Nicolas Sarkozy’s Foreign Policy Should Be Vindicated

George W. Bush and his acolytes are these days fond of claiming that history will eventually judge the administration of the former American president kindly. This is supposedly especially true of their foreign policy legacy: the “freedom agenda.” They went as far as to claim the “Arab Spring” as vindication.

Bush and the neoconservatives are unlikely to ever find their swan song adequately praised in history manuals but by no means is foreign policy out of fashion as far as swan songs go.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency for one was controversial enough but unlike Bush’s, his track record may yet be vindicated. Read more “Nicolas Sarkozy’s Foreign Policy Should Be Vindicated”

“N” for North: NATO’s Cold Future

NATO may take a different form as “the Great Melt” heats up. After the expected pullout from Afghanistan in 2014, pressure will mount on the alliance to turn northward. “The Arctic represents the emergence of a new geopolitical arena.”

As a result of climate change, many nations in the Northern Hemisphere could soon pivot to the pole, argues Lorenzo Nannetti, an analyst for the crowdsourced consultancy Wikistrat.

“As global demand for resources grows, the Arctic region becomes a new field for international competition as new sea lanes open due to ice melting,” he says. Read more ““N” for North: NATO’s Cold Future”

Beyond the Reset: Reverse “Nixon Goes to China”

When President Richard Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, opened up relations with China in the 1970s, it was done in the context of needing a new lever in the Cold War, especially when the United States was still mired in Vietnam. The goal was for the United States to be closer to both China and the Soviet Union than either was to each other and to be able to swing back and forth between the two powers as needed depending on what the exigencies of the balance of power dictated.

At that time, China was clearly the lesser power and required bolstering. The time for the United States to consider an inversion of that policy may soon become ripe.

The strategic environment today is vastly different than when Nixon met Mao. The Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is no more and China is rapidly ascending to the position of a global superpower. Under these conditions, the United States are struggling to manage a multiplicity of strategic interests in every major region of the world. Paramount among those are relations with China. Read more “Beyond the Reset: Reverse “Nixon Goes to China””

The Problem with “Zero Problem Neighborhood”

While changes began in the foreign policy domain right from the onset of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, it was only in his second term, and after the nomination of Ahmet Davutoğlu, that Turkey’s foreign policy acquired a more “independent” flavor. Davutoğlu has been lauded for his “zero problem neighborhood” vision, but, as things stand today, there seems to be little merit for that praise.

Foreign affairs is one of those portfolios with peculiar pros and cons: there can be plenty of popularity gains for a foreign minister, who gets to socialize with international leaders and opinionmakers, but there is also the inherent uncertainty of securing results as diplomacy depends on at least two interlocutors and the government he belongs to is but one of them.

That said, it is one thing for a particular diplomatic initiative to founder into political oblivion; it is another altogether to turn a would-be close ally into a soon to be mortal enemy, as was the case recently in Turkish-Syrian relations. Read more “The Problem with “Zero Problem Neighborhood””

Libya: French Soft Power in Retrospect

If a state possesses sufficient “soft power,” it has acquired the ability to frame and shame events and actors in international relations. The ability to frame enables the protagonist to package a debate in terms that are conducive to its own interests. The power to shame refers to the possibility of trapping other countries rhetorically and changing their behaviour.

The French role in last year’s intervention in Libya was a perfect example. Read more “Libya: French Soft Power in Retrospect”

After Libya, Europe’s New Order in the Making

For all his blunders, George W. Bush may forever be remembered for vindicating the notion of the “coalition of the willing.” Until the world wars, all military alliances were in fact ad hoc and it was only the messianic Western prejudices that followed the defeat of absolutism in World War I, fascism in World War II and communism in the Cold War, that temporarily deluded the Western masses into thinking that an “alliance” should have a noble, morally righteous connotation.

The campaign to oust Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya started as a simple ad hoc coalition led by Paris and London. Only later did it become embroiled in international politics with the likes of Rome and Berlin seeking to exercise some moderation by forcing the British and the French to accept NATO leadership and a subsequent bureaucratization of the intervention into inefficacy. Read more “After Libya, Europe’s New Order in the Making”

The Ants and the Grasshoppers

The advent of new governments in many countries around the world during the first decade of the twenty-first century brought with it strategic indefinition. The reason is found in small systemic revolutions that some of these newcomers represented in terms of geopolitics. In such countries as Brazil, Japan and Turkey, the newcomers had been away from power for decades. Thus the elections that swept them into office were practically regime changes.

The priority given to the worn out promise of “change” made foreign policy departments a prime target. Whereas during the Cold War ideological alternatives were available for different political factions, nowadays the primacy of the free-market model and of the Washington Consensus make alternative governance difficult. As a result, the perception of policy making is largely dependent on symbolism instead of substance. Hence, social conservatism and liberalism are being used as a political platform rather than economic policy. Read more “The Ants and the Grasshoppers”