Brazil and the United States have long had a relationship unlike others in the Western Hemisphere. Despite some obvious similarities and important common interests, Brasilia and Washington have not traditionally shared the same worldview—perhaps they never will. As a result, policymakers are frequently left searching for an elusive equilibrium in the relationship, and casual observers can be taken by surprise when events, such as the revelations of U.S. intelligence gathering activities in Brazil, occur that highlight both the promise and also the fragility of the bilateral partnership. Brazil is clearly a nation on the rise. Its strong democracy makes it […]

This week, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obama laid out a U.S. foreign policy agenda for the remainder of his term in office, with particular emphasis on finding a solution to the impasse over the Iranian nuclear program and making a lasting breakthrough in the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian dispute. However, the overall focus of the address, with its emphasis on the centrality of the Middle East, is seemingly at odds with the direction articulated earlier in his administration, most notably by former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: the so-called […]

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is meeting U.S. President Barack Obama today at the White House, where the two leaders are expected to reach deals on defense cooperation and trade in nuclear technology. That reflects the interest on both sides to move past the “differences and divisions have taken center stage in recent months,” as Richard Fontaine explained in World Politics Review last month: Despite drift in some key areas of the relationship, the underlying strategic rationale for it remains. Washington is rebalancing its foreign policy to Asia, attempting to allot that region greater diplomatic attention, military resources and commercial […]

When heads of state attending the United Nations General Assembly arrived in New York two years ago, they shared the spotlight with another group of people massing in the city. Lower Manhattan was becoming the epicenter of a movement that became known as Occupy Wall Street, a manifestation of the wave of people power that was sweeping the globe. Back then, masses of everyday citizens were flexing their muscles worldwide. Demonstrators seemed to have the upper hand—peacefully toppling dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, raising complaints and demands seemingly everywhere. The very meaning of power seemed to be changing. Over the […]

The decades-long relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has faced major challenges since the start of the Middle East upheavals in 2011. The past few months have produced new tactical strains in the bilateral relationship: Ongoing political changes in Egypt, Syria’s civil war and the possibility of new attempts at diplomatic engagement with Iran have all brought to the surface divisions between Washington and Riyadh. The United States and Saudi Arabia continue to share several common strategic interests, including regional security cooperation in dealing with threats from Iran and al-Qaida affiliates, but how the two countries work together […]

As the U.S. military struggles with severe budget cuts driven by political posturing rather than a strategic vision, the Army is facing a deep identity crisis. As defense expert Nadia Schadlow explained, “After 10 years of fighting two major wars and suffering the brunt of America’s military casualties, the most experienced and powerful ground force in the world now has to justify its value and relevance.” The historical American preference was to keep only a small army during peacetime, creating one only when war came and demobilizing afterward. That would not work during the Cold War, however, so, for the […]

Iran’s new president, Hasan Rouhani, is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday and plans to use the occasion to reach out to world leaders about restarting talks on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. As U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration consider how they should react to the friendlier diplomatic face put forward by Rouhani and his team, they will need to contend with five popular myths about U.S. policy toward Iran’s nuclear program. 1. It’s Iraq all over again. No. For anti-war activists, simply invoking the Iraq War is an easy way to avoid making a fresh judgment […]

One of the unavoidable realities in any U.S. administration is that the president himself can only focus on 10 or so pressing foreign policy issues at any given time. Immediate crises and pressing national security threats tend to dominate that list, which has the unfortunate effect of making the top echelons of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus reactive rather than proactive. Thus, most of the attention of the Obama administration’s national security team over the past several weeks has been focused on the crisis in Syria, to the detriment of matters that may be less immediately urgent right now but […]

As the United States, Russia and Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria engage in a complicated diplomatic dance, Washington remains fixated on Syrian chemical weapons, leaving what may be a more important issue—America’s relationship with the Syrian rebels—muddled. The U.S. supports one rebel faction but not enough to allow it to win outright, fearing that doing so will inadvertently help extremists affiliated with al-Qaida or taint the United States with the misdeeds of its rebel allies. This is simply the latest example of the confusion and uncertainly that has long characterized America’s dealings with militias. Although the U.S. military itself grew […]

