The Globalist http://www.theglobalist.com Daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture Thu, 18 Sep 2014 02:07:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 Reasons To Oppose Scottish Independence http://www.theglobalist.com/scottish-vote-damaging/ http://www.theglobalist.com/scottish-vote-damaging/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:00:30 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33952 By David Marsh, Meghnad Desai and John Nugée

Scotland’s independence would hurt Europe.

Credit: GrAl - Shutterstock.comScotland’s independence would hurt Europe.

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By David Marsh, Meghnad Desai and John Nugée

Scotland’s independence would hurt Europe.

Credit: GrAl - Shutterstock.com

The desire of smaller groupings of people, in democratically run and generally well-off states, to pin their futures on self-affirmation and self-government, appears to be growing. Some of the sought-after gains may be illusory. However, the potency of the hopes behind them is real.

At times in recent months, it has appeared as if the more lucid the arguments deployed against a Yes vote, the greater the Nationalists’ success in turning them to advantage by branding them as worthless or self-serving propaganda.

Nine months on, it is time to say that a Yes vote would have 10 major consequences for Europe and the world – nearly all of them negative.

1.  A Yes would make Europe more divided and less able to play positive role on the world stage

It would probably increase the likelihood of the remaining UK leaving the EU in a future referendum decision and would heighten the importance of separatist politics elsewhere in Europe.

Most European leaders know the break-up of an important EU state would worsen Europe’s problems and diminish its importance, in the eyes of the world.

A Scottish shift would have global consequences, making it harder, for example, for the UK (and probably France too) – in contrast to India, Brazil, Germany and Japan – to justify a permanent place and veto on the UN Security Council.

2.  A separated Scotland’s would be weak and palpitating

Monetary arrangements form any state’s heart. It is idle to believe that the Scots could carry on using the pound as though nothing had happened.

Centuries-long experience shows that a successful currency union requires political union, unless one region wishes to be permanently held in check by the more dominant player. It would be illogical for Scotland to vote for independence and then, in its fiscal and monetary relationship with England, take on the subservient part of a Liechtenstein in its link-up with Switzerland.

3.  Brains, money and jobs would hemorrhage southwards

Scottish banks and financial service companies would not be the only ones to move bases, business and people to Manchester, London and Carlisle, to Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle.

By voting Yes, the Scots might manufacture a similar reason for the kind of destabilizing population flows that unification between East and West Germany in 1990 sought to forestall.

‘If the D-mark doesn’t come to us, we’ll come to get it,’ was the East Germans’ slogan as they forced the West German authorities to bring in Europe’s quintessential hard currency and then to reunite the country in 1990 to choke off massive streams of westwards migration.

Sterling may not be the D-mark, but the British currency, in recent years (for a mix of reasons) harder than the euro, has its attractions.

The exodus this time could be across not Berlin’s Wall but Hadrian’s.

4.  Independence would exacerbate, not alleviate, Scotland’s economic problems

Whether in pensions and social provision, research and development, commerce, trade and investment or their shopping bills, the Scots would probably soon find self-harm lurking behind self-determination.

This could be a bizarre re-run, in reverse, of the English-Scottish monetary union 307 years ago, after well-off Scots bankrupted the country and drove it into the arms of the English following a display of misplaced confidence in a capricious investment scheme to colonize the isthmus of Panama.

The ‘re-energization’ of Scotland promulgated by the Nationalists might one day happen, but, in view of the large number of anticipated initial problems, the Scots would probably have to wait a long while for the promised benefits.

5.  The early political outcome of a Yes vote in the UK would be destabilizing

Nationalist leader Alex Salmond’s victory fruits would not last long.

Despite the charm, pugnacity and skill with which he has deployed his campaigning talents, Salmond could risk ending up, like many revolutionary leaders, a disappointed figure. A better result, for him and for Scotland, would be to lose the referendum but win compensatory powers from Westminster.

If the Yes side wins, David Cameron, brimming with blandness yet bereft of foresight, would go down in history as a latter-day Lord North, the 18th-century prime minster who lost Britain’s American colonies.

A difficult stretch of negotiations with Scotland about implementing the separation, and especially on dividing up the UK’s assets and liabilities on a basis that all sides find equitable, would be conducted in an atmosphere of bitterness and recrimination that could poison relations for many years.

Cameron’s Conservative party probably would tilt further to the right and further from the EU. Ed Miliband, the Labor leader, would hardly profit. His party would lose a northern foothold that was too small to turn the referendum tide yet could be sufficiently large to deprive the party of a majority in any future rump UK election.

6.  A separate Scotland would not find immediate solace or support in Europe

The present UK’s successor state would have its seat in London, not Edinburgh. Other European governments are worried about secession in Catalonia, Flanders and elsewhere.

Salmond’s ruse to blackmail the English into accepting currency union, by otherwise refusing to accept Scots’ share of the UK national debt, is unlikely to succeed.

So Salmond would have two choices. He could fulfill his threat and renege on Scotland’s share of the hitherto all-UK national debt, which would negatively affect the division of all other assets and liabilities with the remaining parts of the UK. Or he could accept Scotland’s inherited and somewhat exacting debt burden, without fully adequate banking and currency arrangements.

Either path would reduce Scotland’s status and its negotiating leeway with the EU.

7.  The issue of Scottish debt

The debt issue would overshadow not just the relationship with Brussels, Frankfurt, Berlin and Paris, but also the entire workings of a separated Scottish government.

The greater the questions over the new state’s willingness and ability to honor its debts, the higher the interest costs demanded by investors in the debt of a future independent Scotland. And the greater the difficulty, too, of maintaining Salmond’s welfare, pensions, educational promises – yet more black marks against a separated Scotland’s economic proficiency and political credibility.

8.  The frequently over-stated riches of North Sea oil cannot represent Scotland’s salvation

A separate Scotland can negotiate revenue streams for new concessions. But – short of summary nationalization that has gone out of fashion even with African and South American revolutionaries – there will be no retroactive rewriting of valid legal agreements, no re-diversion of already-agreed revenues and no sudden windfall to swell Scots’ coffers.

Strong-arm methods against globally-operating energy companies at a time when the oil price is tending below $100 a barrel are not likely to achieve beneficial results for Scotland and its people.

9.  A Yes vote would impair the defense arrangements of the UK and its allies

Europe and NATO would be less able to intervene in the world’s trouble-spots.

A separated Scotland would dismantle the Trident submarine base at Faslane on the Clyde, confronting the London government (and NATO) with a new dilemma over the future of the strategic nuclear deterrent.

The 15,000 Scots in the 100,000-strong UK army mainly live outside Scotland, reflecting UK policy of basing soldiers away from their homes. They have not been given a vote to express their loyalty to the state they help protect, despite efforts by leading military figures to persuade the UK government to give them one. This would be just one of the factors hampering the army’s cohesion after a Yes vote.

10.  History is littered with cases where such uncontrolled processes have led to disaster

Whatever happens, the procedures for establishing the referendum and the terms under which it is being held run counter to best practice in mature democracies.

Many, now and in the future, may look with incredulity at Cameron’s decision to go ahead with the poll and make the result legally binding without any reference to the UK parliament and without the normal democratic prerequisites of constitutional change such as super-majorities and second-vote reconfirmations.

Not least for the UK’s European partners, the carousel-like development under which a residual UK shunned by Scotland might tilt further away from European integration should give rise to foreboding.

Thoughtlessness, expediency and a vein of unscrupulousness have coalesced to make possible a risky experiment of great destructive power. Onlookers with a stake in the outcome, but no direct role in Thursday’s referendum, can do little but hope that this will not be another one.

Editors Note: Sir Andrew Large, John Plender and Jack Wigglesworth also co-authored Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum.

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What Will The United Kingdom Look Like Without Scotland? http://www.theglobalist.com/what-will-the-united-kingdom-look-like-without-scotland/ http://www.theglobalist.com/what-will-the-united-kingdom-look-like-without-scotland/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33928 By The Globalist

The impact is not as big as you think.

Credit: MarkWattsUK - Shutterstock.comThe impact is not as big as you think.

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By The Globalist

The impact is not as big as you think.

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1. On September 18, 2014, Scotland will hold a referendum on whether it will separate from the UK and become an independent nation.

2. In 1707 — 307 years ago — Scotland and England joined to form the Kingdom of Great Britain.

3. In 1801, they incorporated the Kingdom of Ireland to form the UK.

4. If Scotland leaves the UK, it will be the first major change to the nation since the declaration of the Irish Free State in 1922.

5. Based on its estimated population of 63.5 million, the UK has the 22nd largest population in the world.

6. It ranks just behind France (64.4 million), the third-largest nation in Europe after Russia (142.5 million) and Germany (82.7 million).

7. If the UK loses the 5.2 million Scots, it  would have a population of 58.3 million.

8. The smaller UK would fall only one place in the world population league table, ranking behind Italy,  the world’s 23rd most-populous country.

Source: United Nations Population Division’s World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision (medium fertility estimate for 2014) and Scotland.org

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10 Facts On The World’s Newest (Potential) Nation http://www.theglobalist.com/10-facts-on-the-worlds-newest-potential-nation/ http://www.theglobalist.com/10-facts-on-the-worlds-newest-potential-nation/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 06:00:49 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33935 By The Globalist

An independent Scotland would have slightly more people than Turkmenistan.

Credit: Lynx Aqua - Shutterstock.comAn independent Scotland would have slightly more people than Turkmenistan.

