Like many policy issues regarding North Korea, the U.S. has no good options regarding the question of whether or not to resume deliveries of food aid to the isolated country. Last year’s flooding and severe weather have combined with Pyongyang’s perverse policies and rising world food prices to produce major shortfalls in food supplies in many parts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The United States used to be one of North Korea’s major food donors until the deterioration in bilateral relations in 2008-2009 and the refusal by DPRK authorities to allow extensive monitoring of the aid flows […]

After almost 40 years of intermittent and fruitless talks, Bangladesh and Myanmar appear close to a final settlement of their maritime boundary dispute in the Bay of Bengal. Frustrated with stalled negotiations, Bangladesh submitted the case to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in 2009. After a series of oral hearings in September, which included numerous technical arguments, the court recently adjourned and plans to deliver a ruling in March 2012. The speed with which the case has progressed is in stark contrast to other maritime boundary disputes in Asia, but that is not surprising: There […]

Many observers today view Pakistan much as they do neighboring Afghanistan: primarily in terms of terrorists and the Taliban. Yet, despite their lethality, these groups have so far remained largely limited to Pakistan’s periphery — an area of historical neglect with little consequence for the upper echelons of state power. In contrast, attention paid to the rest of Pakistan, where the vast majority of Pakistanis reside, has been sparser. This skewed focus makes it difficult to fully grasp the challenges driving insecurity in Pakistan. In fact, despite the dire depictions, no tribal insurgency can defeat Pakistan’s army and overthrow the […]

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring crude oil from the so-called oil sands in Canada’s Alberta province through an almost 2,000-mile pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast, has in many ways become ground zero in the U.S. debate over fossil fuels, the environment and climate change. But perhaps most relevant in the current row, though practically absent from the debate, is the increasing awareness that energy security must be included as part of the calculus in determining energy sources. Indeed, terminology such as “friendly” supplier — regularly applied to Canada in U.S. energy discussions — underscores what is […]

The entry plaza of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters, June 2, 2011, in Seattle (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson).

Though they have long existed, NGOs are playing an increasingly significant role in global governance, whether participating in the United Nations system or bringing global concerns to the domestic level. From local to global, NGOs are now an essential aspect of a variety of systems. It has become fashionable to assert that the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in world politics has grown in importance since the early 1990s. This assertion is true, but not because of the end of the Cold War nor because there is anything new about NGOs exercising influence, as is often claimed. Consider the success […]

There is broad bipartisan agreement that few national security issues are as critical as how to deal with America’s crippling debt. Getting America’s fiscal house in order will require difficult budgetary choices. This means that we need to make smart decisions about what is most needed to safeguard U.S. national security in the 21st century. A close look at the Pentagon budget reveals numerous programs that are more suitable to defeating the Cold War-era Soviet Union than to addressing current security threats, such as weak and failing states, cyberattacks and nuclear terrorism. A particularly egregious example is the budget for […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s announcement last week that he will introduce sweeping reforms has mostly met with a positive reception. Some observers have also added that in seizing the political initiative on reform, he has stopped the momentum of Bersih, a grouping of 62 civil society organizations closely associated with the opposition coalition. There are grounds for a less-rosy assessment, however. What Najib has promised, and how Bersih is likely to respond, needs to be seen in the context of both Najib’s recent slump in popularity and indications that he wants to burnish his image before calling a snap […]

At first sight, ideology readily suggests itself as the main explanation for Turkey’s redefinition of its relations with Israel. After all, the gradual rift and impending breakdown of strategic relations between the two countries began once the moderately Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) rose to power in Turkey. Upon closer examination, however, other factors are more fundamental in accounting for the split. Simply put, Turkey no longer needs Israel. This change is related less to the Turkish government’s Islamic ideology and more to geopolitical trends and a concomitant shift in the global and regional balance of power. While ideology […]

This is the second of a two-part series examining the policies and political challenges facing the new government of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Part I examined domestic issues. Part II examines foreign policy and the implications for regional stability. With its domestic opponents watching closely for missteps, the government of Thailand’s recently elected prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, will have to tread extremely carefully in matters of foreign policy. The mishandling of relations with Cambodia by the administration of Yingluck’s predecessor, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, had resulted in border skirmishes that killed 28 people this year alone. Yingluck’s Pheu […]

