The Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance—OFDA as it is known universally—is the department within the U.S. Agency for International Development that specializes in emergency relief, whether immediately, in response to natural disasters, or with long-running crises that have created large numbers of refugees or internally displaced people. Established more than 40 years ago, OFDA now has annual budget of $1.03 billion, which, while it is only a little more than 5 percent of the total USAID budget, makes it by far the best-funded emergency relief agency in the world.
The best way to understand North Korea is to think of it not as a traditional nation-state, but as a nuclear-armed organized crime family, albeit one that will soon find itself in need of a new boss.
It came. It went. It vanished without a trace. Last week America’s secretary of state appeared before what passes in Washington for a gathering of the great and good and announced that a “new American Moment” had arrived. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton (and her hopelessly pedestrian speechwriters), the secretary’s effort to brand our age didn’t take. The duration of the new American Moment did not extend beyond the peroration of her eminently forgettable speech. The temptation to pass quietly over Clinton’s performance and move on is strong—but should be resisted.
Did America overreact to September 11? In a recent column in Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria answered that with an emphatic and mournful “yes.” In Mr. Zakaria’s telling, we’ve squandered billions of dollars heedlessly feeding our national security bureaucracies, which hardly provide us, as the French nicely put it, a very good rapport qualité-prix. Worse, we’ve created an intrusive, abrasive, civil-rights-mauling security and intelligence apparatus that “now touches every aspect of American-life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism.” Mr.
Finally! A sense of urgency about Sudan. In a major foreign policy address on September 8, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the country as a "ticking time bomb." Yet it may already be too late. The “bomb” has been ticking for over five and a half years, and neither the Bush administration nor the Obama administration has been willing to devote the appropriate attention to defuse it. Self-determination referenda are scheduled for early January 2011, in both Southern Sudan and the contested border enclave of Abyei.
In the next few days—perhaps Thursday—the Korean Workers’ Party will begin its national conference, the first since 1966. The meeting, according to state media, will “mark a meaningful chapter in the history of our party.” Some reports indicate that the gathering already started on Monday, with the registration of participants. The event, the third in the history of North Korea, is the result of a national mass mobilization. South Korean sources say military units have been converging on Pyongyang, presumably to take part in a show of might.
Toward the end of Defying Hitler, his extraordinary memoir of the rise of Nazism in Germany, Sebastian Haffner describes how the Nazis had “made all Germans everywhere into comrades.” This, he argued, had been a moral catastrophe. This emphatically was not because comradeship was never a good thing. To the contrary, as Haffner was at pains to insist, it was a great and necessary comfort and help for people who had to live under unbearable, inhuman conditions, above all in war.
On both sides of the Atlantic, it has been an uncomfortable summer for immigrant groups. Here in the United States there have been the quarrels over the "Ground Zero Mosque," “anchor babies,” and Arizona’s new illegal immigrant bill (not to mention yet more calls for the deportation of our “Muslim” president to his “native” Kenya by the surprisingly large proportion of the Republican Party that seems to have taken up permanent residence on Planet Zorg).
This is the summer we began calling Afghanistan “America’s longest war.” The new label has produced a dissent or two, since it assumes that the Vietnam war didn’t even start until Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 (at which point American soldiers had been dying in Vietnam for at least three years). But the “longest war” designation isn’t intended to resolve nitpicky historical arguments. Its real point is to get both wars—Afghanistan and Vietnam alike—firmly categorized in our minds as long, hard, unwinnable slogs.
The Iraq war? Fuggedaboudit. “Now, it is time to turn the page.” So advises the commander-in-chief at least. “[T]he bottom line is this,” President Obama remarked last Saturday, “the war is ending.” Alas, it’s not. Instead, the conflict is simply entering a new phase. And before we hasten to turn the page—something that the great majority of Americans are keen to do—common decency demands that we reflect on all that has occurred in bringing us to this moment.