The modern Middle East has rarely been tranquil, but it has never been this bad. Full-blown civil wars rage in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Nascent conflicts simmer in Egypt, South Sudan, and Turkey. Various forms of spillover from these civil wars threaten the stability of Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have risen to new heights, raising the specter of a regionwide religious war.
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Despite boasting the most powerful economy on earth, the United States too often reaches for the gun instead of the purse in its foreign policy. The country has hardly outgrown its need for military force, but over the past several decades, it has increasingly forgotten a tradition that stretches back to the nation’s founding: the use of economic instruments to accomplish geopolitical objectives, a practice we term “geoeconomics.”
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In the Internet age, the world feels far smaller than it used to. But many Americans still know little about the rest of the world and may be more detached from it than ever. Such a lack of awareness is, in certain respects, understandable. Once the Cold War ended, some 25 years ago, Congress, perhaps out of a false sense of security, cut the foreign affairs budget, which led to the closing of some U.S. overseas posts.
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When Hillary Clinton’s career as a lawyer first drew media attention during the 1992 presidential campaign of her husband, Bill Clinton, she mused that she could have skipped law practice to stay at home and bake cookies. The comment led to a now-famous cookie bake-off between Clinton and Barbara Bush, which the upstart Arkansas governor’s wife handily won.
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Since the trend toward rising economic inequality in the United States became apparent in the 1990s, scholars and commentators have heatedly debated its causes and consequences.
See more in United States; Economic Development
In recent years, as public anxiety over growing inequality has intensified, policymakers and academics have started scrambling for some increasingly extreme solutions.
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On January 28, 2009, barely a week into his presidency, Barack Obama met with the U.S. military’s top generals and admirals on their own turf, inside “the tank,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s conference room on the second floor of the Pentagon. A senior official recalled the new president as “remarkably confident—composed, relaxed, but also deferential, not trying to act too much the commander in chief.”
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The nuclear deal that the United States and five other great powers signed with Iran in July 2015 is the final product of a decadelong effort at arms control. That effort included sanctions in an attempt to impede Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapons capability.
See more in Iran; United States; Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament
The scholar Edward Corwin famously described the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches set out in the U.S. Constitution as “an invitation to struggle for the privilege of directing American foreign policy.” With different parties controlling different branches of government, partisan politics tends to intensify this struggle, and the consequences can be ugly.
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After Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, the Obama administration responded with what has become the go-to foreign policy tool these days: targeted sanctions.
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Last October, the European Court of Justice struck down the Safe Harbor agreement, a 15-year-old transatlantic arrangement that permitted U.S. companies to transfer data, such as people’s Google-search histories, outside the EU. In invalidating the agreement, the ECJ found that the blurry relationship between private-sector data collection and national security in the United States violates the privacy rights of EU citizens whose data travel overseas.
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Just a few years ago, Latin America was on a roll. Its economies, riding on the back of the Chinese juggernaut, were flourishing. A boom in commodity prices and huge volumes of foreign direct investment in agriculture and natural resources generated a golden decade.
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The biggest revelation offered by Ben Bernanke’s memoir of his time as chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve is just how much the public, the media, and especially elected officials have misunderstood the real lessons of the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent Great Recession—events that defined Bernanke’s tenure, which began in 2006 and ended in 2014.
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In this May 2016 Foreign Affairs article Rob Knake looks back at the Obama administration's "cyberdoctrine" and the importance of making cybersecurity a private sector responsibility.
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Why U.S. Trade Deals Haven't Exported U.S. Drug Prices
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The U.S.-India defense relationship has entered a new phase that includes the joint development and manufacturing of defense equipment. Both the United States and India stand to benefit from defense collaboration, but the risks of technology transfer involved in the projects require both sides to be clear about their expectations, write Ashlyn Anderson and Amy J. Nelson.
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Benn Steil and Emma Smith’s article explains the difference between using rate hikes and balance-sheet reductions to tighten monetary policy and shows why Richard Koo is mistaken in arguing for the Fed to do the latter.
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After generations of authoritarian stagnation punctuated by moments of domestic repression and interstate war, in recent years, the Middle East has begun to move.
See more in Middle East and North Africa; United States; Targets for Terrorists
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