Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units near the entrance to the town of Kobani, Syria, Nov. 19, 2014 (AP photo by Jake Simkin).

For the past century, the United States has had a complex, shifting relationship with dictators. On one hand, America’s liberal instincts convinced the public and its elected representatives that democracy was the only stable form of government over the long run. But after the U.S. became a global superpower following World War II, this was counterbalanced by a conservative quest for order, stability and a carefully modulated pace of change. These two sides of the American strategic psyche were often in conflict when it came to dealing with dictators around the world. As decolonization blended with rising Soviet power during […]

Yemenis condemning airstrikes by the the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Keeping weapons out of the wrong hands is good policy. In the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, heightened attention has been paid to the illegal black-market networks that often arm terror groups and stoke conflict around the world. But the international community is not helpless to prevent this uncontrolled arms trade. A year ago on Christmas Eve, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) entered into force, with 130 countries signing on and, at the time, 61 of them ratifying it. One year later, 76 states are party to the treaty. The ATT is the only global, legally binding […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with the National Assembly’s president, Disodado Cabello, at a ceremony for the anniversary of the death of Simon Bolivar, Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 17, 2015 (AP photo by Fernando Llano).

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro walks and talks with the swagger of a man who just dealt the country’s opposition a crushing victory in the country’s recent legislative elections. But Maduro’s bravado ignores one telling fact: It was Venezuela’s opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable coalition—known by its Spanish acronym, the MUD—that was the victor in the Dec. 6 vote, securing a super-majority of 112 of the National Assembly’s 167 seats. Rather than accepting those results, Maduro talks as if he and his United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, received a mandate to deepen and broaden Hugo Chavez’s leftist platform, the self-proclaimed […]

Demonstrators rally for fair trade at the Capitol, Washington, May 7, 2014 (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the potential impact on members’ economies. Lukewarm industry support in the United States for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has put the ratification of the 12-nation trade deal by Congress into question. In an email interview, Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, discussed the potential benefits and downsides of the TPP for the U.S. WPR: What economic benefits is the U.S. expected to see from its participation in the TPP? Edward Alden: The short-term benefits are likely to be modest. […]

Brazilian Pataxo men protest against a proposed constitutional amendment that would threaten their land rights, Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

In June 2014, a video released by FUNAI, the Portuguese acronym for Brazil’s Department for Indian Affairs, captures the moment seven members of an unnamed, previously uncontacted tribe from the Amazon rainforest made their first voluntary contact with the modern world. The video shows the men emerging naked from the forest onto the banks of the River Envira in the western Brazilian state of Acre, close to the Peruvian border. After calling out, singing and signaling with their hands, they crossed the river to a small indigenous settlement of the local Ashaninka people on the other side. The men told […]

Iraqi security forces at the front line with Islamic State militants, Ramadi, Anbar province, Iraq, Dec. 2, 2015 (AP photo by Osama Sami).

All wars are tragedies, often victimizing most the people who had least to do with starting them and no ability to stop them. But beyond this common feature, each war is usually very different. This can make it difficult to draw generalizations and prepare for tomorrow’s conflict. Nonetheless it is important to look for the signposts of future war in current ones and prepare as much as possible. This is particularly true for the United States as it continues to try and build or manage global stability. Among today’s violent conflicts, the wars in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine seem to […]

Cuban migrants outside the Costa Rican immigration building at the border with Nicaragua, Penas Blancas, Costa Rica, Nov. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

In an ironic example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, President Barack Obama’s effort to normalize relations with Cuba has triggered a new humanitarian crisis, a serious diplomatic standoff in the Americas, and a renewed sense of panic among many Cubans that, if not addressed effectively, could lead to even greater problems. As soon as Obama and his Cuban counterpart, President Raul Castro, simultaneously announced an agreement to start thawing diplomatic ties back in December 2014, officials in the South American nation of Ecuador noticed something rather curious happening: a sharp upswing in the number of Cubans turning up at […]

Immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala who entered the U.S. illegally board a bus after being released from a family detention center in Texas, July 7, 2015 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

In June 2014, headlines sounded the alarm over an influx of unaccompanied minors clandestinely entering the U.S. from Central America. While the story has largely receded from view, the crisis continues. In recent years, more than 100,000 Central American children have undertaken the perilous 3,000-mile journey to the United States, exposing themselves to extortion, kidnapping, rape and murder along the way. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, more than 68,000 unaccompanied minors, ranging in ages from less than 1 to 17 years old, were apprehended at the Southwest border between October 2013 and September 2014. Among them were more […]

Afghan soldiers during a ceremony to mark the security transition from U.S. and NATO forces to Afghanistan's, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Jan. 12, 2015 (AP photo by Abdul Khaliq).

