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Mona Eltahawy- The Middle East's Generation Facebook

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal.

Michelle Sieff: Banquets and Battles

Since I finished my article, “Africa: Many Hills to Climb,” for World Policy Journal’s 25th anniversary issue in October, the world has changed dramatically. A financial crisis has engulfed the developed economies. The American populace elected Barack Obama as president. And, Africa (the continent, not the country!) is a part of these world historical events.   Kenya declared a national holiday in honor of the election of Barack Obama, whose father was born in rural Kenya. Obama's hybrid identity is a powerful symbol of Africa's complicated relationship with the West. America's most inspiring modern politician is but one generation from rural Kenya. This week, the African media outlet Allafrica.com had a blogger in Kisumu, in western Kenya, who reported on the outpouring of joy at Obama's election. If Kisumu sounds familiar, it should, for the city was the site of violent conflict after Kenya's disputed election last December. But, this week, Kisumu's residents were unified in their joy over Obama's election. Though Africa is intimately connected to American politics, fortunately, its growing economies have not been undermined by the financial crisis.

Charles G. Cogan: “Change” and Air-Conditioning in Afghanistan

Several new developments have taken place since I wrote my retrospective article on Afghanistan a few weeks ago, an article that has just appeared in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal. Firstly, the world financial crisis has worsened precipitously, which could impel a new American administration to break the cycle of expeditionary wars in Muslim countries in the Middle East. Secondly, both the Pakistani Army in Pakistan and the American forces from Afghanistan have become more aggressive toward the Taliban and Al Qaeda, while at the same time offers of negotiation have been extended, mainly through the intermediary of the Saudis, to those who are considered the less extremist among the Taliban. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, a new cast of characters has arrived on the scene, principally: President-elect Barack Obama; and Gen. David Petraeus, the new head of the Central Command, whose writ stretches from Egypt and the Horn of Africa to the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. Petraeus has already been to Pakistan to confer with the civilian and military leadership there. Putting more troops into Afghanistan, as Mr. Obama recommended during the election campaign, would seem to be counterintuitive to history. The more Western troops that are introduced amidst the fiercely nationalistic Pashtuns and other Afghans seems likely to generate more resentment and more resistance. Meantime, civilian casualties continue to mount, both by American Predator drone attacks into Pakistan’s tribal areas and by Allied bombings and ground attacks in Afghanistan, provoking the legendary spirit of vengeance in that part of the world. The Russian example in the twentieth century and the British example in the nineteenth century are there for all to see. Both were driven out of the country ignominiously. Afghans dislike intensely armed foreigners, especially Westerners, operating with impunity in their own country. Why turn our eyes away from this fact of history?

Ian Bremmer: Oil's Slide Ups Political Pressures

In my World Policy Journal article on the "geopolitics of oil" over the next 25 years, I wrote about the many political pressures that will add upward pressure on crude oil prices over the next several years. But we're now in the middle of a global financial crisis that has helped drop prices from a high of $147 per barrel in July to under $60 today. Does the steep price drop remove politics from oil markets? Not at all. Look to recent headlines from three of the countries that have profited mightily from the windfall oil profits of the past few years. In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the theocrats who hold real power in the country know that lower crude prices give them plenty to worry about. The International Monetary Fund has warned that when oil prices fall below $90 per barrel, Iran starts to run a budget deficit. When oil falls below $75 per barrel, it can’t afford its import bill. We got a glimpse of the jitters in Tehran in early October, when Iran's oil minister announced that a price below $100 per barrel was "unacceptable." For a government that has ordered gasoline rationing and continues to fight a losing battle against 30 percent inflation, this is a serious problem. Iran's government has increased spending by nearly 90 percent over the past three years. If that politically popular spending is to continue, where's the money going to come from if not from energy exports?

David C. Unger: The Inevitable Two-State Solution

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal.

John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed: Who Will Speak For Islam?

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal.

Richard N. Cooper: Doubling Our World's Economy

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal.

