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  • Author: Steven Pifer
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: For nearly five decades, Washington and Moscow have engaged in negotiations to manage their nuclear competition. Those negotiations produced a string of acronyms—SALT, INF, START—for arms control agreements that strengthened strategic stability, reduced bloated nuclear arsenals and had a positive impact on the broader bilateral relationship. That is changing. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is headed for demise. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) has less than two years to run, and the administration of Donald Trump has yet to engage on Russian suggestions to extend it. Bilateral strategic stability talks have not been held in 18 months. On its current path, the U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control regime likely will come to an end in 2021. That will make for a strategic relationship that is less stable, less secure and less predictable and will further complicate an already troubled bilateral relationship.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, North America
  • Author: Victor D. Cha
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: There were high expectations at the second meeting of American and North Korean leaders in Vietnam last month after the absence of progress on denuclearization commitments made at the first summit in Singapore last summer. Yet at Hanoi, not only were the two leaders unable to deliver an agreement with tangible steps on denuclearization, but they also dispensed with the joint statement signing, cancelled the ceremonial lunch and skipped the joint press conference. In a solo presser, President Donald Trump said that sometimes you “have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”[2] The President indeed may have avoided getting entrapped into a bad deal at Hanoi. What North Korea put on the table in terms of the Yongbyon nuclear complex addresses a fraction of its growing nuclear program that does not even break the surface of its underlying arsenal and stockpiles of fissile materials, not to mention missile bases and delivery systems. And what North Korea sought in return, in terms of major sanctions relief on five UN Security Council resolutions that target 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, would have removed one of the primary sources of leverage, albeit imperfect, on the regime. In this instance, no deal was better than a bad deal for the United States. Nevertheless, the Hanoi summit has left the United States with no clear diplomatic road ahead on this challenging security problem, a trail of puzzled allies in Asia and the promise of no more made-for-television summit meetings for the foreseeable future. The question remains, where do we go from here? When leaders’ summits fail to reach agreement, diplomacy by definition has reached the end of its rope. President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put on the best face they could in Hanoi, talking about closer understanding and continued good relations between the two sides as a result of the meetings, but the failed summit leaves a great deal of uncertainty going forward. South Koreans will frantically seek meetings with Washington and Pyongyang to pick up the pieces. The North Koreans already have sent an envoy to China to chart next steps. While I do not think this will mean a return to the “Fire and Fury” days of 2017 when armed conflict was possible, we have learned numerous lessons from Hanoi for going forward.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Alex Vatanka
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a cleric who will turn 80 in July 2019 and has ruled over Iran since 1989, has made a political career out of demonizing the United States. And yet, he knows full well that at some point—whether in his lifetime or after—Tehran has to turn the page and look for ways to end the bad blood that started with the birth of the Islamic Republic in 1979. But Khamenei’s efforts to make the United States a strawman are not easily undone in present-day Tehran, where anti-Americanism is the top political football, as the two main factions inside the regime—the hardliners versus the so-called reformists—battle it out for the future of Iran. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” on Iran has made it all but impossible for Khamenei to meet Washington half-way. Accordingly, the best Khamenei can do for now is to wait out the Trump White House. There will be no Khamenei-Trump summits. That much is abundantly clear if one listens to the chatter from Tehran. But the issue of possible relations with post-Trump America is still hotly contested in the Islamic Republic. In the meantime, with Trump’s re-imposition of sanctions from November 2018, Tehran’s hope in the short term is that Europe, together with Iran’s more traditional supporters in Moscow and Beijing, can give Iran enough incentive so that it can ride out the next few years as its economy comes under unprecedented pressure.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Sanctions, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Earl Anthony Wayne
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: On November 30, the leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico signed a new trade agreement to succeed the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) modernizes the 25-year-old NAFTA, but the legislatures in all three countries must still approve it.[1] The new USMCA will preserve the massive trading and shared-production networks that support millions of jobs in the U.S., Mexico and Canada and the ability of North America to compete effectively with China, Europe and other economic powers. Approving USMCA this year is very much in the national interests of all three countries given the $1.3 trillion in trade between them and the many businesses, workers and farmers that depend on the commerce and co-production that interlinks North America. These economic relationships also strengthen the rationale for maintaining strong political relationships among the three neighbors. There was widespread agreement to update NAFTA to reflect the changes in trade practices and in the three economies since 1994.[2] NAFTA does not cover Internet-based commerce, for example. Other areas required modernization, including trade in services, protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), environment and labor, which is a priority for U.S. unions.[3] Mexico, Canada and the U.S. tried to accomplish this NAFTA update with negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, but in January 2017 President Donald Trump pulled out of TPP, preferring to renegotiate NAFTA.[4] Approval of USMCA by the U.S. Congress remains uncertain. A number of Democrats are asking for stronger enforcement commitment particularly regarding labor. Others express concern that USMCA provisions may keep some prescription medical costs high.[5] Business and agricultural associations are urging approval of USMCA because it will provide certainty to continue the cross-continental collaboration that preserves vital intra-North American markets for manufacturing, agriculture and services and helps them out-perform global competitors. In response to democrat and union concerns, USMCA’s advocates argue that it includes significantly stronger labor provisions and enforcement.[6] Before the agreement moves ahead, however, the three countries must also find a solution to the tariffs the U.S. put on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico in 2018 for “national security” reasons. In response, those countries imposed equivalent tariffs on a range of U.S. exports, spreading economic pain across all three countries.