The wrong lesson from Gaza
David Makovsky - BS
Friday, August 26, 2005
WASHINGTON - After Israel's pullout from Gaza, the secretary general of Hamas,
Khaled Mashal, declared that the withdrawal was an Israeli defeat and a victory for
Mr. Mashal made clear to reporters in Beirut that suicide bombings inside Israeli cities
and mortars fired at Israeli towns were effective. He proclaimed, "The resistance and
the steadfastness of our people forced the Zionists to withdraw," adding that Hamas
would continue this approach since "the armed struggle is the only strategy that
Senior Palestinian Authority officials also have widely termed the Israeli pullout to be a
"victory" and have suggested this was accomplished through violence.
But there's a fatal flaw with this argument: It's not true.
In fact, there is an inverse correlation between terror attacks and Israel's willingness to
withdraw. Israeli soldiers did not drag settlers out of their homes because of suicide
bombs. Israel offered Gaza at Camp David in 2000, which occurred during a three-
year relative calm. Not even the most radical Palestinian interpretation of those days
would argue that Israel wanted to hold onto Gaza. If a deal had been struck then, we
would be celebrating the fifth anniversary of the end of Israeli occupation in Gaza, not
to mention Israel's withdrawal from the vast majority of the West Bank.
Contrary to what Hamas and others believe, violence makes Israelis less
accommodating rather than more. They calculate risk and reward. When there was
quiet and a chance for peace, Israel elected Labor leaders such as Yitzhak Rabin in
1992 and Ehud Barak in 1999. When bombs went off, Israel elected Likud leaders
Yitzhak Shamir in 1988, Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 and Ariel Sharon in 2001 and
The Palestinian intifada in September 2000 certainly didn't hasten the move toward
Israeli withdrawal; it set it back. Amram Mitzna, who ran as head of the Labor Party in
January 2003 while the intifada raged, campaigned on a platform whose centerpiece
was a unilateral pullout from Gaza. He suffered the worst electoral drubbing in Labor's
Contrary to Hamas' claims, Israel's departure from Gaza was driven by the defeat of
suicide bombers during the intifada rather than a surrender to them. The
establishment of Israel's security barrier over the northern part of the West Bank,
where many of the attacks occurred, sharply reduced the infiltration of dozens of
suicide bombers, just as the fence around Gaza prevented all but two suicide
bombers from successfully entering. When Israel won back control of West Bank
cities in 2002, it became even more successful over time in halting attacks.
In 2002, according to the Israeli army, there were 59 "successful" suicide attacks. By
2004, the number dropped by 75 percent. With this decrease, Israelis gained political
breathing space that enabled them to accept the idea of withdrawal when Mr. Sharon
embraced it in a way that they rejected when proposed by Mr. Mitzna. The political
center in Israel, which supported "land for peace" in the 1990s but was crushed with
suicide bombings, began to re-emerge.
It's the return of the center as a political force that has made a difference. It is
displaying renewed tentative interest in a two-state solution plus concern that
demographic realities left unchecked would be the real reward for Hamas' Greater
Palestine. Together, this has given Israel the requisite support needed to leave Gaza.
It's possible the Palestinians will learn the wrong lesson from Gaza and begin to use
violence in the West Bank. But this strategy would be counterproductive, let alone
morally wrong. It would have a devastating impact on Palestinian goals and again
engulf the area in blood. Hamas will justify importing rockets in the West Bank aimed
at Israel with the goal of winning broader sympathy, alleging that violence against
innocents is a legitimate and effective means to address a grievance.
If faced with rocket attacks from the West Bank, Mr. Sharon has made clear that his
response will be harsher than ever, and the Israeli political system would, true to form,
move toward the right. Such a strategy by Hamas - whose grievance is Israel's
existence, not its occupation of the West Bank - would be likely to make Mr.
Netanyahu Israel's next leader and Israelis unwilling to make further territorial
concessions, believing such moves make them more vulnerable rather than more
Hamas' claims of victory through violence will prove to be self-defeating. Peace, not
terror, leads to a better future.
Finding solace in $3-a-gallon gas
Editorial - CSM
Friday, August 26, 2005
High gas prices are a doomsayer's delight. Trips to the mall are fewer, vacations
shrink, heating bills rise, inflation rises, the economy slumps. Those harmful effects
need to be addressed, but in the long term, such prices can actually serve consumers.
If oil prices manage to stay above $40 a barrel for years, which many experts now say
is possible, then the alternatives to oil, from solar cells to liquefied coal, look very
attractive to energy investors. (Current oil prices seem stuck above $60, or more than
50 percent higher than a year ago.)
Then the world can start to make the inevitable shift to a new energy era independent
That transition is coming anyway in this century. It's better to start paying the
"replacement cost" now for the eventual depletion of oil reserves and move to a range
of alternatives. Many of them are cleaner, renewable, or - get this - not imported from
a few terrorist- infested nations.
Since 1973, of course, high oil prices have come and gone like bad romances. But
that's the way OPEC prefers it. Not only has this cartel of petroleum giants helped to
keep prices way above production costs, it has also occasionally moved to drop oil
prices when they were too high.
That trick has left a lingering threat of roller-coaster prices, scaring off multibillion-
dollar investments in many alternative energy sources or in expensive conservation
steps that require years, even decades, of use in order to justify costs. If potential
investors can now have some assurance of making a profit in many oil alternatives
within a few years, there could be a rush from crude.
Indeed, OPEC's ability to make prices gyrate - which affects investors much as
currency fluctuations do - could be over. Many of its wells are pumping at near
capacity. Some experts say the giant Saudi oil fields are nearing a peak of production
and could see a decline. On the demand side, China and India show little signs of
reversing a rising demand for cars and petroleum.
Despite all that, oil-price predictors remain divided. Last month, the US Energy
Information Administration (EIA) forecast prices would decline to $31 a barrel (in 2003
dollars) before reaching $35 per barrel in 2025. But it also warned the latest price
rises could push up those numbers.
The EIA doesn't have much hope for renewable energies, predicting they will maintain
only an 8 percent share of world energy consumption. That may reflect, however, a
stronger interest in producing oil from nontraditional sources such as coal and oil
sands - all in abundance in North America.
Coal liquefication, which South Africa perfected from Nazi technology during the
embargo against apartheid, is a technique sought by China, which also has big coal
deposits. In the US, coal-to-oil production probably needs at least a $30-a-barrel price
to break even. Canada's giant oil-soaked sandpits, meanwhile, appear to have
become a profit center.
A continuing frontier is the wringing of more efficiency out of oil use. Hybrid gas-
electric cars are a good conservation leap, but government still needs to demand
higher fuel efficiency from automakers, or to push harder for non-oil vehicles.
It's difficult to cheer for consistently high oil prices; consumers feel the pinch. But
cheer we must.
Summer of Our Discontent
PAUL KRUGMAN - NYT
Friday, August 26, 2005
For the last few months there has been a running debate about the U.S. economy,
more or less like this:
American families: "We're not doing very well."
Washington officials: "You're wrong - you're doing great. Here, look at these
The administration and some political commentators seem genuinely puzzled by polls
showing that Americans are unhappy about the economy. After all, they point out,
numbers like the growth rate of G.D.P. look pretty good. So why aren't people
Some blame the negative halo effect of the Iraq debacle. Others complain that the
news media aren't properly reporting good economic news. But when your numbers
tell you that people should be feeling good, but they aren't, that means you're looking
at the wrong numbers.
American families don't care about G.D.P. They care about whether jobs are
available, how much those jobs pay and how that pay compares with the cost of living.
And recent G.D.P. growth has failed to produce exceptional gains in employment,
while wages for most workers haven't kept up with inflation.
About employment: it's true that the economy finally started adding jobs two years
ago. But although many people say "four million jobs in the last two years" reverently,
as if it were an amazing achievement, it's actually a rise of about 3 percent, not much
faster than the growth of the working-age population over the same period. And recent
job growth would have been considered subpar in the past: employment grew more
slowly during the best two years of the Bush administration than in any two years
during the Clinton administration.
It's also true that the unemployment rate looks fairly low by historical standards. But
other measures of the job situation, like the average of weekly hours worked (which
remains low), and the average duration of unemployment (which remains high),
suggest that the demand for labor is still weak compared with the supply.
Employers certainly aren't having trouble finding workers. When Wal-Mart announced
that it was hiring at a new store in Northern California, where the unemployment rate
is close to the national average, about 11,000 people showed up to apply for 400 jobs.
Because employers don't have to raise wages to get workers, wages are lagging
behind the cost of living. According to Labor Department statistics, the purchasing
power of an average nonsupervisory worker's wage has fallen about 1.5 percent since
the summer of 2003. And this may understate the pressure on many families: the cost
of living has risen sharply for those whose work or family situation requires buying a
lot of gasoline.
Some commentators dismiss concerns about gasoline prices, because those prices
are still below previous peaks when you adjust for inflation. But that misses the point:
Americans bought cars and made decisions about where to live when gas was $1.50
or less per gallon, and now suddenly find themselves paying $2.60 or more. That's a
rude shock, which I estimate raises the typical family's expenses by more than $900 a
You may ask where economic growth is going, if it isn't showing up in wages. That's
easy to answer: it's going to corporate profits, to rising health care costs and to a
surge in the salaries and other compensation of executives. (Forbes reports that the
combined compensation of the chief executives of America's 500 largest companies
rose 54 percent last year.)
The bottom line, then, is that most Americans have good reason to feel unhappy
about the economy, whatever Washington's favorite statistics may say. This is an
economic expansion that hasn't trickled down; many people are worse off than they
were a year ago. And it will take more than a revamped administration sales pitch to
make people feel better.
Gaza: Tomorrow's Iraq
Richard Cohen - WP
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
It is the solemn obligation of a columnist to connect the dots. So let's call one dot Iraq
and another the Gaza Strip, and note that while they are far different in history and
circumstance, they are both places where Western democracies, the United States
and Israel, are being defeated by a common enemy, terrorism. What is happening in
Gaza today will happen in Iraq tomorrow.
In both cases politicians will assert that it is not terrorism that has forced their hands.
