Task Force Reports
CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force reports offer analysis and policy prescriptions of major foreign policy issues facing the United States, developed through private deliberations among a diverse and distinguished group of experts.
To learn more about Independent Task Forces, click here.
America’s ongoing struggle against the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001, attacks has many critical elements. The military campaign in Afghanistan is one; however, another campaign of potentially decisive significance is winning the battle for public support among Muslims around the world. Indeed, if the United States is unable to win the battle for hearts and minds, it may prove impossible to carry its military operations through to completion. America must create an understanding in the Muslim world of its cause and its actions that will give their leaders more flexibility to support the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks.
See more in United States; Diplomacy and Statecraft; Terrorism
With the current slowdown in the world economy, the expansion of free trade is critically important to economic growth in the United States and abroad—and the United States must move forward on expanding trade now. That is the conclusion of this independent Task Force, which specifically recommends that Congress give Trade Promotion Authority, formerly known as “fast-track,” to the president.
See more in Trade; United States
Both the United States and China will run risks as Beijing moves ahead with membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), but the potential payoffs for both countries are well worth it. This is the central finding of this independent Task Force. The group also says that increased trade and investment will provide considerable economic benefits to both nations and thereby improve overall Sino-American relations, thus creating a better context for managing security and human rights issues.
See more in International Organizations and Alliances; Trade; China
At the start of President Bush’s first term in office, Vice President Dick Cheney chaired a high-level government task force on energy, several months after the Council on Foreign Relations released its independent Task Force report, “Strategic Energy Policy: Challenges for the 21st Century.” The Council’s initial report is updated here, taking into account the Bush administration’s energy policies during its first six months in office.
See more in Energy Policy
Before North Korea decided to restart its nuclear weapons facilities in 2002, this blue-ribbon group of experts voiced its concern that North Korea would do just that. It warns in this report that progress made on the Korean Peninsula was fragile and “diplomatic gains achieved by the United States and South Korea in the past decade are not irreversible.” Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions could raise tensions and produce the kind of confrontation that almost led to war in 1994. It could also lead Pyongyang to lift its self-imposed moratorium on ballistic missile tests. To head off these dangers, the Task Force urges that the Bush administration treat North Korea as a foreign policy priority and for what it is: both a fragile and a dangerous power. The Task Force recommends that the United States and its allies in the region use both economic carrots and sticks in working with Pyongyang.
See more in North Korea; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament
Southeast Asia deserves more sustained attention from American policymakers than it has received in the recent past, according to this independent Task Force report. It argues that Southeast Asia has a long history of important security and economic ties to the United States and is of strategic interest. Yet the United States has benignly neglected the area and its needs and growth potential for almost two decades. With the economic crisis in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the late 1990s, the reestablishment of U.S. diplomatic ties to Vietnam, and the recent ethnic strife and devolution in Indonesia, the region and its member nations are back on the international skyline.
See more in Asia and Pacific; International Organizations and Alliances; Politics and Strategy
There could be more Californias in America’s future unless the U.S. government adopts a long-term, comprehensive energy policy now, according to an Independent Task Force report cosponsored by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University in Houston and the Council on Foreign Relations.
See more in Energy Policy; United States
Latin America in general—and Brazil in particular—is coming to the forefront of U.S. policy challenges. In response to this situation, this blue-ribbon independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations offers two recommendations: first, that the United States needs a focal point to its policy in South America and that Brazil become that focal point; and second, that President Bush move swiftly to establish a standing, high-level dialogue with Brazil on key issues ranging from drugs to trade, democratization, and combating terrorism and trans-regional crime.
See more in Brazil
Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the military and economic instruments of American power have benefited from renewed attention and resources. However, the forward edge of American national security policy, the Department of State, is in a profound state of disrepair, suffering from long-term mismanagement, antiquated equipment, and dilapidated and insecure facilities.
See more in Organization of Government; United States; Diplomacy and Statecraft; Congresses, Parliaments, National Legislatures; History and Theory of International Relations
This independent Task Force report represents a significant step forward in deepening a bipartisan consensus for a new U.S. policy toward Cuba. While avoiding the highly politicized debate over whether to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba, the report touches on the terms for American investment in Cuba in its recommendation for the settlement of Cuban expropriation claims. The report seeks to stimulate a discussion among those interested in crafting a creative and dynamic policy toward Cuba.
