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  • Author: Sarah E. Mendelson
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The Joseph Biden Administration has rather famously committed to convene a Summit for Democracy, likely later in 2021 or early in 2022. The Summit has become, as some diplomats have suggested, “the talk of the town,” not only in Washington but also in multiple other national capitals. A cottage industry has sprung up debating the who, the what and the where. More focus is needed on the why — which, in turn, ought to shape the how. To my mind, albeit one preoccupied for over a quarter of a century with human rights and democracy, the why is rather straightforward. The alternatives — bending to the rise of authoritarians, or leaving unaddressed the weakened liberal international order that the United States originally helped create —are not in our or our allies’ national interest. Many democracies are experiencing intense challenges on multiple levels. Chief among these is the global pandemic, which revealed deep socioeconomic inequities in societies that have long been labeled “developed,” when in fact these democracies have not been delivering to many communities. Freedom House has now recorded 15 straight years of decline globally in democracy. The crises at home have been widely broadcast: the new Congress came under physical attack January 6 after a U.S. President attempted, as part of a protracted effort, to overturn the 2020 election and prohibit the peaceful transfer of power. How then the Summit for Democracy can help repair and revive democracy here and among our allies needs more consideration and detail. Numerous factors roll up to a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink and refresh exactly how we advance democracy at home and abroad. New approaches, themes and methods can help revitalize strategy and policy. Such new approaches need to connect and account for domestic shortcomings and link progress at home to efforts abroad. In doing so, post-pandemic democracy promotion needs to reflect a comprehensive focus on rights that includes socioeconomic issues and sustainable development (e.g., democracies must deliver dignity). The Biden Administration ought to consider labeling the Summit “Democracies Deliver Dignity and Development” or the 4Ds Summit. The Summit can provide the road map for these new approaches while being informed and shaped by extensive consultations at home and abroad. Finally, new methods should include data-driven, human-centered design shaping foreign assistance as well as elevating local voices. Internationally, that would be a significant change to the dominant modalities, largely Congress-driven, supporting specific types of institution building, such as central election commissions. Such work will undoubtedly continue, given support in Congress and among the U.S.-based NGOs that receive the funding (notwithstanding the damaged credibility of our democracy). At a minimum though, demonstrably demand-driven assistance ought to supplement this older business model in order to better deliver to populations, listening and responding to the multitude of needs.
  • Topic: Development, Diplomacy, Authoritarianism, Democracy, NGOs
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kenneth I. Juster
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The conventional wisdom is that the foreign policy of Donald Trump’s Administration severely damaged relations with U.S. allies and partners. Commentators point to repeated criticism by the United States of friends in Europe and Asia, as well as the abrupt withdrawal from trade and other arrangements. But such critics overlook the U.S. relationship with India, which made significant advances and will be an area of substantial continuity in Joseph Biden’s Administration. The U.S.-India partnership has grown steadily since the turn of the century, with the past four years seeing major progress in diplomatic, defense, economic, energy and health cooperation. The strengthened bilateral relationship has become the backbone of an Indo-Pacific strategy designed to promote peace and prosperity in a dynamic and contested region. The longstanding U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific has underpinned the stability and remarkable economic rise of this region over the last 70 years. While the concept of the Indo-Pacific has been many years in the making, in the past four years the United States and India have turned it into a reality. For the United States, the Indo-Pacific agenda meant working with India to provide coordinated leadership in addressing the threat from an expansionist China, the need for more economic connectivity and other challenges in the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Hegemony
  • Political Geography: China, India, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Richard N. Holwill
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The U.S. policy of normalization toward Cuba in the Barack Obama Administration was reversed by President Donald Trump, largely because it failed to address an underlying issue. The Cuban “revolution,” though consolidated on the Island, was soundly rejected by the Cuban exile community who view their country as mired in an unresolved civil war. The importance of the Florida vote was sufficient to prompt President Trump to “cancel” President Obama’s efforts at normalization. Meaningful change will require a more comprehensive approach to the challenge of implementing an effective Cuba policy. In truth, there is no justification for overt hostility toward Cuba. The Cold War is over, and the role that Cuba played in that conflict – an alliance with the Soviets, exporting violent revolution and doctrinaire socialism – has ended, as well. Going forward, the Biden Administration must adjust policies to reflect the fact that Cuba is on the verge of becoming a failed state, which would have negative consequences for the United States.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Fragile/Failed State, Conflict, Regionalism
