Special Feature

Public Interest versus Self Interest in Western and African Politics

This article starts with a disclaimer that it is totally my opinion that has nothing to do with where I work/who I work for. It is not to hurt the sentiments of anyone. So, please don’t feel offended.


The study of Comparative Politics established the fact that, what is common to all human societies is the impossibility to aloof interest from politics. A careful analysis of Prof. Harold Lasswell conceptualization of power (“Who Gets What, When, How”) as one of the keys thematic in comparative politics will convince you that Politics by itself, is driven by interest to either serve and ensure the common good of the society or for personal aggrandizement. By this, it suggests that interest by itself is never repulsive in politics. Against this background, this article meticulously examines public interest versus self-interest in Western and African Politics.

As the concept implies, public interest in politics connotes the common concerns that are critical to the well-being or welfare of the general public or citizens. It varies from country to country. It is what the people want actually not necessarily what politicians want or desire. It reflects the security, economic, social, political, cultural concerns of the citizens. It is priority or will of the citizens. For example, citizens’ desire for stemming the ties of corruption because of its implication for their welfare or well-being has become one of the old aged concerns in post-independent Africa.

A careful analysis of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke contribution to the social contract theory explains the root of public interest in politics. According to them, when the government fails to secure their natural rights (Locke) or satisfy the best interests of society (called the "general will" in Rousseau), citizens can withdraw their obligation to obey, or change the leadership through elections or other means including, when necessary, violence. The best interests of the society that explain the existence of government validate the root of public interest. In other words, the essence for entering into politics is to strive to meet the expectation or satisfy the will and concerns of the citizens or members of the political community.

Self-interest as implies in politics connotes personal aggrandizement as the reason for desiring political offices. It could be strategic to the quest for personal wealth, fame, power, service to humanity, etc. It can be repulsive and good in politics. For example, in order to judiciously distribute resources in the interest of humanity, politicians will never succeed without power. Remember, power in politics is critical to the resources of societies. If politicians gained fame as a result of servicing humanity, adherence to the will of the society, it becomes a political dividend though personal. If politicians used power against the will of the society, it becomes repulsive. Consequently, society withdraws their obligation to obey, or change the leadership through elections or other means including, when necessary, violence.

In Western politics, it is observed that public interest has always been the priority. It triumphs over self-interest of politicians. Ask yourself, why Africans from time in memorial prefer living, studying or migrating to the Western countries despite their inevitable challenges? It is because the interests of their states or countries remain the ultimate concerns for their political actors? Isn’t true that their level of development bear attestation of public interests prioritized by their political actors or politicians?
Take for classic example the disputed election results in Florida between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000. It worth arguing that the interest of the America was more important than Al Gore. As defeated candidate, Al Gore was the first to congratulate Bush. If this situation has happened in Africa, the interest of the defeated candidate would have plunged the country into crisis as evidenced by the many post-election violence.

In Western politics, it is no doubt that politicians don’t benefit personally. Of course, by virtue of their positions, they arguably enjoy fame, prestige, lucrative salaries and incentives. Take for example, from 2009- 2014, U.S Congress earned $174,000 per annum. (Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia online Source) However, it can be argued that their personal interest or benefits will never be detrimental to public interest or the very society they belong to. They will never leave their countries to visit Africa for medical reasons neither face brain dream situation in which their citizens will migrate to Africa for greener pasture.

Judging from post-independence politics evidenced by the dozen of arm conflicts that undermined development in Africa, it can be that public interests continue to be lips service by political actors. Unlike the West, the primary reason for entering politics and staying in office is typically strategic to money in African politics. Politicians rarely have it, and they all need it in. Take the case of contemporary politics in Liberia; some that were fortunate for political office never have money.

In contemporary African politics, the interest of politicians triumphs over the interest of their countries. For classic example, research revealed that most of the countries in Africa have the highest paid legislators but unwilling to address public health care concern evidenced by weak health facilities couple with constant strike actions by doctors’ demand for better salaries and incentives. Take the case of Kenya, it is widely known that Kenya has one of the highest paid legislators in Africa earning approximately $20,000 per month, can’t pay doctors. According to the World Health Organisation, Kenya has one doctor for every 5,000 people compared to 2.5 per 1,000 in the US and probably higher in Europe, Middle East and Far East. Take the case of Nigerian; According to data from the Economist 2015, Nigerian lawmakers at the time of the exchange rate would earn around $160,000 more than British MPs who make around $105,000 per annum. Moreover, in a country where millions live on less than two dollars daily and minimum wage is set at $90 a month, just like Kenya poor health care system, the average legislators’ pay is more than 50 times Nigeria‘s GDP per capita. Ironically, the President earns less than the lawmakers.

Take the case of Liberia; a country ravaged by fourteen years civil war that accounted for weak or poor health care system, very poor infrastructure development, Educational system engulfed by mess, etc. , each Representative receives over US$14,342.00 while each Senator gets US$15,424.33 monthly. This excludes other expenses done annually. Ironically, the least salary for a civil servants is about US 100.00 per month.

From the above examples, can you clearly rationalize that the interests of these politicians are far more important than public interests compare to politicians in the West?
Will you agree that it is never bad for law makers to earn what could be rationalized as lucrative salaries? Of course, stratification in every society is inherent. In other words, it is not wrong to increase law makers’ salaries. Just like some of their counterparts in the Western countries, they are honorable people. However, in the midst of pressing public concerns as referenced in the case of Kenya, Nigeria and Liberia in this article, it is doubtful for Western politicians to place their personal interest above the public interest. This is why their societies in terms of development in the interest of the public are far better than what we have in Africa. Regardless of the sources of their resources (whether exploit Africa or not), they never lost sight of the interest of their citizens in the distribution of scare resources.

Unlike the Western politics, it can be argued that concessions and contract are driven by the self-interests of Politicians in Africa. Consequently, they are termed bogus. According to a dispatch from Washington, D.C., African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank (WB) observation, natural resources contribute more than 20% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 22 resource-rich countries in Africa; however, they noted that fragility remains a major constraint on the extent to which the resources are contributing to equitable and sustainable development on the continent. Who else benefited from these concessions and contracts since it was not the public? The answer will definitely reflect on the law makers of these countries as required by their respective constitutions. Take the case of Liberia; according to the guardian online source, only two out of 68 contracts awarded by Liberian government since 2009 in sectors such as oil are compliant. According to the report published by the guardian, most of the logging permits covering one quarter of the Liberia were given out illegally.

In African politics, because the self-interests of politicians always triumphed over public interests, the continent will continue to grippe with the phenomenon of Brian Dream. The poor or lack of development crucial to the public interest caused by the self-interests of Politicians are the push factors for brain dream in Africa.

By Ambrues M. Nebo Sr.

THE SELENA MAPPY-POLSON’S OPINION AND THE FUTURE OF THE CODE OF CONDUCT

 

The case, Selena Mappy-Polson v. The Government of Liberia (Supreme Court of Liberia Opinion decided March 3, 2017) grew out of a Petition for Declaratory Judgment at the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for Bong County, Republic of Liberia; heard by the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia on July 18, 2016 and subsequently decided by the High Court on March 3, 2017. The Petitioner challenged the constitutionality of Sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the Code of Conduct Act of 2014; which constrained the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia, to articulate three distinct, significant, and fundamental principles of law, in our opinion.


