As the Obama administration grapples with what to do next in Egypt, it may be instructive to review the U.S. efforts of the past decade to bring about fundamental political and economic change in Egypt and the other countries of the greater Middle East. The events of 9/11 were a deadly wake-up call to Washington that the status quo in the region—the perpetuation of sclerotic autocracies that provided no meaningful outlet for the economic and political aspirations of the populace—was not sustainable. Indeed, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was later to note—in June 2005, speaking in Cairo, no less—that “For […]

This is the second in a two-part series on Peruvian politics. Part I examined the evolution of Peruvian politics since the Fujimori era and the challenging conditions for governance. Part II examines President Ollanta Humala’s government and discusses policy solutions to Peru’s political volatility and social upheaval. Two years into a five-year term, the government of Peruvian President Ollanta Humala is already facing plummeting public approval. Despite Humala’s rhetorical commitment to social inclusion and justice, his government’s reaction to escalating protests against extractive industries has sparked concerns not only about his willingness to forge a consensus between local communities and […]

Protests spread across Colombia this week, with poor rural workers blockading highways and clashing with police and numerous labor unions declaring a national strike to express a wide range of grievances. The protests, which now involve farmers, miners, teachers and health care workers all putting forth different demands, are linked by a sense that the economic growth Colombia has experienced over the past decade has not been distributed fairly. The protests are occurring while the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos seeks to conclude a peace deal with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest […]

The most remarkable trait of Washington’s policy toward Egypt has been its lack of clarity. That’s part of the reason why each side in the battle over Egypt’s future blames America for supporting the other. Now President Barack Obama has to decide whether or not to continue providing more than $1.5 billion in aid annually. He will be tempted to make another hazy, ambiguous decision, one that allows him to stand on all sides of the issue. Instead, he should take the opportunity to clarify America’s position. According to some reports, the Obama administration has secretly suspended aid, which manages […]

This is the first in a two-part series on Peruvian politics. Part I examines the evolution of Peruvian politics since the Fujimori era and the challenging conditions for governance. Part II will examine President Ollanta Humala’s government and discusses policy solutions to Peru’s political volatility and social upheaval. Another Peruvian president faces evaporating public support, a fractious opposition and civil unrest in the interior. This time it’s President Ollanta Humala, a former military officer who in his second run for office in 2011 presented himself as a moderate, pro-business social democrat—a contrast to his first run in 2006, in which […]

American presidential elections often provide a forum to air differences on military strength between the opposing candidates and their parties. This was particularly true after Vietnam, when a clear distinction between the Republican and Democratic approaches to defense took shape. The GOP favored robust military spending, took a hard line toward the Soviet Union, was skeptical of international organizations and placed less stress on treaties to promote American security. Democrats, by contrast, emphasized international organizations, diplomacy and the promotion of collective and humanitarian interests. By the 1980s, the Republican notion clearly resonated more deeply with the American public: Ronald Reagan […]

The Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy, November 2008, Washington, D.C. (White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian).

One notable feature of the global economy over the half-decade since the collapse of Lehman Brothers has been the fluctuating fortunes of international economic cooperation in general and of the G-20 in particular. The G-20’s public reputation has taken a roller-coaster ride from hero to zero. The story of this rise and fall is also the story of the changing balance of (economic) power in the post-crisis global economy, and of the implications that this shift has had for how the world economy works—and how it doesn’t. This story began when the onset of the financial crisis prompted the elevation […]

Earlier this month, Uruguay’s House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing marijuana and regulating the production, distribution and sale of the drug by the government. While the bill has yet to be approved by the Uruguayan Senate, its passage is expected. Uruguay would then become the first country in the world where marijuana is fully regulated from cultivation to sale. The move sends a clear message that the existing drug prohibition regime is no longer adequate to address contemporary drug problems. Uruguay’s unprecedented initiative followed a groundbreaking report by the Organization of American States (OAS) that included a devastating assessment […]

Believers in international cooperation need to be optimists. It takes faith and patience to endure the endless conferences, committees and communiques that make up multilateral diplomacy. But even upbeat advocates of global governance are liable to feel gloomy about the prospects for two major meetings scheduled for next month. The first is the annual G-20 summit, to be hosted by Russia in St. Petersburg on Sept. 5-6. The second is the gathering of world leaders for the opening of the new session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York beginning Sept. 24. Both events are more likely to highlight […]

