Henry Kissinger, Comic Book Villain

A great vignette via @zachbeauchamp at Vox:

In this 1976 issue of the aptly titled Supervillain Team-Up, the Fantastic Four are battling arch-nemesis Dr. Doom. After fighting an army of robots and even the brainwashed superhero Namor, the heroes break into Doom’s castle in Latveria (a fictional European country he runs). They’re about to lay down one of those traditional super-hero smackdowns, but the Four are stopped by an enemy they can’t fight with fists — Henry Kissinger:


via That time Henry Kissinger was a literal comic book villain – Vox.

The Future of the OSCE

What is the OSCE–and why is it having a moment of truth in Ukraine?  Called the “least bad option” by Richard Gowan of NYU, it was common to debate the role of this until-recently-more-obscure, European regional security organization, until Russia chose to takeover Crimea.

More than ever before, the situation in Ukraine — and within the OSCE during this crisis — prove that we must finally adjust the consensus-based decision-making which prevents collective action against blatant violations of OSCE commitments.

The OSCE as an organization must resolve that it will not be taken hostage by any one state to remain silent and helpless while human suffering and brutal aggression continue.

The OSCE as an organization must resolve that it will not be taken hostage by any one state to remain silent and helpless while human suffering and brutal aggression continue. OSCE parliamentarians have long called on the governmental side to consider new rules — perhaps consensus minus one or two, or two-thirds-majority or some procedure that prevents a single country veto by a transgressor. Achieving this change will no doubt be a diplomatic battle royale, but this current episode has demonstrated just how much we need to take it on

via Can Europe’s Security Watchdog Survive the Crisis in Ukraine?.

Gowan explains on CFR.org the past view of OSCE:

The OSCE is the perennial also-ran among Europe’s security institutions. It lacks NATO’s military clout and the European Union’s economic resources. Its main strength is that it includes all the countries of Europe and the former Soviet Union, as well as the United States and Canada, but it is often hard to forge consensus among such diverse and sometimes antagonistic members.

The organization was prominent in the 1990s, when it offered a framework for Western and Eastern states to manage the crises that flared up in Europe after the Cold War: it sent peacemaking missions to the former Yugoslavia, Georgia, Moldova, and other trouble spots. It also handled questions such as the status of ethnic Russians in the Baltic states, which had the potential to spark conflict with Moscow. The OSCE had officials in Crimea in the mid-1990s trying to ease tensions between ethnic Russians and Tatars.

Although the OSCE developed expertise on issues such as minority rights and good governance, it began to lose momentum in the early 2000s. In recent years, it has ended up tending to long-standing conflicts, like the one between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, rather than taking on new challenges. It still has officials dealing with complex, if low-priority, problems like the future of the Serb minority in Kosovo, but the OSCE as a whole has been weakened by the mounting tensions between Russia and the West.

So the OSCE tends to be an afterthought until one of the half-resolved problems left over from the 1990s, like the status of the Crimea, explodes again and makes it relevant.

via CFR Interview, March 2014

A 5-Minute International Relations Degree (You Wish)

So if you’re ruing the day that you got a finance degree and didn’t take any courses that were actually interesting, I offer here the Five Minute University program in International Relations. It consists of five basic concepts that teach you all you really need to know about the fascinating world of international affairs. Unless you are a very slow reader, this shouldn’t take more than five minutes.

via How to Get a B.A. in International Relations in 5 Minutes.

Thanks to Professor Walt for this useful intro to anarchy, balance of power, comparative advantage, misperception/miscalculation, and social construction.  He also suggests the next level of understanding:

deterrence and coercion, institutions, selection effects, democratic peace theory, international finance, and a number of other key ideas. A good working knowledge of international history would surely help as well, plus a lot of detailed expertise in specific policy areas.

Attributes for Espionage

The sparse but effective prose of Kai Bird in his new book on Robert Ames, one of the CIA’s most effective Middle East hands, paints the careful operator in this way:

People warmed to him because he took an interest in them. Ames liked to wear Western boots, but he was more John le Carré than Louis L’Amour. A colleague described him as being “anonymous, perceptive, knowledgeable, highly motivated, critical, discreet — with a priest’s and cop’s understanding of the complexity of human nature in action.”
Mr. Bird

via The Good Spy

Why You Need to Make Eye Contact

For speaking, negotiating, communicating, and leading:

Only actual eye contact fully activates those parts of the brain that allow us to more acutely and accurately process another person’s feelings and intentions. Think of it as a cognitive jump-start that occurs whenever you lock eyes with another person, whether in front of you or across a crowded room. …
“A richer mode of communication is possible right after making eye contact,” Dr. Senju said. “It amplifies your ability to compute all the signals so you are able to read the other person’s brain.”
In other words, eye contact makes us more socially aware and empathetic. It allows us to make sense of our relationships and social orientation. So avoiding eye contact out of fear or insecurity, or breaking eye contact to read a text, check email or play Candy Crush degrades your social facility and emotional intelligence.

via NYT The Eyes Have It

Missing the Real Africa Story

We are missing the big picture–and the main stories of Africa’s rise, including three clashes, according to David Brooks: pluralism, human development and governance.  But since “too many of our images of Africa are derived from nature documentaries, fund-raising appeals, and mission trips” we miss the mark.

But this is more or less the opposite of the truth. Boko Haram is not the main story in Africa or even in Nigeria. It is a small rear-guard reaction to the main story. The main story in Africa is an impressive surge of growth, urbanization and modernization, which has sparked panic in a few people who don’t like these things.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are growing at a phenomenal clip. Nigeria’s economy grew by 6.7 percent in 2012. Mozambique’s grew by 7.4 percent, Ghana’s by 7.9 percent. Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole is predicted to reach 5.2 percent this year. Investment funds are starting up by the dozen, finding local entrepreneurs.

via The Real Africa – NYTimes.com.


Keep in mind that “bad news sells”–in the case of reporting, donors and even international organizations, as Karen Rothmyer writes in CJR. Stereotypes and outdated frames, such as Africa as a country and all the other images of blood diamonds, conflicts, and even groups like Boko Haram, dominate the narrative.

Can the UN Help Track Planes?

When international coordination works–we tend to ignore the results.  But when things go badly, groups like the ICAO enter into the mix.  This body, dating back to a November 1944 agreement among 55 states,  is trying to find ways to keep track of airplanes as a result of the missing Malaysian jet. But sometimes even just coordinating details can be tricky:

“It’s complicated work to get 191 states to agree on anything,” said Anthony Philbin, a spokesman for the United Nations agency, known as ICAO.

Another expert with long experience in multinational aviation negotiations, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that “ICAO doesn’t feel very good about the aftermath of Air France 447, and then, lo and behold, we get Malaysia.”

“ICAO doesn’t have a very good story to tell,” he said. “Nobody does.”

via U.N. to Consider Ways to Track Planes Over Seas – NYTimes.com.


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