Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will be seeking an unprecedented third 6-year term when voters go to the polls on Oct. 7. But this time, the challenge from opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski is expected to be credible, in what many analysts believe will be Chávez’s closest contest since his initial election in 1998. Capriles was able to unite a historically divided political opposition by winning the February 2012 primary in decisive fashion, taking 62 percent of the popular vote. His victory galvanized a wide spectrum of political parties behind a single opposition candidate for the first time since Chávez took […]

Protests erupted across Spain and Greece this week, with demonstrators in both of the debt-hobbled countries expressing their growing displeasure with austerity reforms. The unrest comes just weeks after the European Central Bank announced that it would act as lender of last resort to eurozone nations facing rising borrowing costs, easing fears of sovereign defaults and calming financial markets. But now, with economic growth at a standstill and increasing numbers of Spaniards and Greeks facing impoverishment, the question has become whether these countries can survive the austerity cure, and if so, what it will take. “Much has been made of […]

Writing 10 years ago in Orbis magazine (.pdf), Ray Takeyh and I argued that, if a wave of democratization were to topple formerly pro-American autocrats in the Middle East, the new Arab democracies “would seek what they perceived to be equitable and fair relations with the United States, but object to . . . cumbersome American . . . demands, especially regarding Israel.” The speech delivered this week by Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, at the United Nations General Assembly has confirmed this analysis. Unlike Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose pronouncements before the international community regularly conform to […]

Vietnam has made international headlines in recent weeks, but for all the wrong reasons. Vietnam’s dynamic economy, which until recently dominated news coverage of the country, has been replaced by accounts of economic decline, political infighting and the arrest of leading figures tied to the party leadership. Until a few years ago, because of its remarkable economic growth — about 7 percent a year — Vietnam was considered one of the world’s hottest emerging markets and a rising Asian star racing to catch up with its neighbors. However, all of that is apparently over: The country’s economy has slowed sharply, […]

The Indian government finally approved a plan last week to allow international firms such as Wal-Mart to own 51 percent of multibrand retail stores. In an email interview, Pravakar Sahoo, an associate professor at the Institute for Economic Growth in India, discussed India’s retail opening. WPR: What concrete changes will the retail opening bring to India’s economy? Pravakar Sahoo: The approval of 51 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multibrand retailing, which was initially approved by the Cabinet in November 2011 after two years of deliberation but suspended due to the ensuing political furor, is a big step. It will […]

In the years that preceded the Arab Uprisings, the term “Islamist,” particularly in the West, often carried connotations of a monolithic movement. The word served as shorthand, but it blurred significant distinctions that have long existed within the movement. Political Islam has always included a variety of views, particularly regarding timing and tactics. Islamists have long held differing positions regarding the acceptability of violence, and they have stood at numerous points along an ideological axis that ranges from gradualism and moderation to fast-track radicalism. Since the fall of a number of Arab dictatorships, however, it has become even more apparent […]

The new weapons that sprouted on the battlefields of World War I ultimately revolutionized warfare. At the time of their appearance, however, most of them were used in a very traditional way, making old-fashioned infantry and artillery more effective rather than ushering in new ways of fighting. Airplanes spotted targets for artillery batteries, scouted for the infantry and provided close air support. There were some attempts at strategic bombing, but due to the limited payload and range of the aircraft of the time, it had little effect. Tanks, which first appeared in 1917, operated with infantry units as moveable machine […]

The U.S. and Japan recently concluded an agreement to expand their joint missile defense program by installing a new X-Band radar in southern Japan, in addition to the one already located in Shiriki, Japan. Reports also suggest that the U.S. is looking to deploy another of these highly intrusive and sensitive systems somewhere in Southeast Asia, further complementing the missile-defense capabilities of Aegis-equipped U.S. warships that patrol international waters in the region. Combined, the developments suggest that the U.S. intends to build a string of missile defense systems around the arc of the South China Sea. Obviously unhappy with these […]

