20
Nov

Tell me, friend: Do you find the current world situation confusing? Are you having trouble sorting through the bewildering array of alarums, provocations, reassurances, and trite nostrums offered up by pundits and politicos? Can’t tell if the glass is half-full and rising or half-empty, cracked, and leaking water fast? Not sure if you should go long on precious metals and stock up on fresh water, ammo, and canned goods, or go big into equities and assume that everything will work out in the long run?

Today’s world is filled with conflicting signals. On the one hand, life expectancy and education are up, the level of violent conflict is down, and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty over the past several decades. Private businesses are starting to take human rights seriously. And hey, the euro is still alive! On the other hand, Europe’s economy is still depressed, Russia is suspending nuclear cooperation with the United States, violent extremists keep multiplying in several regions, the odds of a genuine nuclear deal with Iran still look like a coin toss, and that much-ballyhooed climate change deal between the United States and China is probably too little too late and already facing right-wing criticisms.

Given all these conflicting signals, what broader lessons might guide policymakers wrestling with all this turbulence? Assuming governments are capable of learning from experience (and please just grant me that one), then what kernels of wisdom should they be drawing on right now? What do the past 20 years or so reveal about contemporary foreign-policy issues, and what enduring lessons should we learn from recent experience?

No. 1: Great-power politics still matters. A lot.

When the Cold War ended, a lot of smart people convinced themselves that good old-fashioned power politics was a thing of the past. As Bill Clinton said when he first ran for president, the “cynical calculus of pure power politics simply does not compute. It is ill-suited to a new era.” Instead of being roiled by power politics, the world was going to be united by markets, shared democratic values, and the Internet — and humankind would concentrate on getting rich and living well (i.e., likeClinton himself).

There’s no mystery as to why this outlook appealed to Americans, who assumed this benign vision would unfold under Washington’s benevolent guidance. But the last 20 years teaches us that this view was, as usual, premature, and great-power politics has come back with a vengeance.

Of course, the United States never abandoned “power politics,” and Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all emphasized the need to preserve the U.S. position as the world’s most powerful country. They understood that their ability to exercise “global leadership” depends on U.S. primacy and especially America’s privileged position as the only major power in the Western Hemisphere. That position gives U.S. policymakers the freedom to wander around and meddle in lots of other places — something they would not be able to do if the United States were weaker or if it had to worry about defending its own territory against serious dangers.

But the United States isn’t alone. China’s increasingly assertive policies toward its immediate neighborhood shows that Beijing is hardly indifferent to geopolitics, and Russia’s assertive defense of what it sees as vital interests in its “near abroad” (e.g., Ukraine) suggests that somebody in Moscow didn’t get the memo about the benign effects of globalization. And regional powers like India, Turkey, and Japan are taking traditional geopolitical concerns more seriously these days. Bottom line: If you thought great-power rivalry was a thing of the past, think again. Read more…

Published on Nov. 18 in http://www.foreignpolicy.com/

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

18
Nov

Written by Nadim Abillama, MIR Alum (2011) , Senior Program Assistant, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE (NDI) – LEBANON COUNTRY OFFICE

 

Current context

The military expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant organization (ISIS or Daesh in Arabic) enabled it to seize power over significant portions of land in Iraq and Syria, triggering a military response from a US-led coalition. There are 16 countries involved in the coalition, including Arab countries. The air strikes on ISIS started in August and contributed to contain ISIS’s expansion without making any decisive breakthrough for the moment.

Lebanon has witnessed a series of tensions since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011. The military involvement of Hezbollah alongside with the Syrian regime prompted a reaction from radical Lebanese Sunni groups, which are hostile to the Assad regime. These groups mainly operate around the northern city of Tripoli and the Eastern town of Arsal, close to the Syrian border. Clashes also occurred between the Lebanese armed forces and a Jihadist group in the southern Sunni city of Saida, in June 2013. Since then, a series of attacks claimed by al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria) and ISIS took place throughout Lebanon until June 2014.

Read more…

17
Nov
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Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations, interviews Jean Pisani-Ferry, former Director of Bruegel (2005-2013), professor at the Hertie School of Governance and current Commissioner-General of the French Prime Minister’s Policy Planning Staff, on some of Europe’s major challanges: From the consequences of the eurozone crisis to the economic impact of the conflict in Ukraine.

 

** This interview was recorded several months ago. 

13
Nov
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Arantza de Areilza, Dean of IE School of International Relations interviews Josep Piqué, Vice-Chairman, CEO of Grupo OHL and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain on the massive power shift the world has experienced in a relatively short period of time.

You can also read a complete summary of Mr. Piqué’s speech at the Opening Ceremony of the 2014/2015 Master in International Relations (MIR), here

11
Nov

The annual APEC summit is underway in Beijing. Perhaps the most notable absentee is India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who received an unprecedented invitation in July from Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the gathering. Despite growing to become the world’s third largest economy in PPP terms, India is not a member of APEC, and as a result would not normally attend the summit. But this year President Xi used his platform as the summit host to extend invitations to non-members India, Pakistan, and Mongolia. While Pakistan and Mongolia’s leaders made the trip to Beijing for APEC, Prime Minister Modi decided not to do so. It’s a missed opportunity for India’s economic diplomacy at a time it could use a boost. For India, APEC, a grouping of twenty-one member economies across the Asia-Pacific region, has a complicated history on the membership front. Due to a moratorium that ran from 1998 through 2010, the forum did not consider any aspirants for membership during years of strong global economic growth. Following the expiration of the moratorium, APEC discussions on membership appear to be stuck in endless deliberation over regional balance and representation from sub-geographical areas within the forum. The result: in 2014, once again there are no moves to induct new member economies.

Read more…

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