Categories
Finance

The Great Recession: Sliding Out of Memory?

World economy cracked beyond repair? Photo: Jack Keene/flickr

As Asian economies keep posting positive growth numbers with the momentum for a full recovery shifting irreversibly to the East, and as banker’s bonuses and Wall Street profits return to pre-2007 days, the temptation to look away from the root causes of the global financial crisis is as great as ever. But has the chance to learn a valuable lesson really just been lost in the face of a fragile recovery?

Some resources from our Digital Library to help you answer this key question:

Categories
Security Foreign policy

Iran: Little Room for Maneuver

Tehran - back in the limelight? Photo: Mohammadali f./flickr

Although the rest of the Middle East is now rightly in the spotlight, Iran, with a simmering opposition movement and a highly controversial nuclear program (the focal point in regional diplomacy prior to the ‘Jasmine revolutions’) will no doubt return to the forefront of regional affairs very soon. However, the diplomatic equation in the conflict between Iran and the West may be changing, and contrary to the sometimes hysterical warnings of some commentators in the West and the bellicose rhetoric of Iran’s president, Tehran is in a corner. Below some points to keep in mind when analyzing the situation:

  • What country, more precisely what regime, currently faces an existential threat and finds itself surrounded by the world’s most powerful fighting force on three of four borders (principally Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, but also Iraq): nuclear-armed Israel or Iran?
  • How much of this all is a securitization game? Prime Minister Netanyahu and especially Israel’s political right keep the focus on the country’s purported ‘insecurity’ and off the West Bank; President Ahmadinejad, in turn, exploits the external threat to consolidate support back home and divert attention from his lousy track record in actually governing Iran.
  • If Iran decides to weaponize, will it not first withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)? The 1980 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and the NPT, which the US and Iran have both signed and ratified, respectively, demand it. Although this instance could very well prove the exception to the rule, Iran is not North Korea. Iran maintains relations and accords with many other states in the international system, all of which count on it to uphold some modicum of predictability. It is likely to do so despite its belligerent rhetoric.
Categories
Government Finance

Trying to Play Chicken with Everybody’s Money

A slow and painful battle over America's financial future, photo: Benjamin Reed/flickr

The bumbling US Tea Party has issued its latest ultimatum: cut public expenditures or risk defaulting on the national debt. And how? By stopping lawmakers from raising the country’s legal debt ceiling, currently set at $14.3 trillion. The US Treasury reckons it will hit and inevitably exceed the limit sometime between late March and May.

The Obama White House has deemed the issue non-negotiable. Is it an idle threat?

Strictly speaking, the Tea Party doesn’t have the votes in Congress. Mainstream Republicans would all have to vote no. Mainstream Republicans, however, primarily serve the interests of the corporate and financial elite; overt attempts to undermine US economic power typically receive a cold reception with this crowd.

As discussed in my ISN Blog post last week, the instance of disagreement nevertheless puts the spotlight on the growing rift in the American Right. It also exposes the ignorance of the frustrated Tea Partiers. Nuking your economy is no solution to your economic woes.

Categories
International Relations Security Keyword in Focus

Keyword in Focus: North Korea

When will this border be crossed again? photo:fresh888/flickr

After Tuesday’s incident, in which North Korea reportedly shot 170 rounds of artillery on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong killing two civilians and two marines, tensions have been at an all-time high in East Asia. Increasingly unpredictable and volatile in its behavior, the Kim regime seems to have embraced a whole new level of brinkmanship in this long-running conflict. Explanations in terms of reasons for such a brazen attack vary, from the internal power dynamics of the elder Kim shifting power to his newly appointed heir-apparent, to simple blackmail. Although we may never know what caused North Korea to risk so much (also in relation to its increasingly impatient ‘big brother’, China) the worry that the Koreas and their closest allies might be drawn into a war because of a provocation or freak accident is as worrying as ever.

I don’t believe that this conflict will escalate further. North Korea has pushed proverbial buttons before and will undoubtedly continue to do so, whether to consolidate the heir-apparent’s power base in the military or in order to push members of the six party forum to grant it further concessions in a yet unforeseeable round of talks. It is, however, unlikely to be willing to sign its own death certificate in the form of a highly destructive war and one which could involve the threat or actual use of nuclear weapons (shudder). We may not want to place much trust on the rational capabilities of Kim and his entourage, but China, for one, will do all it can to prevent this.

Categories
International Relations

Saving the World, Ruling the Earth?

China: Where modernity is a mantra, photo: Trey Ratcliff/flickr

China’s rise to the center stage of world affairs has been much faster and more multifaceted than anyone expected.

The Chinese themselves seem to have been taken aback by their new-found might, and although prophesies about China’s future dominance should be taken with a whole spoonful of salt (a lot can still go wrong), a deep confidence is permeating the country. And it seems like the rest of the world is finally taking note.

I wrote a short piece in October 2008 for the Finnish Business and Policy Council (EVA) about what I thought would be the geopolitical ramifications of the financial crisis, in its very early stages at the time. America, as the epicenter of the crisis, was shocked into a state of socio-political and economic self-denial and panic that was given tangible expression in last week’s midterm elections. In many of the individual races the anger and vitriol was directed at the great ‘new’ menace- China. In the meantime a real and perceived shift to the East has taken place. It is only beginning to take shape, but its effects are already being felt.