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A Time for Every Season
In today’s world many of the obstacles we face are on a global scale. Pressing issues such as global warming, the financial crisis, terrorism and nuclear proliferation are not unilaterally solved but rather issues for the global community to address. In light of President Obama’s statement that “The United States must lead the way. But our best chance to solve these unprecedented problems comes from acting in concert with other nations.” We must ask ourselves if acting in concert with other nations truly works?
As Ambassador Walker notes “States will act in their own perceived self-interest even if that comes at the expense of other states and long term goals.” In the end big business plays a large part in dictating states self-interest. Elected officials must look out for their constituents who donate large amounts to their campaigns in order to have someone in government represent their interest. These constituents don’t want companies in developing countries gaining a competitive advantage, so issues like global warming take a backseat to a few companies profits. This is the same reason that Doha round failed: developed countries and developing countries disagreement on a variety of issues. In the end as Ambassador Walker points out “self-interest is almost inevitably short term” global climate is not seen as a short-term issues for most countries so its put on the back burner behind the short-term interest of the nation.
With today’s financial crisis it’s difficult for countries to devote the resources necessary to these global issues when there are larger issues on the home front. Wall Street in particular is to blame for the global financial crisis and this brings the United States stance as a “leader” into question. If much of this problem is due to our negligence in monitoring the financial sector who is to say we should be spearheading the effort on climate change and other important global issues. In the end I believe we must right our own financial crisis and this will take time. As our economy begins to recover so will the economies of the rest of the world and only then can we act in concert to solve these global issues. With the early 1990’s as a framework when the economy’s booming nations are much more willing to get involved in International initiatives.

One of the most significant lessons I have gained from Ambassador Walker is the importance of using realism when confronting a problem. While I fundamentally agree with President Obama that the world must come together to solve the most pressing issues facing our time, the reality is, that achieving this unity is currently unrealistic. We have seen time and again that global efforts to solve problems have been unsuccessful. I believe this is so because, as Ambassador Walker points out, the inevitable consequence of having a nation state system is that to survive and prosper, each state must act in accordance with its own self-interest. With such a system, states in it of themselves are like businesses. As can be the reality for businesses in certain economies, the present reality for the world is that each nation must meet its own citizens’ needs before addressing the needs of others. And until more states gain economic security, it is unrealistic to expect successful global cooperation in most areas. However, two areas in which we must unwaveringly demand global cooperation are trade and foreign investment.
To accomplish economic growth, states have historically relied on three primary engines of growth, trade, investment and aid; though, foreign aid is a less effective tool. Trade has been the most accomplished source of growth because the jobs associated with trade are high paying and include great benefits. Foreign investment is a more efficient agent to spark growth than foreign aid. Egypt is a perfect example of a country that has benefited significantly from foreign investment. As a consequence of investments in fields such as petroleum, by 2015, the country will see a substantial decrease in poverty. Examination of Egypt’s recent growth shows that foreign aid to the country has decreased while the foreign investment has increased, as has the GDP; foreign aid has a small impact on financial growth. Thus, nations should spend their resources engaging in trade and foreign investments.
With that said, there are also limitations with trade and foreign investment. For instance, in America, so many jobs are low skilled and hurt by trade that increasing foreign trade cannot be the sole source of growth for the country. Further, the Middle East and Africa are not actively participating in the global market and the population in these areas has skyrocketed so dramatically that trade will not be a viable solution in these areas either. A current problem with investment is that when a country invests in foreign jobs and resources, they lose domestic jobs and resources (which in most countries are presently hurting). However, international agencies set up to fight poverty, like the World Bank, or to stabilize economies, like the IMF, cannot help the countries in greatest need of investment. This is so because these organizations, to continue existing, must make investments with countries that will realistically be able to make the money back. Despite these limitations, it is clear that nations must remain trading and investing in one other rather than disengaging into protectionism.
Protectionism will not lead to economic growth. The practice causes a country to lose jobs and pay higher taxes and prices. For instance, protectionism costs the US eight jobs for every one job the policy protects. In Japan, consumers pay five times more than they should for rice due to laws restricting the importation of rice and consequently more in taxes to implement those laws. Further, protectionism hurts the stability of the banking system. In the current debt crisis, third world countries and Eastern European countries will have an even harder time paying off their loans to the West and international lending agencies if they do not have the hard currency that foreign trade generates. History tells us that protectionism is not the solution to our current global economic problem. However, unlike previous times of global economic hardship, the world will find its growth solutions through contraction not expansion (due to diminishing natural resources.) And though it is unfortunate that we will not be able to tackle other important problems until the economy is more stable, that is the reality.

