Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Opens 25th APR in Kuala Lumpur

May 31, 2011

ISIS Malaysia celebrates its 25th Year of its founding and hosts the Annual Asia-Pacific Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

May 30, 2011

Congratulations to  Chairman, Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar Hassan and its Chief Executive Dato’ Dr. Mahani Zainal Abidin  on the occasion of the 25 Anniversary of ISIS Malaysia. I also wish to pay tribute to its founder Chairman, the late Tan Sri Dr. Noordin Sopiee, for his contributions to this premier think tank.

ISIS Malaysia as the organiser, and ASEAN-ISIS (a group of leading strategic studies institutes from across the ASEAN region) are playing host to HRH Raja Dr. Nazrin ibni Sultan Azlan Muhibbudin Shah, the Crown Prince of Perak, prominent scholars, researchers, diplomats, and policy makers of the Asia-Pacific Region (APR) from May 30-June 1, 2011 of the 25th APR Roundtable. This year, some 350 participants who are in Kuala Lumpur will hold fank and inclusive dialogue on topical issues of regional and international concern.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, The Hon’ble Tan Sri  Dato’ Muhyiddin Mohd. Yassin delivered his Keynote Address on Reflections on Southeast Asia and the Broader Region”.  Today’s luncheon talk was delivered by the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Indonesia, The Hon’ble Dr. Raden Mohammad MARTY Muliana Natalegawa, to be followed by the 25th APR Anniversary dinner speech by HE Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN.

ZOPFAN: Creating habits of cooperation

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister said that 2011 marks the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN’s Declaration of ZOPFAN (Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality). He finds its core principles relevant since it continues to reflect ASEAN’s approach towards the major powers. “The management of our relations with the major powers is one of the most important strategic challenges that we face today…The process of formulating ZOPFAN was crucial towards cultivating habits of cooperation between ASEAN member states. The fruits of that early instance of collaboration are now evident across multiple categories, as we move closer towards an ASEAN community”.

Peaceful Settlement of Disputes

Muhyiddin alluded in his Address to the present dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over  the territory surrounding the ancient Preah Vihear as “rather challenging for ASEAN”. But thanks to the effort of the Indonesian Foreign Minister  and in true spirit of ASEAN, both countries have agreed to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and resolve their differences by peaceful means”. In this regard, the Malaysian Deputy Minister sought to remind his audience that:

“The peaceful resolution of conflicts is the bedrock of ASEAN as embodied in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation(TAC) and urged ASEAN member states to uphold  the spirit and letter of TAC .” We must remain vigilant and reaffirm our commitment to this tradition. If ASEAN member states do not take the TAC seriously. we should not expect the other signatories to do so”. He added, “We have a moral duty to lead by example and thereby binding signatories such as China, India, the European  Union, Japan and the United States to their pledges  on the non-use of forces in the settlement of disputes”.

Strategic Importance of China

Given the strategic importance of China to ASEAN and the world. Muhyiddin said that China “has proven to be a very good friend”. He goes on to say that: “For the good part of the new millennium, China has walked the talk of ‘peaceful development’ and has extended its hand of friendship to Southeast Asia. These are warmly reciprocated  by the member states of ASEAN. China is now an integral part of regional cooperation and community building…I am indeed heartened that in the case of the South China Sea dispute, China has shown its willingness to work with ASEAN  to formulate a Code of Conduct(COC)…There is no better affirmation of the strong ties between ASEAN and China than a peaceful and expeditious resolution  to our overlapping claims in the South China Sea”.

Sixth East Asian Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia

The Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister made reference to the October Sixth East Asian Summit (EAS) in Jakarta where ASEAN will see the participation of the Presidents of Russia and United States, bringing the number of countries in the EAS to 18. However, he feels that Malaysia’s commitment to an open regional architecture for security “should not come at the expense of building an effective forum where participants can engage in meaningful dialogue…we need to keep the membership of EAS as lean as possible”.

Importance of ASEAN reaffirmed

Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin concluded his Keynote Address by reminding his audience that “Southeast Asia views its security as being intimately linked with the wider region. That is why we have sought to develop an extensive network of cooperation. And that is why we put such great store in the ASEAN Plus Three and the East Asia Summit. I am confident that ASEAN’s role at the centre of regional cooperation will continue to grow in importance, especially as the world’s strategic centre of gravity shifts towards Asia.”- Din Merican

The Fear: Where Horror Is a Weapon

May 29, 2011

Books of The Times

Where Dissidents Are the Prey, and Horror Is a Weapon

By Michiko Kakutani (May 23, 2011)

An authoritarian government willing to use the most brutal means to hold on to power; a dictator whose thugs have murdered, tortured, imprisoned or intimidated tens of thousands of civilians; and individuals who have risked their lives simply to exercise their most fundamental rights — this is the state of affairs not only in Libya today, but also in Zimbabwe, which has suffered the ravages of more than 30 years under the autocratic rule of President Robert Mugabe.

In his chilling new book, “The Fear,” the journalist Peter Godwin gives readers an unsparing account of the horrors that Mr. Mugabe’s regime has inflicted on the people of Zimbabwe. During his three decades in office the country’s economy has tanked: agricultural production has plummeted, unemployment and food shortages have multiplied, inflation has soared, and much of the country’s middle class has fled. AIDS cases have exploded, and medicine and medical help are in increasingly short supply.

Hopes that Mr. Mugabe’s days as president might actually be numbered were dashed in the weeks leading up to a runoff election in June 2008, when supporters of the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change came under violent attack, and Mr. Tsvangirai announced his withdrawal as a presidential candidate, saying he could not ask people to come out to vote for him “when that vote would cost them their lives.”

A so-called power-sharing government has been in place since 2008, but Mr. Mugabe has remained firmly in control; more than a quarter of his opponents in Parliament have been arrested, according to the Movement for Democratic Change and human-rights lawyers. Despite rumors about his health, Mr. Mugabe declared last week that he intended to run for president this year at the age of 87, and political violence is reportedly already increasing.

In “The Fear” Mr. Godwin chronicles the savagery of Mr. Mugabe’s regime in harrowing detail. Some observers, he notes, call what has happened in Zimbabwe “politicide”: “As genocide is an attempt to wipe out an ethnic group, so politicide is the practice of wiping out an entire political movement.”

The murders carried out by the president’s supporters and riot police around the time of the 2008 election, Mr. Godwin says, were “accompanied by torture and rape on an industrial scale, committed on a catch-and-release basis”: “When those who survive, terribly injured, limp home, or are carried or pushed in wheelbarrows, or on the backs of pickup trucks, they act like human billboards, advertising the appalling consequences of opposition to the tyranny, bearing their gruesome political stigmata. And in their home communities, their return causes ripples of anxiety to spread.” The people have given this time of violence and suffering its own name, chidudu — meaning “the fear.”

In reporting this book Mr. Godwin traveled back to the country where he grew up, despite the dangers: “not only from Mugabe’s banning of Western journalists, but also because I was once declared an enemy of the state, accused of spying.” He uses his intimate knowledge of Zimbabwe to introduce readers to opposition leaders, church authorities, foreign diplomats and ordinary people who have ended up in hospitals or as refugees — beaten, mutilated, raped and terrorized, their houses burned to the ground.

This volume lacks the intimacy of the author’s two affecting memoirs about Zimbabwe (“Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa” and “When a Crocodile Eats the Sun”), and it sometimes assumes a little too much familiarity on the part of the lay reader with that country’s tragic history. But it remains a document that should be read by anyone interested in the sacrifices that people are willing to make for the sake of democracy — a timely document, indeed, given the democratic uprisings taking place this spring in northern Africa and the Middle East. Not only is “The Fear” a valuable work of testimony — filled with firsthand accounts of witnesses to the most horrific crimes — but it is also a haunting testament to those survivors’ courage and determination.

Among the ordinary citizens depicted in these pages is Tichanzii Gandanga, who worked for the Movement for Democratic Change. Mr. Godwin reports that Mr. Gandanga was kidnapped by thugs he believes were members of President Mugabe’s spying agency, lashed with whips made from tire rubber and kicked in the face. His tormentors then dragged him naked into the road and ran over his legs twice with their car.

Denias Dombo, a farmer who also worked as a district organizing secretary for the movement, Mr. Godwin writes, watched as Mugabe supporters burned down his house, and he was then assaulted with rocks, iron bars and heavy sticks. According to Mr. Godwin, one leg was broken, an arm was shattered and several ribs fractured. His means of making a living, his plow and cultivator, were stolen; his cattle killed. He was unable to find his wife and children.

Dadirai Chipiro, a former nursery school teacher and the wife of an electoral organizer for the Movement for Democratic Change, did not survive an attack by government agents. They hacked off her right hand and both her feet, Mr. Godwin says, dragged her back into her house and set it on fire with a gasoline bomb.

The litany of suffering in this book is devastating, and the accounts that Mr. Godwin has collected, as the saying goes in Zimbabwe, are “just the ears of the hippo.” There are many more stories and much more pain right below the surface. Thousands of people, he says, have simply gone missing: “Bodies are being found bobbing at the spillway of dams; other are discovered in the bush, dumped by their murderers, miles and miles from where they were abducted. In some particularly gruesome cases, the victims have been castrated, their testicles stuffed in their mouths, or their eyes gouged out. Many will never be found. Some 10,000 people have been tortured. Twenty thousand have had their houses burned down — up to 200,000 are now displaced.”

As for prison conditions in the country, Mr. Godwin contends, they are miserable — another index “by which to measure the depths of depravity of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.” A freelance saw miller named Shane Kidd, who was thrown in prison after renting a room to the Movement for Democratic Change to use as an office, recounts in these pages how policemen would spray freezing water and sometimes throw buckets of urine through the prison bars, dousing the prisoners and their thin blankets and leaving the cell floors ankle-deep in water.

The opposition leader Roy Bennett reports that in Mutare Remand Prison rations had been cut to one meal from three, and that many inmates suffer from pellagra, a severe vitamin deficiency that was common in Soviet labor camps. Without outside food or medicine, Mr. Godwin writes, “the average inmate is dead within a year.”

One of the most haunting stories in this volume is that of Chenjerai Mangezo, who was nearly beaten to death after winning as a movement candidate for a rural district council. Though his body was completely immobilized in plaster, Mr. Godwin says, Mr. Mangezo insisted on attending the swearing-in ceremony, and he was driven there lying on foam mattresses heaped in the back of a pickup truck. He has continued to attend council meetings, sitting alongside some of the very Mugabe supporters who oversaw his beating.

What, besides courage, has enabled Mr. Mangezo to sit there with his persecutors? “Is it fatalism, a quality that Westerners see in Africans?” Mr. Godwin asks. “Westerners often mistake African endurance, and the lack of self-pity, for fatalism. No, I think the other quality in Chenjerai Mangezo is patience, a dogged tenacity. He hasn’t given up on getting justice. But he will wait for it.”

“People like Chenjerai,” he goes on, “are the real asine mabvi — the men without knees. Not only were his legs covered by plaster casts for months, but he has refused to kneel, refused to prostrate himself before the dictatorship, whatever the consequences.

A version of this review appeared in print on May 24, 2011, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Where Dissidents Are the Prey, and Horror Is a Weapon.

The Onn Family Legacy: Three Generations

May 29, 2011

The Onn Family Legacy: Three Generations

by Karim Raslan

The Malay community owes three generations of the illustrious Johor-based aristocratic Onn family a great debt of honour. They were leaders far, far ahead of the times.

History matters. We need to understand the forces that shaped our past in order to craft our future. Self-knowledge is critical. Ignorance will mean we end up repeating the mistakes of the past.

Zainah Anwar’s well-written and intimate personal history of three generations of the illustrious Johor-based aristocratic Onn family — Legacy of Honour — is an important book for all Malays and all Malaysians.

