Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category


By Blake Hounshell

Christopher Stevens, left, with the former head of the Transitional National Council of Libya Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, in Tripoli in June. Source:

As I write, Al Jazeera is reporting that Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, was killed amid an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi along with three others. Video and screen captures, supposedly of his body, are circulating on Twitter. Libya’s nascent government has roundly condemned the assault, and the Libyan army engaged in fierce clashes with an Islamist militia late into the night. According to Al Jazeera, the bodies were flown out of the country. (The State Department last night confirmed a death in Benghazi, but did not mention Stevens.)

This is, obviously, a terrible tragedy and a shocking turn of events on a day when Americans mourned those killed 11 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001. Stevens was by all accounts a popular diplomat, having established the U.S. presence in Benghazi during the war and been an avid supporter of the opposition. Here’s a video introducing him to Libyans.

What makes the deaths all the more tragic is that they will inevitably become politicized. On Tuesday, conservative websites were highly critical of a statement by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that came ahead of a protest where demonstrators breached the embassy’s walls in a moment reminiscent of 1979 in Iran. Liz Cheney and the Republican-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee joined in, accusing the administration of issuing an “apology” for a bizarre and mysterious film attacking the Prophet Mohammed that served as a pretext for the protests. And the Romney campaign issued its own statement. Wednesday will likely bring more finger-pointing.

For me, the embassy assaults are a sobering reminder not only of the deep anger and dysfunction that plagues the broader Middle East, but of the enormous difficulty the United States has in dealing with this part of the world. The level of distrust and fury toward America is not the sort of thing you heal with a speech or two. And to make matters worse, there will always be groups that exploit things that have no connection whatsoever to U.S. government policy, like this anti-Islamic film. Read more…

Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees

As published in on September 12, 2012.




Forty years ago this week at the Munich Olympics of 1972, Palestinian terrorists conducted one of the most dramatic terrorist attacks of the 20th century. The kidnapping and massacre of 11 Israeli athletes attracted days of around-the-clock global news coverage of Black September’s anti-Israel message. Three decades later, on 9/11, Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 individuals at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, announcing a new era of megaterror. In an act that killed more people than Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, a band of terrorists headquartered in ungoverned Afghanistan demonstrated that individuals and small groups can kill on a scale previously the exclusive preserve of states.

Today, how many people can a small group of terrorists kill in a single blow? Had Bruce Ivins, the U.S. government microbiologist responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks, distributed his deadly agent with sprayers he could have purchased off the shelf, tens of thousands of Americans would have died. Had the 2001 “Dragonfire” report that Al Qaeda had a small nuclear weapon (from the former Soviet arsenal) in New York City proved correct, and not a false alarm, detonation of that bomb in Times Square could have incinerated a half million Americans.

In this electoral season, President Obama is claiming credit, rightly, for actions he and U.S. Special Forces took in killing Osama bin Laden. Similarly, at last week’s Republican convention in Tampa, Jeb Bush praised his brother for making the United States safer after 9/11. There can be no doubt that the thousands of actions taken at federal, state and local levels have made people safer from terrorist attacks.

Many are therefore attracted to the chorus of officials and experts claiming that the “strategic defeat” of Al Qaeda means the end of this chapter of history. But we should remember a deeper and more profound truth. While applauding actions that have made us safer from future terrorist attacks, we must recognize that they have not reversed an inescapable reality: The relentless advance of science and technology is making it possible for smaller and smaller groups to kill larger and larger numbers of people. Read more…

Graham Allison is director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

As published in on September 7, 2012 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on September 8, 2012, in The International Herald Tribune).


What is fundamentally transforming work is extraordinary connectivity.

by Lynda Gratton

Little big planet: As a result of connectivity and globalisation millions of jobs across the world are disappearing, according to Lynda Gratton

In the near future, at least five billion people around the world will use some form of mobile device to download information, access knowledge and coach and teach each other.

Some will have the intellectual capacity and motivation to really make something of this opportunity, wherever they happen to be born. These people will want to join the global talent pool and, if possible, migrate to creative and vibrant cities.

By doing so, this vast crowd of talented people will increasingly compete with each other, continuously upping the stakes for what it takes to succeed.

It seems to me that this will impact all of us in three ways – the hollowing out of work, the globalisation of virtual work, and the rise of the ‘transnational’.

