Archive for October 10th, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

America: Too preocupied with the Middle East?

That’s what the Asian Foundation says.

“While the United States has been preoccupied with the situation in the Middle East, the Asian balance has been shifting quietly, if inexorably, in the direction of others.”

China is replacing the US as many Asian country’s main trading partner, and may soon be South Asia’s largest training partner, says the report.

To regain influence would require to take both economic links with Asia, and human rights at home into account – the “war against terror” and the American offenses against human rights in the wake of it had diluted the superpower’s ability to promote democracy and the protection of human rights.

An article at mediachannel says: “We seem to be confronting a trifecta of failure: a financial failure, a political failure and a media failure – all reinforcing each other. It’s the perfect storm.”

The recommendation there to organize teach-ins looks a bit exaggerated to me. After all, America is a country where everyone learns writing, reading, and calculating, and teach-ins don’t sound like occasions where judgment is trained. But then, maybe it is still an appropriate American way.

In any case, education is the issue, both in terms of business and ideas. Education would help America to bounce back on the global stage. The chairman of the American Federal Reserve Bank, Ben Bernanke, made a speech on the topic of education a year ago. Isn’t it time for the presidential nominees to address this issue – in their own words, and more folksy, if need be? And shouldn’t America’s competitiveness – as an economy and as a society – be at he center of both big election campaigns – Senator McCain’s and Senator Obama’s?

Benefiting society as a whole, educated individuals are more likely to participate in civic affairs, volunteer their time to charities, and subscribe to personal values–such as tolerance and an appreciation of cultural differences–that are increasingly crucial for the healthy functioning of our diverse society. (…) The state of technology is affected both by the creativity and knowledge of scientists and engineers engaged in formal research and development as well as by the efforts of skilled workers on the shop floor who find more efficient ways to accomplish a given task.” (Bernanke)

“In Obama’s view, free trade can adance only once workers no longer feel threatened by it”, writes the Economist. “The Democratic Party is vacillating”, writes mediachannel. And “One of the first challenges the next U.S. president will face will be how to respond to China’s emergence as a global power”, writes US treasury secretary Paulson in Foreign Affairs.

Alright – the Democratic Party may be vacillating. But the Democratic Party is the political organization whose supporters may tilt it into the right direction.

And in the end, it will be up to every voter to judge which of Paulson’s recommendations for interaction with China may be in the American interest (and where maybe not). When the sovereign – the voter – can assess the options on the table, he will have nothing to fear.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Nobel Peace Prize and it’s Fringe Benefits

Martti Ahtisaari is the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. He will get congratulatory messages from all over the world, but besides those from Namibia and Aceh (possibly), the most heart-felt ones will probably come from Zhongnanhai, Beijing.

I’m not sure if Stein Toennesson knew the final decision already when he alluded that it could be Gao Zhisheng or Hu Jia.

But his comments made the most of the Nobel Peace Prize’s global effect. It is interesting that the CCP found it necessary to “hopes” that the Committee in Oslo would choose “the right person”.

Mr Ahtisaari has won the prize. But some of the luster will shine on Hu Jia and Gao Zhisheng, too.

Savvy handling, Mr Toennesson.

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