U.S. Foreign Policy Articles

Strategic Horizons

2016 Election Will Redraw Road Map for U.S. National Security

By Steven Metz
, , Column

The United States is at a transitional point in its national security strategy perhaps as crucial as the opening years of the Cold War. During the 2016 presidential campaign, debate about America’s role in the world will move into the limelight as differing visions within and between the Democratic and Republican parties clarify policy options and choices. For U.S. and global security, much will be at stake. more

U.S., India Seek to Move Defense Ties Beyond Arms Sales

By Saurav Jha
, , Briefing

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited India to sound out Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, the “centerpiece” of the U.S.-India security relationship. To sustain ties with a new Indian government focused on leveraging weapons manufacturing for jobs, Washington realizes it must move beyond arms sales to co-development and co-production agreements. more

Strategic Horizons

The Rise of the Islamic State and the Evolution of Violent Extremism

By Steven Metz
, , Column

From Yemen to Africa, violent extremists are leaving al-Qaida-affiliated groups and joining the ultra-radical and violent movement now known as the Islamic State. This gives some worrisome hints about the future of extremism in the Islamic world. That the U.S. is attacking the Islamic State rather than al-Qaida shows militants exactly who Washington considers to be the largest threat. more

Diplomatic Fallout

U.S., Russia Duel Over Humanitarian Interventions in Iraq and Ukraine

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

There has been a lot of talk about humanitarian interventions over the past week. Russia has pressed for a “humanitarian mission” to the war zone in eastern Ukraine. While telling Russia to back off, the Obama administration has launched air strikes in Iraq against the forces of the Islamic State. The humanitarian case for American action is clear. It may nonetheless also have unwelcome consequences. more

Kurds Ask for U.S. Support in Counteroffensive Against Islamic State

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

With fighters associated with the Islamic State making advances against Kurdish areas in Iraq, the Kurdish peshmerga forces have mounted a counteroffensive. Officials in Iraq have called on the U.S. to aid the Kurds, saying it is the U.S.' "moral responsibility," while members of Congress have said air strikes are necessecary to avert “a humanitarian nightmare of unspeakable proportions.” more

The Realist Prism

Time Running Out for Obama to Reboot U.S. Foreign Policy

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

Are we on the verge of personnel shifts that will produce a national security team 4.0 for the Obama administration? The third iteration has enjoyed a particularly rough tenure, with public confidence in Obama's handling of national security diminishing as a result. The upcoming November midterm elections could prove decisive to what an Obama foreign policy agenda for the end of his presidency might look like. more

World Citizen

ISIS Victories Over Kurds Demand New U.S. Policy on Iraq

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

Last June, when Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, fell to ISIS, the consensus among international observers was that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian regime had undermined the Iraqi military’s unity, preparedness and willingness to fight. To be sure, Maliki’s governing approach has proved devastating for Iraq, but events of the past few days point to a much more ominous explanation. more

In Training Partner Militaries, U.S. Should Not Rush to ‘Do Something’ in Africa

By Michelle Sieff
, , Briefing

As African heads of state gather in Washington this week for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the continent’s overall security progress shouldn’t obscure its ongoing challenges, including violent Islamist extremism. With the shift in U.S. counterterrorism strategy from direct to indirect action—training partner or indigenous troops—U.S. policymakers and the military must confront critical strategic and practical issues. more

Special Report

A Year of Conflict and Crisis for Africa

By The Editors
, , Report

As President Barack Obama convenes a summit of nearly 50 African leaders in Washington focused mainly on economic opportunity, security and health crises continue to undermine the continent’s potential. South Sudan and the Central African Republic are torn by civil war; Nigeria and Kenya are threatened by terrorist groups; and Sierra Leone and Liberia are suffering from the worst Ebola outbreak to date. But while Western powers like the U.S. and France continue to wield influence, it is increasingly Africa’s leaders who are driving events. more

Congressional Republicans Seize on Russia’s Missile Treaty Violation

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

Last week, the State Department officially reported that Russia had violated the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty when it tested cruise missiles. Republican lawmakers expressed immediate dismay with the Obama administration; some even advocated U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. Even if Republicans shy away from that, the INF issue will continue to serve as a locus of anti-Russian sentiment. more

Diplomatic Fallout

Lacking Primetime Partners, U.S. Remains ‘Indispensable’ Crisis Manager

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s ill-fated attempts to staunch conflict after conflict seem to confirm that Washington’s global influence is shriveling, even as the argument that the U.S. has little choice but to keep fighting diplomatic fires implies it is unable to choose where and when to expend its diplomatic energy. Does the U.S. have to be trapped in this pattern of obligations and setbacks? more

The Realist Prism

Syria, Ukraine May Force Obama to Learn to Love Coalitions of the Willing

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

Democrats often mocked the George W. Bush administration's invocation of "coalitions of the willing" to legitimize U.S. action abroad. Once back in power, they argued, Democrats would be able to generate genuine multilateral support to back U.S. initiatives. Although the Obama administration initially seemed to fulfill those predictions, two crises now threaten to derail the Obama approach to multilateralism. more

Bahrain’s Ongoing Political Impasse Imperils U.S. Interests

By Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
, , Briefing

The fallout from Bahrain’s expulsion of a senior U.S. diplomat illustrates the continuing political impasse in this deeply polarized Persian Gulf ally. While the danger to the ruling Al Khalifa family posed by the 2011 uprising has passed, positions on all sides have hardened, with little prospect of any political settlement to Bahrain’s deep-rooted inequalities. That has three troubling implications for the U.S. more

Global Insights

China Advances on Missile Defense, With Eye on Dissuading Rivals

By Richard Weitz
, , Column

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 Realist Prism

On Iran and Russia, Obama Gambling for More Time

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

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.

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U.S. Aims to Boost India, Asia Ties with Malabar Naval Exercise

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

Yesterday India and the U.S. kicked off the 2014 Malabar naval exercise, the latest in a series of joint exercises going back over two decades, with Japan participating as well. This serves as an opportunity for the U.S. to demonstrate its commitment to naval engagement in the region, to reassure nervous allies in the face of an expansionist China and to refocus the U.S.-India relationship, which is widely seen as off track. more

Strategic Horizons

U.S. Must Rethink Unsustainable Counterterrorism Strategy

By Steven Metz
, , Column

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

Despite U.S. Efforts, Root Causes of Migration Crisis Prevail in Central America

By Michael Allison
, , Briefing

The United States, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are frantically trying to address the humanitarian crisis unfolding on both the U.S. border and in Central America. They have pursued several initiatives to combat violence, strengthen democracy and promote economic opportunity, to stem the sudden increase of young migrants heading north. But such efforts have not delivered their intended benefits. more

With Negotiations Extended, U.S. Ponders Future of Iran Sanctions

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

The extension of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 countries includes allowing Iran to access $2.8 billion of its restricted assets. That has many in Washington debating the effect of previous sanctions relief and whether threatening or imposing future sanctions would improve the U.S. hand in negotiations. But analysis is mixed over the extent to which this relief has boosted Iran’s economy. more

The Realist Prism

U.S. Watches From Sidelines as Global Leaders Gather in Brazil

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

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

Downing of MH17 in Eastern Ukraine Underscores Risks of Arming Syrian Rebels

By David Klion
, , Trend Lines

In the downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine, all signs point to a surface-to-air missile launched by rebels who have been armed by Russia. There are sobering lessons here for the U.S. Part of the Obama administration’s hesitation to arm Syrian rebels was the fear that they would be unaccountable. If atrocities or accidents were committed with American weapons, the fallout could be disastrous. more