The fundamental principles of law enunciated by the High Court in the Mappy-Polson’s opinion are not only germane to our contemporary body politic, but sin-qua-non to the development and elevation of our jurisprudence. Amongst them are 1) that the Code of Conduct Act of 2014 is constitutional, 2) that the right to vote is a fundamental right, though not explicitly recognized under Chapter three (Fundamental Rights) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia and 3) that appeals emanating from the Office of the Ombudsman must be taken to the Honorable Supreme Court en banc.

In delineating the constitutionality of the Code of Conduct Act of 2014, though a tight decision by the High Court (3 in favor and 2 against), His Honor, Justice Ja’neh speaking for the majority bloc of the Supreme Court held that ‘in the wisdom of the Legislature, the inclusion of Sections 5.1 and 5.2 in the Code of Conduct Act were compelling necessity to ensuring curtailment of wanton abuse of public resources and misuse of public offices or positions to acquire undue electoral advantage. Not having been able to find any law upon which we could rely to question the wisdom of the Legislature in this regard, we hold that the Code of Conduct Act, whether in whole or in part, does not violate the Liberian Constitution’.Selena Mappy-Polson v. The Government of Liberia, opinion of the Supreme Court of Liberia, decided March 3, 2017.

The petitioner went on to make another strong argument that the code of conduct violates her equal protection rights under the Constitution of Liberia and as such, the code should be declared unconstitutional.

In disposing of her argument on Equal Protection, the Supreme Court relied on Article 11 (c) of the constitution of Liberia. The court said ‘this Court must emphasize that the organic law of this land guarantees equality and equal treatment of all persons under the law. Article 11 (c) of the Liberian Constitution (1986), assuring this sovereign guarantee, speaks the following language: ‘All persons are equal before the law and are therefore entitled to equal protection of the law’. Article 18 of the Constitution also directs: all Liberian citizens shall have equal opportunity for work and employment regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin, or political affiliation, and shall be entitled to equal pay for equal work.

Citing the constitutional provisions supra, the court also relied on two case laws to quash the Petitioner’s argument. The court relied on a landmark opinion delivered by Former Chief Justice Gloria Musu-Scott’s Bench captioned Republic of Liberia versus The Leadership of the Liberian National Bar Association, et al (40 LLR 635 , 2001) and harmonized a definitional standard set by the United States Supreme Court on Equal Protection in the Miller v. Johnson case, 515 U.S. 900 (1995).

In elucidating Equal Protection in the Republic of Liberia versus The Leadership of the Liberian National Bar Association’s case, the court stated that: Equal Protection of the law means that no person shall be subjected to any restriction in the acquisition of property, the enjoyment of personal liberty, and the pursuit of happiness which do not generally affect others; that no person shall be liable to others or greater burdens and charges than such as are laid upon others; that no greater or different punishment is enforced against a person for a violation of the law.

Consistent with the General Construction Law, Title 15 of the Liberian Code of Laws Revised or the Reception Statute, in citing the Miller v. Johnson’s opinion delivered by the Federal Supreme Court of the United States of America, the Supreme Court of Liberia referenced the case and stated that equal protection guarantee is the guiding principle that all persons shall be treated alike under like circumstances and conditions, both in privileges conferred and in the liabilities imposed.

For the legal reasons cited, the Supreme Court of Liberia held that ‘ in this jurisdiction the Supreme Court of Liberia cannot and will not declare an Act of the Legislature as unconstitutional unless the Court is convinced beyond the slightest uncertainty that the legislation is patently in conflict with the constitution’.Selena Mappy-Polson v. The Government of Liberia, opinion of the Supreme Court of Liberia, decided March 3, 2017.

On the second fundamental principle of law expounded by the Honorable Supreme Court of Liberia in the Selena Mappy-Polson’s opinion, the court held that the right to vote is a fundamental right, though not explicitly recognized under Chapter three (Fundamental Rights) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

In making a determination of this sacred fundamental right, the court said ‘as important as the right to vote is, the Liberian Constitution (1986) does not specifically list the right to vote under those expressly listed as fundamental. Id. This is evidenced by the omission of the right to vote from Chapter 3, Articles 11 – 25 of the Liberian Constitution. Nowhere in the Fundamental Rights Section of our Constitution is the right to vote mentioned. This leaves this Court to wonder, as far as Liberian laws are concerned, whether the right to vote could be a sanctioned fundamental right? By omitting the right to vote from Chapter 3 of the Constitution, one may ponder whether the framers of the Constitution intended or did not intend to recognize right to vote as amongst the fundamental rights in the Republic?

Justice Ja’neh speaking for the court said, we hasten to mention that though not expressly included as a fundamental right in Chapter 3, the right to vote as a fundamental right can and should be implied from the terms of Article 77 (b), which is consistent with rule in varying common law jurisdictions and enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, already ratified by Liberia’. Id.

The last principle of law laid down by the Honorable Supreme Court in the Mappy-Polson’s opinion is that appeals emanating from the Office of the Ombudsman must be taken to the Honorable Supreme Court en banc.

The Code of Conduct Act did not explicitly touch on appeals from the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman is a statutory derivative of Part 12 of the Code of Conduct Act of 2014. The office is to act as a forum of first instant and exercise original jurisdiction in investigating breach of the Code of Conduct Act, consistent with provisions of the code.

In the opinion of the court, the Supreme Court held that ‘all appeals from decisions or rulings entered by the Ombudsman on questions of eligibility, imposition of sanctions, etc., arising from the Code of Conduct Act, shall lie before this Court en banc for hearing and determination as required by law. Selena Mappy-Polson v. The Government of Liberia, opinion of the Supreme Court of Liberia, decided March 3, 2017.

The Supreme Court of Liberia concluded by stating emphatically that, ‘the objective function of the Code of Conduct Law is to divorce the fiduciary duty of trust, integrity and loyalty owed by public officials to the people of Liberia from their personal desires to contest elections at the expense of public resources. The court further said it ‘sees no other least restrictive means of preventing abuse of public resources by public officials than requiring these officials to relinquish access and control of those resources within a reasonable time period of departure from those public offices as a prior eligibility requirement to contest in public elections’. Id.

With all of the controversies and rumors surrounding the Code of Code Act of 2014 and the latest Supreme Court of Liberia’s opinion on the constitutionality of the code, the Supreme Court of Liberia is on the side of the Law of the land, consistent with Article 90 (a, b, & c) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.

The opinion in the Selena Mappy-Polson’s case has edified and strengthened the Code on Conduct Act on one hand, and has reinvigorated and resuscitated all of the statutory provisions within the code on the other hand. This opinion has also put our democracy on the right trajectory of an equal playing field and put an immediate end to the grand old ploy of presidential appointees possessing undue advantage over others in the process of competing for elected positions in government by using government resources to support their campaigns.

The future of the Code of Conduct Act is promising and bright, that is why the code has prescribed a reasonable time frame for appointed officials of government to resign either two years (for non-tenured positions) or three years (for tenured positions) if they intend to participate in national elections. But above all, the law is the law; it bends for no man (citizen).

 

BY: ALVIN WEAGAR YELLOWAY

SENATOR WEAH, CDC COALITION & MR. CHARLES TAYLOR WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS? OUR THOUGHTS

In his press statement (Front Page Africa, March 16, 2017), Senator George Weah said “I spoke to Taylor recently during one of our Coalition meetings . . . and said Mr. President, how are you . . . I must give him due courtesy and say hello”.


What are the political Implications?

Although “there was no law broken” by the telephone conversation between two prominent, Liberian citizens, Mr. Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia and Honorable George Weah, Montserrado County Senator, but this article takes reflective look at the recent facts of history concerning these honorable gentlemen for possible answer to the question.

