ABOARD U.S.S. DONALD COOK — In 2008, Somali pirates hijacked more than 100 large commercial vessels, provoking a massive international response. More than 40 warships from a dozen navies subsequently assembled to patrol the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. At the same time, diplomats forged consensus approaches that included U.N. declarations governing operations in Somali waters, military accords uniting formerly rival navies, and legal frameworks for prosecuting suspected pirates in various national jurisdictions. The result, a year into this “global war on piracy,” is that successful hijackings are way down. In the three months ending in September 2008, […]

Although Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou’s historic rapprochement with China has ushered in a period of stability in cross-strait relations, the military imbalance between the two neighbors continues to grow. Beijing’s military modernization is rapidly dwarfing Taipei’s capabilities and blunting Washington’s ability to defend its ally in the event of conflict. Left unchecked, this growing imbalance will make it increasingly difficult for Taipei to maintain the necessary deterrent required to preserve its independence from the mainland, and for long-term stability to prevail in the Taiwan Strait. The calm that has pervaded the Taiwan Strait since Ma’s inauguration last year is certainly […]

KUALA LUMPUR — If timing matters in the art of diplomacy, then those responsible for the death of Noordin Mohammad Top did the foreign services of Indonesia and Malaysia a big favor. The killing of Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorist came as neighborly relations were sliding rapidly into a political abyss amid declarations of a “cultural war.” Opportunists on the fringe were even calling for the real thing as the foreign ministers from both countries tried to mend a few broken fences torn apart over the historic origins of a traditional dance. “As for Noordin M Top, while Indonesians were […]

The term “lawfare” is increasingly used to characterize the pervasive role of law in the conduct of war, but there is nothing new about the concept. Law has always played a role in war, requiring that a pragmatic balance be struck between the necessities of war and the need to protect the innocent. The significance of this balance between military necessity and humane treatment under the law has never been more central to the credibility of U.S. military operations than it is today. The real question raised today is whether “lawfare” will come to define a fundamental distortion of this […]

TOKYO — Days after being formally elected Japan’s new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama hit the diplomatic ground running, traveling to New York last week to deliver a speech at the U.N. meet on climate change, before heading to Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit. The trip was widely viewed as a success, with Reuters saying Hatoyama handled his diplomatic debut with “aplomb.” The Japan Times praised his “strong” start, particularly his pledge to slash Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent on 1990 levels. The headline-grabbing promise on emissions is just the latest sign, according to veteran Japan commentator Karel van […]

In addition to potential effects on Germany’s economic, energy, and foreign policies, the results of the Sept. 27 national elections raise questions about the future of Germany’s longstanding practice of military conscription. Although Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) continues to support compulsory military service more than any other major German party, her preferred new coalition partner, the quasi-libertarian Free Democratic Party (FDP), opposes it. Unlike most other NATO countries, Germany stubbornly adheres to the principle of compulsory military service. At present, all male German citizens are subject to nine months of conscription in the Bundeswehr (the German armed […]

Imagine a day, perhaps sometime in the next year and a half, when world leaders triumphantly proclaim that an agreement has at long last been reached in the Doha Round of global trade negotiations. Hosannas pour forth from editorial writers and commentators, all declaring that after so many disappointments and failures since the talks were first launched in 2001, the breakthrough accord heralds a giant leap forward for global commerce and international economic cooperation. Could it happen? Glimmers of hope have emerged from the World Trade Organization in recent months that a compromise may be in the offing, one loosely […]

The U.N. climate change negotiations currently underway and set to conclude in Copenhagen late in 2009 seek to establish new arrangements in anticipation of the termination of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. According to our current understanding of the science, a successful outcome to these negotiations is critical to maintaining a stable climate, even if the estimates of the costs of damage from inaction vary widely. The negotiations are currently beset by a series of obstacles. But if these are overcome, the resulting agreement will change the global landscape in terms of trade, politics and the entire international system. The […]

