World Beat

Time-Lapse Foreign Policy

In the popular virtual game Civilization, you can build an empire and take over the world in a matter of hours. In other words, you can compress thousands of years of history into one long session in front of your computer. This is the gaming equivalent of time-lapse photography, which allows us to watch the blooming of a flower or the entire life-cycle of a caterpillar in a matter of seconds. Thanks to computer technology, Civilization gives you the illusion of experiencing and controlling epochal change.

read more

Choco Pies vs. Cold Noodles

In the blockbuster 2000 film JSA, two South Korean soldiers accidentally find themselves on the North Korean side of the Joint Security Area, at the border between the two countries. They meet their North Korean counterparts. But instead of fighting, the four soldiers become friends and arrange several midnight get-togethers. At the height of their secret fraternization, one of the South Korean soldiers brings over several Choco Pies, cookies with marshmallow covered in chocolate that are wildly popular in South Korea.

read more

Our Taliban

The Dutch government is the latest casualty of the Afghanistan War. Over the weekend, the Labor Party in the Netherlands walked out of the ruling coalition government to protest the extension of the Dutch deployment in Afghanistan.

The Taliban is rejoicing.

read more

The Strange Case of Libya

He’s a long-serving, unpredictable dictator. He’s invaded countries, sponsored terrorism, trained insurgents, and tried to develop nuclear weapons. His recent debut UN speech went 75 minutes over his allotted time, highlighted several conspiracy theories, and called for President Obama to be installed as president for life. He recently said that civil society has no place in his country – even as a panel headed by his son was preparing a new law legalizing nongovernmental organizations.

read more

Rugged Collectivism

It’s 1961. William Stockton, a well-respected doctor, is having a birthday dinner with family and friends. They toast his service to the community and joke about all the late-night work he devotes to his hobby. Dr. Stockton has just finished building a bomb shelter for his family.

read more

The Next Great Transformation

By one estimate, China has been at the top of the global economy for 18 out of the last 20 centuries. That’s an impressive track record, whatever you might think of imperialism, communism, and all the other systems that have prevailed in that vast country over the centuries. Even President Obama made a nod in China’s direction in last week’s State of the Union address “We know the country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century,” he said. “And yet, it is China that has launched the largest effort in history to make their economy energy efficient.”

read more

Year One

By one estimate at least, Barack Obama has had the most successful first year of any president in recent history. According to Congressional Quarterly, Obama scored a 96.7 percent success rate in getting his agenda through Congress. Only Lyndon Johnson came close, with 93 percent in his first year. Although Republican opposition to the president was cohesive and frequently strident, the president was able to take advantage of sizable Democratic majorities in Congress — as well as the arm-twisting of Rahm “Art of the Possible” Emanuel — to push through measures to stabilize the economy and extend health care coverage. The president didn’t just rely on Congress. As Politifact points out, Obama fulfilled a large number of campaign promises through executive order.

read more

Street Heat and Foreign Policy

Without sufficient street-heat, according to the new conventional wisdom, President Obama is not going to implement progressive policies. His health care package reeks of insurance company influence. His bailouts favor Wall Street. Climate-change legislation rewards polluters through the shell game of “cap-and-trade.” Without strong social movements pulling Obama to the left, the new administration’s reforms resemble the pale liberalism of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, rather than the robust and transformative domestic change promoted by Lyndon Johnson and FDR.

read more

The New New Anti-Communism

Hillary Clinton is a commie symp.

That’s a familiar line from the rabid right, which hasn’t yet gotten the news that the Cold War is over. Google the secretary of state’s name and “communist,” and you’ll get over a million links, some of them to neo-Nazi websites. Folks say the craziest things on the Internet. I just didn’t expect The Washington Post to make the same argument.

read more