Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Presenting the Spring 2013 Issue of Orbis

Presenting the Spring 2013 Issue of Orbis

  • April 1, 2013

Presenting the Spring 2013 Issue of Orbis

  • April 1, 2013

by Mackubin T. Owens, Editor

(Orbis is FPRI’s quarterly journal of world affairs, published for FPRI by Elsevier)

The spring 2013 edition of Orbis addresses a number of timely issues. FPRI Senior Fellow Jakub Grygiel begins by discussing the real meaning of educating for national security. He contends that national security requires more than technical skills. Rather it depends on a solid understanding of, and appreciation for, the state’s civilizational underpinnings—the religious beliefs, political ideals, and moral virtues. An education for national security must start from the desire to learn and understand one’s own national culture and tradition to be able to identify what one is supposed to defend.

Our first cluster of articles focuses on the problems faced by post-Communist democracies. Adrian A. Basora, director of FPRI’s Project on Democratic Transitions, argues that the global financial crisis and its prolonged European aftermath have created a major stress test for democracy in the ten new post-communist members of the European Union. While most of these transitional states have weathered the economic storm, they have lost ground on the democratic side.  This could jeopardize the extraordinary progress in post-communist democratization and Western integration achieved with the help of U.S. and EU policy during the 1989-2004 period. FPRI Associate Scholar Michael Cecire looks specifically at the result of the October 2012 election in Georgia. He argues that the Georgian elections may offer transferrable lessons for democracy promotion in other competitive authoritarian systems, specifically the need for better-tailored policies to address the hybrid nature of the latter model. 

This issue also features articles on regions that all too often receive less attention than they deserve: Latin America and Africa. FPRI Senior Fellow Vanessa Neumann examines the threat created by the convergence of transnational criminal and terrorist organizations, creating a crime-terror pipeline.[1] Nothing exemplifies this new threat better than the inroads made by Hezbollah in Latin America. Marilyn Moss Rockefeller and Joan Johnson-Freese look at the case of Joyce Banda, the President of Malawi, to highlight the struggles of female politicians in the male-dominated, traditional societies of Africa. 

Our second article cluster examines energy and environmental issues in Asia. FPRI Senior Fellow Felix K. Chang writes about the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), America’s foremost engagement vehicle on the Indochina peninsula of Southeast Asia.  While it is primarily an integrated water management scheme for the river, the LMI also serves a larger American goal: to encourage regional cohesion and thereby slow the spread of Chinese influence.  FPRI Senior Fellow Wojtek M. Wolfe looks at how China has sought to gain regional influence by utilizing a mix of energy investments and military modernization efforts. While China has experienced some success in this approach, the employment of strategic hedging has alarmed other regional actors. The latter article is drawn from FPRI’s Asia Program Conference on “Energy, Environment and Security in Asia,” hosted and co-sponsored by the Reserve Officer Association in Washington, D.C. in April 2012.

FPRI Senior Fellow Rens Lee discusses Russia’s development of its isolated eastern territories, especially the Russian Far East (RFE) and the security implications of that development for the Asia-Pacific community. The United States has historical and security interests in preventing the domination of this strategically important region by outside states, and in fostering the stability and growth of the RFE as well as open access to its resources.

Finally, Stephen Marrin calls into question the conventional wisdom regarding the analytic performance of the Central Intelligence Agency and its contributions to “intelligence failures” such as 9/11. In fact, he argues, these so-called failures more accurately represent the perennial dilemmas and tradeoffs associated with the analysis of intelligence. It is unrealistic to expect the CIA to prevent surprise.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross reviews three books on preventive detention of terrorist suspects. These works offer contending perspectives on the contradictory consensus that seems to prevail among America’s political class: on the one hand, this consensus holds that detention of the kind we see at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility is bad, and should not be used in the future; on the other, that Gitmo should not be closed in any meaningful way. Ultimately, the contradictory nature of this consensus reflects a tension that goes back to the American founding: the tension between vigilance and responsibility.

Individual and institutional subscriptions in both print and electronic versions are available here. 

The tables of contents for current and past issues are available here. 

A complimentary print subscription to Orbis is included with FPRI membership at the Associates Level ($125) or higher.  To become an FPRI member click here.


[1] Vanessa Neumann will address the Princeton Committee of FPRI (directed by FPRI Trustee John Haines) on April 11 on “Crime-Terror Pipelines: The Case of Iran and Latin America.”  For details, click here.