Barak Obama’s statement is idealistic at best and naive at worst. As Ambassador Walker suggests, the self interest of nations serves short term objectives instead of long term goals. Cohesive action may exist as our best means of attaining such aspirations as global security, environmental preservation, and financial stability. Yet, in practice, protectionism and self interest prevent such unity from taking place.
William Zartman offered the theory of ripeness to determine the role of timing in conflict resolution. This theory, however, can expand to involve broader international cooperation. A look at history suggests, though cruel in its irony, that the world best comes together after tragedy. The western world developed a new economic order with the Bretton Woods system after the horrors of World War II. Instead of isolating and alienating former enemies, the Allies made a concerted effort to integrate Germany back into the international community and rebuild Japan. Today, both Germany and Japan enjoy relatively strong economies in large part due to the help of their historical foes.
One could argue that the post World War II cohesion of the international community was not due to preventing war, but rather, preparing for future conflict. We can interpret the reintegration of Germany as an attempt to isolate the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Yet the Bretton Woods system, though a measure to assert the U.S. control of the world’s financial system, still marked a concerted attempt to cohesively integrate the international political economy; a group of nations came together and achieved a common goal. Unfortunately, it failed due to the self interest of the United States when Nixon took the dollar off gold in 1971.
The world did not see the cohesion of the international community again until after the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the close of the Cold War in 1989. Again, international cooperation blossomed out of bitter rivalries. As Ambassador Walker suggests, the nineties enjoyed unprecedented cohesion involving trade, civil rights, and especially in international organizations such as NATO and the UN. This unity, however, was short lived, and the failure of Doha, the international community’s inability to cohesively confront threats such as North Korea, and a lack of a global environmental policy contribute to a bleak outlook on international cooperation.
Does the world need conflict to create cooperation? The current political climate provides the international community with many opportunities to once again unite. A unified response on Iranian nuclear proliferation, global warming, the recent outbreak of the Swine Flu, and the current financial crisis could once again spark international cooperation. Yet, as Ambassador Walker suggests, the world seems doomed for more of the same. Perhaps then, we should follow Ambassador Walker’s advice and take care of ourselves before seeking confronting broader objectives, such as global warming, that necessitate international cooperation.

One of the most significant lessons I have gained from Ambassador Walker is the importance of using realism when confronting a problem. While I fundamentally agree with President Obama that the world must come together to solve the most pressing issues facing our time, the reality is, that achieving this unity is currently unrealistic. We have seen time and again that global efforts to solve problems have been unsuccessful. I believe this is so because, as Ambassador Walker points out, the inevitable consequence of having a nation state system is that to survive and prosper, each state must act in accordance with its own self-interest. With such a system, states in it of themselves are like businesses. As can be the reality for businesses in certain economies, the present reality for the world is that each nation must meet its own citizens’ needs before addressing the needs of others. And until more states gain economic security, it is unrealistic to expect successful global cooperation in most areas. However, two areas in which we must unwaveringly demand global cooperation are trade and foreign investment.
To accomplish economic growth, states have historically relied on three primary engines of growth, trade, investment and aid; though, foreign aid is a less effective tool. Trade has been the most accomplished source of growth because the jobs associated with trade are high paying and include great benefits. Foreign investment is a more efficient agent to spark growth than foreign aid. Egypt is a perfect example of a country that has benefited significantly from foreign investment. As a consequence of investments in fields such as petroleum, by 2015, the country will see a substantial decrease in poverty. Examination of Egypt’s recent growth shows that foreign aid to the country has decreased while the foreign investment has increased, as has the GDP; foreign aid has a small impact on financial growth. Thus, nations should spend their resources engaging in trade and foreign investments.
With that said, there are also limitations with trade and foreign investment. For instance, in America, so many jobs are low skilled and hurt by trade that increasing foreign trade cannot be the sole source of growth for the country. Further, the Middle East and Africa are not actively participating in the global market and the population in these areas has skyrocketed so dramatically that trade will not be a viable solution in these areas either. A current problem with investment is that when a country invests in foreign jobs and resources, they lose domestic jobs and resources (which in most countries are presently hurting). However, international agencies set up to fight poverty, like the World Bank, or to stabilize economies, like the IMF, cannot help the countries in greatest need of investment. This is so because these organizations, to continue existing, must make investments with countries that will realistically be able to make the money back. Despite these limitations, it is clear that nations must remain trading and investing in one other rather than disengaging into protectionism.
Protectionism will not lead to economic growth. The practice causes a country to lose jobs and pay higher taxes and prices. For instance, protectionism costs the US eight jobs for every one job the policy protects. In Japan, consumers pay five times more than they should for rice due to laws restricting the importation of rice and consequently more in taxes to implement those laws. Further, protectionism hurts the stability of the banking system. In the current debt crisis, third world countries and Eastern European countries will have an even harder time paying off their loans to the West and international lending agencies if they do not have the hard currency that foreign trade generates. History tells us that protectionism is not the solution to our current global economic problem. However, unlike previous times of global economic hardship, the world will find its growth solutions through contraction not expansion (due to diminishing natural resources.) And though it is unfortunate that we will not be able to tackle other important problems until the economy is more stable, that is the reality.

President Obama's call for international cooperation is certainly cogent considering the global nature of the problems facing today's world. It's apparent that no country is in the position to tackle "major obstacles such as climate change, the global financial crisis, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation" unilaterally considering their wide spread impact.

