In the midst of deep crisis, cooler heads rarely hold sway — at least in the public discourse. Thus it was that just a year ago, we heard from many experts — and joyous activists — that globalization was on its deathbed: The global economy was on the verge of a great and permanent unraveling. It was to be an inexorable and exact reversal of everything that defined the go-go globalization of the 1990s, replete with social and political unrest of the highest order. In effectively re-enacting the Great Depression of the 1930s, we even faced the incredible prospect of […]

Children’s Rights Advocates Celebrate U.N. Protocols

Children’s rights advocates across the globe came together May 25 to call for universal endorsement and implementation by 2012 of two United Nations protocols aimed at protecting children against exploitation during armed conflicts or at the hands of human traffickers. “In too many places, children are seen as commodities. In too many instances they are treated as criminals instead of being protected as victims. And there are too many conflicts where children are used as soldiers, spies or human shields,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, according to the U.N. News Center. The Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed […]

Last week, at West Point, President Barack Obama sounded a familiar theme that all recent U.S. presidents have lamented, when he said, “The burdens of this century cannot fall on our soldiers alone. It also cannot fall on American shoulders alone.” Obama also reiterated time-honored propositions in his promise to “be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well,” and his desire “to build new partnerships, and shape stronger international standards and institutions.” The just-released 2010 National Security Strategy of the United States continues this approach, declaring, “Alliances are force multipliers: through multinational cooperation and coordination, […]

MITROVICA, Kosovo — Back in 2003, when U.S. officials optimistically predicted that American forces would be “greeted as liberators” by the Iraqi people, their minds probably conjured images of the mass euphoria that welcomed NATO troops to Kosovo in 1999. During that war, cheering Kosovar Albanians chanted “NATO, NATO!!” as the U.S.-led military force entered the territory after pushing out Serbian forces with a 78-day bombardment. A NATO-led peacekeeping force known as KFOR has remained here ever since, helping the fledgling country get on its feet. But NATO, facing demanding commitments in Afghanistan and potentially elsewhere, is itching to pull […]

Obama & Lula: Domestic Perception vs. Global Perception

I wanted to follow up briefly on this post, in which among other things I mentioned that Stateside criticisms of President Barack Obama don’t match the sense I get as an offshore observer of how he’s viewed by a global audience. A good comparison here is Brazil’s President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. At the end of his second term, Lula is enjoying stratospheric popularity levels that most leaders could only dream about as they prepare to leave office. And to top it all off, he just sealed a fuel swap agreement with Iran that most Stateside observers have been […]

The “fog of sanctions” has descended on Washington, obscuring what this week’s proposed U.N. Security Council resolution can accomplish in stifling Iran’s drive to nuclear weapons. No less perilous than the “fog of war” that besets generals, the “fog of sanctions” prevents pundits and politicians from having a clear view of the power and potential of this draft document (.pdf), which may be the strongest set of smart sanctions ever developed by the Security Council. The resolution’s first strength is that it undermines real assets and capabilities that Iran might use for weapons production. The document astutely mixes compulsory and […]

Europe and the U.S., After the Fall

If you’re looking for insight into the lessons learned from the global financial crisis, you could do a lot worse than this Walter Russell Mead essay. Mead nails down a bunch of thoughts that have been swirling in my head recently, that I haven’t had the time or the talent to express as articulately. In particular, the idea that the Battle of Financial Markets, as he calls the initial stage of the crisis, has now given way to the Battle of State Finance. By that he means that the global economy’s theoretic backstop — i.e., the state’s capacity to rescue […]

Obama: Transitional or Transformational?

If you haven’t read Thomas P.M. Barnett’s latest WPR column, I recommend you do. It’s as thoughtful and thought-provoking a take on President Barack Obama’s domestic and international political horizons as any I’ve read recently. That’s mainly because Barnett neither dismisses nor exaggerates his targets, whether they be Obama’s accomplishments or failures, or the populist backlash to some of the latter. It’s not so much a critique of Obama, as it is an assessment of how his skills and shorcomings fit in structurally to the tasks at hand. As someone whose natural approach to problem-solving is to toss away everything […]

