It is downright striking how little attention the wider American discussion over foreign policy pays to Japan. After all, Japan still claims the title of the world’s second largest economy (even if China is expected to overtake it next year). Its relationship with the U.S. has been as intimate as any other between major powers in the last 50 years. U.S. troops are still stationed there 64 years after the end of World War II. And to complicate matters, experts say there has been a longstanding worry on the Japanese side of being abandoned by the Americans. Past American presidents […]

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One of the most reliable lessons one gleans from observing intra-Palestinian politics is the need to always expect the unexpected. Important events have a tendency not to unfold according to plan. We should keep that in mind when considering Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ sudden call for new parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on Jan. 24. Less than three weeks ago, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit announced that, at long last, the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah would sign a reconciliation agreement in Cairo on Oct. 26. Egypt, as the mediator that helped craft the deal, […]

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — In March, ordnance exploded on a home in Kapisa province, in northeast Afghanistan. One child died. Another, 6-year-old Razia, was badly burned. When Aziz, her father, took her in his arms, Razia’s scalp came away in his hands. In early interviews, Aziz blamed the explosion on the U.S.-led coalition. U.S. Air Force officers said the ordnance might have been white phosphorous, a specialized incendiary that the Taliban is unlikely to possess. Later, Aziz claimed the Taliban had, in fact, fired rockets on his home. Regardless of who actually caused Razia’s injuries, it was the Americans that evacuated […]

A bipartisan commission last week reiterated its warning that the U.S. government is responding inadequately to the threat of bioterrorism. Shortly before last fall’s national election, the U.S. Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism issued its major report (.pdf), “World at Risk.” It included detailed guidance to the next U.S. presidential administration about what steps to take to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction or their potential use by terrorists. The commission’s latest report (.pdf), affirms that, “Progress has been made, but the clock is ticking.” Like “World at Risk,” the October […]

This week, “The Thinkers 50” Web site named their 50 most influential business thinkers in the world. Atop its list stood the Indian-born, University of Michigan professor, C.K. Prahalad — a visionary whose analysis of the market opportunities to be found in the emerging global middle class is must reading for anyone seriously given to strategic thought in the age of globalization. Globalization is often described as a “race to the bottom,” whether to the lowest price or the least protection for workers and the environment. While relevant, these statements are untrue: High levels of globalization connectivity clearly correlates with […]

First there was Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Then there was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran. And now there is Omar al-Bashir in Sudan. In many ways, this is no surprise. President Barack Obama pledged during his campaign that he would, unlike his predecessor, engage in talks with even the country’s most ominous adversaries. In April at the Summit of the Americas, when the president ran into Chavez, the moment made for a remarkably smiley photo opportunity. No such meeting has occurred with the Iranian president, but intense negotiations have resulted in a possible breakthrough in the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program. […]

When mass protests erupted in Iran following charges of fraud in last June’s presidential election, Western leaders — particularly U.S. President Barack Obama — took pains not to taint those domestic disturbances with foreign fingerprints. To foreigners concerned about Iran’s nuclear aspirations, the sight of muscular internal dissent suddenly presented new and intriguing thoughts: International opposition to the Iranian nuclear program is not the only problem faced by the ruling powers in the Islamic Republic. The disturbances revealed one of Iran’s great weaknesses: widespread discontent with a regime of questionable legitimacy. Now that the regime has suppressed the protests, however, […]

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The observation post near Route Georgia — the U.S. military’s codename for one of the roads running through this eastern province — had a power problem. In the rugged, breadbasket district of Baraki Barak, 50 miles south of Kabul, there are just a few hundred* American soldiers and a similar number of Afghan security forces to provide security for tens of thousands of farmers and their families. To keep watch over the district between foot and vehicle patrols, the U.S. Army’s 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry built observation posts atop mountain “spurs” — ridges, essentially — and […]

A decade after the U.S. Senate declined to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), President Barack Obama is preparing an effort to reverse that decision. But to secure Senate backing this time around, the Obama administration must first overcome residual concerns among some senators that the treaty will harm U.S. national security. The CTBT prohibits all nuclear explosions, whether for military or other purposes, in any environment. Its practical effect would be to extend test prohibitions contained in current treaties and agreements to include underground testing of all nuclear explosive devices, the last domain not formally prohibited by existing […]