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By The Globalist

An independent Scotland would have slightly more people than Turkmenistan.

Credit: Lynx Aqua - Shutterstock.com

1. If Scotland declares its independence from the UK on September 18, the new country will have a population of just 5.2 million people.

2. About a fifth of Scotland’s population live in just two cities — Glasgow, its largest city, and Edinburgh, its capital city.

3. As an independent nation, Scotland would rank as the world’s 116th largest – behind Turkmenistan (5.3 million) and just ahead of Norway (5.1 million).

4. Scotland would rank ahead of 78 of the UN’s current 193 member states in terms of population.

5. The average population of those 78 countries, based on UN estimates for 2014, is just over 1.6 million.

6. The combined population of these countries — 127.8 million — is in fact only about twice the current population of the UK.

7. Scotland’s departure would reduce the population of the UK — already the smallest nation of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — to 58.3 million.

8. The other permanent members of the Security Council — each with veto power over UN resolutions — are France, Russia, the United States and China.

9. While a reduced UK will still be comparable in size to France (64.6 million), it will be significantly smaller than the other three members.

10. The smaller UK will have just over a third of Russia’s population (142 million), a sixth of the United States’ 322 million — and about one-24th of China’s 1.39 billion.

Source: United Nations Population Division’s World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision (medium fertility estimate for 2014) and Scotland.org

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Smaller Nations in a Big World http://www.theglobalist.com/smaller-nations-in-a-big-world/ http://www.theglobalist.com/smaller-nations-in-a-big-world/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 05:30:03 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33941 By The Globalist

How will an independent Scotland compare to other small nations?

Credit: stocker1970 - Shutterstock.comHow will an independent Scotland compare to other small nations?

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By The Globalist

How will an independent Scotland compare to other small nations?

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The Scots are voting to secede from the United Kingdom. In the run-up to the independence referendum on September 18, many have made the case that Scotland is too small to exist as an independent nation.

We wonder: Of the 193 countries in the United Nations, how many are smaller than Scotland?

A. 23
B. 40
C. 78
D. 106

A. 23 is not correct.

Scotland is one of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Together with the other three – England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the UK’s population, at 63.5 million, currently is the 22nd most-populous country in the world, based on UN projections for 2014.

Scotland is currently part of the United Kingdom, a federation of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A “yes” vote on the referendum would lead to the establishment of Scotland as an independent nation in March 2016.

In population terms, Scotland is the second-largest part of the UK. However, its 5.2 million are only a tenth of the 53 million English. (Wales and Northern Ireland together have about five million people.)

The loss of Scotland would reduce the United Kingdom’s population to
58.2 million people. However, the country would only drop one place in the world population rankings. The smaller UK would fall just behind Italy, currently the world’s 23rd most-populous country with 61 million people.

Scotland would be the first new country in Europe since Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. Other regions in Europe with separatist tendencies include Catalonia in Spain (7.6 million people), the Flemish region in Belgium (6.4 million) and the Veneto in Italy (4.9 million).

B. 40 is not correct.

The total number of UN member countries grew dramatically during the 1990s – from 159 in 1990 to 191 in 2002 – as several larger nations, most notably the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, dissolved.

Of the 193 member countries today, 40 have a population of less than one million. The combined population of those 40 countries – which include Qatar, Cyprus, Bahrain, Luxembourg, Iceland and Barbados — is only about 12.5 million. While that is equal to only 0.17% of the world population, these nations control about 20% of the votes in the UN General Assembly.

The UK is the smallest nation with a permanent seat of the UN Security Council. Its five permanent members hold veto power over the organization’s substantive resolutions.

While the UK is barely smaller than France (64.6 million), it is significantly smaller than the other three members — Russia (142 million), the United States (322 million) and China (1.39 billion).

C. 78 is correct.

Scotland has a population of about 5.2 million, according to a government estimate for 2014. About a fifth of that population lives in just two cities – Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, and Edinburgh, its capital.

As an independent nation, Scotland would rank ahead of 78 of the UN’s current 193 member states. It would become the world’s 116th most populous country – behind Turkmenistan (5.3 million) and just ahead of Norway (5.1 million).

The combined population of the 78 countries that have a lower population than Scotland’s 5.2 million — including Georgia, New Zealand, Mongolia, Jamaica, Kuwait and Botswana — is 127.2 million. That is just 1.8% of the world’s population – or just over two times the current population of the UK.

While Scotland accounts for just about 8% of the UK’s population, it accounts for about 32% of its territory. Despite the North Sea oil that provides a great deal of Scottish revenues, Scotland’s share of the UK economy – at about 10% — is much more in line with its share of the population.

One of the contentious issues relating to Scotland’s independence is whether it would be granted membership in the European Union. (It is currently part of the EU as part of the UK.) Of the EU’s 28 current members, nine have a smaller population than Scotland. While three — Denmark (5.6 million), Slovakia and Finland (both 5.4 million) — are just slightly larger.

D. Is not correct.

More than 100 countries – 106 to be exact – have a population of less than 10 million people. That is 55% of the UN’s total membership. Among those countries are Sweden, Austria, Haiti, Israel, Libya and Laos.

Together, the 106 countries with a population of under 10 million each have a combined population of 333 million people – roughly the size of the United States and a third of the size of China and India. Their average population – at 3.1 million – is even smaller than Scotland’s 5.2 million.

While that may be proof enough that Scotland is large enough to exist as an independent nation, the question is really what impact independence will on Scotland’s future.

Scotland’s economy is only about a tenth of the size of England’s and its per capita GDP is perhaps 15% lower. An independent Scotland would depend, at least in the short term, on revenues from North Sea oil exports to sustain its economy.

However, the UK has pumped 40 million barrels of oil out of its North Sea oil fields since its discovery in 1970, and as little as 16 to 24 million barrels may remain.

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Scottish Independence Vote: Pride Goeth Before a Fall? http://www.theglobalist.com/scottish-independence-vote-pride-goeth-before-a-fall/ http://www.theglobalist.com/scottish-independence-vote-pride-goeth-before-a-fall/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 05:50:08 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33894 By David W. Wise

There are plenty of warning signs for Scots to heed in the upcoming referendum.

Credit: - Shutterstock.comThere are plenty of warning signs for Scots to heed in the upcoming referendum.

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By David W. Wise

There are plenty of warning signs for Scots to heed in the upcoming referendum.

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It seemed like a good idea at the time. Building a new edifice to house the Scottish Parliament was seen as a fitting move, given the devolution of many legislative powers from London to Edinburgh and the understandable civic pride which it instilled.

Yet, as is often the case, things did not go according to the optimistic assurances of the advocates. In the end, the projected costs rose from £10-40 million to an estimated £195 million, then a supposedly “final” number of £414 million. The latest reported figure of £430 million.

Independence will be much costlier

There is an important message in this one symbolic construction project gone awry. It goes without saying that the risks of financial miscalculation are much greater when it comes to the matter of Scottish independence.

Consider the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) assurances that North Sea oil provides a solid financial underpinning to the newly independent nation. This assumption is not only shortsighted – as it overstates those finite reserves – but also ill-advised.

For any nation in the 21st century to compete as a petro-state is bad economics, whether the country in question is Russia or a possibly independent Scotland.

Such an economic strategy is certainly not befitting of the country that “invented” the modern global economic system. In the end, as Paul Krugman has written, Scotland may become a “Spain without the sunshine.”

A nightmare for the European Union?

The ripple effects of Scottish secession from the UK would reach far beyond the British Isles. It is particularly damaging at a time when the very idea of liberal democracy – much of it the product of the Scottish Enlightenment – and European unity is under direct challenge.

As Istvan Hegedus, the head of the Hungarian Europe Society has written from Eastern Europe where that challenge is felt most acutely, “This is a nightmare scenario for the supporters of a united Europe. The spillover effect of secession might be devastating for the continental part of the EU.”

Although the SNP leaders profess support for the idea of Europe, their example would unalterably weaken the EU through fueling the fires of further secessions and the likely exit of Britain from the EU.

That instability will be felt not only on the continent but will also reverberate in Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland itself.

In conclusion, independence makes a great sound bite and creates all sorts of excitement. But the reality of it all – as with the Parliament building – may turn out to be very different.

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China Loves a Weaker Russia http://www.theglobalist.com/china-loves-a-weaker-russia/ http://www.theglobalist.com/china-loves-a-weaker-russia/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 05:30:15 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33904 By Alexei Bayer

Why may China want to support Ukraine - even if it means quarrelling with Putin?

Credit: - xtock Shutterstock.comWhy may China want to support Ukraine - even if it means quarrelling with Putin?

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By Alexei Bayer

Why may China want to support Ukraine - even if it means quarrelling with Putin?

Credit: - xtock Shutterstock.com

Ever since Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea, China has studiously avoided criticizing Russia’s actions.

Needless to say, it has not joined the United States and its allies in imposing economic sanctions. On the contrary, China has benefited from the situation. Russia and China concluded a gas deal in May. Vladimir Putin also personally broke ground for the construction of the 2,500-mile Power of Siberia pipeline that Russia will build largely at its own expense to deliver its gas to China.

That was one of many agreements currently in the works. For example, state-owned oil giant Rosneft has invited the Chinese to take a stake in its third-largest oilfield and aluminum producer Rusal and is planning a joint project in Eastern Siberia.

Similarly, with the imposition of Western sanctions and signs of a new Cold War, Chinese consumer goods will start replacing many Western ones. After all, China has already replaced Germany as the largest exporter to Russia.

