.Brian Beedham, foreign editor of The Economist for a quarter of a century, died this week, aged 87 F or nearly all the 25 years leading up to the collapse of communism in 1989, two intellects dominated the pages of The Econ- omist. They were Norman Macrae, as dep- uty editor, and Brian Beedham, as foreign editor. Their marks were influential, endur- ing-and quite different. Norman, who died in 2010, relished iconoclasm, and orig- inal ideas sprang like a fountain from his ef- fervescent mind. Brian, bearded, tweed- jacketed and pipe-smoking (or pipe-pok- ing), held ideas that were more considered. It was he who provided the paper’s atti- tude to the post-war world. In that world, nothing was as important as seeing off communism, which in turn could be achieved only by the unyielding exercise of American strength. This view was not in itself unusual. What made it re- markable, and formidable, were the clarity, elegance and intellectual power with which it was propounded. No issue demanded the exercise of these qualities more than the Vietnam war, and probably none caused Brian more an- guish. A man of great kindness, and with- out a hint of vanity or pretension, he was far from being either a heartless ideologue or a primitive anti-communist (though he never visited either Russia or Vietnam to put his opinions to the test). But his unwa- vering defence of American policy drew criticism from both colleagues and readers. Why did he persist in pounding such a lonely trail, even after it had become clear that the American venture in South-East Asia was doomed? The short answer was conviction. His anti-communism was born of a love affair with America. As a young man, at Leeds Grammar School and Oxford, his politics had been leftish. They might have stayed that way. But in 1955 ambition bore him from the Yorkshire Post to The Economist where, after a few months, he won a Commonwealth Fund fellowship and with it a year study- ing local politics in the South and the West of the United States. In America Brian dis- covered a national ideology based on indi- vidualism, bottom-up democracy and an active belief in liberty that meant pro- blems could be solved at home and na- tions could be freed abroad. This was ex- actly in tune with his own emerging ideas. The dispassionate romantic Coming from drab, class-ridden, 1950s Brit- ain, Brian might have stayed. But he felt in- dubitably British. The Suez crisis was be- ginning just as he left for America in August 1956; he so strongly backed the in- vasion of Egypt that he volunteered his ser- vice to the British military attache in Wash- ington, ready even to give up his new American adventure to fight for this hopeless cause. And though he later became enthusiastic about direct democracy (an en- thusiasm, like that for homeopathic pills, which was fostered by his links with Swit- zerland through Barbara, his wife), he was a monarchist to the end. Suspicious of intellectuals, Brian rel- ished exposing the soft, less-than-rigorous- ly-thought-out (he was fond of hyphens) orthodoxies of the liberal left. As foreign editor, he liked to draw unsparing compar- isons between the Soviet Union and the Nationalist regime in South Africa: to deny freedom on the basis of ideological convic- tions, he argued, was no less objectionable than denying it on the basis of colour. It was no doubt Brian’s command of words that helped to make him our Washington correspondent in 1958 and then, in 1963, foreign editor. In this role he wrote leaders on all manner of topics, often argu- ing a difficult case: for nuclear weapons, say; for supporting Israel (another of his unshakable causes) when sentiment was running otherwise; or indeed for the do- mino theory itself, which was never so ringingly defended. Brian was equally skilled as a sub-edi- tor. Articles that arrived on his desk with no clear beginning, end or theme were turned, apparently effortlessly, into some- thing perfectly sharp and coherent. More annoyingly for authors, articles that were perfectly coherent were sometimes turned with a few tweaks, deft as a paw-dab from one of his beloved cats, into pieces that said something quite different from what had been intended. A statement of fact might be qualified by “it is said” or the American invasion of Cambodia would become a “counter-attack”. These intrusions could be difficult to square with The Economist's tradition of open-mindedness; especially as Brian’s own mind was more contradictory than it seemed. His favourite conversation-part- ners were men like Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Richard Perle, hawkish intervention- ists; but he also had an acquaintance, al- most friendship, with at least one kgb man at the Soviet embassy in the 1980s. Away from work, the world he was analysing weekly was kept at bay. He did not own a television set, and found the best use of computers was to listen to American civil-war songs. Some of his pieces were pounded out on an ancient Ol- ivetti in a turret of Barbara’s family castle in the Alps, surrounded by peaks and clouds. Deep down he was a romantic, capable of great human feeling, whose head con- stantly seemed to remind him to keep a rein on his heart. He wrote sympathetical- ly and perceptively about Islam, and mov- ingly about refugees-especially boat peo- ple, and especially if they were Vietnam- ese. They were making his point for him....The Economist May l6th 2015

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Friday, November 30, 2018
 
A Onetime White House and Wall Street Darling, Argentina Feels Jilted by Bolsonaro Buzz


On the night of the Brazilian election, Argentine President Mauricio Macri sent well wishes to the president-elect. “Congratulations to Jair Bolsonaro for your win in Brazil!” he tweeted. “I hope we will work together soon for the relationship between our countries and the wellbeing of Argentines and Brazilians.” Later, Mr. Macri called his future counterpart and invited him to visit Argentina.

Despite that outreach, Mr. Bolsonaro broke with tradition and decided that his first foreign visit as president-elect would be to Chile, not Argentina. “Chile is the great Latin American model,” he explained. “It has a good education system, it develops technologies and it trades with the whole world.” Brazil’s future finance minister, Paulo Guedes, was even more blunt. “Argentina is not a priority,” he said.

Though Mr. Guedes later apologized, his insult heighted the sense of unease in Buenos Aires over the implications of Mr. Bolsonaro’s unexpected political rise.

