Friday, August 26, 2011 2:59 PM
I’m not sure whether or not beauty pageant contestants wish for world peace these days, but lately the very idea, like Miss America herself, seems both antiquated and absurd. Including the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are 18 wars being waged at this very moment. And given America’s open-ended “war on terror,” the racial climate in Europe, the economic strife in Africa, and the globe’s seemingly endless supply of stubborn dictators, you couldn’t blame a person for concluding that things are going to get a lot worse. In fact, it’s easy to write-off anyone who dares to question the prevailing doom-and-gloom as a bleary-eyed idealist.
In a Foreign Policy piece that even the most cynical of realists will find hard to blithely dismiss, however, Joshua Goldstein, a professor emeritus of international relations at American University, concludes that “President Barack Obama was telling the truth in June when he said, ‘The tide of war is receding.’ ” And Goldstein, who authored Winning the War on War: The Decline of Armed Conflict Worldwide, has the data to back up his optimism.
“The last decade has seen fewer war deaths than any decade in the past 100 years, based on data compiled by researchers . . . of the Peace Research Institute Oslo,” Goldstein points out.
Worldwide, deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year, just half of what they were in the 1990s (100,000 a year), a third of what they were during the Cold War (180,000 a year from 1950 to 1989), and a hundredth of what they were in World War II. If you factor in the growing global population, which has nearly quadrupled in the last century, the decrease is even sharper. Far from being an age of killer anarchy, the 20 years since the Cold War have been an era of rapid progress toward peace.
Goldstein’s overall argument—that the end of war is “downright thinkable”—is structured around what he sees as a related series of commonly held misconceptions: war has gotten more brutal for civilians; wars will get worse in the future; a more democratic world will be a more peaceful one; peacekeeping doesn’t work; and some conflicts will never end. In each of these sections he artfully combines historical comparisons, recent data, and analysis to either counter the stated assertion or, at the very least, encourage a reassessment.
At times, Goldstein conflates his data or becomes almost too mathematical, forgetting to factor in the subtleties of human behavior and the vagaries of fate. But for the most part, he forces the reader to rethink current history and question the chaotic narrative that distorts our expectations.
Source: Foreign Policy
Image by Jayel Aheram, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, August 23, 2010 3:37 PM
These days, scholars and activists trying to map the ideal form, function, and identity of cities in our globalizing world are mostly advocating for revitalized urban cores. Joel Kotkin, author of The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, offers a counterpoint in the September-October issue of Foreign Policy, arguing that the creation of a strong ring of suburbs and smaller cities is the best way to ensure healthy economic growth and human well-being.
As unfashionable as it might sound, what if we thought less about the benefits of urban density and more about the many possibilities for proliferating more human-scaled urban centers; what if healthy growth turns out to be best achieved through dispersion, not concentration? Instead of overcrowded cities rimmed by hellish new slums, imagine a world filled with vibrant smaller cities, suburbs, and towns: Which do you think is likelier to produce a higher quality of life, a cleaner environment, and a lifestyle conducive to creative thinking?
Kotkin’s observation of wealth distribution around urban areas is particularly compelling:
Innovators of all kinds seek to avoid the high property prices, overcrowding, and often harsh anti-business climates of the city center . . . In India, the bulk of new tech companies cluster in campus-like developments around—but not necessarily in—Bangalore, Hyderabad, and New Delhi. And let's not forget that Silicon Valley, the granddaddy of global tech centers and still home to the world's largest concentration of high-tech workers, remains essentially a vast suburb. Apple, Google, and Intel don't seem to mind. Those relative few who choose to live in San Francisco can always take the company-provided bus.
Disparity between living conditions in cities and suburbs, Kotkin concludes, is an element missing from the current urban planning discussion. “The goal of urban planners should not be to fulfill their own grandiose visions of megacities on a hill, but to meet the needs of the people living in them, particularly those people suffering from overcrowding, environmental misery, and social inequality. When it comes to exporting our notions to the rest of the globe, we must be aware of our own susceptibility to fashionable theories in urban design—because while the West may be able to live with its mistakes, the developing world doesn't enjoy that luxury.”
