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In his weekly installment of Under the Influence today, WPR columnist Andrew Bast argues that in formulating foreign policy, no received wisdom, no matter how seemingly sound, or how widely accepted, should escape scrutiny. That principal is lately being practiced by a number of iconoclasts within the U.S. foreign policy establishment, who are making it a point to question the most sacred cows of U.S. strategy: A growing number of experts are arguing that the core assumptions underlying American foreign policy are backed by scant evidence, or are simply fallacious. Most shocking is that these are not fringe crackpots out […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — With a U.S military air base in the Ecuadorian coastal city of Manta scheduled to be shut down later this year, it looks increasingly likely that Colombia will step in as a new host for U.S. military assets in the region. Newly re-elected Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa (see Henry Mance’s WPR Briefing) has refused to renew Washington’s decade-long lease when it expires in November, arguing that the presence of U.S troops undermines the country’s sovereignty. With Washington looking for a new hub for its counternarcotics operations in Latin America, speculation has been rife in recent months about […]

Few took issue with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s bold assertion on Wednesday that the Pakistan-based Taliban pose a “mortal threat” to the United States. The stakes, of course, are high. The Taliban provided safe haven to Osama bin Laden prior to the 9/11 attacks, and could very well be doing so now. Since fleeing Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion in 2001, they have mounted stubborn insurgencies on both sides of the border that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan’s tribal areas, and have now established footholds in formerly secure parts of Pakistan. The fact that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed power makes […]

ABOARD THE U.S.S. NASHVILLE — In 2007, the U.S. Navy amphibious ship Fort McHenry sailed on a six-month cruise down the West African coast. Her mission: to deliver training and humanitarian aid to new and emerging U.S. allies, in a bid to foster good will and security in a troubled and rapidly growing region. The Navy called the mission “Africa Partnership Station,” and aimed to make it a regular affair. Two years later, U.S.S. Nashville, a ship similar to Fort McHenry, sailed a similar route, calling at the countries of Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe, […]

As the IMF and the Joint World Bank-IMF Development Committee meet in Washington this weekend, they will undoubtedly be discussing what most Americans are only dimly aware of: The recession is a global national security problem. The American people must understand that the economic crisis will be manifested not only in lost jobs and incomes — it will be felt in enhanced dangers to U.S. national security and homeland security. In February, Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis C. Blair told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence the top national security threat facing the U.S. is the economic crisis. “Besides […]

LIBREVILLE, Gabon — When the unarmed medical teams from the amphibious ship U.S.S. Nashville arrived for a scheduled visit at Centre-Arc-en-Ciel, a children’s shelter in this lush West Africa capital, the roughly 20 children there panicked. They fled into the shelter’s boys’ dormitory, one tiny boy even curling up into a ball on the bottom shelf of a locker. Seeing the uniforms, some of them camouflaged like army uniforms, the children thought the sailors were carrying guns, explained Gabriela Escudero, a humanitarian liaison from the U.S. embassy in Libreville. “They’ve had difficult lives,” Escudero said. With some coaxing, Escudero showed […]

The time has come, once again, to castigate the United Nations. In response to North Korea’s test-missile firing, the Security Council remained deadlocked in its anachronistically Cold War ways and couldn’t muster a full resolution. Instead, it passed a presidential statement, which the U.S. has since had to argue is even legally binding. North Korea has since expelled U.N. weapon inspectors and said it will again pursue weapons-grade plutonium. This comes on the heels of a general failure of the Human Rights Council, a missing-in-action secretary general and the U.S. boycotting the U.N.-hosted World Conference on Racism in Geneva this […]

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Well, my time here is up. Judah should be back in the driver’s seat before long and I’ll be back to my regular home on the Web. It’s been a pleasure filling in for Judah over the last week, and my partner in crime, Matt Eckel, and I thank both him and Hampton for having us here at World Politics Review. We had a great week and a lot of fun, and invite readers to keep up with our regular musings at the link above. In the meantime, I have one piece of advice for the Obama administration: if you’re […]

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Dan Drezner links to this op-ed by Joseph Nye in Monday’s Washington Post, which bemoans the growing gap between national security policy and IR scholarship, saying: While important American scholars such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski took high-level foreign policy positions in the past, that path has tended to be a one-way street. Not many top-ranked scholars of international relations are going into government, and even fewer return to contribute to academic theory. The 2008 Teaching, Research and International Policy (TRIP) poll, by the Institute for Theory and Practice in International Relations, showed that of the 25 scholars rated […]

