Amidst economic uncertainty and political excitement, academics and diplomats converged in Washington last week to discuss the future direction of the United States’ Southeast Asia strategy. Their assessments, along with broader regional developments, highlight the key challenges, shifts and continuities that will drive the next administration’s policy toward the region. Most of the conference participants agreed that the absence of a serious conventional threat meant that Southeast Asia’s challenges and flash points will continue to remain internal, such as insurgency, abrupt political transitions and economic volatility. Thus, on the security front, Washington must build on its successes in assisting its […]

UNITED NATIONS — In his farewell speech to the United Nations this week, U.S. President George W. Bush assessed the utility of the world body in a way that represents a significant departure from his administration’s earlier policy. Bush, now entrenched in nation-building both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, told members of the U.N. General Assembly, “a clear lesson has emerged: The United Nations and other multilateral organizations are needed more urgently than ever.” His Sept. 23 speech came after almost eight years of rocky relations between the United Nations and the Bush administration. It also fueled speculation about the […]

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When Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, met privately with U.S. President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York Tuesday, the deteriorating security situation along the Afghan-Pakistani border was certainly a central topic of discussion. But while cross-border attacks from both sides of the frontier are seriously exacerbating relations between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States, they might also paradoxically be driving the three countries to consider ever-deeper levels of cooperation. Afghan officials, and their American and NATO allies, have long criticized their Pakistani counterparts for failing to suppress the numerous Islamist militants […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — As a young bride from a village in Uganda, Annet Nyakisiki never imagined she might one day be the sole breadwinner for an HIV-positive family. But while she was a virgin at the time of her marriage, her husband, 10 years her senior, was not. There is no way to know exactly when he contracted the AIDS virus, but he did. He subsequently spread it to her, and all four of their children would eventually be born with the disease. “When I found out that we were all positive, I thought, We have no future,” admits Nyakisiki, […]

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua — U.S. relations with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Cold War foe, have become icier after the former Sandinista rebel leader recognized the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions. While the international community condemned Russia for sending troops last month to support the two rebel enclaves South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Nicaragua quickly became the first country other than Russia to recognize the two provinces’ as independent nations. Five days later, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez canceled a planned trip to Nicaragua, with U.S. Ambassador in Managua Robert Callahan saying, “It isn’t the appropriate moment for the […]

A deft diplomatic intervention to shore up Bolivia’s beleaguered government demonstrated Brazil’s newfound willingness to exert strong political leadership in South America, filling the vacuum created by America’s disengagement with the region’s leftist presidents. Bolivia’s domestic turmoil led South American leaders to convene a heads-of-state summit for members of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), a body created only four months before. The Sept. 15 summit, held in Chile, was in many ways UNASUR’s trial by fire, and by all accounts it was a Brazilian show, with President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva leading the negotiations. “With the United […]

The U.S.-Indian civilian nuclear agreement may still have to clear the U.S. Congress, but Indian firms and industry groups are already celebrating the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s decision this month that effectively gave the agreement a green light by waiving a ban on the country engaging in nuclear trade. The U.S.-India Business Council, which has lobbied hard in support of the bilateral agreement that followed a joint statement in 2005 by President George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, described the waiver as “a historic step forward for India and the world,” while the Confederation of Indian Industry said it […]

On Sept. 8, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the most concrete U.S. punishment of Russia for Moscow’s military intervention in Georgia. In a brief press release, she related that President Bush was rescinding the proposed U.S.-Russia Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation. She expressed regret at the decision, but described it as inevitable since, “given the current environment, the time is not right for this agreement.” Although Vice President Richard Cheney has denounced “Russia’s actions [as] an affront to civilized standards” and said they are “completely unacceptable,” the Bush administration had until this decision not penalized Russia so directly […]

WASHINGTON — Among the gravest risks to the continuing improvement of the situation in Iraq is that Sunni militias now allied with the United States will not be successfully integrated into Iraqi Security Forces or find employment in the civilian economy, say Iraq analysts and U.S. government officials. But independent observers and U.S. officials differ sharply in their assessments of the possibility of a reversal in the Sunni “Awakening,” which is almost universally credited as a significant factor in recent reductions in violence. The Awakening movement began in earnest in 2006 in Iraq’s Anbar province, when U.S. commanders took advantage […]

NEW YORK — Both candidates for President of the United States agree that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology is a serious threat to national security, but neither has presented a serious strategy for dealing with the problem on the campaign trail. One seems to think he can talk Iran out of its nuclear program without specifying what he’d say to change the equation. The other summed up his strategy by inserting a few bombs into an old Beach Boys song. Campaign rhetoric rarely becomes policy, especially in foreign affairs, and the Iranian question is no exception. Certainly Barack Obama will […]

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Although widespread fighting in Georgia has ceased, the war’s diplomatic repercussions continue to ripple throughout the region. One major concern in Washington is that Russia’s successful military intervention in Georgia will intimidate other former Soviet republics to, if not bandwagon with Moscow, at least distance themselves from the United States to avoid antagonizing a newly belligerent Russia. It is therefore no accident, as Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin likes to say, that U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney visited Azerbaijan last week. Cheney travelled to Baku even before arriving in Georgia and Ukraine, whose governments have been engaged in more acute […]