Today’s Headlines

February 9, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Must Reads

Who’s in the News

Rice weighs in on the Russian relationship (Colum Lynch, Turtle Bay)

Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and her Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, have been slinging insults at each other as their governments have sharply diverged over crises from Libya to Syria.  The U.S.-Russian rift over Syria has drawn some comparisons in Washington to the diplomatic paralysis that plagued U.N. diplomacy at the height of the Cold War. Rice challenged that comparison, saying that while the two powers different sharply over important issues, they have worked closely on a range of others. “I don’t think…the difficulties we have had in the wake of the Libya vote are necessarily indicative of a return to the Cold War. In so many ways we’re past that. In my three years, the council has passed very important and broad-reaching sanctions against Iran [and North Korea].”  So have U.N. sanctions against Iran run their course?   “Never say never,” Rice said. “But I would say, barring something unforeseen, I think it will be a little while before there is an appetite for further action” at the United Nations.

Smart Power

MSNBC’s Morning Joe Highlights Peace Corps Volunteer Stories

To commemorate the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary the organization launched the Peace Corps Postcards project to showcase the stories of volunteers around the world.

So much for Leading through Civilian Power (Kori Schake, Shadow Government)

The discouraging truth is that despite the State Department’s bold assertions in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review that it will lead through civilian power, its handling of the transition to civilian leadership of our mission in Iraq demonstrates how very far we have yet to go to build a diplomatic corps with the ability to think their way through what is needed in a complex environment like Iraq, design a program of engagement and activity, staff and finance its operations to achieve its objectives. What the State Department fails at is not the high politics of preserving American influence with Iraq’s leaders, but the quotidian programmatics that build that influence in the first place.   Our country needs a State Department that is genuinely the peer of our military forces: as intellectually agile, as adaptable, as committed to carrying out the decisions of our elected political leadership. We do not now have such a diplomatic corps, and it badly impedes our ability to shape the international order in ways conducive to American interests.

The Fanciful World of Foreign Aid (Ranjani Iyer Mohanty, New York Times)

Foreign aid is no longer (if it ever was) given solely for the objective of alleviating poverty. It’s more a case of people giving each other presents. The giver rarely gives a present because the receiver desperately needs it and cannot afford to buy it himself. He does it to establish a relationship, to stay in the other’s good books, to assuage feelings of guilt at not having done enough earlier, to have an ally in time of need, and to have influence in time of crisis. So perhaps the term to use is not ‘aid’ anymore, but rather we need to coin a new term that combines the meaning and objectives of aid, investment, equalizer, and gift.  These changes in fundamental constructs in the realm of foreign aid seem to be the result of a deeper underlying shift that was highlighted by Andy Sumner of the Institute of Development Studies. In his paper “Global Poverty and the New Bottom Billion,” he explains that, whereas in 1990 the vast majority of the poor people (93 percent) lived in poor countries, now most of the world’s poor people (75 percent) live in middle-income countries.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Why the U.S. should resist stoking the chaos in Cairo (David Ignatius, The Washington Post)

What kind of democratic revolution brings charges against 19 American workers who have been advocating democracy? The answer is that Egypt’s is a confused revolution, looking for people to blame for its troubles. The United States should stifle its anger for now — and avoid a hasty cutoff of aid that would make a bad situation worse.  The Egyptian revolution, a year on, is struggling to establish a government amid chaos. The spontaneous, leaderless uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak has given way, all too predictably, to a disorderly muddle in which anarchic gangs roam the streets, ideologically driven parties dominate and moderate voices are demoralized.

Zimbabwe’s Long Winter (Eusebius McKaiser, International Herald Tribune)

Zimbabwe consistently ranks very low in international ratings on quality of life. At least one-third of the country’s 12 million people live outside its borders, many as economic migrants and asylum seekers in South Africa.  President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF Party is chiefly responsible for this deterioration. There are no free and fair national elections, and the government has become increasingly repressive. Zanu-PF’s leadership is drunk on political power and is prepared to use violence to remain at the helm. Zimbabwe can no longer be described as a democracy.  But don’t bet on a revolution there any time soon.