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.
Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.
And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.
— Deuteronomy 15: 12–15
Besides the crime which consists in violating the law, and varying from the right rule of reason, whereby a man so far becomes degenerate, and declares himself to quit the principles of human nature, and to be a noxious creature, there is commonly injury done to some person or other, and some other man receives damage by his transgression: in which case he who hath received any damage, has, besides the right of punishment common to him with other men, a particular right to seek reparation.
Forget credit hours—in a quest to cut costs, universities are simply asking students to prove their mastery of a subject.
MANCHESTER, Mich.—Had Daniella Kippnick followed in the footsteps of the hundreds of millions of students who have earned university degrees in the past millennium, she might be slumping in a lecture hall somewhere while a professor droned. But Kippnick has no course lectures. She has no courses to attend at all. No classroom, no college quad, no grades. Her university has no deadlines or tenure-track professors.
Instead, Kippnick makes her way through different subject matters on the way to a bachelor’s in accounting. When she feels she’s mastered a certain subject, she takes a test at home, where a proctor watches her from afar by monitoring her computer and watching her over a video feed. If she proves she’s competent—by getting the equivalent of a B—she passes and moves on to the next subject.
Writing used to be a solitary profession. How did it become so interminably social?
Whether we’re behind the podium or awaiting our turn, numbing our bottoms on the chill of metal foldout chairs or trying to work some life into our terror-stricken tongues, we introverts feel the pain of the public performance. This is because there are requirements to being a writer. Other than being a writer, I mean. Firstly, there’s the need to become part of the writing “community”, which compels every writer who craves self respect and success to attend community events, help to organize them, buzz over them, and—despite blitzed nerves and staggering bowels—present and perform at them. We get through it. We bully ourselves into it. We dose ourselves with beta blockers. We drink. We become our own worst enemies for a night of validation and participation.
Bernie Sanders and Jeb Bush look abroad for inspiration, heralding the end of American exceptionalism.
This election cycle, two candidates have dared to touch a third rail in American politics.
Not Social Security reform. Not Medicare. Not ethanol subsidies. The shibboleth that politicians are suddenly willing to discuss is the idea that America might have something to learn from other countries.
The most notable example is Bernie Sanders, who renewed his praise for Western Europe in a recent interview with Ezra Klein. “Where is the UK? Where is France? Germany is the economic powerhouse in Europe,” Sanders said. “They provide health care to all of their people, they provide free college education to their kids.”
On ABC’s This Week in May, George Stephanopoulos asked Sanders about this sort of rhetoric. “I can hear the Republican attack ad right now: ‘He wants American to look more like Scandinavia,’” the host said. Sanders didn’t flinch:
Even when a dentist kills an adored lion, and everyone is furious, there’s loftier righteousness to be had.
Now is the point in the story of Cecil the lion—amid non-stop news coverage and passionate social-media advocacy—when people get tired of hearing about Cecil the lion. Even if they hesitate to say it.
But Cecil fatigue is only going to get worse. On Friday morning, Zimbabwe’s environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri, called for the extradition of the man who killed him, the Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Muchinguri would like Palmer to be “held accountable for his illegal action”—paying a reported $50,000 to kill Cecil with an arrow after luring him away from protected land. And she’s far from alone in demanding accountability. This week, the Internet has served as a bastion of judgment and vigilante justice—just like usual, except that this was a perfect storm directed at a single person. It might be called an outrage singularity.
During the multi-country press tour for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, not even Jon Stewart has dared ask Tom Cruise about Scientology.
During the media blitz for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation over the past two weeks, Tom Cruise has seemingly been everywhere. In London, he participated in a live interview at the British Film Institute with the presenter Alex Zane, the movie’s director, Christopher McQuarrie, and a handful of his fellow cast members. In New York, he faced off with Jimmy Fallon in a lip-sync battle on The Tonight Show and attended the Monday night premiere in Times Square. And, on Tuesday afternoon, the actor recorded an appearance on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, where he discussed his exercise regimen, the importance of a healthy diet, and how he still has all his own hair at 53.
