“Rebalancing” has been the watchword of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy to date: rebalancing the global economy between East and West, rebalancing domestic needs and foreign responsibilities, and — soon enough — rebalancing the international security burden among the world’s great powers. One number explains why that last rebalancing is necessary: It costs the United States $1 million a year to keep a soldier inside a theater of operations such as Afghanistan. The math is easy enough: For every thousand troops, the price comes out to $1 billion a year. So when the president announces, as he’s expected to do […]

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In May, I raised concerns that the “first steps” taken by President Barack Obama had given the administration some “breathing room” in terms of deliverables. No one expected back then that Washington would be moving on key initiatives. It was understood that the new team needed to get settled: The first hundred days is not a good time for breakthroughs. But six months later, it still doesn’t seem like a good time for them. At the Guadalajara summit in August, any effort to move forward on a series of important issues dealing with North America — trade, energy security, coping […]

President Barack Obama failed to wring any concessions from China in his maiden voyage to Beijing last week. But the disappointing visit is only a symptom of the Obama administration’s dysfunctional and poorly conceived China policy, which, though well-intentioned, threatens to undermine U.S. objectives and wreck its global image. Dubbed “strategic reassurance,” the policy envisions a tacit bargain whereby the United States mollifies Chinese fears of containment, while Beijing assuages U.S. concerns about its global intentions and shoulders more international responsibilities. But so far, the policy has confounded more than clarified. Some China watchers wonder where Obama will strike the […]

Historic treaty ushers in long-anticipated era of U.S. southward expansion. AUSTIN, Texas — Meeting in the New Texas statehouse on the 195th anniversary of Texas’ declaration of independence from Mexico, official representatives from the Tejas Confederation, the Northern Alliance of Mexican States, and the United States government signed a comprehensive treaty that will immediately “re-admit” the Tejas states of El Norte and Gulfland to the American union, and submit to Congress formal pleas for new statehood on behalf of all five Northern Alliance members — Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon. If all Alliance members are ultimately accepted […]

The Berlin Wall was quite literally the prop on which the entire Soviet security structure for Europe rested. When it fell, Moscow’s continuing illusions that Eastern Europe could somehow be maintained as a belt of neutral states separating the Russian heartland from the West collapsed like a house of cards. And yet the edifice had appeared so solid, so permanent. In the euphoria that followed the fall of the Wall — and which was again on display during the 20th anniversary celebrations — we forget that prior to 1989, the division of Europe into two blocs, East and West, was […]

Last week, the European Union (EU) filled the two new positions established by the recently ratified Lisbon Treaty — president of the European Council and EU high representative for common foreign and security policy. Most of the press coverage following the appointments has focused on the personalities of the individuals selected for the jobs. But this preoccupation with personalities risks obscuring the more profound implications of the EU’s first steps toward implementing the treaty’s provisions. Commentators have generally disparaged the selection of Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy as president and Britain’s EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton as foreign policy […]

We are on the verge of repeating a pair of mistakes we made two decades ago, literally across the world from the scene of our errors in 1989. One lesson of the fall of the Berlin Wall was that states, or empires, can be much weaker than they appear. The revelation of Soviet vulnerability caught many American policymakers flat-footed. Another lesson was that careful strategic thinking is necessary for the United States to exploit shifts in the balance of power. While there were some successes in navigating the emergence of a post-communist Russia and independent former Soviet republics, the United […]

NEW DELHI — Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s scheduled visit to Washington on Nov. 24 is imbued with a special significance for both the United States and India, one magnified by the fact that Singh is the first head of state to be accorded the honor of an official state visit since President Barack Obama moved into the White House. The prestige accorded to India is befitting its growing geopolitical heft, its example as a peaceful and peace-loving nation and its status as the world’s largest democracy. And there’s no denying that the invitation has also helped mellow the resentment […]

During his trip to Asia, President Barack Obama laid out a grand rhetorical vision for the future: a U.S.-China partnership working together to solve the world’s most pressing issues. Speaking in Japan, Obama declared, “America will approach China with a focus on our interests. It’s precisely for this reason that it is important to pursue pragmatic cooperation with China on issues of mutual concern, because no one nation can meet the challenges of the 21st century alone, and the United States and China will both be better off when we are able to meet them together.” It sounds very dramatic, […]

