Americans normally shrug off newspaper headlines overseas, unconcerned by what the rest of the world thinks of us. But the events of recent months have turned a not-so-flattering mirror back upon the US, forcing us to think seriously about what it is the rest of the world is seeing.
The hurricanes that struck America's Gulf coast this autumn were just the beginning of a series of storms—both physical and political—that have done significant damage to the already fragile US image overseas. Seen through the eyes of an international audience, the images of destitute African Americans left to fend for themselves in a wasted New Orleans, of Tom DeLay, Speaker of the House, indicted and of a White House struggling to salvage a Supreme Court nominee and belatedly waking up to the dangers of bird flu, combined to create a powerful impression of insensitivity and ineptitude. Coming on the heels of a war that cast grave doubt on US leadership, these storms and our response threaten America's stature in the world.
The US's ability to shape world events rests on three pillars. The first is our economic and military power. The second is others' belief that we are using that power properly. And the third is confidence in US competence. When other countries recognise our strength, support our aims and believe that we know what we are doing, they are more likely to follow our lead. If they doubt our power, our wisdom or our ability to act effectively, US global influence shrinks. Even before the storms, the Iraq war was corroding all three elements of US power. Our armed forces have been weakened and our economy burdened by the costs of occupation, and the abuses at Abu Ghraib jail are a stain on the US's reputation.
The new Iraqi constitution will not end the insurgency and the bungled occupation has given others ample reason to doubt the US's ability to handle complex political challenges. At home, the aftermath of the storms has made matters worse in every way, as noted by foreign observers. The Russian newspaper Novosti described the US as "a giant on legs of clay, with one foot planted in New Orleans and the other in Baghdad". Germany's Die Zeit asked: "How can America expect to save the world when it cannot even save itself?"
Katrina reinforced foreign perceptions of the US as a wealthy but heartless country where racism is endemic and safety nets are lacking. The China Daily said these events revealed "just how fragile much of America's social fabric is" and Japan's Asahi Shimbun declared that "Katrina showed the world the seriousness and the sorrow of the racial disparities facing the US".
Finally, the inept US response to sequential natural disasters reinforced foreign doubts about America's competence. As Austria's Salzburger Nachrichten put it: "How is it possible that the country is so ill prepared?"
Thus, as Americans turn to the task of reconstruction, we must do so in a way that restores confidence in our values and our abilities. First, to ensure that the US's overall power remains intact, President George W. Bush must ask the American people to accept the full burden of their national ambitions. If we want to repair the damage the storms wrought, prepare for bird flu, maintain a military that is second to none, have world-class schools and exercise energetic global leadership, it is going to cost money—and it is going to require sacrifices from those who have it, rather than those who do not. Anyone who says differently is either lying or deluded.
Rebuilding New Orleans is also an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to provide for all our citizens. If New Orleans is rebuilt with condominiums for the rich, financed by cutting needed social programmes, or if the reconstruction effort is derailed by corporate greed and congressional pork, the rest of the world will have even more reason to question our values and competence. But if reconstruction is swift and New Orleans becomes a showcase of local opportunity and social justice, we will begin to restore the world's faith in US leadership.
In the past, the US was respected because its public institutions could set ambitious goals and then achieve them: recall the New Deal, the Manhattan Project, the Marshall Plan and the moon landing. This stormy season produced tragedies for many but we now have the opportunity to show what America can do. The world is watching; we had better not blow it.
Much of the recent debate on global economic imbalances has centred on Chinese exchange-rate policy. China has a balance of payments surplus. The People's Bank
of China has been buying some $20bn a month in its attempt to keep the renminbi's parity with the US dollar stable.
American legislators are concerned about the advantage that a weak currency gives Chinese exporters. The US Treasury has given the Chinese six months to act on
the currency and has appointed Olin Wethington as a special envoy to carry the message to Beijing. The Chinese authorities fear that a currency appreciation might
worsen social and regional imbalances. An appreciation might slow job creation in manufacturing, worsening urban unemployment. It would lower the relative price
of agricultural products, thus reducing rural income. Is there an alternative solution?
Excessive savings are at the root of the imbalance in China. In spite of China's impressive investment rate, its domestic savings rate is even higher and it attracts
massive foreign direct investment. This abundance of savings is what is expressed in the external imbalance. A misallocation of resources occurs. Consumption is
foregone, sacrificing the welfare of today's low-income generation not for the benefit of future, wealthier generations but in order to accumulate unneeded low-yielding
A reduction in China's savings rate could correct the imbalance. It would lead to faster growth and job creation and improve the welfare of the present generation. It
would reduce the balance of payments surplus and stimulate faster global growth through increased exports to China. The increased internal demand would raise the
rate of return of investment projects in China that cater to the domestic market. With proper macroeconomic management, even higher rates of investment and
growth could be achieved.
But can China grow even faster than its current high rate? High growth becomes unsustainable when the economy becomes constrained by an insufficient supply of
critical inputs. Usually, investment demand exceeds savings, bringing about a destabilising current account deficit. In other cases, high growth is checked by labour
shortages and inadequate infrastructure. These shortages create inflationary pressures associated with currency depreciation, rising labour costs and bottlenecks.
In spite of China's rapid growth, these symptoms appear to be absent. The country exhibits an excess of savings over investment. Policymakers are concerned about
unemployment rather than labour shortages. Infrastructure is expanding at an impressive pace. Inflation has remained low, with core inflation (excluding energy and
food) almost nil. This suggests that the economy's speed limit may well be higher than the current growth rate.
An acceleration of growth would create pressures towards real appreciation, because the supply of importable goods is usually more elastic than that of non-tradables.
In the context of faster job growth and incipient inflationary pressures, the Chinese authorities would be much more willing to allow an appreciation of the renminbi.
The reduction in savings could be engineered through either fiscal or monetary expansion. There are reasons not to choose the latter. First, an eventual credit
expansion would be channelled through an already fragile banking system. Credit booms often end in tears. Second, a credit-induced expansion is likely to allocate
the additional spending to those who can provide collateral. This would have the wrong distributive consequences both socially and regionally.
A fiscal solution has several advantages. First, it can be targeted to favour the regions and the social groups that have fallen behind. Second, it avoids the
problem-ridden banking system. Third, it can address other developmental and social goals, such as housing, urban development and infrastructure. Moreover, the
country can afford a fiscal expansion. Its debt level is barely 26 per cent of gross domestic product.
A fiscal solution is not without dangers. These include corruption, the risk of poorly designed programmes, allocations that are not compatible with sustainable
development and the creation of entitlements that may be difficult to reverse.
As a response to the 2001 recession, the US Treasury allowed the fiscal deficit to widen by more than 5 percentage points of GDP. Public debt was put on a rising
trend. When Mr Wethington meets the Chinese authorities, he might mention the US experience with expansionary fiscal policy. After all, what is good for the
The right-wing columnist used my work to bash Dean and MoveOn as elitists—conveniently ignoring the big-money interests that pull the GOP's strings.
