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28 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

The World’s Most Powerful Women


Forbes Magazine has put out its list of the world’s most powerful women.  As you would expect from Forbes, there’s a strong emphasis business leaders.  Here’s the top ten:

  1. Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Germany
  2. Sheila Blair, Chairman of the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)
  3. Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive, PepsiCo
  4. Angela Braly, Chief Executive WellPoint U.S.
  5. Cynthia Carroll, Chief Executive, Anglo American U.K.
  6. Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and Chief Executive, Kraft Foods
  7. Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State
  8. Ho Ching, Chief Executive, Temasek Holdings, Singapore
  9. Anne Lauvergeon, Chief Executive, Areva France
  10. Anne Mulcahy, Chairman and Chief Executive, Xerox

At first I was surprised that I had only heard of three of those in the top ten:  Merkel, Nooyi, and Rice.  But then I saw how Forbes had determined its rankings:

We measure power as a composite of public profile — calculated using press mentions — and financial heft. . . . The economic component of the ranking considers job title and past
career accomplishments, as well as the amount of money a woman
controls. A chief executive gets the revenue of her business, for
example, while a Nobel winner receives her prize money and a U.N.
agency head receives her organization’s budget. We modify the raw
dollar figures to allow comparisons among the different financial
realms so that the corporate revenue that an executive controls, for
instance, is on the same footing as a country’s gross domestic product,
ascribed to prime ministers.

Well, no wonder it’s all business executives.  But what isn’t clear is exactly how both Merkel and Rice, who have little “financial heft” made the top ten, while Hilary Clinton, who Forbes said was the woman with the highest public profile, is only #28, behind the Director of the Centers for Disease Control, for crying out loud.

Another interesting contrast is that of Shelia Blair (#2) and Nancy Pelosi (#35).  Isn’t control over U.S. government’s purse strings greater financial clout than managing the U.S. banking insurance system? And what financial heft does Laura Bush (#44) have?

Their methodology doesn’t make much sense.  But it does make interesting reading.

Other figures of note in the top 100: 

  • Cristina Fernandez, President of Argentina (13);
  • Yulia Tymoshenko, Prime Minister of Ukraine (17)
  • Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress (21);
  • Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile (25);
  • Oprah Winfrey (36)
  • Aung San Suu Kyi (37)
  • Gloria Arroyo, President of the Philippines (41)
  • Tzipi Livni, Israeli foreign minister (52)
  • Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand (56)
  • Queen Elizabeth II (58 — profession listed as “Queen.”  Heh.)
  • Meredith Vieira, co-host “The Today Show,” NBC (61 — higher than Katie.  That’s gotta hurt.)
  • Katie Couric (62)
  • Barbara Walters (63)
  • Diane Sawyer (65)
  • Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia (66)
  • Tarja Halonen, President of Finland (71)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg (72)
  • Mary McAleese, President of Ireland (74)
  • Christiane Amanpour, CNN (91)

I’m sorry, but I have a hard time taking seriously any list that thinks that the foreign minister of Greece is more powerful than Angelina Jolie.

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18 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:46 pm

Checkpoint Capitalism


George Santayana famously said that “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  But in our consumer-driven culture, another aphorism is equally true:  those who market history turn it into a farce:

Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall crossing place that came to symbolize the Cold War, has denigrated into a seedy tourist trap which uses actors posing as border guards in a failed attempt to recreate its legendary past. . . .

[A] key historical site that in the 1960s witnessed the only direct confrontation ever between American and Soviet forces. . .Checkpoint Charlie was the scene of a number of escapes from Communist East to capitalist West Berlin.  In one of the most dramatic and tragic incidents, an 18-year-old East German man was shot by Communist border guards and left to bleed to death in no man’s land.  It was also the spot where Soviet and American tanks faced each other, engines running and muzzle to muzzle, for six days in 1961 only weeks after the building of the Berlin Wall.

Yesterday the site was awash with tourist buses. Street vendors proffered what they claimed were authentic chunks of the Berlin Wall, and remarkably new looking East German memorabilia including Communist Party flags and Russian army fur hats.  Fast-food joints, including one called “Snackpoint Charlie,” lined the streets leading towards the checkpoint, where a replica wooden hut surrounded by sandbags has been erected to simulate the original army checkpoint.  Actors dressed in fake American, Russian, French and East German army uniforms offered to be photographed alongside the hut or with visitors for 1 Euro per picture. . . .

