Saturday 22 Feb 2020 | 05:19 | SYDNEY
What's happening on

United States

Power and legitimacy go hand in hand

I was delighted to read Sam Roggeveen’s thoughtful reply to The Interpreter article by Ali Wyne and myself about the relative qualities of US and Chinese power. Roggeveen makes good points; I agree, for example, that US military power has been critical to the post-war order. But I remain convinced

Pushing the Philippines‑US alliance over the cliff

The termination of the 1998 Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) initiated by the Duterte administration will mark a historic disruption of American power projection in the Asia-Pacific, and deal a serious blow to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea–based maritime order

In Africa, the US plays catch-up with China

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced his first trip to Africa, 15–19 February, with stops in Senegal, Ethiopia, and Angola. The choice of these three countries demonstrates that the US remains focused on security and economic investment issues in Africa, and, in the case of Angola, is

Trump impeachment: The aftermath

Last week late on Wednesday afternoon, the 134-day impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump ended with a near party-line vote in the Senate in favor of acquittal. While few ever doubted this outcome, there were times when it seemed possible that three or four Republican Senators

Trump’s White House: State of chaos

The State of the Union, the US president’s annual speech before a joint session of congress, is invariably a theatrical affair, replete with praise for a string of everyday heroes and inspiring figures. Superlatives being the order of the day, the State of the Union is a perfect vehicle for

A new ambassador in Washington

Joe Hockey, former Treasurer, has stepped down as Australia’s ambassador to the United States and will soon be replaced by another former cabinet minister, Arthur Sinodinos. In bureaucracies, changes in personnel should not matter, but in this instance the change will be palpable. The new

Trump’s State of the Union: A preview

Next Tuesday night, US President Donald Trump will deliver America’s annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives combined. The address descends from a requirement in Article II, section 3 of the US Constitution. Until Woodrow

Russia makes its presence known in Iran crisis

Recent revelations make it clear that Iran’s willingness to confront the US following the strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad was not driven just by a mix of domestic considerations and a compelling desire to retaliate. Iran’s bluntly open challenge to the US may have been

Trump walks away clean from Soleimani fallout

The US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani dominated the political discussion in Washington last week. President Trump’s decision to target Soleimani – an escalatory move in the ongoing confrontation with Iran – was an unexpected development. The conventional wisdom was

Ending Iran’s regional ransom

Criticism of Donald Trump’s brazen assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassim Soleimani has rightly focussed on the unprecedented nature of the killing and the escalation in the conflict between the two countries it presents.  Imaginations have run wild with the scale and horrors

North Korea’s ambiguous New Year message

Christmas and New Year came and went without a bang on the Korean peninsula, even though North Korea had warned of a “Christmas gift” for the United States and the horrendous consequences of missing its arbitrarily set “end-of-year” deadline in the months before. Despite its series of

“Maximum pressure” demands diplomatic off-ramps

With Donald Trump facing an impeachment trial in the Senate and a tough re-election battle, some US rivals see the president as politically weakened, risk-averse in exerting military pressure, and incapable of delivering on diplomatic commitments. The American drone strike killing General Qassim

Will Trump win big from killing Soleimani?

In assessing the consequences of President Donald Trump’s assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, the key is the Iraqi government’s reaction. The Iraqi parliament’s resolution overnight demanding expulsion of the US military

Best of The Interpreter 2019: The Trump Circus

The Trump administration rolled into 2019 poised to continue its high-wire act balancing the US president’s penchant for “alternative facts” and rapid-fire contradiction against the actual fact of America’s diminishing influence around the world. After mid-term elections in

US-China trade deal, phase one done: Now what?

It may go awry between now and the promised finalisation in January, but both the US and China now agree that phase one of the most difficult bilateral economic negotiation in recent decades is over. Unusually for this negotiation, the two sides also seem to agree on what they have agreed – at

A good week in Washington

We have become conditioned during the Trump era to view most of what happens in Washington – positive or negative – as cause for despair. Each time the ball is moved forward on some issue, we remind ourselves that we live in a post-truth world that is filling up with dictators, and Americans are

Favourites of 2019: When They See Us

As 2019 winds up, Lowy Institute staff and Interpreter contributors offer their favourite books, articles, films, or TV programs this year. I moved into an apartment near New York’s Central Park in 1989 at the height of the hysteria over what became known as the Central Park jogger case, or more

