Stewart M. Patrick

The Internationalist

Patrick assesses the future of world order, state sovereignty, and multilateral cooperation.

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Showing posts for "U.S. Foreign Policy"

Global Mexico: From Principles to Interests

by Stewart M. Patrick
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto looks toward U.S. President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2015. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto looks toward U.S. President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

On this Cinco de Mayo, raise a toast to “Global Mexico.” After decades of defining its international role with reference to the United States, Mexico is looking further afield. The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto is groping for a new strategic vision appropriate for a nation whose commercial, political, and cultural links extend far beyond its northern neighbor. Read more »

World Order: What, Exactly, are the Rules?

by Stewart M. Patrick
Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin sit for photographs during the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin sit for photographs during the Yalta Conference in February 1945 (Courtesy Imperial War Museums).

The international rules-based order established after World War II seems to be under relentless pressure, threatening its foundations existentially. If so, what if anything can be done to reinvigorate it? This question raises several others a priori. First, what are the most distinctive attributes of the post-1945 world order; how did that order come into being; and what explains its longevity? Second, what forces are now placing this order under strain? Third, what aspects of today’s order are most vulnerable—and which are most resilient? Fourth, what principles, frameworks, and objectives should guide U.S. policy toward world order going forward? In my new article in The Washington Quarterly, I aim to answer those fundamental questions. Read more »

Surface Tension: Chinese Aggression Roils Southeast Asian Waters

by Stewart M. Patrick
Filipino activists protest Chinese reclamation in the South China Sea outside the Chinese embassy in Manila on April 17, 2015. Filipino activists protest Chinese reclamation in the South China Sea outside the Chinese embassy in Manila on April 17, 2015 (Erik De Castro/Reuters).

In telling the Group of Seven (G7) yesterday to butt out of its controversial maritime claims in East Asia, China has doubled down on an historic strategic blunder. Beijing’s belligerence in the South China Sea is especially imprudent. By refusing to compromise on its outrageous sovereignty claims, the government of Xi Jinping discredits its “peaceful rise” rhetoric and complicates efforts by member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to “triangulate” between China and the United States. Continued Chinese muscle-flexing will only undermine support for president Xi Jinping’s signature One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative and push regional fence-sitters into the U.S. embrace. The most promising outcome for all concerned would be a face-saving climb-down by China. Under this scenario, Beijing would promote détente rather than confrontation—without explicitly abandoning its jurisdictional claims. These are the main takeaways from a week’s worth of discussions with officials, policy analysts, and academics in China, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Read more »

The Tragic Irony of Syria: The System “Worked”

by Stewart M. Patrick
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks with her Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, before the UN Security Council votes on a resolution—which Russia goes on to veto—regarding the Ukrainian crisis on March 15, 2014. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power speaks with her Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, before the UN Security Council votes on a resolution—which Russia goes on to veto—regarding the Ukrainian crisis on March 15, 2014 (Andrew Kelly/Reuters).

For nearly five years, the UN Security Council has failed to end Syria’s suffering. The numbers are numbing: The war has claimed 250,000 lives and displaced over 50 percent of Syria’s prewar population of twenty-two million. The grinding conflict has deepened sectarian turmoil in the region and created the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe. The tragedy has also laid bare an inconvenient truth about the inherent limits of the Security Council in an era of great power rivalry. Because in Syria, the system worked—just not for the Syrian people. Read more »

States of Failure and Disunion, at Home and Abroad

by Stewart M. Patrick
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016. U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, DC, on January 12, 2016 (Carlos Barria/Reuters).

President Obama delivered an unusually thoughtful State of the Union address last night. Appropriate for his valedictory speech to Congress, the president skipped the usual laundry list of legislative priorities and chose to “talk about the future” instead. He implored his fellow Americans see the world as it is—and the United States as it could be. If there was a unifying theme, it was the growing threat posed by state failure, both domestic and international. The questions that lingered were two: Do Americans have the will to overcome political dysfunction at home? Does the United States have the capacity to ameliorate it abroad? Read more »

Making Sense of “Minilateralism”: The Pros and Cons of Flexible Cooperation

by Stewart M. Patrick
The leaders of the Council of the European Union, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Japan, China, and the EU Commission meet on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 24, 2014. The leaders of the Council of the European Union, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Japan, China, and the EU Commission meet on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 24, 2014 (Jerry Lampen/Reuters).

