Foreign Policy Blogs » Foreign Policy Blogs | Author Archives http://foreignpolicyblogs.com The FPA Global Affairs Blog Network Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:18:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How Women Made Their Mark on the World In 2012 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/12/30/how-women-made-their-mark-on-the-world-in-2012/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/12/30/how-women-made-their-mark-on-the-world-in-2012/#comments Sun, 30 Dec 2012 09:42:42 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=71864 As a producer of global affairs television programming for the better part of the past decade, I’ve long been dismayed by the fact that the pool of guests we’re often forced to draw from is so heavily male-dominated. In my experience, women tend approach the global challenges America faces ...]]>

As a producer of global affairs television programming for the better part of the past decade, I’ve long been dismayed by the fact that the pool of guests we’re often forced to draw from is so heavily male-dominated. In my experience, women tend approach the global challenges America faces through a different prism from men, and not always in ways we might be predetermined to think. In an era when creative thinking is critical to addressing international challenges like the fallout from the Arab Spring, dealing with defense spending cuts and fighting terrorism—not to mention a host of “soft” power challenges like global development and human rights—we need as many policy perspectives as we can get.

Luckily in 2012, women played a prominent role in creating and influencing foreign policy on an unprecedented scale, and topics like gender-based violence, economic empowerment, food security, and health—collectively referred to as “Global Women’s Issues” by the State Department—have risen up the totem pole in terms of U.S. priorities.

Of course, the relatively recent tradition of the president appointing a woman as the nation’s top diplomat has helped drive this phenomenon. And no single person embodies the ability of women to impact the world more than current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is rumored to be considering a full-time foray into promoting global women’s issues when she leaves Foggy Bottom early next year. An instant frontrunner should she choose to run for president in 2016, Clinton has managed to put her own stamp on her tenure as secretary of state despite policies largely emitted from the White House—and become something of rock star in the process.

Her brokering of the release of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who escaped from house arrest in his village ahead of Clinton’s visit to China last May, defused what easily could have been a diplomatic disaster by deftly negotiating Chen’s travel to the United States to study at New York University. Clinton scored another diplomatic victory in her recent trip to the Middle East, where she worked with Israeli leaders and Egypt’s new President Mohamed Morsi to put an end to a week of fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Another diplomatic force in 2012 has been the controversial U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. Known for her sharp mind and uber-direct style, Rice withdrew her name to replace Clinton at the State Department following the controversy over her media statements following the September 11 terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Indeed, the Beltway brouhaha that has dominated discussion on Rice has largely overshadowed her real achievements in Turtle Bay, where she convinced both Russia and China to support the U.N. Security Council mandate that led to the NATO intervention in Libya. She also was instrumental in pushing for some of the harshest U.N. sanctions against Iran for its suspected nuclear program, and has taken a similarly strong line against the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

Rounding out the trifecta of women with tenures at the State Department who impacted the world in 2012 is Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning and now a professor at Princeton University. While Slaughter continues to weigh in heavily on issues like intervention in Syria and a host of other foreign policy challenges, her article in the July/August issue of The Atlantic brought renewed attention to the plight of alpha women seeking to sustain their careers and their families.

Women in media also continue to work on an upward trajectory when it comes to impacting discussion of global affairs. Most recently, the film Zero Dark Thirty, by Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow, has reopened the national debate on the U.S. use of torture in the fight against al Qaeda and its ilk. The film, inspired by real life events, features a female CIA agent in the lead. The use of harsh tactics in the fight against terrorism were also brought to attention by 60 Minutes foreign correspondent Lara Logan in October at an association fundraiser, where she argued that the United States must be more aggressive in taking on those who seek to destroy the West.

Finally, women who were the subjects of media attention also helped shape the way the world viewed global events in 2012. Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for blogging about her support of girls’ education, is a top contender for Time magazine’s  Person of the Year and has brought the world’s attention to her just cause. And who can forget Nafissatou Diallo, the New York City maid who won a settlement against former World Bank President Dominque Strauss-Kahn, for alleged sexual assault? Her coming forward derailed DSK’s hope to become president of France, and exposed a history of dodgy behavior in the highest halls of power.

Of course, these are just a few of the many, many women who continue to make a real impact on the world we live in. To see more, check out Tina Brown’s Women in the World initiative and Forbes’s list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World.

This article originally appeared in U.S. News and World Report.

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5 Foreign Policy Challenges Obama Can Tackle From Home http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/11/20/5-foreign-policy-challenges-obama-can-tackle-from-home/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/11/20/5-foreign-policy-challenges-obama-can-tackle-from-home/#comments Tue, 20 Nov 2012 21:47:58 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=70185 While foreign policy had a brief moment in the sun during this past election cycle, Americans are still clearly, and rightly, preoccupied with the challenges we face here at home. A CBS poll taken just before President Barack Obama was re-elected found that just 5 percent of ...]]>

While foreign policy had a brief moment in the sun during this past election cycle, Americans are still clearly, and rightly, preoccupied with the challenges we face here at home. A CBS poll taken just before President Barack Obama was re-elected found that just 5 percent of Americans said foreign policy was an “issue of importance” before heading to the voting booth, and Americans across the political spectrum have indicated a distaste for military intervention, democracy promotion, and a number of other goals that have driven U.S. foreign policy in recent years.

