In case you missed it or just fancy another look, here is a quick recap of the abundance of intriguing articles and compelling issues from Monday’s New York Times.
Every now and then the Times outdoes even its high standard of reporting with an edition that is chock full of interesting articles on important international issues from around the world. Yesterday just happened to be one of those good days. The International section was awash with juicy material thanks in part to a controversial WikiLeaks release of confidential U.S. foreign policy records, heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and elections in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
Here’s a rundown on the key topics and intriguing insights along with some original context and analysis.
U.S. Diplomacy & Foreign Policy | International Relations & Globalization in Asia | Politics & Crime in Latin America | Bailout, Voting & Divides in Europe | Elections & Culture in the Middle East | Misc. Culture, Business and Food
U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy
o Day 1 of this week’s new “State’s Secrets” series. The series is motivated by WikiLeaks’ Sunday posting of the first installment of “a cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables,” mostly from the past 3 years, that “provides an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.” The U.S. government quickly condemned WikiLeaks’ unauthorized disclosure and warned that it “put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.” The incident has sent U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. State Department into a flurry of diplomatic damage control aimed at minimizing the adverse consequences for U.S. foreign relations and policy.
o Blurring Line Between Spy and Diplomat. A companion piece to the State’s Secrets series looks into how the U.S. has been instructing its diplomats to collect human intelligence (“Humint” in spy-world jargon) in the form of detailed contact information for their foreign counterparts. Former U.S. officials raise the concern that Humint activities could get in the way of diplomats’ key role of collecting information that shapes U.S. foreign policy by engaging “openly and transparently with representatives of foreign governments and civil society.” The Humint directives could cause foreign counterparts to suspect U.S. diplomats of covert activities that could both obstruct the exchange of valuable information and put lives at risk.
International Relations and Globalization in Asia
o China Proposes Emergency Talks on Korean Crisis. China called for a resumption of the intermittent six-party talks between South Korea, North Korea, the U.S., Japan, Russia and itself to diffuse the growing tension on the Korean Peninsula. The risk of heightened conflict reached a new level last week when a North Korean artillery barrage “resulted in the first South Korean civilian casualties from North Korean weaponry since the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War.” China seems to be seeking a strategically expeditious outcome that overlooks the long-time suffering of the millions of impoverished North Korean citizens and the inherently unstable alchemy of a divided Korean peninsula and unpredictable North Korean regime. China’s foreign aid is a key lifeline for North Korea’s leadership and tool for preventing a reunified Korea from tilting the regional balance of power against China.
o Iran Fortifies Its Arsenal With the Aid of North Korea. Not only are North Korean provocations threatening peace on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea has also supplied advanced missile technology to Iran and Myanmar’s military junta. The missiles that North Korea supplied to Iran are “much more powerful than anything Washington has publicly conceded that Tehran has in its arsenal” according to the New York Times reporting on WikiLeaks’ disclosure of an American diplomatic cable.
o Okinawa Re-elects Opponent of U.S. Base. Voters on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa re-elected Governor Hirokazu Nakaima on Sunday. Nakaima recently reversed course and opposed keeping a U.S. military base in Okinawa in response to strong opposition by Okinawan residents. Okinawa is home to about half of the 50,000 troops that are permanently stationed in Japan under the U.S.-Japan security alliance. The arrangement is a key component of U.S. military and defense policy in Asia that has become all-the-more-important of late due to China’s military buildup and increasingly aggressive territorial claims and the growing unrest on the Korean Peninsula. On the positive side for U.S.-Japan relations and U.S. policy, Governor Nakaima has taken a more moderate stance on the base issue than his main opponent, Yoichi Iha, who called for removing the base from Japan altogether.
