Bold Initiatives to Reduce Nuclear Tensions – 50 Years Ago and Today

Matthew Bunn

Matthew Bunn

By Matthew Bunn

Today is the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s remarkable American University commencement address, in which he called for a new approach to easing tensions with the Soviet Union.  Kennedy announced a halt in U.S. atmospheric nuclear testing, which quickly led to the Limited Test Ban Treaty (LTBT).  I have a piece in today’s Christian Science Monitor arguing that President Obama should take a similar approach to resolving the nuclear standoff with Iran – offering a substantial unilateral initiative to help break through the decades of mistrust and suspicion, with the promise of further conciliatory steps if Iran reciprocates in a substantial way.

In 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union had many conflicting interests – but they had common interests in avoiding nuclear war, limiting the costs of the arms race, and more.  Kennedy’s initiative was based on the recognition that the mistrust that distorted each side’s view of the actions and proposals of the other side was a major obstacle to pursuing the common interests. Kennedy was familiar with psychologist Charles Osgood’s book, An Alternative to War or Surrender, which had come out a year before, proposing a strategy Osgood called Graduated Reciprocation in Tension-Reduction (GRIT).    (Osgood had also pushed this idea in a number of papers, such as the one in this book.) Continue reading >

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China’s nuclear policy: changing or not?

Hui Zhang

Hui Zhang

By Hui Zhang

Senior Research Associate, Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

The new defense white paper released by China on April 16 has sparked a debate over whether China is changing its nuclear policy, because this new paper, unlike previous editions, did not reiterate China’s long-standing no-first-use nuclear weapons doctrine. Is China changing its nuclear policy?

Colonel Yang Yujun, a spokesman of China’s Ministry of Defense, answered this question unambiguously during a briefing on April 25. Yang stated that “China repeatedly reaffirms that China has always pursued no-first-use nuclear weapons policy, upholds its nuclear strategy of self-defense, and never takes part in any form of nuclear arms race with any country. The policy has never been changed. The concern about changes of China’s nuclear policy is unnecessary.”

Colonel Yang further explained that this new white paper elaborates clearly the readiness level of the PLA Second Artillery Force (PLASAF) in peacetime and the conditions under which China would launch a resolute counterattack –if China comes under a nuclear attack. All these details, as Yang stated in the briefing, show exactly that “China is earnestly fulfilling its no-fist-use nuclear pledge.” Continue reading >

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The Cost of Saving Lives in Bangladesh

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

(This article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor)

The horrific death of more than 900 Bangladesh garment workers in the collapse of a building, following the death of 112 garment workers in a Bangladesh factory fire five months ago, has led, of course, to the inevitable calls for reform. The immediate question is how to ensure structural soundness of factories after the multi-storied Rana Plaza facility–making garments for as many as 30 international retailers–broke apart, burning, suffocating and crushing its workforce. But broader issues of worker health and safety for Bangladesh’s 5,000 garment factories have also come to the fore.

But if real reform is to occur on the ground, hard, complex questions must be asked and answered. Most importantly, what is the cost of necessary changes to protect workers and who will pay? Many actors have a role: the Bangladesh government, the factory owners, the garment buyers (including many international brands), consumers across the globe looking for cheap prices and developed world governments which have allowed preferential treatment for Bangladesh imports (using “trade” in lieu of “aid”) without serious review of worker standards. Continue reading >

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America’s Undiminished Power of Attraction

Richard N. Rosecrance

Richard N. Rosecrance

By Richard N. Rosecrance

President Obama has nominated two representatives who will lead US trade talks over the next two years: Michael Froman, former White House economic aide as U.S. Trade Representative and Penny Pritzker, Hyatt scion and Chicago fund raiser as the new Secretary of Commerce. Together their appointments signal America’s new focus on increasing international trade as a stimulus to the domestic economy. The two representatives will deal with proposals for a customs accord with the European Union (TAFTA and an investment agreement) and a commercial union with Pacific nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But the new stress on trade represents a more profound reorientation than just a new way of seeking economic development. It underscores America’s undiminished power of attraction to other countries in both international politics and economics. Continue reading >

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Name the Trade Rep, Mr. President

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

(This article first appeared in Harvard Business Review Blog Network, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor)

In President Obama’s second term, the United States has an ambitious and challenging Atlantic and Pacific trade agenda which could significantly alter the architecture of the global economy.

But the President has yet to designate someone to fill the crucial Cabinet level position of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). The stakes, both internationally and domestically, are extremely high and Mr. Obama should immediately send to the Senate for confirmation a nominee of prominence and stature.

Doing so would show that he places the highest priority on both the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations — started in 2011 and slated to end this year — and the newly launched free trade negotiations between the US and EU which are scheduled (optimistically) to be completed before the 2016 election. He should simultaneously push hard for Congressional renewal of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) which gives the Executive the power to negotiate trade agreements subject only to a prompt up or down vote in the House and Senate with no amendments. This authority expired in 2007. Continue reading >

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The Off-Shoring, Out-Sourcing Debate is Out of Date

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

(This article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor)

Labor markets have for the past quarter century been at the center of the globalization disputes under the “off-shoring and out-sourcing” rubric. How many jobs were lost at home to cheap labor abroad? What were conditions for those overseas workers? But the rapidly changing nature of the global economy has changed much, though not all, of that “off-shoring/out-sourcing” debate. Today, cheap labor is only one of many factors leading global companies to choose where to do business in diverse nations across the world. Major economic changes like the internal growth of emerging markets have scrambled debates about the global economy, posed challenges for international business, stimulated contradictory public policies and confused the general public.