Are MoveOn.org and Howard Dean, who is about to be named chairman of the Democratic National Committee, major threats to democracy in America -- and bastions of elitism within the Democratic Party? That is what David Brooks would have us believe. His Feb. 5 Op-Ed column in the New York Times invoked my 2003 book, "Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life," in support of the notion that a secularist, "newly dominant educated class" is using advocacy groups and Internet fundraising to take over the Democratic Party. In Brooks' vision of politics, Republicans have meanwhile morphed into a true party of ordinary people.
I was not a "Deaniac" in the 2004 election, but I must protest the way Brooks has used my research to support his claims. Democrats today certainly face challenges in building broad coalitions of educated professionals and populist supporters. But MoveOn and the Dean campaign have gotten more people involved, not fewer, in the party. Republicans, meanwhile, can hardly brag that they represent the values of ordinary Americans. Their effort to destroy the popular and inclusive Social Security program, a plan hatched by ultra-right advocacy groups and think tanks, is a textbook case of manipulative elitism and faux-populist conservatism.
Brooks got part of my argument right. For much of U.S. history, large voluntary associations and social movements mobilized millions of Americans from all walks of life to become active in community life and national politics. Reform crusades, fraternal associations, women's federations, veterans associations, farm organizations and trade unions all encouraged members to meet regularly and pool their energies to affect social trends and political decisions at the local, state and national level. Women's groups championed programs for families and children; trade unions and fraternal groups supported Social Security; and the American Legion—a rather conservative veterans association—wrote and lobbied for the G.I. Bill of 1944, one of the most generous social programs in American history.
But voluntary associations changed rapidly after the 1960s. Many that linked men or women across class lines went into sharp decline, with aging memberships and faltering local chapters. Battered by opposition from business as well as industrial shifts, blue-collar trade unions also went into a free fall. Meanwhile, professionally run advocacy groups proliferated.
Big social and political changes converged to remake the face of American civic democracy after 1960. The civil rights and feminist movements challenged the racism and gender segregation of traditional membership associations. Foundation grants, television and computers made it easy for educated professionals to launch single-issue national associations without regular members or local chapters. In the late 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of freshly fashioned advocacy groups, think tanks and PACs pursued liberal causes such as equal rights for women and environmentalism. By the 1980s, conservatives had counterattacked, founding their own professionally run groups, mostly funded by the very wealthy, to advocate for causes such as lower taxes, deregulation of business, "family values" and opposition to abortion.
Through the 1990s, conservatives became more adept than liberals at building bridges between professionally run groups and surviving voluntary associations, learning to coordinate with evangelical churches and groups like the National Right to Life Association and the National Rifle Association. The Republican Party mobilized millions and reaped the benefits in the voting booth. By contrast, most of the Democratic Party's advocacy groups lacked local roots or the capacity to mobilize large numbers of citizens into politics. Issues also divided Democrats, as old-style New Deal liberalism was often at odds with "new" liberalism and public interest liberalism.
Brooks reports these findings from my research accurately enough, but he presents an oddly one-sided and partisan picture of elitist threats in American politics and civic life today. True, just as educated middle-class people often send checks to public interest advocacy groups, liberals with college degrees may appear in disproportionate numbers on the e-mail lists of MoveOn.org and the Dean campaign. But both of these efforts at mobilization have surely expanded the ranks of people involved in politics, reducing the sway of big donors and "insider" professional consultants in the Democratic Party.
The Dean campaign encouraged voters to gather in one another's houses, not just send checks to a central office. And not all "educated class" Americans (Brooks' phrase) live in Berkeley, Calif., or Cambridge, Mass. My sister is a librarian in West Virginia who regularly gives small amounts to support MoveOn's ad campaigns—which, Brooks to the contrary, are mounted on populist issues as well as in opposition to the Iraq war. These days, for example, MoveOn is running a campaign to expose the huge cuts in guaranteed Social Security benefits that privatization would entail. Republicans are suing to stop the campaign—obviously concerned that it might resonate with ordinary voters well beyond Berkeley.
Brooks is not entirely wrong about tensions among more and less privileged Democrats. But notice that he never mentions class tensions and advocacy ideologues in the Republican Party.
Right after the 2004 election, President Bush and many of his party and elite allies suddenly claimed a mandate to "reform" Social Security, going to great lengths to disguise the fact that the reform they favor would actually unravel Social Security in short order. Conservatives' campaign to sell the privatization of Social Security is a prime example of the manipulative elitism that now dominates so much of the Republican Party's agenda. Republicans may have populist allies when patriotism and certain lifestyle issues appear to be at stake, but when it comes to tax cuts for the rich and social policy cuts for the majority they disguise what they are doing—because on these matters ordinary Americans, even those who vote Republican, do not always share the values and priorities of Republican business supporters and ideological elites.
Even conservative Christian associations allied with the Republican Party are wary about trying to persuade their members to buy into Social Security privatization. Crucial for the poor, the disabled, survivors of deceased workers and the elderly, Social Security is a supremely pro-family program. Its decent retirement benefits are guaranteed for life, allowing beneficiaries to live in dignity and freeing working parents to invest in their children's future (rather than devoting most of their time and resources to caring for Grandma and Grandpa). Ideologues who want to shatter Social Security into millions of isolated market accounts know that they can succeed only by bamboozling large numbers of people—labeling modest, long-term problems an immediate "crisis" and failing to own up to the cuts they plan in guaranteed benefits.
Although Brooks implies that the Republican Party is the true populist party these days, the party did not adopt the privatization proposal at the urging of voluntary, grass-roots membership associations or a broad-based social movement. Bush got the idea from right-wing think tanks such as the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. What's more, the privatization campaign has been fueled by big-money donors who favor unfettered markets and, in many cases, hope to profit from fees paid by the government to Wall Street for managing the new private accounts. Democrats should no doubt be touched that Brooks is so worried about the challenges our party faces in building broad coalitions and appealing to vast numbers of ordinary citizens—in both red and blue states. But since 2000, when the need to hang together became starkly clear, Democrats, organized in all kinds of associations, have been trying hard to bridge the concerns of different social constituencies. Still, Democrats do need to take care lest single-issue causes appealing to the privileged take our focus away from broad appeals to average citizens, many of whom have not been to college.
But Brooks should worry more about the elitist ideologues and unhinged advocacy groups in his own party and movement. Perhaps he should pursue a sociology of "W. Bushism," examining how the pet causes of right-wing think tanks could undercut the populist appeal of Republicans. Right-wingers determined to fetter government as a tool for spreading opportunity and ensuring security for most citizens are much more of an elitist threat to American democracy than "Deanism." Before long, millions of voters may come to realize this.
The year 2005 has become the year of development. In September, at the UN Millennium Summit meeting of heads of state, in New York,
leaders of wealthy nations will emphasize their commitment to deeper
debt relief and increased aid programs for developing countries. The
Millennium Development Goals, the centerpiece of the conference’s
program, call for halving the levels of world poverty and hunger by 2015.
The summit will focus on increasing international aid to 0.7 percent
of donors’ gross national product to finance a doubling of aid transfers
to especially needy areas, particularly in Africa.With respect to global
trade, efforts will center on the Doha Round of multilateral trade
negotiations and opening markets to important exports (such as cotton)
from developing countries. The discussions will thus proceed based
on two implicit but critical underlying assumptions: that wealthy
nations can materially shape development in the poor world and that
their efforts to do so should consist largely of providing resources to
and trading opportunities for poor countries.