Housekeeping Notes: Trend Lines and Leading Indicators

As you might have noticed, recently we’ve been developing some new ideas about how to best take advantage of the real-time potential offered by the blog platform. Part of that has to do with our sense that blogging as a form has reached an inflection point, and that now’s a good time to experiment with new approaches. But it mainly has to do with finding ways to provide as much insight and analysis as possible. To begin with what hasn’t changed, the WPR blog, newly renamed Trend Lines, will continue to publish my commentary and analysis on major foreign policy […]

As somebody who voted for President Barack Obama, I am surprised to find myself believing that he is slated to be — and more so, should be — a one-term president, a possibility that Obama himself has already broached publicly. It’s not any one thing he has or hasn’t done that has led me to this admittedly premature conclusion. Rather, it’s a growing realization that everything Obama brings to the table in terms of both deeds and vision suggests that history will judge him to be a transitional figure. He is a much-needed leveling-off from Bush-Cheney’s nosebleed-inducing foreign policy trajectory, […]

Human Rights Advocates Assail U.N. Rights Council Picks

Human rights campaigners are condemning the election of seven countries with controversial rights records to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the General Assembly last week, and calling for reform of the election process. “The council elections have become a pre-cooked process that strips the meaning from the membership standards established by the General Assembly,” Human Rights Watch Global Advocacy Director Peggy Hicks said in a press release. A total of 14 countries got electoral nods from the General Assembly during the uncontested, closed-slate May 13 vote. Libya, Angola, Malaysia, Qatar, Uganda, Mauritania and Thailand drew fire from rights […]

Iran Sanctions Move Ahead Despite Brazil-Turkey Deal

Russian and China have reached a deal with the U.S. and other world powers to impose new sanctions on Iran, a day after the country signed a deal with Turkey and Brazil to swap its nuclear fuel. NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown reports on the developments. Having trouble viewing this video? Click here to watch.

Peacekeeping is a tragic business. That may seem obvious, if only because, when reading about United Nations peacekeeping operations, you come across the word “tragedy” a lot. It describes what happened in Bosnia and Rwanda all too neatly. There’s no better word for what took place in Haiti, where more than 100 U.N. personnel were among the 250,000 dead in January’s earthquake. But, as English professors have tried to explain to generations of dozy students, “tragic” is more than just a synonym for “awful.” Great tragedies — Oedipus Rex, Macbeth, Scarface — aren’t just about suffering. They center on protagonists […]

It is now widely recognized — including in the highest-level policy statements of the United Nations, European Union, African Union and NATO — that managing conflict requires a multidimensional, comprehensive, whole-of-government or integrated approach. All these approaches have a similar aim: to achieve greater harmonization and synchronization among the international and local actors, as well as across the analysis, planning, implementation and evaluation phases of the program cycle. One-dimensional or single-facet conflict-management responses are now viewed as superficial and counterproductive, in that they address only some aspects of a wider system. They thus tend to distort, shift or redirect tensions […]

Between Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano and the oil slick in the Gulf, everybody seems to have disasters on the brain lately. Some of it stems from the nonstop global media coverage, while a good portion relates to our growing awareness of climate change. But a lot of this heightened anxiety is simply misplaced. We don’t live in an increasingly dangerous world, whether you’re talking wars, terrorism, disasters — or just the weather. In fact, we live in the safest times yet known to humanity. We just choose not to see it that way for a variety of reasons. First, we love […]

Global Insider: The Politics of the Antarctic

The Antarctic Treaty Conference in Uruguay wraps up tomorrow, ending two weeks of discussions between more than 350 foreign officials, on pressing issues such as conflicting territorial claims and environmental threats to the region. In an e-mail interview, Danila Bochkarev, Energy Security Associate at the EastWest Institute, explains the current political climate in the Antarctic. WPR: What is the current territorial status of Antarctica under the Antarctic Treaty, and how would current territorial claims change that? Bochkarev: The Antarctic Treaty of 1959, which relates to all land mass and ice shelves south of 60 degrees south latitude, bans military and […]

The Greek Debt Crisis: Political Bankruptcy

I found it instructive to see the fact that Greece has officially requested the first installment of its EU-IMF bailout package tacked on almost as an anecdotal footnote to an article describing the larger EU-IMF bailout plan approved over the weekend. It reflects the way that the “Greek debt crisis” has now become a signifier for something much larger, in the way that “Lehman” or “subprime” did before it. What is that much larger something? For one thing, it’s the fact that in the space of a few months, there no longer seems to be a solid foundation under what […]

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