More than four years after President Barack Obama’s 2009 Prague speech declared the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide, the nuclear landscape has become more complex and precarious and shows little sign of movement toward abolition. The so-called global zero initiative has arguably been overtaken by countervailing nuclear realities. Yet the administration remains mired in a Cold War paradigm, gearing up for more U.S.-Russia arms control. Instead, the Obama administration should focus on other components of its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review as priorities for advancing nonproliferation objectives. These include securing nuclear materials, institutionalizing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), capping […]

For decades U.S. security policy has followed two distinct tracks. In Europe, the Pacific Rim and the Middle East, the extent of American national interests and the possibility of aggression by hostile states led to a direct approach with formal security treaties and the stationing of U.S. forces. In places like Latin America, Africa and, more recently, Central Asia, U.S. strategy was indirect, focusing on security assistance and the provision of advice and training. Partnerships were the coin of the realm. The idea was that other country’s militaries, helped by the United States, would take responsibility for security in their […]

It was odd to listen to foreign policy pundits comment on President Barack Obama’s inaugural address. Some announced that the administration had all but conceded that Iran will obtain a nuclear capability, and that Israel is being left out to dry. Others speculated that in his second term Obama will work to catalyze a broad-based Pacific alliance to counterbalance a rising China. There were those who argued that the second inaugural signals an expansion of the so-called drone war and use of special operations forces to deal with threats to the United States. Some read in Obama’s remarks a call […]

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President Barack Obama begins his second term with a new national security team in the making. It now looks like most if not all his key nominees will secure Senate confirmation in coming months, with Sen. John Kerry at State, former Sen. Chuck Hagel at Defense and White House counterterrorism czar John Brennan at the CIA. Though some have described Obama’s new “team of friends” as representing an inward-looking impulse, world events may not permit that. As in his first term, Obama will probably again face a gap between his preferred goals and strategies — focusing on Asia and rebuilding […]

American and Russian leaders cannot agree on much these days. Yet pressing problems such as Syria’s civil war, Iran’s nuclear program and post-withdrawal Afghanistan demand U.S.-Russia cooperation. Liberals in both countries attribute the relationship’s difficulties to the erosion of democracy in Russia, their logic being that a convergence on basic political values would enable greater cooperation. Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama’s “reset” policy toward Moscow proceeds from a different premise, namely that America and Russia can find areas for cooperation despite disagreements on democracy and human rights because, on some issues, self-interest unites them. Thus the reset involves better communication, […]

We are rapidly approaching the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. For some politicians, their initial stance on the war is something they might prefer to overlook. It will be interesting to see, for instance, if, during their nomination hearings, either Secretary of State-designate John Kerry or Secretary of Defense-designate Chuck Hagel is asked whether they still stand by their yea vote in October 2002 to give President George W. Bush the authorization to pursue military action against Saddam Hussein. For others, the inevitable retrospectives will fall into one of several predictable categories. Some will attempt to […]

In a recent WPR feature essay on economic integration and security competition in Asia, Amitav Acharya used our article in Foreign Policy, “A Tale of Two Asias,” as a conceptual framework for thinking about the future of this dynamic and important region. But his piece, “Why Two Asias May be Better Than None,” misunderstands or fails to address many of our key arguments. On some points, we agree with Acharya. For example, he notes that Japan “started the process” of economic integration in Asia, or what we call “Economic Asia,” and “still plays a vital role in it.” We made […]

Last week’s meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai felt like a last desperate attempt to salvage a crumbling marriage: With the relationship clearly dying, the two sides quibbled over the pace of U.S. disengagement and the extent of future American aid and assistance. But as U.S. involvement in Afghanistan winds down, Americans should already be thinking about what they can learn from their longest war. U.S. national security strategy, as I explained in my book “Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy,” is shaped by the lessons drawn, rightly or wrongly, from previous conflicts, wars […]