During the last five decades, Colombia’s foreign, defense and strategic priorities have been driven and determined by the country’s internal armed conflict, with the “War on Drugs” becoming the dominant paradigm from the 1980s onwards. This, in turn, has defined Colombia’s relations with Latin America — particularly, in recent years, with its Andean neighbors, Ecuador and Venezuela — as well as its relationship with the United States and Europe. Colombia’s struggle to stem cocaine production, its fight against the drug cartels that sprung up around the drug trade, and its war against the largest and longest-running guerrilla insurgency in Latin […]

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks during a ceremony in Brasilia, Monday, Sept. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

In recent years, Brazil has put forward a more ambitious foreign policy with the aim of expanding the country’s presence in global economic negotiations, multilateral institutions and regimes, and regional affairs. [1] An active presidential diplomacy has spearheaded this approach, concerned with simultaneously deepening ties with the industrialized economies and the emergent South. Relations have been reshaped with the United States and the European Union, ties have been deepened with China and India, South-South multilateralism has been renewed and an unprecedented presence in South America has been asserted. A diversified set of “external fronts” has also led to an innovative […]

September is the showcase month at the U.N. headquarters in New York. In 2009, in addition to rolling out the red carpet for newly elected leaders from the U.S. and Japan, the organization also made ambitious attempts to address climate change and nuclear nonproliferation. Compared to past years, expectations were sky high, as President Barack Obama delivered a speech detailing his administration’s commitment to multilateralism after years of U.S. neglect. With Washington’s full backing, the U.N. seems ripe for an image makeover to accompany the structural facelift currently in progress. However, despite the optimism, no one is forecasting any progress […]

After two days of high-profile meetings and deliberation last week, the G-20 managed to make official something everyone already knew: the United States and Europe can no longer effectively manage the whims of the global economy on their own. To that end, the group reached consensus on two major fronts: 1) the more diverse G-20 should effectively replace the Western-dominated G-8 as the world’s primary economic coordinating body; and, 2) voting power within the IMF should be reformed to give greater voice to emerging powers. Stop the presses, right? Yes and no. This is big news, but not necessarily new […]

BERLIN — After four years of an uncomfortable alliance with the liberal Social Democratic Party marked more by inaction that by any major initiatives, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative Christian Democrat party won a sweeping victory in federal elections here yesterday, putting the legislative pieces in place to make significant policy changes in her second term. The pro-business Free Democrats pulled off a major upset, winning enough votes to form a grand coalition with the CDU. Meanwhile, the election marked a major defeat for the SDP, with party candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier calling for a reassessment of the party’s […]

President Barack Obama’s performance at the United Nations last week was widely hailed — and condemned — as a clear departure from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. His most telling statement spoke volumes about the limits of U.S. power in an interdependent world: “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Subtext? Atlas has put down the heavy globe and has neither the intention nor the wherewithal to pick it up again. If that makes for an uncertain age, it’s […]

BERLIN — Just days ahead of Sunday’s general election that will decide the next German chancellor, there is a noticeable lack of interest among the public, the media, and even the candidates themselves,. The widespread indifference comes at a time when Germany nevertheless faces a number of difficult issues, including an unpopular war in Afghanistan and the country’s tenuous economic recovery. Christian Democrat (CDU) Angela Merkel, the sitting chancellor, has essentially chosen not to campaign. She has made few public statements other than that she would prefer to form a coalition with the more conservative Free Democrats over the liberal […]

UNITED NATIONS — President Barack Obama sprinted through three days of international diplomacy at the United Nations General Assembly, vowing to re-engage the world body and pushing through a Security Council resolution that inched him closer to his dream of a nuclear weapons-free world — all the while warning he would never apologize for defending America’s interests. The resolution, passed unanimously yesterday, aims at deterring countries from withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and preventing civilian nuclear programs from being diverted toward the development of nuclear weapons. Its passage was the most tangible victory for Obama, who entered this week […]

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday morning, President Barack Obama said, “It is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 — more than at any point in human history — the interests of nations and peoples are shared.” By this logic, American interests and American power around the world — which this column sets out every week to measure — depend on cooperation. The General Assembly presents an ideal opportunity to consider how much that cooperation is possible. As ever, consensus eludes us. The New York Times, for instance, sided with the argument […]

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