A Reading List on: Economics and Security

Books in perspective
Books in perspective.  Photo: Oldtasty/flickr

The intersection between economics and security is large and growing. Fighting wars and fulfilling security objectives has always had economic implications — in far more than just blood and treasure — and economic developments are having ever more rapid and dramatic consequences for traditional and emerging conceptions of security.  This syllabus will help keep you up to date.

The Politics of Time Zones

What time is it? Photo: ToniVC/flickr

Last weekend Fareed Zakaria devoted a short segment of his program, Global Public Square, to some startling news: in the Pacific island nation of Samoa, there will be no 30th of December this year. Samoans will go to sleep on Thursday the 29th and awake on Saturday the 31st. The country is set to hop the International Date Line, moving from 11 hours behind Greenwich to 13 hours ahead of it.

Samoa’s Prime Minister noted in May that the move would be good for tourism—as, since neighboring American Samoa will remain on the other side of the line, “people wanting two birthdays or two wedding anniversaries can travel to Samoa and have them.”

More significant benefits are associated with the underlying shift that the move reflects. As Zakaria tells us, while the east side of the date line was originally preferred for its closeness to the Americas, Samoa now conducts most of its trade with Australia and New Zealand, which at present are almost a full day ahead—an inconvenience indeed. Hopping the date-line is an attempt to adjust to this new economic reality.

But ever since the need for a Line was demonstrated on a Thursday afternoon in 1522 – when Magellan’s Victoria sailed into Cape Verde with a ship’s log showing Wednesday – many countries have seen the benefits of toying with the Line.

Business and Finance

Some Links on the Euro Crisis

One Euro? Photo: Jose Glez y Lopez/flickr

With the massive protests in Spain over the weekend and calls from respectable quarters for Greece to leave the Euro – which, as Daniel Knowles of the Telegraph succinctly illustrates (echoing Barry Eichengren’s working paper), could have genuinely catastrophic results – the future of the Eurozone is very much in question today in the world media.

Last August, Lorenzo Smaghi, writing for Foreign Affairs, offered an optimistic assessment that put a lot faith in the new financial governance structures – mainly the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) – implemented that summer, but that optimism now seems to have been overtaken by events.

Whereas Charles Calomiris, in Foreign Policy, was telling us in January that the Euro was dead, in the May/June print edition of Foreign Affairs, Henry Farrell and John Quiggin offered a proposal to save it – “and the EU.”

Geopolitics and Law at Sea

China is betting on energy under the ‘South China Sea.’ Photo: offshorinjurylawyer/flickr

This week in New York, the state parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) are meeting for the 21st time since the convention’s conclusion in 1982. Major items on the agenda are the reports of the ongoing work of the Convention’s three main organs: 1) the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLS), which interprets the Convention and adjudicates disputes 2) the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), which evaluates geological and oceanographic data, and 3) the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which organizes and controls activities related to the sea floor, which lies beyond national jurisdictions.

Three main items are currently before the Tribunal: a boundary dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal (of special relevance to Conoco Phillips); the M/V Louisa case, a dispute arising from Spain’s detention since 2006 of the eponymous research vessel, which was flying the flag of St Vincent and the Grenadines in Spanish coastal waters while conducting scientific surveys of the sea floor; and a request for an advisory opinion from the Tribunal on the status of state parties sponsoring private activities on the sea floors outside national jurisdictions, a case arising from commercial activities proposed by Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. and Tonga Offshore Mining Ltd.

While these are hardly the issues making international headlines – and the above two companies remain unlikely, to say the least, to ever become major global players in natural resources – the Law of the Sea can be a genuine battleground of great power politics.

Chile’s Ghosts

salvador allende with a background of flowers
The ex-President’s death remains a mystery, Photo: Oscar Ordenes/flickr

When it comes to natural disasters, Chile has a troubled past. As the plume of ash from volcanoes at Puehue and Cordón Caulle continues to blanket the skies and force people from their homes, rebuilding efforts following last year’s earthquake have only just begun. Fifty years ago Chile was also the site of the most powerful earthquake ever recorded – the gran terremoto, at Valdivia – and initial indications following this latest event suggest that the geological situation may get worse in the future.

But if its history of geological instability were not enough, Chile is also struggling with its political past. On 23 May, in compliance with a court order, the body of former President Salvador Allende was exhumed in order to begin a formal investigation into the disputed circumstances of his violent 1973 demise.

There are many versions of the events. The official story – and the one accepted by Allende’s family – is that the President shot himself (with an AK-47 given to him by none other than Fidel Castro) shortly before rebel forces stormed his office. Another version has it, instead, that he was gunned down in a defiant last stand; yet another, that he was executed by a subordinate after a botched suicide attempt. But the man ultimately responsible (if probably not personally) for Allende’s death is General Augusto Pinochet himself, whose successful coup d’etat then saw him installed first as the head of the governing junta and then as president.