Focal Points Blog

When It Comes to Nuclear Weapons, Austerity Has a Silver Lining

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

“Omne trium perfectum” goes the Latin saying — “everything which comes in threes is perfect.” Let’s see: the spiritual perfection of the Holy Trinity, the cinematic perfection  of the Three Stooges, and … the nuclear triad. Those dubious that the Three Stooges help prove the rule are advised to reserve the bulk of their doubt for that third leg.
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Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (10/17)

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Not Enough Stock Dividends From a Peace Dividend

In 2001, military spending, as a function of the over-all American economy, was, at six per cent, the lowest it had been since the Second World War. … In much the same way that the peace dividend expected with the Allied victory never came because of the Cold War … a peace dividend expected after the end of the Warsaw Pact, in 1991, came but didn’t last. Instead, after 9/11 the United States declared a “global war on terror.”

The Force: How much military is enough?, Jill Lepore, the New Yorker
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The Geo-political Reverberations of a Government Shutdown

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

As political gridlock continues to grip Washington, the prospect of the United States defaulting on its debt looms ever more prominently on the horizon. Such an event – were it to occur – would have far-reaching consequences. Not only for the short-term interests of certain politicians or political parties, but for the greater geo-political stature of the United States.

The weakening of U.S. soft-power is already evident. As politicians wrangle with one another in the halls of Congress, rival powers are watching with concern and no doubt grim satisfaction as the United States takes the world economy to the edge of a cliff.
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Humanitarian Intervention: Destroying Nations to Save Them

Map Richard D. Vogel. Permission to copy

Map Richard D. Vogel. Permission to copy

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

The fate of Iraq is a sideshow, the terrorist threat is a red herring, and the radical Islamist’s dream of a worldwide jihad against the west is a fantasy, but the attempt to revive Pax Americana is real.
Gwynne Dyer

The notion of “humanitarian intervention” by former imperialist and now neo-colonial powers is as old as the hills. One can trace such pretexts back far in modern history. Two examples, among many, suffice: the 1898 U.S. invasion of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines was done in the name of saving those peoples from the Spanish yoke. Hitler used it as the excuse to annex the Sudetenland regions of (then) Czechoslovakia to supposedly “save” the poor German residents of that country.
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Applied to Nuclear Weapons, Realism is the Road to Ruin

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In an op-ed at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists titled Why nuclear realism is unrealistic, Benoit Pelopidas writes that “adopting the point of view often called nuclear realism—the notion that technology and careful management will keep us safe—is a dangerous course.” Since the early days of the Cold War, he writes “it was considered ‘realistic’ for the United States and the Soviet Union each to build ever more nuclear weapons, so as not to fall behind in the arms race with the opposing country.”

Furthermore

The quest for a realistic nuclear outlook is shortsighted today when it portrays the bleak prospects for a new round of US-Russian nuclear arms reduction as the definitive verdict of the “real” world.
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President Obama’s Meeting With Malala Yousafzai Was Riddled With Irony

Malala Yousafzai with President Obama. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Malala Yousafzai with President Obama. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

To one Nobel Peace Prize winner from one who isn’t:  “Drones are fueling terrorism.”  So spoke Malala Yousafzai to President Barack Obama. She’s the 16-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to urge the schooling of girls. She was nipped in the running for the prize by the team of chemical weapons experts seeking to corral Assad’s arsenal. Some pundits actually opined that Malala should take consolation in the fact that she is young and will have many more years to garner her own Nobel. The falseness of that note owes as much to its commodification of peace efforts as to the fact that Malala has indicated her intention to return to Pakistan, where the Taliban has vowed to execute her.
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Not All the Migration After the Fall of the Berlin Wall Was From East to West

Johannes Becker

Johannes Becker

Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.

When the Berlin Wall fell, a tremendous number of people headed for the West, permanently. Between 1989 and 1990, nearly 4 percent of the population of East Germany moved to West Germany. The outmigration rate dropped considerably once the new common German currency was introduced and reunification became an irrevocable fact. But it rose again between 1995 and 2002 when the unemployment rate in the east spiked from nearly 15 percent to 18 percent (twice that of the west). Overall, between 1989 and 2010, over four million people from the east moved to the west.

But not everyone moved from east to west. In fact, over the same period from 1989 to 2010, more than two million people from the west moved to the east. For a brief period, Johannes M. Becker was one of those people. A political scientist, he taught for two years at Humboldt University in East Berlin beginning in 1990. He wrote a book about his time in the east and continues to give public presentations about the experience.
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Is the House Tea Party Caucus Paving the Way to Campaign Finance Reform?

Tea Party Caucus member, I mean hominid bust at the National Museum of Natural History’s David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Tea Party Caucus member, I mean hominid bust at the National Museum of Natural History’s David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Apologies for veering off topic from foreign policy this morning, but I feel compelled to weigh in on this eye-opening new trend among House of Representatives Republicans. In a New York Times article on October 9 titled Business Groups See Loss of Sway Over House G.O.P., Eric Lipton, Nicholas Confessore, and Nelson D. Schwartz report:

As the government shutdown grinds toward a potential debt default, some of the country’s most influential business executives have come to a conclusion all but unthinkable a few years ago: Their voices are carrying little weight with the House majority that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions helped build and sustain. … [Business] leaders and trade groups said … the tools that have served them in the past — campaign contributions, large memberships across the country, a multibillion-dollar lobbying apparatus — do not seem to be working.
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Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (10/9)

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Sanctions Represent a Failure of Imagination

Why pass new sanctions that will drain Iran’s moderates of domestic political capital, slam shut the window for what may be the last best chance to constrain Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy, and risk shattering international unity on Iran?

The most disingenuous argument for sanctions yet, Jamal Abdi, the Hill’s Congress Blog

Self-Respect Is in the National Interest

I would like to say that suspending aid to Egypt is now in America’s national interest. Maybe it’s not; maybe it’s a wash. So I will say instead that it has become a matter of national self-respect. Democracies have to be able to look at themselves in the mirror, and to accept, if not like, what they see.

Speak Softly and Carry No Stick, James Traub, Foreign Policy
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The Government Shutdown From a European Perspective

ObamaBoehner

As a German student studying in Washington, it’s sometimes hard for me to believe the absurdities the U.S. political system produces. The ongoing U.S. government shutdown—the product of an inability by political elites to forge lasting compromises, as well as the conservative party’s distorted view of social rights—is but the latest example.

The problems underpinning the shutdown are not inherent to democracy, as European models show, but on the contrary are antithetical to it.
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