Opinion

David Rohde

Two American families — and two Americas

David Rohde
Jul 26, 2013 04:13 UTC

Over the last 20 years, two middle class American families — the Stanleys and the Neumanns — have done all the right things. Milwaukee natives, they worked hard, learned news skills,  and tried to show their children that strivers would be rewarded.

But their lives — as captured in an extraordinary Frontline documentary — are an American calamity. Followed by filmmakers for two decades, they move from dead-end job to dead-end job, one of the couples’ divorces, and most of their children spiral downward economically, not up.

The Stanleys and the Neumanns are a microcosm of the middle class that President Barack Obama — and House Republicans — will spar over for the remainder of Obama’s presidency. And they are part of a global trend. Across industrialized nations, income inequality is growing and people like the Stanleys and Neumanns are the losers.

“Mobility is a two-edged sword,” said Miles Corak, an economist at the University of Ottawa who has studied income inequality across countries. “And you’re looking at the other edge of the sword.”

At the very top, life is getting sweeter. As my colleague Chrystia Freeland noted last month, the global “winner-take-all economy” is intensifying.

Kerry’s triumph may not last long

David Rohde
Jul 19, 2013 19:11 UTC

AMMAN, JORDAN – Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement that Israeli and Palestinian officials had reached an agreement that “establishes a basis” for the resumption of direct peace talks is a badly needed foreign policy achievement for the Obama administration.

The talks are not yet finalized and seem unlikely to eventually succeed, but six months of shuttle diplomacy by Kerry is the first example of successful American diplomacy in the Middle East in several years.

The difficulties Kerry faced in simply getting the two sides to resume talks three years after the last round collapsed shows how difficult the path ahead will be. The negotiations are so sensitive that he and other American officials refused to release details of the agreement on Friday.

The Arab Spring is just getting started

David Rohde
Jul 19, 2013 03:43 UTC

Amman, Jordan — After the Egyptian army toppled President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the U.S. Congress expressed the sentiment of many in Washington.

“The army is the only stable institution in the country,” he said.

In the Western media, Arab Spring post-mortems proliferated, including a 15-page special report in The Economist that asked, “Has the Arab Spring failed?” The answer: “That view is at best premature, at worst wrong.”

Here in Jordan, Arab Spring inspired protests demanding King Abdullah II cede power to an elected government has petered out. A crackdown on the media that shut down 300 websites last month elicited little protest.

Gutting international justice

David Rohde
Jul 12, 2013 17:15 UTC

Over the last eight months, a series of surprise rulings at the international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has sparked extraordinary controversy in the staid world of international law.

Critics say the decisions weakened World War II-era precedents that hold commanders responsible for war crimes. Supporters say their impact is being exaggerated and the judge associated with them is being unfairly maligned.

In interviews, two former tribunal officials said the decisions reversed years of progress in the field and endangered the recent war crimes convictions of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. They said they feared that the United States and Israel pressured judges to reverse precedents that could limit both countries’ counter-terrorism operations.

Egypt needs elections, not generals

David Rohde
Jul 4, 2013 15:00 UTC

Mohamed Morsi’s one-year rule of Egypt was disastrous. He ruled by fiat, alienated potential allies and failed to stabilize the country’s spiraling economy. But a military coup is not an answer to Egypt’s problems.  It will exacerbate, not ease, Egypt’s vast political divide.

The Egyptian military’s primary interest is maintaining its privileged role in society and sprawling network of businesses. Like the Pakistani military now and the Brazilian military in the past, its desire to maintain its economic interests will slow desperately needed economic and political reforms.

There is little reason to have faith in Egypt’s broken political process at this point. But the best way to ease the country’s bitter divisions are immediate elections that include the Muslim Brotherhood.

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