A defining feature of twenty-first century multilateralism is the rising prominence of alternative forms of collective action as complements to—and often substitutes for—traditional intergovernmental cooperation. Conventional bodies—chief among them, the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions—may persist, but states increasingly participate in a bewildering array of flexible, ad hoc frameworks whose membership varies based on situational interests, shared values, or relevant capabilities. These institutions are often “minilateral” rather than universal; voluntary rather than legally binding; disaggregated rather than comprehensive; trans-governmental rather than just intergovernmental; regional rather than global; multi-level and multi-stakeholder rather than state-centric; and “bottom-up” rather than “top-down.” We see this across issue areas, from the Group of Seven (G7) and Group of Twenty (G20) in the realm of economic cooperation, to the growing importance of regional organizations like the African Union and ASEAN, to the emergence of alternative international financial institutions, like the BRICS New Development Bank. Read more »

The Other Election to Watch in 2016: Selecting the Next UN Secretary-General

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the sixty-fifth session of the UNHCR's Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 1, 2014. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the sixty-fifth session of the UNHCR's Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 1, 2014 (Pierre Albouy/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by Megan Roberts, associate director of the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the scrum of U.S. presidential candidates clamors for attention, another important election kicked off on Tuesday: the selection of the next secretary-general (SG) of the United Nations. As Ban Ki-Moon prepares to step down at the end of 2016, after two five-year terms UN watchers have been speculating for months about his successor—and the process by which he (or she) will be elected. After eight male secretaries-general, pressure is mounting for a woman to take the helm in Turtle Bay. Many expect Ban’s replacement to hail from Eastern Europe, the only region that has not filled the post. Whoever succeeds Ban will confront a daunting global humanitarian crisis, resurgent great power politics, and unprecedented strains on UN peacekeeping. She or he will need to sustain global momentum behind the Paris climate agreement and the recently agreed Sustainable Development Goals, while deftly responding to fast moving crises throughout the world. Read more »

Fiddling in Yemen: A Messy War’s Lessons for Global Conflict Management

by Stewart M. Patrick and Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
Protesters demonstrate against the Saudi-led air strikes outside the United Nations offices in Sana'a, Yemen, on November 2, 2015. Protesters demonstrate against the Saudi-led air strikes outside the United Nations offices in Sana'a, Yemen, on November 2, 2015 (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters).

Coauthored with Callie Plapinger, intern in the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the world watches Syria burn, a tiny glimmer of hope shines in Yemen. Today, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee disclosed that it will use new oversight powers to more closely monitor U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, which for nine months has been carrying out a brutal campaign against Houthi rebels that’s left thousands of civilians dead. The news comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this week by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, that he would begin a renewed push for peace talks in Geneva next week. To be sure, near-term prospects for peace are low, given the conflicting interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran and the growing presence of both al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Even so, the United States should welcome the UN’s latest initiative. More broadly, it should consider what Yemen teaches about the limits of backing proxy interventions—and the need to build up the UN’s multilateral conflict management capabilities. Read more »

Civil-Military Cooperation in International Health Crises

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
U.S. soldiers practice the proper way to remove protective gloves at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on October 23, 2014, prior to their deployment to Africa as part of the U.S. military response to the Ebola crisis. U.S. soldiers practice the proper way to remove protective gloves at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on October 23, 2014, prior to their deployment to Africa as part of the U.S. military response to the Ebola crisis (Rick Wilking/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by my colleague Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Ebola epidemic demonstrated not only the human devastation wrought by lethal infectious disease, but also the broad coalition of actors needed to combat the outbreak. In Liberia, the U.S. military provided logistical and medical support that was integral to stemming the Ebola epidemic. How did armed forces interact and cooperate with civil society and government workers on the ground? What lessons can we learn from civil-military relations during the Ebola outbreak to guide us in future international health crises? Read more »

Après Paris: Reverberations of the Terrorist Attacks

by Stewart M. Patrick
In a French poster popularized during World War I, a French soldier carries a gun and encourages his countrymen under the phrase "On les aura!" or "We will have them!" In a French poster popularized during World War I, a French soldier carries a gun and encourages his countrymen under the phrase "On les aura!" or "We will have them!" (Abel Faivre/Library of Congress).

Following Friday’s horrific assault on Paris—the world’s most vibrant monument to the open society—there is a welcome global determination to crush the Islamic State. There can be no negotiation with this apocalyptic movement. The international response against the perpetrators must be, in the words of French President François Hollande, “pitiless.” Achieving this aim will require a broad coalition, including not only NATO allies but also strange bedfellows like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. There will be necessary debates, of course—about whether to introduce Western (including U.S.) ground forces in Syria and Iraq, about whether to treat the Assad regime as an enemy, bystander, or partner in this effort, and about how the West can escalate its involvement without sparking the global religious war that ISIS desires. An effective response will require the Obama administration to be out in front: there must be no leading from behind in this effort. Read more »