This being said i must agree with Ambassador Walker's assessment that in these pressing times international cooperation has fallen to individualist self-interest. World leaders feel they foremost must appeal to their constituents and "will act in their own perceived self-interest even if that comes at the expense of other states and long term goals." I agree that Obama's statement is overly idealistic, yet i see it more as an abstract call for unity than a naive belief that international cooperation is alive and thriving.

The Doha Round was meant to encourage global cooperation in implementing World Trade Organization decisions. But, since it's creation in 2001 the increasing global economic crisis has lead participating countries to pull out of developmental agreements as well as distrust all-inclusive global interests. Escalating protectionism "can mean the failure to correct existing imbalances that favor the few at the expense of the many. For example, it can mean the collapse of negotiations over agriculture in the Doha round."

The four World Conferences on Women between 1975-1995 helped to connect women's rights movements worldwide. Global governments, NGOs, and international organizations were united under a common cause. Increasing polarization on issues of abortion, gender oppression, and women's human rights caused the 2005 conference to be cancelled in caution of moving backwards in global feminist progress.

Climate change has reached the forefront of global concern, however national economic interests are increasingly being put before international effort to quell the process. I agree with Ambassador Walker's assertion that "the lobbyists and shareholders of [national] businesses are not likely to let up on pressure on their members of Congress to reach global agreements that give competitive advantage to China or India." Obama recently announced that his pre-election hype on a cap-and-trade trade system may soon turn into a network that pays more attention to the economic interests of big businesses than improving global climate conditions and giving money back to his constituents.

In recent years human rights developments made by the UN, NATO, AU, and NGOs in the post-Cold War era have slowed in response to self-interested countries working to keep what economic edge they might have left in the global arena. Here I must disagree with Ambassador Walker's assertion that international initiative need not occur at this time, even if it means situations like the UN's inaction intervening in Darfur's present genocide. I believe that while pressing, gradual environmental clean-up and trade policy developments have slightly more time for global conditional improvement to lend way to international cooperation. Human right's crises require global cooperation through international organizations, NGOs, and major government leaders to ensure humanitarian aid and international intervention when deemed necessary.

In conclusion, I feel that President Obama's call for global cooperation is unachievable in a world without the leadership required to follow through on bold requests for action. I also agree that in these pressing times it might be overzealous to expect world leaders to put global initiatives in front of their own national interests. Ambassador Walker makes a harsh assertion in this matter, although considering the situation we find ourselves in it is one that be seriously addressed.

Political realism in international relations has been the dominant practice throughout human history, extending from Sun Tzu to Otto von Bismarck all the way into the 21st century. This practice is encapsulated by a paraphrase of Henry John Temple’s famous quotation: “Nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Only permanent interests.” Ambassador Walker outlines this political trend in the 21st century with compelling support from recent developments in the international scene. Furthermore, the observation that national interests are “almost inevitably short-term” is an astute one with few counterexamples. One of the few contemporary exceptions is China’s investment and economic interest in Africa. However, while this case may be long-term in looking forward to Africa’s eventual development, it is in boldfaced self-interest that China makes investments in Africa despite human rights concerns. The most obvious example of this is China frustrating the UN’s attempts at acting against Sudan’s government on behalf of Darfur. Thus, with very few national interests that extend long-term without extremely selfish goals, it is no wonder issues such as climate change are so difficult to tackle through international cooperation.

Political realism, while being the most frequent practice throughout history, has not always been systemically used. When there is an overwhelming hegemonic power, such as the Roman Empire during the Pax Romana, it is difficult for nation-states to act in their own self-interest without the hegemonic power overriding most of those interests. While nation-states will still act out of their own interest, the rules are so skewed in favor of the hegemony that it is difficult to truly say nation-states have self-interests apart from the prevailing power. Some might argue that the United States is currently an “overwhelming hegemonic power” but this is simply not the case. As the world has grown larger since the New World was discovered and modern technology has advanced, it is almost impossible for a single power to be so dominant as to control the entire world’s affairs. Another situation where political realism begins to break down is when there are two dominant superpowers that all nation-states fall behind in conflict. This was quite apparent during the Cold War. Nearly all nations in the world chose to benefit from the patronage of the US or the USSR. Once again, it is important to note that nations sought patronage in the first place out of self-interest. However, once in the patronage relationship, the self-interest of the individual nation was compromised. Thus, it is not surprising that once the Cold War ended in the early 90’s, worldwide cooperation began in a conflict vacuum but quickly broke down as nations began to realize their own self-interest within the context of a system that was devoid of an overwhelming hegemonic power. Political realism has begun to take hold once again and Ambassador Walker’s plea for the world to attempt to keep the cooperative advancements made in the early 90’s is the best option for today. That is, until the system changes again.

Global cooperation has always been a tricky subject requiring nations to balance between their own national interests and the good of the global population at large. Ambassador Walker is right to point out that unfortunately, the balance often shifts in the direction of self interest which also tends to come at the expense of another nation. History has shown however that it is possible for nations to work together to achieve common goals. As such, President Obama’s appeal for increased global cooperation though not impossible, may be overly idealistic. To truly reap the rewards of global cooperation, Obama will have to understand its dynamics. Nations are able to come together most effectively when national interests mostly in accordance with global ones, though such a scenario is not common.

