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Obama's First 100 Days — Federico Manfredi: Afghanistan

Federico Manfredi's article “Rethinking U.S. Policy in Afghanistan" appeared in the winter “Dear Mr. President” issue of World Policy Journal. His grade for the new administration’s first 100 days follows this update. In his first 100 days, President Barack Obama has been on the right track in dealing with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has emphasized that the main interest of the United States in the region is making sure that Al Qaeda cannot attack the United States, its interests, and its allies, thus returning a sense of purpose to a mission that was sinking under the weight of nation building and counterinsurgency. Secondly, while the previous administration illogically handled U.S. policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan separately, Obama chose to integrate the two, given that the Taliban insurgency has been spilling back and forth across a border that is poorly marked and practically impossible to monitor. This move will certainly increase coordination between Washington, Kabul, and Islamabad. Even more importantly, Obama has declared himself willing to reach out to the moderate factions within the Taliban movement and has stressed that the United States must devise a sound exit strategy rather than follow the current pattern of perpetual drift. For all these reasons, Obama deserves praise, especially since he faces opposition in Washington from people who do not understand the realities on the ground in Pashtun territories and still see negotiating with the Taliban as anathema. While Obama has already passed the challenging stage of telling the American people that he is willing to negotiate with the Taliban, he has yet to deliver the message in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama should address the Pashtun people clearly and directly, spelling out the security interests of the United States and making a careful distinction between those Taliban whose main concern is Pashtun self-rule and those who support international terrorism. But Obama must also make it clear that he understands the interest of traditional Pashtun communities, and those of the Taliban militants that control them—which are quite different from the interests of Al Qaeda. The Taliban movement is not monolithic, and if Mullah Omar and other radical commanders are not interested in dialogue, others will step in to fill their shoes. Most importantly, the Pashtun people would recognize that Obama offered the Taliban a reasonable deal, and the stubbornness of those who refuse to negotiate would only undermine their popular support and isolate them politically. The time is ripe for a bold new approach to counterterrorism, one that stresses knowledge and reasoning over impulsiveness and military bravado. Convincing the Taliban that it is in their interest to halt their insurgent campaign and turn against Al Qaeda will not be an easy task. But this would be the most reasonable policy the United States could adopt to stabilize both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and thus undermine Al Qaeda’s presence in the region. For his first 100 days, President Obama deserves a grade of...

Obama's First 100 Days — Stephen Schlesinger: The UN

Stephen Schlesinger's article "A New Administration and the UN" appeared in the winter "Dear Mr. President" issue of World Policy Journal. His grade for the new administration's first 100 days follows this update. President Barack Obama has dramatically re-established American relations with the United Nations in his first 100 days. His acclaimed multilateral outlook on international relations, his willingness to listen to foreign leaders rather than lecture them, his admission of "mistakes" by the United States on issues like torture, the economy, the Iraq war, and other global matters—and his general popularity around the world—have created an entirely new atmosphere in the United Nations building. In the seventh week of his administration, he held his first meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the White House, a cordial and highly supportive event. Then, with several specific steps, Obama made crystal clear his re-engagement with the world body: First, he approved the United States joining the newly created Human Rights Council rather than staying outside of it, in order to reorient the body toward its goal of enforcing the essential civil rights for citizens in all states. Second, he asked Congress to appropriate $836 million to pay up our peacekeeping obligations which we have shamefully refused in the past to fulfill. Third, he made a new commitment to helping stop climate change—a key issue at the UN these days. Fourth, he reversed by executive order the Bush administration policy of denying U.S. funds to family planning programs at the UN's Population Fund. Fifth, he renewed and expanded funding to both UNICEF and UNESCO, both organizations long neglected by Washington in the past. Sixth, he publicly endorsed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, among other crucial UN treaties, and pledged to participate vigorously in the UN's upcoming 2010 review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the latter of which the previous administration disparaged. Seventh, he publicly embraced the Millennium Development goals, which Bush viewed with disdain. Obama, however, did duck out of the Durban conference on racism and he has so far not said much about the International Criminal Court. Additionally, he has not been heavily proactive on the Darfur crisis, as of yet. But, in my view, for his first 100 days, he deserves a grade of...