President Bush says this over and over again: denunciations of evil, vows to get the
job done, fulsome praise for Iraq's remarkably brave democrats. But the fact remains
that Iraq is coming apart -- the Kurds into their own state (with their own flag), the
Sunnis into their own armed camps, and the dominant Shiites forming an Islamic
republic that will in due course become our declared enemy.
Similarly, Israeli politicians assert that it is not terrorism that has chased Israel from
Gaza but the realization that a minority of Jews (about 8,500) cannot manage a
majority of Arabs (more than 1 million), and this is surely the case. But it was terrorism
that made that point so powerfully. After all, Israel took Gaza from Egypt in the 1967
war. It took 20 years for the Palestinians there to launch their first uprising. Without
the violence, Israelis would still be farming in Gaza.
Israel in Gaza, like America in Iraq, underestimated its enemy. Palestinians have been
tenacious, not merely fighting but doing so in ways that elude our understanding.
Since the 1993 Oslo accords, there have been more than 90 suicide bombings. Israel
has responded wisely by erecting a security fence. It has not responded by pulling out
of the West Bank. But what's true in Gaza is also true in the West Bank. For Israel, the
numbers are all wrong -- too many Palestinians, too few Jews. Ultimately
demographics will trump Zionism.
The same holds for Iraq. There, suicide bombings are an almost daily occurrence --
more than 400 since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. The guerrillas, the insurgents,
the terrorists -- who are those guys, anyway? -- attack U.S. forces an average of 65
times a day. The insurgency is unrelenting, and so is the mayhem. Sunnis and Shiites
are at each other's throats, killing and retaliating and killing some more. No one, it
seems, can figure out who is allied with whom. The thing's a morass, a mess, a
mystery and, unforgivably, a surprise. This was not supposed to happen. American
troops would be greeted as liberators. Remember? There would be no insurgency.
Where would it come from? What would be its purpose? Who would possibly die for
such a cause?
The smug ignorance is appalling. We understood so little about Iraq. We thought it
was just another place where people wanted to be free and vote for the school board.
Even today U.S. officials cling to their ethnocentric aspirations. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice likened the Alabama of her youth -- racist, sometimes violently so -
- to Iraq and Afghanistan. "I look at [our history] and I say what seemed impossible on
one day now seems inevitable," she recently told Time magazine. "Well, that's the
way great historical changes are [made]. And it's why I have enormous conviction that
these people are going to make it."
It's a nice sentiment, but it is, above all, sentiment. I don't think Rice is necessarily
wrong, only that she has imposed her priorities on a people who have more urgent
concerns and historical fears. More than democracy, Iraqis want security. And security
is a tribal matter, a sectarian matter -- a matter that cannot be left in the hands of a
government led by others. Any country can hold one election. It's the second that
matters, the one in which losers become winners -- and the winners respect the rights
of the losers. Can Iraq do that? It doesn't look like it.
America and Israel are different. But both are Western democracies, with similar -- not
identical -- cultures. It's impossible to conceive of American suicide bombers; it's just
as impossible to conceive of Israeli ones. The Islamic world -- the Arab world in
particular -- is fighting its own way, rejecting an alien culture the way the body rejects
a foreign cell.
Israel left southern Lebanon. Now it's leaving Gaza. America will leave Iraq -- not in
success but in failure. These are all discrete events but they are linked by issues of
culture and a willingness to use terrorism. Connect the dots. They lead, step by step,
to the next exit.
Steel from an iron lady
Suzanne Fields - WT
Monday, August 22, 2005
Angela Merkel, the opposition candidate in the coming German parliamentary
elections, has been called "the German Margaret Thatcher," but the press treats her
more like Hillary Clinton, circa 1993. She isn't dressing for success.
In an attempt to make their Iron Lady ("eiserne Dame") look more casual, her
campaign handlers scheduled a photo-op on her fishing holiday. She posed in baggy
trousers and sneakers, standing next to a big fish. A distaff Ernest Hemingway she is
This wouldn't be important if she still had the comfortable lead over Chancellor
Gerhard Schroder she held through the spring, but the lead has melted with the heat
of summer. In the era of image over all, she has not played to her strengths as a
strategist. She isn't saying how she would put unemployed Germans -- and there are
lots of them -- back to work.
A weakened Angela Merkel is worrisome for the United States, because Chancellor
Gerhard Schroder, who won an election three years ago by running against George
W. Bush, is making similar noises of desperation again.
"Prior to the last German election," reports der Spiegel, the German newsmagazine,
"Gerhard Schroder went on the offensive against U.S. military intervention in Iraq, and
now -- like the leopard who cannot change his spots -- Schroder has pulled the same
trick again, warning the U.S. against an invasion of Iran." This time he's attacking a
straw man who hardly resembles President Bush. Too bad for him, the president is
not invading Iran. What the chancellor seized on was the president's answer to an
Israeli reporter's question about whether force would ever be used to prevent the
Iranian nuclear enrichment program, a necessary prelude to building nuclear
weapons. "All options are on the table," Mr. Bush replied. "The use of force is the last
option for any president." What else could any American president say? The next day
the German leopard leaped at a phantom. "Let's leave the military option aside," he
told a campaign rally. "We have seen it doesn't amount to anything." It was a
particularly obtuse reading of the president's remarks -- to say nothing of history -- by
a German chancellor.
Angela Merkel's campaign is in trouble not because she won't win a plurality of the
vote, which she probably will, but because she might not win the absolute majority
required in the German system before a challenging party can take power. Without
the majority, her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) might have to form a
coalition with Chancellor Schroder's Social DemocraticParty (SPD), further paralyzing
the government and putting off the reforms needed to resuscitate the moribund
Frau Merkel wants to be George W.'s friend, and she has scolded the chancellor for
damaging relations with Washington. The chancellor's injection of Iran into the
election campaign is not without severe risks. Wolfgang Schauble, the foreign policy
chief of Frau Merkel's party, calls him callously irresponsible. "He's acting as though
the problem were in Washington, rather than in Tehran, even though he knows that
isn't the case," he said. "The chancellor is creating the fatal impression in Tehran that
the international community is not resolute." A foreign-policy spokesman for
anotherdissentingparty agrees: "The subject is too serious for it to be introduced into
the German election campaign, in any form." At the moment the leader of Germany,
along with those of France and even Britain, is trying to wipe away the traces of
Iranian egg. Only two years ago the foreign ministers of the three countries returned
home, having persuaded Iran to suspend temporarily its uranium conversion and
enrichment program, sounding a lot like Neville Chamberlain after Munich, declaring
that their "soft diplomacy" worked. Now they're all decrying betrayal.
The mullahs in Tehran insist that Iran will produce uranium fuel only for civilian
nuclear-power plants, never for the production of nuclear weapons. But you'd have to
believe in the Easter bunny to believe that, and the Easter bunny doesn't make
deliveries in Islamic countries.
The International Atomic EnergyAgency(IAEA), meant to monitor Iran's nuclear
conversions, is a cocker spaniel of a watchdog. When the mullahs resumed enriching
uranium, Mohamed El Baradei, the director of the monitors, told the mullahs that he
hoped "this is a hiccup in the process and not a permanent rupture." Bow, wow.
Well, there's still a little left of summer, and I'm off to the beachwithmyvisiting Berliner
twin granddaughters (and their parents) for a belated celebration of their first
birthdays, to take the sun and put my feet in the sand. But the sand is no place for
wise heads elsewhere, as Angela Merkel is trying to warn her countrymen.
Editorial - WP
Tuesday, September 6, 2005
SOME GLIMMERS of good news are finally beginning to emerge from the rubble and
despair of New Orleans and the other areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. But the
infuriating, unmistakable and unnerving lesson of the continuing tragedy is the
fundamental failure of government at all levels to protect its citizens, the most
vulnerable chief among them. Granted, the "ultra-catastrophe" of Katrina, as
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff put it -- the devastation of an entire
city, its communications, power, transportation and other infrastructure; the dislocation
of hundreds of thousands of people -- is beyond anything the nation has ever dealt
with. Still, coming four years and tens of billions of dollars in preparedness spending
after the Sept. 11 attacks, it suggests that the country's readiness to cope with a major
disaster remains woefully lacking.
The governmental failure exposed by Katrina is multilayered and long-standing. It
begins with the shortsighted decision not to confront the inescapable geographic
reality of a city built largely below sea level. Every disaster brings in its wake the
inevitable exhuming of obscure reports warning of shortcomings and the inevitable
second-guessing about money that could have been spent to prevent it. But in the
case of Katrina, the precarious situation of New Orleans was well-known -- the
Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2001 put a hurricane in New Orleans
among the top three most catastrophic events the country could face.
New Orleans faced a clear and present danger from the combination of sinking land,
rising sea levels, and the rapid shrinking of wetlands and barrier islands, which served
as a buffer to hurricanes by sapping their energy and absorbing sea surges.
Addressing this problem would take an enormous sum, $14 billion, and any fix
wouldn't have happened in time to spare the city from the effects of Katrina. But the
Bush administration, instead of grappling with the problem, resisted attempts to
remedy it; as recently as this summer the White House was fighting -- unsuccessfully -
- an effort to spend $1 billion to rebuild coastlines and wetlands. Similarly, rather
than supporting efforts to buttress the levees that are supposed to shield the city, the
administration consistently worked to cut funding that could have helped build up
Given the known risks, the response of government -- local, state and federal -- to the
approaching storm was inadequate, uncoordinated and inept. Despite President
Bush's assertion that no one could have anticipated that the levees would fail, officials
were well aware that the levees could be counted on to withstand only a Category 3
hurricane, not a Category 4 storm such as Katrina. Under those circumstances, where
was the contingency plan for personnel and equipment to contain a breach?
Similarly, a mandatory evacuation order was in no way a sufficient response to
Katrina's impending arrival; it was clear that a significant number of New Orleans
residents would remain -- many because they had no alternative. Where were the
buses or other vehicles to help them leave? Where was the plan to avoid the bedlam
that developed in the Superdome and the convention center? How could it have taken
four days for National Guard troops to arrive to restore order in the anarchic city?
Some of the basic weaknesses exposed by Sept. 11 -- and, one would have
presumed, since fixed -- seemed instead to linger. For example, police and other
officials were unable to communicate as their cell phones failed and satellite phones
took days to arrive. It took until late Tuesday, long after the storm hit, to declare "an
incident of national significance," a designation that gave the federal government extra
power to deal with the escalating crisis.