As a Johorean herself whose father Cikgu Anwar served with Datuk Onn Jaafar, Zainah has woven together Malaysian contemporary history, economics, culture and politics. Moreover, the book’s appearance is timely. We are living in an era when honour, principle and public service are often ignored and/or ridiculed.

With Legacy of Honour we are reminded of excellence, with three remarkable leaders — two Johor Mentris Besar, Datuk Jaafar Mohamed and Onn Jaafar, and one Prime Minister, Tun Hussein Onn.

Indeed, the men — all from the same family — were to shape public policy and governance for well over a century, from the 1850s right through to the early 1980s. They were open-minded men: curious and equipped with bold ideas.

At the same time they had the courage of their convictions. In the case of UMNO’s titanic founder, Onn Jaafar, this sense of principle was to lead to his premature departure from the party and his isolation in later years. Nonetheless, they were also intensely driven men.

Once again, Onn Jaafar stands out. For example, he would always talk about wanting to “betulkan orang Melayu” (correct the Malays) by modernising and improving Malay living standards and conditions.

Jaafar Mohamed was born in 1838. Coming from a long line of palace advisers, he started his career as a clerk at his uncle’s office, who was a Minister to Temenggong Ibrahim and later went onto become Dato Bentara (State Secretary) at the age of 25.

In 1885, he was appointed the first Mentri Besar of modern Johor, a post he held until his death in 1919. Jaafar was responsible for the creation of modern Johor. Working alongside Sultan Abu Bakar, he was to build Johor from the ground up until it became the strongest and most prestigious of the Malay states.

He was an exacting but fair man who recognised the importance of the rule of law. As such he set out the “kangcu” system of land usage and taxation for Chinese settlers. Both he and Sultan Abu Bakar achieved their ends without losing their highly cherished independence to the British. Educated in both English and Malay from an early age, Jaafar was unafraid of new ideas as long as they delivered results — prosperity, stability and sovereignty for his beloved state.

However, he also prized his Malay cultural roots very highly and in his spectacular residence, Bukit Senyum in Johor Baru, he created a distinguished environment where the cherished collection of Malay literature such as syairs, hikayats and novels were to be found.

And the children were all expected to learn how to perform ghazals — the Middle-Eastern inspired poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain. At the same time, his many children and especially his daughters — flouting conservative sentiment — went to English language schools.

With Jaafar’s death, the family were to lose their beloved Bukit Senyum residence. The family’s difficult relations with Sultan Ibrahim meant that Onn Jaafar moved to Singapore where he emerged as a fervent critic of royal injustice and misadministration.

Onn Jaafar was to become an indefatigable journalist and editor. His trenchant criticisms of Malay backwardness and failure were read across the peninsula, earning him enormous respect among the ordinary people.

This in turn laid the groundwork for his greatest task — the unification of a divided Malay community in the face of the British initiative, the Malayan Union, and the formation of UMNO. Onn Jaafar had an immense capacity for work. His energy was unequalled.

This level of diligence was apparent in the late Tun Hussein Onn, who was known for his unflinching dedication to detail — underlining the salient points in every report he read.

The Malay community owes all three men a great debt of honour. Suffice to say they were leaders far, far ahead of the times. Indeed, Malaysia is in dire need of more leaders in a similar mould, men who have the confidence and polish to reach across race, class and religious boundaries.

Barcelona are true champions

May 29, 2011

Barcelona-Manchester United Post Match Commentary

by Jonathan Wilson

WEMBLEY, ENGLAND, May 28, 2011

Surely now the doubters have been won over: this Barcelona is one of the greatest teams there has ever been. In Pep Guardiola’s three seasons in charge Barca has twice won the Champions League, and it was denied a hattrick that would have placed it statistically alongside the Ajax and Bayern Munich sides of the seventies only by the combined might of Jose Mourinho and an Icelandic volcano.

If its flight before last season’s semifinal hadn’t been grounded by an ash-cloud, if it hadn’t had to travel by bus to Milan, would it have lost 3-1? Without a two-goal lead would Mourinho’s Inter have been able to stifle Barca in Spain? They’re imponderables of course, but what is true is that, under Guardiola, whenever tectonics haven’t been against it, Barca has won the Champions League — and won it in devastating fashion. “In my time as a manager,” said the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson after the final, “it’s the best team we have ever faced. No one has ever given us a hiding like that.”

United’s best chance had seemed to be to score early, and sure enough it began as ferociously as it had against Chelsea. There were moments early on when Barca seemed rattled, but the chance never arrived and as United’s early surge ran out of steam slowly the game fell into the pattern of Rome two years ago began to assert itself. Then United had the better of the opening 10 minutes, missed a couple of presentable chances and conceded a soft goal, after which Barca simply kept the ball away from it. This time the goal came later, and was rather harder earned.

It had been coming, though. The theory before the game was that if Wayne Rooney sat on Sergio Busquets, United might be able to upset Barca’s rhythm. He did that, significantly diminishing Busquets’s contribution — he completed only 73 passes as opposed to a season’s average of 100.73 in the Champions League — but it didn’t matter. Xavi simply dropped deeper and performed Busquets’s role as the outlet at the back of the midfield (he completed 124 passes against a season average of 106), the man through whom all attacks were funneled. Iniesta also picked up Busquets’s slack with 98 passes completed against a season’s average of 84. To put that into context, United’s top passer was Rio Ferdinand with 40.

And then, of course, there is Lionel Messi. A team can mark Barca perfectly, can neutralize everybody else, but one man is not enough to stop the Argentine. He almost invariably evades the first challenge, which means teams have to double mark him. Do that, and there will be gaps elsewhere: short blanket syndrome is inevitable.

Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand repeatedly cut out through-balls with last-ditch interceptions, Pedro scuffed wide from an Andres Iniesta cross and David Villa sent a low shot arcing just the wrong side of the post. At the same time Barca’s pressing began to tell. There was one sequence when United played a string of nine passes of which six would have been considered risky, and by the end of the move, it hadn’t even reached the halfway line. This is what Arsene Wenger referred to as “sterile domination;” perhaps a more accurate term is beautiful attrition. Barca is just relentless; it wears opponents down with passing and pressing until mistakes are inevitable.

The first goal came after 27 minutes, as Andres Iniesta broke and fed Xavi, who waited for Vidic to be drawn a fraction toward the ball and threaded a pass through to Pedro, who swept a calm finish in at Edwin van der Sar’s near post. In Rome, having scored, Barca simply kept the ball away from United, but here it was a touch sloppy, perhaps lulled by all the pre-match talk that if it got the first goal there would be no way back for United.

And unlike the 2009 final, United didn’t panic having fallen behind. It continued to press high, and when, after 34 minutes, Ferdinand dispossessed Villa well inside the Barca half as he tried to gather an Eric Abidal throw-in, the ball fell for Rooney. He played a one-two with Michael Carrick, then fed Giggs, ran on, took the return and sidefooted a precise finish past Victor Valdes.

Even performing relatively well, even sticking to the game plan, that proved the only chance United would have in the half. Pedro and Messi were each a fraction from getting onto balls played across goal even before halftime and after the break the pummeling went on. Messi’s was a moment of individual brilliance, but to affect it he needed the space brought by United’s exhaustion. Almost all game until then Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs had occupied that crucial space in front of the back four, denying Messi space as Xabi Alonso had for most of the first leg of Barcelona’s semifinal against Real Madrid. Finally they were drawn right, the ball was worked to Messi who darted into the space that had appeared, and lashed in a swerving finish.

This is the problem sides facing Barca have; Messi is so good that he needs only a fraction of a second to do something devastating. Barca has achieved that happy — perhaps unique – balance of having one of the greatest players there has ever been operating within a ruthlessly coherent team unit. Thereafter it felt very like Rome, as United chased but couldn’t win the ball back — realistically this was an exhibition.

By the time the third came, curled in by David Villa after a Messi run had been checked by Nani and Pedro had worked the ball back to him, it had long felt inevitable. Wayne Rooney had said that when he watched Barcelona beat Real Madrid 5-0 earlier this season he had found himself standing in awe. As Barca collected the trophy, Rooney stood on the pitch and applauded. There can be few more eloquent tributes than that: England’s best player standing and clapping a side that had outclassed his own.

Jonathan Wilson is the author of Inverting the Pyramid; Behind the Curtain; Sunderland: A Club Transformed; and The Anatomy of England.

Breaking News: Barcelona Beats Manchester United

May 29, 2011

Barcelona beats Manchester United 3-1: European Champions, 2010-2011


Lionel Messi was inspirational

Barcelona outclassed Manchester United at Wembley Stadium, London to retain the Champions League Cup 3-1. There was nothing Sir Alex Ferguson’s men could do to stop the Spanish champions who played brilliantly,dominating from start to finish.

CNN reports: “Lionel Messi scored one goal and created another on Saturday(May 28, 2011) to lead Barcelona to a 3-1 win over Manchester United and a third Champions League title in six years. Barcelona dominated possession at Wembley with trademark one-touch passing but needed the Argentina striker to conjure a 54th-minute solo strike from the edge of the area to take the lead for the second time.

Messi followed his 53rd goal of a remarkable season with a feint and run that eventually led to David Villa receiving possession on the edge of the area, from where the Spain striker curled a shot into the top corner.”


Barcelona: Victor Valdes, Dani Alves (Carles Puyol, 88), Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique, Eric Abidal, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez (Ibrahim Afellay, 90), Lionel Messi, David Villa (Seydou Keita, 86).

Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar, Fabio da Silva (Nani, 69), Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick (Paul Scholes, 77), Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-sung, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez.

Sorry MU fans, your team lost to a far superior team. Barcelona has proven once again that it is the best team in Europe.–Din Merican

Who should lead the IMF?

May 28, 2011

Who should lead The International Monetary Fund(IMF)?

by Jeffrey Frankel

CAMBRIDGE – Every time the International Monetary Fund (IMF) awaits a new managing director, critics complain that it is past time for the appointee to come from an emerging-market country. But whining won’t change the unjust 60-year-old tradition by which a European heads the IMF and an American leads the World Bank. Only if emerging-market countries unite behind a single candidate will they have a shot at securing the post.

Unfortunately, that is unlikely this time around, too, so the job will probably go to a European yet again. After all, the oft-repeated principle that the IMF’s managing director should be chosen on the basis of merit rather than nationality need not mean a departure from past practice. French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde (Europe’s choice) is impressive and capable.

But the proposition that the ongoing sovereign-debt crisis on Europe’s periphery is a reason to appoint a European is wrong. (Lagarde herself seems to acknowledge this.)

Europe has lost its implicit claim to be the best source of serious people with the experience needed to run the international monetary system. At one time, there may have been a kernel of truth to this. In the 1980’s, for example, the IMF was run by highly capable managing directors from France, during a period when huge budget deficits and even hyperinflation ran wild in the developing world. But that time is past.

There are three respects in which Europe can no longer claim to be a special seat of wisdom and responsibility. First, many large emerging-market countries have done a better job than Europe at managing their economies over the last decade. These countries do not have the excessive budget deficits that many European countries ran up during the last expansion – and that are culminating in today’s mismanaged sovereign-debt crisis.

Second, the Europeans have now chosen three managing directors in a row who resigned before the end of their term. True, neither of Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s two predecessors left amidst scandal as he did. Then again, both of those resignations suggested that the men in question had not taken the job seriously enough.

Finally, many of the best candidates this time around are from emerging economies. So the merit criterion happens to coincide well with the much-recognized but never-honored need to give emerging-market countries more weight in the IMF’s governance, in line with their new weight in the global economy.

Indeed, the number of excellent emerging-market candidates is remarkable. Of course, not everyone being put forward by his or her government is a good candidate. When Turkey’s leaders say they have at least ten good candidates, they show that politicians often don’t know what the job requires. (No country has ten good candidates.)

