Explainers

Backgrounders

Authoritative, accessible, and regularly updated primers on hundreds of foreign policy topics.
Backgrounders

Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines

A Guide to Global COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Only a year after the new coronavirus emerged, the first vaccines to protect against it are being administered. But production challenges, vaccine nationalism, and new virus strains are all presenting hurdles.

Middle East and North Africa

What Is U.S. Policy on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

The United States has long tried to negotiate a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but several factors, including deep divisions between and within the parties and declining U.S. interest in carrying out its traditional honest-broker role, hurt the chances of a peace deal.

Explainers Video Filters and Cards

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
What’s Next for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
Though President Trump withdrew from the TPP, the remaining members of the trade pact have forged ahead with a new version, leaving the U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific in question.
North Korea
North Korea’s Military Capabilities
North Korea has embarked on an accelerated buildup of weapons of mass destruction and the modernization of its already large conventional force.
United States
How Police Compare in Different Democracies
Killings by U.S. officers in 2020 have sparked widespread calls for police reform and an end to systemic racism. Here’s how U.S. policing compares with other countries’ approaches.
Ethiopia
Ethiopia: East Africa’s Emerging Giant
Ethiopia’s prime minister promised an aggressive reform agenda, but renewed turmoil threatens to throw the country’s democratic transition off course.
United States
A Unique Military Force: The U.S. National Guard
The National Guard is a special part of the U.S. military that answers to both state governors and the president. In some instances, how leaders have used the Guard has generated controversy, particularly when responding to civil unrest.
Americas
U.S. Detention of Child Migrants
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children have been arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border each year, leading the Trump administration to expand child detention policies and sparking debate over how to handle the flow of asylum seekers.
United States
The Dollar: The World’s Currency
The dollar’s role as the primary reserve currency for the global economy allows the United States to borrow money more easily and impose painful financial sanctions. But some experts say the costs to areas such as the Rust Belt are too high to bear.
China
Religion in China
As more people in China practice religion, the government continues to toughen oversight, increase religious persecution, and attempt to co-opt state-sanctioned religious organizations.
United States
Why Does the Census Matter?
The U.S. census, one of the few in the world to directly count every resident, is used to distribute political power as well as federal funding. In 2020, it faces complications due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as controversy over immigration, cybersecurity, and rising costs.
Coronavirus
How Countries Are Holding Elections During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The experiences of dozens of countries offer lessons for U.S. officials as they prepare for the presidential election during the coronavirus pandemic.
United Nations
The UN Security Council
The UN Security Council is the premier global body for maintaining international peace and security, but it faces steady calls for reform to better meet twenty-first-century challenges.
Middle East and North Africa
What Is U.S. Policy on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?
The United States has long tried to negotiate a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but several factors, including deep divisions between and within the parties and declining U.S. interest in carrying out its traditional honest-broker role, hurt the chances of a peace deal.
United States
The National Debt Dilemma
Emergency spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic, after years of steadily increasing debt, is projected to take U.S. debt to levels not seen since World War II.   
Infrastructure
The State of U.S. Infrastructure
Amid an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, debate continues over how to improve the nation’s infrastructure, as analysts say U.S. transportation, water, and other systems face major shortfalls.
Lebanon
What Is Hezbollah?
Military experience gained from fighting in Syria’s civil war and decades of clashes with Israel have made the Iran-backed group stronger than ever, but the biggest threat it faces may be upheaval in its own backyard.