We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma -- and continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur.The Democrats felt that this was a statement by the President that they could heartily applaud. And why not? Platitudes require no commitment, no troops, no blood and toil. To be fair to the Democrats though, this is attitude shared by the left throughout a world where words suffice and feelings mean more than actions especially when those actions are seen as too unilateralist.
This week in Davos, Switzerland, 2,400 global leaders including more than 800 CEOs, are once again gathered at the World Economic Forum's annual event. This years theme, "The Shifting Power Equation" will address a host of issues with the underlying premise that in an increasingly global world, power is shifting away from the traditional western institutions such as the World Trade Organization, the World Economic Fund, the UN Security Council and the United States.
Perceiving that the world's lone superpower has been humbled by its defeat in Iraq, the new players (at least in their own eyes) are the global corporations, China, India, Brazil and a host of non-governmental organizations such as the self appointed moral authority, Human Rights Watch. With the US humiliated, the world is leaderless and a race is on to fill the power vacuum in the New World Disorder.
This will be "the greenest year ever" at Davos and seventeen sessions will be devoted to saving humanity. The idea is that American and Global businesses can adopt climate friendly, carbon neutral policies ala the Kyoto Protocol even if recalcitrant leaders like George W. Bush refuse to. But lest you worry about US interests not being represented, John McCain will be a panelist on a session entitled ‘Climate Change: A Call to Action.’
Other sessions will be devoted to the challenges posed by globalization, shifting capital, and the future needs, requirements and demands of the emerging market labor forces. Also of interest is:
The discussions of one panel, meeting in a session entitled "Update 2007: The Regional Agenda - Middle East" were summarized as:
The rise of a newly multipolar world and which influential nations are constraining US dominance. Energy security as a driver of international alliances and foreign policies. The diffusion of threats from rogue states and non-state actors.
The problem with the middle east isn't democracy but not a word was written about the threat of radical Islam, radical Islamists or Darfur. How could that be? 2400 of the world's best and brightest gather at Davos to solve the world's problems and can't see the elephant in the room? Well, it is an economic forum; its not about security. But if there is one lesson to be learned from Iraq, it is that there is no economy without security. They should have extended invitations to the patrons of the Elephant Bar. Maybe next year.
The Middle East has been experiencing a period of great conflict – from increased violence in Iraq and Iran’s controversial nuclear program to the current situation in Lebanon.
"Where are we in the Middle East?" asked moderator Vali Nasr, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, USA. "Are we on track or off track?"
It is very off track, suggested one seasoned Arab diplomat, referring to the situation in Iraq and unresolved conflicts in other parts of the region. He also expressed concern at the growing sectarian violence, not just in Iraq but in Lebanon as well. Others agreed that a political, not a military, solution is needed for Iraq, referring to US President George W. Bush’s recent decision to send more than 21,000 additional soldiers to Iraq. One panelist said guidelines are needed to improve the situation in Iraq, including ones that ensure that the country is not partitioned and that conciliation between factions is reached.
A potential US-Iran conflict also dominated the discussion. Most panelists agreed that the Middle East could not afford another war. One Arab business leader noted that, from an economic perspective, a US-Iran conflict is worrying. He pointed out that if there is war between the US and Iran, countries in the region will have major problems.
Many agreed that it is better for Arab countries and Iran to get into a dialogue to address regional issues, although some were not convinced that Iran is ready to "put everything" on the negotiating table and believed sectarian strife could serve hegemonic tendencies.
But even with the numerous conflicts, there has also been positive economic growth in some parts of the Middle East, Nasr noted. Can growth continue despite the conflicts? he asked panelists.
The solution for the region is economic, stressed one panelist, but countries must make reforming their economies a priority, including the need for further diversification and privatization. Citing the need to create millions of jobs in the region in the next decade, one panelist said that human resource development and education are among the biggest challenges to a growing population.
Other challenges discussed during the session were reform and democracy for the region.
Many participating in the session agreed that democracy is the best system, but it has to be home-grown, not imported. One pointed out it should be kept in mind that democracy and reform have started and that there can be no U-turn, and noted that more and more political parties are being formed and elections are being held in numerous Middle East countries.It was agreed that democracy is something to build upon, but that it is not only about elections – it’s also about economic freedom, social rights, governance and other factors. Others agreed that the private sector has an important role to play in the process and strong leadership is needed to define a vision for the Middle East.
With apologies to John Lennon, "You say you want a devolution, well, you don't know who's going to rule the world..."