Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category


By Anne Applebaum

French army troopers arrive at the base camp in Sevare on Friday.

“A decade of war is now ending,” U.S. President Barack Obama declared Monday. Maybe that’s true in America, but it isn’t true anywhere else. Extremists are still plotting acts of terror. Authoritarian and autocratic regimes are still using violence to preserve their power. The United States can step back from international conflicts, but that won’t make them disappear.

Fortunately, there is another power that shares America’s economic and political values, that possesses sophisticated military technology and is also very interested in stopping the progress of fanatical movements, especially in North Africa and the Middle East. That power is Europe.

Don’t laugh! I realize that even a year ago, that statement would have seemed absurd. I certainly couldn’t have written it in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 Libya operation, during which France, Britain and a dozen other nations were barely able to sustain a brief war, involving no ground troops, against a poorly armed and unpopular regime. Unverified reports at the time alleged that the French ran out of bombs and were dropping lumps of concrete. Be that as it may, without the intelligence and coordination provided by American warships and airplanes and the CIA, the French planes wouldn’t even have known where to drop them.

Yet here we are in 2013, watching the French air force and troops come to the aid of the formerly democratic government of Mali, which is fighting for its life against a fanatical Islamist insurgency. Furthermore, this French intervention has (so far) broad national support. Although there have been public criticisms of the operation’s logistics, preparation and ultimate goals, almost no one in France questions the need for intervention. Hardly anyone is even asking “Why France?”

The French have a special, post-colonial sentiment for francophone Africa (and, according to a French friend, for Malian music) and have intervened in the continent militarily more than 40 times since 1960. But the context of this intervention is different from many previous ones. The aim is not (or not entirely) to prop up a pro-French puppet regime, but to block the progress of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the brutal organization that fuels the Malian insurgency and took hostages at an Algerian gas complex last week. Read more…

Anne Applebaum is a Washington Post and Slate columnist. Her most recent book is Gulag: A History.

As published by on January 28, 2013.


By Joseph S. Nye Jr.

Citing an escalating dispute over islands in the East China Sea, The Economist warned last week that “China and Japan are sliding toward war.” That assessment may be too alarmist, but the tensions have bolstered the efforts of some American analysts who have urged a policy to “contain” China.

During a recent visit to China, I was struck by how many Chinese officials believe such a policy is already in place and is the central purpose of President Obama’s “pivot” toward Asia. “The pivot is a very stupid choice,” Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations, declared publicly. “The United States has achieved nothing and only annoyed China. China can’t be contained,” he added.

Containment was designed for a different era, and it is not what the United States is, or should be, attempting now. At the start of the cold war, containment meant economic isolation of the Soviets and regional alliances like NATO to deter Moscow’s military expansion. Later, to the chagrin of George F. Kennan, the father of containment, the doctrine led to the “domino effect” theory behind the escalation of the Vietnam War.

Cold war containment involved virtually no trade and little social contact. But China now is not what the Soviet Union was then. It is not seeking global hegemony, and the United States not only has an immense trade with China but also huge exchanges of students and tourists.

When I worked on the Pentagon’s East Asia strategy in 1994, during the Clinton administration, we rejected the idea of containment for two reasons. If we treated China as an enemy, we were guaranteeing a future enemy. If we treated China as a friend, we kept open the possibility of a more peaceful future. Read more…

Joseph S. Nye Jr., a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former Pentagon official, is the author of the forthcoming book “Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era.”

As published in on January 25, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on January 26, 2013, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Work With China, Don’t Contain It).


By Javier Solana and Ian Bremmer

In today’s world, identifying and managing hotspots is not simply a matter of pulling out a map, spotting the wildfires, and empowering diplomats to douse the flames. To understand today’s major conflicts and confrontations, we must recognize important ways in which global political conditions enable them.

Conflicts are much more likely to arise or persist when those with the means to prevent or end them cannot or will not do so. Unfortunately, this will be borne out in 2013.In the United States, barring a foreign-policy crisis that directly threatens national security, President Barack Obama’s administration will focus most of its time, energy, and political capital on debt reduction and other domestic priorities. In Europe, officials will continue their struggle to restore confidence in the eurozone. And, in China, though the demands of economic growth and job creation will force the country’s new leaders to develop new ties to other regions, they are far too preoccupied with the complexities of economic reform to assume unnecessary costs and risks outside Asia. That is why the world’s fires will burn longer and hotter this year.

