(Not Quite) 101 Things Sarah Palin Should Know About the World

Reza Aslan, Parag Khanna, Christopher Hitchens, Andrew Bacevich, and many more sharp minds offer unsolicited advice—some serious, some less so—for the woman vying to become a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan

Iran is not al Qaeda. Al Qaeda is not Hamas. Hamas is not Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not the Taliban …

Author of No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (New York: Random House, 2005)

Parag Khanna

To understand the Russia that you can see from your backyard (as Tina Fey memorably put it), learn Chinese. The Russian Far East that is Americas neighbor might in the coming decades have a larger Chinese than Russian population as they populate and farm in the thawing Siberian countryside.

Senior research fellow in the American Strategy Program and director of the Global Governance Initiative at the New America Foundation, and author of The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order (New York: Random House, 2008)

William Easterly

Moscow is on the opposite side of Russia, 4,365 miles away from Anchorage, Alaska. Sarah Palin would have stronger foreign-policy credentials if she were the governor of Ryazan province.

In unbelievably sharp contrast to Alaska, most oil-rich states around the world are very corrupt and often commit other ethics violations.

Professor of economics at New York University and author of The White Mans Burden: Why the Wests Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (New York: Penguin Press, 2006)

Col. Andrew J. Bacevich (Ret.)

In her debate with Sen. Joe Biden, Governor Palin described her worldview this way: America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill. … [W]e represent a perfect ideal. She needs to know that this self-image is not peculiar to Americans. The people of France and Russia, China and Iran, and any number of other nations are no less persuaded that their country and their values stand out as distinctive and special.

Professor of international relations at Boston University and author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008)

Steven Pinker

In many dangerous situations, the goal of a leader should not be to win, but to figure out how to get out of the game. During the Cuban missile crisis, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, drawing on their knowledge and memories of the two world wars, explicitly realized this. Each one blinked, making concessions that saved the world.

Harvard College professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (New York: Viking, 2007)

Susan Glasser

Not all global bad guys are anti-American. Far beyond Iran and North Korea, there are plenty of dictators, thugs, and generally authoritarian leaders (think Egypt, Azerbaijan, or Saudi Arabia for that matter) who pursue broadly pro-U.S. policies.

Executive editor of FOREIGN POLICY and coauthor of Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putins Russia and the End of Revolution (New York: Simon Schuster, 2005)

Christopher Hitchens

It is high time to ask her directly, in respect of the world that is also known as the Earth, exactly how old she thinks it is. Much depends on her answer.

Public intellectual and author of God Is Not Great (New York: Twelve, 2007)

Peter Singer

Every day, according to UNICEF, there are 27,000 moms who, instead of driving their kids to play soccer, watch their children die from preventable diseases such as measles, malaria, diarrhea, and pneumoniadiseases that dont exist in developed countries, or if they do, are easily cured and almost never fatal. We could help these mothers and their children. Yetfew Americans know this, and so Palin might not eitherin proportion to its gross national income, the United States gives less foreign aid than every other OECD country except Greece.

Ira W. DeCamp professor of bioethics at the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University

Steven A. Cook

The Nile flows south to north.

There is a broad spectrum of Islamist movements: from those who believe they are engaged in a cosmic struggle with the West, to those who use violence for nationalist political goals, to those who seek constitutionalist, nonviolent means of transforming their societies.

Senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations

Moiss Nam

Not all leftist governments in Latin America are leftist.

Power in the world is diffusing, not concentrating.

Editor in chief of FOREIGN POLICY and author of Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy (New York: Doubleday, 2005)

Linda Bilmes

I would advise Governor Palinand other politiciansto understand orders of magnitude.

A simple way to imagine it:
If you stack $1 million in thousand-dollar bills, it will be 4 inches high.
One billion in thousand-dollar bills equals 330 feeta little higher than the Capitol dome.
One trillion is 65 miles high. The U.S. national debt is in the trillions.

Lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and coauthor of The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008)

Jiri Pehe

Nonproliferation treaties are not about birth control.

Director, New York University in Prague

Susan Moeller

Strong, effective, independent media are your allies around the world, not your enemies. The health of a civil society is better measured by how free and robust the media sector is than by whether there are elections. There are a lot of elected dictatorships.