In the coming weeks pundits across the country and indeed, here on this blog, will call for the president to do more to stop Iran from weaponizing its nuclear program, to chart a course that would remove Syria’s brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad from power, and to rethink the response to the Arab Spring.

For the moment, the president should ignore them.

Instead, President Obama should focus on the five “intermestic” issues below that will resonate across political parties and help forge the kind of bipartisan solutions to America’s problems the country yearns for today. Doing so will also create a solid foundation from which to re-engage the world on more explicit  foreign policy issues like those mentioned above.

1. Rethink defense in an era of economic restraint.

Task one for the Obama administration and the Republican-controlled Congress is to find an immediate solution to the “fiscal cliff” that would trigger automatic cuts to the U.S. defense budget come Jan. 1, 2013 to the tune of $50 billion a year though so-called “sequester.” While Congress and the president could come to an agreement to reduce these cuts, there is agreement among the defense community that it’s time for a major defense rethink. Michael Noonan’s piece this week highlights some of the new thinking taking place on threat assessment and the allocation of defense dollars in an era of economic restraint. Getting this right is critical not just for national security, but will have profound implications for the U.S. federal budget in the long term.

2. Contain the euro zone crisis.

As the U.S. economy sputters along, the same cannot be said for our friends across the Atlantic, and it could circle back to hurt us. “In the same way that the collapse of Lehman implied global shocks, a disorderly situation in the Euro zone is going to impact the United States,” Nouriel Roubini, known in economic circles as “Dr. Doom,” told my production team for Great Decisions in a recent interview. While Mario Draghi, the recently appointed president of the European Central Bank, has earned high marks for keeping interest rates low and pumping euros into banks across the region to help stabilize financial markets, the eurozone is expected to grow at an abysmal 0.1 percent in the coming year. The United States is the European Union’s largest trading partner, and while American policymakers have a limited toolkit to work with, the Obama administration should continue to provide sound economic advice and support through international institutions like the International Monetary Fund.

3. Mend the fence with China.

Typically, Beijing is quick to disregard American anti-China campaign rhetoric, but with more of its Chinese citizens watching than ever before as both President Obama and Mitt Romney pounded on China for its policies, you can expect a stronger reaction than in past election cycles. As China prepares for its own leadership transition, though, that response is likely to be a call for respect and more engagement. For the sake of the U.S. economy (China still buys more U.S. Treasury debt than any other country), the president should oblige while keeping all issues—from currency manipulation to cyber attacks against the United States and territorial claims in the South China Sea—on the table.

4. Confront border violence and immigration.

The violence along the U.S.-Mexico border increased dramatically in recent years, impacting the lives of Americans along border towns and leaving roughly 60,000 Mexicans dead during the tenure of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. During this period,  immigration to the United States has slowed, due both to violence and a sluggish U.S. economy. Some think immigration reform could be the key to kick-starting the U.S. economy, and a re-elected President Obama should engage early with his new counterpart, President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto, who has also made economic reform a top priority for his administration.

5. Encourage innovation and global competitiveness.

The fear that the United States is a super power in decline has gained considerable traction during the past decade. Indeed, the United States has dropped from No. 1 in the World Economic Forum’s 2008-2009 report on competitiveness to No. 7 in 2012. With the wars in the Middle East winding down, the administration should make global competitiveness a top priority. This means a renewed focus on reforms in education, energy, and technology that will keep America in its rightful place as a global leader in innovation.

*This article originally appeared on U.S. News and World Report

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Myanmar on Edge http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/11/13/myanmar-on-edge/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/11/13/myanmar-on-edge/#comments Tue, 13 Nov 2012 18:53:18 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=69860 As history tells it, the father of modern day Myanmar, Gen. Aung San, was assassinated in 1947 not long after the country gained its independence from Britain as he sought to forge a democracy among leaders from Myanmar’s 100-plus ethnic groups. But even 50 years of authoritarian military rule ...]]>

As history tells it, the father of modern day Myanmar, Gen. Aung San, was assassinated in 1947 not long after the country gained its independence from Britain as he sought to forge a democracy among leaders from Myanmar’s 100-plus ethnic groups. But even 50 years of authoritarian military rule (itself installed following ethnic rivalries in 1962) following Aung San’s death have not been able to quell ethnic tensions in Myanmar, also known as Burma, and last month saw a major flare up that could threaten the historic political and economic reforms taking place in Myanmar today.

“The central problem facing the country is not political,” said David Steinberg, an expert on Myanmar at Georgetown University, in a recent interview for Great Decisions in Foreign Policy. “The sharing of power and resources has never been adequately dealt with, and that is the central issue that needs to be resolved.”