It was often cheap labor in emerging markets that, more than two decades ago, led companies in developed markets to move company jobs away from the home country either to company owned facilities (off-shoring) or to third parties (out-sourcing) in developing markets. The broad idea was that less expensive manufacturing or inexpensive white collar workers would create goods and services in developing nations that would serve world markets. China, especially, would be the global product-manufacturing center; India, via the web, would be the global service provider.

The well known debate ensued between free-trade (more competition, cheaper goods in U.S., growth in developing markets) and fair trade (only wealthy benefit, hollowing out of U.S. middle class, exploitative labor standards overseas). The debate heated up in political years (including 2012), when “outsourcing” became an especially a dirty word. But, in addition to dramatic economic growth in emerging markets, four recent trends have significantly modified this old off-shoring and out-sourcing schematic. Continue reading >

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Cyber assassins

Justin Dargin

Justin Dargin

By Justin Dargin

(This article first appeared in Petroleum Economist)

Computer screens at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) indicate to anxious personnel that a massive Soviet attack is under way.

Hundreds of bombers, nuclear-tipped inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarines are heading for the US. NORAD prepares to retaliate and readies the US nuclear arsenal for a devastating counterattack. But, at the last moment, humanity is saved, and it is discovered that the supposed Soviet nuclear attack was the result of a hacking gone wildly out of control.

Sounds real? Thankfully, it was not. It was a scene from the 1983 blockbuster WarGames. The movie was released a full decade before the internet became commercialised and a full two decades before it became part of everyday life. While hackers first appeared on the scene in the 1960s, borne out of the high-tech and competitive environment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), hacking was first introduced to the general public by WarGames. Continue reading >

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Israel’s Missing Naval Strategy

Ehud Eiran

By Ehud Eiran

Former Associate and Research Fellow, International Security Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

In a March 19 piece on Foreign Affairs. com, Retired Admiral Yual Zur and I argued for the development of a comprehensive Israeli maritime strategy. Israel not only resides on the shores of the Mediterranean, but also relies on the seas for almost all of its imports, exports and cable communications. In many ways – due its political, economic, and cultural isolation for the Middle-East – Israel had become an island of sorts.

While the Jewish state’s founding father, David Ben Gurion, believed that the seas hold the key for the state’s future, over the years, the role of the sea in the eyes of national planners declined. Israel has no clear strategy regarding the seas and how they might contribute for its future prosperity. It further lacks the institutional depth expected from a nation that is so dependent on the seas. For example, Israel has no coast guard and the number of Israeli civilian sailors declined from some 1500 a few decades ago, to less than 300 today. But recent strategic developments must lead Israel to close its maritime gap.

First, massive gas deposits found in the last few years in Israeli economic waters are going to become a crucial part of its economy. Second, the seas had become a major supply route of arms for Israel’s non-state foes. Third, the growing tensions with Iran should lead Israel to develop platforms that have a longer reach, the navy’s being an obvious choice. Finally, Israel benefits from the rise of new international maritime security regimes, such as the Proliferation Security Initiative, and may need to think more seriously about how it could contribute to them.

The full article is available at Foreign Affairs.

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ASEAN’s Great Power Dilemma

Kei Koga

Kei Koga

By Kei Koga.

(This article first appeared in Asia Times Online)

Since the end of the Cold War, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has engaged the outside world to play an active security role within greater East Asia. In 1994, ASEAN created the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), at which regional powers such as the United States, Japan, and China meet annually to discuss security issues in the region and beyond.

In 1997, ASEAN+3 was created in order to manage regional issues, especially economics. In 2005, the East Asia Summit (EAS) was established by inviting Australia, India and New Zealand in addition to the ASEAN+3 member states. In 2011, the summit’s membership was expanded to the US and Russia.

In 2010, the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) expanded its membership to include all members from EAS to form ADMM Plus. By inviting the region’s great powers, ASEAN had two objectives: (1) to maintain the constant attention of the great powers to ASEAN and (2) to avoid political marginalization from them.

To this end, ASEAN has attempted to maintain its post–Cold War fundamental principle of regional multilateralism: “ASEAN Centrality”. This principle derives from the 10-member grouping’s negative experience in the late 1980s with the establishment of the rival Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Continue reading >

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How Obama Can Win a European Free-Trade Deal

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

(This article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor)

The contrast was striking. In his State of the Union address, President Obama buried the start of a U.S.-E.U. free trade negotiations in a single sentence well down in the text: ” Tonight, I’m announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union, because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”

Yet, remarkably, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times led their editions the second day after the speech with the trade talk stories, and under multi-deck headlines (“Obama Bid for Trade Pact with Europe Stirs Hope: Rise of China May Spur Deal Despite Past Failures–Visions of Lower Prices.“)

In trumpeting the story, the newspapers acknowledged the potential significance of such a deal between the first and second largest economies in the world (E.U. $17 trillion; U.S. $15 trillion; China $12 trillion), reflecting the views of politicians and other leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. In downplaying the announcement, the president was hedging his bets: because of parochial interests in both the U.S. and the E.U., it will be hard to get a meaningful deal done on a host of technocratic issues, and he doesn’t want the trade negotiations to detract politically from the host of other issues he wishes to advance during his second term.

Yet the irony is that the president cannot hedge his bets without effectively undermining, or indeed killing, the talks in their infancy. He must be prepared to put the full weight of the administration, and the full weight of the presidency, behind this project for it to have a decent chance of succeeding. Continue reading >

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