One of the most troubling features of the environment in Washington these days is the inability to make tough strategic choices. This is particularly apparent when foreign policy objectives conflict with domestic political priorities: Because the two policy areas are usually compartmentalized, our diplomats don’t have much leverage to negotiate and bargain with other governments. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent trip to Brazil, where she unsuccessfully sought to enlist support on the question of Iran sanctions, is a case in point. There are a number of issues currently causing friction in the bilateral U.S.-Brazil relationship. One is our continued […]

The Pope and the Catholic Church’s Sex Abuse Crisis

When the Roman Catholic Church in America faced its wave of pedophilia cases involving priests seven years ago, the Vatican in effect told the U.S. church hierarchy it was a solely American problem, and that the Americans would have to deal with it. But what the Vatican refers to as the delictum gravius (grave sin) has turned out to be not just an American aberration. The rash of cases of sexual misconduct by priests now coming to light in several European countries — in particular Germany and, more notoriously, Ireland — reach right up to the Vatican’s doorstep: A couple […]

Child Labor Remains a Persistent Problem

Child labor remains one of the world’s most persistent human rights problems, pitting rights advocates, governments and companies against tradition, the needs of impoverished families and criminal groups. Over the last few decades, rights advocates have pressured governments and private-sector actors to crack down on child labor. Individual companies and industries have responded to the calls with various measures, including enacting codes of conduct and severing ties with suppliers. Two recent stories demonstrate the strength and weaknesses of the existing strategies. Apple recently reported that audits of its supplier factories turned up violations of labor laws and the company’s internal […]

Post-American Identity for a Post-American World?

Good stuff, as usual, from Yigal Schleifer on Turkey’s struggle to find a workable post-Kemalist/post-Ottoman identity, one that balances the past century of Western-oriented secularism with the emerging “central power”/republican Islamist trend represented by the AKP. It made me think of Japan, too, as another country involved in a deep examination of how well its post-War identity fits into the shifting landscape of today’s Asia. France is another one that comes to mind, and there are probably a handful of other examples, too. For me, that raises the obvious question of whether a similar process is taking place today in […]

The Global Sports-Industrial Complex

I’ve written before about what happens when sporting events and international relations collide. This morning, I ran across two articles that examine what might best be described as the underbelly of the global sports-industrial complex. One, in Der Spiegel, takes a look at the mixed impact that global demand for soccer balls has on the hand-stitchers of a Pakistani village that produces 40 million of them a year. That number goes up to 60 million during World Cup years. The other, by IRIN via, discusses an Ethiopian government report that found that human traffickers are using promises of a […]

Obama’s Export Initiative

President Obama announces the National Export Initiative. The initiative is the culmination of the Obama administration’s efforts toward promoting increased American exports. In this vein, the administration has shown interest in joining the TPP, a small pacific trade group that could provide bigger opportunities in the future as the partnership grows.

The Future of US Diplomacy

Judith A. McHale, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on the Future of U.S. Public Diplomacy. McHale says that in the current global landscape, engaging foreign publics is more important than ever. She says taht the State Department is taking putting an emphasis on using public diplomacy to combat extremism.

A recent report issued by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights an enduring but growing mismatch between how America conducts its foreign policy and how the world beyond the West is spiritually evolving. Describing what the newspapers immediately dubbed a “God gap,” the report (.pdf) decries Washington’s “uncompromising Western secularism” as a self-imposed obstacle to broadband engagement of religious groups and parties in emerging economies and failed states. This, despite the fact that many of these religious actors are playing leading roles in facilitating their societies’ embrace — or driving their rejection — of globalization’s numerous opportunities and challenges. […]

U.S. Power in an Age of Transitions

I just got through reading a few unrelated blog posts that combine to make for an interesting discussion of the U.S. response to shifting regional dynamics in Asia and the Middle East. Hugh White sketches how he thinks the U.S. should adapt its Asia strategy to accomodate China’s rise, while Tobias Harris exposes the limitations of the “losing Japan” narrative. Meanwhile, Elias Muhanna argues that the U.S. narrative of a moderate vs. militant divide in the Middle East fails to take into account how the landscape has shifted there, quoting this from a Washington Post op-ed by Rob Malley and […]

The outcome of the U.K.’s upcoming general election is no longer a foregone conclusion, with the opposition Conservative Party’s steady lead in opinion polls recently narrowing. An election date of May 6 has been floated, leaving plenty of time for the usual twists and turns of election campaigning. All the same, given Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s political difficulties and popular fatigue with the Labour Party’s long grip on power, a Conservative win is certainly plausible. So what would be the implications of a Conservative victory on foreign and development policy? Answering this question is tricky, not least because a consistent […]

One of the strengths of the Naval War College is that it constantly reviews and assesses its curriculum. In support of that effort, I have been reacquainting myself with E. H. Carr’s seminal work “The Twenty Years’ Crisis,” which got me to thinking: Will we look back on the period of time between 1991 and 2011 as another two-decade interregnum marked by crisis and opportunity? This isn’t an entirely original thought. James Goldgeier and Derek Chollet opened this discussion two years ago when they published, “America Between the Wars: From 11/9 to 9/11.” But I wanted to focus on the […]

Major Sporting Events Impact Housing Rights

Governments and international sports bodies routinely fail to protect area residents from forced evictions ahead of large sporting events, independent United Nations investigator Raquel Rolnik told journalists this week. While the International Olympic Committee has initiated a plan to respond to housing concerns, the soccer governing body FIFA has failed to respond to repeated requests to make guaranteed respect for housing rights a part of the bidding process, the Associated Press reported. As of 2016, any country vying to host an Olympic Games will have to make a clear commitment on housing issues. But in a report to the U.N. […]

European Monetary Fund and the Greek Debt Crisis

The big news on Monday regarding the Greek debt crisis was the momentum gathered over the weekend by a proposal for a European Monetary Fund for the euro zone. Initially proposed by the German finance minister, the proposal was immediately embraced by the EU commissioner for monetary affairs. Now comes the inevitable backlash, which is necessary if only to get an idea of the realistic contours such a plan might assume. The major question concerns whether such an institution would require amendments to existing treaties, with that depending on what kind of linkage it would have to actual monetary policy. […]

As president of the G-20 this year, South Korea seemingly has an appetite for tackling the global economy’s biggest problems. And few challenges loom larger than the significant global imbalances that helped pave the way for the recent international financial crisis. The Koreans have been busy promoting an apparently novel solution to this very problem: an international currency swap regime. But how would such an arrangement work, and could it actually help correct current imbalances? As important, is there any chance this idea will get off the ground? The global economy of today is — and has been for some […]

On International Women’s Day, Still a Long Way to Go

Women’s rights advocates, governments, NGOs and women around the world marked International Women’s Day yesterday, with cheers for progress achieved and calls for even more global efforts to ensure protection for the rights of women and girls. “Most girls now receive an education, particularly at primary level, and more women are now more likely to run businesses or participate in government. A growing number of countries have legislation that supports sexual and reproductive health and promotes gender equality,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his International Women’s Day 2010 message. “Nonetheless, much work remains. Maternal mortality remains unacceptably high, […]

President Barack Obama does not seem to care very much about Europe. A series of notable slights by the White House have led to a sense of neglect on the continent. The president skipped the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Adding insult to injury, while Europe was busy celebrating its remarkable unification in the wake of communism’s collapse, the White House was talking up the notion of America as a “Pacific power” and of the rise of a new G-2 grouping between the U.S. and China. Last month, the White House leaked word […]

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