Foreign Policy

This magazine covers global politics and economics in its articles, essays and feature stories.

Articles from No. 180, July-August

Actually, It's Mountains
Geography, it has been famously said, is the most fundamental cause behind political fortune because it is the most unchanging. The truculent personalities of Prussia and czarist Russia, to say nothing of their successor states, had much to do with...
Africa's North Korea: Inside Eritrea's Open-Air Prison
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] As dusk fell on Asmara, the wide, tree-lined sidewalks of Harnet Avenue began to fill with pedestrians, it was a lovely spring l Saturday, cool with a light breeze, and Eritreans of all ages strolled beneath a canopy of palm...
A Literal Disaster: Things Are Just What They Seem in the Central African Republic
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] A CHARMING TIC OF CENTRAL AFRICANS is a tendency to label things as literally as possible, including their own country, a republic in Central Africa that calls itself the "Central African Republic." For a few dollars, street...
Bad Guys Matter: They Put the Failed in Failed States
There are bad leaders, good leaders, and great leaders. Let's start with one very bad one. When I met Sani Abacha in 1997, the Nigerian dictator struck me as uninterested in matters economic, his eyes glazing over as I sketched Nigeria's untapped...
Beijing's Coalition of the Willing: For the West, Failed States Are a Problem. for China, They're an Opportunity
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] You've probably heard by now that China, in its bid to lock in access to energy and mineral riches in far-flung corners of the world, is causing heartburn for the legions of do-gooders working to turn the world's most fragile...
Bubble Bath: People Didn't Drown the Markets; a Bad System Did
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] THE TEMPTATION IS TO SEE the 2008 Wall Street implosion that helped trigger the broader economic crisis as the consequence of individual idiocy and avarice. That thesis is emotionally appealing--nowadays everyone loves to...
Dangerous Weakness
SOMALIA IS THE quintessential "failed state"--and not just because it has topped FOREIGN POLICY'S Failed States Index since 2008. The country's collapse in the early 1990s inspired the term, even as a disastrous relief mi made Americans wary of serving...
Failed States and the Bad Guys Who Keep Them That Way
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] THE FAILED STATES INDEX THE 10 STATES THAT fill out the top ranks of this year's Failed States Index--the world's most vulnerable nations--are a sadly familiar bunch. Shattered Somalia has been the No. 1 failed state for...
How to Be a Middle East Technocrat: A Look at the Rising Class of Results-Minded Bureaucrats Who Are Finding a New Way across the Islamic World
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] THE ARAB WORLD'S fire-breathing guerrillas and military despots get all the attention. But the men who run the region's day-to-day affairs are a different breed. Across the Middle East over the last decade, a new class of...
In the Beginning There Was Somalia: Two Decades Later, the U.S. Still Has No Plan
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] IN THE WANING days of his presidency, with very little planning or even forethought, George H.W. Bush sent 28,000 U.S. troops to support a humanitarian mission in a hapless country of no strategic significance to the United...
Iran's Hidden Cyberjihad
To the untrained eye or the rushed glance of a tourist, there is an eerie calm in Iran right now. And Iran's brutal rulers have done everything imaginable to turn us all into tourists--at best--when it comes to reading the events of the country's tumultuous...
La Vie En %$! Why Is France Still Propping Up Africa's Dictators?
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Almost as soon as they had been elected, Nicolas Sarkozy and Barack Obama began planning high-profile trips to Africa. Surely the French and American presidents had more pressing priorities than addressing a continent so long...
Letter from the Editor
WHY BE POLITE ABOUT IT? Failed states are a disaster--for the people who live in them and for the international community that struggles to figure out what to do about them. So we decided it's only appropriate that this year--FOREIGN POLICY'S sixth...
Location, Location, Location
In 1966, Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey coined the phrase "the death of distance" to describe how modern technology was undermining the importance of geography. But though shoppers in New York can now easily buy fruit from Guatemala or furniture...
Misreading Tehran: Foreign Policy Asked Several Leading Iranian-American Authors to Revisit the Hype and the Hope in a Year's Worth of Writings about Iran's Upheaval. Azadeh Moaveni Leads off with What the West Isn't Hearing About
