Archive for the ‘Political Economy’ Category

1
Oct

The Shutdown Won’t Break the U.S. Foreign Policy Machine (Right Away)

By Ty McCormick, Yochi Dreazen

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Four hundred thousand Defense Department employees, sent home. Internal watchdogs, defanged. Congressional investigations, stymied. A billion dollars a day in government contracts, stopped up.

If there’s a government shutdown on Tuesday, the United States will continue to be able to conduct its key foreign policy, national security, and intelligence missions — at least for a little while. But beyond that, well, it’s not going to be pretty.

The effects of political dysfunction in Washington are already reverberating across the globe. Markets in Europe and Asia took a hit on Monday and both the NASDAQ and Dow Jones Industrial Average fell sharply this morning when trading got underway in New York. But rattling global markets is only the first of many potential effects of the shutdown.

While government employees engaged in essential national security and intelligence-gathering activities would report to work as usual — at least in the short term — many could face considerable personal hardship because of delayed paychecks. Active-duty servicemembers might be compensated; civilians, not so much.

A government shutdown would also affect U.S. foreign policy more subtly by delaying critical foreign-policy related hearings in Congress, paring back nuclear and other critical energy programs to the bare minimum, and interfering with the State Department’s ability to police itself.

“Spies will still spy. The machinery will go on,” said a retired senior CIA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The problem is if something extra falls into the system. If guys are worried about their paychecks, they’re not concentrating on their job.”

The Department of Defense will likewise “continue to support all key military operations such as the war in Afghanistan and various other missions around the world,” Pentagon spokesman Cdr. Bill Urban told Foreign Policy. But a shutdown would “place significant hardships on a workforce already strained by recent administrative furloughs.

For the hundreds of thousands of non-essential civilian personnel employed in the U.S. foreign policy machine, it will most likely mean being furloughed. This includes roughly 400,000 employees at the Defense Department alone. Read more…

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on September 30, 2013.

30
Sep

By Robin Wright

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How 5 Countries Could Become 14

The map of the modern Middle East, a political and economic pivot in the international order, is in tatters. Syria’s ruinous war is the turning point. But the centrifugal forces of rival beliefs, tribes and ethnicities — empowered by unintended consequences of the Arab Spring — are also pulling apart a region defined by European colonial powers a century ago and defended by Arab autocrats ever since.

A different map would be a strategic game changer for just about everybody, potentially reconfiguring alliances, security challenges, trade and energy flows for much of the world, too.

Syria’s prime location and muscle make it the strategic center of the Middle East. But it is a complex country, rich in religious and ethnic variety, and therefore fragile. After independence, Syria reeled from more than a half-dozen coups between 1949 and 1970, when the Assad dynasty seized full control. Now, after 30 months of bloodletting, diversity has turned deadly, killing both people and country. Syria has crumbled into three identifiable regions, each with its own flag and security forces. A different future is taking shape: a narrow statelet along a corridor from the south through Damascus, Homs and Hama to the northern Mediterranean coast controlled by the Assads’ minority Alawite sect. In the north, a small Kurdistan, largely autonomous since mid-2012. The biggest chunk is the Sunni-dominated heartland.

Syria’s unraveling would set precedents for the region, beginning next door. Until now, Iraq resisted falling apart because of foreign pressure, regional fear of going it alone and oil wealth that bought loyalty, at least on paper. But Syria is now sucking Iraq into its maelstrom.

“The battlefields are merging,” the United Nations envoy Martin Kobler told the Security Council in July. “Iraq is the fault line between the Shia and the Sunni world and everything which happens in Syria, of course, has repercussions on the political landscape in Iraq.”

Over time, Iraq’s Sunni minority — notably in western Anbar Province, site of anti-government protests — may feel more commonality with eastern Syria’s Sunni majority. Tribal ties and smuggling span the border. Together, they could form a de facto or formal Sunnistan. Iraq’s south would effectively become Shiitestan, although separation is not likely to be that neat. Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on September 28, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appears in print on September 29, 2013, on page SR7 of the New York edition with the headline: Imagining a Remapped Middle East).

23
Sep

By Cameron Abadi

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To state the obvious: Angela Merkel, who has just won a third term as German chancellor, isn’t very macho. Her preferred free-time pursuit is recreational nature walking. (Also, baking: she admitted during the campaign season that her husband was sometimes displeased by the paucity of crumbs atop her cakes.) She hardly ever indulges in public demonstrations of authority; she speaks softly, and mostly refrains from displays of emotion, except for occasional flashes of a nervous smile. As for body language, her signature gesture is the Merkel diamond, which seems laboratory-tested to avoid appearing confrontational.

Compare that, for a moment, with the testosterone-soaked state of U.S.-Russian diplomacy, which has devolved in recent weeks into a high-profile pissing match. Vladimir Putin raided U.S.-backed NGOs, while Barack Obama chided Putin’s posture; Putin extended asylum to America’s most-wanted fugitive, as Obama canceled a bilateral Moscow summit. For a while, it seemed as if the confrontation would have to be settled with a round of one-on-one basketball or some judo sparring. Eventually, they both managed to claim credit for averting war with Syria—Putin from the op-ed page of the one newspaper that Barack Obama professes to care about.

There was something transfixing about the display of presidential one-upsmanship; even Germans seemed more drawn to the Putin-Obama show than their own election campaign. But if Putin and Obama ever do manage to stop their reciprocal bouts of preening, they’d do well to consider cribbing from Merkel’s machismo-less political methods. There’s an argument to be made that it’s Merkel who is the Machiavelli of our day—better, and certainly shrewder, at power politics than any of her peers, including her colleagues in the White House and Kremlin.

