COVID-19 has been ruthless in choosing winners and losers around the world. The obvious “losers” have been those countries led by right-wing nationalists: Brazil, India, Russia, the United Kingdom, and (until recently) the United States. These five countries are responsible for more than half of the world’s coronavirus infections and nearly half the deaths. Just… Continue reading What Explains COVID’s East-West Divide?
Pathogens don’t know anything about borders. They don’t care about history or ethnicity. They are interested in just one thing: reproduction. They are constantly in search of places where they can be fruitful and multiply. Trade and war have been the great facilitators of the plagues that have periodically decimated the human race. Soldiers and… Continue reading Coronavirus: Cooperation vs. Quarantine
The most aggressive nationalist in Donald Trump’s administration has been kicked to the sidelines. Steve Bannon, who served as Trump’s chief strategist, left the White House in mid-August after giving a candid interview to a liberal U.S. magazine. After a career of outrageous statements, Bannon finally said something in this interview that was completely unacceptable… Continue reading Regime Change in Washington?
Americans don’t care about East Asia. That’s a strong statement. So, let me make a few qualifications. First, Americans love Chinese, Japanese, and (increasingly) Korean food. They like to visit East Asia. They will, on occasion, watch a Hong Kong action film or the latest from Park Chan-Wook. But when it comes to the pressing… Continue reading East Asia Is Invisible
China is worried about climate change. The largest emitter of carbon in the world, producing nearly twice as much as the number two United States, is looking at a future of flooded coastal cities, creeping deserts in the north, and water shortages throughout the country. On the eve of the huge climate change meeting in… Continue reading Can a Green Asia Lead the World?
Island disputes are a big thing in Asia. Japan and China both claim the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japan and South Korea tussle over Dokdo/Takeshima. Japan and Russia still haven’t definitively sorted out who owns the Kuriles/Northern Territories. You’d think that these existing island disputes are a sufficient headache. But no: Countries in the region are making… Continue reading Asia: On the Rocks
Everyone on the Mall near the Washington Monument was looking up at the sky. I was there, too. But I wasn’t looking up, at least not that far up. On May 8, I was playing Ultimate Frisbee during the noontime game on a stretch of level grass behind the Holocaust Museum. This time we were… Continue reading Celebrating Destruction
Imagine an international event sometime in the near future known as the Apology Games. It is held every four years and features teams of professional diplomats, politicians, and conflict resolution specialists (with a few actors thrown into the mix). There are many rules in this Olympics, but one trumps all the others: contestants can only… Continue reading The Apology Olympics
NORTH KOREA IS NOT the information black hole it’s so often made out to be. It’s more like Alpha Centauri, a star several light years from Earth. We can remotely acquire a wealth of information about this distant location, even though there’s always a frustrating time lag. It’s not the speed of light, but the… Continue reading Strange News from Another Star
It’s time for a confession. I have worked as a “foreign agent.” When I lived and traveled in Asia and Eastern Europe, I was an employee of U.S.-based NGOs. I was paid by these organizations to promote social change in those parts of the world. I worked hand-in-hand with groups that often criticized their own… Continue reading Foreign Agents