What the editors of CFR.org are reading for the week of January 13–17, 2014.
A sortable index of the best online analyses and inquiries on foreign policy.
What the editors of CFR.org are reading for the week of January 13–17, 2014.
"The armed Syrian opposition, in all of its disparate glory, has long talked of a revolution after its revolution to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a period when scores would be settled between various anti-Assad groups…. Elements of all of these various fault lines had become frontlines during isolated bouts of rebel infighting over the past year or more, but the decision by so many different groups to take on ISIS at the same time, and in so many locations, was surprising. What was also surprising was how quickly ISIS was initially routed from some areas."
"Since the Syrian revolution began, in 2011, private Kuwaiti donors like Herbash have been among its most generous patrons, providing what likely amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars to the armed opponents of Assad…. As the war took a more sectarian and extremist turn, so, too, did its private funders."
"This is the third constitutional referendum since Mr. Mubarak was forced out. Security conditions have deteriorated and political divisions deepened. Instead of real conversation about policies and politics, the debate has been reduced to slogans."
"Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world. Here's how it came to be, and what it's since come to mean."
"While China and Japan may look like they're competing in Africa, the two countries are actually playing different games."
"Standing in the way of success in the peace process — as well as most other aspects of the transition to better governance — is the government's apparent inability to control the guns. Has there ever been a successful transition in which the government does not have authority over the military and the police?"
"The enlargement of the EU and the free movement of people are both fine ideas. But, taken together, they have changed the nature of the union. A pragmatic pro-European should acknowledge that, when circumstances alter, democratic systems adapt. Changes to the welfare rules – allowing countries more scope to give priority to their own citizens – would make it easier to win the more important argument for open borders."
"Surveillance of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fundraising for a terrorist group.... The overall problem for U.S. counterterrorism officials is not that they need vaster amounts of information from the bulk surveillance programs, but that they don't sufficiently understand or widely share the information they already possess that was derived from conventional law enforcement and intelligence techniques."
"Calls for a new framework statute to replace the [2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force] are unnecessary, provocative, and counterproductive; they perpetuate war at a time when we should be seeking to end it."
"A dollar renaissance is unlikely to prove as agonising as it did in the past. The biggest risk in 2014 is going to be the more immediate impact that the Fed's unwinding of its quantitative easing programme will have on global borrowing costs. Chinese economic growth – a big driver of emerging economies – is another wild card. But a stronger dollar will not prove painless and policy makers in the developing world should not be complacent."
What the editors of CFR.org are reading for the week of January 6 - January 10, 2014.
"It will be nearly impossible for observers to do a credible job under the present conditions in Egypt. And even if the referendum goes smoothly, it is not at all clear that the vote will make a meaningful contribution to getting Egypt back onto a democratic path. Observers and foreign governments, including the United States, would do well to make sure that their engagement and statements keep the focus on the big picture of Egypt's worrisome trajectory."
"Perhaps Ahmadullah no longer feels that his life is at risk. Unlike al-Qaeda, the Taliban have emerged from the past decade remarkably unscathed. Many of the group's leaders have vanished into tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and others live in urban areas—such as Quetta and Karachi—where U.S. drones could not reasonably operate. Still, if Ahmadullah who is no older than forty-seven, has any hope of playing a role in Afghanistan's future, he will have to emerge at some point from 'under the grave.'"
"Aside from outliers such as Cuba, North Korea, and Turkmenistan, today's authoritarian regimes do not seek total domination of all the means of mass communication. What they want instead is what we might call "effective media control"—enough for them to convey their strength and puff up their claims to legitimacy while undermining potential alternatives. Such state dominance—whether exerted through overtly state-run or merely state-pliable media outlets—enables regimes to put progovernment narratives front and center while using the power of editorial omission to limit systematic criticism of official policies and actions."
"The fighting over the past week is a watershed moment for the Syrian uprising. The momentum against extremism can pave the way for the re-emergence of moderate groups that had been pushed to the margins under ISIS's reign of terror. The episode has proved that it is Syria's mainstream rebels who are best fit to face down extremists -- not the Assad regime."
"There is a larger trend across Asia to bring deliberations and decision-making into presidential or ministerial offices in an effort to better respond to the rapidly changing security environment in Asia. The reasons for these efforts are varied and complex."
"This report was commissioned by the WWF International Arctic Programme to examine the adequacy of the current international governance and regulatory regime of the marine Arctic in light of current and future impacts of climate change on the Arctic."
"Some say Iran and the United States have "crossed the Rubicon," and there is no road back to the old ways. Whatever metaphor one uses, Iran and the United States have ventured into new and unfamiliar territory for which neither side has reliable maps. In this new reality, both sides must use long-neglected tools and exercise atrophied muscles. On this new ground they must put aside the old practices of reflexive bashing and insults and relearn elementary diplomacy: how to listen, how to be patient and how to be careful with language. They must relearn the value of quiet and private contacts, which without the need for posturing can set the stage for more fruitful public events."
"The Eurasian project is a mirage of a post-Soviet archipelago in which authoritarian leaders use each other to preserve their power. It may last a little longer. But before long, the sun will set on Mr Putin's imperial ambitions."
Maximalist finds lessons in the past that anticipate and clarify our chaotic present, revealing the history of U.S. foreign policy in an unexpected new light. More
This clear and authoritative book presents a sweeping account of China's global resource quest and the unrivaled expansion of its economy. More
The story of the tragic and often tormented relationship between the United States and Pakistan, and a call to prepare for the worst, aim for the best, and avoid past mistakes. More
This Independent Task Force report finds that as more people and services become interconnected and dependent on the Internet, societies are becoming increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks.
This Independent Task Force asserts that Turkey is an increasingly influential regional and economic power and calls for the United States and Turkey to forge a new partnership.
The authors argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones, thereby creating standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
The author examines Pakistan's complex role in U.S. foreign policy and advocates for a two-pronged approach that works to quarantine threats while integrating Pakistan into the broader U.S. agenda in Asia.
The authors assess the political, security, and economic challenges facing U.S. policymakers in Afghanistan and evaluate a range of policy options.
CFR is seeking candidates for the following 2014–2015 fellowship program. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship:
March 1 Application Deadline
To request permission to reprint or reuse CFR material, please fill out this permissions request form (PDF), referring to the instructions on page 1.