When the writ was dropped a few weeks ago for Canada’s third election in five years, the conventional wisdom was that it would be a dull affair. Canada has weathered the Great Recession better than almost any other advanced industrial nation, and the Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper have maintained consistent, if unspectacular leads over the opposition Liberals. The only questions seemed to be whether Harper, who has led a minority government in parliament since 2006, would achieve his long-coveted majority, and who would replace Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff after what was certain to be the third straight defeat […]

The run-up to the Libya operation created a great deal of buzz in the foreign policy community about the emergence of a new “Obama Doctrine,” one that provides a rationale for the use of U.S. military force to achieve humanitarian ends. But President Barack Obama himself recognizes that he cannot completely dispense with the old Obama Doctrine, which he articulated when he was a candidate for office. The initial view propounded by the then-junior senator from Illinois was one of “restrained engagement” with the rest of the world: liquidating costly overseas military ventures; finding diplomacy-based compromises with other states, rather […]

After a long and complicated legal battle, Colombian authorities have decided to extradite Venezuelan national Walid Makled to Venezuela to face murder and drug-trafficking charges in his native country, rather than in a U.S. court in Manhattan, where he is also wanted on drug-trafficking charges. Though the decision to send Makled to Venezuela appears to be final, the political implications of his extradition from Colombia — where he was arrested in August 2010 — have just begun to ripple around the region and in Washington. The controversy surrounding Makled, suspected of being one of the region’s most powerful brokers in […]

Representing around 40 percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of its economic output, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the so-called BRICS countries — came together last week for a leaders summit to show off their growing global heft. The joint statement produced by the one-day meeting on China’s southern resort island of Hainan underscored the need for a realignment of the post-World War II global order based on the untrammelled supremacy of the U.S. The governing structure of international financial institutions, the statement said, “should reflect the changes in the world economy, increasing the […]

Cuba’s Old Guard Hangs On, Leaving Leadership Transition in Doubt

For many Cuba-watchers, the highlight of Fidel Castro’s speech before the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in Havana on Saturday was a call to shorten term limits for the country’s politicians. The Castro brothers have held office so tightly and for so long, however, that questions are being raised about the extent to which Cuba’s relatively tiny circle of political elite can nurture the sort of leadership transition that now appears on the near horizon. “It’s a fair question, whether there are a broad enough set of younger people who can assume the mantle of leadership inside the […]

When Peruvians went to the polls on April 10 to choose a new president, they faced an uncommon variety of choices. The fractured vote left no one with the required majority, producing another extraordinary field for the second-round voting on June 5. The top two vote-getters bring minimal experience and maximum polemic. In the not-very-kind words of Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru’s Nobel Prize- winning author, it’s like “choosing between AIDS and cancer.” Peruvians hope their Nobel laureate was using hyperbole in his choice of metaphors, but though they might disagree over the reasons why, most are indeed deeply concerned about […]

The United States faces a serious but silent intellectual crisis: U.S. national security elites have separated into two tribes of specialists, technical and nontechnical, who are incapable of communicating with each other. The implications of the divide between experts in science and technology on one hand and experts in politics on the other are dangerous and far-reaching. If the United States policymaking community cannot bridge the gap between these communities, we risk making mistakes with repercussions running all the way from wasting scarce resources to war. While hardly a golden age of national security policy decision-making, the Cold War set […]

Peru’s Presidential Race Reflects Fluid Domestic Opinion

The first round of balloting went smoothly in Peru’s presidential election Sunday, setting the stage for a June 5 run-off between left-leaning former military officer Ollanta Humala and Keiko Fujimori, a pro-market congresswoman and daughter of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori. Humala won 31.6 percent and Fujimora 23 percent in the initial round of voting, according to the Wall Street Journal, which noted Humala’s strategy of employing “Brazilian political advisers who tried to cast him in a more moderate light, in the style of that country’s former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.” If true, it apparently worked, says Christopher […]

