With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, the ice that covers the Arctic Circle continues to dwindle. Recent estimates suggest that the area will experience ice-free summers by 2030. Until now, the United States has largely avoided the frantic race for control of northern waters. But with the pace of the thaw exceeding expectations, the Navy has launched a strategic plan, the Naval Arctic Roadmap (.pdf), to maximize the U.S. stake in the Arctic. The plan was written by the newly launched Navy Task Force on Climate Change (TFCC), created last May amid growing […]

The Face of a Nation

If you’ve got some time to spare, drop what you’re doing and click through to this New Yorker audio slideshow of portraits of heads of states from the U.N. General Assembly last September. Every photo is accompanied by a short audio commentary by the photographer, Platon. I’ve gone through a handful — Mexico’s Félipe Calderon, Israel’s Benyamin Netanyahu, Korea’s Lee Myung-bak and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez — and it’s pretty fascinating. Kind of like popcorn — hard to keep your hand from going back to the bowl for more.

“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 […]

The Interpolar World

This Giovanni Grevi paper (via Sven Bishop) from last June, titled, “The Interpolar World: A New Scenario” (.pdf), is a little gem worth reading in full. Grevi manages to distill quite a few of the contemporary interpretations of the changing geopolitical landscape into a thought-provoking argument for what he calls “interpolarity.” Grevi maintains that a number of trends will prevent emerging powers from truly coalescing into the poles of a multipolar order. Principal among them is the increasing interdependence of the global order. But another is the way in which asymmetries, both military and political, have shifted the balance of […]

The Realist Prism: Obama Promises with One Hand, Delays with Other

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 […]

Happy Thanksgiving!

I try to keep some distance between the personal and the professional here on the blog. But in thinking about everything I have to be thankful for this year, WPR is pretty high up on the list. Over the course of the past few years, it’s been a central focal point in my life, and it’s very gratifying to know that it has also become a daily fixture for so many readers. In the sense that WPR has become a meeting point for so many people with a passion for international affairs, it has also become a community. And so […]

For nearly three decades, there were few certainties about the global order as starkly tangible as the Berlin Wall. Cutting off East from West both literally and figuratively, it was the most important stitch in the Iron Curtain, and even on the eve of its collapse in the fall of 1989, few could imagine a world without it or the potentially apocalyptic divisions it represented. Yet when the Wall finally fell, eventually taking all of Soviet communism with it, a new set of certainties about the global political and economic order was born. And none has been more pervasive or […]

Over the course of its long history, America has experienced numerous religious “awakenings,” certain of which served as important precursors to the American Revolution, the abolition movement and Civil War, the Progressive Era (1890-1920), and the Civil Rights Movement. In effect, each “great awakening” served as a populist wellspring for radically new rules within our society, our economy and our political system. By most expert accounts, the world today is experiencing its own significant “awakening” of religious fervor, one triggered — in my opinion — by globalization’s rapid expansion around the planet over the past three decades. By penetrating previously […]

This Week’s WPR Video Highlights

Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: PresidentBarack Obama held one of his now-classic town hall meetings in Shanghaiwith Chinese students. The twist? Carefully picked attendees andquestions. In this video, Jim Lehrer interviews human rights experts who saythe Internet, a topic Obama made sure to mention in his talk with thestudents, is the key to human rights in China. Former Secretaryof State Henry Kissinger says the Obama administration has made greatgains for U.S.-Russian relations in this interview with Russia Today. IraqiVice President Tariq al-Hashemi has brought a much anticipate electionin Iraq to a halt. In […]

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 third of three that WPR has featured. The first can be found here. The second can be found here. The National Security Act of 1947 established the National Security Council (NSC) to draw upon the expertise of the diplomatic, military, and intelligence departments and agencies to advise the president and coordinate policy. Today’s NSC consists of the president as well as select department secretaries and agency heads. A national security adviser and a small National Security […]

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 […]

Off the Radar News Roundup

– After meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao calls the G-2 appelation premature, saying everyone should remain “sober-minded” about it. – After going online in August 2009, the Chinese Defense Ministry’s Web site was cyberattacked 2.3 million times in the first month. Payback? (Much more of interest in a People’s Daily interview with the site’s editor.) – China and Vietnam signed an agreement definitively demarcating their 800-mile land border, a process that took 10 years. They agreed to continue negotiations regarding their maritime boundary disputes. It’s important to remember when considering China’s rise that in addition […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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