Hollowing out of work

As a result of connectivity and globalisation millions of jobs across the world are disappearing.

This hollowing out of work is seeing the disappearance of middle-wage, middle-skilled jobs such as managers, secretaries, or assembly line workers. These jobs are at risk because they can either be outsourced to a region with lower wages, or they can be replaced by technology.

So what is left is the jobs at each end of the skill and wage spectrum.

At one end there are high-skill, high-wage jobs – like investment bankers, lawyers, engineers, or IT specialists – which need complex knowledge and expertise and cannot (yet) be substituted by technology.

You can expect these jobs to be paid increasingly well. Read more…

Lynda Gratton is Professor of Management Practice and director of the Future of Work Consortium. Her last book – about the future of work - was ‘The Shift’

As published in on September 6, 2012.


President Obama’s dilemma has always been that he has been far more successful a president than his opponents claim, but far less successful than he needs to be at making voters see that. Powerful speeches by former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and others did a lot to fix that impression during the convention. But it was up to Mr. Obama to make the case for another term, with a speech that was every bit as fraught with uncertainty and risk as his 2008 convention address.

Just as he did then, Mr. Obama rose to the occasion.

He could have sold some of his best lines with more passion, but gone was the maddening coyness of recent years in which he has avoided candidly talking about the mess that President George W. Bush dumped into his lap and shied away from the rumble of politics. He didn’t hesitate to go after Mitt Romney. “You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally,” he said.

And he clearly laid out a vision for governing squarely at odds with the one that Mr. Romney has, but was hidden from view at last week’s Republican convention in Tampa, Fla. He promised deficit reduction “without sticking it to the middle class”; to enact a reformed tax code that raises rates on income above $250,000 to where it was under Mr. Clinton; to preserve middle-class deductions; to “never turn Medicare into a voucher.”

Mr. Obama explicitly shifted from his 2008 appeal of hope and change to talk of tough choices and tough paths. “You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear,” he said. “You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”

Mr. Obama went into this convention with an actual record at governing — not just the Republican posture of saying “No” to everything. He has far better ideas about how to create jobs, make Americans’ tax burdens more equitable and improve ordinary Americans’ economic prospects than the tired, failed trickle-down fantasies served up by Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. Read more…

As published in on September 6, 2012 (a version of this editorial appeared in print on September 7, 2012, on page A30 of the New York edition with the headline: President Obama’s Second Chance).


By Harold James

For the last century, economic-policy debate has been locked in orbit around the respective roles and virtues of the state and the market. Does the market control the state, in the sense that it sets a limit on governments’ ability to borrow? Or does the state take charge when the market fails to perform socially necessary functions – such as fighting wars or maintaining full employment?

This old debate is at the core of today’s profound divisions over how Europe should respond to its debt crisis. The same question is dividing American politics in the lead-up to November’s presidential and congressional elections.

During the two decades prior to the financial crisis, most people – including most politicians – assumed that the market was supreme. Now the intellectual pendulum may be swinging back to the belief that state action can mop up markets’ messes – just as veneration of the state in the 1930’s followed market worship in the 1920’s.

Two decades ago, judicious European politicians looked for a “third way,” steering a zigzag course between the importance of market mechanisms and that of other social priorities, according to which the market needed to be directed. For example, when the Delors Committee prepared its report in 1988-1989 on how a monetary union could be established in Europe, experts devoted considerable attention to the issue of whether market pressure would suffice to discipline states. Many warned that it would not – that bond yields might converge at the outset, permitting spendthrift countries to borrow more cheaply than they otherwise could.

The result of the debates of the early 1990’s was a set of rough and ready rules on deficits and debt levels that was never taken quite seriously. Economists mocked them and Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission at the time, called them “stupid.”

Until the second half of 2008, Europe seemed to have reached fiscal Paradise: the market did not differentiate between eurozone governments’ bonds. Some assumed an implicit debt guarantee, but that was always implausible, given that the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union explicitly ruled it out. Rather, investors’ undivided confidence in all eurozone borrowers reflected something else – a general belief in the capacity of rich countries’ governments. Read more…

Harold James is Professor of History and International Affairs at Princeton University and Professor of History at the European Institute in Florence.

As published in on September 5, 2012.

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