Bruce Jentleson and Steven Weber's November/December 2008 cover story for FP, "America's Hard Sell," described the collapse of 50 years of U.S. foreign policy assumptions -- that democracy, capitalism, and Western values were key to peace and prosperity worldwide -- and argued, presciently, that America had to learn to compete in the marketplace of ideas against many other forceful and skeptical players. Now the authors -- Jentleson is a professor of political science at Duke University and Weber the director of the Institute of International Studies at Berkeley -- have expanded their piece into a book for Harvard University Press, due out next week. The End of Arrogance makes a strong case for the end of the hegemony of American ideas in the foreign-policy sphere, examines what a more complex and diverse set of influences could create in terms of a future world order, and offers some important advice on how America can keep up in a more competitive world: "It's when dominance gives way to influence that genuine leadership comes to the fore," the authors say. Check it out.
Think you pay too much for prescription drugs? An interesting study released today in PLoS Medicine, an online journal, offers a bit of global perspective: For tens of millions of people around the world, buying a basic drug like the antibiotic amoxicillin is a road straight to poverty.
The authors of the report took the cost of four basic drugs used to treat fairly ordinary conditions -- diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and bacterial infection. Using pricing information from 16 lower- and middle-income countries, they calculated how poverty rates would rise after patients purchased the drugs. The results, while not terribly surprising, do provide a blockbuster portrayal of what we've long known anecdotally. Buying brand name amoxicillin, for example, would push an additional 34 percent of Uganda's population into poverty levels of less than $1.25 a day. Even middle-income Indonesia would see an additional 39 percent of its population become poor from purchasing the drugs.
What's to be done? One answer has been the creation of consortiums to donate and subsidize the purchase of drugs, but that system isn't without drawbacks either. Another forthcoming study, one of whose authors is FP contributor Roger Bate, finds that corruption in the donated drug industry sees a solid percentage (6.5 percent in the study) of the anti-malarials sold off onto the market, rather than going to the government clinics where they were sent.
Of course in many ways, these studies are two sides of the same coin. Medicines are too expensive for their consumers in many a country -- and hence, the profit from selling them is (in relative terms) enough to entice people to put their medicine up on the black market. Want one more externality? Fake drugs. Patients in desperate need of a pill are susceptible to the temptation of a cheaper version -- even if it's not guaranteed to be real.
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Last night, my best friend and I made a toast. Our generation has lived its entire adult life under the Iraq war. And everything -- from the way that we see global affairs, multilateral cooperation, conflict, and politics -- has been shaped by that conflict.
What that has meant for our generation, the late 20-somethings who were old enough to see their peers, family members, and many other young soldiers disappear into war, has of course varied from person to person. But here are some observations about how Iraq has colored the way we look at the world.
1) We are starry-eyed multilateralists. For those of us who were just learning what activism meant when the war was launched, the lead-up to the Iraq War in the U.N. Security Council was front and center. I vividly remember Hans Blix's speeches before the panel; I remember Colin Powell's presentation as if it was yesterday. And I also remember the devastating critique of America launched in a speech by Kofi Annan, who at that point spoke for much of the world when he said that Washington had pushed too hard and too fast. So as a result, my generation has grown up respecting the United Nations, seeing it (and institutions like it) as offering a more just world. That's one reason, I believe, that the Save Darfur movement has gained so much momentum and was partially responsible for getting a peacekeeping mission authorized for western Sudan back in 2007. We are a generation of idealistic multilateralists -- and despite its flaws, we want our country to work with the U.N.
2) We care about civilian casualties. Credit this one to the countless scholars, journalists, and writers who have chronicled what it meant to be an Iraqi living through the Iraq war. But credit it also to Abu Ghraib prison, where we all saw the worst of war. And to the renewed emphasis on winning hearts and minds that American learned the hard way when Iraq and Afghanistan took turns for the worst.
If this observation is right, my generation could reshape public perception of warfare. For most of history, conflicts have been judged by the toll taken on one's own force with less regard for the local population. I don't think that pattern can hold. Wasn't anyone else struck by the fact that about 4,400 U.S. troops perished in Iraq -- and 100,000 Iraqi civilians did? Plus there's the 2 million refugees who have fled. That's not collateral damage; it's primary damage.
3) We don't like haters. September 11 showed us for the first time that there are people who hate America. But the aftermath has also taught us that aggression can make more trouble than it solves. And as such, we want leaders who take the high road -- who speak calmly and understand the diversity of both our country and our world. But speaking isn't enough; we want activist presidents who go out into the world to seek change -- and aren't afraid to admit if and where they were wrong.
