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"

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 »

UN Peace Operations: Capitalizing on the Momentum of 2015

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
French peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stand at attention during the visit of French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to their base in Deir Kifa village in southern Lebanon on April 20, 2015. French peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stand at attention during the visit of French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to their base in Deir Kifa village in southern Lebanon on April 20, 2015 (Ali Hashisho/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.

United Nations peacekeeping confronts a make-or-break moment. That was the main takeaway from last week’s meeting of senior UN officials and peacekeeping experts in Washington. The gathering came on the heels of two pivotal events: the release of a troubling independent report on the parlous state of UN peace operations, and the peacekeeping summit President Obama himself hosted on the sidelines of the September opening of the UN General Assembly. After years of inaction, UN member states may finally be willing to close the yawning gap between the expanding mandates of peace ops and the resources and capabilities devoted to them. Read more »

Assessing U.S. Membership in the UN Human Rights Council

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 2, 2015. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 2, 2015 (Evan Vucci/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by Daniel Chardell and Theresa Lou, research associates in the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »

United Nations, Divided World: Obama, Putin, and World Order

by Stewart M. Patrick
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin address the United Nations General Assembly on September 28, 2015. U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin address the United Nations General Assembly on September 28, 2015 (Mike Segar/Reuters).

For the past six years, President Barack Obama has dominated the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, his words and initiatives driving the agenda and media coverage. This year, it was Russian President Vladimir Putin, making his first UN appearance in a decade, who stole the diplomatic show. Putin’s call for a “grand coalition” against the Islamic State, an idea backed by even some U.S. allies, has placed the Obama administration, which has long clung to an “Assad must go” position in Syria, on the defensive. Although it would require at least a partial U.S. climb-down, Putin’s initiative could help resolve a grinding conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people, facilitated the rise of the Islamic State, and generated a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and neighboring states and the worst migration crisis in the history of the European Union. At the same time, Putin’s address underscored how different the world looks from Moscow’s vantage point—and how inconsistent Russian authoritarianism and realpolitik is with President Obama’s dream of an open, rule-based international order. Read more »