George F. Kennan, diplomat, historian, writer, died on March 17. Excerpts from Karl Kaiser’s eulogy.
I am one of the millions of Europeans who benefited from George Kennan’s contribution, for I speak to you as a citizen of the peacefully united Germany, a democracy again, and the new Europe which is no longer divided into two hostile camps of communism and democracy, where the possibility of war has practically disappeared, and unprecedented unity is being created by the European Union.
It is this new Europe, for which George Kennan strove throughout his extraordinary life, as an analyst who frequently exposed its problems with surgical precision, as an advocate who was often ahead of his time, changing views and affecting policies, often misunderstood and criticized, ready to oppose what he considered wrong, always relevant.
Europeans remember him for his essential contribution to rebuilding Europe with the Marshall Plan and the Containment Policy as the two complementary centerpieces of U.S. policy. Containment, for which he laid the conceptual foundation, formed the basis of American foreign policy from the Truman Doctrine to the creation of NATO. The freedom of Berlin and of Western Europe is unimaginable without them.
It is true that Kennan later complained that containment was misunderstood and that the policy overreacted in military terms to the Soviet threat. But in 1967, NATO did exactly what Kennan had always advocated by adding to its goals a political dimension that sought dialogue and accommodation with the adversary. In the end, it was this combination of the military and political dimension, of deterrence and detente, which led to the demise of communism.
Kennan played a vital role in establishing the Marshall Plan, perhaps the most intelligent and forward-looking act of American foreign policy. It helped to rebuild Western Europe’s economy, supported the restoration of democracy and established the foundation for transatlantic economic interdependence.
Without the Marshall Plan and America’s continuous support of European integration with Franco-German reconciliation at its heart, we would not have Europe as an essential part of our Western community today, nor could that community continue to play a crucial role in this turbulent century without America actively supporting European unity.
Europeans also remember Kennan for his contribution to detente and to overcoming the division of Europe. Of course, that outcome is unthinkable without the contribution of the detente policy of American administrations from John F. Kennedy onward.
Nor is it imaginable that Gorbachev would have been able to release East Germany, the most important trophy of the world war unleashed by Germany, without the groundwork laid in the preceding decades by Western detente policy and German "Ostpolitik" which helped to rebuild trust and cooperation between Bonn and Moscow.
But Kennan’s views and voice played a crucial role in these processes by proposing alternative ideas for dealing with the East-West conflict and by offering interpretations of the Soviet Union which stressed the evolutionary potential of the country. Throughout his life, he preached patience when it came to fostering democracy in other countries and that statecraft should rely on and encourage the indigenous forces that could create it.
As I know from personal experience, Chancellor Willy Brandt revered him. In the early sixties, Kennan once came through Berlin on his way back from Moscow and gave Brandt his assessment of developments in Soviet leadership at the time. He told Brandt not to be afraid in pursuing new policies with the East. "Have courage," he said. His assessment and advice undoubtedly encouraged Brandt to develop a new approach, which later took shape as "Ostpolitik." Brandt met with Kennan repeatedly and always paid attention to his writings.
As a skeptic of human nature, Kennan considered nuclear weapons to be too dangerous to be put in human hands. As he put it: "War between great peoples in the modern age—total war—is a madness from which nobody can benefit." The destruction of Hamburg and Berlin, two cities he knew very well, shocked him profoundly.
As nuclear weapons became increasingly important in Western security policy, he constantly criticized what he called "grotesque deterrence," supporting and inspiring those critics in the U.S. and Europe who advocated arms control and disarmament in this field—a stance more important today than ever as these awful weapons may fall in the hands of jihad terrorists.
When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it was not a forgone conclusion that the Cold War would end without a bloodbath. To be sure, the wise and prudent statesmanship of the leaders of that time was decisive, but they acted within an environment of trends and ideas that encouraged them to recognize a historical opportunity they fortunately grasped. Kennan’s contribution was vital in creating that very environment.
Today is therefore the moment for Europeans who now live in a free and reunited continent to express thanks to this extraordinary man. We Europeans honor him as an example of the very best in the American diplomatic tradition that proceeds on the basis of careful analysis, that seeks to understand the driving forces of other countries, in particular its adversaries, and that attempts to act as much as possible on the basis of a consensual and multilateral approach which respects international law and involves allies. As Germany’s Federal President Horst Koehler put it in a letter of condolence to Mrs. Kennan: "He remains an example to every young diplomat."
If hard power is characterised by the use of military force to project our will, then the essence of soft power lies in values, in our culture and in the way we handle ourselves internationally. Soft power is about creating a sense of legitimacy for a nation's international aims.
To understand what's happening in US foreign policy you have to start with 9/11. Before that date the Bush administration had been running on a fairly traditional realist platform; no more nation-building, and a broadly unilateralist approach to foreign policy. After 9/11 the Bush administration realised this had to change.
Credit must be given to the Bush government for the speed in which they realised traditional conceptions of threats to national security had changed. However, what they are still struggling with is how to combat diffuse non-state actors, primarily in the form of al-Qa'ida.
Hard power, which is so successful at one level, does play a role in the war on terrorism, but it is not quite the role you first expect. Hard military power did topple the Taliban, something soft-power was in no position to do. However, if you look at the number of Taliban fighters actually killed in Afghanistan, you're looking at maybe no more than a third.
In order to win the war on terror therefore, you also need soft power. You need the stick but you also need the carrot. Bombing and land invasions of countries harbouring and fomenting terrorism are important, but we must employ greater public diplomacy in order to attract people away from militant Islam. If the US would divert even 1 per cent of its defence budget to public diplomacy it would signal a quadrupling of the budget currently given to those looking to implement soft power rather than hard.
To conclude, what is important is not soft power or hard power alone. It's a combination. Our military power stopped Soviet aggression, but it was our soft power which fostered cultural progression and sympathy to our aims and stopped states from falling into the hands of communism.
The American public has consistently declared itself less concerned with foreign affairs in the post-Cold War era, even after 9/11, than at any time since World War II. How can it be, then, that public attentiveness to U.S. foreign policy crises has increased? This book represents the first systematic attempt to explain this apparent paradox. Matthew Baum argues that the answer lies in changes to television's presentation of political information. In so doing he develops a compelling "byproduct" theory of information consumption. The information revolution has fundamentally changed the way the mass media, especially television, covers foreign policy. Traditional news has been repackaged into numerous entertainment-oriented news programs and talk shows. By transforming political issues involving scandal or violence (especially attacks against America) into entertainment, the "soft news" media have actually captured more viewers who will now follow news about foreign crises, due to its entertainment value, even if they remain uninterested in foreign policy.
Baum rigorously tests his theory through content analyses of traditional and soft news media coverage of various post-WWII U.S. foreign crises and statistical analyses of public opinion surveys. The results hold key implications for the future of American politics and foreign policy. For instance, watching soft news reinforces isolationism among many inattentive Americans. Scholars, political analysts, and even politicians have tended to ignore the soft news media and politically disengaged citizens. But, as this well-written book cogently demonstrates, soft news viewers represent a largely untapped reservoir of unusually persuadable voters.
