As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to withdraw from Iraq, “finish the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban,” shut down Gitmo and break through the impasse with Iran. But as president, Obama is learning that conducting U.S. foreign policy is far more difficult than simply critiquing it. As a consequence, on the central foreign policy and national security issue of the day — the global struggle against Islamic terrorists and their patrons and partners — there is far more common ground between Obama and former President George W. Bush than Obama’s supporters expected, and less change than his opponents feared. […]

China, Iran Head Death Penalty’s Last Holdouts

Use of the death penalty is on the decline globally, with the majority of sentences handed down and carried out by a handful of hardcore holdout countries, Amnesty International said in a report (.pdf) released Tuesday. According to the report, “Death Sentences and Executions 2009,” countries that carried out the most sentences include China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States. In some places like China and Sudan, executions are applied extensively as a means to intimidate government opponents. China remains the world leader in carrying out death penalty sentences, executing more individuals that the rest of the world […]

The recent conclusion of a new bilateral strategic arms treaty between the United States and Russia is important for both countries’ security. Yet seen through the prism of nuclear disarmament, it is but a baby step. More substantial progress toward the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons will only come to fruition if a key group of non-nuclear-weapon states help defuse tensions between the nuclear haves and the have-nots. The prime candidates for this job are the states often referred to as middle powers, including Ireland, New Zealand, Germany and Sweden. These nations have a history of activist […]

In the last half-decade, blogs have gone from a quirky personal sideline activity to a mainstream, almost de rigeur professional activity — following the previous trajectory of Web sites and, before them, e-mail itself. To many, this democratization of the flow of information is a distinct blessing, to others it is the epitome of data deluge. As someone who has now posted blog entries every day for six years and recently passed the 10,000-unit mark (fulfilling Malcolm Gladwell’s quota for expert practice), I wanted to take stock of what this has meant to me as a writer and thinker. First, […]

Some foreign policy analysts believe that President Barack Obama’s legislative victory on health care reform this week will have a positive impact on his ability to make progress in the foreign policy realm as well. Clearly, Obama’s credibility in the eyes of foreign governments would have been severely — perhaps even irreparably — damaged had he failed to pass the flagship legislation of his domestic agenda, despite overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. But the White House is not out of the woods just yet. For the president to build on the momentum he gained from the health […]

It’s no secret that the increasing complexity of the international system — and in particular, its growing interconnectedness, integration, and interdependence — is eroding the fundamental business models of an ever-growing range of industries. Nowhere is this more evident than in the information industries, such as journalism, broadcasting, publishing, music and film, among others. More than a few entities have been swept to the brink of, or in some cases over, the precipice of irrelevance. And every information industry, it seems, is in some peril. The U.S. intelligence community’s traditional model is similarly threatened by these transformations, but like so […]

China’s Housing Bubble

Writing at East Asia Forum, Tokyo University’s Takatoshi Ito argues that China’s housing bubble is worse than what’s being let on and that the measures Chinese authorities are taking will not be adequate for a soft landing. In particular, he traces China’s resistance to allowing the yuan to appreciate to a misreading by Chinese authorities of Japan’s “lost decade”: Many Chinese officials tell us that they believe the origin of Japan’s stagnation for the 20 years after its [1980s] housing bubble burst lies in its failure to stand up to US pressure for the yen to appreciate . . . […]

European Overseas Military Installations

Over at European Goestrategy, James Rogers illustrates his paper on EU member states’ overseas military installations (.pdf) with a video that graphically drives his point home: As the video shows very clearly, these military stations cover the world. They could surely form the cornerstone of any future European Union ‘forward presence‘ or ‘global posture’ as part of a yet-to-bemaritime geostrategy. And so long as Britain and France hold onto them, these overseas military facilities could become even more of an asset than they already are for Europeans, especially if the world becomes increasingly multipolar and more competitive — not least […]

The State Department is close to winding up the initial phase of a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. Mandated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the QDDR aims at creating a more robust civilian capacity for U.S. global engagement. As part of that effort, the review’s fourth working group addresses the task of “building and deploying an effective civilian capacity to address crises, conflicts, and countries in transition.” The review provides a historic opportunity to strengthen the expeditionary capacity of civilian agencies to deal with overseas conflicts. In 2005, after bungling stabilization and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush […]

Is Water a Human Right?