Despite President Obama’s plea, the utter lack of global cooperation was evident by the end of the recent UN climate talks in Bonn. For instance, large economies such as India and china refused to be talked into new global climate deals requiring them to reduce green house emissions. Likewise, industrialized countries are only willing to take on ambitious reduction measures if the emerging economies are prepared to do the same, leaving things at a standstill.
There are however reasons to remain hopeful. President Obama has in fact followed his declaration that the United States would take on a leadership role with several positive changes. For instance, this past week, the US government pledged to regulate its carbon dioxide emissions, having decided that it and five other greenhouse gases were in fact detrimental to health. Furthermore, the G20 summit in London appears to have produced some positive outcomes with nations having agreed on making some critical changes to help boost the global economy. This includes, promoting global trade by rejecting protectionism and trebling the IMF’s resources. The summit in London also borught about cooperation with regards to the nuclear proliferation issue where in a breakthrough agreement, both the US and Russia have “agreed to pursue new and verifiable reductions in our strategic offensive arsenals in a step-by-step process, beginning by replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with a new, legally-binding treaty”.
While most of these changes, including nuclear disarmament will require time to take effect, it is more important that the steps for change are being taken. Global coopearation is a challenging endeavour but it is crucial that we remain optimistic. In order for us to overcome challenges as a global population, it is imperative that nations begin to see past selfish interests that will only leave us in a rather Hobbesian state of nature, and start working towards common goals.

President Obama’s plea for the world to confront the collective action problems of climate change, the financial crisis, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation may assist in changing foreigner’s views of U.S. foreign policy, but his words lack serious potential to actually unite people and countries against these global threats. As Ambassador Walker points out, under the current international system, the primary concern of any nation remains an individual set of narrow self-interests. While countries publicly announce intent to reduce emissions, they would prefer other countries to conduct the majority of the reductions for the preservation of their economy and welfare of their workers. China, especially, cannot afford severe reductions in their emissions, because of their dependence on their manufacturing industries to maintain economic growth, curtail unemployment, and establish governmental legitimacy for the CCP.
Too often do unified efforts rise against a common enemy or for a common goal, and yield no effective results. This problem arises from the continued sentiment of realism and the weak development of a sense of an international community. Although countries can agree that problems exist, no individual country is willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. The problems that plague global cooperation are the same that undermine international law and the United Nations. There is nothing that truly binds these countries together, besides being faced by the same threats or having similar goals. The unity that evolved after the end of the Cold War was a result of global exhaustion of the ever looming threat of a nuclear holocaust. The international organizations established during this time period have been hailed for their strives towards international peace, but now the world is realizing their limitations. Without another major threat to global safety, countries will continue to operate at their current level of international cooperation, which remain insufficient in solving many common threats.

Political realism in international relations has been the dominant practice throughout human history, extending from Sun Tzu to Otto von Bismarck all the way into the 21st century. This practice is encapsulated by a paraphrase of Henry John Temple’s famous quotation: “Nations have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. Only permanent interests.” Ambassador Walker outlines this political trend in the 21st century with compelling support from recent developments in the international scene. Furthermore, the observation that national interests are “almost inevitably short-term” is an astute one with few counterexamples. One of the few contemporary exceptions is China’s investment and economic interest in Africa. However, while this case may be long-term in looking forward to Africa’s eventual development, it is in boldfaced self-interest that China makes investments in Africa despite human rights concerns. The most obvious example of this is China frustrating the UN’s attempts at acting against Sudan’s government on behalf of Darfur. Thus, with very few national interests that extend long-term without extremely selfish goals, it is no wonder issues such as climate change are so difficult to tackle through international cooperation.

Political realism, while being the most frequent practice throughout history, has not always been systemically used. When there is an overwhelming hegemonic power, such as the Roman Empire during the Pax Romana, it is difficult for nation-states to act in their own self-interest without the hegemonic power overriding most of those interests. While nation-states will still act out of their own interest, the rules are so skewed in favor of the hegemony that it is difficult to truly say nation-states have self-interests apart from the prevailing power. Some might argue that the United States is currently an “overwhelming hegemonic power” but this is simply not the case. As the world has grown larger since the New World was discovered and modern technology has advanced, it is almost impossible for a single power to be so dominant as to control the entire world’s affairs. Another situation where political realism begins to break down is when there are two dominant superpowers that all nation-states fall behind in conflict. This was quite apparent during the Cold War. Nearly all nations in the world chose to benefit from the patronage of the US or the USSR. Once again, it is important to note that nations sought patronage in the first place out of self-interest. However, once in the patronage relationship, the self-interest of the individual nation was compromised. Thus, it is not surprising that once the Cold War ended in the early 90’s, worldwide cooperation began in a conflict vacuum but quickly broke down as nations began to realize their own self-interest within the context of a system that was devoid of an overwhelming hegemonic power. Political realism has begun to take hold once again and Ambassador Walker’s plea for the world to attempt to keep the cooperative advancements made in the early 90’s is the best option for today. That is, until the system changes again.

