Tuesday, March 22, 2011

China and Libya...and Corn and Ethanol

In the last couple weeks, I’ve had two articles up at Asia Times.

The March 19 piece, China embroiled in a Libyan muddle, correctly predicted that China—despite its abhorrence of foreign intervention--would not vote against the Libya no-fly-zone because of its desire to stay on the good side of Saudi Arabia.  (The piece was completed and submitted before the UNSC vote.  The editors at Asia Times kindly added a couple paragraphs to the opening of the piece to update it.)  So I can pat myself on the back for that. 

As I describe in the piece, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah detests Colonel Gaddafi for numerous insults and outrages directed at the kingdom, including an assassination attempt on Abdullah allegedly orchestrated by Libyan intelligence in 2003.

The Arab League endorsement of a Libyan no-fly-zone was born of idealism, panic, and near universal disgust with Gaddafi.  But a key factor in the tone and content of the resolution, I believe, was the prior declaration of the Saudi Arabia-dominated Gulf Co-operation Council that Gaddafi’s regime had forfeited its legitimacy, the rebels should be engaged, and a no-fly-zone should be imposed.

My article received a nice notice in the New York Times Magazine blog, The 6th Floor, to whit:

The Arab side in all this has been fascinating (and well described in The Asia Times by Peter Lee).

It is ironic that an article written by a China guy for a publication called Asia Times is considered to be a good source for understanding the Arab side of the equation, but there it is.

Ah, to an ex-New Yorker like me, the whiff of NYT newsprint is intoxicating, albeit virtual and at third hand..

Yes, I know, the New York Times Magazine is not the New York Times.  It’s better than the New York Times, since the magazine’s Sunday crosswords have provided me with hours of wholesome and uplifting entertainment often absent from the Grey Lady’s diplomatic and foreign policy reporting, and it has never, to my knowledge, published Judith Miller.

And I know it’s the blog of the New York Times Magazine, not the magazine itself. But I’ll bookmark it anyway.

Speaking of bookmarks, it’s time to update your Laura Rozen bookmark again.  The Internet’s premier diplomatic reporter has left Politico and has a new blog at Yahoo! News entitled The Envoy.

My previous week’s piece at Asia Times is entitled China’s ethanol binge and corn hangover.

I’m rather proud of that piece because it takes a subject that’s considered rather boring and does not rate any headline space in general interest publications—Chinese agricultural and ethanol policy—and manages to make some interesting and important points about the worldwide ethanol insanity, China’s fraught rural policy, and the dire and unexpected consequences of dodgy agricultural policy in China for world food prices.

There is no subject too ordinary to yield insight to the inquiring mind, I suppose.

Fly away, little bird.  HLL RIP 1927-2011


blowback said...

Bugger, there was me thinking that you were Peter Lee.

With your remark about the Saudi king's comments delegitimizing Gaddafi, I can't help but wonder why anyone should care what a despot like King Abdullah thinks, particularly as the hostility of the Saudi monarchy seems to go way back to the dethroning and exile of King Idris in 1969.
The cynic in me wonders if the Saudi monarchy decided to screw with Gaddafi after he made nice with the Americans in disposing of his alleged WMD (bet he regrets that now) and got some of the Wahhabi imams in eastern Libya to fire up the local population against Gaddafi.

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