Foreign Policy

Print ISSN: 0015-7228
The author argues that self-determination, long lauded as an essential tool used to cast off the chains of empire and build responsive, democratic societies, now serves to undermine democracy by encouraging ethnic fragmentation. Recognizing that every ethnic group cannot feasibly have its own nation-state, the author encourages the incorporation of many ethnic groups into governments and allows for the necessity of according such groups different levels of autonomy. Pluralism’s moderating effect on political leadership and public policy is enhanced in diverse societies that embrace rather than shun different ethnic groups. The author recommends that the United States and the international community stop lending its moral support to movements for ethnic self-determination.
How do a few Third World conflicts become international causes célèbres, while most remain isolated and unknown? Why, for instance, has there been so much recent attention to the Darfur crisis - but so little to ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite vastly more casualties in the latter than in the former? This article, a brief, popularized version of my new book, "The Marketing of Rebellion: Insurgents, Media, and International Activism," rejects the view that those who gain such support are simply the lucky winners in a "global humanitarian lottery." It also rejects the idea that there is a "meritocracy of suffering" in which the worst-off groups gain the most support. Instead, I argue that conflicts and the insurgent groups involved in them, face a Darwinian struggle for scarce media attention, NGO activism, and international concern. In this competition, the lion's share of resources go to the savviest, not the neediest.
People don't ignore mass killings because they lack compassion. Psychological research suggests it's grim statistics themselves that paralyze us into inaction.
"The Middle East water crisis is a strategic orphan that no country or international body seems ready to adopt. Despite irrefutable evidence that the region is approaching dangerous water shortages and contamination, Western leaders have so far failed to treat the issue as a strategic priority. Yet when the current Persian Gulf war ends, the water crisis could erupt. This intensifying security issue requires sustained policy actions as well as new bureaucratic and consultative structures."
Critics of U.S. global dominance should pause and consider the alternative. If the United States retreats from its hegemonic role, who would supplant it? Not Europe, not China, not the Muslim world—and certainly not the United Nations. Unfortunately, the alternative to a single superpower is not a multilateral utopia, but the anarchic nightmare of a new Dark Age. Try as he might, the biggest challenge President George W. Bush currently faces is to persuade American voters that his policy in Iraq has been a success. Yes, Saddam Hussein has been toppled from power, but the evidence that he mounted a serious and imminent threat to the United States or indeed American allies is not widely seen as compelling. A new government has been installed in Baghdad, but armed militias continue to operate in centers of insurgency like Najaf and terrorist attacks continue unabated in the capital and other cities. The total number of Americans who have lost their lives is not far short of a thousand. The total cost of the undertaking seems likely to be at least $100 billion. And the conspiracy theory that the invasion of Iraq was merely a ploy to keep down the price of oil has been completely discredited; gasoline has never been so dear. Small wonder that half of all Americans think it was not worth going to war at all. For all these reasons, it seems reasonable to expect an imminent retreat from the principles of preemption and the practice of unilateralism that have characterized the Bush administration's foreign policy, regardless of which candidate wins the presidential election. There will surely be no more military regime changes in the Middle East or anywhere else. Regimes much better armed than Saddam's Iraq and much more closely involved in terrorism can rest easy. No one is seriously preparing a new 'plan of attack'. On the contrary. John Kerry has promised to be a president 'who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.' Meanwhile, his opponent has gone strangely quiet on the subject of the 'axis of evil' (Iraq, Iran and North Korea), only one of which he has so far dealt with.
The United States may boast a massive economy and whopping defense budget, but wielding true global power takes more than just greenbacks and green berets. These days the tools for projecting power are more varied and dispersed than ever. And as the clout of terrorist networks, diplomatic alliances, and international financiers seems to expand, lasting global supremacy may hinge on the skillful deployment of an increasingly elusive resource: moral authority.
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A top advisor to the U.S. director of central intelligence explains how the insights of Cold War thinker George F. Kennan can help defeat terrorism.
In the spring of 1970 John Henry, then a junior at Harvard, began, on an "off the record" basis, interviewing the main civilian and military officials of the Johnson Administration. Mr. Henry had an undergraduate honors thesis to write. He wanted to explore in depth how U. S. policy-makers in February and March of 1968 reached a number of critical decisions, culminating in President Johnson's announcement of his political retirement. The result is a narrative reconstruction of how U. S. policy was made from the time of the Communist Tet offensive (January 30-February 4, 1968) up to the President's speech of March 31, 1968. Foreign Policy believes that the Henry interviews add an important dimension to our knowledge of the history of the period by shedding new light on the motivations and behavior of U. S. policy-makers. Therefore we are presenting a significant portion of the 35,000 word Henry thesis, covering military decision-making during February, 1968. Persons directly quoted in this article have given the author permission for such quotation. Further parts of the Henry study are to be published in The Atlantic Monthly.
When the Berlin Wall fell ten years ago, many people believed that communism would be chipped away and Western-style capitalism and democracy would emerge gleaming from beneath. Some have thrived in the open air of freedom. But others have faced the sharp end of the free market or the blunt oppression of new police states that owe more to 1984 than 1989. Surprises abound in a look back at life after the end of history.
Top-cited authors
Stephen Walt
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Pippa Norris
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Gary Gereffi
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Daniel Kaufmann
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