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Eleven Foreign Policy Insights from 2011

December 21, 2011


Mideast upheaval, dwindling resources, economic crisis, and new threats to the U.S. homeland were among the issues at the top of a packed inbox for U.S. foreign policymakers in 2011. For a refresher on some of the notable insights and policy prescriptions offered, read the following Editor's Picks from more than 150 interviews published by in the past year:


Egyptian Upheaval and U.S. Interests

"This is a textbook example of why it's hard to conduct foreign policy. I say that because in the formulation and implementation of our foreign policy, we have to consider principles and values-- democracy, human rights, freedom. But we also have to consider the national interest, whether or not the particular entity we're dealing with is aligned with the United States or not." – Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III on Egypt's crisis, Feb. 2, 2011. Read More


Tunisia and Egypt

"Tunisia to me is a dolphin, sort of jumping nimbly through the waves of this transition and getting everyone's admiration. But Egypt is a whale, and although the Egyptian transition is a difficult one, we have to remember how important Egypt is. If this whale dives down, it's going to take everything with it." -- Michele Dunne of the Atlantic Council, Oct. 28, 2011. Read More


Iran's Internal Divisions

"The stakes are who controls Iran next, and there are very different visions, even among the hardliners. The revolution is at a stage that it's begun to eat itself up." -- Robin Wright of the U.S. Institute of Peace, Dec. 2, 2011. Read More


Food and Stability

"More and more countries are jockeying for position and trying to figure out how to enhance their own food marketplace even as demand is outstripping supply, weather events are even further diminishing supply of key grains, and foods in key regions and price speculation are driving up the cost of the available supplies. This is not good for the global community as a whole." – CFR Senior Fellow Laurie Garrett, Feb. 4, 2011. Read More


Cuts to U.S. Foreign Aid

"The perennial difficulty with the so-called 'international operations account,' which includes State and USAID, is that there is no national constituency for those programs. When you look at the Pentagon and its gargantuan budget, it's likely that every single congressional district in the United States has either a U.S. military installation or a defense contractor." -- CFR Senior Fellow Stewart Patrick, July 26, 2011. Read More


The Threat from Cyber-Espionage

"The challenge has been that everyone has been talking about waiting for this massive event--a 'cyber Pearl Harbor' -- but what's really happening is that we're suffering a death by a thousand cuts." -- Dmitri Alperovitch, Vice President Threat Research, McAfee, Aug. 11, 2011. Read More


Revising U.S. Counterterrorism Law

"It's been noted that there is a great irony that the United States has to go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts to conduct electronic surveillance of a U.S. national, but is not required to go to any court in order to use lethal force against him."—CFR's John Bellinger, Sept. 1, 2011. Read More


China and its Neighbors

"I had a talk with other ASEAN leaders and they share the same view as me that China must be a part of preserving the security and order in the region. It's my hope that China can do the same [as us]--avoiding gunboat diplomacy and solving any dispute in this region peacefully." -- Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, May 25, 2011. Read More


U.S.-Taliban Talks to End Afghan War

"You have to solve some statecraft puzzles. How do you handle the regional diplomacy? How do you handle the talks with the Taliban simultaneously? How do you handle the intra-Afghan political challenge? But if you don't take each of those tracks equally seriously, resource them all and try to unify the strategy, it's going to be very difficult to achieve the kind of progress that would change the level of violence in Afghanistan, which is, after all, the point." -- Steve Coll of the New America Foundation, February 24, 2011. Read More


How to Reform the Eurozone

"We are exactly at that moment in Europe where we need to go from a confederation to a federation by the process of the creation of a federal budget, exactly as the United States did"– Jacques Attali, former president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, August 11, 2011. Read More


The Dispersal of U.S. Economic Power

"We're entering a period in which our economic power and national influence are going to be more broadly spread out. And we'll need help to manage the whole operation in terms of security and economic balance and sustainability -- but we're going to have to figure out how to do it together, without being a dominant player." – CFR Distinguished Visiting Fellow Michael Spence, June 16, 2011. Read More

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