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  • Author: Enrique Krauze
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico. By Amy S. Greenberg. Knopf, 2012, 344 pp. $30.00 (paper, $16.95). Every country sooner or later confronts the sins of its past, though rarely all at once. In recent decades, historians of the United States have revealed and explored the sins of American imperialism, recounting in detail Washington's interventions in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Yet they have largely overlooked American meddling in Mexico. Consequently, few in the United States recognize that the Mexican-American War (1846–48) was Washington's first major imperialist venture. Fewer still would understand why future U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, who fought in Mexico as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, would come to see it as the country's most “wicked war.”
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Latin America, Mexico, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Michael Cohen, Micah Zenko
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Last August, the Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney performed what has become a quadrennial rite of passage in American presidential politics: he delivered a speech to the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. His message was rooted in another grand American tradition: hyping foreign threats to the United States. It is “wishful thinking,” Romney declared, “that the world is becoming a safer place. The opposite is true. Consider simply the jihadists, a near-nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, an unstable Pakistan, a delusional North Korea, an assertive Russia, and an emerging global power called China. No, the world is not becoming safer.” Not long after, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta echoed Romney's statement. In a lecture last October, Panetta warned of threats arising “from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from rogue states to cyber attacks; from revolutions in the Middle East, to economic crisis in Europe, to the rise of new powers such as China and India. All of these changes represent security, geopolitical, economic, and demographic shifts in the international order that make the world more unpredictable, more volatile and, yes, more dangerous.” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concurred in a recent speech, arguing that “the number and kinds of threats we face have increased significantly.” And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reinforced the point by claiming that America resides today in a “very complex, dangerous world.”
  • Topic: Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, China, America, Middle East, India
  • Author: Colin H. Kahl, Kenneth N. Waltz
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: U.S. and Israeli officials have declared that a nuclear-armed Iran is a uniquely terrifying prospect, even an existential threat. In fact, by creating a more durable balance of military power in the Middle East, a nuclear Iran would yield.
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Eric S. Edelman, Evan Braden Montgomery
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Iran's acquisition of a nuclear bomb would upend the Middle East. It is unclear how a nuclear-armed Iran would weigh the costs, benefits, and risks of brinkmanship, meaning that it could be difficult to deter Tehran from attacking the United States' interests or partners in the region.
  • Topic: Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Timur Kuran
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: A new book by Ian Morris tracks the development of the East and the West over the millennia. But methodological problems lead him to miss the crucial differences between modern and premodern life -- and understate what is really keeping the West ahead.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, History
  • Political Geography: China, Europe, Middle East
  • Author: Michael Scott Doran
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Not since the Suez crisis and the Nasser-fueled uprisings of the 1950s has the Middle East seen so much unrest. Understanding those earlier events can help the United States navigate the crisis today -- for just like Nasser, Iran and Syria will try to manipulate various local grievances into a unified anti-Western campaign
  • Topic: Cold War
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Mark Blyth, Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The upheavals in the Middle East have much in common with the recent global financial crisis: both were plausible worst-case scenarios whose probability was dramatically underestimated. When policymakers try to suppress economic or political volatility, they only increase the risk of blowups.
  • Topic: War
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: Shadi Hamid
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: For decades, U.S. policy toward the Middle East has been paralyzed by "the Islamist dilemma" -- how can the United States promote democracy in the region without risking bringing Islamists to power? Now, it seems, the United States no longer has a choice. Popular revolutions have swept U.S.-backed authoritarian regimes from power in Tunisia and Egypt and put Libya's on notice. If truly democratic governments form in their wake, they are likely to include significant representation of mainstream Islamist groups. Like it or not, the United States will have to learn to live with political Islam. Washington tends to question whether Islamists' religious commitments can coexist with respect for democracy, pluralism, and women's rights. But what the United States really fears are the kinds of foreign policies such groups might pursue. Unlike the Middle East's pro-Western autocracies, Islamists have a distinctive, albeit vague, conception of an Arab world that is confident, independent, and willing to project influence beyond its borders. There is no question that democracy will make the region more unpredictable and some governments there less amenable to U.S. security interests. At their core, however, mainstream Islamist organizations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan and al Nahda in Tunisia, have strong pragmatic tendencies. When their survival has required it, they have proved willing to compromise their ideology and make di⁄cult choices. To guide the new, rapidly evolving Middle East in a favorable direction, the United States should play to these instincts by entering into a strategic dialogue with the region's Islamist groups and parties. Through engagement, the United States can encourage these Islamists to respect key Western interests, including advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process, countering Iran, and combating terrorism. It will be better to develop such ties with opposition groups now, while the United States still has leverage, rather than later, after they are already in power.
