Foreign Affairs Feed

Kofi Annan's Legacy

A good article in Foreign Policy lists the key accomplishments of Kofi Annan:

  • He developed the doctrine that a state's sovereignty is conditional it’s fulfillment of fundamental obligations to its citizens.  Sovereignty=Responsibility
  • He reformed and improved peacekeeping efforts.
  • His focus on development goals led to the greatest reduction in global poverty in world history.

"Prudent Action"

George Packer's review of Ben Rhodes's memoir of time of his time as a foreign policy advisor to President Obama is a thoughtful discussion of the book and Obama's foreign policy strengths and weaknesses.  Here is the most important paragraph and the main reason to read the essay:

After Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the burden of proof is on anyone who would make the case for military action as a force for good. But Obama, proudly defying political convention and confident in the larger forces of progress, was reluctant to acknowledge that inaction, too, is an action. We don’t know what a missile strike against Assad in 2013 might have achieved, but we do know what followed Obama’s refusal to enforce his own red line: more Syrian government atrocities (including the repeated use of chemical weapons), millions more Syrian refugees, the shift of European politics to the populist right, an emboldened Russia intervening militarily in Syria. It turned out that prudent inaction didn’t necessarily further the cause of progress any more than a naïve confidence in overt action. When America sobered up under Obama, other powers saw not wisdom but a chance to fill the gap.

So, "Don't do stupid shit" may be preferable to the interventions of George W. Bush, but the practical outcomes in this particular case don't recommend that policy either.


I read last week that the BJP is now campaigning against the Taj Mahal.  That its image has been removed from various places and that they don't think it should be the cultural symbol of the nation.

Here is a good discussion of the intellectual origins of fundamentalist Hinduism. 


In recent weeks I've been annoyed by news in the US which focuses on the trivial in the face of major events.  This has even swallowed up reputable news agencies.  In particular I mean how much attention has been given to the President's calls to Gold Star Families when the real news story was what happened in Niger.  Finally that is getting more attention, but rarely as a front page/top of broadcast story.

The other major event last week, that was never treated as a top story, was the capture of Kirkuk from Kurdish forces by Iraqi Sunnis.  Doesn't this amount to civil war in the nation we created after the Iraq War?  Ten years ago many American experts were warning that Iraq would sooner or later slide into civil war.  Has this finally transpired?

Yet, hardly any attention to this major development.

And the story is even more complicated, with differing Kurdish factions, as this column by Eli Lake explains.  Strange that it is a column and not a significant news story.