Gavin Farrel, a student from Nottingham on his first visit to Berlin was not amused: “It’s a bit of a disappointment,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. ” I expected Checkpoint Charlie to look like something out of a Cold War spy novel, but it is more like a grotty Disneyland.”

Twenty years ago, I spent a summer in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania working for the local paper.  The same phenomenon existed there:  kitschy tourist traps and uniformed “reenactors”** right down the road from monuments to war dead.  Making things even worse, a number of faux museums operated as fronts for useless trinkets.  The effect wasn’t so much a “grotty Disneyland” as it was a particularly bad midway at a county fair.

Over the past decade, however, the town has worked with the National Park Service and a private foundation to tear down a few of the worst offenders and create a new visitors center that doesn’t happen to sit smack in the middle of the Day Three Union lines (the ones targeted by Pickett’s charge).  The town’s residents and the battlefield’s stewards (who have not always been on the best of terms) have a long way to go, but it’s a good start.

Maybe the citizens of Berlin could benefit from a visit.

Photo:  Planeta Roig on Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.

**Before I get mail on this, let me make clear that I am not referring to those folks who spend their weekends dressing up in period costumes and recreating civil war battles.  It’s definitely not my cup of tea, but whatever blows your hair back.

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15 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:45 am

Party Like It’s 1938


McCain campaign advisor, New York Post columnist, and paleocon Ralph Peters, during an American Enterprise Institute discussion yesterday on the Russian-Georgian conflict:

The Russians, on whom I have wasted far too much of my life, are drink-sodden barbarians who occasionally puke up a genius. And we should make no mistake. Vladimir Putin is one such genius. As this brilliantly planned and executed operation illustrates, he is the most effective leader in the world today, certainly of any major country. No one else comes close.

Obviously the ruthlessness helps. He is just uninterested in international law, precedent etc. and for now, for Russia he’s great. In the long run he may be very negative factor for Russia but for now he’s riding very very high.

[snip]

We’ve done this before. The message we’ve sent to our allies yet again or would-be allies, would-be clients yet again is america won’t come through for you, especially if you don’t have oil or gas. We did this to the Hungarians in 1956. We encouraged them to rise up, and they rose up and we did nothing.

In 1991 with the Shia in Iraq we encouraged them to rise up and they did and we let Saddam’s troops slaughter them. And we have been cheering Georgia on, free-wheeling democracy, go get ‘em, and in the pinch, we failed them utterly…

We’re faced with a resurgent major power, not super power, with imperialist megalomaniacal ambitions led by the most effective and, I would argue, the most brilliant leader in the world today, outclassing everyone I can see. Ladies and gentleman, I find this terribly reminiscent of the 1930s.

Those wacky wacky neocons.  They always want to party like it’s 1938.

You know, I understand the urge to want to revel in history, pretend you’re Churchill, and portray your opponents as appeasers, but come on, folks.  Wasn’t it just a few months ago that you were claiming that Iran was the new Nazi Germany?  Make up your minds already.

Hat tip:  The Swamp

| posted in foreign policy, politics, war & rumors of war, world at home | 1 Comment

5 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:03 pm

CSI: Madison, Wisconsin


Actually Linz, Germany.  From the Telegraph (UK):

The bloodcurdling mating cries of a German badger caused Rhineland police to deploy a helicopter search last night in the belief that a woman was being attacked…..But after the helicopters had thoroughly surveyed the area, they discovered a far less murderous cause of the chilling cries than had originally been feared.

Instead of a violent maniac and his terrified victim, they discovered a number of romantically inclined badgers engaged in the pursuit of love. “Subsequent enquiries found that the mating calls of a badger during the mating season in July and August are easily mistaken for human screaming,” said the police.

“There’s an overpopulation of badgers in this area,” an official later told the German publication Der Spiegel.

Well, this isn’t going to help matters much, is it?  Three words, people:  neutering and spaying.

I hear Jesse Jackson is available and more than willing to help.  All you have to do is rename all the male badgers “Barack.”

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2 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:00 am

Hu’s Lying Now?


That wacky, wacky Hu Juntao — he’s such a kidder!  Via the BBC:

With one week to go to the Beijing Olympics, Chinese President Hu Jintao has urged people not to politicise the Games….  Mr. Hu said politicising the event undermined the Olympic movement, and called for dialogue to resolve contentious issues.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.  As my 20-month-old daughter would say, “So funny.”