Mira Kamdar: The Clash Over Kashmir

Mira Kamdar, a senior fellow with the World Policy Institute, talked to MTV Iggy about the ongoing dispute over Kashmir and why the conflict is more about territory than religion.

David A. Andelman: Pakistan on the Brink?

World Policy Journal hosted a group of top CEOs from leading Pakistani companies, as well as American companies with large Pakistani subsidiaries, and several members of the United States embassy in Islamabad, including the dynamic new ambassador, Anne W. Patterson. The goal of the delegation was to persuade American investors and the media they read, that there is a continuing story of progress in Pakistan beyond the daily unrest that seems to make that country, the world’s sixth most-populous nation, a somewhat questionable destination for major investment initiatives. Their case was a persuasive one. A representative of Proctor & Gamble described a $100 million investment that was being made there, in part to develop a factory to produce disposal diapers—for a nation that is adding some 11 million new babies a year and promises to continue doing so for the next century or more. Another noted a project to build new gas-fired power generating facilities, then there was a furniture manufacturer (Pearl Furniture based in Peshawar, the heart of the Northwest Frontier Province) and several conglomerates, each with their own compelling story.

Sharmeen Gangat: Crime and (the Lack of) Punishment in Pakistan

The night of May 10, 2007, was violently nightmarish for us. My husband and I were on a yearly trip from our home in New York to visit family and friends in Pakistan. We arrived in Karachi on the night of May 10, 2007. My family met us at the airport and in just 20 minutes of landing, our car, carrying my sister, brother, and myself, rolled up to the front of my parents' house. Another car, carrying my husband and father, had left the airport bit sooner. We expected to see them removing the luggage as we pulled up. Instead, I saw my father and husband standing outside their car, encircled by four, young, clean-shaven boys brandishing AK-47 assault rifles. Before I could comprehend the situation, there was a burst of rifle shots. In utter confusion, my brother threw the car into reverse. The armed men began spraying bullets at us, and we crashed into a lamppost. Wielding their rifles, they surrounded our car, smashing the windows with their guns and forcing us out into the street. I was convinced that I would not see my loved ones again. My brother was pulled out of the car and beaten up before my eyes, while my husband and father looked on at gunpoint. Meanwhile, another vehicle pulled alongside our car, yelled something at the armed boys, and they all zoomed off, taking only our luggage. We thanked our stars that it had not been worse.

Peter Wilson: Chávez's Crackdown Makes U.S.-Venezuelan Thaw More Difficult

Peter WilsonNo doubt about it, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez, stole the spotlight at this weekend's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

Pictures of the two men smiling and shaking hands made front pages of newspapers throughout the hemisphere, and Chávez's gift of “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent” by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano to Obama propelled the book to best seller status at

Both men professed to want closer relations, ending nearly a decade of mutual suspicion and distrust during which Chávez once made headlines by calling former U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil" at the United Nations and accusing Washington of plotting his overthrow and assassination. Likewise, the Bush administration repeatedly charged Chávez with destabilizing the region through his populist actions.

As late as last month, Chávez, who has built his populist presidency on opposition to U.S. policies, called Obama an "ignoramus" and said he was no different than Bush. Hours after the summit, Chávez changed tack, saying he welcomed the possibility of the two countries exchanging ambassadors again—although both countries expelled senior diplomats in September.

The honeymoon may be short-lived as the new bonhomie coincides with Chávez's increasingly aggressive attacks against his opponents and his country's press following his electoral victory in February that paved the way for him to serve indefinitely as the country's president.

Jodi Liss: An End to the Resource Curse?