Indeed, the hard question that must be asked is whether the absorption of FEMA into
the Department of Homeland Security bureaucracy, and the natural focus of DHS on
the terrorism threat, actually diminished the agency's capacity to respond to a natural
disaster such as Katrina by draining attention, personnel and dollars from such
events. FEMA, said one official, was "completely dysfunctional and completely
overwhelmed" with "no coherent plan for dealing with this scenario." The official was
no foe of the administration but Louisiana's Republican senator, David Vitter. FEMA's
director, Michael D. Brown, appears out of his depth.
The vulnerability of New Orleans to a major hurricane was well-known; the path and
force of Katrina were charted for days in advance. If the response to an anticipated
risk is so poor, what, then, would happen in the face of a surprise event such as a
bioterrorism incident or nuclear attack? Katrina is, in that sense, an ill omen in addition
to a disaster in its own right, one whose lessons must be faced once the immediate
catastrophe has been addressed.
A compassionate Bush was absent right after Katrina
Judy Keen and Richard Benedetto - USAT
Friday, September 9, 2005
WASHINGTON - President Bush has shown that he can be empathetic, sensitive and
decisive. But those qualities eluded him for days after Hurricane Katrina, and the
lapse could become a defining moment of his White House tenure.
The most stirring image of Bush's presidency came when he spontaneously grabbed
a bullhorn at Ground Zero and vowed retribution against 9/11 terrorists. Tears filled
his eyes when he took the oath of office in 2001, and he has wept publicly when
talking about U.S. troops slain in battle and his respect for his father. He has hugged
countless victims of fires, hurricanes and other tragedies. During his 2000 campaign,
he told recovering teen addicts, "I used to drink too much. ... I want you to know that
your life's walk is shared by a lot of other people."
But there's another side to Bush. He can seem detached and unaware of the
messages conveyed by his words and conduct. Bush decided to see Katrina's
destruction for the first time from his jumbo jet and joked on his first trip to the disaster
zone about youthful partying in New Orleans. He didn't cancel his vacation until two
days after Katrina struck and didn't visit the region until four days after the storm. It's
not the first time that side of the president has been visible. He taped a video for a
2004 black-tie dinner showing him hunting under White House furniture for Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction as the death toll there mounted. His visit to Ground Zero
came three days after the 9/11 attacks.
Bush's critics say his response to the hurricane proves that he's not a leader.
"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said
Wednesday. White House spokesman Scott McClellan has dismissed criticism of the
response by Bush and his administration as part of the Washington "blame game."
A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Monday and Tuesday found that 42% of
Americans think Bush has done a bad or terrible job responding to the hurricane.
"He's starting to create some vision and some hope," says Christine Riordan, a
leadership expert at Texas Christian University's M.J. Neeley School of Business. "But
it's five days too late." (Related story: Katrina splits nation)
Others say he inherited from his parents a Yankee reserve that sometimes prevents
him from quickly grasping the emotional requirements of pivotal events. In his 1992
re-election campaign, President George H.W. Bush seemed disconnected from the
pain of persistent joblessness and glanced at his watch during a debate with Bill
Clinton. Bush's mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, said Monday at Houston's
Astrodome that some evacuees there "were underprivileged anyway, so this is
working very well for them."
"Occasionally their New England roots make them a little embarrassed and awkward
about showing that side of themselves," says Tom Rath, a New Hampshire political
strategist and old family friend.
Others say that once Bush becomes engaged, he has the sort of compassion for
which Clinton and Ronald Reagan were renowned. "He does have this unique one-on-
one quality to relate to people," says Bill Minutaglio, author of a 2001 Bush biography,
First Son. But so far, he says, "The right salve for the nation in this time of great
tragedy is missing. People are thirsting for it. ... It can't be orchestrated, it just has to
Bush has cleared his schedule to focus on disaster relief. He has twice visited areas
devastated by Katrina and is expected to return soon. During his first visit a week ago,
he choked back tears after listening to helicopter pilots describe rescuing victims. On
his second visit Monday, he said in Poplarville, Miss., "I understand the destruction. I
understand how long it's going to take. And we're with you."
Roderick Hart, who teaches communications and government at the University of
Texas, calls Bush's initial off-key reaction to Katrina "an odd case." Bush does have
"an ability to reach out to people," he says. "But the delay was so dramatic that his
response now has made it seem disingenuous in some people's eyes."
But Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a Washington University political scientist and Brookings
Institution fellow, says Bush is now "empathizing and responding in tangible ways. ...
He will fare well if he shows that he is addressing the needs."
Bush has spoken before about the consequences of a leader's performance at
moments such as this. In a 2000 debate with Democrat Al Gore, he was asked to
describe how he handled crises under fire. "It's the time to test your mettle," Bush said
then, "a time to test your heart when you see people whose lives have been turned
US leadership may be set to reach a consensus with the world's poorest
Jeffrey Sachs - FT
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
More than 180 world leaders will convene tomorrow to discuss problems of poverty,
security, and global governance. The cynics have already pronounced the meeting
just another talking shop signifying nothing. The cynics are wrong. Slowly, fitfully, the
voices of the world's poor are breaking through the protective shield of the rich and
mighty. Two weeks ago, a haughty US government was blustering. Today it is reeling
from the plain sight of its own poor washed up in the floods of neglect.
The world leaders are at the United Nations first and foremost to discuss the
Millennium Development Goals, five years after they were adopted and with a decade
left to go to achieve them. Two weeks ago the US claimed that these international
goals to fight poverty, disease and hunger did not even exist and tried to expunge the
very phrase from the draft declaration of the summit. The rest of the world said
otherwise: 190 countries told the US to back down, which it has done.
The goals are far from perfect. Critics have complained that the targets cannot even
be measured precisely, much less achieved. There are indeed real problems of
measurement. But why should we expect the rich countries to finance precise
measurements of malaria when they won't spend just $3 per inhabitant of the
developed world ($3bn, €2.4bn, £1.6bn in total) to prevent and treat malaria, and
thereby save more than 1m Africans per year?
Still, the targets have survived the cynics' attempt to expunge them because they
have met a far more demanding test. They have caught the imagination of the world's
poor, by demanding the world's attention to the fact that around 1bn of the world's
poorest people lack access to the most basic needs of food, healthcare, safe shelter
and clean drinking water. As many as 10m die each year as a result of being too poor
to stay alive. The globally agreed targets have become their rallying cry.
The goals can be met. Scientists and engineers have shown clearly, convincingly and
repeatedly how Africa can have its Green Revolution to end famines and triple food
yields; how malaria, TB, and Aids can be brought under control; how electricity,
connectivity and transport can reach even the most remote villages with the poorest
people, at amazingly low cost. The sceptics ask why, if it's so easy, the goals are not
The answer is found in New Orleans. The poor are politically invisible. They die of
neglect. And too many politicians are divorced from the most basic facts of science
and engineering. The president of the US made clear last week that he had not been
aware of the notorious vulnerability of New Orleans to a hurricane, even though the
risk of such a disaster had been discussed in detail for decades. It's not entirely
surprising. President George W. Bush also rejects climate science and Darwinian
The results of the summit still hang in the balance. The US government is pushing for
many well-needed changes in UN organisation and management, but is also gravely
weakening its case by insisting that the US should not be held accountable for foreign
aid and specific progress against poverty.
The US is back-peddling on the commitment that donor governments made at the
2002 Monterrey summit "to make concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7 per cent of
GNP" as official development assistance. It has even fought to eliminate language in
the draft declaration calling for specific "quick wins" over malaria and other quickly
achievable goals, to the deep consternation of the rest of the world.
With the US now receiving post-hurricane assistance from Europe, Mexico, and UN
agencies, perhaps the US leadership will reflect more deeply on the meaning of real
security in the 21st century, and thereby reach a consensus with the world's poor.
Secretary-general Kofi Annan was surely correct when he declared earlier this year
that "we will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development
That is a valid lesson for the richest as well as the poorest countries on the planet.
Not the New Deal
PAUL KRUGMAN - NYT
Friday, September 16, 2005
Now it begins: America's biggest relief and recovery program since the New Deal. And
the omens aren't good.
It's a given that the Bush administration, which tried to turn Iraq into a laboratory for
conservative economic policies, will try the same thing on the Gulf Coast. The
Heritage Foundation, which has surely been helping Karl Rove develop the
administration's recovery plan, has already published a manifesto on post-Katrina
policy. It calls for waivers on environmental rules, the elimination of capital gains taxes
and the private ownership of public school buildings in the disaster areas. And if any
of the people killed by Katrina, most of them poor, had a net worth of more than $1.5
million, Heritage wants to exempt their heirs from the estate tax.
Still, even conservatives admit that deregulation, tax cuts and privatization won't be
enough. Recovery will require a lot of federal spending. And aside from the effect on
the deficit - we're about to see the spectacle of tax cuts in the face of both a war and a
huge reconstruction effort - this raises another question: how can discretionary
government spending take place on that scale without creating equally large-scale
It's possible to spend large sums honestly, as Franklin D. Roosevelt demonstrated in
the 1930's. F.D.R. presided over a huge expansion of federal spending, including a lot
of discretionary spending by the Works Progress Administration. Yet the image of
public relief, widely regarded as corrupt before the New Deal, actually improved
How did that happen? The answer is that the New Deal made almost a fetish out of
policing its own programs against potential corruption. In particular, F.D.R. created a
powerful "division of progress investigation" to look into complaints of malfeasance in
the W.P.A. That division proved so effective that a later Congressional investigation
couldn't find a single serious irregularity it had missed.
This commitment to honest government wasn't a sign of Roosevelt's personal virtue; it
reflected a political imperative. F.D.R.'s mission in office was to show that government
activism works. To maintain that mission's credibility, he needed to keep his
administration's record clean.
But George W. Bush isn't F.D.R. Indeed, in crucial respects he's the anti-F.D.R.
President Bush subscribes to a political philosophy that opposes government activism
- that's why he has tried to downsize and privatize programs wherever he can. (He still
hopes to privatize Social Security, F.D.R.'s biggest legacy.) So even his policy failures
don't bother his strongest supporters: many conservatives view the inept response to
Katrina as a vindication of their lack of faith in government, rather than as a reason to
reconsider their faith in Mr. Bush.
