Is U.S. policy in Mideast paving inroads for China?

Plus how long will it really take for the national debt to cripple our economy?

Jack Rodolico By Jack Rodolico

A U.S. soldier covers his ears as a U.S. helicopter takes off after a ceremony handing over the Bagram prison to Afghan authorities at the U.S. airbase in Bagram, north of Kabul, September 10, 2012. (Reuters)

We could all use some advice now and then, even if it’s unsolicited. That’s why Latitude News peruses the global press: sometimes the view is clearer from farther away. And today it seems the world has more than advice; here we focus on three stories that serve as warnings for the U.S. — warnings about our policies on oil, the Mideast and the economy.


  • Writing for The Japan Times, Ramzy Baroud warns that U.S. foreign policy in the Mideast is not only the sign of a slow, painful decline in American power, but is also creating an inroad for China, whose political potential in the Arab world he calls “boundless.” The U.S., he says, has sullied its reputation “through its support of local dictatorships, financing and arming Israel at the expense of Palestinians and other Arab nations, or finally by getting involved — some say, entangled — in lethal wars.” Meanwhile, he says, “China is barely associated with an atrocious history of military onslaughts or economic exploitation.” Even though China has helped block three efforts to pass Security Council resolutions condemning the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Baroud says this aloofness pales in comparison to a history of American ham-fistedness. “The empire is entangled in its own self-defeating legacy,” Baroud writes. “This is to the satisfaction of its many contenders, China notwithstanding.”


  • Our national debt will lead the U.S. to “declare bankruptcy,” according to Jacques Attali, an outspoken French socialist who was twice named in the top 100 public intellectuals in the world by Foreign Policy magazine. Writing for L’Express, Attali delivers a scathing recrimination of just about every aspect of American financial policy since Wall Street imploded in 2008. But, he says, the biggest problem is our perpetual cycle of borrow and spend. “Enclosed in its optimism, America still believes that it will suffice to borrow for a time, pending the return to growth, which will swallow the debt. But,” Attali continues, “the debt is growing much faster than ever before in American history . . . and even faster than that of any European country.” Whether the U.S. can recover from this debt cycle is certainly up for debate, but “enclosed in its optimism”? Maybe that’s the way it looks from France, but only 36 percent of likely U.S. voters say the country is heading in the right direction. If you’re interested in reading some strong language about the American economy, read this story, in which Attali casually announces the “collapse of the American society,” pending something “miraculous.”


  • The U.S. strategic petroleum reserve, a government-owned stockpile of crude oil, could be a more flexible tool for controlling oil prices, says London’s Financial Times. The reserve was created after the 1973-74 oil embargo; the idea is to have millions of barrels of crude on hand should “a disruption in commercial oil supplies threaten the U.S. economy,” according the U.S. Department of Energy. But the FT points out that the stockpiles of European nations contain both crude oil and refined oil products, whereas the U.S. mostly stores crude. The FT says American gas prices are on the rise not because of a lack of crude oil, but a lack of refined oil linked to several refinery failures. When major hurricanes hit the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, disabling refineries, “the US had to ask its European allies to release their gasoline and diesel-rich emergency reserves to make up for the shortage.” We wonder if either Obama or Romney will weigh in on this in the debate tonight, although we’re not holding our breath.