Skip navigation

Written By: Paul Kennedy

From: Salt Lake Tribune

.

.

Every so often in the history of international affairs, a great transnational turbulence shakes the foundations of the world and brings many of its older structures tumbling to the ground, as we witnessed in 1919, 1945 and 1989. In the confusion and babble that follow, it’s difficult to see through the dust and recognize the shape of the altered strategic landscape.

Peering through the wreckage of the past year’s financial crisis, it seems clear that every nation was a loser in 2008. The world’s developed economies have taken a heavy beating, whether measured by their collapsing industrial production, tumbling exports, surging unemployment, frozen credit markets or the near- paralysis of maritime trade.


Yet we also hear cries of distress across the globe. Vladimir Putin’s proud Russia is reeling toward internal collapse. China is sending factory workers home to the countryside. The International Monetary Fund is trying to rescue Iceland and Ukraine from economic oblivion. Brazil’s currency is plummeting against the U.S. dollar. And the brief honeymoon for commodity-exporting African countries is over. Which national economy didn’t take a blow to the head in this annus horribilus?

When the dust settles, will we see all countries equally battered, like the streets of Dresden after the Allied bombings in February 1945? Will every power simply have taken several steps backwards, so that the “order of things” that existed in January 2008 will be the same in December 2009? I doubt it.

In the midst of general turmoil, there are always relative winners and losers. Those who are likely to lose most in the coming year will include Russia, Venezuela and Iran (too dependent on oil), most of Africa and Latin America (too tied to commodities), and Japan, Taiwan and South Korea (too wedded to exports, shipping, electronics).

By contrast, and unless it falls into the trap of a Pakistan war, India will advance; none of its banks (so far) are on the Bear Stearns Cos. track. China will take hits, but that probably means an increase in economic growth of 5 percent or 6 percent, deriving more from domestic development, and less from cheap exports.

Europe’s prospects for 2009 are mixed, which is simply another way of saying that here, too, there will be relative winners and losers. Norway will ride the storm on its still-massive currency reserve and the rest of Scandinavia has strength in depth — unlike the less competitive economies of East and Central Europe. Germany’s combination of ultra-high-quality production, superb infrastructure and financial caution (few Germans use credit cards: Americans, take note!) give it strengths that are lacking in the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Greece and other European countries that fell for easy credit and large government deficits. Prussian fiscal rectitude will keep the euro high, and compound the dollar’s weaknesses.

The biggest question concerns the United States. My instinct tells me it will lose ground in 2009. I simply don’t see how the Treasury can print $1 trillion to cover deficit spending, offer those bills at very low interest rates, and expect foreigners (not Americans, because we don’t have the savings) to buy them, persuading the world to keep afloat its greatest debtor since Phillip II of Spain. Why should sensible Chinese investors do that when they can buy Swiss bonds, gold, or Scottish real estate? Yet if Asians decline to buy tens of billions of Treasuries each month in 2009, U.S. interest rates will have to go up again.

So: India up, China up, Germany up (all relatively). The developing world down, Russia down, most of Europe and Japan down, and President Barack Obama’s America down and down. I’d like to believe I am very wrong. I worry that I’m not.

Paul Kennedy is professor of history and director of International Security Studies at Yale University. He is the author/editor of 19 books, including The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. He wrote this column for Bloomberg News.

Written By: Rashid Khalidi

From: NY Times

.

.

NEARLY everything you’ve been led to believe about Gaza is wrong. Below are a few essential points that seem to be missing from the conversation, much of which has taken place in the press, about Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip.

THE GAZANS Most of the people living in Gaza are not there by choice. The majority of the 1.5 million people crammed into the roughly 140 square miles of the Gaza Strip belong to families that came from towns and villages outside Gaza like Ashkelon and Beersheba. They were driven to Gaza by the Israeli Army in 1948.


THE OCCUPATION The Gazans have lived under Israeli occupation since the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel is still widely considered to be an occupying power, even though it removed its troops and settlers from the strip in 2005. Israel still controls access to the area, imports and exports, and the movement of people in and out. Israel has control over Gaza’s air space and sea coast, and its forces enter the area at will. As the occupying power, Israel has the responsibility under the Fourth Geneva Convention to see to the welfare of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

THE BLOCKADE Israel’s blockade of the strip, with the support of the United States and the European Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation.

The blockade has subjected many to unemployment, penury and malnutrition. This amounts to the collective punishment — with the tacit support of the United States — of a civilian population for exercising its democratic rights.

THE CEASE-FIRE Lifting the blockade, along with a cessation of rocket fire, was one of the key terms of the June cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. This accord led to a reduction in rockets fired from Gaza from hundreds in May and June to a total of less than 20 in the subsequent four months (according to Israeli government figures). The cease-fire broke down when Israeli forces launched major air and ground attacks in early November; six Hamas operatives were reported killed.

WAR CRIMES The targeting of civilians, whether by Hamas or by Israel, is potentially a war crime. Every human life is precious. But the numbers speak for themselves: Nearly 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the conflict broke out at the end of last year. In contrast, there have been around a dozen Israelis killed, many of them soldiers. Negotiation is a much more effective way to deal with rockets and other forms of violence. This might have been able to happen had Israel fulfilled the terms of the June cease-fire and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about “restoring Israel’s deterrence,” as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”

Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia, is the author of the forthcoming “Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Dominance in the Middle East.”