And to date the Bush administration, which has no stake in showing that good
government is possible, has been averse to investigating itself. On the contrary, it has
consistently stonewalled corruption investigations and punished its own investigators
if they try to do their jobs.
That's why Mr. Bush's promise last night that he will have "a team of inspectors
general reviewing all expenditures" rings hollow. Whoever these inspectors general
are, they'll be mindful of the fate of Bunnatine Greenhouse, a highly regarded auditor
at the Army Corps of Engineers who suddenly got poor performance reviews after she
raised questions about Halliburton's contracts in Iraq. She was demoted late last
Turning the funds over to state and local governments isn't the answer, either. F.D.R.
actually made a point of taking control away from local politicians; then as now,
patronage played a big role in local politics.
And our sympathy for the people of Mississippi and Louisiana shouldn't blind us to the
realities of their states' political cultures. Last year the newsletter Corporate Crime
Reporter ranked the states according to the number of federal public-corruption
convictions per capita. Mississippi came in first, and Louisiana came in third.
Is there any way Mr. Bush could ensure an honest recovery program? Yes - he could
insulate decisions about reconstruction spending from politics by placing them in the
hands of an autonomous agency headed by a political independent, or, if no such
person can be found, a Democrat (as a sign of good faith).
He didn't do that last night, and probably won't. There's every reason to believe the
reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, like the failed reconstruction of Iraq, will be deeply
marred by cronyism and corruption.
Charles Krauthammer - WP
Friday, September 23, 2005
In September 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt brokered the Treaty of Portsmouth
(New Hampshire), which settled the Russo-Japanese War. Settling an extra-
hemispheric dispute between foreign powers marked the emergence of the United
States, an economic and demographic dynamo, as a world power and serious actor
on the international stage.
Exactly 100 years later, a statement of principles has been issued from Beijing on
dismantling North Korea's nuclear program. If it holds -- the "if" is very large -- it will
mark China's emergence from an economic and demographic dynamo to a major
actor on the world stage, and serious rival to American dominance in the Pacific.
Why is the Beijing agreement different from the worthless "Agreed Framework" Bill
Clinton signed in 1994 and North Korea violated (we now know) from the very first
day? That agreement was bilateral. This one is six-party, but the major player is
China conspicuously made itself the locus of the conference and its host. Its vice
foreign minister declared that "North Korea committed to abandoning all nuclear
weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date to a nuclear
nonproliferation treaty." If China can succeed where the United States failed miserably
in solving the knottiest problem in the Pacific, China will have emerged. That means a
lot for China. It has a large stake in this agreement.
Moreover, China controls 30 percent of the food and at least 70 percent of the fuel
going into North Korea. That is leverage. The question is why China has decided to
use it now.
Until now China had been content to allow North Korea to putter along with its threats,
bluster, promises and violations. This served a useful purpose for China in that it was
a distraction to the United States, a thorn in its side. Nor were the Chinese in a
particular mood to jeopardize the stability of a useful client state.
If this new agreement bears fruit, it will be because China has recalculated its
interests, by first deciding that if these negotiations go nowhere and North Korea
remains nuclear, it is only a matter of time before Japan goes nuclear, too. A nuclear
Japan is China's ultimate nightmare.
Second, the usefulness of North Korea as a thorn in the side of the United States may
have diminished. America has thorns aplenty, from Afghanistan to Iraq to Palestine to
Venezuela, to say nothing of its Katrina-related domestic problems.
Third and perhaps most important, this was less a crisis than an opportunity. China
has spent the past decade trying to translate its economic power into geopolitical
power to make itself the arbiter of Asian affairs. It has established several regional
organizations with Asian neighbors (ASEAN Plus Three, Shanghai Cooperation
Organization, East Asian Summit) that pointedly exclude the United States. Its major
ambition is to displace America as the major Pacific power. At which point, specific
and smaller objectives, such as the absorption of Taiwan and the extension of oil
rights to waters claimed by weaker neighbors, become infinitely more possible.
By succeeding at denuclearizing Pyongyang, China can demonstrate that the road to
getting things done in Asia runs through Beijing. It will have shown its neighbors that
the future lies in association with China, with or without the United States.
For this to happen, however, the declaration of principles has to translate into actual
dismantling of the North Korean nuclear program. The declaration itself is problematic.
It leaves ambiguous the fate of the uranium enrichment program, which North Korea
admitted to in 2002 and now claims does not exist.
Success is also contingent on the North Koreans agreeing to postpone, at U.S.
insistence, talks about a new light-water nuclear reactor until after it has dismantled its
nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons facilities. Yet, within a day after the
declaration of principles, Pyongyang issued a statement directly contradicting this and
saying that nothing will occur unless it gets the light-water reactors right away.
China is the only country that can force North Korea to give way. China will do so if it
decides that this is its Portsmouth moment. That would be a blessing, but not
unalloyed. It would solve the most acute and dangerous problem in the Pacific --
nuclear weapons in the hands of the half-mad Caligula that is Kim Jong Il -- at the
warranted but still significant cost of seeing our principal rival in the Pacific rise from
U.S. goes missing
Bennett Ramberg - IHT
Thursday, September 22, 2005
LOS ANGELES As the Bush administration attempts to rally diplomatic support to
suppress the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, it continues to undermine
one of the very foundations of nuclear nonproliferation, namely the nuclear test ban
treaty. This week, the Conference on Facilitating the Entry Into Force of the
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty will convene in New York to encourage all
nations to become treaty parties. Unfortunately, the United States will not be among
To date, 123 nations have signed and ratified the test ban treaty. However, the
covenant enters into force only upon the ratification of 44 states with nuclear power
and research reactors. At this time, 11 of these countries have abstained, including
the United States.
Washington thus finds itself in the company of both Pyongyang and Tehran, an
outcome doubly ironic considering America's historic leadership role in generating the
The test ban treaty marks the culmination of efforts to halt nuclear weapons testing
going back to the 1963 agreement negotiated by the Kennedy administration that
banned atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. As the Cold War waned, momentum built
to halt detonations entirely. In 1992 George W. Bush's father initiated a moratorium,
and Congress directed the president to seek a comprehensive test ban. The Clinton
administration complied, but under new political circumstances, the Senate failed to
give its consent.
The current President Bush opposed the test ban treaty from the start, and today this
position is U.S. policy. The administration argues that the United States must reserve
the right to test in the event the weapons laboratories cannot certify the reliability and
safety of the arsenal because of manufacturing and design defects and component
aging. Second, Bush's advisers do not have total confidence that laboratory work and
computer simulation will compensate for actual testing.
Finally, military planners want to explore the benefits of mini nuclear weapons to take
out deep bunkers, which testing can assuredly confirm.
These arguments do not stand up to scrutiny. For one thing, the American position
flies in the face of weapons laboratories' use of other methods - disassembly of the
weapons coupled to component inspection - to uncover defects. In 2002, the National
Academy of Sciences concluded that while "it is prudent to expect that age-related
defects affecting stockpile reliability may occur increasingly as the average age of
weapons in the stockpile increases ... nuclear testing is not needed to discover these
problems and is not likely to be needed to address them."
Finally, the development of mini nuclear weapons, which Congress banned years ago,
would actually lessen U.S. security by reducing the global nuclear taboo.
Conventional weapons in the arsenal and under development can meet the bunker-
busting requirements without the inevitable radiological consequences that even
"small" nuclear detonations would pose.
Contrast these risks with the benefits of the test ban treaty. It already constrains
Russian nuclear development. Were the United States to tie its ratification to China's,
it would serve to reduce the prowess of an emerging nuclear competitor.
Washington's example would also reinforce India's commitment not to test, which in
turn would reduce Pakistan's incentive. Ultimately, U.S. ratification would strengthen
its political, moral and normative position to combat nuclear proliferation while
providing a basis to mobilize international action against violators.
That said, the test ban treaty is no panacea to nuclear proliferation. Rather it is a
modest reinforcement. It promotes Bush's nonproliferation vision laid out at the
National Defense University on Feb. 4, 2004. Then he called upon "all nations to
strengthen the laws and international controls that govern proliferation." Bush added,
"At the UN last fall, I proposed a new Security Council resolution requiring all states to
criminalize proliferation, enact strict export controls and secure all sensitive materials
within their borders."
The president's failure to include the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in his recipe,
while continuing to promote new nuclear weapons development, ill serves the nuclear
peace that Washington has long sought to promote.
New York Times
September 26, 2005
Justice Within Limits
By Eric Posner
Chicago — The trial of Saddam Hussein will have the same structure as a certain
type of detective novel: we know who did it, and we know how it will all end; the only
mystery is how we will get there. The defendant will be found guilty of crimes against
humanity - but will he be able, in the process, to discredit the Iraqi government and
strengthen the hand of the insurgency? Unless the Iraqis and their American advisers
pay close attention to the politics of the trial, the answer may well be yes.
Every international criminal trial has a political dimension, thinly veiled by the official
account. Officially, the defendant is guilty of atrocities, yet is being granted procedural
rights that he would never have granted to his own enemies, thus vindicating the rule
of law. The underlying politics, on the other hand, reflect the need for a settlement
that gives members of the old regime a reason to participate in the new one.
For example, the Nuremberg trials after World War II were presented as an advance
of the rule of law into international politics. But it was quickly realized that the logic
behind the rule of law implied that everyone who participated in the Nazi regime
would have to be punished, a result that was incompatible with political needs -
enabling Germany first to feed its own people, then to participate as a liberal
democracy in the postwar international order. An early, idealistic effort to punish
nearly everyone involved in Nazi atrocities was abandoned. This pattern was more or
less duplicated in postwar Japan. In the transitions to democracy made in Eastern
Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many leaders avoided trials and
The lesson for Iraq is that it will avoid civil war only if lower-level former Baathists
believe that they have a role in the new political order. They will be watching the trial
carefully to see whether the legal theories used against Saddam Hussein sweep in all
those complicit in the regime.
The only current charge against Mr. Hussein (and seven of his aides) stems from the
executions and detentions of Iraqis after a failed assassination attempt in the town of
Dujail in 1982. The question is, are all the people involved in this event to be treated
as criminals? If so, does this include every soldier or security agent or prison guard
who detained people? What about owners of the banks that financed the regime, the
factories that produced its weapons? The decisions made in the trial will begin to
answer these questions, and the more they suggest expansive liability, the bleaker
the outlook for peace will be.
