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How can the US improve its foreign policy toward Latin America? An American backyard or A Real Partner?

Nargiz Hajiyeva

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Over the historical course, the relations between Latin America and the United States has undergone different perplexing situations and still constantly evolving in some way. In order to deeply comprehend their relations, first and foremost, historical background and perspectives of their relations have to be taken into account. Amid the 1960s, due to some politically arduous situations, social movements, the U.S has opted for the way of militaristic intervention on behalf of its national or homeland security in the backyards.

At that time, the U.S commenced the implementation of its hard power toward Latin American countries due to some complex situations; from one side the moral trepidation on dispersion of Communism, from another side the sparking issue of homeland security beyond borders and in its backyards. However, even in today’s U.S foreign policy, nothing has changed except the Obama’s revitalization of the diplomatic relations with Cuba in 2015. Basically, there is a clear fact that if the U.S mainly is eager to improve its relations with Latin American countries, before all else, it should draw conclusions from its historical mistakes which it did in past towards Latin America, especially amid the Cold War Era. The chosen antagonistic foreign policy toward Latin America during the Cold War Period should not be implemented or not be repeated again in the current time. Otherwise, the implementation of this kind of U.S-centric foreign policy towards the region at the present time have not gained anything at all, except arduous costs.

The big mistake itself arises from the U.S-centric approach toward Latin American countries. As the Secretary of the United States, John Kerry mentioned: Latin America is the backyard of the United States. The biggest flaw comes from this word which still keeps its so called U.S-centric hegemony and patronization over Latin American countries. Still, at that time, the U.S 35th President John F. Kennedy once said that Latin America is completely different issue and will be a critical one for a long time. Therefore, it could be said that if the U.S is really inclined to improve its relations with Latin America, first of all, it should take far more effective stances in its relations with Latin America. It is ostensibly that there are some overarching matters of the U.S foreign policy with respect to Latin America that could be improved. Even on this day, the processes and occasions happened in the 1960s, have the same morality over the U.S approach respecting to the region. But in general, are there any alternative approaches toward the region which have to be undertaken by the U.S? Will the successful implementation of these stances do benefit both the United States and Latin America? In any case, there are some proposals and recommendations for the U.S that it could change its so called U.S centric or unilateralist foreign policy in a much more flexible way with regard to the region. In the following part, the pivotal proposals that should have to be taken by the U.S were listed.

1.Latin America as a real partner instead of backyard. Once Bill Clinton said “ People are more impressed by the power of our example rather than the example of our power. This word is the apparent proof of how the US could improve its foreign policy towards Latin America. Today’s international relations do not support the imperialistic and any other hegemonistic stances toward other countries. Instead, the effective operation of soft power not only could gain benefits for each sides (both for the U.S and Latin America) but also help the U.S to create the idea of a real partner instead of a backyard toward the region. What the U.S and Latin America will get from this real partnership is the moral reconciliation in any fields, including culture, economy, politics and others.

2.Bilateral or mutual interests than U.S centric interests and unilateralism. For the sake of reliable partnership, first and foremost, the U.S should stop to see the Latin America as a recipient of its dictated policy, instead, should evaluate the potential power and capacity of the region by considering it as both an economic and political counterpart. It is completely false of the U.S foreign policy, that even today it is far more prone to keep its hegemonistic spirit over the region. However, while mentioned above that it will not gain any benefits for the U.S with the exception of heavy costs. Therefore, the relations between them have to based on common interests and bilateral actions rather than unilateral ones (the practice of China has to be implemented).

3.Promoting less militaristic approaches to the security issues (less U.S-centric interests) instead to be involved more in the development of domestic diplomacy of the region. This proposal, in my opinion is the most effective one for the further development and revitalization process of the relations between the U.S and Latin America. To a large extent, the U.S should invest in and support the international and regional networks like NGO’s IGO’s and other civic associations. Because of the fact that via the transparent actions of these kind of networks within the Latin American society, the morally mutual perception and behaviors could be reached over the future development of the U.S and Latin American relations. It is undeniable fact that under the condition of the effective accomplishment of a public policy or to be exact, the domestic diplomacy (the practice of domestic diplomacy in the example of small states, namely Norway, Denmark and etc.) both the U.S and Latin America would be able to achieve the development of civil society in the region in order to fight against  terrorism, drug trafficking and organized crime, environmental degradation, natural resource and food scarcity at a bilateral level than unilateral level. Thus, by the effective apparatus system of domestic diplomacy, the both parties (the U.S and Latin America) could get the mutual understanding and accountability in their future relations.

