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.
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
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
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
Having contained Cuban support for revolution in Latin America and perceiving signs of strong stirrings of a new civil society in Cuba, the United States should take steps to “contribute to rapid, peaceful, democratic transition in Cuba while safeguarding the vital interests of the United States.” This policy conclusion and a set of specific actions were recommended by an independent Task Force made up of both liberals and conservatives and chaired by Bernard W. Aronson and William D. Rogers.
See more in Cuba; Diplomacy and Statecraft
The spring 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests made South Asia and the world a more dangerous place, says this independent Task Force report. It recommends that the immediate objectives of U.S. foreign policy should be to encourage India and Pakistan to cap their nuclear capabilities at or near their current levels and to reinforce the global effort to stem the horizontal and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems. At the same time, the Task Force emphasizes that the United States has important interests in South Asia in addition to those relating to proliferation. Those include preventing conflict, promoting democracy, expanding economic growth, trade, and investment, and cooperating with India and Pakistan on global challenges.
See more in India; Pakistan; Proliferation
The Korean peninsula remains one of the most heavily armed and dangerous places in the world. Despite its deteriorating economy, North Korea retains a standing army of over one million men and an enormous arsenal of artillery and missiles, most of them as close to Seoul, the South Korean capital, as Dulles Airport is to downtown Washington, DC. In 1994, the United States and North Korea almost went to war over the North’s nuclear program. Since then, Washington and Seoul have attempted to cap North Korea’s nuclear ambitions through the Agreed Framework, but the threat from the North remains.
See more in South Korea; North Korea; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament
In 1997, Washington paid unprecedented attention to Africa and its continental rebirth. Both then-First Lady Hillary Clinton and then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright toured the continent. President Clinton unveiled the “Partnership for Growth and Opportunity in Africa” to promote greater trade and investment in the region.
See more in Trade; Foreign Aid; Africa (sub-Saharan)
The collapse of confidence between Israelis and Palestinians over the past year and the ability of opponents of peace on both sides to exploit incremental measures to their advantage have brought the Middle East peace process to a dangerous impasse. The chief principles of U.S. policy are no longer effective: Incrementalism, far from building confidence, threatens to undermine it further; and an American role limited to facilitation will not enable the parties to resume successful negotiations. Therefore, intensive diplomatic efforts by the United States are needed to join the parties in the hopes of establishing a new Declaration of Principles, which would set the framework for final-status negotiations.
See more in Palestine; Israel; Africa (sub-Saharan); Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights
The Persian Gulf is one of the few regions whose importance to the United States is obvious. The flow of Gulf oil will continue to be crucial to the economic well-being of the industrialized world for the foreseeable future; developments in the Gulf will have a critical impact on issues ranging from Arab-Israeli relations and religious extremism to terrorism and nuclear nonproliferation. Every president since Richard Nixon has recognized that ensuring Persian Gulf security and stability is a vital U.S. interest.
See more in Iraq; Iran; Politics and Strategy