Elba Esther Gordillo, the leader of the most powerful teachers union in Mexico, was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of embezzling millions in union funds for personal expenses, including paying for private property and plastic surgery. The arrest of the Gordillo, known throughout Mexico simply as “La Maestra,” or “The Teacher” and previously seen as being above the law, came a day after Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a sweeping educational reform that the union she led had opposed. Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said that while a […]

Mexico relies more than most other countries on free trade agreements to fuel economic development. In the 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement helped solidify Mexico’s return to democracy, and, given that international trade accounts for more than 60 percent of Mexico’s economy, no Mexican president can do without a clear strategy for fostering better access to foreign markets. But while President Enrique Pena Nieto claims that the economy is the highest priority on his agenda, his administration has yet to spell out how Mexico will trade with the world. Pena Nieto has inherited a plan to expand Mexico’s […]

No topic in American security inspires more heated debate these days than the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes against armed militants, terrorists and their supporters. While debate and scrutiny of public policy is a good thing, a hefty proportion of this criticism is badly misguided, often mistaking the use of drones as America’s strategy itself. In large part this reflects a failure on the part of the Obama administration to develop a convincing narrative to explain the assumptions, logic and ultimate objectives of its strategy. Without seeing the big picture, it is difficult to understand how drone strikes fit […]

One of the issues newly inaugurated South Korean President Park Geun-hye will need to address is the demands from a growing faction of her own party for either the United States to return tactical nuclear weapons to the South or for Seoul to develop its own nuclear arsenal. In light of the apparently successful Feb. 12 North Korean nuclear test, this faction believes that Seoul needs a similar nuclear capability to deter potential North Korean military threats. Extended deterrence of the kind the U.S. currently provides South Korea requires that the guarantor has the capacity to defend the country threatened […]

Before departing from her position as U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton stated at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is “not only a terrorist syndicate, it is a criminal enterprise.” Recognizing the interconnected nature of these multifaceted illicit networks, Clinton affirmed that to combat them, “we’ve got to have a better strategy.” The former top U.S. diplomat was voicing a conviction increasingly shared by governments and multilateral organizations around the world, which are beginning to recognize that today’s most pressing security challenges are too connected, transnational and vast for states to confront […]

The Realist Prism: Energy Independence a Game-Changer for U.S. Defense Posture

For the past 60 years, there has been convergence between the strategic logic of America’s strategy of forward deployment in key regions of the world and the economic imperative of securing the nation’s prosperity. Despite the constant protests on college campuses about “banana republics” and “no blood for oil,” there was, in fact, generally a strong correlation between the places where the American military was engaged and those areas that were seen as vital to the economic health of the country. Opposition from naturally isolationist tendencies of the American body politic was overcome, in part, by the argument that prosperity […]

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Until the end of the Cold War in the late-1980s, U.S. policy in East Africa and the Horn tried to balance regional security concerns with support for economic development and mitigating food shortages and famines. The primary goal of U.S. policy in the region was to minimize Soviet influence and that of China, Eastern Europe and Cuba. As the Cold War came to an end, the United States added to its policy agenda the objectives of encouraging democratic governance and improving human rights practices. In the post-Cold War era, the primary U.S. human rights and governance concerns in the region […]

Mexico’s economic resurgence is attracting widespread attention and optimism, with the Financial Times recently dubbing the country the “Aztec Tiger.” The change in focus and tone is a welcome one, and has allowed a more balanced and accurate portrayal of Mexico to emerge. Mexico’s prospects look better now than they have in decades. President Enrique Peña Nieto has been in office just three months, yet there is a sense of urgency attached to his ambitious agenda. Substantial challenges loom, and surmounting them will require his administration’s full complement of skills: from political deal-making and legislative maneuvering to strategic communications and […]

