Reassessing George Bush


Reassessing George Bush

No matter how you re-tell the story, the ending is still unhappy

LIKE his great friend Tony Blair, who was elected three times, George Bush, who was elected twice, left office with his reputation in tatters. Did he not invade Iraq on trumped-up charges, bend America’s laws and values to permit the torture of prisoners, and leave his successor the worst economic crisis since the 1930s? “Decision Points”, the former president’s memoirs, published this week, will not change the minds of the detractors who think so. The book brims not only with the self-exculpation you might expect but also with a good deal of self-congratulation which, in the circumstances, you might not. Even so, the former president’s emergence from the silence he imposed on himself after the election of Barack Obama does invite a reassessment of a much-maligned presidency.

Mr Bush did not shape his presidency just as he pleased. When Mr Obama was elected two years ago, a herd of editorialists argued that inheriting the in-box from hell should be weighed against his subsequent performance. The same editorialists have started to forget that soon after becoming president Mr Bush was struck by a calamity which also affected everything that followed, and should be taken into account by his judges. The attacks of 9/11 seemed at the time at least as frightening as the financial crisis that greeted Mr Obama. Mr Bush recalls waking on September 12th, 2001 to a changed America. Commercial aircraft had been grounded, armed vehicles patrolled the streets of Washington, a side of the Pentagon had been reduced to rubble, the twin towers were gone and the New York Stock Exchange was closed. The focus of his presidency, which he had expected to be domestic policy, “was now war”.

The war on terror, and those in Afghanistan and Iraq, cost America a decade of progress on other fronts. Mr Bush says he once asked Hu Jintao what kept him awake at night. Creating 25m new jobs a year, was the Chinese president’s answer. Mr Bush’s own chief worry was another terrorist attack, and he says now that his main accomplishment as president was that after September 11th America went another seven-and-a-half years without one. His critics sometimes appear to believe that this was pre-ordained, as if the felling of the twin towers was a one-time strike to which Mr Bush needlessly over-reacted. He argues more plausibly that al-Qaeda was held at bay by counter-actions, including the eviction of Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan, enhanced homeland security and the vigorous gathering of intelligence, including legally questionable surveillance at home. 

As to regrets, Mr Bush has quite a few. He says he should have deployed troops earlier to restore order after Hurricane Katrina smote New Orleans. He was wrong to trust Vladimir Putin on the strength of looking into his eyes. He wonders whether he could have foreseen the financial crisis. Lulled by early success, he sent too few troops to Afghanistan. As for Iraq, it was a mistake to stand in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner on board the Abraham Lincoln. It was a mistake to keep too few troops on the ground to ensure order after the fall of Baghdad. He is sorry he did not think harder before agreeing to disband the Iraqi army. And “no one was more shocked and angry” than he when no weapons of mass destruction showed up. “That was a massive blow to our credibility—my credibility—that would shake the confidence of the American people.”

Too true. And yet Mr Bush does not allow his list of regrets to tarnish a jaunty self-assessment. He flatly denies that he and Mr Blair used false intelligence as a pretext and intended to invade come what may. He recalls, correctly, that even opponents of the war assumed in 2003 that Saddam possessed such weapons. With justice, he claims credit for ordering the “surge” in 2007, when most Americans thought the war was lost. And he still says that it was right to invade, because it scared other would-be proliferators and turned Iraq into a peaceful democracy.

Wilfully forgetting the dark side
That is, to put it mildly, a rosy way of looking at things. Iraq may blossom into a democracy one day but is not yet peaceful. Invading the country may have persuaded Libya to give up its own amateurish illicit nuclear programme, but North Korea went nuclear while Mr Bush was president, and neither sanctions nor the example of Iraq has yet stopped Iran’s nuclear programme.

As the title of his memoir implies, Mr Bush is proud of being a “decider”. But he has a habit of glossing over the consequences of his decisions. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was after all a war of choice, and yet he seems almost indecently untroubled by its cost, which included the death and displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. He applies the same insouciance to other dubious choices. Citing the war on terrorism as an all-purpose alibi, he denies breaking the letter or spirit of any law. If he had not permitted waterboarding, he argues, terrorists such as Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would not have yielded the vital information he says they gave up. He points out that his lawyers told him that waterboarding was not torture. But you do not have to be a president to know that it was wrong.

Overall, “Decision Points” is a disappointment. Although Mr Bush talks openly about his alcoholism and religiosity, the book feels oddly flat and impersonal. It contains a few new disclosures, such as Israel’s request to America to bomb a secret Syrian reactor (when Mr Bush said no, Israel did it alone), but no fresh detail on how, when and by whom the fateful decision to invade Iraq was taken. It will not restore his reputation. Invading Iraq was not the act of a war criminal or a buffoon, as his critics allege, but it was a controversial war that went badly wrong and made America, the victim of 9/11, look like an aggressor. He can certainly plead mitigation, but he did not cover himself with glory. 