Jonathan Power: A New Day Dawns

Jonathan PowerThe election of Barack Obama is perhaps America's greatest achievement since the Declaration of Independence, and President George W. Bush, for all his missteps and misplaced conservatism, deserves a share of the credit. His decision to put two African Americans, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, in charge of America's national security was a tremendous step forward that helped pave the way for the arrival of our new president. The effect on the rest of the world of an African-American president will be stunning. No European nation (including Russia, with it’s revered part-black national poet, Pushkin) is within sight of electing a man of color as head of government, yet Europeans will be profoundly thankful that the America they began to hate these past eight years can now again be admired, even loved. Africa, needless to say, will be electrified. Asia will nod sagely, recalling that India, in modern times, has had a woman prime minister, a Muslim president, and now a Sikh prime minister. The Middle East will rejoice too. Muslims have always had less hang ups about racial equality than Western Christians. Now they will expect to see a man who understands poverty and prejudice, and who will profoundly and instinctively understand the plight of the Palestinians. Perhaps he will really put America's strength in motion to enable a two-state solution. All the continents—including South America, where blacks and indigenous peoples remain largely powerless—will sense the importance of this victory.

Nikki R. Keddie: Retrospective - Iranian Imbroglios Revisited

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal.

Theodor H. Winkler: The Shifting Face of Violence

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal.

François Heisbourg: Five Days in December

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal.

Mira Kamdar: India on Track for 2033 Predictions

Mira KamdarSomehow, I don’t feel cheered by indications in the month since I wrote my article for the 25th anniversary edition of World Policy Journal that India seems right on track to fulfill the mixed future I predicted in India: Richer, Poorer, Hotter, Armed. On the wealth front, cellular telephone company Bharti Airtel posted a net profit increase of 27 percent, Standard & Poor’s retained its bullish outlook for future economic growth, inflation snuck down under 11 percent and the stock market roared, snapped, roared and snapped again. In comparison with the continued panicked erosion of the financial markets and economies in the West, India seems poised to survive the global financial crisis not too bruised nor too battered. It will even, along with China, emerge with a new global say in the world’s financial architecture since it’s participation in a new G7 that will rise to some as yet unclear new number is now assured. On the poverty front, India’s minister of finance, Palaniappan Chidambaram swore that slowed economic growth would not result in job cuts. Indeed, Jet Airways first fired then rehired hundreds of young workers who were shocked that the mall stalking they’d just begun to get used to being able to pay for might come to a sudden end. Even at a slower 7 percent rate, he opined, jobs would still be created though not as many as quickly as at a higher rate of growth. Of course, that doesn’t include India’s still moribund agricultural sector where the vast majority of its people still eek out a living and where growth is at a near-stagnant 2.3 percent. India’s Ministry of Agriculture released its fall or Kharif harvest projections a couple of weeks ago: production has declined across the board in basic food crops and cotton, on which great hopes were placed, increased by only 0.5 percent. Saving a few hundred service jobs in the airline industry cannot come near to compensating for this disaster. After more than 60 years of independence, India is still stealing from its farmers to push for the industrialization and urban development that will make it feel like a developed country. The poor, in other words, continue to be sacrificed to the rich and the newly minted and eagerly consuming middle class.

David P. Calleo: How Europe Could Save The World

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal.

Jonathan Power: Exit Stage...Now

Jonathan PowerWhat is the exit strategy for Iraq now?” asked Leon Sigal in a prescient article in World Policy Journal back in fall 2007. He went on to tell the tale of how George Aiken, the Republican senator from Vermont, in a speech on the Senate floor in 1966, said the way to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam was to “declare victory and get out.” Having declared victory in 2004 and not got out, it is too late for President George W. Bush or his successors to do that now. But Aiken had a riposte for that contingency too. A few years later, when it was impossible to declare victory, he was asked how to get out of Vietnam. “In ships,” he replied. Both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are moving towards the only solution that will work—leaving. In Iraq, surely this is what Barack Obama, if he becomes president, must do, despite all the heavy advice trying to persuade him to drag it out…until a miracle happens wherein the killing stops, the legal system functions, and “democracy” works. But the killing in this very disturbed society will go on for decades. Washington’s tallies of the Iraqi death toll, supposedly sharply falling, do not even count non-sectarian killings. Nor do they account for the rate of kidnapping, rape, and pillage. The U.S. authorities live in a cloud of self-deception. In Afghanistan, we had recently the senior commander of the British military presence in Afghanistan telling a newspaper that the war could not be won—and which army on earth could keep up its morale and fighting edge when the boss says that? “I will not lay down my life if we’re just going to pull out,” is the natural reaction of a serving soldier in these circumstances. Every commander of the various national forces in Afghanistan, if not yet the rank and file, must know by now what the British ambassador has told London's Foreign Office (thanks to a leak in Paris): that the war is not winnable, that peace must be made with the Taliban, and the West should accept that some dictator (hopefully a reasonable one) will come to power. Democracy as we know it does not stand a chance of coming into being, he argued.