China and Russia: Not natural partners

However, the profits China has so far reaped by being chummy with Putin over Ukraine are overstated. Siberia’s natural resources will go to China in any case, simply because it is nearby and China has the money to pay for them.

In early 2013, long before Russia quarreled with the West over Ukraine, Rosneft borrowed $2 billion from China and signed a $270 billion contract with China National Petroleum Corporation. These deals would have happened even if Russia’s relations with the West had been good.

Meanwhile, the Russian economy is already reeling from the sanctions that have been imposed so far. The ruble has fallen to a record low and Russia’s financial system is starting to come apart.

The Russian consumer market may prove much less of an El Dorado for Chinese exporters than it has been for European producers, while Russia was earning $300 billion annually from its oil and gas exports to Europe.

A financial crisis with worldwide ramifications

Worse, if sanctions are tightened, Russia may end up defaulting on its $700 billion of public and private hard currency debt, potentially triggering a financial crisis with worldwide ramifications.

More broadly, Putin has made no secret of his desire to undermine the global financial system. This is not a prospect China relishes.

Unlike Russia, which chose to remain, in the words of U.S. Senator John McCain, “a giant gas station pretending to be a real country,” China has done well out of the current dollar-based system. China’s hard currency reserves are worth $4 trillion, much of it are held in dollars and dollar-denominated financial instruments.

Beyond economic concerns loom geopolitical considerations. Putin has claimed repeatedly that the United States and Europe want to weaken Russia. Nothing can be further from the truth because a stable, prosperous and peaceful Russia would make Europe safer.

Ideally, the West would like Russia to be closely integrated with the EU.

China benefits from a weaker Russia

Not so China. It has one of the world’s longest borders and a long history of conflict with its northern neighbor. In this respect, Putin suits China well, because he antagonizes the West and weakens Russia economically.

With sanctions cutting Russia’s access to modern technology, its military will not be able to modernize. Meanwhile, China is spending massive amounts (no one is sure exactly how much) on bringing its military into the 21st century.

Beijing has strong interests in post-Soviet Central Asia, including a number of highly lucrative natural resource deals.

That is one region where China itself sees Putin as far too aggressive. Russia’s president recently declared that Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, has never been an independent state.

Why would he argue that? Because northern Kazakhstan is heavily Russian-speaking. The Kazakhs took it as an indication that Putin, with his “Russia is where Russian speakers live” doctrine, may try to foment trouble there, too.

Such regional concerns aside, China’s statecraft goes well beyond worrying about a territorial acquisition-minded Russia. Lest we forget, China has huge territorial claims in eastern Siberia and the Russian far east, the territories that the Russian Empire grabbed in the mid-19th century.

The region is already heavily Chinese and the Chinese government encourages its citizens to settle north of the border.

The only realistic way in which China could acquire those territories is if Russia’s central authority were to weaken substantially. Surely, the Chinese remember how the Soviet Union got bogged down in Afghanistan and eventually fell apart.

China’s Ukraine card

That is where Ukraine comes into the equation. The situation there may bog down Russia more than it is currently prepared to acknowledge.

And then, there is Ukraine itself. For China, getting a friend on Russia’s western border is an alluring geopolitical proposition.

In a tit-for-tat move, it would mirror Russia having a client state on China’s southern flank. Beijing is well aware that Moscow is selling submarines and military planes to Vietnam.

Ukraine is valuable on its own, too. It used to be a breadbasket of Europe before the Bolshevik revolution and it could become one again. Late last year, before Russia’s annexation of Crimea, China was going to invest $13 billion to build a unique deep-water port, to transport Ukrainian grain and other commodities. The two countries also cooperate in the armaments industry.

Support for Ukraine could open a new chapter in China’s emergence as a global player. Ukraine has a crucially important strategic location, which Washington and Brussels seem to underestimate. It could hold a key to central and southern Europe and it is a cornerstone of an “unallied block” that includes Belarus, Moldova and, in economic terms, Turkey.

China’s leaders may find Ukraine too attractive a prize to pass up, especially if lack of support from the United States and Europe for its struggle against Putin’s aggression tosses it into their lap.

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More Geopolitical Fumbles by the United States http://www.theglobalist.com/more-geopolitical-fumbles-by-the-united-states/ http://www.theglobalist.com/more-geopolitical-fumbles-by-the-united-states/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 05:45:08 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33806 By Arnaud de Borchgrave

U.S. bombing, reluctant Arab friends and ill trained Iraqi troops to save the world?

Credit: digidreamgrafix - Shutterstock.comU.S. bombing, reluctant Arab friends and ill trained Iraqi troops to save the world?

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By Arnaud de Borchgrave

U.S. bombing, reluctant Arab friends and ill trained Iraqi troops to save the world?

Credit: digidreamgrafix - Shutterstock.com

One of the most absurd and half-baked geopolitical decisions in recent memory, based on totally erroneous intelligence, has come back to bite us – yet again.
The overthrow and hanging of Saddam Hussein was based on his non-existent nuclear weapons, coupled with a harebrained decision to disband the Iraqi army.

This, in turn, led to ISIS’ decision to recruit these former Iraqi officers to run the parts of Iraq those bloodthirsty extremists have conquered.

When ISIS collapsed the new, U.S.-trained Iraqi army last June, capturing much of its U.S.-supplied equipment, an unknown number of Iraqi officers signed up with ISIS.

Many of ISIS’s officers are former Iraqi officers who served under Saddam Hussein and were barred from rejoining the new Iraqi army.

The purge of Saddam’s Baath party led to the permanent dismissal of many of its members who had joined, if only as a precondition to getting a decent job.

Ignoring local advice

Three months before the 2003 U.S. invasion, senior U.S. officials discounted advice from knowledgeable, pro-American Iraqis not to disband the Iraqi army. “Keep the army together and you’ll be out of there in six months,” advised one prominent Iraqi.

At the time, this was the senior Pentagon official’s response: “Our own best information is that the liberation of Baghdad will be very much like the liberation of Paris after the invasion of Normandy.”

We Americans got Iraq wrong from Day One – and we keep digging a bigger hole, which began when we built a $1 billion U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, “as large as Vatican City,” for a U.S. Proconsul, long since abandoned.

In 2011, Libya was a similar geopolitical boondoggle. It has now ceased to exist as a state. 1.8 million Libyans, almost a third of the population, have fled to Tunisia, including hundreds of wounded from both sides in a civil war that borders on total anarchy.

France is now calling for action – specifically, air bombing – to bring Libya to heel. French aircraft were the first to strike Libya after NATO’s 2011 decision to assist an anti-Khadafy rebellion.

Air bombing does not win wars

The world has witnessed countless examples of how bombing and strafing do not win wars.

In the Vietnam War, Operation Rolling Thunder, a sustained bombing campaign against North Vietnam, did not dent the Hanoi regime’s determination to conquer South Vietnam and reunify the country that had been divided following France’s defeat at Dien Bien Phu.

And at Dien Bien Phu, the French had air superiority and a well-entrenched garrison of 13,000 – but 10,000 surrendered after a long bloody siege that ended with their close-quarter encirclement.

North Vietnam was a firm believer in boots on the ground as a precondition for battlefield success.

Carpet bombing of Germany in World War II did not bring about the Nazi defeat. It was a ground invasion from the Soviet Union and the allied invasion of Normandy that turned the tide.

The allies had air dominance after destroying Hitler’s air force. But that still didn’t guarantee success. It was a tough, bloody slog across France, the Netherlands, the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, and Germany all the way to Berlin. Yet most of Germany’s major cities had already been decimated by U.S. and British bombers.

We cannot fight ISIS from the air alone

And back in northern Iraq and Syria, fighting ISIS from the air simply forces them to change tactics.

Despite current resistance in the White House and Congress, one cannot fight ISIS from the air alone. A successful campaign to eradicate ISIS also requires a de facto deal with the much-maligned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad based on the time-tested adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, albeit temporarily.

ISIS is now a well-entrenched fanatical force of up to 30,000 fighters, lavishly bankrolled by funds seized from banks in Mosul. It captured everything from tanks and armored personnel carriers to mortars and heavy machine guns that the U.S. had supplied to the poorly trained, reconstituted Iraqi army.

Retired Gen. John R. Allen, the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is to lead the overall effort against ISIS. “What we are facing in northern Iraq is only partly a crisis about Iraq,” he said this week. “It’s about the region and potentially the world as we know it.”

And this is to be done with U.S. bombing alone coupled with what we now know are ill trained and ill equipped Iraqi troops, supplemented by reluctant Arab friends?

No way.

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Kazakhstan: the People Behind the Plans http://www.theglobalist.com/kazakhstan-the-people-behind-the-plans/ http://www.theglobalist.com/kazakhstan-the-people-behind-the-plans/#comments Sun, 14 Sep 2014 05:30:19 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33717 By The Globalist

People from all across Central Asia head to Astana, Kazakhstan to earn a living.

Credit: Julia Strokina for The Globalist and The Other HundredPeople from all across Central Asia head to Astana, Kazakhstan to earn a living.

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By The Globalist

People from all across Central Asia head to Astana, Kazakhstan to earn a living.

Credit: Julia Strokina for The Globalist and The Other Hundred

Astana is the boldest statement of any post-Soviet country – an entire capital city built on the whim of a single man, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Since Nazarbayev moved the Kazakh capital from its old location at Almaty to Astana in 1997, the country’s oil wealth has funded an extraordinary construction programme.