4) We are used to thinking of America on the decline. My generation is in many ways the "rise of the rest" generation. The splits in the Security Council were just the beginnings of the decline of American hegemony in the world. Now there are economic signs (a whopping unemployment rate), military signs (we finished in Iraq but didn't really win), and moral signs (granted I haven't been around Washington for terribly long, but do you remember the last time Congress was so divided?) But more than that, my generation has watched the rise of China and India. We've been abroad and we've seen the momentum that a country like Poland or Chile or Brazil has captured. And when we come home, that's missing.
Of course, I am but a subset of my demographic group, and no one authorized me to speak on behalf of my peers. But like the generation that grew up in Vietnam, we will be the Iraq generation. What that means is not yet clear, but it begins now. It's day one of life with no Iraq War.
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Want evidence that the government in Somalia -- a country that tops the 2010 Failed States Index -- needs desperate help? Allow me to show you the money. Literally.
According to the Annual Financial Report released by the office of the Prime Minister today, Somalia's budget in the fiscal year 2009 was just over $11 million. (The budget of Minneapolis Minnesota, by contrast, is $1.4 billion.) The two largest sources of revenue collected were customs duties from the main Mogadishu port ($6.2 million) and exit fees from the airport ($351,920). Taxes couldn't be collected due to security. The government recieved $2.875 million in bilateral aid -- the largest total, $1.6 million coming from Libya (the United States gave just $25,000 -- about the equivalent of a very entry-level staffer's annual income.)
Bad. News. But where the situation really comes home is in the line items: While $9.8 million of the country's $11 million was spent on salaries and wages, they are hardly anything to write home about. The president's chief of staff earns $2,250 a year. The governor of the central bank earns $1,000. And $325,000 of the $501,000 that covers the Prime Minister and President's offices goes to travel. Wages in the military and other defense roles account for $6 million (The Economist recently estimated that it costs $1 million to keep one U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for a year.)
Of course, there are other ways that the government is getting help -- ways that won't show up on a budget like this: African Union peacekeepers, for example, and U.S. training programs for their soldiers in Uganda. But still, this is pretty incredible stuff. Even Liberia had a budget of $80 million to work with after its civil war. And it wasn't actively trying fight an insurgency.
Meanwhile, Islamist militant group al Shabab is, I'm gonna guess, far better resourced (alas, I can't confirm this one since rebel groups don't put out financial statements -- props to Somalia's PM.)
The result is literally deadly. Which raises a frustration that the Somali government undoubtedly has: the international community helped put together this experiment in government, but there's less buck behind making it work. Not that this is easy; corruption is rumored rampant among government staff. Then again, you would have to pay me a lot more than $1,000 to be the central banker of Somalia... Not saying it justifies corruption, but it's also no Madoff affair.
Ahem, for context -- Somalia's $11 million budget is ....
- 20 times smaller than the 2010 budget of Topeka, Kansas
- A mere 1/2 of Derek Jeter's 2010 salary
- 890 times smaller than Starbucks' 2009 annual revenue
- About equal to the budget of "High School Musical 3"
- About equal to the amount that the Scottsdale, Arizona school district had to cut from its budget this year.
- But good news -- you could start between two and three franchises of the Hard Rock Cafe with that amount!
On August 27, tomorrow, there's going to be a big, big party in Kenya. The date marks the signing of a new Constitution, and everyone from Desmond Tutu to Obama has been invited. "People are calling [this occasion] the rebirth -- people are calling it the second republic," Kenyan ambassador to the United States, Elkanah Odembo, told me on Tuesday. "Heads of state have been invited, including President Obama [who] has received an invitation to attend the signing."
Kenyans approved the new Constitution overwhelmingly in a referendum on August 5. The new code will, among other things, move the country toward a presidential system and decentralize the civil service. Most analysts believe that the new framework will help consolidate stability in the country. Obama applauded the moves as well, releasing a congratulatory statement on the occasion: "This was a significant step forward for Kenya's democracy, and the peaceful nature of the election was a testament to the character of the Kenyan people. My Administration has been pleased to support Kenya's democratic development and the Kenyan people."
Which begs a question: Obama was said to have visited Ghana in praise of its good governance. This is arguably one of the most impressive democratic moves that the Kenya government has taken in decades. Will Obama show up in support?
The answer is not likely; Obama's on vacation. But says John Maina, President of the Diaspora association, Kenyan Community Abroad Obama has been supportive in other ways. In an e-mail to FP, Maina declined to comment on whether the president should attend. "I believe President Barack Obama will send a message of hope and unity to our leaders and country. ... The U.S. government played an important role during the making of this constitution and I sure her blessings will not be forgotten by Kenyans."
There's reason to believe that this will be literally the celebration of a lifetime in Kenya, whether Obama goes or not. "The level of excitement of the people who were in the country in 1963 when the British flag was brought down and the Kenyan flag went up -- it is that level of excitement [now in Nairobi]," said Odembo. Also in attendance will be at least 10 African heads of state, including the presidents of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. And maybe one of these days, Obama too.
