Saturday, February 12, 2005
Following up on U.S. foreign aid generosity
In the wake of President Bush's decision to triple the amount of official U.S. aid to tsunami-affected countries to $950 million, it's worth revisiting the question of U.S. foreign aid generosity.
Steve Radelet has a solid Q&A on the topic for Foreign Policy's web site. On the question of whether, "America Is the Most Generous Country in the World if You Include Private Donations to Charities," he writes:
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: The Radelet essay is particularly good in contrast to James Traub's effort in the New York Times Magazine. Traub covers some of the same ground, but can't seem to concede the point that on development policy, the Bush administration is actually closer in its stated plans to Traub's "ideal" than either the Clinton administration or the European Union (link via Tom Maguire). [Must be the Davos Kool-Aid--ed.]
So how are things in Saudi Arabia?
The Chicago Tribune has two stories on developments within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today -- kind of a good news/bad news deal.
The bad news is that those provincial elections didn't turn out like Saudi reformers had hoped. Evan Osnos explains:
Read the whole thing -- it's not clear how much of a setback this is, given that it was only one region, and a conservative one at that (though I'd love a Saudi expert to identify a liberal region in the country). Of course, the decision to exclude women from the vote probably didn't help the moderates much.
One other nitpick at this report is the history it provides of Islamist movements:
I'll be happy to be corrected on this, but if memory serves that's not quite accuate. It's true that the Six Day War was a triggering event for the rise of Islamist parties -- but the motivation was different. Secular Arab regimes were afraid of the growing political power of leftist/communist parties in their countries. As a result, they permitted the rise of Islamist parties to offer a counterweight.
On the good news side of the ledger, Christine Spolar reports that the Saudi regime is reaching out on the war on terror:
The internal steps to combat radicals is particularly interesting:
Explaining North Korea's actions, redux
MSNBC's Eric Baculinao files a story on the North Korean situation that contains a first in my memory -- a North Korean policy analyst providing anonymous quotes. [What, that's never happened before?--ed. I'm sure it has, but it's the first time I've seen it.]. The highlights:
So what the hell is the North Korea Freedom Act? Click here to read more about the re-named bill -- The North Korea Human Rights Act of 2004. Here are links to the text of the law, a three-page analysis of the its provisions from its supporters, and a critique by a former aid worker.
[So is this the real explanation for the DPRK's actions?--ed. I doubt it -- the timing is off. The act was signed into law about four months ago, and the DPRK official was referring to its old name in the report. Still, what's interesting is the attempt by DPRK officials to rationalize their action.]
My all time favorite Internet quiz
I think I can live with this result:
Friday, February 11, 2005
The limit to Al Qaeda's appeal
There may be another positive foreign policy spillover from Iraq's election -- it is forcing Al Qaeda into rhetorical gambits that limit its appeal.
Read the whole thing. Middle East Online points out that Al Qaeda ain't thrilled with economic integration either:
Kim's not making many friends
If, as speculated in my last post, Kim Jong Il thought that his nuclear announcement and withdrawal from six-party talks would drive a wedge between the US and the other members of six-party talks, he appears to have miscalculated.
CNN reports that North Korea has repeated its demand (made over the past couple of years) for direct bilateral talks with the United States on this issue. [UPDATE: Deb Riechmann reports for the AP that Scott McClellan rejected this demand at the White House press briefing.] Andrew Salmon reports in the International Herald-Tribune that the six-party talks haven't gone well for the DPRK:
THat same report also makes it clear that North Korea's latest gambit has not gone down well in South Korea.
If Seoul is upset, however, Japan is even more so -- and they are upping the ante with a clear and specific sanctions threat. James Brooke explains in the New York Times:
Read the whole article -- the U.S. and South Korea are ambivalent at best about the sanctions lever. At first glance, this would seem surprising: the best outcome is if North Korea backs down before March 1. Some people believe that the worst outcome, however, is Japan implementing sanctions on a defiant North Korea. I don't agree -- these sanctions will hurt the DPRK elite where it lives, in that it restricts hard currency access and consumer goods that only the elite can afford. This lever should be enough to get them back to six-party talks.
UPDATE: For more, the BBC has a round-up of the regional press reaction. The Christian Science Monitor has a round-up of global press reaction. Their most intriguing link is this Hamish McDonald story in the Sydney Morning Herald:
Thursday, February 10, 2005
I'm typing this in Princeton, NJ, as I'm giving a talk here today -- so there will not be much blogging for the next 24 hours.
Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic for discussion -- why has North Korea decided now is the time to publicly announce that they have nuclear weapons and suspend participation in six-nation non-proliferation talks?
Is it because Kim feels he can widen the diplomatic wedge between the United States and the other members of the talks (Japan, South Korea, China, Russia) -- or is it that Kim fears his regime is tottering on the abyss and the only way he can stay in power is to gin up a new international crisis? These are not mutually exclusive reasons, of course -- but which one is the primary cause?
Be sure to check out NK Zone for more blogging on the Hermit Kingdom. Also worth reading: In Foreign Affairs, Mitchell Reiss and Robert Gallucci rebut Selig Harrison's claim that North Korea doesn't really have a uranium enrichment program (link via Josh Marshall).
