First impressions matter. Experts say we size up new people in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes.
While Argentina, Brazil, and Chile - what in textbooks used to be called the ABC countries - seem settled into democratic politics and free market economics, the Andean countries are in disarray.
It's time to bury the unreal, failed 'realism' of those who have long thought that dictators brought stability.
The ultimate goal is to change Syria's behaviour on a variety of issues - on its interference in Lebanese internal affairs, on its support for Palestinian terrorist groups that oppose the Palestinian Authority, on, most importantly, acting as a land bridge between Iran and Hezbollah, where Hezbollah gets all its arms.
The war on drugs is not being won, and it continues to threaten stability and democracy not only in the Andes but throughout the Caribbean as well, where tiny police and military forces are outclassed by the sophisticated equipment in the hands of traffickers passing through the region on the way to their market in this country.
President Bush was disgusted by the Assad regime's oppression of the Syrian people as well as its support for terrorism, interference in Lebanon, and encouragement of jihadist attacks on Americans in Iraq.
If the president of the United States says that attacks on civilians, starvation, and denial of religious freedom in Sudan are important international issues, they become so.
In Iran, there is no freedom of the press, no freedom of speech, no independent judiciary, no free elections. There is no freedom of religion - not even for Shiites, who are forced by Iran's theocracy to adhere to one narrow set of official rules.
At the height of the Cold War, when Ronald Reagan was president, the Soviets and their allies and satellites did not shirk human rights debates with the West. They had their arguments ready.
The accession to power in Pyongyang of Kim Jong Un, son of Kim Jong Il and grandson of Kim Il Sung, is a unique achievement in world politics.
Now in its third year in office, the Obama Administration has never championed the cause of human rights. Its slow reaction in June 2009 to the stealing of the election in Iran and the birth of the 'Green Movement' there, and its delay in backing the rebellions in Egypt, Libya, and Syria, are evidence of this problem.
In critical ways, Obama has reversed not just Bush policy but every president's approach to the world since the Second World War, save for that of his soulmate Jimmy Carter.
Opponents of U.S. sanctions have made 'unilateral sanctions' their special target. They argue that sanctions observed by many nations would be much more effective. True enough. Far better for trade with an outlaw regime to be restricted by many nations than by just one.
At the United Nations, a lynch mob for Israel is always just a moment away.
Elections matter, but how much they matter depends entirely on how free, open and fair they are.
I well remember a leading Egyptian liberal saying to me in 2003 that she did not favor free elections right then in Egypt; she favored them in a decade's time if she and others had those 10 years to organize freely.
I don't think a Palestinian state is going to be created at a conference table; it will be created on the ground in the West Bank, and some day, a peace conference will ratify that which has been built on the ground.
Obama's foreign policy is strangely self-centered, focused on himself and the United States rather than on the conduct and needs of the nations the United States allies with, engages with, or must confront.
Immanuel Kant famously claimed that 'he who wills the ends wills the means,' but he never spent much time in Washington.
Israel's flexibility is dependent on its sense of security.