Last week’s major policy address by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was as noteworthy for the strategic concepts she dismissed as for the ones she embraced. Clinton provided Americans with a strong sense of how she plans to conduct U.S. foreign policy: not merely as “the indispensable nation” that assumes international leadership, but rather as the global rule-set convener that aggressively builds partnerships across a strategic landscape pulsating with rising players — both state-based and transnational. In doing so, Secretary Clinton explicitly rejected the emerging — and yet painfully antiquated — conventional wisdom that portrays a world inevitably divided into […]

Measuring American influence from week to week seems enough of a challenge, as a glance at recent global developments illustrates. The electoral upheaval in Iran, for instance, will almost certainly give the U.S. the upper hand in any upcoming nuclear negotiations. Unless, of course, it doesn’t. Likewise, China’s distancing itself from North Korea will strengthen the U.S.’s position at the U.N. Security Council. Or it might not. The difficulty in knowing for sure arises from the fact that gauging even the nearest term outcomes means making sense of many moving parts. What about the long term? Two recent studies from […]

The cliché that you must “protect the population” in order to win a counterinsurgency has now become entrenched in conventional wisdom. This is especially so of the war in Afghanistan, where civilian casualties have become a deeply polarizing issue. It has become so important that, during a recent trip to Helmand Province, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, declared that Coalition forces must make a “cultural shift” in Afghanistan, away from their normal combat orientation and toward protecting civilians. But protecting the population requires knowing where it lives. Here, the Army’s conventional wisdom […]

President Barack Obama’s speech before Ghana’s Parliament on July 11 marked his fourth major discourse on international affairs since taking office. Just as he did in Cairo little over a month ago, Obama outlined his vision of a region of the world — this time sub-Saharan Africa — and America’s role in it. Obama emphasized the need for more equal relations between the United States and Africa, a shift from patronage to partnership, and the importance of Africans taking responsibility for their own destiny. He lamented that “the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner.” […]

The ceremony last Feb. 12 at the commercial seaport in Mombasa, Kenya, was a surprising one. When the Ukrainian-owned merchant ship Faina sailed into port, five months after its capture by Somali pirates and a week after its release, the Kenyan government rolled out the red carpet. Civilian officials and military officers lined the pier, and armed guards patrolled, as Faina’s weary seafarers debarked. There were speeches and reluctant testimonies by Faina’s senior crew before the strange gathering came to a halting end. Hundreds of vessels had been seized by Somali pirates over the previous decade, and their releases had […]

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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, and provided the most comprehensive statement so far on Obama administration foreign policy.

When I taught American foreign policy, I always began my lectures on Vietnam by showing the class Lesson No. 9 from “The Fog of War,” Errol Morris’ penetrating documentary about former Secretary of Defense Robert Strange McNamara. The lesson? In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil. Undoubtedly, that contradictory logic has justified some of the United States’ most ferocious acts abroad. The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the bombing of North Vietnam, are two extreme examples. Immediately after the clip ended, I would survey the 40-odd college students’ faces looking up at me […]

WASHINGTON — For more than a week, the State Department has stopped short of defining the military ouster of Honduras President Manuel Zelaya as a “coup.” The reluctance is fueling a political and legal debate over the definition of “coup,” and whether the de facto Honduran government is legal. It has also fueled lingering suspicions that the U.S. might have been involved in the coup, given its longstanding ties to the Honduran military and the increasing criticism Zelaya has leveled at the United States in recent years. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has gone as far as to accuse the “Yankee […]

Vice President Joe Biden lived up to his “talks before he thinks” reputation once again, when he told an interviewer that the United States would not stop Israel if it decided to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. “Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else,” Biden said on a weekend talk show. Political analysts decided this was another Bidenism, which President Barack Obama would soon have to correct. Sure enough, a couple of days later the president, during his visit to Moscow, […]

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WPR Managing Editor Judah Grunstein and Will Ferroggiaro of the Fund for Peace discussed America’s priorities, the U.S.-European relationship and more in a July 6 discussion hosted by Bloggingheads.tv. Browse the discussion by topic at Bloggingheads.tv.

For a fleeting moment in early June, it looked as though Russia’s 16 years of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations were nearing a successful conclusion. After talks on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton told forum attendants that the country’s WTO accession should be completed by the end of the year. Russia’s chief WTO negotiator Maxim Medvedkov echoed her optimism, saying this was “a good window of opportunity” to join the organization. In the days that followed, some experts began looking forward to the nullification of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment with respect to Russia. […]

For years, Iran watchers and Iranian opposition leaders, most of whom are exiled in the West, have pointed to the discontent swelling below the surface of Iranian society. Evidence of Iranian discontent was visible in the country’s massive drug problem and in the sporadic protests born of economic hardship and rising unemployment. The huge popularity of the Persian blogosphere, used as a way around restrictions on freedom of expression, was another clear sign of the national mood. The question no one was able to answer was how to engage with that mood in order to unify the disparate visions for […]

The United States took an important step yesterday toward leaving Iraq by moving combat troops out of Iraqi population centers in anticipation of the June 30 deadline specified in the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). This redeployment has focused attention on Iraq’s current security situation and triggered stepped-up efforts by insurgents to undermine the symbolic importance of the transition, by launching attacks generally aimed at Shiite civilians. It has also provided fodder for those in the United States who wish todelay withdrawal. However, looking at Iraq solely through the prism of short-term security trends clouds thinking about how the […]

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