Let’s start this post off with a pop culture confession: I didn’t like The Hangover. I realize that this probably puts me in the minority of the American movie-going public (the film earned nearly a half-billion dollars at the box office, making it the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all-time), but I found it to be a bit too crass and a bit too formulaic for my taste.
A recent New York Times article revealed that the Obama administration is considering withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan ahead of the planned 2014 withdrawal date, raising questions about what the country might look like after foreign forces exit – whenever that may be. The answer is critical, as the future of post-withdrawal Afghanistan has implications for the entire Asian continent.
President Barack Obama’s first-ever trip to Myanmar (Burma) shows he is still taking a two pronged approach on North Korea by sending two explicit messages: 1. the door is still open for cooperation if North Korea is serious about surrendering its nuclear ambitions, and 2. sanctions against the North will continue in the meantime to cut off the cash flow to its military.
Many of you know there is a slew of bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreements (“123”) that need to be renewed, and among them is one with South Korea. I recently wrote an op-ed in The Hill arguing that the North Korean nuclear issue is irrelevant to 123 discussions and point out the real dilemmas US policymakers are faced with when negotiating all civil nuclear cooperation agreements hereafter.
For several months now, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has been pushing for the United States to cut off foreign aid to Pakistan, which amounted to just over $2 billion in 2012. This week, as conservative Republicans propose a rethinking of aid to Egypt and Libya in the wake of anti-American attacks there, Paul is hoping to finally get a vote on his Pakistan proposal.
The debate on missile defense in the United States is sorely lacking in substance and has been overly politicized, especially recently given the hyper-partisan relationship between Congressional Republicans and President Obama. There is little discussion on the actual capabilities of current missile defense systems and the projected capabilities of future ones. We also haven’t paid enough attention to how others will react to a new strategic environment in which the United States has robust missile defense capabilities (or is perceived to).
The landmark civil nuclear agreement that the two countries signed in 2008 was supposed to lead to tens of billions of dollars in business for U.S. companies that build nuclear power plants. But it has not yielded anything except a disagreement over who would be liable in the event of a nuclear accident.