The late Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa laid down a masterplan for the entire city. Kurokawa’s plan paved the way for other star designers, architects, including Britain’s Norman Foster and Italy’s Manfredi Nicoletti to fill it with a grandiose collection of monuments and monumental buildings.

Like Myanmar’s Naypyidaw, Canberra in Australia and other capitals built from scratch, much is hyper-ordered. Traffic drives along enormous boulevards lined with carefully trimmed hedges. Huge public squares are geometrically delineated with footpaths and fountains.

And despite the city’s extreme climate – summer temperatures can rise as high as 35° centigrade, plunging to minus 30° centigrade in winter – manicured lawns abound around its showpiece buildings. And yet not everything is conducted to a plan.

The city’s population has soared from less than 300,000 to at least 775,000, many of these arrivals from poorer parts of the country looking for casual work on its construction sites or in service jobs.

For such people, the markets that have sprung up around the city are a godsend. In what has become by far the most expensive city to live in in Central Asia, traders bringing low-cost imports from China and other parts of Asia are a key link.

Master plans may feed the egos of rulers, but when it comes to the needs of ordinary people, the informal sector’s ability to improvise wins out.

Text by Julia Strokina


 Enlarge   (Credit: Julia Strokina)


 Enlarge   (Credit: Julia Strokina)


 Enlarge   (Credit: Julia Strokina)


 Enlarge   (Credit: Julia Strokina)

The Other Hundred is available for purchase at fine booksellers worldwide and online at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Oneworld Publications.

The Other Hundred is a unique photo-book project (order here) aimed as a counterpoint to the Forbes 100 and other media rich lists by telling the stories of people around the world who are not rich but who deserve to be celebrated.

Its 100 photo-stories move beyond the stereotypes and cliches that fill so much of the world’s media to explore the lives of people whose aspirations and achievements are at least as noteworthy as any member of the world’s richest 1,000.

Selected from 11,000 images shot in 158 countries and submitted by nearly 1,500 photographers, The Other Hundred celebrates those who will never find themselves on the world’s rich lists or celebrity websites.

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Saudi Arabia: U.S. Ally or Enemy in the Fight Against ISIS? http://www.theglobalist.com/saudi-arabia-u-s-ally-or-enemy-in-the-fight-against-isis/ http://www.theglobalist.com/saudi-arabia-u-s-ally-or-enemy-in-the-fight-against-isis/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 05:50:51 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33779 By Sreeram Chaulia

Riyadh has played a dubious role in combating the Islamic State and their partners.

Credit:  U.S. Dept. of State  Shutterstock.comRiyadh has played a dubious role in combating the Islamic State and their partners.

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By Sreeram Chaulia

Riyadh has played a dubious role in combating the Islamic State and their partners.

Credit:  U.S. Dept. of State  Shutterstock.com

The lynchpin of American efforts to mount a challenge to the Islamic State, which occupies vast chunks of land in Syria and Iraq, is Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh has agreed to host training bases for vetted Syrian rebels who oppose the Islamic State. But until the United States decided to up the ante against the Islamic State after the barbaric videotaped beheadings of American journalists, the Saudis had shown no compunction in aiding hardcore Sunni Islamist rebels in Syria against the Shiite president Bashar al-Assad.

It may be true that the Islamic State (previously known as ISIS), in particular, was not a beneficiary of the official largesse of the Saudi government, but private sheikhs related to the Saudi royal family have been instrumental in raising funds for jihadists of all hues in Syria and Iraq since 2012.

Hatred for Shiite rulers like Assad and former Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki is deeply ingrained in the Wahhabi faith enunciated by the Saudi government. Suppression of Shiites as apostates is central to the official Saudi theocratic doctrine.

After Saudi Arabia harshly oppressed its own Shiite minorities and deployed its military to crush Shiite uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen, to believe that Riyadh is now going to assist the United States in its mission to wipe out Sunni jihadism in the region would be naive.

Even if the Saudis help obliterate the Islamic State, they are already knee-deep in nurturing non-al-Qaeda and non-IS Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq who detest Shiites.

Reports that Riyadh will pump millions of dollars to raise a fresh Sunni outfit called Jaysh-al-Islam with Pakistani assistance do not bode well for the sectarian harmony and unity that is required if the Islamic State and its ilk are to be truly vanquished.

The House of Saud may go along with the U.S. to diminish the Islamic State to score brownie points in Washington, but it is sure to retain other jihadist levers in Syria and Iraq to keep its regional bugbear, Shiite Iran, in check. And Tehran would reciprocate Saudi shenanigans by stoking Shiite fundamentalism as a counterbalancing factor.

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Health Diplomacy vs. Health Terrorism http://www.theglobalist.com/health-diplomacy-vs-health-terrorism/ http://www.theglobalist.com/health-diplomacy-vs-health-terrorism/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 05:45:50 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33787 By Tara Sonenshine

Two sides of a deadly coin.

Credit: United States Mission Geneva - Shutterstock.comTwo sides of a deadly coin.

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By Tara Sonenshine

Two sides of a deadly coin.

Credit: United States Mission Geneva - Shutterstock.com

If there is one issue with the potential to transcend borders and reduce global strife, it is health.

Disease strikes regardless of where you live, what faith you practice, your ideology or gender.

The randomness with which illness takes lives around the world should ensure that health is the one place where everyone wants to work together. But health, like everything else, can become politicized in the wrong hands.

Health can be a reason to reach out to others, in the common stead of humanity, or a new arena for conflict. A health crisis can be the moment when global actors rise to the occasion and beat back disaster or another excuse for inaction…or worse, bad action.

Look at the past few months for both positive and negative health developments.

An Ebola virus is running rampant through parts of Africa, leaving thousands of people sick or dead. This is a crisis. We are now in the middle of a massive epidemic.  It is also an opportunity — the chance for international power to have positive sway.

A slow and ineffective response

The spread of Ebola is the moment when health diplomacy could have its finest moment.  Yet more than six months into the worst Ebola outbreak in history, international cooperation is lacking. At a time when the international community has pledged to lift African countries out of poverty and poor education, the response to a massive disease has been slow and ineffective.

The World Health Organization is scrambling to put together task forces and train experts.  The World Bank is rushing to set up a system to track funds and organize distribution channels. The international non-governmental organization, Doctors Without Borders, the only seemingly effective responders, is overwhelmed with cases.

The Ebola story could and should become the opportunity to rally nations around a common problem, but it is taking longer than necessary to see the health diplomacy working.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, disease is lurking in a way we have trouble imagining. At the same time that the world is facing an Ebola crisis, other international conflicts are flaring up that could cause sickness and death.

ISIS terrorists are marching throughout the Middle East spreading a dangerous disease called terrorism. Traditional terrorism, when combined with dangerous pathogens, can create the perfect storm if human actors — bad actors — see the potential of using viruses and pathogens as weapons of war.

Causing sickness can be a deliberate act

Last week a federal air marshal was stabbed with a syringe at an airport in Lagos, Nigeria.  The notion that a toxic virus might purposefully infect a human being is an example of science fiction reaching a new level of terror.  But it is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Back in April, a toxic chemical, likely chlorine, was used as a weapon to attack Syrian villages.  According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the chemical could cause a medical disaster much as mustard gas, nerve agents and other substances cause sickness and death.

The notion of toxic substances unleashed to cause fear, terror and disease is not new. We all remember the sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 and we have lived with anthrax and other threats.  But what continues to make this problem worse is the decline of the power of governments and the continued rise of non-state actors—individuals with bad intentions — determining global affairs.

Non-state actors determining global affairs

That’s where global health diplomacy comes in. Global health diplomacy needs both to be offensive and defensive — preventive and responsive.  We can rally international experts to eradicate disease and advance security.  (We’ve seen it work in cases like AIDS relief or the eradication of polio.  Both required international cooperation and resources.)

Global health diplomacy is also important for countering health threats that could lead to pandemics. We must ensure that vaccines and bacteria are used to fight disease, not to infect individuals. Disease, whether naturally caused or intentionally caused, is a common enemy.

As we look ahead to the remaining months of 2014 and the new agenda for 2015, let’s put global health diplomacy higher on the priority list.  We need to be prepared for disasters brought about by human beings and to solve health problems that strike human beings.  That is a worthy mission.

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ISIS Crisis: Blame Germany and China? http://www.theglobalist.com/isis-blame-germany-and-china/ http://www.theglobalist.com/isis-blame-germany-and-china/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:52:04 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33775 By Peter Morici

Terrorism is inspired and financed by the failings of the global economy.

Credit: Philip Pilosian - Shutterstock.comTerrorism is inspired and financed by the failings of the global economy.

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By Peter Morici

Terrorism is inspired and financed by the failings of the global economy.

Credit: Philip Pilosian - Shutterstock.com

Germany, Japan, China and a few of their acolytes have selfishly exploited global commerce. They pursue export-oriented development strategies that cheat on the international norms for global competition and thrust onto other nations gaping trade deficits, crippling debt and terrible unemployment.

Germany and others lament the withdrawal of American leadership in the face of aggression—be it from Russia or terrorist groups in the Muslim world. But for too long now, those governments have been willing to let, and expect, Americans and a few others to do the fighting.

These global trading powers only provide logistical support and limited money, even though their militaries are quite well endowed through purchases of U.S. arms and their economies well able to bear a full cost of war.

Worse, often these allies turn a blind eye, and permit their businesses and banks to profit from commerce with terrorist fronts.

