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  • Author: Sorin Ducaru
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of International Affairs
  • Institution: School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Abstract: Cyber issues are rapidly growing in importance to defense alliances. The Journal of International Affairs talked to Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, NATO’s assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges, about NATO’s efforts to improve its cyber defenses against emerging threats.
  • Topic: NATO, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Cybersecurity
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, North Atlantic, North America
  • Author: David Bosco
  • Publication Date: 07-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of International Affairs
  • Institution: School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Abstract: Several of the Trump administration’s opening foreign policy salvoes have been aimed directly at the world’s multilateral structures. The president and his nominees lambasted the UN Security Council for its December resolution declaring Israeli settlements illegal. A draft executive order reportedly called for funding cuts of up to 40 percent to the United Nations and an end to new multilateral treaties. The administration withdrew funding from the UN Population Fund and hinted that it might spurn its Human Rights Council as well. “A wave of populism … is challenging institutions like the United Nations and shaking them to their foundations,” said UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. The United Nations is far from the only multilateral target. The president quickly pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and demanded changes to the longstanding North American Free Trade Agreement. His team floated the idea of tariffs on Mexico that could violate World Trade Organization rules. He pledged to review U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change. Just days before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and predicted that more members would abandon the European Union. In a sign of displeasure at what he perceives as freeloading NATO members, Trump reportedly presented German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a “bill” for underinvestment in her country’s military. The president’s apparent aversion to key alliance structures and multilateralism has fed growing alarm that the administration plans to abandon the post-World War II international order. In this publication, scholar and former Obama administration official Anne-Marie Slaughter warned that “the next four to eight years may well see the end of the United Nations as a serious forum for global decisionmaking about peace and security.” Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law professor who worked in the Bush Justice Department, called Trump’s early moves “the beginnings of the greatest presidential onslaught on international law and international institutions in American history.” Others have argued that China may now be more committed to key global institutions than Washington. Major multilateral organizations like the UN, WTO, and EU and multilateral treaties are not, of course, the whole of the international order. Informal norms, habits of cooperation, and embedded power realities arguably play an even greater role in maintaining a modicum of order in the international system. But formal organizations and treaty regimes undoubtedly play an important role, which has become more prominent since the end of the Cold War. The prospect of an American administration actively undermining these instruments is unnerving. As with much else in the administration’s troubled first months, however, there’s confusion about what exactly lies beneath the smoke and steam. The draft order on UN funding has been delayed for further review. Senior U.S. officials have repeatedly toned down (or openly contradicted) several of the president’s most outlandish comments. Both Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence sought to reassure European allies that Washington does in fact value NATO and the EU. So how serious and unprecedented is the Trump administration’s challenge to multilateralism?
  • Topic: International Cooperation, United Nations, Military Strategy, Multilateralism
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: Steve A. Yetiv
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of International Affairs
  • Institution: School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Abstract: United States foreign policy in the Middle East over the last few decades has been controversial and checkered, and Washington has certainly flexed its muscles in the region. However, the question arises as to how aggressive America has been with regard to oil in the region. I distinguish between two perspectives in how America is viewed, which we can simply call the offensive and defensive perspectives, recognizing that there is a continuum of views. From the offensive perspective, America is viewed as having one or more of these goals: steal or own Middle East oil; control Middle East oil in order to undermine Muslims; dominate Middle East oil to advance global hegemony; or exercise “puppet” control over oil producers like Saudi Arabia to coerce them into charging far lower oil prices than markets would warrant.1 By contrast, from the defensive perspective, America chiefly aims to prevent others from threatening oil supplies in a manner that would spike global oil prices and possibly cause a recession or depression. Muslim opinion polls have revealed that oil issues are a broader source of tension in relations between elements of the Muslim world and the West. The U.S. role in oil-related issues feeds into historical, political, and religious perspectives of an imperialist and power-hungry America. In fact, a not uncommon view in the Middle East is that America seeks to exploit, even steal the region’s oil resources, a viewpoint much in line with the offensive perspective described above. I argue that the history of America’s role in the region suggests that this is largely a misconception, and that this misconception is not immaterial. It seriously raises the cost of the use of oil and of American regional intervention. This misconception not only stokes terrorism and anti-Americanism, but also complicates America’s relations with Middle Eastern countries, affects its image among Muslims, and hurts its global leverage insofar as such views become internationally prominent. Indeed, it is almost a maxim in many capitals in the Middle East that close cooperation with Washington carries a domestic political cost. Recall, for example, that the Saudis were initially reluctant to host American forces after Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, even though they felt seriously threatened by Saddam Hussein.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Energy Policy, Oil, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, North America, Persian Gulf
