Opinion

Ian Bremmer

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
May 3, 2013 19:18 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political risk junkie – presented in no particular order. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

Must-reads

Lebanon squanders its finest human assets” – David Gardner, Financial Times

Lebanon is losing talent…and electricity. Last year, the country got an average of 11.4 hours of electricity a day.

Remote Control: Our Drone Delusion” – Steve Coll, The New Yorker

Bush oversaw forty-eight drone strikes in Pakistan while in office. Since 2009, Obama has authorized more than three hundred.

China’s Drone Program Appears to Be Moving Into Overdrive” – Christopher Bodeen, Huffington Post

The global vacuum of power is expanding

Ian Bremmer
May 3, 2013 12:04 UTC

How do you solve a problem like Korea? Or Syria? Or the euro zone? Or climate change?

Don’t look to Washington. The United States will remain the world’s most powerful nation for years to come, but the Obama administration and U.S. lawmakers are now focused on debt, immigration, guns and growth. A war-weary, under-employed American public wants results at home, leaving U.S. officials to look for allies willing to share costs and risks abroad.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy to build and sustain alliances in a world where America can’t afford its traditional share of the heavy lifting. No wonder then that the Obama administration’s greatest foreign policy successes haven’t depended on such alliances. Withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan doesn’t require consensus among the world’s powers. President Barack Obama’s single indisputable foreign policy triumph, the killing of Osama bin Laden, needed buy-in only from the members of Seal Team 6.

Bangladesh and the cost of doing nothing

Ian Bremmer
Apr 30, 2013 20:12 UTC

In Bangladesh, the search for survivors has become an effort to recover the dead. After a garment factory building collapsed in the Dhaka suburb of Savar last week, residents and rescue workers spent days digging through the rubble hoping to save the lives of people caught in yet another Bangladeshi industrial accident. At least 390 people are thought to have died.

This type of accident is all too common in Bangladesh. In November, more than 100 people died in a garment factory fire when workers could not easily escape the building. In 2006, 84 people were killed in a blaze because fire exits were locked.

This is what happens when a $20 billion industry accounts for 3.2 million jobs and 80 percent of a country’s exports. It needs the industry too much, especially when those jobs have helped push female participation in the workplace from 26.1 percent in 2002-03 to a still-insufficient 36 percent in 2010. The globalized economy demands that Bangladesh provide cheap goods, and cheap goods are easier to manufacture when there aren’t strict rules to follow — or at least when they’re not enforced.

America’s relative rise

Ian Bremmer
Apr 19, 2013 16:27 UTC

Since midway through George W. Bush’s tenure, there’s been a steady hum from the pundit class that America’s best days are behind it. An overreaching foreign policy, rising public debt, and a growing wave of outsourced jobs means that America will soon lose its status as the world’s preeminent power. America was quickly on its way to becoming Rome.

But the American Decline is now over (if it ever really began in the first place).

Compared with other major powers, America’s future is looking brighter than before the financial crisis. The dollar remains remarkably attractive relative to other currencies. This resilience extends to American companies. In a March report, Goldman Sachs found that foreign investors owned a larger percentage of the U.S. equity market than at any time in the 68-year history of the study. The housing market is picking up, and dependence on foreign energy is falling.

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Apr 12, 2013 16:02 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political risk junkie – presented in no particular order. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

Must-reads 

Baby milk rationing: Chinese fears spark global restrictions” – Celia Hatton, BBC News

What’s worse than glow-in-the-dark pork? The recent craze in subpar Chinese product safety standards is all about baby milk formula.

When hackers bully a bully: Anonymous vs Kim Jong-un

Ian Bremmer
Apr 11, 2013 15:16 UTC

For an American emissary looking to have an impact, there’s no better place to visit than North Korea. Most of the world is shut out of Kim Jong-un’s country, and the U.S. government has so few levers to influence policy that any American who finds his way in will make news.

That doesn’t mean the news will be good news. Former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt didn’t accomplish much during their January visit, and basketball carny Dennis Rodman was as embarrassing as one would expect. In North Korea, even tourists can make headlines: Laura Ling and Euna Lee were detained in 2009 after filming refugees on the China-North Korea border. They became flashpoints in the U.S.-North Korean standoff because Pyongyang had nothing else to work with.

