generally indicate that over during the last ten years Jewish demographic indicators across Israel largely remained stable or were slightly edging up amidst steadily declining Arab fertility. In Jerusalem the demographic onslaught of the ultras has already created parity in fertility rates and, given the trend of the recent years, the demographic advantage in the city and the area around may well soon shift to the Jewish sector. In this sense Jerusalem stands apart from the rest of the country. Another exception is the South, where the disparity between Jewish and Muslim Arab fertilities is still tremendous. In both cases two minorities unrepresented on the graph should be held accountable for these anomalies - the Jewish ultra orthodox and Bedouins.

Those who have patience can go to and dig the Central Statistics Bureau CBS site for more data on these two. However, the per district tables should give one a pretty good idea of the demographic situation of the Bedouin sector, given that Muslim Arabs in the South should be predominantly Bedouins. In 2007 the Muslim Arab TFR in the South was running at 7.13, which is pretty high even for Africa. It was 7.25 in 2006. To compare, the TFR was about 10 in 2000. The rate of decline may be slowing down. The TFR lost 7.3% between 2003 and 2004, 4.6% between 2005 and 2006 and only 1.6% between 2006 and 2007. For comparison the Jewish TFR in the South has remained virtually unchanged throughout that period at 2.6-2.5, very high for any developed nation but nothing compared to the Arab neighbors.

There is less information readily available on the ultra orthodox but some data released by the CBS in 2008 suggests that fertility and birth rates in the ultra orthodox sector have also sharply declined in the last few years. Nevertheless, even when compared to the Bedouins, the ultras still remain the ultimate demographic supermachine.

By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondent

The total fertility rate in the country's ultra-Orthodox community has dropped sharply in the past several years, according to figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS).

The fertility rate in the Haredi community of Beitar Illit dropped from 8.9 children per woman in 2001 to 7.7 children in 2006, a decrease of 13.5 percent. In Modi'in Illit, another ultra-Orthodox community, the total fertility rate fell from 9 to 8 in the same period.

Even after the drop, these communities still have the highest fertility rates in Israel.

Source: Haaretz

November 27, 2009

The Moslem Population in Israel

Thanks Lirun for calling my attention to this article in Haaretz. It's based on a report released by the Central Bureau of Statistics. The Hebrew version of the report is here. For some reason the English version does not load itself. Some inaccuracies in the article. The article says:

According to the bureau's report, the Muslim community's growth rate dropped one percent in 2009 to 2.8 percent, down from 3.8 percent in 2008. However, the Muslim growth rate is still the highest among all groups in Israel, with the Druze population growing at 1.8 percent a year, Christian-Arabs at 1.3 percent and Jews at 1.6 percent a year.

The report is actually comparing 2008 and 2000.

Another one:

There are more than 225,000 Muslim families in the country, while in the south each family has an average of 6.9 children, and in the north 3.9 children per family.

This figure is also the highest in the country, while Jews have an average of Jews average 2.9 children per woman, Druse 2.5, Christians 2.1.

The report is actually comparing TFRs (total fertility rates) which can be roughly defined as a number of children young women entering childbearing age would have on average if the current fertility patterns remain unchanged. It's a bit fictional indicator that can have little resemblance to the average family size. It's used widely because, unlike crude birth rates and average family size, it's not influenced by population age structure and past demographic trends and so reflects the current state of fertility better than other demographic data. Never mind that the report does not say that Muslim families in the north have 3.9 children per family, but that the TFR for Muslim women in the area is now estimated at 3.0, the lowest Muslim TFR in Israel.

According to the CBS report, the Muslim TFR dropped from 4.7 to 3.8 between 2000 and 2008 compared to the Jewish TFR of 2.9 in 2008 (the Jewish TFR was actually edging up between 2000 and 2008), 2.5 for Druze and 2.1 for Christians. For some reason Haaretz omitted this piece of information which is probably the most important of them all.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

And now they are looking for the map of Tel al-Rabi

Recently I started paying attention to weird searches my blog is being hit with. Today my collection of "Bloody Jews", "Why Jews rule the world?" and "why is a good person muammar gaddafi leader of libya" was enriched by this one. Enjoy..

Well, guys. Basically, as far as I know, the map and the key to Farfur's ancestral house should be held in Mossad or something. I think I will go back to watching the whole episode again to see if the map was mentioned at some point there.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Coming to an End

Demography in the Middle East: Population Growth Slowing, Women's Situation Unresolved

By Patrick Clawson
MERIA, March 2009

Policymakers and the general public are only slow realizing that the Middle East's long population boom is coming to an end. The Middle East is experiencing the same "demographic transition" to slow growth that hit Europe and North America a few generations ago, and Asia and Latin America in the last generation. In some countries, the change has been particularly dramatic. In Iran, the number of births has already dropped to half of the 1980s peak; 2,259,000 total births were registered in 1986/1987, while 2004/2005 had only 962,000.