THE BLOODY protests in Uzbekistan's Andijan square have exposed the Bush administration's
Janus-faced policy on regime change. Recent talk of spreading democracy and bringing freedom
to the oppressed sits very uneasily with the ''yes, he is a bastard but he is our bastard"
approach, reminiscent of the Cold War, which has guided US relations with Uzbekistan.
In this case—unlike Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan—America's ally of choice is
not a pro-democracy revolutionary but a proven despot, the Uzbek leader Islam Karimov.
Plagued with political repression and economic disenfranchisement as well as a rise in
Islamism, Uzbekistan is a case in point as to why the United States cannot and should
not have it both ways.
The most populous republic in Central Asia, Uzbekistan is rich in natural resources
and the world's second biggest cotton producer after China. Despite its economic potential,
Uzbekistan's growth and living standards are among the lowest in the former Soviet Union.
Dominated by Karimov since the republic's independence in 1991, the Uzbek political scene
has become increasingly repressive. After strategically aligning himself with the United
States in the war against terror and offering an Uzbek military base for US military operations
in neighboring Afghanistan, Karimov has used the threat of radical Muslim unrest to justify the
persecution and oppression of his political opponents.
No opposition parties are recognized and Karimov's regime has decimated Uzbek civil society:
there are practically no independent local NGOs and no freedom of expression or association.
Independent media operations have been driven underground and foreign correspondents forced
to leave the country. Despite a constitutional ban on censorship, local journalists opposing
the regime have been blacklisted. With the media neutered, no one really knows how many people
have been killed or wounded in the recent protests. Estimates currently range from a few dozen
to several hundred and the UN has called for an independent investigation on last week's violence.
Karimov's persecution of the secular opposition has increasingly pushed ordinary Uzbeks into
the arms of radical Islamist groups. The Islamist group with the broadest appeal is Hizb-ut-Tahrir
(the Islamic Party of Liberation), which claims to stand for the peaceful overthrow of the Uzbek
government and the creation of a caliphate throughout Central Asia. Karimov has branded Hizb-ut-Tahrir
a terrorist organization (though it is not on the US State Department List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations)
and blames it for bombings and suicide attacks that took place in Tashkent last spring and summer.
The recent protests in Andijan were in opposition to the government's indiscriminate arrests on the
grounds of membership to Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
Uzbekistan therefore combines political oppression and the rise of Islamism with economic opportunity
for rebellion. So far the mix has proved highly volatile. If the United States wants to avoid increased
violations of human rights and the possibility of a future Islamist takeover, it must take immediate
steps to strengthen civil society in Uzbekistan. Karimov has to be pressured to allow the registration
of opposition parties such as ERK (Freedom), BIRLIK (Unity) and OZOD DEHQON (Free Peasants) as well
as the registration of truly independent NGOs. The reintroduction of an independent media and
guarantees that freedom of conscience, expression and association will be respected are also essential.
But for Karimov to commit to change credibly, all reforms have to be tied to monetary incentives.
The United States, as well as international financial institutions, should make aid and loans conditional
on tangible reform. This pressure would be most effective if it involved coordinated action from the
United States and Russia as well as international political and financial organizations. Action has
to be immediate to avert further refugee flows to Kyrgyzstan and other neighboring states that could
prove highly destabilizing for the broader region.
According to one of the leading opposition figures, the Free Peasants Party General Secretary Nigora
Khidoyatova, a revolution is on the way in Uzbekistan. ''Our revolution will be green," she said,
alluding to her peasants' party color and pointing to an orange poster of Ukraine's Victor Yushchenko
hanging on her cabinet. Unless the United States effectively pressures President Karimov to strengthen
civil society and its fledgling democratic forces, a revolution will sweep Uzbekistan. And once it
erupts it may very well be green: Islamist green.
Boston's Gene Sharp learned how to turn nonviolence into a weapon -
and helped quite literally change the world.
A CURIOUS THING started happening in the formerly Communist world in the
year 2000. One after another, hated, repressive governments gave way to
mass movements of nonviolent refusal. First there was Serbia, then
Georgia, then Ukraine, and now Kyrgyzstan. It was as if a virus were
spreading - one that led long abused populaces to wake up to their own
power, which they could withhold from authorities to stunning effect.
But it wasn't a virus. Among other things, it was an 88-page booklet by
a Boston scholar named Gene Sharp, which has circulated in local
translation at the site of every one of these nonviolent democratic
Called ''From Dictatorship to Democracy," Sharp's booklet lays out a
theory of power that explains the mechanisms of dictatorship and their
weaknesses. It also details the nuts and bolts of nonviolent resistance:
which tools to use in order to undermine a regime's sources of power,
how to sustain discipline in the face of violent response, and the
crucial importance of entering such struggle as one would a military
campaign, with a strategic plan. Tactics include demonstrations and
posters, strikes and sit-ins, boycotts and campaigns of non-cooperation.
Some of these techniques work to paralyze the society and thus convince
rulers that they cannot govern without budging on the issues at stake -
or that they cannot govern at all.
Sharp, now in his late 70s, has a gentle manner and an air of humility
before a vast and complex world in which his ideas have attained
powerful purchase. Since he began his work more than 50 years ago, he
has essentially invented the study of nonviolent struggle. In 1983, he
founded both a program on the subject at Harvard and the Albert Einstein
Institution, which focuses, as he puts it, ''not on pacifism, not on any
mahatma nonsense, but on pragmatic nonviolent struggle." His books - he
has written some 13 of them, including the just-published ''Waging
Nonviolent Struggle" - are written almost like textbooks. They betray no
literary pretension; the language is clear but abstract, and they are
designed to be read across cultures.
Even as Sharp's work reaches the height of its influence, the Albert
Einstein Institution, which publishes educational materials, hosts
workshops abroad at the request of foreign activists, and painstakingly
manages and vets the translations of ''From Dictatorship to Democracy,"
has run out of funding and may be forced to close its doors in
September. The staff has already been reduced from four to two
employees, including Sharp.
I caught up with Sharp by telephone to his office last week.
IDEAS: How did you come to this subject?
SHARP: I grew into this topic in the very late 40s and early 50s. The
Second World War was just over, and the Holocaust was new information.
Stalin was still in Russia. There was European colonialism, racial
discrimination in the United States, and the threat of war with nuclear
weapons. And there had to be some better way. And so I began learning
about nonviolent resistance. The literature was terrible, but the more I
read the more I realized there was lots of substance here - and that we
really didn't know much about it. And so bit by bit, I moved into the
field, starting with a heavy study of Gandhi, not as a mahatma but as a
political strategist. I grew increasingly interested in figuring out
what made this kind of technique succeed or fail, and how it could be
made more effective.
Later on I lived in Norway, where I met people who had taken part in the
resistance during the Nazi occupation. One of the big insights I gleaned
was that the pacifist position, which holds that you can just renounce
violence, doesn't work. But if you don't have a realistic alternative,
people will either capitulate in passive submission or they'll turn to
the only kind of struggle they think is available, which is war and
IDEAS: Which ideas did you modify as you witnessed history?
At one stage I shared the view that it's necessary to have both
the religious and the moral belief and the knowledge of the technique.
