Two weeks ago, while discussing last November’s tragic events at Fort Hood, Defense Secretary Robert Gates proclaimed that the Pentagon “is burdened by 20th century processes and attitudes mostly rooted in the Cold War.” This acknowledgement by a wartime defense secretary is yet another stark reminder that the broader U.S. national security system was also designed for a much different era, and stands in need of a holistic review and systemic modernization. When the National Security Act of 1947 was enacted, the national and global security environments were exceedingly different from those that exist today. Responding to the costly inefficiencies […]

Chavez Moves to Devalue the Bolivar

NewsHour interviews Michael Shifter from the Inter-American Dialogue.Shifter explains that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s latest move todevalue the national currency is a last ditch attempt to stabilize theeconomy that is so heavily reliant on oil revenues. Shifter says thatin Venezuela, the price of oil directly effects the political andsocial landscape.

Haiti and the Constraints of American Hegemony

There’s been a lot of speculation about the mid- to long-term impact on U.S. foreign policy of the Haiti earthquake and America’s response to it. I was surprised to see how quickly the assumptions turned sour. Already last Friday, I participated in a France 24 program in which one analyst had already identified Haiti as a long-term — and major — problem for President Barack Obama, along the lines of waging the Afghanistan war and winding down the Iraq war. My sense is that this is a bit overblown. The unfolding operation in Haiti is a stability operation, not a […]

With 2009 and its economic woes behind them, the world’s major economies share a common goal for 2010: recovery. However, they also share a common problem that could stand in the way: China’s undervalued currency. A G-7 meeting in Canada next month looks increasingly likely to be a forum for discussing remedies for global currency imbalances, with a focus on the yuan. But can outsiders really do anything to influence China’s exchange rate? Or would a better strategy simply be to wait for Beijing to make the decision to revalue the yuan on its own? Before answering these questions, it […]

In the aftermath of Copenhagen, many observers are lamenting the apparent unwillingness of governments to confront climate change. However, this unwillingness simply reflects an essential truth about public policy: The immediate always trumps the distant. For most policymakers, the threat of climate change remains a distant one. Governments prioritize immediate threats, even if doing so hastens the melting of glaciers and the rising of sea levels that may eventually destroy habitats and nations. Another vivid illustration of this mindset is the acquisition by foreign governments of vast tracts of farmland across the developing world. These land deals leave immense carbon […]

The Risk of Sending U.S. Troops to Haiti

President Barack Obama’s decision to send 10,000 U.S. troops to provide muscle for the relief effort in chaotic, quake-ravaged Haiti was perhaps inevitable, but does not come without risks for the United States. From all accounts, public despair continues to mount as the distribution effort, hampered by destroyed roads and communications, lags behind the build-up of relief supplies. Hunger, thirst, and the spread of disease could easily bring out the machetes, tipping the scale into rioting and civil disorder. The island certainly has a history of it. If that happens, with Haitian security forces in disarray, the challenge of restoring […]


In case it isn’t obvious, I’ve had some trouble writing about Haiti. Much of what I could possibly say goes without saying, and I don’t feel the urge to add my own version of what everyone is feeling while reading and watching the coverage of this terrible, unfolding tragedy. The scale of the human suffering is staggering. As always, I’m struck by how this natural disaster is exacerbated by so many man-made disasters. And as always, I’m struck by the range of human reactions — from the solidarity and heroism of the rescuers, to the violence and predatory behavior that […]

Chile has not voted a right-wing president into office since Jorge Alessandri campaigned and won as an independent, center-right candidate in March 1958. But Sebastián Piñera may well break that precedent on Jan. 17. Having won the first-round election on Dec. 13 with 44 percent of the vote, Piñera fell shy of the simple majority required to avoid a run-off. He now faces Eduardo Frei, a former president representing the governing center-left Concertación coalition, who took only 30 percent of the first-round vote. In a country that has not seen a right-wing government since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship […]