Ambassador Walker highlights the principal barrier obstructing cooperation amongst nations regarding global issues. States around the world are suffering from severe financial setbacks, and therefore do not have the time or resources to invest in matters that do not directly affect their people at the present time. President Obama is not likely to succeed in collecting a united consensus amongst nations for a resolution to universal concerns such as climate change and terrorism. It is imperative to acknowledge the fact that when practically all the roads of this financial crisis lead back to Wall Street, and the United States’ inadequate monitoring of their transactions, President Obama’s campaign for global collaboration is diluted.
Furthermore, states are inherently selfish, but in the present global financial crisis, self-interest is at an all time high. I agree with Ambassador Walker’s conclusions that the United States is not in a position to call on world leaders for conferences regarding terrorism, nuclear proliferation or global climate, because the United States is itself, no exception to the high demand for improvement from its citizens. However, if President Obama is insistent on addressing concerns on the international stage, than now more than ever, action is critical, and words are trivial. States are more likely to become active in battling worldwide dilemmas if the United States distinctly commits itself to the cause. None the less, I believe the President ought to be advised, as Ambassador Walker stated, to focus on the recovery of the American economy. With the ever-increasing unemployment rate and disputed bailouts, the Obama administration cannot afford to concern itself with numerous global affairs. We must be the priority.

While on paper, organizations such as the UN, the ICC, and the IMF all seem theoretically plausible. When put into action, however, a different picture emerges. The theoretically sound becomes fundamentally flawed because of the “one overriding truth” of the current international system: that each nation acts in their own self-interest, a dog-eat-dog Darwinian free-for-all. While Obama’s heart is clearly in the right place, his mind is not, which is what Amb. Walker is critical of. Peering back into the annals of history in search of hope one is sure to turn up disappointed. Look no further than the failed Doha trade reform talks as well as the deferred Fifth World Conference on Women to see that most attempts at multi-lateral coordination have come up short at best, and fallen apart entirely at worst. Is the history’s recent track record reason enough to throw in the towel and just focus in on your own nation’s well being? This is where I diverge.

Amb. Walker notes the 90s and the fall of the Berlin Wall as a period when multi-lateral cooperation between nations reached a zenith. Today, however, in lieu of the current global financial crisis, nations are now turning inward, looking “to hold on to those larger slices at the expense of others” and protectionism lurks in the shadows, waiting for its chance to catch hold of a country and drag it further into despair. While it’s easy to say that we should all join hands and sing kumbaya like we did in the 90s, one must not forget that the 90s were a time of great prosperity for all nations across the globe. Governments didn’t need to worry as much about their own self-interests so long as their economies kept growing and their people kept getting pulled up from poverty. Fast forward to today.

We are in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Should we be worrying about women’s rights in Afghanistan and polar bears in the Arctic? Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong; I think that promoting universal human rights and combating climate change are two of the most important issues we face today. If we try to tackle them right this moment, however, our efforts will be impeded by the limited resources we have at our disposal. Not only will this effort fail, but it will also hinder any future efforts that might have actually had a chance at solving the problem. We must choose our battles carefully, and as Amb. Walker writes, “Let us focus on what can be done now and leave for later global initiatives that will inevitably divide us today and create a downward spiral of beggar thy neighbor.”

Although the state of the economy, the inability of many nations to compromise on key issues, and violent conflicts are arising in many areas of the world, it is not fair to so harshly criticize the leadership of Obama or the failed attempts of other nation states around the world to address these problem. The issues of climate change, human rights, free trade, the financial crisis, and nuclear proliferation are important to focus on and should not be abandoned because of the lack of progress in recent years.
In order to effectively address problems around the world countries must be able to compromise on certain aspects and action plans to address these issues. The world must find some common ground that can lead to compromises. Of course “states will act in their own perceived self-interest even if that comes at the expense of other states and long term goals,” but if states can try to focus on only those issues where there is common ground, or at least a common long term goal that will be beneficial to all states, progress could be made. For example, climate change will affect us all. It does not matter if you are a developed or developing nation, there will be detrimental effects on the people of all countries along with the economies of the world. This message needs to be fully comprehended by the world before any progress can be made because “polar bears are not as important as the survival and competitive advantage or your business community and the jobs and profits they produce.” The problem needs to be addressed in a practical way in which people can see that climate change may induce economic instability in many regions and that addressing the problem to create sustainable economies can decrease dependency on developed countries as well as create jobs around the world.
All of these issues are important and the era of the Bush administration should not deter the world from addressing these issues once again, especially with Obama and Clinton in the White House. Just because monumental changes has not already occurred and compromises have not been gained yet, Obama has been in office for only three months, much more time is necessary to make these significant changes. The public should not pass judgment on Obama yet, especially in the midst of a dismal economy and a war that much of the world opposes. States cannot just sit back and “focus on what can be done now and leave for later global initiatives that will inevitably divide us today and create a downward spiral of beggar thy neighbor.” Many of these issues cannot wait and will just keep getting worse and continue to be put off and eventually with a problem like climate change and Darfur, we will experience a snowball effect and it will be too late.

