Global Briefing, Jan. 24, 2012: POTUS, Problems and Progressive Politics

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Ron Sachs / DPA / Landov

United States President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House,Washington, D.C. on January 13, 2012.

POTUS Probs — Hot on the heels of Fareed Zakaria’s TIME cover analysis of the U.S. president’s international agenda, Foreign Policy‘s Rosa Brooks delves into whether there’s an emerging Obama doctrine. The conclusion: “President Obama makes intelligent and persuasive speeches, but judged impartially, U.S. foreign and national security policy over the last three years frequently looks ad hoc, reactive, and inconsistent.”

From Bad to Worse — Niger struggles to feed its people during the best of times, says the Guardian‘s Mark Tran, but with unreliable rainfall and conflict over aid, the starving country is facing the worst of times.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Rapid Growth? — The Atlantic takes a timely look at the political context evolving from the social consequences of China’s extraordinary growth. Two decades after Deng Xiaoping embarked on his historic “southern tour,” the costs of development – from unrest over land seizures to environmental degradation – are a force in the internal battles ahead of this year’s leadership transition. “The entire edifice of the reform agenda appears to be called into question,” notes the writer Damien Ma, a China analyst at Eurasia Group.

Great Scots — Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister and the leader of the Scotland independence movement, writes in the Guardian that through succession from the U.K., his country will finally be able to embrace the progressive politics and innovative reforms that will in turn help England.

Oil Outcome — The Los Angeles Times reports on Russian reaction to the E.U.’s new package of sanctions against Iran approved Monday – a move the Russian Foreign Ministry branded “deeply erroneous.” Tehran’s response was no milder, accusing the bloc of “psychological warfare” and renewing threats to block the Strait of Hormuz. Mark Urban, a BBC diplomatic editor, highlights the more likely Iranian intent: to force up oil prices – and thereby the pressure on President Obama and the Europeans. On cue, brent crude rose to above $110 Tuesday.

Creeping Towards Justice? — Former military dictator, Efraín Ríos Montt, is accused of being the leader of a scorched earth military tactic during Guatemala’s civil war. In the early ’80s, he was allegedly responsible for the murders of almost entire villages. He’s now set for court on Thursday, the first step that many survivors’ groups hope leads to a full-on genocide trial, and justice.