This does not mean that the world’s powers will not inflict damage of their own. Today, these governments are more likely to use drones and special forces to strike at their perceived enemies. The world has grown used to US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, but recent news reports suggest that China and Japan are also investing in unmanned aircraft – in part to enhance their leverage in disputes over islands in the East China Sea. By lowering the costs and risks of attack, these technological innovations make military action more likely. 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 Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Ian Bremmer is President of Eurasia Group and the author of Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World.

As published in on January 22, 2013.


Netanyahu’s back, and Barack Obama needs to find a way to work with him this time around.


In the spring of 1996, with Israelis still mourning the late Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres locked in a tough race for prime minister with Benjamin Netanyahu, I quipped to my friend and colleague Dennis Ross in one of the worst political predictions of the modern era: There’s no way Bibi can win this thing. He can’t be prime minister of the state of Israel.

Seventeen years later, Netanyahu has now served for more years as Israeli prime minister than anyone other than David Ben Gurion, and though much weakened by this week’s elections, is about to begin coalition negotiations toward an unprecedented third term.

But looking at the Israeli press this morning, you’d think that he’s already toast. “‘King Bibi,'” writes columnist Bradley Burston, “has managed to plummet to victory in a technical triumph that has every appearance of a debacle.” Bibi’s campaign failed, the inestimable Aluf Benn writes in Haaretz, because he had nothing much to say.

They’re both right, of course. The election results in Israel were a clear defeat for the right, a non-victory for the left, a clear affirmation that there is a center in Israel, and an indication that many Israelis are indeed looking past Netanyahu for something new.

But it would be a mistake in 2013 — just as it was in 1996 — to write off Bibi or to conclude that Israeli politics are somehow on the verge of transformation. Remember: This is the topsy-turvy, volatile world of Israeli politics, where since independence there have been 32 governments, each lasting roughly 1.8 years. And this is a place where principles compete with the rough trade of street politics, coalition horse-trading, and downright meanness. And that is squarely in Netanyahu’s wheelhouse. He knows how to survive in the shark-infested waters of Israeli politics. Indeed, in the curious interaction of domestic politics, national security, and, most importantly, the absence of charismatic leadership, there’s still life left in King Bibi. And here’s why. Read more…

Aaron David Miller is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. His forthcoming book is titled “Can America Have Another Great President?”.

As published in on January 23, 2013.


By Roger Cohen

DIPLOMACY is dead.

Effective diplomacy — the kind that produced Nixon’s breakthrough with China, an end to the Cold War on American terms, or the Dayton peace accord in Bosnia — requires patience, persistence, empathy, discretion, boldness and a willingness to talk to the enemy.

This is an age of impatience, changeableness, palaver, small-mindedness and an unwillingness to talk to bad guys. Human rights are in fashion, a good thing of course, but the space for realist statesmanship of the kind that produced the Bosnian peace in 1995 has diminished. The late Richard Holbrooke’s realpolitik was not for the squeamish.

There are other reasons for diplomacy’s demise. The United States has lost its dominant position without any other nation rising to take its place. The result is nobody’s world. It is a place where America acts as a cautious boss, alternately encouraging others to take the lead and worrying about loss of authority. Syria has been an unedifying lesson in the course of crisis when diplomacy is dead. Algeria shows how the dead pile up when talking is dismissed as a waste of time.

Violence, of the kind diplomacy once resolved, has shifted. As William Luers, a former ambassador to Venezuela and the director of The Iran Project, said in an e-mail, it occurs “less between states and more dealing with terrorists.” One result is that “the military and the C.I.A. have been in the driver’s seat in dealing with governments throughout the Middle East and in state to state (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq) relations.” The role of professional diplomats is squeezed.

Indeed the very word “diplomacy” has become unfashionable on Capitol Hill, where its wimpy associations — trade-offs, compromise, pliancy, concessions and the like — are shunned by representatives who these days prefer beating the post-9/11 drums of confrontation, toughness and inflexibility: All of which may sound good but often get you nowhere (or into long, intractable wars) at great cost.

Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, wrote in an e-mail that, “When domestic politics devolve into polarization and paralysis the impact on diplomatic possibility becomes inordinately constraining.” He cited Cuba and Iran as examples of this; I would add Israel-Palestine. These critical foreign policy issues are viewed less as diplomatic challenges than potential sources of domestic political capital. Read more…

As published in on January 21, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on January 22, 2013, in The International Herald Tribune).

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