Each nation has its own unique history and culture and meaningful change can only start from within, but the U.S. can help.
Nigerian protesters carry a mattress, on which "Kill corruption not subsidy" is written / Reuters
Corruption in emerging markets is at the core of key development, globalization, foreign policy and national security problems facing the United States. In recent years, the U.S. has had some success in implementing an international anti-bribery convention. But it has had significant issues when fighting corruption in major counter-insurgency efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and in new international development initiatives.
As it exits Iraq and Afghanistan and tries to reshape its development programs, the U.S. faces a fundamental question: can it provide realistic leadership, with others in the world community, to help reformers in corrupt nations combat this global scourge?
Fighting corruption in emerging markets is surpassingly difficult. It involves displacing those with malign power. It cannot be initiated and led by outsiders. Corruption pervades and distorts society in nations like Russia and China where the U.S. has great interests. It was a primary cause of the popular uprisings in the Middle East and elsewhere. It remains a huge issue in the emerging markets of Africa and Asia and, especially in failed and failing states. It is a pervasive obstacle to legitimate and transparent economic globalization. And it undermines a key goal of current counter-insurgency military strategy -- the building of a civil society.
At the core of these problems is bribery of public officials, and officials' extortion and misappropriation of funds. In the last 20 years, there has been growing recognition that corruption of this sort has a widespread and insidious impact. It distorts markets and competition; breeds anger, cynicism and discontent among citizens; stymies the rule of law; corrodes the integrity of the private sector; and impairs development and poverty reduction. Bribery, extortion, and misappropriation also help perpetuate failed and failing states -- and sectors of other states -- that are incubators of terrorism, the narcotics trade, money laundering, human trafficking, counterfeiting, piracy and other kind of global crime.
As noted, the U.S. has attempted three primary initiatives against the corruption of bribery, extortion and misappropriation in recent years.
Global Anti-Bribery Conventions
Currently, 37 nations have ratified an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) anti-bribery convention and enacted national laws comparable to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The OECD convention and the FCPA address an important but limited part of global corruption: prohibiting companies headquartered in the industrialized world from bribing officials in emerging markets. But, in addition to the limited effect (it does not directly address the criminal power structures in less developed countries), more than half the signatories to the convention do not have active enforcement programs, and another quarter have only modest programs. Energetic enforcement by developed world authorities is necessary to pressure their multinational corporations to create an effective, internal anti-bribery culture. Non-enforcement is pernicious protectionism, as nations, eager for trade and jobs at home (especially during a great recession), look the other way at the illicit practices of their corporations and fail to act on their anti-bribery commitments under the OECD convention.
The United States has been by far the most active nation under the convention through muscular enforcement of the FCPA (more than half the cases brought under the convention have come from the U.S. even though it has only 10 percent of OECD exports). The U.S. will continue to have a lead role beyond such prosecutions: in ensuring robust OECD monitoring (but the OECD has no sanctions over inert member nations other than naming and shaming); in pushing major exporters and bilateral partners like France and Japan to move beyond investigations to real sanctions; in helping secure the accession of China, India and Brazil (Russia, South Africa and Israel have recently ratified the convention); and in resisting efforts of some U.S. business groups, like the Chamber of Commerce, to weaken the FCPA in Congress.
Contemporary Counter-insurgency Theory
General David Petraeus's co-authored "Counterinsurgency Field Manual" puts substantial emphasis on political, social, and economic programs as more valuable than conventional military operations in removing the root causes of insurgent conflict. As refined in his famous 2009 report on the status of the Afghan war, General Stanley McChrystal articulated four pillars of U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, one of them being creation of good Afghan governance and effective anti-corruption efforts. McChrystal noted that, in a society where illicit drugs are 30 to 50 percent of the economy, there was extensive corruption and criminality among government and other leaders -- in the economy, in judicial, administrative, and political entities, and in international aid programs. This in turn created overlapping, illicit networks between government, criminal, and insurgent groups that were a well-spring of anger and disillusionment among the population.
Yet, as the United States exits Afghanistan, almost no one would say that the rampant corruption has been reduced. There have been bribery and misappropriation scandals in Afghan banks, in Afghan elections, in administration of U.S. aid funds and in everyday life. Allied anti-corruption experts have been pushed away by the Karzai government. The economy still is dependent on opium. The military was not trained to deal with these complex issues of governance, and the officials from U.S. and other development agencies, despite good intentions, have, in the broad, not effected durable change. In broad summary, the anti-corruption pillar of counter-insurgency has been weak and unstable, just as in Iraq, calling into question the important, non-military elements of the current U.S. counter-insurgency doctrine.
This administration, like most before, has paid lip service to the importance to national security and global stability of international development which spurs economic growth, builds institutions and fights corruption in the less developed world. In the last year, it has launched a number of bureaucratic initiatives, all with an anti-corruption centerpiece. In September, 2010, President Obama issued a Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development that, per the White House, "recognizes that development is vital to U.S. national security and is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative." In September, 2011, the administration launched an Open Government Partnership to support national efforts that promote transparency, fight corruption and empower citizens. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) unveiled yet another initiative, Domestic Finance for Development, that will "help developing countries create reforms in tax administration, budgetary transparency and anticorruption." In addition, the U.S. seeks anti-corruption measures at the G-20, and "coordinates" such efforts with the World Bank, other international financing institutions and other industrialized nations' aid programs. And on and on and on.
