Last week, South Korea marked 100 days since the ferry disaster that left 304 people dead, most of them young high school students. The sinking of the Sewol, as the ship was named, has grown into much more than a heartbreaking tragedy. It has become a landmark event in the country’s history. More than anything, the Sewol has transformed the relationship between South Korean citizens and their government. more
Recent reports that Sen. David Walsh may have committed plagiarism while a student at the U.S. Army War College brought unaccustomed attention to the military's senior schools. Discussion of the issue showed that despite the long history of America's war colleges, they are not widely understood. It also suggested that there is a need for wider debate on how the United States educates its senior military leaders. more
On July 23, China conducted its third declared ballistic missile defense test in the past four years, with the Ministry of Defense announcing afterward that the test “achieved the desired objectives.” But it would be premature to conclude that Beijing now embraces BMD. Instead, the recent tests are designed primarily to overcome adversary missile defenses as well as to develop China’s anti-satellite systems. more
The EU’s security may actually benefit from ongoing crises in cases such as Ukraine, Mali and even Syria. The longer these conflicts absorb the efforts of potential foes, the less likely they are to menace the EU directly. EU members have no appetite to get involved in these wars, leading critics to grumble that it refuses to fight for its interests. But it may be in its interests to let others keep fighting. more
Though it is axiomatic that almost any foreign policy action taken by President Barack Obama will be reflexively criticized by the Republican opposition, in recent months congressional Democrats have been more willing to publicly voice critiques of the president’s performance. But Obama appears to be willing to swallow his pride and suffer domestic political attacks if it buys him time and maneuvering room.
The domestic political repercussions of a military conflict don’t become clear until the fighting stops. But political tremors don’t wait for a cease-fire. In Israel, the current confrontation with Hamas has fractured a major political alliance and caused one high-level personnel change. But so far there is no indication that Israel’s political landscape will be dramatically transformed by the conflict. more
While the world's attention this week was focused on Gaza and Ukraine, security remained precarious in Iraq and Afghanistan, the two lynchpins of America's conflict with transnational terrorism. Iraq and Afghanistan remain stark reminders that America's counterterrorism strategy, developed by the Bush administration and largely adopted by the Obama administration, is increasingly ineffective and unsustainable. more
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to South America this month garnered considerable attention. In the U.S., some saw the trip as a tit-for-tat display of influence in Washington’s strategic backyard. However, it is best to keep Moscow’s machinations in perspective. Russia is presenting a number of challenges to important U.S. global interests, but its activities in South America are not among them. more
The events of the past week in Ukraine have confirmed three painful facts about the state of international affairs. The first is that the West is trapped in a cycle of proxy wars with Russia, running from Libya through Syria to Ukraine. The second is that there is no real rulebook for managing these conflicts. The third is that these confrontations are liable to escalate with unnerving frequency. more
The U.S. missed out on a rare geopolitical opportunity this past week. Vice President Joe Biden, who has emerged in Barack Obama’s second term as more of an alter ego for the president on the international stage, should have taken a short trip to Brazil for the World Cup final. Sure, the U.S. team had already been eliminated, but Biden still had good reasons to drop in at the close of the tournament. more
Washington’s famed “Asia pivot” was postponed or at least slowed by the rash of crises in the Middle East over the past few years. But East Asia is not waiting for the U.S. Major countries in the region are actively jockeying for influence, assertively reassessing relations with their neighbors and generally stirring for what could become a significant realignment of power in the world’s fastest-growing region.