Monday, April 25, 2005

North Korea


Now, some US intel people fear that NK might be preparing to test a nuke, which would be a major move on their part and supposedly change things and upset the balance of power in Asia and all that. It might also finally get China on board for a UN move to quarantine NK, which the Bush Administration is now seeking.

You'd think, after hearing this same story for quite a long time now, someone would figure something out.
But wait, they have! Leon Sigal knows! We could, maybe, talk to them...
Yet, alas, we won't. As Nicholas Kristof writes in the NY Times, the current score is NK 6, Bush 0.
Not such a good score if you're playing along at home.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

So much to talk about, so much interesting reading today.
There's a fascinating analysis of Condi Rice and what she may or may not do as a uniquely powerful SecState (complete with a know your secretaries of state quiz), as well as another on her uniquely powerful Deputy, Bob Zoellick.
North Korea is up to its old tricks again, making more nuclear fuel to see if it can cause another crisis and get the US back into negotiations...
But what I really found interesting was a front page story in the Washington Post about the Heritage Foundation:

Think Tank's Ideas Shifted As Malaysia Ties Grew
Heritage took money (indirectly) from Malaysia through lobyists and think tank officers who had gotten money from Malaysia to wield influence in Washington. Heritage had once been critical of the state of Malaysia's democracy. After the Malaysian money started pouring in, they became very pro-Malaysia in their policy pronouncements. The web of connections is complex but pretty clear-- Malaysia paid some money to Heritage and Heritage put out pro-Malaysia policy analysis.

Now, this shouldn't be surprising. From Malaysia's side, its a great investment. A small amount of cash to a powerful Washington think tank with ties to the administration generates a bunch of positive publicity and some positive policy movement. Much more effective, in fact, than going the old fashion way--through your foreign ministry to your ambassador to our State Dept to the Administration and so on.

But, what is more interesting (and telling) I think, is what this says about Heritage. Now, they never claimed to be producers of objective fact and truth. They are a rather partisan think tank with a point of view (in this case, very conservative), and they do research to support their position. No different than any other Washington-area ideologically affiliated think tank (on both left and right).

Yet most people fail to see this, for some reason, and it comes as a surprise when it shouldn't be. The Heritage Foundation and their work is not to be confused with academic research. Heritage has a point of view and their work is dedicated to supporting it. You don't see them with a piece to raise taxes or enact government sponsored health care for all Americans-- that's not their agenda. When the agenda is consistant, the research is as well. Its when the agenda changes due to a sudden influx of cash that the shift in policy advocacy seems a bit odd.

A lesson in know your source, know your politics, and don't mistake "advocacy" for "truth."
There is a reason (206 class) that we ask your literature reviews to be scholarly literature based on research where the question, methodology, and facts shape the conclusion, not partisan advocacy where a predetermined (or pre-purchased, in this case) policy preference shapes a "study" to support what we already knew they would say in the first place.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Meanwhile over in Asia....

While most people have been paying attention to the Middle East and Europe of late, interesting things have been going on in Asia.
Two recent articles in the NY Times kind of make you wonder if maybe, just maybe, something will happen in Asia to turn our attention there and we're going to find that gee, things have changed while we were away and not for the better (for us, at least, maybe better for them, depending on who the "them" is and your standards for better...).

First, Tom Friedman has a new book out arguing that the World is Flat. He summarizes it in the NYT Mag this week. Its an interesting argument, saying that countries like India and China have entered the global economy in a way that makes them fully competitive with the US, producing long lasting and deep shifts in the global economy. Change #1, the US can no longer expect to be on top of the most important fields--the fields that produce national power (design, innovation, growth, technology, etc).

Second, look what China is doing with their military. Its growing--not so much in numbers as in technical capability to master some of the complex tasks that were once only the purview of the US. The scary scenario is that they threaten Taiwan and know that they have the equipment to keep us out. Read the article-- its not the use of the navy, so much as it is the threat and contingency planning that all this new equipment requires. Really complicates a possible US response to a Taiwan crisis. Now, this is less likely to happen, ironicly, as Friedman's globalization progresses, in part because such a conflict would be really expensive, but just because its expensive and semi-rational doesn't mean that some leader won't get the wonderfully nationalistic idea to go on some "damn fool idealistic crusade."

Such is the delima of the Hegemon. So much power it seems as if no one can come close to touching us. So much power, we can reshape whole regions of the world. And yet, you'd be missing the fun of world politics to think that the rest of the world sits idly by, waiting for our next move. Makes for living in interesting times.....

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Pope died today.

From an International Relations perspective, the Pope had quite a life. Most IR books talk about states, armies, economies, wars, and struggles for power, but its really hard to write a history of the past 30 years without mentioning the influence that the Pope had on world events.
Technically, the Pope is soveriegn, the Vatican is internationally recognized as a country and he is the head. The Bureaucracy of the Vatican serves as a government, complete with its own ministers, ambassadors, and intelligence gathering activities. But when he entered into international politics, he did so not as a government leader, but as an individual and religious leader.
He was instramental in reaching out to people in communist Eastern Europe and nurturing the resistance movements that helped end the Cold War. When he visited Poland, millions turned out to see him--an unheard of event under communist rule.
He traveled globally, and was involved in the political transitions in the Phillipines and Chile. He opposed wars, he called for development, was active in the developing world, and pushed for the Jubilee notion of debt relief.

Quite a powerful figure in world politics, and quite powerful influence for a guy with no army.

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