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Showing posts from May, 2009

Nothing much can be done about North Korea

Business Times - 28 May 2009


Nothing much can be done about North Korea

US should get its allies to work on managing Pyongyang's emergence as a nuclear power

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

NORTH Korea's defiant nuclear test has been condemned by the US and several other governments, including Russia, Japan, the European Union, as well as by China, Pyongyang's closest ally. And it has also prompted calls for more economic sanctions against the regime led by Kim Jong Il.

An emergency session of the 15-member United Nations Security Council, including the US and China, unanimously condemned the nuclear test on Monday.

Experts have concluded that the North Korean programme's first nuclear test was a partial failure. But Monday's explosion was comparable to the American atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II, suggesting that North Korea has a workable nuclear device and in on its way to joining the exclusive club of nuclear powers.

That development and …

Nothing much can be done about North Korea

Business Times - 28 May 2009


Nothing much can be done about North Korea

US should get its allies to work on managing Pyongyang's emergence as a nuclear power

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

NORTH Korea's defiant nuclear test has been condemned by the US and several other governments, including Russia, Japan, the European Union, as well as by China, Pyongyang's closest ally. And it has also prompted calls for more economic sanctions against the regime led by Kim Jong Il.

An emergency session of the 15-member United Nations Security Council, including the US and China, unanimously condemned the nuclear test on Monday.

Experts have concluded that the North Korean programme's first nuclear test was a partial failure. But Monday's explosion was comparable to the American atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II, suggesting that North Korea has a workable nuclear device and in on its way to joining the exclusive club of nuclear powers.

That development and …

There is such a thing as a middle ground

Business Times - 26 May 2009


There is such a thing as a middle ground

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IF YOU'VE been following American 24/7 television and radio talk shows or reading the op-ed columns in the country's newspapers (or the few that haven't been closed down yet), you've probably concluded that the people here are deeply divided over policies and legislation regarding national security and social-cultural issues.

You would think that half the population - the so-called Conservatives and Right-Wingers - think that the government has the right to torture suspected terrorists, that abortion should be criminalised and that gay couples shouldn't be permitted to get married; and that the other half - the so-called Liberals and Left-Wingers - believe that suspected members of Al Qaeda should be treated just like other criminals, that society shouldn't be in the business of trying to prevent abortion, and that the US should legalise gay marriages AS…

Balancing act for new US envoy to China

Business Times - 22 May 2009


Balancing act for new US envoy to China

Republican Jon Huntsman, who speaks fluent Mandarin, is clearly qualified for the job

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

TO say that US President Barack Obama's selection of Governor Jon Huntsman as the next American ambassador to Beijing came as a surprise to Washington's politicos and media types would be an understatement.

Not only is Mr Huntsman a leading Republican figure. In fact, he is the governor of Utah, a state that is considered by political experts as very, very 'red'.

Not the kind of red that Chairman Mao Zedong would have been keen on, but more like the colour associated with the Republican Party that has dominated the politics of this state where members of the conservative Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons constitute the majority of the population.

Utah has not voted for a Democrat for president since 1964 and, historically, Republican presidential nominees have …

Financial industry may not accept new rules willingly

Business Times - 19 May 2009


Financial industry may not accept new rules willingly

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

THEY have been described as 'exotic financial instruments' and for years most of us were embarrassed to admit that we really did not understand what these Big Shots in Wall Street were talking about. Indeed, while the financial instruments known as derivatives were created as a way of managing risk, they had grown over the last decade into a gigantic market. More importantly, the whiz-kids who invented derivatives used so much jargon that it made it seem like these financial products were a theoretical sub-field of the science of quantum mechanics.

Of course, by now it is safe to say that most of those Americans who have seen their retirement money invested in the stock market evaporate into thin air and who are in danger of losing their homes have become familiar with the risky trade derivatives. They know now that derivatives have grown in a largely unregu…

In Foreign Affairs: Misreading the Map

Misreading the Map


The Road to Jerusalem Does Not Lead Through Tehran

Leon Hadar
LEON HADAR is a Research Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes to Washington for a meeting with President Barack Obama, U.S. policymakers are being urged to place the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the back burner and spend their time and energy addressing the true menace supposedly confronting Arabs and Jews in the Middle East -- Iran. Deal with that threat, the sirens sing, and the other pieces of peace in the Holy Land will fall into place.

Netanyahu framed the issue in a speech he made in Washington earlier this month. "There is something happening today in the Middle East, and I can say that for the first time in my lifetime I believe that Arabs and Jews see the common danger," he told supporters of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "This wasn't always the case," he added.

Or was it? In fact, there ha…

Obama Must Move beyond Pseudo-Events

Pundits in Washington and elsewhere have yet to outline US President Barack Obama's Grand Strategy, or to provide an account of an Obama Doctrine of foreign policy akin to the more dramatic changes he has made in American economic policy. All they can point to is a series of "pseudo events," the term that historian Daniel Boorstin coined to depict activity that exists for the purpose of the media publicity and has no immediate effect on real life.

From that perspective, Obama's recent trip to Europe, in which he addressed the G-20 and NATO summits and the Turkish Parliament, as well as his participation in the Summit of the Americas, have been regarded by most of the American media as foreign policy "successes." He has won praise for meeting with top world leaders and for his television appearances aimed at audiences in the Middle East, including the Iranian people.

But in reality, Obama can claim no concrete diplomatic accomplishments. Europe's public an…

Stressing to the finish line

Business Times - 07 May 2009

COMMENTARY
Stressing to the finish line

But Bernanke seems to have reassured markets that US bank stress test results won't have big surprises

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

THE 19 big US banks' stress test results are set to be finally made public by the Treasury Department after the financial markets close today in New York (early tomorrow morning, Singapore time). And Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, addressing Congress on Tuesday, tried to calm the markets by downplaying the possibility that the government would ask Congress for a new infusion of taxpayer money into ailing banks.

In fact, the Treasury Department and the Fed began releasing information about their stress test on major banks by providing the banks with the preliminary results 12 days ago.

The Fed also released its methodology ahead of a public announcement of the results. It indicated that the banks had to run their portfolios against assumptions about the potential …

Obama should now work on his trade agenda

Business Times - 05 May 2009


Obama should now work on his trade agenda

The fact that he's avoided to push his protectionist agenda can be considered good news

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IN most of the commentaries marking US President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office there has been almost no mention of the new president's global trade agenda.

That was not very surprising since Mr Obama has said very little on the issue since entering office; and he certainly has not made any important decision that affected US trade policy. And that is the good news - and the bad news.

Indeed, through his presidential election campaign candidate Obama pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), hinted that he would discard the Colombian Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and threatened to punish China for manipulating its currency to increase exports.

Hence the fact that Mr Obama has refrained from coming through on his campaign's protectionist trade…