Source: Foreign Policy
Image by rxb, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, June 17, 2010 11:34 AM
Foreign Policy has a report on a British medical study about the explosive expansion of the elderly population we can expect this century:
Death and taxes may be guaranteed, but what happens to an economy when the hereafter becomes a much more distant prospect? Western countries are about to find out. More than half the babies born since 2000 in France, Germany, Italy, Britain, Canada, Japan, and the United States will live past 100, according to a recent study in The Lancet, the British medical journal, charting the astronomical increase in life expectancy experienced since 1840 in developed countries. By midcentury there will be nearly 6 million people over 100 in the world, compared with just 340,000 today, according to the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
The social and economic consequences of a centenarian world are likely to be monumental. One challenge, of course, will be medical costs. Just because people are living longer doesn't mean they're staying healthy as they age, and the price tag just for basic elderly care will be massive. But the more profound change might be in how societies think about work and careers. "The 20th century was a century of redistribution of income," the authors write. "The 21st century could be a century of redistribution of work."
Source: Foreign Policy
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Monday, June 07, 2010 1:44 PM
Either Israel's blockade of Gaza is a blunt and vile form of collective punishment or Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the World Health Organization are staffed by pathological liars. Writing for Foreign Policy, Yousef Munayyer has assembled a vital fact sheet called What exactly is the blockade of Gaza? In it, Munayyer shares data from human rights organizations and aid agencies to present a crisp and chilling picture of Gaza under under siege.
Source: Foreign Policy
Monday, December 21, 2009 3:33 PM
Remember when the U.S. military first started talking about their "smart bombs"? It was as though these bombs could float into the bad guy's living room, slide up next to him on his couch, and end his life without so much as a tilted picture frame as evidence. It seemed to make supporting war easier. Suddenly war was smarter.
There's a new fad in smart warfare, and it's called "counterinsurgency." In a piece on the "cult of counterinsurgency" for The New Republic, Michael Crowley quotes from an Army manual: "Counterinsurgency is not just thinking man’s warfare—it is the graduate level of war."
This "thinking man's warfare" was at the heart of the surge in Iraq and is central to Obama's surge in Afghanistan. The result: There has been excessive network news face time for America's counterinsurgency experts. Crowley writes about a recent appearance by Lt. Colonel John Nagl of the Center for New American Security on Rachel Maddow's show:
Had someone like Bill Kristol given that same assessment of Obama’s speech, Maddow might have tarred him as a bloodthirsty proponent of endless war. Which is why Nagl is one of the administration’s most important allies as it tries to sell the United States on a renewed commitment to Afghanistan.
...With the authority of a man who has worn a uniform in combat, and the intellectual heft of a Rhodes Scholar, he has helped to persuade many liberals that pursuing a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is the only viable path to success.
Michael Cohen of the New America Foundation isn't buying it. He tells The New Republic, "Even the Iraq surge caused a dramatic increase in civilian casualties from airstrikes."
Most Americans never hear about the collateral damage from the bombings that accompanied the surge of ground troops in Iraq. In fact, the only thing most people ever hear from counterinsurgency boosters is that the surge was a success in Iraq .
"Some contrarian military thinkers that the story is far more complicated," writes Crowley. "It's not clear that the Sunnis needed our encouragement to turn on Al Qaeda, for instance, and ethnic cleansing may have burned itself out." These holes in the success-of-the-surge narrative have been largely ignored in the national discussion about Obama's strategy in Afghanistan.
One military man who isn't preaching the gospel of counterinsurgency is Colonel Gian Gentile, who tells The New Republic: "I think history shows that if a nation is going to try this kind of military method—population-centric counterinsurgency, which is also nation building—it doesn’t happen in a couple of years. It’s a generational commitment."
If there is a generational commitment to anything, it's to a future of counterinsurgent warfare around the globe. Exhibit A: the latest Pentagon budget, which, Crowley writes, shifts "billions of dollars away from high-tech weapons systems designed for fighting a great power like China, toward equipment like aerial drones and armored personnel carriers."
Colonel Gentile is adamant: This shift is a mistake. "Sometimes strategy demands restraint instead of military adventures," he writes at the Foreign Policy website. "As much as we want to define populations as ... subject to our manipulation and management ... they are not to be 'changed' for the better at the barrel of an American gun."
