This Week’s Foreign Policy Must Reads

4 minute read

The smartest things written about the world this week.

You’re Not Supposed to Understand the Federal Reserve — Adam Davidson, New York Times Magazine

When the Fed eventually does raise rates, it will be covered with near hysteria. It will be on the front page of every paper, on every cable-news show. And most Americans won’t understand what any of it means. Their confusion won’t be helped by the media’s — and their own — instinct to understand the process through single significant moments. But trying to understand the Fed that way is like trying to make sense of a long marriage, with its small daily compromises, joys and miseries, by watching one big fight or one romantic dinner.

Agreed. But a word of warning: If politicians can politicize the work of the Supreme Court, they can certainly do the same with the Federal Reserve, where consequential decisions are made in private and announced in public.

How Stephen Harper’s Islamophobic Gambit Backfired and Lost Him the Election in Canada — Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled a leaf out of a globally popular playbook and tried to divert attention away from Canada’s faltering economy by injecting a hefty dose of Islamophobia into the campaign. The specific issue was a trumped-up controversy over whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear a niqab (a kind of full head covering) during official citizenship ceremonies…[But] the whole idea of winning an election with hard-edged cultural war wedge issues doesn’t sound very Canadian, so there’s something reassuring about knowing that it didn’t work.

Ironic that Harper tried to make the case that Canada should change immigrants rather than allow immigrants to change Canada in an election against Justin Trudeau, whose father made the exact opposite argument a crucial part of Canada’s political identity. Pierre Trudeau’s “mosaic” lives on.

Why is the American Military So Bad at Teaching Others How to Fight? Fred Kaplan, Slate

The Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIS don’t require advanced training for its recruits, so, it’s often asked, why should the Afghan or Iraqi army? But the two tasks are different. Insurgents can attack at a time and place of their choosing; if met with force, they can withdraw and attack someplace else. By contrast, armies defending the government have to be strong and ready everywhere, or they need to have the means to move quickly from one place to another. So training is not just a matter of teaching soldiers how to shoot straight and maneuver on a battlefield (which American trainers do well).

It may also be that Americans are short-sighted enough to expect others to fight like Americans.

Is Eastern Europe Any More Xenophobic Than Western Europe? — Heather Horn, The Atlantic

Few comprehensive or comparative studies on this topic have been carried out, perhaps in part because the very concept of xenophobia differs around the world… What little can be gleaned from the muddled research on xenophobia suggests that it’s worth distinguishing between government policies that are hostile to refugees—of which countries like Hungary certainly have their share—and the sentiments of the governed population. The two are connected, but the precise mechanism is not always easy to measure.

There is xenophobia in every country in the world, but some of the Europeans fearful of the impact of the migrants have much more practical concerns, worries that can and should be frankly addressed by Europe’s elected leaders. That’s as true in the east as in the west.

The Doctor — James Verini, The Atavist

Still, [Tom] Catena stays [in Sudan]. Will and stubborn faith are not the only anchors. He admits that he suffers from a disorder known as founder’s syndrome. It’s a self-diagnosis. His aim, his fondest hope, is to leave Mother of Mercy in Nuban hands. But for seven years he has invested every moment, every emotion, every ambition, into the hospital…But mostly he stays because he admires and loves Nubans. Sometimes he is so touched by their understanding and gratitude, he believes he could live with them for the rest of his life.

Thankfully, some are still willing to try to change the world one wounded human being at a time.

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