Stewart, who during his career has won two Peabody Awards for public service and the Orwell Award for “distinguished contribution to honesty and clarity in public language,” represented the most challenging interviewer Cruise has faced on the tour, during a challenging year for the actor. In April, HBO broadcast Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear, a film based on the book of the same title by Lawrence Wright exploring the Church of Scientology, of which Cruise is a high-profile member. The movie alleges, among other things, that the actor personally profited from slave labor (church members who were paid 40 cents an hour to outfit the star’s airplane hangar and motorcycle), and that his former girlfriend, the actress Nazanin Boniadi, was punished by the Church by being forced to do menial work after telling a friend about her relationship troubles with Cruise. For Cruise “not to address the allegations of abuse,” Gibney said in January, “seems to me palpably irresponsible.” But in The Daily Show interview, as with all of Cruise’s other appearances, Scientology wasn’t mentioned.
The Wall Street Journal’s eyebrow-raising story of how the presidential candidate and her husband accepted cash from UBS without any regard for the appearance of impropriety that it created.
The Swiss bank UBS is one of the biggest, most powerful financial institutions in the world. As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton intervened to help it out with the IRS. And after that, the Swiss bank paid Bill Clinton $1.5 million for speaking gigs. TheWall Street Journal reported all that and more Thursday in an article that highlights huge conflicts of interest that the Clintons have created in the recent past.
The piece begins by detailing how Clinton helped the global bank.
“A few weeks after Hillary Clinton was sworn in as secretary of state in early 2009, she was summoned to Geneva by her Swiss counterpart to discuss an urgent matter. The Internal Revenue Service was suing UBS AG to get the identities of Americans with secret accounts,” the newspaper reports. “If the case proceeded, Switzerland’s largest bank would face an impossible choice: Violate Swiss secrecy laws by handing over the names, or refuse and face criminal charges in U.S. federal court. Within months, Mrs. Clinton announced a tentative legal settlement—an unusual intervention by the top U.S. diplomat. UBS ultimately turned over information on 4,450 accounts, a fraction of the 52,000 sought by the IRS.”
Every time you shrug, you don’t need to Google, then copy, then paste.
Updated, 2:20 p.m.
All hail ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
In its 11 strokes, the symbol encapsulates what it’s like to be an individual on the Internet. With raised arms and a half-turned smile, it exudes the melancholia, the malaise, the acceptance, and (finally) the embrace of knowing that something’s wrong on the Internet and you can’t do anything about it.
As Kyle Chayka writes in a new history of the symbol at The Awl, the meaning of the “the shruggie” is always two, if not three- or four-, fold. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ represents nihilism, “bemused resignation,” and “a Zen-like tool to accept the chaos of universe.” It is Sisyphus in unicode. I use it at least 10 times a day.
For a long time, however, I used it with some difficulty. Unlike better-known emoticons like :) or ;), ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ borrows characters from the Japanese syllabary called katakana. That makes it a kaomoji, a Japanese emoticon; it also makes it, on Western alphabetical keyboards at least, very hard to type. But then I found a solution, and it saves me having to google “smiley sideways shrug” every time I want to quickly rail at the world’s inherent lack of meaning.
Some say the so-called sharing economy has gotten away from its central premise—sharing.
This past March, in an up-and-coming neighborhood of Portland, Maine, a group of residents rented a warehouse and opened a tool-lending library. The idea was to give locals access to everyday but expensive garage, kitchen, and landscaping tools—such as chainsaws, lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, a giant cider press, and soap molds—to save unnecessary expense as well as clutter in closets and tool sheds.
The residents had been inspired by similar tool-lending libraries across the country—in Columbus, Ohio; in Seattle, Washington; in Portland, Oregon. The ethos made sense to the Mainers. “We all have day jobs working to make a more sustainable world,” says Hazel Onsrud, one of the Maine Tool Library’s founders, who works in renewable energy. “I do not want to buy all of that stuff.”
An attack on an American-funded military group epitomizes the Obama Administration’s logistical and strategic failures in the war-torn country.
Last week, the U.S. finally received some good news in Syria: After months of prevarication, Turkey announced that the American military could launch airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Syria from its base in Incirlik. The development signaled that Turkey, a regional power, had at last agreed to join the fight against ISIS.
The announcement provided a dose of optimism in a conflict that has, in the last four years, killed over 200,000 and displaced millions more. Days later, however, the positive momentum screeched to a halt. Earlier this week, fighters from the al-Nusra Front, an Islamist group aligned with al-Qaeda, reportedly captured the commander of Division 30, a Syrian militia that receives U.S. funding and logistical support, in the countryside north of Aleppo. On Friday, the offensive escalated: Al-Nusra fighters attacked Division 30 headquarters, killing five and capturing others. According to Agence France Presse, the purpose of the attack was to obtain sophisticated weapons provided by the Americans.