Source: The New Republic (article not yet available online), Foreign Policy
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Thursday, December 10, 2009 10:43 AM
The United States government is addicted to private contractors. According to Allison Stanger in Foreign Policy, “contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan outnumber American men and women in uniform.” Contractors provide security, food, clothing, shelter, and training for US forces. The use of private contractors not only invites extreme waste and corruption, there is also an extreme lack of transparency from the federal government. Stanger writes, “Obama is now leading a war in Afghanistan whose funding is effectively a black hole.” Stanger tries to cut through the opacity with charts and graphs showing how the federal government has increasingly contracted out its foreign policy.
Image by jamesdale10, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, September 18, 2009 11:42 AM
Working for a successful company isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Self-employed workers in the United States are more satisfied with their jobs than other people, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. They’re also more likely to work for intrinsic reasons, like improving society or “because they want to,” rather than for money.
Working for yourself has plenty of benefits, but money isn’t one of them. The same satisfied workers also reported feeling more financial stressed, possibly due to the lack of health care and pension plans provided by self-employment.
If governments change the health care structure, and provide more benefits for self-employed people, we could experience a self-sufficiency revival, according to Phillip Longman in Foreign Policy. In the current financial crisis, people are increasingly working for themselves, growing vegetables for local consumption or developing open-sourced software in their basements. This has the potential to restructure the entire economy for the better.
Working for reasons other than money can make people more productive, too. In a speech to TED, Dan Pink proposes a radical “rethinking how we run our businesses,” based on aspects other than money. In creative work, according to Pink, motivating people with money can actually lead to worse performance. Pink proposes a system where people are motivated more by intrinsic qualities, like “mastery,” “autonomy,” and “purpose,” rather than money. If the Pew Center survey is any indication, people will be a lot more satisfied, too.
You can watch a video of Pink’s talk below:
Source: Pew Research, TED, Foreign Policy
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Thursday, September 10, 2009 3:32 PM
Family feuds can be deadly, especially when the two sides have armies. Research reported by Foreign Policy indicates that “countries are far more likely to go to war with other countries whose populations are genetically similar to their own.” The problem isn’t simply that genetically similar populations are close to each other. The trend holds true even when correcting for proximity by removing countries that border each other or are close together. Since genetically similar people tend to have more interaction, the research validates the old saw: Familiarity breeds contempt.
Source: Foreign Policy
Tuesday, August 18, 2009 9:44 AM
With the public option clinging to life and the health care debate drowning in a sea of hyperbole and lies, efforts to insert truth and nuance into the debate are constant, if not entirely successful.
Morning Edition spent eight minutes debunking myths about Britain's National Health Service in, which Republican Congressman Charles Grassley says would kill Ted Kennedy if it could only get its hands on him.
The Daily Dish has collected all of its View from Your Sickbed posts in one place. This moving series of posts from Daily Dish readers is as damning an indictment of the current sytem as any I've seen.
Foreign Policy takes the side door into the debate, placing a summary of the decisions that have shaped the current U.S. health care system at the end of a list of the world's worst healthcare reforms.
Meanwhile, the battle to discredit the Obama "death panels" rages. A new poll finds that 57% of Republicans either believe or are "not sure" about the truth of claims that President Obama and supporters of health care would murder the terminally ill. Thank you (again) Sarah Palin.
Sources: Morning Edition, Daily Dish, Foreign Policy
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Sunday, August 09, 2009 5:31 PM
Writing for Foreign Policy, Reihan Salam declares that the global dominance of men has come to an end. And what caused this “monumental shift of power from men to women”? Salam argues that the Great Recession is a “mortal blow to the macho men’s club called finance capitalism.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, men lost 80% of total jobs lost since November. Men struggle to deal with the mental effects of job loss, and the world increasingly looks to women for leadership:
Indeed, it’s now fair to say that the most enduring legacy of the Great Recession will not be the death of Wall Street. It will not be the death of finance. And it will not be the death of capitalism. These ideas and institutions will live on. What will not survive is macho. And the choice men will have to make, whether to accept or fight this new fact of history, will have seismic effects for all of humanity—women as well as men.
Although not all countries will respond by throwing the male bums out, the backlash is real—and it is global. The great shift of power from males to females is likely to be dramatically accelerated by the economic crisis, as more people realize that the aggressive, risk-seeking behavior that has enabled men to entrench their power—the cult of macho—has now proven destructive and unsustainable in a globalized world.