[7] Mexico and Canada, as well as key members of Congress, want this problem resolved before approving USMCA.[8] The U.S. International Trade Commission must also assess USMCA’s economic impact. This report is due in mid-April. The administration must also propose implementation legislation (and guidelines) before Congress formally considers the agreement. Congress will then have a limited time to act on USMCA under existing legislation, but members of Congress could drag the process out.[9] The political window for U.S. congressional approval will close this year, however, given the 2020 U.S. elections.[10] President Trump, USTR Lighthizer and others have begun lobbying for approval, as have Mexico and Canada more quietly. The months ahead will thus be vital for trade and long-term relationships in North America and for the continent’s ability to weather well future international competition. Given the enormous economic benefits of approving USMCA, the U.S. Congress, the Administration and the non-government stakeholders should engage intensively to find ways to address concerns raised and find a “win-win” way to approval. Fortunately, the United States public increasingly views trade in North America as positive. According to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, for example, those seeing NAFTA and now USMCA as “good” for the U.S. economy have grown significantly, rising from 53 percent in 2017 to 70 percent seeing USMCA as “good” this year. This is a solid foundation for rapid approval of USMCA.[11]
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, NAFTA, Trade, USMCA
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada, North America, Mexico
  • Author: Bruce A. Heyman
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Seeing the words “U.S.-Canada Trade War” in headlines is hard to imagine in any year, but to see them in 2018 was jarring. How is it possible that best friends and neighbors who have had the most successful trading relationship in the world now could have an association characterized by the word war? This is hard enough for the average American or Canadian to conceive of, but it was particularly hard for me to do so, as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada until January 20, 2017. When I left Ottawa, I was confident that the U.S.-Canada relationship was strong—indeed, perhaps never stronger. In March 2016, we had a state dinner in Washington for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the first in nearly 20 years. Then-President Barack Obama later repaid the favor and addressed the Canadian Parliament for the first time in more than 20 years. Our two-way trading relationship was valued at a huge $670 billion per year, and while no longer our largest, it was the most balanced, with the United States having a slight but rare trade surplus in goods and services. Through an integrated supply chain, our companies and citizens worked together. On average more than 400,000 people legally crossed our 5,525-mile non-militarized border daily for work and tourism. But the U.S.-Canada relationship was and is much larger than trade. Canadian and American troops have fought and died together from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, and our countries are founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)—a unique Canadian-American partnership—patrols the skies above our shared continent. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies constantly exchange information on threats from terrorism, nuclear proliferation, espionage and complex crimes. Our two countries work together to protect the environment and provide stewardship of the magnificent Great Lakes, where cities such as Toronto and my own Chicago are located. This dense web of mutually beneficial cooperation is based on a shared set of values. Both our countries settled the vast North American continent, providing undreamt-of opportunities to millions of immigrants. Both our countries have an abiding commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and when we fall short, we make the needed changes. Beyond our countries’ being next-door neighbors, the largest number of Americans living abroad live in Canada and the largest number of Canadians living abroad live in the U.S. We are best friends, but more important, we are family.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Culture, Trade Wars, Trade
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada, North America
  • Author: John Campbell
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Nigeria is the giant of Africa. Depending on the price of oil, it has sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy, and UN agencies estimate that its population will reach 450 million by mid-century, displacing the United States as the third most populous country in the world. Nigeria is active diplomatically in international fora such as the UN and the World Trade Organization, and the scope of its diplomatic representation is comparable to that of the United States. Nigeria’s bilateral relations with the United States have been close and productive on African issues of mutual concern. With Nollywood—Africa’s largest film industry—and numerous artists and intellectuals of world stature, Nigeria has considerable soft power in Africa. Hence, the success or failure of its democracy influences the continent as a whole. For such reasons and more, Nigeria’s democratic trajectory and overall stability are in the national interest of the United States. A bargain between the Nigerian military and civilian elites resulted in the restoration of civilian governance in 1999 after a generation of military rule. With their resumption, elections have become important to the competing and cooperating elites (now including senior military officers) who run Nigeria. Elections reaffirm their government’s legitimacy in their own eyes, that of other Nigerians who vote and foreign governments. However, what Nigeria’s elections have in form, they lack in democratic substance. By and large, the nation’s elections are not about Nigerians making a choice among candidates. Instead, these elections are more often a contest between elite networks. Nigerian society is still largely organized by patron and client relationships, and voters cast their ballots as their patrons direct. Extreme poverty—which is on the rise in Nigeria—also provides a bevy of people willing to vote the way someone tells them in exchange for cash; truly independent voters are rare. Elites also present elections to Nigeria’s international partners as evidence that the country is becoming a modern democracy, opening for them the possibility of a personal role on the larger world stage. Hence, national elections have been held regularly every four years, in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019. The logistical quality of Nigerian elections has been generally poor. The elections of 1999 were so bad that President Jimmy Carter, an election observer, left the country rather than be seen to endorse them. The worst ever were those of 2007, when I was the U.S. Ambassador, with chaos, violence and wholesale rigging. But those elections resulted in the country’s first genuinely civilian president since the end of military rule, Umaru Yar’Adua. (His predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, though the country’s first nominally civilian leader, had governed in the style of a military head of state.) The subsequent elections of 2011 were characterized by exceptionally high levels of violence. In their aftermath, domestic and international pressure resulted in the introduction of some reforms in election procedures.