Our World In 25 Years

The following article appears in the 25th anniversary issue of World Policy Journal.

Shaun Randol: Nukes in the Himalayas

The past two months have seen some interesting developments in Sino-Indian relations. Immediately after India’s official entrance into the group of nuclear states sent shudders through the nonproliferation community worldwide, the latest round of discussions between the Asian giants came and went with little fanfare. Taken together, these developments further confound rather than illuminate understanding of the lurching relationship between the world’s two most populous states. Earlier this month, the U.S. Congress approved a deal that allows American companies (like General Electric and Westinghouse) to sell India atomic fuel and nuclear technology. A month before Congress made the deal official, member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) had waived the usual restrictions to entry into the elite club, warmly welcoming India as the newest nation to openly possess nuclear weapons; this despite the fact that India is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The move landed with a whimper in the U.S. media, but has made a huge splash in Indian news, where the event was largely celebrated as something of a coming out party—India, no longer the shy debutante. Others took notice too: companies in Canada, France, and Russia are salivating at the opportunity to sell nuclear-related material to India, a country once denied such privileges. Many in the NPT crowd are worried about the implications of this NSG deal. Adam B. Kushner of Newsweek warns that the NSG agreement may spark a nuclear arms race with the likes of Pakistan and Iran. Likewise, Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association says the move blows “a huge loophole in the global non-proliferation system that’s going to make it harder to persuade the Irans and the North Koreas—an already difficult task—to abide by their obligations; and it’s going to make it more difficult to strengthen this global non-proliferation effort which is already fraying at the seams.” But both analysts largely overlook the serious implications with regard to China.

Jonathan Power: North Korea—The Long Way Around

Jonathan PowerOne small step forward by North Korea and the United States; one large step for mankind. The political fight to persuade North Korea to halt its nuclear bomb making activities seems at last, in the dying days of the Bush presidency, to be entering a serious phase. Washington has finally bowed to the North Korean request to remove it from the U.S. list of sponsors of terrorism—which will enable the renegade state to become eligible for international loans and sundry other economic benefits—in return for Pyongyang agreeing to re-allow inspections to verify a North Korean promise to freeze its nuclear activities, as it undertook last year and then withdrew from. After nine years of erratic U.S. policies—met by equally erratic and bellicose North Korean ones—the negotiations have ended up almost where they started following the highly fruitful diplomacy of the Clinton administration that transformed Pyongyang from total intransigence to a willing and helpful negotiating partner. Indeed, by some counts, this was the Clinton administration's only substantial and productive foreign policy success. (That said, a Republican majority in Congress during the Clinton years torpedoed commitments made by his administration, diluting the real benefits.) During the Bush administration, North Korea has tripled the amount of nuclear weapons' material it has in store. Worse, it has exploded a nuclear bomb and probably has enough material to produce half a dozen more. This must count as one of President George W. Bush's worst foreign policy feats. A record of commitments made in tense but productive negotiations were not honored. Bush called the regime “evil” and then offered aid. It refused to negotiate over financial issues (notably money laundering by Banco Delta Asia) then returned the funds it had impounded.

Gary Wright: Europe to the Rescue?

