Political Concepts

Views on the News – 11 Sep 2009

UN calls for the dollar to be replaced
The dollar should be replaced with a global currency, the United Nations has said, proposing the biggest overhaul of the world’s monetary system since the Second World War.

In a radical report, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has said the system of currencies and capital rules which binds the world economy is not working properly, and was largely responsible for the financial and economic crises. It added that the present system, under which the dollar acts as the world’s reserve currency, should be subject to a wholesale reconsideration.

Although a number of countries, including China and Russia, have suggested replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, the UNCTAD report is the first time a major multinational institution has posited such a suggestion. In essence, the report calls for a new Bretton Woods-style system of managed international exchange rates, meaning central banks would be forced to intervene and either support or push down their currencies depending on how the rest of the world economy is behaving.

British Government losing public support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Most people are against the decision to send British troops to Afghanistan, according to a survey published this week. More than half of those questioned said that the Army should never have been deployed to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

The latest gauge of public opinion will cause alarm in the Government, which has been trying in recent months to clarify the objectives of the mission in Helmand, codenamed Operation Herrick. However, 53 per cent of the 2,000 people questioned for the survey, conducted by ICM Research on behalf of the National Army Museum, rejected the Government’s reasoning for the mission in Helmand. When asked whether 9,000 troops should have been sent on Operation Herrick, only 6 per cent “strongly agreed”. Another 19 per cent “agreed”, giving a combined vote of support of one quarter of the survey participants.

Another 15 per cent were unable to make up their minds either way, indicating that the Government still has a long way to go to convince members of the public that the mission in Afghanistan is justified. Even greater disaffection was shown towards the British military campaign in Iraq, which was finally brought to an end in July after six years.

Sixty per cent voiced opposition to Britain’s military involvement in Iraq. Only 20 per cent agreed that it had been right to send troops to Basra.

America aims to boost its presence in Iraq through private contractors
Despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to withdraw US troops from Iraq, the US is planning to award contracts to protect US installations at a cost to taxpayers that could near $1 billion. In fact, the Multi-National Force-Iraq just awarded $485 million in contracts just last week, while Congress enjoyed its summer recess. Five firms will handle private security deals to provide security for US bases. It’s a neat rhetorical loophole that will allow US officials to say that the country has withdrawn from Iraq, while its contractors remain.

“Under a similar contract with five security contractors that began in September 2007, the MNF-I spent $253 million through March 2009, with needs growing over that 18-month period,” the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus wrote in Wednesday editions. “That contract, which was to run three years, had a spending limit of $450 million. The Pentagon’s quarterly report on contracting showed a 19 percent increase from the three previous months in the number of security guards in Iraq hired by the Defense Department. The Central Command attributed the increase, from 10,743 at the end of March to 13,232 at the end of June, mainly to “an increased need for PSCs [private security companies] to provide security as the military begins to draw down forces.”

Pakistan: Pentagon under pressure to prove it can stay the course in the region
The Pentagon has come under increasing pressure to explain its role in Afghanistan and warned that it would be a disaster if the US abandoned Pakistan and Afghanistan now. ‘If indeed we were to turn our backs on Afghanistan again, and in the process essentially turn our backs on Pakistan again, that it would be a road to disaster,’ Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told a briefing here. ‘We have to show our friends and allies, whether it be Pakistan or any of the other central Asian nations, that we are committed to them, that we are their friends and allies. And we are not going to turn our backs as we have in the past.’

The Pentagon official, also conceded that US military commanders needed to show real progress in Afghanistan over the next 18 months if they expected the American public to continue backing the war. Mr Morrell noted that US Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates had acknowledged recently a degree of understandable’ war weariness’ among the American people. ‘We’ve been at war now for eight years. It’s been long and difficult and costly in lives and treasure,’ Mr Morrell said. ‘We have to be able to show the American people that all this effort, all these resources, are not in vain – that we are indeed making headway.’

Indian President: Central Asia tensions threaten world
Growing religious and ethnic tension in ex-Soviet Central Asia poses one of the most significant threats to world peace and stability, Indian President Pratibha Patil said on Monday. During a visit to Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe, Patil sounded the alarm over the deteriorating security situation in the region, which experts say is driven by instability in war-wracked Afghanistan.

“The spread of intolerance and hatred throughout the region threatens the entire world and is a dangerous phenomenon following the end of the Cold War,” she told reporters here, according to comments released by her press service. “I call on the leaders of the governments of Central Asia to arrange for the destruction of terrorism in all its forms,” she said.

A string of incidents, from a suicide bombing in Uzbekistan in May to gun battles with suspected militants in Tajikistan this summer, have heightened fears that the predominantly Muslim region may be sliding out of control. Tensions have been high along the poorly-delineated border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan since the suicide bombing, with Tashkent unilaterally building up its defences along the border. For its part, Kyrgyzstan has deployed troops to shore up its border with Tajikistan, which shares a broad and poorly-guarded border with Afghanistan.

Sep 11 2009