TORONTO — Major media organizations operate as devout, if secular, institutions. Think of churches, mosques and temples, stripped of their religious content. What remains is the faith, however, both in the mission of journalism and the audience’s ability to appreciate it. This belief system is often accompanied by heavy doses of public sanctimony. Consider the approach of these organizations when confronted with the abduction of their own correspondents. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), upon learning that Mellissa Fung had been snatched in Afghanistan, requested an embargo on information from all Western media outlets in the country. The corporation, citing advice […]

The Operational Reserves

One of the defense evolutions flying under the radar for most people not immediately impacted by it over the past seven years has been the transformation of the National Guard and Reserves from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve. Along with stop losses and extended tours, deployment of reserve units as part of the operational rotation in Iraq and Afghanistan has functioned as a hidden draft affecting tens of thousands of troops at a time. Whether or not that’s advisable is besides the point, because it’s been necessary. But being that it’s taking place, it shouldn’t be on an […]

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Amid allegations that the ruling Sandinista party rigged the Nov. 9 municipal elections in their favor, the Nicaraguan opposition is backing a proposal in that country’s Congress that would annul the results and set up new elections. But President Daniel Ortega calls the proposal “illegal” and announced a decree last Friday that he says would block the opposition’s allegedly unconstitutional maneuver. He announced the decree after nearly two weeks of violence that broke out in the capital and other cities upon allegations of electoral fraud from opposition leaders. “I hope that this returns everything back to normal,” […]

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) released Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World last week, with its avowed purpose to “stimulate strategic thinking about the future by identifying key trends, the factors that drive them, where they seem to be headed, and how they might interact.” The release of the report was more specifically timed to inform the thinking of the incoming Barack Obama administration about the broader strategic challenges and opportunities it will confront upon assuming office on Jan. 20, 2009 — and before officials of the new administration become overwhelmed by their daily inboxes. The authors of Global Trends […]

Latin America Consensus Drifts ‘Leftward’

It’s striking the degree to which the “reasonable” foreign policy consensus on Latin America has drifted to the “left.” The Brookings Institution just released a report (via the NY Times today) that more or less echoes a letter addressed to the Obama campaign last month by the Latin American Studies Association and 400 academics (via Christopher Moraff’s WPR piece last week). It’s also striking the degree to which the major news outlets’ coverage of foreign policy plays catch up to WPR. Get it here first, folks.

Venezuelan Opposition Makes Solid Gains

To follow up on Anastasia Moloney’s WPR preview of the Venezuela elections, the NY Times is reporting that the opposition indeed made significant gains, but according to the WaPo, it apparently lost Sucre which would have signaled inroads into Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s core base urban poor. Chávez also managed to avoid some of the more significant symbollic defeats that had been forecasted, like the governorship that his brother was trying to inherit from their father. Still, the defeat is a substantial one for Chávez, and comes despite a good deal of pre-election government interference. How he responds to the […]

Syria’s Influence Inflation

Lots of Syria news to digest at the moment, and not all of it terribly coherent. A good place to start, though, is this Brookings paper by Bilal Saab (via Friday Lunch Club). This, in particular, positively leaped off the page: Syria’s pragmatic statecraft during this episode did not emerge in avacuum but is part of a larger tactical reorientation in foreignpolicy. That reorientation began with the 34-day war between Hizbullahand Israel in southern Lebanon in summer 2006. The duration of thatconflict and the extent of the damage Israel’s punitive air strikesinflicted on Lebanon impressed upon Syrian leaders just how […]

Sarkozy’s Leverage Problem

It’s rare to find balanced analysis regarding Nicolas Sarkozy’s foreign policy, no less so in France than in the U.S. The guy has a way of polarizing people to the point where most either love him or hate him, but lose all ability to calmly assess what he’s doing. Part of that has to do with Sarkozy’s frenetic nature itself, which lends itself more to caricature than to calm reflection. Max Bergmann’s analysis at Democracy Arsenal of this John Vinocur IHT column, though, is an exception to the rule, mainly because Bergmann nails the circumstancial opportunity that Sarkozy has tried […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Venezuelans will take to the polling stations over the weekend in nationwide elections that are being seen as a litmus test for the future of President Hugo Chávez and a golden opportunity for the opposition to regain its presence in local government. The local elections, which include 22 state governorships and over 300 mayoral posts up for grabs, are the first real test of Chávez’s popularity following his narrow defeat in a referendum on constitutional reform — which would have allowed Chávez’s indefinite re-election — last December. Four years ago in the last local elections, pro-Chávez candidates […]