  • Topic: Military Affairs, Authoritarianism, Elections, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria, Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Author: Michelle D. Gavin
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: One needn’t have a preference among the 23 candidates who contested for the presidency of Zimbabwe last summer to find the overall result of the elections deeply disappointing. What had been billed as a chance to turn the page on Zimbabwe’s international isolation, economic collapse and politics of fear instead exposed continued political violence, the unwillingness of the powers that be in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) to create a genuinely level playing field for political competition and elites’ overall contempt for average citizens. But while all of this makes it tempting to write off hopes for meaningful change in Zimbabwe, it is possible that the country is only at the beginning of a long and slow transition—the same process of reimagining the underpinnings of the state that is underway in many of its southern African neighbors.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Violence, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, Zimbabwe, Southern Africa
  • Author: Julius Tsal
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: In 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi initiated people-to-people (P2P) exchanges to the United States for agricultural scientists and university leaders from the Russian-occupied Georgian territory of Abkhazia. An initial study tour in the spring of 2018 focused on mitigating the devastating agricultural damage from the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB), and a second tour in the fall of 2018 focused on higher education leadership. Despite political sensitivities and logistical hurdles, such people-to-people programs increase participants’ understanding of the United States and give them an unbiased, first-hand experience of American civil society, its culture of innovation and democratic values. For otherwise isolated Abkhaz thought leaders, these experiences directly counter Russian anti-Western propaganda and demonstrate the benefits of Georgia’s pro-Western choice.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Civil Society, Imperialism, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Eastern Europe, Georgia, North America
  • Author: Terry Branstad
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: When I welcome visitors to the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Beijing, they often comment on a black-and-white photo of my first meeting with Xi Jinping. In the picture, the members of the 1985 Chinese agriculture delegation to Iowa stand calmly behind my desk, peering into the camera, as Xi Jinping stands unobtru­sively to my right. Some visitors ask, “Ambassador Branstad, did you know this young man would become President of China?” Indeed, I did not—I treated him with the same Iowa hospitality with which I welcome all my guests. His importance as a rising leader of China, though, became increasingly apparent over the course of six gubernatorial visits I made to China during the subsequent 30 years. The same is true of U.S.-China relations. Today, I have the honor of representing the United States in the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world, one that we absolutely have to get right. During President Donald Trump’s November 2017 state visit to China, the President identified three priority tasks for the two nations’ relationship. First, work with the Chinese govern­ment to address the North Korean nuclear and missile threat. Second, seek a more balanced and reciprocal trade and investment relationship. And third, partner with Chinese authorities to reduce the flow of illicit opioids from China to the United States. Each task presents its own unique challenges and opportunities.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Richard N. Holwill
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: A meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un (KJU), the Supreme Leader of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), can be a success even if it fails to achieve President Trump’s announced goal: an end to the DPRK nuclear weapons program. This meeting starts by giving KJU one of his long-sought goals. It will, in effect, be more than a meeting. It will be a “summit” and will confer on KJU the status of the leader of a legitimate government. President Trump would be wise to redefine success. He should not fall into the trap of saying that success will be defined by a “denuclearization agreement.” While that should be a long-term goal, it will not happen at this meeting. Still, the summit will be successful if it produces a process that can lead to a substantial reduction of tension on the Korean Peninsula. This is not to say that an agreement on denuclearization is off the table. Rather, it is to rec­ognize that these talks could present a framework for negotiation that would be very valuable, even if they will fall short of a nuclear disarmament accord. To understand the difficulty of reaching a nuclear arms agreement, we need only look at the way the two leaders speak about denuclearization. Each appears to define it differently. President Trump applies the term to nuclear weapons in the DPRK. KJU speaks of it as applying to the entire Korean Peninsula. He will argue that, if he must allow a mean­ingful verification regime, so must U.S. forces in South Korea.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Madeleine Albright
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: I would like to share some reflections on the challenges facing democracy and democratization. But I would like to begin on a personal note. I received my master’s degree some 50 years ago this spring. Like today, it was an era of great turbulence. Our best and brightest civilian leaders had involved America in a distant war. Our soldiers were in an impossible position, bogged down inside an alien culture, unable to distinguish friend from foe. Here at home, America was divided along geographic, racial and cultural lines. Overseas, critics called our policies arrogant, imperialistic and doomed to fail.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil Society, Democracy, Social Media
