Earlier this year, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in China—and quickly made himself at home. The occasion was a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional group linking China, Russia, and Central Asia. During the summit, Ahmadinejad seemed to be everywhere. He posed, arms linked, with Russian and Chinese officials, who said nothing as he called for “impartial and independent experts” to investigate whether the Holocaust happened. He delivered a major address broadcast on Chinese state television.
At night, the waterfront road at Patong, the most famous beach on the island of Phuket in southern Thailand, resembles a slightly seedy Riviera. All along the strip, paunchy foreign men toss down beers at open-air bars or wander into back alleys with male and female Thai prostitutes. Neon-lit fast-food joints and massage parlors throb with Thai and foreign customers.
The Bangkok airport's Burger King normally isn't that crowded in the morning. Most Thais seem to prefer the nearby food court, which serves Thai rice soups rather than heavy egg-and-biscuit American breakfasts. But, on Monday morning last week, the day after a massive tsunami swamped Thailand and the rest of Southeast and South Asia, the area around Burger King is packed. Several Thai monks, dressed in the simple orange and saffron robes of the Buddhist clergy, their heads shaved completely bare, are surrounded by locals and foreigners.
The Bush administration's internecine squabbles over Iraq policy have gotten a lot of press, but no issue has divided its foreign policy team more than North Korea. For two years, engagers (who generally favor using diplomacy to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program) and hawks (who are suspicious of negotiations and believe rewarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Il could encourage other proliferators) were unable to resolve their differences. "It's as stark as stark could be--we weren't even on the same page," says one American official.