Unfortunately, the latest outsiders to insert themselves into the picture are hackers that answer to the name Anonymous, the group that became famous by mixing digital activism with clandestine revenge. Anonymous has begun a campaign against North Korea, crashing several North Korean websites, hacking North Korean social media accounts, and perhaps infiltrating North Korea’s intranet. Anonymous is promising more attacks to come. There is a chance for serious trouble here.

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Apr 5, 2013 19:32 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political risk junkie – presented in no particular order. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer. 

Must-reads

Is This a Pandemic Being Born?” – Laurie Garrett, Foreign Policy

In the past few weeks in China, we’ve seen over 15,000 dead animals pulled out of China’s polluted rivers, with vast distances between discoveries. Recently, three people have contracted a virus strain that previously did not affect humans. Explanations from government officials have been as murky as the polluted water itself. This piece doesn’t claim that we can draw a firm connection between these events… but it argues that we certainly cannot rule it out. 

Jobs Alone Do Not Explain the Importance of Manufacturing” – Scott Andes and Mark Muro, Brookings

New strings attached

Ian Bremmer
Apr 4, 2013 16:06 UTC

China’s influence in Africa goes so deep that African leaders are starting to shape their own agendas after China’s. In February 2012, South African President Jacob Zuma gave his “state of the nation” speech in Cape Town, but he might as well have been in Beijing. “For the year 2012 and beyond,” he said, “we invite the nation to join government in a massive infrastructure development drive.” By October, Zuma was vowing $100 billion in Chinese-style infrastructure investment to help create jobs. In welcoming Xi Jinping, China’s new president, to South Africa last month for a BRICS conference, Zuma gushed, “We view China’s success as a source of hope and inspiration.” Apparently, he also views China as a model for his country’s development.

The infatuation is mutual. Xi Jinping recently made his first major foreign diplomacy trip, choosing to go to Africa (after a brief visit to Moscow), stopping in Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo as he made the rounds of one of China’s most important regions for investment. After all, China’s foreign direct investment in Africa stood at less than $100 million in 2003; today, it’s more than $12 billion. China is already responsible for more than a quarter of all foreign investment in Africa — and commerce is still growing at a rapid clip.

At the BRICS summit in South Africa, Xi explained that African leaders need not worry that China is the same kind of benefactor as the U.S. “China will continue to offer, as always, necessary assistance to Africa with no political strings attached,” he said. Of course, there may not be political strings attached, but there are plenty of economic strings, and China is keen to pull them.

The Cyprus takeaway: More phony crises to come

Ian Bremmer
Mar 27, 2013 20:05 UTC

Now that the crisis in Cyprus has passed, we can finally admit the obvious: The “crisis” it provoked did not deserve the attention it received. Cyprus makes up a fraction of one percent of the European Union’s GDP and it’s a backwater for sketchy Russian dealings. If Cyprus had drowned in a sea of Mediterranean debt, the Eurozone would not have gone under with it.

But what a story! The news was dominated by theatrics: a plane filled with 1 million Euros, last-minute deals in danger of falling apart, and failed emergency meetings in Moscow. But behind that global drama, all the Cypriot political parties supported staying in the Eurozone, and the German government remains committed to the sanctity of the monetary union. How was Cyprus going to deal the Eurozone an existential blow?

Nor will the painful bailout parameters in Cyprus prove a rule going forward, despite ill-advised warnings to the contrary from the president of the Eurogroup. One moment Jeroen Dijsselbloem is saying that Cyprus could be a model for future European bailouts —and markets take a nosedive. A few hours later he reneges on his remarks, saying: “Cyprus is a specific case with exceptional challenges which required the bail-in measures we have agreed upon yesterday. Macro-economic adjustment programmes are tailor-made to the situation of the country concerned and no models or templates are used.”

Political risk must-reads

Ian Bremmer
Mar 22, 2013 18:24 UTC

Eurasia Group’s weekly selection of essential reading for the political risk junkie – presented in no particular order. As always, feel free to give us your feedback or selections by tweeting at us via @EurasiaGroup or @ianbremmer.

The theme of this week’s must-reads is the U.S. domestic picture – whether it’s immigration, the federal deficit, gay marriage, or the 2016 presidential election.

Is it too early for 2016 polls?” – Micah Cohen, FiveThirtyEight blog, New York Times

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