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: William C. Eacho
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Every day, in countries around the planet, government employees are working on plans that will reduce greenhouse emissions, as each nation promised to do at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Here in Washington? No one has such an assignment. Global leadership used to be an American staple. In fact, we were in the vanguard a couple of years ago when 195 nations assembled in Paris to finalize the climate change accord. In a 180-degree reversal, President Donald Trump opted to withdraw from this pact. But since the rules do not allow that withdrawal to become official until November 4, 2020, there is time for our government to regain its leadership role as the world struggles to meet this fundamental challenge. And the President can do so in a way that strengthens the global competitiveness of the U.S. economy. How? Ask almost any economist what is the quickest, most efficient and least expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and he or she will say, “a carbon tax.” Carbon has benefited from a subsidy from day one. Yes, fossil fuels have played a critical role in U.S. prosperity, but they also have driven up the rates and severity of lung cancer, asthma, heart disease and other ailments. In addition, they are the leading cause of climate change, which scientists have concluded is running up the frequency and intensity of wildfires, superstorms and other natural disasters. Yet the price we pay for carbon does not cover any of these costs; all of us pick up that tab. If the price of carbon incorporated such costs, then clean energy sources such as the wind, the sun and nuclear energy could compete on a level playing field. It is true that tax incentives have helped renewable sources develop, and loan guarantees have helped nuclear energy, but each has had less help than fossil fuels have received in direct and indirect subsidies. And yet despite the unlevel playing field, renewables have been a tremendous source of job growth in recent years. Solar now employs over 260,000 in the United States, enjoying a double-digit rate of growth in recent years, and wind energy employs over 100,000. Wind already provides 30 percent of Kansas’ electricity. Though Governor Sam Brownback is a longtime member of the GOP’s right flank, he is a true believer in renewables. Wind energy has drawn $7 billion in capital investment to the state and supports, directly or indirectly, 5,000 to 6,000 jobs.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Natural Resources, Green Technology
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Edward M. Gabriel
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Twenty years ago, I arrived in Morocco as the new U.S. Ambassador. It was the beginning of a close-up view of the changes going on in Morocco for the next two decades. During my first meeting with King Hassan II, shortly after my arrival, he wasted no time in addressing Morocco’s agenda with the United States, challenging me on our nation’s positions, especially in regard to his Kingdom’s existential issue regarding sovereignty over the Sahara. This unexpected candid and warm exchange set the tone for regular meetings throughout my tenure during which concerns and grievances were voiced in private, rather than aired publicly. King Mohammed VI would continue this practice with me after his father’s death. My first few months in the country also coincided with the beginning of the first government of Alternance, led by opposition leader Abderrahmane El Youssoufi—a watershed moment for Morocco that many political analysts mark as the beginning of significant democratic reform and economic liberalization in Morocco after years of a strong-armed approach to governing and limited civil rights. Abderrahmane El Youssoufi, whose political activities had previously resulted in two years in jail and then 15 years of exile, became Prime Minister after his party, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP), won the most seats in the November 1997 elections. Since then, the international community has confirmed Moroccan elections as occurring in a fair and transparent manner. In 1998, the unemployment rate in the country was 17 percent and growing, with youths making up a disproportionate percentage of the population. Women lacked equal rights with men. The percentage of the population living at or below the poverty line for lower middle-income countries was around 28 percent, and more than half of the entire adult population was illiterate, with rates among rural women much higher. Electricity in the country reached only around 60 percent of the population, and almost a quarter did not have access to potable water. Infant mortality rates were 23 percent higher than the regional average, and maternal mortality ratios were nearly double the regional average. Overall, the micro-economic picture was in dire shape. The economy was too dependent on agriculture, accounting for 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and heavily reliant on rainfall. Infrastructure was lacking throughout the country, and environmental degradation was widely apparent throughout the cities and the countryside, presenting a challenge to the growth of tourism. Of particular note, the northern part of Morocco was completely neglected after a series of militant actions created an irreparable rift between King Hassan and his citizens there. In contrast to the micro-economic indicators, by 1998 King Hassan had established a strong macro-economic climate: a low ratio of debt to GDP, a low budget deficit and an open, competitive economic system. He adopted International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank reforms that, had Morocco been a member of the European Union, would have qualified it for inclusion in the Monetary Union. Upon his death in 1999, King Hassan left the country unified, with a very strong nationalistic belief in country and King, a reasonably performing economy and, most important, with a solid commitment in its support for U.S. objectives regarding counterterrorism and economic openness, and in promoting peace in the Middle East. Twenty years later, where is Morocco today? Where is it headed tomorrow?
