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Current Topic: International Relations

Singapore and Katrina - Thomas Friedman
Topic: International Relations 6:16 pm EDT, Sep 17, 2005

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has Singapore and hurricane Katrina on his mind.

That is certainly the sense I got after observing the Katrina debacle from half a world away here in Singapore - a city-state that, if it believes in anything, believes in good governance. It may roll up the sidewalks pretty early here, and it may even fine you if you spit out your gum, but if you had to choose anywhere in Asia you would want to be caught in a typhoon, it would be Singapore. Trust me, the head of Civil Defense here is not simply someone's college roommate.

At a point when we are contemplating how to rebuild a mostly destroyed city, invoking Singapore is intriguing. The Disney Land of nation-states, Singapore can best be framed in the context of its airlines. There is one size dress all the flight attendants wear. Either the fit in the dress, or they don't fit in the job. Its one way to run a society, and when you only have one city and 4.4 million people involved, it can work. I'll admit to having found the vision of Raffels somewhat appealing when sitting in the 1st class section named after him cruising at 40 thousand feet while enjoying the most complete booze selection of any airline servicing asia-pac.

"In the areas that are critical to our survival, like Defense, Finance and the Ministry of Home Affairs, we look for the best talent," said Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy. "You lose New Orleans, and you have 100 other cities just like it. But we're a city-state. We lose Singapore and there is nothing else. ... [So] the standards of discipline are very high. There is a very high degree of accountability in Singapore."

Accountability Singapore style can be pretty brutal. Lets just say you best dispose of your bubble-gum properly. Either way, they are pretty much telling us we suck, and they actually have a point or two. Granted they kill people over drug offenses, yet are still one of the major transit ports in the south-east asian heroin trade and a major venue for money laundering. I guess that's what comes with having the largest port in the world in terms of tonnage and being a major outpost in the free market.

We let the families of the victims of 9/11 redesign our intelligence organizations, and our president and Congress held a midnight session about the health care of one woman, Terri Schiavo, while ignoring the health crisis of 40 million uninsured. Our economy ... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

Singapore and Katrina - Thomas Friedman

Sino-Russia Wargames
Topic: International Relations 6:05 pm EDT, Aug 18, 2005

A joint Chinese and Russian military exercise set to begin tomorrow is meant as a political signal to the United States, in addition to helping Moscow showcase its weapons for sale to China, U.S. defense and intelligence officials said yesterday.

"For the Chinese and the Russians, this is a message to the United States," one U.S. official said. "They want to see our bases in Central Asia and presence in Asia cut back."

The fact that the United States was not invited to observe the war games is a sign of the anti-U.S. nature of the exercises, said several officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Defense officials from India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia will be present in China to observe the exercises.

This story has been making the rounds the past 48 hours.

When Bush and Putin first met, Bush said he stared deep into Putin's eyes and saw his soul. This may be true. They both seem to have a penchant for dressing up in flight suits and taking jets for a spin. These two men bonded easily.. For better, worse, or unknown. After looking into Putin's soul, he and Bush made jokes about each other at a press conference in Texas. CNN's graphic overlay at the bottom of the screen said "Presidential Comedy". I remember clearly watching this, overwhelmed by how downright surreal it was. Here we are years later, and my annotates are not all that amusing. Its still just surreal.

This is another one of those things that feels like prep for a Taiwan invasion. But that's nothing new. I don't see anything new here at all actually. I'm not even sure why I'm commenting on it. Wargames go on all the time. On the Sino-Russia side, its against America. We've wargamed against Russia and China. I think we have even wargamed against Israel.

Just look at the pretty pictures of the presidents in flight suits, get that feeling of impending doom, and quickly run off to invest in Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon, GD, Northrop, GE, Litton, Sun, CSC, and whoever else you can think of. Sip your tea. Watch the sunset. Relax.

Sino-Russia Wargames

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush rejects Kyoto-style G8 deal
Topic: International Relations 9:58 pm EDT, Jul  3, 2005

President George W Bush has ruled out US backing for any Kyoto-style deal on climate change at the G8 summit.

Speaking to British broadcaster ITV, he said he would instead be talking to fellow leaders about new technologies as a way of tackling global warming.

But he conceded that the issue was one "we've got to deal with" and said human activity was "to some extent" to blame.

This is exactly the type of thing that ensures Bush's legacy will not a positive one. At this point in history, any world leaders not actively doing something to curb destruction of the environment will be remembered as part of the problem, when the brunt of the problem truly comes down on us. I think its pretty safe to lay out blanket statements to this effect at this point in time.

We started as a leader when it came to environmental issues, but that is waning. When it came to CFC emissions, we passed the Clean Air Act, and at this point in time the science concretely shows that it has had a positive effect in curbing destruction of the ozone layer. We can make a difference, and to do so requires going farther then saying "we've got to deal with" this problem. We need to deal with the damn problem.

The approach of the Bush administration seems to begin and end with the idea that "new technology" is going to come around and save us. This is a copout. "New technology" is going to continue to come at a snails pace without government legislation pushing it along. There is very little economic incentive to help the environment. It looks good in commercials, but you don't have to actually be doing anything significant to market yourself as a "green company". The government needs to lead in the form of incentives and concrete deadlines for changes in emission standards.. It does play out on a global stage. The companies that can have the most significant effect on environmental issues are globalized.

We need energy policy. And not just as a domestic economic issue, but as a matter of our foreign policy. We do not even remotely appear as if we have our shit together in this area.

At this point in time, China has better emission standards then we do for new automobiles. That alone should really irk people. Where is this new technology Bush keeps touting going to come from? Beijing?

Concerts for the starving and copouts for the environment... Your term of the day is: Global Leadershit

BBC NEWS | Americas | Bush rejects Kyoto-style G8 deal

The Biology of Conflict [PDF]
Topic: International Relations 5:16 pm EDT, Jun 23, 2005

This paper by Steven Huybrechts won the National Defense University President's Award for Excellence in Writing in 2004. It's an interesting fusion of influences, many of which may be familiar to the MemeStreams community.

In a sentence, the basic message is that human genetics precludes world government.

Perhaps the best way to encourage you to read the paper is to highlight some of the footnotes.

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 1976.
Plato: "only the dead have seen the end of war."
Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
The National Security Strategy of the United States
The Dialectical Logic of Thucydides' Melian Dialogue (JSTOR subscription required)
Samantha Power, A Problem From Hell (New York: Perennial, 2003).
Robert Upshall, Antibiotic Resistance (United Kingdom: Whinfield, May 1998).
Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. (article), (chapter 1).
Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees
Robert Kagan, America's Crisis of Legitimacy, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2004, 65-87.
Sisterhood is hungry: An egalitarian society of ants, The Economist, 23 August 1997
Joseph Nye, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics (New York: Public Affairs, 2004).
Alison George, "March of the Superbugs," New Scientist, 19 July 2003, S1.
Robert D. Kaplan, The Coming Anarchy, The Atlantic Monthly, February 1994.
Sewall Wright and Evolutionary Biology (Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1986).
Errol Morris, The Fog of War. Sony Pictures Classics, 2003.
Joshua Blu Buhs, The Fire Ant Wars, 2004.
Natalie Angier, "Is War Our Biological Destiny?" New York Times, 11 November 2003.

The Biology of Conflict [PDF]

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