These days, throughout northern Wayne County, PA, farmers are talking less about livestock and dairy prices and more about Norwegian oil policy, Devonian geology, market capitalization, and seismic thumper trucks. Wayne County sits atop part of the enormous Marcellus Shale gas field, and each farmer is looking at a small fortune in future leasing royalties and bonuses. They are also in the process of solving a problem that has stumped the World Bank, the United Nations, and governments around the world. The problem is the so-called resource curse. Usually, when countries discover oil, gas, or minerals, most nationalistic governments in the developing world seek to keep all the wealth that comes from such extraction by claiming exclusive rights to everything below the topsoil. Instead of economic development, what they get is corruption, environmental destruction, violent conflict, a worsening economy, and hoards of angry local people. The resource curse’s current poster child is Nigeria, where corrupt government officials—on all levels—stole hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands died from ethnic conflict and environmental devastation in the oil-producing zones, and the majority of people throughout the country live on less than $1 a day. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Map of the Marcellus Shale"][/caption] In Wayne County (as elsewhere in the United States), it’s the locals who will decide the terms of how the gas is extracted from the ground. Here, the farmers who have farmed the land for generations formed a collective bargaining group, hired lawyers and environmental consultants, and are negotiating with several gas companies on the financial details and the local environmental risks. Drilling for oil or gas has a long, ugly record of contaminating land and water—a potential catastrophe since this area is an aquifer for New York City and Philadelphia. So, many newly arrived former city dwellers in Wayne County are, at best, doubtful and are demanding that regulatory commissions provide even broader environmental protections. They point to people in central Pennsylvania and in the West who signed bad leases and found themselves with environmental nightmares like noise pollution, ruined land, contaminated water supplies, and leaky holding pools full of toxic chemicals.

Swadesh M. Rana: U.S. Rediscovers the UN in Afghanistan

As the Obama administration increases the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, it seems also to be planning for a gradual disengagement and a more imminent NATO exit with an old friend and partner—the United Nations. Indeed, President Obama has rediscovered the United Nations, and hopes the global body can help set the stage for a graceful exit without dominating the scene. It won’t happen, though, by replacing the 90,000 U.S. and NATO troops now committed there with another UN peacekeeping operation or by creating a new organizational unit in the Secretariat that Washington has often berated as cumbersome, top-heavy, and wasteful. The disengagement task is entrusted instead to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) that was established after the U.S.-led military action to overthrow the Taliban regime. Building upon the UN experience in Afghanistan since 1982—after the Soviet troop withdrawal from an inconclusive and costly war that began in 1979—UNAMA was tasked with two civilian missions in 2001: development and humanitarian issues, and political affairs. It is now headed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special representative, Kai Eide, a veteran Norwegian diplomat who has represented his country at NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and whose appointment to this position in March 2008 was fully supported by the United States and NATO. With a current staff of 1,500, around 80 percent of whom are Afghan nationals, UNAMA is now called upon to strike a balance between the military and civilian components of international assistance to Afghanistan by some 80 countries, 20 international agencies, and 40 non-governmental organizations (NGOs). An immediate task for UNAMA is to prepare for and ensure fair, impartial, and credible elections in Afghanistan this August. Underlying this act of faith in the UN to secure the elections is a long overdue and more nuanced U.S. view of the nature of the global threat of terror, Al Qaeda and Taliban operations in southwest Asia, and the terroristic activities in Afghanistan. The Bush administration saw Afghanistan as the headquarters of Al Qaeda that could be destroyed after a military ouster of the Taliban regime. It viewed Al Qaeda as a global monolith of Islamic fundamentalism with a well-defined chain of command that could be broken with superior intelligence and military action. And, of course, it wanted Osama bin Laden dead or alive—with the help of a democratically elected President Hamid Karzai after his interim installation with U.S. support. The Obama administration sees the global terror network as less of a monolith driven by Islamic fundamentalism and more a labyrinth of organized crime, drug cartels, illicit arms traffic, contraband trade, political dissidence, and individual disaffection. It is looking at southwest Asia as the crossroads of terrorism and nuclear proliferation with a growing collusion between the ideologically driven, militant Taliban and disaffected groups opposed to the ruling regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is also mindful that the current government in Afghanistan lacks true legitimacy. Indeed, the 2001 presidential elections in Afghanistan were boycotted by 50 percent of the electorate amidst vociferous local resentment over some voters casting their ballot twice and others supporting candidates who were encouraged to withdraw their names so that the U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai could be declared the clear winner.