  • Topic: Security, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Aqil Shah
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States has a major stake in Pakistan's stability, given the country's central role in the U.S.-led effort to, in U.S. President Barack Obama's words, "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat" al Qaeda; its war-prone rivalry with India over Kashmir; and its nuclear arsenal. As a result, U.S. policy toward Pakistan has been dominated by concerns for its stability -- providing the reasoning for Washington's backing of the Pakistani military's frequent interventions in domestic politics -- at the expense of its democratic institutions. But as the recent eruption of protests in the Middle East against U.S.-backed tyrants has shown, authoritarian stability is not always a winning bet. Despite U.S. efforts to promote it, stability is hardly Pakistan's distinguishing feature. Indeed, many observers fear that Pakistan could become the world's first nuclear-armed failed state. Their worry is not without reason. More than 63 years after independence, Pakistan is faced with a crumbling economy and a pernicious Taliban insurgency radiating from its Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the semiautonomous seven districts and six smaller regions along its border with Afghanistan. It is still struggling to meet its population's basic needs. More than half its population faces severe poverty, which fuels resentment against the government and feeds political instability. According to the World Bank, the Pakistani state's effectiveness has actually been in steady decline for the last two decades. In 2010, Foreign Policy even ranked Pakistan as number ten on its Failed States Index, placing it in the "critical" category with such other failed or failing states as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia. The consequences of its failure would no doubt be catastrophic, if for no other reason than al Qaeda and its affiliates could possibly get control of the country's atomic weapons. The Pakistani Taliban's dramatic incursions into Pakistan's northwestern Buner District (just 65 miles from the capital) in 2009 raised the specter of such a takeover.
  • Topic: Government
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, United States, Washington, Middle East, India, Kashmir
  • Author: Daniel W. Drezner
  • Publication Date: 07-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: As the U.S. military intervenes in Libya, a fierce debate has erupted over the possible existence of an Obama doctrine, with a chorus of foreign policy observers bemoaning the United States' supposed strategic incompetence. Last fall, the columnist Jackson Diehl wrote in The Washington Post, "This administration is notable for its lack of grand strategy -- or strategists." In The National Interest this January, the political scientist John Mearsheimer concluded, "The root cause of America's troubles is that it adopted a flawed grand strategy after the Cold War." The economic historian Niall Ferguson took to Newsweek to argue that alleged U.S. setbacks in the Middle East were "the predictable consequence of the Obama administration's lack of any kind of a coherent grand strategy, a deficit about which more than a few veterans of U.S. foreign policymaking have long worried." Even the administration's defenders have damned it with faint praise. The National Journal's Michael Hirsh argued that "the real Obama doctrine is to have no doctrine at all. And that's the way it's likely to remain." Hirsh, at least, meant it as a compliment. But is it true that President Barack Obama has no grand strategy? And even if it were, would that be such a disaster? The George W. Bush administration, after all, developed a clear, coherent, and well-defined grand strategy after 9/11. But those attributes did not make it a good one, and its implementation led to more harm than benefit. Grand strategies are not nearly as important as grand strategists like to think, because countries tend to be judged by their actions, not their words. What really matters for great powers is power -- national economic and military strength -- and that speaks loudly and clearly by itself. Still, in times of deep uncertainty, a strategy can be important as a signaling device. In these moments, such as the present, a clearly articulated strategy matched by consistent actions is useful because it can drive home messages about a country's intentions to domestic and foreign audiences.
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Libya