2011-10-08-01.40.56-pmEditors' Note:

Disease plays a central role in world history. From the Black Death, to the seventeenth-century smallpox epidemic in the Americas, to the ongoing AIDS pandemic, disease has tipped power balances, ravaged economies, devastated political systems, and corroded social structures. Yet despite disease's importance in world history, until recently the mainstream study of international affairs has devoted little time to examining its impact worldwide. With its focus on global infectious diseases, this issue of the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs spotlights this critical, but too often neglected, force in world affairs.

Disease, however, is only one of many transnational influences challenging the concept of state sovereignty in today's world. Damian Fernandez contends that culture, like disease, knows no national boundaries, prompting exchanges that are beyond the control of even the most authoritarian states. Similarly, Catherine Mann argues that present state institutions are ill-equipped to address the concerns that accompany the massive information flows of a wired world. And Jeffrey Sachs claims that the private sector, even more than the state, has a key role to play in development.

Yet those who contend that the traditional state is weakening in the face of unstoppable transnational forces represent merely one side of the debate. Several pieces in this issue maintain that states remain crucial players on the world stage. Both Dennis Blair and Stephen Ball assert that the United States, along with its allies, can help safeguard peace and stability in diverse regions of the globe. Likewise, Dino Patti Djalal highlights the importance of decisive state action in arresting the spread of communal violence that has accompanied democratization and political liberalization in Indonesia. Ignoring the many non-state influences and actors in today's world handicaps any attempt to comprehend the contemporary global system. Hastily relegating state influence in international politics to the dustbin of history is equally problematic. Only through consideration of both the state and non-state sources of problems and prospects now facing the world can academics and practitioners have an accurate grasp of contemporary global issues. We invite you to join the continuing struggle to better understand the ever-changing nature of international affairs.

– Meredith Campanale & Ja Ian Chong


The United States must recognize its vulnerability in a world where disease knows no borders. With twenty-five major international airports serving as access points for millions of inbound passengers, animals, and cargo shipments each year, the possibility of exotic pathogens being introduced is a reality. But a little prevention goes a long way.

  • The Fall and Rise of Infectious Diseases by David L. Heymann | Read  
  • Silent Threat Infectious Diseases and U.S. Biosecurity by Duane J. Gubler | Read  
  • The Economics of Epidemics by Maureen Lewis | Read  
  • Hazardous World: The Real Risk of Bioterrorism by Eric K. Noji | Read  

Conflict & Security

  • Forest from the Trees: The Cost of Severing Defense Ties by Stephen C. Ball | Read  

Policymakers intent on punishment must consider the unintended consequences of defense sanctions.

The man at the helm of the U.S. Pacific Command addresses the recent events in Asia.

Culture & Society

  • Why I Love to Love Donna Summer: The United States, Cuba, and the Politics of Culture by Damian Fernandez | Read  

What does this disco queen have to do with U.S.-Cuban relations?

  • The Politics of Samba by Bruce Gilman | Read  

Behind samba's sensuous beats is a political message.

Business & Finance

  • Microfinance: A Changing Landscape for Development by Maria Otero and Monica Brano | Read  

Banking on the poor. How microfinance is giving hope to many in the developing world.

Law & Ethics

  • International Internet Governance: Oh What a Tangled Web We Could Weave by Catherine L. Mann Read  

A look at the tensions and contradictions of multi-jurisdictional Internet regulation.

  • Colombia: Between Terror and Reform by Miguel Ceballos and Gerard Martin | Read  

Strengthening institutions: the strategy for reducing turmoil in Colombia.

Politics & Diplomacy

  • Pockets of Flame: Communal Conflict in Indonesia by Dino Patti Djalal | Read  

Rather than publish blindly for democratization, Indonesia must first tackle the problem of communal strife.

  • Weight of History: The Chinese Popular Reform Movement Interview with Wang Dan | Read  

A Tiananmen student leader reflects on the place of the 1989 movement in Chinese history and the prospects for Chinese democracy.

Science & Technology

  • From Bangalore to Bulawayo: Connecting the Less-Developed World by Jeffrey Sachs | Read  

The private sector must not underestimate its role in integrating technology with development.


  • Restoration of a Nation | Read  

Margaret C. Lee reviews Alex Boraine's A Country Unmasked.

  • A Time for Change: U.S.-Japan Relations | Read  

Robert G. Sutter reviews Gerald Curtis's New Perspectives on U.S.-Japan Relations.

  • Business as Usual in the 21st Century | Read  

Rebecca Johnson reviews Henry Kissinger's Does America Need a Foreign Policy?.

View from the Ground

  • Beyond the "Death Watch" by Jodie Fonseca | Read  

An AIDS educator's perspective on the epidemic in Malawi.

A Look Back

Diplomacy is not all about being straight laced, stern faced, and officious.

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