In only eight years, the darling of the Internet world has rocketed to fame and fortune. Boasting users in every corner of the world, the popular search engine is the quintessential American success story. Yet it has begun to draw skepticism from Wall Street and the ire of human rights groups. Is Google really as kind, ubiquitous, and omnipotent as it seems?
Criminal tribunals in places such as Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia were supposed to bring justice to oppressed peoples. Instead, they have squandered billions of dollars, failed to advance human rights, and ignored the wishes of the victims they claim to represent. It's time to abandon the false hope of international justice.
Bankruptcies, terrorism, and high oil prices have rocked the airline industry. Customers complain about bad service and long lines. Are airlines doomed? Not a chance. The global economy cannot function without air travel. But the industry that emerges from the coming shakeout will need a whole new set of wings.
High oil prices have everyone talking about energy independence again. But a look at the numbers reveals the vaunted goal is an illusion. And conservation isn't the answer, either. The sooner we realize it, the sooner we can talk about real solutions to the energy crisis.
Judging by news headlines, human trafficking is a recent phenomenon. In fact, the coerced movement of people across borders is as old as the laws of supply and demand. What is new is the volume of the traffic -- and the realization that we have done little to stem the tide. We must look beyond our raw emotions if we are ever to stop those who trade in human lives.
For the vast majority of Americans, the chances of dying in a terrorist attack are close to zero. There's a higher probability that you’ll die by falling off a ladder than getting mixed up in some terrorist plot. So why is the U.S. Department of Homeland Security constantly telling every American to be afraid? That's a strategy that creates widespread fear without making America any safer. U.S. homeland security efforts should focus less on what is possible and more on what is probable.
Tehran's desire for a nuclear bomb has put it in Washington's cross hairs. But neither President George W. Bush's repeated condemnations of Iran's clerical rulers nor the threat of military force will advance the cause of democracy there. When Iran reforms, it will happen because its youth -- not the United States -- demands it.
Two decades and billions of dollars into the fight against AIDS, the world still has a long way to go in arresting the epidemic. The cash that donor governments roll out with much fanfare won't make a dent so long as misperceptions persist about how we are winning and losing the battle against the disease.
Shortly after a tsunami swept through the Indian Ocean last December, a U.N. official complained that the West was stingy with its relief donations. Stung by this criticism, the Bush administration increased its financial pledge tenfold overnightwhile loudly asserting that the United States actually led the global pack in foreign aid. Is the worlds wealthiest country a scrooge or a savior?
U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan is credited with simultaneously achieving record-low inflation, spawning the largest economic boom in U.S. history, and saving the world from financial collapse. But, when Greenspan steps down next year, he will leave behind a record foreign deficit and a generation of Americans with little savings and mountains of debt. Has the world's most revered central banker unwittingly set up the global economy for disaster?
People in the Middle East want political freedom, and their governments acknowledge the need for reform. Yet the region appears to repel democracy. Arab regimes only concede women's rights and elections to appease their critics at home and abroad. If democracy arrives in the Middle East, it won't be due to the efforts of liberal activists or their Western supporters but to the very same Islamist parties that many now see as the chief obstacle to change.
Not since Richard Nixon's conduct of the war in Vietnam has a U.S. president's foreign policy so polarized the country -- and the world. Yet as controversial as George W. Bush's policies have been, they are not as radical a departure from his predecessors as both critics and supporters proclaim. Instead, the real weaknesses of the president's foreign policy lie in its contradictions: Blinded by moral clarity and hamstrung by its enormous military strength, the United States needs to rebalance means with ends if it wants to forge a truly effective grand strategy.
"How is it in our nation's interest," asked U.S. Sen. Carl Levin recently, "to have civilian contractors, rather than military personnel, performing vital national security functions... in a war zone?" The answer lies in humanity's long history of contracting force and the changing role of today's private security firms. Even as governments debate how to hold them accountable, these hired guns are rapidly becoming indispensable to national militaries, private corporations, and non-governmental groups across the globe.
The mere mention of al Qaeda conjures images of an efficient terrorist network guided by a powerful criminal mastermind. Yet al Qaeda is more lethal as an ideology than as an organization. "Al Qaedaism" will continue to attract supporters in the years to come -- whether Osama bin Laden is around to lead them or not.
The concept of human rights is the mother's milk of the international community. Problem is, these days human rights come in more flavors than coffee or soft drinks. Would you like the Asian, Islamic, indigenous, economic, European, or U.S. version? And how would you like your human rights served: with sanctions, regime change, corporate window dressing, or good old-fashioned moral suasion? Here's a look at the most effective -- and most misguided -- recipes for promoting human dignity around the world.
A cabal of neoconservatives has hijacked the Bush administration's foreign policy and transformed the world's sole superpower into a unilateral monster. Say what? In truth, stories about the "neocon" ascendancy -- and the group's insidious intent to wage preemptive wars across the globe -- have been much exaggerated. And by telling such tall tales, critics have twisted the neocons' identities and thinking on U.S. foreign policy into an unrecognizable caricature.