  • Political Geography: Cuba, Caribbean, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Eileen Donahoe
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The United States plans to host a Summit for Democracy to advance President Joseph Biden’s stated priority for national security of revitalizing democracy. Digital technology must be a focal point of the Summit. The future of democracy depends, in large part, on the ability of democracies to confront the digital transformation of society – to address the challenges and to capitalize on its opportunities. Over the past decade, democracies have struggled to meet this test, while authoritarians have used technology to deepen repression and extend global influence. To combat the digital authoritarian threat, democracies must be rallied around a shared values-based vision of digital society and a joint strategic technology agenda. The Summit tech agenda should revolve around five core themes: 1) Democracies must get their own tech policy “houses” in order; 2) To win the normative battle, democracies must compete and win the technology battle; 3) Technological transformation necessitates governance innovation; 4) To win the geopolitical battle for the soul of 21st century digital society, democracies must band together; 5) Technology must be reclaimed for citizens and humanity.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Democracy, Summit
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: John M. Logsdon
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed that “the new horizons of outer space must not be driven by the old bitter conflicts of imperialism and sovereign claims.” Kennedy announced that the United States would “urge proposals extending the United Nations Charter to the limits of man’s exploration of the universe, reserving outer space for peaceful use, prohibiting weapons of mass destruction in space or on celestial bodies, and opening the mysteries and benefits of space to every nation.”[1] Just over five years later, after several rounds of negotiations carried out primarily with the Soviet Union but within the framework of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the “Treaty on Principles Governing the Activity of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies” was opened for signature on January 27, 1967.[2] As of February 2021, 111 nation states, including all major space-faring countries, are party to that treaty; another 23 have signed the treaty but not yet ratified it. The principles set out in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, supplemented over the more than 50 years since 1967 by four implementing treaties and a number of non-binding statements of principles and multilateral agreements, constitute today’s international governance framework for space activities. It was Kennedy’s 1961 speech that started the process of creating that framework. President Joseph Biden has a similar opportunity, 60 years later, to take the lead in updating space governance for the 21st century.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements, Governance, Space
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael McFaul
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: President-elect Joseph R. Biden has an opportunity to forge a bipartisan, sustained grand U.S. strategy for Russia. With decades of experience in foreign affairs, especially transatlantic relations, he knows Russia, he knows Vladimir Putin and, equally important, he knows the region. When I worked at the National Security Council during the Barack Obama administration, I traveled with then-Vice President Biden to Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Russia. Unlike his immediate predecessor, President Biden rightfully will not try to befriend Putin. He and his expert team of foreign policy advisors understand that the central objective in U.S. policy towards Russia today is to contain Putin’s belligerent behavior abroad. At the same time, the incoming Biden administration offers the U.S. a chance to develop a more predictable pattern of bilateral relations with the Russian government and Russian people, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. After relations with China, competing with Russia is the second-greatest foreign policy challenge of our time, complicated by the fact that China and Russia today are closer to each other now than they were during the Cold War. To successfully achieve American objectives will require the implementation of a comprehensive, sophisticated and nuanced strategy for containing Putin’s belligerent actions abroad and simultaneously cooperating with Moscow on a small set of issues of mutual benefit.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Conflict, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Thomas Graham
