By Zbigniew Brzezinski

Today, many fear that the emerging American-Chinese duopoly must inevitably lead to conflict. But I do not believe that wars for global domination are a serious prospect in what is now the Post-Hegemonic Age.

Admittedly, the historical record is dismal. Since the onset of global politics 200 years ago, four long wars (including the Cold War) were fought over the domination of Europe, each of which could have resulted in global hegemony by a sole superpower.

Yet several developments over recent years have changed the equation. Nuclear weapons make hegemonic wars too destructive, and thus victory meaningless. One-sided national economic triumphs cannot be achieved in the increasingly interwoven global economy without precipitating calamitous consequences for everyone. Further, the populations of the world have awakened politically and are not so easily subdued, even by the most powerful. Last but not least, neither the United States nor China is driven by hostile ideologies.

Moreover, despite our very different political systems, both our societies are, in different ways, open. That, too, offsets pressure from within each respective society toward animus and hostility. More than 100,000 Chinese are students at American universities, and thousands of young Americans study and work in China or participate in special study or travel programs. Unlike in the former Soviet Union, millions of Chinese regularly travel abroad. And millions of young Chinese are in daily touch with the world through the Internet.

All this contrasts greatly with the societal self-isolation of the 19th- and 20th-century contestants for global power, which intensified grievances, escalated hostility and made it easier to demonize the one another.

Nonetheless, we cannot entirely ignore the fact that the hopeful expectation in recent years of an amicable American-Chinese relationship has lately been tested by ever more antagonistic polemics, especially in the mass media of both sides. This has been fueled in part by speculation about America’s allegedly inevitable decline and about China’s relentless, rapid rise. Read more…

Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter. His most recent book is “Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power.

As published in www.nytimes.com on February 13, 2013.


By Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, Alumnus of the Master in International Relations (MIR)

Over the last years, a lot has been said about the Argentinian economy and it’s performance. Economists like Paul Krugman were fairly optimistic about the Latin American country’s future, while other international observers saw some things differently.

As time has gone by, the performance of the Argentinian economy has slowed down significantly and the enthusiasm about the “Kirchner Model” is now almost gone. Many of the more serious concerns doubts about it’s future began when The Economist announced that it would stop publishing official inflation data from Argentina, arguing that such figures were experiencing major political manipulation.

If we take a look at the official numbers, prices increase in Argentina at an annual pace of 11 per cent, a much higher rate than most other Latin American countries. However, according to independent studies, Argentina’s real inflation rate is said to be around 25 per cent – and rising!

The government does not seem concerned about this trend: many times, President Cristina Férnandez de Kirchner has rejected the need to “cool down the economy.” According to the Argentinian President, trying to contain inflation “only leads to poverty and unemployment, as we have seen for decades.

At the moment, the amount of 100 pesos notes in circulation is more than half of the total monetary base. In fact, analyzing the Argentinian Central Bank report for 2011, we see that the number of circulating 100 pesos notes has tripled over the last five years. Bloomberg has reported that the money supply grew at a rate of almost 40% in 2011, following years of 30% growth levels.

It is important to remember that 2011 was a presidential election year, which perhaps explains why 52% of the new pesos were used to finance government spending programs. This can explain, for example, that the official propaganda budget grew almost 85% in the months leading up to the election.

Meanwhile, the Argentinian currency is losing it’s purchasing power very fast: a U.S dollar bought three pesos in 2009, while the current exchange rate is closer to five… The President herself seems not to suffer the same fate as the rest of the country, since her family’s state has grown from 7 to 92 million pesos in just a decade. Unfortunately, the rest of the country is not doing so well.

Read more…


Your guide to the new foreign policy divide.


President Obama may not say so explicitly in his State of the Union address, but his administration’s foreign policy is poised to shift significantly in his second term. The shift is the result of an ongoing debate between two camps that I call “restrainers” and “shapers.” Restrainers and shapers sharply disagree about the threats to the United States and this leads to very different views about how to engage the world and it may well lead to a division within the Democratic Party.

Restrainers see a crumbling infrastructure, the budget deficit, a subpar education system, and a sluggish economy as much more threatening than events elsewhere in the world. Democrats of this stripe call for “nation-building at home,” to use President Obama’s phrase, and want to prioritize these tasks at the expense of international commitments, which they see as a drain or a distraction. Republicans have their restrainers too. They eschew the notion of an activist government but also want to concentrate on the domestic tasks of reducing the deficit and restoring growth.