Why have disagreements between rich and poor nations stalled the global trading system? Because vapid debates over "fair trade" obscure some inconvenient facts: First, notwithstanding their demands for equity, poor countries are more protectionist than advanced economies. Second, if rich nations cut their self-defeating agricultural subsidies, their own publics would benefit, but consumers in many poor countries would not. Finally, despite criticisms to the contrary, the WTO can help promote economic development in low-income countries -- but only if rich nations let the global body do its job.
Bureaucratic. Ineffective. Undemocratic. Anti-United States. And after the bitter debate over the use of force in Iraq, critics might add "useless" to the list of adjectives describing the United Nations. So why was the United Nations the first place the Bush administration went for approval after winning the war? Because for $1.25 billion a year -- roughly what the Pentagon spends every 32 hours -- the United Nations is still the best investment that the world can make in stopping AIDS and SARS, feeding the poor, helping refugees, and fighting global crime and the spread of nuclear weapons.
Which is more representative of modern war: The United States unleashing high-tech arsenals to defeat dubious Third World regimes swiftly or machete-wielding insurgents fighting brutal civil wars in Africa? The short answer: both. Yet neither of these scenarios conforms to the classic model of warfare as a titanic struggle between rival great powers. It's time to update the textbooks and reappraise the nature of war.
North Korea is not crazy, near collapse, nor about to start a war. But it is dangerous, not to mention dangerously misunderstood. Defusing the threat that North Korea poses to its neighbors and the world will require less bluster, more patience, and a willingness on the part of the United States to probe and understand the true sources of the North's conduct.
Is Latin America running out of chances? No miracle cure -- from privatization to property rights, from democracy to dollarization -- has ended the region's turmoil. With only token attention from the United States, Latin leaders need to find homegrown solutions. One place to start: more economic reform, not less, and less rule of law, not more.
The United States may boast a massive economy and whopping defense budget, but wielding true global power takes more than just greenbacks and green berets. These days the tools for projecting power are more varied and dispersed than ever. And as the clout of terrorist networks, diplomatic alliances, and international financiers seems to expand, lasting global supremacy may hinge on the skillful deployment of an increasingly elusive resource: moral authority.
Big media barons are routinely accused of dominating markets, dumbing down the news to plump up the bottom line, and forcing U.S. content on world audiences. But these companies are not as big, bad, dominant, or American as critics claim. And company size is largely irrelevant to many of the problems facing today's Fourth Estate.
Once, nations were forged through "blood and iron." Today, the world seeks to build them through conflict resolution, multilateral aid, and free elections. But this more civilized approach has not yielded many successes. For nation building to work, some harsh compromises are necessary -- including military coercion and the recognition that democracy is not always a realistic goal.
In 1974, Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), declared before the United Nations that he came "bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun." Nearly 20 years later, the world still does not know if Arafat is a statesman dedicated to peaceful coexistence with Israel or a resistance leader dedicated to armed struggle. As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict enters a tenuous new phase of peace negotiations, understanding Arafat's true motives will be essential to fostering a lasting agreement.
For tobacco control advocates, the tobacco industry is public health enemy number one: It sells a commodity that will kill 500 million of the 6 billion people living today. For governments, tobacco is both a health threat and a powerful economic force that annually generates hundreds of billions of dollars in sales and billions more in tax revenues. That clash of interests fuels a debate ensnarling everything from farm subsidies and export controls to healthcare spending, taxation, law enforcement, and free speech.
As the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan winds down, should Iraq become "phase two" in the war against global terrorism? Iraq hawks warn that Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of mass destruction and his fanatic hatred of the United States make him a paramount threat. Others counsel for continued diplomacy and the return of U.N. weapons inspectors, arguing that an attack on Iraq would destabilize the Arab world. To support their cases, both sides deploy cherished assumptions about everything from Saddam Hussein's sanity to the explosive volatility of the "Arab Street." But a skeptical look at the sound bites suggests that the greatest risk of attacking Iraq may not be a vengeful Saddam or a destabilized Middle East but the unraveling of the global coalition against terrorism.
For all the current focus on fiery Islamic extremists, religious fundamentalists are not confined to any particular faith or country, nor to the poor and uneducated. Instead, they are likely to spring up anywhere people perceive the need to fight a godless, secular culture -- even if they have to depart from the orthodoxy of their traditions to do it. In fact, what fundamentalists everywhere have in common is the ability to craft their messages to fit the times.
Debt relief has become the feel-good economic policy of the new millennium, trumpeted by Irish rock star Bono, Pope John Paul II, and virtually everyone in between. But despite its overwhelming popularity among policymakers and the public, debt relief is a bad deal for the world’s poor. By transferring scarce resources to corrupt governments with proven track records of misusing aid, debt forgiveness might only aggravate poverty among the world’s most vulnerable populations.
Lost your job? Your cultural identity? Your democratic rights? Your clean air and water? Blame globalization -- everyone else does. From Seattle to Copenhagen and Washington, D.C., to Genoa, protesters of all stripes and creeds have turned globalization into a shorthand for many of the world's ills. But judging by the widespread misconceptions about the true consequences of the integration of markets, politics, and cultures, a smaller world is not necessarily a smarter one.