Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ self-described “man bites dog” speech this week may be the most important national security legacy speech by any member of the Bush administration. Advocating greater funding and development of U.S. soft power capabilities, Gates was not in fact breaking new ground for a Department of Defense official; but his articulation of the need for such capabilities in a broader, 21st century context gave his remarks a refreshing relevance beyond the political and into the realm of the strategic. Escaping the morass of “long war” rhetoric, Secretary Gates may have written the first chapter in the […]

The quick one-day visit between President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in Washington Nov. 16 was by all accounts a successful “meet and greet.” However, it fell far short of the substantive policy agreements and memorable photo-ops that characterized such meetings during the era of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Bush and Fukuda had open discussions on issues ranging from North Korea to global warming to beef. However, the lack of substantive agreements that resulted highlights alarming trends in the U.S.-Japan alliance. If not properly managed, the new rifts in the alliance — in large part attributable to […]

ANNAPOLIS I: THE NOT-SO-SECRET SERVICE — The Annapolis Conference on the Middle East started with something as mundane as an early morning bus ride. At 8 a.m., foreign ministers and senior diplomats from 46 countries were bussed from the State Department to the U.S. Naval Academy for better security, and to avoid clogging rush hour traffic on the beltway with individual motorcades, it was said. In reality, however, the buses were meant to make sure that everyone showed up at the conference. Security was mainly shared between the local police and the oddly named Uniformed Secret Service, a Treasury Department […]

WASHINGTON — Some 40 foreign ministers and other senior officials are being bussed to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Tuesday for a day’s discussion on the conflict that has dominated events in the Middle East since 1948. Each speaker will initially have five minutes (President Bush will have a few more) to spell out his or her proposals for establishing peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Rome isn’t the only place that wasn’t built in a day. Neither will a peaceful Middle East, with Israel and Palestine existing side by side. But the United States, organizer of […]

This week, the United States is hosting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Annapolis, Md., in hopes of jumpstarting the stalled Middle East peace process. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has made several trips to Israel and the Palestinian Territories in an effort to bring the two parties closer to negotiations. Rice has been working on the Middle East peace process from the early days of the Bush Administration. Bringing a just and comprehensive peace to the Middle East is a top priority for President Bush, especially in light of the negative aftermath of […]

At long last the invitations have gone out. The Annapolis meeting will take place after all, and it will happen this Tuesday. I suspect Miss Manners might have objected to sending invitations just a few days before the event, especially considering most of the guests will have to travel many thousands of miles to get to the bash. But then, Miss Manners never had to set the table for a gathering of Arab and Israeli adversaries. Of all the questions surrounding this much-maligned non-conference, the most critical is: Will it disappoint? Will it disappoint Palestinians so much that they turn […]

Part II: The RSF Rankings In light of the casualness with which media organizations and “human rights” groups regularly cite the Press Freedom rankings of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), one might well expect RSF’s Press Freedom Index to be accompanied by a detailed report explaining how the organization established its rankings and providing a summary analysis of the situation of press freedoms of each of the 169 countries included. This would surely not be too much to expect of an organization disposing of an annual budget of nearly four million euros: much of which, as shown in Part I of […]

SEEKING REASSURANCE — After French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Washington last week, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, at the weekend, the flow of high-level European visitors continues in early December when Italy’s President Giorgio Napolitano is due to visit — followed in February by Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. The White House wants to show it has friends in Europe to support its tough Iran policy, its efforts in Afghanistan, and its new missile defense deployment in Eastern Europe. Visiting European leaders, on the other hand, are seeking reassurance that Bush’s lame duck […]

A significant anniversary passed on Oct. 31 that received little attention — the passage of the National Security Act of 1947. Sixty years ago last month, in the aftermath of a catastrophic global war, the United States reorganized its instruments of statecraft for the developing Cold War with the Soviet Union — a war that the newly created instruments eventually helped in winning. The National Security Act of 1947 created the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency. At a time of profound change in the international system, President Truman and his advisors recognized that […]

WASHINGTON — Across the world, “America may be less well regarded today than at any time in its history,” according to a report issued last week by a bipartisan group of politicians and foreign policy experts. But “it is not too late to reverse these trends, even in the Arab and Muslim World,” the report found. The “Commission on Smart Power” that penned the report was convened by the Center for Strategic International Studies, a non-partisan think tank. Titled “A Smarter, More Secure America,” the report calls on the next U.S. President to embrace three foreign policy themes to guide […]

The recent implementation of a long-awaited U.S. homeland security program has reinvigorated debate over the international consequences of controversial cargo security legislation passed earlier this summer. The Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Freight Initiative, co-managed by the Customs and Border Protection office (CBP) and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, began testing Oct. 12 whether scanning 100 percent of sea cargo destined for the United States is feasible and effective for enhancing supply chain security. The tests are taking place at the United Kingdom’s Southampton Container Terminals, Pakistan’s Port Qasim and Honduras’ Puerto Cortez, with CBP set to […]

By now, after years of skyrocketing fuel prices, the news that the price of a barrel of oil is hitting $100 doesn’t exactly cause panic. When you consider that a barrel of crude cost just $11 in 1998, and double that at the beginning of the decade, the truly astonishing development is that our lives have changed so little as a result of the higher prices. And yet, as some oil exporting countries swim in the riches of our gas money, the consequences of $100 oil are not always what you — and they — might expect. Soaring prices at […]

Yahoo Apologizes, But Are Journalists Any Safer?

Yesterday, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, led by Tom Lantos, slammed Yahoo’s disclosure of the identity of journalist Shi Tao to the Chinese government. Lantos also criticized the company’s failure to acknowledge its role in the disclosure when questioned in a 2006 House hearing. Shi used his Yahoo email account to forward a Chinese government memo prohibiting journalists from covering the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. After Yahoo disclosed his identity to Chinese authorities, Shi was jailed with a 10 year sentence for revealing state secrets. Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang, and General Counsel Michael Callahan appeared to represent […]

The collapse of Sudan’s national unity government caught Sara Anihiri*, 24, completely off guard. When the Halifax, Nova Scotia, resident and Dalhousie University graduate student learned of the departure from the Sudanese government of cabinent members from the ex-rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, she, like others in the Sudanese diaspora, feared the worst. “Are people going to go again to war?” Her thinking was hardly unreasonable, given the historical animosity between the Muslim north and the multireligious south. For 21 years, the Khartoum Government fought the SPLM, destroying much of southern Sudan and leaving about two million people dead while […]

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — Leaders of West African nations could barely contain their glee in mid-October when the World Trade Organization announced it had upheld a previous ruling declaring the United States has not done enough to cut back its subsidies to cotton farmers. The ruling stems from Brazil’s 2002 complaint to the WTO that U.S. farm supports depress world prices and create undue harm to Brazilian cotton farmers. Brazil’s president Luiz Ignacio Lula Da Silva was visiting Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, when the ruling was made public. He continued to portray the issue of cotton subsidies in terms of the […]

WHO’S LOONIE NOW? — For years, currency traders have largely been dismissive, not to say disparaging, about “other” dollars, among them the Canadian “loonie,” New Zealand’s “kiwi,” and the Australian dollar. With the decline of the U.S. “greenback” and the rise in oil prices, the “other” dollars have come into their own — and become ripe for currency speculation. On Monday, the Australian dollar (the Aussie? the kangaroo?) reached a 23-year high against its U.S. counterpart, having hopped to U.S. 91.8 cents, up from U.S. 91.1 cents Friday. With Australian interest rates widely expected to rise to 6.75 percent in […]