Long before we knew who the 44th president of the United States would be, Latin America experts began debating the list of priorities that should guide the next administration’s regional policy. From Foreign Affairs to the Brookings Institution to the Washington Office on Latin America — every magazine or think tank with a background in the region was shopping a set of ideas that could reverse the low tide of the Bush years. Some argue for more emphasis on free trade, a robust regional security initiative, and a strategy to isolate Hugo Ch├ívez and his populist ilk; others want to […]

In her Senate confirmation hearing last week, incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that American foreign policy under President Barack Obama must blend military, diplomatic and humanitarian efforts, in equal measure. “We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal.” While consistent with Obama’s longstanding call for greater international cooperation to address the world’s problems, the idea of “smart power” gained widespread popularity in military and diplomatic circles during George W. Bush’s second term. Obama’s national-power strategy represents an evolution, not a revolution. At a speech at Kansas State University in […]

CAMBODIA MARKS ANNIVERSARY, BUT NO CLOSURE — Cambodia marked the 30th anniversary of the demise of the Khmer Rouge regime Jan. 7 with memorials for the suffering of millions. But the country remains haunted by the knowledge that perpetrators of Cambodia’s greatest crime have yet to stand trial for their crimes. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime held sway over Cambodia from 1975-1979, a period in which millions of Cambodians died from torture, overwork, starvation and executions. In early 1979, a joint Vietnamese-Cambodian force toppled the regime, bringing in a new government largely beholden to its Vietnamese allies. Some Cambodians object […]

Just over a decade ago, a sea of supporters dressed in red and lining the streets of Caracas celebrated Hugo Chávez’s landslide election victory in Venezuela, marking a watershed in the Latin American political landscape and signaling the emergence of the so-called populist left in the region. Chávez was subsequently followed by a wave of left-wing leaders elected across the continent — Lula in Brazil (2002), Néstor Kirchner in Argentina (2003), Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay (2004), Evo Morales in Bolivia (2005), and a year later Michelle Bachelet in Chile and Rafael Correa in Ecuador — leaving roughly 75 per cent […]

War has evolved rapidly in the last 100 years, prompting historians and strategists to come up with new terms for new ways of fighting. They call mechanized warfare, which originated in the early 20th century, the third “generation” of war, and ideological warfare waged by guerilla groups the fourth. But what about guerilla-style warfare waged by non-ideological groups against traditional states — pirates, for instance, whose attacks can destabilize trade-dependent nations, but who don’t have strategic goals beyond just getting rich? Free-for-all violence, with indirect global effects, represents a fifth generation of war, according to some experts. And when it […]

Pray for Zimbabweans. Their economy, shrinking for a decade, is suffering hyperinflation of more than 230 million percent. The government, which has no money to keep most primary and secondary schools open, has even closed down several hospitals during a cholera epidemic. The disease has left nearly 1,200 people dead and more than 23,000 others infected, according to the United Nations. With food, water, electricity and public services all scarce, Zimbabwe confirms Hobbes’ belief in the harshness of existence. President Robert Mugabe, the country’s sole leader since independence in 1980, deserves much of the blame. He has clung to power, […]