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.
It isn’t the only democratic institution that finds itself in danger.
Four years ago, as a speechwriter for President Obama, I commissioned a binder full of women.
A little context. It was the morning of the Al Smith Dinner, the election-year tradition in which both parties’ nominees don white-tie attire and deliver comedy monologues to New York City’s elite. Our opponent, Governor Mitt Romney had recently used the words “binders full of women” while discussing gender parity in government. Eager to mock the clumsy phrase, I asked a staffer on the advance team to put together a prop.
But our binder never saw the light of day. Obama nixed the idea. I remember being disappointed by the president’s decision, and wondering if POTUS was phoning it in. Of the jokes that did make it into the final draft, one in particular stood out for its authenticity.
First there was McCain’s caving to Bush’s signing statement on his own torture bill, then his selection of an extremely unqualified and unvetted running mate, then he backed Trump until nearly the bitter end—even after Trump insulted his POW experience and his fellow vets with PTSD. And now, a shameless betrayal of constitutional principle that would have gotten far more attention this week if Trump hadn’t one-upped McCain with all his incendiary “rigged” rhetoric. Reader Don explains:
I don’t know if your readers have seen this yet, but it seems that McCain has announced that his fellow GOP Senators will not confirm any Supreme Court nomination by Clinton. Trump is an ignorant, narcissistic, nasty piece of work. But McCain used to be a guy who remembered and honored (at least sometimes) the old bipartisan traditions of the Senate. His statement is just outrageous and inexcusable. What he’s basically saying is that only Republican presidents get to appoint Supreme Court Justices.
I understand that their thinking is that they don’t want the bias of the Court to shift from conservative to liberal. But the Court has shifted back and forth over the years, and we have managed to survive those changes. Apparently, today’s Republican Party feels that the country somehow won’t survive a Democratic administration or a liberal Supreme Court.
We have what might be described as an asymmetric politics. One party disagrees with the other party’s policy domestic policy positions, but recognizes the legitimacy of an opposition party and accepts that the other party is patriotic and loyal to the country. The other party rejects the legitimacy and loyalty of the other party. The efforts to de-legitimize former President Clinton, President Obama, and likely future President Hillary Clinton are part of this effort. The refusal of the GOP Congress to allow Obama any legislative accomplishments was another part of it. I expect that a GOP House will adopt the same obstructionist tactics starting in 2017.
People predict that the U.S. population will continue to get younger, better educated, and less white. I hope our political experiment lasts long enough to see that day.
“Light” events are some of the heaviest lifting in political life. Comedy is hard to begin with, and for the kinds of people involved in politics, jokes are vastly more difficult to write or deliver than “substantive” remarks. And for presidents or presidential aspirants, we’re talking about a special kind of joke. These eminent figures need to come across as “modest” and self-deprecatory, but only up to a humble-brag point. (That is, just enough so the audience and reviewers will say, “Oh, isn’t it charming that he’s willing to laugh at himself!”) Real comedy often includes a “what the hell!” willingness to say something that will genuinely shock or offend, which national politicians can’t afford to do. The White House Correspondents Dinner, the Gridiron, the Al Smith Dinner—any event like this is hard (as David Litt, a former member of the Obama speechwriting team, explains in a very nice item just now).
What began as a two-hour morning outage spanned well into the afternoon as Twitter, Reddit, Spotify, Github, and many other popular websites and services became effectively inaccessible for many American web users, especially those on the East Coast.
The websites were not targeted individually. Instead, an unknown attacker deployed a massive botnet to wage a distributed denial-of-service attack on Dyn (pronounced like dine), the domain name service (DNS) provider that they all share.
A distributed denial of service attack, or DDoS, is not an uncommon attack on the web, and web hosts have been fending them off for years. But according to reports, Friday’s attack was distinguished by its distinctive approach. The perpetrator used a botnet composed of so-called “internet-of-things” devices—namely, webcams and DVRs—to spam Dyn with more requests than it could handle.
The candidates are back on the campaign trail, following the third, and final, debate on Wednesday night.
