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Hagel nomination shows Obama's realism

Tom Switzer is research associate at the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney and editor of The American Review. When Chuck Hagel appears before the US Senate Armed Services Committee overnight, he is likely to face tough questions about his past positions on Iran (he prefers

Surveillance for all, of all

The Pentagon recently released new details about a 1.8 gigapixel surveillance camera it has mounted on a drone. Here's an extract from a PBS documentary that gives you an idea of what that means in practice: On first viewing, there is a certain 'gee whiz' factor to this camera and its

Why Mali matters for France and Europe

Dr Daniel Woker is the former Swiss Ambassador to Australia and now a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Gallen. Mali might not be Afghanistan, but a country just south of the empty Sahara is geographically much closer to Europe. Refugees and, with a certain delay, economic migrants from

Is central bank independence at risk?

Two decades ago, monetary policy seemed to have reached the 'end of history': it had evolved an optimal format from which no further refinement seemed necessary. The two key elements were a focus on low inflation and central bank independence as the means of separating monetary policy from political

Long weekend for The Interpreter

  Tomorrow is Australia Day, which means we all get Monday off for that little extra sleep and relaxation. Enjoy the long weekend, if you're getting one, and see you Tuesday for the resumption of blogging. Photo by Flickr user iansand

Has the G20 run out of puff?

Mike Callaghan is Director of the Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre. Having attended the G20 sessions at the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF), Howard Davies writes in the Financial Times that 'the G20 seems condemned to drift along, unloved and unremarked, until the next crisis, when world

The parochialism of the present

From British Prime Minister David Cameron's speech announcing his proposal for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU: What Churchill described as the twin marauders of war and tyranny have been almost entirely banished from our continent. Today, hundreds of millions dwell in freedom

Reader riposte: Airport symbolism

Steve Weintz responds to Sam Roggeveen's post on airports as national symbols: The Architecture - Design Museum in Los Angeles is currently running a major retrospective on Earo Saarinen, the designer of Dulles International and the TWA Terminal at JFK in New York. Like Oscar Niemeyer,

Emerging economies: Lucky or smart?

Last December, in a post on the future of global growth, I posed a set of questions related to the future performance of emerging markets. Will catch-up growth be sustained at pre-GFC rates or will it continue but at a slower pace, reflecting a tougher external environment? Or will the '

Iran and the cyber Cold War

Concerns over Iran's nuclear program, proven support for Shi'a groups in Lebanon and Iraq, support for the Assad regime in Syria and alleged support for just about every other opposition group in the region will ensure that, just as in 2012, Iran will continue to feature as the main security focus

Thoughts on Obama's second inaugural

It was short! That’s the first thing that struck me about the transcript; apparently he got through it in 20 minutes. The second thing that occurred to me is that this is was a fine enunciation of two defining Obama traits: political liberalism and temperamental conservatism. Andrew Sullivan's

World economy: 13 for 2013 (part 3)

This is part 3 of Mark's thirteen suggestions (in no particular order) of things to look out for in the global economy this year. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here.    9. Keep an eye on oil prices Despite some signs that the world is less sensitive to oil price hikes than it used to be, the

World economy: 13 for 2013 (part 2)

This is part 2 of Mark's thirteen suggestions (in no particular order) of things to look out for in the global economy this year. Part 1 is here. 5. China's growth prospects We spent quite a lot of 2012 on The Interpreter debating China's growth outlook, wondering whether last year's

World economy: 13 for 2013

It feels like a long time since we had a boring year in the world economy. Financial crises, debt crises, food crises, natural disasters, geo-economic power shifts, social upheaval and revolution have all shaped and reshaped the economic environment in recent years.  So will 2013 change the

Putting the heat on credit rating agencies

Dr Daniel Woker is the former Swiss Ambassador to Australia and now a Senior Lecturer at the University of St Gallen. Following a path-breaking Australian court judgment against Standard & Poors (S&P), Stephen Grenville, in a blog post on 14 November, notes how credit rating agencies (CRAs), 'by

New Zealand beer diplomacy

Thanks to the folk at the Asia New Zealand Foundation for alerting me to this world exclusive from Beer & Brewer Magazine. It's the New Zealand Foreign Ministry's reply to an FOI requests asking for 'a list of every New Zealand beer brand served at each New Zealand Embassy, High Commission or

Is the G20 agenda too big?

Mike Callaghan is Director of the Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre. Mark Thirlwell is Director of the Lowy Institute's International Economy Program and a G20 Studies Centre Fellow. Is the G20 agenda expanding too widely at a time when its top priority should be on reinvigorating global

More on why economic policy fails

  Unemployment in Ireland, Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal. The above graph (h/t RCW and Early Warning) reminds us that the policy failures Stephen Grenville described in his piece earlier today are, above all, an enormous human tragedy. But there's slightly Brechtian subtext to Stephen's

Video: Address by Fiji president and PM

Jenny Hayward-Jones' post of last Friday referred to a joint address by Fiji President Nailatikau and  Prime Minister Bainimarama responding to the draft constitution prepared by the Constitutional Commission. Here's a video of that address: (H/t Stuck in Fiji MUD

Why economic policy fails

It was not pre-ordained that the economies of Europe, the US, and the UK would perform as poorly as it they have over the past two years. There were better policy options available which would have lowered unemployment (currently close to 8% in the US and the UK, and nearly 12% in Europe),

Fiji: Bainimarama disappoints again

Fiji's military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has done it again. He surprised everyone last year by opening up what appeared to be a genuine process of consultation on a new Fiji constitution and engaging Professor Yash Ghai, one of the world's foremost constitutional experts, to Chair the

From privateers to a private navy

Simon Palombi is a Research Associate at the Lowy Institute. Earlier this week, Simon Murray, the chief of global commodities trading firm Glencore, announced the creation of a private navy funded by a consortium of UK businessmen under the company name Typhon. This private navy will use a 10,

Skyfall: Bond takes a neocon turn

I realise it's slightly late to be reviewing the latest Bond caper, but I saw Skyfall over the festive season, and since I haven't yet seen any reviews that tackle one particular political aspect of the film, I thought I would raise it. Some spoilers follow, so I'll put the remaining text below

TV trailer: 1600 Penn

The fact that the new sitcom 1600 Penn is being screened at the White House tells you that it probably won't be too cutting, and indeed, the trailer is far from screamingly funny and looks a bit derivative. Pass

In defence of the IMF: At least it's consistent

Mike Callaghan is Director of the Lowy Institute's G20 Studies Centre.  IMF Chief economist Olivier Blanchard recently confirmed that he was 'right about being wrong' in underestimating the effect of fiscal tightening on European economic growth. When he first suggested, in the IMF's October

Economic forecasting: Broken models

Economists are the butt of much mirth about their forecasting ability, but the recent performance may be getting beyond a joke. Failing to predict the precise outcome is one thing: being consistently wrong in the same direction is harder to explain, and very unhelpful for the policy-making

Welcome to 2013

Welcome to 2013 and welcome back to The Interpreter for another year of international policy blogging, which is supposed to start today. I say 'supposed' because your editor forgot his age last weekend and hurt his back while trying to move a fridge. Please be patient for the next few days

The spectre of Malthus

In this 2009 Lowy Institute working paper, Mark Thirlwell looks at some initial lessons from the 2007-2008 crisis about living in a resource-constrained world. A revised version of this working paper was published in the journal Survival in June-July 2009: A New Era of Food Insecurity? By Alan