In this undated file photo, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave its flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq from Raqqa, Syria (Militant website via AP).

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to intervene militarily in Syria and work with Iran and Iraq to defeat the Islamic State has been met with a rather predictable response among Washington pundits: Putin is strong, and Barack Obama is weak. “Like Iran, Putin is willing to back up his pursuit of his interests with force,” writes Eliot Abrams in the National Review. “U.S. deterrence is dead,” says the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka. The Washington Post editorial page bemoans Obama’s lack of a strategy for Syria and noted that while “shortsighted and cynical . . . at least Mr. Putin […]

Secretary-General of the Organization of American States Luis Almagro presents the Initiative to Combat Corruption and Impunity with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, Washington, Sept. 28, 2015 (OAS photo by Juan Manuel Herrera).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of corruption and various countries’ efforts to combat it. This week, the Organization of American States (OAS) announced that it would establish a Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), following protests demanding an anti-corruption body like the one that helped bring down the Guatemalan president. In an email interview, Eric Olson, associate director of the Wilson Center’s Latin America program, discussed Honduras’ fight against corruption. WPR: How big a problem is corruption in Honduras, and in what areas is its […]

Relatives of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa teachers' college students lead a march marking the one-year anniversary of the students' disappearances, Chilpancingo, Mexico, Sept. 26, 2015 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

A year after 43 rural college students were forcibly disappeared in southern Mexico, human rights activists, teachers unions and university students have again taken to the streets to demand justice. For many, the tragedy—known as Ayotzinapa, after the name of the teachers’ college the students attended—has become symbolic of the violence and impunity afflicting Mexico as a whole. Earlier this month, a long-awaited report by the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights cast doubts on the official version of events and pointed to extraordinary deficiencies in the investigation carried out by the federal government. On Sept. 26, […]

Peacekeepers serving with the U.N. Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) patrol the town of Pinga, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dec. 4, 2013 (U.N. photo by Sylvain Liechti).

There are a lot of smug policy wonks in New York right now. As this year’s high-level General Assembly session kicks off at the United Nations, the media is focused on what the meeting could mean for Syria. It may achieve very little on that front. But analysts who take a longer view of multilateral affairs still see some reasons for optimism elsewhere. The most obvious is the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a sprawling but impressively ambitious list of global targets for 2030. Academics and activists have been celebrating this success all weekend. A special summit […]

Islamic State fighters wave an Islamic State flag as they patrol in a commandeered Iraqi military vehicle, Fallujah, Iraq, March 20, 2014 (AP photo).

Russia’s deployment of military equipment and personnel to Syria, combined with revelations about failed U.S. efforts to train and equip Syrian rebels, has rekindled criticisms of the Obama administration’s strategy against the self-declared Islamic State. The U.S. approach has been attacked from both sides of the political aisle, characterized as mission creep by some and weak incrementalism by others. During last week’s presidential debate, in particular, most of the Republican presidential candidates vied to burnish their national security credentials by vowing to expand U.S. military operations to defeat the Islamic State. However, the urge to “do something” in Iraq and […]

Syrians gather amid the rubble of damaged buildings in the predominantly Christian and Armenian neighborhood of Suleimaniyeh, Aleppo, Syria, April 11, 2015 (AP photo/SANA).

Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the United States has rejected deep involvement, hoping that the conflict would work itself out or at least remain limited to Syria itself. These hopes are now bankrupt. Syria’s humanitarian disaster and refugee crisis is only growing, with tragic consequences for the Syrian people. It is destabilizing neighboring nations and threatening Europe. Containment of the conflict has failed. Yet there is no movement toward a resolution that reflects American interests. There is only stalemate and chaos. From the American perspective, the core problem is that U.S. strategy has been based on three […]

The tower of the the Centenario deep-water drilling platform rises off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico, Nov. 22, 2013 (AP photo by Dario Lopez-Mills).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of falling oil and commodities prices on resource-exporting countries. Earlier this month, the Mexican government submitted a budget to cut spending in 2016, including reduced investment in the state oil company Pemex, given the drop in global oil prices. In an email interview, Amb. Antonio Garza, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and currently counsel in the Mexico City office of White & Case LLP, discussed Mexico’s economy and the impact of the oil shock. WPR: How have declining oil revenues affected Mexico’s budget and spending power? […]

U.S. President Barack Obama during a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the US Ambassador's Residence, Amsterdam, Netherlands, March 24, 2014 (U.S. Embassy in the Hague photo).