Director of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland

Alex de Waal

Chad is the name of a country in central Africa as well as her sons buddy.

There have been more homicides per capita in her would-be home of Washington, D.C., so far this year than in Darfur.

Fellow of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and program director at the Social Science Research Council

Sung-Yoon Lee

Kim Jong Il never served a day in the military, but his people address and refer to him reverently as general.

Trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nukes through negotiations is a bit like trying to capture a black bear with a mouse trap; the intention might be earnest, but the application is thoroughly misplaced.

Adjunct assistant professor of international politics at Tufts Universitys Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and translator for Kim Hyun Siks The Secret History of Kim Jong Il in the September/October issue of FP

Peter Baker

Turkey is not the same country as Turkmenistan. Yes, they are both predominantly Muslim countries. But Turkey is a NATO ally struggling with its secularity and anxious to join the European Union, while Turkmenistan is a former Soviet republic run until not long ago by the worlds most megalomaniacal dictator (he renamed the months after himself and his family).

Reporter with the New York Times and coauthor of Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putins Russia and the End of Revolution (New York: Simon Schuster, 2005)

G. Pascal Zachary

Although the Bush administration has concentrated on Christian-inspired humanitarian aid and militarized social work in Africa, the new administration ought to pay much more attention to Africas dynamic cities and economies, as they are growing faster than most parts of the world.

Freelance journalist

Joshua Keating

Undemocratic Vladimir Putin would win hands down in a fair election. His approval ratings hover around 80 percent.

The majority of the Toyotas on the U.S. market were built in the United States.

Its Ukraine, not the Ukraine. Same for Sudan.

Real Americans dont play hockey. Its a sport for Canadians and communists.

Editorial assistant, FOREIGN POLICY

Robert L. Strauss

The word plenipotentiary does not refer to someone who necessarily has difficulty controlling his Viagra habit.

Management consultant in Madagascar and author of Think Again: The Peace Corps

William F. Schulz

Whats good for the goose is good for the gander. If the United States expects to be a human rights leader around the world, it has to abide by human rights standards here at home.

According to the great scholar of comparative religion, Huston Smith, The definition of a holy war in Islam is virtually identical with that of a just war in Christianity (Huston Smith, The Worlds Religions, New York: HarperCollins, 1991, p. 237). Neither faith has a monopoly on practitioners who ignore its sacred tenets.

Senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former head of Amnesty International USA

Nathan Brown

When Sen. John McCain proclaimed in August, we are all Georgians, he meant no disrespect to the other 49 states.

In the Middle East, Americas room for maneuver has generally been hampered by resentment of U.S. policies and suspicions of U.S. intentionseven on the part of its friends. The incoming administration, however, will have to deal with a new challenge: a feeling that the United States is simply a spent force in regional affairs.

Nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

K. Anthony Appiah

Americas real power is soft power.

Laurance S. Rockefeller university professor of philosophy at the Center for Human Values at Princeton University

Shuja Nawaz

Read some history and never EVER follow Henry Kissingers advice about relying on dictators as friends of the United States. Dictators tend to fall as soon as America pronounces their regimes an island of calm in a sea of instability. We then lose the faith and friendship of their people for decades to come!

Author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Justin Logan

Deterrence is not the same thing as compellence. Although it is easy for a big, powerful country like the United States to deter foreign countries from threatening its core interests, it is terribly difficult for Washington to compel foreign countries to govern themselves in accordance with American desires.

Type 1 errors can be equally dangerous as Type 2 errors, even in foreign policy. The potential costs of false positives (i.e., doing something where there is no cause) should be weighed the same way as the potential costs of false negatives (doing nothing where there is cause).

Associate director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute

Wayne White

A withdrawal from Iraq, allowing for adjustments in response to changes in the situation on the ground, accepted by the president of the United States at the request of the government of Iraq, would not be a white flag of surrender. In Diplomacy 101, its called accepting the will of a sovereign foreign government (and one we helped put in power).

Adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute and head of the State Departments Iraq intelligence team from 2003 to 2005

Farhana Ali

Iran is run by mullahs, not madmen like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Pakistan is a country with fundamentalists, fanatics, and fashion models. It is a mix of modernity and mania.

