According to the United Nations, today marks the birth of the world’s 7 billionth person, an event sure to cause great angst among the many surviving Malthusians who still believe that humanity’s ingenuity and the planet’s resources are both finite. But thanks to globalization’s continued advance and the modernization it enables, roughly four-fifths of humans live in societies with falling birth rates and half live in societies featuring lower than replacement-rate fertility. So we now know that the trajectory of global population growth will proceed somewhat more slowly toward our eighth and ninth billions, and that we may never reach […]

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On the merits of this article, Radio France International contacted me last Thursday to do a telephone interview on the EU debt agreement, for a piece that aired on Friday. So far the deal hasn’t been entirely outrun by events, but it looks like that might soon be the case. I’m tempted to say that without a solid European growth horizon, no virtual package is going to do the trick. On the other hand, eventually the numbers will be large enough to cover the basic math of the crisis, because it feels like the political tipping point regarding a European […]

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I had the pleasure of participating in France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week, last Friday. The other panelists were the IHT’s Anne Bagamery, AFP’s Dave Clark and RTL 4’s Stefan de Vries. Topics included the EU debt crisis agreement, Tunisia’s elections and the emergence of democratic Islamism in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and the end of NATO’s mission in Libya. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here. It was a fun and informative discussion. I was especially surprised to learn from Stefan, who was in Brussels covering the EU summit, […]

The violent Basque separatist group ETA recently declared a definitive end to its armed activity, 52 years after its founding. The declaration came in response to an appeal made on Oct. 17 by a group of international peacemakers, led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, that gathered in San Sebastián, Spain, for a carefully choreographed peace conference to help bring a close to what the group called “the last armed confrontation in Europe.” The phrase, and the presence of the peacemakers, irritated many in Spain who see ETA’s actions solely in terms of terrorism and have long considered the organization […]

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Tuareg fighters who fought for former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi were reported earlier this month to have returned to Mali to start a new rebel group. In an email interview, Baz Lecocq, professor of history at Ghent University, discussed Tuareg rebel groups. WPR: What are the main Tuareg rebel groups, and what are their main objectives? Baz Lecocq: Beginning with the start of decolonization in the 1950s, groups of Tuareg have protested, violently or otherwise, about their inclusion in Africa’s newly independent states, especially in Mali and Niger. In the 1990s, Tuareg in Mali and Niger engaged in protracted guerrilla […]

In my WPR column two weeks ago, I argued that a key challenge facing U.S. policymakers in the coming decade was in defining how the U.S. “should prioritize its interests, commitments and partnerships.” A number of recent articles and reports suggest that a broad consensus is indeed emerging, and that when it comes to U.S. foreign policy priorities, all roads lead to Asia. In his own WPR column this week, Thomas P.M. Barnett notes that “regional integration in East Asia depends on an American security presence,” a conclusion that many of the participants at a recent trilateral Korea-Japan-U.S. security dialogue […]

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — For the past month, the word on everyone’s lips across Kyrgyzstan has been “raskol,” meaning “schism,” as voters nervously await a presidential election on Oct. 30 that will be an important test for the unity of the state. With the wounds of last year’s revolution and ethnic violence still fresh, fears of a national conflict along north-south lines are running high, a possibility that holds important implications for regional politics and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Eighteen months after the April 2010 revolution that toppled authoritarian President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, Kyrgyzstan is struggling to consolidate its democracy in […]

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series examining the European Union’s approach toward the integration of the Balkans into the union. Part I examined the record of EU integration to date. Part II examines the road ahead. With the global spotlight focused on the European Union’s ongoing debt crisis, the European Commission’s recently issued reports on the progress Western Balkan countries are making toward accession may seem marginal. But for these nations, the achievement of EU membership is an essential symbolic and practical goal. As the reports indicate, this goal is still a long way off, even […]