Gary WrightThe global financial crisis has now hit Europe square in the face and, all of a sudden, this nascent continental superpower appears to have a chin far weaker than most thought. The European Union was designed to create a strong trading zone of countries able to maximize each member’s industries, for mutual gains, in a global marketplace. Key to gaining cross-border industrial benefits was to fashion a financial harmonization that would eventually be crafted into a single market. Fundamental to achieving this end was the formation of the Euro as the single currency, removing foreign exchange risks and making it easier for companies to grow across borders and produce a more flexible migration of workers. (The Euro was introduced across the European Union with the UK and Switzerland the biggest abstainers, mainly due to domestic concerns over independence.) The EU’s political objective is now established as well—although it is very much work in progress. A complete harmonization of the European plan would impact businesses, cultures, and the way of life of everyone within the EU. If successful, the EU would be very well placed to compete on a global scale with other growing regions and probably would attract significantly more international business. However, the current financial crisis is putting an enormous strain on each member state. The collective established within the European Union appears to be faltering under the strain of an unprecedented global financial crisis. We have seen the Irish go their own way to protect the customers of Irish banks, with similar situations occurring in Greece and Denmark. Heavyweight German economic regulators considered similar measures, but changed tack at the last minute, probably because of pressure from the UK and France. When the chips are down, it’s natural for countries to protect their residents, but this flies in the face of unity. The European Central Bank (ECB) has proved powerless in this crisis. Each central bank in each state is taking its own unilateral action, leaving the ECB almost redundant. However, the worldwide reduction of interest rates agreed and acted upon recently shows how a coordinated focus can bring immediate benefits. Further actions of this type will eventually bring stability and allow the markets to settle at a new (albeit lower) level. It’s worth making the point that there is a big difference between market volatility and the fundamental stability of global economies. Markets move by speculation and risk, while economies are slower to react and move more in line with inflationary forces and fiscal policies imposed by governments. For this reason, the billions of dollars that governments are pouring into supporting banks have little to do with the overall strength of markets, as the prices of shares in the banking sector may rise or fall with little linkage to the performance of other sectors as investors switch from one to the other. Governments must be cautious about pouring money into the markets as such actions can seem like casino bosses underwriting the losses of their biggest players. The players will simply continue to play harder betting more.

Rush McCloy: Letter from Afghanistan

Rush McCloy is Lieutenant in the Navy who has been serving in Afghanistan since January 2008.

Ian Williams: Bacardi’s Muddled Fight for “Cuba Libre”

Ian WilliamsThe Bacardi family elicits strong feelings across the world. Its propensity for mythmaking, its aggressive commercial competitiveness, its long history of lobbying in Washington, its family obsession with Cuba, and its understandable grudge against Fidel Castro’s regime are all guaranteed to produce friction. Tom Gjelten has had unprecedented cooperation from both the family and from Cuban officials in writing his book, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: the Biography of a Cause (Viking , 2008). Neither Castro supporters nor the Bacardi family have exactly trumpeted the financial, political, and logistical backing given by the family to Castro and the rebels. Both sides obviously regret the episode. Ironically, however, now that Raul Castro has succeeded his older brother, both sides are linked to the family business, since Raul married the daughter of a Bacardi executive family in a lavish Bacardi-hosted ceremony attended by Fidel, the original big brother. Gjelten leaves nothing unrecorded in his objective, warts and all, history of an unusual company, illustrating Cuban history without the canonizations by leftist apologists for Fidel and the demonizations by conservative Cuban exiles and their friends. He correctly questions some of the company’s mythmaking by copywriters, for example the “Cuba Libre” (rum and Coke), whose Bacardi origins were later dubiously certified by the Bacardi sales manager in New York. However, he is a little too accepting of the family tale, and indeed the Cuban view, of its innovation in rum-making. In fact, for centuries, the Spanish colonies were forbidden from making rum—not, as Gjelten suggests, to protect public morals, but to protect the brandy industry back home. What Bacardi did was replicate the processes long used by the Jamaicans and other Anglo-Caribbeans, who had long before discovered how important aging in oak barrels was to make the product smooth and palatable. Bacardi made a lighter version of rum, filtered to take out much of the color and, in the opinion of many rum connoisseurs, much of the taste as well. But as part of its innovative marketing, the family was strong on quality control, ensuring that the brand, even if bland, was consistent.

