I never thought I’d be in this position. There’s a debate taking place about what matters most when making judgments about foreign policy— experience and expertise on the one hand, or personal identity on the other. And I find myself coming down on the side of identity.
Throughout the campaign, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been squabbling over who has the better qualifications to lead the world’s only superpower.
Hillary’s case is obvious and perfectly defensible. She’s been involved in foreign policy for eight years in the White House (though in a sideways fashion as First Lady) and then seven years as a senator. Most of the Democratic Party’s blue-chip foreign-policy advisers support her. Plus, she has Bill.
Obama’s argument is about more than identity. He was intelligent and prescient about the costs of the Iraq War. But he says that his judgment was formed by his experience as a boy with a Kenyan father—and later an Indonesian stepfather—who spent four years growing up in Indonesia, and who lived in the multicultural swirl of Hawaii.
I never thought I’d agree with Obama. I’ve spent my life acquiring formal expertise on foreign policy. I’ve got fancy degrees, have run research projects, taught in colleges and graduate schools, edited a foreign-affairs journal, advised politicians and businessmen, written columns and cover stories, and traveled hundreds of thousands of miles all over the world. I’ve never thought of my identity as any kind of qualification. I’ve never written an article that contains the phrase “As an Indian-American …” or “As a person of color …”
But when I think about what is truly distinctive about the way I look at the world, about the advantage that I may have over others in understanding foreign affairs, it is that I know what it means not to be an American. [complete article]
Strictures in U.S. prompt Arabs to study elsewhere
A generation of Arab men who once attended college in the United States, and returned home to become leaders in the Middle East, increasingly is sending the next generation to schools elsewhere. This year, Australia overtook the United States as the top choice of citizens of the United Arab Emirates heading abroad for college, according to government figures here.
Ten percent fewer students in the Emirates elected to go to the United States in 2006 than in 2005, according to the New York-based Institute of International Education.
In neighboring Oman, the drop was 25 percent. Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon recorded single-digit falls, continuing a trend begun amid the crackdowns on visas and security that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. [complete article]
FBI prepares vast database of biometrics
The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world’s largest computer database of peoples’ physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.
Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law. [complete article]