TL;DR Brexit and the Special Relationship

TL;DR Brexit and the Special Relationship

On March 29, 2019 Britain will no longer be part of the European Union, a result of the June 23, 2016 referendum in the United Kingdom known as Brexit. The “Vote Leave” campaign won 51.9% of the country’s vote, based on a platform of border security, immigration control, dissatisfaction with EU spending, trade management, and strengthening democracy. At the time of the referendum, Americans were preoccupied with our own campaigns (and have since been a bit distracted) and took little notice as to the bilateral and international implications this break-up would have for us. So, what does Brexit mean for the United States?

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The Great Unknown: Pension Reform in Brazil

The Great Unknown: Pension Reform in Brazil

A conservative wave washed over Brazil last Sunday, October 28th 2018, when Brazilian voters elected Jair Bolsonaro as their next President, giving him 55.2% of the total vote. The media has nicknamed Bolsonaro, “The Trump of the Tropics”, for his right wing politics and nationalist agenda. However, President-Elect Bolsonaro and President Trump are vastly different in one regard: Bolsonaro has publicly admitted that he knows very little about the economy. While humility may be an admirable trait, the Brazilian Constitution does grant the President the authority to initiate legislation on tax and budgetary matters. This means that there is an expectation that Bolsonaro will do something about Brazil’s declining economy and increasing deficit. Like many countries today, one of Brazil’s biggest issues is the amount that it spends on its pension program. The average retirement age in Brazil is 54, with an average of 70% of the retiree’s final salary being paid out in the pension program. In comparison, the average retirement age in OECD countries is 65. As a result, the program accounts for about one third of government spending in Brazil and 9.1% of GDP. This is eerily similar to the pension program that contributed to the debt situation in Greece.

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Venezuela & the Debt Deal: A Geopolitical Shift in Debt Restructuring

Venezuela & the Debt Deal: A Geopolitical Shift in Debt Restructuring

Severe food and gas shortages, black market trading, and a rising inflation are a reality for individuals in Venezuela. Riddled with a piling economic debt, the oil-export dependent country recently signed a $3.15 billion debt deal with Russia. With an estimated $140 billion foreign debt, the deal is a miniscule step towards its economic recovery. As a result of the government’s blatant human rights violations and abuses, the E.U. and U.S. refuse to remove their current sanctions. The deal does indicate, however, an increasing role of non-traditional donors like China and Russia, acting as loan crutches for debt-ridden countries when the traditional debt-restructuring programs managed by the Western powers fail.  

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Pope Francis: Four Years On

Pope Francis: Four Years On

With the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in 2013, scores of international observers remarked that the once venerable, geopolitically-prominent Roman Catholic Church had seen its heyday. Dwindling congregation numbers across Europe, the continued exclusion of women from all church affairs, and an infamous slew of sexual assault cases have beleaguered the esteemed institution in recent years and put its standing as a “moral mediator” within foreign affairs in doubt. During this period of unexpected flux, a common critique emerged: the Vatican remained incapable of structural change and unwilling to provide impactful social support that could meet the challenges of a modern era. However, Benedict’s successor, Pope Francis of Argentina, would quickly reinvigorate interest in the Church under a bold modernizing agenda that has won international acclaim.

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A Clouded Future Ahead?: An Unpopular King and Constitution in Thailand

The Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, one of the most revered and longest-reigning monarchs in the world, succeeded the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn on December 1, 2016. The government has declared a one-year official mourning period for King Bhumibol, which delayed the Prince’s succession. A unifying figure and a near-deity in a country torn by deep division and ruled currently by a military junta, Bhumibol was seen to have held the country together. Lacking Bhumibol’s widespread popularity, devotion, and integrity expected of a monarch, the Prince is seen unsuitable for the throne, as concerns are quietly expressed over his performance of the same role as his father.

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From Triumph To Tragedy: Understanding Conflict in South Sudan

In a recent report published by the United Nations, experts concluded that war-torn South Sudan’s sectarian violence has reached “catastrophic proportions”, noting the deteriorating security situation is nothing less than a descent into chaos. Newly-elected U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres depicted a stark reality in which paramilitary killings, sexual warfare and widespread displacement have become common occurrences, leaving tens of thousands dead in the process. Roving militias, divided by political loyalties and ethnic divisions, have conducted gruesome terror campaigns to create an environment in which nearly half of the population lives in dire need of assistance . Guterres’ warning of widespread atrocities has shocked the international community and evoked memories of the horrific genocide in Rwanda, a calamity the world swore would rear its ugly head. Despite these pleas for peace, international leadership to solve the humanitarian disaster has been nonexistent and proposed solutions have been sidestepped by geopolitical indecision.

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Russian Reset: Trump Style, part 2

While much will depend on how Trump handles his transition into European affairs, his true litmus test on how he will respond to Russian influence begins and ends with Syria.Trump’s departure from the outgoing administration’s policy regarding Syria has been viewed as an olive branch to the Kremlin. With the opportunity to re-align with the Russian and Assad coalition combating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Trump aims to elimination confusion regarding objectives. In a speech delivered in November, the President-elect painted a polarizing picture in which the pragmatic choice is Russia instead of the faceless mob of ragtag militias. “Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria… Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.”

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Russian Reset: Trump Style, part 1

The triumph of Republican Donald J. Trump over Democratic Russia hawk Hillary Clinton not only rattled Washington’s consensus on how to wrangle our longtime adversary, but also sent a message to Moscow that a diplomatic breakthrough could be on the horizon. Trump’s promise of detente and reconciliation has struck an unlikely chord with the Kremlin, drastically changing years of contentious rhetoric between the two powers in a matter of months. Russian President Vladimir Putin has even embraced this paradigm shift, noting that his country was willing to fully cooperate for global security, even if it involved a “difficult path”. However, despite the strikingly civil tone, many pundits argue that President-elect Trump’s lack of international affairs expertise creates a dangerous opening for Russia to shed economic sanctions and re-exert its influence on a global scale.

