You are here

Foreign Affairs

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs feed
Updated: 1 month 6 days ago

The Mueller Report Shows Politicians Must Unite to Fight Election Interference

Mon, 22/04/2019 - 06:00

The release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report has generated pitched debate over whether it vindicates President Donald Trump or damns him. But lost in this partisan fight is one of the investigation’s most important findings: its detailed documentation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which Mueller concluded was “sweeping and systematic.” If Democrats and Republicans cannot unite to take action against this threat to U.S. national security, they will leave Americans vulnerable to further attacks. Luckily, there are clear steps policymakers can take to secure American democracy—but they will require bipartisan leadership.


Read More

This Time Is Different

Tue, 16/04/2019 - 06:00

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a foreign policy community in possession of great power must be in want of peace of mind. Climate change, the Middle East, terrorism, trade, nonproliferation—there is never a shortage of issues and areas for those who work in international relations to fret about. If you were to flip through the back issues of Foreign Affairs, you would find very few essays proclaiming that policymakers had permanently sorted out a problem. Even after the Cold War ended peacefully, these pages were full of heated debate about civilizations clashing.


Read More

Spies, Lies, and Algorithms

Tue, 16/04/2019 - 06:00

For U.S. intelligence agencies, the twenty-first century began with a shock, when 19 al Qaeda operatives hijacked four planes and perpetrated the deadliest attack ever on U.S. soil. In the wake of the attack, the intelligence community mobilized with one overriding goal: preventing another 9/11. The CIA, the National Security Agency, and the 15 other components of the U.S. intelligence community restructured, reformed, and retooled. Congress appropriated billions of dollars to support the transformation.


Read More

Hard Truths in Syria

Tue, 16/04/2019 - 06:00

Over the last four years, I helped lead the global response to the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS)—an effort that succeeded in destroying an ISIS “caliphate” in the heart of the Middle East that had served as a magnet for foreign jihadists and a base for launching terrorist attacks around the world. Working as a special envoy for U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, I helped establish a coalition that was the largest of its kind in history: 75 countries and four international organizations, their cooperation built on a foundation of U.S. leadership and consistency across U.S. administrations. Indeed, the strategy to destroy the ISIS caliphate was developed under Obama and then carried forward, with minor modifications, under Trump; throughout, it focused on enabling local fighters to reclaim their cities from ISIS and then establish the conditions for displaced people to return.


Read More

A Good Democracy Is Hard to Find

Tue, 16/04/2019 - 06:00

Democracy’s global travails continue to mount. What looked as recently as a decade ago to be real democratic progress in countries as diverse as Brazil, Hungary, South Africa, and Turkey has been either reversed by illiberal strongmen or unsettled by revelations of systemic corruption. Some of the most stirring recent political openings, such as those in Egypt and Myanmar, have slammed shut. The United States and several long-standing democracies in western Europe are struggling with serious democratic challenges, especially the rise of illiberal populist forces.


Read More

The Real Killer

Tue, 16/04/2019 - 06:00

These are dangerous times: war in Syria and Yemen, bloody repression in Venezuela, ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Yet by some measures, the world is safer than ever before. The rate of violent death has been falling, albeit unevenly, for decades, even centuries. Fewer people are killed on the battlefield, on the streets, and in homes. Led by the psychologist Steven Pinker, who has collected reams of evidence demonstrating that humanity has slowly but surely grown more peaceable, a new group of thinkers is urging policymakers and the public to consider not just what the world is doing wrong in terms of violence but also what it is doing right.


Read More

A Cold War Case of Russian Collusion

Fri, 05/04/2019 - 06:00

In a matter of days, the U.S. Department of Justice will release a redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. It is tempting to believe that, at long last, Mueller will deliver the definitive account of Russia’s operation. But even after 22 months, 2,800 subpoenas, nearly 500 search warrants, and 34 indictments, there is reason to expect that Mueller and his team of attorneys will not have uncovered the full story. When it comes to covert foreign electoral interference, probes are rarely conclusive: key witnesses live abroad, lies pass as truth, and unanswered questions can stay that way for decades, sometimes forever.