President Obama claimed that he was offering a new vision of development. Rather than just delivering assistance (education, food, health care), the Administration would seek to aid nations to develop governing capacity to address problems themselves. This is, in fact, hardly a new aspiration. Development agencies have been talking about "capacity building" in less developed countries for decades. But this worthy goal collides with the deep corruption that infects attempts to build legitimate, accountable government in so many emerging markets, not just in failing states but also in rising nations like China and India where corruption is rampant. In fact, only 16 percent of AID's $11 billion in costs of operations in the fiscal year ending in September 2011 were devoted to "governing justly and democratically." And, as the President acknowledged in announcing his 2010 directive, "So we are leading a global effort to combat corruption, which in many places is the single greatest barrier to prosperity, and which is a profound violation of human rights." (Emphasis added.)
Leading a global effort to combat corruption? Hardly. What has been missing in the announcements and implementation of development initiatives is the following:
A tough analysis of the political and power structures that cause and perpetuate corruption in emerging nations.
A plausible account of the processes of political, social, economic, and legal change necessary to establish rule of law and transparent/legitimate government in the diverse cultures of varied nations across the globe and at different levels of development.
An acknowledgment, and then definition, of the limited role that outsiders, like the U.S., can play when stimulus must come from within the developing nation (which is especially difficulty in failed and failing states that pose great foreign policy and national security issues).
A realistic account of how to fund and staff that limited role, how to set priorities, how to measure progress or failure -- and a recognition of how limited are funds and how contingent are anti-corruption efforts.
Of course, asking and answering such questions would require speaking candidly (undiplomatically) about sovereign foreign nations and telling the truth in a U.S. political culture which demands posturing and bromides.
Beyond humanitarian educational, medical and nutrition foreign assistance, the United States thus has an important if limited role in assisting progressive elements of less developed countries -- when they ask -- to help create sustainable economies and economic institutions and establish legitimate, transparent, accountable government with reduced corruption. (I should add that so, too, the U.S.'s international credibility depends on effectively and energetically fighting street, organized, and white collar crime at home.)
In conjunction with national allies and international organizations, the United States needs to go beyond its successful enforcement against multinational corporations under the OECD anti-bribery convention and its Panglossian public posture on counterinsurgency and development. It needs to articulate a hard-nosed vision and set of initiatives that build upon, and do not ignore, the powerful corrupt forces that frustrate such development and governance world wide. And that do not promise too much. The great conundrum of corruption for well-meaning outsiders like the United States is that each nation has its own unique history and culture and meaningful change can only start from within, often in fraught conditions of political division and conflict.
Ben Heineman Jr. is is a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, in Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and at the Harvard Law School's Program on Corporate Governance. He is the author of High Performance With High Integrity.
In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.
Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.
Thicker ink, fewer smudges, and more strained hands: an Object Lesson
Recently, Bic launched acampaign to “save handwriting.” Named “Fight for Your Write,” it includes a pledge to “encourage the act of handwriting” in the pledge-taker’s home and community, and emphasizes putting more of the company’s ballpoints into classrooms.
As a teacher, I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could think there’s a shortage. I find ballpoint pens all over the place: on classroom floors, behind desks. Dozens of castaways collect in cups on every teacher’s desk. They’re so ubiquitous that the word “ballpoint” is rarely used; they’re just “pens.” But despite its popularity, the ballpoint pen is relatively new in the history of handwriting, and its influence on popular handwriting is more complicated than the Bic campaign would imply.
Wine snobs, string quartets, and the limits of intuition
Several months ago, this author sat at a classical music concert, trying to convince himself that wine is not bullshit.
That may seem like a strange thought to have while listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A major. But Priceonomics had recently posted an article investigating The Price of Wine, part of which reviewed research that cast doubt on both consumers’ and wine experts’ ability to distinguish between quality wine and table wine or identify different wines and their flavors. It seemed a slippery slope to the conclusion that wine culture is nothing more than actors performing a snobbish play.
Listening to an accomplished musician while lacking any musical experience resulted in a feeling familiar to casual wine drinkers imbibing an expensive bottle: Feeling somewhat ambivalent and wondering whether you are convincing yourself that you enjoy it so as not to appear uncultured.
Dealing with misinformation, feeling powerless, and slowly getting better together
I thought the article would validate my husband’s experience. That’s why I emailed him the link to the decade-old New York magazine article about his alma mater, the American Boychoir School for vocal prodigies, where alumni from as late as the 1990s estimate that one in five boys were molested. Boys like Travis.
“It used to feel like an isolated incident that affected just me," Trav said.
It was the end of my workday on an October afternoon; I had just set my keys on the kitchen table. My coat was still buttoned.
“Now I know I spent nearly three years of my childhood at a boarding school not just with random pedophiles, but in a culture that allowed it.”
