I was reading a Foreign Policy blog post this morning when I came upon a startling fact: international issues are a priority for less than two out of ten Americans. More than eight out of ten, on the other hand, cited domestic policy as their number one voting issue.
The findings, from a Washington Post-ABC News poll, got me thinking: do Americans care about the world anymore? Have domestic hot button issues — underemployment, slow or negative job growth, immigration, gay rights, contraception and reproduction, Occupy YouNameIt — taken over the political main stage and left the burning issues of the international landscape — fraudulent Russian elections, the Syrian crackdown, European disintegration, the transition of the Libyan government, clashes in Somalia, the DRC, and Sudan, to name a few — high and dry? And maybe, dare I say it, could that be a good thing for the United States?
The annual U.N. climate talks, this year COP-17, began five days ago in Durban, South Africa. The major question this year is what we should do with the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire in 2012. John Prescott, former U.K. labor minister and one of the leading delegates at the Kyoto negotiations, is calling for the Durban delegates to “stop the clocks” on the Protocol, enabling the mechanisms to continue while a new international accord is reached. The UK’s former chief scientist, Sir David King, argues that the Protocol should be abandoned and in its place should be introduced a “muscular bilateralism”, whereby nations commit to voluntary emissions reductions in cooperation with each other.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill 61 to 37 to require the U.S. Military to take control of all suspected terrorist arrested overseas and now, in the United States. The bill also allows the Military to hold detainees in Military custody indefinitely, and without the guarantee of a trial.
Now I know that Guantanamo Bay concerns dramatically died down a few years ago, but this new bill definitely raises some worries. First, yes, we are at war and the treatment of suspected terrorists is murkier. However, there remain clear international laws , including but not limited to the Geneva Conventions on the Treatment of Prisoners, that stipulate how a prisoner is meant to be treated. Does the United States have the right to hold suspects for an unlimited amount of time and without a trial? My guess is that many lawyers and human rights activists would argue that these rules are inhumane and illegal. I would argue that treating suspects this way in the United States could elicit similar treatment overseas of American prisoners, and the U.S. would not longer have an argument about reciprocal treatment on its side. Continue reading
Throughout much of American history we have struggled with how to reconcile our foreign policy strategic interests with our stated commitments to the virtues of democracy, freedom, and human rights. Our Cold War support for right wing dictatorships and authoritarian regimes was a lightening rod for criticism from the American Left (while the American Right wondered why we did not do more to fund insurgents in totalitarian communist and socialist countries). Of course prior to the Cold War we allied with one totalitarian state (the USSR) in order to take down another (Germany). Continue reading
A devastating report published by the U.N. on Monday shows widespread torture methods have been used by the Afghan intelligence service against detainees held in camps in the war-torn country. The report highlights that methods including beatings, twisting of genitals, and hanging people by their hands have been used to gain information from prisoners in the country. According to the New York Times, the information, released in draft form several months ago, was apparently discouraging enough to convince NATO to stop sending terrorist suspects to Afghan intelligence. The report raises many questions about the proper response to torture claims, as well as questions about whether the United States pulling out of Afghanistan is the proper move. Continue reading
I knew that as a Roosevelt Summer Academy Fellow I would have more opportunities than the average DC intern, but I wasn’t expecting these to include an invitation to the White House. But that’s just what happened last Thursday, when I joined U.S.A.I.D. Administrator Raj Shah and twenty other young Americans to host a webchat moderated by Kalpen Modi: “How to Make Change: Open for Questions–Youth and International Development”
At a fundraiser for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign yesterday, President Obama warned that possible “tactical” disagreements may be in the near future between Israel and Washington. He was speaking on the complex peace process between Israel and Palestine at the fundraiser, which gathered Democratic friends of Israel.
Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been on pause since September 2010, when the partial freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank expired. Israel declined to renew the freeze and continued to build settlements, provoking the Palestinians to refuse to negotiate until the freeze is reinstalled. Continue reading