Source: Foreign Policy
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Friday, August 07, 2009 12:53 PM
A wise person finds things to learn in his or her mistakes, but when it comes to research published in journals and magazines, successful studies understandably get more play. The Journal of Spurious Correlations seeks to amend this missed opportunity, specifically in the realm of the social sciences. Writing in Foreign Policy, journal cofounder David Lehrer explains:
Editors and readers don’t dwell on—and may never see—findings that are inconclusive, fail to confirm the researcher’s hypothesis, or can’t be easily explained by existing theories. These so-called “negative results” get buried because it’s simply bad marketing to publish wrong answers. But this is a shame, because we could learn a lot from seeing all the evidence.
The data buried in unsuccessful studies can challenge conventional wisdom. Lehrer points to one that “failed” to correlate women’s presence in government with lower levels of corruption—thereby calling into question the widely held belief that women make less crooked leaders than men. Such a negative result would have a hard time finding a home in a conventional journal.
“Publishing rigorous, informative results that seem unsellable will, we hope, give them the prestige and the audience they deserve,” Lehrer explains. “It will help update a scientific culture that prefers the simple and conclusive to the complex and open-ended, and often misses out on valuable information as a result.”
Source: Journal of Spurious Correlations, Foreign Policy
Friday, July 17, 2009 11:30 AM
Writing for Foreign Policy, Reihan Salam makes the bold claim that the male created recession, or “he-cession,” will lead to the death of the “aggressive, risk-seeking behavior that has enabled men to entrench their power.” People will realize, says Salam, that “the cult of macho” is “destructive and unsustainable in a globalized world.”
The combined effects of the gradual shift in power from men to women and the fact that men lost the majority of jobs lost since November has led to the end of male dominance. Men have two choices, points out Salam. One, they could simply accept the equal partnership of women, or two, they could resist.
You won’t be surprised to learn that when faced with economic hardship men have historically chosen option number two. After the Soviet collapse, for example, Russian men increasingly turned to alcohol, leaving women to do the work.
Salam’s claim that the “axis of global conflict”—one found in hearts and minds, not on battlefields—will be gender is certainly uplifting. The death of macho, after all, will undoubtedly lead to more equality. However, one has to wonder just how quickly macho will die.
Source: Foreign Policy
Image by Elsie esq., licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 4:49 PM
The economic crisis taught many people not to trust the financial markets. Today, an increasing number of people are trying to rely more on themselves. After years of being written off as a unrealistic pastoral ideal, Phillip Longman writes for Foreign Policy that “the self-sufficient worker once again has a chance, whether as a farmer growing vegetables for local consumption or as an open-source software developer who makes a living in his basement office.”
These new “yeomen,” as Longman calls them, are not just “starry-eyed yuppies yearning for a simpler life of heirloom tomatoes and muskmelons rooted in worm castings.” They’re productive workers who may be able to upend the industrial agricultural system and redefine work-life balance. This new breed of workers will be able to spend more time at home, giving their children the skills they need for the world. Longman writes, “The neo-yeomen won't only be more efficient laborers—they'll also be happier parents, giving their societies a clear Darwinian advantage.” But if the U.S. government wants to encourage this new breed of worker, it should probably guarantee them some health care first.
Source: Foreign Policy
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Thursday, July 09, 2009 11:45 AM
Russia’s tepid response to Barack Obama’s recent visit to Moscow reveals the shortcomings of the current administration’s “president as policy” strategy, writes David J. Rothkopf for Foreign Policy magazine. The lack of "bro-ing down" between Vladimir Putin and America’s rock star president indicates Obama’s campaign-era charm in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily translate to people who are not “pre-disposed to like us,” says Rothkopf. He writes:
In these instances, the new president is discovering that something much more than personal diplomacy and smile from the genuinely appealing Obama clan is needed. In these instances, we are going to need to go back to the drawing board and do the grunt work of foreign policy, the tough negotiations, the nuanced position changes, the threats, the cajoling. It's a very different game from American politics and, in fact, is often completely unconnected to it. What works here, very often does not play at all overseas.
