I don’t know how you feel about it but I’m getting pretty tired of the scandal du jour and horse race side of the presidential campaign that seem to obsess the news media these days. There actually are some important stories. Unfortunately, they’ve been fermenting so long that it’s hard to come up with a new angle on them. That doesn’t mean they’ve gone away.
In this post and my next I’m going to outline the big foreign policy and domestic policy stories that I honestly wish were more the focus of both the media and the political campaign.
The slow motion collapse of the euro
This category rolls up all of the European economic stories, from Greece’s rumored impending withdrawal from the euro to what’s beginning to look like an imminent collapse of Spanish banks to economic slowdown in Germany. From this side of the pond the story is colored by commentators projecting their own domestic political policy preferences on the Europeans. As best as I can tell the operative definition of austerity in a European context is raising taxes and cutting government spending. That’s the only option available to non-monetary sovereigns like Greece and Spain and I don’t see that bitching about it from this side of the Atlantic changes much.
The most straightforward solution for the eurozone’s problems would be for Germany to exit the euro. The alternative that seems to be underway is for everybody but Germany and France to leave the euro. Or maybe they’ll end up with a northern monetary union and a southern monetary union. Regardless, the slow motion collapse of one of the world’s reserve currencies and a whole continent in economic downturn, from what looks like stagnation in Germany to an outright depression in Spain is a Big Story.
Economic slowdown in China
PMI has been declining in China for the last six months. China’s real estate bubble is clearly bursting messily. China’s economy is either slowing down or in outright recession. When that occurs in the world’s second largest economy it’s a Big Story.
Continuing fallout from Arab Spring
We’re continuing to see the fallout from the Arab Spring of last year. Egypt’s presidential election is down to a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Mursi, and a Prime Minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq. The best thing that I think can be said about that situation is that at least the Salafists lost. Qaddafi was removed in Libya with NATO help and the country is now, apparently, run by militias. The revolution in Libya destabilized Mali.
Everything that anybody worried might happen in Libya seems to be happening right now in Syria. Unfortunately for the Syrian people the Bashar al-Assad can’t be brought down by NATO air power, so they’re on their own. Their own government will continue to fire artillery shells at them until they stop protesting.
The Iranian nuclear program
Talks with Iran over Iran’s nuclear development program appear to have broken down with lost of saber-rattling on both sides. Kaspersky, the Russian security firm, says that a mammoth malware program has been attacking Iranian computers for months. This situation could turn into a real shootin’ war before the November elections here and multiple war games of the situation over the last decade have found that we don’t have much control of its starting and won’t be able to stay out once it starts. Whatever you think the outcome of this situation should be and whoever you think is in the right, this is a Big Story.
The War in Afghanistan
We still have nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Ten years from now we still plan to have a military presence in Afghanistan. To the best of my ability to tell the president’s plan for Afghanistan appears to be a timeline divorced from actual milestones. I think the president owes us a more convincing argument that Afghanistan is of strategic importance. It’s a Big Story.
The Drone War
The New York Times has a lengthy story on the drone war against al-Qaeda. I can only infer that the president believes that the number of people who actually threaten us is relatively small and once they’ve been eliminated, mostly from the air via drone attacks, we will no longer face a terrorist threat. Is there any actual evidence that’s correct?
Meanwhile, it reminds me somewhat of Lincoln’s wisecrack. If this is law enforcement, I think we should have war. If it’s war, I think we should have law enforcement.
Any other prospective candidates for really big foreign policy stories? Particularly something that isn’t being discussed?
This is a good list. I would maybe add bilateral relations with Russia. I have a feeling Putin is done taking a middle finger at our treading over Russian interests around the globe.
I suspect India is on its way to becoming a total economic basket-case due to truly epic levels of corruption. In fact I think the BRIC nations in which so many pundits have placed their hopes are going to be a real disappointment. Russia appears to be in fast-forward demographic collapse and Brazil’s trade surplus is in decline.
The irony of the problems of Brazil, Russia, India, and China is that they share a common strategy: export a lot more stuff to the US and the EU than they import. What could possibly go wrong?
I would add Mexico/Latin America. I think the Mexican economy is showing some positive signs, but I always feel like they are more politically unstable than I would like for our southern neighbor.
Case in point. They are going after Cheetoes. Is nothing sacred to the cartels.
Whatever you think the outcome of this situation should be and whoever you think is in the right, this is a Big Story.
I think we should just sell the Iranians some old surplus bombs of ours – I mean really old on the non-fuel parts to protect out technology. Only one proviso to the Ayatollahs: You use these against anyone and we will wipe your country off the face of the earth. They get bombs for prestige and protection, Israel gets explicit nuclear blanket protection from the US, we get to sell stuff. It’s one of those Win-Win-Win scenarios Michael Scott likes.
I’d also mention that Pakistan is the real Muslim-nation-with-a-bomb clusterfuck. Just because we’ve gotten used to it makes it no less dangerous.