Inverse Nixon Theory

It’s been said in the past – indeed, it used to be conventional wisdom – that unlikely right-wing governments were more likely to make peace, because they enjoyed credibility and a tough reputation. More obviously, conservatives long enjoyed a reputation for “fiscal credibility”, which supposedly helped them to control inflation by giving the impression that they would either be willing to sit on the money supply, or trade-off unemployment for inflation along the Phillips curve.

Curiously, with what is commonly taken to be a swing to the Right in Germany and France, we’re seeing the opposite. One of Angela Merkel’s first acts on taking office was to announce a future rise in consumption taxes, which isn’t very much different in terms of public perception to cutting them in the meantime. Nicolas Sarkozy has since announced that he’s going to have a pause in the reduction of the national debt – read, reflate the economy somewhat. Specifically, as he’s promised to hand out a €20 billion “fiscal shock”. But nobody appears to be very worried. It’s a big contrast to five minutes ago, when modalities of the Eurosystem’s breakdown were a regular topic on AFOE..

Compare the keenness of the Schröder, Jospin, and de Villepin governments to stick to the script of the Stability Pact, come what may. (No, de Villepin wasn’t a social democrat, but Sarko certainly campaigned as if he had been.) There’s a non-trivial argument that the pact was a serious economic mistake. It would certainly be interesting if it only survived because the Left was paranoid about seeming over lefty, and especially if the continental economy’s uptick had something to do with the Right being able to let it ride.

Balkan War Criminals: First the good news…

The good news is, last week Serbia handed over a fellow named Zdravko Tolimir. Tolimir, a Bosnian Serb, was a top aide to wanted war criminal Ratko Mladic.

This is good news not only because Tolimir is a wrong’un — he’s under indictment on counts of genocide, extermination, murder, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation, and was the third most wanted suspect after the two headliners, Karadzic and Mladic — but also because both Serbia and the Bosnian Serb Republic cooperated in getting him and handing him over. For Serbia, that’s the first evidence of real cooperation with the Hague since 2005. For Bosnia… well, it’s the first time the Serb Republic’s police have helped catch a war criminal, ever.

It may be because Serbia has a new government; or because they’re hoping to re-start talks with the EU (stalled for over a year now, because of that same lack of cooperation); or because they’re hoping to score points as the Kosovo issue comes up in the UN this month. Whatever he reason, it’s very welcome.

If only that were all the war criminal news this week. Unfortunately not. Just a day before Tolimir was picked up, convicted war criminal Radovan Stankovic escaped from prison.

This is bad in a variety of ways. Continue reading

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

Ron Asmus, of the German Marshall fund, asks

“Is this president and Administration capable, in its last 18 months in office, of using this new lineup [of leaders] in Europe to begin to lay the foundation for a new relationship for his successor?”


Concept of simple answers gleefully lifted from Atrios.