Archive for: Perspectives


Diplomacy & Intelligence: Strange Bedfellows

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of the Intelligencer

Spies and diplomats; diplomats and spies. Funnily enough, each could use precisely Dorfman’s adage about the other.

Diplomacy – particularly effective diplomacy – depends on intelligence – particularly effective intelligence. For the purposes of this article, we use “diplomacy” to mean strategically purposeful official communication between and among governments intended to persuade other governments to cooperate with one’s own position or course of action, or to motivate collaboration on a collective solution to an international problem. By intelligence, we mean the collection by official governmental means of information on foreign parties and events/developments that is not otherwise publically available, along with forecasts and analyses, which may combine this information with other openly collected or public-source information, to support policymakers’ decision-making and/or military acquisition, deployment, or employment decisions.

Download the full article: Diplomacy & Intelligence: Strange Bedfellows


Will Mexico and Canada Be Willing to Reform NAFTA?

“President-elect Trump has been relentlessly critical of NAFTA from the beginning of his candidacy. After almost a quarter century, it is perfectly plausible that the tripartite NAFTA agreement could use a review—updating and improvement. President Trump will certainly have the power and authority to propose—and, if necessary, insist on—re-negotiating NAFTA with Mexico and Canada. It is hard to see how or why Congress would try to stop him. But if they don’t already know, USTR-designate Richard Lighthizer, and Commerce Secretary-designate Wilbur Ross will soon discover that Mexico and Canada will have their own lists of grievances, frustrations, demands and ambitions for a re-opened NAFTA negotiation. The result will be a product of give-and-take horse-trading—just as NAFTA is. Only better, the administration will explain. It would have to be. Where can you go but up from what Mr. Trump calls ‘the worst trade deal … in the history of the world’? Re-negotiating NAFTA, in whole or part, is plausible and probably do-able. Abrogating NAFTA is not. While the ability to ‘walk away’ is a hallmark of ‘The Art of the Deal,’ the new Trump trade team must know that, over the last two decades, the production base of most of the U.S. economy’s real sector has become quite thoroughly integrated across the Canadian and Mexican borders. Disrupting that would play havoc with supply chains, prices and employment on a continental scale—probably not a sure-fi re vote-getting strategy.”

This post originally appeared in the Latin America Advisor, a publication by the Inter-American Dialogue.

Melania Trump Plagiarism ‘Mistake’

Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, took centre stage on the first day of the Republican National Convention but faced accusations that a portion of her speech plagiarised Michelle Obama.

Commentators noticed similarities with Mrs Obama’s 2008 convention speech.

White House Writers Group’s Senior Director Anneke Greene gives her take. Listen to the full interview here.

What Will Medina’s Second Term Bring the DR?

“The old adage ‘Results speak for themselves,’ applies particularly to the Dominican Republic under the PLD (Partido de la Liberación Domini- cana) and President Danilo Medina. After weathering recent years’ blistering criticism of the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court ruling denying the citizenship of undocu- mented Haitians and their descendants in the country, Medina just won a record-break- ing first-round victory for re-election, now permitted after a constitutional amendment last year. With a 20-year average economic growth north of 5 percent—around 7 percent for 2014 and 2015—Medina has presided over one of the fastest growing economies of the region. Growth was accompanied by low inflation, strong job creation and sharply declining poverty rates in the last two years, after a decade of high and sticky poverty rates following the DR’s 2003 financial crisis. What’s not to like?

Add in the fact that Medina faced a fractured field of seven opponents, in which the candidate of the DR’s PRM (Partido Revoluciónario Moderno—rough successor to its tradition- al, major opposition party, the PRD), Luis Abinader received only about 57 percent of Medina’s total, and the reasons for Medina’s re-election become pretty obvious. Based on the PLD’s record of economic management during its time in office, it seems likely that Medina’s second term team will be able to master its macroeconomic challenges ahead. Without being close to developments on the much-needed power sector pact, if one considers the depth of the Dominican Republic’s entrenched parallel market for back-up power—due to its chronically unre- liable electricity—I’m not holding my breath. Medina’s greatest challenges will be to guard against the corruption and arrogance of power that usually accompanies long- term political dominance and to ensure that an authentically competitive party system survives in the Dominican Republic.”