Merkel’s quiet affect shouldn’t obscure her influence. Germany has more power today than at any time since World War II. Merkel is prima inter pares in the European Union, capable of determining the shape of the bailout packages given to the continent’s ailing economies and, thus, capable of determining the shape of their national economies for years on end. Even the ostensibly independent European Central Bank seems to take its directions from the chancellory in Berlin, afraid to get too far ahead of Merkel’s plans. Read more…

Cameron Abadi is Deputy Web Editor at Foreign Affairs.

As published in www.newrepublic.com September 22, 2103.

12
Sep

Los comicios alemanes del 22 de septiembre son cruciales para el futuro de la UE

Por José Ignacio Torreblanca, Profesor Asociado de IE School of International Relations

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El problema es que, en la UE actual, las cosas son exactamente al revés o, al menos vistas desde Alemania, adoptan un cariz muy diferente. Como ponen de manifiesto las encuestas, una mayoría de alemanes rechaza cualquier tipo de mecanismo que suponga asumir o mutualizar las deudas en las que han incurrido otros países. De ahí que mientras que una gran parte de los europeos querría que las elecciones alemanas pusieran en marcha una dinámica de cambios que llevara a completar la unión monetaria con aquellos elementos de los que en la actualidad carece (eurobonos, un presupuesto propio, un mecanismo de gestión de crisis bancarias común, etc.), los alemanes parecen querer a toda costa que las elecciones no introduzcan cambios de importancia en la actual política europea de su gobierno. Como señala la encuesta recientemente realizada por el Instituto Open Europe, en Alemania no hay apetito por políticas que profundicen la integración europea sino que, al contrario, por “más Europa” se entiende “más control” sobre el resto de los países.

El curso político europeo 2013-2014 se abrirá con las elecciones generales alemanas el 22 de septiembre y se cerrará con las elecciones al Parlamento Europeo el 25 de mayo de 2014. En teoría, las primeras deberían tener una importancia secundaria y las segundas ser cruciales. Pero, paradojas de la vida política europea, la situación es más bien la contraria: las primeras son cruciales para el futuro de Europa mientras que las europeas tendrán una importancia marginal. Previsiblemente, un gran número de europeos, que desde 1979 tienen derecho a elegir a un Parlamento, por cierto, bastante poderoso, ni se molestarán en acercarse a las urnas en mayo de 2013 (recuérdese que en las últimas elecciones europeas, celebradas en junio de 2009, la participación fue del 43%). Sin embargo, conscientes la importancia que para su futuro ha adquirido Alemania, es bastante probable que, si se les diera la oportunidad, muchos europeos sí que tuvieran interés en votar en las elecciones alemanas.

Todo ello nos habla de la gigantesca disociación sobre la cual está organizada la Unión Europea: mientras que bienes, servicios, capitales y personas circulan libremente en un enorme territorio articulado en torno a una moneda común, la política sigue organizándose sobre la base de una serie de unidades nacionales sumamente fragmentadas y de muy desigual tamaño y capacidad. Esta incoherencia entre las fronteras de la política y la economía es lo que llevó al Emperador Marco Aurelio Antonino a extender la ciudadanía a todos los habitantes del Imperio Romano. El edicto de Caracalla, promulgado en el año 212, utilizaría un argumento de bastante actualidad: “es legítimo que el mayor número no sólo esté sometido a todas las cargas, sino que también este asociado a mi victoria”. Está asociación entre los impuestos y la legitimidad de un régimen político es pues una constante en la historia y ha llegado hasta nuestros días en forma de una regla de muy sencilla: uno debe votar donde contribuya con sus impuestos y financiar con sus impuestos sólo aquello sobre lo que pueda votar. Seguir leyendo…

Artículo publicado por El País el 9 de septiembre de 2013.

 

2
Aug

By  Harry Kazianis

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Over the last several months, an interesting debate has occurred concerning the future of American grand strategy. What defined such ideas during the roughly half century struggle between the USSR and the United States was the doctrine popularly known as containment. America and its allies attempted to constrain Moscow and its communist partners across economic, political and military domains. At times, tensions flared with many fearing such a stance could lead to World War III, and even a nuclear holocaust.

Today, a new bipolar competition is taking shape. While not a global chess match for influence or a new “Cold War” as some theorize,  the United States and the People’s Republic of China faceoff in a competitive contest in the Asia-Pacific and larger Indo-Pacific region. In November 2011 in a now famous long form op-ed in Foreign Policy, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out American’s strategy of a “pivot” to Asia. Chinese pundits and media have panned the pivot or now respun “rebalance” as a blatant attempt to contain China’s rise.  One Chinese professor even remarked, “The pivot is a very stupid choice… the United States has achieved nothing and only annoyed China. China can’t be contained.”

I agree — unless China makes the choice to contain itself.

Clearly Beijing has interconnected itself into the global economy and international system with enormous success. U.S. – China bilateral trade stood at a jaw-dropping US$536 billion last year. China is now the second largest economy in the world. With an expanding middle class, it is also expected to become the world’s largest energy importer. Indeed, the nature of today’s interlinked global financial system serves as the ultimate insurance policy against any U.S.-led containment strategy.

Yet, despite China’s growing economic integration, it seems leaders in Beijing have been doing a pretty good job of creating a regional environment that is wary of its intentions.  China has made a number of controversial strategic moves that have alarmed the international community. The result has been an ever increasing number of nations looking to each other as well as the United States out of fear that China’s rise could have dangerous consequences for their own national interests. Read more…

As published by The Diplomat on July 29, 2013.