European governments have even paid ransom for kidnapped citizens — rather than wrinkle the uniforms of their soldiers to rescue them. Along with appeasement of Russian aggression in the Ukraine and elsewhere, those actions have only emboldened terrorist notions that the West and its more moderate Muslim allies are weak, decadent and worthy of extermination.

One consequence of the economic intransigence of the global surplus countries is that youth in too many nations lack any prospect for decent jobs.

Little wonder then that hopeless young Muslims fall easy prey to radical intellectuals offering religious meaning for their despair and disaffection. They end up performing heinous acts and toting a rifle for ISIS.

All of which goes to show that the presumably always peaceful actions of the big proponents of a “trading first” global strategy in reality carry key seeds of global disorder and destruction in them.

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Mr. Juncker’s New Commission: Good for Europe’s Future? http://www.theglobalist.com/mr-junckers-new-commission-good-for-europes-future/ http://www.theglobalist.com/mr-junckers-new-commission-good-for-europes-future/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 05:45:10 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33753 By Denis MacShane

The new EU Commission looks good, but national governments remain in charge in Europe.

Credit:  360b  Shutterstock.comThe new EU Commission looks good, but national governments remain in charge in Europe.

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By Denis MacShane

The new EU Commission looks good, but national governments remain in charge in Europe.

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They cannot yet do anything, but the 19 new men and nine women who will become the executive committee of the European Union as of November 1 look like a fresh and interesting mix.

The new EU Commission certainly looks like the most interesting since the Delors era (1985-1995). After the two Barroso Commissions between 2004 and 2014, where drift and endless crisis management seemed to predominate, this is a fresh start for Europe.

The new EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has pulled off a neat balancing act in forming this new Commission.

Juncker did not manage to stay so long at the top of Luxembourg politics, nor serve as a Eurozone chair for so long or segue effortlessly into being president of the Commission without having some very acute political skills.

Foremost among these are compromise, coalition and consensus. They served him well as Luxembourg was transformed from a sleepy steel and coal duchy into one of the world’s advanced financial services nations.

The lady to fight Google

Margarethe Vagester, the Social Liberal from Denmark, has got the key job of EU Competition Commissioner. She has a dossier full of big issues and conflicts. An important part of it are the endless complaints about Google crushing European start-up companies with the quasi-monopoly power of its universal search engine that guides everyone to other Google products and block competitors.

The outgoing Commissioner, Spain’s Joaquin Almunia, has not been able to find a settlement that remotely satisfies those with serious complaints about Google.

There is a serious case for treating Google like AT&T in 1982 or even Standard Oil in 1911. Will the new Danish EU Competition Commissioner be the EU’s first big trustbuster?

Another challenge is energy and weaning Europe of its dependence on Russian oil and gas. That job has gone to a Spanish conservative, Miguel Canete. He may actually have difficulties being confirmed by the feisty European Parliament because of remarks about the intellectual ability of women.

Given the still disproportionally small number of women in the new European Commission, accusing women of not being smart is, well, not smart.

The shift of power to East Europe with Donald Tusk as European Council president and a raft of Commissioners from the Baltic States, Romania and Poland getting key jobs is fascinating.

The London-Luxembourg alliance?

The English media are proclaiming a great victory for London and the City in the appointment of Jonathan Hill as Financial Services Commissioner. Hill was an effective Conservative Party operator, close to Prime Minister David Cameron and sent to Brussels to try and help keep Britain in the EU.

From Juncker’s perspective, Hill is the perfect fit – a quality Tory professional from the City, the world’s most sophisticated financial center. The new Commissioner understands perfectly the needs of Luxembourg bankers, as well as other under-the-radar banking sectors like Vienna and the Channel Islands, as well as British and Dutch off-shore money-makers in today’s globalized financial world.

Dubai, Singapore and other city-states are trying hard to get more financial services out of the hands of Europe. Hill is the right man to keep the business of money in the hands of the EU.

Elsewhere in the new Commission, there is a fascinating tandem in Franz Timmermans, the Dutch Foreign Minister, and Pierre Moscovici, who was France’s Finance Minister until March.

Over the last 15 years, the Dutch and French social democrats have been in the forefront of rethinking what modern left politics should be. Both are tireless and, with their impeccable English, can serve as bridge builders between the different left parties in Europe.

Puppets anyone?

Some observers, such as Libération’s Brussels guru, Jean Quatremer, consider Timmermans an Anglo-Saxon puppet. I beg to disagree. As a minority member of Mark Rutte’s government, Timmermans clearly has had to support the harder fiscal line pursued by the Hague.

And while Timmermans favors more authority for national parliaments in Europe, he has never adopted the tone or demands of British Tory Eurosceptics. He has consistently argued for a more integrated Europe as the basis for a Europe devoted to reform and economic growth.

Moscovici as EU Commissioner for Economic Affairs has a wide brief, but little power to force EU member states to change policy. His will be a bully pulpit role. Juncker, in giving the center left such key positions, is reinforcing the Grand Coalition nature of his Commission.

In addition, Mr. Juncker is taking an important risk with setting up Vice Presidents as kind of supervisory Commissioners. They do not have legal power under EU Treaties to tell fellow Commissioners what to do and it will be interesting to see how this long-demanded idea of streamlining the Commission into senior and junior Commissioners works in practice.

Right now, no one in Brussels really knows who is going to have power, or use power, or be seen as an effective change-maker.

Will Juncker’s mix of picks for the top of the European Commission work? That depends on whether this team can engineer a return to growth, innovation and confidence in Europe. And that, in turn, depends on national governments.

Jean Claude Juncker and his 28 merry men and women in Brussels may be nominally in charge of Europe, but the real boss remains Angela Merkel in Berlin.

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China-South Korea: Misguided Romance in East Asia? http://www.theglobalist.com/china-south-korea-misguided-romance-in-east-asia/ http://www.theglobalist.com/china-south-korea-misguided-romance-in-east-asia/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 05:37:22 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33536 By Shihoko Goto

Just how serious is this fledgling romance between Seoul and Beijing?

Credit:  ruskpp - Shutterstock.comJust how serious is this fledgling romance between Seoul and Beijing?

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By Shihoko Goto

Just how serious is this fledgling romance between Seoul and Beijing?

Credit:  ruskpp - Shutterstock.com

Knowing who your friends are isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to diplomacy. At the same time, the stakes in shaping friendships in East Asia have not been as high as they are now since at least the end of the Second World War.

There undoubtedly is a bitter chill in the air when it comes to South Korea’s relations with Japan. But while Seoul’s ties to Tokyo may be prickly at best, South Korea’s relations with Beijing are beginning to blossom.

Meanwhile, both Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye have been in power for nearly two years. Even so, they have not yet had a face-to-face talk.

Worse, they have no plans to do so any time soon. That is a strange situation, not least because both countries consider themselves faithful U.S. allies.

In contrast, China’s President Xi Jinping visited Seoul in July, marking the two presidents’ fifth face-to-face meeting. Following the latest summit discussion, the two sides announced that they aim to conclude a bilateral free trade agreement by the end of this year which would bolster two-way trade to $300 billion.

But just how serious is this fledgling romance between Seoul and Beijing? And how will it affect the two countries’ neighbors?

A double-edged sword for Seoul?

The possibility of a free trade agreement between South Korea and China soon would certainly strengthen ties between the world’s second-largest economy and one of the region’s most economically robust nations.

But will what is an obvious boon for growth for both sides in the near term potentially be a double-edged sword for Seoul, as it navigates the choppy waters of diplomatic relations?

For one, there is concern in the international community that a trade pact between China and South Korea would further strengthen ties between the two countries that have increasingly been able to set aside their differences as they eye issues of mutual interests. This, in turn, may give further clout to China.

Apart from enhancing trade relations, Beijing and Seoul are also working to allow a direct exchange of the Chinese yuan and Korean won. That would bolster the Chinese currency’s status on the global stage.

Closer relations between South Korea and China are a telltale sign that U.S. influence in the region is waning, especially on the economic front.

The fact that the United States has not been able to move forward in its trade efforts in Asia, via the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, contrasts sharply with Beijing’s ability to bolster its own influence in the region.

The US drags its feet and China pushes on

This is all the more significant as the TPP is the sole multilateral trade agreement that the United States is negotiating in the world’s most economically robust region.

And while the pact ambitiously hopes to set new global trading standards, bickering within the U.S. Congress and spats over tariffs on a slew of politically sensitive products from rice to cars have kept the 12 TPP member nations from coming anywhere near an agreement any time soon.

As for China, it is not part of the TPP negotiations, but it continues to be actively involved in pushing for an alternative regional trade regime in the form of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement. This envisaged agreement includes South Korea and Japan, but notably not the United States.

Under those circumstances, it is hardly surprising that ever-growing economic ties between Beijing and Seoul are worrying many in Washington. They fear that it will lead to broader cooperation between the two countries, including on security issues.

Japan as a spoiler?

That, however, can be an opportunity for Tokyo to muscle in and play up to Washington’s worries. Closer Sino-Korean ties are certainly being viewed with concern in Japan. South Korea’s latest moves are seen as putting the break on the once much-hoped for trilateral trade agreement between China, South Korea and Japan.

On the other hand, a rapidly intensifying relationship between Seoul and Beijing can also be used by Tokyo as an opportunity to push forward an understanding in Washington that Japan remains the single most reliable and effective ally for the United States in the Asia-Pacific region – and the one that will not waver toward China.

For Seoul, though, the fact remains that its attraction to Beijing is a pragmatic one, based in large part on economic interests. After all, as is the case with Japan, South Korea’s military alliance with the United States remains at the heart of its security strategy.