The key to building a successful structure of foreign relations, adds Rothkopf, should rely less on the president and more on the delegation of power to members of his team, primarily the all but invisible Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It's time to move out of campaign mode and into governing mode. It's time recognize that it really does take a big team of empowered leaders to make the complex foreign policy of the U.S. work and evolve in the right directions. It's time to recognize that it does not reflect badly on the president if we all agree he cannot transform the world single handedly, that however different he may be from his predecessors, that alone is not enough.
Source: Foreign Policy
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Friday, June 26, 2009 12:19 PM
As Lithuania struggles with the legacy of Nazi and Soviet occupation, Lithuanian prosecutors in the country have launched several public investigations, targeting Jewish Holocaust survivors as war criminals. Most of them are in their late 80s and have penned memoirs, including Yitzhak Arad, who is also part of a commission dedicated to establishing “historical truth” about the occupations initiated by the President of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus.
Writing about the investigations in Foreign Policy, Nick Bravin writes:
How a country that was once a center of Jewish life has now begun targeting the few remaining victims of history’s worst crime is a story of foreign occupiers, former Jewish partisans, and modern-day Lithuanian ethnic nationalists. But more broadly, it is a story of books, memory, and a small country’s ongoing struggle to make sense of its tangled, bloody historical narratives—a struggle facing all of Eastern Europe.
The biggest obstacle for Lithuanians in confronting their history is the now well-established fact that hundreds, if not thousands, of Lithuanians voluntarily participated in the Holocaust. Many of the country’s Jews were shot by local police and by a special unit of Lithuanian killers incorporated into the Nazi SS. Since its independence in 1990, only three Lithuanian collaborators have been charged with war crimes, and none was punished.
Source: Foreign Policy
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009 10:30 AM
Reports coming out of Iran from Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and various blogs are giving foreigners an unprecedented view into the ongoing political crisis in the country. The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, blogging from “a pier in Cape Cod,” has emerged as one of the major arbiters of information on the Iranian protests. Twitter and Facebook users are turning their profiles green in support of the protesters. The same technologies are giving idealists around the world the chance to engage in the crisis, both symbolically and actively. But just because people can engage, doesn’t mean they always should.
The raw, unedited nature of much of the information coming out of Iran could give every the impression that they know what’s really going on inside the country. The abject failure of cable news networks to cover the events reinforces that idea. Editor and Publisher recently admitted, “Web reports from Iranians, including Twitter feeds, have outflanked much of print and certainly cable TV.” With foreign reporters getting kicked out of the country, the reliance on social media for news will likely continue to grow.
As influential as social networking tools are in publicizing Iran’s conflict, much of that information has been unreliable. It was widely reported that opposition leader Mousavi was placed under house arrest, which was just one of many rumors that circulated and later turned out to be untrue. The best reporting, according to Kevin Drum writing for Mother Jones, may be coming from the BBC and the New York Times, and other mainstream, traditional outlets.
News from Iran has also made people “desperate to do something to show solidarity,” according to tech guru Clay Shirky in an interview with TED. Shirky said, “Reading personal messages from individuals on the ground prompts a whole other sense of involvement.” This has led people to help out the protesters, according to Shirky, by offering secure web proxies to help them mask their online identities. That sense of involvement, however, has the potential to lead people astray.
Some foreigners have been moved to launch web-based attacks against the Iranian state-run media, overwhelm the state’s servers with a constant stream of requests. Tech-President advocated this “bit of cyber aggression aimed at the Iranian government” as a way to channel the considerable energies of observers outside Iran. The process is so easy that I accidentally helped launch one of these attacks by clicking on an errant link while researching this blog post.
The motivation behind the web-attacks is understandable, but they may end up doing more harm than good. Evgeny Morozov, writing for Foreign Policy, points out that these attacks from other countries actually strengthen the Iranian government’s argument that “foreign intervention” is the driving force behind the protests. And if the attacks get bad enough, there’s a chance that the government could simply pull the plug on the highly centralized internet throughout the country, cutting off the Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube videos that feed the foreign knowledge of the protests.