The ghost at the feast

Nov 12th 2010, 14:11 by The Economist | SEOUL 

The G20 summit in Seoul forged a compromise between the world’s most powerful leaders. But it was a decision made in Washington, DC, that made the biggest splash

INSIDE the cavernous Coex centre in Seoul, where the leaders of the G20 group of nations gathered for their fifth summit on November 11th-12th, Korean staff played their role of hosts with great enthusiasm. In quiet moments, some queued up outside digital photo booths to have their picture taken with an image of President Barack Obama superimposed on top. The agreement the G20 leaders sealed, after what one of them described as “late nights and tough talks” between their negotiators, was also a bit of a montage. All members worry about an unbalanced recovery, with big trade surpluses in some countries and big deficits elsewhere; but they do not yet agree on its underlying cause or solution. In their declaration they nonetheless strived to appear in the same frame.

The leaders asked their technical advisors, including the IMF, to come up with “indicative guidelines” that would help to identify big and persistent imbalances. America’s Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, had once hoped this guideline could be very simple: current-account deficits or surpluses (which are roughly equivalent to trade deficits or surpluses) should not exceed 4% of GDP. But that cap did not fit all heads. Australia tends to run big deficits financed by heavy foreign investment in the country’s mines; Saudi Arabia and Russia sensibly accumulate big surpluses whenever the oil price soars. And although Chinese officials expect its surplus to narrow from over 10% in 2007 to less than 4% over the next 3-4 years, it was not ready to turn that forecast into a binding commitment.

So rather than one number, the guidelines will consist of a “range of indicators”. It is not yet clear what the members have in mind. The IMF already supervises the so-called Mutual Assessment Process (MAP), which crunches lots of numbers to make sure that the G20s’ macro-targets add up. (It is not, for example, possible for everyone to increase their net exports to everyone else.) In addition, the fund already uses three different methods to check whether its members’ exchange rates are misaligned. The more indicators the G20 chooses, the more degrees of freedom its members will enjoy. If the Seoul declaration is to count as progress, therefore, the guidelines will have to constrain members more than the MAP already does, even if they do not constrain them as much as Mr Geithner’s magic number would.

The leaders also repeated a line agreed by their finance ministers and central bankers last month, which obliges advanced economies with reserve currencies (such as the dollar, euro and yen) to spare a thought for emerging economies hurt by exchange-rate volatility. But that promise will seem empty to those members, including Brazil, China and South Korea, unnerved by the Federal Reserve’s decision this month to print another $600 billion of the world’s reserve currency in an effort to revive the American economy. The decision will encourage capital to flow elsewhere, weakening the dollar and putting upward pressure on the real, yuan and won.

The Fed’s policy of “quantitative easing” contributed to a qualitative hardening of tone among the summiteers. Germany’s finance minister accused the Americans of hypocrisy—"It's inconsistent for the Americans to accuse the Chinese of manipulating exchange rates and then to artificially depress the dollar exchange rate by printing money," he said. Of course, if the Fed’s policy succeeds, it will raise America’s price level, blunting America’s competitiveness, even as the dollar’s decline sharpens it. But one cannot be confident that any of the G20’s leaders—except India’s Manmohan Singh, an economist by training—understands the difference between the nominal exchange rate and the real one.
To help them cope with inflows of money, emerging economies may introduce capital controls. But they won’t necessarily call them that. The Seoul summit endorsed “carefully designed macro-prudential measures” for countries that had already exhausted other options, such as adding to their foreign-exchange reserves, or simply letting their exchange rate rise. The summiteers probably had in mind the kind of measures introduced by their host nation, South Korea, in June. It imposed ceilings on banks’ holdings of foreign-exchange derivatives, because the banks tend to hedge those positions by borrowing too much from abroad.

Such measures do not always work for long: South Korea’s ceilings were set as a multiple of the banks’ capital, so the banks just raised their capital. But emerging economies are likely to keep trying. Certainly, whatever the Seoul Declaration says, it is hard to imagine the Fed paying much heed to emerging economies—or any other economy for that matter—when setting monetary policy. President Obama remains a popular and photogenic figure in the conference halls of Seoul. But Mr Bernanke cast the longest shadow over the summit.
Editor's note: Thanks to jude22, in the comments section below, for reminding readers of Stephen Harper's credentials as academic economist. Manmohan Singh, who holds a doctorate in economics from Oxford University and also taught economics there, would probably be the best-qualified leader of a G20 country to run a seminar on exchange rates. But Mr Harper would doubtless make a good teaching assistant were Mr Singh to be unavailable.