And South Korea’s free trade agreement with the United States two years ago is viewed as a cornerstone of success in furthering its foothold as an economic powerhouse. From that perspective, the rapprochement with China may simply be understood as a rounding out of South Korea’s options.

Who will benefit most?

However, there is also a sense of caution in Seoul over the fact that any trade deal with Beijing would ultimately primarily benefit China, as Korea’s reliance on Beijing’s economic might simply continues to grow.

To balance against such dependence, closer ties between Japan and South Korea would be important strategically.

They would provide not only greater regional stability (to offset the rise of China’s military presence as well as continued threats from North Korea), but they would also provide for economic expansion in the longer term.

For that to happen, Tokyo and Seoul have to overcome their longstanding animosities. Economic expansion is no longer the single biggest driving force in East Asia.

Rather, ensuring political clout that matches their economic prowess is equally important for Japan and South Korea as well as China. Such rivalry, though, can be fraught with tension.

Setting aside differences regarding history in particular is no easy task, but it would make a great deal of sense for both sides to focus on their common interests, not to mention joint values.

Both Japan and South Korea need political stability above all else to ensure continued economic growth. Both nations also face similar challenges of securing energy resources, dealing with a decreasing population and redefining strategies that would secure longer-term economic expansion.

They are also confronting the challenge of China’s rise and North Korea’s uncertain outlook.

By working together to confront mutual challenges head-on, it would also make U.S. alliances in the Asia-Pacific stronger, as well as ensure greater stability in the region. The key question, though, is whether the political leaders of Japan and South Korea will manage to get closer to each other.

Much is happening in Asia, not least the warming of relations between India and Japan. It would be unfortunate for regional balance if Japan and South Korea did not find the path to warmer ties.

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In Defense of Germany’s Decision to Ban Uber (For Now) http://www.theglobalist.com/in-defense-of-germanys-decision-to-ban-uber-for-now/ http://www.theglobalist.com/in-defense-of-germanys-decision-to-ban-uber-for-now/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 05:45:57 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33686 By Stephan Richter

The company has to play by the rules.

Credit: 360b Shutterstock.comThe company has to play by the rules.

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By Stephan Richter

The company has to play by the rules.

Credit: 360b Shutterstock.com

Uber, the car-sharing company, definitely has its place in the world economy. The question is how should it go about its plan to conquer the world? Currently, it operates on the same principle with which George W. Bush used to “tackle” the Middle East – invade first, ask questions later. And clearly this is a problem.

This article originally appeared in Harvard Business Review: To Succeed in Germany, Uber Needs to Grow Up.

Uber, which has entered markets in a variety of European countries, found its app blocked by a German court in early September, due to a violation of the country’s Passenger Transportation Act. While the decision is only temporary until a full hearing takes place, the case highlights Uber’s mounting legal difficulties in Europe.

Uber has vowed to disregard the court’s ruling, but the company’s own reasoning is full of holes. Uber has to contend with far more than just a foreign legal system.

The German cab market already exhibits many of the consumer benefits for which Uber deems itself a unique solution – and many deficiencies of the U.S. market simply do not exist in Germany (and most of the markets in Europe, which Uber has entered). Here’s what Uber must consider if it hopes to succeed abroad.

Different systems in the United States vs. in Germany

In the United States, cab systems in major cities feature outdated clunkers as cars, and cabs may literally disappear when it starts raining. Here, Uber can be put to good use.

As a resident of Washington, D.C., where cabbies still resent the introduction of metered fares, I know of the major shortcomings of standard cab service, which basically amount to a Soviet-style approach in terms of product diversity – and service reliability.

Uber has helped me out of a pinch many a time when I had to make sure that dinner guests could get a ride back to their hotel and there were no cabs around.

Thus, given the universality of clunkers and irregular service, the introduction of higher quality, up-market cars and a vastly improved notion of service – both of which Uber provides – is a definite benefit to U.S. consumers.

Contrast that with the basic situation in Germany. Taxi service works like clockwork. When you need a cab, you call one citywide number, and you can reliably expect a cab in front of your door within 5-10 minutes. Pretty much the same timeline as Uber.

There also are basically no clunkers on the road – most operators buy Mercedes cars for their cabs, mainly for reasons of better durability. Riding in style is hardly what the Germans are lacking. From a consumer perspective, that implies a less immediate need for Uber, although it will find its place in the market.

A disregard of national laws

The most breathtaking element of the Uber standard operating formula is to argue, as the company’s top executives regularly do, that no laws apply to the company.

Why? Because – get this – the sharing economy wasn’t invented yet when the relevant laws and regulations for taxicabs were written. Ayn Rand must feel like resurrecting herself in excitement.

Uber must follow nationally established laws and regulations. Saying it is an app and therefore it is different begs disbelief. Most nations have established rules to introduce a taxicab service.

That, by the way, is exactly what Uber offers, no matter how much the company tries to spin itself away from that and toward the fact that it is an innovative new app. (German taxis offer app-based service, too, these days, in addition to order by phone).

Uber can file applications, and once it meets the standards and tests others have to meet, it can start operating.

When companies argue that they are preternaturally above the law in other countries, it demonstrates exactly the type of hyper-arrogance that much of the world by now has come to expect from U.S. businesses. It ultimately neither helps Uber’s, nor the United States’, principal causes.

Encroaching on an existing entrepreneurial economy

According to all the breathless apostles of the sharing economy, it will do wonders to promote micro entrepreneurship. The basic hoax behind this propagandistic claim in the field of car sharing has been exposed in plenty of news stories already.

Never mind that operating a taxi system, to Uber’s likely dismay, is still only a very early example of the sharing economy.

The taxicab business in Germany is plenty entrepreneurial. Many operators are family-owned businesses – and hence represent a true blue case of entrepreneurship. Uber will thus detract from, not really add to, that equation.

Selective precaution

Another point of contention surfaces when you look at other examples of regulation, such as, for example U.S. food laws. Europeans are painfully aware of how hyper-protective U.S. authorities are about items being introduced into the U.S. food chain.

Take the absolute ban on importing non-fermented cheeses from Europe – offering such delicacies to U.S. consumers is strictly verboten, by unwavering decree of U.S. authorities. The ban is deemed a vital precaution to avoid unnecessary health risks – but it’s not so in Europe, even though it’s often said by Americans to be so much more regulation-prone.

What bewilders not just Germans, but most Europeans, is how a legal culture like that of the United States can be hyper-cautious about great cheeses, but apparently can consider operating an app-based cab service like Uber a much lesser risk that is not worthy of regulation

Uber going global: a double standard at play

That is one more reason why the battle of Uber going global also seems to be a story of a double standard at play. We do not live in a world where the laws are essentially made to be observed by all non-Americans, while U.S. firms, whether by definition or divine intervention, have a right to operate above the law.

For a long time, there were global concerns that the Germans did not show proper leadership. Given a whole host of policy issues, from a renewables-based energy strategy to data privacy, Germany is showing its willingness to stand up to the United States.

Germany’s economic might helps it to stay its course. It cannot be forced, as easily as some economically weaker nations, to roll over from determined resistance, whether from the U.S. government or U.S. firms.

Mind you, none of the arguments presented above are a case against Uber. It will find its place in the market, whether in the United States, Germany or elsewhere. But it needs to observe global differences, contradictions and obligations.

The free world definitely needs constant innovation to find a suitable way to a prosperous future. But we also need a better balance within capitalism itself between the need to innovate and having everybody play by the same rules.

The era where everybody simply rolls over when faced with the latest American fad, gig or app is over. What’s needed now is a properly understood transatlantic partnership.

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Millionaires Galore http://www.theglobalist.com/millionaires-galore/ http://www.theglobalist.com/millionaires-galore/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 05:45:33 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33700 By The Globalist

How many people around the world can be called a millionaire?

Credit:  gualtiero boffi Shutterstock.comHow many people around the world can be called a millionaire?

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By The Globalist

How many people around the world can be called a millionaire?

Credit:  gualtiero boffi Shutterstock.com

1. A person has millionaire status if he or she has investable financial assets — not counting primary residence — in excess of $1 million.

2. There were 13.73 million millionaires worldwide in 2013, up from 11.97 million in 2012.

3. The cumulative financial wealth of the world’s millionaires hit a record-high in 2013 of $52.6 trillion.

4. While these people make up only 0.19% of the global population, they possess about a third of the $152 trillion of global private wealth.

5. The increase in the number of millionaires was largely a result of the 28% global increase in stock market wealth in 2013.

6. Switzerland — a nation virtually synonymous with wealth — had 330,000 millionaires in 2013, the seventh most in the world.W

7. On a per capita basis, however, Switzerland had more millionaires — about one for every 24 people — than any country in the world.

8. At 758,000, China had the fourth-highest number of millionaires.

9. The United States had the highest number of millionaires, at 4.01 million, or about one for every 80 people.

Source: Capgemini, World Wealth Report 2014, with additional analysis by The Globalist Research Center

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Why Is the United States Trading Less With Africa? http://www.theglobalist.com/why-is-the-u-s-trading-less-with-africa/ http://www.theglobalist.com/why-is-the-u-s-trading-less-with-africa/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 05:45:04 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=30678 By The Globalist

The United States is the only major economy that trades less with Africa now than six years ago.

Credit: stanga Shutterstock.comThe United States is the only major economy that trades less with Africa now than six years ago.

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By The Globalist

The United States is the only major economy that trades less with Africa now than six years ago.

