Archive for ‘Foreign Policy’

The Great Game Grows

By , 12 October, 2010, 1 Comment

Post today at Foreign Exchange about the Great Game:

It’s been widely known for some time that China is engaged in a global race to acquire commodities: oil, gas, minerals, water, you name it. It’s well known that China is after these goods for a combination of reasons: too much cash on hand, a hungry growing economy that needs raw materials, and a keen awareness that controlling commodities—and their futures—is a powerful form of economic influence.  Policy wonks call this The (New) Great Game.

But experts have usually understood the Great Game in regional terms: the loot was concentrated in the Caucusus, Central Asia and the Middle East, and the major players were supposed to be China and Russia. That picture has always struck me as off base…

I go on to argue that the Great Game is increasingly global and  more diverse in the commodities it involves and to suggest how that changes U.S. policy imperatives. Go read.

Europe and the Summit

By , 29 September, 2010, No Comment

On Foreign Exchange yesterday, I posted a recap of some of my impressions of the summit, as well as from the mass of literature I took away with me. Towards the end of the post, I made the following point:

“I would add something to this: to the extent that every one of these big summits is a test case for the whole idea of global institutions and global governance, a large part of the success will depend on the success of smaller international governance bodies from the African Union to the EU to the G20 to build consensus among their members first and then project that consensus in big global negotiations. At this summit, the Europeans seemed to understand that best. The point on which they rallied–the Tobin Tax–is problematic in that the subject of the tax seems arbitrary and not intrinsically linked to what it’s designed to fund, and that the implementation is still fuzzy, but it was also one of the more interesting ideas on the table and it would be JUST sufficient to raise the capital [about $25-30 billion] needed to reach our anti-poverty targets. But leaving aside the policy, it’s notable that the proposal was supported by a host of countries who don’t always agree with one another and in remarkably consistent language. In other words, we saw a brief glimpse of what long-awaited unified European foreign policy is meant to look like.”

The whole post wasn’t about Europe, so I didn’t go further. But I want to add some more to this: it’s worth noting that several of the top bodies involved with this work (the WTO and the IMF most significantly) have European heads and that a European government had the chairmanship of the whole Summit. To the extent that there were new financial commitments this year, they came from the Europeans–both from national governments and from the European Commission, and pointedly not from other first world nations. The U.S. announced that it was going to commit, essentially to a strategic review, which is a classic diplomatic fudge. Add this to the fact that the Europeans were saying, for better or worse, the most interesting and substantive things on stage–and that a relatively low level of drama was forthcoming from the UN’s usual extreme characters–and it really did feel to me like it was Europe’s week. Which is strange, as I was one of those people predicting total diplomatic collapse after Greece. But it is also wonderful, because I was one of those people gleefully cheering the Europe project on for years before that.

For the rest of my take on the summit, and some great stats on success stories across the developing world, read the whole post.

Chat with Andris Piebalgs

By , 24 September, 2010, No Comment

My post at Foreign Exchange today is an interview with Andris Piebalgs, the European Commissioner for Development. An excerpt:

Some of your member states have expressed support for a financial transactions tax as a source of funding. What is the Commission’s view of that?

It’s very clear that official aid will need money beyond .7, and then on top of that aid we will need to raise funds for a climate change pledge. We need to start thinking as though at the end of the day somebody will count the money and if you haven’t delivered, you will be responsible for the misery in the world.

Yes, the tax is logical. Why? We tax everything else. All activities are suffering from taxation. Technically, though, it should be difficult to administer. It needs global governance, and in that, it is a test case for the G20. If they can’t do this, it is on them to propose an alternative. We could tax air tickets, say. Much simpler, but much less popular.”

I really enjoyed the whole chat, and encourage you to go read it.

Fresh Thoughts on Aid

By , 23 September, 2010, No Comment

I’ve got two posts up today on ‘out of the box’ thoughts about aid. Namely, the push for a more political/human rights approach, the push for a financial transactions tax, and the push for more reliance on public pressure and social media awareness campaigns. Me, I’m in favor of the first two. I’m also pretty seriously impressed by the two pols who made those arguments, Angela Merkel and Bernard Kouchner. Merkel for her ability to take what is actually a left-wing idea and fit it into a center-right argument. Kouchner for his astounding rhetorical gifts–I’ve never seen anyone own a press pool that way. I particular enjoyed when he told one reporter that she was asking a ‘non question.’ You can enjoy his witticisms here.

As for the third, everyone here will already know that I’m a skeptic about digital democracy. So I won’t repeat myself, just refer you to the interview.

Questions for Andrew Mitchell

By , 22 September, 2010, No Comment

Another hit from Foreign Exchange:

“Britain took the financial crisis harder than most, and the Liberal Democrat-Conservative coalition that took office in May ran on a promise to right the ship. Their solution: a dramatic austerity program that is making heavy cuts to a host of the country’s cherished public services. Opinion in Britain is pretty split about that, but recent polls show opinion is dead set against the decision to exempt overseas aid from any cuts, and, per an announcement from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg this morning, to triple aid spending on maternal and child health.