Shaun Randol: China’s Chechnya (part 2 of 2)

Shaun Randol When confronting the situation in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XAR), are there lessons Beijing can draw from similar events? China’s neighboring power, Russia, for one, has experience with Muslim separatists. Chechnya, a federal subject in southwest Russia, has fought two wars against the big Bear in search of independence. The first (1994–96) ended with a cease-fire and upwards of 100,000 dead. The second war, begun in 1999, continues to simmer. The two contests have many parallels: For one, superpower geopolitics is involved on both ends, as Russia and China seek to maintain and assert control over their immediate spheres of influence. Both Chechens and Uighurs seek independence, are dominant ethnic minorities in their homeland, subscribe to the Islamic faith, and speak their own languages. Despite sporadic fighting, Russia continues to pour money into Chechnya, and in Xinjiang, China is investing tens of billions of Yuan as violence bubbles to the surface. Oil is a major factor in both regions too: critical infrastructure runs through Chechnya, while Xinjiang, naturally oil-rich, feeds a 4,200 km pipeline to Shanghai. In Chechnya, Russia has successfully installed a pro-Moscow regime, while in XAR Beijing has a friend in appointed Party Secretary Wang Lequan. Lastly, Chechnya and Xinjiang border states less-friendly to their respective capitals. Below Chechnya lies the pro-American (now humbled) Georgia, while just south of Xinjiang Tibet seethes with resentment toward Beijing.

Shaun Randol: China’s Chechnya (part 1 of 2)

Things are heating up in China’s westernmost province. In response to a number of violent incidents in Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XAR), Beijing has ratcheted up its security presence. Tit-for-tat clashes between pro-independence groups and police forces threaten stability and may portend a vicious cycle of killings. Ninety-two percent of China’s population is ethnic Han; the remaining 8 percent is constituted by a mix of 55 officially recognized minority groups, including the increasingly vociferous Uighurs in Xinjiang and Tibetans. Yunnan Province, home to at least 26 different minority populations, lies south of Tibet in China’s far southwest, a cool 1300 miles away (as the crow flies) from Beijing. Most unrest affiliated with minority populations occurs outside of Beijing’s immediate geographical area, making suppression burdensome for the central government; still, Beijing maintains tight control over the media and internet ensuring that uprisings and subsequent crackdowns in these relatively sparsely populated regions remain largely invisible to most outsiders. Currently Beijing has control over separatist (or as officials prefer, “splittist”) movements in Tibet and Xinjiang, but for how long?

Jonathan Power: Downhill in Afghanistan

How far is downhill? Well, that's like asking how long is a piece of string. But whatever the answer, the American/NATO military effort in Afghanistan, triggered by 9/11, seems to have all the marks of a quick descent. In Barack Obama's phrase, American public opinion doesn't get it. How could they when Obama himself, supposedly a fresh eye on the international scene, bangs the drum for more troops and yet more force? Does European and Canadian opinion get it? Apart from the Canadians, who have had the good sense and the foresight to give a date for the withdrawal of their troops, public opinion appears to be asleep at the switch. Our Afghanistan policy, made within hours of the atrocity of 9/11, seems still to be to try to bomb the country to cinders, irrespective of the number of civilian casualties. How is it possible that Americans have yet not learned the lesson of Dresden, that wild and merciless bombing rather than leading to capitulation merely reinforces local opinion against the aggressor. And troops on the ground have continued to alienate local opinion with their seeming inability to differentiate between fighters and civilians. The war is being lost as the Taliban, whether actively defending Al Qaeda or just fighting for their own piece of ground, gain the upper hand, improving their strength and their military skills by the month. The poppy growers watch their profits soar, with plenty of coin going to Taliban coffers, because the West is unable to face honestly the one policy that might work—legalization of the drug trade, as the former minister of finance of Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz, suggested in Prospect magazine. (He argued for a controlled experiment in one province.) President Bush, the American military, and now Obama seem to think the only way out is to take their failed tactics into Pakistan, despite the opposition of the government in Islamabad and its powerful military chiefs. (So much for territorial integrity, the war cry of NATO for Georgia.)
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