o Dueling advertorials by China Daily and Rong-I Wu, Former Vice Premier of the Taiwan Government. The China Daily advertisement, which takes up two full pages of prime ad real estate, promotes China’s efforts to address climate change by fostering the growth of clean and green businesses. China’s strategic promotion of environmental businesses has been one factor in the dispute over access to rare earths that are essential to many green products and businesses. In response to China’s growing regional influence and aggression, Mr. Wu’s advertorial calls for the U.S. to reaffirm its commitment to supporting a democratic Taiwan and maintaining the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 as “the cornerstone for U.S. policy toward Taiwan.”
o Wealthy Indonesians flock to Singapore of Surabaya. Affluent citizens who are enjoying the fruits of Indonesia’s strong gains in economic development have been moving to new communities like Singapore of Surabaya to escape the ills of Indonesia’s rapid, largely unplanned urbanization. Surabaya is Indonesia’s second largest city after the capital, Jakarta. In Jakarata, at least $1.43 billion a year is lost to constant, massive traffic jams according to a government study. “Indonesia’s urban drivers typically squeeze three abreast onto two-lane roads.” For many Indonesians who are familiar with traveling to Singapore for shopping, schooling and medical care, Singapore represents a model of civic order and world-class infrastructure.
Politics and Crime in Latin America
o Forces in Rio Reclaim Slum After Battle With Gangs. Brazilian security forces won an encouraging victory on Sunday by resting control of Rio’s most notorious slum, Alemao, from drug gangs. Alemao is “a violent, sprawling complex with some 100,000 residents” that Rio’s police chief had described as ‘the heart of evil.’” For the past two years, Brazil has been trying to mitigate unrest in the slums of Rio, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world, in preparation for hosting the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic games. Following the successful seizure of Alemao, “Dozens of children ran from their houses in shorts and bikinis to plunge into a swimming pool that had belonged to a gang leader, even as the police searched for drugs one floor below.”
o Confessing to Many Killings, Drug Gang Leader is Arrested. Mexico’s federal police arrested Arturo Gallegos Castrellon, leader of the gang Los Aztecas, who confessed to “ordering most killings in the battle-scarred border city of Ciudad Juarez since August 2009, including the drive-by shootings of a United States consular employee and her husband.” More than 2,000 people have died from violence in Juarez in 2010 alone. For more on Mexico’s efforts to fight the country’s drug cartels and rid its police forces of rampant corruption, see the article Battling Mexico’s Drug Cartels in the July/August 2010 edition of Foreign Affairs.
o Haitians Vote Amid Delays, Confusion and Complaints from Candidates. Haiti held its first election since the devastating January earthquake on Sunday. Concerns have been raised about the legitimacy of the pending election results, though the U.S. Embassy spent $14 million in election preparation. Preliminary results are expected to be released December 7. The outcome and domestic response to the election process could have a large impact on Haiti’s ability to recover from the country’s first cholera epidemic in 50 years and extensive damage from the January earthquake and other recent natural disasters that have battered the impoverished nation.
Bailout, Voting and Divides in Europe
o Europe Approves Irish Rescue and New Rules on Bailouts. Europe’s finance ministers approved an 85 billion euro bailout package for Ireland to rescue the country’s finances and try to prevent the debt crisis from spreading to Portugal and Spain.
o Catalonia Vote Reflects Desire For Less Obligation to Madrid. Catalonia, Spain’s relatively prosperous northeastern region that is home to Barcelona, effectively voted Convergencia I Unio, a Catalan nationalist party, into power on Sunday. The party’s platform maintains that Catalan bears too much of the economic burden for the rest of the country and should instead have “greater budgetary independence and a smaller contribution to other regions.” As in other European countries including Italy and Belgium, there is a divide in Spain between the relatively affluent areas of the north and less prosperous, often more traditional regions in the south.
o Swiss Vote to Oust Foreigners Convicted of Serious Crimes. “52.9 percent of voters and a majority of Switzerland’s cantons supported the right-wing Swiss People’s Party calling for the automatic expulsion of foreigners convicted of crimes ranging from murder, rape and drug dealing to social security fraud.” The election results seem to suggest a similar inclination toward intolerance and inequality to that of another right-wing victory earlier this year on Switzerland’s vote to ban minarets.
