In the last sections of his 2014 State of the Union address, after devoting a good deal of attention to strategies for restoring America’s domestic prosperity, President Barack Obama turned to U.S. foreign policy. The bulk of his comments about America’s place in the world dealt with Middle East issues—four paragraphs about Syria and chemical weapons, the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the continuing struggle against extremist organizations that threaten U.S. interests. Earlier in the speech, the president, focusing exclusively on the perceived benefits to American workers, called on Congress […]

The United States relies on Jordan to help resolve many of the thorniest problems in the region, including fighting terrorism, dealing with the consequences of the Syrian civil war and finding a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is in this context that U.S. officials recently told the Associated Press that preparations were being made for U.S. Special Forces to train Iraqi troops on Jordanian soil in the near future. According to David Schenker of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a former Levant country director in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the United States and […]

For almost 70 years, the foundation of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy rested on the kingdom’s relationship with the United States. America guaranteed Saudi security during a famous 1945 meeting between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal. That commitment had stood the test of history. The past three years, however, have brought enormous turbulence to the Middle East, and the Saudis have found Washington’s response increasingly worrisome. Saudi rulers are questioning America’s reliability as an ally and protector. They see the U.S. gradually relinquishing its pre-eminent role and allowing revolutionary […]

U.S. development aid has long been characterized by public sector funding of socio-economic, political and security projects in the developing and underdeveloped world. Over the past few years, however, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun a number of programs that are being financed by private capital. Among them, in 2011, USAID launched the Private Capital Group for Africa, aiming to generate more than $500 million in private investments to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in sub-Saharan Africa, and the African Agricultural Capital Fund to invest $25 million specifically in agricultural SMEs in East Africa. Last […]

As U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan, the United States continues to carry out targeted killings against suspected terrorist leaders in several theaters—including through the use of armed drones—and to enhance the ability of partner nations to carry out lethal operations. But U.S. drone strikes can kill innocent civilians along with their intended targets, generating backlash abroad and concerns domestically. According to reporting last week by the Washington Post, one such strike moved Congress to insert language into the $1.1 trillion spending bill that blocks Obama administration attempts to transfer the U.S. drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. […]

The United States has maintained large numbers of nuclear weapons on high alert for decades, ready to launch at a moment’s notice. Numerous military personnel are specifically assigned to manage U.S. nuclear weapons operations and must be ready to precisely carry out complex tasks under extreme time pressure. But the operators of these weapons are human, and the Air Force announced earlier this week that 34 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch officers had been suspended for cheating on a monthly proficiency test. The airmen were stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which houses 150 of the nation’s 450 […]

Climate change legislation has had a tough time in the United States. But Secretary of State John Kerry, based partially on a conviction that climate change is causing more intense storms like the recent typhoon in the Philippines, still sees the conclusion of a successful global climate pact in 2015 with full U.S. participation as an important, legacy-defining goal. Last month, Kerry stood alongside his Philippine counterpart and told reporters that “what we face today is sufficient to say that developed nations in the world need to take the lead,” predicting, among other things, a pattern of increasingly intense storms […]

Depressing headlines from the Middle East have thrown cold water on any lingering optimism that U.S. policy objectives in the region were on track. In Iraq, Fallujah and Ramadi have been lost, at least for now, to al-Qaida-linked insurgents. The Syrian conflict has apparently transformed into a multi-sided war, increasing the likelihood that Bashar al-Assad’s regime will survive. And progress remains elusive in Afghanistan as the countdown to withdrawal continues. Not long ago there was reason for hope in all these countries. The surges in Iraq and Afghanistan were supposed to have worked, and the Arab Spring, it was hoped, […]

As negotiations continue on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, one persistent sticking point has been public health, and in particular patent protections for pharmaceuticals. In an email interview, Frederick M. Abbott, the Edward Ball Eminent Scholar at Florida State University College of Law and an expert on international intellectual property rights, explained the public health concerns involved in trade negotiations. WPR: In what ways have public health issues arisen as points of contention in the current rounds of major multilateral trade talks, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Frederick M. Abbott: Issues relating to public health are perhaps the major […]

President Barack Obama, according to pundits, is losing the Middle East. The charge recalls those leveled after Mao Zedong’s 1949 victory in the Chinese civil war, when anti-communists in the United States accused the Truman administration of “losing China.” While advocates of this position never explained how any feasible level of U.S. support could have staved off Chiang Kai-Shek’s defeat, the idea that refusing to back friendly dictators leads to preventable strategic disasters subsequently became ingrained in American thinking. It later inspired Lyndon Johnson’s refusal to disengage from Vietnam even when it became clear that the Saigon regime could not […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series will run every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. This year, the bulk if not the entirety of international troops will leave Afghanistan; the few thousand likely to remain, pending agreement with Kabul, will mostly be concentrated on a handful of bases and serve in a training and advisory role for Afghan forces. In February, the number […]

The United States played an important role in facilitating the independence of South Sudan, the world’s newest country. Now U.S. leaders are watching the unfolding of an ethnic-tinged civil conflict that has already left hundreds dead and displaced around 200,000 people. Fighting broke out in the middle of last month between government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those allied with former Vice President Riek Machar, whom Kiir removed from office last year along with all his other ministers. Kiir accused Machar of orchestrating a coup against his government shortly before fighting began. While violence continues in parts of […]

Since President Rafael Correa came to power seven years ago, U.S. relations with Ecuador have been rocky. Most recently, in December 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development decided to pull out of Ecuador in 2014 after the agency failed to reach an agreement with Quito over continued support of democracy promotion efforts, which the Correa administration regards as targeting the government. Just days later, the Correa government reacted angrily to a Washington Post report alleging that the CIA had offered crucial assistance to Colombia in a 2008 strike against FARC rebels in Ecuadorean territory; the U.S. had denied any […]

It is an absolute certainty that 2014 will be a turbulent year for the United Nations. The organization is struggling with crises ranging from the chaos in the Central African Republic (CAR) to the plight of Syrian refugees. There is little hope that these challenges will dissipate soon. Yet two sets of peace talks this month could well decide whether the U.N. faces a truly dreadful year ahead, or just a very difficult one. The first is already underway in Addis Ababa, where emissaries of the South Sudanese government and its opponents may or may not manage to reverse their […]

Many commentators have described 2013 as a “lost year” for the Obama administration. The enthusiasm generated by the second inaugural quickly dissipated in continued stalemates with Congress, culminating in the government shutdown in October. No major pieces of legislation were passed, nor did the United States spearhead new international initiatives. Some of this can be attributed to the famed “second-term curse.” As I noted in these pages after the president’s re-election, “Every second-term president over the past 30 years—Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush—overestimated the amount of political capital their re-election generated, and each was also distracted by […]

During his campaign for president in 2008, Barack Obama promised that he would restore America’s standing in the world—in part by using his unique multicultural background to better communicate with U.S. friends and foes alike. While Obama has certainly enjoyed some foreign policy successes, there is one region in which he has so far glaringly and disappointingly fallen well short of that promise: Africa. By every conceivable metric, Africa is growing in stature and importance. More than 60 percent of Africans are below the age of 25, and the continent’s population is expected to double by 2050 to more than […]