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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 […]

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I had the pleasure of participating last Friday in France 24’s panel discussion week-in-review program, The World This Week. The other participants were Matthew Saltmarsh of the International Herald Tribune, Paul Taylor of Reuters, and Esther Leneman of the French radio station, Europe 1. You’ll have to sit through a patch at the beginning where we all struggle to find something intelligent to say about the Catholic Church’s child sexual abuse scandal. (Saltmarsh got called on first since, uh, well . . . Let’s just say that Judah and Esther are giveaways, and Paul apparently is of the Tribe as […]

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The EU once again agreed to support Greece in a vaguely outlined but yet-to-be-determined way. I’ve actually lost track of how many symbollic expressions of support that makes, but three sounds right. This time, however, not only did German Chancellor Angela Merkel win out on her insistence to include the IMF in any eventual bailout, she also managed to hold on to a future veto for actually implementing the agreed-upon mechanism. What’s more, she got a commitment in writing to explore ways of strengthening oversight of EU member states’ budgetary discipline, which is being described as “economic governance,” but represents […]

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 […]

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Once again, the continuing back and forth on an EU-U.S. bank data-sharing deal is illustrative of some potential post-Lisbon shifts in the EU’s wish list. In particular, it looks like reciprocity is the new transparency: Last month, the European Parliament blocked a provisional deal between the European Union and Washington to permit the continued exchange of such data. The move by Parliament was partly a bid to assert new powers to decide issues concerning European security jointly with E.U. governments. But the move also reflected deepening unease in Europe over the way personal data are increasingly used by companies and […]

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 […]

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 […]

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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 […]

MEXICO CITY — Earlier this year, Mexican President Felipe Calderón admonished a meeting of the nation’s top diplomats, urging them to speak better of Mexico in order to counter negative perceptions of the country generated by its ongoing war on drug cartels and the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus. Calderón raised eyebrows, however, when, to emphasize his point, he mentioned Brazil, saying the emerging South American power is perceived abroad in far more favorable terms than Mexico, in part because its own citizens speak well of it. “I have never as a politician nor as president . . . […]

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 United States is entering negotiations this week to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (.pdf), a relatively unknown trade agreement that includes Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore. The pact is perhaps humble in its origins, with the population of its largest member — Chile — less than 16 million at the time of its inception in 2005, and the group’s share of global GDP minute. But the TPP has quietly gained momentum over recent years and may come to serve as a free trade zone that incorporates large parts of both sides of the Pacific. In addition to the United […]

The future direction of European defense is at a crossroads. On the one hand, the NATO experience in Afghanistan has cast into stark relief the limits of European military capacities, not only at the operational but also at the political levels. On the other hand, the recently enacted Lisbon Treaty offers important new opportunities to improve European defense capabilities, especially at the institutional level. If the European Union is to establish itself as a credible security actor on the global stage, European governments will need to improve the way they work together on defense. But the biggest obstacle they face […]

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As Brazil’s influence on the global stage climbs, the United States’ influence in Latin America may be waning. A recent visit to Latin America by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton highlights the weaknesses and strengths in the relationship the Obama administration has forged with its southern partners. Experts say there has been a noticeable strain in diplomatic relations, but that not all hope is lost, should the U.S. refocus their priorities in the region.