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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.



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Entries tagged "Foreign Policy"

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No Military Solution in Mali, Emira Woods Says

January 15, 2013 ·

Emira Woods on PBS NewsHour

"There cannot be a military solution to this crisis in Mali," Emira Woods said on the PBS NewsHour. "The crisis has its roots in political and also economic processes, with people in the northern part of the country feeling completely marginalized from the rest of the country."

Woods is the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. You may read the full transcript of her comments on the NewsHour's website.


"So clearly what you had was an opportunity because of the intervention, the NATO intervention in Libya, unleashing weapons, both from Qadaffi's coffers as well as from the international community, weapons flowing from Libya, across borders of Algeria, into northern Mali, to be able to actually create a crisis, and further destabilize northern Mali," said Woods. "So I think what you have is a situation where unilateral intervention could create complications down the road, both for civilians that could be targeted in these airstrikes, as well as for further complicating a political crisis that may not be resolved militarily."

Mitt Wants to be President - This President

October 22, 2012 ·

Obama v Romney Debate - WSJ.com image

Mitt Romney wants to be president alright... this president.

We knew the foreign policy positions of the the two candidates were similar, but who knew Mitt copped a peek at Obama's notes before the debate and wrote them on his hand? Romney now is a peacenik, supports an announced date to pull-out of Afghanistan and wants gender equality to solve the "tumults" in the Middle East.

When Mitt wasn't aspiring to be Obama, he seemed to be channeling Sarah Palin: "I look around the world..." (I look out my back door and see Russia... I don't know what I am saying about these difficult issues in places like China, Pakistan and who the Pashtuns are, but I will try to remember the talking points and hope I come close... China is our friend — those lying cheating bastards — I forget where Syria is, but when I have looked around the world, I think I saw some Jihadists there...)

Conservatives are going to bed very nervous tonight. They must be realizing that Mitt really is the liberal they were afraid he was. Peace, love, and... gender equality? They thought they won that war with the "binders of women" but they forgot to give Romney the binders on foreign policy. They forgot to hide his battleship.

Barack Obama was presidential and commanding, truly baffled by the reversal of Romney's positions and his blatant lies about Obama's "Apology Tour," professions of championing the car industry, calling for a publicly announced withdrawal date from Afghanistan.

Obama did a good job of bridging the gap between foreign and domestic policy and won points with his base by declaring that it's time to end the war in Afghanistan and use those resources for "nation-building at home." Obama hit some of the right notes by calling for investment in public education, fair taxes for the wealthy, ending wars, and looking toward future, sustainable energy sources.

Romney felt queasy redux of his Benghazi moment when Obama told him that we have fewer horses and bayonets than in 1916, too, the year lamented by Romney as when we had more "navy ships."

I wish the candidates had vowed to cut military spending substantially, disavowed the reckless use of drone warfare, talked about the path of worker rights, good jobs and liveable wages as a path to stability in the global economy and detailed the revenues we can raise through corporate tax reform. But to hear Obama highlight an end to war and increase in taxes on the wealthy in order to build up education, infrastructure, and future energy sources at home was a hopeful sign.

Hey, Mitt — 2012 called. They want this president back.

The Sick Man of North America

January 31, 2012 ·

A century ago, the Ottoman Empire was falling apart as a result of disastrous wars and economic decline. Dubbed “the sick man of Europe,” the Ottoman Empire was not ultimately able to pull itself together. It expired in the flames of World War I, but not before pulling down a good chunk of the world order with it.

Sick Uncle SamToday, the United States faces considerable economic challenges and has suffered numerous setbacks because of our own disastrous wars. Our reputation in the international community remains quite low. We are coming dangerously close to earning the epithet of “the sick man of North America.” And our decline in health also threatens global stability and security.

Every week for the last six years, I’ve written a column called World Beat about the health of U.S. foreign policy. With a few exceptions – the recent overture to Burma, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq – the diagnosis has been dismal. For the first couple years, I chronicled the insanities of the Bush administration. For the last three years, I’ve dissected the policies of the Obama administration. There has been, alas, more continuity between the two administrations than anyone predicted when Barack Obama took office.

I had low expectations for Obama from the beginning – not because I doubt his talents as an individual, but because I fear for the health of our political institutions and I recognize the power of our economic elite. Obama lacks the leadership skills, the political intention, and the congressional backing to transform institutions and challenge entrenched economic power. U.S. foreign policy remains on the same perilous trajectory that Bush and his cronies launched it on. And so we are still the sick man of North America, dangerous in our relative decline.

