[Guest post by Jarad Vary] Any time you hear about a sensible idea to help keep the world economy afloat, you can bet on two things: First, Mitt Romney will probably give it a tepid thumbs up. Second, Republican lawmakers will make him sorry he did. After all-night negotiations in Brussels, this morning International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde made an encouraging announcement: EU countries had promised $267 billion to boost the Fund’s lending capacity.
Madrid–Outgoing Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, of Spain, had until recently been the beneficiary of propitious circumstances. Party infighting enabled him to outmaneuver the establishment favorite in the 2000 primaries. Four years later, he eked out an eleventh hour victory in national elections when a terrorist bombing mere days before voting turned the tide against incumbent conservatives.
In a speech before Parliament last month, British Prime Minister David Cameron posed a rhetorical question as he harangued the opposition Labour Party: “Is there a single other mainstream party anywhere in Europe who thinks the answer to the debt problem is more spending and more borrowing?” Cameron was meaning to taunt Europe’s Social Democratic parties, rubbing in the fact that they lack the power to implement the types of programs they’d prefer.
So one week ago, I’m at a dinner in Amsterdam and, inevitably, the topic of Greece and the euro comes up. A Dutch book editor goes into a tart little diatribe about how outrageous it is for Greeks to have gladly taken massive loans yet now bristle at being forced to repay at least part of the money. I ask if she thinks Dutch people resent that. The Dutch, along with the Germans and other “responsible” northerners, are the likely ones to have to make up for whatever countries like Greece don’t pay. “Yes, we resent it,” she says.
When historians look back at this benighted moment in time, they may find themselves puzzled by how we refused to take the necessary steps to improve our economic situation. Depending on what happens in coming months, they may find that the best solutions—aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus here in the United States, bank recapitalization and debt restructuring in the EU—were left on the table, while millions unnecessarily suffered. A footnote in that history may be the decision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac not to do more to help the housing market recover.
As the world witnesses the Syrian and Iranian regimes commit countless human rights abuses and, in Iran’s case, move ever closer to perfecting its nuclear capabilities, there’s a common belief that, short of military intervention, there’s nothing that can be done. As it turns out, however, that’s far from the truth—but the majority of the initiative must come from Europe. The European Union has thus far failed to confront the Iranian and Syrian regimes to the full extent of its ability.
Since Muammar Qaddafi was toppled in Tripoli, Saddam Hussein’s fall in Baghdad eight years ago and 1,800 miles away has framed much of the way many think about it. Global leaders, reporters, experts, and even Libyan officials have explicitly argued that Libya will not become another Iraq. This is particularly emphasized when addressing oil and natural gas, which not only dominate Libya’s economy but also are important to the global economy.
I take the liberty of suggesting that you read a speech given yesterday by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the U.N. General Assembly. Netanyahu has been unlucky in the treatment of his remarks for a quarter century. He has been even more unlucky in the treatment of his offers to the Palestinian people to start the peace process which they, alas, have refused to do. An article by Neil MacFarquhar and Steven Lee Myers in the Times projects Dame Catherine Ashton, the “foreign minister” of the European Union, as the leading light in the diplomacy of Europe towards Israel/Palestine.
On Thursday, President Obama issued a long overdue statement calling for regime change in Syria, declaring that the “time has come for President Bashar Assad to step aside.” But will that call to action amount to anything in practice? The gestures that Obama has made, including ending the U.S. import of Syrian petroleum products—totaling some 6,000 barrels per day—are little more than symbolic changes of policy.
One of the consistent features of the gay rights movement over the past five decades has been a belief in progress: Members of the gay community and their allies have insisted that, over time, attitudes about homosexuality will only change for the better. In part, this conviction is based on the power of moral suasion, but it also relies on sheer demographics: Younger people tend to be more supportive of gay rights.