For the last two decades, U.S. administrations have come in like a lion and out like a lamb with their policies on North Korea. Determined to demonstrate Washington's resolve, U.S. presidents have played hardball with Pyongyang in an effort to precipitate regime change or at least bully the intransigent country into knuckling under.
It's not the topic of George Packer's latest essay that's particularly surprising. Inequality, he writes, is undermining democracy. Progressives have been hammering home this message for years if not decades.
President Barack Obama intended to use the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting last weekend in Hawai'i to signal a shift in U.S. foreign policy away from the Middle East and toward the Asia-Pacific region.
The South Korean government has been campaigning to have its southern island of Jeju recognised as one of the seven new wonders of nature. A favourite honeymoon spot in Asia and an official "island of peace", Jeju already boasts several UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites.
The United States and South Korea maintain a close military alliance. Congress just passed a free trade agreement that will boost economic ties with Seoul. And the leaders of the two countries form a small but very powerful mutual admiration society, which The New York Times has termed a "presidential man-crush".
Peace has never been a particularly popular word in Washington, DC. This is, after all, the home of the Pentagon and the major military contractors, not to mention all the think tanks and congressional lapdogs that lie in the king- size family bed with them.
Osama bin Laden didn't live to see the 10th anniversary of Sep. 11. And his organisation, according to many U.S. government insiders, is on its last legs since his death at the hands of U.S. Special Forces in May. "We're within reach of strategically defeating Al-Qaeda," Defence Secretary Leon Panetta recently observed. Others disagree, pointing to the strength of Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
We make a bargain with our governments. We pay taxes and expect a set of government services in return. And in return for a guarantee of some measure of security, we grant the government a monopoly on legitimate violence.
Lady Gaga and Alice Walker don't have much in common. One dresses in red meat; the other doesn't even eat the stuff. One writes lyrics like "I want your ugly, I want your disease, I want your everything as long as it's free." The other writes "The Color Purple".
They were both responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in causes they believed were righteous. They both occupied top spots on the World's Most Wanted list. They were both the subject of raids that were years in the making and required extensive intelligence work.
If the Obama administration needed a rogue nation to demonstrate its foreign policy resolve, central casting couldn't have supplied a better candidate than North Korea. The government in Pyongyang routinely promises to unleash destruction of biblical proportions on its enemies. It has pulled out of international agreements, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It has sentenced two U.S. journalists to 12 years of hard labour on the charge of violating its borders. And after conducting two nuclear tests, it now declares itself a nuclear power.
Although it concluded more than 60 years ago, the Tokyo War Crimes Trial is still a live issue today - in Japan as in the world at large.
Japan has entered a season of grand strategising. Government commissions, business associations, leading foundations, and academic working groups are all developing blueprints for a new, 21st-century Japanese role in the world.
George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001 with the least foreign policy experience and the most modest foreign policy programme of any modern U.S. president.