New U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power is living up to her reputation as a staunch defender of human rights, and in the process is testing the limits of U.S. diplomacy within the bounds of international law. Power came out swinging Monday in a statement about Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s decision to seek a visa to attend the U.N. General Assembly, which opened yesterday in New York. “Such a trip would be deplorable, cynical and hugely inappropriate,” she said, adding that Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court, ought to turn himself over to the ICC […]

Although welcome, the U.S.-Russia agreement on Syria’s chemical weapons reached this weekend in Geneva will prove difficult to implement. Some of these problems can be reduced with concerted effort and continued focus. But the Syrian crisis should not be seen in a vacuum—it is the latest in a series of chemical weapons crises that includes Iraq and Libya. As a result, the United States and other countries should respond not only by working to implement the U.S.-Russia deal, but also by strengthening broader nonproliferation efforts as well as their own national instruments for combating chemical weapons use and proliferation. The […]

Early in President Barack Obama’s first term, there were suggestions that the United States and China could forge a new partnership to manage global affairs. Some commentators argued that a Sino-American “Group of Two” could run the world better than the G-20. It is said that the Obama administration made some version of this proposal to Beijing but was rebuffed. Last week, it suddenly seemed possible that the Syrian crisis could trigger the creation of an alternative G-2, this time involving Russia. When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov arrived in Geneva on Thursday […]

“Colombia and the United States agree on so many different parts of our agenda today,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during an Aug. 12 visit to Bogota. “And we have built a very, very strong relationship on shared values and on common interests.” Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah have expressed similar thoughts during recent visits to Colombia. Beyond the rhetoric, though, and at a time when Colombia could be on the verge of transitioning from civil war to peace, the diplomatic relationship is on autopilot. High-level diplomatic dialogues between […]

The U.S.-Russian negotiations over Syria’s chemical weapons, now underway in Geneva, will determine whether President Barack Obama can walk back his threat to launch punitive strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But they will also impact the paradigm for addressing WMD elsewhere, particularly Iran. Depending on the outcome of the talks over Syria, the U.S. could find itself with new options for negotiating a deal to resolve the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program—or find the door to a peaceful outcome firmly shut. U.S. officials have characterized the Russian plan to secure Syrian chemical weapons as “doable but […]

Whatever happens next in the ongoing drama between the U.S. and Syria over the use of chemical weapons, it would be difficult to conclude that President Barack Obama has performed impressively in his handling of the crisis in Syria. Obama’s response to the slow-motion disintegration of that key Arab state has been marked by a combination of neglect, ambivalence and improvisation. The latest chapter, played out over the past couple of weeks, showed the president at long last responding to what by all appearances was a massive use of chemical weapons by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. That […]

Strategic Horizons: An America Unwilling to Use Force Cannot Be a Global Force for Good

A diplomatic initiative triggered by Secretary of State John Kerry’s seemingly off-the-cuff remarks has temporarily stopped the clock on U.S. military strikes against Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Nevertheless, the previous week’s tumultuous debate over the appropriate U.S. response to the chemical weapons attack in Syria shows that there is no longer a consensus on the purpose of American military power or even the meaning of “war.” But there is equally little agreement over what should replace the old ideas. For most of American history, the purpose of national military power gradually […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part investigative series on U.S. and French counterterrorism efforts in Niger. Part I examined Niger’s emergence as a target of terrorist groups active in the Sahel region. Part II examines the growing U.S. security presence in Niger, and the nascent tensions with France over how best to counter terror and bolster Niger’s security. Though much has been made of Niger’s recent ascendance as a key U.S. ally in the Sahel region, the country had already begun to distinguish itself as a useful counterterrorism ally in Department of Defense circles as early as […]

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