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How 17% is kind of like 25%

We've been remiss in covering the so-called Major Economies Forum, the gathering of the world's top 17 greenhouse gas emitters that concluded in Paris yesterday.  And while some of the big economies may be calling for emissions reductions targets less stringent than, say, small island nations would prefer, the gap between the United States and Europe may be shrinking.  Even though Germany and France are urging 25-40% reductions by 2020, compared to the goal of 17% set out by the still ambitious (by U.S. standards) Waxman-Markey climate bill in the U.S. House, Obama climate envoy Todd Stern suggests these numbers are more similiar than they may appear (via Andy Revkin):

The United States is proposing to make a seismic change in U.S. policy,” he said. “The president is proposing to do that, and Congress as well is in the middle of working on this. The level of reductions we’re talking about, the level of effort we’re talking about from where we are, from a few years back before where we are, is about the same as what Europe is proposing to do.”

The key, of course, for the United States no less than the other 16 major emitters, is achieving what is possible politically.  But political will, Al Gore assures us, is as renewable a resource as he would have us implementing to power our homes.

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Rob Farley Gets China-North Korea Right

Unlike the foolhardy China alienation strategy of Dan Blumenthal and Robert Kagan, Robert Farley actually connects the right dots and sees how harnessing a relationship with Beijing will in fact be the only way to influence Pyongyang. In addition to the very real interests that China has in North Korea (preventing a refugee influx, avoiding a nuclear power across its border), Farley adds this key point:

China's relatively close relationship with North Korea means that Beijing likely has a clearer understanding of the internal situation of the Pyongyang regime than the United States. China probably has a better notion than the US of the balance of power between factions in the succession crisis, and a better idea of which levers to pull in order to strengthen one faction over another. [emphasis mine]

North Korea's missile tests, it should be emphasized, were almost surely the result of this internal political maneuvering (and most probably to appease the North Korean military apparatus). This storyline is decidedly in contrast to that reflexively assumed by many advocates of a "tougher" North Korea policy (or even the less hawkish): that North Korea's actions were a bit of intentional muscle-flexing designed to provoke or "test" President Obama. Not that this factor might not have influenced the North Korean military's calculation, but it reverses the lens with which this should be analyzed; the missile testing was likely directed inward at least as much as outward.

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A Tale of Two Uniforms

Manchester United is playing Barcelona in today's UEFA Champions League final. As an American, this does not mean too much to me. But I couldn't pass up noting one thing.

Here's Barca's Uniform

And here's the Man U kit:

So it's the global financial crisis versus the children.  I'll let you guess who we at Dispatch are pulling for today.

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One Way to Deal With Burma

Former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro takes to the pages of the New York Times to urge the Security Council to act on Myanmar: 

The Security Council must establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity and impunity in Myanmar. The Security Council took similar steps with regard to Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The situation in Myanmar is equally as critical.

Creating a commission of inquiry will accomplish three important goals:

First, it will make the junta accountable for its crimes with a potential indictment by the International Criminal Court. Second, it will address the widespread culture of impunity in Burma. Third, it has the potential to deter future crimes against humanity in Myanmar.

No objection here.  Though for the Council to act requires that the key members of the council (namely, the Chinese) at least not veto such action. 

Also, there is precedent for a causative relationship between a Security Council mandated Commission of Inquiry and eventual indictment by the International Criminal Court. In 2005, a Security Council mandated Commission of Inquiry on suspected crimes in Darfur presented its findings to the Security Council.  Three months later, the Council (with China and the United States abstaining) gave the International Criminal Court the jurisdiction to investigate crimes in Darfur.  Four years later, the ICC indicted the Sudanese president.  

Theoretically, this pattern for dealing with recalcitrant human rights abusing  regimes can be repeated.  And why not? General Than Shwe seems like a decent enough candidate for indictment.

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Linked Up: Soccer Diplomacy, Hezbollah’s Reach, Greetings from Chad, and the Korean War

Max Bergmann relays the possibility of the United States engaging in "soccer diplomacy" by scheduling a match with Iran in October or November. Improving relations with Iran would be a plus, but my money is on the Americans taking the game.

Was Hezbollah behind the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri? So asks FP's David Kenner, but he is skeptical of the Der Spiegel report that makes the provocative suggestion -- conveniently just two weeks before Lebanese elections.

Erin Weir, writing from "the most remote place" she has ever visited, explores why humanitarian assistance is so hard to deliver -- and why it will never be enough.

Juliet Lapidos explains for Slate why, technically, we're still at war with North Korea. Well, except, technically, we never really were in the first place.

(image from flickr user TauSo under a Creative Commons license)

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Human Rights Council Faces Big Sri Lanka Test — UPDATED

As Peter notes, the Human Rights Council is meeting to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka.

At the outset of the meeting yesterday, the top UN Human Rights official Navi Pillay called for an independent international investigation into alleged human rights abuses committed by both sides.   For that to happen, however, a simple majority of the 47 member council would have to approve.  Unlike the security council, no country has a veto over this process. 

There is a lot riding on this vote.  Both for the people of Sri Lanka and for the Human Rights Council itself.