Opinion

The Great Debate

Fake news gets real

Colbert in Baghdad

global_post_logoThomas Mucha is the managing editor in charge of correspondents for GlobalPost, where this article first appeared. The views expressed are his own. –

It’s been a fascinating few weeks for global news — the real kind, of course — but also for the fake stuff.

I’m referring to “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” which sent correspondents and producers to locales where comedy shows don’t normally operate: Iran and Iraq. Along the way, these two Comedy Central commercial properties cooked up plenty of laughs. But they also produced some insightful — and certainly entertaining — coverage of these two complex and important global stories.

If Wolf Blitzer isn’t quaking in his beard, he should be.

These foreign forays produced powerful storytelling that illustrates how intelligence and humor, when mixed with a little ground truth, can add depth to very serious matters. It also demonstrates how fake news is, indisputably, a power on the global media stage. As an added bonus it was yet another funny and scathing attack on the pompous earnestness that typifies much of the mainstream media: You know you’re in trouble if you can be so brutally, and effortlessly, parodied.

Let’s start with Iran, where The Daily Show began with a simple idea, but then got much more than it was expecting.

from The Great Debate UK:

Is Iraq stable enough to cope without U.S. troops?

Tim Cocks-Tim Cocks is a Reuters correspondent based in Baghdad.-

For the U.S. military, it's the million dollar question -- or rather the $687 billion question, according to a recent estimate of the Iraq war's total cost. Is Iraq now stable enough for them to take a permanent back seat?

The short answer is no one knows. The only way they were ever going to find out was to leave Iraq's own forces to it and hope the whole thing doesn't come tumbling down. They started doing that on Tuesday when they pulled out of Iraqi cities.

It's been an encouraging start. A big bomb in Kirkuk cast a shadow over Iraq's celebrations of its new-found sovereignty, but since then things have been relatively quiet. Militants might try to take advantage by stepping up attacks, but for the moment they seem content with celebrating a "victory" over the occupation -- and setting off the odd bomb, of course.

U.S. military giant, diplomatic dwarf?

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

The U.S. armed forces, the world’s most powerful, outnumber the country’s diplomatic service and its major aid agency by a ratio of more than 180:1, vastly higher than in other Western democracies. Military giant, diplomatic dwarf?

The ratio applies to people in uniform (or pin-striped suits). In terms of money, the U.S. military towers just as tall. Roughly half of all military spending in the world is American. Even potential adversaries in a conventional war spend puny sums in comparison. The 2010 defense budget now before Congress totals $534 billion, not including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. China’s defense budget is $70 billion, Russia’s around $50 billion.giant_dwarf_w350

First 100 days: Grading Obama’s foreign policy

Michael O'Hanlon– Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The views expressed are his own. –

It’s no great surprise in American politics these days, but already a great partisan debate has broken out about President Obama’s foreign policy effectiveness to date. For his enthusiasts, the United States has hit the “reset” button and is reclaiming its place as not only a strong country, but a respected leader among nations. For his detractors, Obama is making the world dangerous by apologizing for America’s alleged misdeeds of the past, naively talking with dictators, and cutting the defense budget.

And as usual, the truth is neither of these polar positions. But as a past critic of Obama, especially during his days of promising a rapid and unconditional exit from Iraq during the presidential campaign, I would nonetheless argue that he has done a good job overall, and that his supporters have the stronger case to date. Still, making too much of provisionally good decisions in the first 100 days verges on playing a silly game of Potomac Jeopardy that only the evening talk shows and political junkies really care about. The bottom line is that Obama is just getting started. But he is off to a more solid start than almost any of his recent predecessors.

Brace yourself: Political-market risks in 2009

prestonkeat– Preston Keat is director of research at Eurasia Group, a global political risk consultancy, and author of the forthcoming book “The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investors” (with Ian Bremmer). Any views expressed are his own. For the related story, click here.

There are a number of macro risks that will continue to grab headlines in 2009, including the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, cross-border tensions and state instability in Pakistan, and Iran’s 
ongoing quest to develop advanced nuclear technologies.

These risks are real, and will not be resolved easily or quickly. But there are two other general groups of political risks that could be defining both for investors and policy makers: first, the prospect of a number of interrelated market risks in developed and emerging Europe, and second, the challenges faced by the United States regarding multilateral leadership (particularly in the area of financial regulatory reform).

George Bush and Iraq: ‘Shoe’denfreude?

Salim Adil is an author for Global Voices Online, a website that aggregates, curates, and translates news and views from the global blogosphere. The opinions expressed are his own and those of the bloggers he quotes.

gvWill this become one of those moments in history? In years to come will you recount to your grand children where you were when an Iraqi journalist, Montather Al-Zeidi, threw his shoes at the president of the United States? For me I was at home just getting my kids ready to sleep when my father called me insisting that I simply had to switch on the television immediately.

Iraqi bloggers reacted in much the same way with a number who wrote their first new post in months just to make their comment. Abbas Hawazin went as far to predict that shoe throwing will now be part of mainstream culture and has gone to look for a good-sized shoe to carry in his pocket, “in case I need to make any public expression of anger should the case arise.”

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