Archive for October, 2012

Sudan, S. Sudan Reach Deal on Oil, Problems Remain

Last Thursday in the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir signed an agreement that demilitarizes their border and most importantly, allows for the resumption of oil from the south through the north.  This agreement is significant, not only because it reduces the likelihood of new conflict between the two countries, but because the issue of an demilitarized zone along the border led to serious disagreement among both parties.  The resumption of oil production is positive for both because oil production in South Sudan stopped in January 2012 in a dispute with the North over oil shipment fees.  The only problem with this agreement is that both parties did not come to an agreement on the issue over ownership of the Abyei region.  Abyei is a fertile border region that both sides claim as their own and is of great importance to local nomadic people due to its abundant grazing area.

This deal was likely the result of two factors: first, both Sudan and South Sudan are receiving enormous amounts of pressure in and outside Africa to resolve their ongoing disputes since the South’s independence in 2011.  The other factor is that with the oil not being produced and shipped, no investment is coming to either countries which is producing multiple economic problems.  The Obama administration should continue to encourage dialogue between both nations and push for an agreement on Abyei and the other regions to be reached as soon as possible.  The United States has an ally in South Sudan and wants to see that it gets on its feet and becomes an active member of the East African economy.  Additionally, both sides returning to violence and the resulting humanitarian consequences are that last thing the Obama administration needs to be dealing with right now.


Public Attitudes on Defense Spending

Two surveys were recently conducted to determine public attitudes on defense spending and concluded with different results. The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) indicate a 40% approval rating of current military spending with an additional 23% of respondents believing that the military budget should be increased, and only 28.6% supporting arguments that the military spends too much. Some of the arguments in defense of military spending included how budget cuts would impact jobs, communities, and general national security, citing claims that defense sequestration would “severely degrade” military capabilities.

The Stimson Center survey revealed more support for reducing military spending by an average of 18%. The diffence in results, according to the Stimson Center, is due to the lack of information provided to respondents of the FPI survey concerning military spending. The Stimson Center provided its respondents to its survey with information about how much the military spends and the proportion of the military budget compared to other government spending. The survey also allowed respondents to choose areas within the military where they would cut spending.

When reviewing the FPI survey, the questions were dependent on opinion whereas the Stimson Center survey provided arguments, which included a balance of proponent and opponents of defense spending, and evaluated how respondents reacted to the information. Cutting budgets across the board, defense or any other, is not an efficient method to reducing the deficit. Defense spending is vital to national security. However, spending needs to be evaluated more thoroughly to properly reduce budgets without causing “severe degradation.”




FPI survey:

FPI survey summary:

Stimson poll:

Stimson study:

China in the U.S. Presidential Campaign

China has become a much more visible issue in the U.S. presidential election in recent weeks. Voters have been bombarded by rhetoric and ads from both candidates attacking reach others’ records on U.S.-China trade relations.  Despite their best efforts to pander to the American electorate and appear as protectionist and anti-China as possible, the records of both Obama and Romney indicate that they are both strong proponents of free trade.

The latest round of China-bashing has moved away from currency concerns and job and investment outsourcing to  an industry closer to home (or at least to those call the swing state of Ohio home) – the auto industry. Mr. Obama lodged a formal complaint with the WTO on September 17th over alleged Chinese government subsidies given to car-part manufacturers in at least 12 municipalities from 2009-2011. China responded in kind with a WTO complaint of its own that same day, attacking what it asserts are countervailing duties on certain Chinese exports to the United States.

Though a trade war seems unlikely with the WTO as arbiter, the heated rhetoric and cross-Pacific slandering certainly gives the impression that U.S.-China economic relations are in a fairly tenuous spot. It is true that China bashing is a fairly regular feature of American politicking, but with regime change on the way in the PRC and potentially in the U.S. as well the status quo of bilateral trade relations between the world’s largest two economies certainly is in the spotlight. China in recent weeks has come face to face with the consequences of stirring up strong nationalist, xenophobic sentiments among its population in the Senkaku-Diaoyu dispute with Japan. If such strong feelings were to spread to the U.S.-China trade relationship, then important implications for the security of the world economy would surely result. Politicians should be careful when discussing such important and potentially sensitive geopolitical issues, something Romney and Obama should keep in mind while on the campaign trail in the next month.

-William Kyle

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