Firstly, Mr. Charles McArthur Taylor is not just another “Joe Blow” citizen of Liberia, but the convicted-felon serving a 50-year prison term in maximum security facility in the United Kingdom for political Crimes against Humanity, committed in the sister Republic of sierra Leone while serving as President of Liberia.

Simultaneously, in Liberia, there were, also, political crimes against humanity committed by the Charles Taylor-led NPFL/INPFL in which not only an estimated quarter of million Liberians were killed, massive looting, theft of public/private properties and mind-boggling destruction of the nation’s meagre infrastructure, but also, that known perpetrators of these crimes are still running around in Liberia and the world community with characteristic impunity, as ordained “Honorables”.

Meanwhile, the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) “roadmap” enacted by Liberian Law for administration of Transitional Justice - trial and punishment of the guilty with amnesty given to those such amnesty is due - in the post-conflict, democratic environment, has (that TRC Roadmap) been, and is now, gathering dust in the offices of the “Honorables”.

Moreover, there are hundreds of millions of Liberians displaced in neighboring and distant countries’ refugee camps, with millions more who fled the Taylor-led atrocities and took up naturalized citizenships of foreign countries.

And secondly, comes the Honorable George Weah who is not only Montserrado County Senator, but also, declared candidate for president of Liberia for the third time, with claims to be leader of a grass-roots-based political party, the CDC. As Flag Bearer, he stood for President two times (2005 & 2011) and lost to Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on each occasion.

During the 2005 campaign, Mr. Weah was accused by a coalition of Liberians of being foreign citizen (the Republic of France). That issue, with many others, was handled with “kid gloves” by the-then NEC and swept under the rugs. In today’s third run campaign, Mr. Weah has been accused, by a member of his CDC and others, with photograph of a US passport, of being US citizen. That issue, again, was swept under the rugs by the Cllr. Korkoyah-led NEC, with the Counselor, himself, now stands accused of being US citizen by a prominent leader of a political party. There has been no response from the Counselor-Chairman of the NEC.

Due to lack of requisite political training, experience and political leadership finesse, the Soccer-legend, Mr. George Weah with CDC, sought alliances with the gurus – Lawyer/Diplomat/Politician, Cllr. Winston Tubman and Corporate Lawyer/Politician, Cllr. Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party. These alliances fizzled and the Soccer-legend-turned Politician withdrew to himself into the CDC, desperate for political power at all and any cost, apparently, including selling his soul to the devil.

Mr. George Weah was appointed Peace Ambassador and National Reconciliation Chairman by none other than his political opponent, two times, at the highest level, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia. He was given, reportedly, US $5 million for operations. In a MICAT press briefing, Mr. Weah declared that he will use international Soccer Stars to effect national reconciliation. Since then, we have heard nothing about national reconciliation until after Senator Weah’s celebrated, press-reported telephone contact with Mr. Charles Taylor.

The press reports quote Mr. Menikpake Dumoe, CDC Coalition Assistant Secretary for Press & Propaganda (who was probably present at Coalition meeting in which the telephone call to Mr. Taylor was made and he, Mr. Dumoe who, probably, gave the telephone device to Senator Weah) was quoted as saying, “the CDC leader’s (Senator Weah’s) communication with the former President . . . is a manifestation that the Coalition is ready to reconcile Liberia. Speaking with Charles Taylor . . . means that the Coalition for Democratic Change is ready to reconcile Liberians, no matter who they are or what they did; we are not going to go after anybody. We do not want war Crime Court to divide us . . .”

“Apparently desperate for political power”, Senator George Weah and the CDC Coalition are getting or have gotten into the shadow - socio-cultural, economic and political control/manipulation of a socially-rebellious, flamboyant play-boy, also political power & money addict and center-stage seeker, now an internationally-convicted political crime

criminal - by taking his (Mr. Charles Taylor’s) ex-wife for Vice Presidential running mate on the CDC Coalition ticket, with George Weah as president, maybe not long, but likely, Vice President.

The CDC Coalition’s (or Dumoe’s) Notion of Reconciliation

In the context of the Liberian, political community that experienced an illegal, armed conflict in which all of us, Liberians, an overwhelming majority, suffered the impact of Charles Taylor-led criminal “freedom fighters”, a tiny minority’s escapades of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens brutally tortured, maimed, raped and summarily executed, the families of the dead, loved ones, the living victims of this cruel adventure, with known perpetrators still walking around with impunity, a court of law is the proper, traditional approach for trial and punishment of the guilty as remedy for the dead, loved ones, living victims of the conflict. This approach is also traditional, moral house-cleaning that sends out the message, loud and clear, that no one is above the law.

The approach is, finally, national reconciliation, because it unites the people with security, once divided, and rehabilitates, with amnesty, perpetrators of human rights violations. Accordingly, Reconciliation, like the famous, South American dance, tango, (“takes two to tango”) takes two to be successful; that is, that it takes the coming together of the victim(s) of the wrongful acts (human rights violators) on the one hand, and the confessed, remorseful, guilty ones of the wrongful acts, on the other, come together, under the auspices of the national government to “settle the quarrel and re-establish friendly relations” – peaceful co-existence, mutual understanding, respect and cooperation - or national reconciliation.

But according to CDC Coalition Assistant Secretary for Press & Propaganda, the Coalition’s notion of Reconciliation is to do nothing, no War Crime Court, continue the process of impunity and most importantly, deliver the government to the leaders of the very same perpetrators of Liberia’s historic, very serious human rights violations. This approach is not an opposition to the out-going Government of Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, but “new wine in old bottle”, with the theme of “business as usual” and “stay the course”.

The only new scenario is that of Mr. Charles Taylor who, like the convicted and imprisoned Mafia Don, continues to run the affairs of Brotherhood from behind bars with iron-hand.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are that of the writer and not of the paper

 

L'Europe en manque de démocratie

MILAN – L'avenir de l'UE ne sera pas officiellement en jeu lors des élections qui viennent d'avoir lieu en Hollande et qui se tiendront prochainement en France, en Allemagne et en Italie, pourtant leur résultat pourrait être déterminant.


L'hostilité à l'égard de l'UE est plus répandue que jamais, ainsi que le montrent les campagnes électorales des insurgés populistes comme Geert Wilders en Hollande et Marine Le Pen en France. Mais les signes d'une renaissance ou d'une réinvention de l'UE apparaissent maintenant - par exemple dans les prises de position de Manuel Macron en France ou de Martin Schulz en Allemagne.

Pour être convaincantes, les campagnes favorables à l'UE doivent aborder les problèmes liés à l'euro. Adoptée par 19 des 28 membres de l'UE (27 après le Brexit), la monnaie commune est devenue une source majeure de désillusion quant à l'intégration européenne. Bien que la crise de l'euro sous sa forme aiguë soit derrière nous, la zone euro reste une construction fragile. En cas de nouvel épisode de volatilité, les doutes sur sa survie pourraient réapparaître rapidement.

A la racine de la fragilité de l'euro se trouvent les défauts de conception du traité de Maastricht qui exige que les membres de la zone euro aient la même politique monétaire et des politiques budgétaires qui se plient à des règles budgétaires communes. Mais la simple existence de règles budgétaires s'est avérée insuffisante en l'absence de mécanisme européen chargé de veiller à leur respect.

Si cette situation perdure, il y aura toujours le risque que les pays les plus faibles de la zone euro se surendettent, obligeant les pays les plus forts à choisir entre une aide financière en leur faveur, politiquement inacceptable, et la sortie de la zone euro des pays les plus endettés, avec le risque d'une instabilité qui pourrait remettre en question le projet européen. Une victoire des forces pro-européennes au cours des élections à venir pourrait être l'occasion - peut-être la dernière - de procéder aux réformes indispensables du traité de Maastricht.