Moon Jae-in’s foreign policy reorientation

South Korean President Moon Jae-in is changing South Korean foreign policy. He has allowed Seoul’s relationship with the United States and Japan to deteriorate while betting heavily that North Korea would embrace his détente effort. This risks isolating South Korea, and the conservative pushback

Time with Trump: Australia and Southeast Asia compared

Over the last two years, US President Donald Trump has made two trips to Southeast Asia and none to Australia. Despite this, according to White House media notifications, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, each engaged more with Trump than the ten leaders of

China-US trade war: For all the bark, not much bite

It is now nearly 17 months since the Trump administration began collecting 25% tariffs on the first tranche of Chinese imports to the US – time enough to evaluate the economic impact the trade war so far. That impact? Surprisingly little. It is certainly true that comparing the first nine

Book review: China, the US, and the big break

Book review: Paul Blustein: Schism: China, America, and the Fracturing of the Global Trading System (CIGI Press, 2019) Paul Blustein has produced an enviable bookshelf of behind-the-scenes reportage on international economic institutions, both as a journalist (for The Washington Post and The

Trade war: From a phase one deal to perpetual peace

After a roller-coaster ride spanning 18 months, the trade war between the United States and China is finally showing signs of abatement, with the two sides confirming that they are close to the conclusion of a phase-one deal. While the signing of the deal, which was originally scheduled to take

Autocrats Anonymous

The filmmaker Martin Scorsese recently got into trouble for an off-the-cuff remark he made about the differences between Marvel superhero movies and cinema as an art form. Scorsese’s follow-up explanation of these differences provides some insight into why the Trump administration, as political

Connecting the dots on the Blue Dot Network

The US, Australia, and Japan have joined together to establish a trilateral “Blue Dot Network” to help develop infrastructure “in the Indo-Pacific and around the world”. The plan was announced on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN summit in Thailand last week. This sounds impressive. The Indo

North Korea’s deadline logic

Ever since Chairman Kim Jong-un issued the end-of-year deadline in April for nuclear negotiations, North Korea has displayed a stubborn attitude. From launching a series of new short and medium-range missiles, dragging its feet at the working-level talks, to showing no signs of compromise at

Signs of a deal between US and China, and a rethink

It is not yet agreed, may yet fail, and is anyway unlikely to settle matters, but the impending “phase one” trade deal could be a useful ceasefire in the US economic war with China. Two years on from the US initiation of penalty tariffs on China, it is also a convenient moment to point to a few

Chart of the week: Trump and the US-Australia alliance

Donald Trump is about to be the third US President in history to be impeached. Australians won’t be surprised – he’s never been popular here. But Australia’s alliance with the United States is another story. No matter who is sitting in the Oval Office, be it George W. Bush or Barack Obama

China’s slam dunk of the NBA is a game changer

The US trade war against China launched by President Donald Trump has hitherto lacked a clear moral dimension. There are economic arguments – that China insists on tilting the playing field by blocking certain foreign companies, forced local partnerships for foreign firms, or intellectual property

Film review: Torture, lies, and videotape

The Report, directed by Scott Z. Burns. Opens 14 November in Australia. More than a century ago, the US invasion of the Philippines turned from a supposed act of liberation into a war of insurgency and operational confusion. Desperate to uncover plots, the Americans took to extreme measures.

Towards a peaceful and inclusive Asia

Small states are states too. They have their own agency, their own interests, and their own preferences, and it is important they do not see the world through the perspectives offered by the US-China binary. This was the main point of the speech I gave this month in Beijing as Malaysia’s Deputy

Finally, some plain talk on the Quad

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a foreign policy speech to the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday. Australia’s foreign policy analysts can be very grateful for these candid remarks, because they should prompt Canberra to rethink its policy stance on the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the “

Ironclad - Forging a new future for America's alliances: book chapter

In a new book edited by Dr. Michael J. Green of Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington D.C., the final chapter by Alex Oliver looks at international public opinion towards the US' system of alliances and finds that attitudes have been surprisingly

Diplomatic immunity: Time to change the rules

The current diplomatic spat between the United Kingdom and the United States, following a fatal road accident involving the wife of a US “diplomat”, draws attention, yet again, to diplomatic immunity and its potential abuse. The facts, as reported by the UK media and based on witness accounts

Why does North Korea keep dragging its feet?

The long-awaited US–North Korea working-level talks collapsed last week, as Washington and Pyongyang could not agree on the definition of “denuclearisation” and mutual concessions. This followed the recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) by North Korea and insistence on

Pages