I sat down with Andrew Mitchell, Britain’s Secretary of State for Development…”

Learn what he said here, or listen to an excerpt of my chat here.

Good News from the WTO

By , 21 September, 2010, No Comment

New post over at Foreign Exchange on the WTO’s new trade stats and WTO chief Pascal Lamy’s discussion with the press. Some highlights:

“contrary to the original 9.5% stat released by the agency, international trade is going to be up 13.5% this year. That’s quite a change from the 15 point plunge global trade took last year. In fact, it’s a new record for annual trade expansion.”

“You may recall that it was not so long ago that Lamy’s agency was getting pilloried by liberal reporters and harassed by protesters on the ground that its free-trade agenda is a form of economic imperialism that lets the rich countries benefit at the expense of the poor. That critique has always been flawed, but in case the critics need more evidence, here’s the relevant stat: this year’s 13.5% increase is comprised of an 11 point expansion in the developed world and a 17 point expansion in the developing world. When trade grows, it grows MUCH faster for the poor. Moreover, Lamy notes, “a large part of this growth is south-south trade.” Rich countries can’t be ripping off the poor if it’s the poor countries who are trading with one another.”

There’s much more info, so go read the whole thing.

Blogging the UN MDG Summit

By , 20 September, 2010, No Comment

I’m covering the UN MDG summit this week, because it’s right in my wheelhouse of politics and economics. And I’m blogging it for Forbes, because I just got a blog over there. It’s called Foreign Exchange and it’s going to focus on my foreign policy/international political economy coverage. Other things–culture, domestic politics and policy, technology, media–will stay here at Cappuccino. And I will always let you know when something’s happening at Foreign Exchange that you need to be reading.

A snippet of today’s post: “One reason for the lack of agreed mechanisms is the continued schism in the international aid community over the role that markets are supposed to play in development, and the way that discussions of development often become discussions on the merits of globalization.” Go check out the rest, and stay tuned for more updates.

Some Thoughts on the Wikileaks

By , 18 August, 2010, 5 Comments

When the massive data dump that was the Wikileaks Afghan War Logs showed up on my screen three weeks ago, I did what–apparently–no one else had yet done: read the whole thing. At the time, this seemed like Journalism 101. But by the time I finished [at the end of the week], I was more bored and overwhelmed than stimulated or enlightened. Because, as others had concluded by then, there really isn’t that much that’s earth-shattering in the logs. And I’ve been pondering what to say ever since .

Read More →

What McChrystal really said

By , 22 June, 2010, 3 Comments

For several weeks, I have been working on a piece about civil-military relations, but this morning’s news about Stan McChrystal essentially preempts the story I wanted to tell.

In case you’ve missed it, McChrystal agreed to a profile for Rolling Stone, a magazine whose non-arts coverage I usually find to be shrill and unscrupulous. But Michael Hastings, the reporter, did not need stridency to slam McChrystal–the general’s own words, those of his closest aides and advisors, and even of his soldiers, did that for him. In the piece, McChrystal and co. complain about the President’s lack of military knowledge coming into office, about the ‘interfering’ role played by the State Department’s Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, about the outdated thinking of ‘clown’ National Security Advisor Jim Jones, and about the ‘betrayal’ of the military by Amb. Karl Eikenberry and Vice-President Biden, both vocal opponents of McChrystal’s proposed surge in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the American rank-and-file in Afghanistan tell Hastings the surge isn’t working.
This afternoon, a furious Obama summoned McChrystal to Washington, and the punditocracy is abuzz over whether Obama will sack him.

Read More →

China’s Pearl

By , 29 April, 2010, No Comment

My latest story is up, on Chinese investment in Balochistan, a Pakistani province that borders Afghanistan, Iran and the Persian Gulf. As others have reported, China is building up investments in Central and South Asia in a strategy it calls the “string of pearls,” in a way that contains/constrains India. My piece looks at how China goes about staking its claim and what the strategy, as applied in Pakistan, means for the United States.

“Beijing is willing to play hardball to protect its position in Balochistan. That’s a lesson learned the hard way for Tethyan Copper, a joint venture between Canada’s Barrick Gold ( ABXnews people ) and Chile’s Antofagasta. In 2006 Tethyan signed a deal to survey, and then develop, the Reko Diq reserve in Balochistan, estimated to hold $70 billion in copper and gold…

In January the Baloch government, struggling politically and looking to appease separatist hardliners, announced it would cancel Tethyan’s license and force investors to absorb a $3 billion loss. Almost immediately the U.S. intervened, putting pressure on the Pakistani central government to dissuade Quetta from doing this. U.S. diplomats believe the sanctity of the Tethyan deal is essential to its efforts to encourage Western investment in Pakistan as a counterterror tool.

For China, however, American intervention was an alarm bell…”

To find out what happened next, read the rest (and comment!) here.