As the United Nations spearheaded efforts to mark World Water Day on Monday, scarcity was at the top of the agenda. And with an increasing number of communities around the world lacking sufficient water supplies, the push to classify access to potable water as a basic human right is gaining ground among a variety of stakeholders. “Water challenges are most obvious in developing nations, but they affect every country on earth. And they transcend political boundaries. As water becomes increasingly scarce, it may become a potential catalyst for conflict among — and within — countries,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary […]

The government of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has adopted the catchphrase “Global Korea” to signify its desire to play a more assertive role as a contributor to the international community. The same aspiration is reflected in South Korea’s emerging approach to global security issues as reflected in its 2008 Defense White Paper (.pdf), which states that in addition to maintaining stability on the Korean peninsula and building the foundations for national security and prosperity, a core national security objective is “enhancing competence and status internationally.” This widening outlook is particularly striking to those who are accustomed to Korea’s longstanding […]

David Cameron Says Technology is Power

The leader of Britain’s Conservative Party David Cameron says we’re entering a post-globalization period where government is not as strong or powerful as individuals armed with technology. In this TED talk, Cameron discusses where he thinks Conservative Party principles fit in to this theme as well as how behavioral economics can help trends become part of intelligent policy choices.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama famously declared that he was running for the nation’s highest office not simply to end the war in Iraq, but to change the mindset that got America involved in Iraq in the first place. More than a year into his presidency, he is discovering that such a seminal transformation is far easier said than done. From Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay to repairing America’s impaired global image, precious energy and political capital is being spent extricating America from the disastrous impact of the Bush administration’s stewardship of U.S. foreign policy. But as catastrophic as […]

America’s Ideals as an Antidote to Foreign Policy Partisanship

Partisanship is the lifeblood of democracy, but it also has harmful effects that can be especially damaging to foreign policy. Politicians are entrepreneurs seeking markets, so there is always someone willing to become the advocate of any position for which there is a constituency. Such behavior can be craven, but it guarantees that all elements of the citizenry will find their champions. “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition,” said the Founding Fathers, meaning that this competition within the government would prevent a concentration of power that could threaten the liberties of citizens. The founders distrusted parties, which they called […]

Domestic politics is driving U.S. grand strategy. Although this phenomenon is poorly understood by both academic international relations scholars and the Washington foreign policy elite (FPE), it has important implications for the prospect of changing U.S. grand strategy, and therefore should be of interest to both groups. The Gulf between the Academy and the Beltway No one disputes that there is a rift between those who study international relations in the academy and those who make U.S. foreign policy. Most examinations of this disconnect center on: a) whether academics are asking policy-relevant questions; and, b) whether the theories and methodologies […]

For close to a decade now I’ve been roaming the world, delivering in Johnny Appleseed fashion a message that I refined just after 9/11 for the secretary of defense’s Office of Force Transformation: The world’s core powers must develop a systemic approach to postwar and post-disaster coalition interventions inside what I call the “Non-Integrated Gap,” by which I mean those countries and regions least connected to globalization. This vision encompasses the so-called “whole of government” approach, but extends it vigorously to also include the private sector, based on the knowledge that jobs are the only exit strategy. In short, when […]

South Africa Moves to Restrict Human Trafficking

South African authorities have accelerated plans to enact legislation targeting human trafficking activities ahead of the upcoming FIFA World Cup in June and July, amid warnings from rights advocates that trafficking incidents will rise before and during the competition. Justice Minister Jeff Radebe submitted the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons bill to parliament this week, according to Reuters. The law would combine various pieces of existing legislation, compelling Internet providers to report suspicious activity and empowering South African courts with extra-territorial jurisdiction to pursue perpetrators. Radebe expects the new law to come into effect within a month. The […]

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