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an important speech condemning government censorship, calling for greater Internet freedom and reiterating that freedom of expression was a vital U.S. value. But during the past two weeks, as issues of press censorship in China have become front-page news, the State Department has remained noticeably silent, even as that censorship has impacted the U.S. media. On Dec. 31, 2012, the New York Times announced that the Chinese government had failed to process the journalist visa of one of its Beijing correspondents, Chris Buckley, before his old visa expired. Without a valid […]

Are we seeing the opening of the third installment of President Barack Obama’s approach to national security? The first iteration, beginning in January 2009, was the attempt to deliberately channel the moderate realism of the George H.W. Bush administration. Obama reached across the aisle to invite Bob Gates to remain as secretary of defense and to recruit Gen. Jim Jones as the national security adviser. The administration backed away from the interventionist tendencies of its predecessor, downplayed the importance of democracy promotion and, borrowing a page from the playbook of former Secretary of State Jim Baker, concentrated efforts on pragmatic […]

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Today, Jan. 10, was the day when Hugo Chávez was scheduled to be sworn in for the fourth time as Venezuela’s president. Instead, he is lying in a Cuban hospital, suffering serious complications from cancer surgery, and the country’s legislature, dominated by the president’s loyalists, has delayed the ceremony indefinitely. As Venezuelans grapple with the political uncertainty created by Chávez’s precarious health, the prospect of a post-Chávez era poses complex choices for a number of other countries, not least among them, the United States. During almost 14 years in office, Chávez made anti-Americanism the cornerstone of his foreign policy, working […]

There was an overwhelming sense of relief in Europe following U.S. President Barack Obama’s re-election in November. Although European approval of the Obama administration’s foreign policy has fallen since he took office in 2009, particularly over his increased use of drones in the war on terror and his perceived failure to put greater pressure on Israel toward a final status agreement with the Palestinians, Europeans overwhelmingly preferred him to his opponent, Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Indeed, according to one poll carried out in 12 European Union member states before the election, 75 percent of Europeans said they would vote for […]

For decades, Latin America policy specialists have lamented how the Western Hemisphere is never a priority for U.S. presidents. For all the United States’ economic and cultural ties with the region, however, America’s neighbors to the south do not face the kinds of imminent threats that tend to get a president’s undivided attention — and fortunately so. But while Latin America may never, and arguably should never, figure on the list of the U.S. executive’s top concerns, several innovative pushes across the U.S. foreign policy apparatus would not only dramatically help advance U.S. relations and leadership in the region, they […]

As is well-known, the U.S. under the Obama administration’s now-familiar policy of engaging Asia has three essential components. The first is a diplomatic strategy involving deeper engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and related Asian regional institutions, especially those participating in the East Asia Summit (EAS). The second is an economic strategy involving high-quality trade liberalization, mainly within the framework of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The third is, of course, the military element, initially dubbed a “pivot” but since rechristened as a “rebalancing.” China has viewed these initiatives with much suspicion and regards them as detrimental to […]

More by accident than by design, 2013 is shaping up to be the most consequential year for U.S. trade policy since 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organization and the star-crossed Doha Round was launched. By the end of this year, negotiations could be completed on the first trans-Pacific free trade agreement in history, and talks should be well underway on a trans-Atlantic deal between the United States and the European Union. At the same time, new WTO negotiations will begin on a broad agreement to liberalize trade in service industries such as consulting, banking, insurance and architecture, and […]

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s meetings this week in Washington should help resolve some of the key issues that will determine his country’s fate and the U.S. role in it. These include how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 and also how rapidly those leaving will depart. The Afghan-U.S. discussions should also help resolve uncertainties concerning peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban and their foreign backers as well as how Karzai will transfer power to his duly elected successor in 2014. Above all, the meetings will make evident the limits of American power in a land that has […]

Many Africans had big — and unrealistic — expectations about the amount of attention they would receive from the United States during President Barack Obama’s first term. The administration’s approach to Africa was relatively low key compared with the Bush presidency’s flurry of big-ticket initiatives on health, development and security, which included the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom). Obama was also less personally engaged on the continent than his predecessor, only setting foot in sub-Saharan African for a few hours, very early in his term, to […]

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