Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

6
Nov

Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation

The United States is frittering away its role as a model for the rest of the world. The political system is plagued by an absurd level of hatred, the economy is stagnating and the infrastructure is falling into a miserable state of disrepair. On this election eve, many Americans are losing faith in their country’s future.

The Statue of Liberty in New York: After a brilliant century and a terrible decade, the United States, in this important election year, has reached a point in its history when the obvious can no longer be denied: The reality of life in America so greatly contradicts the claim — albeit one that has always been exaggerated — to be the “greatest nation on earth,” that even the most ardent patriots must be overcome with doubt.

 

The monumental National Mall in Washington, DC, 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) long and around 1,586 feet wide at its broadest point, is a place that showcases the United States of America is in its full glory as a world power. A walk along the magnificent swath of green space, between the white dome of the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial, a temple erected to honor former president Abraham Lincoln, at its western end, leads past men in bronze and stone, memorials for soldiers and conquerors, and the nearby White House. It’s a walk that still creates an imperial impression today.

The Mall is lined with museums and landscaped gardens, in which America is on display as the kind of civil empire that promotes the arts and sciences. There are historic sites, and there are the famous steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King once spoke of his dream, and of the dreams of a country to be a historic force, one that would serve the wellbeing of all of mankind. Put differently, the National Mall is an open-air museum for an America that, in 2012, is mostly a pleasant memory.

After a brilliant century and a terrible decade, the United States, in this important election year, has reached a point in its history when the obvious can no longer be denied: The reality of life in America so greatly contradicts the claim — albeit one that has always been exaggerated — to be the “greatest nation on earth,” that even the most ardent patriots must be overcome with doubt.

This realization became only too apparent during and after Hurricane Sandy, the monster storm that ravaged America’s East Coast last week, its effects made all the more devastating by the fact that its winds were whipping across an already weakened country. The infrastructure in New York, New Jersey and New England was already in trouble long before the storm made landfall near Atlantic City. The power lines in Brooklyn and Queens, on Long Island and in New Jersey, in one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, are not underground, but are still installed along a fragile and confusing above-ground network supported by utility poles, the way they are in developing countries. Read more…

As published in www.spiegel.de on November 5, 2012.

 

5
Nov

By Tony Karon

U.S. President Barack Obama greets Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at the end of their third and final debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., on Oct. 22, 2012

Superbarrio Gómez ran the most underreported campaign of the 1996 U.S. presidential election. The masked Mexican wrestler turned social activist showed up in New Hampshire during the primary season and declared himself a “candidate” even though his foreign citizenship rendered him ineligible. Decisions affecting the lives of Mexicans are made in the White House, he reasoned, so Mexicans should have a say in choosing its occupant. It’s a sentiment that’s widely shared: two-thirds of the 26,000 respondents from 32 countries in a recent poll believe that the White House has an important impact on their lives, and for that reason, almost half believe they should have a vote in the U.S. presidential election. (If they did, President Barack Obama would be a shoo-in, according to almost every poll.)

The level of interest in this U.S. election, however, is considerably lower than that of 2008. One reason for this may be that any global citizen tuning in to the campaign’s foreign policy debate would have struggled to find substantial differences between what Governor Mitt Romney advocated and what the White House is doing. There is also a growing sense of the relative decline of U.S. global power. The U.S. remains the world’s most militarily powerful country and its largest economy, but its ability to shape economic and geopolitical events in distant climes has steadily declined over the past decade — whether it’s Afghanistan or Iraq, the rapidly changing Arab world or Europe’s debt crisis, Washington struggles to impose its will.

That said, the Oval Office remains the world’s strongest single center of power, and the outcome of Tuesday’s vote will be closely watched. Here are five places where the stakes are particularly high:

1. Syria: Breaking a Stalemate?

Syria’s civil war has killed upwards of 20,000 people, but the country remains locked in an effective stalemate: the regime of President Bashar Assad is unable to destroy the rebels, and the rebels are unable to destroy the regime. Given the sectarian stakes and the danger of igniting a wider regional conflict, as well as a fear of the growing influence of extremist elements among the rebels, the U.S. has held back from direct intervention, and even from enabling the rebels to receive heavier weaponry that could neutralize some of the regime’s military advantages. Read more…

Tony Karon is a senior editor at TIME, where he has covered international conflicts in the Middle East, Asia, and the Balkans since 1997.

As published by www.time.com on November 5, 2012.

2
Nov

What’s the foreign policy agenda for the next four years?

By Stephen M. Walt

Is it too early to talk about the foreign policy and national security agenda that will face the next president? No matter who wins on November 6, the feature that is going to dominate U.S. national security planning over the next four years is constraint. Even if we avoid going off the sequestration cliff, there is going to be considerable pressure on the defense budget. Forget all those promises that Romney made about ramping up defense spending, expanding the Navy, etc. If he does beat Obama and has to face reality (as opposed to his Etch-a-Sketch approach to campaigning) he’ll figure out that budget math is real and unforgiving. And given the budget picture these days, that means limits.