  • Author: Amy Myers, Jaffe Jareer Elass
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of International Affairs
  • Institution: School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Abstract: Oil has shaped international conflict for decades. According to one estimate, twenty-five to fifty percent of interstate wars between 1973 and 2012 had oil-related linkages. 1 But the cyclical nature of oil’s contribution to global conflict is not well understood. Not only are oil prices cyclical, but the geopolitics of oil are linked inexorably to the same boom and bust price cycle. Military adventurism, proxy wars and regional pathologies in the Middle East expand and contract with the ebb and flow of massive petrodollar accumulations related to the oil price cycle. The massive inflow of petrodollar revenues when oil prices are high creates disposable incomes that can be easily dispensed on regional arms races, especially since oil consuming countries like the United States are incentivized to increase arms sales as a means of solving oil import related trade deficits. Besides transferring wealth from industrialized countries to oil producers in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region and Russia (and stimulating renewed drilling for oil and gas in North America), high global oil and natural gas prices also slow global economic growth and encourage energy conservation. This causes petroleum demand to slow globally, lowering oil prices. Social and political problems in the region reemerge as oil prices recede. Regional governments have fewer resources to spend on restive populations that have become accustomed to generous handouts enabled by high oil prices. Job creation and visible social programs slow, dissatisfaction rises, and the consequences of economic downturns incite support for militants. Ensuing instability forces governments to use newly purchased arms, which ironically begins the cycle yet again, as new conflicts disrupt oil supplies. In this manner, the world experiences perpetuating patterns of military conflict, followed by oil supply crises, and accompanying global financial instability. In effect, the Middle East resource curse has become globalized. The challenges this is presenting on humanitarian, security and economic fronts have become increasingly dangerous. The arms race that has accompanied the rise of oil prices over the 2000s has been no exception and is now all the more complicated due to the violent participation of sub-national radicalized groups that are less susceptible to diplomatic pressures or initiatives. In this emerging geopolitical context, the rise of violent subnational groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda are increasingly putting oil infrastructure at risk, laying the groundwork for a future oil crisis that may prove harder to solve than in the past. As borders and ruling institutions have become contested, so has control of the region’s major oil and gas facilities. Initially an outgrowth of disunity inside Iraq, the conflict over oil and gas facilities is now accelerating across ungoverned territories, with important long-term consequences for global energy markets. Mideast oil and gas production capacity, along with surface facilities, are increasingly being damaged in ways that will make them hard to repair. Export disruptions, which were once sporadic, are becoming a more permanent feature of the civil war landscape. The level of destroyed capacity is currently estimated at about 2 million b/d and rising.2 The longer Mideast conflicts fester, the more that infrastructure could become at risk. There is an additional element to this oil and war story that links structurally with the oil boom and bust cycle. As oil prices recede, along with a decreased demand for oil and accelerating regional conflict, wealthy oil producers such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, are often tempted to use large oil production capacity as a strategic asset. They flood the market with increased supplies in order to lower prices, thereby hurting geopolitical rivals. This price war strategy, which was notably present during the prolonged Soviet war in Afghanistan and the eight year Iran-Iraq War, temporarily ameliorates the short run effects of war on surface export facilities through excessive production rates. In addition, it lays the seeds for the future uptick in the oil market, by discouraging investment in future oil productive capacity outside the Middle East when prices are extremely low. In the case of the 2000s, the destruction caused by ISIS on the oil sector in many locations around the Middle East, combined with expected losses in investment in other parts of the world (like Canada’s oil sands and the Arctic due to current low oil prices), may be creating the conditions for a future oil supply crunch. This has major implications on U.S. policy. This article asserts that the United State would be, in light of these circumstances in the Middle East, unwise to dismantle its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as has been suggested on Capitol Hill. It would be similarly unwise for the United States to lose focus on the importance of conservation efforts in the transportation sector which has both national security and climate benefits. The United States would benefit strategically from a reevaluation of its ban on oil exports. Finally, the United States should place a greater emphasis on conflict resolution in troubled states. By resolving internal conflicts over the distribution of oil revenues, the United States can better pave the way for long-term solutions whereby those same revenues can be integrated into national budgets in ways that brings economic prosperity to populations instead of rising military expenditure.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Military Strategy, Gas, Conflict
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, North America, Persian Gulf
  • Author: Yasir Kuoti
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of International Affairs
  • Institution: School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University
  • Abstract: This paper examines the origins of political violence in Iraq. It argues that, in the wake of the democratic transition process in from 2004 to 2005, Iraqi exiles, who were chiefly Shiite Muslims and Kurds appointed by Paul Bremer, Iraq’s U.S. civilian administrator, moved to write a constitution and set up a political system that deliberately marginalized minorities. Since then, the Sunni minority began and continues to engage in or support violence against the state. It suggests that violence and instability in Iraq are to be understood in terms of local contexts of meaning, notably the nature of struggle for political power.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Political Power Sharing, Violence
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, North America