Ces réformes seront difficiles à mettre en œuvre, car les Européens devront accepter une remise en question des bases de la zone euro. Cette dernière devrait inclure une autorité politique disposant d'une légitimité démocratique au lieu de reposer sur le simple engagement des pays membres à respecter des normes de gouvernance économique.

En l'absence d'union politique, on peut comprendre que la gouvernance de la zone euro se limite à ce seul engagement. C'est dans la logique de l'indépendance de la banque centrale : des responsables non élus sont tenus de se conformer à un ensemble de règles strictes, telles que le respect d'une cible donnée en matière de taux d'inflation. Mais cette logique n'a pas fonctionné pour la zone euro, car ces règles n'ont pas suffi à éviter les pressions en faveur d'une politique redistributive dont les électeurs ne veulent pas.

Maintenant que cela est évident, des voix s'élèvent pour que le marché joue un rôle plus important pour faire respecter la discipline. Ce point de vue s'exprime par exemple dans les propositions en faveur d'un nouveau cadre d'attribution des prêts souverains dans le sens d'une restructuration ordonnée.

L'une de ces propositions consiste à modifier le fonctionnement du Mécanisme européen de stabilité pour qu'il ressemble à celui du FMI. Cela éviterait d'attribuer des prêts à des pays insolvables et imposerait le reprofilage ou la restructuration d'une dette quand elle dépasse un certain seuil. Cette politique redonnerait crédibilité à la règle du traité de Maastricht qui interdit tout soutien financier à un pays membre et n'imposerait pas un fardeau excessif à la politique monétaire.

A elle seule, cette proposition ne résoudrait pas le problème. Au sein d'une union monétaire la crainte d'une contagion est toujours justifiée, car les facteurs externes à l'origine d'une crise de la dette dans un pays peuvent contaminer au reste de l'union.

Un cadre de restructuration des dettes qui soit fonction du marché a sa place dans une réforme de la zone euro. Il est nécessaire, au même titre qu'un ensemble de règles communes simples. Pour parvenir à une position budgétaire commune et à une meilleure combinaison des mesures monétaires et budgétaires, il faut une autorité budgétaire fédérale indépendante chargée de créer des mécanismes de partage des risques - avec un petit budget et le pouvoir nécessaire pour qu'elle puisse adapter sa politique aux événements.

Si un tel système donne l'impression de porter atteinte à la souveraineté des pays membres il sera inapplicable sur le plan politique. Il faudra convaincre ses opposants de sa légitimité démocratique. En l'absence d'une véritable union politique, il serait possible d'y parvenir en attribuant un rôle beaucoup plus important au Parlement européen tout en renforçant son indépendance et sa transparence, peut-être en coordination avec les parlements nationaux.

Contrairement à ce que prétendent les populistes de droite, le principal problème de l'Europe n'est pas la souveraineté, mais la démocratie. Du fait de l'intégration des marchés, une souveraineté nationale totale est illusoire. Aujourd'hui l’Union européenne a besoin d'un traité qui accroisse sa légitimité démocratique. Préserver les souverainetés nationales fondées sur des institutions conçues pour l'économie européenne du 19° siècle qui était bien moins intégrée est une recette pour l'échec.

Traduit de l’anglais par Patrice Horovitz Lucrezia Reichlin est professeur d'économie à la London Business School. Elle a été directrice du département de recherche à la Banque centrale européenne.

par Lucrezia Reichlin

GATHERING STORMS:ELLEN’S REPORTED POLITICAL SUPPORT OF BRUMSKINE

Introduction
There is an intensive, increasingly widening political debate arising from the reported massive, political support, in cash and kind, by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Cllr. Brumskine, leader of an opposition political party and declared candidate for President of Liberia.

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The debate began as an inter-party (Unity) infraction of party rules of support and loyalty, especially, by the most senior executive of the party, the Flag Bearer, who stood for and won the Presidency on the party ticket and benefited, immensely, therefrom, but decides to abort and turn against the party and its new leadership, having beenforced to retire because of ineligibility to stand for a third term.

But, in all of this, the most explosive and simmering, national political issue is that Cllr. Brumskine is not only leader of an opposition political party to President Sirleaf’s Unity party, but also, that he (Cllr. Brumskine) is of the Settler-, Americo-Liberian heritage and ruling class; the class that ruled Liberia (a one party, True Whig Party-state) for 133 years and continuing, while Vice President Boakai and the Unity Party that he, now, leads are of indigenous, Liberian heritage.

Thus, during and in the midst or cente of Liberian people’s rightful demand for Changefrom the avalanche of dishonesty and corruption comes the submerged, butdeeply-held and burning, classic, historic struggle for democratic rule – Indigenous “country” Liberians VERSUS Settler-, Americo-Liberians has now become the nation’s “gathering storms”, a critical and crucial decision- making centrepiece for the up-coming general elections.

This historic struggle motivated and explains the April 12, 1980 Event, the military coup d’état.

Although there has been, and is, also, reported conflicting statements of denials regarding the reported support by the President of Cllr. Brumskine, this article takes a look at the facts of history and of Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s rise and use of political power.

Liberia’s Centennial Celebration, 1847-1947
In his book (Liberia: A Century of Survival, 1847-1947) published on the 100th birth anniversary of the founding of the Liberian State, Raymond Leslie Buel held, in a classic, prophetic observation, that “It seems only a matter of time when the preponderance of the ‘civilized Natives’ (indigenous Liberians) over the Americo-Liberians will become overwhelming. Once awakened to western ideas of democracy and freedom”, he wrote, “the educated Natives will demand the right to participate in government . . . But whether the struggle (for political participation, equality and justice) becomes violent or whether the transition of power to the Natives is gradual (and peaceful, for benefit of all citizens) depends on the wisdom of the present, governing class (of Americo-Liberians) . . . Undoubtedly”, he continued, “some membersof the Americo-Liberian oligarchy do not wish to open up and develop the hinterland . . .”(Buell, 1947).

The Open-Door and National Unification Policies
Upon becoming President of Liberia in 1944, Dr. William V. S. Tubman announced and launched the Open Door Policy (Wreh, 1976) and later, the Unification Policy in a speech in the city of Voinjama, Lofa County. These efforts were in response to the realization that economic development and unity are critical ingredients for total development of the nation. Therefore, the President created the first four, new counties in the hinterland, rural Liberia – Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Bong and Lofa counties in 1964. With creation of the counties came the inevitable, senate and house representations, then vehemently opposed and denied (Smith, 1964).

The effort of the Open Door Policy was designed as a public policy instrument which would or could provide economic benefits, with political benefits of participation by legislative representation of hinterland citizens in rural Liberia. But, Gus Liebenow describes, graphically, that the “. . . appearance of reform being far greater than reality . . . the Tubman engine ran out of steam . . . It was clear that the overwhelming thrust of integration . . . of the First Republic was still in the direction of accepting settler (African-American, founding fathers) rather than tribal norms of behavior. . . Detracting from the benefits to be derived from the extension to the tribal hinterland of suffrage and representation in the Legislature”, he wrote, “was the fact that elections had actually become almost meaningless exercises within the single-party state”.

Continuing, he concluded that “real power had gravitated even more effectively from the legislature to the president and those influential Americo-Liberians who surrounded him. Although education provided more bureaucratic jobs for tribal youth and lower-income Americo-Liberians, the really significant executive, legislative, judicial and ambassadorial positions were retained by the leading families at the core of the Americo-Liberian elite” (Liebenow, 1987).

