By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Okay, it’s official. Some people may be getting a little overwrought about North Korea’s possible reaction to the release of “The Interview,” that much-hyped movie where Kim Jong Un is (fictionally) assassinated by the CIA, via bumbling patsies played by James Franco and Seth Rogen. Since news of the comedy’s plot leaked, there have been some typically, and not all that surprising, strong words from Pyongyang. Then Sony Pictures got hacked, possibly by North Korea or possibly by someone else entirely. Incidentally, a major corporation being hacked by an unknown assailant that’s either a dictatorial rogue state, or some teenagers who want to watch movies for free, is a much better plot idea than that of “The Interview.” Cue much outpouring of punditry and comment (this commentator and pundit included) on what’s going on.
Presidents frequently conduct sensitive diplomatic dialogues in secret, because the furor of public attention makes it politically impossible to reach the compromises necessary for agreement. These secret talks are often crucial for diplomatic advances — as we learned Wednesday with the stunning revelations about the impending talks between Washington and Havana that have been underway secretly for the past few months. President Barack Obama’s far-reading initiatives are reminiscent of the secret talks Henry Kissinger held with Beijing to lay the groundwork for President Richard M. Nixon’s historic diplomatic opening to China.
Pakistan’s army knew it would pay a price when it launched an offensive in the mountains of North Waziristan. But even in their worst imaginings, few officers could have foreseen the way revenge would be served: an attack on an Army-run school that cost the lives of 132 students. Many were the teenage sons of soldiers.
The West has been unable to develop a coherent strategic policy toward Russia. There is little agreement on what Russia is and how to deal with it, too much speculation about what President Vladimir Putin will or will not do.
In early 2015, the civil war in Syria will turn four years old. If current trends hold, the terrible conflict — which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions — will almost certainly continue to rage through the end of the year. That’s my prediction.
1. The Obama boom will finally arrive. Only it will be more like a boomlet.
Americans have been waiting for the boom since they elected President Barack Obama in the teeth of the 2008 financial meltdown. After all, we elected Ronald Reagan during an economic downturn in 1980, and by his second term, the economy had turned around (“Morning in America”). We elected Bill Clinton in an economic downturn in 1992, and by his second term, the economy had come roaring back (the “dot-com boom,” now known as the “dot-com bubble”). Now we’re deep into Obama’s second term. Where’s da boom?
The year ahead could see the outbreak of the third Chechen war, which, in turn, could be the death knell of the Russian Federation in its current borders.
Word broke this weekend that Sony Pictures Entertainment has hired celebrated lawyer David Boies of Boies Schiller & Flexner to warn news organizations away from publishing stories based on information hacked from the studio's servers. Boies' letter, sent to top in-house counsel at the New York Times, Bloomberg, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, said the hacked documents contain trade secrets, Sony intellectual property and privileged legal advice. If news organizations use the stolen material, the letter said, Sony "will have no choice but to hold you responsible."
The Rev. Al Sharpton didn’t rocket to stardom.
In the 1980s and 1990s, he was, at best, a regional activist who had successfully used outrageous tactics to call attention to the plight of dozens of unarmed black men who had lost their lives at the hands of angry white mobs and police officers.