This post originally appeared in the Latin America Advisor, a publication by the Inter-American Dialogue.

What is the greatest force shaping our age?

On the front page of Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, two unrelated articles pointed to a greater story.

The first concerned a 15- or 16-year-old factory girl in Bangladesh. Her name was Mahinur Akhter. She survived five weeks of burial in the collapsed garment factory where she had worked. A seamstress, she had earned $90-100 a month, essential to her family. Her father died in a traffic accident last year. She now struggles with fear of returning to rickety industrial buildings versus the needs of her mother and siblings. But the tragedy of the factories is part of a greater story of hope.

“For millions” in Bangladesh, the article noted, “global demand for cheap garments provides a chance to lift their families from destitution.” It continued:

Read the entire piece here. 

Landrieu’s Last Hurrah

Republicans controlling both houses will undoubtedly change the dynamic of the next Congress, but the GOP’s new majority has already shaken up the status quo. Recent political movements on the stagnant issue of approval for the Keystone XL pipeline show the 114th Congress may be more interesting to watch than the new season of “Downton Abbey.”

Read the entire piece here. 

Should the U.S. Impose Sanctions on Venezuelan Officials?

“Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken’s statement in his confirmation hearings to become deputy secretary of state that the Obama administration would not oppose sanctions against Venezuela, prompted by the Maduro regime’s repression of democratic protests earlier this year, makes it a virtual certainty that the new Republican Congress will move to impose sanctions next year. This would, I think, have happened in any case. The issue is an irresistible opportunity to show up the Obama administration’s laconic and feeble approach to dealing with Latin America’s miscreants—exemplified by its feckless failure to prevent Venezuela from securing a seat on the U.N. Security Council earlier this year. An oppositionCongress inevitably tries to contrast its approach with that of the administration.

This can serve to pressure the administration to change course—in this case, to stiffen its spine. Blinken’s signal strikes me as wise, turning an inevitability that could have become a stratagem to embarrass the Obama administration into an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation. How promptly the cognizant House and Senate subcommittees turn to this is anyone’s guess. The 114th Congress will surely face more urgent priorities, and some subcommittee chairmanships aren’t yet announced. But if Rep. Matt Salmon retains the House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee chairmanship and if Sen. Marco Rubio—a sanctions advocate—becomes chairman of the counterpart Senate subcommittee, sanctions legislation seems only a matter of time. And, coming against the background of Maduro’s mounting economic problems exacerbated by falling world oil prices, the timing could prove ideal. With luck, sanctions will make the situation much worse—for Maduro’s regime.


Rioting in Ferguson – A Disheartening Rejection of the Civil Rights Movement

The most disheartening fact about the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, is that the rioters reject due process of law. Yet these same rioters are among the Americans who should be most invested in protecting the law’s protections. They are, after all, some of the chief beneficiaries of the nearly two-century struggle to achieve the very rights they now so violently want to wipe away.

Read the entire piece here.

The China Heist

President Obama called the energy agreement with China historic. The announcement is intended to “inject momentum” into the climate negotiations ahead of the December 2015 climate summit in Paris. Reuters described it as “largely symbolic.” True, China’s side of the deal is non-binding, including its aim to start reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions by around 2030. Symbolic it may be, but symbols matter. And the numbers on the Chinese side are truly staggering.

According to the White House briefing, China’s target to derive 20 percent of its energy from zero-carbon-emission sources would require China to build more wind, solar, and nuclear capacity than all its existing coal-fired power stations. At around 800 to 1,000 gigawatts, this would be almost as much as the total generating capacity of the United States. If it were split equally between wind, solar, and nuclear and constructed in the United States, the extra cost of this zero-carbon-generating capacity would be around $2 trillion. Even if costs in China are half those in the U.S., a trillion-dollar price tag in a $9.2 trillion economy is still a huge amount of money.

Read the entire piece here. 

Here’s What ‘Gilmore Girls’ Has To Offer Our Culture

A month ago, the texts from my friends began rolling in: “‘Gilmore Girls’ is coming to Netflix!”

Judging by the “Most Popular on Netflix” feature, my friends and I aren’t the only ones excited that the former WB show is now available for unlimited binge-watching.

Read the entire piece here.