Put bluntly, although President Tubman’s vision of liberalism and national unification,as critical pre-condition for national, economic development were recognized, appreciated and rewarded by the Liberian people with a 27-year reign as president, butthe oppressive marginalization and denial of basic, civil and political rights of the people, by someLiberians (Americo-Liberians), still continues a shocking reality.

Ellen Johnson
Ellen Johnson is the product of the City of Monrovia (of the 1940s & 1950s) dominated by the settler-, Americo-Liberians’ socio-cultural, economic and political hegemony, although her paternal grandfather was an indigenous Gola tribesman, while her maternal grandmother was, also, an indigenous woman of the Sapo or Kru tribe. Her mother was the daughter of a German businessman, “A fair-skinned child with long wavy hair, she could almost pass for white . . .” .

Ellen’s father, son of the Gola tribesman and tribal chief, became ward of a prominent settler-, Americo-Liberian family in Monrovia. They changed his Gola first name, Karnleyto westernized Carney and gave him the family name of Johnson,after a former president of Liberia. The re-naming process symbolized the socio-cultural baptism for complete socio-cultural transformation. The new Carney Johnson and family prospered and became member of the Liberian national Legislature, given its “Americo-Liberian” transformation. Young, Miss Ellen Johnson married young Doc Sirleaf, a mixed indigenous (Mandingo) and settler, Americo-Liberian (Coopers) heritage (Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, 2010).

Education, life-style, attire (until lately, after the April, 1980 Event), mannerism, deportment and body language convey the reality that Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was, and is, socio-culturally European, American, Americo-Liberian, while she is bio-physically indigenous African-Liberian.

Rise to Political Power
Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleafbegan her political career as Ideological foot-solder of the settler-, Americo-Liberian True Whig Party of Liberia and, eventually, became the nation’s Minister of Finance.

Choice of Cllr. Brumskine
Psychologists/socialogists hold and teach that the socio-cultural, economic and political belief systems, tradition and, indeed, worldview of an individual are learned or acquired from the society in which such individual was born, raised or educated. Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was born, raised and educated within the socio-cultural, economic and political belief systems of the Americo-Liberians. Therefore, socio-culturally, economically and politically, Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is Americo-Liberian, although she is bio-physically indigenous Liberian.

Hence, the motivation of Mrs. Ellen John-Sirleaf’s support of Americo-Liberian, Cllr. Brumskine, although leader of an opposition political party (Liberty Party) to Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her ruling, Indigenous Political Party (Unity) founded by indigenous citizens and of which she was Flag Bearer, but now led by Vice President Boakai, an Indigenous citizen.

References:
Buel, Ramond Leslie, Liberia: A Century of Survival, 1847-1947, African Handbook #7, University of Pennsylvania.

Liebenow, Gus,The Quest for Democracy, Indiana University Press, 1987.

Sirleaf, Ellen Johnson-,This Child will be Great, HarperCollins, 2010.

Smith,Robert A., The Emancipation of the (Liberian) Hinterland, The Star Magazine &AdvertisingServices, Monrovia, 1964

Wreh, Tuan, The Love of Liberty, C. Hurst & Co., London, 1976.

 

Send Refugees Back To War Ravaged Homelands

Boston, Massachusetts-What if governments and philanthropists who are currently investing in refugee resettlement in western countries also consider a proactive investment in a reverse refugee resettlement pilot project voluntarily sending refugees back from the west to the post-conflict African countries they once fled? What if the returning refugees are given access to resources and economic incentives such as visa waivers, zero interest loans, duty free privileges, tax breaks and waivers of business registration fees by a collaboration of both the host government and the western nations in which refugees were exiled with the aim of a refugee-led revitalization of the private sector, promoting reconciliation and democratic change?

What if western taxpayers rethink foreign aid, aiming to produce economic growth by tapping into the patriotism, family connections and entrepreneurial spirit of refugees in western countries? What if?For nearly half a century, investments in peacekeeping, refugee resettlement and foreign aid to war ravaged African countries have not resulted in stable democracies and thriving economies. For example, despite the huge decade-long investments of international partners in Liberia, the country is still dangerously volatile economically and democratically. The Liberian economy is a mess with three competing currencies (two sets of legal tender Liberian dollar and one set of US Dollars bills) and out of control inflation that has forced government to unilaterally take 25% of remittances sent to families through Money Gram and Western Union and convert it to local currency.

While unfairly taking foreign currency away from citizens, government pays teachers and other employees in local Liberian currency but charges all taxes, duties and fees only in US Dollars. Application one page form for marriage license costs US75 plus additional US$75 marriage license fee (US$150) putting marriage, a basic human right out of the reach of most citizens for no justifiable reasons. The people are angry!

The current President of Liberia appoints all governors of all political subdivisions, cabinet ministers, heads of public corporations, board members of public corporations, supreme court justices, all traditional chiefs and all mayors of all cities across Liberia! Because of the paralyzing outcome of this ridiculously centralized system, corruption is endemic and Liberia is a time bomb! The Liberian president, a Nobel Laureate, comfortably, and with international praises welds more powers than President Obama, the Pope and Queen Elizabeth!

Without democracy, post-conflict countries often become magnets for terrorism. In Africa, war ravaged countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia look great on paper but they are real time bombs and tunnels to utter disaster waiting to happen. Meanwhile, western taxpayers dollars are being funneled through foreign aid to enrich the corrupt ruling elites in these eternally poor countries.

Isn't the time ripe for the world to open the floodgates of innovation in waging peace, promoting democracy and reinventing foreign aid by tapping into the potentials of resilient refugees in western nations?
There are millions of culturally competent former refugees in western nations who are yearning to return to their native post conflict countries! Investing in this hidden treasure and real 'peace corps' of refugees repatriated to their native countries to engage in the revitalization of the private sector is a timely and worthy social experiment.
The experiment of investing in refugee resettlement has proven to pay off in western nations where refugees resettle. According to Chmura Economics and Analytics, refugee service agencies in Cleveland, Ohio invested about 4.8 million dollars in refugee resettlement. In return, Cleveland netted a 48-million-dollar return from their investment as entrepreneurial refugees engaged in successful business ventures.

If investment in refugee resettlement pays off in America, why not conduct a similar social experiment in Africa , given the potential for world peace a positive result may yield?
The world is already making enormous investments with corrupt governments in post conflict African countries without engaging strategically with the refugee communities in western nations. For example, the United States gave Liberia US$247 million in 2012. With a GDP of US790 and the FY2016 budget of US550 million dollars, top Liberian politicians see foreign aid as a substitute for government's obligation to its citizens.

While foreign aid tackles development, the Liberian government use the national revenue not for basic services but for setting excessive salaries and benefits which range from US$193,416.00 yearly to US$482,203.00 just for lawmakers. Can you imagine the excessive salaries and benefits in the administration? Winning a nine-year term Liberian senate seat means US$4,339,827.00 investment in one person's salary with zero return on investment in one election cycle. Why are America and European Diplomats mute on such massive squandering of taxpayers money?
Compare the American taxpayers subsidized Liberian politician salaries and benefits to salaries of public servants in the USA, a country with a higher cost of living. With a US$3.65 Trillion Dollars budget in 2017, two year termed members of Congress make US$174,000 yearly.

