Author Archives: robertapastor

Speed Bumps, Potholes, and Roadblocks on the North American Superhighway (Law and Business Review of the Americas; Winter 2013; 19, 1; Pg. 9)


Twenty years ago, President George H. W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and Mexican President Carlos Salinas initialed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), creating the largest free trade area in the world. The three leaders had the vision to replace nearly two centuries of distant relations and high trade and investment barriers with the promise of a continental market. Full Text.

Political Science Quarterly – Robert Pastor Reviews Carlos Gustavo Poggio Teixeira’s “Brazil, the United States and the South American Subsystem: Regional Politics and the Absent Empire”


From the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 to the present, most students of inter‐ American relations have assumed that there is a “Latin America” and that U.S. policy has been directed to the whole region. In this important new book, Poggio Teixeira, a Brazilian scholar, argues that there never was a single U.S. policy on Latin America, because “Latin America” as a geo‐political entity does not exist. Instead, there are two regional subsystems: North America (including Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean) and South America. The United States has pursued an “imperial policy” in North America while being an “absent empire” in South America. The main difference in the two U.S. policies, according to Poggio, was the role of Brazil. To test his 

thesis, Poggio focuses on three cases: the Monroe Doctrine, intervention in Chile in 1973, and talks on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The United States applied the Monroe Doctrine with interventions in North America but was largely absent in South America. He describes the U.S. role in the coup against Salvador Allende as much less forceful than it was in North America and marginal as compared to the role of Brazil. Regarding the FTAA, which was launched in 1994, he argues that U.S. and Brazilian interests BOOK REVIEWS | 583 diverged, and that Brazil effectively stalled the FTAA while constructing Mercosur. The result was a different U.S. trade policy toward each regional subsystem. The evidence, however, does not quite support his thesis. In all three cases, the United States had an overall policy toward all the Americas—against recolonization and communism and for freer trade—though it did apply the policy differently in each case and country. It intervened more in the 

Caribbean Basin because the countries were unstable and closer to the United States and the Canal than were those in South America. To counter communism, the United States chose different methods, but it always preferred to rely on other countries, like Brazil. While Poggio acknowledges that the term “imperialism” is often used inappropriately, he repeats the mistake by applying it only to the United States, even while noting that Brazil and Cuba pursued similar policies. The term does not apply to any of these countries, and the book would have been better by omitting it. The third case—the FTAA—shows the importance of Brazil’s leadership, but it also provides the best evidence for an alternative theory to explain some of the differences in U.S. policy toward South America. Similar to Great Britain’s role in Europe in the nineteenth century, the United States used its weight on the margin to affect the balance of power in South America. When Argentina was the principal protagonist, Brazil 

and the United States had a natural alliance. As Brazil’s power trajectory rose, Argentina turned to the United States. When Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela all allied against the FTAA, the United States turned to bilateral deals with Chile and some Andean countries. But in truth, the United States as a nation was ambivalent about free trade with South America for domestic reasons and because it is a relatively small market. North America represents roughly 90 percent of the gross product and the trade of the Americas. Brazil represents about 6 percent of the product and less than 5 percent of the trade. Poggio has written a significant book that makes two compelling points that should chart a new path for scholars in inter‐American relations. He asserts that the Americas should be viewed as two regional subsystems and that U.S. policy should be directed at each. That point is truer now than ever before. Secondly, he recommends that students of inter‐American relations shift their focus from the United States as the only “agent” of influence to other states in the region. In that, he joins a new generation of historians who seek to balance the U.S. perspective by looking more closely at the policies of Latin American states. The result will be a clearer picture of inter‐American relations.

-ROBERT A. PASTOR American University

Robert Pastor comments on Gaspare M. Genna’s and David A. Mayer-Foulkes’ “North American Integration: An Institutional Void in Migration, Security, and Development


“North American Integration makes a compelling point:  the growing interaction between Canada, Mexico, and the United States has been beneficial to all three countries, but it is now endangered by an “institutional void.”  This book is a clarion call to build continental institutions to manage the policy intersection of migration, security, and development and forge a more equitable, secure and prosperous North America.

