Few political leaders in power today have harnessed the power of the media as effectively — and as personally — as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. From the moment he took office, Chávez deployed himself across existing platforms, using every available communications resource to present himself, his ideology and his policies directly to the public. Now, as his idiosyncratic rule runs up against limitations imposed by serious health problems, Chávez has found that the latest in modern communications technology, social media, is a most useful tool. Chávez is becoming the Twitter President, issuing a continuous stream of 140-character opinions and dictates […]
As the father of 2-year-old twin daughters, I often find myself thinking about how international politics and foreign policy will play out across their lives. Of course, parents aren’t the only “institutions” that wonder about the possibility of forecasting and shaping the future. Governments, international organizations and companies make huge investments of both lives and money based on expectations with time horizons of 10, 20 and even 50 years. Nimitz-class aircraft carriers have been in service for more than 30 years and may serve for another 40. The United States is currently wrestling, in a very public manner, with the […]
With the Obama administration and Republican congressional leaders locked in an impasse over the U.S. debt ceiling, U.S. diplomats are trying to convince China there is nothing serious to worry about: The debt ceiling will soon be raised, and America will not default on its foreign-held loans. That is reassuring news for China, which by some estimates is holding hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds. But if the political gridlock in Washington has been the cause of some economic jitters in Beijing, it is generally understood that the U.S. default crisis is politically generated and will, one […]
When historians come to write the history of the European Union in the period following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, they are likely to describe it as a litany of jarring crises. They will naturally prioritize the financial shocks to the eurozone in 2010 and 2011. But they will also have to make space for at least two major humanitarian crises that sparked angry debates about the EU’s global role. The first was the earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. The second was the man-made disaster in Libya that began in February 2011. The Haitian catastrophe […]
There’s a peaceful revolution underway on the windswept high plains of Bolivia. It’s about gaining access to power — electrical power, that is. Small communities now have access to electricity for the first time through solar and wind power systems.
There is no faster route to second-tier great power status than for an actual or aspiring superpower to fight a crippling conflict with another country from those same ranks. Moreover, if history is any guide, the glass ceiling that results is a permanent one: This was the fate of imperial Britain, imperial Japan and Germany — both imperial and Nazi — in the first half of the 20th century, and the same was true for Soviet Russia in the second half of the century, despite Moscow’s conflict with the West being a cold one. The lesson is an important one […]
Depending on your perspective, the original “Red Dawn,” released in 1984, was either a coming-of-age milestone or a crime against the medium of cinema. The movie pitted a high school football team in rural Colorado against the better part of a Soviet airborne brigade, the former led by Patrick Swayze and the latter led, for some reason, by a Cuban colonel. Not surprisingly for an American film, the Americans do quite well, although they are eventually overwhelmed by the firepower of Soviet helicopter gunships. Later this year, a remake of “Red Dawn” will hit the screens in the United States. […]
One sign of how good relations between Russia and the United States have become is that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spent three days in high-level meetings in Washington without attracting much attention from the American news media. Bilateral ties may finally be evolving, at least for now, into a more mature, almost normal relationship between two great powers sharing common interests as well as limited areas of disagreement. Lavrov discussed a range of important issues with his American interlocutors, including Libya, Syria, Iran, Korea, Afghanistan, South Sudan, terrorism, the Israel-Palestine peace process, the United Nations and even Alaska and […]
I had the pleasure of participating in France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week, last Friday. The other panelists were Paris Match’s Régis Le Sommelier, France 24’s Annette Young and Global Post’s Mildrade Cherfils. Topics included the News of the World scandal, the U.S. and European debt crises, and the Libya war. Part one can be seen here. Part two can be seen here.
Brazil’s Finance Minister Guido Mantega recently told the Financial Times that the global currency war “was absolutely not over,” and cited two countries that, according to him, have not ceased the hostilities: China and the United States. More and more, Brazil seems to be caught between — and battling against — the greenback and the yuan in its efforts to slow the rise in value of its own currency, the real. Part of the problem is due to the disparity in how the United States and China have bounced back from the 2008 global financial crisis. Economic recovery in the […]
Americans today are enjoying the most peaceful period, on a per capita basis, in human history, with virtually all of the remaining mass violence in the system occurring not between organized militaries, but rather sub- and transnationally — that is, within nation-states and across their borders. The frequency, length and lethality of conflicts are all down from Cold War highs, despite the growth in both numbers of countries and world population. Nonetheless, most Americans continue to have extremely misdirected fears and impressions regarding the global security landscape. We see a world of wars and believe them all to be of […]
A century ago, Argentina was one of the world’s richest countries. Since then, Buenos Aires has given the world a primer on how to derail, disrupt and mismanage economic growth, with successive governments finding new and creative ways to stop prosperity in its tracks. Now President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is adding a page to the nation’s playbook, and this time, the main theme is deliberate denial of reality. With the specter of inflation threatening to overheat and burn Argentina’s economic recovery, Fernandez enacted a most peculiar strategy to combat the problem: denying there is one. In recent years, the […]
Guatemala is confronting numerous problems as it prepares for presidential elections scheduled for Sept. 11. Organized criminal groups have made parts of the country all but lawless. Corruption and poverty remain widespread. Frequent natural disasters have strained state capacity. Even the preparations for the elections themselves have been plagued by political violence, with two dozen political workers killed in 2011 alone. But one problem has yet to become a major feature of the presidential campaign, despite its gravity: food insecurity, which threatens millions in Guatemala. With food prices rising globally, social upheaval over increasingly expensive basic staples has become more […]
Here lies the space shuttle. She kept the U.S. human spaceflight program alive after the euphoria of the Apollo missions. She led the way to reusable space flight. She provided jobs for armies of engineers and technicians. She also made human spaceflight seem routine — and in the end, that’s what killed her. But as with the retirement of the Apollo program — which was accompanied by less hand-wringing and fewer tears shed than that of the shuttle — it is time, not to mourn the shuttle’s passing, but to support the innovation that NASA and, more importantly, American industry […]
The announcement this week of a Somali terror suspect’s transfer to U.S. federal court came just after reports of the U.S. drone war’s expansion into Somalia. Both developments highlight the growing U.S. counterterrorism interest in Somalia and raise questions about how it might be expected to impact the country’s 20-year-old civil war. “American strategy in Somalia has not always matched up with the reality on the ground, and at the moment the reality is shifting very quickly there,” says David Axe, an independent correspondent and World Politics Review contributor who has reported from Somalia. A leading concern for the U.S. […]