Read More

Why Europe Is Getting Tough on China

Wed, 03/04/2019 - 06:00

Over the past two years, Washington has come to embrace a policy of strategic competition with China. The Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy and National Security Strategy make clear that the United States sees China as a great power rival not only militarily but also in a contest for economic and technological supremacy.

As a result, an effective coalition to manage China’s rise can no longer center on Asian security partnerships alone but must now include the world’s principal concentrations of economic power, technological progress, and liberal democratic values. Among these are many of the United States’ partners in the Indo-Pacific, such as Australia, India, and Japan. But the European Union and its major member states are also becoming increasingly critical U.S. counterparts in dealing with China.


Read More

The New German Question

Tue, 02/04/2019 - 06:00

Many have been lamenting the dark path that Europe and the transatlantic relationship are currently on, but there hasn’t been much discussion of where that path leads. European weakness and division, a strategic “decoupling” from the United States, the fraying of the European Union, “after Europe,” “the end of Europe”—these are the grim scenarios, but there is a comforting vagueness to them. They suggest failed dreams, not nightmares. Yet the failure of the European project, if it occurs, could be a nightmare, and not only for Europe. It will, among other things, bring back what used to be known as “the German question.”


Read More

Will a Comic Actor Become Ukraine’s Next President?

Tue, 02/04/2019 - 06:00

On March 31, Ukrainians went to the polls to elect a new president. Front-runner Volodymyr Zelenskiy, an inexperienced 41-year-old comic television actor, came out on top, with even higher numbers than predicted. The results give the comedian 30 percent of the vote. Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko came in second with just under 16 percent. Because no candidate crossed the 50 percent threshold, Zelenskiy and Poroshenko will face off in a second-round runoff on April 21.

All of this was to be expected. Zelenskiy had been leading in the polls for two months, and Ukrainian presidential incumbents don’t enjoy an advantage as they do in other systems. Since gaining independence in 1991, Ukrainians have reelected only one president.


Read More

The Global Language of Hatred Is French

Mon, 01/04/2019 - 06:00

Since the terror attack that killed 49 Muslims and wounded dozens at Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, French authorities have been investigating what connections, if any, the killer, Brenton Tarrant, may have had in France.

We know that Tarrant visited the country during the presidential campaign of 2017, witnessing the defeat of what he called “the nationalist camp” (that is, Marine Le Pen). Tarrant traveled to several countries at the time, including Israel, but France impressed him the most—so much so that he made his final decision to “do something” to stop the Muslim invasion of the West on his way back from France. France is where he claims to have had the revelation that the West was “invaded” by the “nonwhites,” a problem to which French politicians offered only a “farce” in guise of a solution. In language disturbingly close to that emerging from the anti-Semitic corners of the “yellow vest” movement in recent months, Tarrant also meditates on French President Emmanuel Macron, whom he sees as “a globalist, capitalist, egalitarian, an ex-investment banker was [sic] no national beliefs other than the pursuit of profit.”


Read More

Israel and Hamas Need Each Other

Fri, 29/03/2019 - 05:00

War, like politics, makes for strange bedfellows. Israel is currently preparing for a potentially dramatic faceoff with Hamas. Over the past week, the group has launched rockets into Israel, and it has called for a million man march this weekend  along the Israeli-Gaza border to mark the anniversary of last year’s March of Return. The protests may either fizzle or spark an intensified round of conflict. Whatever happens though, it will not undermine the curious, co-dependent relationship that has evolved between Hamas and the Israeli government, especially under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. These two key Middle East actors despise yet depend on one another.


Read More

Why Russia Might Shut Off the Internet

Fri, 29/03/2019 - 05:00

On the morning of Sunday March 10, thousands of people gathered in the center of Moscow to protest proposed new legislation cracking down on Internet freedom. They waved placards saying “Save the Internet, Save Russia,” “Isolation—It’s Death,” and “NO to Digital Enslaving.” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, who was watching the protests on his TV, was unpleasantly surprised. “One of the speakers at the rally claimed that the Kremlin wanted to press a button and switch the Internet off,” he told the Russian wire agency Interfax. “It is absolutely wrong! Why aren’t they concerned that somebody on the other side of the Atlantic will press this button?” 