Elections and Culture in the Middle East
o Egypt Votes Amid Strife and Charges of Fraud. Egypt held parliamentary elections on Sunday that were characterized by “a sense among many … that Egypt’s long-dominant governing party [the N.D.P.] was bent on entrenching its hold on power in a period of looming political uncertainty.” The elections are more interesting “as a prelude to next year’s far more significant presidential vote, which may usher in a long-awaited political transition.” President Hosni Mubarak has governed Egypt for the past 29 years since 1981 but is now 82 years old and in questionable health.
o Repatriating Tut. An op-ed piece observes that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has been more cooperative and responsible than other institutions in the U.S., Germany, and the U.K. by returning ancient artifacts to their rightful home in Egypt.
Misc. Culture, Business and Food
o Selling Caribbean TV Network from the Island of Newark. Virgin Islands native and former MTV attorney Frederick A. Morton is supporting and uniting Caribbean culture by building a TV network that is already seen in 26 Caribbean islands. While still evolving, the network’s programming “is rooted in music but also includes food, tourism, religion and a diffuse sort of social commentary, most noticeably an antiviolence campaign rooted in the phrase ‘badness outta style,’ which has become an island buzz phrase. The logic is threefold. The Caribbean, 30 million people by one definition, is united culturally but has no common media. There’s a lucrative Caribbean diaspora, about 15 million in the U.S. alone, depending on how it is counted. And the music and culture of the Caribbean have mass commercial appeal that has never been tapped.”
o Google Grows, So Some Talent Takes Its Leave. By the standards of many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and tech wizards, Google has already become “the big, lumbering incumbent” in its twelfth short year of existence. Employees ranging from low-level engineers to prominent managers are turning down attractive deals from Google to jump ship and start their own ventures or move on to more nimble tech start-ups and businesses, including Facebook.
o The Menu: One Entrée. That’s It. The latest trend in New York’s melting pot of culinary innovation centers around a “laserlike focus” on single-minded comfort food. If you’re in the mood in Manhattan, consider checking out one of these one-item establishments: Meatball Shop, The Dumpling Man, Pommes Frites, Sigmund Pretzelshop, Stuffed Artisan Cannolis or Ed’s Lobster Bar.
All articles below are from the New York Times, Monday, November 29, 2010.
Applebome, Peter. Selling Caribbean TV Network from the Island of Newark. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Broad, William J., James Glanz and David E. Sanger. Iran Fortifies Its Arsenal With the Aid of North Korea. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Cain Miller, Claire. Google Grows, So Some Talent Takes Its Leave. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Cardwell, Diane. The Menu: One Entrée. That’s It. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Castle, Stephen and Liz Alderman. Europe Approves Irish Rescue and New Rules on Bailouts. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Cave, Damien and Randal C. Archibold. Haitians Vote Amid Delays, Confusion and Complaints from Candidates. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Cumming-Bruce, Nick. Swiss Vote to Oust Foreigners Convicted of Serious Crimes. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Domit, Myrna and Alexei Barrionuevo. Forces in Rio Reclaim Slum After Battle With Gangs. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Johnson, Ian and Helene Cooper. Beijing Proposes Emergency Talks on Korean Crisis. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Mazzetti, Mark. Blurring Line Between Spy and Diplomat. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Minder, Raphael. Catalonia Vote Reflects Desire For Less Obligation to Madrid. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Onishi, Norimitsu. For City Dwellers, a Taste of the Orderly Life. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Repatriating Tut. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Shane, Scott and Andrew W. Lehren. Leaked Cables Offer a Raw Look Inside U.S. Diplomacy. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Tabuchi, Hiroko. Okinawa Re-elects Opponent of U.S. Base. New York Times. November 29, 2010.
Worth, Robert F. and Mona El-Naggar. Egypt Votes Amid Strife and Charges of Fraud. New York Times. November 29, 2010.