Brave new world

The deleveraging and shifting of capital flows occurring globally at this moment are not reversible trends. The economic changes happening now are structural, not cyclical, and therefore truly transformative.

I believe this transformation will, over time, reveal the following.

First, crises in a global world economy require numerous institutions and governments to respond, because any major crisis will have multiple dimensions to it that are beyond the comprehension or mandate of any single institution or government. Complexity and interdependency are characteristics inherent to globalization. In fact, there is growing grassroots awareness that global challenges are interlinked, but current governance institutions appear unable to pursue the measures needed to address them holistically.

For example, the connection between climate change, food scarcity and energy security is evident, yet an integrated solution to the three is not. There is a mismatch between the global challenges of the 21st century and the global governance institutions of the 20th century. Putting aside the current financial crisis, the failure to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the failure to conclude the Doha Round of trade negotiations and the struggle to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol all point toward this conclusion.

Second, calls for greater global or regional collaboration will not be easily answered. Shortcomings in strategic foresight, global cooperation and managing complexity are together what landed us in the current predicament. Leaders in policy and in industry must first develop a more systematic and strategic view of global issues if any future collaboration is to be effective and sustainable.

Again, decision-making in a complex global environment requires identifying the multiple dimensions of a challenge and establishing the relationship between those dimensions. Plotting issues, interests and institutions, and understanding how they are connected, are necessary first steps in solving complex international problems. Yet this function is largely absent from our existing compartmentalized global governance architecture and in many corporate boardrooms. [continued…]

Gordon does good

Has Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, saved the world financial system?

O.K., the question is premature — we still don’t know the exact shape of the planned financial rescues in Europe or for that matter the United States, let alone whether they’ll really work. What we do know, however, is that Mr. Brown and Alistair Darling, the chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to our Treasury secretary), have defined the character of the worldwide rescue effort, with other wealthy nations playing catch-up.

This is an unexpected turn of events. The British government is, after all, very much a junior partner when it comes to world economic affairs. It’s true that London is one of the world’s great financial centers, but the British economy is far smaller than the U.S. economy, and the Bank of England doesn’t have anything like the influence either of the Federal Reserve or of the European Central Bank. So you don’t expect to see Britain playing a leadership role.

But the Brown government has shown itself willing to think clearly about the financial crisis, and act quickly on its conclusions. And this combination of clarity and decisiveness hasn’t been matched by any other Western government, least of all our own. [continued…]

Economic woes chill effort to stop global warming

Attempts to tackle global warming are being made more difficult by the spreading economic crisis even as Democratic congressional leaders say it’s still a top goal for next year.

At the very least, fear of a prolonged economic downturn is expected to delay attempts by the United States to cap greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate as well as both presidential candidates say addressing climate change by imposing mandatory restrictions on heat-trapping pollution — especially carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels — remains a priority. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — If Obama wants to be the new FDR, this is how he should help America spend its way out of the coming economic slump: massive investment in green technology. An obvious place to start is with an auto industry that is on the brink of collapse. Chrysler, Ford, and GM should be offered a bailout contingent on them placing themselves on a fast track to becoming the global leaders in non-polluting transportation.

If they can’t totally reinvent themselves, they (and this country) will meet the fate they deserve.

Fire the campaign

It’s time for John McCain to fire his campaign.

He has nothing to lose. His campaign is totally overmatched by Obama’s. The Obama team is well organized, flush with resources, and the candidate and the campaign are in sync. The McCain campaign, once merely problematic, is now close to being out-and-out dysfunctional. Its combination of strategic incoherence and operational incompetence has become toxic. If the race continues over the next three weeks to be a conventional one, McCain is doomed.

He may be anyway. Bush is unpopular. The media is hostile. The financial meltdown has made things tougher. Maybe the situation is hopeless — and if it is, then nothing McCain or his campaign does matters.

But I’m not convinced by such claims of inevitability. McCain isn’t Bush. The media isn’t all-powerful. And the economic crisis still presents an opportunity to show leadership.

The 2008 campaign is now about something very big — both our future prosperity and our national security. Yet the McCain campaign has become smaller. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — As the neocons stare political oblivion in the face it’s easy to see why Bill Kristol isn’t ready to dump McCain, but the idea that three weeks away from election day McCain could dump his campaign is laughable. Not only that — it glosses over the fact that a campaign does and always should tell us a great deal about the candidate. Anyone ill-served by their own campaign thereby demonstrates their lack of leadership.

If John McCain is a decent man who has allowed himself to become tarnished by being ill-advised his own handlers, he’s not cut out to become president. Indeed, hard as he has tried, it’s far from clear whether he has ever truly and unequivocally believed in his own candidacy.

Afghanistan: A country locked in a spiral of doom

Until recently I used to argue confidently that we needed more troops – and more helicopters – in Afghanistan. As a novice reporter based in the Pakistan border town of Peshawar in the late 1980s, I had grown to love this harsh but beautiful country and felt personally betrayed at witnessing how we abandoned Afghanistan after backing its mujaheddin to oust the Soviet Union.

We paid for it with 9/11 and shouldn’t make the same mistake again, I declared to anyone who would listen. And, unlike the Iraqis, the Afghan people wanted us there.

When British troops arrived in force, in what we all described as “the lawless province of Helmand” in 2006, I was one of the first reporters out here. Embedded with the paras, I felt it was a worthy mission and a great adventure, until one afternoon we were ambushed by Taliban in a muddy field. I realised then that politicians back home might be talking of reconstruction and not firing a single shot, but this was war. Two and a half years, a doubling of troops to more than 8,000, and several million bullets later, British forces may hold five small districts in Helmand but the local governor himself says the Taliban control at least half the province.

