Polio and the International Politics of Eradication: CIA Vaccination Ruse, Vaccine Trust, and DNA as a Tool of War

by on 2014-05-14- Leave a reply

[Please note: this is a guest post by Alison Howell, Rutgers University- Newark]

The recent WHO designation of polio as a ‘global public health emergency’ has reignited debate as to whether the spread of polio is the result of reduced vaccine trust due to the CIA vaccination ruse in Pakistan. The vaccination ruse in Pakistan was part of the CIA's apparent aim to get Osama bin Laden’s family DNA. In 2011 the Guardian first reported on the ruse and global health experts began to express concern that this would lead to vaccine refusals in Pakistan. There, major efforts were underway as part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which was launched in 1988 and inspired by the success of the eradication of smallpox (a campaign very much tied up with Cold War politics, but that’s another story…). The Taliban opportunistically seized on the moment to ban polio vaccinations until the US stopped its drone strikes, and in 2013 at least 26 polio workers were killed.

With the WHO’s report of a rise in polio, the worst fears of a link between the CIA ruse and polio seemed to be confirmed. Yet, as reported in the BMJ, the WHO previously asserted that it did not expect the ruse to have a major impact on polio eradication. Despite the inconsistency, some media outlets have made a direct link between the CIA activities and this rise in polio. These arguments are understandable not only because they draw our attention to the serious and growing problem of the spread of polio, but also because they seem to point us to yet another major cost of the post- 9/11 wars. This is a tempting association, but there are at least three problems with it:

First- It is unclear that the issues at stake best captured by the frame of ‘vaccine trust.’
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Post-Kristof Monday Links

by on 2014-02-24- 1 Comment

Good morning Ducks, here are your links from South Asia... (I am not even going to pretend I know what's going on in the Ukraine, Syria, Somalia, or Venezuela.  I'll stick to what I sort of know...).

  • Vasundhara Sirnate at The Hindu writes passionately in defence of the offensive. While Indian liberals will (rightfully) continue to be upset at Penguin India's capitulation to the so called "offended" feelings of a small and obscure group of Hindu fanatics, the liberals fail to realize that the increasing pressure to censor and protect the sentiments of various religious communities is actually just an extension of the dominant state ideology, what Manjari Chatterjee Miller labelled as "Post-Imperial Ideology" in her recent book Wronged by Empire.  Miller argues that Indian prickliness (in international relations) toward perceived slights in status and Indians' desire to consistently frame relations in terms of victimizers and victims is a major legacy of the trauma of colonialism.   So perhaps it should not surprise us that in the domestic arena, the work of a brilliant (foreign) scholar of Hinduism can be painted as little more than an attempt to humiliate and offend pious Hindus.  India will need to change more than its censorship policies (which are actually pointless in a digital age), it will need to change its hegemonic ideology -- which is of course highly unlikely.  In the meantime, the lesson for foreign scholars and foreign diplomats is clear: speaking boldly in India will result in little more than squabbles in which the foreigner is accused of deliberately seeking to humiliate the Indian state or people.

  • Arwin Rahi at the Diplomat argues that Afghanistan must recognize the Durand Line as its permanent border with Pakistan.  Rahi is at least correct that Afghanistan needs to come to terms with this boundary -- because for better or worse South Asia has inherited Westphalian definitions of statehood, but if anyone thinks that Afghan recognition of the border will end Pakistani efforts at influencing the character of the regime in Afghanistan, they are forgetting the broader strategic orientation of the Pakistani military.
  • Javid Husain at the Nation (Pakistan) calls for national reconciliation in Afghanistan to avoid a civil war. Unsurprisingly, he claims that the Afghan Constitution should be modified to meet the "reasonable" demands of the Taliban. Umm... right.  Moving on...  He also says that Karzai has displayed a "belated eagerness" to reach a deal with the Taliban, which indicates that the author was mentally on hiatus for the last decade.   Despite the howlers, the article may indicate that there is at least a faction in Pakistan that would settle for using the Taliban as a kind of veto player (as opposed to seeking outright hegemony) in post-Karzai Afghanistan.

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Monday Morning Linkage

by on 2013-03-04- Leave a reply

800px-Dendrocygna_bicolor_wilhelmaGood morning, ducks! Let's start the week in


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On the “Reality of Nations”

by on 2012-09-13- 10 Comments

This is a guest post by Peter S. Henne. Peter is a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University. He formerly worked as a national security consultant.
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The Order of Ostriches

by on 2012-07-23- Leave a reply

The Punjab Assembly displays a sophisticated view of ontology. Or it just makes your head hurt.Ostrich, a heavy flightless bird of African origin, was officially
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Kajaki and Power Politics

by on 2011-12-13- Leave a reply

Like the ancient Greco-Buddhist colossi of Bamiyan, the High-Modernist era Kajaki dam is a product of foreign influences and has been a mute witness as well
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Editing an Incident

by on 2011-12-03- Leave a reply

The chasm between Pakistani and Western reactions to last week's NATO attack on Pakistani forces seems to be growing if official actions/statements, media reports, conversations
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Comprehending Gingrich

by on 2011-11-30- Leave a reply

Born Newton Leroy McPherson, the man now simply known as "Newt Gingrich" has been surging in the latest opinion polls asking Republican voters to identify
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Realist Dreams

by on 2011-06-26- Leave a reply

 The Realist tradition in International Relations long ago won the big battle by getting the best name.  By calling itself Realism, the realist tradition makes
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North Waziristan: Drones and Compellence

by on 2011-04-30- Leave a reply

North Waziristan has witnessed 20 drone strikes in the first four months of this year, which is a relatively lower number than the previous year
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Can Elmo Save Pakistan?

by on 2011-04-13- Leave a reply

In the latest attempt to project its "soft power" in South Asia, the US government has approved a $20 million project to bring a local
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Explosive Pakistan

by on 2011-01-31- Leave a reply

Is "people power" contagious? It's easy to find examples of journalists, policymakers and/or analysts, and some scholars arguing that opposition to authoritarian rule is spreading
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Afghan Views on the India-Pakistan Proxy Fight

by on 2011-01-12- Leave a reply

The visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna, to Afghanistan a few days ago overlapped the Afghan High Peace Council's visit to Pakistan
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‘Tis the season

by on 2010-12-13- Leave a reply

This year began with a human tragedy of horrific proportions -- the earthquake in Haiti. We may never know precisely how many people died, but
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Some Good News from Pakistan

by on 2010-11-01- Leave a reply

Last week, Asma Jahangir was elected to head Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the leading professional organization for the country's lawyers. She is a
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Kandahar and My Lai; Drone Strikes and Carpet Bombing

by on 2010-10-04- 4 Comments

 The New York Times recently posted reports about the U.S. military's trial of soldiers accused of randomly killing civilians in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, “for sport.”  Apart
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The Latest in Mole Whacking

by on 2010-09-16- Leave a reply

Yesterday, the New York Times had a story about huge proposed increases in military assistance to Yemen, framed around the "war on terror." Since the
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From QIZ to ROZ

by on 2010-07-26- Leave a reply

In 2008, after kicking around the idea for a couple of years, the US formally proposed to create Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in remote parts
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The Transit Trade Agreement

by on 2010-07-21- Leave a reply

Although the story has garnered relatively little attention in the US, the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) is probably one of the most important developments
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Nuclear Protected Terrorism

by on 2010-04-01- Leave a reply

With apologies for the shameless self-promotion... My co-authored article on "Nuclear Protected Terrorism" is out in this month's Pragati: The Indian National Interest Review My co-author
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