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: During the depths of the 45-year-long Cold War in the early years, neither side believed it had an understanding of what the other side was doing. Both sides feared a sudden bolt from the blue in which nuclear weapons would lay waste to their societies. The threat was indeed beyond rational description. One U.S. B-52 bomber in those days carried more explosive power than all the bombs dropped by all the sides in World War II. The Soviet Union deployed an intercontinental ballistic missile with a 25-kiloton warhead that could strike the United States with only a few minutes of advanced warning, perhaps 20 minutes. One way of thinking about the explosive capability of just one megaton is to contemplate a freight train loaded with dynamite stretching from New York to California. Just one Soviet missile had 25 times this capability, and the Soviet Union had hundreds of such weapons. The bombs on the U.S. strategic bombers were of the same destructive force. And the U.S. ultimately built a missile force that had a destructive capability that was at least three or four times greater than the Soviet force. The two nations were like two strong men fighting each other to the death in a pitch-black room with long knives. The principal difference was that one of the men would eventually win and emerge victorious from the darkroom; yet in nuclear war, there would be no winners, only losers—and both contestants would be effectively destroyed.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, United States , Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Mike Pryor
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: As this paper went to press, Americans were in their fourth agonizing day of waiting for the final results of the 2020 U.S. presidential elections. No matter who the victor turns out to be, restoring America’s tarnished image abroad should be a central task for the next U.S. President. Public diplomacy (PD) will no doubt be a big part of any such effort, and a number of prominent U.S. foreign policy experts have already called for increased funding and resources for our State Department’s PD programs. As a Foreign Service Officer and PD practitioner for over a decade, I certainly echo these calls. But the truth is that simply doing more public diplomacy is unlikely to achieve the desired outcome. Rather, we need to do more effective public diplomacy. And to be more effective, we need to get real about what PD can and can’t do. What PD can’t do, as the past two decades have shown us, is overcome bad foreign policies through “messaging,” or achieve large-scale development outcomes through small-scale grant programs. What PD can do is use programs such as exchanges, traveling speakers, English teaching and cultural events to build relationships and affinity for U.S. values that provide for sustained U.S. access and influence in important sectors of foreign societies. This access has benefits for the United States at the short- term, the intermediate-term, and the long-term levels. This approach, more realistic than others, acknowledges that while we as a nation can’t direct policy outcomes in foreign countries, we can shape those outcomes at critical moments by leveraging influence built up through relationships over time. The truth is, all diplomacy is about relationship building, and PD activities are best understood as delivery mechanisms for relationships. The main reason this obvious truth is not more widely accepted is because PD has historically struggled to connect the dots between its programs, the long-term relationships the programs create, and the impact those relationships have on the achievement of foreign policy goals. Thus, the task of rethinking public diplomacy begins with creating a framework to contextualize relationships over time. One way to do this is to situate all activities within the concept of the “ladder of engagement.” The ladder model shows how relationship-building activities complement and build on each other over the course of years or even decades in order to bring targeted foreign audiences closer to the U.S. orbit. The ladder is widest at its base, enabling the maximum number of people to climb on. As the engagement deepens, the ladder narrows. At the top, engagement is most profound with a relatively small number of the most influential audience members.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Public Opinion, Public Diplomacy
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Benjamin Press
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Resurgent authoritarians are putting to the test the old adage that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” Autocrats recognize that they have been losing battles on governance for decades. Liberal countries like the United States have aggressively invested in pro-democracy programming, strengthening civil society, political parties and the rule of law in countries across the world in an attempt to erect barriers against authoritarianism. Moreover, democracies have hammered autocrats on issues ranging from human rights to corruption, lending legitimacy to domestic dissidents and, to a certain extent, discrediting them on the global stage. But that paradigm is beginning to shift. As authoritarian powers—especially Russia and China—have become increasingly assertive in international affairs, they have aimed to legitimize their own governance models and bolster autocrats abroad. And as shown by recent data on the rise of so-called “autocratization,” their approach may be working. The support for authoritarianism abroad embodies a new type of governance strategy: autocracy promotion. In an inversion of traditional democracy promotion, autocracy promotion entails both rhetorical and concrete support for other authoritarians. From Russia offering to send in soldiers to put down protesters in Belarus to China weakening global human rights frameworks, autocracy promoters are seeking to tip the governance landscape in autocrats’ favor. Their direct mechanism for doing so is by helping weaker autocrats by bolstering their legitimacy and expanding their capacity to coerce and coopt domestic actors. By shifting narratives and providing material support, autocracy promoters ultimately aim to “make the world safe for autocracy.”
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Authoritarianism, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Global Focus