As for the rest of the country, in all but the north the picture is unrelentingly grim. An aid worker smuggled me security maps compiled by the United Nations (no longer made public because they reveal just how bad things are). These show the relentless sweep from Helmand and the south across the country of pink, which represents “uncontrolled hostile environment” – no-go areas. In 2005, when the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), which included British military personnel, was active in the country, there was not a single pink patch; today more than half the country is pink. [continued…]

Taliban leader killed by SAS was Pakistan officer

British officials covered up evidence that a Taliban commander killed by special forces in Helmand last year was in fact a Pakistani military officer, according to highly placed Afghan officials.

The commander, targeted in a compound in the Sangin valley, was one of six killed in the past year by SAS and SBS forces. When the British soldiers entered the compound they discovered a Pakistani military ID on the body.

It was the first physical evidence of covert Pakistani military operations against British forces in Afghanistan even though Islamabad insists it is a close ally in the war against terror. [continued…]

Obama is right about talking to Iran

These days in Washington and on the campaign trail Russia and Iran compete for the title of the greatest foreign policy challenge facing America.

Many have assumed that Russia can help solve the Iran problem, but few have considered that the reverse is also true. Iran is important to Russia’s game plan and how Moscow weighs its options going forward. That makes talking to Iran an essential part of America’s plans for containing Russia.

For Russia, an isolated Iran in conflict with the West is a boon. With Iran’s rich gas reserves off limits, Russia can hold Europe hostage and divide NATO while also creating linkage between its support for international pressure on Iran and Western response to its aggression in the Caucasus.

Washington cannot resist a Russian sphere of influence stretching from the Black Sea to Aral Mountains unless it plays the Iran card to its advantage. That means dropping its objection to the flow of Iranian gas to Europe, and engaging Iran in talks on security and stability of the Caucasus. [continued…]

Time to go home, Nouri al-Maliki tells Britain

British combat forces are no longer needed to maintain security in southern Iraq and should leave the country, Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, has told The Times.

In an exclusive interview in Baghdad, Mr al-Maliki also criticised a secret deal made last year by Britain with the al-Mahdi Army, Iraq’s largest Shia militia. He said that Basra had been left at the mercy of militiamen who “cut the throats of women and children” after the British withdrawal from the city.

The Iraqi leader emphasised, however, that the “page had been turned” and he looked forward to a friendly, productive relationship with London. “The Iraqi arena is open for British companies and British friendship, for economic exchange and positive cooperation in science and education.” [continued…]

Police pour into Mosul to protect Christians from sectarian killings

The Iraqi government was yesterday rushing 1,000 police to Mosul to try to stop a murderous campaign against Christians which has forced thousands to flee the northern city.

Officials say about 4,000 people have taken flight in the past week to escape the killings being carried out by Islamic extremists intent on wiping out one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. “The violence is the fiercest campaign against the Christians since 2003,” said the provincial governor of Mosul, Duraid Kashmula. “Among those killed over the last 11 days were a doctor, an engineer and a handicapped person.” At least three houses belonging to Christians were blown up in the Sukkar district of Mosul, regarded as a bastion of al-Qa’ida in Iraq, on Saturday night. [continued…]

Bringing Guantanamo home

What happens at Gitmo stays at Gitmo. That was always the hope. When the Bush administration fenced off a dusty little patch of lawlessness in Cuba, the idea was that breaking the law abroad would somehow preclude us from breaking it at home. But last week revealed, yet again, that the worst of Guantanamo was always destined to spill over into the United States. Gitmo’s lawlessness is now our own.

The prison camp was created to construct a “legal black hole,” a place where U.S. and international human rights law would go to die. The case of 17 Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs)—Chinese Muslims from western China’s Xinjiang region—is one of the blackest chapters of the story. The Uighurs fled Chinese persecution (including forced abortion and banishment) and settled in Afghanistan, then moved on to Pakistan in 2001 to escape bombing raids. There they were turned over by local villagers to American authorities for bounty. They were transferred to Guantanamo more than six years ago but cleared for release in 2004. The U.S. government credibly fears they will be tortured if returned to China, and since no other country will take them, they have remained for all this time at Gitmo. Indeed, reports have it that some still remain in solitary confinement there. [continued…]

Guantanamo prosecutor who quit had ‘grave misgivings’ about fairness

Darrel J. Vandeveld was in despair. The hard-nosed lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, a self-described conformist praised by his superiors for his bravery in Iraq, had lost faith in the Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunals in which he was a prosecutor.

His work was top secret, making it impossible to talk to family or friends. So the devout Catholic — working away from home — contacted a priest online.

Even if he had no doubt about the guilt of the accused, he wrote in an August e-mail, “I am beginning to have grave misgivings about what I am doing, and what we are doing as a country. . . .

“I no longer want to participate in the system, but I lack the courage to quit. I am married, with children, and not only will they suffer, I’ll lose a lot of friends.”

Two days later, he took the unusual step of reaching out for advice from his opposing counsel, a military defense lawyer.

“How do I get myself out of this office?” Vandeveld asked Major David J.R. Frakt of the Air Force Reserve, who represented the young Afghan Vandeveld was prosecuting for an attack on U.S. soldiers — despite Vandeveld’s doubts about whether Mohammed Jawad would get a fair trial. Vandeveld said he was seeking a “practical way of extricating myself from this mess.”

Last month, Vandeveld did just that, resigning from the Jawad case, the military commissions overall and, ultimately, active military duty. In doing so, he has become even more of a central figure in the “mess” he considers Guantanamo to be. [continued…]

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