As his wife, how do I respond? That he survived? That he’s brave? That he’s a hero for letting me talk about it? That I will stand beside him with a personal mission and public vow that nobody will ever hurt him, physically or emotionally, again, the way they did during his 30 months as a choirboy from 1988 to 1990?.
Nervous Democrats are looking for alternatives as Hillary Clinton falters. But is the VP the right person for the job?
“I think panic is the operative mode for the Democratic Party,” David Axelrod, who has been on the receiving end of panic mode many times over the years, told me this week. I had asked Obama’s political guru how bad the current panic was for Hillary Clinton—bad enough for the party to seek an alternative? Bad enough, perhaps, to create an opening for Joe Biden?
Axelrod didn’t think so. “I think it’s indisputable she’s had a rocky few months,” he said. “But if you look at her support among Democrats, and the resources she brings, she’s still very strong—I think she’s going to be the nominee.”
Not everyone is so sure. Public opinion has turned starkly negative on Clinton in recent months, as she has struggled to put the scandal over her use of email as secretary of state to rest. In a poll released this week, the word most commonly summoned when people were asked about her was “liar.”
The new drama series, which follows the Colombian kingpin’s rise to power, feels more like a well-researched documentary than the gripping saga it wants to be.
Netflix’s new series Narcos is possibly arriving at the wrong time: The doldrums of summer aren’t really the ideal moment for a narratively dense, documentary-like look at the rise and fall of the Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Narrated in voiceover by DEA Agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), the early hours of Narcos feel like a history lesson, though an visually sumptuous one.
As Netflix continues to expand its streaming empire, it’s making a concerted effort to appeal to worldwide audiences, and Narcos fits neatly into that plan, alongside last year’s expensive critical flop Marco Polo. Narcos was shot on location in Colombia and stars the acclaimed Brazilian actor Wagner Moura as Escobar. It takes full advantage of its setting, loaded with sweeping helicopter shots of the Colombian jungle where Escobar founded his cocaine empire, filling a power vacuum left by various political upheavals in late-’70s South America.
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Bruce Springsteen’s breakout album embodied the lost ‘70s—the tense, political, working-class rejection of an increasingly unequal society.
Forty years ago, on the eve of its official release, “Born to Run”—the song that propelled Bruce Springsteen into the rock-and-roll stratosphere—had already attracted a small cult following in the American rust belt.
At the time, Springsteen desperately needed a break. Despite vigorous promotion by Columbia Records, his first two albums, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, had been commercial flops. Though his band spent virtually every waking hour either in the recording studio or on tour, their road earnings were barely enough to live on.
Sensing the need for a smash, in late 1974 Mike Appel, Bruce’s manager, distributed a rough cut of “Born to Run” to select disc jockeys. Within weeks, it became an underground hit. Young people flooded record stores seeking copies of the new single, which didn’t yet exist, and radio stations that hadn’t been on Appel’s small distribution list bombarded him with requests for the new album, which also didn’t exist. In Philadelphia, demand for the title track was so strong that WFIL, the city’s top-40 AM station, aired it multiple times each day. In working-class Cleveland, the DJ Kid Leo played the song religiously at 5:55 p.m. each Friday afternoon on WMMS, to “officially launch the weekend.” Set against the E Street Band’s energetic blend of horns, keyboards, guitars, and percussion, “Born to Run” was a rollicking ballad of escape, packed full of cultural references that working-class listeners recognized immediately.
On the desperation behind the migrant tragedy in Austria
On Thursday, as Krishnadev Calamur has been tracking in The Atlantic’s new Notes section, Austrian authorities made a ghastly discovery: a truck abandoned in the emergency lane of a highway near the Hungarian border, packed with the decomposing bodies of 59 men, eight women, and four children. They are thoughtto be the corpses of migrants who suffocated to death, perhaps two days earlier, in the bowels of a vehicle whose back door was locked shut and refrigeration and ventilation systems weren’t functional. Stray identity documents suggest that at least some of the victims were Syrian—refugees from that country’s brutal civil war. The truck featured an image of a chicken and a slogan from the Slovakian poultry company that the lorry once belonged to: “I taste so good because they feed me so well.”
The Republican frontrunner has offered Bush the perfect chance to display some passion—but he’s declined to take it.
Donald Trump has gotten a boost in his efforts to maul Jeb Bush in recent days from an unexpected source: Jeb Bush himself.
Trump’s attack on Jeb isn’t mostly about issues. As with most things Trump, it’s mostly about persona. The Donald thinks Jeb is a dud. “He’s a man that doesn’t want to be doing what he’s doing,” Trump said in June. “I call him the reluctant warrior, and warrior’s probably not a good word. I think Bush is an unhappy person. I don’t think he has any energy.”
Over the last week, Jeb has proven Trump right. Trump, and his supporters, continue to demonize Mexican American illegal immigrants. On Tuesday, Trump threw the most popular Spanish-language broadcaster in America out of a press conference. That same day, Ann Coulter warmed up for Trump in Iowa by offering gruesome details of murders by Mexican “illegals,” and suggesting that once Trump builds his wall along America’s southern border, tourists can come watch the “live drone shows.”