Tag Archives: nuclear disarmament

Poll: Nuclear Disarmament

The Obama administration is reportedly considering dramatic cuts in America’s nuclear arsenal. Read the below blog post and then vote on whether or not this is a good idea.

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Elections and U.S. Foreign Policy

U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

There was a great deal of virtual ink spilled last week to discuss how the midterm elections would affect U.S. foreign policy. Bruce Stokes, Richard Haass, Steve Walt, and Daniel Drezner, among others, all chimed in. The emerging consensus seems to be that it will make little difference. As Daniel Drezner pointed out, the election his neither about foreign policy nor has foreign policy been a central—or even a tangential—concern. A former professor of mine once said that foreign policy will never win an election for you, though it can certainly lose one. This year, it did neither.

In general, there’s a great deal of wisdom here. President Obama still controls the foreign policy apparatus of the United States, and Congress has long been hesitant to intervene. But despite assertions that Republican control of the House and their increased minority in the Senate will make little difference, there are a couple of areas where change may be afoot.

First, the START Treaty—the new arms control agreement between the United States and Russia. The agreement would replace an arms control agreement that expired in December, and would impose new limits on the number of warheads and launchers possessed by both countries. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the agreement by a 14-4 vote in September, which cleared the way for a vote by the Senate as a whole. Harry Reid has previously indicated that a vote on the treaty was unlikely before the end of the session, which forces the ratification vote into the new Congress. Ratification would require 67 votes—a tough feat in a Senate suspicious of administration efforts in this area.

Second, climate change. In June, the House narrowly approved a climate change bill that would develop a version of cap-and-trade in the United States. The initiative stalled in the Senate, and now appears unlikely to receive a vote before the end of the session. Given the lack of support for climate change legislation among Republican lawmakers, efforts to develop a comprehensive policy governing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States appears to be ever less likely. And with that decline, U.S. initiatives to address climate change at the multilateiral level also appears increasingly bleak.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Here’s this week’s installment of Five Stories You Might Have Missed, with a special bonus entry on Tuesday’s Canadian elections!  Enjoy!

1. The Bush administration has removed North Korea from its terror list.  In exchange for its removal, North Korea has agreed to allow nuclear inspects into its facilities to verify compliance with the agreement produced in the six-party talks.

2. World economic markets continue to be turbulent, as demonstrated by the global market selloffs last week, including the largest single-largest day decline for the U.S. stock market since 1987.  In a move intended to address the crisis, most of the world’s major central banks last week announced simultaneous cuts in inertest rates.  But despite the ongoing financial crisis, the United States remained the most competitive country in the world, topping the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.  The remaining countries in the top 10: Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Hong King, and Britain.

3. Concerns over the continued development of Iran’s nuclear program sparked discussions between the U.S. and its allies last week about imposing sanctions on Iran without the support of the United Nations Security Council.   Action by the Security Council seems unlikely given the strength of objections raised by China and Russia.  The proposed sanctions would be imposed on a voluntary basis and would likely target Iran’s petrol imports and refining sector.

4. The tentative settlement of the crisis in Zimbabwe  reached several weeks ago now appears to be in limbo, as the Mugabe government has unilaterally moved to seize control of key positions within the government of national unity.  Mugabe announced his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union, would control several key ministries, including justice, media, home affairs (police), foreign affairs, defense, local government, and finance.  The opposition parties would be given control of relatively less important ministries, including constitutional affairs, energy, health, labor and social welfare.  No word yet on the response from South Africa, which had mediated the original settlement.

5. In local election results last week, Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) performed above most expectations, nearly capturing a majority of seats in two districts, while the ruling National Action Party (PAN) placed third.  The results suggest that Mexico may be in for a political transformation in its next round of mid-term, scheduled for summer 2009.

6. And in a bonus story for this week, Canada may be the first country to experience a political transition due to the current global economic crisis.  When a snap election was called six weeks ago, Stephen Harper’s ruling Progressive Conservative party had been projected to cruise to victory, perhaps even winning a majority in the parliament.  It now appears that Stéphane Dion’s Liberal Party may be positioned to play spoiler.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Over the past week we’ve seen a lot of news from the domestic U.S. political front: Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention, McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin for his Vice Presidential candidate.  What’s been going on in the rest of the world?  Here are five important stories from the past week.

1. The worldwide economic downturn continued last week.  On Friday, the Japanese government announced a new economic stimulus package.  Analysts are holding out little hope that it will make much of a difference.  In the United Kingdom, Chancellor Alistair Darling conceded that the current crisis will likely be “profound and longlasting.”  He forecasted that it might be the worst economic crisis faced by the United Kingdom in the past 60 years.  Similarly, figures released by the Canadian government last week show that the country is on the brink of recession, with gross domestic product growing by  a mere 0.1% in the second quarter.  All of this suggests that the current economic crisis is global in scope and potentially long in duration.

2. Ongoing political violence in Thailand last week culminated in the closure of three major international airports and blockades of the country’s rail, road, and port infrastructure.   Earlier in the week, protestors had laid siege to state buildings.  The protestors—a loose coalition of business, royalists, and activists under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Democracy—are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and his government.  So far, the military has refused to become involved in the political crisis.

3. In an interview on Tuesday, Zwelinazima Vavi, leader of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, declared that South Africa would need to radically change its economic policies to avoid the “ticking bomb” of poverty, unemployment and crime.  Vavi is a close ally of Jacob Zuma, the leader of the African National Congress and the person mostly likely to become president of South Africa after Thabo Mbeki’s term expires next year.  Many analysts believe Vavi’s views reflect the policies favored by Zuma.  Many South Africans believe the economic policies pursued by Mbeki have not improved the quality of life for ordinary people.  His complete interview is available through the Financial Times website.

4. The North Korean government announced on Tuesday that it would suspend the processing of disabling its nuclear facilities and was considering reactivating the Yongbyon reactor.  The announcement, which North Korea maintains is a response to the failure of the United States to make good on promises made during the six party talks, raises new concerns about the effectiveness of the talks and the progress made there.  On Thursday, South Korea announced that it would drop the label “main enemy” when referring to North Korea in its biannual defense white paper.  According to Major Seo Young-suk, the decision to drop the term “does not mean that we have changed our stance.  North Korea is still a substantial and present threat.”

5. In a report issued Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) condemned health inequalities between rich and poor around the world, describing them as “unfair, unjust, and avoidable.”  According to the WHO “a toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and policies [was] killing people on a grand scale.”  The complete report, entitled Social Determinants of Health, is available through the WHO website.