Can the United States and a Rising China Avoid Thucydides’s Trap?

Thucydides, a general in Ancient Greece, was exiled from Athens after failing to reach the city of Amphipolis to prevent takeover by the Spartans. In exile, he wrote a history of the 27-year Peloponnesian War and determined, “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” That one sentence inspired Harvard political scientist Graham Allison to research 16 major power rivalries over the last 500 years between reigning and emerging powers. Not all rivalries led to war, and Börje Ljunggren, author and former Swedish ambassador to China, analyzes Allison’s arguments on whether the United States and China can escape the Thucydides’s Trap. “Allison’s ultimate ambition is to raise awareness and prevent collision between the United States and China,” Ljunggren writes. “He identifies four core ideas based on ‘structural realities’: clarifying vital interests, understanding the aims of the other, crafting strategy and addressing national challenges. Predictability is crucial.” Sources for unpredictability and confrontation are many, from Chinese ties with North Korea along with claims in the South China Sea to controls over currency or human rights. Yet the world’s largest economic and military powers share common interests. Ljunggren concludes, “there is ample scope for joint efforts beyond distrust.” – YaleGlobal

After 16 Years of War, the United States and Afghanistan Ponder Next Steps

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, charged with the task of deciding whether to send more US troops into Afghanistan, must determine the mission, the level of support from allies and other partners in the region, and the readiness of the Afghan government and its forces to withstand an insurgency. Ultimately, Mattis must decide if more military fighting can deliver conditions for peace. Marc Grossman and Tom West support commitment of 5,000 more US troops: “It is not in America’s interests to leave Afghanistan to its current trajectory, with the Taliban controlling ever larger swaths of the country, seeking to topple the Kabul government and allowing growing safe havens for both ISIS and al Qaeda.” Grossman, former US Under Secretary of State and US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was a Kissinger Senior Fellow at Yale in 2013. West is a former senior US diplomat who served in Afghanistan. Sending troops has risks, and the two writers conclude that any commitment of US troops requires an integrated and whole-government strategy, with cooperation from multiple departments in the United States along with leaders in the wider region. – YaleGlobal

 

 

Migrant Domestic Workers: Working Conditions Can Emulate Enslavement

Middle-class families increasingly depend on domestic help for cooking and cleaning services, eldercare and childcare. Almost 70 million domestic workers, most women, toil around the globe. The global supply of labor for work deemed unskilled is huge. Wages are low, and private homes are the setting for many workers with limited communication or organizing skills. About 20 percent of these workers are migrants, and work conditions vary from country to country and household to household. Regulations often emphasize anti-immigration nativism over labor protections. Stories of exploitation are common, explain Satveer Kaur-Gill, a 2016-2017 Fox Fellow with Yale University, and Mohan J Dutta, professor who heads the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore, and they refer to a shocking account of a Filipino woman, described as an “aunt,” who worked for a family in the United States without payment for much of her life. “Even governments in the most developed nations struggle to monitor thousands of workers and signed contracts that stipulate rest hours, sleeping arrangements, allocation of days off, food provisions and salaries,” Kaur-Gill and Dutta write. “Social networks and alert members of the public are key to domestic workers understanding their rights and taking steps to walk away from abusive work.” International and local NGOs are leading in confronting this human rights issue. – YaleGlobal

Diplomatic Storm in the Gulf in Wake of Trump’s Mideast Visit

Tensions have long simmered between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, though both are monarchies and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Saudi Arabia and two allies severed diplomatic ties after Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani was reported to have delivered a speech on 22 May, suggesting support for Iran and doubts that US President Donald Trump would last long in office. Qatar claims news reports of the speech are false, a result of hacking. Author Dilip Hiro explains that the roots of animosity go back years as Saudi Arabia struggles to tolerate Qatar’s soft-power approach in the region: supporting the Arab Spring protests in 2011, funding Al Jazeera television’s investigative journalism, supporting the thousands who lost homes and businesses during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in summer 2006, and refusing to demonize Iran as Saudi Arabia’s rival in the region. US leaders often tempered Saudi impulses in the region, but Hiro warns that may no longer be the case. Rather than pursue nuanced and balanced policy, the US president now sides with the Saudis, and this could trigger more instability and conflicts among Muslims in an already troubled region. – YaleGlobal

South China Sea: US Bargaining Chip or Key Interest?

The United States is either indifferent to freedom-of-navigation rights in the South China Sea or cagey about its strategic interests. The USS Dewey, a guided missile destroyer, moved within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, a land feature occupied by China, explains Donald K. Emmerson. The US Pacific Command had repeatedly been denied permission to conduct such an operation since Donald Trump became president in January. US intentions may puzzle China and its neighbors in Southeast Asia, and Emmerson lists the many questions and possible scenarios. Both Trump, through “transactional dealing,” and his predecessor Barack Obama, through “strategic patience,” emphasize linkage – to motivate Beijing to address other US concerns, including trade imbalances and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. – YaleGlobal

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Saudi Arabia Plays Trump on Iran to Tilt Middle East Balance

Saudi Arabia’s royalty went all out in greeting US President Donald Trump with pomp and circumstance, exaggerating the visit as “historic” and a “landmark event.” The Trump team more aptly describes relations as going through a reset: Trump has backed away from his campaign criticism of the monarchy, and the United States, under Trump, is shying away from urging democracy and human rights for Saudi Arabia as former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush once did, explains author Dilip Hiro. Instead, Trump has capitulated to Saudi leaders, selling arms while offering unquestioning support in their struggle to maintain regional inequalities and a dangerous rivalry with Shia Iran. Trump’s criticism of Iran is a disappointment for Iranian voters who reelected Iran’s reformist President Hassan Rouhani by a large margin. Shias are a minority in the Muslim world, 15 percent compared with Sunnis’ 85 percent, and a target for extremists like the Islamic State. Iran’s steps toward integrating with the world and limiting its nuclear program deserve praise rather than condemnation. Shortsighted policies showing little regard for democracy or human rights are treacherous for the entire Middle East. – YaleGlobal

FDA approves drugs more quickly than peer agency in Europe

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviews and approves new medicines in a shorter timeframe than its peer agency in Europe, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), says a Yale researcher. This finding comes at a time when the FDA is under renewed pressure to streamline and speed up its approval process, and provides data to inform ongoing policy discussions.

The report, co-authored with researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and New York University School of Medicine, was published April 5 by the New England Journal of Medicine.

The FDA has faced pressure from the public, politicians, and industry to accelerate review and approval of new medicines. The FDA’s review process is currently being considered and reexamined as part of negotiations to reauthorize the law that directs funds to the agency — the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) — due for reauthorization by October 2017.

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