Ask CFR Experts

This archived feature invited members of the public to submit questions to CFR's experts on various topics related to U.S. foreign policy. Selected questions on matters ranging from the latest news headlines to long-term international issues were answered by CFR fellows. This feature is now retired.

Featured Question

Past Questions

Answered by:
Isobel Coleman

Does Egypt deserve U.S. economic support?

Asked by Gamal Khalifa, from Cairo, Egypt

Outside of a humanitarian crisis—such as a famine or a natural disaster—it is hard to make the case that any country deserves another's economic support. To paraphrase Britain's Lord Palmerston, countries do not have permanent friends, only permanent interests.

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Answered by:
Matthew C. Waxman

What is preventing international action in Syria?

Asked by Jake C., from University of Texas at Tyler

A number of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Qatar, have been providing support to the opposition in various forms, ranging from humanitarian aid to military supplies, such as weapons, armor, and communication devices. However, these efforts have not been enough to turn the tide, and after three years of fighting, a diplomatic solution still seems unlikely.

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Answered by:
Jeanne Hull

Is it part of the U.S. anti-drug policy to sell weapons to Mexico to combat drug cartels?

Asked by Zub Merch

Under the security cooperation agreement called the Merida Initiative, the United States provides military and law enforcement assistance to the Mexican government in support of efforts to combat drug cartels and organized crime. The United States and Mexico jointly developed this agreement in response to a substantial increase in drug-related criminal activity and violence on both sides of the border.

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Answered by:
Captain Peter A. Garvin, USN

Will China extend its influence in the Indian Ocean by building a naval base in Gwadar, Pakistan?

Asked by Hassan, from National University Of Sciences and Technology

To date, Chinese officials have asserted that their interest in Gwadar is strictly a commercial effort to provide another energy corridor for Middle East oil, and Pakistani government officials stridently affirm this position. New Delhi, on the other hand, has expressed "concern" about the true motivations in developing Gwadar, suspecting that it is a Sino-Pak effort at encirclement.

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Answered by:
Mark P. Lagon

What will be the effect of the UN Arms Trade Treaty on the Syrian conflict?

Asked by Gabriel

The UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was passed on March 28, 2013, and seeks to regulate and limit trade in arms in circumstances of human rights violations. Unfortunately, it will have minimal effect on the Syrian conflict. Syria's own vote against the treaty, along with Iran's and North Korea's, sounded the death knell for a universally applicable treaty to limit small arms, ammunition, and conventional weapons technology.

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Answered by:
Linda Robinson

Is using drones against terrorists cheaper than using special forces?

Asked by The Universal Human and Civil Rights Union, from Brooklyn, New York

The Obama administration has increasingly relied on drones in its counterterrorist operations. And, as I explain in a recent CFR report, U.S. special operations forces are doing more things in more places than ever before. The heavy reliance on both drones and unilateral commando raids needs to be reassessed.

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Answered by:
Andrew Coe

Should the United States push Israel to join the Non Proliferation Treaty?

Asked by Gaurav Moghe, from India

The United States tried to convince Israel to join the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) when the treaty was first introduced and before it was widely believed that Israel had nuclear weapons. The NPT's objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology and further the goal of universal disarmament.

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Answered by:
Stephen Sestanovich
Answered by:
Carla Anne Robbins

Will "sequestration" lead to a more isolationist U.S. foreign policy?

Asked by Andreas Maldener, from Trier University

After more than a decade of war and several years of a deep financial crisis, many Americans are asking whether the country should focus more of its attention—and more of its resources—at home. That said, the impulse to lead is still strong in both political parties and most polls show that Americans still feel both a moral and strategic imperative to remain fully engaged in the world.

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Answered by:
Edward Alden

Will “sequestration” affect U.S. education, especially in the STEM fields?

Asked by Mariecor Ruediger

American policymakers have long been concerned about the eroding U.S. advantage in educating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) students. With much of the assembly work for lucrative high-technology products having moved to Asia, future U.S. prosperity depends increasingly on innovating new products and techniques—innovation that requires training (or importing) a new generation of scientists and engineers.

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Answered by:
Richard K. Betts

What is Obama’s “grand” foreign policy strategy?

Asked by Zahra Fatima, from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad

"Grand strategy" is defined as a coherent plan to use diplomatic, military, and economic instruments in certain ways to achieve national, overarching objectives. Grand strategies are usually identified by simple labels such as "containment," "détente," or "engagement and enlargement." In reality, international politics is complicated, and a democratic political system at home imposes constraints from public opinion, mobilized interest groups, and Congress.

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