At the state level, a US$40 billion dollars state budget, Massachusetts lawmakers earn about US$60,000.00 yearly while the Governor of Massachusetts earns US$150,800.00. The excessive salaries and benefits and endemic corruption perpetuates conflicts and exacerbates the global refugee crisis.
More talented, culturally competent, highly educated, skilled and motivated former refugees in western nations are eager to return to our native countries.

International partners must seize on this opportunity immediately because war ravaged countries like Liberia cannot indefinitely rely on their extractive economies or endless handouts in foreign aid from international partners.
Countries with or without large refugee communities such as Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the European Union and even the Trump Administration of the United States of America must seize the opportunity of returning refugees from the western countries. This solution is much cheaper than sending troops or peacekeeping missions in years to come when countries blow up! Doubtless, this initiative would bring economic growth, stability, democracy and self-reliance to aid dependent war ravaged countries that peacekeeping and foreign aid cannot achieve.

The God of Carnage PS On Point

The Apocalypse didn’t arrive with Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president, but the rhetoric of divine wrath surely did. Rather than adopt the soothing or soaring cadences of Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy, or Reagan, Trump’s inaugural address invoked “carnage,” “God’s people,” and the “righteous public.” He sounded less like Andrew Jackson, the 1830s populist US president to whom his supporters compare him, than the Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards preaching his terrifying sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”


