By Fareed Zakaria
With the emergence of cheap natural gas from shale, coal is no longer the most competitive energy technology in America, write Matthew Stepp and Alex Trembath on Bloomberg.
“Crippled, too, by increased production costs and more stringent federal regulations on pollution, coal is being used less and less in the U.S., even as the rest of the world uses more. Today, just 38 percent of U.S. electricity comes from coal, down from 50 percent in 2007. And shale emits far less pollution and carbon than coal does. By using more electricity from plants powered by natural gas, Pennsylvania, for instance, has been able to drastically reduce air pollution.”
A “global shadow realm” has been created over the last few decades, “with bases on all continents, a parallel economy that escapes all democratic scrutiny, and from which many profit,” according to an article in Der Spiegel.
“The number of tax havens has gone from a handful only a few decades ago to 60, 70 or even more today. Years ago the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Belize, the Cayman Islands, Cyprus and the Marshall Islands were, in some cases, dirt-poor – until they decided to charge no or almost no taxes on money brought into the country, as well as guarantee the owners of the asset anonymity through company and foundation structures. In return, they collected fees from the offshore companies.”
Targeted sanctions could be Washington’s secret weapon against Chinese hackers, argues Zachary Goldman in Foreign Affairs.
One reason that “targeted financial sanctions would work well in the cyber context is that, unlike reciprocal attacks in cyberspace or the use of military force, they are proportionate in scale to cyberinfiltrations, such as the discreet theft of intellectual property from U.S. businesses, and can be carefully calibrated to produce their desired effect,” Goldman writes. “Sanctions could therefore act as a brake on escalation and add leverage to diplomatic negotiations on cyber issues, which the United States and China both appear to welcome. Finally, if Washington imposed targeted financial sanctions on cybercriminals, the effect of the sanctions would likely reverberate beyond U.S. borders, because financial institutions around the world often refuse to do business with sanctioned entities.”
By Fareed Zakaria
There are downsides to the Chinese approach in Africa, argues Ian Bremmer for Reuters. "Look at Sudan, where China has invested billions in oil pipelines to transport crude from the southern fields to the northern ports – and on to China. But recently China discovered that, when investing, there actually are political strings attached – for China. After Sudan split into two countries in 2011, giving birth to South Sudan, war threatened to derail the country – and China's supply of oil. After all, 75 percent of the countries' oil production takes place in landlocked South Sudan, but all ports that could bring that oil to market are north of the border. China was forced to step in to try to mediate the conflict between the two countries. It was an interventionist diplomatic effort we aren't used to seeing from China."
The last overhaul of the tax code was more than a quarter century ago, and it's time to get rid of its unnecessary complexity write Senator Max Baucus and Rep. Dave Camp in the Wall Street Journal.
"Taxpayers spend more than six billion hours filling out documents to complete filings. They struggle to understand the rules, which amount to almost four million words. That is neither a productive use of time or resources. We can and must do better."
By Jason Miks
South Korean media has reported today that two medium-range missiles have been loaded onto mobile launchers along North Korea’s east coast, and that they are ready to be launched. The report comes at the end of another tense weak on the Korean Peninsula that has seen an announcement by the U.S. that it is sending missile defenses to Guam and a North Korean statement that its army has final approval for nuclear strikes against the United States.
In a Situation Room special, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer spoke with Fareed Zakaria to get his take on North Korea’s rhetoric, how serious the latest threats are, and China’s potential role in easing tensions.
Is it time to send some sort of diplomatic envoy to Pyongyang on behalf of the president of the United States?
Well, the Bush administration actually did try diplomacy. They signed two agreements with the North Koreans. Plenty of people did. The problem is that they cheat on them. They've cheated on every one of these.
There's only one country with whom diplomacy would work with North Korea, and that's China. The Chinese make up by some estimates 50 percent of North Korea's food, and about 80 percent of its fuel. There are people in China who literally opened the taps and allowed North Korea to survive.