International policy analyst at the Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization

Victoria Samson

Neither Iran nor North Korea has ballistic missiles that can reach the United States. Whats the hurry to deploy unproven missile defense systems?

Senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information

Jalal Alamgir

The worlds a much more complex place than just the good guys vs. the bad guys. Theres a lot of gray, both about us and them, that you will need to look into before making foreign-policy judgments.

Assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston

Kavita N. Ramdas

Governor Palin, as someone who claims to be concerned about women and children worldwide, should know that women and children represent between 70 and 75 percent of civilian casualties in war and 80 percent of the worlds refugees.

More than 500,000 women die each year due to childbirth or related causes. More than 5,000 women die each year in what are euphemistically termed honor killings.

President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women

Daniel Mitchell

Contrary to what Senator Biden said during the debate, the United States has spent far more in Afghanistan since 2001 than it spends in Iraq each month. Your job is to decide whether its worth the cost.

Tax expert and senior fellow at the Cato Institute

Idean Salehyan

Climate change will fall especially hard on developing countries, even though industrialized nations largely created the problem. Helping poor countries adapt and meet the challenge is not only the right thing to do, its also smart policy.

The correct pronunciation of Iran is ee-ran, with a soft i as in irritant.

Assistant professor of political science at the University of North Texas

Steve Tsang

The Republic of China is not China, but the United States loyal friend, Taiwan.

Louis Cha fellow in modern Chinese studies and reader in politics at St. Antonys College, Oxford University

Emile Hokayem

The Middle East is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse regions on Earth. Learn these nuances early in your tenure and never (ever) mistake a Sunni for a Shiite, an Arab for a Kurd, or a Maronite for a Chaldean.

Talk to Arabs who dress, speak, and think like Westerners, but understand that they represent a tiny minority with decreasing influence at home.

Political editor, The National, Abu Dhabi

David Shorr

Gen. David Petraeus hasnt actually endorsed your ticket. If we get technical about it, unfortunately he really cant. In our system, the political process is supposed to give the orders to the military, rather than the other way around.

Program officer in policy analysis and dialogue at the Stanley Foundation

Raj Kumar

Diseases dont respect borders. Thats why all health issues are global.

Forget trade not aid. Today its trade and aid.

Africa is not a country; its an entire continent. And China is winning there.

President of the Development Executive Group

Riad al-Khouri

The kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan are both named Abdullah.

So as not to make a huge gaffe along the lines of King Abdullah of Jordan has promised to supply America with 20 million barrels of free oil daily to help stave off economic collapse or King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is sending his young Queen Rania shopping in Manhattan to help stave of economic collapse, remember that the Jordanian monarch is Abdullah II (pronounced the second and not aye aye) while the Saudi ruler is just plain Abdullah.

You should therefore, for example, say, King Abdullah II has promised to put in a good word for us with the Syrians in exchange for the quintupling of U.S. aid to Jordan or King Abdullah has agreed to lift the ban on women drivers in exchange for posting the entire Alaskan National Guard permanently on his countrys border with Iraq.

Economist specializing in the Middle East and North Africa

Benjamin Friedman

Politicians like your running mate claim the world is an increasingly dangerous place. The data says otherwise. According to academic studies, deaths from war have been declining for 50 years. The incidence of war has been declining rapidly since 1992. Deaths from terrorism have been declining since 2001. The number of genocides has been in decline since the 1980s.

Research fellow at the Cato Institute

Hugh Gusterson

Theres no such thing as ungoverned areas, just differently governed areas. And when you intervene based on a false premise, you dont get the result you want.

Professor of anthropology at George Mason University

Reidar Visser

Iraq should not be partitioned. Period. Thats both wise and very easy to remember!

Iraq analyst and editor of historiae.org

Lilia Shevtsova

The new administration has to find a balance between realism and idealism and find ways to create a benevolent environment for Russias transformation without turning to lecturing and preaching. Accepting Russia as it is will only persuade the Russian hawks to continue their macho politics.

Senior associate at the Carnegie Moscow Center

Andrew Keen

The world is simultaneously as round as a soccer ball and as flat as a pancake, but shouldnt be either kicked or eaten.

Author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Todays Internet Is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy (New York: Doubleday, 2007)

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