BOGOTÁ, Colombia — An uncomfortable silence filled the officers’ mess at the Macarena military base in southern Colombia as the lunchtime news broadcast the purge of 27 high-ranking army officials. “That’s not going to be the end of it,” said one army colonel as he shook his head in disbelief. He was right. Several days later, Colombia’s veteran top army commander, Gen. Mario Montoya, resigned. The firing of the army officers — including three generals — earlier this month followed a government probe into the disappearance of 11 men from Soacha, a poor neighborhood outside of Bogotá. The young men […]

LONDON — Until recently, Europe’s politicians held their noses when they spoke of the United States. Now they are falling over each other to associate themselves with the president-elect, to attach themselves to the most attractive, most popular and soon-to-be most powerful man on the planet. Everyone wants a piece of Barack Obama. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has more reason than most to seek Obama’s favor. Under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Britain was regarded as Washington’s closest ally in the war against Iraq, the war against the Taliban and what was once called the war against terrorism. Brown […]

Serbia’s Surprising Turn Westward

Only eight months after losing Kosovo, their cultural and historical heartland, Serbs seem strangely passive these days. At this time last year, as negotiations over Kosovo’s final status reached an impasse, Serbs felt bitter and humiliated by the pariah-status they were dealt by the international community. So their initial reaction to Kosovo’s declaration of independence — and its quick recognition by Western capitals — this past February was predictable: amidst a crowd of 100,000 peaceful protesters (more than 1% of the population), a few hundred “extremists” attacked and ignited several embassies of Kosovo-friendly governments, including that of Kosovo’s strongest ally, […]

Fixing the National Security System

I just wanted to flag Richard Weitz’s WPR column from last week, which ran on Election Day and might have gotten overshadowed by the day’s historic events. But the piece is really worth a look, because it presents the findings of a non-partisan research group — the Project on National Security Reform — that Richard headed which used exhaustive case study analysis to assess the country’s national security system. And the conclusion was that it functions inconsistently at best, and often as a result of non-reproducible factors like personal relationships across agencies or individual initiative. The piece is timely especially […]

Globalized Pugilism

I ran across a title fight while channel surfing this weekend: Arthur”King Arthur” Abraham defending the IBF middleweight belt against RaulMarquez. Talk about globalization. Abraham’s an Armenian-bornnaturalized German citizen and entered the ring to a live band playingbad German heavy metal. Marquez is a Mexican-born naturalized Americancitizen (he represented the U.S. in the 1992 Olympics) and entered thering to a mariachi soundtrack. But to show that globalization doesn’tnecessarily mean homogenization, the German and American nationalanthems were played by a string quartet. (First time I’ve heard thedescending bass line accompanying the last verse of the Star SpangledBanner on a cello.) After […]

America and Europe on Veterans Day

Alexander Watson has a thought-provoking op-ed in the NY Times on how today’s holiday is observed in Europe (Armistice Day) compared to Stateside (Veteran’s Day). It resonated with a moving post I read this morning by Jean-Dominique Merchet at Secret Défense about the last battle of WWI, an ill-fated river-crossing ordered and carried out the morning of Nov. 11 despite the French command knowing that the Armistice would take effect at 11am that day. And while the symbollism of the armistice saving the continent from the brink — the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — […]

China and Latin America

Add China to the list of countries making inroads into Latin America (see Christina Madden’s WPR piece on Iran’s growing presence). The People’s Daily reports that trade is growing substantially across the region (up by roughly 50 percent). The details are thin, but there seems to be a two-way traffic of high-tech components being shipped from Latin America to China, with the finished products heading back the other way. Also interesting is that while country-by-country, China maintains a positive balance of trade, when taken across the region as a whole it’s pretty much a wash. (They actually import $2.5 billion […]

LIMA, Peru — Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim met last week with his Iranian counterpart in Tehran, where the two diplomats discussed expanding bilateral economic ties. Trade between Iran and Brazil quadrupled between 2002 and 2007, and if Iran gets its way, it will further increase as much as five-fold, from $2 billion to $10 billion annually. The move reflects the fact that while Washington’s attention has been focused in recent years on Iraq and the War on Terror, Iran’s influence in Latin America has quietly but steadily grown. In addition to Brazil, Iran has signed dozens of economic agreements […]