Even before the Brazilian election, Argentina had faced an uncertain political and economic future heading into next year’s election. It is suffering its worst recession since 2001, and Mr. Macri’s decision to solicit International Monetary Fund assistance undermined his strategy to balance the budget gradually and at minimal political and social cost. Low growth, high inflation and spending cuts have cut into the president’s popularity and robbed him of his political capital. Though lawmakers recently approved his proposed budget for 2019, Mr. Macri’s legislative agenda has otherwise ground to a halt, including labor reform.

Now, enthusiasm for Mr. Bolsonaro’s promised reforms is making Argentine authorities even more anxious. The South American neighbors like to portray themselves as partners, they are also rivals, and not only on the soccer field. The two giants compete for geopolitical influence, export markets and foreign investment. For these reasons, some in Argentina feel pressured by Mr. Bolsonaro’s commitment to deepen the reforms of Brazil’s outgoing Temer administration.

Mr. Bolsonaro, a hard-right nationalist, has drawn scorn from international human rights organizations for his troubling comments about minority groups, and his nostalgia for Brazil’s dictatorship. But he has earned cautious optimism from investors; his October election led to a rally for the Brazilian currency and stock market. One reason for this enthusiasm is Mr. Guedes, the University of Chicago-trained economist who will serve as a Domingo Cavallo-style super minister, and who has been an outspoken proponent of deficit reductionpension reform; and opening Brazil’s notoriously closed economy. Mr. Bolsonaro also plans to name apro-privatization economist to run Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, and to demote Brazil’s once powerful labor ministry to a secretariat, likely under Mr. Guedes’s supervision. Investors hope the reforms, including tax cuts, will strengthen Brazil’s fragile recovery from its deep recession in 2014.

There are doubts about how much Mr. Bolsonaro can accomplish without a congressional majority. Moreover, if Mr. Bolsonaro manages to eliminate Brazil’s deficit in two years, Brazil likely will experience another recession, which could sap support for his administration. Still, for Argentina, the prospect of substantial economic reforms in Brazil, a far larger market, is nerve-racking. Should Brazil falter, it would reduce demand for Argentine goods in Argentina’s largest export market. Should Brazil succeed, it could divert foreign investment, and highlight Mr. Macri’s failure to reform Argentina’s protectionist and anti-competitive labor and industrial policies.

On trade, Mr. Bolsonaro’s skepticism about Mercosur – his team hascriticized the bloc as a “hindrance to free trade” – could bolster Mr. Macri’s efforts to promote free trade agreements between Mercosur and its partners, such as the European Union. But it could also lead Mr. Bolsonaro to abandon the bloc and implement unilateral reductions in tariffs that would deeply harm Argentine competitiveness in the Brazilian market. Argentina could stand to lose even more if Brazil revisits the Argentine-Brazilian auto pact, which was recently renegotiatedThe economic relationship between Argentina and Brazil depends a great deal upon goodwill between the two countries’ presidents.

The new Brazilian government also threatens to diminish Argentina’s geopolitical clout. Mr.  Bolsonaro’s admiration for Mr. Trump has clearly won over the National Security Council. John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, dedicated much of his November 2 Latin America speech to attacking the governments in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. But he paused to celebrate the election of Mr. Bolsonaro, whom he called a “likeminded” leader. Mr. Bolton also mentioned the U.S. partnership with Argentina, but his embrace of Brazil led one Argentine analyst, Francisco de Santibañes, from the Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI), to lament that, “Buenos Aires will not be able to receive the same kind of privileged treatment it has received so far.”

Mr. Bolsonaro’s election was hardly the first external development to threaten Mr. Macri’s reform agenda.

When Mr. Macri was elected in 2015, the liberal international order seemed secure, cradled by internationalists such as Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Justin Trudeau. As Mr. Macri sought to reintegrate Argentina into the international community, both politically and economically, the world seemed to be moving in the same direction. For a time, the outside world rewarded Mr. Macri. Mr. Obama visited Buenos Aires in 2016, and investors followed closely behind, lending the billions of dollars necessary to permit a gradual reduction in public spending. (In all, Argentina’s government borrowed $161 billion in its first two years in office, including through a 100-year bond issued last year.)

But in time, the global environment turned hostile. Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 U.S. election to a trade skeptic, whose protectionist policies shut out Argentine biodiesel – its top export to the United States – from the U.S. market. Meanwhile, rising interest rates increased concerns about Argentina’s budget deficit and its pile of dollar-denominated debt, leading to capital flight earlier this year and a rapid peso devaluation.

So far, Mr. Macri’s government has survived this tumult, though not without a few bruises.

Significantly, he has preserved the close relationship with the United States that he established under Mr. Obama. That was not as simple as it seems. Beyond the policy disagreements with the Trump administration – ranging from commerce to climate – there was also bad blood. Most analysts assumed Mr. Macri and Mr. Trump, as businessmen turned politicians, would be simpatico. But in fact, the Macri and Trump families had once competed bitterly over a New York City real estate deal in the 1980s. Nevertheless. Mr. Macri and Mr. Trump appear to get along personally. Mr. Trump, for example, has been a vocal supporter of Argentina, backing the IMF bailout and Argentina’s membership in the OECD.

Now, as Argentina awaits the January 1 inauguration of another populist outsider, this time in Brazil, it remains to be seen how the Argentine government will manage its latest international surprise.

For more analysis on the potential impacts of Jair Bolsonaro’s election for Latin America, read our piece in World Politics Review, “If Brazil Elects Bolsonaro, Venezuela’s Migration Crisis Will Get Even Worse.”


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