Cover art by Adwoa Masozi.In All Over the Map: the Best of World Beat, I’ve brought together a collection of the best of these columns. This modestly priced ebook covers the worsening health of U.S. foreign policy and the efforts to revive the patient. It looks at movements around the world that champion peace, democracy, and economic sustainability. It profiles the people and the ideas that can guide us out of our perilous predicament. The book includes essays on the death of Osama bin Laden, the continuing U.S. drone wars, graphic novels that cover global affairs, the use of dance therapy with child soldiers, the dissident art of Ai Weiwei, the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood, the politics of overseas adoption, eyewitness reports from Korea and Albania, and much much more.

Hope was the watchword of the 2008 elections, and it propelled Obama into office. We must still hope. Quoting a famous African proverb, Hillary Clinton is fond of saying that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Similarly, it takes an electorate to raise a president. We can still push Obama – and subsequent presidents – in the direction of democracy, equitable prosperity, and environmental sustainability. We can still push the international community toward these goals. All Over the Map is a guide to the vital signs of the United States and the world as well as the methods to improve our chances of recovery.

State of the Union's Foreign Policy: Unilateral Triumphalism

January 25, 2012 ·

In his State of the Union address last night, President Barack Obama began with what is widely perceived to be his strong suit: foreign policy. The nation is safer under his watch, he reassured his audience, now that Osama bin Laden is gone, al-Qaeda is broken, and U.S. troops are out of Iraq. It’s too bad that the president couldn’t lead with diplomatic accomplishments to prove that the United States has reestablished a new relationship with the international community and gained a new level of global respect. Instead, President Obama felt the need to emphasize U.S. military power.

Imagine how breathtaking it would have been if the president had begun his speech differently by touting diplomatic breakthroughs with Iran and North Korea. Instead, the United States has edged closer to conflict with the former and has largely ignored the latter. Imagine if the president could point to the closure of the detention facility in Guantanamo, a campaign promise and a pledge from his first day in office, as a signal to the world that the United States had turned its back on the lawless behavior of the previous administration. Imagine if the president could take credit for a responsible drawdown of Pentagon spending and the application of a true peace dividend to job creation at home. Alas, the cuts in military spending the president has proposed have been extraordinarily modest and don’t address either Pentagon waste or pressing human needs at home and abroad.

After his ode to American military strength, the president turned to his central issue: the economy. He gestured in the direction of foreign policy – to praise free-trade agreements, to bash the Chinese for unfair trade practices – but all the messages were subordinate to fixing the U.S. economy. As a practical need and a political necessity, the president was certainly wise to focus on pocketbook issues. But his us-versus-them rhetoric is ultimately unhelpful. The United States has to work with other economic powers not only to get the global economy up and running again but to restructure it so that it no longer disproportionately benefits the wealthiest 1 percent of countries, corporations, and individuals.  

Obama returned to his perceived strong suit in the end to discuss how the United States must operate from a position of strength. Unfortunately, he was talking about the strength of the U.S. military. The United States should indeed set an example: of wise diplomacy, global economic equity, and sensible budget priorities at home. Perhaps the next State of the Union can begin on a note of international cooperation instead of unilateral triumphalism. 

On the Eve of Obama's Middle East Speech

May 19, 2011 ·

The Obama administration faces a huge contradiction in trying to craft a new policy for the Middle East in the midst of the Arab Spring.

Obama gives a speech
Obama faces his own contractions with today's speech (Photo by Matt Ortega)

They are trying to position the U.S. as a friend of the newly democratizing forces, while at the same time refusing to give up the policy of support for those on top, who imposed dictatorships and occupations across the Middle East, to protect U.S. interests in oil, Israel, and strategic stability. Now it is the people of the region who are creating new democracies from below – and it is long past time to change how the U.S. relates to them.

A transformed U.S. role in the region will have to go beyond soaring words and even additional economic assistance. It will require an entirely different policy based on support for popular bottom-up democracy, acceptance of new indigenous definitions of social and economic justice, and respect for local decision-making – even when reality doesn’t match Washington’s illusion of what the “new Middle East” should look like.

What would that policy look like?

  • An end to the U.S. military aid and diplomatic protection that enable Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies, and supporting regional and globally-led diplomacy rather than imposing its own failed “peace process.”
  • An end to all U.S. military ties to any regime suppressing the Arab Spring protests in its own or other countries (that means Saudi Arabia as well as Bahrain, for example, as well as pulling all troops and mercenaries out of Iraq).
  • An end to all economic aid until it can be redirected away from militaries (even in democratizing countries) and into the hands of accountable governments. Supporting creation of a nuclear weapons-free zone throughout the Middle East.
  • An end to the double-standard of harsh sanctions and massive military force (such as in Syria and Libya) imposed against some dictators’ attacks on protestors, while continuing to arm and finance dictatorships strategically allied with the U.S. (such as Bahrain and Yemen) with hardly a word of protest against their lethal assaults on unarmed demonstrators.
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