An Inward- or Outward-Looking Constitution?

Noah Feldman’s cover article in this past Sunday’s New York Times is a must read. Feldman provides useful background on how the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court are increasingly affecting foreign policy. His framing of the debate surrounding the intersection of constitutional law and international law is also quite useful. He describes the two sides of the debate as “conservative and inward-looking” vs. “liberal and outward-focused,” and illustrates how in two recent decisions — Boumediene v. Bush and Medellín v. Texas — the liberal and conservative view, respectively, each notched a victory. Feldman writes: The Boumediene decision saw the […]

Missile Defense Moves Forward

These are heady and crucial days for the burgeoning international missile defense system (IMD), which the United States is building in cooperation with its closest allies. Indeed, every week seems to bring with it another validation of IMD’s necessity, viability or practicality. The past several weeks are no exception. On the capabilities front, just this month, the Airborne Laser (ABL) was successfully tested aboard its demonstrator aircraft (though not yet in the air; that comes next year). “We have now demonstrated all of the technical steps needed to shoot down a boosting missile in flight,” explained Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, […]

UNITED NATIONS — In his farewell speech to the United Nations this week, U.S. President George W. Bush assessed the utility of the world body in a way that represents a significant departure from his administration’s earlier policy. Bush, now entrenched in nation-building both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, told members of the U.N. General Assembly, “a clear lesson has emerged: The United Nations and other multilateral organizations are needed more urgently than ever.” His Sept. 23 speech came after almost eight years of rocky relations between the United Nations and the Bush administration. It also fueled speculation about the […]

McCain on Meeting with Zapatero: Misunderstanding or Gaffe?

The liberal blogosphere is making a lot of hay with John McCain’s recent interview with Radio Caracol Miami in which he appears to dodge a question about meeting with Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Below is the audio, via TPM. The relevant passage starts around 2:58. Contrary to the assertions of most bloggers, it’s perfectly clear to me that McCain’s dodging of the question is a result of his not understanding the interviewer rather than his not knowing who Zapatero is (though the latter remains a possibility). He clearly doesn’t hear the translator say “Spain” in her first […]

U.S.-Nicaraguan Relations Chill as Ortega Faces Domestic Tests

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — U.S. relations with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Cold War foe, have become icier after the former Sandinista rebel leader recognized the independence of two breakaway Georgian regions. While the international community condemned Russia for sending troops last month to support the two rebel enclaves South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Nicaragua quickly became the first country other than Russia to recognize the two provinces’ as independent nations. Five days later, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez canceled a planned trip to Nicaragua, with U.S. Ambassador in Managua Robert Callahan saying, “It isn’t the appropriate moment for the […]

The Strategic Danger of Knowing Where History’s Going

“For those like President Bush who profess certainty as to history’s purpose, using any means necessary to hurry history along to its predetermined destination offers a nearly irresistible temptation. When that conviction is accompanied by a further certainty that on the far side of victory permanent peace awaits, the resort to force becomes almost obligatory. The greater the sense of conviction the easier it becomes to justify any mayhem committed on behalf of big ideas.” –Andrew Bacevich, in a review of “The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth ofWarfare as We Know It,” by David A. Bell, in […]

On Sept. 8, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the most concrete U.S. punishment of Russia for Moscow’s military intervention in Georgia. In a brief press release, she related that President Bush was rescinding the proposed U.S.-Russia Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation. She expressed regret at the decision, but described it as inevitable since, “given the current environment, the time is not right for this agreement.” Although Vice President Richard Cheney has denounced “Russia’s actions [as] an affront to civilized standards” and said they are “completely unacceptable,” the Bush administration had until this decision not penalized Russia so directly […]

NEW YORK — Both candidates for President of the United States agree that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology is a serious threat to national security, but neither has presented a serious strategy for dealing with the problem on the campaign trail. One seems to think he can talk Iran out of its nuclear program without specifying what he’d say to change the equation. The other summed up his strategy by inserting a few bombs into an old Beach Boys song. Campaign rhetoric rarely becomes policy, especially in foreign affairs, and the Iranian question is no exception. Certainly Barack Obama will […]

TORRÉON, Mexico — Fernando Martí, the 14-year-old son of a Mexican sporting goods magnate, was kidnapped in June, strangled within a few days of his abduction, and found in the trunk of a car in the nation’s capital in August. His ordeal — along with stratospheric levels of drug violence and the recent designation of Mexico as the country that leads the world in kidnappings — has provoked a groundswell of outrage across Mexican society. Politicians, civil groups, newspaper commentators, the business community — virtually everyone drawing breath from Tijuana to Cancun agrees that Mexico’s rampant criminality must be addressed. […]

September 11: A Jewish Holiday?

As reported by the German wire service the Deutsche-Presse-Agentur (DPA) last week, the American Embassy in Berlin has announced that it will be holding a commemorative service on September 11 for the victims of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. This is hardly unusual. What is unusual, however, is that the service is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community of Berlin (an umbrella group of Jewish congregations) and will be held at the Centrum Judaicum at Berlin’s historic “New” Synagogue. Malte Lehming of the Berlin daily Die Tagesspiegel rightly asks: “Why?” The 9/11 attacks were, after all, attacks on America and Americans, […]