I count nine emerging-market candidates who are unusually well qualified to lead the IMF. Six seem to be live candidates, and they come from all parts of the world:

·        Agustín Carstens, the governor of Mexico’s central bank, has been described as the leading prospect among the group. But even Latin America is not unifying behind him (Brazil has not been supportive), let alone other developing countries;

·        Arminio Fraga, the former governor of Brazil’s central bank, is another good candidate with extensive experience. But it is not clear that Latin America’s other governments are prepared to unify behind someone from the region’s largest country. Indeed, it seems that any candidate linked to a large regional power is more likely to provoke jealousy than solidarity from others;

·        Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who has excelled as Singapore’s finance minister and was just promoted to Deputy Prime Minister, is my favorite. (Full disclosure: he was my student at Harvard in 1988-1989.) In March, he was chosen to head the International Monetary and Financial Committee, the panel of ministers that advises the IMF on strategy twice a year. He has strong political skills, and, coming from a non-threatening country, might be the sort of candidate behind whom emerging markets could unite;

·        Sri Mulyani Indrawati is another highly qualified candidate from Southeast Asia. She became one of the World Bank’s three managing directors last year, after apparently being forced out as Indonesia’s finance minister for doing too good a job. Incidentally, she is young and could be an excellent candidate next time around too (as could the first three);

·        Leszek Balcerowicz, Poland’s former finance minister and central bank governor, is also a credible candidate. Poland would be a compromise with respect to nationality, because it is both a European Union member and an emerging-market country;

·        Trevor Manuel was a great success as South Africa’s finance minister. It would be good to make better use of him than the current government is doing.

I can think of at least three other candidates who would perform well, but are apparently not actively in contention:

·        Kemal Dervis, Turkey’s former minister of economic affairs, would have been excellent, but he took himself out of the running early.

·      Stanley Fischer, whom I thought should have been picked in 2000 (he was Deputy Managing Director at the time). Doing so would have been a first step toward accommodating developing countries’ legitimate desire to break the monopoly of European and US officials on the top jobs in the IMF and World Bank (Fischer was born in Zambia).

·        Montek Ahluwalia is Deputy Chairman of India’s Planning Commission, a position far more important than it sounds. But there is a presumption that the candidate cannot be over 65, which would exclude him (and Fischer).

June 10 is the deadline for nominations. Any of the nine would do a good job.  Personally, I would urge emerging-market countries to support Shanmugaratnam. But it is far more likely that they will remain divided. In that case, it will go to Lagarde.

Jeffrey Frankel is Professor of Capital Formation and Growth at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.

Barcelona or Manchester United?

May 28, 2011

Champions League Football Finals: Barcelona or Manchester United?

LONDON – Sir Alex Ferguson predicted a classic Champions League final here Friday (May 27, 2011) as his Manchester United side put the finishing touches to preparations for their showdown with Barcelona.

Speaking on the eve of one of the most eagerly anticipated European finals in years, Ferguson agreed that Saturday’s Wembley showpiece was effectively a collision between the two best club sides of the past decade.

“I think many people would agree with that,” Ferguson said. “I think that the success both teams have had in the last decade has been enormous.

“It could be the best final of the decade. The attraction of two great teams with great history is obvious, and it’s an appealing final in terms of what could happen in the game. Anything could happen in this game tomorrow.

“There could be a lot of goals, there could be a lot of excitement, and there’ll be a lot of good football I’m sure of that.

“So it’s set up, the platform is there, and hopefully it turns out that way.”

Saturday’s meeting at Wembley is a rematch of the 2009 final in Rome, where Barcelona gave Manchester United a passing masterclass on their way to a surprisingly comfortable 2-0 victory at the Stadio Olimpico.

However Ferguson hinted he planned to “fight fire with fire” on Saturday rather than opt for a more defensive-oriented game plan. “I think that, as we always do, we recognise the qualities of our opponents,” Ferguson said.

“Of course we always focus on what we can do ourselves and we hope to attack. I don’t think anyone questions the attacking players we will have on show tomorrow.”

Ferguson said he believed United were now better equipped to deal with Barcelona than they were two years ago. “We were disappointed we lost the game but it isn’t a matter of revenge it is about our own personal pride,” he said.

“We are very focused this time and our preparation has been better. I think we maybe made one or two mistakes last time but not this time.”

Ferguson also praised opposite number Pep Guardiola, who could claim his second Champions League crown in three years if Barcelona are successful against United on Saturday. “From beating us in Rome to the present day, you can see that maturity. He’s changed the way they press the ball, for a young coach he’s done fantastically well and has a good presence.

“He played for Barcelona, which helps, and with the history of Dutch coaches there, he’s made a big step forward for Spanish coaches.” The 69-year-old Scottish boss also admitted his side were excited to be contesting the final at Wembley, scene of the club’s famous maiden European Cup triumph over Benfica in 1968.

“It’s a symbol of English football. We’ve been here a lot of times. It’s not the old Wembley but you know when you come here it’s for a big reason and there’s none bigger than tomorrow,” Ferguson said.

“I feel this is the right place for a final. We’re at Wembley and that gives you an awareness that it’s a big game. And I quite like big games”.

- AFP /ls

Learn to Deal with Heavy Capital Flows

May 28, 2011

Learn to deal with Heavy Capital Flows

RIO DE JANEIRO–Policy-makers in emerging markets need to keep reaching for a broad mix of tools to cope with the heavy capital flows that have caused strong-currency headaches and led to fears of asset bubbles — because such flows are here to stay.

That is largely good news, said economists and officials at a conference on capital flows held by the IMF and Brazil’s finance ministry. Hot economies such as Brazil and Indonesia may see less fallout than some fear when the US Federal Reserve eventually raises interest rates, tightening the tap on cheap funds that flooded into Latin America and Asia in search of higher returns.

But they will need to keep adjusting their policy mixes to distinguish between “good flows” that help economic growth and “bad” short-term flows that can cause volatility, said IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard. While countries should adjust fiscal and monetary policies before moving to capital controls, there is no one-size-fits-all response, he said.

“We have to be open to exploration here,” he told reporters at a beach-side hotel in Rio de Janeiro, which is experiencing many of the symptoms of Brazil’s boom, like soaring real estate prices and strong credit growth.

“We are not at the stage at which we can tell this is exactly the way we can do it … we still don’t exactly know what the optimal package is.”

In Latin America alone, capital inflows have skyrocketed to nearly US$270 billion (RM810 billion) in 2010 from an average of about US$40 billion between 2000 and 2005, according to data from the Inter-American Development Bank.

Emerging countries have adopted a broad range of measures to regulate inflows and stem currency rises, increasingly resorting to capital controls and so-called macro-prudential measures such as credit curbs.

In recognition of the alarm about huge inflows that are stoking growth and also inflation rates, the IMF last month endorsed the use of capital controls, once considered anathema to its free-market philosophy. Advanced countries want to establish a framework to monitor their use, an approach opposed by emerging markets.

Blanchard and other IMF officials said it was unclear whether such a system was needed because there was so far little evidence that capital controls had a negative, beggar-thy-neighbour effect on other countries.

There was a broad consensus that the surge in flows was more than a temporary phenomenon driven by loose liquidity in struggling developed economies. Rather, it is being driven by a fundamental re-rating of global risk, said Joyce Chang, global head of emerging markets and credit research at JP Morgan.

“This is not a temporary state of affairs. This is what the new normal has become. It could be a cycle but it could be a 25- to 50-year cycle,” she said.

“From a capital markets perspective many of us think that capital controls are likely here to stay. Investors will continue to allocate more to emerging market assets given the better fundamentals and higher returns.”

Developed world investors are still vastly under-exposed to emerging markets, suggesting that emerging markets need to be prepared for decades of strong inflows. She said US defined-contribution pension plans only have 2.1 per cent of their funds allocated to developing economies, which make up nearly 50 per cent of global GDP.

Flows to countries such as Brazil, which has tripled the tax it charges foreigners to buy local bonds, have remained strong, suggesting that governments have yet to exhaust their policy options, participants said.

“These measures are small. Given the profit opportunities, money is still going to come in,” Jonathan Ostry, deputy director of the IMF’s research department, told Reuters.

The key to a successful balance of policies may be technical expertise and detailed tweaking of rules to direct inflows to the “right” places. India last year raised the ceiling on foreign investment in long-term bonds, for example, aiming to attract funds for long-term projects such as infrastructure development.

Kristin Forbes (left), an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said countries should also consider the role of domestic investors since they are increasingly influential in determining net inflows.

“In the hierarchy of when you should use capital controls, a key question you should ask before even talking about them is: what is driving the surge in net inflows? If it’s largely foreigners then there may be a role for capital controls,” she said. — Reuters

Your Weekend Music–A Touch of Class

May 27, 2011

Your Weekend Music–A Touch of Class

We bring you a mixed bag of tunes for this weekend’s entertainment. We feature Julio Iglesias who sings for Miss France and his Amor, Amor, followed by two popular songs from New Yorker Barry Manilow, songwriter, composer and arranger. We also bring for the first time Neil Diamond and UB40 with their hits.

We hope you will be entertained while watching the European Cup Final between Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United and Barcelona (Wembley Stadium). May the best team win this thriller in London (May 28, 2011, carried live on EPSN at 2.00am, May 29 Malaysian time).–Dr Kamsiah and Din Merican

Julio Iglesias

Barry Manilow

Neil Diamond


Postscript: This song by Nicole is dedicated to Tean Rean, Mongkut Bean, Tok Cik and other Kerbau riders who are drifting in style into the sunset. Enjoy.

ASEAN needs security and safety, not an Arms Race

May 27, 2011

ASEAN needs security and safety, not an Arms Race

by Dr. Farish M.Noor

There is no denying that a major upgrading of the defensive capabilities of ASEAN member countries is overdue, and that there is no reason to worry if and when any do so.

After all, we cannot expect ASEAN member countries to deal with present-day non-conventional security concerns, such as human trafficking, smuggling and piracy, while their armed forces are equipped with weapons so obsolete as to make pitchforks and parang a security threat.

There is, however, some cause for concern when the upgrading of the defensive capabilities of some countries lends the impression that the new weapons technologies that are being purchased may also be used for more belligerent intentions; and even more worrisome when there is the threat that such weapons technologies may fall into the wrong hands.

Furthermore, it has to be added that for most ASEAN member countries, the pressing needs of development have to come first: across both maritime and mainland Southeast Asia, there remains the dire need for better communication, transport infrastructure, schools and other educational facilities as well as the provision of healthcare — all of which contribute to the sum total of a nation’s social and material development. Nuclear weapons are not much use for countries where illiteracy remains a problem, it can be argued.

How then should the nations of ASEAN proceed in terms of the upgrading of their armed forces? ASEAN’s formation in the 1960s was meant to serve as an instrument for the prevention of war: to prevent the Cold War from spilling into the region, and to prevent war from erupting between the member states.

Thus far, ASEAN, along with the European Union, can claim some credit for being able to hold off the threat of both. However, as ASEAN member states continue to develop according to their own pace and trajectory, there is the need to ensure that communication between them remains at an optimum, real-time level. This has to be so in order to ward off any untoward incidents and concerns that might arise when one country suddenly ups the ante by acquiring a new weapon system that radically tips the balance of power in favour of it, at the expense of others.

It is in this light that we need to consider Indonesia’s latest testing of its Yakhont anti-ship missile, which was launched in the Indian Ocean recently. The successful test-firing of the Russian-made missile marks a significant development in the military potential of Indonesia.

The anti-ship missile has a range of around 300km and flies at Mach 2.5, more than twice the speed of sound.Vietnam, likewise, has the same missile capabilities, but its anti-ship missiles are based in land installations, rendering them useful for only defensive operations.