Since U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, met in Beijing last November, the United States and China have seen incremental progress in cooperation on climate change, Iran’s nuclear program and other areas, as well as continued strong trade. Yet these positive developments have been overshadowed by a deepening distrust over an array of other issues: the South China Sea, cyberespionage, the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the intensification of a human rights crackdown under an increasingly authoritarian Xi. With this gloomy and tense backdrop, Xi’s visit to the U.S. this week, starting Tuesday […]

Russian T-14 Armata tanks make their way during the Victory Parade marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of the Nazis in World War II, Red Square Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

America, it seems, has a new foreign threat: Russia. “For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union,” read the lede in a Foreign Policy article last week, “the Pentagon is reviewing and updating its contingency plans for armed conflict with Russia.” Even worse, in recent war games that imagined a NATO conflict with Russia, “we are unable to defend the Baltics,” concluded one former Pentagon official. If this sounds familiar, it’s because you might have read it in the Daily Beast a month ago. “A series of classified exercises over the summer,” two unnamed sources told the […]

Pope Francis at the canonization of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II, Vatican, April 27, 2014 (Aleteia photo by Jeffrey Bruno).

The Pope’s visit to the United States this week will include an unprecedented address to the U.S. Congress, opening our eyes to how much has changed in the way religion has become part of American politics and international relations. The head of the Catholic Church has long been seen as a world leader, reaching vast audiences and promoting universal principles of peace and humility. But Pope Francis’ visit seems to represent a step beyond former pontiffs’ travels. His appeal seems to reach across a wide spectrum of believers and more secular audiences who admire his courage and his policy prescriptions. […]

The Centenario deep-water drilling platform stands off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico, Nov. 22, 2013 (AP photo by Dario Lopez-Mills).

Global efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change are ramping up ahead of the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP21, to be held in Paris later this year. Although Latin America accounts for only 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, many countries in the region have taken leading roles in global mitigation efforts. Brazil was host to the initial 1992 Earth Summit that led to the framework convention, and continues to be a major participant in climate change mitigation efforts, most notably in reducing […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a news conference, Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 14, 2013 (State Department photo).

American and Russian diplomats have proved to be congenitally unable to end the Syrian war. Could their military counterparts do any better? Last week, the Obama administration accepted a Russian offer of military talks over Syria. This is not necessarily a reason for much optimism. Moscow has sent aircraft, air-defense systems and significant amounts of new equipment to reinforce Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s beleaguered regime. Some analysts believe that Russian troops will be fighting on the ground soon. This could make the war even more dangerous. The goal of the new Russian-American talks, which kicked off with a phone call […]

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mualem meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Moscow, Russia, June 29, 2015 (Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti via AP).

After World War II, the United States reluctantly assumed global power. But most Americans considered this temporary, assuming the United States would disengage once Europe was back on its feet and the world’s war-torn regions were on the way to recovery. But by the time the Soviet Union finally collapsed and the Cold War ended 45 years later, Americans had become so accustomed to global power that there was little serious pressure for disengagement. Global power had become comforting and normal. Yet this, too, proved temporary. Now, weary after decades of containing the Soviet Union and 14 years of fighting […]

Republican presidential candidates appear during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, Calif., Sept. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Chris Carlson).

When this year’s slate of GOP presidential candidates took the stage for a televised debate a couple of months ago, with the flamboyant Donald Trump capturing most of the attention, a number of writers started referring to the group as the Republican “clown car.” The term was obviously meant to be a humorous putdown, dismissing the seriousness and political viability of the large and histrionic collection of would-be presidents. More recently, as the possibility that Trump could emerge victorious started becoming less inconceivable to the establishment, the term fell into disuse. And yet, there is a grain of truth in […]

A man carries a child as migrants and refugees arrive on a dinghy after crossing from Turkey to Lesbos, Greece, Sept. 8, 2015 (AP photo by Petros Giannakouris).

The wave of refugees washing over Europe today is the latest distress call from the remnants of what we still, for simplicity’s sake, refer to as Syria. The immediate reaction has been one of panic, with the European Union’s vaunted open borders—symbol of a generation’s worth of hard-won European integration—now at risk. There is much to criticize in the official and popular reactions in Europe. The flow of migrants from the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan has been building over a long enough time for the EU to have formulated a more effective response. But the shift in routes […]

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Brookings Institution, Washington, Sept. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

One of the defining declarations of Barack Obama’s 2008 run for the White House was his pledge not only to end the war in Iraq, but also to change the mindset that got America involved in that disastrous war in the first place. In fits and starts, he has adopted that approach as president, particularly in his second term. Unfortunately it appears that Hillary Clinton, his former secretary of state and now the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, still hasn’t gotten the memo. Last week Clinton ventured to Washington’s Brookings Institution to talk about her views on the Iran […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters about the Iran nuclear deal in the U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2015 (U.S. State Department photo).

The lingering misgivings among some in the U.S. Congress about the nuclear agreement with Iran have already generated calls for new sanctions against Iran, just as Tehran and many of its trading partners are gearing up for a post-sanctions environment, with corporate leaders booking flights to scope out prospects for trade and investment. Meanwhile sanctions against Russia for its seizure of Crimea continue to disrupt economic relations between Russia and major European countries, costing the latter tens of billions of euros in lost trade. The widespread use of sanctions speaks to the more prominent role of economics in foreign policymaking, […]

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