With the U.S. presidential election finally decided, attention has now turned to just how President-elect Barack Obama will handle American foreign policy. As a candidate, Obama often displayed the clearsighted vision of a foreign policy realist, while embracing the rhetorical flourishes of an idealist. In WPR’s latest biweekly feature issue, two prominent foreign policy analysts examine the challenges and opportunities that await The Obama Presidency. In Wilsonian Idealist or Progressive Realist? Nikolas Gvosdev, former editor of the National Interest, considers the kinds of “80 percent solutions” the Obama administration might be forced to consider, and whether it will be willing […]

Obama’s Foreign Policy: Challenges & Opportunities

In case you haven’t seen WPR’s front page today, we’ve got two great articles assessing the possibilities of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. The first, by Thomas P.M. Barnett, takes a grand strategy approach and discusses the rule sets a successful Obama presidency must define. The second, by Nikolas Gvosdev, takes a realist approach and examines the possible deals an Obama administration might be forced to consider making. Two keen and insightful analysts, two fascinating pieces. Quite a pleasure having them here at WPR.

As far as foreign policy goes, Barack Obama comes to the presidency totally unburdened by his past (this is truly his first act in the international political theater) and unusually credentialed as a presumed agent of future change (e.g., his biracial background alone), so he’s a relatively free agent, ideologically speaking. That’s a huge asset as he follows the highly ideological Bush-Cheney administration, because he encounters a world of labeled players, most of whom are eager to come in from whatever “cold” standing vis-à-vis the United States that their current designation implies. That doesn’t mean these regimes necessarily seek our […]

How is President-elect Barack Obama planning to shape the foreign policy of his administration? Is he a Wilsonian idealist? A progressive realist? Some mix of the two? How Obama will define his foreign policy still remains somewhat of a mystery. Between now and when he actually begins his term of office, I expect that his rhetoric about U.S. foreign policy and America’s place in the world will become more expansive and lyrical. After all, this is to be expected. American chief executives traditionally use the post-election period, culminating in the Inaugural Address, as a time to appeal to our loftiest […]

Obama and the EU

Since no one else seems to be very forthcoming about offering BarackObama advice on how to conduct his foreign policy, and since I’m surehe’s got some down time to fill catching up on his favorite blogs, Ithought I’d step up and do what’s right.In particular, with regards to Europe. A big part of Obama’s political technique is to go beyond coddling asympathetic constituency by appealing to its individual responsibilityand making hard demands of it to contribute to the solution for its ownproblems. (I’d call it a “S-st-h S–ldj-h” instinct if I hadn’t made avow to never utter that expression or […]

To hear some people tell the story, anti-Americanism will end now that Barack Obama has been elected president, bringing with him a traditional American respect for foreign cultures, international law, and multilateral diplomacy. The Bush legacy will fade from view, and Americans will once again be beloved around the globe, especially in Arab countries. The world, however, is not so simple. Anti-American riots first filled the streets of foreign nations more than a century ago, as the United States became a global power. They continued through the Cold War and beyond. Anti-American terrorism is not new, either. While some argue […]

When Global Capital Attacks

Ever wondered what exactly it means when a country goes bankrupt? This Der Spiegel article about Ukraine, Hungary, Iceland and Venezuela on the brink explains. We’ve gotten used to hearing the phrase “too big to fail” bandied about quite a bit recently. The problem is that at the same time a concerted effort is being made to get cash-rich nations to recapitalize the IMF’s bailout fund (as if that weren’t scary enough), there are hedge funds (and probably sovereign wealth fund managers) that are literally waiting to bottomfeed on entire countries. How exactly, in a globalized capital market, do you […]

Election Backgrounder: 20 WPR Picks

Whether you’re among those 4-8 percent of American voters who are undecided or if you just can’t get enough of all things election-related, we have selected 10 World Politics Review articles and 10 blog posts from recent months that, taken together, form a good primer on the foreign policy issues at stake in this election. Here they are, for your browsing pleasure. News and Commentary Articles 1. Arab World Suddenly Cooling to Obama, by Frida Ghitis, Oct. 302. Rethinking the 2002 Iraq War Resolution, by Bernard Finel, Oct. 173. Next President Likely Will Have More Use for the U.N., by […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — “What America needs now is a drink,” Franklin Roosevelt famously declared upon repealing Prohibition in 1933, amidst a bleak economic climate. But according to the U.N.’s top anti-drug official, consumers of prohibited substances — particularly cocaine — might not have the same reaction to today’s comparable economic turmoil. “There is no doubt the [economic] crisis will have an impact [on the drug trade],” Antonio María Costa, the director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told Reuters last week. “It may turn cocaine into a much less desirable discretionary income expenditure.” Costa was referring to European […]

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