Monthly Archives: January 2009
And he is angry. I’ve actually never seen him quite like this.
I’m just returning from the National Mall, where I stood with millions of Americans of all shapes, colors, ages and sizes for the inspiring inauguration of our 44th President. It was cold outside, but the crowd was fired up. Here is President Obama’s inaugural address as prepared for delivery. There were certainly some foreign policy high points that we at Dispatch will dissect shortly. For now, though, have a read of his speech.
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
This is probably Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s most famous foreign policy speech, delivered in protest to the United States’ war in Vietnam. It was delivered at the Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in April 1967. A few weeks prior, Dr. King led an anti-Vietnam war protest in front of the UN building in New York City.
That’s Bob Herbert’s description of Zimbabwe – and it’s hard to dispute:
If you want to see hell on earth, go to Zimbabwe where the madman Robert Mugabe has brought the country to such a state of ruin that medical care for most of the inhabitants has all but ceased to exist.
Life expectancy in Zimbabwe is now the lowest in the world: 37 years for men and 34 for women. A cholera epidemic is raging. People have become ill with anthrax after eating the decaying flesh of animals that had died from the disease. Power was lost to the morgue in the capital city of Harare, leaving the corpses to rot.
Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, a pioneer of online politics and activism, is using Twitter to draw attention to the terrible situation in Zimbabwe.
At her confirmation hearing yesterday, soon-to-be UN ambassador Susan Rice listed strengthening peacekeeping capacity as the first of four priority areas for the United States at the United Nations.
We have written extensively about the need for the United States to fully fund UN peacekeeping. And given the binary choice between doing nothing in failing states or sending in US troops, UN peacekeeping is quite a bargain–which Rice says amounts to about 12 cents on every dollar.
During the question and answer period, though, the conversation on peacekeeping ventured into interesting territory. Rice fielded a question on peacekeeping from (I believe) Senator Kerry and took her answer in an unexpected but welcome direction. Rice argued that part of the overall solution to strengthening UN peacekeeping has to be building up regional peacekeeping capacities–namely in Africa. She said that Africa was basically “tapped out” with its ability to field peacekeepers and that we need “a systematic strengthening of peacekeeping in Africa and elsewhere.”
There has been a tendency at the Security Council to invoke “African solutions to African problems,” as the saying goes, and then devolve responsibility for dealing with some of the continent’s thorniest issues to the African Union. There is nothing wrong with this sentiment in theory, but in practice it means that the African Union has been treated as something of a “first responders” to crises like Darfur and Somalia. The problem, though, is that the AU is a young and resource-scrapped institution that lacks the capacity to implement the kind of complex peacekeeping operations that these situations require; finding and funding troops is a particularly daunting task that often results in the delayed deployment of too few troops. Yet, member states of the Security Council have been content to pass the buck to the African Union under the mantra of “African solutions to African problems.”
Rice’s testimony seems to suggest that the United States will do more to help build the AU’s peacekeeping capacity. This would be a very welcome development and could very well save an untold number of lives as future crises are averted though rapid regional response.
(Photo of an AU patrol in Mogadishu, Somalia. From Flickr under a creative commons license)
Globe-trotting negotiator extraordinaire (and French President) Nicolas Sarkozy has taken up his next daunting challenge: reforming the UN Security Council.
“With The United Kingdom, France will plead for an interim solution which in my view is the only one capable of unblocking this issue which is not only not moving forward but is moving backwards,” Sarkozy said in a speech on foreign policy.
Sarkozy said the permanent members of the Council should include an African and Latin American state and India, adding that the membership of Germany and Japan could be discussed, and that a temporary reform would make it possible to test options.
Having taken the lead in peace efforts as EU president during last August’s war in Georgia, and sidestepping the current Czech EU president to attempt the same in Gaza recently, Sarkozy seems to have a taste for the role of international mediator. And while the notion of an “interim” Security Council reform seems almost inherently dubious — why would countries accede to joining the body only temporarily? — the idea of trying something to rev up the project’s momentum is appealing.
Despite being stalled for so long, the urgency of Security Council reform is no less great, and perhaps the difficulty of Sarkozy’s international diplomacy efforts of late is what impelled him to make the suggestion of this latest gambit over dinner with British Prime Minister Brown. He may find, of course, that reforming the Security Council could prove even more daunting than negotiating peace in Georgia or Israel.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.