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Global power shifts happen rarely and are even less often peaceful. Washington must take heed: Asia is rising fast, with its growing economic power translating into political and military strength. The West must adapt -- or be left behind.
Experience has shown that piecemeal efforts to protect tropical forests cannot do the job. Conservationists must rethink their approach, implementing conservation on a continental scale, and fast.
Global warming is real and needs to be addressed now. Rather than bash or mourn the defunct Kyoto Protocol, we should start taking the small steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions today that can make a big difference down the road. The private sector already understands this, and its efforts will be crucial in improving fossil fuel efficiency and developing alternative sources of energy. To harness business potential, however, governments in the developed world must create incentives, improve scientific research, and forge international partnerships.
Washington need not worry about China's economic boom, much less respond with protectionism. Although China controls more of the world's exports than ever before, its high-return high-tech industries are dominated by foreign companies. And Chinese firms will not displace them any time soon: Beijing's one-party politics have bred a timid business culture that prevents domestic firms from developing key technologies and keeps them dependent on the West.
Whether or not the United States today should be called an empire is a semantic game. The important point is that it resembles previous empires enough to make the search for lessons of history worthwhile. Overwhelming dominance has always invited hostility. U.S. leaders thus must learn the arts of imperial management and diplomacy, exercising power with a bland smile rather than boastful words.
Chuck Hagel just stepped down as secretary of defense. In this 2004 essay, Hagel lays out his views on U.S. foreign policy. He explains that "a wise foreign policy recognizes that U.S. leadership is determined as much by our commitment to principle as by our exercise of power."
As the international community debates whether the recent discovery of huge caches of untapped mineral deposits will be good for Afghanistan, it would do well to consider the similar challenge posed by Iraq's oil reserves. In this article from the Foreign Affairs archive, Nancy Birdsall and Arvind Subramanian write that vast wealth from natural resources can often be a curse, not a blessing.
The failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has prompted much handwringing over the problems with prewar intelligence. Too little attention has been paid, however, to the flip slide of the picture: that the much-maligned UN-enforced sanctions regime actually worked. Contrary to what critics have said, we now know that containment helped destroy Saddam Hussein's war machine and his capacity to produce weapons.
The "Washington consensus" approach to development -- which urges other countries to emulate American capitalism -- misses one vital ingredient: the role that entrepreneurs play. Jump-starting growth in the developing world will require an understanding of the American entrepreneurial system, which involves four sectors of the economy.
China is finding it ever more difficult to straddle the divide between its anachronistic political system and its booming market economy. A reconsideration of the country's political future must come soon. Fortunately, China can find guidance in its own history: a previous generation of reformers who sought to balance the imperatives of modernity with the best aspects of Chinese tradition.
Reviews & Responses
Washington wants to hire ex-Baathists to help rebuild Iraq. The CIA's experience using ex-Nazis to run West Germany's intelligence service should give it pause.
Ron Chernow's new biography examines Alexander Hamilton's role in the founding of the American republic and his contribution to its conflictual political culture.
Three new books detail Xinjiang's long history of oppression. As they show, Beijing's rule there has always been harsh -- but never so bad as in the last few years.