Jonathan Power: The Big Hunt for Bin Laden

Last week, Scotland Yard (alas, working without their chief sleuth, the late Sherlock Holmes) uncovered a major bomb plot. Those arrested were all Pakistanis. However, unlike the current U.S. policy, they chose to arrest the suspects, after months of carefully tracking their movements (notwithstanding Bob Quick, Britain’s senior counterterrorism expert, whose comical slip-up required the accelerating of planned raids and resulted in his resignation), not bomb them from 30,000 feet. Likewise, when four years ago bombers blew up trains entering Madrid's central station, the Spanish police laboriously ran them down, eventually cornering a number of the ringleaders in a safehouse. That time, the perpetrators were mainly Algerians and Moroccans. Those arrested, and later convicted and imprisoned, had no formal links with Al Qaeda. In fact, their ties were non existent, a government-appointed commission later found. Doubtless, however, it was the example of Al Qaeda that prompted their horrific attacks. The Spanish, on their manhunt, did not choose to bomb them, or even blast them out of their hideaways. (Seven suspects did, however, blow themselves up when they found themselves surrounded by Spanish authorities.) But the investigation took careful police work, backed by the latest in forensic and technological tools. Couldn't the Americans and NATO have done the same at the onset of their intervention in Afghanistan? Certainly, investigating domestic terrorism isn’t the same as stamping it out in a hostile and foreign land, but allied forces could have found informers and probably help from the rank and file of locals who wanted to have nothing to do with those who blew up New York's World Trade Center. Even many in the ranks of the Taliban may have been privately uneasy by the Al Qaeda attack. Moreover, Osama bin Laden was a distant, shadowy figure for most of them. Instead, we had a blanket armed invasion. The UN has reported that, in 2008, the number of civilian casualties rose by 40 percent. Surely there is a better way of finding bin Laden. Western forces are not there to reform Islam, to liberate women, or to install democracy. Afghan society must choose for itself whether or not it wants to pursue these lofty goals.

Jonathan Power: Can Obama Better Ronald Reagan on Nuclear Arms Control?

A 50 percent reduction in the nuclear arsenal of Russia and the United States was proposed by President Barack Obama this past weekend. And President Dmitry Medvedev seems to be receptive. What neither have mentioned is that we have been here before—with presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. But, in a bit of infrequently told history, this earlier attempt at a grand disarmament was undermined by a key adviser on the American side and short sightedness on the Soviet side. Although Russia and the United States keep their missiles on hair-trigger alert, there is almost nobody in the higher reaches of policy making on either side who thinks they would ever be used. Indeed, this has been so for years. Doubts about the reasoning for the vast number of nuclear weapons in America's stockpile go back a long way. President Dwight Eisenhower, the former World War II commander in chief, observed that, “military statements of nuclear weapons requirements were grossly inflated.” Indeed, nuclear stockpiles seem to have always been governed by a calculus of confusion. Robert McNamara, the former defense secretary for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, once replied to a question posed by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Richard Rhodes (whose latest book, Arsenal of Folly, is the best single read on the subject) by saying, “Each individual decision to increase the number of nuclear weapons seemed rational at the time but the result was insane.” Even Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, certainly no dove, while negotiating with the Soviet Union in Moscow, said at a press conference, “One of the questions we have to ask ourselves as a country is what in the name of God is nuclear strategic superiority?” Ronald Reagan was the first American president to break through the murk and horror of the nuclear weapons debate. Many have judged Reagan as a bit of a simpleton. But now, thanks in part to good biographies on him, we may have a more nuanced view. Yes, he wasn't an intellectual, but his political instincts were fine-tuned and turned out to be right more often than the counsels of his experts. Within his administration it was he who felt the strongest about nuclear abolition. Jack Matlock, Jr., who served as Reagan's principal adviser on Soviet affairs, said in one interview that he “suspected that Reagan would not retaliate in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack.”