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Kenya's new ambassador to the United States, Elkanah Odembo, has a message to the United States: Ignore Somalia to your own peril. For the last half-decade, Somalia's near-anarchy has taken a particularly pernicious turn toward a brand of Islamist fundamentalism not seem since the Taliban. "You can’t make this investment in Afghanistan and Pakistan and not worry about where the terrorists are going to," warns Odembo. "And the one place that we know for certain they are going to is Somalia."
There's no doubt about it; Somalia is getting worse, not better. Since 2006, the Islamist militia al Shabab, and several other similar groups, have gained control of the majority of the territory. Just yesterday, Shabab stormed a hotel in Mogadishu and killed 30 -- eight of them members of Parliament. Today the fighting is roaring once again. Al Shabab has allied themselves with al Qaeda and vowed to wage regional jihad, taking vengence out of countries who have taken action in Somalia. And low and behold, earlier on July 11, the group claimed responsibility for what would be its first international attack: two bomb blasts in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, retaliation, al Shabab said, for Ugandan peacekeepers in Mogadishu. "The attack drove the point home that al Shabaab are not just a group of unhappy militants making life difficult for the federal government in Mogadishu; they are a problem for the region and therefore for the whole world," says Odembo.
Since that attack, however, Washington -- and the international community more broadly -- have turned to a African Union peacekeeping mission in Mogadishu for answers. More troops are now promised from a number of countries, boosting the ranks of the now somewhat helpless and fraught mission.
It won't work, Odembo cautioned. "It cannot be this piecemeal, so and so, send us 50 troops, so and so, send us 70 troops, so and so send us a bit of money; so and so, send us a bit of equipment."
What does he suggest? Only one thing will work: seeking out the militants and fighting them. "From the figures that I have, we’re talking about a group of 3,000 or at the most 4,000 individuals," he says. "So if the int’l community is really serious about going after them, then you need to see the kind of resources that have been deployed in Afghanistan, and say let’s go after them."
That will be a hard sell -- it's already a hard sell in Afghanistan, let alone Somalia. But Kenya of all places knows what it's like to have a failed state just next door. The country has watched Somalia dip into seemingly unending chaos over the last two decades -- and it's felt the effects. Today, no less than half a million refugees from Somalia crowd Kenya's northern tip. So it might be worth a good listen: Somalia won't be easily brushed away.
A big brouhaha erupted yesterday when an official from the United Nations Environment Program claimed that 90 percent of the oil spills in the Ogoniland region of Nigeria's Niger Delta were caused by oil bunkering and theft; a mere 10 percent were attributed to Shell, the company that worked there for decades. That would be a complete coup d'etat for the oil company, if true; they were kicked out of Ogoniland for a poor environmental record and alleged cooperation with the Nigerian government in the killing of environmental activists back in the early 1990s.
Turns out, that 90 percent was in fact the government's figure, not that of the United Nations. The U.N. Environment Program is currently undertaking its own assesment of who-spilled-how-much, the agency clarified in a press release today. The goal is to eventually assess the damage in the region and finds ways to clean it up. (For more on ongoing ecological disasters, check out our list.)
So what would more likely stats look like? A press release from Amnesty International offers some interesting guidance, noting that "Between 1989 and 1994 Shell itself estimated that only 28 percent of oil spilt in the Niger Delta was caused by sabotage." Now, Amnesty says, Shell puts that number at 90 percent, like the government -- which is interesting, since they haven't operated in Ogoniland since 1993.
This is all a nice preview of just how contentious an issue the finger pointing will become. The issue is vital to determining who is liable to clean up the spills -- not least because Shell may soon return to Ogoniland. No matter what conclusion the authorities reach, rest assured that Shell will remain -- to the community -- a persona non grata.
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If you know anything about the Ebola virus, you're terrified by it. The disease, euphemistically dubbed a haemorrhagic fever, essentially causes one's innards to turn to mush, and blood begins to leak out of a patients eyes, nose, ears -- everywhere. It's only turned up sporadically in remote Africa in humans, but when it does, it has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent.
Think that sounds scary? How about this prospect: that disease engineered as bioweapon. Right. That's what the Department of Defense thought in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. So they have been researching drug therapy treatments ever since.
Yesterday, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and a private firm, AVI BioPharma, published the results of studies that show that their treatment does have a helpful effect in monkeys. That's a huge leap, particularly since the reserachers were given clearance to start limited human testing. The partnership won a Defense Department grant of up to $291 million last month for that phase.
It's an interesting reminder of just how many technological advances have come out of such army research -- and who knows, maybe more disease treatments will be down the pipeline. Now, if only they would start researching malaria . . .
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