This is not to advocate a blanket amnesty. The question is where the line should be
drawn. The answer depends not on law but on politics, on the importance of the
members of the old government for the success of the new one. It is unfortunate that
this political question must be answered in a legal forum. It is unlikely that the judges
have the political acumen that would allow them to draw the line in the right place;
indeed, they will most likely resent the suggestion that their decisions should reflect
politics in any way.
If so, the line-drawing question will be thrown back into the political arena, where
narrowly defined amnesties can be devised. But the politicians have enough
problems without having to repudiate judicial decisions, which would place the
legitimacy of the infant government and the independence of the judiciary in doubt.
To avoid such dangers, the judges should resist the Nuremberg-like impulse to
advance the international rule of law by asserting expansive theories of liability like
complicity and limiting defenses like "just following orders." They should convict
Saddam Hussein on the narrowest grounds possible, so that his former supporters
do not infer that they will be placed in legal jeopardy as well.
Yes, Saddam Hussein's victims and international lawyers would complain, but Iraq
will not enjoy peace unless the Baathists are brought back within the political fold.
Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago, is the co-author of "The
Limits of International Law."
Bush's friend takes US spin to Mideast
Guy Dinmore - FT
Friday, September 30, 2005
Announcing the appoint-ment of Karen Hughes to marshal the communication of US
policies to the world, Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, declared: "We must do
more to confront hateful propaganda, dispel dangerous myths and get out the truth."
On her first tour of the Middle East which ended yesterday, Mrs Hughes, under
secretary for public diplomacy and a close friend of President George W. Bush, has
shown energy and passion in getting the US message across to a foreign audience.
One of her initiatives in the mind war against extremism has been to set up "rapid
reaction SWAT" teams that will monitor foreign reports and respond immediately in
the same news cycle to falsehoods and incitement.
However, on her tour of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey she has repeatedly puzzled
her audiences with her or the administration's own interpretation of history and current
In almost every speech or interview, Mrs Hughes has sought to dispel the widely held
belief that the US is pro-Israel, by stating that Mr Bush was the first American
president to declare US support for an independent Palestinian state.
For example, in an interview with al-Jazeera, the Arabic television network that has
been criticised by the administration for its perceived anti-American bias, Mrs Hughes
said: "President Bush is the first president in the history of America to say we believe
the Palestinians should have a state, living side by side in peace with Israel." Yet, on
January 7 2001, in a policy speech in New York then President Bill Clinton laid out
what were known as the "Clinton parameters" and declared: "First, I think there can be
no genuine resolution to the conflict without a sovereign, viable Palestinian state that
accommodates Israel's security requirements and the demographic realities."
Speaking on her way back to the US yesterday, Mrs Hughes stood by her assertion.
She said she had called David Welch, assistant secretary for the Middle East, and he
had confirmed Mr Bush was the first US president to say "we support two states living
side by side". "I refer you to David," she said.
Another subject raised by Arab interlocutors with Mrs Hughes was the treatment of
detainees at the US prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Her reply that the International
Committee of the Red Cross had "24-hour access" to the prison and the implication
that this was a guarantee of good treatment have provoked objections from the
Antonella Notari, spokeswoman for the ICRC, described Mrs Hughes' remarks as
"very troubling". She added: "We are not part of the Guantánamo system. We come in
regularly to monitor the situation. We certainly should not serve as an argument by
anybody to say that things are fine or not fine in Guantánamo."
Events in the less recent past are also subject to spin. Defending the 2003 invasion of
Iraq, part of Mrs Hughes' argument is that Saddam Hussein's forces fired on US
aircraft that she said were enforcing sanctions.
Analysts said that strictly speaking this could be said to be true, but they also pointed
out that no United Nations Security Council resolution specifically man dated the "no-
fly" zones in Iraq that were unilaterally imposed by the US, UK and France after the
1991 Gulf war.
Kofi Annan, UN secretary general, at the time also joined Russia, China and others in
challenging US assertions that Iraq had violated Resolution 1441 by firing on US and
British aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones.
Independent observers who have joined Mrs Hughes on her "listening tour" do not
question her sincerity in seeking to bridge the gap between the US and the Middle
East that has seen America's popularity ratings plummet to unprecedented lows since
the invasion of Iraq. When she speaks with great feeling about her son, her audiences
have generally reacted warmly to her assertions of the "values" that America shares
with their cultures.
However, knowing that this is the first time Mrs Hughes has ever set foot in the Middle
East, they question the depth of her knowledge or the sincerity of the officials who
America's new UN envoy
Lethal injection, or healthy tonic?
Aug 4th 2005
From The Economist print edition
The president bypasses the Senate to send John Bolton to the UN
THE deed is done, and the United Nations is unlikely to be the same again. Ignoring
fierce opposition from civil liberties groups, Democrats and even some Republicans,
George Bush has chosen to bypass normal Senate confirmation procedures to appoint
John Bolton while Congress is in recess. The droopy moustache fools no one; this is an
outspoken advocate of America's global hegemony.
Senate Democrats, who had held up Mr Bolton's confirmation for five months, are
outraged—as much by the manner of the appointment, which is legal but sneaky, as by
the man appointed. The minority leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, characterised the use
of a recess appointment as “the latest abuse of power” by the White House. Even some
Republicans reckon that the president's failure to win bipartisan Senate approval, and his
way of getting round it, would cause Mr Bolton to be seen as damaged goods. It is the
first time since 1948 that an American ambassador to the UN has been appointed in this
way, and means that Mr Bolton will be able to serve only until the end of the present
Congress in December 2006.
In the past, Mr Bolton has seemed to treat the UN with something less than full respect.
He once suggested that “it wouldn't make a bit of difference” if the UN secretariat
building in New York were to lose ten storeys, and declared that the Security Council
needed only one permanent member “because that's the real reflection of the distribution
of power in the world—the United States.” In so saying, Mr Bolton speaks for all those
neo-cons who regard the UN as a costly, corrupt, anachronistic impediment to the free
exercise of American power.
Many UN members fear that Mr Bolton's appointment will signal America's desire to lower
the beleaguered world body into its grave. But others believe that the choice of such an
outspoken, hard-driving heavyweight with a direct line to the highest levels of the
administration could actually provide the “kick up the pants” that the UN needs. Mr
Bush's expression of his “complete confidence” in his new envoy can only help.
“The worst thing that could have happened to us would have been the appointment of a
weak ambassador,” a senior UN official concedes. “Bolton's appointment shows that the
United States wants to be engaged.” It could also help bring some of the UN's most
ferocious critics behind the reforms to which Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state,
insists both the United States and Mr Bolton are committed.
Many may snigger derisively at such a claim, remembering America's frequent dismissal
of the UN as “irrelevant” after its failure to back the Iraq war. But in testimony to the
Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, Nicholas Burns, one of Ms Rice's under-
secretaries, sounded astonishingly supportive of the UN, praising its many achievements
in bringing economic development, security and peace to the world, and pledging
American backing for most of Kofi Annan's proposed reforms, due to be endorsed by
world leaders at a UN summit in New York next month.
In particular, Mr Burns remarked that the UN could not function effectively without “an
interested, focused and committed United States”. “It is therefore vital”, he went on,
“that the US lead the United Nations, that we have faith in the UN, pay our dues,
promote reform and contribute to strengthen the UN for all the many challenges ahead.”
Some doubters are still wary. “Unilateralists, like Bolton, don't really want to destroy the
UN; they just want to control it or paralyse it if it doesn't do what the US wants,” says
one old acquaintance of the new ambassador. But administration officials point out that
the reforms sought by the United States are too near completion for Mr Bolton to be able
to meddle much. His role will be more to execute policy than to formulate it, they say. He
could be rather good at that.
Lessons from anarchy
Aug 18th 2005
From The Economist print edition
Today's jihadists, like yesterday's anarchists, will fade. Terrorism won't
ON THE face of it, anarchists, who believe in no government, have little in common with
jihadists, who believe in imposing a particularly rigid form of government on everyone.
The theoreticians for both movements have often been bearded and angry, of course,
and their followers have readily taken to the bomb. But there the similarities end, don't
they, so what lessons can be drawn from a bunch of zealots who flourished over 100
years ago and whose ideology now counts for practically nothing?
At least two, actually. The first is that repression, expulsion and restrictions on free
speech do little to end terrorism. All were tried, often with great vigour, at the end of the
19th century when the anarchist violence that terrified much of Europe and parts of
America was at its zenith. As our report makes clear, governments had good reason to
respond. Austria, France, Italy, Spain and the United States all lost an empress, king,
president or prime minister to anarchist assassins. Such murders were so common that
King Umberto of Italy, throwing himself aside to escape a stabbing, casually remarked,
“These are the risks of the job.” (He was later shot dead.) Anarchists also killed lots of
less exalted innocents.
Then, as now, governments responded to the clamour for action with measures to
criminalise anyone preaching or condoning violence and, if they were foreign, to keep
them out of the country. Spain brought in courts-martial for bombers, foreshadowing
perhaps America's military commissions for Guantánamo trials. Britain, with a tradition of
tolerating dissent, became home to many continental radicals, such as those driven out
of Germany after the two attempts on Kaiser Wilhelm I's life in 1878. Britain, however,
was not afflicted with bombings as other countries were. Spain, where every kind of
retribution including the crudest of tortures were the standard response, suffered many
more outrages. Yet few lessons seem to have been learnt. Several of the new measures
announced on August 5th by Tony Blair, Britain's prime minister, echo almost exactly
those passed in France after a bomb had been lobbed into the French parliament in 1893.
In both Britain and America, new attacks are said to be inevitable. Yet every new attack
is followed by new measures, as though such measures could have averted an
inevitability had they been in place before. They could not, both logically and because
terrorism cannot be defeated, as countries can be. That is the second lesson to be drawn
from the anarchists.
