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Manuel Garcia-Hernandez — Treasure Hunting in the 21st Century


From Manuel Garcia-Hernandez via the Huffington Post:

A centuries-old shipwreck may cause Spain to sacrifice future recoveries and reopen colonial wounds.

On October 5, 1804, Spanish navy captain José Bustamante probably frowned when he looked through his telescope and discovered the Union Jack waving at the top of the mast approaching his frigate, off Cape St. Mary near Gibraltar. After overcoming illnesses, storms and attacks from pirates during five long weeks, the Spanish fleet that was bringing a cargo of gold, silver and other valuable goods from South America, was just 180 kilometers away from its final destination in Cadiz. But they never got to enter the safe waters of the Andalusian port.

A fierce attack from the British Navy commanded by Commodore Graham Moore was lethal for the four Spanish frigates. Three of them were conducted to Great Britain after Captain Bustamante surrendered. The fourth one, the frigate Santa María de las Mercedes was heavily bombed by the British guns and sank, filled with gold and silver coins, and 254 human lives.

The treasure has lain on the ocean floor for over two centuries. On May 18, 2007 the Tampa-based company Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. announced that it had recovered 17 tons of coins, mostly silver, off the Portuguese coast. It was the most valuable finding from a single shipwreck in history, the company said. A few days later, Odyssey showed some of the coins to the media. The Spanish Government immediately recognized the effigy of King Carlos IV and, matching the archive of vessels sunk, soon concluded that the treasure discovered by Odyssey belonged to Las Mercedes’ shipwreck, which contained over one million coins from Peru shipped from the port of Montevideo in 1804.

A new battle began. It is a battle that has lasted almost five years, where diplomacy and the legal arguments have replaced shotguns; a battle undertaken not in the fierce waters of the Atlantic Ocean but in the quiet halls of the American Courts.

Read more . . . .


Manuel Garcia-Hernandez has been an adviser to the Spanish Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade. He is completing his Master’s of Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Will the Next Celebrity Scientist Please Stand Up?


By Todd Schweitzer

Earlier this month President Obama shot a marshmallow out of an air cannon, splattering the wallpaper of the elegant State Dining Room. The device was built by Joey Hudy, an eighth grader with Asperger’s syndrome who was invited to the president’s second annual celebration of the country’s young scientists.

The White House Science Fair, which also featured school-age robot-builders, budding marine biologists, and the teenage inventor of a dissolvable sugar packet, garnered a bit of media attention on a slow news day, and the marshmallow gun video went viral on YouTube.

Not bad. But compare that to two days earlier, when 166.8 million people tuned in to watch Super Bowl XLVI.

The Big Game is emblematic of our nation’s hero-worship of professional athletes. Kids want to grow up to be them, young adults want to hang out with them, and older adults fantasize that with a little more practice they could have made it, too. They are also paid like heroes: the two starting quarterbacks earned more than $26 million in salaries last year, not including the millions in sponsorships and endorsements.

When was the last time we celebrated our scientists to a similar degree?

It might sound a bit far-fetched to suggest that we fete men and women in lab coats with the same degree of passion and enthusiasm as we celebrate a Tom Brady or an Eli Manning. But the truth is that our country desperately needs more experts in science, technology, engineering and math.

The American economy increasingly depends on high-value goods and services. Low tech is old news in the U.S., and the new knowledge-based industries, such as biotechnology and high-tech manufacturing, require more scientists and engineers than ever before. The National Science Foundation points out that American companies are hiring more R&D personnel — but 85 percent of the new hires are foreigners in labs outside the United States.

Moreover, the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in math and science education, putting us at risk for a long-term economic slowdown. For more than a decade, our K-12 math and science scores have remained below those of nations such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and others. U.S. students’ math scores have the dubious honor of placing 25th among the 34 industrialized countries of the world, despite the U.S. spending the world’s seventh-highest amount of money per student. As other nations build top-notch science universities and encourage their youth to pursue math and science, they become better positioned to compete in the knowledge economy. Today, Shanghai’s middle schoolers outperform ours in every subject.

