Michael Steinberger

Michael Steinberger is a senior editor at Foreign Policy magazine.

Recent Articles

Annan and On

The call for Kofi Annan's resignation has gotten louder and louder as the conservative media flogs the overblown oil-for-food scandal. But should liberals be calling for Annan to go -- on wholly different grounds? Prospect senior correspondent Michael Steinberger argues the case against Annan, while Nation UN correspondent Ian Williams, author of The UN for Beginners , takes the defense. This is the first of three parts. The second round will appear on Wednesday. Michael Steinberger Your article in The Nation makes an irrefutable case that some on the right are using the oil-for-food scandal to try to destroy U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and are undeterred by the lack of concrete evidence against him. This is the way conservatives operate; they create their own reality, and, if the facts don't quite fit, they don't much care. But what I found most interesting about the article was your non-defense of Annan; in a 2,500-word article decrying the assault on the secretary-general,...

Spreading Democracy Thin

Hong Kong voters go to the polls September 12 to elect a new Legislative Council. LegCo, as it's known, symbolizes the “high degree” of autonomy that Hong Kong was promised when it reverted Chinese rule in 1997; with a record 30 of 60 seats to be filled this year by universal suffrage (the rest are chosen by some 200,000 voters representing various professional associations, most of which use their seats to do Beijing's bidding), a fairly toothless institution might finally acquire some bite. For that very reason, the Chinese government has waged an ominous campaign of intimidation to sway Sunday's outcome, a campaign that appears to have included vandalism, arson, and death threats. And what has the Bush administration had to say about this? Not a lot. Despite all its lofty rhetoric about promoting democracy, the White House has been strangely indifferent to developments in Hong Kong -- dangerously indifferent, given China's continued menacing of Taiwan and the way Washington's...

Get Real

Among conservative commentators, and in certain quasi-liberal circles, there's been lots of tut-tutting in recent weeks about John Kerry's foreign-policy instincts. What has these concerned citizen-pundits nervously stroking their chins is the suspicion that Kerry is a “realist” who has no particular interest in promoting democracy and human rights abroad. It may well be that the Democratic nominee is channeling Brent Scowcroft, but the evidence to date is pretty flimsy. Moreover, implicit in the grumbling about Kerry is the idea that George W. Bush's foreign policy has been suffused with noble intent. That simply isn't the case. Bush is no idealist; he just plays one on TV, and his blundering statecraft has, in fact, dealt a grievous blow to the idealist agenda. Kerry is accused of having a Metternichian disposition because of one or two comments he has made in interviews; one or two comments made by Rand Beers, a Kerry adviser; and the views of his late father, Richard Kerry, a...

Eastward, Whoa

The European Union formally welcomes 10 new members on Saturday, in the process extending its borders all the way to Russia's doorstep. It is a monumental triumph for the architects of European integration, and with agreement on a draft constitution for the EU now within reach, they could soon have even more reason to break out the champagne. Still, forward motion does not always denote progress. The EU is being enlarged, but it remains an unaccountable and, in many ways, undemocratic institution. It's also an increasingly unpopular one. Amid wrenching social and economic changes, the rush toward a European super state may well be laying the groundwork for a nasty backlash. There is, of course, an ongoing debate about just how far integration is supposed to go and what the EU should ultimately become. But those driving the process, principally the French and the Germans, are crystal clear about their aim -- they want to create a federalized Europe -- and are well on their way to...

Misoverestimated

In July 2003, President George W. Bush made a five-nation tour of Africa. The purpose of the visit was to cast American foreign policy in a gentler light after the diplomatic donnybrook over Iraq -- by, among other things, showcasing the Bush administration's seriousness about combating Africa's AIDS pandemic. But Africa didn't have the president's undivided attention. En route from Washington to Dakar, Senegal, Secretary of State Colin Powell met privately with Bush aboard Air Force One to discuss North Korea. It was a fraught subject for Powell. Shortly after taking office in 2001, he had told reporters that Bush planned to continue the Clinton administration's policy of engagement, only to be forced by the White House to eat his words the very next day: Any policy that carried the taint of Clintonism was to be reversed, and Bush did not do business with evil regimes. The president would later name North Korea a member of the "axis of evil," and just a month before his Africa trip,...

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