NO JOY AT THE SUMMIT — To French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s disappointment, Barack “One-president-at-a-time” Obama stuck to his word and refused to meet with any of the world leaders who attended last week’s economic summit in Washington. The French pressed hard, arguing that as current president of the European Union Sarkozy had hoped to be the first transatlantic leader to meet the American president-elect. Throughout the week-end, Sarkozy had a plane on standby to leave for Chicago at a moment’s notice. But no summons came from the Windy City. Meanwhile, there was no sign in Washington of the warm relations […]

4 More Years of Foreign Policy Disunity?

Just what we need, another administration that doesn’t speak with a unified voice on foreign policy. But, seriously, I don’t put much stock in the idea that the rift between the Clinton and Obama camps will carry over into U.S. foreign policy if Hillary is ensconced at State. I have no doubt, as Ackerman’s article suggests, that Obama loyalists with foreign policy resumes are worried about competing for jobs in a Hillary-run State Department. But when I read that “some Obama loyalists wonder whether the same people who attacked Obama on foreign policy during the primaries can implement Obama’s agenda […]

Sarkozy Plays to Type

The problem with the personality types that often make their way to the summit of power is that they are very often unfamiliar with the concept, let alone the dangers, of overplaying one’s hand. So Nicolas Sarkozy decides to throw a follow up summit conference on the financial crisis with British Prime Minister ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair, to the great surprise of the assembled leaders at this past weekend’s summit in Washington, who had agreed to at least a working plan on how to follow up on regulating global financial markets, if nothing else. The choice of British prime ministers […]

Russia, Venezuela to Sign Nuclear Reactor Deal

The Guardian reports that Russia and Venezuela will sign a preliminary agreement next week clearing the way for Russia to build the country’s first nuclear reactor. A lot of the speculation about Barack Obama being tested if elected president centered on conflict scenarios. But I think this sort of development — situated squarely in the provocative zone where the multipolar and globalized world overlap with the Monroe Doctrine — is closer to what we’ll see over the next six months. Christopher Moraff’s WPR piece on how the Obama administration might address the “new reality” of Latin America is a good […]

On the same day that American voters elected Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States, Bolivian President Evo Morales showed U.S. narcotics agents in his country the door. Morales gave the Drug Enforcement Agency three months to pack up and leave Bolivia, accusing DEA operatives of “political espionage” and inciting violence in the country. The U.S. strongly denies the accusation. Yet the move is just one of a string of recent incidents that have capped nearly a decade of deteriorating relations between governments in Latin America and Washington under the Bush administration. Rapid changes in the political makeup […]

Global arms sales continue to grow, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), with the value of worldwide weapons contracts rising by an estimated 9.2 percent in 2007. The CRS put the value of major arms transfer agreements at almost $60 billion, up from $54.9 billion the year before. The United States accounted for over 41 percent of the sales, or approximately $24.8 billion, a significant increase from the 2006 figure of $16.7 billion. Russia still ranked second, but the value of its arms transfer agreements actually fell from $14.3 billion in 2006 to $10.4 billion in 2007. Conversely, the […]

Sec. of State Clinton?

I’m not going to get into the habit of discussing transition rumors for the Obama administration. But one of the major criticisms directed at both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during their primary campaign duel was the fact that neither of them had much foreign policy experience. So this doesn’t strike me as a particularly inspired choice from the perspective of “hands on” foreign policy chops. That it’s driven primarily by domestic political maneuvering is a point that won’t be lost on the world, and seems like a clumsy initial gesture reinforcing the common wisdom that in the U.S., foreign […]

The End of the Euro-American Age?

I’m grateful to the Atlanticist for republishing Steven Philip Kramer’s Strategic Forum article, The Absence of Europe, because otherwise I would have missed it, and it’s really a must read for anyone interested in U.S.-EU relations, EU defense and EU common foreign policy. It’s a thorough, balanced and non-dogmatic treatment of the many challenges that the EU must resolve if it really wants to assume a partnership role in international security, with all the responsibility that entails. I’ve flagged recent progress on EU defense, but as Kramer points out, there are fundamental insitutional impasses that need to be opened before […]

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