Over the past few years, other countries in ASEAN have beefed up their anti-ship missile capabilities: Malaysia has introduced underwater-launched anti-ship missiles in the Scorpene submarines.

The concern of some security analysts, however, is that these new arms purchases may inadvertently contribute to an arms race of sorts in Southeast Asia, and thereby decrease, rather than increase, Asean’s role as a peacekeeping arrangement between its member states.

Furthermore, one has to wonder how anti-ship missiles contribute to the safety of our territorial waters where — in some regions — the threat of piracy, smuggling and human trafficking seem to be the real problems that need to be resolved. Are the naval forces of ASEAN going to stop the smuggling of pirated DVDs by launching million-dollar missiles in the future?

Countries like Indonesia do indeed need to upgrade and even expand their armed forces for reasons that ought to be clear to anyone with a grasp of arithmetic: it would be impossible for the armed forces of Indonesia to maintain security in an archipelago of 14,000 islands stretched across an area the size of Europe unless it has a bigger army that is professional and well-equipped.

But this also means purchasing less glamorous equipment like transport ships, coastal patrol boats, observation aircraft, and, of course, improving the salary, training and level of professionalism of the ordinary soldiers themselves.

Such stuff may not be to the liking of fans of Rambo and other gory war flicks, but the bottom line is that the running of a professional army is akin to the running of a well-organised company: the accounts have to be in order, logistics have to be accounted for, supplies have to be regular, and professionalism has to prevail always.

For the sake of the communities of ASEAN, whose combined population now stands on a par with Europe at well above 300 million, policymakers in the region need to remain lucid and cognisant of these simple economic facts.  ASEAN does need security and safety, but it does not need an arms race.

Perkasa: Nazri a half-past-six minister

May 27, 2011

Perkasa: Nazri a half-past-six minister

By Syed Mu’az Syed Putra@
May 26, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — Perkasa has called Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz a “half-past-six” leader in a public spat over the Malay rights group’s call for a “crusade” against Christians.

The NGO said this in retaliation after the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department’s referred to Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali as a “clown.”

“What is the point of listening to a half-past-six minister like Nazri. He thinks Malays will support his statement and it will benefit UMNO.We are not surprised because he is someone who is willing to attack those who have served the country like (former Prime Minister) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad,” said secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali in a statement last night.

Nazri had called Ibrahim a clown when defending the government’s decision not to take action against the Pasir Mas MP’s threat to wage a “crusade” against Christians.

“You cannot even say that Ibrahim’s words have caused the Malays to rise against the Christians. Now, people just laugh at Ibrahim and call him a clown,” the Padang Rengas MP said.

Ibrahim threatened Christians nationwide during a rally in Gombak two weeks ago with a crusade or holy war should they proceed with their purported agenda to usurp Islam.

He was referring to the recent row over a controversial newspaper report in Utusan Malaysia entitled “Kristian Agam Rasmi?” (Christianity the official religion?) which alleged that the DAP was conspiring with church leaders to take over Putrajaya, abolish Islam as the religion of the federation and install a Christian prime minister.

The report was based entirely on unsubstantiated blog posts by two pro-UMNO bloggers, one of whom is currently under investigation by police. The second blogger has since deleted the entire contents of his blog.

Christian leaders and DAP members have denied the reports and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was forced to clear the air with Christian leaders. Utusan Malaysia’s Christian conspiracy report is now under police investigation.

President Barack H Obama addresses Westminster Hall

May 26, 2011

President Barack H Obama addresses Westminster Hall

This is the full text of U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech to both UK Houses of Parliament on May 25, 2011.

London (CNN) — My Lord Chancellor, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Prime Minister, my Lords, and Members of the House of Commons:

I have known few greater honors than the opportunity to address the Mother of Parliaments at Westminster Hall. I’m told the last three speakers here have been The Pope, Her Majesty the Queen, and Nelson Mandela, which is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke.

I come here today to reaffirm one of the oldest and strongest alliances the world has ever known. It has long been said that the United States and the United Kingdom share a special relationship. And since we also share an especially active press corps, that relationship is often analyzed and overanalyzed for the slightest hint of stress or strain.

Of course, all relationships have their ups and downs. Admittedly, ours got off on the wrong foot with a small scrape about tea and taxes. There may have also been some hurt feelings when the White House was set on fire during the War of 1812. But fortunately, it’s been smooth sailing ever since!

The reason for this close friendship doesn’t just have to do with our shared history and heritage; our ties of language and culture; or even the strong partnership between our governments. Our relationship is special because of the values and beliefs that have united our people through the ages.

Centuries ago, when kings, emperors, and warlords reigned over much of the world, it was the English who first spelled out the rights and liberties of man in the Magna Carta. It was here, in this very hall, where the rule of law first developed, courts were established, disputes were settled, and citizens came to petition their leaders.

Over time, the people of this nation waged a long and sometimes bloody struggle to expand and secure their freedom from the crown. Propelled by the ideals of the Enlightenment, they would ultimately forge an English Bill of Rights, and invest the power to govern in the elected parliament that’s gathered here today.

What began on this island would inspire millions throughout the continent of Europe and across the world. But perhaps no one drew greater inspiration from these notions of freedom than your rabble-rousing colonists on the other side of the Atlantic. As Winston Churchill said, the “…Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.”

For both of our nations, living up to the ideals enshrined in these founding documents has always been a work in progress. The path has never been perfect. But through the struggles of slaves and immigrants; women and ethnic minorities; former colonies and persecuted religions, we have learned better than most that the longing for freedom and human dignity is not English or American or Western — it is universal, and it beats in every heart. Perhaps that is why there are few nations that stand firmer, speak louder, and fight harder to defend democratic values around the world than the United States and the United Kingdom.

We are the allies who landed at Omaha and Gold; who sacrificed side by side to free a continent from the march of tyranny, and help prosperity flourish from the ruins of war. And with the founding of NATO — a British idea — we joined a transatlantic alliance that has ensured our security for over half a century.

Together with our Allies, we forged a lasting peace from a cold war. When the Iron Curtain lifted, we expanded our alliance to include the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, and built new bridges to Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union. And when there was strife in the Balkans, we worked together to keep the peace.

Today, after a difficult decade that began with war and ended in recession, our nations have arrived at a pivotal moment once more. A global economy that once stood on the brink of depression is now stable and recovering. After years of conflict, the United States has removed 100,000 troops from Iraq, the United Kingdom has removed its forces, and our combat mission has ended. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and will soon begin a transition to Afghan lead. And nearly 10 years after 9/11, we have disrupted terrorist networks and dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader — Osama bin Laden.

Together, we have met great challenges. But as we enter this new chapter in our shared history, profound challenges stretch before us.

In a world where the prosperity of all nations is now inextricably linked, a new era of cooperation is required to ensure the growth and stability of the global economy. As new threats spread across borders and oceans, we must dismantle terrorist networks and stop the spread of nuclear weapons; confront climate change and combat famine and disease. And as a revolution races through the streets of the Middle East and North Africa, the entire world has a stake in the aspirations of a generation that longs to determine its own destiny.

These challenges come at a time when the international order has already been reshaped for a new century. Countries like China, India, and Brazil are growing by leaps and bounds. We should welcome this development, for it has lifted hundreds of millions from poverty around the globe, and created new markets and opportunities for our own nations.

And yet, as this rapid change has taken place, it has become fashionable in some quarters to question whether the rise of these nations will accompany the decline of American and European influence around the world. Perhaps, the argument goes, these nations represent the future, and the time for our leadership has passed.

That argument is wrong. The time for our leadership is now. It was the United States, the United Kingdom, and our democratic allies that shaped a world in which new nations could emerge and individuals could thrive. And even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our Alliance will remain indispensible to the goal of a century that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more just.

At a time when threats and challenges require nations to work in concert with one another, we remain the greatest catalyst for global action. In an era defined by the rapid flow of commerce and information, it is our free market tradition, fortified by our commitment to basic security for our citizens, that offers the best chance of prosperity that is both strong and shared. As millions are still denied their basic human rights because of who they are, or what they believe, or the kind of government they live under, we are the nations most willing to stand up for the values of tolerance and self-determination that lead to peace and dignity.

This doesn’t mean we can afford to stand still. The nature of our leadership will need to change with the times. As I said the first time I came to London as President, the days are gone when Roosevelt and Churchill could sit in a room and solve the world’s problems over a glass of brandy — though I’m sure Prime Minister Cameron would agree that some days we could both use a stiff drink. In this century, our joint leadership will require building new partnerships, adapting to new circumstances, and remaking ourselves to meet the demands of a new era.

That begins with our economic leadership. Adam Smith’s central insight remains true today: there is no greater generator of wealth and innovation than a system of free enterprise that unleashes the full potential of individual men and women. That is what led to the Industrial Revolution that began in the factories of Manchester. That is what led to the dawn of an Information Age that arose from the office parks of Silicon Valley. And that is why countries like China, India and Brazil are growing so rapidly — because in fits and starts, they are moving towards the market-based principles that the United States and the United Kingdom have always embraced.

In other words, we live in a global economy that is largely of our own making. And today, the competition for the best jobs and industries favors countries that are free-thinking and forward-looking; countries with the most creative, innovative, entrepreneurial citizens.

That gives nations like the United States and the United Kingdom an inherent advantage. From Newton and Darwin to Edison and Einstein; from Alan Turing to Steve Jobs, we have led the world in our commitment to science and cutting-edge research; the discovery of new medicines and technologies. We educate our citizens and train our workers in the best colleges and universities on Earth. But to maintain this advantage in a world that’s more competitive than ever, we will have to redouble our investments in science and engineering, and renew our national commitments to educating our workforces.

We’ve also been reminded in the last few years that markets can sometimes fail. In the last century, both our nations put in place regulatory frameworks to deal with these challenges — safeguards to protect the banking system after the Great Depression, for example, and regulations were established to prevent the pollution of our air and water during the 1970s.

But in today’s economy, such threats can no longer be contained within the borders of any one country. Market failures can go global, and go viral, and demand international responses. A financial crisis that began on Wall Street infected nearly every continent, which is why we must keep working through forums like the G20 to put in place global rules of the road to prevent future excess and abuse. No country can hide from the dangers of carbon pollution, which is why we must build on what was achieved at Copenhagen and Cancun to leave our children a planet that is cleaner and safer.

Moreover, even when the free market works as it should, both our countries recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. And so part of our common tradition has expressed itself in a conviction that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security — health care if you get sick, unemployment insurance if you lose your job, a dignified retirement after a lifetime of hard work. That commitment to our citizens has also been a reason for our leadership in the world.

Having come through a terrible recession, our challenge today is to meet these obligations while ensuring that we’re not consumed with a level of debt that could sap the strength and vitality from our economies. That will require difficult choices and different paths for both of our countries. But we have faced such challenges before, and have always been able to balance the need for fiscal responsibility with the responsibilities we have to one another.

I believe we can do it again, and as we do, the successes and failures of our own past can serve as an example for emerging economies — that it’s possible to grow without polluting; that lasting prosperity comes not from what a nation consumes, but from what it produces, and from the investments it makes in its people and infrastructure.

Just as we must lead on behalf of the prosperity of our citizens, so must we safeguard their security.

Our two nations know what it is to confront evil in the world. Hitler’s armies would not have stopped their killing had we not fought them on the beaches and the landing grounds; in the fields and on the streets. We must never forget that there was nothing inevitable about our victory in that terrible war — it was won through the courage and character of our people.

Precisely because we are willing to bear its burden, we know well the cost of war. That is why we built an Alliance that was strong enough to defend this continent while deterring our enemies. At its core, NATO is rooted in the simple concept of Article Five: that no NATO nation will have to fend on its own; that allies will stand by one another, always. And for six decades, NATO has been the most successful alliance in human history.