4.More engagement rather than confrontation. (Positive sum strategy vs zero sum strategy). Before delving into the deep analysis of the U.S and Latin American relations from this conception, firstly, it is needed to underline the key elements of the engagement theory versus confrontation in order to identify what does the theory offers to us with respect to the U.S and Latin American relations. In any cases, the engagement is much more beneficial than the competition. Collaboration stands on the “win-win” proposition and is inclined to the mutual perceptions of the parties. However, the competition mainly focuses on the success of only one party and does not give a chance to another one. Therefore, the relationship between the U.S and Latin America should have to be characterized by the prism of the collaboration rather than competition, because both of them have a huge potential in order to participate in and get “win-win” position within the international system.

5.Mutual actions than unilateral ones on democracy, human rights, sciences, and energy security issues. (the concept of multidimensional partnership) This proposal offers the completely different way in the development of the U.S and Latin American relations. A multidimensional partnership can be considered as a further action in the U.S-:Latin American relations after the effective management system of public policy, meaning that it will be able to encompass science, energy field, democracy, and human rights. The concept at the same time will be able to take new prospects within the region by evolving fight against new threats including terrorism, drug trafficking, uncontrolled population growth, and migration. Hence, this concept could create an opportunity for both sides to reevaluate their relations, but this time on a multidimensional basis.

In conclusion, the U.S should avoid considering Latin America as a region for its antagonistic, patriotic and hegemonistic ideas, rather it should revise its angle of view and stances towards the region, and see it as a real partner for other countries which the U.S still do. During the sparking period of moral imperialism (mainly Cold War Era), what did the U.S win from its attitudes toward Latin America, to be honest, nothing, just loss of time? Although in some way they have been good economic counterpart toward each other. However heavy costs emanating from their relationship is much more than any good mutual benefits. What is truly required is the whole revision of the U.S foreign policy apparatus toward the region. Frankly speaking, if the U.S is eager to close its ties with Latin America, it is highly needed to review its foreign policy priorities toward the region. Otherwise, over high U.S-centric interests will remain for U.S itself, and will not achieve any gains from this relationship. Thus, the United States has yet to learn from its past. Only via non-interventionist, anti-confrontational, more equitable and flexible diplomacy, Latin America being considered as an American’s backyard will turn into to be a reliable partner and a neighbor region for the United States.

Ms. Nargiz Hajiyeva is an independent researcher from Azerbaijan. She is an honored graduate student of Vytautas Magnus University and Institute D'etudes de Politique de Grenoble, Sciences PO. She got a Bachelor degree with the distinction diploma at Baku State University from International Relations and Diplomacy programme. Her main research fields concern on international security and foreign policy issues, energy security, cultural and political history, global political economy and international public law. She worked as an independent researcher at Corvinus University of Budapest, Cold War History Research Center. She is a successful participator of International Student Essay Contest, Stimson Institute, titled “how to prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons”, held by Harvard University, Harvard Kennedy School and an honored alumnus of European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw Poland. Between 2014 and 2015, she worked as a Chief Adviser and First Responsible Chairman in International and Legal Affairs at the Executive Power of Ganja. At that time, she was defined to the position of Chief Economist at the Heydar Aliyev Center. In 2017, Ms. Hajiyeva has worked as an independent diplomatic researcher at International Relations Institute of Prague under the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Czech Republic. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral studies in Political Sciences and International Relations programme in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Americas

In Praise of the Lioness of Law: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her Jurisprudence

Punsara Amarasinghe

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image credit: Wikipedia

The death of the US Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg has created an abyss in the court for the liberal voice where justice Ginsburg was seen as the linchpin of the liberal block of the Supreme Court at a time when that block was shrinking. Especially late judge had vociferously advocated for women ‘rights, environmental issues and often came up with unique dissents in delivering her judgements which were propelled by her jurisprudence which embodied the solemn ideal in American legal system “Equal Protection under the Law “. She was on a quest to defend the delicate balance between honoring the timelessness of American Constitution and recognizing the depth of its enduring principles in new centuries and under new circumstances.

