Tag Archives: foreign policy

The Safety of Diplomatic Personnel

The US Ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was attacked by a knife-wielding assailant yesterday, suffering severe but non-life-threatening wounds and being rushed to hospital. The attacker was detained after the attack. He proclaimed his opposition to US military cooperation with South Korea and his desire for a unified Korean state.

The attack highlights the vulnerability of diplomatic personnel around the world, and the difficulty of protecting them as they undertake their day-to-day business.

What do you think? Should additional steps be taken to protect diplomatic personnel aboard? Would such steps undermine their ability to work effectively to achieve their goals? Why?

Is Netanyahu’s Visit “Destructive”?

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice yesterday described an upcoming visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “destructive.” Rice asserted that both the decision by Speaker of the House John Boehner to extend an invitation to Netanyahu, and Netanyahu’s decision to visit the United States less than two weeks ahead of his own reelection, as injected a degree of partisanship into the question that complicates ongoing negotiations between the United States and Iran and is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between the United States and Israel.

What do you think? Will Netanyahu’s visit undermine US-Israeli relations? Will it affect ongoing negotiations between Iran and the United States? Why?

The Next US Secretary of Defense

Secretary of Defense nominee Ashton Carter.

Secretary of Defense nominee Ashton Carter.

President Obama has formally nominated Ashton Carter to succeed Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. While Carter still faces questioning and ultimately a confirmation vote by the Republican-controlled Senate, his nomination is widely seen as non-controversial. Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John McCain has already issued a statement declaring that Carter’s nomination hearing “will provide a valuable opportunity to fully ventilate all issues around this Administration’s feckless foreign policy, and its grave consequences for the safety and security of our nation,” the same statement said that Carter “is not controversial.” Senator McCain had previously described Carter as “an honest, hard-working and committed public servant.”

Carter has already testified before Congress that the United States faces “very real dangers,” particularly from “malignant and savage terrorism” as well as security threats in Afghanistan, parts of Europe and Asia, and in cyberspace. He boasts an extensive record of civil service, including a stint as deputy defense secretary from 2011 to 2013, and as assistant secretary of defense for international security policy under the Clinton Administration. And while he is seen as an effective manager, Carter lacks military service experience. If confirmed, we would be the first Secretary of Defense not to have served in the military or Congress since 1981.

What do you think? Will Ashton Carter make an effective Secretary of Defense? Should the Secretary of Defense have military experience? Why? Do you think that Carter will be more effective in addressing ISIS and the other security threats faced by the United States than Hegel was? Why?

Stepping on Toes? Congress and US Foreign Policy Making

In a move described by observers as an unprecedented breach of protocol, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced today he had invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on the issue of Iran without consulting with the White House. The invitation highlights a sharp division between the Congress and the White House over how best to address Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In defense of his move, Speaker Boehner said he is “not poking [the President] in the eye,” but seeking to “address a serious threat in the world [that] the President is papering over.”

Foreign policy has traditionally been the domain of the executive branch, led by the White House and the State Department.

What do you think? Was Speaker Boehner right to invite Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress without consulting with the White House? How might the obvious divisions between the White House and the Congress on the question affect the US negotiating position with Iran?

The Paris Terror Attacks

FranceShootingDemonstrators took to the streets of Paris this afternoon, less than twelve hours after a terrorist attack on a satirical newspaper resulted in the death of twelve people, mostly journalists and cartoonists working at the paper. Protestors were expressing solidarity with the dead, holding signs that read “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), in honor of the paper, Charlie Hebdo. The paper had been threatened by extremists after publishing several images critical of the prophet Mohammed, a violation of Sharia law. The paper had previously been the target of a firebomb attack in 2011. Paris police are searching for the three terrorists who escaped in a car after the attack.

Some observers are warning that this style of attack is likely to become more common. Local attacks supported by a larger organization have proven much harder to detect that the al Qaeda-style cells that were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

What do you think? Does the attack in Paris signal a rise in the threat posed by terrorists on the global stage? How will the strategies employed by the United States and its allies change to adapt to the new threat?

The Politics of Oil in Ukraine

The Russian government yesterday announced that a special pricing deal signed between the Ukrainian government and the Russian oil and natural gas company Gazprom would not be renewed. According to the Russian government, Ukraine currently owes more than $4 billion for previous shipments. But given deteriorating relations between the two countries and the desire of the Ukrainian government to develop closer ties with the European Union, Russia appears increasingly unwilling to offer favorable pricing deals to Ukraine.

This video, produced by the Russian news station RT, outlines the Russian position on the question.

What do you think? Is the Russian government justified in its decision to rescind the favorable pricing deal previously negotiated with Ukraine? If the goal of the Russian government is to punish Ukraine for looking to develop closer ties with Europe, will this move be successful? Can Russia use its oil and natural gas wealth as a foreign policy tool?

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Al Qaeda militants seized control of the Iraqi city of Mosul yesterday, forcing the country’s prime minister to request parliament declare a state of emergency in the country. According to the BBC, overnight, hundreds of militants sized control of local government offices, police stations, the airport, and regional army headquarters. An estimated 150,000 people have fled the city, sparking Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of the neighboring province of Kurdistan to issue a statement requesting the UN refugee agency step up assistance for those fleeing Mosul.

The past week has seen a sharp uptick in violence in Iraq, with the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and its allies launching a series of attacks across northern Iraq. While Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki has promised swift measures to enhance security in the country and drive back ISIS forces, it is not clear how effective Iraq’s fledgling military will be. While the United States completed the withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraq in 2011, the United States continues to provide support for the Iraqi military.

What do you think? Does the rise of ISIS and other militant Islamic groups in Iraq necessitate an increase in US involvement in Iraq? What should the US role in Iraq look like? Should it be limited to financial assistance and military aid? Should the United States provide air support? Military training? More extensive involvement? And what happens if Iraq falls to Islamic militants?