The enduring allure of idealism and violence
Throughout history, men seized with a sense of injustice, or purpose, or hatred, or
inadequacy, have resorted to bloodshed. The anarchists were not the first. They were
merely particularly potent believers in violence in the furtherance of an idealistic,
millenarian vision. Jihadists are too. Most anarchists, like most Islamists, were not
violent. But, like the jihadists, they had their firebrands and, like the jihadists, they had
an ideology that could be twisted to appeal to a certain kind of wounded utopian lacking
all capacity for empathy.
Such people can be caught, sometimes before they have done anything terrible. That
argues for excellent intelligence and police work. Perhaps their numbers can be reduced
by ameliorating the grievances that lend them the justification for their attacks. That
argues for political action. And certainly the public needs reassurance. That argues for
honest explanation—that terrorism does not threaten any western government, that
retribution, like police injustices committed in nervous haste, is likely to provoke more
violence, that new restrictions are unlikely to bring new safety. Honest explanation, and
simple history, also suggest that this wave of terror will pass, just as the anarchist wave
passed, but that terrorism will not—not as long as strange men are captivated by strange
ideas. The jihadists will go. Others will take the stage.
India and America
Now we are six
Jul 21st 2005
From The Economist print edition
A good week for great-power politics, but a less good one for nuclear
HAS America just destroyed the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), set up in 1968 to halt the
spread of nuclear weapons? There were some grounds for fearing so this week, after
India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, was lavishly entertained in Washington. In
return for agreeing to a “global partnership” with America, he has walked off with a
cherished prize, access to American civilian nuclear know-how, and to nuclear fuel,
despite the fact that India has been a declared holder of nuclear weapons since 1998.
India is not a signatory to the NPT, and is not bound by its provisions, which restrict the
right to possess nuclear weapons to the five original nuclear powers (America, Russia,
Britain, France and China), and impose extensive safeguards on the civilian nuclear
programmes of other member states. But even so, it has always been a tenet of
American foreign policy, enshrined in law, that only countries that are NPT members
should share in the benefits of American civilian nuclear expertise. Being able to buy
American reactor components and fuel rods was supposed to be a specific reward for
renouncing nuclear weapons, not a favour to be handed out at will.
Just because America has decided that it needs India as an ally these days, to use as a
counterweight to China, is no reason for it to waive its own rules. The danger now is that
other friendly countries that have considered acquiring nuclear weapons, but decided not
to do so because help with their civilian programmes was judged to matter more, might
think that they too can have it both ways. Another danger is that non-nuclear countries
will have more reason than before to see the NPT as a charade which lets the powerful
hold on to their own nukes and allows their friends to acquire them, while excluding
On close inspection, though, the deal is not quite as bad as it might have been. India did
not get the biggest thing it wanted, formal recognition by America as a fully legitimate
nuclear power, alongside the existing five. And it has accepted what looks like a stringent
set of safeguards and restrictions. It has agreed to inspections by the International
Atomic Energy Agency, to separate rigorously its civilian and military nuclear
programmes, to sign up to various regimes strictly prohibiting the export of weapons
systems or components, and to a moratorium on nuclear testing—though not, as ought
to have been part of the deal, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And it is at
least arguable that India, because of its size, influence and new-found closeness to
America, will not, in reality, set a precedent for other would-be nuclear powers.
On balance, all the same, it does seem that America's eagerness to cement a better
relationship with India has led it to damage the effort to contain the spread of nuclear
weapons. One source of consolation is that the other side of the balance looks better (see
article). A much closer relationship between the world's largest and most potent
democracies is a huge good: consider an alternative prospect, that of India and China
teaming up in rivalry to America, to see why. Regional security, the struggle against
terrorism and AIDS, the promotion of democratic values, and efficient co-operation in the
services sector are among the many ways in which both countries, and the world, stand
to gain. Still, India might better have been offered something it values even more highly
than nuclear help, and deserves far better: American support for its quest to win a
permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
All the President's Women
MAUREEN DOWD - NYT
Wednesday, October 5, 2005
I hope President Bush doesn't have any more office wives tucked away in the White
There are only so many supremely powerful jobs to give to women who are not
qualified to get them.
The West Wing is a parallel universe to TV's Wisteria Lane: instead of self-indulgent
desperate housewives wary of sexy nannies, there are self-sacrificing, buttoned-up
nannies serving as adoring work wives, catering to W.'s every political, legal and ego-
Maybe it's because his mom was not adoring enough, but more tart and prickly, even
telling her son, the president, not to put his feet up on her coffee table. Or maybe it's
because, as his wife says, his kinship with his mom gives him a desire to be around
strong, "very natural" women. But W. loves being surrounded by tough women who
steadfastly devote their entire lives to doting on him, like the vestal virgins guarding
the sacred fire, serving as custodians for his values and watchdogs for his reputation.
First he elevated Condi Rice to secretary of state, even though she had bungled her
job as national security adviser, failing to bring a sense of urgency to warnings about
terrorism aimed at America before 9/11, and acting more as an enabler than honest
broker in the push to invade Iraq.
But what were these limitations, considering the time the workaholic bachelorette
logged at W.'s side in Crawford and Camp David, coaching him on foreign affairs,
talking sports with him, exercising with him, making him feel like the most thoughtful,
farsighted he-man in the world?
Then he elevated his longtime aide, speechwriter, memoir ghostwriter and
cheerleader Karen Hughes to undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, even
though it is exceedingly hard for the 6-foot Texan to try and spin a billion Muslims
whom she doesn't understand the first thing about.
But who cares about her lack of expertise in such a critical job, as long as the
workaholic loyalist continues to make her old boss feel like the most thoughtful,
farsighted he-man in the world?
And now he has nominated his White House counsel and former personal lawyer,
Harriet Miers, to a crucial swing spot on the Supreme Court. The stolid Texan, called
"Harry" by some old friends, is a bachelorette who was known for working long hours,
sometimes 16-hour days, and was a frequent guest at Camp David and the Crawford
ranch, where she helped W. clear brush.
Like Ms. Hughes and Laura Bush, she's a graduate of Southern Methodist, and she
has always been there for W. In 1998, during his re-election race for governor, Harry
handled the first questions about whether Mr. Bush had received favorable treatment
to get into the Texas Air National Guard to avoid the draft. Though the former
Democrat once gave a grand to Al Gore in '88, she passed the loyalty test for W.
during the Bush v. Gore standoff in 2000, when she recruited conservative lawyers to
work for the Bush scion in Tallahassee.
But who cares whether she has no judicial experience, and that no one knows what
she believes or how she would rule from a bench she's never been behind, as long as
the reason her views are so mysterious is that she's subordinated them to W.'s,
making him feel like the most thoughtful, farsighted he-man in the world?
David Frum, the former White House speechwriter and conservative commentator,
reported on his blog that Ms. Miers once told him that W. was the most brilliant man
Bushie and Harriet share the same born-again Christian faith, which they came to in
midlife, deciding to adopt Jesus Christ as their saviors. The Washington Post reported
that she tithes to the Valley View Christian Church in Dallas, "where antiabortion
literature is sometimes distributed and tapes from the conservative group Focus on
the Family are sometimes screened," and where, when she returns, Ms. Miers asks
well-wishers to pray for her and the president.
Born Catholic, she switched to evangelical Christianity in her mid-30's and began to
identify more with the Republicans than the Democrats, The Times reports today; she
joined the missions committee of her church, which opposed legalized abortion, and
one former political associate said that Ms. Miers told her she had been in favor of a
woman's right to have an abortion when she was younger, but that her views
hardened against abortion once she became born again.
W. is asking for a triple leap of faith. He has faith in Ms. Miers as his lawyer and as a
woman who shares his faith. And we're expected to have faith in his faith and her
faith, and her opinions that derive from her faith that could change the balance of the
court and affect women's rights for the next generation.
That's a little bit too much faith, isn't it?
The World Is Flat
Editorial - WSJ
Friday, October 7, 2005
Sooner or later it had to happen: The mainstream press is finally discovering the flat-
tax movement that has been sweeping Europe. It must be painful to credit an idea
associated with the likes of Milton Friedman and Steve Forbes, but reality can't be
The latest news is that the government of Greece is contemplating a 25% flat-rate
income tax to take effect in 2006, replacing a multiple-tier tax structure with rates of
40% or more. The Finance Minister insists that such a flat-tax reform is necessary to
reduce a spiraling budget deficit, and that any lost revenue will be recouped "via an
overall increase in income."
By our count, this brings to 11 the number of nations with a single-rate, postcard tax
system. More dominoes are expected to fall in the next few years: Bulgaria, Croatia
and Hungary are also preparing to feed their thousands of pages of tax code into the
shredder in favor of lower, flatter rates. A flat-tax proposal was debated as part of
Poland's recent election campaign. And one of the countries that started it all, Estonia,
plans to lower its rate one more time, to 20% from 24%, which was down from the
initial flat rate of 26%. Lithuania hopes to go to 24% from 33%.
As shown in the nearby table, most of the world's flat-tax nations today are the former
Iron Curtain nations, which for 50 years attempted to create a workers' paradise
through command-and-control economic systems. Many of these nations have swung
full circle in the opposite, free-enterprise direction. Daniel Mitchell, chief economist at
the Heritage Foundation, notes that Greece's decision would make it the first non-
former communist European nation to adopt the flat tax. East Europe is exporting its
economic system westward after all, but not in the way Nikita Khrushchev ever could
In response, even Old Europe has had to consider tax reform, lest its economies
become increasingly uncompetitive. Rather than catching the flat-tax wave, France,
Germany and Italy have been attempting to stop it by outlawing tax competition
through international entities, such as the OECD, the European Union and United
But in the meantime, Germany has decided it can't wait and has announced plans to
cut its corporate tax rate to 19% from 25%. During last month's election campaign, the
opposition party's candidate for finance minister, Paul Kirchhof, championed a 25%
flat tax "so that workers don't need 12 Saturdays but 10 minutes to complete their
taxes." Some analysts blame the proposal for the opposition's late collapse in the
polls, as incumbent Gerhard Schröder's party fanned fears about the flat tax. But the
fact that it was debated at all shows that even Germans realize they are under
competitive tax pressure.
And what of the United States? The postcard flat-tax concept was virtually invented on
these shores, originally by Mr. Friedman. Americans devised the economically optimal
tax system and much of the world seems ready to embrace it -- just not us.
