King Abdullah’s reign in Saudi Arabia has come to an end with his death at age 90. Abdullah became king in 2005, but his rule truly began in 1996, when, as crown prince, he became King Fahd’s regent. Effectively, he was in power for nearly 20 years. It can often be difficult to judge the legacies of democratically elected leaders. Their short terms in office make it difficult to distinguish the effects of their administrations from those who precede and follow them. By contrast, autocratic rulers not only typically rule for far longer, but they also have much greater personal influence over the policies that emerge during their reigns. For these reasons, when a long-serving autocrat passes the torch, it is an interesting and useful exercise to have a look at how much better or worse off their country is now than it was when they rose to power. In March 2013, I ran a similar piece about Hugo Chavez’ 14-year reign. So let’s look at Abdullah’s legacy.
In the course of doing my MA at the University of Chicago, I’ve had the opportunity to take a class from John Mearsheimer. Mearsheimer is one of the most widely renowned structural realists in the international relations game today. He disagrees with much of US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, lamenting the US’s decision to expend its energies maintaining large military presences in regions of the world that contain no threats to the United States. Mearsheimer calls for a strategy of offshore balancing, in which the United States only intervenes in critical regions in order to prevent those regions from being dominated completely by another state. Otherwise, he recommends the US save its strength. I found myself curious today about what many of the world’s region’s power relationships might look like if the United States were to withdraw militarily and allow the powers in those regions to engage in security competition with one another, and I have taken some time to run the figures and make a vast plethora of charts to share with you.
The UN Security Council includes a group of permanent members (USA, Russia, China, UK, France) and a group of rotating temporary members from the world’s various regions, each of which serves a two year term. Only the permanent members possess veto power over Security Council resolutions, but being a temporary member gives a member state a vote and a platform. This is why it is so very odd that Saudi Arabia, which has just now been offered a temporary seat on the Security Council, has chosen to reject that seat as a form of protest. What do the Saudis hope to achieve by refusing to take their seat, and are they likely to be successful? Even more broadly, how is the UN perceived differently in countries that do not have permanent membership on the Security Council?
Recently, a girl in India was gang-raped and killed. The incident produced a nationwide dialogue about India’s rape culture and the causes thereof, some of which has spilled over into the wider global conversation about gender roles, feminism, and so on. The blame has been directed a number of different ways with most of the arguments being impassioned, emotional, and defensive. I would like to cut away the passionate recriminations and attempt to come to a reasonable conclusion as to what the source of rape is and how states might go about combating it.
One of the long-standing assumptions of American foreign policy is that the United States’ alliance with Israel is a high priority and, consequently, Israel must be defended. Today I’d like to look at where this assumption originates from, whether or not it still has applicability, and what are the consequences that arise from it for the United States in terms of the national interest.