25 April, 2009

A reminder of why to worry about Pakistan


According to Secretary of State Clinton, Pakistan's nukes are "widely dispersed in the country — they are not at a central location."  And while this might be a good way to protect against a first strike and maintain a retaliatory force, it also opens the door to losing some weapons to local guerrillas.  The Taliban doesn't need to obtain all the weapons in order to be dangerous.

Concern Over Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons » FAS Strategic Security Blog

How to be kicked out of a UN conference on racism

After the embarrassment of the listening to the president of Iran last week, I wondered it there was anything that wouldn't be tolerated at a UN conference on racism.  It turns out there is: protesting racism can get you expelled.

I particularly like the removal of an Iranian NGO for distributing "inciteful materials," and hope to see a copy of what they were handing out soon. 

Of course, the European Union of Jewish Students, the Women's Association of Followers of Ahlul Baitii, and B'nai Brith were probably asking for it.  Such obviously racist NGOs couldn't be allowed to "disrupt" a conference by pointing out the real racists at the podium.

U.N. kicks out three groups from racism conference - washingtonpost.com

Not a surprise

China makes a big shift from dollars to gold.  Under the circumstances, who wouldn't?

FT.com / China - China reveals big rise in gold reserves

15 April, 2009

Risk assessment

From the Economist Intelligence Unit, a well-regarded resource for business intelligence an risk assessment, a free report.

Manning the barricades - A special report
The Economist Intelligence Unit's Chief Economist, Robin Bew, discusses the 'Manning the barricades' special report with Cantos, against the backdrop of the London G20 summit [.WMV 23MB] Videocast: The G20, the economic downturn and social unrest

The map is interesting, but I’m particularly interested in punch line—the EIU’s estimate of the global financial system:

Scenario 1: Our central forecast (60% probability)

Government stimulus stabilises the global financial system and restores economic growth in leading developed markets during 2010, albeit at lower levels than in recent years. This scenario underpins our regular analysis and is not the subject of this report.

Scenario 2: The main risk scenario (30% probability)

Stimulus fails, leading to continued asset price deflation and sustained contraction in the leading economies—a depression persisting for some years. The stubborn decline in global economic activity is punctuated by occasional rallies that are taken as signs of recovery, but these quickly fade as the underlying downward trend reasserts itself. The prominent role of governments in propping up banks and reviving domestic demand leads to strong political pressure for protectionism, effectively putting the process of globalisation into reverse.

Scenario 3: The alternative risk scenario (10% probability)

Failing confidence in the dollar leads to its collapse, and the search for alternative safe-havens proves fruitless.

Economic upheaval sharply raises the risk of social unrest and violent protest. A Political Instability Index covering 165 countries, developed for this report, highlights the countries particularly vulnerable to political instability as a result of economic distress.

And who is on the bubble?  Included in the “very high” risk category are Ukraine, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ecuador, Bolivia, Bosnia, Bangladesh, North Korea, and most of West and Central Africa.  The “high” risk countries include Russia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hungary, Turkey and South Africa.

You may be pleased to know the US is in the “moderate” group, on par with China, India, Belarus, and France.  If you are looking for someplace more stable than any of those, try Canada, Germany, Australia, the Czech Republic, or the Scandinavian countries.


04 April, 2009

Now you see them...

...and now you don't.

What lesson are we to draw from the fact that an (ultra-orthodox) Israeli newspaper chose to photoshop the women out of the Israeli cabinet?

See Foreign Policy.

02 April, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

The announced schedule for this week:

Stratfor.com released a "Red Alert" yesterday that credits the G-20 and surrounding summits with more significance than I had believed.
Taken together, this array of diplomatic meetings constitute the greatest density of decision points in the modern world since the summits that brought about the end of the Cold War. This is a time when the true colors of nation-states come out, as each fights for their political, economic and security interests behind a thin veneer of global cooperation.
Well, yes...but how much will they accomplish? STRATFOR, which is usually pretty good about this sort of thing, concludes that there is a "redefinition of global systems is taking place that will carry well into the future." I can agree with that. I tend to see what's happening now as the start--or maybe the midpoint--of the process. Too many states (including the US), in my opinion, haven't yet grasped the full magnitude of what's going on, and are unwilling to negotiate the kinds of concessions on all sides that a full restructuring will require.

But hey, I've been wrong before. Keep watching.