The world can be a confusing place. The goal of "The 101" is to breakdown some of the complex issues in international affairs, to give you the background and context you need to better understand them, to raise some questions that the purveyors of conventional wisdom are missing, and to do it all in a way that you won’t need a PhD in International Affairs to understand.
Author Ed Hancox has a Masters Degree in International Affairs from The New School in New York City; for the past four years he has written and published the International Affairs-focused blog, A World View. Previously he worked as a journalist in both the print and broadcast media; currently he works for a global risk management research organization.
Perhaps it is the effect of four years spent as a DJ on my university's radio station, but events in the news often make me think of songs, and the coverage of France's Mali mission is bringing to mind the song “Franco-Unamerican” by the seminal California punk band NOFX. The song was written in 2003 and drips with sarcasm over the neo-conservative/interventionist foreign policy of then President George W. Bush.
In the space of a week, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Maria Alyokhina have arguably become the world's most famous political prisoners following their sentencing in a Moscow courtroom last Friday.
Today, let's step through the looking glass for a moment and imagine what the reaction of the United States to the ongoing crisis in Syria might look like if the regime of Bashar al-Assad were an ally of the United States, rather than an opponent closely linked to our enemy du jour, Iran. Perhaps the media coverage might look something like this:
Even for a country famous for producing strange visuals these were especially odd: Disney characters dancing in front of a North Korean orchestra during a televised command performance for the country's young leader Kim Jong-un. The images were especially jarring since much of the mythos of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is built around a steadfast resistance to the corrupting influences of capitalism and America.
It seems like the stage has been set yet again for another standoff between that international grouping commonly known as “the West” - as led by the United States - and Russia; this time over what to do in Syria. After the Kofi Annan-proposed peace plan between the Syrian government led by President Bashar Assad and the loose confederation of opposition groups was left in tatters and stark video evidence emerged apparently showing massacres of civilians (including many children) in places like Houla and others, international calls to do something in Syria have continued to grow louder.
One popular way for developing nations to announce to the world that they have made it onto the global stage in the early 21st century is to host a major international sporting event: From China's Beijing Olympics in 2008, to Russia's upcoming Winter Games in 2014, South Africa's World Cup stewardship in 2010 and Brazil's double coup of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics; staging a spectacle of this magnitude is a clear signal to the world that you are now a country of note. This was certainly the motivation for Poland and Ukraine's joint bid to host the Euro 2012 soccer championships this month. But the event that was suppose to b
Their meeting made for some uncomfortable visuals as Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf defended a national law that criminalized homosexuality in front of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, long an advocate for gay rights, who was visiting Liberia in his capacity as the founder of the African Governance Initiative (AGI), a nonprofit dedicated to building the capacity of African governments. But the terse exchange masked a deeper, more serious question: should Western leaders try to impose their mora
Earlier this week, the team from Zambia won the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament. The Zambian side, known as the Chipolopolo, or Copper Bullets, were an underdog in the 16 team field. Their victory over the heavily-favored Cote d'Ivoire side was a thrilling enough outcome, but that it happened in Libreville, Gabon, where a generation earlier Zambia's entire national team had been wiped out in an airplane crash proved to be nothing short of a national catharsis.
The rhetoric coming out of the Republican presidential primary candidates would have you believe that President Barack Obama is actively engaged in a foreign policy whose sole purpose is to weaken America's standing on the global stage. This is, of course, nonsense. But it also hides the fact that Obama has been rather consistently engaged in a foreign policy strategy followed by the hero of the Republican Right, Ronald Reagan, who himself was following a policy originally laid down by Pres. Harry S Truman.
Former Bush Administration official Elliott Abrams has taken to the pages of Foreign Policy to offer a defense of the Neoconservative policies that were a hallmark of the Bush-era world view, and to link them with the ongoing Arab Spring movement (note: author/pundit Niall Ferguson was also pushing this argument on Sunday's episode of “Fareed Zakaria GPS”). It is an odd defense on the part of Abrams, since he basically boils neoconservativism down to a couple of pro-de