According to a government account, violent riots between Buddhists and minority Muslims in western state of Rakhine began on October 21 and continued through the end of the month have left 86 Burmese dead. Because the country is still ruled by a military junta, such figures are often disputed, but the United Nations estimates that more than 25,000 have been displaced in a state that is home to nearly one million people along the border with Bangladesh. It’s long been a focus area for human rights groups.

The flare up comes in the midst of reforms largely championed by Western countries that would open the Burmese economy to international investment and see new elections take place in 2015. A number of political prisoners have been released over the past year, and the government has slowly begun to allow more freedom for the press. The process, however, has been micro-managed by Myanmar’s military leaders, and a number of constitutional reforms have yet to be implemented.

“What’s very unique about Myanmar is contrary to everything that’s happened in the Arab Spring, but at the same time in parallel, it all came from the top,” said Louise Arbour, former high commissioner for human rights at the United Nations and now head of the International Crisis Group, which closely monitors Myanmar. “This is not a revolution of the people, it’s a transformation of a regime, self-motivated to transform.”

For that reason, democratic reforms are tenuous and could easily be reversed. While the United States has recently opened up diplomatic relations with Myanmar in response to reforms, the new U.S. ambassador to the country, Derek Mitchell, said continued ethnic tension could derail the process.

“It’s really a remarkable story, Burma, perhaps the most positive development we’ve seen globally in the past year,” he told Great Decisions. “But you have to understand the very complex dynamics of the country, where not only are there a number of ethnic groups and multiple complex interactions between them, but there is no real rule of law and they’re in a transitional phase.”

While the central government has negotiated ceasefires with a number of armed ethnic groups, problems like those in Rakhine state will require a more robust solution, according to Mitchell:

Getting past ceasefires and getting to political dialog, real resolution, national reconciliation, and trust building to create the stability and unity in the country that they have been fighting for over the past 60 years—that remains the real concern.

Many in the country have placed their hopes for unity in opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San who sought the same goal before his assassination.

“I think everybody’s introduction to Burma is likely to be because of Aung San Suu Kyi—a remarkable, unique figure, an icon really globally for democracy—and of course, more than an icon inside her own country,” said Mitchell.  “But she’ll be the first to say that this is not just about her. It can’t be just about a single person, it has to be about society at large.”

This article originally appeared on U.S. News and World Report.

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Mali Explainer: A Q&A with Gregory Mann http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/10/24/mali-explainer-a-qa-with-gregory-mann/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2012/10/24/mali-explainer-a-qa-with-gregory-mann/#comments Wed, 24 Oct 2012 14:53:45 +0000 http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=69182 In this week’s foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, terrorism in the northern part of the West African nation of Mali was brought up unexpectedly.  FPA’s Robert Nolan speaks with Mali Columbia University’s Gregory Mann about the situation there. Unabashed destruction of historic UNESCO ...]]>

In this week’s foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, terrorism in the northern part of the West African nation of Mali was brought up unexpectedly.  FPA’s Robert Nolan speaks with Mali Columbia University’s Gregory Mann about the situation there.

Unabashed destruction of historic UNESCO sites. The banning of all music aside from the singing of verses from the Koran. The imposition of strict Sharia law. The rise of Islamic terrorism. No, this is not Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban, though it sounds a lot like it. The above is actually taking place in what has been one of Africa’s most stable countries for much of past 50 years.

Known for its rich musical heritage, magnificent mud mosques, and ancient cities like Timbuktu, the normally sleepy West African country of Mali—a former French colony whose northern border runs deep into the Sahara—has largely escaped the recent political instability experienced by its neighbors in the region.

All that changed earlier this year, when Malian soldiers staged a coup, ousting the government in Bamako over its handling of Tuareg separatists, nomadic tribes who have long sought a regional enclave of their own in the north. Ironically, the coup allowed the separatists, as well as al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic radicals (heavily armed with weapons spilling over from post-Qadhafi Libya) the chance to take control of the region and proclaim an independent state. Since then, they’ve destroyed ancient holy sites, carried out public floggings for violations of strict Islamic law, kidnapped Westerners and threatened to carry out terrorist attacks in countries that support an international intervention, particularly France.

That threat, however, has not prevented regional and international players from moving forward with plans to intervene. Indeed, the regional African group known as the Economic Community of West African States, with support from the African Union, was authorized last week by the United Nations Security Council to create a plan for intervention. It has broad support from neighboring Algeria, regional heavyweight Nigeria, France, and the United States, which is increasingly concerned with the rise of Islamic terrorism in the Sahel region.

So is an intervention a good idea? I called up my old friend Gregory Mann, one of just a handful of American experts on Mali based at Columbia University, and asked him to share a few thoughts on the looming intervention and whether it’s a good idea. For a deeper look at the situation, check out Greg’s analysis over at African Arguments.

What’s the goal of any potential intervention in Mali?

If there is some kind of intervention, there will be two tasks. One is to retake the cities of the bend of Niger, Gao, Timbuktu, Ansongo, Menaka, the southern urban centers where most people actually live. The second is to get up into the far northern desert and take AQIM [Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb] and Ansar Dine on in their own territory. That would be a lot harder nut to crack.

What’s the timeline for an intervention at this point?