Contrary to the myth propagated by the IOC (and NBC), the Olympics aren’t about bringing the world together; they’re about nations competing, often viciously, to demonstrate their superiority.  And this year, no one is doing that more loudly or frequently than the ChiComs.

Much as Berlin 1936 was about demonstrating Germany’s reemergence as a major player on the world scene, Beijing 2008 is about showing China’s dynamism and power.  That is why the ChiComs basically tore down the entire freaking city and rebuilt it from scratch.  Albert Speer, white courtesy phone please.

In fairness to the Chinese, no recent Olympics host has avoided the temptation to use the Games to show off.  The United States was just as bad in Atlanta and Los Angeles, the Soviets were almost as over the top in Moscow, the South Koreans had their moments in Seoul, and the Brits will represent more of the same in four years.  Even the Greeks managed to be loud, proud, and jingoistic in 2004.  After all, that’s the whole point:  countries fight so hard to host one of these quadrennial monstrosities posing as spectacular sporting events so they can act like the diplomatic equivalent of alpha males.

The only exception I can think of are the Aussies in 2000.  They were having far too much fun to be overtly nationalistic.  Occasionally obnoxious, sure, but that was just the alcohol talking.

That said, when Molly and I visited Melbourne during the 2006 Commonwealth games, we were treated to a roomful of our well-lubricated friends cheerfully shouting “Aussie Aussie Oi Oi!” over and over and over again as their countrymen and -women swept the swimming medals.  So perhaps even the residents of Oz are not immune to nationalism’s siren call.

Photo credits:

  • Beijing National Stadium:  via darajan, using a Creative Commons license.
  • Berlin Olympic Stadium:  via Olympiastadium Berlin, public domain.

| posted in globalization | 0 Comments

29 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:30 pm

Baby You Can’t Have My Car’s Bumper Sticker


Bill Kristol saw my car! Bill Kristol saw my car!

As I drove around the Washington suburbs, I saw not one but two cars — rather nice cars, as it happens — festooned with the Obama campaign bumper sticker ‘got hope?’ And I relapsed into moroseness. Got hope?

Are my own neighbors’ lives so bleak that they place their hopes in Barack Obama? Are they impressed by the cleverness of a political slogan that plays off a rather cheesy (sorry!) campaign to get people to drink milk? And what is it the bumper-sticker affixers are trying to say? Do they really believe their fellow citizens who happen to prefer McCain are hopeless?

Why yes, Bill.  My life is nothing without Barack.  I would have no hope without Barack.  I’d just have to freaking kill myself without Barack.  But only because my life would involve having to listen to you whining all the time.

Oh, and by the way dumbkopf — I choose that word since much of your column is still obsessing about the Berlin speech (but then again, so are my posts), those “Got Hope?” bumper stickers were distributed way back in December and January, and as far as I know, pretty much have disappeared because they don’t mention Obama in type big enough to be seen.  They have nothing to do with McCain.

So get over yourself already.

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29 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:30 am

McCain’s Ad: More Disgusting Than We Thought


The latest on that atrocious McCain ad that attacks Obama for not visiting wounded troops in German.  This is from VetVoice:

Read the rest of this entry »

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29 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:15 am

Citizen of the World? No, Debtor of the Chinese


Okay, I know that it’s been like a month since Obama was in Berlin and all, and blah blah blah enough already.  But given that everyone else — particularly John McCain — continues to yammer about it incessantly, I thought I’d pay at least one more visit.

On the day of the speech, the nutroots went absolutely bananas over the fact that Barack Obama said he was a “citizen of the world,” like he was a World Federalist or something, plotting to have the UN send in the black helicopters and steal our sovereignty.

As if mortgaging our economy to the Chinese, recklessly spending our blood and treasure in Iraq, letting Albania into NATO, and jettisoning our nation’s core values so as to torture people wasn’t sovereignty-sucking enough.

So I was thinking of creating a new bumper sticker over at Café Press:

Because you know, I loves the black helicopters.

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28 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:45 pm

Obama, Berlin, & Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys


Best one-liner on Obama’s trip last week:

There were so many Germans screaming, France surrendered, just in case.

–Craig Ferguson, The Late Late Show, CBS, July 24, 2008.

Heh.

Hat tip:  Undip reader Greg

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28 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:30 am

Obama, Europe and Gallup: A Berlin Bounce?