America’s scientists and engineers are critical to our entrepreneurial culture. Small businesses in the U.S. produce more than half the nation’s GDP, and employ almost half our private workforce. We depend on entrepreneurial hubs like Silicon Valley and Cambridge to create new products, new industries, and new jobs. For instance, a recent Kauffman Foundation report notes that MIT alumni have founded more than 25,000 currently active companies, employing 3.3 million people. We must recognize that entrepreneurism today relies on the quality (and quantity) of our scientists and engineers. In the 21st-century economy, a successful venture will almost always require technological innovation. Without our scientists and engineers, the well of entrepreneurial talent will quickly dry up.

We also need to make a cultural shift. We need to make science cool again. We need to celebrate our experts, so that eager young scientists pursue their interests, established researchers continue innovating, and the United States remains competitive in the global economy.

At the White House Science Fair, President Obama went off-script to make a special plea to the press corps: “This is the kind of stuff … that’s going to make a bigger difference in the life of our country over the long term than just about anything. And it doesn’t belong just on the back pages of a newspaper; we’ve got to lift this up.”

When I was in middle school, Bill Nye the Science Guy was my favorite show on television. It was funny and fascinating, and it connected kids my age with scientific concepts in a way that had never been done before. From watching his show I became eager to tinker with home chemistry sets, compete in science fairs, and engage in science classes. But Bill Nye was alone in the world of celebrity scientists. Despite his show being discontinued years ago, Nye was the featured guest at the White House Science Fair last week — a telling indication of today’s dearth of celebrity scientists and engineers. For young Americans looking for high-profile inventors and researchers, there are few to be found.

We need to celebrate our scientific high achievers. School science fairs should be tremendous events that excite students. Regional and national science fairs should be broadcasted, publicized, and covered in the media. And we need to find and commend role models in science, engineering, and math, whom young Americans can aspire to be like.

Imagine the impact on our economy if we praised our scientists and engineers like we do our athletes. Young thinkers like Joey Hudy represent the next generation of American innovators, inventors, and problem solvers. They should be encouraged to continue their scientific pursuits, and we owe them our support and praise.

Todd Schweitzer won first place in his sixth-grade science fair and is now a Master in Public Policy candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. HKS Democrats leadership reviews and approves all op-eds that appear in this space.


Who’s got mail?


Bailing out small businesses is Congress’ job, but getting Congress there is ours.

Clarissa Quintanilla


“The government should just write everyone a $1 million check.” That is what small business owner Edwin Martinez thinks. Any small business owner would be pleased to find a $1 million bailout check from the federal government in their mailbox but the reality is that those mailboxes are likely to remain empty under the stimulus plan. So who is bailing out small businesses?


Apparently no one. With the recession in full furor, small businesses are sinking under the weight of high health care costs, a disproportionate regulatory burden, and tight credit markets. Congress can help rescue small businesses through the Economic Recovery Plan by unclogging secondary markets for securities backed by small business loans, instituting a health care tax credit and streamlining regulation.


Small businesses – those employing less than 500 people – are the backbone of our local, regional and national economies. Think about what your life would be like in Egleston Square without the chocolate-filled croissants from Canto 6, a night out with friends at The Old Stag, or Skippy White’s funky music. Our daily lives depend on dozens of small businesses and their ability to provide goods and services, contribute to gross domestic product (GDP) and create jobs.


In terms of the sheer number of business entities, the United States’ private sector is 99.9% small businesses. All of these small businesses contribute fifty percent of nonfarm GDP. They also employ more than half of the 116 million private sector workers. Small businesses’ ability to create jobs is even more impressive. In 2005, small businesses created 79% of net new jobs, while large businesses only created 21%. Main Street’s cumulative contribution to our economy is significant.

Yet Wall Street – not Main Street – is receiving the brunt of bail out money in the Economic Recovery Plan. And it is not because small businesses are in less trouble than large businesses. Decreasing personal consumption, tight credit markets, unbearable health care costs and a heavy regulatory burden are also strangling small businesses.

Capital for loans to small businesses has dried up. Although large banks have loaned billions of dollars in the last few months, this lending has not met the current demand for credit. Primary bank lenders, who make loans to small businesses, are stuck with these loans on their balance sheets.  

Small businesses also find it harder than large businesses to contain insurance costs because small businesses face higher administrative costs, have less bargaining power and fewer options to pool. According to a RAND Corporation study, health insurance costs for small businesses rose by 30% from 2000 to 2005.