Samuel F. Mueller: Turkey’s Disappearing Opposition

Since the religiously-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in Turkey in 2002, Islam and secularism have become particularly controversial topics. Political and academic debates are now more often than not framed by questions such as whether a religiously-based party can seriously support a secular democratic order, or even whether Turkey might become a second Iran. Questions about the relationship between religion and politics and the ideology of the AKP are surely important, and many AKP policies must be seriously critiqued. However, these debates do not address the key issues in Turkey’s democratization process. The basic and most crucial problem for Turkish democracy is not political Islam, but the lack of a serious political opposition—a must for every democracy. The recent local elections on March 29 brought no substantial change to the dangerously unsettled balance of power. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the AKP, is a goal-oriented pragmatist who knows how to use religious political language to reach the masses. Islamic symbolism frames Erdogan’s politics—he abstains from alcoholic beverages at state receptions, for example. However, Erdogan’s strength is that he has long been aware that while populist gestures win plaudits, sound policies win votes. When Erdogan was mayor of Istanbul in the mid 1990s his popular support rested not on his attempts to introduce, for example, gender-separated seating arrangements in public transit, but on his efforts to improve urban infrastructure. Today, the AKP scores points with a neo-liberal economic approach and international-focused policies. Islam is thereby a means of communication and an articulation of specific political interests. This religious symbolic frame should not be confused with an attempt to turn Turkey in a theocracy. An Islamic state in Turkey is not a political goal in itself and therefore not something we need to worry about—at least not now. However, the balance of political power is a major concern. The AKP has become so powerful that we must worry about the democratic culture of Turkey’s party system. Currently, the AKP holds 338 of the 545 seats in parliament. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) holds the second biggest bloc, though only 98 seats. On the local level, though the AKP lost some votes in the recent elections to the CHP and missed its target of 47 percent, it remains basically unchallenged. Apart from the CHP, there is no one else to challenge the AKP’s predominance. But why does the main opposition party lack any real chance at unseating the reigning power?

Peter Kang: North Korea’s Missile Launch—Is Obama Repeating Bush’s Failed Policy?

The legacy of policy missteps on Pyongyang is long and tortured. Behind all the disturbing failures of President Bush’s North Korea policy—including the inability to prevent North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006 and the removal of Pyongyang from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism in 2008—run two themes that President Obama would do well to avoid. Bush turned to engagement policy based on the false expectation that North Korea would eventually give up its nuclear program and weapons, when, in fact, Pyongyang was using negotiations as a deception strategy to gain time to pursue its nuclear ambitions. In the meantime, it extracted economic gains and other benefits, such as a peace treaty, to make the dictatorship more secure. Second, despite his occasional use of tough verbiage, Bush was never able to translate his words into effective action due to fear of the North’s constant threats of war. Whenever Bush tried to exert serious (non-military) pressure, Pyongyang blocked it by invoking military brinkmanship, often calling Bush’s attempt a “declaration of war.” Each time Bush retreated, Washington encouraged the North to repeat the same scare tactics. These two strategies—a diplomatic delaying game and military brinkmanship—have been the backbone of North Korea’s success in manipulating and weakening the U.S. government’s efforts. In what promises to be the first major test of the Obama administration, Pyongyang is gearing up for the test launch of a long-range rocket scheduled to go off sometime between April 4 and April 8. Although Pyongyang claims it is a communications satellite, both U.S. and South Korean intelligence sources believe it to be a disguised test launch of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile that could potentially reach Alaska, Hawaii, and the west coast of the United States. The action, if successful, would be a crucial milestone for North Korea’s military advancement and substantially raise its offensive capability, its proliferation potential, and its leverage for future dealings with adversaries. The United States is very anxious to avert this provocative action, as are South Korea and Japan. But President Obama has said very little about North Korea, in relation to the missile launch or anything else. In fact, other top officials in the administration have not been of much help either. Secretary of State Clinton initially described the North’s missile test as “unhelpful.” She later said the rocket launch would “violate the UN Security Council resolution 1718,” but failed to specify how the North will be penalized if it violates the decree. Asked what the United States might do if the missile launch takes place, she said, “I don’t want to talk about the hypothetical. We are still working to try to dissuade the North Koreans.” The Obama administration’s special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, has used equally hollow turns of phrase: “We hope North Korea refrains from the provocation of firing a missile, and...if that [launch] does happen, then obviously we'll have to...decide how to respond.” Only belatedly, in late March, after the rocket was mounted on the launch pad, did representatives of the United States, South Korea, and Japan get together to issue a warning about bringing the matter to the UN Security Council. Yet they refrained from mentioning any strong, specific penalties. Pyongyang, of course, quickly reacted by warning that a UN action to punish North Korea will be regarded as a “blatant hostile act.” Further, they warned, should Washington bring the matter to the Security Council it will cause the Six-Party Talks to break down, critically hurting the process of denuclearization. A pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan hinted that North Korea might resort to a second nuclear test in response to a UN sanction. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japanese defense departments have been talking about plans to shoot down the missile. But, when there’s still time to issue a stiff warning in order to block the missile launch, planning such an attack—however defensive in nature—is more likely to provoke and encourage North Korea to carry out the test. (Fortunately, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has backed away in recent interviews from U.S. plans to shoot down the North Korean missile.) The stakes are high: a missile launch would highlight Washington’s weakness. The Obama administration seems unwilling to exert strong pressure on Pyongyang against the launch because of its desire to continue the nuclear talks (with the lingering expectation that negotiation might succeed somehow) and perhaps also due to fear of violent reactions from the North Korean regime. These are the exactly same reasons that informed the failed policies of the Bush era. In the long run, Obama’s approach, which emphasizes more engagement with, and acceptance of, Pyongyang than the policies pursued by Bush, is likely to grant even more precious time to the North. In the end, the Obama administration may be writing the final chapter of America’s failed North Korea policy by bringing about a devastating U.S. surrender: abandoning the denuclearization effort, accepting the monstrous tyranny as a member of the world nuclear club, and opening the gateway for the North to take over the South.

