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A balanced budget? Not in election year

“We don’t begrudge success in America,” Mr. Obama said. But, he added, “We do expect everybody to do their fair share, so that everybody has opportunity, not just some.”

Hardly controversial stuff; or so you’d think. On Monday President Obama announced his budget for the 2013 fiscal year and along with it large swathes of his manifesto for re-election. In a campaign that is likely to be defined by economic issues, this budget was always destined to be political in nature. Yet, opponents have still found it within them to express commendable faux-outrage.

The words of leading anti-tax campaigner Grover Norquist were indicative of the criticisms Obama faced. He claimed “this is not an economic document, it’s not a policy document, it’s a political document”.  Of course, it goes without saying that a budget is, at least in the most literal sense, an economic document. Yet the measures announced by Obama are in some parts so lacking in excitement and originality that they will do little to change the economic course already set, and in others so flagrantly partisan that they have no chance of being passed. So in truth, the budget will have a minimal economic impact at best. Read the rest of this entry

A Week in Foreign Policy – Trends for 2012

It has been a busy week in the international arena; an assassination in Iran, Syria descending further into civil war, results of elections in Egypt, alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan and Burma(Myanmar) coming in from the cold. We are but fourteen days into the new year and we are already seeing the seeds of new crises, conflicts and political tensions – not to mention the continuation of old rivalries and problem cases. The last seven days could give an indication of future trends in international politics for 2012 and the complexities that western policy-makers will face.

More positively, we are seeing potential glimmers of hope; democratic movements are gaining a foothold across the world, especially in the Middle East and Asia. Policy-makers and global strategists will be keenly watching events as they unfold, trying to predict just what 2012 may have in store for us. Their lack of foresight in 2011 and their failure to predict events – especially the Arab Spring movement – will lead to a greater push to be proactive rather than reactive.

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Mitt V Mitt: Why Romney is his own worst enemy

“Experts are predicting kind of a tough fight between Romney and his biggest ideological opponent: Mitt Romney from four years ago. Those guys don’t agree on anything.” A stinging critique, made worse by the fact that it comes from a comedian, rather than one of Romney’s many political opponents.

In recent days political ads have dominated the American political arena. Two attack ads from Rick Perry and, most significantly, Mitt Romney, have drawn wide-ranging criticism for their rather neoliberal approach to accurate quotation. Indeed, one Fox commentator was even drawn to label Romney’s “an out and out lie”. The Obama administration were said to be furious, and their response is significant. Read the rest of this entry

Why is America starting to flex its muscles in the Asia Pacific region?

With the economic crisis in Europe and the winding down of the western presence in Iraq and Afghanistan the US government have moved their focus onto the Asia Pacific region. The USA recently hosted the annual Asia-Pacific economic forum which was held in Hawaii, which is Barack Obama’s birth place and the main US territory in the region.

Barack Obama also made a trip last week to Indonesia and Australia where he met a number of politicians and diplomats and also delivered several speeches in which he outlined his ideas for future US involvement in the region.  Obama announced on his tour of the region that he would send 250 Marines to North Australia and promised to increase this number in the near future.  Surely this military strategy would strengthen the already large American military power in the region; it would also send a message to other military powers in the region, such as China and North Korea.  China have questioned the move and many believe that it is a move which is counter to Chinese influence in the region.  China and the US are definitely  two of the largest powers in the region and an increase of US activity in the region is bound to worry the Chinese. READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY

Can the Republicans beat Obama on Foreign Policy?

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took his spot as the latest frontrunner in the Republican race for the White House, the candidates assembled in their nation’s capital on Tuesday for the latest debate in this most chaotic of races, this time to discuss foreign policy. Previous debates have revolved mainly around domestic affairs, addressing the pressing issues of unemployment and the economy, alongside other matters such as healthcare and social security.

While these debates have been rife with criticism and contention between the candidates, ideology over broader policy measures has been fairly consistent, with mediators constantly being forced to bring up smaller and more divisive issues in order to stimulate more engaging debate. Indeed, up to this point, the televised debates have been characterized predominantly by the high-profile gaffes made by the candidates, rather than any sort of wholesale division over federal policy. Foreign policy, however, marks an interesting turning point, as it forces the Republican candidates to look beyond America’s borders and express a coherent world vision. Everyone knows their respective records on employment and the economy, but now is the time to test their knowledge on what is happening outside of their North American bubble. Read the rest of this entry

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