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Image and reputation have become essential parts of a state's strategic capital. Like branded products, branded states depend on trust and customer satisfaction. And they are the harbingers of a postmodern politics based on style as much as substance.
Easy access to quality education would bring developing countries everything from higher wages to lower infant mortality-but it would also require politically costly reforms. A global compact on education is needed to overcome the problem.
Over the last decade, Enterprise Funds have blazed a new path for development aid, merging public capital with private management to nurture businesses in new democracies. The costs are low and the results impressive; attention must be paid.
Critics regularly fault the World Bank for overlooking issues such as the environment and the role of civil society as it pursues its development agenda. In fact, the bank has been adding tasks to its mandate for years, from Balkan reconstruction to education for girls in Muslim countries to the fight against AIDS. Its mission has now grown so complex that it has become unwieldy. To make the bank more effective, the countries that own it-its shareholders-must streamline its many functions and even devolve certain tasks to other institutions. The bank remains a great organization with a talented staff and a compassionate vision, but it must be prepared to move back to basics and then on to the modern era.
Many argue that forgiving international debts will help relieve poverty in the world's poorest countries. But an enormous amount of money is already given to aid the poor, with little of it reaching those in need. Widespread corruption, weak political institutions, and a lack of accountability all hinder the provision of important social services in developing countries. The international community must figure out a way to ensure the proper use of debt-relief dollars-before the problems plaguing many of the world's poorest countries grow any worse.
The traditional goal of America's foreign policy has been to prevent the rise of a peer competitor. Washington sends troops abroad only when a potential hegemon arises that others cannot contain. Europe and Northeast Asia are quiet now, so the United States will likely withdraw its forces over the next decade or so, throwing those regions back into familiar great-power rivalry. Over time, however, China could become the most powerful rival the United States has ever faced-and Washington's policies since the end of the Cold War have been speeding Beijing's rise rather than slowing it.
Although Russia has projected itself more forcefully on the world stage since the beginning of the Putin era, its foreign policy still lacks any sort of grand strategic vision. Russian leaders continue to squabble over issues from NATO expansion to the world economy. But they are particularly concerned about Russia's identity, especially with regard to the post-Soviet states. If the Bush administration fails to devise a coherent policy of its own toward its former rival, it may face serious problems down the road.
For years the Japanese have weathered their country's ongoing recession with apparent stoicism. In fact, however, Japan's citizens have learned to find private solutions to their country's many ills, just as Japanese corporations have moved more and more of their operations overseas. But this trend has only driven Japan into deeper economic straits. If the country's charismatic new leader cannot push through fundamental reforms, capital flight and emigration could be the public's next moves.
When Vicente Fox stunned the world last year by becoming Mexico's first opposition leader elected president in 71 years, he began a process that reverberates throughout Latin America. Fox has abandoned Mexico's longstanding tradition of nonintervention, leading his country to deeper involvement throughout the western hemisphere. Mexico's new diplomacy has great potential to improve the lives of its neighbors--none more so than the United States.
Nongovernmental organizations, activist shareholders, and "socially responsible" investment funds have launched a corporate ethics crusade that has pushed executives to consider more than just the bottom line. Goaded by media interest, however, NGOs prefer to shout solutions rather than engage in objective research. Worse, the symbiotic relationship they are forging with firms could backfire and harm the world's poor.
The Caspian basin holds enormous oil and gas deposits that could play a critical role in the world's economic future. But getting them out of the ground and onto the market requires overcoming formidable political and geographic problems. For its own sake as well as the region's, Washington should do whatever is necessary to ensure the emergence of secure and independent routes for Caspian energy to reach the outside world.
Reviews & Responses
With its two nuclear tests in 1998, India provoked bitter international criticism and retaliatory tests from Pakistan. But in India's Emerging Nuclear Posture, Ashley Tellis argues that fears about nuclear instability in South Asia may be unfounded-and that the time has come for Washington to rethink its unyielding policy on nonproliferation.
In her new book, Michela Wrong expertly describes the bloodthirsty reign of Zaire's Mobutu and condemns his collaborators in the West. The author may misapportion some of the blame for Congo's destruction, but there is plenty of guilt to go around.