Vice-president Joe Biden’s recent trip to Beijing focused a spotlight on the Chinese government’s often heavy-handed treatment of Western journalists, while raising questions about how the U.S. administration could and should respond.
Seen from abroad -- and I’m in China at the moment -- the U.S. government shutdown seems worse than absurd; it’s actually threatening America’s long standing as the beacon of democracy in the world.
The four-day siege of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, near where I once lived, is a sobering reminder yet again, as if any were needed, of the vulnerability of open societies to a determined band of terrorists bent on doing evil.
Generals are always fighting the last war, or so the old adage goes. I would add my own corollary; politicians are always trying to avoid the last war, especially when the last one has gone particularly badly. Read more about Echoes of Iraq, and Somalia, in Syria Intervention
The precautionary closing this weekend of nearly two dozen American diplomatic facilities around the world due to a suspected terrorist threat refocuses public attention on a crucial, if sometimes forgotten, fact; there are still bad people out there who want to kill us.
That may sound simplistic to say it. But it needs saying, explicitly, as the debate continues over the NSA spying program, the government’s email and telephone metadata snooping, and the search for the right balance between civil liberties and needed vigilance.
Read more about Privacy v Security is a Balancing Act
I don’t normally comment on American domestic issues, since my specialty is foreign affairs, and I’m currently in China.
But from Shanghai, where I’m now ensconced, I’ve been watching from a distance the reaction in the U.S. to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. I tried to refrain, but decided it was time to jump in with my two cents.
Read more about Fear of Talking About Race
Can a global brand have a local identity in the community where it operates? What does “local” mean anymore, in our increasingly globalized, interconnected world? What is local, when communities are increasingly being formed online, virtually, where common issues and interests trump geography and physicality? And what are the responsibilities of global brands to local communities?
As someone who has spent the last 20 years as a correspondent in some of the farthest flung corners of the globe, I can tell you these are complex issues, with no easy answers. Read more about What is the future of local?
Should President Obama intervene militarily in Syria?
The question is being debated with new urgency, with evidence that the regime of Bashar Asaad likely crossed Obama’s own stated “red line” with the use of chemical weapons, possibly sarin gas, against civilians in the ongoing civil war.
Read more about Avoid Syria's Morass
Last week’s drama in Boston and Cambridge -- the late Thursday shootout with two terrorism suspects firing automatic weapons and hurling grenade, then the manhunt for the wounded survivor that paralyzed the entire area -- ended in a success for law enforcement and for this gritty town’s resilient defiance.
Read more about When We Shelter In Place, Do Terrorists Win?
The brutal, senseless bomb attack on the Boston Marathon – turning a glorious spring day of celebration into a bloody scene of death and injury – serves as another reminder, as if any were needed, that terrorism is now our “new normal.” And although since 9/11 we’ve been comparatively lucky and increasingly sophisticated at intercepting plots and plotters, terror is now a feature of our country that’s here to stay.
We simply can’t assume we’re safe here in the homeland. Read more about After Boston Attack, Wake Up to the "New Normal"
Reading over the many tributes to the late former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, I recall my own year living in London, 1983-84, during the peak of the bloody miners’ strike and the social turmoil that Thatcher’s brand of conservatism unleashed.
Wednesday night, April 3, at the Harvard Kennedy School’s JFK Jr Forum, we had a lively discussion about China, with former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and me as moderator. The huge turnout – the event was ticketed and held before a capacity crowd – attests to the intense interest these days in almost everything related to China. Read more about China Rising the topic at Harvard IOP Forum
For Harvard's Institute of Politics, I co-authored a piece with former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who will be at the IOP as a visiting Fellow this week and attending my China Study Group Wed. April 3.
In the piece, we discuss the nature of the U.S.-China relationship as one defined by multiple, overlapping layers of engagement and mistrust, and one which will require careful and sustained high-level attention over time. Read more about China's Critical Importance
Watching the spectacle surrounding the Supreme Court oral arguments this week in two cases involving same sex marriage, I’m transported back a dozen years, to April 1, 2001, when I covered the world’s very first same sex marriage ceremonies in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam’s city hall. Read more about On gay marriage, ask the Dutch
Barring any last minute court intervention, it appears Uhuru Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister, will be sworn in as the elected president of Kenya. Kenyatta is the son of the country’s founding first president Jomo Kenyatta. He is also an indicted suspect for crimes against humanity, for his role in Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence that left more than a thousand people dead and tens of thousands displaced. Read more about Pragmatism or Principle in Kenya?
Greetings, and welcome to my new and improved site.
It’s here in this space that I plan to post regular blog entries — ramblings, musings, commentaries, opinions on whatever happens to be fresh in the news, or on my mind. You might find my take on a particular news development inside China one week, or I might weigh in on an interesting current debate about, say, the efficacy of the one-child policy or whether Xi Jinping is actually producing real change. Read more about Welcome!