NAIROBI, Kenya — Throughout his time in Kenya, U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger has been known for his expansive and delighted presence at any number of cultural events and festivals, especially those that featured dancing, and his fondness for vanilla lattes from the local Starbucks equivalent, Java House, just a stone’s throw from his office. However, he has also been known for his blunt assessment of the country’s government and political elites, particularly in the aftermath of the country’s 2007 post-election violence. Ranneberger’s departure from Nairobi has been expected for months. Now, the very Kenyan politicians Ranneberger has long targeted are […]

Dating the commencement of the U.S. War in Afghanistan from the first entry of American troops into the country on Oct. 7, 2001, the war has now lasted longer than the failed Soviet effort of the 1980s. And at last weekend’s NATO summit, the U.S. government committed to continue fighting in Afghanistan at least through 2014, with one senior American official calling even that possible withdrawal date “aspirational.” Opponents of continuing the large-scale, American-led counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan cite the failure of the Soviet military to suppress the Afghan insurgency in the 1980s as evidence that the United States will […]

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I’ve only had a chance to scan some news surveys of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables dump. And my first reaction was similar to watching a “making of” clip at the end of a movie: Everyone knows that diplomacy is a staged event that often requires the willing suspension of disbelief. That’s why we balance the official version offered by government spokespeople with off-the-record comments and tick-tock accounts describing what goes on behind the scenes. And the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables are a motherlode of behind-the-scenes accounts. To say that one version of the events is more important than the other, or […]

People, mainly tourists, throng a street in the Montmartre district of Paris, Aug. 9, 2019 (AP photo by Lewis Joly).

Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. "I think many of our problems as a country would be solved if people had thick passports." — Matt Damon, Condé Nast Traveler, 2009. Tourism is as much a political terrain as a cultural practice. It has been promoted as a route to economic development for poor nations and wielded as an instrument of political leverage between nations — as the U.S. embargo against travel to Cuba or the recent easing of […]

Art and culture are two pillars on which all societies build both identity and a sense of community. But despite the common function of culture in general, the task of developing coherent cultural-heritage laws and policies is complicated by the complexities of particular nations’ and cultures’ interactions with one another as well as the difficulty of finding concepts that are meaningful to all in order to define the resulting legal relationships. Western notions of property, ownership and restitution, for example, may not translate to other cultures, some of which function according to systems of beliefs and values that run counter […]

A sign in the Congress Center at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 25, 2010 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. Globalization holds out the prospect that the world might become a single place, but the resulting integration is often perceived as increased sameness through new information technologies and the spread of consumer culture. In this vision, whether defined as cultural imperialism, Americanization, or the triumph of market capitalism, global culture tends to be seen as an imposed uniformity and the demise of local cultures. Globalization becomes the arch destroyer of long-sedimented traditions […]

History tells us that, when a rising great power approaches the standing of the dominant system-shaping great power, conflict is inevitable, either directly or in such regions where their two spheres of influence intersect. The great counterexample is the acceptance by a “rising” America of the late-19th century of Great Britain’s implicit offer of a “special relationship,” which allowed the latter to punch above its weight throughout the 20th century. That alliance was subsequently forged in opposition to common enemies: first the Kaiser and then Nazi Germany, followed by the Soviet Union. China and the United States have no such […]

Last week, China and Russia announced they will no longer use the dollar to conduct their bilateral trade, but instead will use their domestic currencies, the yuan and ruble, to do so. Some doomsayers have depicted this move as yet another sign of the dollar’s imminent decline and claim it threatens the greenback’s status as the pre-eminent reserve currency. But a closer examination suggests the deal will have more of a symbolic impact than any tangible economic or geopolitical effects. Since 1992, self-imposed restrictions have been in place requiring that trade between China and Russia be conducted in dollars, a […]

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South Korea and the United States recently began a review of their bilateral nuclear energy agreement that expires in 2014. In an e-mail interview, Mark Hibbs, senior associate in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Nuclear Policy Program, discussed U.S.-South Korea civil-nuclear cooperation. WPR: What is the status quo in terms of U.S.-South Korean nuclear cooperation? Mark Hibbs: On the basis of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement from 1974, South Korea has built 14 of its 20 nuclear-power reactors with the help of U.S. industry and government agencies. The agreement permitted U.S. firms to supply technology, equipment and fuel for […]