And later on I realized that was not necessary at all. You could take
only a political approach, only a pragmatic approach. And in many of the
historical cases, that was indeed what happened.
IDEAS: Where have you seen your theories in action?
SHARP: We did some of them ourselves in very simple ways as
undergraduates, at lunch counter sit-ins in Columbus, Ohio. I was in
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania when their independence-minded
governments were trying to exit the Soviet Union. I met with government
leaders in all three countries, and they drew heavily on a book of mine
that we then had the English page proofs of, called ''Civilian-Based
Defense." I was also in Tiananmen Square with a friend of mine.
IDEAS: What do you think went wrong at Tiananmen?
SHARP: They had no plan, no strategy. It was more or less an accidental
movement that then attracted great support. People kept flooding into
the scene, and once they got there the people who had been leading it
were sort of flooded out. Even after there'd been a decision to evacuate
the square, new people decided to stay on because they hadn't had a
chance to demonstrate yet. But they didn't have a plan.
People also really didn't understand the essential importance of
withdrawing support from the system. We heard stories when we were there
of civil servants within the government buildings throwing money out the
windows for the resisters. But they didn't go on strike. And there were
reports that some [soldiers] refused to shoot [demonstraters]. If that
had happened on a large scale, it would've done it.
I was there that night. We'd just been to dinner and were walking back
to the hotel across Tiananmen Square as the troops and the armored
personnel carriers came in. We were inclined to sort of hide around the
corner to look and see what was going on, but the local Chinese people
scurried us out of there, and I guess that's why we're alive today.
There was a lot of killing. It was really terrible.
IDEAS: How did ''From Dictator to Democracy" come into being?
SHARP: That booklet was originally written in 1983, at the request of a
Burmese democratic exile who was living in Bangkok and editing an exile
newsletter. It drew on previous work I had done, including on weaknesses
of dictatorships and the nature of power.
The booklet was only written for the Burmese, but though I had been
illegally in Burma two or three times in the area held by some of the
resistance groups and ethnic minorities, I didn't really know Burma. You
have to be very careful in writing about applying these theories to a
country you don't really know. You can really mess people up.
IDEAS: The manual has been translated into Russian, Farsi, Chinese,
Arabic, and other languages. Have you arranged these translations?
SHARP: They come as requests from activists within the countries. I
didn't know at the beginning, but translations are dangerous. People may
not really understand the phenomenon. They may not really know the
equivalent terms in their own language, because the terms maybe don't exist.
IDEAS: I'm curious what you think about the potential use of training in
this technique as a foreign policy tool by the US government.
SHARP: That's dangerous. What the government can do is provide money.
And it doesn't.
IDEAS: The Albert Einstein Institution's president, Robert Helvey, led a
workshop in Budapest for Serbian students prior to the ouster of
Slobodan Milosevic. Where else have you held workshops?
SHARP: I did one about three years ago for Belarussians that had to be
held in Vilnius, Lithuania. We did short-term things for Cuban exiles in
Miami. It's been done for Venezuelans, and for Zimbabwe.
IDEAS: In your book there is a chapter on something you call political
jujitsu, in which a regime uses violence against nonviolent resistance,
and this backfires, creating deeper and more widespread defiance.
SHARP: When I was starting out this study the belief was, oh, this is
fine for the Indians, they're all Hindus, they all believe in
reincarnation so it doesn't make any difference if they get killed.
Literally! But if you look at the Russian 1905 revolution, it's the same
Political jujitsu will not work if the people get scared, if they don't
know what to do, or if they don't understand that it's necessary to hold
their ground and risk some danger. Guerilla warfare has huge civilian
casualty rates. Huge. And yet Che Guevara didn't abandon guerilla
warfare because people were getting killed. The same is true in
conventional war, of course. But then they say if you get killed in
nonviolent struggle, then nonviolent struggle has failed. Some people
don't understand what they're doing and they say oh, we have to go over
IDEAS: Of course, nonviolent movements don't necessarily produce
democracies. The Iranian revolution of 1979 was by and large nonviolent.
SHARP: Yes, but they didn't plan for the transition, and so various
people who had their own ideas of what the new regime should be took
over. Now we have this other booklet on the anti-coup, or how to block
seizures of power and executive usurpations. That time after a
successful nonviolent struggle is very dangerous.
Our work has had major influence in Iran, except that it hasn't got a
movement quite succeeding yet. ''From Dictatorship to Democracy" is in
Farsi on our website. The translation was all done inside Iran. That's
dangerous, and people were gutsy enough to do it. But the booklet has
been declared illegal to circulate in Iran. Still, the knowledge is
there, and it fits into Persian history, like in the Constitutional
Revolution of 1906 and then more recently in the struggle against the shah.
IDEAS: Is there any new insight that has jumped out at you from this
recent spate of nonviolent dissolutions of governments?
SHARP: I think what is new is the recognition that this technique can be
learned, and that knowledge about it can be shared to make the attempt
to use it more frequent and more successful. And I think that's one
reason this particular booklet keeps spreading.
Gene Sharp founded the Program on Nonviolent Sanctions at the Center for International Affairs.
Condoleezza Rice's first trip to Europe and the Middle East as secretary of
state this month creates a perfect opportunity for the Bush administration to
accelerate the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The stalled road map for peace envisages a final and comprehensive resolution
of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2005. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon, on the other hand, envisages not a peace treaty but a ''disengagement"
of Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza by the end of 2005. Disengagement
will reduce the tension created by the 21 Israeli settlements and the Israeli
military deployed to protect them. But it does not address the need for a
final peace agreement and it does nothing to remove the Israeli stranglehold
over the Palestinian economy by control over Gaza's borders, port and airport.
At a time when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to fulfill the
road map's preconditions for negotiating peace and recent polls show a
majority of Palestinians and Israelis favor a two-state solution for the
conflict, it would be a mistake to allow the unilateral disengagement to
frustrate negotiated peace efforts.
Why accelerate the peace process?
The United States and its European allies are locked in a global struggle
against jihadi Islamic-inspired terrorism that feeds off Muslim frustration,
one source of which is perceived support for the Israeli occupation of Gaza
and the West Bank. Ending the occupation through a negotiated peace will help
win the war against terror. Cooperating with Europe within NATO to further the
peace process will also help the United States heal its rift with Germany and
France over Iraq. The United States has expended substantial resources without
the aid of most of Europe in trying to defeat terrorism and build democracy in
Iraq. It will take far fewer resources with European assistance for the United
States to help Abbas control terrorism and build democracy in Palestine.
Sharon wants to slow down the peace process. He believes that Israel will
achieve more security from unilateral moves such as disengaging from Gaza or
building a ''security fence," than from negotiating a peace treaty. This is
illusory. Palestinian violence will spiral from increased frustration with
economic deprivation and the indignities of personal humiliation from the
Israeli occupation with no end in sight. Real security for Israel will be
found in real peace.
The United States can use the disengagement from Gaza to reduce the prospect
of spiraling violence and increase Israel's long-term security with a three-part plan. First, a US-led NATO force can help the Palestinians achieve
security within Gaza. With Israeli and Egyptian cooperation, the NATO force
can provide security training for the Palestinian Authority and patrol Gaza's
borders, port, and airport.