UPDATE: Oh, man did that first header date me -- I meant the current leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong il -- not his father, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994. Apologies to all for the error.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Follow-up post here. Over at NRO, S.T. Karnick offers the following speculation on Kim's motives:
I think that's a major stretch. As CNN points out today, there have been ample rhetorical opportunities as of late for the administration to target North Korea -- and they haven't used them:
No, Rice's testimony was a useful rhetorical hook for North Korea's actions, and not the cause.
In the International Herald-Tribune, there is more speculation about this being an example of internal DPRK strife:
Wednesday, February 9, 2005
The transatlantic relationship is important -- but not that important
The Economist has a story on the state of transatlanric relations following Condi Rice's speech on the topic yesterday at the Sciences Po. It's worth reading, but contains this odd passage:
While improving the transatlantic relationship is no doubt a nice positive externality from a more fruitful Middle East peace process. I think it's safe to say that the Bush administration's timing on this issue has nothing to do with Europe and everything to do with Yassir Arafat's passing.
Look, I think the transatlantic relationship is important, particularly with regard to the global political economy -- but it's not the cause of every twitch in U.S. foreign policy. The Economist is trying to read intent where there was none.
Another interesting question will be the extent to which the improving tranatlantic relationship reflects a greater recognition of shared interests -- or a greater willingness to amicably agree on disagreeing. For an example of tensions between these two approaches, see this FT story by Daniel Dombey.
Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Pretend you're a U of C undergraduate!!
Paper topic for my students in Power, Identity and Resistance: Liberalism and Its Critics:
Monday, February 7, 2005
Fox's in-game breach of contract?
So the Super Bowl was a pretty good if not great game, and a pretty good if not great halftime show by Paul McCartney (though if there is any song that was made for massive fireworks displays, it's "Live and Let Die.").
The general consensus, however, is that the ads were pretty lame. See Seth Stevenson's review in Slate and Chris Ballard's at SI.com. Part of the reason for this may have been the extent to which FOX and the NFL censored the ads, according to The Age's Caroline Overington:
Forget whether or not this is censorship -- FOX is a private company, not the government -- if Parsons is correct, then I would imagine this has got to be one whopper of a breach-of-contract suit [Ahem, despite what others may believe, you're not a lawyer--ed. Good point -- I'd appreciate some legal takes on this issue.]
If you want to see the "controversial" ad, click here (I recommend the two-minute version -- the last spoken line made me laugh out loud). The ironic thing about the ad is that the object of the satire is not the NFL, but sanctimonious politicians (and, I might add, by far the best ad of the evening was the G-rated one for The NFL Network with Joe Montana et al singing "Tomorrow")
It should also be pointed out that this isn't the first time the NFL has acted like a spoiled brat it its desire to be seen as "wholesome". Last year ESPN aired a fictionalized show called Playmakers, a "behind-the-scenes" look at a professional football team. While the show was a bit over-the-top at times, Playmakers was an above average drama with some excellent performances -- kinda like The Shield for the NFL. However, the NFL believed that the show cast the NFL in a bad light, and made it's displeasure known to ESPN. In short order, ESPN caved in to the NFL.
UPDATE: Krysten Crawford has a story on this for CNN/Money that confirms Parsons' account:
Check out this Parsons post from earlier in the week to see the back-and-forth between GoDaddy and FOX to get any ad on the air. Finally, the advertising blog adrants suggests that the the ad might not have played well. The Associated Press concurs, reporting that an post-game survey of 700 people found the GoDaddy ad to be one of the least liked. On the other hand, the Boston Globe's Alex Beam and the Kansas City Star's Aaron Barnhart both liked it. Howard Bashman correctly points out that, "Congressional hearings don't usually contain this much pretend near nudity."
Writing at WPN News, Kevin Dugan (who hated the GoDaddy ad) makes the provocative argument that blogs have ruined Super Bowl ads forever:
Pamela Parker makes a similar argument.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Joal Ryan reports for E! Online that the FCC received 33 complaints from the Super Bowl this year -- eight of which were devote to the GoDaddy.com ad. Three viewers called in to complain about Janet Jackson from last year.
The state of transatlantic public opinion
Today the German Marshall Fund of the United States released a survey of American, German, and French public opinion that was conducted in late November. The results suggest that public attitudes towards the countries across the Atlantic are not great -- but at least they're improving:
The most interesting finding in the survey is the congruence between American and European attitudes about how to deal with Iran:
FULL DISCLOSURE: This seems an appropriate moment to mention that I was recently named a non-resident transatlantic fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Furthermore, "During his time with GMF, he will advise on the design and analysis of public opinion surveys on foreign policy and collaborate with the Trade and Development program on the transatlantic trade relationship." Which means that one of my responsibilities was offering my (minor) input to this survey instrument.
Sunday, February 6, 2005
The positive spillovers of Iraq's elections
Iraq had its first free election a week ago -- and the Washington Post has two stories suggesting that positive reverberations from that event are being felt in and out of Iraq.
Inside Iraq, Anthony Shadid and Doug Struck report that many who rejected the elections before they happened now want to participate in politics:
More weeks like this, and Jon Stewart's head may have to implode.