. . .

The immediate reason for the slower population growth is a fall in the number of children born to the average woman over her lifespan, which is called the "total fertility rate" (TFR). For the World Bank's Middle East and North Africa region (which excludes Sudan and Israel), the average TFR fell from 6.2 in 1980 to 3.2 in 2000. TFRs are falling across the Middle East; for instance, in Egypt, the TFR dropped from 7.1 in 1960 to 3.5 in 2000. When demographers explain why the TFR declined in Europe or developing Asia or Latin America, they make reference to a host of factors absent in the contemporary Middle East, such as the declining influence of conservative religious views or industrial take-off. The breadth and depth of the demographic revolution in the Middle East has therefore been a surprise.

Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Various preconceptions and cliches regarding population growth practiced by today's general public can be found on display on one environmental blog from the New York Times: UN Sees Falling Middle East Fertility Rates. The news about plummeting Arab/Muslim fertility rates in and around the Middle East were greeted by some enthusiastic readers as a victory of secularism over religion. Nothing more and nothing less!!! Others were looking for a connection between poverty and demographic transition pointing to Yemen as an example of poverty breeding demographics (A more plausible explanation should be of course that Yemen got caught in some sort of high fertility trap and it's the country's insane demographics that are breeding poverty and not the other way round). Finally, one of the more prolific and experienced environmentalists on the thread called on everybody to study an obscure scientific research that established that human reproduction is a function of availability of food!!! Truly, when it comes to environmentally conscious public, you can never know what you are going to read next.

"A host of factors absent in the contemporary Middle East" reminded me of an article by Youssef Courbage where he defined the demographic transition in the Middle East as poverty driven. Unfortunately his article seems to have been removed from the web though I have it saved in my email. Eventually I found it in one mail archive open for public view. Here it is for those interested: SOME ECONOMIC & POLITICAL ISSUES IN FERTILITY TRANSITION IN THE MENA REGION. Courbage made a good work of tracking fluctuations in fertility across the region against the background of global and local economic cycles demonstrating that as Arab societies started crumbling under the impact of rapid population growth, populations were forced to practice some kind of birth control and grudgingly accept the presence of women in workplaces.

Anyway, among the more interesting highlights of the article at hand is a claim that for most countries of the region the period from 2010-2040 will be the most favorable in demographic terms. The demographic dividend will be at the peak around 2030 when the dependency ratio is expected to bottom out. The author is worried that that due to a very abrupt demographic transition a large part of the dividend will be wasted for nothing. It's another way to say that the author is worried that the Middle East may collapse under the impact of population momentum accumulated during several decades of the demographic explosion. The article does not differentiate between the regional pioneers of the demographic revolution and the rest of the region. In particular, in Iran demographic transition seems to have happened too fast as in a matter of two decades the fertility rate collapsed from a very high one straight into the sub replacement zone. There are some already speculating that Iran will miss out on a large part of its demographic window.

Demographic transition going hand in hand with an explosion of Muslim fundamentalism and radical Islam is interesting enough in itself. However, a question some may ask is what will happen when the current tide is reversed. Everything in the world goes through ups and downs and the current fundamentalist surge cannot continue forever. This extremely fast demographic transition seems to have happened despite all religious fervor that was gripping the region through the last decades. When the piety is gone, what will happen? My bold and reckless theory would be that at some point the Middle East will be consumed by a demographic implosion on a par with the one right now decimating the former Catholic countries of Southern Europe. The spread of individualism and collapse of traditional family structures as a result of low fertility will create an acute societal and cultural crisis. Womens emancipation is also bound to have a very disruptive effect on societies in which extreme male domination was a norm just a few decades ago. Almost 1/3 of Saudi marriages today are expected to end in divorce and this society has barely started opening up. In short, expect more surprises in the future.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

The Thirst

Scenes of angry Iraqi crowds attacking coalition forces clearing the mess of suicide attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere are not about to go away just because America's new and enlightened president is pulling these forces out of the country. (Obama is actually moving some of them to Afghanistan. The anti war logic behind this decision absolutely beats me).

BAGHDAD, March 26 -- There was a numbed moment Thursday, the interregnum between an attack and its carnage. Then the anger unfurled, as survivors took stock of a car rigged with explosives that had detonated in a market crowded with women and children in northern Baghdad, killing 16 people and wounding dozens more.

"All of this is your fault!" Sgt. Ali Abbas, one of the policemen who arrived at the scene, recalled women shouting at him and his colleagues.

Amid the panic of survivors and the screams of the wounded, elderly women threw sandals at them, he said. Others spat at the police officers and shouted insults.

"Why all these problems?" a woman named Um Ali shouted as she walked down the street hours later. "We're celebrating there are no explosions and now they're back?"

