Ask CFR Experts

This new feature invites 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 are answered by CFR fellows and featured on CFR's homepage.

Ask a Question

Featured Question

Past Questions

Answered by:
Thomas Bollyky
Answered by:
Ed Husain

Does the presence of radical Islamic groups in the Syrian opposition affect Iran?

Asked by Bashayar Ghasab, from Eastern Mediterranean University, Cyprus

Yes and no. Because of sectarian differences between the Iranian government and the Sunni Salafi fighters in the Syrian opposition, Iran's influence becomes weakened at first sight if the Syrian opposition wins. But the Iranian regime can (and has) created common cause with Sunni radicals in the recent past. History shows that this would not be the first time an unlikely alliance between opposing groups has formed.

Read full answer

Answered by:
Robert M. Danin

What effect would the fall of the Assad regime have on U.S. policy towards Syria?

Asked by Igbinosa Ojehomon, from Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus
Author: Robert M. Danin

The United States' policy toward a post-Assad Syria would largely depend on what political scenario results. A victory by unified rebel forces would generate a vastly different policy than a new govenrnment that includes jihadists. In the more likely event that post-Assad Syria descends into greater sectarian violence, Washington would urge regional partners like Turkey and Saudi Arabia to exert influence with those rebel groups to which they had provided arms and ammunition.

Read full answer

Answered by:
Max Boot

Why is the United States still in Afghanistan?

The answer is simple: 9/11. The most costly terrorist attack ever was carried out from Afghanistan. The United States showed bipartisan determination to bring the perpetrators to justice and—the part that explains our continuing engagement in Afghanistan—to prevent its soil from ever being used again to stage terrorist attacks.

Read full answer

Answered by:
John Campbell

What will it take for the United States and others to address the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Asked by Lauren Harrison, from Harvard Kennedy School
Author: John Campbell

The exploitation of Congo's vast resources by competing elites and militaries for personal enrichment promotes insecurity and stymies development. Only very strong Western and African public outcry and a change in China's nonintervention approach might open the possibilities for change.

Read full answer

Answered by:
Edward Alden

In light of the global economic slowdown, do you still believe globalization is a cause for good?

Asked by Fagner Dantas, from Universidade Federal da Bahia

Globalization refers to the increasing ease with which goods, services, capital and people can move across the world, which has been accelerated by advances in technology and government policies to reduce barriers. In terms of reducing poverty in as many countries as possible, there is no question that globalizationcontinues to be beneficial, even after the 2008 financial crisis. Poverty continues to fall worldwide at a rapid rate, and countries most integrated into the world economy have seen the biggest reductions in poverty. But it is also true that even before the crisis, the gains from globalization were not spread evenly. Though millions have been lifted out of poverty and everyone benefits from cheaper consumer goods and the opening of new export markets, there are still winners and losers.

Read full answer

Answered by:
Elizabeth C. Economy

Is China still “rising” or has it already “risen”?

Asked by Lauren Billi, from New York University

Both are accurate. China certainly "has risen" to become a global economic power: in only three decades, it has transformed itself into the world's second largest economy, largest exporter, and largest provider of loans to the developing world. At the same time, China is rising: its economic and political system, as well as its foreign policy, is still developing. To state categorically that China "has risen" is to accept that the China of today will be substantially the same as the China of five to ten years from now, and few people in or outside China would accept such a conclusion.

Read full answer

Answered by:
Michael A. Levi

What should the red lines be for the Iranian nuclear program?

People love to talk about "red lines" for all sorts of challenges, and the Iranian nuclear program is no exception. The United States can, in principle, threaten stronger sanctions if Iran crosses certain red lines. It can threaten military action if Iran crosses others. But it's not clear that setting red lines—particularly in public, where failing to follow through on threats can be costly—is a productive course.

Read full answer

Answered by:
James M. Lindsay

Why can’t the United States cut military spending?

The United States has cut defense spending in the past, and it is doing so again today. In 1989, for example, the Defense Department spent $295 billion; seven years later it spent $253 billion, or about 14 percent less in nominal dollars. When inflation is taken into account, defense spending dropped by more than 25 percent during the 1990s. U.S. defense spending will likely follow a similar trajectory over the next decade with the Afghanistan war ending and pressure mounting to cut government spending.

Read full answer

Answered by:
Micah Zenko

What right does the United States have to use drones?

Due to the 9/11 attacks and the continued threat posed by international terrorism, the United States claims it is "currently at war with al-Qaeda and its associated forces," a conflict that extends beyond traditional battlefield settings to any country that is "unwilling or unable" to take action itself. The United States reserves the right to conduct targeted killings, although only against "senior" members of al-Qaeda who "pose an imminent threat the United States of America." Although the U.S. military has a vast array of tools in its arsenal, the primary vehicle for its targeted killings program are drones, which have been used in over 95 percent of the 420—and counting—targeted killings over the last decade.

Read full answer

Answered by:
Steven A. Cook

Should the United States continue to provide economic aid to Egypt?

The Egyptian uprising presents a rare opportunity for the United States to resolve the tension between its strategic priorities in the Middle East and its desire to support democratic change in the region. Washington's past approach to aiding Egypt was based on relations with authoritarian leaders who could be counted on to advance the United States' interests. With the fall of Hosni Mubarak and Egyptian efforts to build a more open political system, a policy based on "authoritarian stability" is no longer possible, and the United States is now forced to alter the way it appropriates and distributes bilateral assistance.

Read full answer