Should Investors Fear Global Tensions?

Over the past few months, geopolitical crises seem to have proliferated. First, in March, long-simmering tension between Russia and the Ukraine metastasized to a full-blown crisis after the government of Ukraine was toppled by a popular revolt. That then led to the Russian annexation of Crimea, which was followed by sanctions imposed by the Western states, armed conflict between Russian separatists and the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine, and even more sanctions.

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Much Ado About Dubai

Global markets sank sharply at the end of last week on fears that Dubai World, a subsidiary of the government of Dubai, was on the verge of defaulting on approximately $60 billion of the emirate's $80 billion in total debt held by creditors world-wide. The rush of news stories added to the wildfire of panicky speculation, with headlines ranging from "Dubai Default Risk May be Big US Bank Problem," to "Dubai Shows Limits of Government Rescues."

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The Arabs Are Coming, the Arabs Are Coming

This just in: General Electric and the government of Abu Dhabi announced an $8 billion joint venture for commercial finance in the Middle East. Through Abu Dhabi’s investment arm Mubadala, the emirate will contribute $4 billion and GE the other $4 billion, growing to $40 billion in the coming years, with the aim of supporting various energy and infrastructure projects in the region, including an aggressive plan to sponsor green, clean and sustainable water and energy plants. As part of that, the fund will support several projects in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, a utopian project to build a carbon-neutral city in the desert.

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Enough Already with “The Trouble with Islam”

In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial titled “The Trouble with Islam,” the author regurgitated all of the familiar canards about the inherent backwardness of Islam: that the religion at core promotes violence toward unbelievers and toward women, that the Quran calls for death to the Jews, that all attempts of interfaith dialogue in the West are based on a hopeless naivete and that the violence in Iraq proves that Muslims are prone to violence.

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The Middle East: Lots of Violence, Not Much Economic Reform

Fifty years ago, the world was plunged into crisis when Egypt’s President Gemal Abd al-Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal in an act of defiance against France and England and an assertion of Egyptian independence in the face of the economic and military strength of the West. The resulting Suez crisis saw the humbling of England and France, the isolation of Israel, and the firm determination of U.S President Dwight Eisenhower not to allow the old powers of Europe to retain their hold over their former colonies in the Middle East.

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And on the Other Side of the World....

Dominating the headlines in Asia, this just in from Xinhua on-line, the Reuters of China : “Over 570,000 Evacuated as Saomai Approaches!” Huh? Didn’t they get the memo about Lebanon, Iraq, and the terror plot to destroy airplanes using liquid explosives? Apparently, an approaching hurricane-force storm and its devastating potential is more important than the wars of the western world and the intractable struggle between some Muslims, some Christians and some Jews.

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The Battle Of The Experts

New crises produce new experts. A high-profile trial means that we'll see defense attorneys and prosecutors airing their differences on CNN. An election logjam means we'll hear from political consultants and campaign reporters. The events of September 11 dramatically altered the news agenda. Americans now care about Islam, and a group of scholars has emerged to explain it to them. A Princeton professor talks with Charlie Rose on PBS; a Johns Hopkins academic sits next to Dan Rather during the CBS nightly news; a Georgetown teacher entertains questions on CNN. Since the attacks of September 11, these scholars are in the spotlight, and at stake is not only whether the West can come to terms with Islam, but whether the world can prevent the destruction of suicidal extremism.

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