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Ed Webb

Hitting the Reset Button on the International Order | Foreign Policy - 0 views

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    Good, if gloomy, discussion on prospects for the U.S.-led international order under the Trump administration.
Ed Webb

Donald Trump Is the First Demagogue of the Anthropocene - The Atlantic - 0 views

  • Jürgen Scheffran, a professor of geography at the University of Hamburg, has been investigating whether climate change makes armed conflict more likely for more than a decade. In 2012, he worked on a team that analyzed all 27 empirical studies investigating the link between war and climate change.

    “Sixteen found a significant link between climate and conflict, six did not find a link, and five found an ambiguous relationship,” he told me. He described these numbers as inconclusive. Trying to prove that climate change is linked to war, he said, would be like trying to prove that smoking causes cancer with only one available case study.

  • there is only one world, and not a million worlds, in which the temperature is rising, and you cannot associate a single event—like a single hurricane or a single conflict—to climate change. It’s a statistical problem, and we don’t have enough data yet
  • the U.S. Department of Defense already considers global warming a “threat multiplier” for national security. It expects hotter temperatures and acidified oceans to destabilize governments and worsen infectious pandemics
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  • Martin O’Malley was mocked for suggesting that a climate-change-intensified drought in the Levant—the worst drought in 900 years—helped incite the Syrian Civil War, thus kickstarting the Islamic State. The evidence tentatively supports him. Since the outbreak of the conflict, some scholars have recognized that this drought pushed once-prosperous farmers into Syria’s cities. Many became unemployed and destitute, aggravating internal divisions in the run-up to the war
  • Scheffran underlined these climate connections but declined to emphasize them. “The Syrian War has so many complex interrelated issues—and most of them are political and economic—that the drought is just one contributing factor to the instability in the region,”
  • it’s all about the exogenous shock. We were all interested in, to what extent does a big event like a flooding or a drought undermine society, or trigger a conflict outbreak?
  • Heatwaves, droughts, and other climate-related exogenous shocks do correlate to conflict outbreak—but only in countries primed for conflict by ethnic division. In the 30-year period, nearly a quarter of all ethnic-fueled armed conflict coincided with a climate-related calamity. By contrast, in the set of all countries, war only correlated to climatic disaster about 9 percent of the time
  • climate disaster will not cause a war, but it can influence whether one begins
  • Models predict that northern Africa and the Levant, both already drought-prone, will dry out significantly over the course of the century. On the phone, Schleussner also cited southern Africa and south-central Asia as regions to watch. (It’s no coincidence that some of the largest, longest wars this century have occurred in those places.)
  • a drought-and-flood-fueled armed conflict near the Mediterranean Basin could send people toward Western Europe in the hundreds of millions
  • “I wouldn’t say that there would be a mass migration to Europe, but I would expect to see a large number of people being displaced within Africa,”
  • There is literally, in legal parlance, no such thing as an environmental refugee,” says Edward Carr. “To meet the international standard for refugee, a changing environment is not a forcing. It doesn’t count.”
  • When would you attribute the decision to move to changes in the climate? Does a place have to be dry for five years? For 10 years? Does someone have to have three children die, and then they decide to move?
  • Climate change could push Western politics toward demagoguery and authoritarianism in two ways, then. First, it could devastate agricultural yields and raise food prices; destroy coastal real estate and wash away family wealth; transform old commodities into luxury goods. Second, it could create a wave of migration—likely from conflict, but possibly from environmental ruination—that stresses international reception systems and risks fomenting regional resource disputes.
  • it could erode people’s sense of security, pushing them toward authoritarianism
  • Like the CEO in the 1950s who predicted that America would see flying cars and three-day workweeks by the year 1999, I’ve assumed that every ongoing trend line can be extrapolated out indefinitely. They can’t. The actual future will be far stranger.
  • climate change must be mitigated with all deliberate speed. But he also suggests certain cultural mechanisms. Some Americans may favor more restrictive immigration policies, but—in order to withstand against future waves of mass migration (and humanely deal with the victims of climate change)—racist fears must be unhooked from immigration restrictionism. In other words, as a matter of survival against future authoritarians, white supremacy must be rejected and defeated.
  • Improving the United States’s immune response to authoritarian leadership—a response that could be repeatedly tested in the century to come—can follow from weaving its civic fabric ever tighter. I don’t know what this will look like, exactly, for every person. But here are some places to start: Volunteer. Run for local or state office. Give to charity (whether due to religion or effective altruism). Organize at work. Join a church or a community choir or the local library staff. Make your hometown a better place for refugees to settle. Raise a child well.
  • climate realists have always split their work between mitigation—that is, trying to keep the climate from getting worse—and adaptation—trying to protect what we already have
Ed Webb