It’s Friday, October 21—the election is now less than three weeks away. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are back on the campaign trail to deliver their final pitch to voters, ahead of Election Day. We’ll bring you the latest updates from the trail, as events unfold. Also see our continuing coverage:
The easiest way to take down the web is to attack people’s access to it.
For more than two hours on Friday morning, much of the web seemed to grind to a halt—or at least slow to dial-up speed—for many users in the United States.
More than a dozen major websites experienced outages and other technical problems, according to user reports and the web-tracking site downdetector.com. They included The New York Times, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, GitHub, Etsy, Tumblr, Spotify, PayPal, Verizon, Comcast, EA, the Playstation network, and others.
How was it possible to take down all those sites at once?
Someone attacked the architecture that held them together—the domain-name system, or DNS, the technical network that redirects users from easy-to-remember addresses like theatlantic.com to a company’s actual web servers. The assault took the form of a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) on one of the major companies that provides other companies access to DNS. A DDoS attack is one in which an attacker floods sites “with so much junk traffic that it can no longer serve legitimate visitors,” as the security researcher Brian Krebs put it in a blog post Friday morning.
Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.
Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say “I do,” committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth.
Except, of course, it doesn’t work out that way for most people. The majority of marriages fail, either ending in divorce and separation or devolving into bitterness and dysfunction. Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages, as psychologist Ty Tashiro points out in his book The Science of Happily Ever After, which was published earlier this year.
Social scientists first started studying marriages by observing them in action in the 1970s in response to a crisis: Married couples were divorcing at unprecedented rates. Worried about the impact these divorces would have on the children of the broken marriages, psychologists decided to cast their scientific net on couples, bringing them into the lab to observe them and determine what the ingredients of a healthy, lasting relationship were. Was each unhappy family unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy claimed, or did the miserable marriages all share something toxic in common?
Her “personal” comeback album uses retro references in songs that don’t quite communicate what makes her special.
“I want your everything as long as it’s free”—right there, in her biggest single, Lady Gaga nailed the eternal tease of pop music. In three easy minutes, you feel immortal, unbeatable, the ultimate person. You stand at the edge, the edge, the edge, but know you won’t tumble over. It was a proposition Gaga tested with ever-more gusto until the safety harness snapped for 2013’s Artpop, where each songs seemed to have six different choruses and 42 layers of synthesizer and zero filter on its lyrics about the insatiable need to feed off of human attention. Suddenly, the listener felt implicated; the rush became lurid; everything was no longer free.
Gaga then retreated into tribute performances and the grounding wisdom of Tony Bennett, resulting finally in her new album Joanne, a self-described return to pop “without makeup.” It used to be that although she was among one of the most famous performers in the world, most people wouldn’t have been able to identify her in plainclothes. Now she sits unadorned on her album cover, with the only controversial fashion choice for the related marketing campaign being a bit of underboob. Decent move, PR-wise, perhaps: Here I am, humbled by my Icarus fall. But musically, she has overcorrected and hired a team with more gimmicks than guts, resulting in a “personal” album that—while often enjoyable—seems like it’s trying to hide its personality.
Diwali lights in England, a pair of scary clown masks in Nicaragua, a rat stuck in a New York garbage can, a bioluminescent jellyfish in the Marianas Trench, a little Hitler, and much more.
Diwali lights in England, families fleeing the violence in Mosul, a pair of scary clown masks in Nicaragua, a rat stuck in a New York garbage can, a bioluminescent jellyfish in the Marianas Trench, cliff diving in Japan, a little Hitler, and much more.
How the national mythos and U.S. labor laws influence geographic mobility.
Kevin Bacon moves from a big city to a small town in Middle America where dancing is outlawed. Ralph Macchio moves from New Jersey to California, where he learns the art of life and combat. Dianne Wiest moves with her two sons to a California town stocked with vampires.
The trope of American families settling in faraway places isn’t just a plotline for terrible 1980s movies, but a national phenomenon. Decades of data, including a more recent Gallup study, characterizes the United States as one of the most geographically mobile countries in the world. “About one in four U.S. adults (24 percent) reported moving within the country in the past five years,” the report noted. With the comparable exceptions of Finland (23 percent) and Norway (22 percent), Americans also move considerably more than their European peers.