Foreign Affairs

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Obama and Africa

Author: Nicholas van de Walle

When Barack Obama was elected U.S. president in 2008, the news was greeted with enormous hope in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as among the small coterie of Americans who follow the region closely. This son of a Kenyan father would not only understand the continent better than his predecessors in the White House, the thinking went, but he would also treat it as a strategic priority and direct more resources its way. 

See more in Africa (sub-Saharan); International Organizations and Alliances

Obama and Terrorism

Author: Jessica Stern

U.S. President Barack Obama came into office determined to end a seemingly endless war on terrorism. Obama pledged to make his counterterrorism policies more nimble, more transparent, and more ethical than the ones pursued by the George W. Bush administration. Obama wanted to get away from the overreliance on force that characterized the Bush era, which led to the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

See more in United States; Counterterrorism

The Scholar as Secretary

Ashton Carter has an unusual background for a secretary of defense. Before assuming the United States’ top military post in February, he studied medieval history and particle physics as an undergraduate at Yale, got a Ph.D. in physics as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, and taught international affairs at Harvard. He also served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration and as an undersecretary and then the deputy secretary of defense under President Barack Obama. 

See more in United States; Defense Strategy

Ebola’s Lessons

Author: Laurie Garrett

In a biological sense, last year’s Ebola epidemic, which struck West Africa, spilled over into the United States and Europe, and has to date led to more than 27,000 infections and more than 11,000 deaths, was a great surprise. Local health and political leaders did not know of the presence of the hemorrhagic fever virus in the 35,000-square-mile Guinea Forest Region, and no human cases had ever been identified in the region prior to the outbreak.

See more in Global; Public Health Threats and Pandemics

Restoring America’s Strength

Author: Marco Rubio

America’s status as the greatest and most influential nation on earth comes with certain inescapable realities. Among these are an abundance of enemies wishing to undermine us, numerous allies dependent on our strength and constancy, and the burden of knowing that every choice we make in exercising our power—even when we choose not to exercise it at all—has tremendous human and geopolitical consequences.

See more in United States; Culture and Foreign Policy

City Century

Author: Michael Bloomberg

Although history is not usually taught this way, one could argue that cities have played a more important role in shaping the world than empires. From Athens and Rome to Paris and Venice to Baghdad and Beijing, urban ideas and innovators have left indelible marks on human life. 

See more in Global; Climate Change

The Meaning of Kissinger

Author: Niall Ferguson

There are reasons other than his longevity why so many world leaders—among them the Chinese President Xi Jinping—continue to seek the counsel of Henry Kissinger, who stepped down as U.S. secretary of state close to four decades ago. In this respect, Barack Obama is unusual.

See more in United States; Culture and Foreign Policy

Autopsy of a Cambodian Election

Author: Stéphanie Giry

Khmer New Year is the closest thing Cambodia has to a High Holiday, and in April, Prime Minister Hun Sen celebrated it in style with his fiercest opponent. During a festival at the ancient temples of Angkor, he and Sam Rainsy ate together from a gigantic cake of sticky rice weighing more than four metric tons—a Guinness World Record. 

See more in Cambodia; Presidents and Chiefs of State

An Unworthy Ally

Authors: C. Christine Fair and Sumit Ganguly

Ever since 9/11, the United States has provided Pakistan with a steady supply of security and nonsecurity assistance. U.S. officials have justified these generous transfers—worth more than $30 billion since 2002—on the grounds that they secure Pakistan’s ongoing cooperation in Afghanistan, bolster Pakistan’s ability to fight terrorism, and give the U.S. government influence over the country’s ever-expanding nuclear weapons program. 

See more in Pakistan; Foreign Aid

Bean Counters to the Rescue

Author: Diane Coyle

What is a company worth? On its latest balance sheet, Apple showed assets of $261 billion, including $8.7 billion of “intangibles,” such as the positive views of the company held by consumers and investors.

See more in Global; Economics

Leading From Between: How California and Germany Can Fix the Climate Agenda

Authors: Varun Sivaram and David Livingston

Climate talks have largely failed to curb rising temperatures, but bottom-up initiatives featuring subnational actors hold great promise if coordinated effectively. Varun Sivaram and David Livingston argue that California and Germany can “lead from between” to bridge international and subnational climate action.

See more in United States; Germany; Environmental Policy

The Robots Are Coming

Author: Daniela Rus

Robots have the potential to greatly improve the quality of our lives at home, at work, and at play. Customized robots working alongside people will create new jobs, improve the quality of existing jobs, and give people more time to focus on what they find interesting, important, and exciting.

See more in United States; Technology and Science

Same as It Ever Was

Author: Martin Wolf

Belief in “the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us,” as F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in The Great Gatsby, is a characteristic American trait.

See more in United States; Technology and Science

The Coming Robot Dystopia

Author: Illah Reza Nourbakhsh

The term “robotics revolution” evokes images of the future: a not-too-distant future, perhaps, but an era surely distinct from the present. In fact, that revolution is already well under way.

See more in Global; Technology and Science

The Next 
Safety Net

Authors: Nicolas Colin and Bruno Palier

As advanced economies become more automated and digitized, almost all workers will be affected, but some more than others. Those who have what the economists Maarten Goos and Alan Manning call “lovely jobs” will do fine, creating and managing robots and various digital applications and adding lots of value in service sectors such as finance.

See more in Global; Digital Infrastructure

A Problem From Heaven

Author: Ayaan Hirsi Ali

We have a problem—not a problem from hell, but one that claims to come from heaven. That problem is sometimes called radical, or fundamentalist, Islam, and the self-styled Islamic State is just its latest iteration. But no one really understands it. 

See more in United States; Religion

Islamic Scripture Is Not the Problem

Author: William McCants

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is correct that darker passages of Islamic Scripture endorse violence and prescribe harsh punishments for moral or theological infractions.

See more in Global; Religion