Month: October 2009

When science is lacking, good leadership is critical

When science is lacking, good leadership is critical

Since the middle of the twentieth century, more than 330 novel infectious diseases have emerged in human populations. The majority of these new diseases spread from animals to humans–take, for example, HIV/AIDS, SARS, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly known as “mad cow disease,” or BSE). Some political leaders chose to respond to these dangerous diseases by ignoring or downplaying the problem. Others consulted scientific and medical experts in order to make informed decisions to combat the threats.

Why South Korea needs pyroprocessing

Why South Korea needs pyroprocessing

As South Korea’s economy has grown remarkably over the last decade, so have its carbon emissions. In fact, Seoul has the second highest emissions growth rate in the world.
Such an increase would be even higher if it were not for the country’s 20 nuclear reactors, which generated a little more than one-third of the country’s total electricity in 2008. According to that year’s National Energy Basic Plan, South Korea wants to increase nuclear energy’s share of domestic electricity generation to 59 percent by 2030. To do so, it will need to build roughly 18 more nuclear reactors.

Closing the biology-security gap

Closing the biology-security gap

Contrary to popular opinion, I think that the international community has been relatively successful in constraining the proliferation of nuclear weapons over the last 60 years. I also believe that we may see a substantial reduction in the number of nuclear weapons over the next decade. Yet I am much less optimistic when it comes to the proliferation of biological weapons. In part, because it’s easier to account for fissile material than biological material.

The need for political leadership during a crisis

The need for political leadership during a crisis

The concept of “meta leaders”–individuals who make decisions beyond their official lines of authority in order to facilitate collaborations across jurisdictions and agencies–was proposed in an effort to overcome the silo thinking that characterizes how traditional government leaders carry out their roles. Since then, meetings and summits have promoted the concept of “meta leadership” among business, government, and nonprofit sectors.

How to get out of Afghanistan

How to get out of Afghanistan

It’s nice to hear from readers of this column, even if they ask pointed questions. Anne Winterfield, a graduate student at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, read my recent article on the futility of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and called me up with a question about the last sentence of that article: “Say our job is done now, Mr.

A neglected climate strategy: Empower women, slow population growth

A neglected climate strategy: Empower women, slow population growth

Trillions of mirrors launched into space to deflect the sun’s rays. A massive fleet of ships churning up sea spray to increase Earth’s cloud cover. As political responses to climate change limp along, scientists currently are debating these and other geoengineering schemes to stabilize the climate. Yet, as many have observed, such schemes carry formidable costs–and risks.

Afghanistan and Pakistan: The graveyard for U.S. foreign policy planning?

Afghanistan and Pakistan: The graveyard for U.S. foreign policy planning?

The foreign policy machinery in the Obama administration is finally grinding away on a difficult long-term policy and institutional problem: What should the U.S. development and foreign assistance strategy be? Such an examination raises a seemingly endless set of questions: What roles should the Defense Department, State Department, and USAID play in the development, security, and foreign assistance mix? How should these agencies tackle their responsibilities in fragile and post-conflict states? What should be the long-term structure of the U.S.

The politically possible: How to achieve success in Copenhagen

The politically possible: How to achieve success in Copenhagen

The clock is running out on preparations for the December climate change conference in Copenhagen. The meeting is supposed to negotiate the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. But negotiations have been blocked by a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The United States is at loggerheads with the developing world, especially China–now the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG)–and India. Fortunately, there might be a way to break through this roadblock.

Obama’s missile defense rethink: The Czech reaction

Obama’s missile defense rethink: The Czech reaction

The reactions of Czech politicians to the September 17 announcement that the United States will shelve its plans for a radar in the Czech Republic as part of its European missile defense system varied from charges of betrayal to warm acceptance. In general, Prague focused on the political fallout of the decision, rather than the system’s technical shortcomings, which U.S. President Barack Obama cited as one of the key reasons for scrapping it.

The U.S.-India nuclear deal–one year later

The U.S.-India nuclear deal–one year later

October 8 marks the one-year anniversary of former President George W. Bush signing into law the so-called U.S.-India nuclear deal. The deal proved controversial from its inception because it ended a 34-year U.S. ban on nuclear trade with India, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). And yet despite heavy criticism of the deal–especially from arms control and disarmament advocates–one year later, it appears solidly entrenched as long-term policy.