The U.S.-led intervention in Libya is now in full swing, thanks to a 10-0 vote by the U.N. Security Council in favor of authorizing military force. But the seeming unanimity of the vote belies key abstentions from a wary Germany as well as Brazil, Russia, India and China — the four emerging economic powers known as the BRICs. The BRICs’ abstentions raise difficult questions about the future of a rules-based international order at a time of relative U.S. decline. The BRICs’ move seemed to be grounded in their longtime allergy to Western-led military operations. Couched in language of humanitarian concern, […]

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff issued a blunt challenge to President Barack Obama when he arrived in Brazil to kick off his first visit to Latin America this past week: no more “empty rhetoric” about partnership between her country and the United States. Whether Washington can meet this standard, however, remains to be seen. Certainly, during this visit, no major initiatives were unveiled; no dramatic vision of a future U.S.-Brazilian entente was presented; and no grand gesture — such as a compromise on the thorny trade issues that continue to hamper commercial ties between the two countries — was magnanimously offered […]

Global Insider: Brazil-India Relations

Brazil and India recently signed an agreement to improve air travel between the two countries, the latest small step in a broad bilateral relationship. In an email interview, Oliver Stuenkel, a fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin, discussed Brazil-India relations. WPR: What is the state of trade between Brazil and India, including areas of complementarity and competition? Oliver Stuenkel: Trade between Brazil and India has grown significantly since the end of the Cold War, from $400 million in 1999, to $2 billion in 2005, passing $7 billion in 2010. A trade agreement between Mercosur — a regional […]

As an Army brat who grew up traveling the world, I’ve witnessed first-hand both the power and sense of hope that the United States projects around the globe. These qualities stem from both the might of our military as well as the less tangible characteristics of our diplomatic and compassionate efforts. In decades past, the roles of the State Department and Defense Department were often considered to be parallel and discrete. State negotiated treaties and engaged in diplomatic and aid missions around the globe, whereas Defense was brought to bear when words failed to suffice. Despite being complementary, these elements […]

The opening acts of the 21st century have fundamentally challenged long-held notions of military power. The past decade has unveiled not only the disruptive power of terrorist groups with global reach, but also the ability of low-budget insurgent groups to directly confront the best military forces of the West — with surprising success. Moreover, recent revolutionary events across the Arab world have demonstrated the limits of military power when facing mass popular uprisings. Disorder, chaos and violent extremism seem on course to replace state-on-state violence as the most common forms of conflict in the new century. Given this new security […]

For many years, the United States has been the world’s most powerful nation. It remains the undisputed global leader in military power and still possesses vast economic and cultural influence. And while Washington’s ability to combine both hard and soft power to influence world events — what Joseph Nye calls “smart power” — has diminished somewhat, it is still in a far superior position relative to any other country. U.S. primacy, however, comes with opportunity costs. An alternate path might have delivered a comparable level of security at far less expense and risk. Even many who unabashedly celebrate our 20-year […]

One of the most revealing features of today’s international system is that only two nations, America and China, possess sufficient power to truly disrupt it — either directly, through the application of military force, or indirectly, by unleashing an uncontainable economic crisis. In fact, to truly derail globalization in its current trajectory, the two would need to act in concert, either by fighting each other directly or experiencing simultaneous economic collapses. Short of those two scenarios, modern globalization remains highly resilient to shocks of all sorts. That resilience is the only power that really matters in this world. It defines […]

What’s Driving Obama’s Latin America Trip

The extent to which events in Libya have overshadowed President Barack Obama’s Latin America tour can’t be overstated. With the U.S. president in El Salvador today after previous stops in Brazil and Chile, there’s a good deal of speculation about why he decided to press forward with the trip rather than reschedule. Many believe the tour is a “move to counteract the rising influence of China, which is in the midst of an unprecendented energy grab in the oil- and mineral-rich region,” according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, which asserted that “the Chinese yuan is contesting U.S. […]

Deadly Rebel Attacks in Colombia

Four separate assaults by rebel forces in Colombia have left at least 11 dead. Authorities say the FARC and ELN guerrilla groups are responsible. Three civilians were killed in a rebel attack on a town in the Colombian region of Norte de Santander on Friday. The human death toll in rebel attacks over the last 24 hours now stands at eleven.