Sources: The Atlantic, Editor and Publisher, Mother Jones, TED, Tech-President, Foreign Policy
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009 9:37 AM
Sometimes words and numbers just don’t do the trick. While most of us know about North Korea’s long-standing conflict with South Korea, and its strict policy of isolation, these realities are far more arresting through the lens of Tomas van Houtryve’s covert camera. In his photo essay “The Land of No Smiles,” which appears in Foreign Policy, Houtryve exposes the people and landscapes of North Korea during “stark glimmers of everyday life.” Deserted streets and smudged human faces in the dark of a subway train are interspersed with a few of Houtryve’s verbal observations on his trip through the capital city. So forget reading for a minute and just try glancing through Houtryve’s photos without understanding more than you bargained for about this country so far from our own.
Source: Foreign Policy
Wednesday, June 03, 2009 5:08 PM
Putting aside moral arguments for or against, same-sex marriage could make the United States a stronger country internationally. Same-sex marriages would be an economic boon to the United States, according to an article from the Christian Science Monitor. State governments could issue more marriage licenses, collect more income taxes, and pay less in health care costs if same-sex marriage were legalized. The article cites studies showing that Massachusetts has added some $37 million to its coffers, and Maine could save $7.3 million on health care costs alone through same-sex marriage.
Critics, including GOP Chairman Michael Steele, have argued that same-sex marriage would actually drive up health care costs by creating more dependents. That would add only 1 or 2 percent to companies health care costs, according to research cited by the Christian Science Monitor, and could be offset because “marriage – whether gay or heterosexual – provides a safety net for spouses,” making more people ineligible for state benefits.
Gay-friendly laws also would allow the United States to attract more of the brightest minds in the world, Stephen M. Walt writes for Foreign Policy. Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation actually restricts the talent pool of immigrants who might otherwise become productive members of a society. Walt writes:
All else equal, societies that establish strong norms and institutions that protect individual rights and freedoms (including those governing sexual preference, I might add) will become attractive destinations for a wider array of potential citizens than societies that try to maintain a high degree of uniformity. And when you can choose from a bigger talent pool, over time you're going to do better.
Maybe that’s the storm that these people are worried about:
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Christian Science Monitor
Friday, May 15, 2009 3:48 PM
The White House’s new drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, recently announced that he’s abandoning the term “war on drugs,” telling reporters: “We're not at war with people in this country.” The change in rhetoric seems to signal a move toward a more moderate, public-health approach on drugs, rather than the militarized stance the country currently takes.
Kerlikowske may have the right idea, but a focus on policies inside the United States still neglects the far more globalized problem of the U.S. drug war abroad. According to Foreign Policy editor Moisés Naím, “the United States today is both the world’s largest importer of illicit drugs and the world’s largest exporter of bad drug policy.”
The global economic crisis has created a situation where the drug trade is one of the few economic engines in countries like Mexico, Bolivia, and Afghanistan. “In many places,” Naím writes, “narcotraffickers are the major source of jobs, economic opportunity, and money for elections.”
If policy makers want to move toward a more effective drug policy, Naím writes that a focus on the social consequences of drugs would be a good place to start. But should the United States simply replace the “war on drugs” with an “conflict against mind-altering substances” or a “battle to combat banned medications,” the drug czar’s change in tone won’t have much of an effect.
“Rhetoric matters,” writes Reason’s Radley Balko, who is encouraged by Kerlikowske’s recent decision. “War implies a threat so existential, so dire to our way of life, that we citizens should be ready to sign over some of our basic rights, be expected to make significant sacrifices, and endure collateral damage in order to defeat it. Preventing people from getting high has never represented that sort of threat.”
Though a step in the right direction, Balko admits that rhetoric alone won’t solve the drug war’s underlying problems, at home or abroad. For one thing, Kerlikowske won’t be able to create policy reforms on his own. He’ll have to work with congress and other agencies for that. Jacob Sullum, also on the Reason blog, cautions readers: “We should not be fooled by medicalized language into believing that drug prohibition is less brutal or less of an assault on our rights.”
Sources: Foreign Policy, Wall Street Journal, Reason
Wednesday, April 29, 2009 1:13 PM
People shouldn’t count on the emerging green economy to pull the world out of recession, Matthew E. Kahn writes for Foreign Policy. The recession is about the bursting housing bubbles, overleveraged banking sectors, and other problems that won’t be solved with solar panels. Cap-and-trade systems and renewable energy sources are important for environmental reasons, but Kahn cold throws water on the green technology as economic panacea ideal. “Anti-carbon regulations will simultaneously create and destroy jobs,” Kahn writes, but “a little creative destruction will likely be a good thing.”