I agree with Professor Walker that now “is not the time for brave new initiatives.” The current financial crisis has drastically increased anti-globalization sentiments and decreased the efficacy of multinational cooperation. Many countries economically affected by a crisis originating from the housing market of the United States are understandably weary of further or even continued globalization and, as Professor Walker suggests, protectionism is the natural and obvious response. Yet I do not think increased protectionism and decreased international cooperation signal fundamental changes in the way nations conduct diplomacy with one another. Rather, they illustrate changing issues that dictate the way countries conduct diplomatic relations. Before the current global recession post-modern issues such as global climate change and women’s rights provided a relatively easy means for nations to come together and agree (somewhat). These issues are, at least in the west, relatively unchallenged and widely accepted goals. The same is not the case for the economic problems of today.
Professor Walker writes, “The one overriding truth of the nation state system as we know it is that states will act in their own perceived self-interest even if that comes at the expense of other states and long term goals.” It’s all about economics; not in the financial sense, but as the study of relative costs and benefits. Nation-states weigh their personal costs and benefits and act accordingly, always. The successes of the 90’s created an atmosphere of cooperation because numerous countries all agreed the personal costs of these actions were less than the benefits. Overarching, popular, and easily recognizable philosophies provided the necessary framework. Now complicated, economic problems exist without any clear and agreed upon solution and countries accordingly cannot cooperate. Different countries feel their unique economic needs require unique economic solutions at odds with other countries. The world will only act in concert when everyone involved in the process feels they have something to gain, and in this case they do not. The rules of diplomacy between nations do not change, only circumstances do.

The pessimism about countries working in concert is completely understanding. During such troubled times, a leader must first of all take care of their own country, and then help other ones. The attitude at recent UN conference regarding the North Korean Missile launch inspires even more fear that during the next few years of crisis, countries will continue to be even more selfish. However, it is important that the world now is completely different from what it was even five years ago. The current world economic crisis happened because countries are so intertwined economically, and they did not use caution when they performed various financial operations. So it would only to make sense that in order to untangle this mess countries must work together so that countries could prosper again. In no way am I arguing that globalization is the best economic structure possible, but so far it worked well, until the crisis. Leaders must see what mistakes and learn from them in order to avert such a crisis in the future. More importantly countries should not only work together because of the degree of globalization achieved, but also because this process is not reversible.


Countries should most certainly work together when it comes to issues such as global warming and security. Issues such as nuclear non-proliferation or peace in the Middle East will never be worked out on their own. US and Russia must lead the process of Nuclear non-proliferation and force other countries to go along with them. That will be the only way to prevent terrorist groups from acquiring nuclear weapons. By no means am I naïve enough to believe that countries around the world will happily start working together, no. But I do hope that G20 countries will realize that they must work in together if they wish to resolve issues. Working in concert would not only help resolve global problems, but countries would be able to benefit domestically.

It is very unlikely that the major superpowers, at this point in time, would be able to come together to conquer the global challenges that face the world. The growing gap between the rich and the poor, which has vastly increased over the past decade, has left the world divided and has simultaneously exasperated the global issues to a more dangerous level than before. As developing countries, such as China, become more powerful they will continue to put their principal national interests before global challenges. This has been made evident by their oil ties with the Sudanese government and their resistance to the United Nations Security Council resolutions in their dealings with Khartoum. In addition, how are the United States and other democracies expected to work with the likes of China when human rights and international humanitarian law have continuously taken a back seat in their agenda. Ambassador Walker is correct in stating that nations will always “act in their own perceived self-interest” and will continue to do so while knowing that half of the world’s population struggles to live on less than $2.50 a day.

While President Obama is ambitious in thinking that it is possible to act in a concert with other nations, he must first take care of the imbalance that exists on the home front. How can we step up and fix problems abroad when we are struggling to bail out greedy businessmen who are partially responsible for our economic downfall to begin with? The United States has the ability, as a world superpower and dominant member of the UN, to lead the way in taking a proactive stance on major issues, even if it goes against global markets. However, the U.S must keep this stance and take action on issues instead of continuing to talk about what needs to be done, which has been the case thus far with Darfur. When the United States does this other nations will follow suit. As for global warming, at this point in time nations are not viewing this problem as an immediate global threat. In all likelihood, in time, climate change will eventually bring nations together because it is a challenge that requires us to take action and it cannot be conquered alone. Again, the United States can lead by example by taking action and acting in accordance to the Kyoto Protocol.