For Trump, of course, the “sinners” are not the adulterers and idlers Parson Edwards had in mind. They are the businesses, domestic opponents, and foreign leaders who have rejected “America first.” They are, in short, the “establishment,” much of which was in the congregation. As four of Trump’s five living predecessors – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama – looked on, he defined their legacy as one of unmitigated greed, self-dealing, and corruption by an entrenched Washington elite that had immiserated ordinary Americans and brought the US to the brink of ruin.
This was no mere continuation of Trump’s incendiary campaign rhetoric. He immediately began eviscerating his predecessors’ policy legacy. His first executive order took aim at Obama’s Affordable Care Act, threatening to leave 18 million Americans without health insurance within a year (and possibly wreaking havoc on many of his own voters - see chart). In the following days, he signed orders to withdraw the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); revive oil pipeline projects halted by Obama; construct a wall on the border with Mexico; and cut funding for family planning in developing countries. He also moved to boost a deportation force to round up undocumented immigrants, and has mooted the possibility of reviving secret detention sites and the torture of terrorism suspects. He’s even proposed reversing US efforts to combat AIDS in Africa (a George W. Bush initiative).
And Trump is not only keeping his promises. He’s also keeping his lies. The Orwellian term “alternative facts” quickly entered America’s political lexicon following his first full day in office, when Trump and his top advisers, channeling the spirit of Chico Marx, chastised journalists for believing their own eyes about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. On the second day, he repeated to congressional leaders his post-election lie that millions of illegal voters had denied him a popular majority by backing his opponent, Hillary Clinton – and called for an official investigation of “voting fraud” that even his own lawyers have said, in court filings, did not occur.
Trump and his Republican congressional backers are taking steps to police far more important “facts,” by escalating what he calls his “running war with the media,” and, more ominously, by barring government agencies from communicating with the public – or even gathering data – about climate change, housing discrimination, and much else. He appears determined to use presidential power to elevate “truthful hyperbole” – the credo he touted in his 1987 memoir The Art of the Deal – into a governing ethos.
But turning mendacity into national policy is a formula for creating, not halting, “carnage” – and not just at home. After all, in a crisis, what sane world leader would take Trump’s word?
Project Syndicate commentators suggest that anticipating and mitigating the Trump administration’s disruptive impact worldwide is now the central question of our time. But one fundamentally important outcome, they suggest, is already certain: in the world order that Trump leaves behind, America will not be first.
Anti-Global America
“America first,” points out Princeton University historian Harold James, is an idea with an old – and disturbing – pedigree. “The nationalist thrust of Trump’s inaugural address,” James observes, “echoed the isolationism championed by the racist aviator Charles Lindbergh, who, as a spokesman for the America First Committee, lobbied to keep the US out of World War II.” Likewise, Trump’s speech “renounced the country’s historical role in creating and sustaining the post-war order.” While his “objection to ‘global America’ is not new,” James rightly emphasizes, “hearing it from a US president certainly is.”
Former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer and former Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio are alarmed by this vision’s likely global impact. “‘America first,’” says Fischer, “signals the renunciation, and possible destruction, of the US-led world order that Democratic and Republican presidents, starting with Franklin D. Roosevelt, have built up and maintained – albeit with varying degrees of success – for more than seven decades.” As Palacio puts it, by proclaiming a “right of all nations to put their own interests first,” Trump wants to “turn back the clock” on the post-war “rules-based system.” His vision, she argues, implies a reversion to a “nineteenth-century spheres of influence” model of world order, “with major players such as the US, Russia, China, and, yes, Germany, each dominating their respective domains within an increasingly balkanized international system.”
Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, agrees. Trump’s worldview, says Haass, is “largely inconsistent” with the international cooperation that is needed nowadays to address the world’s most pressing problems. If Trump’s “America first” doctrine “remains the US approach,” he argues, “progress toward building the sort of order that today’s interconnected world demands will come about only if other major powers push it – or it will have to wait for Trump’s successor.” But this outcome “would be second best, and it would leave the United States and the rest of the world worse off.”
May Day for the Special Relationship
The potential for harm to vital US relationships has already become apparent, with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto abruptly canceling an official visit in the wake of Trump’s order to begin construction of the border wall. On the other hand, British Prime Minister Theresa May, the first foreign leader to meet with Trump in the White House, seems intent on cementing ties with the new administration.
As Dominique Moisi of the Institut Montaigne in Paris notes, beyond their shared “distrust of Europe,” they make an odd couple. May “believes in free trade and is suspicious of Russia, while Trump is calling for protectionism and wants to forge a special partnership” with the Kremlin. And yet, in embracing a clean break from the European Union since last June’s Brexit referendum, May, too, “seems to be driven by domestic politics to prioritize national sovereignty over the economy.” In fact, “her argument to the British people is not unlike what Russian President Vladimir Putin tells his own citizens: no one lives by bread alone, and recovering sovereignty and national greatness is worth the economic risk.”
Philippe Legrain, a former economic adviser to the EU Commission President, is not surprised by May’s choice of “a Brexit variant whereby Britain leaves both the EU’s single market and its customs union” – and not just because “she knows little, and cares even less, about economics.” Like Moisi, Legrain believes that May’s “ultimate objective is to survive as Prime Minister.” From her perspective, “controlling immigration – a long time personal obsession – will endear her to ‘Leave’ voters,” while “ending the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in Britain will pacify the nationalists in her Conservative Party.” That such a stance jibes with Trump’s nationalist worldview seems to have provided even more incentive for May to abandon the EU after more than four decades.
“May claims that Brexit will enable Britain to strike better trade deals with non-EU countries,” Legrain continues, “and she is pinning her hopes on a quick deal with Trump’s America.” But he believes she is in for a rude awakening: given Britain’s “desperate negotiating position, even an administration headed by Hillary Clinton would have driven a hard bargain on behalf of American industry.” As he points out, “US pharmaceutical companies, for example, want the UK’s cash-strapped National Health Service to pay more for drugs.” More broadly, the mere fact that “[l]ike China and Germany, Britain exports much more to America than it imports from the US” will weaken May’s hand. “Trump hates such ‘unfair’ trade deficits,” Legrain notes, “and has pledged to eliminate them.”
Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, wonders “if the UK’s pursuit of a bilateral deal with the US is just about economics, or if it implies a broader shift in British foreign policy.” Indeed, Verhofstadt, who will be the European Parliament’s lead Brexit negotiator once May formally triggers the withdrawal process (most likely in March), suggests that “Trump’s Euroskeptic team are influencing” her approach. By staking “her own country’s future on an alliance with an unpopular, untested, and mendacious American president,” he says, “May’s government is playing a dangerous and shortsighted game.” After all, “[t]he vast majority of the UK’s trade is with the EU, not with the US; and this, like the UK’s geographical location and security environment, is not going to change.”
Pulling Down the Pillars of Peace
On the latter point – the defense of the world’s democracies – Verhofstadt, like other Project Syndicate commentators, is unequivocal. “[N]ow that Trump’s presidency has cast doubt on US security guarantees,” he says, “the UK and the EU should be forging a strategic partnership to ensure European security” and “must defend and promote liberal democratic values globally, not embrace populists’ narcissistic nationalism.” Iain Conn, CEO of Centrica (the parent company of British Gas), similarly believes that “it is more important than ever that the developed democracies come together,” not only to address current and future global problems, as Haass suggests, but to preserve their security. “We must protect the ties that bind,” Conn argues, “and place our hope for the future in our alliances and shared traditions.”
The question is whether the world’s democracies can deepen their ties while struggling to manage the crises that are more likely to erupt in the absence of US leadership. Fischer believes that Germany and Japan “will be among the biggest losers if the US abdicates its global role under Trump.” Since their “total defeat in 1945,” he notes, both countries “have rejected all forms of the Machtstaat, or ‘power state,’” embracing their role as “active participants in the US-led international system.” But their ability to reinvent and sustain themselves as peaceful trading countries has always been premised on “the US security umbrella.”
Should that umbrella be removed, Fischer continues, “Japan’s peripheral geopolitical position might, theoretically, allow it to re-nationalize its own defense capacities,” though this “could significantly increase the likelihood of a military confrontation in East Asia” – a particularly frightening scenario, “given that multiple countries in the region have nuclear weapons.” But, in contrast to Japan, “Germany cannot re-nationalize its security policy even in theory, because such a step would undermine the principle of collective defense in Europe.” And, as Fischer reminds us, that principle, by integrating “former enemy powers so that they posed no danger to one another,” has been fundamental to peace in Europe.
It is not only post-war security arrangements that are at stake. Trump has called into question the two greatest diplomatic achievements of recent years: the Iran nuclear accord and the Paris climate agreement. “If the US withdraws from, or fails to comply with, either deal,” says Javier Solana, a former NATO secretary general and EU High Representative for foreign affairs, “it will strike a heavy blow to a global-governance system that relies on multilateral agreements to resolve international problems.”
For Haass, “cooperation on climate change” may be “the quintessential manifestation of globalization, because all countries are exposed to its effects, regardless of their contribution to it.” The Paris accord, “in which governments agreed to limit their emissions and to provide resources to help poorer countries adapt,” says Haass, “was a step in the right direction.”
But the unraveling of the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), poses the most immediate danger. The “International Atomic Energy Agency,” Solana notes, says that the Iranian authorities have permitted it “to inspect every site that the agency has requested to see – including those from which it was barred before the agreement – and has granted inspectors access to its electronic systems and chain of enrichment.” Solana quotes a report by the International Crisis Group: “Trump is the first US president in more than two decades who enters office not needing to worry about Iran crossing the threshold to nuclear weaponization undetected.”
But that conclusion, however well founded and widely shared, will not necessarily withstand the Trump administration’s “alternative facts.” In that case, Solana argues, US withdrawal from the JCPOA, rather than “contributing to regional stability,” would risk bringing about “an even greater nightmare” in the Middle East. Already, he notes, “Saudi Arabia would like to end its military intervention in Yemen,” while “Iran is commencing a presidential election campaign” and “Turkey is seeking an outcome to the Syrian conflict that aligns with its own policy toward the Kurds.” Meanwhile, “Russia needs to withdraw its troops from Syria – an intervention that has been bleeding its economy.” All of these actors, as well as the EU – which, as Solana points out, “still needs to resolve the refugee crisis” – would be destabilized by the effects of nuclear uncertainty, and the possibility of an arms race, in the Middle East.
Moscow on the Potomac?
Perhaps the one foreign policy issue where Trump’s instincts may prove correct, if for the wrong reasons, is the US relationship with Russia, which he is determined to improve. Robert Harvey, an author and former UK Member of Parliament, notes that “Russia has generally upheld its arms-control agreements with the US,” and that it lacks “the economic and industrial might to sustain any long-term war effort.” Nonetheless, he is skeptical. “George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair initially saw Putin as a man with whom they could do business,” he notes. “But, now in power for 17 years, Putin has shown himself to be a venal and violent leader,” who “has reverted to Cold War tactics against domestic dissidents and foreign targets.”
Yet the New School’s Nina Khrushcheva, no Putin apologist, thinks that Trump might nonetheless stumble into the right policy. Putin’s “immediate goal is to expose the West’s double standards,” Khrushcheva argues, offering several examples, “thereby breaking down Western barriers to his pursuit of Russian interests.” And she hopes that Trump’s obvious affinity for Putin will somehow lead the US to “devise a sound, thoughtful, and measured approach toward Russia – one that appeals to values not as propaganda, but as the basis of a more straightforward and credible foreign policy.”
Like Harvey and Khrushcheva, the economic historian Robert Skidelsky focuses on the impact on Russia of NATO’s eastward expansion into Central Europe and the ex-Soviet Baltic states. Skidelsky, too, is highly critical of the Putin regime’s “human-rights abuses, assassinations, dirty tricks, and criminal prosecutions to intimidate political opponents.” Nonetheless, he believes that “today’s anti-liberal, authoritarian Russia is as much a product of the souring of relations with the West as it is of Russian history or the threat of disintegration that Russia faced in the 1990s.”
Skidelsky borrows an argument from the Russian analyst Dmitri Trenin. “The West,” he says, “should fear Russia’s weakness more than its imperial designs.” Harvey, too, believes that “Russia’s position today is even less secure than it was in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union’s weakening economy could no longer sustain control of an Eastern European buffer and satellites elsewhere.” But whereas Harvey believes that “[s]ooner rather than later, Putin’s economic incompetence will catch up with him,” and that the West should wait until it does, Skidelsky sees “no reason why a much better working relationship cannot be established.”
There are three reasons for this, according to Skidelsky. First, “Putin’s foreign-policy coups, while opportunistic, have been cautious.” Moreover, “[w]ith American power on the wane and China’s on the rise, a restructuring of international relations is inevitable,” and “Russia could play a constructive role in this revision, if it does not overestimate its strength.” And, echoing Harvey here as well, Skidelsky points out that “Russia has shown – on the nuclear deal with Iran and the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons – that it can work with the US to advance common interests.”
But Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister of Sweden, offers several reasons to be wary of any rapprochement with Russia. For starters, whereas Skidelsky sees in Putin a cautious leader, Bildt sees a shrewd one. “[W]henever opportunities present themselves,” Bildt observes, “the Kremlin is ready to use all means at its disposal to regain what it considers its own.” Even in the absence of “a firm and comprehensive plan for imperial restoration,” he says, Putin “undoubtedly has an abiding inclination to make imperial advances whenever the risk is bearable, as in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014.”
Moreover, Khrushcheva and Skidelsky are wrong, Bildt suggests, to question the wisdom of NATO enlargement. “Expanding both NATO and the European Union to include the Central European and Baltic countries has been essential to European security,” he insists. “In any other scenario, we would probably already be locked in a profoundly dangerous power struggle with a revanchist Russia reclaiming what it had lost.” He believes that “Russia will come to terms with itself only if the West firmly supports these countries’ independence over a prolonged period of time.” In that case, “Russia will realize that it is in its own long-term interest to break its historical pattern, concentrate on its domestic development, and build peaceful and respectful relations with its neighbors.”
China First
Perhaps the most dangerous foreign-policy reversal that Trump appears to be undertaking concerns the US stance toward China. Christopher Hill, a former US assistant secretary of state, points out that Trump seems “to have concluded that the best way to upend China’s strategic position was to subject all past conventions, including the ‘One China’ policy, to re-examination.” Similarly, Yale University’s Stephen Roach, a former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, believes that Trump is “contemplating a wide range of economic and political sanctions – from imposing punitive tariffs and designating China as a ‘currency manipulator’ to embracing Taiwan.”
Both Hill and Roach foresee strategic failure if the US pursues this approach. While the Trump administration’s “anti-China biases are without modern precedent,” Roach notes, its strategy “is based on the mistaken belief that a newly muscular United States has all the leverage in dealing with its presumed adversary, and that any Chinese response is hardly worth considering.” But, as Hill puts it, “China is not a subcontractor on a construction project, and it has means at its disposal to apply its own pressure on the new US administration.”
Roach spells it out: if the US “follows through with its threats, expect China to reciprocate with sanctions on US companies operating there, and ultimately with tariffs on US imports – hardly trivial considerations for a growth-starved US economy.” China could also become “far less interested in buying Treasury debt – a potentially serious problem, given the expanded federal budget deficits that are likely under Trumponomics.”
Even barring such outcomes, Trump, it seems clear, has begun his tenure by disarming key instruments of US influence in Asia, namely those stemming from America’s post-war security guarantees and its stewardship of the multilateral institutions that have nurtured global economic openness. And, given his protectionism and renunciation of the TPP, China is likely to end up with the regional hegemony that successive US presidents – Republicans and Democrats alike – have opposed.
Global leadership may not be far behind. As Palacio notes, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who addressed the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos for the first time earlier this month, is “now the default champion of globalization.” Daniel Silke, a South African political strategist, goes even further. Already, “China’s rise has provided a new orbit for many countries around the world – particularly developing and emerging economies,” Silke observes, and its “exceptional diplomatic skill across the African continent (and, increasingly, Southeast Asia) has made it an alternative hegemonic force.” As the US disengages and squanders its soft power (for example, by cutting development aid), China will gain “new opportunities to cement its role as a provider of investment and all manner of infrastructure and assistance to a host of countries eager to develop.”
But, whereas Silke sees a China that is “eager to find a soft-power niche in which it can gain a foothold of goodwill,” the Indian strategist Brahma Chellaney sees only the froideur of strategic realism. China’s leaders have become extremely adept at “the use of economic tools to advance their country’s geostrategic interests,” Chellaney argues, in order “to fashion a hegemonic Sinosphere of trade, communication, transportation, and security links.” To do so, the Chinese government is ingeniously “integrating its foreign, economic, and security policies.” If strategically important developing countries “are saddled states with onerous debt as a result, their financial woes only aid China’s neocolonial designs.”
Pax Asiana?
What, if anything, can Asian countries do to resist China’s hegemonic designs at a time when Trump is calling into question US commitments across the region? New America’s Anne-Marie Slaughter and Mira Rapp-Hooper of the Center for a New American Security offer a sobering analysis. “Many Asian countries, through deep and predictable political engagement with the US, have grown accustomed to America’s commitment to their security,” they point out. “And, in contrast to multilateral security arrangements like NATO, America’s Asian alliances are founded on individual bilateral pacts,” which leaves them “particularly vulnerable to Trump’s vicissitudes.”
But, instead of “falling into despair,” Slaughter and Rapp-Hooper continue, “America’s Asian allies should take matters into their own hands and start networking.” Creating a resilient regional security architecture has never before been a high priority, precisely owing to those bilateral US security guarantees. “By building and institutionalizing ties among themselves,” Slaughter and Rapp-Hooper argue, “US allies in Asia can reshape their regional security network from a US-centric star to a mesh-like pattern, in which they are as connected to one another as they are to the US.” That would give them “a system [that] can strengthen stability for unsteady times.”
But it would also be a long-term endeavor. In the near term, Asia’s stability will be in the hands of Trump, who, according to Harvard’s Joseph Nye, should be “wary of two major traps that history has set for him.” One is the so-called Thucydides Trap, named for the ancient Greek historian of the Peloponnesian War, who warned that “cataclysmic war can erupt if an established power (like the United States) becomes too fearful of a rising power (like China).” The other, Nye says, is the “Kindleberger Trap,” named for Charles Kindleberger, who “argued that the disastrous decade of the 1930s was caused when the US replaced Britain as the largest global power but failed to take on Britain’s role in providing global public goods.”
In other words, rather than being too strong, China may be too weak for global leadership. “If pressed and isolated by Trump’s policy,” Nye asks, “will China become a disruptive free rider that pushes the world into a Kindleberger Trap?” In the 1930s, the trap – caused by US free riding – contributed to “the collapse of the global system into depression, genocide, and world war,” he notes.
So, one problem for the world today is that Trump “must worry about a China that is simultaneously too weak and too strong.” But another, perhaps more serious concern, stems from the fact that, given Trump’s willful ignorance and incorrigible indiscipline, neither the Thucydides Trap nor the Kindleberger Trap may matter in the end. As Nye acknowledges, wars often are “caused not by impersonal forces, but by bad decisions in difficult circumstances.” In order to circumvent strategic traps, Nye concludes, Trump “must avoid the miscalculations, misperceptions, and rash judgments that plague human history.”
Is Trump really capable of that? Judging from his first six days in office, his presidency itself appears to be a long parade of such human shortcomings. And on the seventh day, he is unlikely to rest.

