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Jonathan Power: Absolutely Nothing in the News

The serious newspapers I read used to take me an hour to get through. These days it is fifteen minutes. Nothing much is happening, at least in foreign affairs. Iraq has all but disappeared from the front page. Afghanistan and Pakistan still remain; but even so, investors continue to up their investments in Pakistan, presumably judging that the conflict is over-hyped. The argument with Iran over whether it is building nuclear weapons drags on, despite the forgotten report of the CIA two years ago that found that it probably was not. (Not to mention that the West and Russia look a bit silly when they turn a blind eye to Brazil for doing exactly the same as Iran.) More recently there's Iran’s suggestion that it might ship some of its used uranium to Russia to be converted into fuel to provide medical isotopes, or else to import from Europe enriched uranium instead of manufacturing its own. So this conflict should now be relatively easy to wrap up. What else is there? Georgia is out of the picture; Chechnya was long ago. The Russians and the Americans sweet talk each other. Now that Washington has decided to abandon its ill-judged anti-missile system in Eastern Europe, the Russians have switched off their angst and are happily agreeing to the first major nuclear arms cuts in nearly a decade. China is now part of the “system.” The priorities are economic growth, dealing with financial imbalances, and, unfortunately, keeping the lid on dissent at home. It has made peaceful settlements of its border disputes with Laos, Russia, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and is working on its age old dispute of border demarcation with India. Its bitter clash with Taiwan, which commentators once called the most explosive issue on the map, is now quiescent. Japan and China are finally getting on fine. Add to this that India’s reflexive anti-Americanism is dead and buried—thanks to President George W. Bush’s decision to lift the embargo on nuclear materials. North Korea is isolated, even from its old mentor China. Who on earth is it going to use its two or three nuclear weapons against?

Clinton Summit: Obama Thanks You for Your "Stick-To-It-Ness"

By Ruthie Ackerman, World Policy Journal Star Spotter: Goldie Hawn, Demi Moore, Jesse Jackson, Julia Ormond, Ben Stiller. When President Bill Clinton asked President Barack Obama to pass the Parmesan recently at a restaurant, Obama did not know his next question would be, “Will you come speak at my meeting?” Not only did Obama agree to kick off Clinton’s star-studded annual meeting, the Clinton Global Initiative, but he did so after giving a speech on climate policy at the United Nations on the same stage as Chinese president Hu Jintao. Obama is facing increasing pressure to pass mandatory curbs on greenhouse gases and to get healthcare reform legislation passed, two issues that threaten to overshadow his first year in office. In fact, talk of the health care reform debacle in Congress took center stage over other issues at the Clinton Global Initiative and put a damper on the mood compared to past years. Clinton looked wounded, tired—not his usual charming self. After Obama got stuck in traffic, Clinton was left with an extra three-minutes of stage time, which he used to bash Congress for their views on health care reform. Obama, on the other hand, didn’t let out a peep about healthcare, instead bounding on stage for his first public appearance with Clinton, with an important message: “You don’t have to hold a public office to be a public servant.” He then added, “That’s the beauty of service—anyone can do it and everyone should try.”

Charles Cogan: The End of "Solutions of Facility"?

One of the meanings of “facility” in English is now rare: “a tendency to be easygoing, yielding, etc.” But in French, "facilité" is very much a live word. “Solutions of facility,” which Charles de Gaulle inveterately decried, means taking the easy way out. This the United States has done with regard to the Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” for the last 40-plus years, indeed since the Six Day War of 1967. Bland statements to the effect that the international community does not recognize the annexation of Arab East Jerusalem, or flaccid pronouncements that the building of settlements in the Arab West Bank are “unhelpful” for the peace process, have essentially been all that Washington has been able to muster by way of reining in its Middle East ally. Is this now changing? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has remained—so far—very much on Barack Obama’s playbook, has described the president’s position in categorical terms: “He wants to see a stop to settlements—not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions. That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though he has now accepted—grudgingly and with caveats—a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, nevertheless cannot accept ruling out “natural growth” in settlements. After all, babies are babies! They keep coming!

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