Foreign Policy 101

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The Middle East and North Africa
It’s a new world in the Middle East and North Africa: Arab Spring has made the Middle East more unstable, something U.S. policy makers had not anticipated, Grant says.

American policy should be crafted within the context of Arab Spring, while embracing the fact that several countries now have Islamist governments who must face a public very critical of the United States, Grant says. For example, while the leaders of Yemen and Libya as considered fairly moderate, they must answer to their own people.

“If those governments are unfriendly, if we allow these regimes to transition into governments that are unfriendly to U.S. interests, we don’t have any partners in the fight against terrorism,” says Grant, noting that access to resources, such as oil is also clearly a reason to maintain influence in the region.

The United States must keep up the pressure to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Sasley says. And by using sanctions and diplomatic pressure, Sasley says the Obama administration has “been doing what should be done” to avoid military conflict while applying this pressure.

“This is going to continue to be a significant challenge to the United States,” Sasley says. “How do we provide incentives so Iran does not produce nuclear weapons? Short of universal brain surgery,” he said, quoting economist Thomas Schelling, “you can’t get rid of the knowledge of how to build nuclear weapons.”

The crisis in the Eurozone is “almost” never talked about in this presidential campaign, Sasley says, but this crisis can have an enormous effect on the world economy. On one hand, Eurozone partners, such as Germany, cannot keep lending money to countries like Spain and Greece without promises to privatize state resources and cut social welfare programs. However, governments face the wrath of their own citizens when the cuts go too deep or high unemployment rates result.

Pakistan and Afghanistan
The war on terror continues as Taliban elements wield power in these countries, Sasley says. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and it borders other important states, such as India. Radical elements are also suspect when they are engaged in specific ideas about how to treat their own citizens, he says, such as education for women, women’s roles (as being able to dress how they want or even move around).

Access to Asian markets will drive policy, which is why the United States needs to establish a better rapport with the People’s Republic of China, Grant says. America cannot avoid urging China to improve its human rights record and liberalize its political sphere as it attempts to gain access to one of the world’s larger markets.

However, “China does not like being told what to do; it’s a counterweight power in the world,” Grant says. This will force the United States to continually weigh its economic interests with its political ones.

In its search for resources, Grant says, China also has a bigger role in Africa, along with Brazil, which offers technical assistance. Africa now has more options and doesn’t have to rely on former colonial masters or the United States. China also is an important player in investing green technology, Sasley says, apropos considering China is a major contributor to greenhouse gases.

Transnational terrorism in Africa

The expansion of illicit smuggling networks (oil, timber, humans, diamonds, etc.) across Africa is of economic import and has implications for America’s security interests, Grant says: “Africa is going to be very important.”

Piracy on the west and east coasts present challenges, as well as fragile regimes and governments, such as Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia.

“Instability harms U.S. interests, and it does affect our partners and countries we care about in terms of having friendly relations with stable governments,” Grant says. As is the case in Libya, “It’s about American lives.”

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