Tuesday, January 27, 2009 12:55 PM
Even in the midst of the current economic crisis, few would contest the fact that humans live amidst an abundance of wealth and resources. There is plenty of food in the world, yet people continue to die of hunger every day. There is plenty of money in the world, yet people beg in the streets. The problem isn’t poverty, according to the new film The End of Poverty, directed by Philippe Diaz, the problem is wealth.
According to the film, the global poor, especially those in the Southern Hemisphere, have been funding the wealth and greed of the global rich, concentrated mostly in the North. The film sketches out various strategies the rich have used throughout history—from colonization, to religion, to the neoliberal policies of the past few decades—which are designed, according to the films subjects, to subjugate the poor to the will of the rich.
In this reading of history, the capitalist system is a continuation of the slave trade and the global system of subjugation that began under the Spanish Conquistadors. Moving forward, the world must reject “the religion of growth” to create a more equitable global economic system. But one of the film’s experts, William Easterly, seems to belie that reading of history in a recent article for Foreign Policy magazine.
In the past 50 years, the global economic system created “the greatest mass escape from poverty in human history,” according to Easterly. The problem is that governments, in the midst of the current economic crisis, are in danger of rejecting that system in favor of more protectionist economic strategies.
Amir Farshad Ebrahimi
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Here is the trailer for The End of Poverty:
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 4:06 PM
With the weight of the world (thankfully) off his shoulders in less than a week, George Bush will need something other than clearing brush to keep himself busy. What’s an out of favor, ex-president to do? Foreign Policy has a few suggestions for ways Bush can contribute to the world and brush a little dirt off his reputation:
1. Keep freedom on the march in corners of the globe where they still like him, like Kosovo and Georgia.
2. Devote himself to immigration reform and convince doubters that immigration makes good economic sense.
3. Create a Bush brand of humanitarianism by helping “development wonks” and “church folk” work together.
4. Push the U.S. to help “save Sudan.”
5. Instead of spreading freedom to the world, how about baseball? Bush could replace Bud Selig as commissioner of the major league and perhaps use the position to help mend U.S.-Cuban relations. As Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating writes, "If a ping-pong match helped break the ice between China and the United States 38 years ago, perhaps a baseball game could start the ball rolling to open up relations between Cuba and the United States."
Thursday, November 06, 2008 11:54 AM
In a list of people who would make atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher sick with rage, Foreign Policy has compiled the five most powerful religious leaders in the world. The Pope makes an appearance, but more for his power over Italian politics than for his theological pull. And Pastor Rick Warren, head of the 23,000-member Saddleback megachurch congregation and author of the bestselling book The Purpose Drive Life, also makes an appearance, after hosting Obama and McCain in their first joint appearance as the presumptive presidential nominees.
All five leaders may have their critics, but they’re certainly better than the five worst religious leaders that Foreign Policy listed back in April.
All About You God
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Friday, October 31, 2008 5:53 PM
From my observation perch in Stanford, California, an English European turned 24/7-cablenews-Webcast junkie, I notice that many Americans still suffer from a touching delusion that this is their election. How curious. Don't they understand? This is our election. The world's election. Our future depends on it, and we live it as intensely as Americans do. All we lack is the vote.
That’s historian Timothy Garton Ash writing in a roundup of election eve observations from the New York Review of Books.
The sentiment is backed up in numbers with this interactive global poll at Foreign Policy, which shows Obama with a commanding lead in world opinion.
Americans, meanwhile, are heading to the polls with visions of Great Depression II dancing in their heads. Domestic economic woes rule the polls as the top voter issue. And that might give fretters like Ash the feeling that Americans aren’t too worried about views beyond our shores.
Of course, the economic focus is good news for anyone pulling for Obama. But as another note of perhaps premature assurance, I’ll mention one thing that struck me during the presidential debates, though it didn’t register among the punditry at the time. The conventional wisdom is that the Republican ticket owns foreign policy, and if national security—not the economy—were Americans' top concern then people wouldn’t be selling their souls on Craigslist for tickets to Obama’s Grant Park would-be victory rally.