Second, the United States, Europe, wealthier Arab states, and other members of
the international community can coordinate economic development efforts to
improve the daily lives of Palestinians.
Third, the United States should propose a comprehensive peace plan and help
the Israelis and Palestinians negotiate and implement it in order to resolve
the critical issues of Jerusalem, borders, Palestinian refugees, and Israeli
Using NATO to coordinate security in Gaza is not far-fetched. There have
already been discussions of Israel upgrading its relationship with NATO and
using NATO in Gaza. To overcome Israel's historically based distrust of
international peace-keeping forces, the United States should command the NATO
force. An immediate benefit of a US-led NATO force in Gaza would be to ease
the import and export of Palestinian goods and services. This will enable a
donor-dependent Palestine to develop a more self-sustaining economy.
However, only by expediting the process of achieving a comprehensive peace
agreement will the United States and its allies help to strengthen security
and promote economic development in Palestine, important preconditions for a
Abbas needs the strong support of the United States and the international
community in order to combat Islamic extremists and violence in Gaza and the
West Bank. He will gain the political legitimacy he needs with a fair
resolution of the conflict. There is no lack of model agreements that propose
such resolution, including the Clinton Plan, the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Plan, and
the Geneva Initiative. Let the secretary of state and the administration
propose their own Bush Plan and create a lasting legacy for this president by
getting the parties to implement it now while the opportunity exists.
Lenore G. Martin is an associate of Harvard University's Weatherhead Center
for International Affairs, where she co-chairs the Middle East Seminar. She is
also chairman of the of the Department of Political Science at Emmanuel
"I think that this could still fail." Those words—uttered by a senior
American officer in Baghdad last week—probably gave opponents of the war
in Iraq, particularly those clamoring for a hasty exit, a bit of a kick.
They should be careful what they wish for.
For history strongly suggests that a hasty American withdrawal from Iraq
would be a disaster. "If we let go of the insurgency," said another of the
officers quoted anonymously last week, "then this country could fail and go
back into civil war and chaos."
As many of the war's opponents seem to have forgotten, civil war and chaos
tend to break out when American military interventions have been aborted.
Think not only of Vietnam and Cambodia, but also of Lebanon in 1983 and Haiti
in 1996. To talk glibly of "finding a way out of Iraq," as if it were just a
matter of hailing a cab and heading for the Baghdad airport, is to underestimate
the danger of a bloody internecine conflict among Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiites.
Instead of throwing up our hands in an irresponsible fit of despair, we need to
learn not just from past disasters but also from historical victories over insurgencies.
Indeed, of all the attempts in the past century by irregular indigenous forces to expel
regular foreign forces, around a third have failed.
In 1917 British forces invaded Mesopotamia, got to Baghdad, overthrew its Ottoman rulers
and sought—in the words of the general who led them, Sir Stanley Maude—to be its people's
"liberators." The British presence in Iraq was legitimized by international law (it was
designated a League of Nations mandate) and by a modicum of democracy (a referendum was
held among local sheiks to confirm the creation of a British-style constitutional monarchy).
Despite all this, in 1920 there was a full-scale insurgency against the continuing British
Some may object that warfare today is a very different matter from warfare 85 years ago.
Yet the striking thing about the events of 1920 is how very like the events of our own
time they were. The reality of what is sometimes called "asymmetric warfare" is how very
symmetrical it really is: an insurgency is about leveling the military playing field, and
exploiting the advantages of local knowledge to stage hit-and-run attacks against the occupiers,
as well as anybody thought to be collaborating with them.
Indeed, if there is asymmetry it lies in the advantages enjoyed by the insurgents.
The cost of training and equipping an American soldier is high; by contrast, life
is tragically cheap among the young men of Baghdad and Falluja. Even if the insurgents
lose 10 men for every 1 they kill, they are still winning, not least because the American
side takes its losses so much harder.
How, then, did the British crush the insurgency of 1920? Three lessons stand out.
The first is that, unlike the American enterprise in Iraq today, they had enough men.
In 1920, total British forces in Iraq numbered around 120,000, of whom around 34,000
were trained for actual fighting. During the insurgency, a further 15,000 men arrived
Coincidentally, that is very close to the number of American military personnel now in
Iraq (around 138,000). The trouble is that the population of Iraq was just over three million
in 1920, whereas today it is around 24 million. Thus, back then the ratio of Iraqis to foreign
forces was, at most, 23 to 1. Today it is around 174 to 1. To arrive at a ratio of 23 to 1 today,
about one million American troops would be needed.
The United States also faces two other problems that the United Kingdom did not 85 years ago.
The British were able to be ruthless: they used air raids and punitive expeditions to inflict harsh
collective punishments on villages that supported the insurgents. The United States has not been
above brutal methods on occasion in Iraq, yet humiliation and torture of prisoners have not yielded
any significant benefits compared with what it has cost the country's reputation.
The Americans' other problem has to do with timing and expectations. Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld has said that American forces should aim to work to a "10-30-30" timetable: 10 days should
suffice to topple a rogue regime, 30 days to establish order in its wake, and 30 more days to prepare
for the next military undertaking. I am all in favor of a 10-30-30 timetable—provided the measurement
is years, not days. For it may well take around 10 years to establish order in Iraq, 30 more to establish
the rule of law, and quite possibly another 30 to create a stable democracy.
Those American officers who say that it could take years to succeed in Iraq are therefore right.
But the Bush administration has just three and a half years left. Is it credible that American troops
will still be in Iraq for even another four years after that?
The insurgents don't think so. They know that American democracy puts time on their side. Once again,
the contrast with the British experience is instructive. Although Iraq was formally granted its independence
in 1932, there was still some form of British presence in the country until the late 1950's.
So, if we acknowledge that the United States simply does not have the luxury of time that the British
enjoyed and cannot be similarly ruthless, can it at least increase the manpower at its disposal in Iraq?
The official answer from Washington is that Iraqi security forces will soon be ready to play an effective
role in policing. Few who have seen those forces on the ground find this strategy realistic. Some fear that
the training that Iraqi soldiers are receiving may prove useful only when they fight one another in an Iraqi
What, then, of America's own resources? Almost no one (least of all the Pentagon) wants to go back to
the draft. So could today's all-volunteer force somehow be expanded to double (at least) the troops available?
That too seems unlikely. Indeed, the current system is already showing alarming signs of stress and strain as
more and more is asked of the "weekend warriors" of the reserves and National Guard, who account for roughly
two-fifths of the force in Iraq. In December, the Army National Guard acknowledged that it had fallen 30
percent below its recruiting goals in the preceding two months. Many members of the Individual Ready Reserve
have been contesting the Army's right to call them up.
How did the British address the manpower problem in 1920? By bringing in soldiers from India who accounted
for more than 87 percent of troops in the counter-insurgency campaign. Perhaps, then, the greatest problem faced
by the Anglophone empire of our own time is very simple: the United Kingdom had the Indian Army; the United States
does not. Indeed, by a rich irony, the only significant auxiliary forces available to the Pentagon today are none
other than ... the British Army. But those troops are far too few to be analogous to the Sikhs, Mahrattas and
Baluchis who fought so effectively in 1920.