The U.S. desire for a road map to elections that would put a legitimate, democratic government back in power would be sometime in April of 2013. This is interesting because it coincides with any reasonable kind of timeline for planning a military intervention. If both of those tracks went forward you would see both an ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] intervention and an election in April, which could be a train wreck.

What would an intervention force look like?

It would be comprised primarily of ECOWAS forces on the ground, and we’ve heard that there are EU and U.S. advisers assisting ECOWAS. There is also the expectation of behind-the-scenes American or French air and logistical support. Both the French and Americans are saying ‘no way’ to ground troops. Even the Gambia said they would chip in, but it would be primarily Nigerian troops, and I suspect from Niger as well. There’s been a call for more contributions from Senegal, but it’s quite overcommitted in terms of peacekeeping in region already.

Could an intervention result in a spillover into other countries in the region?

What I think is likely to happen is that you take back the southern bend from separatists which would likely be followed by a long-running counterinsurgency campaign in the north for quite some time that moves between Algeria, Libya, Niger, and becomes a very diffuse, low-intensity regional issue. One thing I’m worried about are the emerging links between Boko Haram and AQIM, and the success Boko Haram has had carrying out terrorist attacks in Nigeria. My fear is that if an ECOWAS force goes into Mali you could see attacks on civilians in places like Niamey, Bamako, Dakar, and other West African capitals. 

This article originally appeared on U.S. News and World Report.

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India Boosts Ties with Africa, AU http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/05/27/india-boosts-ties-with-africa-au/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/05/27/india-boosts-ties-with-africa-au/#comments Fri, 27 May 2011 14:21:06 +0000 http://au.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=144 This week the second ever Africa-India Summit took place, with New Delhi signaling that it was committed to doing business with the continent and supporting both national and regional development. Trade between India and Africa amounted to roughly $46 billion in 2010, but the partners aim to increase ...]]>

This week the second ever Africa-India Summit took place, with New Delhi signaling that it was committed to doing business with the continent and supporting both national and regional development.

Trade between India and Africa amounted to roughly $46 billion in 2010, but the partners aim to increase that number to $70 billion by 2015.

The growing economic relationship between Africa and India, however, is not without its politics.  Some suspect that India’s engagement is tied, at least in some ways, to its quest for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, a move that many African countries have expressed support for.   India also joined AU leaders in calling for an end to NATO airstrikes against Libya.

Others speculate that India is seeking to emulate China, which has a much larger presence on the continent, in securing Africa’s natural resources to fuel a rapidly growing economy.  India is expected to be the world’s third largest net importer of oil by 2030, and some suggest its engaged in a game of catch-up in Africa.

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Africa Day http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/05/25/africa-day/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/05/25/africa-day/#comments Wed, 25 May 2011 22:27:46 +0000 http://au.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=133 “This conference cannot close without adopting a single African Charter. We cannot leave here without having created a single African organization…. If we fail in this, we will have shirked our responsibility to Africa and to the peoples we lead.” So said ...]]>

“This conference cannot close without adopting a single African Charter. We cannot leave here without having created a single African organization…. If we fail in this, we will have shirked our responsibility to Africa and to the peoples we lead.”

So said Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie at a Pan-African summit  in 1963 at which the continent’s newly independent leaders sought to rid Africa from colonialism once and for all.  The result was the birth of the Organization of African Unity.

Today, May 25th, is Africa Day, marking the 48th anniversary of the founding of the OAU.

While the OAU made significant contributions to the struggle against colonialism, the organization was restrained very much by its own DNA in other areas of progress, and was eventually written off as a forum for dictators.

Nearly half a century later, though, a new chapter is being written for the continent, guided partly by the next generation of African leadership under the guise of the African Union.

Officially launched in Durban, South Africa, in 2002, the AU replaced the OAU as Africa’s premier multilateral institution. Based loosely on the organization of the EU, its leaders from 53 countries were anxious to find common ground on political and economic integration, while seeking to curb conflicts and foster peace.  Fed up with poor leadership and seeking to take advantage of new trends in globalization that had led to economic prosperity around the world, African leaders knew it was time for something new.   Under the umbrella of the AU, democracy became a top priority and civil society had begun to flourish, development initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) gained traction at home and internationally, while the promise of “African solutions to African problems” made by the continent’s founding fathers finally seemed attainable, largely due to the creation of a real peace and security apparatus. The long-awaited but elusive “African Renaissance” once again appeared to be on the horizon.

While most would not yet herald the dawn of an African Renaissance quite yet,  there are positive indicators that Africa is on the right track.

The United Nations, for example,  announced last week that African economies are likely to grow on average by nearly five percent.  Powers old (European countries, the U.S.) and new (China, India, Brazil) are seeking to engage Africa economically at unprecedented levels.  The African Union has acted on more than one occasion as an advocate of democratic principles, both in words and deed, in hot spots ranging from Somalia to Sudan, Guinea to Madagascar.  And this week representatives from the AU meet in an effort to break the stalemate in Libya, where, despite an ongoing NATO bombing campaign, no military solution remains in sight.