— Robert A. Pastor, American University, Author of the North American Idea:  A Vision of a Continental Future

There are more than two options for U.S. policy on Syria (September 4, 2013)


Unlike Rep. Peter King and some other members of Congress, Pres. Barack Obama has read the Constitution and recognizes that the Founding Fathers’ greatest concern was to restrain the impulse of the executive to go to war without Congressional authorization. The United States is also a party to international agreements, notably the United Nations charter, which was largely drafted by us to provide international legitimacy for military action on behalf of the collective defense of the membership of the UN.

Here are two of the important questions for Congress and the public to address in this coming week:

– Who was responsible for the use of chemical weapons? Secretary of State John Kerry made an effective prosecutorial argument that the probable evidence points to the regime, but he also acknowledged the lack of conclusive proof. In short, he made the case for an indictment, but the juries – Congress and the UN Security Council – have not yet deliberated, and they will need to weigh the administration’s evidence, with other evidence from the UN, Russia, Syria and other sources.

–If the evidence is convincing that the Syrian government is to blame for the atrocities, then what is the appropriate and effective response by the international community, and by the United States? Certainly, punishment and deterrence are legitimate responses, but they also take us into the quagmire of the Syrian Civil War. Full Text.

Article by Thomas L. Friedman “If Churchill Could See us Now,” (July 16, 2013)


Whenever we go into political drift as a country, optimists often quote Winston Churchill’s line that Americans will always do the right thing, after they’ve “exhausted all other possibilities.” I don’t think that’s true anymore. Churchill never met the Tea Party, and he certainly never met today’s House Republicans, a group so narrow-minded and disinterested in governing — and the necessary compromises that go with it — that they’re ready to kill an immigration bill that is manifestly in the country’s economic, social and strategic interests.   Full Text.

“Jimmy Carter’s Making a Syria Peace Push, And the Opposition Isn’t Happy About It,” Foreign Policy Magazine (July 11, 2013)


With almost 100,000 dead in Syria and proposed peace talks at a standstill, former President Jimmy Carter plans to send officials from his foundation to work toward a last ditch agreement between President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and opposition forces, The Cable has learned.

The peace initiative is raising questions with Syrian opposition leaders who feel that an American envoy sent by a former American president sends the wrong message to Assad: That the United States is open to talking with him rather than overthrowing his regime. But the Carter Center says it’s operating independently of the United States — and that’s why it’s advocating positions that directly contradict U.S. policy. The Carter Center wants all outside powers to stop sending arms to Syria, for example; the United States is just getting started in sending over those weapons.   Full Text


“Shortcut to U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A Seamless North American Market,” The Council on Foreign Relations (March 2013)


In looking abroad to promote economic growth, the United States need go no further than its two closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico. But the three governments have failed to pursue collaborative efforts to address a new generation of issues that were not anticipated by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).Instead of tackling new transnational problems such as regulatory harmonization together, the United States and its neighbors reverted to old habits of bilateral, ad hoc negotiations.  Instead of forging a unified competitiveness strategy toward the European Union and East Asia, each government has negotiated on its own. The three North American governments should create a seamless market, one in which it is as easy and cheap for a Chicago merchant to sell products in Monterrey as in San Francisco. This requires negotiating a common external tariff, eliminating restrictions on transportation and services, funding new continental infrastructure, and fostering a sense of community among the publics of the three countries that will also enhance the region’s influence in negotiations with Asia and Europe. One estimate suggests that the benefits to the three countries would exceed $400 billion. Full Text.

Edward Alden responds to Pastor’s article “Shortcut to U.S. Economic Competitiveness” with “North America: Big Trade Gains Close to Home” The Council on Foreign Relations (March 2013)

“Identifying solutions: On voter fraud and illegal immigration, biometric ID cards could help” The Los Angeles Times (January 29, 2013)


The American people want the Democratic and Republican to solve our nation’s problems together, but bipartisan solutions become possible only if each side gives the other the benefit of the doubt.  We should begin with two polarizing issues – voter fraud and migration.  Biometric identification cards offer a solution to both.  Full Text.

“A Third Option in Syria” The Los Angeles Times (October 10,2012)


Forget about overthrowing Assad. Both sides need to avoid a long civil war and agree to meaningful reforms.  The conflict in Syria was “extremely bad and getting worse.”  That’s what Lakhdar Brahimi, special envoy to Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League and one of the world’s most skillful diplomats, told the Security Council in late September.  The major powers listened but offered no new ideas on how to end the crisis. We need to change direction.  Full Text.