She grew up in an era where men held the helm in every aspect of social life and especially the legal profession was utterly dominated by men. Recalling her legal studies at Harvard law school in the 50’s judge Ginsburg had stated later how she was once asked by the Dean of Harvard law school to justify her position as a law student that otherwise would have gone to a man. Yet she had the spunk to overcome all the obstacles stood on her way and excelled as a scholar becoming the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.

In tracing her legal career that it becomes a salient fact, Judge Ginsburg marked her name in American legal history even decades before she joined the bench. While at the American Civil Liberties Union in the early seventies she made an upheaval in American in legal system in famous Supreme Court Case Reed Vs Reed. In Reed Vs Reed the brief drafted by Ginsburg provided an astute analysis on the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause. Ginsburg’s brief changed the aged long practice existed in the State of Idaho on favoring men over women in estate battles by paving the path for a discourse on gender equality rights in the USA.

Judge Ginsburg’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 1994 during Clinton administration marked the dawn of new jurisprudential chapter in the US Supreme Court. Two terms later, in the United States v. Virginia (VMI), Justice Ginsburg applied her lucid perspective to a sharply disputed constitutional claim. The United States challenged Virginia’s practice of admitting only men to its prestigious military college, the Virginia Military Institute. Writing for six Justices, Ginsburg held this policy unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause. In reaching this result, Ginsburg adroitly cut away potentially confounding issues about women’s participation in the military or the advantages of single-sex education.

Her robust activism in securing gender equality often attracted the admirations of the feminist scholars and activists, but it should be noted that her contribution was not only confined to the protection of gender equality. She was a robust critique of racial dissemination which still pervades in American society and she frequently pointed out how racial discrimination has marred the constitutional protections guaranteed to every citizen. Especially in the case of Gratz Vs Bollitnger, she stressed on the commitment that the state ought to fulfil by eliminating the racial biases existing employment and education. Moreover, disabled citizens. In Olmstead v. Zimring, she held that “unjustified institutional isolation of persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination” violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.45 She elaborated a two-fold concept of discrimination, noting that unneeded institutionalization both “perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life”.

In remembering the mortal departure of this prudent judge that one cannot forget her keenness in incorporating international law into her judgements regardless of the disinclination shown by conservative judges like Antony Scalia. Going beyond the mere textualism approach to the law, Ginsburg’s jurisprudence was much more akin to using international law to make substantive decisions. For instance, in her concurring verdict in Grutter Vs Bollinger, Justice Ginsburg relied upon international human rights law, and in particular upon two United Nations conventions, to support her conclusions.

Indeed, the demise of Ruth Ginsburg is a major blow for the liberalists in the USA, especially in an era where liberalist values are at stake under the fervent rise of populist waves propounded by Donald Trump. Especially late judge had been one of the harsh critics of Trump even before ascendency to the Oval office. The void created by the demise of judge Ginsburg might change the role the US Supreme Court if the successor to her position would take a more conservative approach and it will fortify the conservative bloc in the US Supreme Court. Trump has already placed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and the third pick would more deeply entrench the conservative views in the US Supreme Court, which would inevitably undermine the progressive policies taken during Obama’s administration towards issues such as the environment. The political storm appeared after the death of the late judge has already created a tense situation in US politics as president Trump is determined to appoint a judge to fill before the presidential election in November.

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The Politics of (In)security in Mexico: Between Narcissism and Political Failure

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza

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Image credit: Wikimedia

Security cannot be that easily separated from the political realm. The need for security is the prime reason why people come together to collectively form a state. Providing security is, therefore, one of the most basic functions of the state as a political and collective entity.

