James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Nawaz Sharif Becomes Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Joe Biden Visits South America, and the United States Celebrates Memorial Day

by James M. Lindsay
May 24, 2013

Nawaz Sharif casts his vote in Pakistan's May 11 general election (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters). Nawaz Sharif casts his vote in Pakistan's May 11 general election (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters).

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Joe Biden’s trip to South America, and Memorial Day

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The highlights:

  • Nawaz Sharif certainly hopes that the third time is the charm. The Pakistani politician is set to be sworn in during the next week to serve his third term as prime minister of Pakistan. His first two terms as Pakistan’s leader went badly; his second term ended in 1999 when he was overthrown by General Pervez Musharraf. The good news for Sharif is that his party won the elections handily amidst strong voter turnout. The bad news is that he faces daunting, perhaps insurmountable, challenges. Sharif has said that fixing the Pakistani economy is job number one. But Pakistan’s infrastructure is decayed, energy shortages are the norm, and corruption is rife. Sharif also has to show he can co-exist with Pakistan’s powerful military, and forge a relationship with the United States that works for Washington and for the Pakistani people, the vast majority of whom see the United States as an adversary rather than a friend.
  • Vice President Joe Biden leaves Washington this Sunday for a week-long trip that will take him to Brazil, Colombia, and Trinidad and Tobago. Economic issues are likely to dominate Biden’s talks at each stop. The U.S.-Brazilian relationship has not matured into the kind of partnership that many experts hoped for as Brazil’s democracy and economy took hold. Colombia, which has had close relations with Washington for years, looks have turned the corner on it long-running battles with guerilla movements and narcotraffickers. Trinidad and Tobago is threatened by rising sea waters, but climate change, which President Obama flagged in his inaugural and State of the Union addresses earlier this year as a top administration priority, probably won’t get much play during the Biden visit.
  • Americans have been observing Memorial Day since 1868, when it was known as Decoration Day. The day honors the more than 600,000 Americans who have died fighting for their country. This year Memorial Day comes as the United States is in the twelfth year of the Afghanistan War, the longest in the country’s history. Roughly 2,200 Americans have died in Afghanistan, with 53 being killed so far this year. The length of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan has changed how Americans view the war. Back in 2001 just nine percent of Americans thought the war was a mistake; today the number stands at 44 percent.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is -7.3 percent. My Figure of the Week is Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Pakistan’s new prime minister: The BBC has a profile of Nawaz Sharif and analysis of the recent elections. CNN writes that Sharif will have to choose which challenges he takes on first.  Dan Markey lists three priorities for Pakistan’s new government. Radio Free Europe writes that Sharif may take Pakistan in a new direction on foreign policy.

Joe Biden’s trip to South America: The White House announces Biden’s trip. Julia Sweig argues that Biden’s trip to South America may signal that the Obama administration is ready to take advantage of opportunities in the region. Time writes that Washington has “discovered” Latin America.

Memorial Day: The Washington Post has information about Americans who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Huffington Post writes that securing peace in Afghanistan after American troops leave will be a difficult task.  USMemorialDay.org has a short history of the holiday.  Arlington National Cemetery has a schedule of events for Memorial Day weekend.

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