I continue to be fascinated by this.  According to Gallup, Obama got almost no bounce from Iraq and Afghanistan, but does seem to be enjoying a not-insignificant bump from Berlin.

Here are Gallup’s own headlines from the last four days:

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27 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:00 pm

Hagel Defends Obama (Vandy Prize)


Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) isn’t happy with his old friend John McCain:

Sen. Chuck Hagel took on his old friend and fellow Vietnam veteran Sen. John McCain, criticizing McCain’s new TV ad attacking Sen. Barack Obama.

In the ad, the Republican presidential candidate complains about Obama’s recent decision not to visit U.S. troop hospital in Germany, saying, “Sen. Obama made time to go to the gym but canceled a visit with wounded troops.”

“I do not think that ad was appropriate,” Hagel said in an appearance on CBS-TVs “Face the Nation.” Obama’s staff was advised by the Pentagon about the military’s concerns with Obama bringing his political campaign to see soldiers there, his advisers have said.

It’s been two weeks since Steve Clemons reported that Hagel was going to endorse Obama, and it hasn’t happened yet.  That may be because Hagel doesn’t plan to, or it may be because Obama wanted to wait until after their trip.  Either way, having a man who once was a top pick for VP (albeit in 2000) now criticize him publicly must be driving McCain nuts.

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| posted in foreign policy, media, politics | 1 Comment

27 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:30 pm

1963, 1968, and 2008: Obama’s Convention Speech


I wrote once before about the fact that Obama’s convention speech will take place on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. But since Patrick Appel, sitting in for Andrew Sullivan, is highlighting some of the debate over it on the blogosphere, I thought I would share some additional thoughts.

When people talk about the question of 1963 and 2008, they forget an inconvenient truth:  that a given day often marks more than one anniversary.

Perhaps the best example of this is November 9th, which is the day that the Berlin Wall fell.  When I recently suggested that Obama should give a speech in Germany on the 20th anniversary of that event (instead of last week), a reader emailed to remind me that 11/9 is not just the day the Wall fell, but also the day that Kristallnacht began.

The contrast for August 23rd 28th is not even remotely as stark, but it’s still telling.  Yes, it will be the 45th anniversary of “I Have a Dream,” but it also will be the 40th anniversary of the day in 1968 when Hubert Humphrey won the Democratic nomination for President while anti-war activists and Chicago police battled on the streets outside the convention center.  As Rick Perlstein points out in Nixonland, it was the day the New Deal coalition began to disintegrate.

Obama, of course, represents the best chance the Democrats have had since then to build a new majority coalition, albeit a creature very different from the one that fell apart forty years ago.

One day, three years.  And on all three days, to use a phrase from ‘68, the whole world was/will be watching.  The best speech Obama could give would acknowledge not just one anniversary, but both, seamlessly integrating them into a narrative of political redemption and national rebirth.

| posted in foreign policy, media, politics, pop culture | 2 Comments

24 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:24 pm

Heute sind wir alle Amerikaner (Obama in Berlin)


I’ve spent a good part of the afternoon watching, listening to, reading, digesting, and reviewing other responses to Obama’s speech in Berlin today.  Not surprisingly, almost every commentator has reached a different conclusion, from “a stupendous ride” to “cliché[d], from “liberal internationalism” to “neoconservativsm with a human face.”

It was not his best speech, but it was a good one. And it was great to watch.  I loved hearing an American stand before Europeans and express clearly and concisely the idea that American values are global values, and vice versa.  I was thrilled to watch the crowd react so joyously.  I was delighted to hear him challenge Europeans on issues ranging from xenophobia to Afghanistan.  And after reading the text of the speech, I was pleased to see such a concrete expression of my own foreign policy views — what I would call either hard-headed internationalism or realistic globalism.

Someday, future historians may write that Obama’s speech marked the rebirth of good feelings between America and Europe, that it helped bring to an end to five-plus years of European anger towards and resentment of the United States.  Perhaps Obama’s speech will be remembered as the moment when the sentiments of Jean Marie Colombani’s famous editorial in the September 13, 2001 issue of Le Monde (”Nous Sommes Tous Americains”) returned, albeit as “Heute sind wir alle Amerikaner.”

And yet this afternoon, my main emotion is disquiet.  I find my hopes not nearly as strong as my fears.  I know neither I nor the rest of the pundit class were Obama’s target audience.  But the problem is, neither were the 200,000 Berliners who flocked to see him today. The people who really matter are the ones who will only see short clips of the speech on television, or who will only hear about it from their favorite talk radio mandarins:  average Americans, most of whom not only haven’t been to Europe, but also have no desire to go there.