She screamed to no one in particular. "Why did they come back?"

. . .

Anger directed at Iraqi security forces is not unprecedented, and in places like Abu Ghraib and Dora, it has sometimes born a sectarian bent. But Thursday's outburst was in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood, directed against predominantly Shiite security forces. It also illustrated the task ahead as security forces are forced to assume more and more responsibility. Although far more popular than the U.S. soldiers they replace, the goodwill they enjoy can last only as long as security they provide.

This was published before a massive fallout between the Sunni fighters of Awakening councils and the Shiite government's security forces that led to several days of street fighting in Baghdad. And on top of this reports came about Kurds unilaterally taking over areas around Kirkuk. The decision to pull out coalition forces out of Iraq may be a very reckless one but its recklessness is not immediately apparent as there is a certain security residue left by the last "Surge" for the current US administration to spend away before the bomb goes off. The US military spokesman still claims that violence is at its lowest in years but the signs of an approaching storm are already here.

"The enemy is unable to maintain a high rate of attacks," the general said at a news conference. "They don't have the resources."

While perhaps true, Thursday's bombing was the fourth major attack in Baghdad and its outskirts this month, illustrating the resilient ability of insurgents to carry out devastating strikes in some of the country's most dangerous regions -- parts of Baghdad and its outskirts, Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, and the region around the northern city of Mosul. Some police and Interior Ministry officials have warned that Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents are reorganizing in parts of Baghdad and its outskirts and in Basra.

"They're all waiting for the Americans to leave," Abbas said.

Source: The Washington Post

The recent spark of normalization in Iraq may have less to do with normalization as such but rather with a change in the nature of forces battling each other. Both the Sunni fundamentalists and Shiite militiamen overplayed their hand and provoked a backlash of resentment and rejection in their respective communities. The US "Surge" and Iraqi government's campaigns in Basra and Sadr city were capitalizing on these sentiments and thus achieved success. However the fact that Awakening Councils have taken place of the Al-Kaida in Mesopotamia and other groups while Shiite militias are largely out of the streets seems to have contributed little to rapprochement between the two largest groups in Iraq. Neither it seems to have significantly weakened that Thirst for Final, Crushing Victory

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Age of adolescence

My thoughts precisely....


. . .

Over the next few decades, advances in evolutionary psychology are going to be conjoined with advances in genetic understanding and they will lead to a scientific consensus that goes something like this: There are genetic reasons, rooted in the mechanisms of human evolution, that little boys who grow up in neighborhoods without married fathers tend to reach adolescence unsocialized to norms of behavior that they will need to stay out of prison and hold jobs. These same reasons explain why child abuse is, and always will be, concentrated among family structures in which the live-in male is not the married biological father. And these same reasons explain why society's attempts to compensate for the lack of married biological fathers don't work and will never work.

Once again, there's no reason to be frightened of this new knowledge. We will still be able to acknowledge that many single women do a wonderful job of raising their children. Social democrats will simply have to stop making glib claims that the traditional family is just one of many equally valid alternatives. They will have to acknowledge that the traditional family plays a special, indispensable role in human flourishing and that social policy must be based on that truth. The same concrete effects of the new knowledge will make us rethink every domain in which the central government has imposed its judgment on how people ought to live their lives--in schools, workplaces, the courts, social services, as well as the family. And that will make the job of people like me much easier.

But the real effect is going to be much more profound than making my job easier. The 20th century was a very strange century, riddled from beginning to end with toxic political movements and nutty ideas. For some years a metaphor has been stuck in my mind: the twentieth century was the adolescence of Homo sapiens. Nineteenth-century science, from Darwin to Freud, offered a series of body blows to ways of thinking about human beings and human lives that had prevailed since the dawn of civilization. Humans, just like adolescents, were deprived of some of the comforting simplicities of childhood and exposed to more complex knowledge about the world. And 20th-century intellectuals reacted precisely the way that adolescents react when they think they have discovered Mom and Dad are hopelessly out of date. They think that the grown-ups are wrong about everything. In the case of 20th-century intellectuals, it was as if they thought that if Darwin was right about evolution, then Aquinas is no longer worth reading; that if Freud was right about the unconscious mind, the "Nicomachean Ethics" had nothing to teach us.

The nice thing about adolescence is that it is temporary, and, when it passes, people discover that their parents were smarter than they thought. I think that may be happening with the advent of the new century, as postmodernist answers to solemn questions about human existence start to wear thin--we're growing out of adolescence. The kinds of scientific advances in understanding human nature are going to accelerate that process. All of us who deal in social policy will be thinking less like adolescents, entranced with the most titillating new idea, and thinking more like grown-ups.

. . .

Mr. Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the recipient of AEI's 2009 Irving Kristol Award. He delivered this lecture at the award dinner earlier this month.

Source: WSJ


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