Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

In Cuba, low-hanging fruit for Obama

Bernd Debusmann
Feb 25, 2009 15:54 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

A look at a list of the foreign policy problems facing U.S. President Barack Obama could send the sunniest optimist into depression.

The Arab-Israeli conflict: no solution in sight. Afghanistan/Pakistan: the outlook is bleak. Iran and its nuclear plans: tricky. No easy wins here. Iraq: the war is not over.

But in the foreign policy landscape, there is one low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking — Cuba – and the picking has just been made easier by a report commissioned by the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, and released this week.

Among its key points: the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, the only Cold War policy still in force, has been counter-productive; U.S. policies are harming national security interests by impeding cooperation on such key issues as narcotics traffic; and the U.S. image in Latin America has been tarnished by Washington’s insistence that the region share hostility towards Cuba’s communist government.

Goodbye to rugged American individualism?

Bernd Debusmann
Feb 18, 2009 15:29 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Shock!! Horror!! The United States is becoming more like Europe! The rugged individualism that makes up part of the country’s self-image may be doomed. Paternalism threatens to throttle enterprise and initiative.

That has been the reaction of Republican leaders to the $787 billion stimulus package President Barack Obama signed this week after a contentious debate that echoed arguments made more than 80 years ago on the eve of the Great Depression.

“We were challenged with the choice of the American system of rugged individualism or the choice of a European system of diametrically opposed doctrines – doctrines of paternalism and state socialism,” Herbert Hoover said in his closing campaign speech for the 1928 presidential elections he won comfortably. The European ideas, he said, undermined the initiative and enterprise that propelled Americans to “unparalleled greatness.”

Clean up Washington: mission impossible?

Bernd Debusmann
Feb 11, 2009 17:07 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Can any U.S. administration avoid the fate spelled out in the following 12 words? “We were elected to change Washington and we let Washington change us.”

Thus spoke John McCain when he formally accepted the Republican party’s nomination for president last September. He then listed a number of reasons why the party had lost the trust of the American people, including that “some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption”.

America’s long, long Afghan war

Bernd Debusmann
Feb 4, 2009 17:10 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate–Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own–

Twenty years ago this month, the last Soviet soldier left Afghanistan after a disastrous war that lasted nine years, seven weeks and three days. Barring military and political miracles, the United States will stay longer in Afghanistan than the Soviets did. Considerably longer.

Present U.S. plans to reinforce troops fighting a war that is, by most accounts, going badly, provide for up to 30,000 additional soldiers to be deployed over the next 12 to 18 months. By that time, the U.S. presence will almost have matched the Soviets’ stay and will exceed it by the end of 2010.

Pakistan, Mexico and U.S. nightmares

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 7, 2009 14:54 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

What do Pakistan and Mexico have in common? They figure in the nightmares of U.S. military planners trying to peer into the future and identify the next big threats.

The two countries are mentioned in the same breath in a just-published study by the United States Joint Forces Command, whose jobs include providing an annual look into the future to prevent the U.S. military from being caught off guard by unexpected developments.

American guns and the war next door

Bernd Debusmann
Dec 18, 2008 16:15 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

Last year, around 2,500 Mexicans died in the twin wars drug cartels are waging against each other and against the Mexican state, using weapons smuggled in from the United States. In the first 11 months of this year, the death toll was 5,367, according to the Mexican attorney general. Next year?

There is no end in sight. At least two of the lethal ingredients in the toxic brew that fuels Mexico’s ever-widening violence are unlikely to change: lax American gun laws and a Mexican border that barely controls north-south traffic. On many of the crossing points along the 2,000-mile frontier, travelers coming in from the United States, by car or on foot, are routinely waved through without even having to show identity papers.

Can Obama avert an Arab-Israeli disaster?

Bernd Debusmann
Dec 11, 2008 15:06 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Time is running out for Israel and the Palestinians. Barack Obama is probably the last American president to have the option of pursuing an accord leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the so-called two-state solution.

If that fails, another generation will be locked into bloodshed and strife. That is the bleak scenario painted by two senior American Middle East experts in a new book, Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President. It is the product of an 18-month joint study by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations, two pillars of the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

Einstein, insanity and the war on drugs

Bernd Debusmann
Dec 3, 2008 15:02 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. His definition fits America’s war on drugs, a multi-billion dollar, four-decade exercise in futility.

The war on drugs has helped turn the United States into the country with the world’s largest prison population. (Noteworthy statistic: The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population and around 25 percent of the world’s prisoners). Keen demand for illicit drugs in America, the world’s biggest market, helped spawn global criminal enterprises that use extreme violence in the pursuit of equally extreme profits.

Over the years, the war on drugs has spurred repeated calls from social scientists and economists (including three Nobel prize winners) to seriously rethink a strategy that ignores the laws of supply and demand.

The business case for high-seas piracy

Bernd Debusmann
Nov 26, 2008 15:54 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

As far as illicit businesses with low risk and high rewards go, it doesn’t get much better than piracy on the high seas. The profit margins can easily surpass those of the cocaine trade. The risks?

“There is no reason not to be a pirate,” according to U.S. Vice Admiral William Gortney, who commands the U.S. navy’s Fifth Fleet. “The vessel I’m trying to pirate, they won’t shoot at me. I’m going to get my money.”

Nuclear planning to the year 1,002,008

Bernd Debusmann
Nov 19, 2008 15:54 UTC

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. –

YUCCA MOUNTAIN, Nevada (Reuters) – Will this barren mountain rising up to 4,950 feet from the Mojave desert look roughly the same in the year 1,002,008? That’s a million years into the future.

The question may sound bizarre but its answer is key to the future of a decades-old, controversial project to store America’s nuclear waste in the belly of Yucca Mountain, on the edge of a nuclear test site and 95 miles from Las Vegas. The narrow road from there winds through a desolate landscape of sparse vegetation — creosote scrub, cactus and gnarled Joshua trees.

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