Back in the 1980s, a few Democrats (Bill Bradley, Dick Gephardt) entertained a tax
reform of flatter rates and fewer deductions. But nowadays the political left derides the
concept as some sinister plot to let Rolls Royce and yacht owners slash their tax bills.
Their ideological blinders prevent them from learning the lesson that the new political
class in Russia, Estonia and now Greece accept as a 21st-century economic reality:
The best way to get more taxes out of rich people is to generate more rich people,
and then give them more incentive to report their income by keeping tax rates low.
Russia, for example, has reported that it now gets more tax revenues from the rich
from its 13% flat tax than from its pre-existing Swiss cheese tax code with massive
evasion and 50%-plus tax rates. Russia's revenues with the flat tax grew in real terms
by 28% in 2001, 21% in 2002, and 31% in 2003, according to a recent analysis by the
Hoover Institution. If the U.S. had that kind of revenue growth, our politicians would be
wringing their hands over what to do with budget surpluses.
Last year the Internal Revenue code achieved a new Olympic record for complexity,
with nine million words -- 12 times the length of the King James Bible. High tax rates
and mindless tax complexity are an economic ball and chain. We hope President
Bush's tax reform commission will cut through the class-warfare blather later this
month and endorse a simple, broad-based, single-rate tax system.
Ban (your) nukes!
Charles D. Ferguson and Ray Takeyh - IHT
Friday, October 7, 2005
WASHINGTON While American diplomats have publicly cheered the International
Atomic Energy Agency's vote to find Iran in violation of nuclear nonproliferation
obligations, it is much too early to pop open the Champagne bottles.
The United States still has failed to craft a broad international consensus behind its
policy toward Iran's nuclear challenge. This reflects not just maladroit diplomacy, but
the contradictions and inconsistencies that have plagued America's anti-proliferation
The 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty offered a unique compact between the five
states possessing nuclear weapons and the rest of the international community. In
exchange for the "have-nots" forgoing the weapons option, the nuclear-armed states
pledged to reduce and eventually eliminate their own arsenal.
Contrary to such pledges, since coming to power, the Bush team has dispensed with
the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and sided with an influential segment of the
Republican Party in its opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Moreover,
the Pentagon is contemplating a new class of weapons that could involve resumption
It is difficult to make the case that America is concerned about proliferation when it
stands in violation of at least the spirit, if not the letter, of the nonproliferation treaty. In
a further setback to nonproliferation norms, Washington has absolved a number of its
allies whose nuclear penchants have never been regulated by the nonproliferation
Pakistan was the first beneficiary of Bush munificence, as its cooperation on the "war
against terrorism" was used to forgive Islamabad for its export of illicit nuclear
technology and know-how to rogue regimes, including Iran and North Korea. As a
gesture of balance in the subcontinent, this past July India was also rewarded and
essentially welcomed to the "nuclear club" despite its snubbing of the nonproliferation
All this brings us to the perplexing and difficult cases of Iran. Tehran has been
effective in exploiting the ambiguities of the nonproliferation treaty and the
contradictory nature of U.S. policy.
The nonproliferation treaty does grant member states the "unalienable right" to "use of
nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." Traditionally, this clause has been interpreted
as granting member states the right to enrich uranium.
However, it is feared that once Iran masters the enrichment cycle, it could effectively
assemble the bomb. The much-maligned director of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei,
offered a way out of the Iran imbroglio at last May's nonproliferation treaty review
conference by calling on all states to forgo new enrichment activities for five years
until a more suitable inspection regime can be forged. The state that most
systematically and successfully lobbied against this effort was the United States.
The Bush administration's subordination of proliferation to other strategic objectives
has made it vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy. Iranian diplomats routinely point to
India and stress that it is not Washington's concern with proliferation but its opposition
to the theocratic regime that propels it to press for referral of Iran to the Security
Hovering over all this is the ponderous legacy of Iraq, when the Bush administration
distorted and exaggerated intelligence data on Iraq's nuclear portfolio to justify its
predetermined invasion strategy.
The Iraq war and the Bush team's expressed disdain for the determinations of the
Security Council and global opinion have eroded America's credibility to an extent that
it is successfully outmaneuvered by Iran.
Since Sept. 11, the Bush administration has made preventing proliferation of the
"world's most dangerous weapons" its foremost objective. Yet, after five years in
power, the administration has not only failed to resolve the Iran issue, but done
considerable damage to global nonproliferation norms.
Charles D. Ferguson and Ray Takeyh are fellows at the Council on Foreign Relations
Oct 6th 2005
From The Economist print edition
If Britain wants more nuclear power, it must take some difficult decisions
AFTER years in the wilderness, nuclear power is back on the agenda. Officials have been
hinting at a revival for several years, pointing out that it is a carbon-free source of
electricity that can contribute to energy security. At first, Tony Blair promised a decision
by the end of this parliament. Last week Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, firmed up
the timetable, promising to decide one way or the other by the end of next year. Many
observers now believe that ministers will approve new power plants. If they do, they will
have to make some tricky decisions first.
Such as about the finances of nuclear power. Historically, atomic energy has been a
money pit. Only two years ago the government completed a multi-billion pound bail-out
of British Energy, which operates Britain's newest reactors. The pro-nuclear lobby argues
that consolidation in energy markets and simpler, cheaper reactor designs have driven
costs down in recent years. And experience from South Korea and China, both of which
have big nuclear programmes, supports the idea that building several reactors of the
same design can save money.
Even so, few observers think that nuclear power pays its way in today's electricity
market. Boosters say that schemes like the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS),
which puts a price on carbon emissions, will in future make nuclear energy profitable.
Some disagree. Robin Smale of Oxera, a consultancy, thinks that more money will be
needed. “The problem with the ETS is that member states set the emissions limits, which
means they can control the price,” he says. Investors will want stability, just as other
businesses do (see article). “If you want a project with a long lifetime and big financing
requirements you need something that looks more like a contract and less like a trading
scheme full of political risks,” he says.
He believes that the government will have to consider guaranteeing a carbon price. Some
might see this as akin to direct subsidies for nuclear power, something that Mr Wicks has
ruled out. But Mr Smale points out that renewables generators, which are already
subsidised, would benefit from the new scheme as well.
Keith Parker, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), says planning
needs reform. Sizewell B, the last nuclear power station commissioned in Britain, needed
14 years and one of the most expensive public inquiries in British history before it was
ready. He says that new planning policies are needed to prevent a repeat performance
and calm investors' nerves. Planning applications for big renewables projects are already
handled by Whitehall rather than by local authorities, and some observers think
something similar may be needed for nuclear power. Mr Parker wants changes to the
licensing regime, so that once a reactor type is approved, inquiries into safety design do
not have to be revisited each time one is built.
Decommissioning costs may be a sticking point. Earlier in the year the government
launched the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, a public body that will dismantle
Britain's state-owned nuclear sites at a cost to taxpayers of £56 billion. If taxpayers want
to avoid a clean-up bill, they need a way to finance future clean-up costs privately. They
could follow the American approach, in which nuclear generators are required to set
clean-up money aside. But forecasting costs decades into the future is as much luck as it
is judgement. If anything goes wrong, taxpayers will have to pay.
A policy on nuclear waste is overdue. Britain has been splitting atoms for half a century
and governments have been skirting the issue of waste disposal all the while. The
problem is not technical (every expert recommends burying the waste deep
underground) but the difficulty of finding someone willing to accept it. Experience from
Finland, which finalised its waste-disposal plans in 2001, suggests that towns with ties to
the nuclear industry are the most tolerant, though strong opposition is likely wherever
the stuff ends up. Again, investors want a clear plan.
All of this feeds into the most important challenge of all: persuading voters that nuclear
power is a good idea. This may not be as difficult as you might think. A poll conducted in
January for BNFL, a state-owned operator, showed that more people had a favourable
impression of the nuclear industry (28%) than an unfavourable one (26%) for the first
time since 1999. It may be harder for the government to convince its own MPs: a MORI
poll last week showed 45% of Labour MPs opposing new nuclear plants, with only 36% in
Storm in a D-cup
Sep 8th 2005
From The Economist print edition
Peter Mandelson does not emerge well from
the bra wars
SAY what you like about Peter Mandelson—and few people can resist the
temptation—he has certain virtues. He is clever, he has keen political
instincts and he has been on the right side (in both senses) of the big
ideological debates within the European left. So when Mr Mandelson, who
had been forced to resign twice from ministerial jobs in Britain in odd
circumstances, arrived in Brussels last year to take up his new job as the
European Union's trade commissioner, the opportunity to re-build his
reputation was clear: the new trade commissioner seemed sure to emerge
as one of the stars of the lacklustre European Commission led by José
Less than a year into his job, however, Mr Mandelson is in danger of
turning into an embarrassment. His intentions when he arrived in Brussels
were clear and encouraging. In a city in which anti-Americanism and anti-
capitalism are all too common, Mr Mandelson would be the voice of
Atlanticism and liberal economics. And in a commission desperately short
of political heavyweights, he would be a shrewd and experienced operator.
Unfortunately, the new trade commissioner's actions over the past six
months seem to have been almost designed to debunk each of these
points. First, he got involved in a bout of bad-tempered name calling with
Robert Zoellick, then his American counterpart (the two men are still
squabbling over who slammed the phone down on whom). After that, he
besmirched his reputation for economic liberalism by negotiating a
protectionist deal to restrict Chinese textile exports to the EU. Finally, he
took a pick-axe to his reputation for competence, when the textile deal
that he had hailed as a “win, win, win agreement” came unstuck within
weeks. With 80m pieces of imported Chinese clothing stacking up in
European warehouses—and retailers terrifying the women of Europe with
predictions of an impending shortage of bras—Mr Mandelson had to rush
back to Beijing to re-negotiate.
After the traditional “gruelling all-night negotiating sessions”, the two
sides came up with a complicated fix that should unblock Europe's
warehouses. With the deal done, Mr Mandelson set about trying to rescue
his reputation for economic liberalism, by giving a speech in Beijing billed
as a “passionate defence of free trade”. Unfortunately, against the
background of recent events, it was rather like hearing a passionate
defence of marital fidelity from Bill Clinton: the sentiments are admirable,
but the words somehow lack conviction.
