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.

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Featured Question

Answered by:
Matthew C. Waxman

Is humanitarian military intervention against international law, or are there exceptions?

Asked by Sebastian de Armas, from Trinity Prep School

As a matter of international law, humanitarian intervention—such as the use of military force to protect foreign populations from mass atrocities or gross human rights abuses—is permissible if authorized by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Although many Western governments have taken the position that such intervention may in some cases be morally justified even if not authorized by the Security Council, most states and international legal experts do not regard that as lawful.

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Past Questions

Answered by:
Jeanne Hull

Will Mexican trucks be allowed to cross the U.S. border as agreed upon in NAFTA?

Asked by Allana, from LaGuardia Community College
Author: Jeanne Hull

Continued concerns about increased border security and dwindling resources at all U.S. ports of entry are likely to contribute to more lengthy administrative processes at border crossing sites, but there are no longer any specific regulations or legislation that inhibit or prohibit the transit of Mexican trucks bearing legal imports across the U.S. border.

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Answered by:
Jagdish N. Bhagwati

Since the majority of Americans favor comprehensive immigration reform, why are Congress and the administration lagging behind?

Asked by Elva Cutri, from Anaheim, California

The problem with current efforts toward comprehensive immigration reform, as with the earlier Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (the last legislative success on immigration reform), is that the United States is trying to enact a bill that caters to many conflicting views and interests. This slows down the process and also produces unwieldiness and compromises that can make a mockery of the word "reform."

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Answered by:
Charles A. Kupchan

How can the United States help support peace in Macedonia and the Balkans?

Asked by Selim Ibraimi, from Webster University

The Balkans region in southern Europe has been unsettled since the dismantling of Ottoman dominance there in the late nineteenth century. During the twentieth century, ethnic and sectarian tensions not infrequently brought war to the region, most recently during the 1990s amid the breakup of Yugoslavia. The United States played a significant role in bringing peace to Bosnia in 1995 and to Kosovo in 1999, but the region faces continued instability.

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Answered by:
Stephen Sestanovich
Answered by:
Daniel P. Ahn

What is the most urgent global environmental issue and how should it be addressed?

Asked by Matthew Woltmann, from American Military University, California
Author: Daniel P. Ahn

Determining the "most urgent" global environmental issue is somewhat subjective; many would argue that carbon emissions and climate change is the most pressing issue. Others are just as passionate about deforestation, water scarcity, groundwater contamination, loss of biodiversity, landfills, ocean acidification, air quality… the list goes on.

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Answered by:
Meghan L. O'Sullivan

What do Israel’s Mediterranean natural gas resources mean for the region’s economy and security?

Asked by Larry Davenport, from Virginia Beach, Virginia

Israel has discovered substantial natural gas deposits off its shores in the last four years. While these gas finds are not significant in terms of global gas supply (they constitute less than two percent of the world's proven gas reserves), they do appear large enough not only to meet Israel's needs, but to enable Israel to export significant quantities.

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Answered by:
Scott A. Snyder

What are the costs and benefits of China's relationship with North Korea?

Asked by Garrett Smith, from Stanford University

Chinese officials see stability on the Korean peninsula under the Korean Armistice as a component that has enabled China's growth for over three decades. Despite a growing difference between the economic systems of China and North Korea, China's communist party leadership feels an affinity with North Korea because its government, like China's, pursues one-party leadership under a socialist banner.

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Answered by:
Robert M. Danin

What is the worst-case scenario outcome in Syria, and how will it affect the rest of the Middle East?

Asked by David Karapetyan

Syria has been mired in deadly strife since March 2011 and the outlook for resolving what is now a full blown civil war looks increasingly dire. The worst case outcome for Syria is one whereby the country fragments and becomes a failed state in which the Damascus government no longer controls its own territory. Under such a scenario, the glue holding the country together comes unstuck.

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Answered by:
Adam Segal

Is the threat of a "cyber Pearl Harbor" as potent as some have suggested?

Asked by James Bingham, from King's College, London

The phrase "cyber Pearl Harbor" received attention when it by former defense secretary Leon E. Panetta in a speech about U.S. vulnerability to cyberwarfare threats. It is best understood as an effort to shape the domestic political debate and as a description of a potential future scenario, rather than as an accurate description of the cybersecurity threat.

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Answered by:
Stewart M. Patrick

Will the United States set up a NATO-like Pacific Treaty Organization in Asia? If so, how?

Asked by Felix Seidler, from Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel, Germany
Author: Stewart M. Patrick

Despite its strategic "rebalancing" toward Asia, the United States is unlikely to sponsor a collective defense organization for the Asia-Pacific, for at least three reasons: insufficient solidarity among diverse regional partners, fear of alienating China, and the perceived advantages of bilateral and ad-hoc security arrangements.

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Answered by:
Max Boot