Today, we confront a different enemy. Terrorists have taken the lives of our citizens in New York and in London. And while al Qaeda seeks a religious war with the West, let’s remember that they have killed thousands of Muslims — men, women and children — around the globe. Our nations will never be at war with Islam. Our fight is focused on defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies. In that effort, we will not relent, as Osama bin Laden and his followers have learned. And as we fight an enemy that respects no law of war, we will continue to hold ourselves to a higher standard — by living up to the values and the rule of law that we so ardently defend.

For almost a decade, Afghanistan has been a central front of these efforts. Throughout those years, you have been a stalwart ally along with so many others who fight by our side. Together, let us pay tribute to all of our men and women who have served and sacrificed over the last several years — they are part of an unbroken line of heroes who have borne the heaviest burden for the freedoms that we enjoy. Because of them, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum. Because of this, we have built the capacity of Afghan Security Forces. And because of that, we are now preparing to turn a corner in Afghanistan by transitioning to Afghan lead. During this transition, we will pursue a lasting peace with those who break from al Qaeda and respect the Afghan Constitution. And we will ensure that Afghanistan is never a safe-haven for terror — but is instead a country that is strong, sovereign, and able to stand on its own two feet.

Indeed, our efforts in this young century have led us to a new concept for NATO that will give us the capabilities needed to meet new threats: terrorism and piracy, cyber attacks and ballistic missiles. But a revitalized NATO will continue to hew to that original vision of its founders, allowing us to rally collective action for the defense of our people, while building upon the broader belief of Roosevelt and Churchill that all nations have both rights and responsibilities, and share a common interest in an international architecture that keeps the peace.

We also share a common interest in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. Across the globe, nations are locking down nuclear materials so they never fall into the wrong hands. From North Korea to Iran, we have sent a message that those who flaunt their obligations will face consequences — which is why America and the European Union just recently strengthened our sanctions on Iran. And while we hold others to account, we will meet our own obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and strive for a world without nuclear weapons.

We share a common interest in resolving conflicts that prolong human suffering, and threaten to tear whole regions asunder. In Sudan, after years of war and thousands of deaths, we call on both North and South to pull back from the brink of violence and choose the path of peace. And in the Middle East, we stand united in our support for a secure Israel and a sovereign Palestine.

And we share a common interest in development that advances dignity and security. To succeed, we must cast aside the impulse to look at impoverished parts of the globe as a place for charity. Instead, we should empower the same forces that have allowed our own people to thrive — we should help the hungry to feed themselves, and the doctors who care for the sick; we should support countries that confront corruption, and allow their people to innovate; and we should advance the truth that nations prosper when they allow women and girls to reach their full potential.

We do these things because we believe not simply in the rights of nations, but the rights of citizens. That is the beacon that guided us through our fight against fascism and our twilight struggle against communism. And today, that idea is being put to the test in the Middle East and North Africa. In country after country, people are mobilizing to free themselves from the grip of an iron fist. And while these movements for change are just six months old, we have seen them play out before — from Eastern Europe to the Americas; from South Africa to Southeast Asia.

History tells us that democracy is not easy. It will be years before these revolutions reach their conclusion, and there will be difficult days along the way. Power rarely gives up without a fight — particularly in places where there are divisions of tribe and sect. We also know that populism can take dangerous turns — from the extremism of those who would use democracy to deny minority rights, to the nationalism that left so many scars on this continent in the 20th century.

But make no mistake: what we saw in Tehran, Tunis and Tahrir Square is a longing for the same freedoms that we take for granted at home. It was a rejection of the notion that people in certain parts of the world don’t want to be free, or need to have democracy imposed upon them. It was a rebuke to the worldview of al Qaeda, which smothers the rights of individuals, and would thereby subject them to perpetual poverty and violence. So let there be no doubt: the United States and United Kingdom stand squarely on the side of those who long to be free.

Now we must show that we will back up these words with deeds. That means investing in the future of those nations that transition to democracy, starting with Tunisia and Egypt — by deepening ties of trade and commerce; by helping them demonstrate that freedom brings prosperity. And that means standing up for universal rights — by sanctioning those who pursue repression, strengthening civil society, and supporting the rights of minorities.

We do this knowing that the West must overcome suspicion and mistrust among many in the Middle East and North Africa — a mistrust that is rooted in a difficult past. For years, we have faced charges of hypocrisy from those who do not enjoy the freedoms that they hear us espouse. To them, we must squarely acknowledge that we have enduring interests in the region — to fight terror with partners who may not always be perfect, and to protect against disruptions in the world’s energy supply. But we must also insist that we reject as false the choice between our interests and our ideals; between stability and democracy. Our idealism is rooted in the realities of history — that repression offers only the false promise of stability; that societies are more successful when their citizens are free; and that democracies are the closest allies we have.

It is that truth that guides our action in Libya. It would have been easy at the outset of the crackdown in Libya to say that none of this was our business — that a nation’s sovereignty is more important than the slaughter of civilians within its borders. That argument carries weight with some. But we are different. We embrace a broader responsibility. And while we cannot stop every injustice, there are circumstances that cut through our caution — when a leader is threatening to massacre his people, and the international community is calling for action. That is why we stopped a massacre in Libya. And we will not relent until the people of Libya are protected, and the shadow of tyranny is lifted.

We will proceed with humility, and the knowledge that we cannot dictate outcomes abroad. Ultimately, freedom must be won by the people themselves, not imposed from without. But we can and must stand with those who so struggle. Because we have always believed that the future of our children and grandchildren will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren are more prosperous and free — from the beaches of Normandy, to the Balkans to Benghazi. That is our interest and our ideal. And if we fail to meet that responsibility, who would take our place?

Our action — our leadership — is essential to the cause of human dignity. And so we must act — and lead — with confidence in our ideals, and an abiding faith in the character of our people, who sent us here today.

For there is one final quality that I believe makes the United States and the United Kingdom indispensible to this moment in history. And that is how we define ourselves as nations.

Unlike most countries in the world, we do not define citizenship based on race or ethnicity. Being American or British is not about belonging to a certain group; it’s about believing in a certain set of ideals — the rights of individuals and the rule of law. That is why we hold incredible diversity within our borders. That is why there are people around the world right now who believe that if they come to America, and work hard, they can pledge allegiance to our flag, and call themselves American. And there are people who believe that if they come to England to make a new life for themselves, they can sing God Save the Queen just like any other citizen.

Yes, our diversity can lead to tension. Throughout history, there have been heated debates about immigration and assimilation in both our countries. But even as these debates can be difficult, we fundamentally recognize that our patchwork heritage is an enormous strength — that in a world which will only grow smaller and more connected, the example of our two nations says that it’s possible for people to be united by their ideals, instead of divided by their differences; that it’s possible for hearts to change, and old hatreds to pass; that it’s possible for the sons and daughters of former colonies to sit here as members of this great Parliament, and for the grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British Army to stand before you as President of the United States.

That is what defines us. That is why the young men and women in the streets of Damascus and Cairo still reach for the rights our citizens enjoy, even if they’ve sometimes differed with our policies. As two of the most powerful nations in history, we must always remember that the true source of our influence hasn’t just been the size of our economy, the reach of our military, or the land that we’ve claimed. It has been the values that we must never waver in defending around the world — the idea that all human beings are endowed with certain rights that cannot be denied.

That is what forged our bond in the fire of war — a bond made manifest by the friendship between two of our greatest leaders. Churchill and Roosevelt had their differences. They were keen observers of each other’s blind spots and shortcomings, if not always their own, and they were hard-headed about their ability to remake the world.

But what joined the fates of these two men at that moment in history was not simply a shared interest in victory on the battlefield. It was a shared belief in the ultimate triumph of human freedom and human dignity — a conviction that we have a say in how this story ends.

This conviction lives on in their people today. The challenges we face are great. The work before us is hard. But we have come through a difficult decade, and whenever the tests and trials ahead seem too big or too many, let us turn to their example, and the words that Churchill spoke on the day that Europe was freed:

“In the long years to come, not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done, and they will say ‘do not despair, do not yield…march straightforward.”

With courage and purpose; with humility and hope; with faith in the promise of tomorrow, let us march straightforward together, enduring allies in the cause of a world that is more peaceful, prosperous, and just. Thank you.

Christine Lagarde announces her candidacy for the IMF Job

May 26, 2011

IMF Job: Lagarde announces her candidacy

By Daniel Flynn

“If she is named the IMF’s 11th managing director, Lagarde would be the first not to have had a career path as an economist or civil servant at a national central bank or finance ministry.”

PARIS: An effective negotiator but no economic visionary, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde would bring a change of style, not substance to the IMF and be unlikely to push for radical solutions to Europe’s debt crisis.

A labour and anti-trust lawyer by training, Lagarde lacks the academic pedigree, including a doctorate in economics, which helped former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn win the respect of European leaders and IMF staff.

But the charismatic 55-year-old, who today (May 25) announced her candidacy to succeed Strauss-Kahn after he resigned last week, has gained on-the-job experience of the challenges facing the IMF during France’s G20 presidency and the euro zone crisis.

She has won a reputation for brokering deals under pressure, overcoming Chinese resistance to the use by G20 governments of indicators to measure global economic imbalances, and allaying German fears over the creation of a euro zone bailout mechanism.

As an official who helped to put together last year’s 110 billion euro (US$155 billion) bailout of Greece by Europe and the IMF, Lagarde could be expected to maintain IMF’s financial support of Athens while pushing it for privatisation and more spending cuts. She would almost certainly seek to avoid more drastic solutions such as a forced restructuring of Greek debt.

And at a time when the IMF has been seeking to move beyond the “Washington Consensus” –heavily market-oriented policies resented by some emerging economies – Lagarde would bring a French vision of the importance of social spending, plus her desire for a “multipolar” world in which China and other developing nations played a greater role.

Change of Style, not Approach

“Lagarde would be very much in the continuity of what Strauss-Kahn did,” said Gilles Moec, senior European economist with Deutsche Bank.

“What’s interesting is that she would bring those French values, which are probably what’s needed, but also an understanding of the Anglo-Saxon approach.”


Lagarde appears to have enough support in Europe, the United States and China to handily defeat any potential challengers to head the IMF.

Critics say she is an economic lightweight who has not distinguished herself with any landmark legislation during four years at the finance ministry; in this period, much economic policy has been dictated from the Elysee presidential palace.

But the former attorney, who rose to become the first female chairman of Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie, has fought hard to promote her positions. She has earned a reputation as the most uncompromising opponent of a Greek debt restructuring among euro zone ministers.

“You can’t stroke an elephant a little bit,” Lagarde warned euro zone ministers in February, expressing fears of market turmoil if Greece were allowed to default.

Beneath her Chanel jackets and stylish shock of silver hair, the former synchronised swimming champion has a strong political sense, say those who have met her.

“She’s thoroughly familiar with all the substantive issues and she’s a great negotiator with good political instincts,” said DeAnne Julius, head of the Chatham House think-tank.

With European nations rallying behind Lagarde, the main obstacle to her nomination could be a possible judicial probe into her role in awarding a friend of French President Nicolas Sarkozy a 285 million euro payout to settle a legal dispute.

Judges are to rule on June 10 – the deadline to submit IMF nominations – on whether to launch an inquiry.

Although developing states have been pushing for an end to the tradition by which Europe has the final say in choosing the IMF head, Europeans say it is crucial for them to retain their 65-year grip on the IMF while it is involved in Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

Lagarde’s effectiveness as head of IMF could hinge on the manner in which this issue is resolved. Any sense of a backroom deal between the United States and Europe to choose her could leave a legacy of bitterness that would undermine her.

She herself has called for a transparent selection process and French officials say she has the backing of China, the IMF’s third-largest shareholder, which appreciated her sensitive handling of controversy over the yuan’s exchange rate at G20 meetings.

