Phases of the Moon: Considering the Possibility of China’s Rise

At a book signing at Princeton University on November 19, 2012, noted economist and former IMF research chief Arvind Subramanian [no relation] discussed some of the ideas presented in his new book Eclipse: Living In The Shadow of China’s Economic Dominance, in which Subramanian lays out his prediction that China will become the world’s preeminent superpower within the next twenty to thirty years. This prediction hinges on the sheer size of China’s economy and financial reserves as well as the author’s calculations that China will not reach its “ceiling of growth” for some time to come. Subramanian’s model takes into account the possibility that China’s growth will slow considerably as well as the assumption that American economic growth may rebound to pre-recession levels.

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Round One of the French Presidential Elections

President Sarkozy has seen better days. Faced a stagnant economy plagued by high unemployment and rising debt, French voters appear willing to hand over the keys of the Elysée to Socialist candidate Francois Holland, who won the first round of presidential elections this past weekend with 28.6% of the vote to Sarkozy’s 27.1%. Should these results carry over into the second round, they would likely bring an abrupt end to the Sarkozy era.

Elected as a highly energetic reformer urging fundamental reforms of France’s pension, welfare, and labor systems, Sarkozy saw his popular support tumble following a series of events including a grand victory celebration on a yacht following the election and his high-profile divorce and marriage to supermodel Carla Bruni that prompted critics to call him a “bling-bling president.” Sarkozy’s economic reforms encountered severe resistance from unions and Socialists, prompting him to abandon these efforts after securing an increase in the retirement age from 60 to 62.

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Rhetoric Meets Reality: North Korea’s Rocket Falls Apart

In the run-up of the domestically heralded and internationally condemned testing of North Korea’s Unha-3 launch vehicle, the Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang’s official mouthpiece, trumpeted that the successful launch would “proudly herald and highlight North Korea as a new Asian economic tiger and a new member of the elite club of economic powers.”  Unfortunately for Pyongyang, the test did not quite pan out as anticipated. The Unha-3 rocket exploded into twenty pieces barely a minute after the launch and fell into South Korean waters.

This debacle represents a significant setback for the regime of newly inaugurated North Korean leader Kim-Jong-un, who intended to utilize the launch as a means of successfully culminating his succession to his father’s position. Indeed, the launch date appeared to coincide with the annual session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, North Korea’s primary parliamentary body.

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Egyptian Presidential Elections: The More The Merrier

Barely a year after  the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak following  massive demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Egypt’s fledgling democracy appears to have struck a new patch of turbulence this week amidst  preparations for upcoming presidential elections in May. Former Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman, often viewed to as a pivotal figure during the Mubarak regime, recently announced his intention to run for President. criticized the Muslim Brotherhood for failing to provide stability and seeking to monopolize power.

The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, attempted to mollify critics following the decision of the Brotherhood’s chief financier, Khairat al-Shater to enter the presidential race as well. The Brotherhood’s FJP Party, which together with allies commands a majority in the new Egyptian Parliament,  initially claimed that it would not field a candidate  for the presidential election. However, the Brotherhood insists that it needs to field a candidate for President in order to prevent elements of the Mubarak regime from blocking reforms.

The Brotherhood also grew alarmed by the surge in popularity of the fundamentalist Salafi candidate for President, Hazem Abu Ismail. Ismail’s campaign has recently encountered its own share of difficulties as well. Election authorities have suggested that Ismail could be disqualified from the election since his mother possessed U.S. citizenship. Supporters of Ismail contend that this represents yet another attempt by the military authorities to tamper with Egypt’s democracy.

While numerous influential groups may have benefited from the events of the past week, the liberal youth movement that fueled the Tahrir uprising risks becoming politically isolated. Prior to the entrance of the FJP and Suleiman into the race, polls suggested that a moderate candidate, former Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa , remained in the lead. However, Moussa’s position following these abrupt shifts in the dynamics of the race remains unclear.

-Rahul Subramanian

A Pragmatic Approach: Ehud Olmert On Iran

In his address to Princeton University students, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed the challenges posed by Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons for Israel and the United States.  Olmert appeared to strike a fine line between reiterating Israel’s right to take action in the event of an imminent Iranian threat while emphasizing the need for collaboration to resolve the conflict.

The former Kadima Prime Minister called Iran a “highly developed country” and expressed alarm that the “President of such a country talks about one thing….the need to wipe off the map the state of Israel .“ Olmert reiterated Prime Minster Netanyahu’s assertion that “Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran” and maintained Israel’s right to defend itself.

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Looking Ahead: The Asia-Pacific Region in 2012

To start of the new year, I’ll be highlighting several countries whose actions will likely play a key role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. This first post examines the future of the Asia-Pacific region and the challenges 2012 may pose.

As newly emerging powers such as China and India gain prominence, events in the Asia-Pacific region will play an increasingly pivotal role in determining the global balance of power in the decades to come. The Obama administration has grasped this new reality and refocused U.S. policy on the Asia-Pacific region. As the year progresses, several major powers in the region will face crucial choices.

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US-Iran Relations: Why the Military Option is a Bad Idea

Alarmed by Iran’s continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons, several analysts, particularly in Israel, have recently hinted at the possibility of an Israeli airstrike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. However, such a strike should only be considered as an option of last resort and under specific circumstances.

First, the threat of an Iranian attack must be credible, imminent, and significant. While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s bellicose rhetoric regarding the existence of the state of Israel remains concerning, Iran continues to deny that it would use nuclear weapons against either Israel or the United States. The ambiguity of the current situation suggests that this first condition for an offensive strike has not been met. Secondly, any airstrike must be able to destroy intended targets quickly and accurately.

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Pakistan’s Iron Triangle

On November 23, Sherry Rehman, a prominent Pakistani liberal, was sworn in as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States following the downfall of former ambassador Hussein Haqqani due to the “Memogate” scandal. Pakistan’s Memogate scandal reflects the underlying tensions between the Pakistani political establishment and other more powerful elements in Pakistani society, particularly the military, media, and Islamic fundamentalists.

The Pakistani military remains arguably the most powerful institution in Pakistan. Pakistani generals attempt to justify the enormous power of the military by exaggerating the threat posed by India. The military has openly asserted its dominance over Pakistan’s civilian government through numerous coups throughout the country’s history. A disturbing pattern can be distinguished in the manner with which Pakistan’s military exercises its control over the civilian government and the conditions under which military coups tend to occur.

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A Blueprint For Libya’s Future

On October 31, 2011, the chairman of Libya’s National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil announced that the NTC had selected a respected Libyan academic, Abdurrahim al-Keib, to serve as the Prime Minister of a new national interim government.  While the Libyan government can certainly pride itself on liberating the country from the tyrannical reign of Muammar Gadhafi, the ouster of the dictator merely represents the first stage in Libya’s transition to a stable democracy.

In order to truly taste the fruits of the Arab Spring and provide for the needs of the Libyan people, the new government must accomplish the following steps:

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