Only a few days remain before the opening of the United Nations anti-racism conference in Geneva, and maneuvering surrounding the controversial event is reaching a fever pitch. The stated goal of next week’s Durban Review Conference, as it is officially named, is to “evaluate progress” in the global fight against racism since the U.N.’s 2001 anti-discrimination conclave held in Durban, South Africa. That original Durban meeting turned into an embarrassing fiasco for the U.N., prompting Western nations to brace for a difficult and possibly unsuccessful effort to keep the “Durban II” gathering in Geneva from becoming another propaganda tirade in […]

President Barack Obama’s visit to Mexico today marks the culmination of a month-long binge of attention from the U.S. government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a heavily publicized trip to the country in March, followed soon thereafter by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder and a congressional delegation, who took part in a series of meetings in Mexico City on immigration and border issues. The diplomatic flurry couldn’t have come at a better time, steadying a bilateral conversation that the Obama and Bush administrations had increasingly lost control of over the last six months. U.S. […]

Delegations from across the Western Hemisphere will descend upon the twin island Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago this week for the fifth Summit of the Americas. A hemispheric agenda on energy figures prominently among the issues they will be addressing. For months, the summit offered the hope of a new, more positive, approach to coordinated regional energy policy. But the array of financial challenges facing the global economy has since divided the attention of policymakers. Now, prospects for comprehensive dialogue on energy security in the Americas can only be described as diminished. There is still a chance for the […]

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Roughly 47 years after having banned Cuba from the Organizationof American States, Latin American leaders are angling to reinstate theisland nation, despite the fact that it lacks the democraticcredentials spelled out in the OAS charter. The effort is aprominent storyline heading into the April 17-19 Summit of the Americasin Trinidad and Tobago, where 34 leaders from the hemisphere will meetto discuss the global economic crisis, energy policy and securityissues, among other things. But the meeting’s narrative also includesPresident Barack Obama’s first opportunity to redefine U.S.-LatinAmerican relations, which took a backseat under former President GeorgeW. Bush. “The perception coming up from […]

The tiny desert town of Abeche, in eastern Chad, offers a curious sight: Sandwiched between the mud huts that most people call home and the compounds belonging to international aid workers is a humble Chinese restaurant catering to Chad’s growing population of Chinese engineers and managers. Significantly, no equivalent American-style restaurant is to be found. The same holds true across the resource-rich, institution-poor developing world, in countries as remote as East Timor and as dangerous as Somalia. While much of the military establishment in Washington continues to plan for a possible conventional war with China, Beijing is studiously avoiding a […]

It’s no secret that the U.S.-Egyptian relationship is ailing. As his term went on, President George W. Bush seemed to go to Egypt principally to deliver stern lectures. After years of visiting Washington every spring, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stopped coming to Washington at all. Despite — or perhaps because of — $2 billion per year changing hands, the mutual resentment has become palpable. The hostility among the two leaders reflects a deeper divide between their governments and even among peoples. More than three decades after U.S. and Egyptian presidents together changed the landscape of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the U.S.-Egyptian […]

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) capped a week of tough negotiations yesterday over a response to North Korea’s April 5 launch of a multi-staged rocket. In a strongly worded statement, this month’s UNSC president, Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, termed the launch a “contravention” of UNSC Resolution 1718, which forbids the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) from engaging in missile-related activities. The government of the DPRK claimed the launch was meant to place a communications satellite into orbit. However, no one outside North Korea has spotted the alleged satellite. Since the technologies used for space rockets and long-range ballistic […]

As if terrorists, drug cartels and rogue nuclear states weren’t enough to worry about, the United States is now under cyberattack. Spies from China, Russia and elsewhere have broken into the country’s electrical grid, gathering intelligence and perhaps even planning for an unprecedented blitz: buckling the country’s energy infrastructure. Worried, aghast and surprised? Of course. But in another sense, the report falls in line with the rapidly transforming nature of international threats: What yesterday seemed inconceivable is today commonplace. Some scoffed when former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about the difference between “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.” But from […]

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