World

Checks and Balances on the Western Front

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AP Photo/Brennan Linsley T he release of the white paper justifying the Obama administration's targeted killings program—as well as the confirmation hearings for President Obama's CIA nominee John Brennan —has brought attention back to the role the executive branch plays in the abuses and overreaching that have come to define the "War on Terror." This is how it should be. While the president's power over domestic policy tends to be overrated, the president is the dominant force in military affairs. It's also true that Congress shouldn't be left off the hook. The legislative branch has substantial constitutional authority over military affairs. In the case of the War on Terror, Congress has repeatedly deferred to the White House, starting with the extremely broad Authorization for Use of Military Force against al-Qaeda in 2001. While the targeted killings memo did cite the president's Article II powers to defend the country, the most commonly cited authority for the administration's...

Tinkering with the Obama Doctrine

As his second term kicks off, what are the roads the president is likely to pursue abroad?

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During the 2008 presidential campaign, no candidate offered a clearer break with George W. Bush's foreign policy than Barack Obama. With America in the middle of two prolonged wars in the Middle East, the Illinois senator pledged to use "soft power" and engagement to pursue American interests rather than military action. Obama's argument was that the standing of the United States had been heavily damaged by Bush's policies of invasion, torture, and indefinite detention, and in order to repair this damage, the United States needed to pursue policies that directly reached out to the residents of the world. These goals have only been partially realized, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. Obama pledged a “new beginning” at Cairo University in 2009, and has tried to engage the world without plunging into drawn-out conflicts during his first term. But the approach has hit some of its limitations. President Obama has effectively drawn down from Iraq and Afghanistan,...

Labor Wins—in China

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Is China moving ahead of the United States on worker rights? According to a report on Monday’s Financial Times , it may be doing just that. The FT reports that Foxconn, which employs 1.2 million Chinese workers who make the bulk of Apple’s products, along with those of Nokia, Dell, and other tech companies, has decided to allow its workers to hold elections to select their union leaders. This is a radical departure from past practice in China, where unions are run by the government—that is, the Communist Party—which customarily selects the union leaders. Often, the leaders selected under this system are actually the plant managers. Under Foxconn’s new plan, workers will cast secret ballots for their union leaders, and no managers will be eligible to run. The company’s proposal, writes the FT , is viewed as a “response to frequent worker protests, riots and strikes and soaring labor costs.” In other words, just as employers in Western Europe and the U.S. once came to prefer dealing...

Libya's Spheres of Bad Influence

Time is running short for the U.S. and NATO to help Libya restore order and security—and to keep jihadi groups in check.

The tragic events unfolding in North Africa have brought to the attention of the West a reality that has been long underestimated and neglected: the rapid collapse of law and order in the countries that went through the revolts of the so-called Arab spring. Western countries have relied on the hope that new governments across the region could maintain stability and peace largely on their own, and therefore neglected to support these governments in their struggles. This is clearly not a strategy that has succeeded, and the United States will be forced to make hard choices in the next few weeks regarding the security situation in the Maghreb and Sahelian regions of North Africa. The American strategy of “leading from behind” that seemed, at first, a successful one in the Libyan intervention and the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi has been thrown into question by the unfolding of the events in Mali, Algeria, and Egypt. Intervention in Libya unfolded in the following way: the French, British...

The Senate-Hearing Circus Is in Session

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senator Ted Cruz uses a poster while questioning Chuck Hagel, a former two-term GOP senator and President Obama's choice for defense secretary, during his confirmation hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, January 31, 2013. Hagel faced strong GOP resistance and was forced to explain past remarks and votes even as he appeared on a path to confirmation as Obama second-term defense secretary and the nation's 24th Pentagon chief. T hat really could’ve gone better. Appearing before yesterday’s marathon session of the Senate Armed Services Committee, former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, seemed apologetic, hesitant, and adrift. To the extent Hagel seemed to have prepared at all, it was for a set of serious questions on serious issues from a completely different set of Senators who weren’t out to score petty partisan points. Looking to make sense of the spectacle...

A More Perfect European Union

David Cameron's speech has its fair share of detractors, but it should be embraced as an impetus to take Europe's governance to the next level.