The following op-ed has been adapted from the Project for National Security Reform’s recently released report(.pdf), “Turning Ideas Into Action.” It is the second of three that WPR will be featuring. The first can be found here. The third will appear tomorrow. U.S. national security missions are shifting, broadening, and becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. Yet, the structures and processes for addressing these missions have not evolved accordingly. An increasing number of missions now require interagency approaches. But because of the excessively rigid structures and processes of the current national security system, the White House is compelled to take charge of most […]

The following op-ed has been adapted from the Project for National Security Reform’s recently released report (.pdf), “Turning Ideas Into Action.” It is the first of three that WPR will be featuring. The second will appear tomorrow. The current Department of State was not designed to manage the increasingly diverse responsibilities of the U.S. government in a globalized world. While the department occupies center stage of the civilian foreign affairs community, it remains narrowly focused on, and resourced for, traditional diplomacy. It neither possesses nor exercises sufficient authority to manage the full range of international civilian programs effectively. While there […]

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“This is not a detachable relationship,” Zachary Karabell said, referring to the U.S.-China relationship, at the EastWest Institute yesterday. The visit by the author of “Superfusion: How China and America Became One Economy and Why the World’s Prosperity Depends On It” could not have been better timed, coinciding with President Barack Obama’s trip to the world’s third-largest economy and the largest owner of U.S. debt. “There is an interdependence that has begun to erode the sovereignty of both nations,” Karabell said, outlining the premise of his new book. According to Karabell, after the suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests in […]

BEIJING — Although nuclear arms control is not likely to be a major agenda item during President Barack Obama’s visit to China, it should be. One of the obstacles facing the president as he seeks to realize the ambitious goals endorsed by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee is the need to transform the primarily bilateral strategic arms control relationship inherited from the Cold War into one that places greater emphasis on multilateral frameworks. Although Moscow and Washington have made progress in negotiating a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that expires this December, other nuclear weapons states must […]

It remains uncertain whether Iran will ultimately accept or reject the agreement that nuclear negotiators in Geneva drafted late last month to send Iran’s stockpiled enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment. But the deliberations in Tehran have made one thing clear: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is under enormous domestic pressure from all sides to reject the P5+1 deal. It would be a mistake, however, to view this pressure in the vacuum of the nuclear issue. In fact, the opposition to striking a deal with the West offers a revealing glimpse of what the future holds for Iran’s fractured political landscape. […]

President Barack Obama has successfully transformed America’s strategic dialogue with the world for the better in his first year, impressing Europe — or at least eminently sensible Norway — enough to win a Nobel Peace Prize. In relationship after relationship, America now finds itself talking about what really matters, which in most instances means prioritizing economics above terrorism (George W. Bush’s one-note presidency) and climate change (Al Gore’s shrill post-vice-presidency). For those who prefer a diet of constant fear, Obama’s maddeningly calm approach is not nearly as filling as an American foreign policy forever focused on perceived existential threats. The […]

HAVANA — In Havana, the most conspicuous evidence that hostility toward the U.S. has softened can be found at the U.S. Interest Section along the Malec√≥n promenade. When I was last here in early 2008, the gleaming white tower was camouflaged by more than a hundred billowing black flags that Fidel Castro had erected in 2006. The flags were meant to block a scrolling marquee displaying anti-Fidel, pro-America messages, installed by the Bush administration. Nowadays, the building gets a lot more direct sunlight. After the Obama administration pulled the plug on the marquee in June, Fidel removed almost all the […]

One year after his election as president, Barack Obama has reached out to America’s enemies and critics, improving the popular standing of the United States in many countries. Ironically, though, relations between Obama and the leaders of countries closely allied to the U.S. have turned rather frosty, particularly in Europe. If the first foreign policy chapter of the Obama presidency was marked by engagement with America’s foes, the next chapter may well require improving ties with its friends. Tension between Obama and friendly world leaders is particularly striking, because the “No Drama Obama” White House tries to avoid what it […]

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