Much of the global perception of America’s long-term decline as the world’s sole surviving superpower is in fact driven by our fiscal decline. That’s why I was disturbed to hear Democrats so quickly dismiss GOP Sen. Paul Ryan’s bold, if flawed, federal budget proposal on the grounds that it would “end Medicare as we know it.” Frankly, arresting our decline means ending a lot of things “as we know them.” That’s simply what being on an unsustainable path forces you to do. But as difficult as reforming federal entitlement programs will be, it is absolutely necessary, because a look at […]

This is the second of a two-part series examining diversification efforts by Latin American drug-trafficking networks. Part I examined the FARC’s illegal gold-mining operations in Colombia. Part II examines Mexican drug traffickers’ use of oil-tapping to generate revenues. Mexico’s crime syndicates are well-known as exporters of heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines, importers of firearms, and perpetrators of violence. Their business has produced bloody internecine turf wars, with rival gangs battling it out for control over distribution routes mainly within the drug-producing states of northern Mexico. But over the past five years the drug trade has been squeezed between the pincers of […]

This is the first of a two-part series examining diversification efforts by Latin American drug-trafficking networks. Part I examines the FARC’s illegal gold-mining operations in Colombia. Part II will examine Mexican drug traffickers’ use of oil-tapping to generate revenues. For more than 40 years, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has waged a bloody war against the Colombian government, financed largely through cocaine trafficking. Over the past decade, as the Colombian government marshaled U.S. military assistance to greater effect, the FARC has seen its guerilla ranks diminished by about half. Meanwhile, coca eradication programs in the Colombian countryside […]

Does the United States have a special responsibility to manage international affairs? This question has come to inform much of the debate about the role that the U.S. is currently playing in military operations over Libya. Glenn Greenwald of Salon has argued that the idea that the United States has the right to intervene in the internal politics of other countries has its source in a widespread acceptance of American Exceptionalism, the notion that the United States is different, special and privileged compared to other nations. Writing from a realist perspective, Stephen Walt echoed this claim, arguing that both neoconservatives […]

Global Insider: Canada-Japan Trade Relations

Canada and Japan announced in February that they were formally studying the possibility of concluding a bilateral free trade agreement. In an email interview, Carin Holroyd, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, discussed economic relations between Canada and Japan. WPR: What is the current state of trade relations between Japan and Canada? Carin Holroyd: Trade between Canada and Japan looks, in many ways, as it has for decades. Canada sells about $9 billion annually of primarily resource products — coal, canola, lumber, copper, pulp and paper, aluminum, wheat, meat and fish — to Japan. In return, Canada […]

As recently as a decade ago, Latin America’s economic future looked dim, as highlighted by a number of events in December 2001. That month, Argentina’s economy crashed; amid massive street protests, four Argentine presidents resigned in less than two weeks, with one presiding just long enough to officially declare the largest sovereign debt default in history. Brazil and Uruguay reeled from their neighbor’s meltdown, while other countries in the region braced for capital flight by panicky investors. In addition to Argentina’s collapse, a looming threat from the East was the cause of further foreboding: On Dec. 10, 2001, the People’s […]

The notion that the underlying distribution of global power is shifting from West to East and from North to South is not new. For more than a decade, astute observers have noted that countries like China, Brazil and India, among others, were consistently posting impressive economic growth rates and closing the gap separating them from the advanced industrial economies. Yet, even as the reality of their economic rise was impossible to dispute, the structures of global financial governance did not adapt to reflect these changes. Of course, this is not surprising, as international institutions are notoriously resistant to reform. As […]

Africa’s longstanding position as the forgotten continent is rapidly being transformed. At the heart of this dramatic change is the rise of economic giants in the developing world — China, India and Brazil, in particular — whose state-owned enterprises and private companies, acting in combination with assertive diplomacy, have forged a growing partnership with Africa. Under the rubric of “South-South cooperation,” these emerging powers have made significant inroads into Western economic and political dominance on the continent. While the media has tended to focus on the dislocating effect that competitive emerging powers have had on key sectors of African economies […]

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