Jonathan Power: Tooth Fairies and the Economic Crisis

So far, not much seems to be working when it comes to stemming our great economic and financial crisis. Could tooth fairies help? But before the fantastical, a bit of history is needed: some experts are considering a major expansion of the resources of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by a method envisaged at its founding in 1944 by the great economist John Maynard Keynes. The mechanism for doing this is to expand the issue of what the IMF calls "Special Drawing Rights" (SDRs), or what Keynes considered to be “paper gold.” This is one of the important items on the agenda at Thursday's summit of the G-20 in London. SDRs could prove to be a major contribution to curing the world's crisis of liquidity and lack of demand. Moreover, some members of the G-20 seem willing to support the revolutionary suggestion made earlier this month by Zhou Xiaochuan, the boss of China's central bank, to use SDRs as a worldwide reserve currency to replace the dollar and the euro, at present the two most important world reserve currencies, although US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggested last week that was not likely anytime soon. What do fairies have to do with it? SDR's are created almost literally at the stroke of a pen—an accounting transaction within a ledger of accounts which can then be used to bolster the financial reserves of any IMF member country. And, to sweeten the pot, the fairies don't even require a tooth. The IMF can allocate these SDRs to any of its members—especially those in desperate need—giving these countries a costless asset for which interest is neither earned nor paid. Recipient countries, with important provisos, can use these SDRs to purchase the currencies of other IMF members that are in a healthier financial state than they are. Richer countries can also use them as a form of aid to poorer countries. So far, there have been two major allocations of SDRs—one in 1970-72 and the second in 1979-81. In 1997, the board of the IMF agreed, in principle, on a much larger allocation—double the total of the two allocations before. Three-fifths of the member states, however, had to agree to this before the IMF could start using this new allocation. So far, over 130 members have signed on; the only thing holding it up is U.S. approval. Thus, with another stroke of the pen, the United States could put this allocation into effect. It would have a powerful stimulating effect, especially for those countries at the bottom of the heap.

