Commentary

How to Help the Middle East

BEIRUT – In Lebanon today, all the symptoms of the Middle East’s current turmoil are visible. Newly arrived refugees from Syria and Iraq are joining Palestinian refugees who have long been here. The country hasn’t had a president for two years, as rival political factions, reflecting the rising enmity between their Iranian and Saudi Arabian backers, are weakening domestic governance. Political corruption runs rampant. The garbage doesn’t always get picked up.

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The Strategic Logic of the Islamic State

LONDON – The so-called Islamic State (ISIS) continues to pose a serious challenge not just to the Middle East, but to the entire world. While the efforts of a US-led coalition have weakened ISIS, destroying the group has proved difficult – and it has continued to inspire attacks in faraway places, from Brussels to Bangladesh.

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Refugees and Rural Poverty

ROME – Development experts and policymakers understandably focus on migration to urban areas and the need for sustainable urbanization. But they should not lose sight of the dramatic changes happening in rural areas, which are too often ignored.

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The Economic Trend Is Our Friend

BERKELEY – These are days of grave disillusionment with the state of the world. Sinister forces of fanatical, faith-based killing – something that we in the West, at least, thought had largely ended by 1750 – are back. And they have been joined by and are reinforcing forces of nationalism, bigotry, and racism that we thought had been largely left in the ruins of Berlin in 1945.

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Reconciling with Sykes-Picot

NEW YORK – This month marks the centenary of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the secret British-French accord that launched a decade-long series of adjustments to the borders of the post-Ottoman Middle East. Most commentary on the anniversary has been negative, suggesting that the agreement bears considerable blame for the frequency and durability of the region’s conflicts.

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The Case Against Cash

CAMBRIDGE – The world is awash in paper currency, with major country central banks pumping out hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth each year, mainly in very large denomination notes such as the $100 bill. The $100 bill accounts for almost 80% of the US’s stunning $4,200 per capita cash supply. The ¥10,000 note (about $100) accounts for roughly 90% of all Japan’s currency, where per capita cash holdings are almost $7,000. And, as I have been arguing for two decades, all this cash is facilitating growth mainly in the underground economy, not the legal one.

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 Global Growth – Still Made in China

NEW HAVEN – Despite all the hand-wringing over the vaunted China slowdown, the Chinese economy remains the single largest contributor to world GDP growth. For a global economy limping along at stall speed – and most likely unable to withstand a significant shock without toppling into renewed recession – that contribution is all the more important. 

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Brexit and the Future of Europe

PARIS – No one yet knows when the United Kingdom will present an agenda for negotiating its withdrawal from the European Union. But it is already clear that Brexit will reshape the map of Europe. And, especially given Britain’s stunning unpreparedness for the consequences of its own decision – its strategy, priorities, and even its timetable remain uncertain – that means that the EU must start figuring out how to make the best of it. Here’s how.

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The Many Extremes of Donald Trump

WASHINGTON, DC – Much attention in the United States and elsewhere is focused on whether US presidential candidate Donald Trump will shift away from the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-rational rhetoric that carried him to the Republican Party nomination. Some of his advisers are reportedly recommending that he move toward “mainstream” Republican positions, such as those held by the leadership of the House of Representatives.

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America’s True Role in Syria

NEW YORK – Syria’s civil war is the most dangerous and destructive crisis on the planet. Since early 2011, hundreds of thousands have died; around ten million Syrians have been displaced; Europe has been convulsed with Islamic State (ISIS) terror and the political fallout of refugees; and the United States and its NATO allies have more than once come perilously close to direct confrontation with Russia.

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