Last week, Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto began a diplomatic tour of Central and South America, including stops in Guatemala, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. For Peña Nieto, who will take office Dec. 1, the trip was an effort to reset Mexico’s relations with other major players in the region. Johanna Mendelson Forman, a senior associate with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the tour indicated that Mexico may begin to look southward as well as northward for cooperation on economic and security issues. “Because of geography, I suspect that Peña Nieto will […]

With global temperatures on the rise, melting ice is making the Arctic more accessible to maritime navigation, opening up shipping routes for global trade as well as areas containing sizable deposits of minerals and fossil fuels. As the five nations with Arctic coastlines address how to manage these new opportunities and the challenges they raise, South Korea is actively seeking to overcome its geography and gain a seat at the table. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak recently completed his first trip to the Arctic, where he apparently made some progress in advancing Seoul’s political, commercial and logistical interests. Overall, the […]

Yesterday marked the 16th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Although it has not become a campaign issue, ratification of the treaty will be a question facing the next U.S. presidential administration, with important implications for a wide range of U.S. nuclear nonproliferation goals. The CTBT prohibits all nuclear explosions, whether for military or other purposes, in any environment. As of today, 183 national governments out of 196 possible signatories have signed the CTBT, and 157 countries have ratified it. The treaty specifies, however, that it will only enter into force 180 days […]

In trying to sustainably resolve intractable conflicts, the international community faces a challenge on two levels. One is related to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, which though often accomplished by leaders and elites through negotiation, mediation and arbitration still requires the support of the masses. The other level involves postconflict reconciliation, which requires completely changing the societal repertoires of at least the great majority of society members and elites that feed the conflict on both sides, in order to evolve a new repertoire that can serve as a foundation for stable and lasting peace. This latter challenge, which lies […]

Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Lebanon earlier this month, where he addressed the conflict in Syria at a heavily attended mass and met with Lebanon’s political leaders. In an email interview, Samuel Gregg, director of research at the Acton Institute, discussed Vatican foreign policymaking. WPR: Who sets Vatican foreign policy and what are the principal elements driving policy? Samuel Gregg: The Holy See’s foreign policy is subject to the pope’s direction and that of the secretary of state, presently Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone. In formal terms, it is carried out primarily by the Secretariat of State, specifically its Second Section, known […]

Perhaps no contemporary political figure is more emblematic of where El Salvador stands 20 years after the end of its bloody armed conflict than the country’s current president, Mauricio Funes. In winning the 2009 election, Funes became the first president elected from the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), the political offshoot of El Salvador’s guerrilla insurgency, breaking the 20-year reign of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). Like the other two Cold War-era civil wars in Central America, El Salvador’s internal armed conflict pitted the country’s anti-communist military government against guerilla groups that took up arms to pursue political, […]

Fifteen years ago, the peace process in Northern Ireland was at a critical juncture. With the IRA having restored its cease-fire at the end of July 1997, Sinn Fein was judged to be in compliance with the so-called Mitchell Principles and admitted to the peace talks that would eventually produce the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement (.pdf) in April 1998. However, Sinn Fein’s entry into the process prompted the exit of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party, which refused to negotiate with what it considered to be a terrorist group. A decade and a half later, the DUP and Sinn Fein co-exist in […]

President Barack Obama heads to the U.N. tomorrow to address the new session of the General Assembly. His visit will be brief — he is not even expected to stay for lunch — and his speech is likely to be sharply worded. In what will probably be his last major international engagement before November’s elections, he has a chance to scold Russia for its behavior over Syria, warn Iran over its nuclear program and reassert America’s primacy on the international stage. This won’t be an entirely easy exercise for the president in terms of his domestic audience. Whatever he ends […]

How to manage trade relations with China, with an eye toward achieving reciprocity, is the million-dollar question on both sides of the Atlantic. The question was on prominent display at the 15th European Union-China summit last Thursday, where the two economic giants once again agreed to avoid protectionism, at least on paper. Trade between China and the EU rose to $556 billion in 2011, but grievances on both sides continue to weigh heavily on the relationship. At the summit, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao complained pointedly about the EU arms embargo against China as well as Brussels’ refusal to grant China […]

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