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The list of of nations with nuclear weapons continues to grow. First it was the United States and the Soviet Union. They were soon followed by the United Kingdom, France then China. Later, India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea joined. South Africa was a member of the club for a while, before abandoning its program. Iran will become a nuclear power some day, even if the United States or Israel postpones it a bit with an attack. A growing number of other states could build nuclear weapons in short order if they wanted to, including South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil […]

Critics of U.S. foreign policy often argue that the United States lacks a grand strategy — a set of principles, norms and goals applied consistently to foreign policy. Many have argued, for example, that Washington’s reluctance to take strong action to help overthrow Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, or its failure to support protesters in places like Bahrain, results from a grand strategy deficit. In fact, the critics have it wrong in this age-old debate. What Washington needs, whether under a Democratic or a Republican administration, is actually less grand strategic thinking. Political pundits and scholars alike love to talk about […]

The looming threat of sequestration is presenting the American national security community with a dilemma. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has laid out what some of the consequences will be if Congress and the president cannot agree on a plan to rescind the automatic spending cuts that are set to go into effect next month: One of the two U.S. aircraft carrier groups deployed to the Persian Gulf region will be withdrawn; deployments to Latin America will be canceled; and the U.S. presence in Europe will be reduced. Panetta even warned that a diminished U.S. military presence overseas would, over […]

A recent report (.pdf) by the Open Society Justice Initiative provides new insights into the “extraordinary rendition” program the United States operated after 9/11, revealing just how widely the program spanned: More than 130 people were subjected to extraordinary rendition, and more than 50 countries cooperated. The report thus raises important questions about both accountability for past human rights abuses and the future of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Renditions, or the international transfers of individuals without legal process, occurred before 9/11. But they were previously used to transfer suspects for criminal trial. After 9/11, rendition expanded in size and focus; instead […]

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, sponsored the second annual “Opportunity: Africa” conference at Delaware State University. The senator’s remarks emphasized the need for the U.S. to recognize the metamorphosis of the continent. “We’re trying to shift the American mentality toward Africa from aid to trade,” Coons told Trend Lines in an email interview after a full day of conversations on expanding economic engagement with Africa. The U.S. has lagged behind China in seizing trade and investment opportunities in Africa, he said, in part because of outdated assumptions and in part […]

In his second annual report on the state of the NATO alliance, released at the end of January, and in his Feb. 2 speech to the 2013 Munich Security Conference, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen laid out a very ambitious current and future security agenda for the alliance, while stressing the need for NATO governments to sustain adequate defense spending to develop the capabilities needed to achieve the alliance’s goals. In this regard, Rasmussen identified four gaps where spending levels are producing capabilities deficits. The first is the traditional trans-Atlantic gap between the United States and its European allies, which […]

For roughly a decade now, I’ve been advocating that America needs to be unsentimental in choosing its military allies for the 21st century. Europe and Japan are aging and seem increasingly less willing to protect their interests abroad, while India and China are becoming budding superpowers with global interests that, to a stunning degree, overlap with America’s. Most pointedly, we live in an age of “frontier integration” triggered by globalization’s rapid advance, a process in which China and India, and not the “old” West, are the two rising pillars. So it makes sense for America to focus future alliance-building efforts […]

After a bruising confirmation hearing last week before the Senate Armed Service Committee, former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the nominee for the position of secretary of defense in the second-term Obama administration, may be reconsidering whether he truly wants the position. But the stress he endured on the hot seat before his former colleagues may pale in comparison to the challenges that he — or anyone else nominated for the position should he fail to be confirmed — will have to cope with in the coming years. America’s ongoing fiscal crisis and the seeming inability of its executive and legislative branches […]

Prior to the December inauguration of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the United States intervened to halt the rise of Gen. Moises Garcia Ochoa, who was expected to become Mexico’s next minister of defense, according to reporting by the New York Times. U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Anthony Wayne met with Pena Nieto’s senior aides to express American concerns over the possible promotion of the general, including suspicions that he had ties to drug traffickers. “This is not unprecedented, and it doesn’t just apply to Mexico. The United States, over the decades, has done this with a number of Latin American […]

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