Russia has been sending some confusing signals on Iran in recent weeks. Rumors began to circulate that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be heading to Tehran to meet with newly inaugurated President Hasan Rouhani—with some even predicting that Putin would “drop in” on Iran this week after completing his visit to Azerbaijan to confer with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev. Stories were also released that Russia was reconsidering its unilaterally imposed boycott on selling advanced S-300 air defense systems to Tehran, or at least replacing them with another variant, the Antei-2500 system, as a way to get Iran to drop its […]

President Barack Obama’s statement this morning on Egypt aimed to send a message of moral condemnation to Egypt’s military government, which only yesterday conducted a bloody crackdown against its political opponents. Yet the president’s moral messaging was compromised by the linguistic dance that accompanied it. Beyond the cancellation of annual military exercises, the only significant policy outcome was Obama’s continued resistance to the use of the word “coup” to describe the overthrow of a democratically elected government—for good or ill—by the Egyptian military. Obama’s maneuvering harkens back to the Rwandan genocide, when the Clinton administration famously refused to use the […]

Revolutions are difficult to gauge in their early stages. They are born out of dissatisfaction with the status quo and a growing feeling that deep change is needed. Most of the time such dissatisfaction ends with modest reform. But in rare instances, it can turn into true revolution and alter the course of history. Because revolutions are driven by thousands, even millions, of individual human decisions, predicting their outcome is difficult. Even the revolutionaries who start them are often surprised by the result. Today a revolution may be brewing in American security policy. More and more Americans are dissatisfied with […]

Over the past three decades, Brazil and Argentina’s rapprochement paved the way for the two largest economies in South America to end their economic and military rivalry and commence a promising effort to institutionalize the process of regional integration in South America.* The Common Market of the South, or Mercosur, was the chief creation of that initiative and was quick to embrace Uruguay and Paraguay. Last year Venezuela became Mercosur’s fifth member, and the bloc is expected to become even bigger as Ecuador and Bolivia seek membership in the near future. But bigger does not necessarily mean better or stronger. […]

The Realist Prism: Don’t Hold U.S.-Russia Ties Hostage to Snowden

Seven years ago, the dominant Democratic narrative explaining the decline in America’s standing in the world was due largely to Republican incompetence in foreign policy matters, with the Iraq War presented as Exhibit A. If Democrats returned to power, it was intimated, the United States would regain its international position. American allies, starting with the Europeans, would fall in line to support U.S. security initiatives; multilateral institutions would work because Democrats would demonstrate their superior negotiating techniques; and when it came to dealing with “difficult” regimes like China or Russia, Democrats would show the “cowboys” in the George W. Bush […]

Joe Biden’s recent visit to New Delhi and Mumbai—the first trip by an American vice president to India in 30 years—occasioned no shortage of handwringing over the state of the U.S.-India relationship. Commentators on both sides point to stalled economic reforms and slowing growth in India combined with uncertainty over how India fits into Washington’s vaunted “rebalance” to Asia. And from one perspective, the glass can indeed appear half empty. Yet the U.S.-India relationship enjoys bipartisan support in both countries, and the underlying strategic logic remains sound. Building on this foundation will require able stewardship in both Washington and New […]

The small island-state of Timor-Leste exemplifies the challenge of resource-based development for a poor country well-endowed with a valuable natural resource. Timor-Leste, which gained its independence in 2002, has accumulated $13 billion in its petroleum fund in less than a decade. Some of the largest multinational oil companies are operating in the country, and the revenues continue to flow. And yet, while Timor-Leste has seen very notable improvements in its development indicators in the past few years, it continues to face a massive challenge of converting financial wealth into economic development. There are also heated debates about how to spend […]

For mineral-rich countries, large-scale extractive industry projects are a double-edged sword. On one hand, mining royalties and taxes provide funds that can be invested in infrastructure and social services. Mining projects can also create local jobs and spur demand for locally produced goods and services, supporting livelihoods and spurring economic growth. On the other hand, mining revenues can be—and there is plenty of evidence that they routinely are—spirited or frittered away, leaving little to show by way of long-term productive investment or better living standards. Moreover, mining booms undermine growth in other industries by skewing labor demand and swelling the […]

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