No one should wish for an overhasty American withdrawal from Iraq. It would be the prelude to a bloodbath of
ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence, with inevitable spillovers into and interventions from neighboring countries.
Rather, it is time to acknowledge just how thinly stretched American forces in Iraq are and to address the problem:
whether by finding new allies (send Condoleezza Rice to New Delhi?); radically expanding the accelerated citizenship
program for immigrants who join the army; or lowering the (historically high) educational requirements demanded by
YES, as that anonymous officer said, the Bush administration's policy in Iraq could indeed still fail. But too
few American liberals seem to grasp how high the price will be if it does. That is a point, unfortunately, that
also eludes most of this country's allies. Does it also elude the secretary of defense? If "10-30-30" are the
numbers that concern him, I begin to fear that it does. The numbers that matter right now are 174 to 1. That is
not only the ratio of Iraqis to American troops. It is starting to look alarmingly like the odds against American
Niall Ferguson, a history professor at Harvard, a Faculty Associate of the Weatherhead Center for Interational Affairs, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford,
is the author of "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire."
Too busy taking sides in the tragedy that has befallen Terri Schiavo, we
have forgotten to question the choices open to us and to her. In fact,
this debate is less about dying than about how to die.
Schiavo wanted and deserved to die with dignity, yet nothing of what she
received came close to a dignified death. Together with food and water,
society withheld from her the option of a quiet, peaceful and swift death
by active euthanasia. We should think of Schiavo as not just the victim of
an accident that occurred 15 years ago, but also of a society that has
structured its public conversation about matters of life, death and
dignity in ways that fail to do justice to those who need it most.
Instead of asking only whether a person would prefer to die should she
find herself in a permanent vegetative state, we ought to factor in the
ancillary question of what kind of death she would be willing to die. As
we know, in Schiavo's case, the withholding of food and water over a
period of two weeks triggered chemical imbalances in her organism, and
ultimately her death. She died slowly, gradually. Although she apparently
did not feel any of this, her family did, and so did we.
From close or from afar, the spectacle of a human being fading away had a
symbolism to it that is a heavy burden to carry. It is not unreasonable to
intimate that forcing her to die this kind of death violates her right to
decide how she wanted to be remembered, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice
William Brennan argued in his dissent in Cruzan vs. Director in 1990.
Schiavo was probably unfamiliar with the distinction between acts and
omissions that is still a pillar of her country's legal system. She
probably could not have fathomed that in her society it is legal to let
someone starve to death, but illegal, unless when motivated by society's
will to punish, to inject a lethal substance into that person. We find it
more acceptable to see a human being dying away slowly without food and
water than to imagine euthanasia.
It is hard to grasp why that should be so. The experience of other
countries has proved flat wrong the familiar argument that euthanasia can
be abused, which is regularly invoked in this context and has figured
prominently whenever courts confronted this question. Another possible
argument to the effect that actively killing someone would have a negative
impact on the image of the medical profession in society wrongly assumes
that removing the feeding tube followed by inaction is less damaging to
how we look at our medical doctors. We are left with the conclusion that
such a framework is steeped in a hypocritical belief that we society, we
judges, we doctors, are not the ones ending Schiavo's life. That is a lie,
and not a noble one.
We all want to die with dignity. We hope to exit this life uncrushed by
the fear of our passing and of the unknown that awaits us. Death is as
deeply personal as it incomprehensible, and a mature society should aim at
respecting the decisions of its members about when and how to die. The
laws of Terri Schiavo's country made it impossible for her to die with
dignity, as she wanted, and virtually no voice echoed her all-too-human
wish. She deserved better.
Vlad Perju and Paulo Daflon Barrozo are doctoral students at Harvard Law School.
The insurgency in Iraq goes on, but attention has shifted toward the
structure of an independent government. One key issue is whether the
new regime will have a state religion, as envisioned by the
U.S.-imposed transitional administrative law. Research by Rachel M.
McCleary and me at Harvard University's Project on Religion, Political
Economy & Society suggests that the Iraqi government will have an
official religion. Although separation of religion and state has long
been a Western ideal, it seems politically unrealistic for Iraq.
The consequences of state religion are complicated in practice. We
find that the presence of state religion encourages participation in
formal religious services (likely because of governmental subsidies to
organized religion) and provides a smaller boost to religious beliefs.
There is a weak negative impact on economic growth. And although some
rich countries such as Britain and most of Scandinavia maintain
religious liberties despite having official religions, state religions
tend to coincide with curbs on religious freedoms.
In our research, we used international data to isolate the
demographic, social, and economic factors that lead to the
establishment of a state religion. Most important is whether a country
has a diversity of religions or is concentrated in a single faith. For
example, in 2000, the largest U.S. group was Protestants, with 44%,
whereas in Morocco it was Sunni Muslims, with 98%. We estimate that
this difference made the probability of a state religion in Morocco
(which had one) higher by 69 percentage points than in the U.S. (which
LESS CLEAR IS WHETHER the identity of a country's main religion
influences the likelihood of state religion. In 2000, among the 40
countries where more than 50% of the people were Muslim, 28 (or 70%)
had a state religion. In contrast, among the 91 countries with more
than 50% in a single non-Muslim religion, 42 (or only 46%) had a state
religion. We found that half of the Muslim/non-Muslim difference arose
because the share of population that adhered to the most popular
religion was higher in Muslim countries. The rest of the difference
involves a greater tendency by government to curb religious freedoms
in Muslim countries.
Another important factor is that communist countries rarely have a
state religion (if communism does not count as a religion). However,
this influence lacks staying power: Since 1990, 15 ex-communist
countries, including six Muslim ones, set up state religions.
The size of a country matters; neither very small nor very large
countries tend to have state religions. For small nations, the cost of
maintaining an official religious administration is simply too great.
For large countries, even a small proportion of the population in
minority religions constitutes a large number of people and,
therefore, creates resistance to a monopoly religion supported by the
For Iraq, a big question is whether the stronger force toward state
religion is the 96% of the population that is Muslim or the 61% that
is Shiite Muslim. We analyzed this issue using estimated breakdowns of
Muslim populations into Sunni, Shiite, and other sects. Sunni is by
far the largest worldwide, and only Iran is mainly Shiite (86% of the
people). Only a few Muslim countries have substantial representation
in more than one category: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman,
and Yemen. Some other Muslim countries -- Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Syria, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates -- are 10% to 20% Shiite.
But our results suggest that overall Muslim share, not size of the
most popular sect, is what influences the creation of state religion.
No model predicts perfectly, but ours gets the right answer more than
80% of the time. Thus, it is instructive that the model's probability
for a state religion in Iraq is 96%. True, our method also gives
neighboring Turkey an 88% probability for state religion, even though
it has been officially secular for decades. One can view this mistaken
prediction two ways. One is that, despite forces that favor state
religion, Turkey can be a model for Iraq on how to separate church and
state. The other is that Turkey's secular status represents
hard-to-duplicate political influence by its strong President, Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk, in the 1920s and '30s. Conceivably, the factors that
favor a state religion will eventually generate an Islamic state in
Turkey. That reversal seems more likely than Iraq's becoming a secular
Robert J. Barro is a professor of economics at Harvard University and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution.