IN JULY 2009, THE TEHRAN FIXER for a non-Western TV network had his hand chopped off with a machete by a pro-Iranian regime militant. His bosses stayed quiet: They knew if they spoke up. the Iranian authorities would shut down their bureau. This...
Mogadishu Was a Blast
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] "We can't let you leave." The African Union soldiers with whom we'd thrown in our lot a few hours earlier were shocked to learn we actually planned to head back into the city of Mogadishu, abandoning the relative safety...
Mr. Lonely: The Twilight of Ohad's Paranoid Tyrant
Chadian President Idriss Deby is a lonely man. A member of the tiny Zaghawa tribe that makes up just 1.5 percent of Chad's 10 million people, he has been betrayed at various points over his two tumultuous decades in power by his army, his clan, and...
Nathan Myhrvold
A theoretical physicist who spent 14 years as Bill Gates's ideas guru at Microsoft, Nathan Myhrvold might seem an odd candidate to take up the fight against malaria, long combated with technology no more advanced than bed nets and quinine. Here, he...
Night of the Living Wonks: Toward an International Relations Theory of Zombies
THERE ARE MANY SOURCES OF FEAR in world politics--terrorist attacks, natural disasters, climate change, financial panic, nuclear proliferation, ethnic conflict, and so forth. Surveying the cultural zeitgeist, however, it is striking how an unnatural...
Ramadan: The Geopolitics of the World's Other Biggest Holiday
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Mid-August marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan, when hundreds of millions of Muslims will fast from dawn to dusk; for the faithful, that also means no daytime arguing, cursing, or sex. But it's not all about pious...
The Chicken Factor
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] When confronted with a failing state, the world usually turns first to the United Nations. So it might seem paradoxical to suggest that the United Nations contributes to state failure. But it has done just that in far too...
The People's Capsule: How a Clunky Old Soviet Rocket Outlasted the Space Shuttle
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] WHEN MICHAEL BARRATT, A NASA FLIGHT SURGEON, arrived at the Russian cosmonaut training facility at Star City in 1993, the space program that once lofted Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin into orbit was at its lowest ebb since the U.S....
The Pirate Den
Less than a decade ago, the world was congratulating itself on a job well done. The most treacherous international shipping lanes through the Strait of Malacca and the Singapore Strait had finally been tamed after years of brazen pirate attacks. But...
The U.N. Is Us, and We Are It
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] In 1994, I was the force commander of the peacekeeping mission in Rwanda as Hutu militias were plotting their fateful attack on the Tutsi population. But just a few weeks into the unfolding genocide, the U.N. Security Council...
The Worst of the Worst: Bad Dude Dictators and General Coconut Heads
A continent away from Kyrgyzstan, Africans like myself cheered this spring as a coalition of opposition groups ousted the country's dictator, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. "One coconut down, 39 more to harvest!" we shouted. There are at least 40 dictators...
Think Again: Ronald Reagan: The Gipper Wasn't the Warhound His Conservative Followers Would Have You Believe
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] PETER BEINART "Ronald Reagan Was the Ultimate Hawk." NOT SO MUCH. These days, virtually every time someone on the American right bashes President Barack Obama for kowtowing to dictators or failing to shout that we're...
Watch List: Four Countries in Big Trouble
Every time I go to Guatemala, I find a dead body," says Manuel Orozco, a Central America analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. "Anyone can be a target for any reason." Over the Fast three years, narcotrafficking in Guatemala and...
What We Got Wrong
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] The spontaneous protest movement that erupted on the streets of Iran in June 2009 both amazed and baffled observers around the world. From the moment the first demonstrations broke out in Tehran after the disputed reelection...
Where Autocrats Don't Fear to Tread
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] In May 2007, Zimbabwe was elected to chair the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. It was a novel choice, as "sustainable" wasn't exactly the first word most people would use to describe the course President...
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