There are, of course, multiple challenges facing the body today.  AU forces, operating largely on African derived support, have gone on the offensive to wrest control of Mogadishu, a task that has stymied all parties for the better part of 25 years.   Despite the efforts of the AU special representative to Sudan, former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the country seems destined for ‘civil’ war upon its official partition in a matter of weeks.  And democracy continues to evade the populations of countries like Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe continues to rule with an iron fist, with little resistance from the AU.

But a new generation of Africans, connected to the world unlike those that came before it, are working towards a better future.  From the African Diaspora active in every field from finance to medicine to budding civil society organizations across the continent, the upward trajectory of Africa has not gone unnoticed here in the U.S.  This month, the State Department sent officials across the continent to engage with emerging young leaders.  Wall Street gurus increasingly champion Africa as ‘the next big thing’ and Africa is increasingly coming “online.”

It is these trends that we will explore in an upcoming, ongoing interview series featuring the new voices of the continent, and are pleased to announce on this very important day.

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30th Anniversary of Bob Marley's Death Marked Around the World http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/05/12/30th-anniversary-of-bob-marleys-death-marked-around-the-world/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/05/12/30th-anniversary-of-bob-marleys-death-marked-around-the-world/#comments Thu, 12 May 2011 19:32:38 +0000 http://music.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=325 The 30th anniversary of the death of one of the world’s most politically influential musicians was marked around the world yesterday, highlighted by the opening of an exhibition on the reggae singer’s life at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Music fans and political observers around the world marked ...]]> The 30th anniversary of the death of one of the world’s most politically influential musicians was marked around the world yesterday, highlighted by the opening of an exhibition on the reggae singer’s life at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.

Music fans and political observers around the world marked the occasion by reflecting on the legacy left behind by the Jamaican singer and guitarist, who championed civil rights, peace and justice around the globe. Marley, who adhered to the controversial teachings of the Rastafari movement, supported liberation movements across Africa in particular, and played a key role in his own country in forging ties across political parties.

“His greatest achievement was that he continues to inspire,” said Marley’s son, the accomplished musician Ziggy Marley.

This sentiment was echoed across the globe. In Ghana, the first country to gain its independence from colonialism, Ahuma Bosco Ocansey, president of the Rastafari Council said Marley would have supported the wave of liberation movements taking place across the Arab world and North Africa today.

Horace Campbell, a professor of African American studies and political science at Syracuse University, praised Marley for his role in drawing attention to Apartheid in South Africa by performing at the liberation celebrations of Zimbabwe in 1980. “Marley was very conscious that the African revolution and African unity were inseparable,” he writes in Pambazuka News. “This call for African unity from the grassroots is as urgent today as it was 31 years ago when Bob Marley uttered these words of unity from the stage in Harare, Zimbabwe.”

The appearance also marked the embrace of reggae music across the continent, inspiring home grown artists like Luke Dube, Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly, not to mention a slew of socially conscious rappers like K’Naan and Darra J — all of whom continue to speak out lyrically against corruption and for human rights in Africa and beyond.

“Zimbabwe” by Bob Marley

Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny,
And in this judgement there is no partiality.
So arm in arms, with arms, we’ll fight this little struggle,
‘Cause that’s the only way we can overcome our little trouble.

Brother, you’re right, you’re right,
You’re right, you’re right, you’re so right!
We gon’ fight (we gon’ fight), we’ll have to fight (we gon’ fight),
We gonna fight (we gon’ fight), fight for our rights!

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U.S.-AU Disconnect on Libya http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/04/27/u-s-au-disconnect-on-libya/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/04/27/u-s-au-disconnect-on-libya/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2011 20:57:58 +0000 http://au.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=124 the second such meeting, and a joint statement was released outlining the “full range” of U.S.-Africa priorities, including democratic governance, economic development, health and ...]]> Top officials from the African Union visited Washington last week to discuss relations between the U.S. and the emerging pan-African body. It was the second such meeting, and a joint statement was released outlining the “full range” of U.S.-Africa priorities, including democratic governance, economic development, health and peace and security issues.

On democratic governance, always a top priority in such formal talks for American administrations, the U.S. praised the AU for its role in restoring democracy to Guinea and Niger, where non-democratically elected leaders sought to usurp power in recent months.  It also applauded the AU’s strong, unified stance on Cote D’Ivoire in support of democratically elected leader Alassane Ouattara, despite its inability to impact the situation before French and UN troops intervened alongside opposition forces to remove incumbent Laurent Gbagbo from power.

AU chairman Jean Ping discussed many of the current challenges, particularly related to peace and security initiatives, impacting the organization in a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace. As Ping pointed out, the mechanisms the AU currently has to deal with conflict are indeed improving, and the U.S. praised the AU for its role in Somalia, where it has about 8,000 peacekeepers holding the line on a very combustible situation.

