World Beat

Don’t Mourn: Annotate

The movie Good Night, and Good Luck depicts how journalist Edward R. Murrow took down the most dangerous U.S. demagogue of his era with a simple, yet elegant, act of annotation. Murrow played excerpts on his CBS news show of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s speeches about the “Communist menace” and then refuted the charges. The lies and half-truths of the Wisconsin senator were laid bare, and that was the beginning of his end.

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Nuking Iran

The headlines this week will be all Iraq, all the time. President Bush will unveil his not-so-secret plan of a military “surge” to rescue Iraq from all its other disastrous surges—in civilian deaths, pervasive violence, and unemployment. FPIF analyst Dan Smith, in Bush to Iraq: More War, argues instead that “Congress needs to act as a surge suppressor and carefully look at what Bush as commander-in-chief threatens to decree.” And, indeed, the Democrats have decided to shift from the largely domestic focus of their 100-hours plan, having realized that 45% of the American electorate wants action on the Iraq War versus only 7% who wants Congress to focus on the U.S. economy or health care reform.

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All Talk

Before the recent nuclear test and the famine of the mid-1990s, North Korea engaged in a form of public diplomacy. It promoted juche, its home-grown philosophy of self-reliance. Juche societies sprang up in dozens of countries around the world, especially in the global south where the rhetoric of self-reliance appealed to post-colonial sensibilities. At the Tower of the Juche Ideal in Pyongyang, plaques donated from these juche societies cover the base of the monument.

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Political Football

Imagine Iraq as a football game. It’s late in the fourth quarter. Coach George W. Bush is looking at a grim situation on the field. He has just told quarterback Don Rumsfeld to hit the showers, and now he is sending in the new boy, Bob Gates. Several other team members have been sidelined. The clock is ticking. The current strategy doesn’t seem to be working, but Coach Bush is reluctant to try something new.

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Big Mystery

The latest recruitment brochure from the Central Intelligence Agency, which beckons the uninitiated to “be a part of a mission that’s larger than all of us,” opens to reveal an image of the red-roofed entrance to Beijing’s Forbidden City. From an oversized portrait on the ancient wall, Chairman Mao and his Mona Lisa smile behold the vast granite expanse of Tiananmen Square. The Cold War is over, and the Soviet Union is gone. The cloak-and-dagger games of Berlin and Prague have been replaced by business and tourism. But China—land of ancient secrets, autocratic leaders, and memories of suppressed uprisings—still holds out the promise of a world-historical struggle that can help the CIA meet its recruitment goals.

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Rule of Lawlessness

The HBO series Deadwood depicts a town on the American frontier where law is the exception rather than the rule. The inhabitants of this gold-mining town in the Dakota Territory in the 1870s rely on guns and intimidation and, if necessary, a little torture to secure their claims. Outside, in the wilderness, Indian tribes use terror to repel the intruders, though the canny leaders of Deadwood often magnify that threat to justify their own bending of the rules of civilized behavior. Meanwhile, politicians in nearby state capitols and far away Washington try to establish the rule of law in the territory. But Deadwood sees only more hands reaching for their gold and meddling in their way of life.

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Military Intelligence

In his bid to appeal to a conservative base on the road to 2008, John McCain repeatedly urged last week that the United States send more troops to Iraq to get the job done. The military response to McCain’s political appeal demonstrates that military intelligence is no oxymoron.

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Enlightenment Returns?

Immediately after the 2004 elections, U.S. historian Garry Wills described the results as “the day the Enlightenment went out.” He was plainly worried about the impact of fundamentalism not only on the electorate but on Enlightenment values such as “critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences.” Wills, by the way, is a Catholic and a self-described conservative (see his brilliant 1979 book Confessions of a Conservative). These credentials make his warnings about the collapsing wall between church and state—for example in this recent piece in The New York Review of Books with its lucid section on “faith-based war”—all the more persuasive.

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Stern Warning

The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change released in England last week—and named after the former World Bank economist Nicholas Stern—predicts a 20% cut in global economic activity if climate change continues unabated. Environmentalists have been arguing that global warming will eradicate species, ravage ecosystems, and lead ultimately to the “end of nature” if not the end of mankind. But those warnings were not dire enough. The shrinking of the global economy by one-fifth and the equivalent reduction in profit margins and trade revenues? Forget about polar bears and melting ice caps, this is serious business!

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