Showing posts from June, 2011

Don't write off the West and pin hopes on the Rest

Business Times - 01 Jul 2011 Don't write off the West and pin hopes only on the Rest By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT MUCH has been said and written in recent years about the growing challenge to US geo-strategic and geo-economic status by China, BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the other rising global powers, including South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey. Indeed, in the aftermath of the US military debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and especially since the financial meltdown and the ensuing Great Recession, small-time pundits as well as renowned futurologists have been predicting that the West is basically kaput and that the rest of the Twenty-First Century belongs to the 'Rest'. In this scenario, China replaces the US and the global hegemonic power sooner or later. As we study these America-is-finished-and-China- rules-the-world forecasts, it is important to recall that not so long ago many of the same pundits and futurologists were anticipating that glo

Barack Gorbachev: Adjusting to the Global Reality Leon T. HadarJournalist and foreign affairs analyst Barack Gorbachev: Adjusting To The Global Reality The political leaders and the generals were continuing to debate on whether to start pulling out the troops from Afghanistan at a time when political power was being consolidated by a relatively young reformer interested in mending relations with the rest of the world and despite the growing recognition that the war there was lost. But finally, in April 1988, Mikheil Gorbachev, the leader of the USSR, introduced a timetable for the departure of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, announcing that the withdrawal of about 100,000 troops will start in the following month. It took Gorbachev another four years to complete the withdrawal from South Asia while he was also trying to manage the gradual erosion in Soviet hegemony in Central and Eastern Europe and the broader restructuring of the global position of the Soviet

US says hello to realism, bye bye to neoconservatism

Business Times - 28 Jun 2011 US says hello to realism, bye bye to neoconservatism The majority of Americans agree the US should 'pay less attention to problems overseas' By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT IN A speech before an audience of Asian defence ministers and military commanders in Singapore early this month, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates pledged that the United States would sustain its military presence and diplomatic involvement in Asia. He was trying to calm anxieties among US allies in the region about rising isolationist sentiments that are seen to be affecting Americans these days as they confront the realities of skyrocketing budget deficits and a military overstretched in two major wars and a few small ones in the Middle East. But even Mr Gates admitted during his address in Singapore that 'fighting two protracted and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has strained the US military's ground forces, and worn out the patience and appetite of the Ame

No QE3, so ball now in politicians' court

Business Times - 24 Jun 2011 No QE3, so ball now in politicians' court By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT POLICYMAKERS at the US central bank have been surprised by the continuing weakness of the American economy - but they are hoping that things will pick up later this year. This sense of apprehension about the current slow pace of the economic recovery was expressed by the members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on Wednesday, following a two-day meeting in Washington during which they agreed to shift policy and to end the US$600 billion bond-buying programme (aka QE2, or Quantitative Easing Part 2) as scheduled by the end of this month. Much of what the Federal Reserve announced on Wednesday should not have come as a big surprise to politicians in Washington or to investors on Wall Street, who share the growing anxiety about the feebleness of the recovery. The Fed in its statement, and chairman Ben Bernanke during a press conference, seem to be providing official

High Time for Republicans, Democrats to agree fiscally

Business Times - 22 Jun 2011 High time for Republicans, Democrats to agree fiscally By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT WASHINGTON'S two leading political rivals made history over the weekend when they decided to leave their differences behind and work together to win a major victory. Indeed, US President Barack Obama and the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, playing a golf match as a team on Saturday, defeated Vice-president Joseph Biden and Republican Ohio governor John Kasich. It was only a friendly game of golf, but the event seemed to have acquired some political overtones. Observers wonder if the opposing Democratic and Republican sides facing each other in a long and exhausting legislative fight will be able to agree on a deal over the US federal budget. The White House said in a statement that the president and Mr Boehner defeated their counterparts on the 18th hole, each winning US$2. 'The foursome had great time and really enjoyed playing golf,' th

Obama is sitting pretty for now

Business Times - 16 Jun 2011 Obama is sitting pretty for now But if the economy gets worse, the Republican challenge will look more formidable By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT I DON'T know whether US President Barack Obama watched the televised exchange between the leading Republican presidential candidates. If he did, he may have felt reassured that none of the seven GOP members who gathered for the second debate of the season in New Hampshire - the state that will hold the first primary next year - and who are hoping to win his job next November pose any serious threat to him. But should he? Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, Representative Michele Bachmann from Ohio, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, Representative Ron Paul from Texas, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former Ohio governor Tim Pawlenty and business executive Herman Cain are all accomplished individuals. They believe in their professional and political experience as wel

On the Arab Spring

Business Times - 10 Jun 2011 This is a struggle for power, not Arab Spring By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT SKIM through old editorials that were published in the Soviet Communist Party's Pravda newspaper during the Cold War and you'll have a lot of fun, laughing out loud when reading about all those loopy notions that the people in Moscow held about the upheaval taking place in the Middle East at the time. Historians of the Middle East explain that the region was then going through major structural, political and economic changes resulting from, among other things, the collapse of the British and French empires, the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the impact of secular Arab nationalism and socialism, the rise of military elites, and various religious, ethnic and tribal conflicts. But according to the old Pravda and the Soviet officials who published it, things were actually very simple. Whether it was the military coup in Egypt (1952), the periodic unrest in Syria and Iraq in the

Economic fears may dent Obama's re-election hopes

Business Times - 07 Jun 2011 Economic fears may dent Obama's re-election hopes By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT A TSUNAMI of bad economic news is raising new concerns about the prospects for the recovery of the US economy and for the re-election of US President Barack Obama. While it may too early to consider the likelihood of a double-dip recession and for a Republican takeover of the White House in 2013, the mood on Wall Street and in Washington is certainly dipping. A negative private job report sent the Dow on its biggest fall in a year on Wednesday. Indeed, figures released last Wednesday and showing a big drop in manufacturing employment was another indication that job growth continues to be slow. And while the US Labor Department announced the next day that the number of jobless benefit applications fell by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 422,000, very few economists were cheering. There was no change in the number of Americans who continued to receive unemployment cheq

Headwinds for Obama trade agenda

Business Times - 03 Jun 2011 Headwinds for Obama trade agenda By LEON HADAR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT AS PART of its stated commitment to help American companies double their exports by 2015, the Obama administration has been pressing Congress to approve the proposed free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Indeed, early this year in his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama hailed a trade deal with South Korea 'that will support at least 70,000 American jobs'. In fact, President Obama and his aides had to deal with strong opposition from Democrats in Congress and their supporters in the labour unions who opposed the three pacts that were negotiated by former president George W Bush and that enjoyed the backing of a majority of the pro-business Republicans on Capitol Hill. The White House was able to eventually secure Democratic support only after making some modifications to the Korean bill. At a time when the US economy is recovering from