2010-11-16 10:19:35







而英國工黨則稱,卡梅倫在G20峰會上的表現說明他還沒有準備好帶領這個國家。影子外交大臣伊微特• 古柏表示,卡梅倫在國際舞臺上是一個旁觀者而不是一個政治家。


外媒:G20峰會收穫不大 美國影響力大不如前

2010年11月17日 10:42   來源:中國新聞網   張耠
為期兩天的二十國集團(G20)首腦峰會于12日在南韓首都首爾落下帷幕。各方媒體盤點峰會成果,大多認為收穫不大。眾多外媒也注意到,美國在 G20峰會的影響力大不如前,美量化寬鬆措施成眾矢之的。美國《華爾街日報》指出,相比于美國,中國及巴西、德國等正以更快的速度、更有力的復蘇態勢走出 世界經濟危機的陰影,而奧巴馬卻還不得不站在一個尷尬的立場,為其不受政府控制的中央銀行進行辯護。
  本次G20峰會通過了《二十國集團首爾峰會宣言》,G20各成員在宣言中共同承諾將加強二十國集團作用,妥善應對國際經濟金融領域的新風險、新 挑戰,攜手推動世界經濟強勁、可持續和平衡增長。該宣言共分20條,評估了當前的經濟形勢,認為“風險仍然存在”。在共同關心的匯率問題上,《宣言》重 申,“避免競爭性貨幣貶值”,要推動更為市場化的匯率機制。西方主流媒體對正值全球經濟緩慢復蘇之際召開的本次峰會給予了充分報道。

  雖然《北韓日報》、韓聯社等南韓媒體在報道本次峰會時大多認為“碩果纍纍”,但在大部分西方媒體看來,本次G20峰會所取得的實際成果頗為有 限。路透社11月12日在一篇名為《G20峰會成果乏善可陳,只達到外界最低期望》的報道中指出,經過兩天會談,各方最後僅取得最低程度的共識,即各國將 著手研究並制定出一種“參考性準則”,用於協助發現可能造成全球經濟動蕩的重大經常賬戶失衡問題。英國廣播公司在報道中直言,“G20讓世界媒體失望”。


  英國《金融時報》報道指出,各國政府淡化了外界對G20首爾峰會在解決全球經濟失衡方面取得重大突破的期望。此前,各方在匯率和經常賬戶赤字問 題上暴露出明顯分歧。國際貨幣基金組織(IMF)前高級官員埃斯瓦·普拉薩德表示:“峰會將強調各方達成一般共識的領域,即便那些共識缺乏具體細節,但同 時也會掩飾G20國家之間存在深刻分歧的領域。”。

  美國《華爾街日報》則在報道中稱,G20成員國領導人在12日表示,他們將會制定衡量經濟失衡的指標,但如何具體界定失衡這一頗具爭議的問題則 要推遲到明年進行。G20成員國領導人在本次峰會閉幕後發佈公告稱,將通過制定包括一系列指標在內的指導性原則來尋求將外部失衡限制在可持續水準,這一指 導性原則將作為一項機制,用來及時發現那些有必要進行防範和矯正的大規模失衡的存在。此種含糊不清的措辭可謂是各方妥協的結果,美國和峰會主辦國南韓此前 尋求對各國經常項目的盈餘和赤字設定明確限制目標,但這一提議遭到了中國和德國等與會國的強烈反對。德國總理默克爾指出,各國競爭力存在差異,不能“通過 政治設限”將一碗水端平。

  此外,《華爾街日報》還引用IMF總裁多米尼克·施特勞斯-卡恩的講話稱,G20各方對全球經濟的復蘇形勢估計得過於樂觀。不過,儘管很多與會 者及評論人士失望之情溢於言表,路透社還是在報道中說,本次峰會絕非一無是處,該報道表示,作為2008年全球金融危機產生的少數幾個積極成果之 一,G20會議的舉行使得保護主義受到了遏制。儘管西方國家面臨低增長和高失業的糟糕局面,但1930年那種以牙還牙式的關稅報復並沒有重演。英國首相卡 梅倫在談到首爾峰會時表示,“雖然現在的G20不像2008年金融危機剛發生時那樣扮演救世主的角色,但我也不同意有關G20正在失去意義的說法。”加拿 大總理哈珀也表示:”雖然我們尚未解決所有這些問題,但這並不意味著我們將後退。”

