Obama Peace Prize?!?

I first learned that President Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize from a congratulatory IAEA press release e-mail. “That’s funny,” I thought. “Looks like the Onion hacked the IAEA’s server.” But lo and behold, a quick google search revealed that this was not a spoof. WTF?!? This is a horrible, horrible decision on the part of the Nobel committee, one that will likely do more political harm to Obama than good by providing fodder to the narrative that the hopes being placed in him far outstrip his record of accomplishments. What’s more, it’s a terrible insult to many […]

ABOARD USS DONALD COOK — It was a rare moment of excitement on a long, tedious counter-piracy patrol. On the evening of Sept. 24, lookouts on the USS Donald Cook, a Virginia-based destroyer assigned to a NATO flotilla in the Gulf of Aden, spotted a mysterious shape on the horizon. The distant vessel did not respond to Donald Cook’s hails as it loomed closer. With the cry, “Ship of interest,” crew members summoned Donald Cook’s captain, Derek Granger. Interrupted during a rare bit of down-time, Granger climbed to the bridge wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Lighting his customary cigar, he […]

World Media’s Verdict on Obama’s Olympic Bid

Inevitably, the world has been drawing its own conclusions from President Barack Obama’s unsuccessful bid last week to help Chicago host the 2016 Summer Olympics. And a wide spectrum of press comment centers on whether it has dimmed his global luster. “So is the magic spell the Obamas had woven worldwide beginning to come undone?” asked the Indian paper, The Statesman. That depends, according to a more considered editorial in the Saudi Gazette. “[Obama’s] defeat could soon be a distant memory, and may never be more than a quixotic-blip trip,” the paper observed. “But if, for whatever reason, bigger losses […]

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently responded to criticisms of its policies toward the world’s least developed countries (LDCs), by reforming its approach (.pdf) to “development” lending. The fund has long been a favorite target of civil society groups, who claim that the institution has no expertise in formulating development policy, that its stringent conditions often worsen already dire economic situations, and that its governance structure is highly undemocratic. The fund, they often seem to argue, should either be overhauled, or removed from LDC lending altogether. So, is the new, gentler version of the fund an improvement for poor […]

As someone who thinks systematically about the future for a living, I frequently read science fiction with an eye for what it reveals about how today’s real fears are being projected upon tomorrow’s imagined landscapes. The books behind the 1973 movie “Soylent Green” (too many people!) and the 2006 movie “Children of Men” (no more babies!) make for a good example. Compare their central premises and you’ve basically captured the 180-degree turn the popular imagination has experienced on population growth over my lifetime. So what does today’s science fiction tell me? We have a lot of fears about biological technology […]

Forecasting the Geopolitical Future

Voice of America interviews George Friedman, founder of the privateintelligence company Stratfor, and author of “The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.” Among Friedman’s predictions: Solar arrays will solve the problem of finding clean energy; industrialized nations with declining populations will compete for immigrants from the developing world; the United States and Mexico will come into increasing conflict; and Poland and Turkey will emerge as great powers.

NEW DELHI — The recent U.S.-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution calling on all nations to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) has not been well-received in India. The resolution, adopted last week at a Security Council session led by U.S. President Barack Obama, will ratchet up the pressure on India to sign a document that it considers grossly unfair. In fact India’s Special Envoy on Climate Change Shyam Saran conveyed as much to Obama, stating that because the NPT’s norms are “discriminatory” and “conflict with India’s sovereignty,” the treaty is unacceptable […]

Not long after the so-called “civilian surge” was announced as part of the troop buildup in Afghanistan, a veteran State Department foreign service officer I spoke with posed a simple question: “Where are they going to come from?” He had recently returned from a year serving on a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan and was grappling with the lack of civilian expertise that he said was so desperately needed for the state-building tasks there. “Is the new Secretary of Agriculture going to volunteer staff? The Secretary of the Treasury?” He suspected not. The diplomat’s insights get at a central challenge […]

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