The regulatory burden on small businesses is lopsided with small businesses disproportionately bearing the $1.1 trillion of federal regulation costs. An SBA study found that small businesses incur 45% more in regulatory costs then large firms. Although individual pieces of regulation may not represent a significant burden to a small business, regulation can impose a significant burden cumulatively.

Nothing less than survival is at stake for small businesses—and without their survival our lifestyles too will change for the worse. Half of the United States’ GDP would vanish and 59 million people would be unemployed. But it is not too late yet. Congress can still help small businesses through the Economic Recovery Plan by loosening credit markets, reforming health care and streamlining regulation.

The federal government can loosen credit markets in the short term by making the secondary market for securities more liquid. To do so, the government must purchase the securities that are currently clogging the system. As banks unload these loans from their balance sheets, they will free up new capital for small business loans.

The federal government must also help small businesses provide quality health insurance to their employees by instituting a health care tax credit. The tax credit will subsidize the premiums small businesses pay – up to a predetermined percent – to insure their employees.

Finally, state and federal governments can streamline regulation by conducting a comprehensive review to identify and change rules that are ineffective or out of date. These periodic reviews, along with improvement of the approval process for new regulation, will go a long way in reducing the regulatory burden on small businesses.  

During trying times, it is tempting to turn our attention inward to weather the storm. However, our individual lives are inextricably linked to the success or failure of small businesses. Let your representative know how important it is to you that Congress loosens credit markets, reforms health care and eases the regulatory burden on small businesses. Getting started is easy at There you can sign our national petition, download a sample letter, and find out who your representatives are. 


Even though Edwin’s mailbox may remain empty, make sure your Congress member’s does not.


Clarissa Quintanilla, a joint-degree student at the Harvard Kennedy and Business schools, worked with small businesses as executive director of a Boston non-profit. 

Making “never again” a reality


Making “never again” a reality

Emerging powers like China and Russia can be persuaded to protect civilians in conflicts – but only if they believe that intervention is in their self-interest

By Adam Cooper

When the next Darfur, Rwanda, or Bosnia takes place, the fate of civilians won’t depend on armies in green or warlords seeing red. It will rest with the men in grey suits who gather on 1st Avenue in New York. In the backrooms of the United Nations, diplomats from the great powers will gather, wring their hands, and ask themselves: what should the international community do when a state massacres its own citizens?

Two groups of countries will huddle together in separate corners of those carpeted rooms to answer this question very differently. The emerging powers led by China and Russia will proclaim the principle of sovereignty and non-interference, which often means turning a blind eye to conflict. If we’re lucky, the voices from London and Washington will demand that we have a “responsibility to protect” those whose lives are at stake.

This debate sounds conceptual but matters enormously. Take Darfur as an example. For four years government-backed militias have waged a scorched-earth campaign, burning villages and raping those who try to escape. Some have labelled the conflict genocide. But China, concerned more about its oil investments than the fate of these civilians, has protected the Sudanese government in the UN Security Council and blocked any real intervention: two million forced from their homes and 300,000 dead is, we’re told, a country’s “internal affairs”.

Worryingly, this Chinese view is shared by most emerging powers, including large and influential democracies like India, South Africa, and Indonesia. To them, intervention led by the West smacks of the colonialism whose yoke they broke. More importantly, they see humanitarianism as a luxury they literally cannot afford – and so they resist anything that might damage their own economic interests, even when lives are at stake.

We in the West are finding it hard to counter this logic. A recent report from the European Council on Foreign Relations, a Brussels-based liberal think-tank, makes for depressing reading. The Council analyzed voting patterns in the UN General Assembly to show that China and Russia enjoy the support of three quarters of UN members in downplaying humanitarian and human rights issues.

Of course the West doesn’t always occupy the moral high ground in the debate on intervention: the Iraq war and our inaction in Rwanda have shown that clearly enough. But we have domestic constituencies that genuinely care about the plight of others and are skilled at making our governments act, elevating humanitarian and moral concerns on the foreign policy agenda. The same can’t be said of China and Russia.

So how can we change their minds?

Firstly we need to put our own house in order. When we lose the moral high ground – in Iraq, Gaza, or Afghanistan – we give them one more excuse not to do the right thing.

