James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Ireland’s Referendum, the UN’s Debate on Yemen, North Atlantic Hurricanes, and Memorial Day

by James M. Lindsay
May 24, 2012

A worker in Lisbon, Portugal passes by some graffiti. (Rafael Marchante/courtesy Reuters) A worker in Lisbon, Portugal passes by some graffiti. (Rafael Marchante/courtesy Reuters)


The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed Ireland’s referendum on the EU’s fiscal treaty; the UN Security Council’s debate on Yemen; the beginning of hurricane season in the North Atlantic; and Memorial Day in the United States.

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The highlights:

  • Irish voters go to the polls on May 31 to say yea or nay on the EU’s fiscal treaty. The polls suggest that the “yeas” will win. Prime Minister Enda Kenny of the center-right Fine Gael party strongly supports a “yes” vote, as does Ireland’s major opposition party, Fianna Fail. If the “no” vote wins, however, Kenny says that he will not order a second referendum. That is what happened in 2001 and 2008 when Irish voters voted the “wrong way” the first time an EU initiative was put before them.  A “yes” vote keeps the fiscal treaty alive and gives Ireland access to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which is intended to help keep the eurozone from unraveling. A “no” almost certainly means that Ireland would have to leave the euro, and it would likely aggravate the debt problem facing Greece, Portugal, and Spain.
  • The UN Security Council will meet this week to discuss the findings of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar. This discussion comes on the heels of a suicide bombing in the heart of Sana that killed more than one hundred Yemeni soldiers, which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has taken credit for. AQAP was also behind the recent foiled plot to blow up an international airliner using an underwear-style bomb. Yemen’s internal divisions and fighting provide AQAP with an environment in which to operate. U.S. drone technology can solve only part of the problem. Putting Yemen back together would probably do far more. But that is a mighty tall task.
  • June 1 marks the traditional start of hurricane season in the North Atlantic. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a normal hurricane season—which means somewhere between nine and fifteen named storms. The prediction does not mean that global climate change might not make hurricanes both more powerful and more frequent in the future. The international community has made little progress, however, in curtailing the emission of the heat-trapping gases that drive human-induced climate change. And as long as countries are focused on repairing their economies and can’t agree on how to apportion responsibility for curtailing emissions, not much is going to get done.
  • The United States celebrates Memorial Day on May 28. The holiday dates back to May 30, 1868 when Decoration Day was held to commemorate soldiers who died in the American Civil War. As Americans celebrate this Memorial Day, they are deeply skeptical of U.S. participation in the war in Afghanistan. Polls show that two out of three Americans oppose the Afghan War and three in five want U.S. troops to come home as soon as possible.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is Dr. Shakil Afridi. My Figure of the Week is 656,241. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Ireland’s Referendum and the EU’s Fiscal Treaty. CFR had a meeting with William H. Buiter, chief economist for Citigroup, on the financial crisis in Europe. Bloomberg says Hollande might be willing to renegotiate the fiscal treaty. Pedar o Browin of the Institute of International and European Affairs wrote a working paper on the euro crisis. The Wall Street Journal has the eurozone’s dire economic numbers. The Journal also notes that doubts about the euro are surfacing in its birthplace, the Netherlands.

The UN Security Council Debate on Yemen. CFR’s Micah Zenko discusses “how to grow terrorists in Yemen.” The BBC reports that al-Qaeda attacks in Yemen are a setback for the country’s stability. USA Today says the fight against al-Qaeda in Yemen is taking a toll on the country. The UN News Centre mentions that the Security Council condemns terrorist actions in Yemen, and that “a record number of African migrants fled to Yemen this year.” Al-Arabiya notes that the United States cited Yemen as a “model of political transition.”

Hurricane Season and Climate Change. The National Hurricane Center has an overview of how cyclones work. Weather.com has your 2012 hurricane forecast. AccuWeather.com lets you track all the hurricanes. The International Research Institute for Climate and Society has the number of Atlantic hurricanes per hurricane season. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that climate talks in Bonn have stalled over a divide between rich countries and poor ones. AFP quotes Raul Estrada, one of the architects of the Kyoto Protocol, who believes that “negotiations are returning to square one.” Reuters reports on possible ways to raise climate ambitions. Bloomberg notes that the EU’s lead envoy believes that China is leading developing nations seeking to block a UN climate treaty.

Memorial Day. Reuters claims that “weary warriors favor Obama,” and that civilian deaths in Afghanistan have fallen by 20 percent. The Hill notes that a House-passed defense bill will publish the cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The Chattanooga Times Free Press mentions how hundreds of bikers are making their way to Washington, DC for Memorial Day events. The Sacramento Bee reminds us of the true meaning of Memorial Day: “to honor and remember our fallen heroes and the families they left behind.”

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