This Thursday, the United Nations Security Council will hold a special session on preventive diplomacy — the art of averting imminent wars, coups and massacres. The event will be attended by heads of state and foreign ministers, currently gathering in New York for the annual opening of the General Assembly. Their minds will almost certainly be elsewhere, as the Palestinian drive for recognition as a state is completely dominating U.N. diplomacy. So the Security Council session is unlikely to generate anything more than well-aged truisms: Prevention is better than reaction; diplomacy is better than force, and so on. Nevertheless, even […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series examining the policies and political challenges facing the new government of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Part I examines domestic issues. Part II will examine foreign policy and the implications for regional stability. CHIANG MAI — Weeks into Yingluck Shinawatra’s term as Thailand’s first female prime minister, the streets of Bangkok are so far free of the protests that have indelibly marked recent years of Thai political life. But that could change. Yingluck’s government faces formidable challenges in implementing the ambitious platform that brought her Pheu Thai Party a sweeping […]

BEIJING — Hamstrung by domestic sensitivities and an inadequate institutional framework for managing its proliferating overseas interests, China has found itself behind the curve on Libya. Beijing’s response has revealed the disparate interest groups within its foreign policy apparatus and the challenges it faces when responding to international events. Despite previous progress, China’s foreign policy apparatus needs to become more adroit at public positioning and more discrete and institutionally consistent in its private diplomacy to secure its international rise. Last Monday,* Beijing became the last major economic power to recognize Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), 10 days after Russia did […]

Predictions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fall from power have been frequent among Western observers. On this view, events involving two American hikers jailed in Tehran are seen as the latest display of Ahmadinejad’s political impotence in the face of clerical power. But, despite the predictions, and as a few observers outside Iran ha ve realized, Ahmadinejad’s political demise is far from imminent. The president and his appointees have been portrayed as diminished and defeated, and as about to resign or be sacrificed as scapegoats. Some analysts have speculated Ahmadinejad will be arrested on charges of treason for imprudently opposing […]

The multilateral South American organization UNASUR announced Friday that its members planned to begin pulling troops from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, known by its acronym Minustah. “There’s consensus for a gradual withdrawal of troops, consistent with Haiti’s needs,” Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim told the press after the body met in Montevideo, Uruguay. Amorim’s words carry weight. South America contributes the most peacekeepers to Minustah’s 12,000-strong mission, and Brazil leads its forces. But while the announcement may seem to mark the beginning of Minustah’s withdrawal, the mission is far from over. In fact, the Minustah mission is not […]

It’s happening again. International credit markets are showing signs of strain; economic growth around the world is stalling; and there are growing fears the global economy could slip back into a recession. Last Friday, amid this unfolding financial turmoil, the Group of Seven (G-7) finance ministers met in Marseille, France. Despite calls from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the group to “act now — and act boldly,” the summit ended without any concrete plan of action. Indeed, the finance ministers could barely even muster a short communique. This contrasts starkly with how the world’s leading economies reacted to similar, […]

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The visit to Paris this week of Rwandan President Paul Kagame coincided with coverage in the French press of allegations accusing former French President Jacques Chirac of accepting suitcases full of cash as kickbacks from African heads of state. Combined, the two stories highlight the ways in which France under President Nicolas Sarkozy is turning a page in its relations with Africa, but also the ways in which the legacy of the past has proven hard to escape. In this, Sarkozy’s presidency, like that of U.S. President Barack Obama in its own way, is likely to be a transitional one, […]

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent two-day state visit to Bangladesh has been pathbreaking in more ways than one. Not only is Singh’s visit to Dhaka the first by an Indian prime minister since 1999, Singh is the first prime minister from India’s 126-year-old Congress party to visit his country’s eastern neighbor in nearly 40 years. Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, won independence in 1971 with Indian military help. But relations between the two South Asian nations have since been bedeviled by mutual mistrust and border clashes that have thwarted any attempts at substantive commercial or political engagement. Until recently, New […]

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