Daniel W. Drezner

What to be thankful for in 2009

What to be thankful for in 2009

In my experience, American Thanksgiving is the holiday that tends to charm foreigners (as for Canadian Thanksgiving, well, click here).  Large feasts and the giving of thanks for whatever good stuff happened in the past year will tend to have that effect. 

From an international relations or a political economy perspective, however, this has not been the greatest of years.  I worry that America’s soft power might be dented if American hosts fail to come up with good things to be thankful for when hosting their international guests.

Joshua Keating, Tom Ricks and Steve Walt have already posted some things to be thankful for.  Here’s my Top Ten list: 

1)  Obama’s Asia trip went better than expectedMany commentatorsmyself included — have been hard on the Obama administration’s effots in East Asia.  Go click over to James Fallows’ blog, however, and you’ll see his best efforts to persuade you otherwise (start here and work backwards).  I’m completely unconvinced on the trade front, mind you, but I do buy the idea that the trip was a down payment on some long-term policy progress in the region. 

2)  Iran, North Korea and Venezuela are all less popular than they were a year ago.  It’s easy to lose perspective and start thinking "time is running out!" when looking at various rogue regimes.  This does not change the fact that compared to a year ago, each of these countries is more isolated and beleaguered than they were in November 2008.  [UPDATE:  see here.]

3)  We’re moving down the learning curve for pandemics.  H1N1 has been awful, but it hasn’t been that awful.  Hopefully, this means that national and international health officials have learned valuable lessons before H5N1 rears its ugly head. 

4)  Great books about this crash — as opposed to past ones.  We started this year reading about the Great Depression to get a grip on what happened in 2008.  The first crop of Great Recession books are now out, however, and they’re gripping reads. 

5)  The United States will not be breaking apart anytime soon.  I don’t think this prediction by Russian analyst Igor Panarin will be coming to fruition. 

6)  Lou Dobbs is going to have to put up or shut up.  I see that Lou Dobbs is thinking of running for political office.  As a longtime Dobbs loather observer, I think this is a fantastic idea.  The grubbiness of campaigning — and, in all likelihood, losing — is the perfect antidote to craks like Dobbs who misinterpret cable ratings as a sign of political power.  [UPDATE:  Damn, that didn’t take long.]

7)  Good times for children’s films.  As a parent of two children, I solemnly swear that my children’s crop of movies is far and away superior to the dreck I had to watch as a child.  Thank you, Pixar!!!

8)  Salma Hayek appearing on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  Really, the world needs more of this

9)  Blogging has become respectable in international relations.  A serious thank you to the hard-working staff here at Foreign Policy.  By going big on the blog front and inviting serious IR scholars like Stephen Walt, Peter Feaver and Marc Lynch to blog for them, FP has transformed the way my scholarly colleagues think about the blogging enterprise.  Blogging will never be universallly embraced by the academy — but it doesn’t have the stigma it had, say, four years ago. 

10)  Zombies are not walking the earth.  Despite heightened fears of the walking undead, it appears that the living can breathe easier for another year. 

Finally, a heartfelt thank you to all of my readers, for offering their constructive commentary and deconstructing my weakest arguments.

Happy Slapsgiving Thanksgiving!!