  中國在本次峰會上的言行與態度格外引起西方媒體關注,中國國家主席胡錦濤為實現世界經濟強勁、可持續、平衡增長的目標提出了四點建議,第一,完 善框架機制,推動合作發展;第二,倡導開放貿易,推動協調發展;第三,完善金融體系,推動穩定發展;第四,縮小發展差距,推動平衡發展。

  西方大多數媒體普遍認為,胡錦濤主席的表現,也給各國媒體留下了深刻而積極的印象。《華爾街日報》在報道中表示,胡錦濤11日與美國總統奧巴馬 舉行了非公開會談,胡錦濤頂住了奧巴馬要求人民幣幣值重估的壓力,胡錦濤對奧巴馬說,中國會推進人民幣匯率形成機制的改革,這也是美國政策的長期目標,但 這項改革需要良好的外部環境,只能漸進式推進。胡錦濤還對奧巴馬說,中國注意到,美聯儲決定向美國經濟注資6000億美元,批評人士指責此舉意在使美元貶 值。胡錦濤敦促美國應考慮到新興市場國家的利益。

  中國財政部國際司司長鄭曉松則在媒體吹風會上重申,主要儲備貨幣發行國在制定貨幣政策時,不應只考慮本國的經濟利益,也要考慮對世界經濟的影 響。《華爾街日報》最後得出結論說,中國敢於在匯率問題上公開與美國唱反調,此舉凸顯一個事實,那就是相比于美國,中國以及巴西、德國等其他國家正以更快 的速度、更有力的復蘇態勢從世界經濟危機的陰影中走出來,而奧巴馬卻不得不站在一個尷尬的立場,為其不受政府控制的中央銀行進行辯護。另外,奧巴馬也無力 消除別國對美國政府為刺激出口而試圖故意讓美元貶值這一做法的擔憂。

  很多主流媒體注意到,美國在G20峰會的影響力大不如前。美國《華盛頓郵報》評論道:“一年前的G20匹茲堡峰會,各國首腦還都爭先恐後地討奧 巴馬的歡心。但此次首爾峰會上,誰也不想幫助奧巴馬排憂解難。這就是現實。”《紐約時報》則報道說:“美國政府稱,此次G20首爾峰會取得了成功,但更顯 眼的是中國的崛起。”雖然美國一直試圖把全球失衡的罪責強壓在中國頭上,但美聯儲第二輪量化寬鬆的新舉措卻招致廣泛國際批評,成為多國共同指責的對象。

  南韓央行11月11日發佈的報告稱,美聯儲的二次量化寬鬆措施“害己害人”,對新興市場經濟體構成很大危險,可能帶來流動性氾濫、推高大宗商品 價格,引發通脹。歐盟委員會主席巴羅佐同日表示,G20領導人有必要在峰會上當面質問奧巴馬,美聯儲為何要推出第二輪量化寬鬆措施。連一向與美國“並肩作 戰”的英國也看不下去了,英國首相卡梅倫11日指出,全球正面臨重演上世紀30年代“與鄰為壑”悲劇的風險,保護主義和貨幣戰爭可能爆發,誘發新一輪保護 主義浪潮的導火索之一,就是美國特別是美聯儲的政策。(青年參考)

愛爾蘭紓困成本估達1000億歐元 歐盟找英國幫忙










英國受金融風暴衝擊,國家財政正面臨嚴重的危機,財政赤字在2009/2010會計年度(註1)衝到1,550億英鎊的歷史新高。為解決財政危機,新的聯合政府甫於2010年5月上任,便於6月提出「英國財政緊縮計畫」,除擬提高稅賦以增加國庫收入外,包括:提高加值稅(VAT)從目前的17.5%提高到 20%、資本利得稅也將從現行的18%大幅調高到接近40%等,同時也考量調整相關福利制度以減少政府支出。由於英國福利支出日益增加,聯合政府亟欲進行就業與福利制度的改革,其目標在於降低福利依賴現象與提高人民的工作動機,反映聯合政府在「五年政綱」中所強調的自由、公平、責任等原則。改革重點包括強化福利與工作之連結、整併相關給付與限縮部分給付資格等,期望在2014/2015會計年度之前,每年可減少70億英鎊的支出。



(二)英國福利依賴(welfare dependency)情形嚴重,2010年英國全國有約500萬屬於工作世代人口領取失業相關給付,並非完全受經濟景氣影響,據調查其中約有140萬人在過去10年中領取給付之年數超過9年;此外,約有200萬名兒童家中無任何工作人口。