There remains, however, a rather large gap in U.S. and AU thinking on Libya.  While both parties would like to see an immediate end to the hostilities there, the AU is clearly comfortable with one of it’s foremost patrons staying in power  (click here for a look at Colonel Qadaffi’s continental reach) whereas the U.S. and its allies, not to mention the Libyan rebels, have made Qadaffi’s departure a top priority, official or not.  And African leaders, alongside AU officials, have been quite vocal about their disapproval of foreign military intervention on African soil – which they say evokes the days of colonialism and neo-colonialism.  Hence, the so-called AU “road map” for peace in Libya stands little chance of gaining traction, at least until all other options have been exhausted.

But what does this mean for U.S. relations with Africa?  Jonathan Stevenson of the U.S. Naval War college, writing in Foreign Policy, notes that Libya presents the first test for the U.S.  military command in Africa, known as AFRICOM. Currently located in Stutgart, Germany, the command has yet to find a home on the continent itself, primarily out of African countries’ concern regarding its intentions.  The Libya intervention is likely to bolster such suspicions.

Furthermore, Stevenson notes that the U.S. must do a better job at understanding the nuances of African politics — knowing when to support regimes and when to apply pressure —  if it hopes to maintain access to much need natural resources, especially as China ratchets up its presence on the continent.  Libya, in this respect, is a critical test case.   “Although a deeply flawed and unquestionably hypocritical organization, the AU easily beats its sorry predecessor,” he writes.  “And it’s all we’ve got.”

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AU Chairman: ICC Singles Out African Leaders http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/04/21/au-chairman-icc-singles-out-african-leaders/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/04/21/au-chairman-icc-singles-out-african-leaders/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2011 18:57:26 +0000 http://au.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=120 The African Union Commission Chairman, Jean Ping, yesterday told an audience in Washington that the International Criminal Court continues to target African leaders unfairly, accusing the body of “double standards” as it seeks to try those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide — most recently ...]]>

The African Union Commission Chairman, Jean Ping, yesterday told an audience in Washington that the International Criminal Court continues to target African leaders unfairly, accusing the body of “double standards” as it seeks to try those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide — most recently in Sudan and Kenya.

Noting that atrocities which occur in other geographic locations like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Gaza and Georgia are often not taken up by the court — and that African defendants are often assumed to be guilty when paraded in front of the media — Ping asked an audience assembled at the U.S. Institute of Peace, “Where is the habeas corpus?”

Ping’s remarks highlight ongoing hostilities between African countries and the UN-backed ICC, despite the fact that most African countries are signatories to the Rome Statute.

The former foreign minister from Gabon also took the opportunity to highlight a number of initiatives that AU is making to increase its peace and security architecture.  At the heart of the AU, he said, is “human security” and the need to “redefine the concept of sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of state entities.”

The AU’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was often criticized, and even lampooned, for it’s inaction with regards to member states that terrorized their own people.  The AU Constitutive Act, and subsequent amendments, Ping said, give the AU the authority to intervene in member states when necessary in an effort to combat a “culture of impunity” that has plagued Africa for decades.

Despite successful interventions in Burundi, Kenya and the Comoros Islands — and efforts to prevent Somalia from descending further into chaos — many have been disappointed with recent AU efforts regarding Cote D’Ivoire and Libya.

Ping, who once chaired the UN General Assembly, said that even when mandated by the UN, foreign intervention in African states is “not normal”, and said the AU has its own capacity for peacekeeping, including an early warning system, an emerging African Standby Force and a so-called “Panel of the Wise.”

While these tools, with strong assistance from the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), have allowed the AU to avert all out civil war in a number of instances, few believe that the AU has the capacity or security infrastructure to curb major conflicts like those afflicting Cote D’Ivoire and Libya.

Indeed, as Peter Godwin wrote in the New York Times earlier this week, the AU’s reliance on what he called the “democracy-defying model” of forging power-sharing agreements between aging dictators in Kenya and Zimbabwe and opposition movements to avert state-sanctioned atrocities is not sustainable.

Hence, many have questioned the much publicized AU “road map” for Libya, which Ping defended with gusto.  Just days after the NATO no-fly zone was imposed, a group of five African heads of state, led by South African President Jacob Zuma, met with Libyan leader Momar Gaddafi in Tripoli, as well as rebel leaders in Bengazi, urging both to adhere to a ceasefire.

“We were the first to put our feet in Libya, the rest, they were in the air,” said Ping, referring to the NATO allies, whom he added had no road map beyond the air campaign.  “We negotiated in Tripoli and they accepted,” he said.  “Then we moved to Bengazi,” he added, “but they put preconditions, the biggest being that they cannot negotiate with Gaddafi.”

Here lies the crux of the matter.  Momar Gaddafi has long viewed himself as an African leader, going so far as to declare himself “king of kings” before serving as head of the African Union in 2009, much to the organization’s embarrassment.  It is a well-known fact that Gaddafi pays AU dues for multiple, impoverished African countries, and has never shied away from assisting his fellow African dictators out of a tight jam.  It comes as no surprise that Libya’s opposition has little faith in the AU as a fair broker.