  • Topic: Agriculture, Development, Diplomacy, Education, Democracy, Decentralization , IMF
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, North Africa, Morocco
  • Author: Michael A. Hammer
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: America’s ability to lead in the world depends on a strong economy at home, unparalleled military might and a skilled diplomatic corps. And for the United States to remain the preeminent global power, it is essential that we educate and prepare the next generation of national security leaders: —leaders who are strategic in every sense: creative, innovative, technologically savvy, flexible, inclusive, ethical and resilient; —leaders who commit to life-long learning to stay current and who venture to look beyond the horizon; —leaders who are voracious consumers of information and effective communicators; —humble leaders who always seek to do better than the status quo. The new National Security Strategy recognizes the critical role of the State Department’s proclaiming that “across the competitive landscape, America’s diplomats are our forward-deployed political capability, advancing and defending America’s interests abroad.” Therefore, to remain relevant and in order to continue to succeed, State’s finest need professional development. Whether to lead peace negotiations or trade talks, combat terrorism or cyberattacks, promote democratic values or defend human rights, engage media or youth, we must ensure that rising officers are knowledgeable of history, well-versed on theory, fluent in current practice and in-tune with future trends. But as they are caught in high-stress jobs with little time to reflect, where should our best talent go to grow their skills and enhance their ability to think critically and lead effectively? The answer is right here in Washington D.C., the National Defense University (NDU) at Fort McNair.
  • Topic: National Security, Science and Technology, Military Strategy, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Shanna Dietz Surendra
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: In my previous assignment in London, the U.S. Ambassador was so committed to public engagement that he reached as many as 30,000 students in 260 schools over the course of his three-and-a-half-year tenure. Through his outreach, he made a number of observations about British public opinion toward the United States, and he noted that there was one controversial question that emerged again and again when he met with the general public: Why is the American public so fixated on guns? It was evident that the British public struggled to understand this phenomenon and saw it as a major cultural and political difference between our two countries. Students in particular wanted an explanation for gun violence in the United States, and the topic stood as a hurdle in moving on to other positive areas of discussion. The Ambassador understood that if our embassy didn’t address the topic head on, the U.S. government’s overall credibility would be significantly hindered. And so, although he admitted he did not have “answers,” he tried his best to provide a historical, socio-cultural explanation for this vast dissimilarity between our two countries. Audience members may not have been convinced that his explanation was accurate. They may not have believed his statistics, and they might have thought he was trying to justify the unjustifiable. However, addressing the topic head-on allowed the discussion to move forward. His willingness to directly answer tough questions especially disarmed students of their “gotcha” questions, thereby creating space and time for other foreign policy-related questions. Most important, his honesty enhanced our embassy’s overall credibility and made the relationship—whether between audience and speaker or between our two countries’ publics—more open and more authentic. Addressing difficult topics directly and honestly is not always easy in public diplomacy. Foreign Service Officers are often nervous about deviating from official talking points and saying the “wrong thing” that could garner negative attention for their U.S. Embassy, the U.S. government, or—perhaps most terrifying—for the officers themselves. But in my modest nine years as a U.S. diplomat, I have seen colleagues deftly maneuver contentious topics, and their honesty and courage lays the foundation upon which U.S. foreign relations are built and sustained. Below, I summarize a handful of approaches I have observed as useful in addressing the most controversial topics.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Culture, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Genci Mucaj
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: A few years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine the regional transformation underway in the Middle East. From the Arab Spring to the rise of ISIS, to a catastrophic Syrian war, we see a Middle East in turmoil and crisis. While the region’s geopolitical map varies, the root causes of conflict remain the same. What Is Pan Arabism, Sunni Islam and Shi’ism? In the early 1960s, Pan Arabism led by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt attempted to unite Egypt and Syria as well as other Arab countries in one Pan Arab Union where member nations would be linked by a common language and culture despite differences in their respec­tive religious beliefs. The failure of this noble effort, I believe, resulted in the beginning of radical Islam. Arabism’s secular ideology that aimed to bring together people of all faiths in a modern Arabic society faced strong opposition from traditional Islam. The Islamic con­servative backlash was especially acute in tribal societies and led to the creation of a movement which became known as political Islam. In subsequent years, Arab countries suffered deep socio-economic and political crises. Rapid population growth[1] and a rural exodus in favor of large cities overwhelmed housing, employment and other resources, leading to social dislocation, instability and political