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As President Barack Obama embarks on his second term, he and many other global leaders hoping for economic recovery paid close attention to the recent speech given by British Prime Minister David Cameron about whether he would lead the UK out of the European Union. Europe is the largest trading partner with both the United States and China, so the continent’s recession and the restructuring of its basic institutions is no academic matter. What happens there affects the rest of the world. Cameron's speech was disappointing for most, including no doubt the White House which had lobbied Cameron to maintain Britain's place at Europe's center. The pugnaciousness at the core of Cameron's position—"The UK should stay in the European Union, but we want to cherry pick the conditions"—poses an obvious problem. No union can survive if its members agree to terms in such an à la carte manner, and the speech resulted in negative reactions from most quarters, including many of Cameron's allies...

David Cameron's Malaise Speech

Europe is not impressed with the British P.M.'s plan to loosen the country from the E.U.'s grip.

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Rex Features via AP Images) Prime Minister David Cameron giving the keynote speech on Britain's future in Europe, Bloomberg head office, London, Britain. I f there is one word that defined the EU in 2012, it was “Grexit.” The prospect of Greece crashing out of the Eurozone hovered over Europe like a dark cloud, threatening a thunderstorm but never delivering. With Greece’s continued membership in the euro looking more secure than it has in a while in these early days of 2013, a new word has captured the imagination of Europe-watchers: “Brexit”, or the possibility of a British departure from the European Union. Prime Minister David Cameron gave a big speech on Britain and Europe in London on Wednesday morning. In it, he expressed his country’s dissatisfaction at the evolution of the European Union, in particular in the age of the euro crisis. Lamenting the slipping competitiveness of European economies and the mounting democratic deficit of the EU, he vowed to renegotiate the United...

What If They Held an Election and Nobody Won?

Netanyahu was defeated, even if he stays in office.

AP Photo/Oded Balilty
AP Photo/Oded Balilty H ere's the very short version of the Israeli election results: Benjamin Netanyahu ran unopposed—and lost. But he's still got a very good chance of returning to the prime minister's office. In his last term, Netanyahu brought a total breakdown of negotiations with the Palestinians and stuck to a free-market orthodoxy that benefited only the richest Israelis. For those who long to see Israel change direction (as I wrote here a week ago) the most optimistic election scenario was deadlock followed by instability. As the votes were counted last night, those too obsessed to sleep saw that scenario begin to come true. At 10 p.m., exit polls predicted that the rightwing bloc of parties would reach the thinnest possible majority, 61 or 62 seats out of 120 in parliament. In the small hours of the night, when 80 percent of the actual votes were counted, the numbers evened out, 60-60. As more votes were tallied, the right's majority reappeared—and finally vanished around...

Invisible Workers, Global Struggles

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Flickr/Janansanfran L ike countless other migrant girls toiling far from home, her life was invisible—except for the chilling way it ended. Earlier this month, Rizana Nafeek, a young Sri Lankan migrant in Saudi Arabia, was executed after being convicted of killing a baby in her care. The case drew international condemnation not only because of the severe punishment and opacity of the legal proceedings—she was reportedly just 17 at the time, not 23 as her falsified passport indicated, and advocates said her confession had been coerced—but also because the girl’s brief life exposed the consequences of the invisible struggles facing domestic workers in the Middle East and beyond. Nafeek's case symbolized the severe treatment of migrants in Saudi Arabia (human-rights watchdogs report that numerous other domestic workers have faced the death penalty after unfair accusations—sometimes stemming from cases of self-defense against abusers—pushed them into a biased and abuse-ridden legal system...

The 13-Year War

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In October 2001, George W. Bush told the country he was sending the American military to Afghanistan in order to "bring justice to our enemies." It's safe to say support for the war would not have been as nearly unanimous as it was had he said, "Oh, and by the way, our troops are going to be fighting there for the next 13 years." But if all goes according to plan and Barack Obama follows up on his pledge to bring them home by the end of 2014, that's how long the Afghanistan war will have lasted. We thought it would be useful to take a brief look at some of the basic facts of our involvement there. Last spring, Afghanistan passed Vietnam (measured by the time between the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in 1964 and the departure of the last Americans from Saigon in 1975) to become America's longest war. To date, we've spent over half a trillion dollars in Afghanistan, a figure that includes only the direct yearly costs for both military expenditures and civilian aid. It doesn't include the...