In his speech, Ping made much of the AU’s new thinking on “sovereignty” in his remarks in Washington, pointing in particular to a 2007 amendment to the AU’s Constitutive Act, which declares:

the right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a
decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war
crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity as well as a serious
threat to legitimate order to restore peace and stability to the Member
State of the Union upon the recommendation of the Peace and Security
Council;

This is, by far, the most progressive interpretation of the so-called “responsibility to protect” doctrine championed by many at the UN who support humanitarian intervention.  The challenge for the African Union are twofold.  First, the body must continue, as Ping noted, to build up its own Peace and Security toolbox so that it has the ability to intervene when innocent’s lives are at risk in Africa.  The second challenge, much more daunting, is building the credibility that it is willing to do so, with all the political, financial and historical baggage that entails.

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Webcast Today: AU Chair to Address U.S. Institute of Peace http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/04/20/webcast-today-au-chair-to-address-u-s-institute-of-peace/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/04/20/webcast-today-au-chair-to-address-u-s-institute-of-peace/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2011 15:06:59 +0000 http://au.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=96 African Union Chairman Jean Ping will address the U.S. Institute of Peace today following meetings with top officials in Washington.  The address, which is expected to touch on hot button issues like the interventions in Libya and Ivory Coast, elections in Nigeria and U.S.-Africa relations, will be webcast live beginning at 2:00 pm EST.   For those who can’t make it, we’ll be providing a roundup tomorrow.

Tune in here.

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Cote D'Ivoire: Une autre intervention http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/04/05/cote-divoire-une-autre-intervention/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/04/05/cote-divoire-une-autre-intervention/#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2011 17:24:19 +0000 http://au.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=86 Libyan officials aren’t the only ones seeking to defect to neighboring countries these days.  Like the Qadaffi clan in Tripoli, the regime of Cote D’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo has come under international pressure as violence between the incumbent and the opposition escalates.  Top level officials, including the

Libyan officials aren’t the only ones seeking to defect to neighboring countries these days.  Like the Qadaffi clan in Tripoli, the regime of Cote D’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo has come under international pressure as violence between the incumbent and the opposition escalates.  Top level officials, including the head of the country’s armed forces,  are apparently seeking a way out under the pressure of a second UN-approved military intervention in as many weeks.  And once again, it’s the French who are leading the charge.

The turmoil in the world’s largest cocoa producing country came to a head this week, as forces loyal to the opposition leader, Alassane Ouattara — whom the UN, African Union and international community in general recognize as the legitimate winner of a presidential poll late last year — laid siege to Abidjan, where Gbagbo and his supporters have been holed up in recent weeks, refusing to relinquish power.  French helicopter strikes,  inspired by the international intervention in Libya, gave cover to the advancing rebels.  Attacks on UN peacekeepers by Gbagbo forces provided the political cover for the world body to authorize action.

French and UN officials used similar language to justify the military intervention as in Libya, adding that France would take the lead in negotiating a way out for the president of the former French colony.

President Obama has called for Gbagbo to step down immediately, while African Union leaders have said the problems in Cote D’Ivoire, or Ivory Coast, don’t merit international military intervention.  “Africa does not need any external influence, he said, according to a report on the Web site Expatica.  The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, called for a ” safe and dignified exit” for Gbagbo, according to VOA News.

The somewhat hasty intervention occurred not just in the wake of international intervention in Libya, but following months of failed negotiations aimed at removing Gbagbo from power, led primarily by the UN, African Union and France. It has also led many to question the direction of French foreign policy under President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has pushed France towards a more muscular role on the world stage in recent weeks, to the chagrin and puzzlement of many French, who generally oppose such military action.

It also raises questions about the role of the UN in Africa, as the world body has shied away from military action in places long torn apart by conflict, like Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Obama to Partners: Share the Burden http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/03/29/obama-to-partners-share-the-burden/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/03/29/obama-to-partners-share-the-burden/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2011 15:10:51 +0000 http://euroatlanticsecurity.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=117 Bill O’Reilly said it was logical.   Donald Trump said it made no sense.  Sarah Palin called it disappointing. Regardless of one’s opinion of President Obama’s speech last night on the U.S. military intervention in Libya, though,  there no doubt seemed to be hints of an emerging “Obama Doctrine” in his ...]]>

Bill O’Reilly said it was logical.   Donald Trump said it made no sense.  Sarah Palin called it disappointing.

Regardless of one’s opinion of President Obama’s speech last night on the U.S. military intervention in Libya, though,  there no doubt seemed to be hints of an emerging “Obama Doctrine” in his remarks.

There will be times, though, when our safety is not directly
threatened, but our interests and values are. Sometimes, the course of
history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and our
common security – responding to natural disasters, for example; or
preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security;
and maintaining the flow of commerce. These may not be America’s
problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems
worth solving. And in these circumstances, we know that the United
States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon
to help.

In such cases, we should not be afraid to act, but the burden of
action should not be America’s alone. As we have in Libya, our task is
instead to mobilize the international community for collective action.
Because contrary to the claims of some, American leadership is not
simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden
ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for
others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that
they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs;
and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld
by all.