What scares me is that the Berlin speech hurt Obama far more than it helped him, and that since it was the last event of his trip, it will overshadow his very real triumphs in Afghanistan and Iraq.  As I’ve noted before, most Americans view Europeans with a mix of suspicion and resentment.  There’s a reason that “cheese eating surrender monkeys” has become part of our popular lexicon.  And I have to think that the recent precipitous fall of the dollar against the Euro hasn’t helped matters.

But what worries me the most is that as Obama wowed the world, John McCain was sitting pretty in Ohio.  Since Obama left the States, McCain has grown increasingly bitter and nasty.  And now, much like Hillary Clinton before him, he appears increasingly willing to appeal to the worst devils of our nature.

This is what his campaign had to say today in response to Obama’s speech:

While Barack Obama took a premature victory lap today in the heart of Berlin, proclaiming himself a ‘citizen of the world,’ John McCain continued to make his case to the American citizens who will decide this election. Barack Obama offered eloquent praise for this country, but the contrast is clear. John McCain has dedicated his life to serving, improving and protecting America. Barack Obama spent an afternoon talking about it.

In less than three weeks, John McCain has transformed himself from an international statesman to an angry white male.  He has gone from desiring a debate on the issues to mounting a wholesale attack on Obama’s character.  He sounds increasingly desperate, which I find odd, given that the national polls have him only two to six points behind and many battleground state polls have him gaining.

I’m beginning to wonder whether the right word isn’t desperate, but rather cunning.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that this turn began largely after Steve Schmidt took over as McCain’s chief strategist.  Schmidt is a Rovian through and through; he believes that, as a Wall Street Journal profile of him put it recently, “a campaign needs one positive message about its own candidate, and one negative message about the opponent.”  It’s becoming increasingly evident that for Schmidt (and by extension McCain), the combination that’s working best is McCain as a prototypical American hero and Obama as the “other.”  It is, to paraphrase Rick Perlstein, straight out of Nixon’s “silent majority” playbook.

Just look at some of the moves we’ve seen since Obama clinched the nomination:  a commercial that describes McCain as “The American President Americans have been waiting for;” online ads that place photos of Obama side-by-side with Castro and Ahmadinejad; statements from campaign surrogates (too numerous to link to) questioning Obama’s priorities and even his patriotism; and McCain himself, in a statement that more than one commentator called unprecedented in the recent political history, suggesting that Obama is willing to lose a war to win a campaign.

I keep hoping that this is a temporary manifestation of McCain’s legendary temper.  I keep thinking that once McCain calms down about Maliki’s endorsement of the Obama timetable, we’ll see a return to the principled politician that so many Americans came to know and love.

But the more he and his campaign pursue this line of argument, the more I am convinced  that this is the real McCain, and that the happy warrior of the Straight Talk Express is nothing but a myth.

| posted in foreign policy, globalization, politics, world at home | 5 Comments

23 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:46 pm

Dillweeds of the Day: Right-Wing Poster Posters


Right-wing nutjobs Patrick Ruffini and Melissa Clouthier are upset about a campaign poster that they think evokes fascist imagery.  Ruffini calls it “breathtakingly arrogant.”  Here’s Clouthier:

It is seriously unnerving propaganda. What are [they] thinking? This is nuts.

Well, I don’t blame them.  Look at this:

Read the rest of this entry »

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14 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:02 pm

Ich bin ein Käse Auslieferungaffen essend


I’ve had been planning to blog on the whole Obama at Brandenburg gate issue, but Marbury managed to sum up the my concerns pretty well:

First post:

Audacious, heavily symbolic gestures like this make me queasy (Gordon Brown did something similar, on a smaller scale, and look how that worked out). It’s the kind of thing that can seem brilliant when cooked up at a strategy meeting, and genius when it’s actually executed. But if things start to go wrong afterwards, for whatever reason, it’s the first thing critics will point to and shout “hubris“!

Second post:

Here he is, not even president yet, and he wants us to think of him as Ronald Reagan demanding that Gorbachev tear down the wall. Why does he even have to make a speech whilst in Europe? What’s wrong with a few handshakes and an eight-course dinner?