In a WPR blog post earlier this week, Judah Grunstein described the “Yemen frenzy” induced by the failed Christmas Day airliner bombing plot as a post-9/11, “Pavlovian response.” But there’s more to the conditioned behavior than just the push for a massive, whole-of-government intervention in a country linked to an attempted domestic terrorist attack, and in which al-Qaida has a presence. A second factor at play is the tendency of the U.S. government — and indeed, of the entire political establishment — to dart from crisis to crisis, pouring time, treasure and resources into responding to the headlines of the […]

Haiti Pieces Together Hope

The United States Congress passed the HOPE II Act last year aimed atspurring investment in Haiti by reviving a withered garment industry.With the help of high profile figures such as former President BillClinton, Haiti is attempting to overcome poverty and instability andcreate jobs. Kira Kay reports for NewsHour in Port-au-Prince.

Abdulmutallab and Airport Security

True story: On Dec. 23, while passing through airport security at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport en route to LA, my 8-year-old son was called over by a French security agent, who asked to see his backpack. I’d let the Lil’ Feller pack his own carry-on that morning, and sure enough, as the X-ray machine had revealed, in there with his markers and pencils, he’d included his brand-new, pointy tipped compass. As the guard examined it, I explained to my son that we’d have to throw it away, while assuring the guard that it was no big deal since we’d […]

In this new weekly series, “From the WPR Archives,” published on Fridays, we aim to highlight articles published in World Politics Review in the past that shed light on issues currently in the headlines. The articles cited in “From the WPR Archives” require a World Politics Review subscription to read in full. To try a subscription free for 30 days, with no further obligation, sign up here. Last week, Yemen was all over the news as it came to light that the Nigerian man who attempted to detonate an explosive aboard a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Dec. 25 […]

Obama Dedicates Month to Battling Human Trafficking

U.S. President Barack Obama has proclaimed January 2010 to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and called for greater public awareness of the problem. An estimated 27 million people worldwide are trapped as victims of human trafficking, according to Not for Sale, an anti-slavery advocacy group. The black market slave trade is lucrative, worth an estimated $9 billion a year, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We must join together as a nation and global community to provide . . . safe haven by protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers,” Obama said in the official proclamation, so […]

Chile’s left-wing Concertación coalition might very well lose the presidency for the first time since the country’s return to democracy in 1990. But don’t blame outgoing President Michelle Bachelet. With record-high approval ratings, Bachelet would be a shoe-in for a second term, if not for the constitutional prohibition on consecutive re-election. Instead, as the country’s first woman president and, before that, its first woman defense minister, Bachelet will undoubtedly be remembered for breaking the gender barrier to Chile’s most powerful positions. She also appointed equal numbers of men and women to her cabinet when she took office in 2005. Subsequent […]

This WPR Special Report compiles news, analysis and opinion from WPR’s pages to provide insight into the Mexican government’s war against the criminal enterprises that control the country’s drug trade. The report includes expert analysis on the war on the ground, the local and federal response to the problem, and the future of Mexican politics and policy. Below are links to each article, which subscribers can read in full. Subscribers can also download a pdf version of the report. Not a subscriber? Subscribe now, or try our subscription service for free. The Pre-2009 Environment ‘Merida Initiative’ Would Provide Counter-Drug Aid […]

The Rafale and A400M Hit a Rough Patch

Not a good week for European military aircraft. According to a Jean-Dominique Merchet scoop, Brazil’s air force has completed its review of the three fighter jets competing for a 36-plane, $2.5 billion tender. The report, which has not yet been made public, allegedly ranks the French-built Rafale third, behind the Swedish Gripen and the American F-18. That, after Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva all but sealed the deal for the Rafales during French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Brasilia last September. According to Merchet, the tug-of-war between the political and military decision-makers has turned nasty, with the military chiefs […]

End to HIV/AIDS Travel Bans Applauded

A Dutch man was the first person to take advantage of a change in U.S. policy removing travel restrictions for individuals with HIV/AIDS, after the ban was lifted Monday. Rights advocates and the United Nations applauded the move, as well as a similar one by South Korea, while calling for 57 other countries with various restrictions in place to follow suit. “We’re very excited to finally see the end of this discriminatory and harmful policy. Getting rid of the HIV ban has been a part of our core mission since we were founded in 1994,” Victoria Neilson, legal director at […]