radicalization. The radicalization of Sunni Muslims became a defensive tool against other religions and sectarianism. Individual Sunni scholars put their emphasis on incorporating Sharia law in all forms of government whereby their Holy Book would be the sole political manifesto. This action created constant institutional ambiguity as there was no recognized clerical religious authority to decide on specific matters of governance. This vacuum allowed many Sunni organizations, militants, self-proclaimed caliphs and radicalized groups such as ISIS, al-Qaeda, Al Nusra and other lesser known groups to impose their own view of Sharia. While the Sunnis do not have one supreme authority figure who sets the moral tone, the Shi’ites do. In the Shi’ite denomination, there is one supreme religious leader who unites all Shi’ites together, with Iran as its foremost state and Khomeini as the supreme, undisputed leader. Iran Iran’s sphere of influence in the Shi’ite world extends from the Strait of Hormuz with Houthis in Yemen, to Lebanon with Hezbollah, to Iraq and Syria. Shi’ite radicals put their emphasis on the character of the ruler who oversees the implementation of Sharia law. Foreign fighters who support Bashar al-Assad in Syria are sponsored by Iran, come in large numbers from Afghanistan and include other Shi’ites from countries that were once part of the former Soviet Union. Syria is extremely important to Iran. It links Tehran with Hezbollah in Lebanon, and it closes the circle of influence in the region, making Iran a regional superpower. Besides the manpower Iran supplies for the war in Syria, it is estimated that Iran has spent nearly $1 billion in cash to prop up the Assad regime. Lifting the embargo and applying the 5+1 format conditions in the Iran Nuclear Agreement will make Iran economically viable once again. The Agreement is seen as a victory for Iran and its domestic policy, but it will have absolutely no effect in changing Iran’s policy in the region. Under no circumstances would Iran allow Assad to lose Syria, and that’s where old partners as well as adversaries have found common ground. Last August, Russian aircraft conducted raids in Syria after launching from Iran’s Hamedan military base, sending an important message to the West about this new/old alliance. Turkey, the Refugee Crisis and the European Union Iran’s new role in global geopolitics has implications for another key player in the region—Turkey. Turkey’s foreign policy and its international influence has waned as Ankara is faced with growing domestic violence. The ongoing terrorist threats in Turkey are not only from the Kurdish separatist movement and its Syrian PDY arm but are also from a faction of a radical group that deserted the Assad Army known as the Syrian Liberation Army (SLA). The SLA was originally supported by Turkey, a few European Union (EU) member nations and the Gulf States with the aim of getting rid of Assad. In part because of these domestic concerns, Turkey failed to recognize Russian and Iranian power-sharing ambitions in the region. The influence of Iran in the Shi’ite world and Russia’s interests in the region cannot be underestimated. New geopolitical alliances and the refugee crisis in Europe have created a serious dilemma. The European Union’s underlying principles have been called into question. Dealing with the influx of refugees fleeing war-torn areas goes beyond borders. The lack of a unifying foreign and defense policy will remain an EU challenge for the foreseeable future. Moreover, Turkey and Greece and other countries whose Mediterranean shores have accepted waves of refugees cannot face these challenges alone. Viewing the refugee crises as a regional issue is a mistake. This crisis is certainly a global concern. The European Union is now desperately trying to convince Turkey to shoulder more of the burden even though Turkey has been housing over 2.5 million refugees since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Europe and the whole world were transfixed last year, watching hundreds of thousands of desperate people crossing mountains, rivers and iron fences that were built across Europe. Most of these refugees ended up living in tents provided by the Turkish government. Turkish concerns about the plight of the refugees, however, fell upon deaf ears. This early warning of a pending humanitarian crisis was something that EU leaders failed to understand. By closing its borders, the European Union will not resolve the refugee crisis. It may, in fact, lead to bigger problems. Conflicts must be tackled at their origin. The European Union must find a way to balance its economic and security concerns with its inherent humanitarian obligation to help alleviate the suffering of immigrants who have walked thousands of miles in order to reach southeast Europe. Turkey and the European Union have serious issues when it comes to Turkey’s demand for nine billion euros to keep the refugees inside its borders. It certainly would cost the European Union less to have Turkey become a full EU member rather than continuing to deal with mounting pressure from the influx of refugees from the Middle East and beyond. Security is a global issue and cannot be handled in isolation. Europe is stronger, safer and bigger with Turkey and the Balkans inside its structures rather than outside. There is no better solution for these turbulent times than a strong and unified European Union. While the United States is trying to take a leadership role to find a solution, there are numerous bumps in the road. The Iran deal is viewed by some as a good step to satisfy and control Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it is not enough. Europe is still trying to come to grips with Britain’s departure from the European Union. Russia’s attempts to increase its sphere of influence, on the other hand, makes the landscape even more complicated unless each individual player in the West maintains its geo­political influence in the region. The U.S. role in the crisis is vital, particularly in convincing the EU partners to stick together.