“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war,” has been Lagarde’s favourite phrase during France’s G20 presidency, quoting Winston Churchill, and her negotiating skills may be important to rebuild bridges with emerging powers.

But given the risk of Greece becoming the first western European state to default in six decades, some economists say a European may not be the best choice to tackle the crisis. “To really solve the EMU crisis, it might be better if some leadership and authority came from outside of Europe with a fresh set of independent eyes,” said Goldman Sachs Asset Management chairman Jim O’Neill, suggesting the zone faced a choice of kicking out weak states or tightening fiscal union.

Who needs economists anyway?

If she is named the IMF’s 11th managing director, Lagarde would be the first not to have had a career path as an economist or civil servant at a national central bank or finance ministry.

IMF insiders say Strauss-Kahn’s economic expertise was an asset during the global credit crisis of 2007-09, when it had to adapt fast to the worst slump since the Great Depression. In a break with the IMF’s traditional approach, Strauss-Kahn advocated Keynesian fiscal stimulus to world leaders.

“It’s not just about reading staff reports: at some point managing directors need to act on their own ideas,” said one of his former IMF colleagues, who asked not to be named.

“DSK was great at that because he had the economics background. If he took risks, they were not so great because he knew what he was talking about…With someone without that expertise, it would be different.”

An economics PhD, however, does not guarantee success: former Spanish finance minister Rodrigo de Rato’s chaotic 2004-07 tenure was regarded as a low point for the IMF, partly because of a collapse in demand for its lending.

Senior French officials acknowledge Lagarde’s lack of economic expertise compared with someone like Strauss-Kahn, but argue it would not necessarily harm her performance.

“We were lucky to have someone as well qualified as Strauss-Kahn during the crisis… but the IMF is already full of economists,” said one source. “What you need is someone who understands the issues, who can negotiate and give leadership.”

- Reuters

Harold Bloom’s The Anatomy of Influence

May 25, 2011

Harold Bloom: An Uncommon Reader

by Sam Tanenhaus

At the age of 80, with almost 40 books behind him and nearly as many accumulated honors, Harold Bloom (left) has written, in “The Anatomy of Influence,” a kind of summing-up — or, as he puts it in his distinctive idiom, mixing irony with histrionism, “my virtual swan song,” born of his urge “to say in one place most of what I have learned to think about how influence works in imaginative literature.”

Influence has long been Bloom’s abiding preoccupation, and the one that established him, in the 1970s, as a radical, even disruptive presence amid the groves of academe. This may surprise some who think of Bloom primarily as a stalwart of the Western canon, fending off the assaults of “the School of Resentment” and its “rabblement of lemmings,” or as a self-confessed Bardolator, swooning over “Hamlet” and “Lear.”

Not that Bloom abjures these subsequent selves. There is much canon fodder in this new book, along with re­affirmed vows of fidelity to Shakespeare, “the founder” not only of modern literature but also, in Bloom’s expansive view, of modern personhood and its “infinite self-consciousness.”

“For me, Shakespeare is God,” he declares at one point, and in other places he says much the same thing, in much the same words, a reminder that to read Bloom once is in a sense to reread him, so often does he repeat himself. Twice he asserts that Shakespeare’s greatest creations are Falstaff, Hamlet, Iago and Cleopatra; twice that “The Tempest” and “The Winter’s Tale” are tragicomedies and not ro­mances; three times that “Titus Andronicus” parodies the tragedies of Shakespeare’s defeated rival Marlowe. Prospero, Bloom shrewdly observes, “is one of those teachers who is always convinced his auditors are not quite attentive.” So too Bloom, himself a “professional teacher” for 55 years now, has perhaps learned that the most efficient way to get your point across is to keep making it, the classroom sage’s version of staying on message.

But a repetitive Bloom, even in his late season of garrulity, still has many arresting things to say and says them, often, with exquisite precision. He is, by any reckoning, one of the most stimulating literary presences of the last half-century — and one of the most protean, a singular breed of scholar-teacher-critic-prose-poet-­pamphleteer, as deeply versed in the baroque aestheticism of Pater and Wilde as in the categorized intricacies of the kabbalah and Freud, and thoroughly steeped in several centuries’ worth of English and American poetry, acres of it committed to memory. He charmingly insists (twice) that he is a “common reader,” though one whose lifelong passion for the gnarled, incantatory verse of Hart Crane began before he turned 10 and who first read “Paradise Lost” (“thrilling to Satan and falling in love with Eve”) at 13.

Bloom’s life, with its rise from bleak poverty to almost unheard-of celebrity for a literary scholar, pleads for a full-blown memoir, and the most stirring passages in “The Anatomy of Influence” tantalizingly hint at the one he might yet write, enlarging on reminiscences, fleetingly given here, of the Second Avenue Yiddish thea­ter performances he attended as a child and of his father “bringing me a toy scissors for my third birthday in 1933, when the Depression had left him, like many other garment workers, unemployed.”

One yearns also for lengthier exposition of Bloom’s first years at Yale in the 1950s, his memories of that time recently prompted, he says, when his wife brought home the DVD of “The Good Shepherd,” Robert De Niro’s portrait of the C.I.A., its early scenes set among the Gothic towers of Yale, “that quasi university centered on the undergraduates of Skull and Bones.”

To Bloom, first as a grad student and then a young professor, these sons of the patriciate “seemed the enemy, if only because they assumed they were the United States and Yale, while I was a visitor,” via the Bronx High School of Science and a scholarship to Cornell, where he had been an undergraduate prodigy.

At Yale he instantly dazzled, not to say intimidated, his professors, though he omits this fact (common knowledge when I was a graduate student, briefly, in the Yale English department in the late 1970s), instead recounting how the first essay he wrote for the formidable William K. Wimsatt was “returned to me with the ringing comment, ‘You are a Longinian critic, which I abhor!’ Much later, gossip reached me that my fierce former teacher had abstained from voting on my tenure, telling his colleagues, ‘He is an 18-inch naval gun, with tremendous firepower but always missing the cognitive target.’ ” Deliverance of a sort came in 1973, when the English department’s eminence, Robert Penn Warren, at last invited Bloom to lunch. “We had been colleagues for many years but our few previous conversations had been difficult, as his friends were my enemies.”

In truth, Bloom’s outsize gifts were lavishly rewarded from the start. His specialty was the English Romantics, then just emerging from a long period of disfavor imposed by the New Criticism, the big theory of its day and the forerunner of post-structuralism, almost as rigid in its linguistic fixation. The New Critics, the best of them skilled technicians in the art of close reading, narrowed their study to individual ­poems, each seen as an airtight mechanism or operating system that, if painstakingly dissected, would yield its hidden meaning, usually reducible to a cluster of ironies and paradoxes.

In a pair of important essays written with Monroe Beardsley, a philosopher of art, Wimsatt had tried to correct two persistent errors embedded in outmoded pre-New Critical literary analysis, “the affective fallacy” and “the intentional fallacy”: the first the naïve belief that a work’s meaning and value owed anything to how audiences received it; the second the belief that knowing a poet’s stated design or intention would improve one’s under­standing of his art, when every great poem was best read as an autonomous entity.

New Critical theory tended to negate the presence of authors, who disappeared into their “impersonal” texts. The student instructed in its method learned to refer not to Keats or Tennyson, but to “the poet” or “the speaker,” a disembodied voice. A master practitioner was an­other of Bloom’s senior Yale adversary-­colleagues, Cleanth Brooks, Warren’s fellow Kentuckian and his collaborator on a pair of popular textbooks, “Under­standing Poetry” and “Understanding Fiction.”

Brooks’s interpretive readings exuded austerity and an air of meticulous control. “We are not dealing with Gray’s political ideas,” he had explained, giving a last tug to his latex gloves before commencing surgery on the etherized patient of “Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard.” “We are dealing with what the ‘Elegy’ ‘says’ — something that is not quite the same thing. Any doubt as to this last point should be dissipated by a consideration of the resolution of the poem.”

In some respects Brooks’s belief that poems were transcendent creations prefigured Bloom’s own, at least in his current prophet-of-­decline phase. One can easily imagine Bloom warning today, as Brooks did in “The Well Wrought Urn” in 1947, that if “every poem is an expression of its age,” then “the poetry of the past becomes significant merely as cultural anthropology, and the poetry of the present, merely as a political, or religious, or moral instrument,” precluded from communicating universal truth. “We live in an age in which miracles of all kinds are suspect,” Brooks lamented, “including the kind of miracle of which the poet speaks.” The poet in this particular instance was the Shakespeare of Sonnet 65:

. . . what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

The snag came with “miracle.” For Brooks, as for so many New Critics, literary thaumaturgy was ultimately not “just” literary. It inclined toward religious doctrine — High Church Protestant or Roman Catholic. And Brooks had political ideas too. In 1936, when he was a 30-year-old professor at Louisiana State University, he had written an essay, “A Plea to the Protestant Churches.” Drenched in the dogma of the Southern Agrarians, this little manifesto reproached liberal clergymen for embracing the New Deal, with its implication of an “all-­pervading economic determinism embedded in such a phrase as ‘You can’t turn back the clock,’ ” and its adumbration of darker heresies, including “collectivization, the liquidation of certain ­classes” and, worst of all, the displacement of “the Christian God” by “the communist God.”

This ideology, by no means unique to “the well-wrought Cleanth Brooks,” as Bloom elsewhere has called him, consorted easily with the ideas held by the saint of the New Criticism’s ecclesiastical formalism, T. S. Eliot, the “worthy custodian of Anglo-Catholic conservative royalist European culture,” as Bloom puts it, adding, “My favorite of all Eliot’s dicta was that, being a Christian, he was prohibited by his faith from his not always polite ­anti-Semitism.”

But Eliot was “a great if tendentious poet,” Bloom concedes, indeed the model poeta doctus, trained in philosophy, adept at languages and also an exemplary modernist, who by sardonically appending endnotes to “The Waste Land” anticipated later critical excursions, Bloom’s included, into intertextuality, the web of connections linking one poem to another. Eliot was additionally a critic, a malignant one in Bloom’s view, but mightily influential. It was he who had demoted the Romantics, finding them muddled and vaporous, and elevated the 17th-century “Metaphysicals” George Herbert and John ­Donne, both clergy­men.

With Eliot enthroned as “the Vicar of Academies,” it was “no accident that the poets brought into favor by the New Criticism were Catholics or High Church Anglicans,” the young Bloom pointed out, or that “academic criticism of literature in our time became almost an affair of church wardens.” So he wrote in “The Visionary Company,” his comprehensive study of the Romantics, published in 1961, its heroes the radical dissenters Blake and Shelley.

Though this early book challenged the supremacy of “Neo-Christianity,” it wasn’t especially unusual in its critical approach, apart from its generalizing tone and its commanding use of historical context. After conversing with Bloom in 1965, or rather absorbing “cannonades of lecture,” Alfred Kazin, rapt but awed, was heartened when “I realized that his interest is in literary history.”

Bloom had given no hint, it appears, that he was soon to collapse the whole of that history into a time-warped psychodrama or dream narrative. And yet even today, when not denouncing “the New Historicism and its ilk,” Bloom is attentive to years and dates, at times supplying them in the cozily informative tones of a PBS documentary: “In 14 consecutive months, from 1605 to 1606, Shakespeare composed ‘King Lear,’ ‘Macbeth’ and ‘An­tony and Cleopatra.’ He was 41 to 42 and clearly upon his heights as a dramatist.”

Kazin’s encounter with Bloom predated, by two years, Bloom’s first steps toward self-reinvention. He describes this transformation, in his new book, as a literal awakening, on his 37th birthday, from a nightmare that impelled him to spend a day feverishly writing a “dithyramb” that evolved into “The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry.” Published in 1973, it remains, with the possible exception of Northrop Frye’s “Anatomy of Criticism” (to which Bloom’s new book pays sly if debunking homage), the postwar era’s most original work of criticism, still spellbinding and bewildering.

