Much has been made of Iran’s nuclear program and the perceived threat it poses, but the general public is only slowly beginning to understand that danger posed by already nuclear-armed and occasional US ally, Pakistan. The danger is not posed by the Pakistani government, but instead originates in the prospect of state collapse. The prospect of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of terrorists is enough to send chills up any policymaker’s spine.
On Tuesday, Israeli voters go to the polls. In the face of difficult times they are forced to make difficult choices. On one hand, you have the cynical ruling coalition led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for centrist Kadima and Defense Minister Ehud Barak for Labor. With shrewd politicking that would make Karl Rove proud, the coalition government invaded Gaza in order to boost its own polling numbers at a high cost to Palestinian life. In addition, the war had the counterproductive result of giving Hamas, who had been slumping in popularity among Palestinians, a second life.
Over the past several years Zimbabwe has come dangerously close to becoming a failed state. Its economy is in ruin as the breadbasket of Africa has been transformed into a nation gripped by famine. In addition the country is experiencing hyperinflation that has been in the hundreds of thousands percent over the past year. On top of the economic crisis is a burgeoning health crisis brought on by the near-total collapse of all public services. What is most tragic of all is that these events are occurring in a country that until relatively recently was known as a model of development in a continent wracked by conflict and poverty.
During the campaign through to the inauguration, President Obama has laid out a change in style for US foreign policy, moving from, in his view, the unbalanced approach of the Bush administration to one that takes into account consultations with allies and the importance of negotiations. In her confirmation hearings (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jan/14/clinton-touts-smart-power-use/), Secretary of State Clinton gave a name to the new strategy, “smart power.”
I have to admit when I heard the possibility of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State I thought it was a ridiculous choice. Here’s Senator Clinton, who in the primary bragged about “coming under gunfire” in Bosnia and whose “deep” foreign policy experience included tea with such foreign leaders as President Obama’s foreign policy chief. But then I thought about it a little more and realized that it is a shrewd political choice that aims to neutralize the Clintons and their followers within the Democratic Party.
There is calm in Northeast Asia. But it is an uncertain calm. The “hermit kingdom” of North Korea remains as reclusive, impoverished and repressive as ever, constituting a potential threat to the region–either through conflict or collapse. The fragility of the country was emphasized over the past couple of weeks with the widely circulating rumors concerning health problems of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il.
As one of the more than 52 percent of people who cast their ballots for you, let me say congratulations. But as one humble citizen wanting to see you succeed, let me add a few words of advice. The American people have put a great amount of trust in you Barack, giving you (in terms of the Electoral College) a landslide and solid Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate. Living through these troubled times, your calls for change have resonated with us and now we have given you a chance. We’re ready to see what you can do.
One of the things that have made this election especially interesting has been the extent to which it has been followed around the world. Even excluding Obama’s and McCain’s international tours, worldwide expectations and interest are at an unusual high. This phenomenon can be traced to a variety of factors, but the events of the last eight years under President Bush probably lie at the core of foreign interest. International figures have made their endorsements, from the Mayor of London to Iranian officials, with even Al-Qaeda weighing in.