Vladimir Kvint: It's Time for a G-25

The leaders of major countries are in agreement on the need to respond quickly and cohesively to the current global economic crisis. But while developed nations are experiencing tremendous slowdowns, emerging market countries are still expected to achieve gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates of 2.5 percent to 3 percent, on average. In this global downturn, can emerging market economies can be the locomotives of the world’s marketplace? Perhaps. But only if the global community substantially changes the current organizational structure of the global economic order to allow these new and dynamic economies to assume greater responsibilities commensurate with their greater roles. Today, there are only three major multilateral Bretton Woods institutions still in existence: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is not enough. In 1944, these organizations were created as multilateral bodies, bringing together the biggest economies of the time. But, with the birth of emerging markets, the economy is now global. New rules and practices are needed. The global marketplace needs new global ratings agencies, global crisis monitors, and monetary and financial instruments for global regulators.

Peter Wilson: Those in Glass Houses...

Peter WilsonHopes that an Obama presidency could thaw ties between the United States and Venezuela are quickly receding after President Hugo Chávez called the U.S. president an "ignoramus" this past weekend. Chávez went on the offensive Sunday, during his weekly broadcast over remarks President Barack Obama made two months ago criticizing the Venezuelan leader for supporting Colombian guerillas and being an obstacle to regional progress. The new Chávez offensive coincides with stepped up attacks against the country's opposition and fresh overtures to Moscow, including the offer of Venezuelan airfields for Russian long-range bombers. It also dents rumors of an impending thaw in ties between the two countries after Chávez's meeting last week with U.S. Congressman William Delahunt. Chávez's blunt talk may be intended to take away some of Obama's thunder at next month's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, when the two leaders will be jockeying for position and press attention. The Venezuelan head of state, who wants to be acknowledged as a regional leader, may also be smarting after Obama met Brazilian President Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva earlier this month, signaling that the new U.S. administration's principal focus in Latin America is, for now, Brazil. Chávez, who just won voter approval last month to abolish the country's presidential term limits, may also be attempting a preemptive strike as differences with Washington are bound to increase in the coming weeks. (The de facto leader of the Venezuelan opposition, Manuel Rosales, is expected to be arrested for alleged corruption within days, which will inevitably raise political tensions in the country and raise charges of political repression.) Chávez has also sought to limit the power of opposition governors, who won five states in last year's election, taking control of the three largest, as well as Caracas and Maracaibo, the two biggest cities. Now, however, the country's National Assembly, which is overwhelmingly controlled by the president's followers, has talked about creating a post of vice president to oversee the country's capital—which would in effect strip a major Chávez critic, Mayor Antonio Ledezma, of any real power. To further bind the hands of the opposition, the assembly also rewrote the country´s Decentralization Law, stripping local states of their control over ports, airports, and highways, an important source of revenue. Chávez seems to be hoping that the cut off in revenue to opposition-led states will lead to a voter revolt and the possible recall of anti-Chávez governors. Meanwhile, the president is stepping up efforts to dampen dissent as the economy falters in the face of falling revenue from oil sales. He earlier removed police, hospitals, and schools from control of regional authorities. Such steps, which have been widely criticized by the country's opposition as well as international organizations, will likely be questioned by President Obama in future international forums. Given the war of words that may ensue, Chávez may think it better to step away now from pursuing any thaw in ties, especially as the chances of success seem to be diminishing.



Nauru: A Cautionary Tale 


Vlad Sokhin documents life in Nauru, a tiny, once-wealthy Pacific island where land has been stripped bare and the hulking shells of the phosphate mining industry have been left to rust.

Those the Jasmine Revolution Forgot 


Photographer Nicholas Linn and writer Sam Kimball capture the struggles of the Tunisian underclass following the 2011 Revolution. 

Tough Love: Las Amorasas Más Bravas 


Bénédicte Desrus and Celia Gómez Ramos explore Casa Xochiquetzal, a shelter in Mexico City that allows sex workers to age with dignity.

Iran's House of Strength 


Jeremy Suyker penetrates the tight-knit community of zurkhanehs, traditional rooms for training warriors dating back to the Persian Empire, and the modern efforts to preserve this Iranian cultural heritage. 


Bolshoi Babylon 


Director Nick Read examines the dysfunction that led to an attack on Sergei Filin, artistic director of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, before Russian President Putin stepped in to restructure the Bolshoi’s leadership.



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