Bloom’s primary insight was that contemporary literary study imputed a false benignity to the act of poetic invention, when in reality it grew out of competitive struggle, pitting young poets against their elders. This was not a new idea. Samuel Johnson, the originator of modern criticism, had observed that it is “always dangerous to be placed in a state of unavoidable comparison with excellence,” the pressure especially intense in the case of the aspirant who “succeeds a celebrated writer.”

Picking up this thread in his book “The Burden of the Past and the English Poet,” published in 1970, the Harvard scholar Walter Jackson Bate had wondered “whether we could find any more comprehensive way of taking up the whole of English poetry during the last three centuries — or for that matter the modern history of the arts in general — than by exploring the effects of this accumulating anxiety and the question it so directly presents to the poet or artist: What is there left to do?”

Revise, frenziedly, was the answer Bloom gave. Poets wrote new poems by rewriting old ones, not through calculated thefts of the kind Eliot owned up to, but unconsciously, through stealthy appropriation. “What is Poetic Influence anyway?” Bloom asked. “Can the study of it really be anything more than the wearisome industry of source-hunting, of ­allusion-counting, an industry that will soon touch apocalypse anyway when it passes from scholars to computers?” Thus did Bloom, almost 40 years before the advent of the “digital humanities,” envision with Nostradamus-like exactitude the morbid endgame of critical dissection.

Instead, Bloom fashioned a tour de force of quasi-prophetic argument, much of it written in a private language, complete with arcane “Star Trek”-worthy terminology (“clinamen,” “askesis”), in keeping with the 1970s fashion for theory (imported from France). He also drew on the full range of speculative thinkers, from the ancients Lucretius and Valentinus through Vico, Schopenhauer and Kierke­gaard, up to Lacan and Paul de Man. The point was not to formulate (yet another) “new” criticism but to propose and then enact an antithetical or “agonistic” style of literary analysis, a “Romantic and prophetic humanism” parallel to visionary poetry and, like it, inspired by creative appropriation.

In Bloom’s expanded “dithyramb,” influence seethed with conflict and tension. The “strong” modern poet waged a ­Nietzschean struggle against a chosen, or repressed, elder, coming into possession of anterior masterpieces through his own misreadings or “misprisions,” which were in fact “dialectical” reimaginings of the antecedent work. “Weak” poets, slavish imitators, fell out of the equation. Unable to wrest the divine or “daemonic” spark of true inspiration from their precursors, they could manage only derivative efforts that withered into oblivion.

The critic’s role in all this was to map the secret genealogy, uncovering the true ancestor of the belated poet, difficult to do because strong poets ingeniously masked or concealed their actual influences. The critic, his antennae sharpened, was the poet’s secret sharer or, perhaps, his un­recruited psychoanalyst. “If to imagine is to misinterpret, which makes all poems antithetical to their precursors, then to imagine after a poet is to learn his own metaphors for his acts of reading.” This erased the barrier separating critic from poet. Each, an impassioned reader, annexed the functions of the other.

For the strong misreading poet and critic, there was but one ambition, to achieve the sublime, the highest form of spiritual-aesthetic exaltation, mingled with intimations of terror, first described in antiquity by Longinus (Wimsatt, to whom “The Anxiety of Influence” was dedicated, had gotten that right). Bloom did not contrive this from nothing. His Cornell mentor, M. H. Abrams, had examined all manner of “expressive theories” of poetry in “The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition,” an exhaustively researched project, 10 years in the making, completed around the time Bloom left for Yale. Abrams drew a direct line from Longinus to the Romantics. “A conspicuous tendency of Longinus,” he wrote, “is to move from the quality of a work to its genesis in the powers and state of mind, the thought and emotions, of its author,” characterized by the “bold and frequent use of metaphors.” Longinus also prefigured the Romantics through “his reliance on ecstasy instead of analysis as the criterion of excellence.”

Bloom, updating Abrams, added another element, Freudian psychoanalysis. Here too he had a model to follow, Lionel Trilling, who as early as 1940, in his essay “Freud and Literature,” had recommended Freud’s interpretive system as a means both to understand “how, in a scientific age, we still feel and think in figurative formations, and to create, what psychoanalysis is, a science of tropes, of metaphor and its variants, synecdoche and metonymy.” Bloom, going further, absorbed Freudian themes into his theory. The “family romance,” with its conflict between fathers and sons, became a “trope” for poetic competition between early poets and latecomers; “sublimation” became the modern iteration of the sublime.

The inner history of literature was, in sum, the continuous crisis of belatedness. This was the general condition of the post-­Enlightenment intellectual, and it was allegorized, with dramatic force, by English-language poets, who, as they struggled to invent new poems, first resisted and then matched the examples of great precursor poets — above all Shakespeare and Milton, whose dominance seemed obliteratingly total.

The revelation came in Bloom’s “misreadings” — the linkages he found. He made the reader see how John Ashbery really had emerged from Wallace Stevens, just as Stevens had from Whitman; that Browning harbored the ghost of Shelley; that Tennyson issued from Keats. The point was not that “father” and “son” sounded alike. Much of the time they didn’t. The affinities occurred outside the familiar realm of echoes and allusions, of intended references.

Bloom’s theory, he explains in his new book, was the offshoot of his own reading habits, principally his freakish capacity for memorization. He discovered it in childhood, and it never left him. In the early 1960s, he “memorized at first hearing” W. S. Merwin’s “Departure’s Girl-Friend,” a poem of some 40 lines, after Merwin gave a reading at Yale. And even now “I possess almost all of Hart Crane by memory.” The ability to grasp poetry in this way is rare but not unprecedented. Bloom’s hero, Samuel Johnson, had it as well. “His memory was so tenacious,” Boswell writes in his great biography, “that he never forgot anything that he either heard or read. Mr. Hector” — Johnson’s schoolmate — “remembers having recited to him 18 verses, which, after a little pause, he repeated verbatim, varying only one epithet, by which he improved the line.”

Nor is this gift to be confused with the muscled-up feats of the “memory athletes” reported in Joshua Foer’s book, “Moonwalking With Einstein.” It is akin, rather, to the mathematical or musical prodigy’s prehensile grasp of hidden structures. In Bloom’s case, the structures were verbal. Once he read a poem it reverberated incessantly inside his skull, colliding with other poems. “If you carry the major British and American poets around with you by internalization,” he remarks, “after some years their complex relations to one another begin to form enigmatic patterns.”

Enigmatic indeed. In later books — “A Map of Misreading,” “Kabbalah and Criticism,” “Poetry and Repression” — Bloom elaborated, with increasing eclecticism, on his “revisionary ratios,” until, in a book like “Agon” (1982), he offered interpretations like this of ­Nietzsche and Wilde: “A trope is thus a way of carrying a perpetual imperfection across the river of Becoming, while thinking we carry a goddess. But what trope is troping the concept of trope here? Transumption or metaleptic reversal, I would say, which is Nietzsche’s favorite figure, the entire basis of his Zarathustra’s ­rhetoric.”

By this time, Bloom had burrowed into a cave, its lamplit forms and shapes merging into an occult mythos scarcely intelligible even to other scholars. “Bloom had an idea,” Christopher Ricks said; “now the idea has him.” Cynthia Ozick, meanwhile, called him an “idol-maker.” In contrast to Cleanth Brooks, who had said, “I am not one of those people who believe that man can live by poetry alone,” Bloom, the self-described “secularist with Gnostic proclivities,” believed exactly that. For him great poems were sacred vessels. Which made it all the more remarkable when he remade himself in the 1990s as a public explainer of literature, with his crowd-pleasing books on the Western canon and ­Shakespeare.

“The Anatomy of Influence” is Bloom’s effort — his last, he says — to recalibrate his great theory, only shorn of its “gnomic” obscurities and written in “a subtler language that will construe my earlier commentary for the general reader and reflect changes in my thinking.” One of those changes is that over time his notion of influence has become more orthodox, growing closer, in its sensitivity to echo and allusion, to the approach of the hated New Critics.

In a superb chapter, “Milton’s Hamlet,” Bloom shows how the Satan of “Paradise Lost” is the offspring of Hamlet, each a soliloquist who stands at a remove from the tragedy that engulfs him, puzzling out eloquent conundrums that press toward “depths beneath depths,” limitless self-consciousness. “It does not matter that Satan is an obsessed theist and Hamlet is not,” Bloom writes. “Two angelic intellects inhabit a common abyss: the post-Enlightenment ever-augmenting inner self, of which Hamlet is a precursor, intervening between Luther and Calvin, and later Descartes and Spinoza.”

This is Bloom’s style — or “affect,” as he might say — and has been for some time. The prose is at once elliptical and swollen with portent. But it remains forcefully strange, in its strategic commingling of the invented and the factual. Hamlet is as real a presence, and as independent a thinker, as Luther or Descartes — as real as Shakespeare himself, and a rival to him.

The subtitle of Bloom’s new book, “Literature as a Way of Life,” is not an overstatement. For him, great authors don’t merely imitate life or capture facets of being. They create “heterocosms,” alternative but accessible worlds, open to us all. He had always been an esoteric populist, like his first subjects, Blake and Shelley. And he has achieved a new serenity, having made peace even with Yale, its campus now populated by “wonderfully varied” students, wise in their own way. “Whatever one’s personal tradition,” he has learned, “one teaches in the name of aesthetic and cognitive standards and values that are no longer exclusively Western.” Anxiety, after all, is a universal condition.

Sam Tanenhaus is the editor of the Book Review.

A version of this review appeared in print on May 22, 2011, on page BR1 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: An Uncommon Reader.

Israel’s Netanyahu still has bragging rights

May 25, 2011

Israel’s Netanyahu still has bragging rights in the US,despite new realities in the Middle East

By W.Scott Thompson

ONE of the most formidable people I ever met was a retired head of one of Israel’s intelligence services. We shared a programme at Harvard some time back. Unsentimental, unsparing of bad analysis, realistic and soft-spoken, he was the kind of person a country in peril would wish to rely on. Right now, there are 18 men in such retirement — from the leadership of Mossad, Shin Bet (Internal), and the Israeli Defence Forces. Interestingly, according to a highly informed report that has come my way, eight of these see a gigantic danger for Israel in the near-term. Six of them seem to echo the same view more quietly — and the other two are in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet and thus muzzled.

Iran? No, the “hawk’s hawk”, Meir Dagon, recently retired Mossad head, said at a conference at Hebrew University on May 6 that the notion of attacking Iran’s nuclear sites was “one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard”. Syria? It’s too wrapped up in its own problems, as is Egypt.

The problem is Netanyahu. They are all working against him. His ostrich head-in-sand attitude toward the forthcoming United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood is threatening Israel’s viability. Netanyahu reacts to events, they all seem to be saying. While the Arab world is waking up, the Israeli prime minister is falling into a permanently disgruntled sleep.

It looks as if most of the intelligence boys think a two-state solution is inevitable, and the sooner dealt with the better. Netanyahu has long since made clear, one way or the other, that it won’t happen on his watch.

As I read this analysis, knowing that Netanyahu was going to Washington, I pondered how he could out-chutzpah his own chutzpah. After all, he knew that the President of the United States (POTUS) would know all of the above. So, lecturing POTUS in the Oval Office, he delivered of himself a sequence of absurdities and insults. The pre-1967 borders, with adjustments compensated on both sides, have always been the starting point for everyone else.

Netanyahu scoffed. The width of Israel then, he said, was the same as the Washington Beltway. Now, I was in Israel pre-1967 and at the narrowest point it was a well-defended 18km. I’ve crossed the Washington Beltway at least a thousand times (and Netanyahu has crossed it enough times); at no point is its width a tiny fraction of 18km. One allows exaggeration to make a point, not total fictions.

