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Why Obama’s trip to Burma is such a big deal

America and Europe’s Pacific Partnership

The long-anticipated joint EU-U.S. statement that American and European officials have been talking about for months has finally emerged. Announced on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum, the statement puts an end to the political war of words that both sides of the Atlantic have been engaged in for the past several months.

What stands out from the peace and security section of the statement is the EU’s pledge to support cooperative solutions for resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Given Europe’s vested interests in maritime security, Brussels decision to adopt the United States’ procedural approach – we do not take sides but we want this dispute resolved peacefully - was a wise choice. The transatlantic partners managed to keep the security part of the statement quite balanced.

This being said, the joint EU-U.S. statement is an excellent starting point for closer transatlantic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific. It breathes new life into the transatlantic partnership’s efforts to coordinate their Asia policies and reaffirms the EU’s willingness to increase its involvement in the Asia-Pacific region.


The Diplomat


North Korea's Extreme Makeover

Thanks to North Korean state media, we know that Kim is flirting with something that might possibly be construed as reform. He seems to have sacked a hard-line general. He could be rolling back the privileges of the army. When a missile launched fizzled, he didn't lie about it. In April, four months after his father died, he delivered a speech that suggested economic change could solve food shortages.

If Chinese-style economic reform does come to North Korea, as many outside analysts have been hopefully predicting for years, then it is possible that millions of impoverished people could find real jobs that paid real salaries.

That would go a long way toward solving the country's most important human rights issue -- chronic hunger for millions. For years, the U.N. World Food Program has said that malnutrition and stunting afflicts nearly a third of the population.

But it is still much too early to predict any of this could happen. In the meantime, we should not allow ourselves to be manipulated by images of the jowly young leader and his nicely dressed wife at amusement parks. Until he proves otherwise, Kim is still very much his father's son.

Foreign Policy

The 'Reset' of Relations with Russia –

A signature shift in U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama



At the core of the reset policy is a determination that "linkage" -- making bilateral cooperation on a given issue dependent on a given country's behavior on other matters -- is an ineffective instrument when dealing with states that are neither ally nor enemy. That's especially true for great powers like China and Russia, which, whether Americans like it or not, play a major role on global issues that matter.


What's striking is that the severity of the supposed sins committed by Moscow pale in comparison with the benefits the reset has provided to the United States, from facilitating U.S. operations in Afghanistan to the creation of a strong international consensus to rein in Iran's nuclear program.


The question the reset-bashers need to answer is: What's their alternative, and how will it more effectively serve U.S. interests and values? Given the utter failure of the Bush administration's finger-wagging-and-isolating approach, their calls for a return to that policy are simply not credible.


Foreign Policy


The Obama doctrine

Barack Obama’s foreign-policy goal in his second term: to avoid costly entanglements

By cynical tradition “abroad” is where American presidents go to seek a legacy, after their domestic agendas have stalled. This is especially true of second-term presidents. As they lose momentum at home, the temptation is to head overseas in search of crises that only American clout can resolve.

At the outset of his second term, Barack Obama seems to be planning the opposite approach. Mr Obama and his team believe that his outstanding task is to secure a domestic legacy. Their fear is that foreign entanglements may threaten that goal.

On the 2012 campaign trail, Mr Obama earned some of his warmest applause when he vowed to bring troops back from Afghanistan, ending more than a decade of war-fighting that has cost thousands of American lives and more than a trillion dollars. Time for nation-building “right here at home”, he constantly declared, to cheers.

Yet the world keeps calling. From Gaza to Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, the disputed waters around China or even the euro zone, foreign crises threaten to sidetrack Mr Obama.

The Economist


National Insecurity

U.S. officials and national security experts chronically exaggerate foreign threats.

Last August, the Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney delivered a speech to the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. His message was rooted in the grand American tradition: hyping foreign threats to the United States. It is “wishful thinking,” Romney declared, “that the world is becoming a safer place. The opposite is true. Consider the jihadists, a near-nuclear Iran, a turbulent Middle East, an unstable Pakistan, a rogue North Korea, an assertive Russia, and an emerging global power called China. No, the world is not becoming safer.”

Not long after, U.S. Secretary of Defense echoed Romney’s statement warning of threats arising “from terrorism to nuclear proliferation; from rogue states to cyber attacks; from revolutions in the Middle East, to economic crisis in Europe, to the rise of new powers such as China and India. All of these changes represent security, geopolitical, economic, and demographic shifts in the international order that make the world more unpredictable, more volatile and more dangerous”.

Foreign Affairs


Why Obama’s trip to Burma is such a big deal

The White House announced that President Obama will visit Burma (also known as Myanmar), long an international pariah that has just recently begun to reform, later this month. He will be the first president to do so, moving with astonishing speed on building ties with this strategically located nation long seen as one of the world’s worst dictatorships.

Obama administration’s remarkable enthusiasm for opening Burma seems largely to be part of the mission to earnestly “pivot” to Asia.

But there’s another message that the rapid U.S. detente with Burma sends, whether deliberately or not: rogue states that open up might be able to expect rewards from the Americans, and quickly. The administration’s willingness to let bygones be bygones with Burma, to work with the ruling regime instead of pushing its top figures into international criminal courts, and to reward its reforms “action for action,” as the diplomats put it, would seem to establish some very tempting incentives for other rogue states.

The U.S. has a lot less baggage with Burma than it does with, say, Iran, so it’s easier for Washington to put the past aside.

Washington Post


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