The shapers have a starkly different view. They agree that domestic challenges are important — and should be the subject of a strong domestic policy agenda — but they don’t believe international difficulties are on the wane. The U.S. economy is in a slump largely because of a crisis prone international economic order. A new foreign economic policy that advances new free trade agreements and a more stable international structure is crucial but thus far lacking. On security, the United States is a global power and detrimental developments in the Middle East, East Asia, or Europe will severely damage U.S. interests. For instance, war between China and Japan would likely spark a new economic crisis and create the conditions for decades of instability in a crucial region. Any notion that the United States can take a sabbatical to tend to the home front is mistaken, the shapers argue.

Diverging accounts of the challenges to American power lead to different approaches to foreign policy. Restrainers want to find ways to limit America’s exposure to international events. Shapers want to find ways to influence them. Read more…

Thomas Wright is a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on February 11, 2013.


The World George H. W. Bush Built

Written on February 8, 2013 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Foreign Policy, Political Economy

By Robert Kaplan

Former President George H.W. Bush is aged and ailing. So it is precisely now that we need to voice our appreciation for him — one of America’s greatest one-term presidents, along with James K. Polk. Polk practically doubled the size of the continental United States between 1845 and 1849, becoming the individual embodiment of Manifest Destiny. Bush the elder, rather than make great things happen, prevented great tragedy from occurring. It was what did not happen between 1989 and 1993 in Europe, the Middle East and China that makes the elder Bush a far more significant president in geopolitical terms than, for example, Bill Clinton, who occupied the White House for twice as many years.

Bush was the last American aristocrat and veteran of World War II to serve as president. From a wealthy Connecticut family, educated at the finest private schools in New England, he enlisted in the Navy at 18 in 1942, and as a 20-year-old aviator was shot down over the Bonin Islands south of Japan in 1944. His life thereafter was often a register of both understatement and service.

Bush’s subdued, steely character is on full display in A World Transformed (1998). Notice several things about this, perhaps the finest presidential memoir since Ulysses S. Grant’s own Personal Memoirs published in 1885. Bush, rather than take all the credit for himself like other presidents, shares authorship with his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Nor is the book about his presidency per se, but about how he, Scowcroft and Secretary of the State James Baker III negotiated some of history’s most momentous crises. There is much else in his presidential term that Bush could have written about in order to get even or tell his side of the story, which he, nevertheless, ignores. He has decided to stay silent about so much in order to sublimate himself to the great historical and geopolitical events overseas with which he was forced to deal, even as he shares full credit with others. That is the measure of the man. Read more…

Robert D. Kaplan is Chief Geopolitical Analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis firm, and author of the bestselling book The Revenge of Geography.

As published in www.stratfor.com on February 6, 2013.


China, like Germany 100 years ago, fears the established power is intent on blocking its ascent

By Gideon Rachman

The flickering black and white films of men going “over the top” in the first world war seem impossibly distant. Yet the idea that the great powers of today could never again stumble into a war, as they did in 1914, is far too complacent. The rising tensions between China, Japan and the US have echoes of the terrible conflict that broke out almost a century ago.

The most obvious potential spark is the unresolved territorial dispute between China and Japan over the islands known as the Diaoyu to the Chinese and the Senkaku to the Japanese. In recent months, the two countries’ aircraft and ships have shadowboxed near the islands. Alarmed, the US dispatched a top-level mission to Beijing and Tokyo in late October, made up of four senior members of the US foreign policy establishment: including Stephen Hadley, who ran the National Security Council for George W. Bush, and James Steinberg, who served as Hillary Clinton’s number two at the State Department.

This bipartisan US delegation made clear that a Chinese attack on the islands would trigger the security guarantees that America has made to Japan. The obvious danger is that, as in 1914, a small incident could invoke alliance commitments that lead to a wider war.

The American group was well aware of the risks. As Joseph Nye, a Harvard professor who was part of the four-person mission, puts it: “We discussed the 1914 analogy among ourselves. I don’t think any of the parties wants war, but we warned both sides about miscommunications and accidents. Deterrence usually works among rational actors, but the major players in 1914 were also rational actors.” Read more…

As published in www.ft.com on February 4, 2013

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