Archive for the ‘International Law & Organizations’ Category

31
Jul

By Zachary C. Shirkey

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By most accounts the United States will soon shift from being the world’s largest importer of petroleum to being a major global exporter.

This will result from greatly increased domestic discovery and production of petroleum combined with growing energy efficiency and expanded use of U.S.-produced natural gas. While this profound energy transition is bound to have large implications for both the American and global economies, what will its impact be on U.S. foreign policy, especially towards the Middle East? Perhaps, surprisingly, energy independence will not have a large effect on American foreign policy towards this area of the globe.

The Middle East has been a vital area of U.S. foreign policy since the early decades of the Cold War. While this owed in part to America’s global policy of containing the Soviet Union, the region’s petroleum reserves have always been one of the major reasons for U.S. interest. Indeed, the United States’ presence in the Middle East has only increased in the decades since the end of the Cold War.

However, if the United States is no longer dependent on oil imports, might not its interest in the region wane?

Though growing energy independence seemingly would allow the United States to vastly reduce its role in the Middle East, this is unlikely. Despite temptations and pressures to recede from the region, the United States will continue to have a vital interest in maintaining stable global energy markets and in countering security threats emanating from that part of the world.

The case for shifting U.S. attention and resources from the Middle East is straightforward. Both Latin America and especially Asia are growing in economic and strategic importance and will demand greater American engagement. This has already been reflected in the Obama administration’s “Pivot to Asia.” Given that American foreign-policy resources are limited, for these other regions to receive a bigger share, other locations have to receive less. While Europe is a candidate for less attention, growing U.S. energy supplies make the Middle East a candidate as well. Simply put, energy independence seemingly eliminates the main reason for U.S. policy makers to concern themselves with the Middle East. Indeed, to the extent that U.S. policy has created enmity in the region, lowering America’s profile could have significant benefits, such as reducing popular support for groups such as Al Qaeda. Read more…

As published by The National Interest on July 29, 2013.

29
Jul

By Richard N. Haass

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Whenever something bad happens – Iran moving closer to acquiring nuclear weapons, North Korea firing another missile, civilian deaths reaching another grim milestone in Syria’s civil war, satellites revealing an alarming rate of polar-ice melt – some official or observer will call upon the international community to act. There is only one problem: there is no “international community.”

Part of the reason stems from the absence of any mechanism for “the world” to come together. The United Nations General Assembly comes closest, but little can be expected from an organization that equates the United States or China with, say, Fiji or Guinea-Bissau.

To be fair, those who founded the UN after World War II created the Security Council as the venue in which major powers would meet to determine the world’s fate. But even that has not worked out as planned, partly because the world of 2013 bears little resemblance to that of 1945. How else could one explain that Britain and France, but not Germany, Japan, or India, are permanent, veto-wielding members?

Alas, there is no agreement on how to update the Security Council. Efforts like the G-20 are welcome, but they lack authority and capacity, in addition to suffering from excessive size. The result is “multilateralism’s dilemma”:  the inclusion of more actors increases an organization’s legitimacy at the expense of its utility.

No amount of UN reform could make things fundamentally different. Today’s major powers do not agree on the rules that ought to govern the world, much less on the penalties for breaking them. Even where there is accord in principle, there is little agreement in practice. The result is a world that is messier and more dangerous than it should be.

Consider climate change. Burning fossil fuels is having a measurable impact on the earth’s temperature. But reducing carbon emissions has proved impossible, because such a commitment could constrain GDP growth (anathema to developed countries mired in economic malaise) and impede access to energy and electricity for billions of people in developing countries, which is unacceptable to China and India.

Stopping the spread of nuclear weapons would seem a more promising issue for global collaboration. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) limits the right to possess nuclear weapons to the Security Council’s five permanent members, and then only temporarily. Read more…

Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department, and was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan.

As published in www.project-syndicate.org on July 24, 2013.

26
Jul

By Ian Bremmer

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In 2008, before the financial crisis had even reached its nadir, Rahm Emanuel famously said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” Emanuel’s quote became the conventional wisdom for crisis management, even if the idea is age-old: John F. Kennedy Jr. famously pointed out that the Chinese word for “crisis” is composed of two characters, one for “danger” and one for “opportunity. 

Nearly five years after the global economic meltdown, we can now look at the world’s major powers and assess how well they’ve responded to their various crises. Three categories emerge. Who took advantage of crisis? Who never really had a true crisis? And who is letting crisis go to waste?

A crisis unwasted: Japan and the Euro zone

Let’s begin with Europe, which experienced a real and urgent crisis. Remember that as little as 18 months ago, the media and bond markets had the euro zone pegged for imminent fracture, when the debts of its member countries and the untenable divide between its core countries and those on the periphery threatened to overwhelm the political unity and economic cohesion that the bloc enjoyed. A lack of fiscal coordination, political and monetary dexterity, and balance between strong and weak states pushed the world’s largest economic bloc into existential crisis.