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1. The United States is the only major economy that trades less with Africa in 2014 than it did before the global financial crisis in 2007-08.

2. The drop in trade is in part due to a collapse in U.S. oil imports and increased shale production at home.

3. The shale revolution was supposed to liberate the United States from Middle Eastern oil.

4. Instead, it has brought oil independence from an unexpected location — Africa.

5. In 2014, U.S. oil imports from the African continent have plunged to a 40-year low.

6. The decline of imports from Africa has weakened the most important economic link between the United States and the continent.

7. Six years ago, the U.S.- Africa oil trade was worth $100 billion a year.

8. If the trend of early 2014 holds, it will be worth $15 billion this year.

9. This trend also signals that the United States is losing market share to other nations.

Sources: U.S. – Africa Trade Wanes After Shale Revolution by Javier Blas (Financial Times) and Source: GE warns that closing ExIm Bank would hit US-Africa Trade by Geoff Dyer (Financial Times)

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Scotland’s Exit: An Earthquake for Britain http://www.theglobalist.com/scotlands-exit-an-earthquake-for-britain/ http://www.theglobalist.com/scotlands-exit-an-earthquake-for-britain/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:49:26 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33639 By Denis MacShane

London has already lost in the fight for Scottish independence.

Credit: Simon Greig - Shutterstock.comLondon has already lost in the fight for Scottish independence.

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By Denis MacShane

London has already lost in the fight for Scottish independence.

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The electric shock going through London political elites cannot be underestimated, as the first opinion poll showing a majority for an independent Scotland is published.

If Scotland does vote to separate from England, it will provoke the biggest political-constitutional crisis for the British state in three centuries. The fused English-Scottish nation that rose to world power after the merger in 1707 — and still remains a powerful economic and military force — will cease to exist.

The separatist camp hopes that the dramatic poll – even if only showing a 51-49% endorsement of independence – gives it the momentum to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom.

The pro-union campaign, for its part, hopes the poll will be a dramatic wake-up call and panic Scottish voters into opting to maintain the existing British state and unified United Kingdom.

Privately, pro-union Scots are dismayed and demoralized. They hope a final surge of common sense will prevail. But unlike before the summer holiday, the poll figures no longer support such a complacent attitude.

Three reasons explain why Scotland separating from England is now a distinct possibility.

1. The Conservatives are a no-show

The Conservative Party is basically not politically present in Scotland. Worse, the posh and wealthy Conservative ministers, all rooted in the south of England, have made it their common rallying call that Britain is a bankrupt nation destroyed by debt and deficit and requiring savage cuts in public services to recover its financial health.

What the Conservatives never realized is that their especially bleak, elitist and untrue depiction of Britain since 2010 has led Scots to question why they should stay in an impoverished Britain where the only political proposition on offer is cuts and more cuts. Cuts on items such as pay, pensions and public provision of health, education and housing.

And that depiction opened the door to a more enticing proposition: Why not look across the North Sea at small Nordic states, which manage to combine economic efficiency and social justice?

The foreign policy blunders of the still youngish, but Old Etonian British Prime Minister also play into the Scots’ calculations. This has not only led to the marginalization of the UK in Europe, but also to problems in Libya or Syria where Cameron urged military intervention.

That, in turn, gave rise to even more jihadi’s in the region – and have further alienated a Scotland that hated Blair’s Iraq war and wants to be more like Sweden in no longer sending sons to die in foreign fields.

Prime Minister Cameron, as well as the other southern elite members of his cabinet, has come to Scotland to campaign. But all they really did was to wag their fingers and patronize the Scots by telling them they cannot survive except as a junior partner to London.

He has organized appeals from aging English celebrities like Mick Jagger and Sir Paul McCartney to tell the Scots they are better off being supervised from southern England. Cameron called the referendum, as he was keen to show the merits on a referendum on Europe. But the mood is now centrifugal, even disintegrative.

2. The Labour Party flunks, too

The second problem in Scotland is that the pro-union Labour Party, which still has an important network in Scotland, has not found a tone to inspire or make exciting the case for the union.

It matters in this regard that, since 1980, all the best and brightest of high quality Labour politicians have made their career in London at Westminster and in national government (until 2010 when the Tories took over the government).

As a result, the Labour Party in Scotland was drained of all talent as the most able Labour politicians sought to head south rather than stay in Scottish politics.

That was water on the mill of the Scottish Nationalist Party. It attracted high-quality, left-liberal politicians whose spokespersons usually manage to outperform in debates the Labour politicians left behind to mind the shop in Scotland.

3. If UK exits from EU, why not Scotland from UK?

The third reason for the current conundrum is the obsession in London to achieve the separation of Britain from the European Union. Many Conservatives and media owners support that cause.

Their argument that Britain can have a radiant future separated from Europe has been absorbed in Scotland like for like. It has now gelled into the majority belief that separation from an interfering power (in this case, the UK) is a desirable and achievable political goal.

If the Scots, including many EU citizens who are registered in Scotland, do vote Yes on September 18th, the consequences will be enormous for Britain, the EU and the world.

In Britain, it will mean the end of any chance of Labour winning power. To date, it has been the disproportionately large contingent of Scottish Labour MPs that has provided the Labour Party repeatedly with a majority in the House of Commons.

Without that supply from up north, the UK is bound to be a long-term bastion of the Conservative Party. That, of course, does not augur well for the UK’s future within the EU.

That aside, both England and Scotland will have to invent new forms of governance and taxation. There may even have to be border checks on the roads going from Scotland to England. There also is the vexing question of what currency the Scots would be using.

Most detrimentally, Mr. Cameron will be seen as the prime minister who broke up the United Kingdom and would almost certainly have to resign after such a historic defeat.

As for the Labour Party, its leaders have been at the heart of the campaign to defeat the separatists. They will likely engage in endless rounds of recriminations, despair and disarray. That futile exercise could last for a generation or more.

The European and the global levels

At the European level, there will be a question of whether Scotland can continue as a member state or whether, as a newly created nation, it has to apply anew for membership of the EU, including adopting the euro as its currency.

The forces for separatism in other EU member states, notably Catalonia, will be greatly encouraged. The chances of Brexit increase as the anti-EU forces in England will cite a Scottish separation from England as a precedent for an English separation from Europe.

At a global level, what is left of England will be seen as a diminished, enfeebled power. The UK’s nuclear submarines will have to find new bases in England and Britain’s military profile will reduce in size.

Some may question whether the permanent seat on the UN Security Council, granted to the victorious United Kingdom at the head of commonwealth nations and imperial possessions in 1945, should be automatically transferred to amputated England.

Tory and Labour leaders in London are now panicking and talking of offering more devolution and powers to Scotland — if only, please, please, they reject independence in the vote on September 18. That offer might have worked years ago, but is probably too late now.

Even if there is a narrow vote to maintain the union, the Scottish separatists will simply declare it to be a half-time result — and come back in due course.

The challenge to the British state as it has evolved since the 1707 fusion of the two nations is now massive. Whatever happens, Alex Salmond, the Scottish nationalist leader, has won and the London political establishment has lost.

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Europe, End the Austerity Mania http://www.theglobalist.com/europe-end-the-austerity-mania/ http://www.theglobalist.com/europe-end-the-austerity-mania/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 05:45:12 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33612 By Martin Hüfner

Fiscal discipline does not determine economic growth and competitiveness.

European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany. (Credit: jvd-wolf -Fiscal discipline does not determine economic growth and competitiveness.

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By Martin Hüfner

Fiscal discipline does not determine economic growth and competitiveness.

European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany. (Credit: jvd-wolf -

A scary economic policy debate is haunting Europe these days. The Germans seem to believe that “If only everyone were more like us, the world would be in better shape.”

Governments would no longer go on spending sprees they can ill afford, the argument continues. By virtue of creating an environment in which growth and employment can flourish while prices rise at a reasonable pace, the economic crisis would be over.

When German policymakers look at Europe, they only see that the list of those who need to take in German policy prescriptions has changed. The sinners of the past – Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland – have left the worst behind them.

Now, EU “big shots” Italy and France are in the hot seat, facing growing pressure to get their economies in order.

In this ever-present debate, we should get one thing straight. While the single-minded focus on austerity is understandable politically, it is no panacea. Of course, who wouldn’t want a balanced budget?

But the goal of a balanced budget is, put bluntly, nonsense from an economic perspective. It represents one of the many fallacies and prejudices that shape today’s European policymaking.

Austerity not a cure all

The hypothesis that austerity is the cure all has been proven wrong empirically. The countries that didn’t follow this maxim have actually not fared worse economically. By the same token, those who did are not better off today.

Take Spain, for example. Over the past decade, the country has been a prime example of fiscal virtue. But its economy nonetheless slipped badly during the debt crisis. Now, Spain is bound for a recovery — even though it has done little in the way of fiscal consolidation. The Spanish budget deficit still exceeds 5% of GDP.

Conversely, Germany has managed to balance its budget over the past years. But now the much-lauded German growth engine is stalling. And this development cannot be blamed on trade sanctions against Russia alone. It is also a matter of setting the wrong economic policy priorities.

Preoccupied with fiscal policy performance, Germany has lost sight of other pressing problems. Ever since the “Hartz IV” labor market reforms a decade ago, there has been a conspicuous absence of undertaking structural reforms. In other words, Germany failed to apply the medicine to itself that it so ardently wants others to take.