Americans’ fear of China right now is palpable. We see danger in its products, in its vast reserves of our currency, in its growing military might, in its ravenous hunger for raw materials, and in its single-party state. With “Made in China” seemingly stamped on the bottom of everything we bring into our already overstuffed houses, we worry that China will soon buy and sell us, just like Japan seemed poised to do two decades ago. In short, we no longer feel on top of the global economy. It’s somebody else’s “age.” Roughly a century ago, that’s exactly how the […]

In addition to coordinating the world’s ruling class with the Clinton Global Initiative and combating HIV/AIDS with the Clinton Foundation, former President Bill Clinton is still fighting for Haiti. In May, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon invited him to be the United Nations Special Envoy to the poorest state in the Western Hemisphere. Clinton accepted, raising the question of where in the world he finds the energy. Earlier this month, Clinton made his third visit of the year to Haiti. During his trip, he toured the country, arguing that the moment was ripe for a revived tourism industry. He then […]

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The improbable relationship between Turkey and Israel has long stood as a unique model of pragmatic, strategic thinking in a region rife with instability, tension, and identity-based alliances. In recent months, however, growing strains between the Jewish state and its Muslim neighbor have come to light, leading some to believe their decades-old ties could reach the breaking point. And yet, if one looks more closely at the relationship, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that a break between the two countries is highly unlikely. To be sure, relations between Israel and Turkey underwent a shift in tone after the […]

ABOARD USS DONALD COOK — The blue-painted fishing dhow with the suspicious hooks on its railings appeared as a low, curved shape on the destroyer U.S.S. Donald Cook’s high-powered security cameras. It was a day in mid-September, three months into the Virginia-based warship’s deployment to the Gulf of Aden as part of a five-ship NATO counterpiracy task force. With hijackings declining across East African waters, Donald Cook’s 250 crew had had little to do on most days. The appearance of the dhow and, on it, what looked like grappling hooks useful for boarding large vessels, raised the prospect of a […]

Last week proved to be a busy one for international efforts to negotiate a settlement to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Although some progress occurred, longstanding obstacles persist while new impediments have arisen. The policies of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) represent a major obstacle toward realization of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize-winning nuclear arms control agenda. Obama delivered his well-received April 5 speech in Prague just days after North Korea resumed testing long-range “rockets” despite a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution prohibiting such missile-related activities. More recently, the president also singled out North Korea, as well […]

America awoke last Friday to the stunning news that its young president, Barack Obama, had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Naturally, in these hyper-partisan times, the award has elicited wild praise and unbalanced scorn back home, with darn near everybody trying to figure out why Obama was tapped for such a high honor just months into his first term. But as with all such awards, more was revealed about the selectors than the selected. So if the choice of Obama is inarguably premature, then what signal was Norway, one of America’s oldest and most sensible friends, trying to send? […]

As if absurdity weren’t already the norm in U.S.-Cuba relations, three years ago the U.S. Interest Section, housed in a rectangular seven-story building in the Vedado district of Havana, began broadcasting a news ticker across its sixth-floor windows. The five-foot, red-orange lettering crept from one end of the building to the other, like anachronistic soldiers leftover from an ideological war settled long ago. Unfortunately, however, nobody seems to have told either the Americans or the Cubans. In kind, Fidel Castro ordered a million people to march on the building in protest. The Cuban government proceeded to block the ticker’s view […]

RAMALLAH, West Bank — On most days, Ramallah bustles with the sounds of commerce typical of Middle Eastern towns. The city, seat of power for the Palestinian Authority, is experiencing an economic boom that looks deceptively like normalcy. Pedestrians move along crowded sidewalks while traffic crawls along in the city center. In newer parts of town, bright new buildings give the city an air of prosperity reminiscent of the wealthiest areas of Jerusalem or Amman, the Jordanian capital. Underneath the visible progress, however, signs are growing that the months ahead could bring heightened tension and even violence in the Palestinian […]

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