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from Jack Shafer:

Keep your frenemies list short and your enemies list shorter

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Compiling an enemies list was a cinch for the United States during the Cold War, what with most of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal targeted its way. Friends of the Soviets immediately became America’s enemies, and Soviet enemies became U.S. friends. That made China a U.S. enemy of the highest order, a ranking shared by the Soviet client-states of Cuba, North Korea, and North Vietnam, against which the United States fought. Muammar Gaddafi's Libya rose to high-enemy status under President Ronald Reagan, a position it maintained until he surrendered its nuclear program.

The enemy-allies partition had a few anomalies, notably the non-aligned nations and double-dealers like the Indians and the Romanians, who exploited frenemy relations with the United States. But it drove U.S. foreign policy for more than two generations until the Soviets sloughed off both communism and empire, laid down their ICBMs, and exited the enemy business. 

China's reversal was more dramatic: It became the United States' business partner in the 1990s and almost a friend. For most of the 1990s, the United States had no real rivals, a period of coasting that ended with 9/11 and its aftermath. Ever since, enemies-list has been a brain-bruising task for the U.S. government as such violent non-state actors as al Qaeda, Islamic State, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and many others have emerged, breaking — at the knuckles — the rules of thumb that once governed enemy identification.

Islamic State didn't earn its certified U.S. enemy status until it attacked U.S. ally Iraq and issued a promise to destroy America. But the organization hadn't gone ignored. The CIA has already trained 4,000 of its foes in the Free Syrian Army, which isn't a friendly gesture. Complicating Islamic State's enemy status is its recent threat to topple Russia, whose revived imperialism has put it back on the U.S. enemy list. So the enemy of the United States' enemy is an enemy, too. The rules of thumb are so broken that the United States is cooperating with Iran, previously U.S. Enemy No. 1, to punish the Islamic State.

from The Great Debate:

Obama’s impossible choices on Iraq

Volunteers who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants, chant slogans in Baghdad

Iraq was a bold U.S. experiment in nation-building. It turned out to be a flop.

That's what we're learning as we watch what the United States achieved there evaporate after nine years of war, after nearly 4,500 Americans were killed, 32,000 wounded and $800 billion in U.S. taxpayer money spent.

from The Great Debate:

Fires in Vietnam could ultimately burn Beijing

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The spilling of blood and burning of factories by anti-Chinese rioters sweeping across Vietnam reinforces Beijing’s message to other countries claiming territory in the South China Sea: resistance is costly and ultimately futile.

But a region in which anti-Chinese sentiment grows and where sovereignty disputes disrupt trade and economic growth will burn Beijing as well. Over the long term, a commitment to peaceful dispute resolution in accordance with international law, including some concessions on historic claims, would serve China better than its current path.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

Putin learning what U.S. didn’t

After America’s ignominious defeat and hurried departure from Vietnam in 1973 -- when the world’s richest and mightiest nation was humbled by the stolid determination of ill-equipped, ideologically inspired peasants -- it was generally assumed the United States would not wage war again until the lessons of the Viet Cong victory were taken to heart.

When Soviet forces hastily retreated with a bloody nose from their nine-year occupation of Afghanistan in 1989, similar lessons were suggested about the impossibility of militarily holding a country with a universally hostile population.

from Breakingviews:

Vietnam is back in the game for buyout firms

By Andy Mukherjee

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

As one of the world’s few remaining communist states, Vietnam’s relationship with foreign capitalists is complex. That hasn’t stopped private equity group Warburg Pincus closing the first tranche of a $200 million investment in the country’s largest mall owner. It’s early days, but for global investors Vietnam may be back in the game.

from Global Investing:

Corruption and business potential sometimes go together

By Alice Baghdjian

Uzbekistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam found themselves cheered and chided this week.

The Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International, measured the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 176 countries and all three found their way into the bottom half of the study.

from Photographers' Blog:

Feeling the names of the fallen

Washington, D.C.

By Gary Cameron

There’s an old military adage, which seems to follow more fact than fiction, that if you arrive 15 minutes BEFORE your scheduled starting time, you are late.

Given that, I found myself attempting to find the walkway to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington 30 minutes before the volunteers from the Vietnam Veterans of America local chapter 641 arrived at 06:00 for a weekly cleaning of the black granite and grounds.

from Breakingviews:

QE-lenient world gives Vietnam financial pardon

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

By Wayne Arnold

Investors can’t stay mad at Vietnam. Even after a downgrade last month by rating agency Moody’s, they’re willing to lend Hanoi dollars for less. Rising exports have helped restore reserves and avert a potential balance of payments crisis, while top officials have apologised for economic mismanagement. In a world awash with cash, however, investors are all too eager to forgive and forget.

from Breakingviews:

Vietnam is a bad example to newly emerging markets

By Rob Cox

This column appears in the Oct. 1 edition of Newsweek magazine. The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Almost exactly two years ago this week, Christine Gregoire, the governor of the U.S. state of Washington, was in Vietnam handing out French fries made from potatoes grown in her state at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in Ho Chi Minh City. Gregoire, accompanied by representatives of more than 50 companies from home, was in Vietnam trying to drum up business with America’s former military adversary. But the most important stop on Gregoire’s itinerary may have been a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new deepwater shipping terminal at Cai Mep.

from Global Investing:

Urbanization sweet spots

It's a hard slog sometimes looking for new and surprising sources of global economic growth that have not already be heavily discounted by global investors, especially in the uncertain world of 2012. It's been as hard of late to find new arguments to invest in China and quite a few people suggesting the opposite.

But a Credit Suisse report out on Tuesday homed in on worldwide urbanization trends to find out where this well-tested driver of economic activity was likely to have most impact int he 21st century. For a start, the big aggregate numbers are as dramatic as you'd imagine. More than half  of the world's population now lives in urban areas, crossing that milestone for the first time in 2009. And, accordingly to United Nations projections, urban dwellers will account for 70 percent of humanity by 2050. As recently as 1950, 70 percent of us were country folk.

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