Stewart M. Patrick

The Internationalist

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "U.S. Foreign Policy"

Obama’s UN Address: An Enlightened Man in an Unreasonable World

by Stewart M. Patrick
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 20, 2016 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York September 20, 2016 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

President Barack Obama used his eighth and final address to the UN General Assembly to share his noble vision of a world order in which equality, liberty, and unity trump injustice, oppression, and division. Part sermon, part pep-talk, the speech exuded an unflinching faith in liberal ideals and a progressive optimism that humanity can surmount any economic, political, and ecological challenges it faces. All that is required, the president suggested, is that leaders and citizens listen to the better angels of their nature. The big-picture speech contained little guidance about how to resolve intractable problems, from mass migration to North Korea’s nukes. But it was an eloquent effort, delivered by a reasonable man living in unreasonable times. Its biggest flaw was in ignoring the practical difficulties and inherent trade-offs of applying such high-minded ideals to a fallen world. Read more »

International (Non-)Cooperation in a Changing World Order

by Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
U.S. President Barack Obama extends his hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015. U.S. President Barack Obama extends his hand to Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2015 (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters).

The following is a guest post by Terrence Mullan, program coordinator of the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »

Brexit, Experts, and Trump: Is Policy Expertise Still Relevant in a Populist Age?

by Stewart M. Patrick
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, as he is watched by a piper in front of the lighthouse, at his Turnberry golf course in Scotland on June 24, 2016. Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference, as he is watched by a piper in front of the lighthouse, at his Turnberry golf course in Scotland on June 24, 2016 (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters).

Among the main casualties of the populist wave now surging through Western democracies is respect for policy expertise. Michael Gove, justice secretary in the UK government and cheerleader for Brexit, captured the climate on June 2. When reminded that informed opinion was overwhelmingly opposed to Great Britain leaving the European Union, Gove uttered the infamous words that will be his epitaph: “People in this country have had enough of experts.” Read more »

Somewhere Beyond the (South China) Sea: Navigating U.S.-China Competition in Southeast Asia

by Stewart M. Patrick and Guest Blogger for Stewart M. Patrick
Philippine Military Academy cadets leave their boat and go ashore during a joint field training exercise at a training center south of Manila, the Philippines, on May 29, 2013. Philippine Military Academy cadets leave their boat and go ashore during a joint field training exercise at a training center south of Manila, the Philippines, on May 29, 2013 (Romeo Ranoco/Reuters).

Coauthored with Daniel Chardell, research associate in the International Institutions and Global Governance program at the Council on Foreign Relations.

As the international tribunal at The Hague prepares to issue its much-anticipated ruling on the legality of China’s claims to nearly the entire South China Sea, Beijing and Washington have already begun lobbing rhetorical shots across the bow. “We do not make trouble but we have no fear of trouble,” warned a senior People’s Liberation Army official at the Shangri-La Dialogue earlier this month, in reference to U.S. freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS). U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, for his part, cautioned China against “erecting a great wall of self-isolation” as it continues to construct, expand, and militarize artificial islands in the disputed waters over the objections of its Southeast Asian neighbors. Read more »

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 »