What’s interesting here is that Obama is taking multilateralism to it’s logical conclusion.  For many years, it seems, Americans who skew towards the “internationalist” view of U.S. foreign policy argued that working with allies was an ends in and of itself.  What Obama has done, cleverly, in his speech last night was shifting some of the onus onto America’s global partners.

International approval via United Nations Security Council resolutions or half-hearted NATO missions are simply not enough to maintain global peace and security, Obama seems to be saying, and the U.S. alone will no longer be the world’s policeman.  Rather, U.S. partners, who so often sit on the sidelines and criticize America’s pro-active policies on the world stage will be asked to step up.  Should be interesting to see how this plays out as NATO takes control of Libya operations and democratic desires continue to cause unrest in the Arab world and beyond.

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AU Mission in Somalia Gets Boost http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/03/29/au-mission-in-somalia-gets-boost/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/03/29/au-mission-in-somalia-gets-boost/#comments Tue, 29 Mar 2011 15:59:33 +0000 http://au.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=77 As African Union peacekeepers continue to come under attack in Somalia, the mission there, known as AMISOM, received two pieces of good news this week. First off, Uganda and Burundi, offered to send 4,000 more troops to the mission.  The two countries account for a majority of what ...]]>

As African Union peacekeepers continue to come under attack in Somalia, the mission there, known as AMISOM, received two pieces of good news this week.

First off, Uganda and Burundi, offered to send 4,000 more troops to the mission.  The two countries account for a majority of what will now be a 12,000-strong force aimed at pushing back Islamist-led insurgents which aims to unseat the fragile, hardly visible Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu.

Another boost came from a European Union announcement that it would provide another $93 million to the mission.  The EU has provided $208 million in funding to AMISOM since 2007, despite the fact that many observers have little faith in the ability for the mission to succeed.  The funds, it seems are aimed more at maintaining the status quo than making any real gains.

“AMISOM does a vital job in Somalia, ensuring that human rights are respected, citizens are protected and internally displaced persons and refugees can return home in safety and dignity,” the EU’s Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said, according to the German Press Agency.

AMISOM was authorized by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in 2007, and is periodically approved by the United Nations Security Council.   While some have urged the UN to take over the mission, the world body has so-far refused  – though Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said a peacekeeping mission could emerge under the right conditions.

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Tiger Mom has nothing on Dear Leader http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/03/28/tiger-mom-has-nothing-on-dear-leader/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/03/28/tiger-mom-has-nothing-on-dear-leader/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2011 19:03:47 +0000 http://music.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=319 Not really sure what to make of this bizarre video of virtuoso guitar playing, North Korean six-year-olds. The skill level is amazing, though one has to dig deep in any attempt to understand the context that their training and performance must have taken place in. One commentator noticed that the physical features of the performers (missing teeth, frail) certainly points to malnourishment. Nevertheless, a rare glimpse into life inside the hermit kingdom.

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Museveni: Qaddafi Bad, Intervention Worse http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/03/25/ugandas-museveni-qaddafi-bad-intervention-worse/ http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2011/03/25/ugandas-museveni-qaddafi-bad-intervention-worse/#comments Fri, 25 Mar 2011 18:26:11 +0000 http://au.foreignpolicyblogs.com/?p=64 Despite past disagreements with the Libyan leader over the pace of African integration and the awkward fact that Qaddafi provided support for Uganda’s murderous former leader, Idi Amin, Ugandan President Yoweri Musevini is highly critical of the Western intervention in Libya in an article printed by Foreign Policy magazine.  ...]]>

Despite past disagreements with the Libyan leader over the pace of African integration and the awkward fact that Qaddafi provided support for Uganda’s murderous former leader, Idi Amin, Ugandan President Yoweri Musevini is highly critical of the Western intervention in Libya in an article printed by Foreign Policy magazine.  While Musevini acknowledges some of the colonel’s less than admirable qualities (support for terrorism, nationalism, declaring himself ‘king of kings’) he also says the Libyan leader has done much for his country.

Musevini says an extraordinary meeting of AU leaders, in addition to mediation by the African body between Qaddafi and the leaders of those who oppose him, are the best route forward.  Here are some excerpts:

Some excerpts:

“I have never taken the time to investigate socio-economic conditions within Libya. When I was last there, I could see good roads, even from the air. From the TV pictures, you can even see the rebels zooming up and down in pick-up trucks on very good roads accompanied by Western journalists. Who built these good roads? Who built the oil refineries in Brega and those other places where the fighting has been taking place recently? Were these facilities built during the time of the king and his American and British allies, or were they built by Qaddafi?”

“We must distinguish between demonstrations and insurrections. Peaceful demonstrations should not be fired upon with live bullets. Of course, even peaceful demonstrations should coordinate with the police to ensure that they do not interfere with the rights of other citizens. However, when rioters are attacking police stations and army barracks with the aim of taking power, then they are no longer demonstrators; they are insurrectionists.”

“I am totally allergic to foreign, political, and military involvement in sovereign countries, especially the African countries. If foreign intervention is good, then, African countries should be the most prosperous countries in the world.”

Read the full article here.

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