  • Topic: Nuclear Power, European Union, ISIS, Sunni, Shia
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Iran, Turkey, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Juan Carlos Pinzon
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The world has changed for Colombia. For the first time in more than 50 years, we are a nation building a lasting and stable peace. What has not changed is the special relationship Colombia shares with the United States. As the oldest and strongest democracies in the Western Hemisphere, the relationship between our two countries is deeply rooted in our steadfast commitment to the shared values of democracy, freedom and equality. It is an alliance built on a solid foundation of bipartisan support, and that too will not change. Successive Colombian governments have worked with Republican-led con­gresses and those controlled by Democrats, and we look forward to continuing to engage with the new Administration and Congress as we work to build sustainable peace. It was strong bipartisan support that made Plan Colombia the most successful U.S. bilateral initiative with a foreign nation—benefitting both countries and the entire region— and it is bipartisan support that will make the next phase of Plan Colombia—the Peace Colombia initiative—successful as well.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Democracy, Political stability, Peace
  • Political Geography: United States, Colombia, South America, North America
  • Author: Edward M. Gabriel
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: From a strategic perspective, Morocco’s decision to join the African Union (AU) 33 years after quitting the bloc illustrates King Mohammed VI’s vision of his country’s role on the continent as a platform for regional economic, political and security cooperation. It followed almost two decades of personal diplomatic efforts by the king to further Morocco’s goal of supporting greater regional and continen­tal stability through common economic and political interests. Although some observers in the United States may have been surprised, the move—announced by King Mohammed VI in the summer of 2016—is a natural next step in his South-South economic diplomacy. Because of that diplomacy, at the African Heads of State Summit in Addis Ababa this past January, Morocco not only gained admission to the African Union, but it did so with the support of an overwhelming majority—39 of 54— member states. Morocco’s desire to play a stronger leadership role is seen by the king as rooted in the country’s historic ties throughout the region, as well as its long-standing outreach to build ties beyond its existing network in francophone and African countries on the Atlantic. For him, the move has a cultural and economic logic, as well as a strategic one. The AU decision also comes at a time when the United States is, according to various news reports, considering repositioning North African countries (except Egypt), as part of the Africa division at the National Security Council and the Africa bureau of the State Department, rather than as part of the Middle East departments. In the Near Eastern Affairs bureau, Morocco policy was not a high priority, mainly because it was a non-problem in a very troubled region. With the new configuration, I hope attention to Morocco will better reflect its role as one of Africa’s top economic and security power­houses, with one of the continent’s most democratic governance structures and most liberal economies, as well as its potential position as the preferred economic gateway to Africa for the United States and other world powers. This could have a profound impact on Morocco’s importance to U.S. policy and raise the value of our longstanding partnership with this key African nation.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Culture, African Union
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Morocco
  • Author: Robert Jackson
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Ghana is one of the leading democracies on the African continent, with multiple peaceful interparty transitions since the return of multi-party democracy in 1992; a good record on human rights; an apolitical military; and a lively, free media. Ghanaians often note that whenever the Republican Party wins the White House, Ghana’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) wins Jubilee House—a coincidental tradition that held true again in 2016. Ghana’s presidential and parliamentary elections were peaceful, transparent, and credible; U.S. engagement played a critical role in that success, as well as in the resulting peaceful transition of power.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Elections, Democracy, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, North America, Ghana
  • Author: Thomas F Daughton
  • Publication Date: 03-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Just 27 years old, the Republic of Namibia is among Africa’s youngest countries, but one that stands out on the continent for its functioning multiparty democracy, open market economy and history of peaceful transitions of presidential power. The reasons for Namibia’s success lie in the international process that created it and in the pragmatism of its people. That international process and the United States’ involvement in it have also complicated the U.S.-Namibia relationship in the last three decades. But the United States has long recognized that an investment in the success of a country like Namibia is a strategic long-term investment in our own security. With that in mind, the United States has invested heavily since Namibian independence in 1990 to help ensure that the young country succeeds. In many respects, Namibia is a country of extremes. It is both the driest African country south of the Sahara and, with an area twice the size of California’s and a population of just 2.4 million, the world’s second-least densely populated nation. Namibia is home to the desolate Skeleton Coast, to one of the world’s driest deserts and to the world’s oldest sand dunes, but also to lush, flood-prone forestland lying along some of Africa’s great rivers. Namibia is a major source of diamonds and uranium, but has one of the highest income inequality rates in the world. And Namibia’s people are a multiethnic, multiracial mix that encompasses everything from descendants of German colonists to the San, the world’s most ancient human population. Namibia’s colonial experience featured similar extremes. After one of the First World War’s early military campaigns ended 30 years of German colonial rule in 1915, the League of Nations placed the former German South West Africa under the mandate of the Union of South Africa. The successor Republic of South Africa later refused to surrender that mandate, instead imposing the full oppression of apartheid and seeking to incorporate South West Africa into its territory. The South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO), a Marxist liberation movement formed in 1960, carried on an insurgency against the apartheid regime for three decades as the United States and other Western nations sought a negotiated route to independence. In 1978 the United States co-sponsored United Nations Security Council Resolution 435 to establish a framework for Namibian independence, but an eight-year mediation begun by the Reagan administration in 1981 linked independence to the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. That linkage is still viewed by many Namibians as having delayed their country’s independence for a decade. Thirty years later, the United States continues to confront perceptions that Namibia would have achieved independence years earlier if not for Cold War concerns in the West about Communist influence and support to SWAPO from the old Eastern Bloc. Namibian independence in 1990 was the culmination of a unique negotiation and self-determination process