See more in Americas; Diplomacy and Statecraft
Colombia’s rampant lawlessness, insecurity, and corruption represent one of the major threats to democracy and economic progress in Latin America. The stakes are that high, according to this independent Task Force report. Cochaired by Senator Bob Graham and General Brent Scowcroft, the Task Force recommends a four-point strategy to respond to the deteriorating situation. Toward Greater Peace and Security in Colombia calls for a multi-track approach that supports Colombia’s efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation by helping to professionalize the country’s military forces, curtail widespread human rights abuses, strengthen political, judicial, and social reform efforts, and restore the economy.
See more in Americas; Defense and Security
During the last ten years, Japan has undergone a difficult period of economic stagnation. Only now is the country showing preliminary signs of emerging from an economic slowdown. In response to its difficulties, Japan is gradually making changes to its traditional financial system—changes driven by Japan’s desire to catch up with technological innovation and to resuscitate its economy. However, many of these reforms are controversial within Japan since they aim at the heart of traditional Japanese business practices. In a three-step conclusion, this Task Force outlines how the United States may integrate into and profit from Japan’s transitioning economic framework.
See more in Asia and Pacific
The conflict in Kosovo, less than four years after the brutal civil war in Bosnia, was a wake-up call to the international community. The West and others had once again underestimated the powerful forces of ethnic hatred and historical grievances in the Balkans. According to this independent Task Force report, economic reconstruction alone will not be sufficient to bring long-term peace and stability to the Balkan region, although raising living standards could foster sustainable economic growth and reduce political tensions.
See more in Kosovo; Yugoslavia; Economic Development
The U.S. approach to international conflict in the post–Cold War period—how we think about them and what actions we take—is enormously affected by America’s capabilities to quell conflicts by diplomatic, economic, and military means. To date, the United States has been trapped between classic diplomatic table-thumping and indiscriminate economic sanctions on the one hand, and major military intervention on the other hand. However, nonlethal weapons may offer an innovative and effective middle option that could lend weight to U.S. crisis diplomacy and offer new capabilities for pressuring adversaries or fighting wars with minimal loss of life.
See more in Defense and Security; United States
The international community will not make real headway in crisis prevention if private creditors—and particularly large commercial banks—can escape from bad loans to emerging economies at relatively low cost, according to this independent Task Force report. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) should therefore return to smaller rescue packages for country crises that do not threaten the performance of the global financial system. In extreme cases, the IMF should also require as a condition for its own emergency assistance that debtors be engaged in serious and fair discussions on debt rescheduling with their private creditors.
See more in International Law; Global
This report argues that, in spite of tenisons, the United States should continue to support South Korea's engagement policy and keep the comprehensive Perry proposal on the table. The Task Force recommends that North Korea might be further opened by certain symbolic changes in U.S. economic sanctions policy. However, the Task Force warns that while diplomacy with the North should not be cut off because of another missile launch, the United States and its allies would be forced by a launch to take a new approach to Pyongyang.
See more in Asia and Pacific; Sanctions
The last of the six Balkan Wars of the twentieth century is over, but it is by no means certain that a durable peace is at hand. After vast death, destruction, and savagery lasting almost a decade, can the peoples of the former Yugoslavia live together again in peace? If so, the region will require sustained help and support from the West, which is in the midst of mustering the necessary resources and political will. The purpose of this report is to provide a broad political approach and to highlight the three key components of a comprehensive, long-term strategy that focuses on security, continental integration, and economic and political reform.
See more in International Law
The Palestinian Authority (PA) must improve its ability to govern democratically and effectively—and do so urgently—or risk losing the support of its people, according to this independent Task Force report.
See more in Middle East and North Africa; Organization of Government
During the Cold War Northeastern Europe was a strategic backwater and received relatively little attention in U.S. policy. However, since the end of the Cold War, the region has become an important focal point of U.S. policy. The Clinton administration gave Northeastern Europe high priority and viewed the region as a laboratory for promoting closer regional cooperation and reknitting Europe, both East and West, into a more cohesive economic and political unit. Its policy was also designed to reach out to Russia and to include Russia in regional cooperation arrangements in Northeastern Europe.
See more in Europe; Politics and Strategy
Notable opportunities exist for the U.S.-European relationship to help mold the twenty-first century’s international system. Despite the absence of the Soviet threat, the two sides of the Atlantic continue to share enduring vital interests and face a common set of challenges both in Europe and beyond. These challenges are so many and diverse that neither the United States nor the allies can adequately address these regional and global concerns alone, especially in light of growing domestic constraints on the implementation of foreign policy. Thus, promoting shared interests and managing common threats to the West in the years ahead will necessitate not only continued cooperation, but a broader and more comprehensive transatlantic partnership than in the past.
See more in Europe; United States; Politics and Strategy