Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Orbis Editor’s Corner: Facing Future Challenges
Orbis Editor’s Corner: Facing Future Challenges

Orbis Editor’s Corner: Facing Future Challenges

Since taking over the editorship of Orbis four years ago, I have wanted to keep the journal’s orientation faithful to the course laid out by the founding editor, Ambassador Robert Strausz-Hupé. He felt that covering geopolitical shifts and technological changes were absolutely crucial to understanding the direction of international affairs. As we approach seven decades of publication, these twin imperatives have not changed.

In this issue, we go deep on one region of the world–Africa–to continue to assess changes in a continent whose importance to the future of US global engagement is not always appreciated. Ambassador Charles Ray starts us off by asking whether the United States now has a policy approach resting on a solid foundation–or whether Washington’s rhetoric about a new approach is not substantiated by actual action? In that vein, given the very clear and consistent engagement on the continent from other major powers, Dan Whitman asks the provocative question–does the United States really matter for the countries of the region? Finally, Mohammed Soliman and Nikolas Gvosdev argue for filling in the missing link in America’s overall Atlantic strategy by integrating Africa into an expanded trans-Atlantic community.

Africa is not a country, as author Dipo Faloyin constantly stresses. Therefore, Charles Ray and Michael Walsh drill down in examining a bilateral relationship—between the United States and Zimbabwe—for lessons that can be learned. Michael Walsh then assesses the impact of “integrated country strategies” as they have played out not only in Zimbabwe but also in Malawi. This analysis offers relevant lessons for Africa policy, as well as for how the US national security establishment engages in foreign policy planning more generally. 

Joining this bloc of articles on Africa are other essays that touch on geopolitics and technology. Ofira Seliktar examines Israel’s intelligence failure in the wake of Hamas’ October 7th assault to see where and how the application of artificial intelligence tools might explain those shortfalls. Jim Krane addresses how the “green energy” revolution is creating new fault lines in the US-Saudi Arabia relationship.

We hope Orbis readers will be intrigued by a provocative contribution to this issue from Heather Huhtanen and Joan Johnson-Freese. They present the case that the “real man” approach to masculinity (as opposed to a “good man” model), far from inculcating martial values necessary for national security, in fact undermines the very basis for national security.

Finally, we turn to the future. Our outgoing book review editor Jakub Grygiel asks you, the reader, to confront three persistent illusions in US foreign policy–illusions that Strausz-Hupé would have easily recognized in 1957. It is always tempting to think that if we apply the tools of statecraft “just right” we can overcome all obstacles—but even for the United States, there are limits that power and a positive attitude cannot overcome. We hope that Jakub’s essay will highlight the recommendations that Philip Wasielewski presents to whoever sits in the Oval Office come next January. The President will need to hit the ground running with a clear sense of priorities, a streamlined national security structure in place and realistic budgets announced. With all the challenges we face at the start of 2024—and the apparent fulfillment of Dov Zakheim’s warning in these pages two years ago of the likelihood of “Eurasian simultaneity”—entertaining illusions and taking time to get our national security house in order are luxuries we no longer can afford.

Explore the full issue here. 

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