SLIM PICKINGS FOR FACT FINDERS — Now that both major U.S. political parties have their presidential candidates, a continuous procession of foreign government officials, politicians, and prominent journalists has come to Washington in pursuit of one objective: gaining information about what to expect from either presidency. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was an unknown quantity to foreign governments when he began his successful race for the Democratic nomination, and is still largely an unknown quantity today. In many areas, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is no better. Hence foreign governments’ quest for information on each candidate’s position on energy, the environment, immigration, […]

Last week, the Supreme Court once again waded into the murky legal waters of the War on Terror. In Boumediene v. Bush, a deeply divided court struck down a provision of the Detainee Treatment Act that limited the access to judicial review by detainees in Guantanamo seeking to challenge their classification as “enemy combatants.” The legal rationale for this decision, although controversial, was not complicated: aliens held by the United States in areas where the U.S. exercises sovereignty are protected by the Constitution; Guantanamo is within the de facto sovereignty of the United States; the Congress had not suspended the […]

With a whimper went President Bush’s last, best chance for a positive legacy in international affairs. Last week administration officials conceded to the Financial Times that India would not approve a nuclear cooperation pact with Washington during Bush’s tenure. In March 2006, President Bush signed a nuclear agreement in New Delhi designed to pull the world’s largest democracy closer to the world’s last superpower and dramatically alter Asia’s balance of power. With Asia’s economic rise, it is widely assumed that the continent’s political emergence will follow in the coming decades. By agreeing to cooperate with India on nuclear issues — […]

FRANCE PLUGS THE GAP — Why are four French Mirage 2000 fighter planes currently deployed at the former U.S. air base at Keflavik, Iceland? Answer: The French are plugging a gap in NATO’s North Atlantic defenses left by the U.S. withdrawal from Iceland in 2006. The Keflavik base controlled the so-called Iceland Air Policing Area designed to turn back Soviet long-range strategic bombers headed for U.S. airspace. Two years ago, the Pentagon closed the huge facility after almost 50 years because, in Washington’s view, it had become a relic of the Cold War. Moscow was quick to spot the hole, […]

It’s a sign of the weakness of the Republican Party and its nominee that Sen. John McCain’s best chance of victory may lie in championing the hugely unpopular war in Iraq. Polls indicate that most Americans wish the war had never started, and would like to see American troops pulled out of the country sooner rather than later. At the same time, though, Americans have a much more positive impression of the conduct of the war since early 2007. The troop surge, which which began that January, saw not only a temporary increase in American troops but also the introduction […]

SEOUL, South Korea — Massive demonstrations have forced South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to renege on a trade agreement made with Washington in April. Lee had pledged to lift his country’s five-year-old ban on American beef that was first imposed after an outbreak of mad cow disease in Washington state. For the past month, tens of thousands of South Koreans have held almost nightly candlelight vigils to express their opposition to the beef deal. They say Lee has put the nation’s health at risk because too many restrictions were eased on cow parts that they think are more likely to […]

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Russia may become a player in North American energy markets sooner than anyone expected. According to the June 7 edition of the International Herald Tribune: Gazprom has made a proposal to BP PLC and ConocoPhillips, which in April submitted a bid to build a multibillion-dollar pipeline that would carry natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope to the lower 48 U.S. states, Gazprom director Alexei Miller said.”Gazprom has unique experience, knowledge and modern technology and is the most advanced company in the world in the realm of gas transport in trunk pipelines,” Miller told an international business forum in St. Petersburg, […]

This year, American children born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, literally a generation ago, will vote in a presidential election for the first time. They will join a group of voters born and raised during the long struggle against communism and now entering retirement. On Feb. 12 of this year, the nation’s first baby boomer — born on January 1, 1946 — collected her first social security check. In 2008, the long shadow cast by the Cold War will finally start to recede. Both baby boomers and so-called “millennials” seek a president that can address the most obvious […]

MEXICO CITY — “We are at war,” read the headline of a recent El Universal editorial, following the death of yet another federal policeman. More than 4,000 people have been killed in Mexico since the fight against organized crime was launched in December 2006 by President Felipe Calderón. This year, 178 policemen have been killed. Mexican officials maintain that the cartels are retaliating, on the defensive as the crackdown on organized crime ruptures their way of life. Calderón has almost always been cautious in describing the situation, opting for the word “fight,” instead of “war” until a recent meeting with […]

On May 30, more than 100 countries meeting in Dublin agreed to the text of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which promises to vastly limit the use of weapons that have led to humanitarian suffering for decades. Spurred on by a February 2007 meeting hosted by Norway, the “Oslo” process has moved remarkably quickly to reach a consensus on dealing with bombs, rockets and artillery shells that disperse submunitions over large areas. These “bomblets” often fail to explode at first and later injure noncombatants, including children attracted to what look like golf balls or ribboned cans. Despite the agreement, short-term […]