Even worse, previous, sensible structural reforms (such as gradually increasing the retirement age) were partially rolled back again. Not surprisingly, Germany ranks near the bottom in terms of responsiveness to OECD policy recommendations – far behind the Southern European countries.

Empirical evidence aside, the austerity hypothesis is also theoretically flawed. Economic growth and competitiveness are not determined by fiscal discipline.

What really counts is that businesses can be vibrant and innovative, stimulated by a high degree of flexibility and competition in the goods and labor markets. Only if these conditions are met can the economy grow, can new workers be hired and supply be adjusted efficiently to changing demands.

Austerity’s indirect effects

Do we need austerity at all then? Yes, but mainly for its indirect, Ricardian effects. Austerity sends a signal that a government is willing to get its act together. Sound fiscal policy sets an example for private enterprise and builds trust. Firms tend to perform better if they do not need to expect any unpleasant surprises on the tax front.

Likewise, international investors prefer to spend their money in a country that knows how to handle its economy. This, in turn, will lead to lower interest rates.

Governments that are sloppy in fiscal matters can hardly be trusted to undertake much-needed structural reforms. The latter, after all, usually incur even more political resistance than mere spending cuts.

Structural reforms must take priority

Fiscal consolidation thus plays an important role. But it is no silver bullet and should not dominate the economic policy agenda. Structural reforms must be the top priority. They must come first — before any major efforts are undertaken to get the budget back on track.

If France and Italy prove they are serious about implementing far-reaching structural reforms, they should be given more time for fiscal consolidation.

However, if the reform plans are limited to rectifying near absurdities like the 35-hour workweek, as France is currently contemplating, then adding fiscal discipline won’t lead to a change for the better. Giving countries more fiscal flexibility, in the mere expectation of structural reforms, will likely turn things for the worse.

Some go as far as saying that fiscal consolidation has a negative impact on economic growth because it reduces aggregate demand. This, too, is oversimplifying. Of course, a government would cut spending or absorb purchasing power.

But fiscal consolidation also has a positive influence on the business climate that will stimulate demand. As economic theorists put it, the negative Keynesian effect goes along with a positive Ricardian effect.

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Willful Ignorance on Foreign Policy http://www.theglobalist.com/willful-ignorance-on-foreign-policy/ http://www.theglobalist.com/willful-ignorance-on-foreign-policy/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 05:30:51 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33567 By Richard Phillips and Stephan Richter

Stability through strength was and is a phantom concept

Credit: Filip Fuxa- Shutterstock.comStability through strength was and is a phantom concept

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By Richard Phillips and Stephan Richter

Stability through strength was and is a phantom concept

Credit: Filip Fuxa- Shutterstock.com

The world is going to hell in a hand basket — and it is all Barack Obama’s fault. So says the conventional wisdom emanating from the right wing of the U.S. political spectrum.

According to the practically unanimous view of right-wing politicians and pundits, President Obama is much too soft in his prosecution of U.S. foreign policy. This purported weakness has, according to the right, left the world leaderless, rudderless and in utter chaos. The U.S.-led global order that had kept the world stable from 1948 right through January 20, 2009 is gone, they say.

To be sure, President Obama has provided cannon fodder for this point of view. Statements like “we don’t have a strategy,” “hitting singles and doubles” and “don’t screw up” have given conservatives a target-rich environment.

But politically inept remarks should not be construed as foreign policy ineptitude. Nor should it evoke nostalgia for the good old days when the United States was the global sheriff and could enforce the peace through the barrel of its six-shooter. Stability through strength was and is a phantom concept.

The conservatives’ rose-tinted lenses

To start with, such a read of recent American history is born of willful ignorance, which seems to be the U.S. right wing’s chief stock in trade these days.

It is evident in the right’s view of just about every facet of U.S. politics and society, whether science, the economy, health care or immigration. Reality is ignored and facts are cast aside in order to promote a worldview that is, yes, willfully ignorant.

The fact is that the world has never been a stable place. Perhaps the shared hegemony of the United States and Soviet Union, which was fostered by the two hegemons’ nuclear arsenals, prevented cataclysmic eruptions like the two European wars of the 20th century. But bristling nuclear arsenals on hair triggers is not what any rational person would call stability.

If the right were to remove their rose-colored glasses for just a moment, they would see just how chaotic their stable world order was.

Take Georgia, Crimea, Ukraine and the Baltic countries. It is true that in the past Russia would never have bullied them the way it does today. But that is because Russia didn’t have to bully them. Russia occupied them, along with Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the rest of Eastern Europe.

By the same token, the right tends to ignore bloody proxy wars fought by the cold war superpowers in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Congo and elsewhere. These conflicts were hardly emblematic of stability through strength.

Reagan failed no less than Obama

Furthermore, the heroic right wing mythology conveyed to Ronald Reagan did nothing to dissuade the Soviet Union from prosecuting a protracted war in Afghanistan, nor did it stop the imposition of martial law in Poland in December of 1981.

Nor did Reagan’s muscular foreign policy deter terrorists from attacking the Beirut barracks in 1983, a brutal act that claimed the lives of nearly 250 U.S. Marines and caused the United States to pull out of Lebanon in apparent defeat.

Since the end of the Cold War, the world has been scarred time and again by instability and aggression.

America’s “strong” foreign policy, for example, did little to stop Communist Chinese tanks from rumbling into Tiananmen Square in 1989.

It did nothing to keep the peace in 1990, when Saddam Hussein thumbed his nose at President George H.W. Bush and invaded Kuwait.

It has done nothing but fail time and again in bringing about a resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

By the same token, U.S. foreign policy has hardly impeded Iran and North Korea from pursuing their nuclear ambitions – both countries made their biggest gains in this area while the bellicose George W. Bush Administration controlled the levers of geopolitical power in Washington, D.C.

Perhaps most important, Al Qaeda and the attacks of 9/11 were given life through the muscularity of U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan.

The bottom line is this: The conservative right is being — yes, here it is again – willfully ignorant in its assessment of America’s recent geopolitical past. The concept of stability through strength was illusory.

Rational thinking, anyone?

And it remains illusory today. The Arab world is not in turmoil because President Obama projects weakness on the world stage. It is in turmoil because long-suppressed passions are finding expression throughout the region.

America’s invasion of Iraq exposed the dark underbelly of Middle Eastern society, which is permeated by centuries old ethnic and sectarian divides. In fact, the aggressive post-9/11 foreign policy pursued by the Bush Administration in Iraq gave birth to Al Qaeda in Iraq, which survives today as ISIS.

The Arab Spring in North Africa embraced liberty and overthrew dictators. But would a more aggressive U.S. foreign policy have prevented Libya from devolving into tribal warfare? Perhaps, but at what cost? Certainly, stabilizing Libya would have required long-term military intervention.

By the same token, it is hardly likely that a more aggressive U.S. foreign policy would have prevented the Muslim Brotherhood from winning elections in Egypt. And it is just as unlikely that it would have prevented the counter-revolution led by the Egyptian military.

In Syria, the Assad regime, père et fils, was never cowed by U.S. power into moderating its cruelly autocratic rule. And the idea that by arming the moderate resistance would have produced a different outcome than is unfolding today is a fantasy.

For starters, it ignores the fact that the Syrian Civil War is a proxy struggle involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, Turkey and a host of unaffiliated elements that coalesce around ethnicity, sect or religious fundamentalism.

Obama’s smartness

Barack Obama is pursuing a cautious and well-calculated foreign policy that recognizes the complexity of the confrontations and rivalries taking place throughout the world. It acknowledges the mistaken postures and interventions of the past and tries to recalibrate their tone and tenor for a new future.

Obama’s policies are not based on fantasy, nor do they seek legitimacy through willful ignorance. They are based on an honest realism that recognizes America’s limitations in an increasingly globalized and tech-savvy world.

In contrast to self-absorbed dreamers, any realist understands that the common threats of terrorism, climate change and pandemic form the basis for new interactions among nations. They make the old school foreign policy prescription of might makes right quaintly obsolete.

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Sizing Up Ukraine http://www.theglobalist.com/sizing-up-ukraine/ http://www.theglobalist.com/sizing-up-ukraine/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 05:20:39 +0000 http://www.theglobalist.com/?p=33575 By The Globalist

Ukraine is a big deal in Europe — literally.

Credit: Mikkel Bigandt- Shutterstock.comUkraine is a big deal in Europe — literally.

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By The Globalist

Ukraine is a big deal in Europe — literally.

Credit: Mikkel Bigandt- Shutterstock.com

1. Ranked by its landmass of 603,500 square kilometers (km2), Ukraine is the second-largest of Europe’s 43 countries.

2. The only country larger than Ukraine is its current nemesis, Russia. About 3.96 million km2 of Russia’s total landmass of 17.13 million km2 lie within Europe.

3. Ukraine is larger in size than France (547,030 sq. km) and Spain (505,992 sq. km), Europe’s third- and fourth-largest countries.

4. Western Ukraine was part of the Habsburg Empire until the end of World War I and is historically considered more Europe-leaning than the rest of the country.

5. With a size of 346,500 km2, Western Ukraine by is itself is nearly as large as Germany (357,114 km2), Europe’s 6th-largest country.

6. Eastern Ukraine was closely integrated into the industrial machinery of Stalin’s Soviet Union and still maintains close economic and cultural ties to Russia.

7. At 257,000 km2, Eastern Ukraine is about as large as the United Kingdom (242,900 km2), Europe’s 11th-largest country.

Data source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Calculations of the areas of Eastern and Western Ukraine by The Globalist Research Center.

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