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An Interview With Mohamed Zeeshan

It looks like I am doing a lot more posts for Radical Second Things than I usually do. Following is an interview with Mohamed Zeeshan. Mohamed has been my friend for a few years now, via Facebook, and I have seen him grow from a young intellectually curious kid from India in to a graduate student in International Affairs at Columbia University! Mohamed contributed with the Hampton Institute alongside me and I am very proud of his success. He has also contributed to the Huffington Post. His views are a bit more centrist than you usually see on this website but I think that people will learn from them. 

As always, if you like interviews like this, please consider a donation to Radical Second Things. Donations allow for the freedom to not only conduct works like this but also to make the website more interactive and attract collaborators.
Donald Trump as president! Once this actually happened, I actually began to see the benefits. In my view, Trump is what America actually is like unfiltered and he isn't the worst the world has produced. You said you liked things he has said about China. What is your view of him?

I think it's difficult to form a coherent opinion of Donald Trump as yet. He's a complete outsider and has often walked back statements, so we don't quite know what his administration might or might not do.

About his comments on China, well, again, it's hard to quite know for certain what his administration's policy towards Beijing is going to be. Having said that, China has had a recent history of diplomatic impropriety, especially in the neighbourhood. It refuses to honour commitments made under international law in resolving the South China Sea dispute. It poked holes in India's claims over Kashmir by signing a deal with Pakistan to build a highway through that region - effectively offending India's sentiments of territorial integrity. It does similar things to threaten other neighbours, from Mongolia to Japan and the Philippines. So China is no great standard of diplomatic propriety, in my view. Along that line, I think it's important, for the cause of maintaining the balance of power in Asia Pacific, that the US takes steps to push back - militarily and politically - against Beijing's newfound belligerence.

The Syrian army took Aleppo. I remember you opposing the Syrian war when Obama wanted to intervene. What do you think Syria will look like a couple of years on?

I opposed Obama's policy of arming rebels in Syria years ago. I said at the time that it was potentially very dangerous to arm common civilians in fighting against a government, especially in a volatile region infested with radical elements. The proliferation of weaponry, coupled with the complete breakdown in law and order, has helped the rise of militancy and terrorism in the region, including ISIS. So I think that was always going to be a fatal strategic error on the part of the US - to arm common civilians who were not trained in military battle. What the US should have done instead was to politically organise the rebel groups, so that political dialogue could have taken place early on.

I think that the failure to politically organise the Syrian rebels and create an atmosphere for political dialogue has now effectively made Assad the only way to stability in Syria. Despite years of US intervention in Syria, we still don't have a political alternative to Assad. There's no one there who can keep the country together, save for Islamist radicals. If Assad leaves, the radicals will fill the vacuum and that will open a whole new can of worms. I think the US has to therefore rethink its strategy - and I don't see too many options at the moment besides some sort of a compromise arrangement that keeps Assad in power and works out a practical framework for his eventual removal.

The image of Russians liberating Aleppo reminded me way too much of Auschwitz, which the Soviets liberated. If we really are in an end of WW2 climate, what suggestions do you have for structures we should build after conflict has subsided?

Well, that's a hard question, because there's really no one-size-fits-all solution for this. The structure for Syria will have to come from within. That's why it was so important to politically organise the rebels. There's really no coherent or cohesive political alternative to Assad, and unless you create something of that sort which will really reflect Syrian society, you'll just end up back at square one.

The other issue is one of national identity. Germany had a national identity which kept its people together after WWII and allowed reunification to take place after the Cold War. But I'm not sure if Syria has a coherent national identity today. We're seeing sectarian sentiments that were long suppressed come out into the open and it's going to take a long time and much dialogue to bring all those identities back together. You have to start by stopping the violence and turning militias into political organisations capable of engaging in dialogue. Militias are not much good for state building.

How are you liking New York? What do you like about it and what do you not like?

There's not much to dislike about New York! I think it's a really charming city - it's got something for everybody. It's diverse, cosmopolitan and sometimes feels like an international city with an identity of its own.

How do you like Columbia?

Columbia is really enriching! I've enjoyed every moment of my time and there's so much that I've got lined up in terms of research over the coming months. It's really very exciting.


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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