The decision to postpone the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline demonstrates that North America has not yet defined a workable compromise between competing demands to increase energy security, and reduce the negative environmental impacts of energy. The US$7 billion proposal by TransCanada to build a 1,700 mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas has been delayed in the face of strong environmental protests and local opposition within Nebraska along the pipeline’s would-be route. The project, which has been strongly supported by the Canadian government, has now been pushed back until after the next US Presidential election.
As European warplanes took to the skies of Libya in March and French commandos swept confidently through the streets of Abidjan in April, one could easily have been forgiven for imagining that Europe may be starting to adopt a more assertive global military role. However, the former UK Defence Secretary’s recent admission that NATO operations in Libya would have been “impossible” without the assistance of the US tells the real story of Europe’s ongoing hard power deficit.
Zimbabwe’s Vice President, Joice Mujuru, recently called for a thorough probe to be conducted into a fire that killed her husband, Solomon Mujuru, at his farmhouse in Beatrice, just south of the capital, Harare, on the evening of 15 August 2011. Despite this, little – if any – independent investigation into the matter has taken place. Solomon was one of the most feared kingpins within President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF and was Zimbabwe’s most decorated post-independence army general. The circumstances surrounding the fire remain suspicious, yet Mugabe has failed to order a special inquiry into Solomon’s death.
A Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank report published on 27 September 2011 stated that cuts in the UK’s defence spending mean that Britain’s military will “never again be among the global superpowers”. However, the report, “Looking into the Black Hole: Is Britain’s Defence Crisis Really Over?”, went on to state that current levels of spending “should be enough for it to maintain its position as one of the world’s five second-rank military powers (with only the US in the first rank)”.
Against the assertion that we live in financial times and that all policy, national and international, must yield to the commonsensical gods of finance, we must not forget that a lot is still dictated and informed by religious and political belief. To say that we are all animated by the same absolute truths and resulting interests is to forgo humanity, freedom and choice in favour of a single subjectivity. Navigating the new world order is about finance and trade, Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne asserted at a recent Chatham House conference on foreign policy. Because we live in financial times, he reiterated for close to 90 minutes, Britain's international relations must focus on economic diplomacy. He went as far as arguing that a foreign policy based on the promotion of free trade is not a “zero sum game”. One is to understand that for the British government free trade will bring about greater freedom and promote “universal values” as a consequence of its resulting social dynamics.
The 66th Session of the UN General Assembly on 21 September, presented a precious opportunity for Brazilian president Dilma Roussef to shine on the international stage, even without the personal charisma of her popular predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. She held talks with US and European authorities on the financial crisis and in November will again be in the international spotlight during the G20 summit in France.
While the world cheered on the protesters and the Arab Spring which forever transformed the Middle East, regional powers trembled at the possible outcomes of the uprisings of which few, for them, would be favourable. Many of the regional and global powers which play a leading role in Middle East relations are relatively unpopular amongst the Arab youth and the general population. The Middle East is arguably not a better place today than it was eight months ago. The Arab Spring was only the first step, and if it is mismanaged it could pull the Middle East into a series of wars, the impact of which the whole world would feel.