Saturday Readings

Vatican Expresses Support For Palestinian State
On Friday, the Vatican signed a comprehensive treaty with Palestinian authorities that cements an agreement reached in 2000 declaring its support for the creation of a Palestinian state and the peace process with Israel.

“[I]t is my hope that the present agreement may, in some way, be a stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both Parties,” wrote Vatican foreign minister Archbishop Paul Gallagher.

This hasty step damages the prospects for advancing a peace agreement, and harms the international effort to convince the Palestinian [National] Authority to return to direct negotiations with Israel,” said Israel’s  foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement, according to Gulfnews.

Some have argued that the move by Pope Francis would set back, rather than advance, the peace process.

“By granting the Palestinians official recognition without first requiring them to make peace with Israel, Pope Francis and the church have only made it less likely that this will ever happen,” Jonathan Tobin, a pro-Israel commentator wrote last May in Commentary magazine.

A Progressive Foreign Policy?
Recently, three Democratic members of the House of Representatives laid out what they characterize as a “principles for a progressive foreign policy” that should be pursued in Congress.

Their ideas are not really new, however. They suggest implementing a new Marshall Plan with “smart, nimble foreign aid,” pursuing more bilateral relations, constraining CIA counterterror activities and never intervening militarily without an clear and explicit exit strategy.

“Traditional powers such as Russia and China are challenging international norms and pushing the boundaries of their influence. And threats that know no borders—such as pandemic disease and global climate change—continue to grow. The world has been fundamentally reordered, but the United States’ foreign policy toolbox has gone largely unchanged during this time of immense global transition,” write Democratic Reps. Chris Murphy, Brian Schatz, and Martin Heinrich.

Jeffrey Lewis of Foreign Policy magazine, says their principles are nothing more than boiler plate ideas and not truly progressive. He suggests following the political philosophy of theorist and philosopher John Rawls, who argued for a  utilitarian concept of justice, based on simple fairness.

Rawls, who died in 2002, believed that every individual has a right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with the same liberty for others.

“Liberals, however, believe that freedom is a product of the rule of law. The anarchy of the French Revolution didn’t result in liberty; it resulted in terror and Bonapartism. This is why liberals tend to see the accumulation of power in the hands of corporations as rather more sinister than conservatives do. Freedom isn’t something the government takes away; it is something that society creates together,” writes Lewis.

“That view is central to how a liberal ought to look at foreign policy — I would argue this is why we are such treaty weenies. Sovereignty is to states what liberty is to individuals. If the rule of law allows for unprecedented human freedom, then treaties and international agreements are central to the creation of modern Westphalian systems of reasonable, functional sovereign states,” he adds.

How Bangladesh Has Managed To Reduce Poverty
Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Howard LaFranchi reports on how Bangladesh has become a model for poverty reduction by embracing a movement for microfinance, which grants small loans to small-businesses to boost economic development.

“Bangladesh is one of three success stories of the last 10 to 15 years – Ethiopia and Nepal are the other two – that give us some hope on this goal,” Columbia University professor Glenn Denning tells the paper.

However, the efficacy of microfinance is limited argued economist and author Jonathan Morduch in a March interview with the Wall Street Journal.

“The fact is that half the world’s adults—some 2.5 billion people—lack access to basic banking services. And most of these 2.5 billion are not small-scale entrepreneurs. They are construction workers, shop clerks, drivers, nannies, factory laborers and other kinds of wage earners. Many live in cities. They have the income to be reliable customers, and they desire loans to manage expenses, but the microfinance sector has little to offer them. Another share of the 2.5 billion comprises farmers, who microlenders have largely avoided for fear of the risks in agriculture,” Morduch said of the failings of microfinance as a means of escaping poverty.


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