administered by the United Nations pursuant to UNSCR 435. Nearly 25 years later, I presented my credentials as the tenth U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Namibia, just two days before general elections that would sweep the country’s third president, Dr. Hage Geingob, into office with 87 percent of the popular vote. No stranger to government, Dr. Geingob chaired the assembly that drafted the Namibian constitution in 1989 and served as the country’s first prime minister. Harkening back to the international effort that created what Namibia is today, President Geingob likes to say that his country is “a child of international solidarity, midwifed by the United Nations.” At independence, the SWAPO liberation movement became the popular political party that has ruled Namibia continuously since 1990. While the restyled Swapo Party put aside most of its Marxist principles when faced with the reality of governing, Namibia’s foreign policy has remained strongly shaped by gratitude to its erstwhile allies and adherence to its non-aligned, liberation-era ideals. At the same time, however, Namibia’s approach to its foreign development partners has generally been marked by pragmatism and a desire to be, as the country’s current president puts it, “friend to all and enemy to none.” The United States has sought since Namibia’s founding to support the new country in its building of a modern, democratic state. Even before the Namibian flag was raised for the first time, the United States offered major assistance in removing the explosive remnants of war—an intense effort that required more than a decade to complete. The Peace Corps answered a plea for help from Namibia’s new leaders in 1990 by sending a cadre of educa­tion volunteers. In the quarter-century since, Peace Corps has maintained and ex­panded its presence in Namibia. More than 1,600 volunteers have served in the country since 1991, offering their skills in education, health and community economic development. The Peace Corps was not the only U.S. government agency that lent a hand with education. A decision at independence by Namibia’s new leaders to make English the national language prompted a 15-year, USAID-administered assistance program to convert the national education system from Afrikaans, train the country’s teachers to instruct in English and improve school infrastructure. Namibians say theirs was the first country in the world to enshrine environmental pro­tection in its constitution. Support provided by the United States through USAID in the 1990s helped establish Namibia’s internationally renowned, community-based conserva­tion system. The country has a larger wildlife population now than at any time in the past century and is home to nearly half of the world’s remaining black rhinos and most of the world’s cheetahs. The Namibian conservation model built together with USAID created 82 registered communal conservancies that allow local communities to benefit from the sus­tainable use of wildlife through tourism and sport hunting. In 2013, the conservancies generated about $7 million in direct revenue and in-kind benefits. The success of the model has created a powerful incentive for those living within conservancies to protect wildlife and manage natural resources responsibly. Indeed, the conservancies are largely responsible for the rebound in Namibia’s elephant population from 7,500 in 1995 to more than 20,000 in 2016. In 2007, Namibia qualified for an assistance compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Negotiations on the details of the compact took more than 18 months, but ultimately produced a blueprint for spending $305 million on an array of infrastructure and other development projects focused on education, tourism and agricul­ture. The five-year compact, which ended in 2014 having met or exceeded all of its targets, was regarded by both the Namibians and the MCC as a signal success. As it was under­way, Namibia also achieved upper-middle income (UMI) status according to the World Bank—one of the indirect effects the MCC compact was intended to achieve. Ironically, that success meant the country was not eligible for another compact. The crown jewel of U.S. government assistance to Namibia remains our support in fighting HIV/AIDS. When the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, better known as PEPFAR, began working with the Namibian government in 2004, the country had one of the highest HIV burdens in the world. More than 23 percent of the population was infected, and more than 15,000 Namibians were getting infected with HIV each year. More than 30 percent of babies born to HIV-positive mothers were infected with the virus, and nearly 10,000 Namibians were dying from AIDS every year—out of a population of just 2 million. Our success in working with the Namibian government to fight HIV/AIDS has been nothing short of remarkable. Last year, fewer than 8,000 Namibians were newly infected with HIV, less than 5 percent of babies born to HIV-positive mothers became infected and fewer than 3,200 patients died from HIV/AIDS. Currently, more than 70 percent of Namibians have been tested for HIV and know their status. Free antiretroviral treatment is widely available across the country; 67 percent of infected adults and 90 percent of infected children are on it. Most striking, an estimated 100,000 Namibian lives—nearly 5 percent of the country’s total population—have been saved. The United States has played an integral role in these achievements, and it has required a major investment. Of the more than $1.1 billion in foreign assistance the U.S. gov­ernment has invested in Namibia since 2006, the majority has been dedicated to the fight against HIV/AIDS. But our investment has been dwarfed by the Namibian govern­ment’s own contribution to the fight. Namibia’s government directly funds two-thirds of the national HIV response, demonstrating to the world its leadership and commit­ment to its citizens. Our shared success in fighting HIV/AIDS has not come easily. Widely scattered populations, distances between health facilities, shortages of skilled health care providers, limited infrastructure and difficult terrain contribute to the reality that not all Namibians have access to the same health services. To meet the challenge, our work through PEPFAR in Namibia has required innovation and flexibility. It has also necessitated a model of government-to-government cooperation in which U.S. resources have supplemented and expanded upon the Namibian government’s efforts rather than leading them. Our support has helped move Namibia within realistic reach of achieving the UNAIDS 90/90/90 targets* for HIV epidemic control by 2020. This means Namibia has the potential to be among the first high-burden countries in Africa to reach the targets and, if the epidemiolo­gists are right, to achieve an AIDS-free generation. As the size of Namibia’s younger population increases, so do their demands for education, social services and jobs. The country’s UMI status means that international development assistance once aimed at bolstering Namibia’s young democracy is now going to countries in greater need. And as Namibia’s liberation-heroes-turned-graying-politicians seek to respond to the demands of the younger population, they also face the inevitable reality of transition to a post-liberation-era generation of leaders. Navigating that transition is the most significant political challenge the country will face in the next decade. Cognizant of their legacy and committed to an enduring democracy, Namibia’s leaders are working to ensure that their country maintains its standing as a haven of peace and stability. It remains in the national interest of the United States to help them—and Namibia—succeed.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Environment, Post Colonialism, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, North America, Namibia, Sahara