The downing of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last October, for which the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) claimed responsibility, may ultimately prove more consequential than the horrific attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, that followed. Western security officials had long worried that their countries’ own citizens would conduct attacks after returning home from Iraq or Syria or strike out as “lone wolf” terrorists.
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Despite China’s recent economic struggles, many economists and analysts argue that the country remains on course to overtake the United States and become the world’s leading economic power someday soon. Indeed, this has become a mainstream view—if not quite a consensus belief—on both sides of the Pacific.
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Despite boasting the most powerful economy on earth, the United States too often reaches for the gun instead of the purse in its foreign policy. The country has hardly outgrown its need for military force, but over the past several decades, it has increasingly forgotten a tradition that stretches back to the nation’s founding: the use of economic instruments to accomplish geopolitical objectives, a practice we term “geoeconomics.”
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In the Internet age, the world feels far smaller than it used to. But many Americans still know little about the rest of the world and may be more detached from it than ever. Such a lack of awareness is, in certain respects, understandable. Once the Cold War ended, some 25 years ago, Congress, perhaps out of a false sense of security, cut the foreign affairs budget, which led to the closing of some U.S. overseas posts.
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Last September, tens of thousands of opponents of Japanese Prime MinisterShinzo Abe gathered outside the National Diet building in Tokyo, often in torrential rain, holding placards and shouting antiwar slogans. They were there to protest the imminent passage of legislation designed to allow Japan’s military to mobilize overseas for the first time in 70 years—a shift they feared would undermine Japan’s pacifistic constitution and encourage adventurism.
See more in Japan; Defense and Security
After dithering for decades, governments finally seem to be paying serious attention to the problem of global climate change. Late last year, at the Paris climate conference, they adopted a major new agreement to limit global warming, beginning a process to strengthen commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time.
See more in Global; Climate Change
Ancient Rome was a village that grew into a world empire. At the peak of its territorial reach, AD 117, it stretched from the British Isles to Mesopotamia and from the Rhine to the Sahara. Its history spans more than a millennium. Before the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the late fifth century, Romans enjoyed a standard of living not seen again in the West until the mid-nineteenth century.
See more in Italy; Nation Building
Nearly 3,000 years ago, according to the Old Testament, an army of Arameans, led by King Ben-hadad, besieged the West Bank city of Samaria. Cut off from its agricultural hinterlands, the city soon ran out of food.
See more in Global; Food Security
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When Hillary Clinton’s career as a lawyer first drew media attention during the 1992 presidential campaign of her husband, Bill Clinton, she mused that she could have skipped law practice to stay at home and bake cookies. The comment led to a now-famous cookie bake-off between Clinton and Barbara Bush, which the upstart Arkansas governor’s wife handily won.
See more in United States; Culture and Foreign Policy
During the past century, economic inequality in the developed world has traced a massive U-shaped curve—starting high, curving downward, then curving sharply back up again. In 1915, the richest one percent of Americans earned roughly 18 percent of all national income. Their share plummeted in the 1930s and remained below ten percent through the 1970s, but by 2007, it had risen to 24 percent.
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When it comes to wealth and income, people tend to compare themselves to the people they see around them rather than to those who live on the other side of the world. The average Frenchman, for example, probably does not care how manyChinese exceed his own standard of living, but that Frenchman surely would pay attention if he started lagging behind his fellow citizens.
See more in Global; Globalization
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Since the trend toward rising economic inequality in the United States became apparent in the 1990s, scholars and commentators have heatedly debated its causes and consequences.
See more in United States; Economic Development
As growth slows in mature economies across the developed world, economic inequality has reachednew heights. Defined in terms of the shares of disposable income of households across the economic spectrum, adjusted for varying needs, inequality today in the United States is significantly higher than it was a generation ago.
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In recent years, as public anxiety over growing inequality has intensified, policymakers and academics have started scrambling for some increasingly extreme solutions.
See more in Brazil; Poverty
On January 28, 2009, barely a week into his presidency, Barack Obama met with the U.S. military’s top generals and admirals on their own turf, inside “the tank,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s conference room on the second floor of the Pentagon. A senior official recalled the new president as “remarkably confident—composed, relaxed, but also deferential, not trying to act too much the commander in chief.”
See more in United States; Presidents and Chiefs of State
The nuclear deal that the United States and five other great powers signed with Iran in July 2015 is the final product of a decadelong effort at arms control. That effort included sanctions in an attempt to impede Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapons capability.
See more in Iran; United States; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament
The scholar Edward Corwin famously described the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches set out in the U.S. Constitution as “an invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy.” With different parties controlling different branches of government, partisan politics tends to intensify this struggle, and the consequences can be ugly.
See more in United States; Media and Foreign Policy
Since the early 1990s, daily life in poor countries has been changing profoundly for the better: one billion people have escaped extreme poverty, average incomes have doubled, infant death rates have plummeted, millions more girls have enrolled in school, chronic hunger has been cut almost in half, deaths from malaria and other diseases have declined dramatically, democracy has spread far and wide, and the incidence of war—even with Syria and other conflicts—has fallen by half.
See more in Global; Development