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June 21, 2007

Democracies Sitting in Judgment
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

There's an interesting debate underway over at tpmcafe on Anne-Marie Slaughter's new book, The Idea that Is America.  Here's my contribution:

I take issue with the arguments being raised by Ivo Daalder, Bob Kagan and others in relation to a proposed Concert of Democracies. One of the ideas behind the Concert, as I understand it, is that because of their representative character democracies have the legitimacy to defend international legal and humanitarian principles, even when other governments don't agree. The contention is that authoritarian regimes lack moral standing to weigh in on issues, for example, of humanitarian intervention or the protection of human rights, and should therefore not be allowed to get in the way.

My view is that while defensible intellectually, this position is neither politically nor practically tenable. Here's why:

First off, it will be impossible to define who is qualified to sit at the table when decisions get made. Decisions on who deserves to be in the mix will differ case-by-case: those with legitimacy to take a stand on Darfur may lack the same when it comes to torture.  Sometimes hairsplitting references to "non-liberal democracies" or "non-representative democracies" point to the difficulty of using countries' own political systems as hard-and-fast criteria for participation in multi-lateral decision-making. Countries that are seen to practice what they preach and uphold human rights and the rule of law will, perforce, have more legitimacy in international debates on these subjects. But I don't see how we convene separate sets of qualified sovereign actors for every individual debate.

Continue reading "Democracies Sitting in Judgment" »

Infant Mortality Where?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

I've been involved in some interesting professional discussions lately about how advocates can effectively help Americans make connections between what happens abroad and what happes at home -- on economic globalization issues such as jobs and food safety, for example, but also in other areas like civil rights, environment, health and disease.

I haven't seen any good well-researched answers -- though I have noticed that popular publications are doing a lot more comparisons with Europe and elsewhere on areas like health and environment that you would've seen a few years ago.  Today's gut-wrenching example is an NPR story on rising infant mortality in the South.  The rate there is two-thirds higher than the national rate -- which, at 6.9 deaths per thousand babies in the first year of life, is among the highest of industrialized nations.  Mississippi's rate, 11.1 deaths per thousand babies, is worse than post-Communist states like Hungary and Poland, and Latin American countries like Costa Rica and Chile, all of which have lower per capita incomes.  What country most closely matches Mississippi's rate, I wondered while listening to the story? So I went and looked it up.


June 20, 2007

Why I'm Against "MultilateralISM"
Posted by David Shorr

I'm really only opposed to the word, and particularly that last syllable, but I'll get back to that. Matthew Yglesias writes today about how the presidential candidates propose to set things right internationally. He draws some critical distinctions about American moral authority and the global order, and I'd like to draw some further lines within Matthew's argument that I think are important.

Matthew sees a key difference between believing that it will be enough merely to boost the stock price of American moral authority versus the need for something more systemic than just our reputation and stature. I think he and I would agree that the constructive leadership of the superpower is vital for global security, and I also share his view that no matter how constructive the superpower, this is an insufficient condition.

But I want to press a bit on Matthew's proposed solution.

Continue reading "Why I'm Against "MultilateralISM"" »

A New Job for Tony?
Posted by Heather Hurlburt

I'd been treating reports in British newspapers that Tony Blair would become a "US envoy to the Middle East" with great skepticism -- but here's the BBC getting a nameless White House official on record that discussions have been had with President Bush about making Blair a Middle East envoy on behalf of the Quartet (US, EU, UN, Russia)

My first reaction was, quite frankly, why on earth would anyone want that job right now?

My second thought is, ok, give the man credit for not choosing to walk away from the current mess that he had some hand in creating.

Continue reading "A New Job for Tony?" »

June 18, 2007

Peace Index, War Index: who rates?
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

Here are two innovative indices (indexes?, bad speller me) The first came out in May, the second just today.

The Global Peace Index is an Australian initiative...a ground-breaking milestone in the study of peace. It is the first time that an Index has been created that ranks the nations of the world by their peacefulness and identified some of the drivers of that peace. 121 countries have been ranked by their ‘absence of violence’, using metrics that combine both internal and external factors. This definition also allows for the measuring of peacefulness within, as well as between, nations.

The Failed States Index is the other side of the same coin. The problems that plague failing states are familiar: rampant corruption, predatory elites who have long monopolized power, an absence of the rule of law, and severe ethnic or religious divisions. And to make this scene even more edgy, some of the contenders have nukes!

From my days in academia teaching conflict resolution, this type of data is filling an important gap. As we have an art and science of warmaking, we are accumulating an art and science of peacemaking. Now just how to fund it.....

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