But with the help of Germany, bolder monetary policy from the European Central Bank, and some very painful budget-control measures, Europe has emerged on sounder footing, and the prospect of collapse is firmly behind it. There has been a fundamental restructuring, and now Europe is on the mend. The looming crisis itself helped affect structural change. Without market pressure and alarm bells, the periphery would not have been shaken from complacency, nor would the ECB have taken a bolder stance to put a floor under the crisis.

Japan had a very different crisis than Europe did. Two “lost decades” didn’t spur the Japanese into action. Japan went through nearly 20 years of stagnation, stuck in a whirlpool of deflationlow growth and rising public debt that prevented the country from competing as the rest of the world’s powers modernized their economic approaches. What shook Japan out of its malaise? In part, it was an increasingly acrimonious challenge from China, which has surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy. Japanese voters’ economic and security fears from the regional superpower prompted them to give Shinzo Abe another crack at the prime minister post. He’s used it to create an economic plan heavy on stimulus, join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact negotiations, and work toward making all “three arrows” (monetary easing, government spending and structural reform) of his economic plan take flight. It’s still unclear whether Abe’s ambitious plans will succeed, but there is no question that Japan has converted its slow-motion crisis into a remarkable opportunity. Read more…

As published in www.reuters.com on July 25, 2013.

25
Jul

By William Luers, Thomas R. Pickering, and Jim Walsh

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Could this be the year for an engagement with Iran that “is honest and grounded in mutual respect,” as President Obama proposed over four years ago? That goal seems unlikely without a shift in Iranian thinking and without a change in American diplomatic and political strategy. But two developments, one in Iran and one in the region, provide reason to think that diplomatic progress might be possible.The first is Iran’s recent presidential election, which Hassan Rouhani won thanks to an alliance between Iran’s reformist and moderate camps. Together with the departure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this may provide the Obama administration the chance to start a new phase of relations with Iran. The second development is the war in Syria, which has the potential to grow into a region-wide Shia–Sunni conflict. This poses a direct threat to Iran’s vital interests, giving Tehran an incentive to reduce tensions with the international community.

Iran and the United States have many important differences, but an agreement on Iran’s nuclear capability should be a critical priority. This could open the door to conversations with Iran regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. A functioning US-Iranian relationship could also help advance diplomatic efforts on Syria.Despite the new opportunities and incentives, the US and Iran have deep-seated and justifiable suspicions about each other. Their shared history has been one of missed opportunities and misperceptions. To overcome this distrust will require strong leadership at a time when the stakes are growing larger. Iran’s nuclear program continues to advance, and events in Syria could well move further out of control. Without a change in direction, the US could find itself in another war in the Middle East that would further weaken its economy and its political influence.

In this article we recommend a renewed diplomatic path for achieving mutually acceptable limits on Iran’s nuclear program—limits that provide reliable insurance that Tehran will not acquire nuclear weapons. We do not underestimate the risks, internationally or domestically, of taking this approach. Yet we are convinced that the current trajectory presents higher risks and possibly catastrophic costs. Read more…

As published in www.nybooks.com (August 2013 edition)

19
Jul

By Fareed Zakaria

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Does authoritarian capitalism work? For the past few decades, the Chinese economy’s meteoric rise, faster than any large economy in human history, has dazzled the world. It has made many wonder if China’s model of a pro-growth dictatorship is the best path for developing countries. Some have questioned whether Western democracies — with their dysfunctions and paralysis — can compete with China’s long-range planning. Now, as its growth slows to almost half its pace in 2007, the Chinese system faces its most significant test. The outcome will have huge economic consequences for the world and huge political consequences for China and its ruling Communist Party.

Over three decades, China’s growth has averaged 10 percent a year. Beijing managed that because it systematically opened up its economy to trade and investment while investing massively in infrastructure to facilitate manufacturing and exports. Crucially, China had the ability not to pander to its people to gain votes or approval. Unlike most developing nations, China spends little subsidizing current consumption (fuel and food, for example). It spends its money on export-free zones, highways, rail systems and airports. It is investing in education and soon will turn to health care. No developing democracy has been able to ignore short-term political pressures and execute a disciplined growth strategy with such success.

But the model is no longer working that well. Partly, this is the product of success. China has become the world’s second-largest economy; its per capita income is that of a middle-income country. It cannot grow at the pace it did when it was much poorer.

But growth has dropped faster and deeper than many had predicted. This month, the International Monetary Fund forecast China’s annual growth around 7.75 percent for the next two years. But it could slow further because, the truth is, China’s authoritarian system has made significant mistakes in recent years. Read more…

As published in www.washingtonpost.com on July 18, 2013.

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