As is stated in the post above, President Obama has created an agenda that places a tremendous amount of importance on the connectedness of the international community to solve many of the ongoing international problems. The problem with this strategy for change is the inevitable inability to disconnect an individual country’s agenda from their international policies. Because nations in today’s globalized environment are forced to have at least some level of protectionism in order to remain viable and competitive economically, there can be no clear line drawn between a country’s efforts in international affairs and their individual agendas.
This idea can be highlighted by analyzing the impact of increased loan conditionality within IMF lending agreements over the past fifty years. The increase in loan conditionality can be proven as a detrimental change to those countries receiving aid, specifically hurting their economic stability and their ability to act as sovereign nations. In addition to this, this increase further serves to promote the agendas of the strongest member countries within the IMF. These lender countries self-interest is inevitably protected through the conditions, and foreign policy or economic agendas can be furthered through specific inclusions. There are very few opportunities for debtor nations to make changes or revise agreements because of their minimal power within the negotiations, and therefore powerful lenders are able to impose conditions in their favor with very little limitation. Subsequently, however, because the debtor nations have little ability to negotiate these terms, many conditionality agreements are insensitive to social impacts or the burden of adjustment that the terms will have on the populations in the country, further creating negative impacts on the receiving population. It is through all of these implications that the increased scope and number of conditionality agreements ultimately hinder the growth and prosperity of the debtor nations, while helping promote the agendas of the most powerful lender states. Through this it is apparent that even in an organization such as the IMF in which the goals are to help struggling nations as a collective global community, it is impossible to take out countries’ individual agendas, and thus it seems that though President Obama’s strategy could be a good way to rhetorically connect the global political community but cannot realistically be put in place in the current global environment, that is so focused on individual nations’ success.

In his final analysis, Ambassador Walker suggests that we “focus on what can be done now” to maintain global advances in human rights, nuclear nonproliferation, poverty, and climate change that were achieved prior to the financial crisis. Fearing that the advancements made in these areas maybe undone if well founded; these highly volatile issues are can be divisive in times of uncertainty and economic crisis. While it is certainly true that previous gains must be maintained, it is also true that they cannot simply be put on the back burner and dealt with at a more convenient time. As Walker points out, all of these issues are tied together. Economic prosperity brought millions out of poverty and concerns of climate change and global warming lead nations to willingly sacrifice aspects of industrial production in favor of environmental protection. As the economy falls apart and these social gains begin to erode and nations backtrack on their promises, the world is faced with multiple options in how they will face these issues that range from Walker’s feared realist protectionism to his suggestion to “suspend” discussion on these issues and finally Obama’s optimistic global “concert” that advocates actively discussing these problems. Although the first two options will most likely occur, I believe there is hope that President Obama can strategically approach these issues through global leadership as we look to solve the global economic crisis. At the recent G20 summit in London President Obama declared Brazil’s President Lula de Silva, “the most popular politician on earth” (http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/04/thats-my-man-ri.html); coming from Obama, who may actually be the most popular and/or famous politician on Earth, this compliment shows that the US is leading the way in an effort to include a voice from the developing world. Brazil’s input offers a new and powerful voice that can push these social issues forward so that they are addressed in the solution to the economic crisis.


The “Obama Doctrine,” as this new approach to foreign policy has been termed, accepts US responsibility for past mistakes, realizes the limitations of the United States power, and seeks international cooperation over unilateral action (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/15/AR2009041502902.html ). The current war in Iraq, the weaknesses of the dollar, and the financial crisis have weakened US global power and created domestic divisions. Just last week the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning against domestic right-wing radicals while the governor of Texas attended pro-states’ rights rallies and reaffirmed his state’s right to declare independence. One would never think that a nation as strong as the US could fall apart, but these events are eerily similar to the radical predictions of the current dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry Academy, the once former KGB analyst turned scholar, Igor Panarin, who believes the US will erupt in civil war and break apart (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123051100709638419.html ). By all accounts this idea is ridiculous and considering the source must be read with an eye towards bias and propaganda, yet Panarin’s prediction touches upon the bitter truth that the global crisis is as much a threat domestically as it is internationally. The United States can’t afford to be the leader it once was as it attempts to balance internal and global concerns; in recognizing this concern the US must look towards new allies to push social concerns towards the forefront. Although additional voices to global leadership may create more conflict as Walker fears, it also represents a chance for a more unified solution that will be difficult to arrive at but could potentially produce greater and more widespread prosperity in the end. The consequences of avoiding the tough issues now will be felt further down the line where they will be no easier to solve and may only compound in complexity. The most unfortunate outcome of the current crisis could be one in which the world finds itself in the same place as before, having grown no closer and learned nothing from the shared burden of dealing with this crisis making it imperative that we actively discuss these concerns.