On the surface, the NATO summit meeting in Lisbon, the North Korean artillery barrage against Yeonpyeong island, and the unmasking of the “fake” Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour in Afghanistan would appear to be separate and unconnected events. But there is a common theme that ties these three news stories together. In his WPR column column on Monday, Thomas P.M. Barnett summed up the problem: The United States cannot “close the gaps” in the global security system. The end of the Cold War and the rise of new power centers around the world have not led to any appreciable shift in […]

What happens when a country without an army discovers that soldiers from a neighboring state have marched into its territory and raised their own flag? That’s exactly what the government of Costa Rica, which has no military forces, charges Nicaragua has done, accusing its neighbor of invading its land and destroying its forests. Nicaragua, not surprisingly, sees things differently. If the events unfolding today in Central America had taken place a quarter of a century ago, there is a good chance that the sound of gunfire would now be ringing out amid the angry charges and countercharges. After all, during […]

Last weekend, graduate students at the University of Kentucky failed to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. In and of itself this was not surprising, and did not distinguish last Friday and Saturday from a typical weekend in Lexington, Kentucky. What made the weekend special was that students at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, the terminal Masters program in foreign affairs where I teach, in conjunction with the Army War College, ran through the International Strategic Crisis Negotiation Exercise, a simulation of the Nagorno-Karabakh stand-off designed to expose students to the problems of international negotiations. The exercise involved dividing […]

On Oct. 17, Iranian border guards clashed with drug traffickers on the wild Iran-Afghan frontier and subsequently seized 331 lbs of narcotics contraband. The incident would be just one of many such skirmishes that take place every week, were it not for one difference: The seized drugs were not the usual suspects of Afghan opium and hashish, but rather synthetic drugs, highlighting alarming changes to the Southwest Asian narcotics industry. Synthetic drugs, such as potent crystal meth (called “shisheh,” or “glass” in Farsi), LSD and various forms of refined heroin (including a smokable, condensed-rock form referred to locally as “crack”) […]

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW, is getting its third shot at ratification after lying dormant in U.S. Senate subcommittees for the past 30 years. With the Obama administration’s support and a Democratic majority in the Senate, the timing for what’s known as the Women’s Treaty could be right. But even in the best of circumstances, CEDAW will still be up against tough odds. “It’s well known world-wide there’s a tremendous amount of obstructionism going on in the U.S., and today, regrettably, this convention is not at the top of the list […]

On Nov. 18, for the first time since their October 2007 summit in Tehran, the leaders of the five Caspian Sea littoral states — Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan — gathered in Baku to discuss issues including maritime-border delimitation, security and environmental protection. Despite a dramatically changed regional situation since the last summit, the Baku meeting nevertheless produced little in terms of substantive outcomes. But recent trends point to future breakthroughs. What has changed since the Tehran summit? Washington and Moscow have achieved a warming in relations, with burgeoning bilateral cooperation on Iran and Afghanistan in particular. To avoid […]

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There’s an inherent risk involved in taking at face value the policy declarations of a country’s leader. My general rule of thumb is to do so when the declaration in question supports an argument I’m trying to defend. And that’s certainly the case when it comes to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s description of Ukraine’s approach to its foreign policy posture: After his first meeting with the European Union, Mr. Yanukovich contrasted past disputes with Russia with the way in which he said Ukraine is now working — “in the spirit of partnership in the triangle of Russia-Europe-Ukraine.” But it’s worth […]

At the NATO heads-of-state summit held in Lisbon this weekend, the leaders of NATO member states resolved some important issues regarding the alliance’s future, but they deferred many key decisions for further deliberation. As a result, much of the summit’s outcome will not be definitively clear for some time. The topic that drew the most media attention this past weekend was how long NATO would continue its military effort in Afghanistan, and whether the alliance could actually win the war within whatever withdrawal timeline its members articulated. NATO leaders confirmed 2014 as the new target date for drawing down their […]

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