By Fareed Zakaria
The tragedy of Korea is that no one really wishes to change the status quo, writes Ian Buruma in Project Syndicate. “China wants to keep North Korea as a buffer state, and fears millions of refugees in the event of a North Korean collapse; the South Koreans could never afford to absorb North Korea in the way that West Germany absorbed the broken German Democratic Republic; and neither Japan nor the US would relish paying to clean up after a North Korean implosion, either.”
“And so an explosive situation will remain explosive, North Korea’s population will continue to suffer famines and tyranny, and words of war will continue to fly back and forth across the 38th parallel.”
China’s Communist Party has achieved something few had thought possible: the construction of a distinct national internet, The Economist says.
“The Chinese internet resembles a fenced-off playground with paternalistic guards. Like the internet that much of the rest of the world enjoys, it is messy and unruly, offering diversions such as games, shopping and much more. Allowing a distinctly Chinese internet to flourish has been an important part of building a better cage. But it is constantly watched over and manipulated.”
By Sher Jan Ahmadzai and Thomas Gouttierre, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Sher Jan Ahmadzai is a research associate, and Thomas Gouttierre is director, of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The views expressed are their own.
The Afghan peace process and talks with the Taliban were high on the agenda during Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Pakistani military chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in Amman last month. But the key question is whether the Afghan government is gradually being cut out of its own country’s development.
The U.S.-Pakistan relationship – and the flow of billions dollars of aid money to Islamabad – already leaves many Afghans suspicious. This is not surprising considering al Qaeda and Taliban leaders including Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed have been found in Pakistani cities and tribal areas. Such assistance has left many Afghans with the feeling that the U.S. is closer to Pakistan than its real ally in the war against terrorists, namely Afghanistan.
By Fadi Hakura, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Fadi Hakura is associate fellow on the Europe Program at Chatham House. The views expressed are the author’s own.
Kurds are celebrating the arrival of spring amid hopes of a breakthrough between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish government. Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK’s imprisoned leader, announced last week that he has negotiated with high-ranking intelligence officials a ceasefire and a vague promise of withdrawal of PKK militants to northern Iraq.
But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has cautiously welcomed the move, must be careful not to raise expectations too high.
He has, for a start, so far shown no willingness to countenance PKK demands for separate Kurdish schooling, devolution of substantive powers to local administrations and reform of the constitutional definition of citizenship. He has also steadfastly refused to contemplate a general amnesty to the PKK – unsurprising given the hostility of Turkish popular opinion to these demands.
By Andrew Parasiliti, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Andrew Parasiliti is editor and CEO of Al-Monitor.com. The views expressed are his own.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel secured perhaps a year more for diplomacy with Iran and a chance for a political solution in Syria – if the United States is willing to seize it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to offer a hiatus in threats of a military attack on Iran when he said at a joint press conference on March 20 that the United States and Israel “have a common assessment” on Iran’s nuclear program, apparently agreeing with Obama’s timeline indicating that it could take “about a year” for Iran to manufacture a nuclear weapon, if it decided to do so.
On Syria, Obama and Netanyahu also shared a “common assessment” about the danger of Syria’s chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. But there seemed some light between the two on whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “must go,” as Obama noted in his remarks, as Netanyahu failed to mention al-Assad at the press conference.
By Gabriel Kohan and Mark Donig, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Gabriel Kohan and Mark Donig are Middle East policy analysts whose work has appeared in CNN, Foreign Policy, Forbes, and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The views expressed in this piece are their own.
Since the White House announced last month that President Obama would be headed to Israel, analysts have floated numerous flawed theories suggesting that the president’s trip is motivated primarily by either a desire to enhance cooperation on various security issues or to thaw the frosty relationship between the president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Advocates of the first theory overlook the fact that, while security issues will be addressed, this trip to Israel is not necessary for the two countries to enhance their already unprecedented security relationship – the president could accomplish the same without leaving Washington. Meanwhile, proponents of the second overestimate the impact of one more face-to-face meeting between a president and prime minister who have already met in person a number of times over the previous four years.