Of course, foreign policy and national security tends to produce a lot of surprises; it’s probably the least predictable part of a president’s agenda. Remember that George W. Bush was totally blindsided by 9/11, an event that shaped almost everything he subsequently did in foreign and defense policy. Barack Obama didn’t see the Arab spring coming, yet he’s had to devote a lot of time and attention to figuring out what to do (or not to do) in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and elsewhere. No list of agenda items will cover all the possible topics, and it’s a safe bet the next president will get to deal with something that hardly anybody anticipated.

That said, what do I see as some obvious items that the next president will have to address? Obviously, he’ll have to manage the withdrawal from Afghanistan, keep relations with China on an even keel, cultivate reasonable ties with Mexico and other neighbors in the western hemisphere, and hope that the Eurozone mess doesn’t get worse. But here’s my list of the items that might take up even more of his time.

#1: Managing America’s Asian Alliances

No matter how much you hear about the importance of cooperating with China, a serious rivalry is almost inevitable. I don’t expect a shooting war — and certainly not in the next four years — instead, the key element of that rivalry will be a competition for influence in Asia. The United States is already trying to shore up ties with Japan, Korea, India, and various Southeast Asian nations, and China is going to try to limit with this process where it can.   Read more…

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on October 31, 2012.

31
Oct

By Javier Solana

On November 6, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will emerge victorious after an exhausting electoral race, setting the wheels in motion for the coming four years. An ocean away, on November 8, more than 2,000 members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will gather in Beijing. Approximately a week later, the members of the Politburo Standing Committee will walk out in hierarchical order, preparing to take charge of a growing country of 1.3 billion people.

The leaders of the world’s two largest economies are changing. So is the world itself. The Middle East, in particular, is experiencing a moment of intense transformation. While reconstruction – both literal and figurative – is commencing in some parts of the region, countries like Syria are aflame. Others, such as Iran, with its moribund revolution, have never ceased rumbling. Amidst a crumbling economy, the country remains belligerent, using its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, to launch at least one successful drone flight above Israeland reportedly initiating recent cyber attacks.

As a result, relations among regional actors remain tense. After his speech at the United Nations appealing for a “red line” on the Iranian nuclear program in the spring or summer of 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called an early general election, which could potentially give him a strong mandate for action against Iran. Egypt, meanwhile, is finding its own equilibrium, both domestically, drafting a new constitution, and in terms of foreign policy.

Then there is Turkey, straddling Europe and the Middle East. An emerging economy poised to become a regional power, it has exchanged fire with its neighbor to the south, Syria, and has called on its NATO allies to bolster its security.

This is part of the changing panorama that new world leaders will inherit in the Middle East – a region in which the United States has been deeply involved. After nearly a decade of draining military engagement, the US combat mission in Iraq concluded in 2010, and the combat mission in Afghanistan is set to end in 2014. Read more…

Javier Solana was Foreign Minister of Spain, Secretary-General of NATO, and EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. He is currently President of the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics and Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

As published in www.project-syndicate.org on October 29, 2012.

30
Oct

This storm could upend American politics — if we’re lucky.

By David Rothkopf

One reason U.S. politics is almost as popular as NASCAR among American sports is that it gives the little guy someone to root for. Of course, that’s almost never the candidates of the major parties, most of whom are odious concoctions of their own egos and the corrupting forces of money and ideology. But dependably, in campaign after campaign, a character sneaks on to the stage who captivates and highlights issues that otherwise would go unnoticed or under-examined.

Whether this candidate is a big-name iconoclast like New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg or a provocative outsider like Ron Paul — who, although wrong on plenty of issues, was dependably willing to challenge conventional wisdom — these folks liven up the debate. This year it took until the very end of the campaign to introduce 2012′s biggest truth-teller. Like Beyoncé and Cher, she is known by only one name. But few if any players in the current campaign are likely to have the same impact.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Sandy.

Sandy, like many in an America with changing demographics, has overseas roots, hailing from the tropics. She rose to our attention in the south but ultimately, like so many others, she hit the big time in the northeast, and her political impact will extend well into the heartland of America, where this election will be decided. Like Joe Biden and Chris Christie, Sandy is an uncontrollable, wind-powered force of nature. Like many politicians, the first impression she may give the average voter is that she is all wet. But there is more to Sandy than meets her eye.

Sandy is a game-changer. For those of you who live far from the eastern shores of the United States, it is also worth noting that she is also a hurricane, a big one, currently cutting an 800-mile swath across one of the most heavily populated areas of the richest and most powerful nation on Earth. And in so doing, she is speaking volumes about subjects many U.S. politicians have avoided and, at the same time, she is having a major impact on America’s process of electing a president. Read more…

David Rothkopf is the CEO and Editor-at-Large of Foreign Policy, and CEO of Garten Rothkopf, an international advisory firm specializing in transformational trends especially those associated with energy choice and climate change, emerging markets and global risk.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on October 29, 2012.

1 57 58 59 60 61 140