So what went wrong? There is no doubt that Mr Mandelson was under
intense political pressure from powerful lobbies in Europe, backed by the
French and Italian governments. He is certainly not the first trade
representative to be put in the uncomfortable position of defending a
policy that goes against his best instincts—one recalls his foe, Mr Zoellick,
trying to defend American steel tariffs. But Mr Mandelson also made
serious errors of judgment. After his unnecessary row with the Americans,
he was desperate to give a virtuoso display of his negotiating skills—a
deal with the Chinese, any deal, fitted the bill all too neatly. Aware that he
is regarded with deep suspicion in France, he was also too eager to shore
up his political position by pandering to French protectionism. But, as the
chastened commissioner remarked in Beijing this week, the trouble with
managed trade deals is that “the law of unforeseen consequences will
inevitably kick in.” With any luck, one of those unforeseen consequences
will be to discredit any further attempts to “manage” European trade with
Jun 30th 2005 | SHANGDU
From The Economist print edition
China is restoring its history, with a heavy hand
FOR CENTURIES the name has fuelled western fantasy about the exotic Orient. Some
scholars believe Marco Polo may never even have made it there, as he claimed he did in
the 13th century soon after the city was founded. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an English
poet, certainly never had when he wrote, half a millennium later, of Kublai Khan's
“stately pleasure dome”. Until the late 1990s, China's Communist government fuelled the
mystery by declaring the ruins of Xanadu (as Coleridge called it; the real name is
Shangdu) to be in a restricted area which foreigners required special permits to visit.
Very few of them did.
But if the local authorities have their way, Xanadu is to be transformed. The trickle of
travellers who have ventured to the site about 300km (190 miles) north of Beijing in the
grasslands of Inner Mongolia will turn into a gush (a tenfold increase by 2008 compared
with 2003). A replica Xanadu (or part of it) will rise from the pasture nearby, along with
an army in statuary of Mongol warriors. In Xanadu itself, golf buggies will transport
visitors around the 400-hectare (990-acre) site, enclosed by crumbled grass-covered
walls. Fortunately, officials there say that a partial reconstruction of the walls and the
remains of Kublai Khan's palace, launched early this decade, has been shelved.
In theory, as the summer capital of Kublai Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan and the
founder of what was then the biggest ever unified Chinese state, Xanadu should long
have been a special attraction in China. The history of Xanadu is closely linked with that
of Beijing, which Kublai made his primary capital, the first emperor to do so. Yet Xanadu
was elevated to a state-level protected relic only in 1988. Few Chinese are familiar with
the city's name. Like people everywhere, even fewer know where it is.
Part of the problem (from the official viewpoint) has been that there is little of substance
to see. The city was destroyed in a 14th century uprising and its stonework has mostly
vanished. To a foreign visitor, the occasional glazed tile found lying in the grass might
evoke images of the city described by Polo with its houses covered with gold and
decorated with pictures of birds, animals or flowers. A stream near the building site of a
new ticket office and museum could, with a suitable stretch of the imagination, be
Coleridge's Alph, “the sacred river”. But as reconstructed monuments across China
attest, the preference of many Chinese tourists is to see what once was, even if only in
replica, rather than simply to imagine it. Whole sections of the Great Wall of China, for
instance, have been completely rebuilt.
The rapid growth in recent years of a car-owning middle class in Beijing is prompting the
governments of almost every region within a day's driving distance to re-examine their
tourism assets. The authorities in Xilin Gol, the prefecture to which Xanadu belongs, see
a potential windfall: the remains of Xanadu (plus a new museum) and the area's scenic
grasslands, which form one of the nearest stretches of open countryside to Beijing
unscarred by intensive agriculture. Crucially, for the replica-loving crowd, a Beijing-based
film company run by an ethnic Mongol actor has signed a letter of intent to spend some
$60m in building the new Xanadu, as well as a riding arena a few kilometres away. It will
be called Xanadu Film and Television City.
Xanadu is not alone in receiving such attention. The collapse of communism in
neighbouring Mongolia and the growth there of Mongolian nationalism have spurred an
attempt by the Chinese government to keep its own (and more numerous) Mongolians
happy by presenting China as a worthy custodian of their culture. Tens of millions of
dollars are being spent elsewhere in Inner Mongolia on revamping sites linked with
Genghis Khan, the symbol of Mongol nationalism. But it is probably at least as much a
desire to cash in on the thirst of China's newly rich for exotic holiday destinations that
will finally put Xanadu on the map.
Oct 6th 2005 | GENEVA
From The Economist print edition
The battle to control the internet
SINCE the internet was created in the 1960s as a military-research project, America has
co-ordinated the underlying infrastructure. But other countries are increasingly
concerned that a single nation enjoys such power, and want to place the internet in the
hands of an inter-governmental organisation—something America says might hobble the
At a diplomatic conference last month in Geneva to prepare for the United Nations World
Summit on the Information Society, taking place in November, vocal critics such as
Brazil, China and Iran led the opposition to America's control. On September 28th, the
European Union abandoned its support for the current system and proposed a new,
governmental approach, leaving America more isolated than ever.
Although the internet is largely decentralised and so difficult to regulate, the domain-
name system is one of the few levers by which it can be controlled. Today, the internet is
managed by a private-sector group called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN), which America helped to set up in 1998 and still oversees. ICANN
already has an international board of directors and a governmental advisory committee,
but many non-Americans want to strengthen the role of governments.
The EU proposal, announced by Britain, which currently holds the EU's rotating
presidency, was intended as a compromise between the UN supporters and America. It
would create a new organisation to set policies over distributing routing numbers,
creating new domains and the like. Because of its role as chair, Britain, usually America's
closest ally on internet issues, had to stay neutral and could not beat back calls by
Denmark, France, Spain and the Netherlands for greater government influence over the
internet. After the announcement, Brazilian and Iranian delegates rushed to congratulate
British officials, whose faces dropped when they realised the EU policy was being lauded
by America's loudest opponents.
If ICANN already has a degree of government representation, why is a new organisation
needed? Many of the arguments advanced come down to suspicion of America, and fear
that ICANN is a tool of American hegemony. But another reason is that, although today
the internet's address system identifies digital devices, in future it may be extended to
encompass objects (through melding addresses with radio-frequency identification tags),
location (via global-positioning satellites) and even individuals.
Meanwhile, countries demand sovereignty over their two-letter national address suffixes,
which due to a quirk of history still ultimately reside under American control. Such
concerns—which are political as much as technical—call for greater government
involvement, or so the argument goes. All governments calling for change repeat the
mantra that the new system would be a “multi-stakeholder” process that includes
industry and civil-society groups.
However, the disingenuousness of the position was made clear during the meeting last
month in Geneva. Some countries demanded that groups representing business and
public-interest causes be thrown out of the room when governments drafted documents
for the summit in November. In one instance, delegates from China and Brazil actually
pounded on tables to drown out a speaker from industry.
To break the impasse, some countries are trying to devise a compromise before the
summit that will temporarily appease all sides. America has endorsed a proposal that
would create a forum—devoid of formal powers—to discuss these matters. This will
enable the issue to remain on the diplomatic radar after the UN summit. Indeed, the real
battle will come in 2006 when America's contract with ICANN comes up for renewal and
there is a big conference of the International Telecommunication Union, a UN body that
aspires to fill ICANN's shoes.
Ultimately, the political squabbles are overshadowing more important things that could
improve the lot of internet users, such as widening access to the internet and using
technology for development. The good news from the UN meetings is that governments
increasingly understand the importance of technology to society. The bad news is that
the internet risks becoming suffocated in their embrace.
Calling the tune
Oct 6th 2005
From The Economist print edition
Music firms are emboldened, but risk strangling the golden goose
THE music business has long wailed that internet piracy is destroying its business. Now,
it is fighting back on two fronts—first, by driving illegal operators out of business; then
by driving as hard a bargain as possible with those firms selling legal downloads. Indeed
talks between Microsoft and the major music firms have just broken down because the
software company thinks the music business is demanding unreasonable levels of
Things are going better for the major record labels on other fronts. Last week the
founder of a popular “peer-to-peer” (P2P) file-sharing program, Sam Yagan, told a
Senate committee that his company will soon stop operating in its current form. He
explained that eDonkey—which accounts for around half of all P2P traffic—can no longer
afford to fight the music industry in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling in June
against two other P2P firms, Grokster and StreamCast, which declared that such
applications are illegal if they induce users to violate copyright.
As expected, the music industry is now using its legal victory to hound commercial P2P
operators out of business. Last month the music industry's trade body sent them
threatening letters. WinMx, another P2P network, appears to have shut down, while
eDonkey says it plans to start making its users pay for music. Grokster is reportedly on
the verge of selling itself to a company called Mashboxx, which has a similar strategy to
go legitimate. In Australia last month, a court ruled against Kazaa, another popular file-
sharing service, and ordered it to use filters to stop the trading of copyrighted content.
Nobody, however, including executives at the major labels, believes that file-sharing is
defeated. When the industry forced Napster, the first big file-sharing network, to shut
down in 2001—it has since relaunched as a fee-based service—a host of free alternatives
sprang up immediately, and that is what will now happen again. Because of the Supreme
Court's ruling, says Mr Yagan, the new P2P services will simply move offshore and
underground, and will offer more anonymity. In fact, the Supreme Court's decision is
likely to encourage a move towards free, “open-source” P2P applications. Since they do
not make money from advertising or bundling software, they are less vulnerable to the
accusation that they are illegally inducing piracy for their own benefit.
In the first half of this year, digital-music sales from mobile-phone “ringtunes” and legal
download services such as Apple's iTunes more than tripled compared with last year, and
now represent 6% of total music revenues, according to industry estimates released this
week. That rapid growth has restored confidence to the music industry, as have its
victories in court.
So much confidence, indeed, that some of the major labels are urging Apple's iTunes
service—the epitome of success in online music sales so far—to shift to variable (ie,
higher) prices from the consistent $0.99 per track it currently charges in America. That
would be a mistake. Despite its rapid growth, the legal market for music on the internet
is still in its infancy. Apple's boss, Steve Jobs, believes that higher prices would stifle
legal sales and encourage P2P-based piracy. Microsoft might even deserve better
treatment, too. Since the major labels' legal stick will never be completely effective
against P2P, it is vital that they also offer an attractive carrot.