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The Philippines’ Pivot to China, Part 2

There remain some optimistic predictions about the state of U.S.-Philippines affairs. After Duterte’s wild remarks, his office clarified that the treaty alliance with the US would remain intact for the foreseeable future. His top economic policymakers also stated that while the Asian economic integration is “long overdue,” the Philippines will strive to maintain cooperation with the West. The U.S. has not received any request from Filipino officials to alter bilateral coordination either.

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Sanctions on Russia: Right Idea, Wrong Execution

On October 17th, Britain’s Boris Johnson and the United States’ John Kerry announced that they were jointly considering leveling greater sanctions on Russia in response to their bombing in Aleppo. On Capitol Hill, Congress is pushing forward H.R. 5732, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. This bill would impose stricter sanctions on the Syrian regime and any entity that provided “financial, material or technological support” to it or its affiliates. These sanctions would clamp down tighter on Russia and Iran, as well as Bashar al-Assad’s government. While leveling more sanctions against Syria and its narrow network of support feels morally justified, the current domestic and international climate makes it so these sanctions would be a well-intentioned but short-sighted mistake.

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China’s relationship with Islam

Tension and violence continue to flare in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s Xinjiang province, as the communist nation has begun to implement increasingly stringent bans on Muslim activities within the region. While China began 2016 with the introduction of its first comprehensive anti-terrorism bill, its subsequent Muslim-targeted policies have led to sharp criticism and vocal outrage from both outsiders and Xinjiang Uyghurs.

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Voices of the Cuban-American Thaw

The past two years have seen monumental changes in relations between Havana and Washington, as rapprochement is still sending shockwaves through American political discourse following a half-century of hostility. Since the surprise announcement of normalization, the former Cold War adversaries have seen goodwill acts like prisoner exchanges, relaxed travel restrictions and the even the return of embassies that had been shuttered since 1961. This breakthrough period has also been highlighted by the first presidential visit to the island since the Coolidge Administration, as President Obama’s March trip to visit communist officials and dissident activists has been touted as the capstone of the long diplomatic thaw. However, even as recent polling shows that 63% of Americans support renewed engagement, 51% of Cuban-Americans still believe the approach to be ill-advised.

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WMPR Symposium: U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

The William & Mary Policy Review held its second annual Policy Symposium on Friday, April 8, 2016. The Symposium focused on last year’s passage of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a list of seventeen goals with 169 targets meant to replace the successful Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Though the SDGs are a successor to the MDGs, which ran from 2000-2015, those goals had only eight main goals and twenty-one targets, rendering the SDPs much more comprehensive and, potentially, much more difficult to achieve.

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The Rise of the National Security State, Part 2

The implications of these assertions are troublesome and can lead to cynicism. But it would be immoral, irrational, and irresponsible to allow such cynicism to draw one toward apathy or inaction. The transition to the national security state occurred out from under the watchful eye of the citizenry. Because the citizenry was inattentive and inactive in pressuring congress members, congressional governance ceded to the national security apparatus. Security and liberty are indivisible; the American people are right to be extended both physical security and security of rights.

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The Rise of the National Security State, Part 1

Historian Michael J. Hogan (1998) writes that the National Security Act of 1947 laid the institutional, organizational framework for the rise of the national security state. Currently, the national security apparatus of the executive branch has usurped the power to decide military and foreign policy from the congress and has become autonomous in creating military and foreign policy and ensuring the continuity of these policies across administrations. This thesis is asserted by Glennon in his book National Security and Double Government (2015).

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What’s Mine Is/Is Not Yours: The Effect of Land Tenure Institutions on International Policy

Land tenure is the set of institutions that define the relationship of people to the land, consisting of institutions, or rules, that govern that relationship. Though less than half of the world’s population now lives in rural areas, the vast majority of people who live in rural areas depend on agriculture as their primary source of livelihoods. Thus, land is a critical resource for many, and the rules that govern it matter a great deal.

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Too Much Discretion?: LANGO and NGO Regulation in Cambodia

International development aid has been criticized as ineffective. Billions of dollars flow into developing countries each year, and though this aid has helped make progress in poverty reduction, development projects sometimes fail spectacularly. In Cambodia, thirty percent of the government’s budget is comprised of donor assistance, and there are more than 1700 registered non-governmental organizations (NGOs), though less than 600 are active. The nonprofit sector plays an important role in Cambodia, filling in gaps in the government’s capacity to provide public goods.

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Clinton, Biden and Sanders: Three Strands of Foreign Policy Thought Within the Democratic Party

The media’s summer fascination with the prospect of Joe Biden entering the 2016 presidential campaign has approached Hamlet-level dithering as it continues into the fall. And if internal reports are to be believed, even the Clinton campaign is on watch for the prospect of the Vice President entering the race for the Democratic nomination. Mr. Biden’s potential entry into the race, while portraying several political narratives, begs the question of whether or not there are true policy discrepancies with Mrs. Clinton that a potential Biden-campaign would address. Clinton, Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders often share many of the same broad political goals (even if they disagree on specifics). But the issue of foreign policy would, should Mr. Biden enter the race, present a meaningful three-way contrast of policy visions within the Democratic Party (relatively speaking) of liberalism, realism and non-interventionism, respectively. Understanding the distinct beliefs and, by extension, prescriptions of the candidates on international affairs better informs and clarifies the importance of the choice that lies before Democrats.

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