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

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.

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U.N. Resolution Unlikely to Lead to Better Aid Distribution in Syria

By The Editors

In mid-July, the U.N. Security Council unanimously voted to allow humanitarian aid delivery to Syrians in rebel-held areas without Syrian government consent, through four border crossings from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. In an email interview, Dr. Hannah Vaughan-Lee, a humanitarian practitioner and academic, discussed the challenges ahead for the cross-border aid operation.

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The Challenge of Protecting Civilian Health in War

By David P. Fidler
, , Feature

For human health, war is hell. Armed conflicts kill, injure and traumatize people; wreck health infrastructure and services; and expose populations to diseases. Powerful ideas and beliefs inform the responses to health crises spawned by war, but they are challenged by the realities in armed conflict. These challenges do not negate the imperative to protect health during armed conflict, but they reveal complexities in the war-health relationship that deserve exploration.

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Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Times of War

By Craig Forrest
, , Feature

How far have we come in protecting cultural heritage from the devastating effects of war? Over the past century, surprisingly far, and at the same time not quite far enough. International law to protect cultural heritage has developed reactively, responding to conflict and destruction after the fact in the hope that it will not be repeated. An understanding of this law, its strengths and its shortcomings, requires its contextualization within the conflicts of the past century. 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

Diplomatic Fallout

Lacking Security Strategy, EU Counts on Nearby Crises to Absorb Threats

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

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

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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International Law Solutions Fall Short for Israelis, Palestinians in Gaza Conflict

By Lolita Brayman
, , Briefing

As the death toll in Gaza rises, legal definitions of what is permissible in war have been bitterly contested. International law defines war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute, but in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the classifications are difficult to apply. Through the grey areas of international law, both sides have found new ways to blame each other. more

World Citizen

In Israel, Pragmatism Could Trump Ideology After the Fighting

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

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

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

Strategic Posture Review: Israel

By Shai Feldman
, , Report

Israel’s threat environment has changed dramatically in recent years, especially when compared to that which Israel faced when its defense doctrine was first articulated and its force structure was first conceived. This report will discuss these changes, identify the new challenges Israel faces, characterize the domestic environment affecting defense allocations and attempt to ascertain the implications of these factors for Israeli strategy. The conclusion will elaborate on the debate now taking place within the country’s defense community about the future doctrine and force structure of the Israel Defense Forces. more

Diplomatic Fallout

West Needs New Rules to Contain Proxy Wars With Russia

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

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