Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

7
Jun

By Philip Stephens

The concept of freedom to act is as compelling as it is unrealistic

cd9b2573-711f-460a-a41c-857b303055d4.imgThe state is back. The post-1945 multilateral order is falling into disrepair. Everywhere you look, nationalism is on the march. States, established and rising, are disinterring traditional notions of national sovereignty. They want to reclaim the international system created by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. They are chasing a chimera.

For a moment, after the collapse of communism, the future belonged to a postmodern state. This state would remain the essential building block of political organisation, but would recognise shared interests. Governments would discard narrow concepts of national interest in favour of co-operative security and prosperity. Strange though it seems to say after the tumult of recent years, but the EU was seen as a model for the new international order.

There was more to this than utopian daydreaming. Globalisation has tightened the ties of economic interdependence. Threats to nations are recognisably international in character – from climate change to pandemics, from terrorism and the proliferation of unconventional weapons to mass migration. Mobile capital, cross-border supply chains and the connections of the digital age leach power from individual states. The way to recapture lost authority is to act in concert.

The mood has changed. As the rising have become risen powers they are reluctant to embrace a rules-based system – the more so since the rules were largely written by the established powers. For its part, the US is stepping back from the role of global policeman. Even postmodern Europe, where rescuing the euro demands another leap towards integration, is wrestling with tensions between the national and supranational. Read more…

As published in www.ft.com on June 6, 2013.

6
Jun

By Fareed Zakaria

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In February 1972, Richard Nixon went to China and restored Sino-U.S. relations that had been broken for 23 years. During that visit, Nixon held a series of critical meetings with China’s premier, Zhou Enlai, and they discussed the broad strategic framework that would guide bilateral relations. President Obama’s meetings with President Xi Jinping this weekend have the potential to be a similarly historic summit — but with an important caveat.

China has always played a weak hand brilliantly. When Mao Zedong and Zhou met with Nixon and Henry Kissinger, China was in the midst of economic, political and cultural chaos. Its per capita gross domestic product had fallen below that of Uganda and Sierra Leone. Yet Beijing negotiated as if from commanding heights. Today, it has tremendous assets — but it is not the world’s other superpower, and we should not treat it as such.

The United States has been accused of having a confused, contradictory foreign policy, as each administration reverses its predecessor. This is often a mischaracterization, never more so than with China policy. Since Nixon and Kissinger opened the door, U.S. foreign policy toward China has been remarkably consistent over 40 years and eight presidents. Washington has sought to integrate China into the world, economically and politically. This policy has been good for the United States, good for the world and extremely good for China.

But many of the forces that pushed the two countries together are waning. For the first two decades of relations, Washington had strategic reasons to align with Beijing and shift the balance of power against the Soviet Union. While China was in its early years of development, it desperately needed access to U.S. capital, technology and political assistance to expand its economy. Today, China is much stronger and is acting in ways — from cyberattacks to its policies in Africa — that are counter to U.S. interests and values. For its part, Washington must respond to the realities of Asia, where its historic allies are nervous about China’s rise. Read more…

As published in www.washingtonpost.com on June 5, 2013.

31
May

By Charles Krauthammer

“This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises . . .”

     — Barack Obama, May 23

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Nice thought. But much as Obama would like to close his eyes, click his heels three times and declare the war on terror over, war is a two-way street.

That’s what history advises: Two sides to fight it, two to end it. By surrender (World War II), by armistice (Korea and Vietnam) or when the enemy simply disappears from the field (the Cold War).

Obama says enough is enough. He doesn’t want us on “a perpetual wartime footing.” Well, the Cold War lasted 45 years. The war on terror, 12 so far. By Obama’s calculus, we should have declared the Cold War over in 1958 and left Western Europe, our Pacific allies, the entire free world to fend for itself — and consigned Eastern Europe to endless darkness.

John F. Kennedy summoned the nation to bear the burdens of the long twilight struggle. Obama, agonizing publicly about the awful burdens of command — his command, which he twice sought in election — wants out. For him and for us.

He doesn’t just want to revise and update the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which many conservatives have called for. He wants to repeal it.

He admits that the AUMF establishes the basis both in domestic and international law to conduct crucial defensive operations, such as drone strikes. Why, then, abolish the authority to do what we sometimes need to do?

Because that will make the war go away? Persuade our enemies to retire to their caves? Stop the spread of jihadism? Read more…

As published in www.washingtonpost.com on May 31, 2013

30
May

The region is falling in behind two alternative blocks: the market-led Pacific Alliance and the more statist Mercosur

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On May 23rd in the Colombian city of Cali the presidents of four Latin American countries—Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru—will sign an agreement removing tariffs on 90% of their merchandise trade. They will also agree on a timetable of no more than seven years for eliminating tariffs on the remaining 10%. They have already removed visa requirements for each other’s citizens and will proclaim their aspiration to move swiftly towards setting up a common market.

The Pacific Alliance, as the group calls itself, is “the most exciting thing going on in Latin America today”, according to Felipe Larraín, Chile’s finance minister. Some outsiders think so, too. Costa Rica and Panama want to join; Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, and his Spanish counterpart, Mariano Rajoy, have said they will attend the Cali meeting as observers.

Behind the excitement is the sense that the Pacific Alliance is a hard-nosed business deal, rather than the usual gassy rhetoric of Latin American summitry. Under the leftist governments that rule in much of South America, there has been plenty of talk of regional integration, but precious little practice of it. Intra-regional trade makes up just 27% of total trade in South and Central America, compared with 63% in the European Union and 52% in Asia.

The Pacific Alliance aspires to change that. “It is based on affinity, rather than proximity,” says José Antonio García Belaunde, a former Peruvian foreign minister who was instrumental in launching the group in 2011. “It’s integration with those who are capable of doing it.” Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on May 18, 2013 (The Economist – Print Edition).

29
May

Middlepowerism & Continuity in South Korean Foreign Policy: The way Seoul defines its middle-power status could offer the best insight into its policy direction.

By Jeffrey Robertson

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On coming to power, every South Korean presidential administration seeks to differentiate itself from those that went before. There are no exceptions. Administrations with identical party roots will distinguish themselves by creating new administrative structures, rebranding policy and reinventing rhetoric. This gives academics plenty to write about when they pen the all important one-hundred day reviews. But in the case of a state as dynamic as South Korea, they may be missing the point. It is not change that is significant, but rather continuity.

Elements of change in the foreign policy of the administration of President Park Geun-hye are clear. First, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) was divested of its responsibility for international trade negotiations and launched under a new name, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Second, policies blending both deterrence and reconciliation in relations with North Korea, and policies aimed at strengthening Northeast Asian cooperation have been rebranded under a new policy platform, the Northeast Asian Peace and Cooperation Initiative. Finally, the rhetoric to support policy has been reinvented. Before the Park administration’s term is up, we will hear much more of the terms “trustpolitik,” “trust building” and “trust diplomacy.”

Elements of change will receive extensive attention as academics and commentators start to review the Park administration’s foreign policy. Focusing on the first hundred days of any administration to attain insight into the trajectory of foreign policy is counterintuitive. With the current administration it may even be foolish. With difficult parliamentary confirmation hearings; challenges in securing passage of the administrative reorganization; and the necessity of immediately focusing on North Korean issues, the current administration has had a slow start.

Elements of continuity may tell us much more about South Korea’s foreign policy trajectory. Chief amongst these is middlepowerism.  Read more…

Jeffrey Robertson is a Visiting Professor at the Korea Development Institute (KDI) School of Public Policy and Management.

As published by The Diplomat on May 29, 2013.

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