John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies and a research fellow for Provisions Library Balkan Arts Project. He is the author of Shock Waves: Eastern Europe after the Revolutions.
Southeastern Europe is bracing for one final aftershock from the break-up of former Yugoslavia. The largely Albanian enclave of Kosovo is poised to declare its independence from Serbia after multi-party talks failed to reach a compromise by the UN deadline of December 10.
Backing both the favorite and the underdog in a boxing match might win points for evenhandedness, but it would leave sports fans scratching their heads. In the battle of affections between China and Taiwan, though, the Bush administration has done just that.
The Bush administration has been at times dangerously ambiguous in its policy toward North Korea. With a second round of six-party talks likely for early 2004 and North Korea's nuclear program chugging along, the upcoming debate on Capitol Hill over a new bill, the North Korea Freedom Act, may well be pivotal in pushing U.S. policy toward either engagement or increased confrontation. The stakes are huge: Even if the current conflict doesn't escalate into a shooting war, failure to bar North Korea from the nuclear club could set a poor precedent for nonproliferation and seriously damage the president's prospects for re-election.
Conflict-resolution professionals often say that to break a deadlock requires parties to shift from "positions" to "interests." For the past year, the United States and North Korea have repeated their positions ad nauseum. The United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear program; North Korea wants a guarantee that the United States won't pull an Iraq and bomb Pyongyang. These positions couldn't be any clearer -- or a resolution any more elusive.
At the Sunday market at the Place de la Bastille in Paris, the produce proudly announces its origins. There are bananas from Martinique, olives from Spain, artichokes from Brittany and broccoli from Saint-Malo, the place names written just above the prices. Signs tell which family dairies the cheeses come from and whether the lamb grazed on salty coastal grasses. The provenance of the wine on display is even more precisely noted. The open-air markets in France are a good place to understand terroir, the French belief that local conditions such as soil and weather produce distinctive tastes.