Sunday 05 Dec 2021 | 13:16 | SYDNEY
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The Americas

America’s border crisis: Good intentions go south

Spare a thought for US Vice President Kamala Harris, just given carriage for the public-policy problem from hell: leading the White House response to a surge in migrants seeking to cross the United States’ southern border. The rapidly escalating immigration crisis will likely prove impossible to

An interim government would bring ruin to Afghanistan

The Afghan government is fighting for survival as external and internal actors exploit its weaknesses in preparation for a US exit. The latest US initiatives to bring “a responsible end” to the Afghan war will likely have the opposite effect, pushing the Afghan government closer to a knife’s

Unresolved questions in US-India relations

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent visit to New Delhi was a chance for the United States and India to discuss the nature and depth of their strategic partnership – particularly against the backdrop of tensions with an aggressive China. Austin visited New Delhi soon after leaders

North Korea and Malaysia’s predictable diplomatic divorce

Last Friday, North Korea severed diplomatic relations with Malaysia. In turn Malaysia gave the North Koreans 48 hours to leave the country. By Sunday, the North Korean embassy was empty. The Malaysians did not have to worry about their embassy in Pyongyang, as it was already informally shut down in

The US and the Rules-Based Order: Testing the plan

US President Joe Biden this month issued an Interim National Security Guidance which will, in his words, “convey my vision for how America will engage the world”. He has directed departments and agencies “to align their actions with this guidance”. This document also provides some answers

The Quad gives a boost to India’s vaccine diplomacy

The most notable takeaway from the first-ever “Quad” leaders meeting involving the US, India, Japan and Australia at the weekend was the agreement on expanding the global vaccine supply. The vaccination capacity of India will be increased to produce 1 billion doses by 2022, the leaders announced

Troubles ahead for the US–South Korea alliance

The new Biden administration in Washington is reviewing its North Korea policy, a process that is expected to be completed next month. Pressure from experts is mounting for the administration to restart diplomacy with North Korea with more pragmatic goals, such as a shift away from complete

A new “concert” to govern the Indo-Pacific

The joint statement issued following the weekend meeting of the four “Quad” leaders was titled “The Spirit of the Quad”. This title could be read as either self-affirmation or self-praise. The Quad’s first summit of leaders was a somewhat informal affair, held virtually amid a global

Afghanistan: To leave or not to leave

The peace agreement between the United States and Taliban signed in Doha last February is likely to be scrapped if the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation unilaterally decide to stay in Afghanistan beyond 1 May, the withdrawal deadline set in the agreement.  With a presence of around 10

India, Canada and the new vaccine politics

The threat of wealthy countries hoarding vaccines for themselves and denying access to smaller and poorer countries has become the world’s primary cooperative concern. Yet how vaccine nationalism also attaches itself to pre-existing relationships between countries may become another part of this

What Biden means for Australia’s aid policy

Joe Biden has taken the mantle of US president at a critical time for international development – amid a resurgence in poverty, increasing geopolitical contestation, rapid technological and environmental change, and of course Covid-19.  The immediate priorities of the new administration will

What does America think the rules-based order is for?

This week we launched the latest project to emerge from the Lowy’s Institute’s Australia’s Security and the Rules-Based Order project, a debate feature on America and the Rules-Based Order. It’s a textbook example of constructive public debate. Each of the six expert participants

Syrian stasis

Of all the Middle East challenges facing the new Biden administration, Syria is unlikely to be at the top of the list. With the territorial defeat of Islamic State, it appears that a sort of benign neglect has marked Washington’s approach to the country. Some have argued that the continued

Making America govern again

Shortly after (now former) President Donald Trump incited a mob of supporters to attack the US Capitol, there was a moment in which it appeared possible that 17 Republican Senators would join their Democratic colleagues in a vote to convict Trump in an impeachment trial and bar him from holding

The US and the next leader of the OECD

Although it may not regularly make headlines, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is an important multilateral institution. With its standard-setting capability, the organisation’s 300 committees and 3300-member secretariat have carved unique policy niches on trade,

Iran nuclear deal: Revenge of the diplomats

Joe Biden has so many competing priorities to address after four years of Donald Trump that it is hard to know where to start. Biden will naturally have an immediate focus on domestic issues but some foreign policy challenges will demand his attention earlier than others. One of the most urgent is

Why Twitter was right to dump Trump

President Donald Trump’s social media ban (aka de-platforming) has had some free speech advocates in conniptions, not just in America but across the world. In an ironic twist, China’s censored netizens have, with official support, also fancifully railed against the ban, suggesting that Weibo is

Australia’s Pacific Step-up and the Quad

The growing synergy among the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue powers of Australia, Japan, the United States and India has provided a crucial impetus to the security architecture of the Indo-Pacific. Bilateral ties between these four states have also seen positive growth, largely a result of “like-

America’s troubles ahead in the Asia-Pacific

Donald Trump has now become the first US president in history to be impeached twice, this time for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in last week’s violence in Washington. Yet as the US reels from the storming of the US Capitol building – civil strife which some analysts had warned

America’s fantasy hero

While the supporters of democracy around the world watched in disbelief at the Capitol Hill “insurrection”, movie fans of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films – particularly The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises – would have recognised the underlying theme of chaos versus order. In

Interpreting the 2020 US presidential election

A decade ago – in other words, in 2019 – a massive, world-shaping event of global consequences loomed on the horizon: the US presidential election. That was before Covid-19 came knocking. Against the backdrop of an unchecked pandemic, rage on American streets and uncertainty about the

Washington’s warped Asia policy debate

US President-elect Joe Biden’s decision to select retired Army General Lloyd Austin to be his Secretary of Defense triggered a somewhat predictable set of hot takes among US academics and commentators. Aside from questions about what his appointment would mean for civil-military relations, a major

Favourites of 2020: Evil Geniuses

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Look back on the series and watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. Long before a certain New York real estate developer

When China lashed out

On the wintry night of 27 November 1950, Chinese troops suddenly descended upon the US 1st Marine Division and the 31st Regimental Combat Team around the frozen Chosin Reservoir, less than 100 kilometres away from the China-Korea border. Having failed to dissuade the United States with words from

Joe Biden’s Pentagon pick sends a message

When President-elect Joe Biden announced retired General Lloyd Austin as his pick for Secretary of Defense this week, US experts were perplexed and decidedly unenthusiastic. Austin’s nomination will require a waiver from Congress, because he has only been separated from the military for four years

Where America finds itself

“Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily,” said the 17th-century French aphorist François de La Rochefoucauld. He might have added, had it existed at the time, the United States of America. No country, with the possible exception of China, has played as large a role as a symbol

Favourites of 2020: The politics of Tiger King

An end-of-year series as the Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films or TV programs this year. Watch for more recommendations and reflections in the days ahead. It seems like an eternity ago now, but it was only eight months ago that Tiger

The surprise of Biden

Now that the dust has settled on the 2020 election, with President Donald Trump talking about leaving the White House and Republican Senators engaging President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominees, it’s worth reflecting on the improbable rise of Biden, a man who has spent four decades in public

Donald Trump vs the democratic tradition

Last week, US President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he had authorised his staff to begin “initial protocols” for the transition process. In the same breath, he vowed to continue what is a fruitless campaign against alleged voter fraud. In subsequent tweets throughout the week,

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