How’s That Medicine Taste, Germany?

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Germany, the powerhouse of Europe, experienced negative growth in the last three months of 2012, down from a positive growth rate of 3 percent in 2011. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who more than any other leader inflicted austerity on the rest of Europe, is finding that what goes around, comes around. All of the small nations that have bowed to Germany’s austerity demands—Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal—are stuck in an even deeper downward spiral. They cut spending, but their deficits increased. Why? Because the hit to employment, consumption, and then to government revenues leaves their economies in deeper distress. This is a path to permanent depression. It is economic madness, a fact recognized by no less than the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the organization that has been Germany’s partner in enforcing austerity. The IMF’s Olivier Blanchard, in a paper released January 1, warned that the negative effects of austerity far outweighed the positive ones. It...

It's Not Over When the Fat Lady Sings (in Hebrew)

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(AP Photo/Abir Sultan) W ith Israel's national election just five days off, it's worth remembering two principles of politics here: First, Israel polls do have more predictive power than tea leaves, but not enough to inspire confidence. Second, it's definitely not over when the fat lady sings. The vote tally is only the end of the first act. The second act is putting together a ruling coalition; the third is holding it together in order to rule. Since the beginning of the campaign in October, Benjamin Netanyahu has essentially been the sole candidate for prime minister, certain to defeat the fractured parties of the center- left and to return to power. Even now, it would take a freak set of conditions, a perfect electoral storm, for him to lose. But his margin of victory will affect how much power he actually has, how dependent he is on rivals even further to the right than he is, and how he responds to international pressures. Here the picture is murkier. Israeli pollsters ask voters...

Intelligence Squared U.S.'s Talking Heads

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Courtesy of Intelligence Squared S tepping into the lobby of the Kaufman Cultural Center in New York City on a recent balmy fall evening was a bit like entering a cocktail-party scene from a Nora Ephron romantic comedy of the late 1990s. A crowd—mostly middle-aged and black-clad, many of its members looking like competitors in a glasses fashion show—milled around the bar, sizing itself up over short-stumped stemware. A man sporting a graying ponytail explained to a woman with a platinum bob the importance of the next president’s Supreme Court appointments. Two guys in navy sport coats sipped $7 brews in companionable silence. The buzz in the room, both conversational and alcoholic, was palpable. Then the lights dimmed, and there was a rush toward the theater doors. The latest taping of Intelligence Squared U.S., the debate series that has become something of a cult podcast hit on iTunes, was about to begin. Americans are not a shy and retiring people—we talk with great passion about...

To Stop Rape Culture, Ring the Bell

Very few men are rapists . Very few men are abusers. Or stalkers. Predators are the minority. The vast majority of men are decent people who want to do the right thing. What would it take to shift from a rape culture to a respect culture, and end violence against women? You have to involve the decent men. You have to let them know they are our allies, not our enemies. You have to let them know what they can do to help—to interrupt violence, to help spread new norms—without having to call themselves feminists or become full-on activists. In yesterday’s post, I wrote about some such efforts in the United States. Bystander-intervention efforts, in which groups train young men and women in what it takes to derail a situation that could lead to rape. Today I spoke with Mallika Dutt, founder of the binational organization Breakthrough, which works in both the U.S. and India to build a respect culture and prevent all kinds of violence against women—one by one, at the local, personal level,...

To Stop Rape, Fix the Police Force First

AP Photo/Manish Swarup
AP Photo/Manish Swarup in New Delhi, India, policemen stand guard at the judicial complex where a new fast-track court was inaugurated Wednesday to deal specifically with crimes against women. I n the past few weeks, the brutal murder of a young woman in New Delhi has consumed international media and fomented a social rebellion in India. The victim, a 23-year-old medical student, was gang raped in a public bus, then mutilated with iron rods and thrown out onto the street; she died on December 29. As a woman born and raised in India, I can attest to the ubiquity of sexual violence. I myself avoided being gang-raped by a group of drunk men through sheer providence. I was 20, a junior in college here in the United States, and doing a field project on rural cooperatives in India. My guide—a local girl my age—and I had decided to stay overnight at a one-room guesthouse in a village hosting a traditional, all-night festival. Sometime in the middle of the night, we awakened to what sounded...

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