Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, is legendary for his lack of manners. When his country assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2009, Klaus—a stocky and vigorous man with close-cropped white hair and a fastidiously trimmed moustache—got into a scrap with a group of European politicians because he had refused to fly the EU flag above his office in Prague Castle. Nicolas Sarkozy pronounced the snub “hurtful,” yet Klaus was anything but contrite. Instead, he used his first address to the European Parliament to compare the EU to the Soviet Union.
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.
Sometimes, it seems like the United States is more interested in giving aid to Egypt than Egypt is to receive it. This year, for example, Egypt objected to a $250 million civilian aid package if USAID funded unregistered NGOs. Many human rights groups in the country have trouble receiving official sanction from the Egyptian government and thus require outside support to be effective. So, instead of standing firm, the Obama administration agreed to cut their USAID support, departing from U.S.
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan—Smiling in a conference room of her aging Soviet-era office suite, Roza Otunbayeva appeared confident—possibly for the first time in her short presidency. It was only two weeks after June 10, when ethnic violence had begun engulfing the south of her country, but Kyrgyzstan's diminutive leader, a bespectacled former diplomat with a bob cut and the good-natured manner of a high-school principal, announced that the bloodshed had failed to discourage people from participating in a nationwide referendum.
The tight cluster of canvas tents filled a dusty field just off the highway that cuts through the city of Nowshera, the largest city in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, about a 90-minute drive from the capital Islamabad. Doctors in white coats tested children’s temperatures and blood pressures, looking for the signs of water-borne diseases, from acute diarrhea to potentially deadly cholera. Their mothers sat nearby, batting away the flies.
Last month, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant with additional charges against Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir: three counts of genocide in Darfur. It was an important historical moment. Never before had the court leveled genocide charges at a current head of state.
Should Jerusalem bring its bomb out of the basement? Israel, for at least the moment, is the sole possessor of atomic weapons in the Middle East, with an arsenal that now includes approximately 200 warheads. But it is also the only nuclear-armed nation to hide its cache behind a façade of official silence–neither confirming nor denying its existence. Iran’s mounting nuclear capability arguably demands a reconsideration of this stance. Explicitly announcing its nuclear status would have its advantages. It would upgrade Israel’s deterrent.
It is undeniable that U.S. prospects in Afghanistan look bleak. Over 100 NATO soldiers were killed in June—more than during any month of the war to date. No European government and increasingly no American one can sustain such losses for long. At the same time, senior U.S. officials who handle Afghanistan and Pakistan policy have been clashing with one another, both in Washington and Kabul. Nor is there a reliable partner on the ground. President Hamid Karzai has presided over corruption and a striking lack of progress in development.
Naubad, Afghanistan—In a wheat field in northern Afghanistan this spring, beneath the Cretaceous convulsions of the Hindu Kush mountains, a village elder named Ajab Khan shared with me the unsentimental math of his region’s farmers. An acre of wheat, Khan said, yields $400. An acre of opium poppies yields $20,000. The people of his village, Naubad, had grown exclusively poppies until 2004, when the government of Hamid Karzai asked them to stop.
From a policy perspective, I am not sure there is much to say about America’s war in Afghanistan that goes beyond the blindingly obvious. The invasion in 2001 had an intelligible goal—to destroy a regime that had become a kind of condominium between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, cemented in fine medieval style, according to some reports, by a marriage between one of Osama bin Laden’s daughters and one of Mullah Omar’s sons.