Despite all the uproar generated by President Barack Obama’s open-mike comments to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the nuclear summit in Seoul, no one should be shocked that election-year calculations play a major role in international politics. It is perfectly understandable that, in gearing up for what will be a tough and challenging re-election campaign, Obama would prefer not to have to deal with crises now if they can be postponed until after the ballots have been cast. This same logic has driven efforts to persuade Israel not to launch a strike on Iran, which might have immediate and drastic […]

President Barack Obama has presented himself as the ender of wars. Moreover, where the preceding administration went heavy with its military power, the Obama administration goes laparoscopically light. And as if to culminate a quarter-century trend of U.S. military interventions that have all somehow devolved into manhunts of some sort, America now simply skips the intervention and gets straight to hunting down and killing bad guys. We stand our ground, as it were, on a global scale. Give us the wrong gesture, look, attitude or perceived intention, and wham! One of ours might kill one of yours — in a […]

The Obama administration’s national security team must walk a very delicate tightrope on Iran policy in the weeks to come. On the one hand, it must convince doubters in Iran, Israel and the U.S. Congress that the administration is prepared to use force if necessary to stop Iran from mastering the technologies needed to construct nuclear weapons. If the different factions within the Islamic Republic are not convinced that President Barack Obama is prepared to pull the proverbial trigger, they have no incentive to return to the negotiating table. And if the U.S. commitment to accept the use of force […]

In the immediate aftermath of the 2003 Iraq War, before the Iraqi insurgency had come to define the conflict, one of the Democratic Party’s loudest criticisms of the Bush administration was that it had utterly bungled the diplomatic angle in the run-up to the war: President George W. Bush had been unable to replicate his father’s success in getting the United Nations to pass a catch-all resolution authorizing “all necessary means” to ensure that Iraq was disarmed. Nor had he been able to get a major regional security organization to endorse military action after efforts at the U.N. Security Council […]

Demands on the State Department may be growing but, if last week’s congressional hearings are any indication, the State Department’s coffers will not be. Even longtime champions of robust international affairs funding like Sen. Patrick Leahy have warned the secretary of state that the $54.7 billion diplomatic and development budget requested by the Obama administration — a modest increase over last year — is unlikely to win full funding. Though increased funding for foreign affairs may well make sense, its chances are remote at best. Merely doing more with less may seem like the best approach under conditions of fiscal […]

Despite Cameron’s Successful Visit, Questions Linger Over Future of U.S.-U.K. Ties

On an official visit to the United States this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron focused his conversations with U.S. President Barack Obama on the war in Afghanistan as well as on efforts to address the crisis in Syria and heightened tensions with Iran. The leaders met to “reaffirm one of the greatest alliances the world has ever known,” Obama said Wednesday. But some observers wonder whether the importance of what is known as the “special relationship” is beginning to fade. “It is a special relationship,” said Frances G. Burwell, vice president of the Atlantic Council and director of its […]

When President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, Time magazine heralded it as the fourth Nobel award given “for not being George W. Bush.” While much of the world welcomed the departure of the American president many saw as a cocky cowboy, Chinese politicians quickly became nostalgic for the good ol’ days. Why do the Chinese prefer Bush to Obama? The reason, it seems, is that Obama is harder to read. While the U.S. continually calls for more transparency from China, the Chinese seek a clearer understanding of the Obama administration’s intentions toward China. Obama entered […]

It is still too soon to tell what effect, if any, Sunday’s appalling massacre of 16 innocent civilians by a U.S. soldier will have on the war in Afghanistan or on the relationship between the United States and the government of Afghanistan. This apparent war crime arrives fast on the heels of the infamous Quran burning incident that led to both riots across Afghanistan as well as the murder of several U.S. servicemen by the Afghans they were meant to be advising. Taken cumulatively, these events lead many to conclude that the U.S. and allied war in Afghanistan has reached […]

Many commentators are predicting that with Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in Russia, the improvement in relations between Moscow and Washington that occurred under the stewardship of U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will come to an end. Some are even forecasting a return to a more confrontational period in U.S.-Russia relations, given Putin’s history of negative comments about the United States. After all, last August, the then-Russian prime minister and now president-elect castigated Americans for “living like parasites off the global economy.” And in a pre-election essay published in Moskovskiye Novosti last month, Putin lambasted […]

Relations between the United States and Vietnam have progressed rapidly and comprehensively since the normalization of ties in 1995. In just the past few years, the two countries have inked agreements in areas including environmental protection, nuclear energy and health research cooperation. They have also deepened their robust economic relationship, with Vietnam signing on to the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and have declared their common interest in freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Yet if the U.S. and Vietnam wish to take their emerging strategic partnership to the next level, as officials from both sides have indicated, […]

Editor’s note: This will be Robert Farley’s final “Over the Horizon” column at World Politics Review. However, we look forward to featuring his work in WPR in the future. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Robert for making “Over the Horizon” a must read over the past year and a half and to wish him success in all his many endeavors. The intellectual battle over the future of American hegemony has been joined. Andrew Bacevich argues that the American Century has ended and that further American pretentions to hegemony will lead to disaster. Michael Cohen argues that the […]

Two years ago, when he held the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged Myanmar to hold democratic elections with the participation of all political parties. In light of Myanmar’s recent political opening, the question arises whether the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) is willing to take similar steps toward democratic reform in Vietnam. To begin, the differences between Vietnam’s situation and that of Myanmar bear noting. Prior to its recent political changes, Myanmar was isolated and regarded as a pariah state. By contrast, Vietnam has made major reforms since its introduction […]

The Obama administration’s claim that sanctions on Iran are working is belied by a problematic truth: Sanctions are a short-sighted and often ineffective tool of statecraft. In the case of Iran, they have had a strongly negative impact on the average Iranian, thereby diminishing the United States’ moral standing in the world and undermining the goal of reducing the security threat posed by Iran. Recognizing this, the U.S. should embrace a new strategy of principled re-engagement with Iran that revisits diplomacy and minimizes harm to regular Iranians. Such a strategy is the best way to alleviate the long-term threat posed […]

On Jan. 17, the Obama administration announced its intention to support a diplomatic initiative to strengthen international norms protective of the global commons of outer space. Key norms in need of strengthening include the mitigation of space debris, especially debris produced by antisatellite (ASAT) tests; the elaboration of rules for space traffic management; and the development of procedures to increase the safety of satellite operations and human spaceflight. The Code of Conduct for responsible space-faring nations that President Barack Obama seeks would take the form of an executive agreement reflecting voluntary measures, rather than a treaty. Space diplomacy is rarely […]