Then we need to be clear about we’re talking about. It’s not “send in the troops” whenever there’s a crisis. The point of the “responsibility to protect” is that preventive and diplomatic action should be used to resolve conflict, with military intervention to be used only as a last resort. Last year’s power-sharing negotiations in Kenya led by Kofi Annan that ended the post-election violence there shows how effective this approach can be.

Certainly shrill denunciation alone won’t do. Rather than rely on moral arguments, the real task is to persuade countries that it is in their own interest to prevent and resolve conflict through forceful diplomacy. We must convince emerging powers that the cost of turning a blind eye to genocide or crimes against humanity is higher than the business they may lose.

This case can be made. Reputational damage aside, China has lost out economically by letting the conflict in Darfur fester: they face a large bill for UN peacekeeping operations and the conflict has put its supply of oil at risk. The costs of inaction are equally clear elsewhere: South Africa’s reluctance to force Robert Mugabe to concede power has caused millions of Zimbabwean refugees to stream across into their country.

So when the next crisis rolls around, we must appeal to the minds of leaders in Beijing, Moscow, and Johannesburg, more than their hearts. The fate of victims of future conflicts depends on it.

Afghanistan needs security, stability and an exit strategy


Published: 3/5/2009  2:26 AM
Last Modified: 3/5/2009  3:31 AM

Recently a friend of mine returned home safely from Afghanistan, while six other soldiers were killed in action — one of whom was a friend of mine, too. With such conflicting feelings and having just marked one year since my return from Iraq, I’ve been thinking about our strategy in Afghanistan.

Under the Bush administration the goal in Afghanistan was “to help the people defeat the terrorists and establish a stable, moderate, democratic state that respects the rights of its citizens, governs its territory effectively, and is a reliable ally in this war against extremists.” President Bush wanted regional democratization.

On Jan. 27, during his first testimony under the Obama administration, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates described the strategic goals for Afghanistan as “an Afghan people who do not provide a safe haven for al-Qaida, reject the Taliban, and support the legitimate government that they elected and in which they have a stake.” Gates’s more modest goal today is a legitimate government.

So it seems that everyone agrees on the what, but what about the how? How do we achieve those goals?

We need a strategy that includes three things — sustainable security, diplomacy and a clear plan for withdrawal.

The 17,000 additional troops authorized by President Obama will go far in securing the country, but we need more than just additional troops. Fortunately, there is wide-spread agreement that a military solution alone cannot win the war. To determine what will, the White House and the Pentagon are conducting a comprehensive strategy review that’s due by the April 3 NATO summit. I find this encouraging.

Here’s what the new strategy should address:

First, it must address how to create lasting security. That is, how we intend to bolster the Afghan and Pakistani security forces’ abilities to combat insurgents that operate within each country and move through their porous border. Our attacks by unmanned aircraft will not be enough to secure the Pakistani government, which has nuclear weapons, against repeated attempts by militants to destabilize it. Additionally, it is imperative that it address winning the war against the drug trade. In 2008, the Afghan drug trade was estimated to be about $4 billion, supplying somewhere between $200 million and $400 million annually to the Taliban.

After we have choked the insurgents’ ability to operate, we must sustain new security by underscoring the importance of reconstruction, restoration of essential services free from corruption, and economic development. When the Afghan people have reliable basic services and the opportunity to provide for themselves, they will reject Taliban rule in favor of a legitimate government.

Second, the strategy must emphasize diplomacy between NATO, other countries in the region and the new government to be elected this year. It must address how we intend to engage Russia, India, China, and even Iran, as hinted by Gen. David Petraeus, which all have a stake in regional stability.

Each of these countries can make significant contributions to the war. Russia recently allowed NATO to resume using supply routes after suspending an earlier agreement in protest of U.S. support for Georgia. Iran can offer additional supply routes. China and India currently invest generously in Afghanistan. Moreover, contributing to regional stability is the only way to support a decreased U.S. presence in the region.

And finally, it must include an exit strategy that delineates milestones that must be reached before we withdraw, and, more importantly, that specifies that we will withdraw once milestones are reached.

When a strategy satisfactorily addresses these three things, I can support sending more of my former colleagues, my friends and even myself to Afghanistan.

Joseph Wignarajah, formerly of Tulsa, is a former Navy officer and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is studying defense policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Policy for the New Era


Welcome to New American Publius:  Policy for the New Era.  This blog is part of the Harvard Kennedy School Intensive Policy Writing.

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