President Obama has preached bi-partisanship throughout his campaign and into the beginning of his presidency. He wants both Republicans and Democrats to come together to compromise on solutions to problems that the US faces. Knowing this, it is not surprising that he has said, "The United States must lead the way. But our best chance to solve these unprecedented problems comes from acting in concert with other nations." Ambassador Walker has brought up the point that at the end of the day countries tend to act in their own interests. People may not be concerned in saving polar bears when people are losing their jobs.
How has President Obama’s strategy of preaching bi-partisanship in the US faired so far? The war in Iraq is essentially staying the strategy that President Bush set up. Troops are leaving in 2011 and there will be slow decline in troops. In 2010 there will be a residual troop force of 50,000. Generally, both parties like this strategy. Although this issue had a bi-partisan solution, it is not the same with other important issues. The current financial crisis there was a huge division between what Obama wanted in members of Congress. Long story short 0 Republican house members voted for the bailout. Now this result probably had political motives behind it but the point of the outcome is that Republican obviously did not feel that the bailout package makeup was the right one. If agreement cannot be met within our own country on pressing matters like the one just described, how is the world community supposed to come together and make decisions on important issue concerning the world community? The UN is a world organization that creates resolutions to help solve world problems. In UN Security Council 5 countries have veto power and these may veto a resolution that does not align with their own interests even if the resolution is the “best” for the world. For example, the US has aligned itself with Israel multiple times and has vetoed resolutions that sanction Israel.
These 2 examples are just few of many that support the notion that people coming together to solve a problem is easier said than done. Countries have their own interests at hand when attempting to solve a problem, whether it is global warming, genocide in the Sudan, or Iran’s attempt to create “nuclear power.” Although Obama is correct in coming together he will have to realize that working together to achieve a common goal will be difficult even when the global economy is doing well again. In my opinion even if financial times got better and the world came up with a completely different structure of working together there will still be major barriers in getting cooperation. The Kyoto treaty is a great example of barriers. The world came together for a common cause yet the most powerful nation in the world did not sign the treaty.

It is entirely understandable to state that the world is too pessimistic or self-interested to allow any form of progressive change to occur, especially in the form President Obama is proposing; however, it is not so to encourage the belief that we should be constantly striving to better ourselves. Global actions require global cooperation, not single states acting alone; I agree with Obama that changes need to be made now, both in our foreign policy, and in the foreign policies of others in order to ensure that we don’t make mistakes today which could cause ramifications for centuries. As a nation, the United States is perceived badly across the globe, a perception that is only now beginning to slowly change. If proper action is not taken now, at this turning point, to allow other nations to see us in a better light than in past years, countries across the globe will return to their belief that America is a lost cause.

Yes, international efforts faltered in recent years, which is understandable considering the massive hit US foreign policy itself has taken over the last decade, as well as global perception of NATO and the UN. And understandably questions arise: If the members of the security council can’t make a decision, then what is to be done? If NATO high command cannot agree on what the most effective solution to the Afghanistan problem is, who can? These questions are demoralizing and tend to encourage a sense of complete distrust in organized ventures. But distrust and demoralization are not excuses for ignoring or evading hard decisions and issues. Demoralization may further itself if an issue is not solved, or if progress is not being made towards a goal. But it can work in both ways: a single breakthrough in international discussion could lead to a cascading effect which would never be seen in good times.

As to the proponents who say we should stake a claim in what advances we have made and ensure that they do not slip through our fingers, such efforts will only ensure that certain vestiges of humanity will remain while we allow the rest of the world to slip into chaos. A failing economy is not a time to pull back measures, it is a time to expand them, while labor and materials are cheap, before the conditions of the worst become the conditions for all. Global connectivity and mutual effort is the only plausible solution to the issues that are facing the world today. In facing such a global relations change, measures that are necessary will be difficult to achieve, and people will have to accept terms and compromises that may seem hard to allow. But necessary measures are labeled as such for specific reasons, and usually their terms are very close to unchangeable. Focusing on what can be done now is a good start, but it cannot be the end; humanity must be in progression, or else regression, and even an uncomfortable step in one direction is better than a comfortable step in the other.

Ambassador Walker highlights the important split between the aptly titled “sentiments” exchanged between politicians on the news and the reality of every nation’s self interest. Regardless of what President Obama, or any politician for that matter, says on the news, a leader quickly becomes unpopular, or an ex leader for that matter, if he does not keep the interest of his country at the fore front of his political agenda. A perfect example is the United States’ use of coal in electricity generation. Coal powered electric plants in the US are responsible for 10% of global CO2 emissions, yet American’s would be reluctant to accept any government policy reducing the use of coal, as there would most certainly be economic side effects. At the same time, in a bout of hypocrisy, the developed world expects emerging markets and LDCs to take careful consideration for the environment in their attempts to compete in the global market place. While self-interest is most certainly a reasonable strategy, especially in times of economic turmoil, shouldn’t the US be worried about “sentiments” diluting the legitimacy of its foreign policy?

This discussion of political self-interest also ties into another one of Ambassador Walker’s points: now is not the time to tackle every issue facing the international community. While I agree with this assertion, I think there is need for an incredibly important distinction, especially in the context of the discussion above regarding the trade offs between economic growth and environmental responsibility. While there are some problems than can be addressed regionally, without a concerted, unified global effort, others are both time sensitive and global in nature. For example, CO2 emitted in China today is just as problematic as CO2 emitted in South Africa or Gambon next year. In times of economic contraction or recession, while I agree the international community should pick its battles so to speak, I don’t think that means abandoning important issues, even extremely contentious ones, that require international action.

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