(三)政府用於工作世代人口的相關給付與租稅抵減(Tax Credits,註2)之支出成長迅速,估計年度經費由1996/97年度的630億英鎊,至2009/10年度已達870億英鎊(以2010/11幣值計算),且為提供這些給付之行政成本亦相當高,估計中央與地方政府一年之支出即達35億英鎊。




聯合政府一上台所公布的「五年政綱」與「英國財政緊縮計畫」,為此波福利制度改革揭開序幕,2010年7月英國的勞動與年金部(Department for Work and Pensions)公布一份名為「21世紀福利」(21st Century Welfare)的報告,提出福利改革的原則,包括:強化工作價值與個人責任;降低福利依賴、避免民眾陷於貧窮狀況;簡化申請機制,縮減行政成本。 2010年10月英政府進一步公布福利改革方向,預定近期內會再提出詳細的改革內容。茲將目前英國政府所公布的改革方向簡述如下:


1.將目前多項工作世代人口的相關給付整併為一簡化的方案—統合式補貼(Universal Credit),包括薪資相關的失業給付與租稅抵減等,主要目標在於簡化申請機制、提高工作動機、強化工作與給付之連結、降低貧窮並減少福利詐欺 (fraud)。此項變革必須先經立法通過,如順利可在2013年實施。

2.配合此一方案,將同時實施企業津貼(Enterprise Allowance),如失業者轉為自營作業者,可請領此一津貼,最多6個月。



2.兒童津貼(Child benefit,註3)額度凍結3年不予調整,所節省的經費用以挹注提高育兒租稅抵減額度,可確實幫助低所得家庭。

3.自2013年4月起,領取求職津貼(Jobseekers Allowance)超過12個月者,其房屋津貼縮減10%,除此之外,尚依據請領者之狀況採取多項縮減措施,估計1年可省下18億英鎊。



6.基礎年金給付額之調整,自2011年起將改採消費者物價指數(Consumer Price Index),以取代現行以零售物價指數(Retail Price Index),估計1年可節省60億英鎊。




(二)英國此次社會福利改革,特別強調工作的價值與避免福利依賴問題,實際上近年來國際間即強調積極性的社會福利政策,主張政府應結合工作與福利 (workfare),透過稅賦補貼、托兒補助、職業訓練與強化勞動條件等方式,以協助多數失業者回歸職場,透過工作取得經濟的獨立。我國應強化社會福利政策與就業安全政策之連結,除透過福利制度提供民眾必要的幫助外,同時亦應積極協助有工作能力的民眾尋求合適的就業機會,以避免陷入貧窮。

IMF公布英國經濟評估報告 風險敞口構成威脅














更新日期:2010/11/17 12:00
(法新社倫敦16日電) 英國為控制龐大財政赤字而實施緊縮措施,不良影響開始浮現之際,威廉王子和凱特密道頓(Kate Middleton)的婚事,可能為英國打了一劑強心針。


英國首相卡麥隆(David Cameron)說:「有讓每個人同慶的好消息,真的很棒。」


「道瓊新聞社」(Dow Jones Newswires)專欄作家柯特(David Cottle)寫道:「王室婚禮將是英國經濟很大的一棵搖錢樹。」






英國通脹高企 議員警告首相不能拯救愛爾蘭

2010年11月17日02:32  來源:第一財經日報  作者:郝倩 

英國通脹率10月份異常升高,超過了政府3%的警戒線。這使得英格蘭銀行行長默文·金(Mervyn King)不得不給財政部寫今年的第四封信,以解釋情況。



《第一財經日報》記者根據英國國家統計局(ONS)的最新報告了解到:消費者物價指數(CPI)相較1年前增長了3.2%,而9月份這一數字為 3.1%,原因就在於汽油、柴油,甚至電腦遊戲的漲價。除此之外,英國第二大服裝零售商NEXT也在本月宣布,隨著棉花價格上漲,他們的服裝銷售價格可能會相應上調5%到8%。這是英國服裝零售業從上世紀90年代初以來的首次調價,此舉甚至引發行業擔憂,認為從遠東進“便宜貨”的時代或許已經結束。好消息是,食品價格的通貨膨脹現在緩和了很多——豬肉價格下跌;由於西蘭花降價,蔬菜僅漲價1%。





盡管歐盟國家的債務危機已經到了必須協同解決的地步,目前包括德國在內的歐盟成員紛紛敦促愛爾蘭接受援助,從而避免債務危機。但就在近日,英國保守黨議員克裏斯·希頓·哈裏斯和比爾·凱希已站出來反對救助,認為不應將英國納稅人的錢用於救助愛爾蘭,凱希還稱,都柏林遭到歐洲一些機構的“恃強淩弱 ”,可能會被迫接受歐盟援助。


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