Obama's Syria Strategy Is the Definition of Insanity | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • The Russian government, much less the Assad regime, has never been a reliable partner for peace in Syria. But even after Russia’s alleged bombing of the aid convoy, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is still plowing its energies into a deal that aims to work with the Russian government.
  • The Obama administration has viewed the Syrian crisis through the lens of counterterrorism. But diplomatic failures such as this one continue to embolden extremist actors like al Qaeda, which has purposely presented itself as a reliable and necessary opposition ally, seemingly dedicated only to the cause of ridding Syria of the Assad regime. By so deeply embedding within Syrian revolutionary dynamics and claiming to fill the vacuum left behind by insufficient foreign support or protection, al Qaeda’s narrative is constantly strengthened by perceptions of American inadequacy. Thus, U.S. failures do not exist in a vacuum — our adversaries quickly translate them into their own victories.
  • the Russian government is not the key to controlling the Assad regime’s heinous behaviors. For a week straight, the Syrian government consistently ignored Moscow’s demands and destroyed a cease-fire deal that had been largely of Russia’s making. The regime also reinforced its troop positions around Aleppo and amassed forces opposite the strategic northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, and its aircraft were blamed for bombings around Aleppo, north of the city of Homs, and in parts of southern Daraa governorate. And after the Assad government declared the cease-fire over, Russia ferociously destroyed an aid convoy intended for 78,000 civilians
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  • Bashar al-Assad does not intend to step down from power, and he will use any means at his disposal to prevent that from happening
  • Five years ago, Syria was a local problem; today it is an international one. U.S. indecision, risk aversion, a total divergence between rhetoric and policy, and a failure to uphold clearly stated “red lines” have all combined into what can best be described as a cold-hearted, hypocritical approach. At worst, Washington has indirectly abetted the wholesale destruction of a nation-state, in direct contradiction to its fundamental national security interests and its most tightly held values.
  • U.S. commitment remained negligible when compared with our often uncoordinated regional allies, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It seems U.S. officials wanted Assad out but wanted others — whom administration officials would say in private they did not trust — to do it for them
  • The result? Nearly half a million people dead, more than 1 million people living under siege, and 11 million people displaced. Catastrophic refugee flows have led to an anti-immigrant backlash in Europe and the rise of far-right politics while Syria is now home to perhaps the greatest concentration of jihadi militants in any single country ever
  • Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — formerly the Nusra Front — the most capable, politically savvy, and militarily powerful al Qaeda movement in history. Al Qaeda’s central leadership has also revitalized itself inside Syria, with the international terrorist organization’s newly named deputy leader almost certainly residing in the country. The correlation is simple: U.S. shortcomings equal al Qaeda’s success in Syria.
  • most Syrians living in opposition areas now view al Qaeda as a more trustworthy and capable protector of their lives than the United States. If there were ever a sign of policy failure, this would be it.
  • there will be no purely military solution to Syria’s conflict — a negotiated settlement is the only feasible path toward stability. However, Assad will never treat a political process with any level of seriousness until placed under meaningful pressure, which the United States has thus far done everything in its power not to do.
  • Opposition to partition is arguably the single issue that unites communities supportive of and opposed to Assad
  • combating al Qaeda in Syria cannot be done solely with bullets and bombs. Defeating it is instead an issue of providing a more attractive and sustainable alternative to the jihadi group’s narrative. Given its successful efforts to embed within the opposition and build popular acceptance as a military (not a political) ally, al Qaeda does not represent a conventional counterterrorist problem
  • If Assad remains in place indefinitely and the conflict continues or worsens, the Islamic State will undoubtedly live to fight another day
  • Civilian protection should remain the core focus of any broad-based strategy, but it must be backed up by real and discernible consequences for violators
  • Skeptics of a more assertive approach to the Syrian crisis can deride their critics as much as they want — but one would hope that after five years of failures, they would at least admit that they have got something wrong
Ed Webb

The Donald vs. the Blob | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • To be fair, most of the people who labor in government or in the penumbra of foreign-policy institutions are patriotic, well-meaning, intelligent, and dedicated and sincerely believe in what they are doing. They want the United States to be secure and prosperous, and they would like to make the rest of the world a better place. And sometimes they do just that. But many of these people are also ambitious, and they are imbedded in a system that rewards conformity, rarely if ever questions the value of U.S. “global leadership,” and is quick to marginalize anyone who thinks America’s self-indulgent approach to foreign policy might be doing more harm than good.
  • Hillary Clinton is intimately connected to this community and cannot help being linked to its recent performance. By signing up all those experienced foreign-policy insiders, she reinforces her association with some of the good things the United States has done in recent years. But it also means that she owns the past 25 years of foreign-policy missteps
  • She has little choice but to defend the strategy of liberal hegemony pursued by all three post-Cold War presidents: If anything, she is more enthusiastic about it than President Barack Obama has been. Her problem is that this record is not easy to defend.
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  • Trump is under no such burden. Because his only responsibility over the past 25 years has been mismanaging the fortune he inherited, cultivating celebrity, courting a series of wives, and presiding over a reality TV show, he is free to criticize Clinton and her phalanx of advisors and appeal to the voters’ worst instincts with vague and wildly optimistic promises of his own. Knowledgeable foreign-policy experts have been quick to attack his various proposals, but these experts may not have much street cred this year.
Ed Webb

Why the Islamic State is the minor leagues of terror | Middle East Eye - 0 views

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    "The sole advantage the Islamic State has when it comes to this country is that it turns out to be so easy to spook us."
Ed Webb

Here's what will happen if Iran joins the WTO - The Washington Post - 1 views

  • While it remains uncertain whether economic and financial sanctions would be technically permissible under the WTO’s national security exception — which allows a member to take measures that it “considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests”– these actions would clearly violate the spirit of the WTO and have therefore been rarely used.
  • the United States has switched to using other tools for coercive diplomacy to punish other recent WTO entrants.
  • Congress therefore created the China Commission, which was specifically formed to monitor China’s human rights practices and maintain pressure on it. Similarly, Congress passed measures designed to allow it to more effectively use visa restrictions and financial asset freezes to coerce Russia, and foreign aid to extract concessions from Vietnam, after these states joined the WTO.
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