Speech delivered by Liberia’s Ambassador to the UN-Lewis G. Browne

Mr. President
I thank you for the opportunity to participate in this Briefing Session. A few months ago, we were similarly honored. We used the occasion to draw the attention of the Council to the continued progress of Liberia in consolidating its cherished peace. Today, notwithstanding the difficulties we face and the challenges that lie ahead, we remain confident and optimistic in the success of the peacekeeping mission, and in the growing capacities of the Liberian government to maintain and sustain the peace.

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ON MERGERS AND/OR COALITIONS,MAKING OF “STRANGE BED-FELLOWS?”SOME THOUGHTS

The Liberian Political Grapevine is a-washed, inundated by and with rumors of reported, last-ditch posturing by the registered Political Parties of Liberia, for mergers and/or coalitions. The much talked-about Ganta Coalition Conference initiated by Nimba County Senior Senator Prince Johnson is, apparently, on the rocks, with numerous speculations of possible parings of president-vice presidential teams of UP/LP, CDC/NPP and many others. Some political parties are engaged in religious retreats, tarrying, and seeking devine assistance in their political journeys to the Executive Mansion.

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“TOWN TRAP IS NOT FOR RAT ALONE”

LIBERIA HAS NOT LEARNED NOR CONVINCED THAT
Indeed, Liberian policymakers and intelligentsia, the informed - middle- and upper-class citizens - have not learned, not persuaded nor convinced that town traps set for rats do not “catch only rats”, although the nation has been subjected to, and experienced, the mind-boggling devastation of the truth, reality and consequences of the wisdom of this simple, but powerful saying by the lowly, non-commissioned, military officer, turned political philosopher.

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