When it comes to good governance in the information age, transparency has few competitors as the fix du jour. This is especially true when it comes to oil, gas and mining revenue in developing countries, where many people rightly consider transparency an essential first step in curbing government corruption. But the discussions at the “Transparency Counts” conference, held by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Paris earlier this month, strongly suggest that knowing how much money is coming in to government coffers is not enough if that money does not improve people’s lives. Natural resources are hot right now, […]

Editor’s note: This is the last of a five-part series examining security and development aid in East Africa. Part I provided an overview of the challenges facing East Africa. Part II examined the overlap between public health and security challenges. Part III examined the overlap between small-arms trafficking and WMD nonproliferation. Part IV examined the overlap between counterterrorism and efforts to contain criminal violence. Part V provides success stories for the security-development model and discusses next steps. In East Africa, pressing regional challenges — including the inability to detect and treat disease, the flow of illicit firearms across unsecured borders […]

On Libya, the ‘Do Something’ Crowd Is Back

Next week the United States will mark the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq — widely considered one of the worst foreign policy disasters in American history. Meanwhile, more than 100,000 U.S. troops remain mired in Afghanistan, nine years after the Taliban were toppled from power. Both conflicts are daily reminders that the use of U.S. military force can have unforeseen and often unpredictable consequences. For that reason, force should be considered only in the most pressing of national security circumstances. Unfortunately, if the response to the uprising in Libya is any indication, it seems many members of the […]

Argentina is a medium-sized country of 41 million inhabitants and moderate global strategic and economic importance. The country’s foreign policy, defense policy and strategic priorities are driven primarily by the domestic political concerns of the country’s political leaders. In addition, the behavior of Argentine politicians is fundamentally guided by a pragmatic approach toward politics, within which political elites are far more concerned about the accumulation of power and the control of politically valuable financial and material resources than with ideology and specific policy goals. What’s more, the time-horizon of Argentine politicians is very limited, with a short-term perspective most commonly […]

The story reads like a spy novel. The setting is Kyrgyzstan. The U.S. government pays billions of dollars to a mysterious American businessman known to the public only as the owner of a burger-and-beer joint. His mission: grease the right wheels in order to purchase and transport large volumes of fuel for the U.S. military. Accusations that the Kyrgyz government took kickbacks from these shady deals lead to the toppling of its leader. The Russians, as top fuel suppliers in the region, get involved, followed by the Chinese. Relations among governments grow strained. Meanwhile, dogged journalists find that the mysterious […]

When Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi reacted to popular demonstrations by shooting protesters, he triggered a torrent of international condemnation. Gadhafi and his harsh crackdown became the target of pointed denunciations by the international community and by top government officials on every continent. There was, however, one region where Gadhafi found words of support from a number of powerful leaders: Latin America. The reaction to events in Libya and other Middle Eastern country from leftist leaders in Latin America says much about their worldview, about the way they define themselves and about their commitment to their political principles. Consider Nicaraguan President […]

Global Insider: Brazil-Venezuela Relations

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota recently paid his country’s first high-level visit to Venezuela since the inauguration of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in January. In an e-mail interview, Kurt Weyland, professor of Latin American politics at the University of Texas at Austin, discussed Brazil-Venezuela relations. WPR: What is the recent history of Brazil-Venezuela relations? Kurt Weyland: Economic exchange between Brazil and Venezuela has intensified greatly in recent years, and political relations have been officially close, despite a divergence of interests beneath the surface. Brazil has taken great advantage of the oil-fueled boom that Venezuela experienced in the 2000s, selling increasing […]

With Indian newspapers still carrying obituaries of the country’s strategic doyen, K. Subhramanyam, who passed away in February after almost a half-century at the forefront of New Delhi’s strategic debates, it is worth considering the object of Subhramanyam’s concern during his final days: the implications for India of a proposed U.S.-China grand strategy agreement hammered out by a group of policy experts in Washington and Beijing. The document proposed a series of strategic compromises between China and the U.S., including a massive Chinese investment in the U.S. economy in return for an informal nonaggression pact, particularly with regard to the […]

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