Then he continues his lecture to POTUS. There are new “realities” on the ground, that have to be taken into account: ah, the settlements on Arab land. More than half a million Jewish illegal settlers, basically squatting. But Netanyahu wants that to be the starting point of “negotiations”. Accept that, swallow it, it’s a new “reality”. In other words, defy the law and then tell the negotiators that the starting point is an acceptance of the very “realities” causing the problem in the first place.

The group of retired intelligence heads are concerned about a different set of realities. Demographics is making Jews a minority in Israel and the territories occupied for 44 years. Worse for Israel, one by one it’s losing its traditional friends in Europe and the rest of the world — save, of course, the US. It had quietly built a remarkable network of quiet friendships through armaments sales, intelligence sharing, and common sympathies for a “socialist” state that was born of immense suffering. It developed a brilliant network of friends in Africa to outflank Egypt, at least diplomatically. It formed a remarkable alliance with South Africa, selling it “special” equipment with which to put down black guerillas and in return have space for testing nuclear weapons. It built a solid tie with Turkey — a lot of shared enemies, after all.

Almost all of that is of the past. The ending of the Cold War cost Israel its utility to the US as a strategic partner, baring the real basis of its support — 64 per cent of the total cash received by congressmen and senators, which comes from Jewish groups. Israel has few friends in Africa, least of all post-apartheid South Africa. Turkey, as a really special democratic, Muslim ally, was trashed as a friend.

The world has changed — and more in the Middle East. If the prime minister were truly interested in “new realities” he’d concentrate on laying groundwork for real peace negotiations, rather than bragging how he has Barack Obama in a frying pan until after November next year and can push him around as much as he wishes.

My guess is that Obama knows there’ll be no peace process until Netanyahu is swept out by an awakening that is hitting everyone in the Middle East except him. Obama’s very precise address last Thursday was a blueprint for dealing with the region when the dust settles in the major Arab countries, and when Israel has a leader who can deal with reality. Obama didn’t take Netanyahu on, but he introduced some new dimensions to the dialogue — like letting the Palestinians sort out their relationship to each other so that negotiations with Israel are possible.

Netanyahu’s constant allusion to Hamas’s refusal to “recognise” Israel’s right to exist is no more and no less than Fatah’s, until the conference table was a real possibility. (As one Palestinian minister said to me years ago, “why should we give up one of the few negotiating levers we have?”) Hamas has developed over recent years. Nor does the argument of Hamas rockets in southern Israel hit very hard: read the Goldstone Report if you want to read about which side hit the other the hardest.

But Netanyahu will, of course, return saying that the American Congress is more right than his own right wing. Of course. When you want money, or something like that, you speak to the left of a leftie, and to the right of a rightie. If I had to choose whose advice to rely on, I’m sure the retired intelligence heads of Israel can speak more wisely of the right choice of roads ahead for their country than can American congressmen hungry for cash.

W.Scott Thompson

The writer is emeritus professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, the United States

Asia’s reticence costs it a shot at IMF power

May 25, 2011

Asia’s reticence costs it a shot at IMF power

By Emily Kaiser

SINGAPORE: The world’s power brokers lined up candidates to head the International Monetary Fund (IMF) while Asia held back, and its silence means it will probably have to wait five more years to break Europe’s grip on the top spot.

Emerging market powerhouses including China and India have long clamoured for more clout within the IMF, commensurate with their growing economic strength.

Last year, they won a hard-fought battle for a bigger share of IMF voting rights and convinced the fund to reconsider its long-standing opposition to capital controls.

So why the reticence when presented with a golden opportunity to claim the managing director post following Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sudden resignation? Forging quick consensus is never going to be an easy proposition in a region of such extremes, encompassing impoverished Bangladesh and wealthy Japan; Communist China and the world’s largest democracy, India.

It’s even tougher when the task at hand involves controversial questions of politics and economics. It may be more convenient for Asia to sit idly by this time around with the understanding that it will make its preferences known next time.

Even that seemingly anodyne point is so sensitive in Asia that no policymaker has made it publicly, although it was raised by at least one official on the condition neither his name nor his nationality was published.

Contrast that with Europe, which quickly rallied around French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to take the job that has traditionally gone to a European since the IMF was formed at the end of World War Two.

France’s budget minister said that Lagarde had China’s support as well, all but assuring she would have sufficient backing to win a five-year term. China’s foreign ministry declined to comment on whether Beijing had backed Lagarde. An emerging market official said there was considerable discussion between Asia, Latin America and Africa, and another candidate could still emerge.

But the chances for success look slim. There has been no shortage of other names floated, including several from emerging Asian countries, yet none received the same degree of swift and public support as Lagarde has both inside and outside Europe.

The biggest obstacle to Asia putting forward a rival seems to be finding common cause. China and India share membership in the “BRICS” grouping of rapidly emerging economies but little else, and would have a hard time agreeing on one Asian candidate.

“To believe that everyone coming from the emerging markets will support similar policies is a mistake,” said Sebastian Edwards, a former World Bank official who teaches international economics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Silence in Japan

For Japan, second only to the United States in IMF voting power, backing someone from elsewhere in Asia would serve as a painful reminder of the country’s waning influence.

Koichi Haji, chief economist at NLI Research Institute in Tokyo, said Japan is not thrilled with the prospect of Europe retaining its hold on the top spot, but isn’t in a position to propose a Japanese candidate and would not be comfortable with someone from an emerging market either.

“Nothing seems to be an attractive option, which might be why Tokyo remains so silent on this whole subject,” he said.

Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda declined to comment when asked whether he would support Lagarde or another name put forward, Mexico’s central bank governor, Agustin Carstens. He said only that the process should be open, transparent and merit-based, a line heard repeatedly throughout the region.

As for smaller Asian economies, the next head of the IMF is far from the top of the to-do list. Many in the region harbour bad memories of the financial turmoil of the late 1990s and felt the IMF was condescending and harsh in its dealings with countries in crisis.

Asian nations have built up large cash reserves, in part as a form of self-insurance so that they would never again be forced to go hat-in-hand to the IMF. The fund has little influence over countries that don’t need its loans.

Still, an Asian IMF chief would be a powerful sign of respect, said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

Getting a Southeast Asian candidate into the mix would raise the region’s international profile, and the Fund might benefit from the experience of someone from a country that has been on the receiving end of IMF advice. There would be no shame in putting forward a candidate who loses, he said.

“If you never try, you never succeed,” he said. An Asian IMF boss might serve as a symbol of IMF humility as well – which might help heal some of those 1990s wounds.

Now that the world has endured a financial crisis wreaked by the policies of the rich, the IMF has begun to question its western economic orthodoxy.

Indeed, at an IMF conference in March, its chief economist said the latest crisis forced a “wholesale re-examination” of principles that had formed the basis of mainstream economics.

Those tenets, often referred to as the “Washington consensus”, also formed the basis of many of the IMF policies and recommendations that so rankled Asian economies. Now that they are no longer seen as gospel, it makes even more sense to choose an IMF leader who thinks differently, said UCLA’s Edwards, who has long opposed the tradition of Europeans leading the IMF while Americans take the top World Bank spot.

He dismissed as “absurd” the idea that another European should get the job this time around because a European is best suited to manage the region’s sovereign debt crisis, which is likely to take up a great deal of the next leader’s time.

“The one reason why the crisis is not going away is that no one has been looking at it with a broad historical lens,” he said in an e-mailed response to questions from Reuters. “What we need is not an expert in the last crisis; what we need is someone that will understand the next crisis. Because we can be sure that there will be more.”

- Reuters

Illusions of Democracy

May 24, 2011

Illusions of Democracy

by Esther Dyson (May 19, 2011)

NEW YORK – The Internet is an extraordinarily powerful tool. It has changed how we do business, how we do politics, and even how we change our leaders – at least some of the time.

But the ease with which we now communicate, the efficiencies we take for granted, can give us a false sense of how easy it is to follow through on some of these changes. Despite the importance of social media in fomenting revolution, and even in deposing deeply unpopular leaders, governing in the real world is not as easy as governing online.

This struck me last week when I listened to one of Egypt’s new online generation talking enthusiastically about the future. His thesis was that once people have tasted freedom, once the oppressive leader is gone, they will naturally live as free people and build a new, democratic society without much central oversight. I wish I could believe that it will all be as easy for Egyptians as running a Facebook group was.

Generally, the Internet is a tool for people whose basic needs are already being met. Members of the upper middle class in any country, including Egypt, often seem to forget that for most people, the value created on the Internet cannot feed, clothe, and house their families.

In centuries past, revolutionaries were farmers or blacksmiths or merchants; now they are Google executives and Facebook friends. The Internet joins the elite of the world. But it also cuts people off from the past and a sense of history. The exciting things that happen online are not the same as what happened offline in countries such as Romania and Kyrgyzstan, let alone in Libya.

In fact, habits are often stronger and more persistent than either insights or presidents. People may want a world free of corruption, but it’s hard to understand how such a world works. When you are starting a new company and you need to get it registered quickly, how can you get the bureaucrat to do his job and move your paperwork along?

In many countries the answer is obvious. And, from the bureaucrat’s point of view, his or her salary might be pathetic, but it comes with a steady stream of facilitation payments. That bureaucrat does not feel corrupt; he plays by the rules he signed on for when he got his job, and he does not want them changed mid-game.

There are many people in this or a similar position, and they all depend on one another to make a corrupt system work. It is difficult for them to understand how it could be any other way. Of course, they know from the media – indeed, from the Internet – about transparency and freedom, but without quite understanding how it works.

I am often reminded of the Russian tech entrepreneur I talked to many years ago, back when the Soviet Union was falling apart. “It’s great!” he said. “Our government is going to set free-market prices just like yours.”

I don’t want to be gloomy. People in the Middle East and other emerging democracies have definitely changed from their recent experiences, and their expectations have been raised. But they need to understand the challenges they face in building a new society.

The Internet may have made this transition seem too easy. In Internet communities, it’s fairly easy to build consensus. Membership is voluntary, and people who don’t like the rules can leave. Or they can be kicked out: there is no requirement for due process.

Moreover, many resources are infinite on the Internet. People aren’t fighting over scarce housing or lucrative jobs. They are befriending one another, sharing information, and accumulating status, points, and experiences.

But in the real world, even online, things aren’t so easy. Consider eBay, a wonderful and mostly successful melding of the online and offline worlds. It has a huge budget devoted to deterring and detecting fraud, and it can simply ban fraudsters. The company’s success makes governance look easy, but that success is misleading. Unlike eBay, a country needs to put its criminals in jail and keep them there; it can’t simply cancel their accounts.

Every society has its bad actors, and it needs an established (and accountable) authority to deal with them. Otherwise, the bad guys will take advantage of the good ones.

What that means is that the newly freed people of the Middle East must toughen their idealism with hard realism. They need to figure out how to negotiate and work with existing power structures – such as the army and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Like it or not, they cannot do that as a brigade of flower children; they need to pick leaders who can speak for them and negotiate for them. The modernizers need to form a coherent force – and most likely a political party – rather than simply relying on the wisdom (and good behavior) of the crowd to govern the country.

That does not mean that activists should abandon the cause for which they are fighting. But it does mean understanding that even democracy has many rules – ideally rules that a majority has chosen.  But they are mostly not chosen directly; those rules generally reflect compromises among elected representatives who can argue and negotiate in person, reflecting the overall preferences of those who elected them.

That may sound a little too much like the old system, but it doesn’t have to be. Online, if you don’t like the rules, you can simply leave and form a new community. Offline, you need to stay and help to change the rules for everyone.

Esther Dyson, CEO of EDventure Holdings, is an active investor in a variety of start-ups around the world. Her interests include information technology, health care, private aviation, and space travel.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.