Last Friday, the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) laughed during his daily morning press briefings over a national newspaper headline about 45 massacres during his presidency. This attitude summarises in a macabre way his approach to insecurity: it is not his top priority. This is not the first time that AMLO has showed some serious and deeply disturbing lack of empathy for victims of crimes. Before taking office, he knew that insecurity was one of Mexico’s biggest challenges, and he has come to realise that curbing it down will not be as simple as he predicted during his presidential campaign.

Since the start of the War on Drugs in 2006, Mexico has sunk into a deep and ever-growing spiral of violence and vigilantism as a result of the erosion of the capacity of the state to provide safety to citizens. Vigilantism is when citizens decide to take the law into their own hands in order to fill the vacuum left by the state, or to pursue their own very particular interests. Guerrero, Michoacán, Morelos, Tabasco, Tamaulipas and Veracruz have over 50 vigilante organisations that pose substantial danger to the power of the state.

Vigilantism is not the only factor exacerbating the security crisis in Mexico: since 2006, young people have also started to join drug cartels and other criminal organisations. There are important sectors of the population who feel that the state has failed to represent them. They also feel betrayed because the state has not been able to provide them with the necessary means to better themselves. These frustrations make them vulnerable to the indoctrination of organised crime gangs who promise to give them some sort of ideological direction and solution to their problems.

As a result, it is not enough to carry out a kingpin arrest strategy and to preach on the moral duties we have as citizens as well as on human dignity. People need to be given enough means to find alternative livelihoods that are attractive enough to take them out of organised crime, Mexico can draw some important lessons from Sierra Leone who successfully demobilised and resettled ex-combatants after the armed conflict. Vigilantism, recruitment by organised crime, and insecurity have also flourished because of a lack of deterrence. The judicial system is weak and highly ineffective. A large proportion of the population does not trust the police, or the institutions in charge of the rule of law.

A long-term strategy requires linking security with politics. It needs to address not only the consequences but also the roots of unemployment and deep inequality. However, doing so requires decisive actions to root out widespread and vicious corruption. Corruption allows concentration of wealth and also prevents people from being held accountable. This perpetuates the circle of insecurity. Mexico has been slowly moving towards a borderline failed state. The current government is starting to lose legitimacy and the fragility of the state is further perpetuated by the undemocratic, and predatory governance of the current administration.

Creating a safer Mexico requires a strong, coherent, and stable leadership, AMLO’s administration is far from it. His popularity has consistently fallen as a result of his ineffective policies to tackle the pandemic, worsening insecurity, and the economic crisis. Mexico has reached over 72,000 Covid-19 deaths; during his initial 20 months as incumbent president, there has been 53,628 murders, among them 1800 children or teenagers, and 5888 women (11 women killed per day) This criminality rate is double than what it was during the same period in the presidency of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012); and 55% higher than with the last president, Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). Mexico is also experiencing its worst economic recession in 90 years.

Insecurity remains as the issue of most concern among Mexicans, seeing the president laughing about it, can only fill citizens with yet more despair and lack of trusts in the government and its institutions. AMLO’s catastrophic performance is not surprising, though. Much of his failures and shortcomings can be explained by both ideology and a narcissistic personality. Having someone with both of those traits ruling a country under normal, peaceful times is already dangerous enough, add an economic crisis and a pandemic to the mix and the result is utter chaos.

AMLO embodies the prototypical narcissist: he has a grandiose self-image; an inflated ego; a constant need for admiration; and intolerance to criticism. He, like many other narcissists, thinks about himself too much and too often, making him incapable of considering the wellbeing of other and unable to pursue the public interest. He has a scapegoat ready to blame for his failures and mistakes: previous administrations, conservatives, neoliberalism, academics, writers, intellectuals, reporters, scientists, you name it, the list is long and keeps getting longer.

AMLO keeps contradicting himself and he does not realise it. He has been claiming for months that the pandemic is under control: it is not. He declares Mexico is ready to face the pandemic and we have enough tests and medical equipment: we do not. He says Mexico is on its way to economic recovery: it is not. He states corruption is a thing of the past: it is not. He says Mexico is now safer than ever before: it is not. When told the opposite he shrugs criticism off and laughs, the behaviour of a typical narcissist.