Let me put it another way: it is an unfortunate fact of life that many Americans are convinced that all Europeans a) are secretly French; b) hate us; c) want us to fail; and d) to use The Simpsons’ classic phrase, are “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”

So let’s just say I have my doubts about how the Obama speech is going to play back home.

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| posted in foreign policy, media, none of the above, politics, world at home | 1 Comment

6 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:30 am

Incredibly Bad Idea of the Day


Jim Hoagland wants to “blow up” the G-8 and replace it with a G-3:

Predictable suggestions that this body be expanded to a G-13 or a G-20 go in the absolute wrong direction. More expansion will destroy any opportunity for informal, effective consultation by world leaders. They will be talking for the press releases, not for each other. Such proposals should be put forward only as cover for a more sensible proposition: The United States, the European Union and Japan should quietly form a G-3 that would operate in the shadows of the much larger talk shop.

Oh boy would that be a good idea incredibly stupid thing to do:  alienate everybody except Japan, the one country without the capacity to help us militarily.

The French, Brits, and Germans would be angry because their three votes would be reduced to one, not to mention the fact that the EU would be represented by whichever country happens to hold the Presidency  (right now, that would be France, but come January it would be the Czech Republic, whose economy currently ranks somewhere between 31st and 40th largest, depending on your source).

The Russians, who already disdain us (as we do them), would get even madder.

The Chinese, Spanish, Brazilians, Indians, and Koreans would have brand new reasons to be annoyed with the arrogance of our foreign policy.

The Canadians and Italians would be upset at being kicked out of the one club where they are somewhat relevant.  And of course, we would look like the big bully once again.

I’m no fan of the G-8.  I think it’s the wrong grouping for the wrong reasons.  I agree with Hoagland that it’s not a very useful construct.  Every two years these (mostly) guys get together and set out an ambitious agenda on a given problem or set of problems, which they then trumpet as a breakthrough.  Two years ago, it was Africa, debt, and development (thanks largely to Bono and Blair).  This time, it’s (again) climate change and the rapid rise in commodity prices.  But if the past is prologue, they’ll negotiate until the last minute, issue a communique, and then… go home.  Little else ever comes of these “breakthroughs.”  And that doesn’t even get to the fact that the host country has to establish a miniature police state to make the event happen.

Part of the problem, as Hoagland notes, is that the G-8 really doesn’t have a clear definition of membership.  That is in part a consequence of the dumb decision to admit Russia in the post-Cold-War-end-of-history euphoria of the 1990s (I would not be the first to call this one of Clinton’s dumber ideas).  But it also is a product of the fact that the G-8 (with that one exception) has remained a static body while the world has changed.

So what is the G-8?  To put it in Jim Collins’ Good to Great terms, what is its hedgehog concept?  Is it a gathering of the world’s largest economies?  If so, what’s Russia doing there?  Is it the world’s largest democratic economies?  Again, Russia disproves that.  Furthermore, Spain (which by some (but not all) accounts has surpassed Canada in terms of nominal GDP), India, and Korea have just as much right to a place at the table as the Canadians.

I also have a hard time understanding why China is excluded when Russia remains at the table.  It’s either the world’s biggest economies or it’s the world’s biggest democratic economies.  Right now it’s a ridiculous hybrid.

Instead of maintaining the status quo or arbitrarily growing the club to include/exclude certain countries, why not draw a line that gives countries aspiring to membership a clearly delineated criteria for membership?  From now on, The G-xx will include

  1. only those economies whose annual GDP is equal to US$1 million or greater;
  2. only those democratic economies whose annual GDP is equal to US$1 million or greater; or
  3. some other equally arbitrary criteria that is clear to outsiders.

Doing this might create incentives for economic growth and perhaps even democratic governance.

Of course, the problem is deciding whose standard to use.  If we were to use the first criteria listed above, would the membership be ten (using World Bank numbers) or twelve (using those of the IMF)?  That explains one of the real reasons the group hasn’t changed:  everyone is terrified of making somebody else angry.

I recognize none of what I’m proposing is new:  as Hoagland notes, there are numerous proposals to expand the group to a G-13 and even a G-20.  But instead of coming up with a bad idea to fill a column, let’s acknowledge the truth of the matter:  the time has come to revise G-8’s mission statement or abolish it altogether.

Of course, the chances of this happening are almost infinitesimal — if it takes these guys months to negotiate a statement on debt relief, imagine how long this project would take?

| posted in foreign policy, globalization | 0 Comments

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