But every time Obama talked about restoring America’s standing in the world during those debates, that little CNN widget tracking independent voters’ sentiments spiked. It may not be the issue in the forefront of voters’ minds, but it’s one they do seem, at long last, to care about.
Thursday, August 28, 2008 1:12 PM
With the Clinton-Obama rift story finally being put to rest, pundits are turning to the supposed rift between Obama and the Jews as potential fertile ground for controversy. The story isn’t new: Back in May, the New York Times reported on the blatant falsehoods believed by some Jewish retirees in Florida. And Republican strategists may see an opportunity to grab some Jewish swing votes, with Joseph Lieberman’s name being kicked around as a possible Republican VP nominee and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani trying to attack Obama on his Israel policy.
In spite of the media coverage, the story of the Obama-Jewish rift is just a bunch of schlock according to Joshua Keating writing for the Foreign Policy blog. Keating cites Gallup polls showing Obama clearly beating McCain among Jewish voters as proof that the storyline just doesn’t hold up. “The idea that Jews are disproportionately suspicious of Obama has a lot to do with the stereotype that they vote solely on which candidate is more hawkish on Middle East policy,” Keating writes, and that stereotype simply isn’t true.
Not taking any chances, Jewish groups have begun aggressively courting Jewish voters for Obama. Writing for the Politico, Ben Smith reports on JewsVote.org, a new website launched during the Democratic National Convention aiming to convince more Jews to vote for Barack Obama. Mik Moore, one of the group's founders told the Politico "[t]he goal of this website is to provide a series of powerful tools to Jews who are supportive of Obama and dismayed at the rumors that have made a lot of Jews question whether or not they can support Obama in the election."
Moore gained some attention in 2004 with “Operation Bubbe,” an effort to convince Jewish grandmothers (or Bubbies in Yiddish) to vote for John Kerry. Similarly, a website called “Bubbies for Obama” has popped up this year, enlisting more Jewish grandmothers to get out the vote for the Democrats.
For a more humorous take on the subject, be sure to watch Wyatt Cenac of the Daily Show try and get to the bottom of controversy:
For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Democratic National Convention, click here.
Thursday, July 10, 2008 11:42 AM
The slave trade didn’t end with the civil war. In fact, there are more than 27 million people enslaved around the world right now, according to an info-graphic from Good magazine. The information in the graphic is based on a new book by Benjamin Skinner, who wrote an article on the modern slave trade for the latest issue of Utne Reader. Skinner writes, “today there are more slaves than at any time in human history.” The article shows that buying a human being is disturbingly easy. In fact, on the Foreign Policy website, you can hear an audio recording of Skinner bargaining over the price of a slave.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008 12:15 PM
Where are the worst countries to be a woman? Haiti, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and Moldova. That's according to Foreign Policy, which put together this regionally organized roster of shame by culling information from the United Nations Human Development Report. Highlighted indicators of women’s standing include national political representation, female-to-male income ratio, and the female literacy rate. The magazine offers short profiles of the inequality facing women in each of these countries, and in each women’s sexual and reproductive health comes to the forefront, whether the issue is rape, HIV infection, maternal health, or human trafficking.
Reading these depressing descriptions as the dates of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions loom presents an opportunity to act. The reproductive health site RH Reality Check is examining how to prioritize women’s health in party platforms. This afternoon at 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST, discuss global women’s health in U.S. policy at RH Reality Check with Anika Rahman, President of Americans for UNFPA. (If you miss the conversation, you can still read the exchange in the comments section of the article.)
Image by Humanitarian and Development Partnership Team in the Central African Republic, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, April 25, 2008 1:31 PM
Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines have compiled their second list of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals, and they want you to pick your favorite five. There’s a little public intellectual for everyone, whether you prefer “pop sociologists” like Malcolm Gladwell or “aid skeptics” like William Easterly.
Monday, March 31, 2008 10:47 AM
Fidel Castro’s recent abdication of power in Cuba was quickly in and out of the headlines, as was the ascension of his brother, Raúl, to the communist getaway’s executive office. The folks over at Foreign Policy, however, fill the media gap with a different perspective on the new Castro regime: that of Alina Fernández, Fidel’s estranged daughter. Fernández left Cuba in 1993, but still offers some surprisingly warm, if skeptical, appraisals of Raúl Castro’s personality as a leader and Cuban revolutionary.
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