EU in Africa: triumph of the bean-counters

OK, here’s the EU’s strategy for Somalia: (1) pay our African allies to put their troops in the line of fire; (2) cut off the money over accounting issues; (3) er…

The European Union has suspended its financial support to African Union peacekeepers in Somalia over the delay by the continental body to account for the past funds, the Defence Minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, has said. The suspension has left the peacekeepers composed of Ugandan and Burundian forces in Somalia without operational allowances for the last three months.

However, Dr Kiyonga on Wednesday told Ugandan peacekeepers who returned from Somalia three weeks ago, that the matter will be resolved soon. “We owe you some money. The delay was caused by African Union because the donors have withheld the money due to accountability issues,” Dr Kiyonga told the soldiers in Mubende.

Another triumph for bean-counting over strategy. And then there’s the scurvy.

The minister also said that findings by the World Health Organisation investigation into the causes of the strange ailments that killed two Ugandan peacekeepers indicated that the deaths were caused by malnutrition and not poison as the Al-Shabaab rebels had claimed.

“The investigations indicate that it was lack of VitaminB1 in the food they were eating. But now soldiers are getting sufficient fresh fruits, a move that will prevent recurring of such ailments,” he said.

If we can’t send peacekeepers cash, perhaps we could at least send oranges?

On the web: Afghan anniversary, modern terrorism, and the Nobel race…

- With the eighth anniversary of war in Afghanistan, debate about the strategic direction of the conflict continues apace. Foreign Policy has an extract from Gordon M. Goldstein’s Lessons in Disaster – chronicling the key turning points of the Vietnam war and reportedly forming required reading in the current White House. Over at the New Republic, William Galston argues that General McChrystal was right to air his concerns about Afghan strategy in public and ratchet up pressure on President Obama.

– RUSI, meanwhile, assesses the issue of troop numbers on British shores, viewing the commitment to hard power through the lens of the country’s world role. In related news, the Conservatives are set to confirm that General Sir Richard Dannatt, recently retired as Chief of the General Staff, is to advise them on defence policy.

– Elsewhere, Professor John Merriman asks if the bombing of a Paris café at the end of the 19th Century spawned terrorism in its modern form. Current policy, he suggests, would do well to take better account of historical experience.

– Finally, with the slew of annual awards from the Nobel committee well under way, attention turns to possible winners of the economics prize – to be announced on Monday.  Thompson Reuters offers its annual, citation-based, predications here. Brad DeLong, meanwhile, suggests that this year’s gong should go to Mark Gertler and current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke.

Europe: you’re either with us or against us

Honestly, how tedious enthusiasts for European integration are – almost as tedious as avowed Eurosceptics, in fact. Despite the fact that Euro-cheerleaders were among the biggest critics of President Bush’s ‘with us or against us’ approach to foreign policy, they seem wholly unable to recognise their own indulgence in the same fault when it comes to people’s views on the benefits of further European integration.

Case in point: the sources cited in today’s FT by Tony Barber, the paper’s excellent Brussels columnist, who writes that

Many on the Continent see [Euroscepticism] as a British identity problem that extends beyond some acute nervous condition of the modern Tory party. The UK, they say, is already a semi-detached player in Europe. It defends the City of London, but does not join the eurozone; it shapes EU foreign policy, but stays out of the Schengen border-free travel regime; it signs the Lisbon treaty, but secures opt-outs on justice and home affairs. No other EU member-state is so standoffish.

Oh for heaven’s sake. As I noted here a few days ago, I’m pleased that Lisbon finally looks set to enter into force because I think Europe badly needs to raise its game on foreign policy coherence. I’m a big enthusiast for the single market, and a fan of what Europe has achieved on climate change. But why does it follow on that I should be a supported of every possible facet of European integration? Continue reading

The G7’s last gasp?

So you thought that the Pittsburgh G20 summit had buried the G7/G8?  Not quite yet…

Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg prime minister who chairs meetings of the eurozone finance ministers, has responded sharply to suggestions from Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that the Group of Seven advanced industrial countries might no longer play a leading role in international economic policy diplomacy.

“We do not want the G7 to be brought to an end,” Juncker said at this year’s annual meetings in Istanbul of the World Bank and the IMF, the government-owned institutions that have been helping to finance the recovery from the global economic crisis. “We think that the G7 is the best place to discuss currency issues,” Juncker said.

His remarks followed comments earlier by Strauss-Kahn which added to persistent behind-the-scenes Anglo-American sniping at the G7. After the meeting of the G20 developed and developing countries in Pittsburgh on September, some countries were suggesting that the G7 should give way to the G20 for international economic policy discussions because the former excludes the increasingly influential emerging market economies China, India and Brazil. Strauss-Kahn referred to the G7 as “perhaps the late G7″, implying that he also questioned the validity of the group as a meaningful venue for international economic policy debate.

This sort of to-and-fro may go on for a while yet, as European leaders attempt to maintain the privileged status of the G7/G8 to counter-balance the rise of the G20…

US in Pakistan: Diplomats or Missonaries? [updated]

Fail - photo from Flickr user The Happy Robot

Reading the papers over breakfast in Lahore, I was dumbfounded by the story of a US diplomatic official being attacked while she attempted to distribute – personally! – aid to a hundred or so Christians who have been victims of communal violence.

Sitting on a stage, Carmella Conroy, who heads the US consulate in Lahore, kicked off proceedings by presenting a relief package to Shahbaz Hameed.

Hameed, who saw 7 members of his family burnt alive in Gojra after an alleged desecration of the Koran, was not happy. He refused the aid, saying that Christians needed not food, but justice. A minor riot ensued, with the crowd throwing aid parcels back at Ms Conroy.

This story seems wrong in so many ways.  Does USAID really see its job as spinning charity into PR opportunities (and doing so hamfistedly)? And is the US’s mission in Pakistan to act as a defender of the Christian faith? It certainly seems that way when you read the newspaper report. Continue reading

Deutsche Bank: oil at $175 a barrel by 2016 – then back to $70 by 2030

Deutsche Bank have good news and bad news, as the Wall Street Journal’s excellent Environmental Capital blog recounts:

Here’s an intriguing thought: Global oil supplies are indeed set to peak within a few years, and no, that is not bullish for oil. Quite the contrary—it will spell the end of the “oil age.”

That’s the take from Deutsche Bank’s new report, “The Peak Oil Market.” In a nutshell: The oil industry chronically under invests in finding new supplies, exemplified both by Big Oil’s recent love of share buybacks and under-investment by big oil-producing nations. That spells a looming supply crunch.

That will send oil to $175 a barrel by 2016—and will simultaneously put the final nail in oil’s coffin and send prices plummeting back to $70 by 2030. That’s because there’s an even more important “peak” moment on the horizon: A global peak in oil demand. That has already begun in the world’s biggest oil-consuming nation, Deutsche Bank notes:

US demand is the key. It is the last market-priced, oil inefficient, major oil consumer. We believe Obama’s environmental agenda, the bankruptcy of the US auto industry, the war in Iraq, and global oil supply challenges have dovetailed to spell the end of the oil era.

The big driver? The coming-of-age of electric and hybrid vehicles, which promise massive fuel-economy gains for short-hop commuting but which so far have not been economic.

Deutsche Bank expects the electric car to become a truly “disruptive technology” which takes off around the world, sending demand for gasoline into an “inexorable and accelerating decline.”

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