AMLO, alike narcissists, due to his inability to face criticism, has never cared about surrounding himself by the best and brightest. He chose a bunch of flunkies as members of his cabinet who try to please and not humiliate their leader. A further trait of narcissistic personalities is that they love conflict and division as this keeps them under control. The more destabilisation and antagonism, the better. AMLO since the start of his presidency has been setting states against states for resources and for pandemic responses, instead of coordinating a national response. He is also vindictive: playing favourites with those governors who follow him and punishing those that oppose him.

Deep down, narcissistic leaders are weak. AMLO is genuinely afraid to lead. He simply cannot bring himself to make decisions that are solely his. This is why he has relied on public referendums and consultations to cancel projects or advance legislation. He will not take any responsibility if something goes wrong: It was not him who decided, it was the people, blame them. He inherited a broken system that cannot be fixed during his term, blame the previous administrations, not him.

AMLO is a prime example of a textbook narcissist, unfortunately he is not the only one: Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Recep Erdogan, Rodrigo Duterte are only a few more examples of what seems to be a normalised behaviour in contemporary politics. Every aspect of AMLO’s and other leaders presidencies have been heavily marked by their psychopathology. Narcissism, however, does not allow proper and realistic self-assessment, self-criticism, and self-appreciation therefore such leaders will simply ignore the red flags in their administration and have no clue how despicably and disgracefully they will be remembered.

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Minor Successes And The Coronavirus Disaster: Is Trump A Dead Duck?

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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That reminder from the Bible, ‘He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone’ may give us pause — but not journalists who by all appearances assume exemption.  And the stones certainly bruise.

Evidence for the bruises lies in the latest poll numbers.  Overall, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump 50 to 43 percent, a margin that has continued to increase since January.  It is also considerably wider than the few points lead Hillary Clinton had over Trump four years ago.  It gets worse for Trump. 

In the industrial states of Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Trump in 2016 won by razor thin margins, he is losing by over 4 percent.  Also key to his victory was Wisconsin where, despite his success in getting dairy products into Canada, he is behind by a substantial 7 percent.  Key states Ohio and Florida are also going for the Democrats.

Trump was not doing so badly until the coronavirus struck and during the course of his news conferences he displayed an uncaring persona larded with incompetence.  Dr. Anthony Fauci, the man he fired for correcting Trumpian exaggerations became a hero and Trump the bully.

If that bullying nature won him small rewards with allies, he hit an impasse with China and Iran … while bringing the two closer to each other.  Then there is the border wall, a sore point for our southern neighbor Mexico.  President Lopez Obrador made sure the subject never came up at the July meeting with Trump,   Thus Mexico is not paying for it so far and will not be in the foreseeable future.

The United Arab Emirates, a conglomeration of what used to be the Trucial States under British hegemony. have agreed to formalize its already fairly close relations with Israel.  In return, Israel has postponed plans to annex the West Bank.  Whether or not it is in Israel’s long term interest to do so is a debatable question because it provides much more powerful ammunition to its critics who already accuse it of becoming an apartheid regime.  However, it had become Prime Minister Netanyahu’s sop to the right wing who will have to wait.  Of course, the reality is that Israel is already the de facto ruler.

If Mr. Trump was crowing about the agreement signed on September 15, although it is akin to someone signing an agreement with Puerto Rico while the United States remains aloof.  As a postscript, the little island of Bahrain also signed a peace deal with Israel.  Bahrain has had its own problems in that a Sunni sheikh rules a Shia populace.  When the Shia had had enough, Saudi and UAE troops were used to end the rebellion.  Bahrain is thus indebted to the UAE.

How many among voters will know the real value of these historic (according to Trump) deals particularly when he starts twittering his accomplishments as the election nears?

There things stand.  As they say, there is nothing worse than peaking too early.  Bettors are still favoring Trump with their money.  The longer anyone has been in politics the more there is to mine, and for an opponent to use to his/her advantage.  Time it seems is on Trump’s side.  

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