The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Week in Review

Asia’s Game of Thrones went nuclear this week as Japan prepared to reopen a facility capable of producing enough weapons-grade plutonium for 2,000 nuclear weapons in a single year. Abe and Putin made modest overtures towards warming relations, likely driven by a mutual interest in balancing China’s influence in the region. For its part, China continued to exacerbate tensions in the South China Sea, sending a cruise ship out to the disputed Paracel Islands. But China wasn’t just peddling its influence in the Pacific; Beijing has taken an interest in the Caribbean, taking advantage of a White House whose focus has been on far-off places.

Places like Egypt, where things are going from bad to worse: armed robberies are up twelvefold over last year, and homicides have tripled. Or Syria, where American foreign policy seems to be to dither fecklessly until it’s too late. Or Iran, where better, badder bunker-buster bombs are ratcheting up the pressure on Tehran.

In Europe, Italy’s new PM Enrico Letta challenged the EU, promising tax cuts and increased government spending while rejecting austerity. He went even further, essentially telling Berlin: all your money are belong to us. Challenging the EU is getting popular in Europe; the UK’s anti-EU party made huge gains in recent elections. And while the UK ponders EU membership, Scotland is considering leaving the UK. Our advice: stay together for the kids.

The US shale boom got a huge boost this week after the USGS reported that the Dakotas have twice the recoverable shale oil and three times the shale gas than previously thought. But while shale got good news, ethanol was dealt another blow as an Indiana ethanol processing plant was sold for scrap. Young people looking for work in the energy industry might want to stay away from America’s biofuel boondoggle and hop on the shale bandwagon. But shale isn’t just employing people and providing cheap natural gas, it’s also reducing US emissions, something Europe has only been able to imitate with an economic disaster.

We learned this week that the biggest danger during your time as a patient is when your doctor is talking to you. Humans tend to make more mistakes than machines, which is why the accidental Apple health care revolution is so exciting. And on Wednesday, pundits of every size, shape, and color were proven right by a new Medicaid study out of Oregon.

Higher ed continues to struggle with higher costs and dimmer job prospects for its graduates. In a recent survey just 65 percent of college presidents thought it was “very important” that their graduates find a job. College professors are blocking the rise of MOOCs, opting to preserve their interests (and jobs) instead of embracing this disruptive new method of learning that has the potential to keep spiraling costs of college down. College faculty and staff both need to focus on improving the quality of higher ed while keeping costs down. Oh—and getting their graduates employed.

Published on May 5, 2013 5:30 pm