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For 50 years, the United States has maintained its economic edge by being better and faster than any other country at inventing and exploiting new technologies. Today, however, its dominance is starting to slip, as Asian countries pour resources into R&D and challenge America's traditional role in the global economy.
Having crushed the recent reform movement, Iran's mullahs are now offering their people a different deal: limited economic liberalization in exchange for political acquiescence. This authoritarian bargain has worked well in China and elsewhere. But its success in Iran-a divided land mired in corruption-remains far from certain.
The 18 months since the launch of the Iraq war have left the country's hard-earned respect and credibility in tatters. In going to war without a legal basis or the backing of traditional U.S. allies, the Bush administration brazenly undermined Washington's long-held commitment to international law, its acceptance of consensual decision-making, its reputation for moderation, and its identification with the preservation of peace. The road back will be a long and hard one.
The jailing of Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has revealed the fault lines running through the post-Soviet political economy. The reforms and privatization of the 1990s were so flawed and unfair as to make them unstable. A backlash was inevitable. Given Vladimir Putin's authoritarian tendencies, that backlash has proved equally flawed and unfair-and perhaps equally unstable.
The current turmoil in the Gaza Strip represents the most serious challenge to Yasir Arafat's authority in decades. Israel's planned disengagement from Gaza brought to a boil long-simmering tensions among Palestinian factions demanding a change in the status quo. Holding national elections before the pullout may be the only way to avoid chaos and save any chance at Middle East peace.
The number of pirate attacks worldwide has tripled in the past decade, and new evidence suggests that piracy is becoming a key tactic of terrorist groups. In light of al Qaeda's professed aim of targeting weak links in the global economy, this new nexus is a serious threat: most of the world's oil and gas is shipped through pirate-infested waters.
Global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions will be a difficult problem to solve. Reducing emissions by slowing growth is too painful, and neither conservation nor alternative energy sources are currently viable answers. Governments and industry should focus on promoting technologies such as "carbon sequestration" that trap harmful emissions and bury them safely deep underground.
Both friends and foes of globalization overlook one of its critical effects: although it has served rich countries well and poor ones even better, globalization has left middle-income countries struggling to find a niche in world markets. Because these countries cannot compete in either the knowledge or the low-wage economy, without help, they will fall by the wayside.
The EU's constitutional convention has revived the old cleavage between those who fear the union will trample the rights of member states and those who think it is not enough of a superstate. Both camps miss the point. Despite some serious flaws, the draft constitution does much to advance the EU's core project: to create a federal union that celebrates the plurality of the continent's many peoples.
Long the bulwark of the transatlantic security relationship, NATO now faces a threat from within Europe itself. The proposed EU constitution makes clear that the new Europe seeks to balance rather than complement U.S. power-making European political integration the greatest challenge to U.S. influence in Europe since World War II. Washington must begin to adapt accordingly.
Reviews & Responses
Is Pakistan-nuclear proliferator, terrorist incubator, key U.S. ally-on the verge of collapse? In a new book, Stephen Philip Cohen rejects the most alarmist scenarios but warns that, without major reforms, Pakistan's prospects are indeed grim.