Rather, the greatest impact that this trip could have is not between leaders or governments, but between President Obama and the Israeli public. By using this trip to speak directly to the Israeli people and to reassure them of America’s commitment to Israel’s security, President Obama can begin to forge the kind of trust with the Israeli public that has so far eluded him, in part due to his previous requests for Israeli concessions on territory and settlements that some perceived as insensitive to Israel’s precarious security situation. In building this good faith, Obama can begin to “reset” his relationship with Israelis who may not trust today that the president will “have Israel’s back,” and can use that newly built trust to help achieve longstanding American foreign policy goals in the Middle East.
By Lowell Schwartz, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Lowell Schwartz is a political scientist at the RAND Corporation. He was an advisor to the U.S. Department of Defense on arms control and European security in 2009-2010. The views expressed are his own.
Ten years after the Iraq war started, violence may persist as the shift from Saddam Hussein’s totalitarian regime to one dominated by nationalist Shiites continues – a point underscored by a string of bombings overnight. Yet despite much pessimism, the new order survives, without U.S. assistance. And it is a lot less fragile than it often appears.
Back in 2003, when U.S. forces arrived in Baghdad, they were shocked by the complete disintegration of the Iraqi state – U.S. analysts had failed to comprehend the tremendous impact international sanctions and international isolation had had on Iraq’s economy and society.
The extreme erosion of the Iraq state, meanwhile, had two profound consequences. First, once the regime was unseated, power rapidly filtered down to the regional and tribal level. Second, a new national political order had to be built from scratch.
Last week, GPS invited readers to pose questions to the New Yorker’s Beijing correspondent, Evan Osnos. Here's what he had to say:
China’s People's Liberation Army has always defended the party as much as national borders, notes "j. von hettlingen." How much influence does the military have over decision making?
As Mao put it, “Power flows from the barrel of the gun.” By that, he meant that the Party would always require the force of arms as its final defense. But he, and his heirs, also engineered the system to ensure that civilian power would predominate, and we have seen that, for the past 30 years, China’s diplomatic and military posture has been secondary to its development imperative. The military is getting more assertive but, for now, it is not an independent power.
“Hen na gaijin” raises the issue of the South China Sea. How likely is a clash over territorial disputes there or the East China Sea?
The danger is not of a strategic decision but of a mistake – a miscalculation, an error, a clash – and that danger gets larger as more vessels crowd into a confined space. Importantly, it can be said that Chinese leaders, even the more hawkish wing, do not actively seek a conflict simply because the Party’s operating principle is to control – and a conflict, by definition, has too many variables it cannot control. The Party knows that one of the few things more destabilizing than a conflict would be a conflict in which it loses.
By Fareed Zakaria
Despite the speculation that this could be the year where “war or peace will break out” over Iran’s nuclear program, 2013 will more likely be another year of stalemate, argues Nader Mousavizadeh in the FT.
“This is mostly all theater. The reality is that for each of the principal parties, the status quo – Iran isolated diplomatically, crippled economically, boxed in militarily – is preferable to the available alternatives.
“An all-out war including weeks of strikes on suspected nuclear installations and widespread Iranian retaliation through conventional and unconventional means is, for most, anathema. It is also true, though unacknowledged by the west, that a genuine peace with Tehran is equally unattractive.”
If the two-state solution dies, “Israel will only be left with ugly options,” writes Ben Birnbaum in the New Republic, adding that the window is closing for a two-state solution.
“It could ride out the status quo as the world continues to turn against it. It could unilaterally create a Palestinian state by withdrawing to the line of the barrier, incurring most of the costs of a two-state solution with few of the benefits. It could annex the West Bank and give all Palestinians citizenship, making Israel a binational state. Or it could annex the entire West Bank without giving Palestinians citizenship, embracing apartheid.”