Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

8
Apr

By Daniel W. Drezner

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Margaret Thatcher has passed away. I could try to talk about Thatcher’s place as a world historical figure, but let’s face it, there’s going to be an orgy of columns on that very point over the next week or so — anything I write on the topic would be second rate at best. I could write about my own memories of living in London during the late Thatcher era, but to be honest, that’s not terribly interesting — it’s a tale of fading political popularity and really strident left-wing art. 

So, instead, consider the following two ways in which Thatcher has left a legacy in international relations theory:  

1) Diversionary war. There’s a large literature in international relations on the notion of using war against a foreign adversary as a way to distract domestic opposition and/or bolster domestic support for a leader (see Chiozza and Goemans for the latest iteration of this literature). It’s a little-known fact, but International Studies Association rules prohibit any paper on this topic from being published without a Thatcher reference.  

I kid, but only barely. The Falklands War represents the paradigmatic case of diversionary war theory for two reasons. First, almost every analysis of the conflicts attributes the Argentine junta’s growing domestic unpopularity as a key cause of their decision to launch the conflict (though, of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that). Second and more importantly, absent the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher would be remembered as a failed one-term prime minister. Victory over the Argentines in the South Atlantic enabled Thatcher to win re-election.  

In truth, it’s far from clear that diversionary war is all that common a practice (if it was, we’d be drowning in conflicts since 2008). The Falklands War, however, does provide the paradigmatic case.

2) The spread of ideas. It’s fitting that the New York Times ran a story over the weekend about the boomlet in history about studying the growth of capitalism. Thatcher’s role in advancing the spread of free-market ideas to other policymakers was crucial. To explain why free-market capitalism became the pre-eminent idea in economic policymaking over the past few decades, you have to look at Thatcher. She preceded Reagan, becoming the first leader in the developed world to try to change her country’s variety of capitalism. Even after Reagan came to power, one could persuasively argue that Thatcher mattered more. As some international political economy scholars have noted, ideas and policies spread much faster when “supporter states” embrace them vigorously rather than reluctantly. Thatcher embraced capitalism with a near-religious fervor, acting as a vanguard for the rest of Europe on this front. For more on the role that Thatcher and her advisors played, see Yergin and Stanislaw’s The Commanding Heights, or Jeffry Frieden’s Global Capitalism. Read more…

Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on April 8, 2013.

14
Mar

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The surprise selection on Wednesday of an Argentine, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as the new pope shifted the gravity of the Roman Catholic Church from Europe to Latin America in one fell swoop, and served as an emphatic salute to the growing power of Latinos across the Americas.

The new pope took the name Francis and is the 266th pontiff of the church. He is the first pope from Latin America, and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the church.

“I would like to thank you for your embrace,” the new pope, dressed in white, said in Italian from the balcony on St. Peter’s Basilica as thousands cheered joyously below. “My brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am.”

The selection electrified Latinos from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, and raised the hopes especially of those in Latin America, where 4 of every 10 of the world’s Catholics now live.

But the choice also may provide a strategic boost to the church in the United States, where its following would have lost ground in recent decades were it not for the influx of Latino immigrants, who have increasingly asserted themselves as a cultural and political force, and played a critical role in President Obama’s re-election.

The significance of the choice was not lost on church leaders. “It’s been more than 500 years since the first evangelization, and this is the first time that there is a pope from Latin America,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, who is originally from Mexico.

“It’s a huge role that we never had before,” he said.

The new pope, known for his simple, pastoral ways and his connection to the poor, is in some ways a contrast to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, an aloof theologian who resigned the office — the first pope to do so in 598 years — saying he no longer felt up to the rigors of the job. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on March 13, 2013 (a version of this article appeared in print on March 14, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: New Pope Shifts Church’s Center of Gravity Away From Europe).

7
Mar
22
Feb

By Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, alumnus of the Master in International Relations (MIR)Diego-SDLC2013.jpg(1)

A great deal of Spain’s current problems with public deficits were originated between 2007 and 2009. As the real estate bubble burst, the public sector went from a surplus of 1,91% of GDP to a deficit of 11,19% of GDP. Such budget breakdown equals to 13,1% of GDP.

The following chart shows this situation more clearly:

Chart 1

In 2009, Spain’s GDP amounted to slightly more than one trillion euros, which means that each percentage point equals to an increase in the budget deficit of around 10 billion. By then, public spending was higher than 46% of GDP, which means that the public sector was managing over 480 billion euros. If we compare the deficit with public expenditures instead of doing it with GDP, we find a gap of almost 30%.

Revenue data also shows how the end of the real estate bubble contributed to this scenario. Between 2007 and 2008, tax receipts fell from 41,1% to 36,7% of GDP. This drop of 4.4% is unmatched in any other developed countries, as seen in the following chart.

Chart 2

Falling state revenues amounted to 6,38% of GDP in just two years. However, during the same period, public spending rose by 6,7% of GDP. This means that half of the deficit can be blamed due to lower revenues while the other half is explained by additional public spending.

Nine of the thirteen points of the budget breakdown can be explained due to automatic adjustments in the spending associated with welfare programs. For instance, when unemployment goes up, so do unemployment benefits. However, 4,1 percentage points in this budget breakdown of 13,1% can be tracked back to higher spending that was non-related to already established government programs.

What does this mean? That final deficit number for 2009 could have been of 7,1%, which is almost 40% less than the 11,19% that was actually registered. In that scenario, an eight per cent cut in government spending would have been enough to lower public deficit figures below the 3% mark, which would be in compliance with Eurozone targets.

Diego Sánchez de la Cruz is an analyst at Libertad Digital. His work on international economics has been published in different media outlets.

29
Jan

By Anne Applebaum

French army troopers arrive at the base camp in Sevare on Friday.

“A decade of war is now ending,” U.S. President Barack Obama declared Monday. Maybe that’s true in America, but it isn’t true anywhere else. Extremists are still plotting acts of terror. Authoritarian and autocratic regimes are still using violence to preserve their power. The United States can step back from international conflicts, but that won’t make them disappear.

Fortunately, there is another power that shares America’s economic and political values, that possesses sophisticated military technology and is also very interested in stopping the progress of fanatical movements, especially in North Africa and the Middle East. That power is Europe.

Don’t laugh! I realize that even a year ago, that statement would have seemed absurd. I certainly couldn’t have written it in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 Libya operation, during which France, Britain and a dozen other nations were barely able to sustain a brief war, involving no ground troops, against a poorly armed and unpopular regime. Unverified reports at the time alleged that the French ran out of bombs and were dropping lumps of concrete. Be that as it may, without the intelligence and coordination provided by American warships and airplanes and the CIA, the French planes wouldn’t even have known where to drop them.

Yet here we are in 2013, watching the French air force and troops come to the aid of the formerly democratic government of Mali, which is fighting for its life against a fanatical Islamist insurgency. Furthermore, this French intervention has (so far) broad national support. Although there have been public criticisms of the operation’s logistics, preparation and ultimate goals, almost no one in France questions the need for intervention. Hardly anyone is even asking “Why France?”

The French have a special, post-colonial sentiment for francophone Africa (and, according to a French friend, for Malian music) and have intervened in the continent militarily more than 40 times since 1960. But the context of this intervention is different from many previous ones. The aim is not (or not entirely) to prop up a pro-French puppet regime, but to block the progress of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the brutal organization that fuels the Malian insurgency and took hostages at an Algerian gas complex last week. Read more…

Anne Applebaum is a Washington Post and Slate columnist. Her most recent book is Gulag: A History.

As published by nationalpost.com on January 28, 2013.

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