Peskov was echoing official propaganda, which claims that the new legislation is essential to stop the United States from cutting Russia off from the Internet. But the protesters have good reason to believe that it is the Kremlin, not some Western conspiracy, that is endangering their Internet access.


Read More

The Lost Art of American Diplomacy

Wed, 27/03/2019 - 05:00

Diplomacy may be one of the world’s oldest professions, but it’s also one of the most misunderstood. It’s mostly a quiet endeavor, less swaggering than unrelenting, oftentimes operating in back channels, out of sight and out of mind. U.S. President Donald Trump’s disdain for professional diplomacy and its practitioners—along with his penchant for improvisational flirtations with authoritarian leaders such as North Korea’s Kim Jong Un—has put an unaccustomed spotlight on the profession. It has also underscored the significance of its renewal.


Read More

Negotiations Are the Best Way to End the War in Afghanistan

Fri, 01/03/2019 - 06:00

In 2012, while I was serving as senior adviser to the State Department special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, I met in Istanbul with a group of Iranian scholars and former diplomats. After listening to the Iranians protest the United States’ purported plans to establish permanent bases in Afghanistan, I told them that they were worrying about the wrong thing. Their problem was not that U.S. forces would stay forever; it was that, sooner or later, they would leave, and the Iranians and their neighbors would once again be stuck with a problem that they could not solve.


Read More

Where Weimar Germany Went Wrong

Thu, 28/02/2019 - 06:00

Published in the fall of 1929, two weeks before the Wall Street crash, Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz is a classic of the turbulent late Weimar period, an era that provides a favorite point of comparison with the politics of our own day. The story of Franz Biberkopf, reissued now in a new edition, is a kind of morality tale. It shows a man who is repeatedly knocked down and gets up again, before he finally opens his eyes to what is happening around him. But the novel also presents a morality tale about the politics of resentment on the right and sectarian conflict on the left, and where they can lead.


Read More

What to Expect at the Second North Korea Summit

Fri, 22/02/2019 - 06:00

As U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un geared up for a historic face-to-face meeting in Singapore last June, one question loomed large: Would the two return to the bluster that had characterized their relationship in 2017? That year, a steady drumbeat of North Korean nuclear and missile tests had prompted the United States to talk of “bloody nose” military strikes to compel Kim to denuclearize.


Read More

Is the Taliban Making a Pledge It Cannot Keep?

Thu, 21/02/2019 - 06:00

In Doha in late January, the United States and the Afghan Taliban agreed in principle to the contours of a peace deal. Under its terms, the Taliban would guarantee that Afghan territory will never be used by terrorists. The concession is critical to the United States, but while some commentators have heralded the Taliban’s promise as a major breakthrough, analysts have noted that the group has made, and failed to keep, similar assurances in the past. Questions remain about whether the Taliban is genuinely willing to break with al Qaeda—the very prospect at which the group balked back in 2001, prompting the United States to invade.


Read More

The Importance of Elsewhere

Tue, 12/02/2019 - 06:00

In October 2016, British Prime Minister Theresa May made her first speech to a Conservative conference as party leader. Evidently seeking to capture the populist spirit of the Brexit vote that brought down her predecessor, she spoke of “a sense—deep, profound, and, let’s face it, often justified—that many people have today that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them.” What was needed to challenge this, May argued, was a “spirit of citizenship” lacking among the business elites that made up one strand of her party’s base. Citizenship, she said, “means a commitment to the men and women who live around you, who work for you, who buy the goods and services you sell.” She continued:


Read More

The New Containment

Tue, 12/02/2019 - 06:00

The quarter century following the Cold War was the most peaceful in modern history. The world’s strongest powers did not fight one another or even think much about doing so. They did not, on the whole, prepare for war, anticipate war, or conduct negotiations and political maneuvers with the prospect of war looming in the background. As U.S. global military hegemony persisted, the possibility of developed nations fighting one another seemed ever more remote.


Read More

Pages