It has long been a truism in American politics that elections focus almost entirely on issues of domestic policy while foreign policy is barely mentioned. As a result, we elect presidents with hardly a clue as to how they will handle their international portfolio. It is remarkable when you think about it because the US has long had the largest influence, the heaviest responsibilities (and costs), and the most complex policy agenda of any country in the world. There is an obvious risk associated with putting an unknown quantity in charge of the most powerful foreign/security policy apparatus the world has ever known. For most of our history, one could say we have been lucky — many of the strategic amateurs turned out to be quite capable. In the last election, however, our luck ran out — in spades.
In 2011, protesters and insurgents brought down multiple decaying Arab regimes in what came to be known as the “Arab Spring.” Lebanon, as poorly governed as many other Arab countries, experienced nothing of the sort. This stability usually has been attributed to its “resilience.” Yet, recent events have shown otherwise. On October 17, nationwide protests broke out, involving hundreds of thousands across the country’s multiple religious sects—casting doubt on this mythology. Lebanon’s decades-long stasis in the face of unsustainable pressure was not resilience, but mere inertia—an inertia that has triggered the country’s deepest crisis since its 1975 civil war.
President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of troops from Syria has laid bare contending visions about U.S. engagement in the Middle East. Trump depicts the move as extricating the U.S. from the Middle East’s quagmire of “endless war.” Critics see it as betraying Kurdish forces that had loyally served in the campaign against the Islamic State. Neither side, though, offers a vision for how a war like the one in Syria, where multiple foreign powers maintain direct relationships with armed proxy groups, might end. Understanding these endgame scenarios can enable the U.S. to escape the Middle East’s proxy wars while building a broader framework for regional security.
Entering its third year, the 2019 Yushan Forum, centered on “Deepening Progressive Partner-ships in Asia,” was attended by 30 ambassadors and foreign representatives from 22 countries. The theme focused on the efforts from governmental sectors and non-governmental organiza-tions as a way to demonstrate multi-faceted results of collaborations and partnerships, specifi-cally through sessions on people-centered development agenda sessions, for example, the im-portance of “Enhancing Technological and Economic Partnerships” which was closely related to the session on “Building Talent Cultivation Partnerships” and another panel on “Promoting Partnerships in Sustainable Development;” these issues reflect the strategic importance of prac-tical collaboration between Taiwan and its neighbors. The two-day forum, held on October 8-9, attracted over 1,000 participants from 31 countries, including 31 international partners from 13 countries serving as panelists.
In many respects, the navy that the Philippines is now building is a new one. By the 1990s, its old navy had fallen into such a state of obsolescence that it had no ships capable of fighting a modern naval battle. Indeed, with the exception of a single World War II-era destroyer escort, the navy had no vessel bigger than a 62-meter offshore patrol boat. But in the coming years, the Philippine navy will for the first time acquire the full spectrum of contemporary anti-air, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and electronic warfare capabilities that it has lacked for so long. Still, it remains to be seen if the Philippine navy will acquire those capabilities in sufficient quantity or quality to present a “credible deterrent” against the Philippines’ various challengers in the South China Sea.