With stem cell legislation pending on Beacon Hill, proponents and opponents
have taken to the airwaves, as lawmakers and citizens struggle to think their
way through the ethical and scientific thicket. In Massachusetts, the real
debate is not about stem cell research as such, but about whether scientists
should be allowed to use cloning techniques to create embryos for stem cell
The bills passed this week by the Legislature would permit stem cell cloning;
Governor Mitt Romney would ban it. While much of the discussion has focused on
scientific complexities, the debate is at heart about ethics.
There are two main objections to cloning embryos for stem cell research—the "right-to-life" objection, and the "brave new world" objection.
The right-to-life objection regards the embryo as inviolable, as morally
equivalent to a fully developed human being. Since extracting stem cells from
the blastocyst (the cluster of cells that comprise the early embryo) destroys
it, those who consider the embryo a person regard such research as the taking
of a human life.
The brave new world objection worries less about the embryo than about where
our new scientific powers may take us. It fears that allowing scientists to
use cloning techniques for stem cell research will lead us down a slippery
slope to dehumanizing practices such as cloning human babies or growing
fetuses in the lab for spare parts.
How persuasive are these objections? The right-to-life objection raises hard
questions about the origins and sanctity of human life. But it is important to
notice that the right-to-life question is not really at issue in the debate
between Romney and the Legislature.
At first glance, Romney's opposition to stem cell cloning seems to be based on
the idea that the embryo is inviolable and should never be destroyed for the
sake of science. The principle at stake is that "no life should be exploited
for the benefit of another," Romney wrote in explaining his opposition to the
stem cell bill. "Every human being has inalienable rights, and first among
them is life."
But this principle is too broad for Romney's position. For if he believes that
embryos are human beings with inalienable rights, he should oppose all
embryonic stem cell research, not only research on cloned embryos. If
extracting stem cells from a blastocyst is morally equivalent to yanking
organs from a baby, then it is abhorrent no matter how the embryo came into
But Romney favors stem cell research on embryos left over from fertility
clinics, provided the parents consent. Given the rigors and uncertainties of
in-vitro fertilization, most fertility clinics create more fertilized eggs
than are ultimately implanted. The "spare" or "surplus" embryos are
typically frozen and ultimately discarded. Some argue that, even if embryos
are persons with inalienable rights, those already doomed might as well be
used for stem cell research.
As Romney reasoned in a radio ad that aired this week, "These embryos would
otherwise be destroyed."
The doomed embryo argument seems to offer Romney the distinction he wants: It
is ethical to sacrifice surplus embryos that will die anyway, but deplorable
to create embryos for the sake of research. But the distinction does not hold
up, because it evades the question whether the surplus embryos should be
created in the first place. The fact that US fertility clinics are allowed to
create and discard excess embryos is as much a policy choice as whether to
permit cloning for stem cell research.
If Romney believes that embryos are persons, he should condemn the creation
and destruction of excess embryos in fertility clinics as vigorously as he is
opposing stem cell cloning. If, on the other hand, he believes the creation
and sacrifice of embryos in fertility clinics is morally acceptable, it's not
clear why he doesn't consider the creation and sacrifice of embryos for stem
cell research also acceptable. After all, both practices serve worthy ends; in
fact, curing diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson's is at least as
important as treating infertility.
There is nothing inconsistent in a principled right-to-life position that
opposes all stem cell research and all fertility treatments that create and
discard excess embryos.
But Romney can't have it both ways. He cannot oppose stem cell cloning on the
grounds that it violates the embryo's inalienable right to life and at the
same time defend fertility treatments that create surplus embryos and stem
cell research that uses them.
In the face of this difficulty, Romney might retreat to the brave new world
objection. Permitting scientists to use cloning techniques for stem cell
research, he might argue, will lead down a slippery slope of exploitation and
abuse—therapeutic cloning today, cloned human babies tomorrow.
The danger that embryo research will lead to exploitation and abuse is worth
taking seriously. But sensible regulations can prevent our sliding down the
Rather than ban cloning for stem cell research, the governor should join the
Legislature in banning human reproductive cloning, limiting the length of time
that research embryos can be grown in the lab, and restricting the
commodification of eggs to prevent the exploitation of women.
Such regulations are the friend, not the foe, of responsible science. They can
enable us to redeem the promise of biomedical advance while saving us from
slouching toward a Brave New World.
Michael J. Sandel teaches political philosophy as a professor of government at Harvard University. He is a member of the Weatherhead Center's Executive Committee.
In 2004, Latin America and the Caribbean grew 6 percent, the highest rate
since 1980. And the party is not over yet. In its most recent report dated
August 2005, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America
(ECLAC) forecasted that Latin America and the Caribbean will grow
4.3 percent in 2005. For 2006, ECLAC is forecasting 4 percent growth. If
these predictions come true, the region would complete 4 consecutive years of
growth, accumulating an increase of 10 percent in income per capita between
2003 and 2006. So after nearly a decade beginning with the Mexican crisis
of 1994, when talk of stagnation dominated the headlines, growth is back.
ECLAC is not alone in its optimism. Earlier, in its World Economic
Outlook dated April 2005, the International Monetary Fund had predicted
4.1 percent for Latin America in 2005, and 3.7 percent in 2006. The Fund
writes that “the strength of the recovery in Latin America has continued to
exceed expectations.” (p. 37)
That Latin America should be growing at a time of record high commodity
prices, record low international interest rates, and robust global demand,
is not surprising. What is surprising is that the region is not growing more in
this environment of the fastest world growth in 30 years. Indeed, according
to the same IMFWorld Economic Outlook, the region will post the slowest
average growth in 2005-06 of any developing region. Developing Asia will
grow by 7.4 and 7.1 in each of those two years, according to the Fund. Even
Africa, at 5.1 and 5.4 percent, will amply outgrow Latin America. And this
is even though recent Latin growth is overstated by the ongoing recoveries in
Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela, countries that experienced large absolute
declines in output earlier this decade.
In this paper we present historical evidence and a theoretical analysis of the
origins of political stability and instability in Colombia for the period 1850-1950,
and their relationship to political, particularly electoral, institutions. We show that
the driving force behind institutional change over this period, specifically the move
to proportional representation (PR), was the desire of the Conservative and Liberal
parties to come up with a way of credibly dividing power to avoid civil war and
conflict, a force intensified by the brutal conflict of the War of a Thousand days
between 1899 and 1902. The problem with majoritarian electoral institutions was
that they did not allocate power in a way which matched the support of the parties
in the population, thus encouraging conflict. The strategic advantage of PR was that
it avoided such under-representation. The parties however could not initially move
to PR because it was not 'fraud proof' so instead, in 1905, adopted the 'incomplete
vote' which simply allocated 2/3 of the legislative seats to the winning party and
1/3 to the loser. This formula brought peace. The switch to PR arose when the
Liberals became condent that they could solve problems of fraud. But it only
happened because they were able to exploit a division within the Conservatives.
The switch also possibly reflected a concern with the rising support for socialism
and the desire to divide power more broadly. Our findings shed new light on the
origins of electoral systems and the nature of political con
ict and its resolution.