Last March, in a remote monastery in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, a young Tibetan monk lit the spark that started a quiet but dramatic new revolt against Chinese rule in Tibet. The 20-year-old Phuntsog set himself on fire and later died of his wounds. His death subsequently triggered a wave of self-immolations among Tibetans, which has persisted despite China’s blunt efforts to smother the largely silent uprising. Compared to the boisterous protests unfolding throughout the world, the actions in the tiny town of Aba (Ngaba in Tibetan) near the border of the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region are receiving minimal […]

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In an apparent throwback to the Cold War era, Germany recently arrested a married couple suspected of acting as a sleeper cell on behalf of Russian intelligence. The news flew mainly below the radar of the English-language media, and it remains to be seen how German-Russian relations may be affected. But the arrests mark the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall that suspected Russian spies have been arrested on German soil. For Ben Judah, a London-based policy fellow and Russia specialist with the European Council on Foreign Relations, that highlights an evolving challenge facing the Russian intelligence […]

With President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of this year, most Americans breathed a sigh of relief. Lost in those headlines was the collective shudder of national security experts and practitioners who know Washington’s dirty little secret: More than 10 years after the war against violent extremism began, the United States still lacks true deployable civilian power. The handover in Iraq from the Defense Department to the State Department at the end of this year will showcase this Achilles’ heel, one that will haunt U.S. foreign policy until […]

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European Union leaders have yet again come up with a detail-free plan to address the European debt crisis, with the hope being that this one with be massive enough to have the needed “shock and awe” effect to calm markets. Whether or not it will be enough to have more than an immediate impact remains to be seen. How will European banks recapitalize without consolidating their holdings, at a time when bank shares have been falling? Who will actually pony up the money to reinforce the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF)? How realistic is the Greek austerity budget? And how […]

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While no fewer than 80 political parties participated, Hizb Ennahda, a once-banned Islamist party, has emerged as the major winner in Tunisia’s first election since the ouster early this year of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Ennahda’s dominance — winning roughly 43 percent of the seats in Tunisia’s new Constituent Assembly — can best be explained by what Christopher Alexander, a leading Tunisia scholar and political scientist at Davidson College in North Carolina, calls the “cultural authenticity vote.” Alexander told Trend Lines on Wednesday that “there are Tunisians who frankly are not that religious, but supported Ennahda because they […]

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Anti-Roma riots erupted in Bulgaria last month, following a death linked to an alleged Roma crime boss. In an email interview, Martin Kovats, a special adviser to the European Commission on Roma issues, discussed the European Union’s Roma policy. WPR: What are the main areas of concern regarding the Roma in Europe, from the perspective of both human rights advocates and national governments? Martin Kovats: For human rights advocates, the persistence of disadvantage among and discrimination against the Roma raises questions about the utility of rights to deliver social change. National governments have a range of perspectives, as the political […]

The battle to define the lessons of the Western intervention in Libya began almost as soon as the first Tomahawk missiles started hitting that country’s air defense network back in March. Many of the arguments have focused on the viability of the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine of international humanitarian intervention and how it might apply to such countries as Bahrain or Syria. However, defense analysts also subjected the military character of the campaign to scrutiny, with some now suggesting the fight in Libya indicates that airpower has finally fulfilled its decisive promise, having matured to the extent that it can […]

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series examining the European Union’s approach toward the integration of the Balkans into the union. Part I examines the record of EU integration to date. Part II will examine the road ahead. The European Commission’s (EC) recent progress reports on the Western Balkan countries, released in October, mark the latest stage in a long process designed to bring a region devastated by post-Communist conflict into the European fold. The European Union’s influence on the Balkans over the past decade has certainly been positive, drawing the countries away from armed conflict and […]

Under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia has emerged as a success story in many ways. It has waged a resilient campaign against terrorism, achieved the third-highest economic growth rate among G-20 countries and demonstrated dynamic leadership within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Moreover, this political and economic stability has been achieved in a context of deepening democratic consolidation, after a period of suppression of political rights and civil liberties during the Suharto era. But Yudhoyono’s tenure has also seen the rise of radical Islam, which some view as the greatest threat to Indonesian democracy. Groups such as the […]

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