The New York Times reported Sunday that, in the face of significant Taliban gains in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, the United States is once again committing troops and air power to the fight. According to the Times, “the extent of the American role has been kept largely secret, with senior Afghan officials in the area saying they are under orders not to divulge the level of cooperation.” Pentagon officials are allegedly concerned that the ramped-up U.S. involvement “may suggest” that the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan, which was supposed to have ended, is going far beyond the “train, advise and […]

U.S. President Barack Obama during a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., Feb. 13, 2015 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

With the end of his second term in sight, debates about President Barack Obama’s legacy in various policy areas are underway. When it comes to national security, his administration will be the first for which cybersecurity will feature prominently in legacy terms. Although former President George W. Bush focused on cybersecurity more than his predecessor, 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq determined his administration’s national security legacy. Obama entered office intending to make cybersecurity a priority, and it became a major feature of his administration’s national security efforts—just not in the ways he had envisioned. Examining the gap […]

Loggers harvest a section of forest near Youbou, British Columbia, Jan. 14, 2015 (AP photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward).

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. Recently elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government is ready to use fiscal stimulus in order to boost Canada’s economy, which continues to suffer from the ongoing decline in commodities prices. In an email interview, Donald Drummond, an adjunct professor and Stauffer-Dunning fellow at Queen’s University, discussed Canada’s economy and the impact of the commodities bust. WPR: How important are commodities for Canada’s economy, and what impact have falling commodities prices had on jobs, […]

Supporters of an oil nationalization bill outside Congress, Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 25, 2012 (AP photo by Natacha Pisarenko).

The energy world has been abuzz since Mauricio Macri won a surprise victory in Argentina’s presidential elections on Nov. 22. The former mayor of Buenos Aires’ pro-business platform has raised expectations at home and abroad among investors and analysts anxious for change. Argentina has the potential to be both a regional and global energy leader, but after 12 years of Kirchnerismo, Macri has a long road ahead. Still, the prospects for an economic and energy turnaround have never been brighter, and Argentina’s energy sector has the potential to become a significant driver of future economic growth. Macri, who was sworn […]

U.S. President Barack Obama at a news conference at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, Dec. 1, 2015 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

Critics no longer stop at questioning or attacking the Obama administration’s strategy in dealing with the so-called Islamic State. As Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, bluntly claimed last month, “We don’t have a strategy.” Even Democratic lawmakers like Sen. Tim Kane have joined in, saying, “I don’t think the administration has done a good job of laying out a clear strategy.” Yet President Barack Obama insists that his administration has an effective strategy based on four components: airstrikes against Islamic State targets; support to Iraqi security forces and Iraqi militias fighting the […]

Opposition supporters celebrate, Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Fernando Llano).

If there was one surprise in the overwhelming electoral victory by the Venezuelan opposition in Sunday’s legislative elections, it was that the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) accepted defeat so quickly and peacefully. But anyone who thinks that means the political temperature will cool down in Venezuela should think again. Opposition leaders never doubted they had the votes to overtake the heirs to the late Hugo Chavez. The question was whether President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’s successor, and his backers would allow a free election to take place—and if they did permit the true vote count to be revealed, […]

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz at a news conference, Washington, Dec. 8, 2015 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Everyone it seems has a strategy for defeating the self-declared Islamic State. But the ones proposed by two of the Republican candidates for president truly stand out. Sen. Ted Cruz said last week that the United States should “carpet-bomb [the Islamic State] into oblivion.” He added, “I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.” Donald Trump has a similar plan. Though he recently replied, when asked how he would deal with the group, that he would “leave [that] to your imagination,” he has talked previously about “bombing the [crap]” out of the […]

President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House, Washington, Dec. 6, 2016 (AP photo by Saul Loeb).

President Barack Obama’s oval office speech Sunday was intended to show toughness and resolve in the war against the self-declared Islamic State, and to reassure a jittery public in the aftermath of the domestic attack by followers of the group in San Bernardino, California. At the end of his remarks, however, he reminded Americans to not allow their anxieties about terrorism to turn into hostility toward Muslim Americans. This is not sentimental rhetoric. It’s a critical part of the strategy toward defeating the group that can strengthen America’s social capital at home and soft power abroad. From Paris to San […]

French far-right National Front Party leader, Marine Le Pen, delivers a speech after the first round of regional elections, Henin-Beaumont, Dec. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Michel Spingler).

Editor’s note: Judah Grunstein is filling in for Richard Gowan, who is out this week. Two elections yesterday, an ocean apart, upended politics in the nations that went to the polls, with implications for their surrounding regions. In Venezuela, the political opposition won parliamentary elections, dealing the first electoral setback above the municipal and provincial levels to the late Hugo Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in more than a decade.* In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front party (FN) topped the combined voting in first-round elections for regional governments, confirming the party’s entry into the mainstream of French […]

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