PRAGUE, Czech Republic — With all eyes on London and the high-profile Afghanistan Conference, a quieter gathering that took place this week in Prague might have shed more light on the opportunities, challenges and uncertainty that lie ahead for the war-torn country. The conference, co-sponsored by the Prague Security Studies Institute and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, brought together military and civilian practitioners of reconstruction and development work in Afghanistan, ostensibly to discuss the future of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan. But the wide-ranging panel discussions also addressed the broader challenges of reconstruction, as well as the urgent need for overcoming […]

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Marine Capt. Scott Cuomo of Fox company, 2nd battalion, 2nd Marine regiment, must have felt very confident. How else to explain his climbing into an armorless Afghan army truck — a coffin on four wheels — next to Haji Abdullah Jan, the Afghan district governor, with only a few Afghan army soldiers for protection, to speed down empty dirt roads almost certainly mined by the Taliban? But Cuomo’s confidence is not misplaced. The men make it safely to their destination: a destroyed compound beside which the barren, twisted remains of three dead trees point grotesquely to […]

For the last month, Washington has been abuzz with talk about what the United States government should do about Yemen. Should the U.S. give Ye­men more military aid? Should it begin a large-scale economic assistance pro­gram? Should it help Yemen establish a governmental reform program, help implement a de-radicalization program, or boost special forces training? Yemen is a weak and poor nation, and the United States is a strong and wealthy one. With the right package of assistance, most assume, we can work together on shared goals. The reality is messier than that, though. From a Yemeni perspective, the common […]

It’s taken as gospel by most pundits today that we live in an increasingly dangerous, deadly and unstable world — with Haiti’s horrific earthquake serving as the latest, irrefutable data point. We are told that ours is a planet at perpetual war with itself, locked in a global conflict that is not only cast in civilizational terms, but superimposed over a landscape chock-full of never-ending combat and ever-rising death tolls. The end of the Cold War superpower rivalry, rather than pacifying the world, actually unlocked a Pandora’s box of tribal hatreds. In retrospect, the Cold War has even taken on […]

In a WPR blog post earlier this week, Judah Grunstein described the “Yemen frenzy” induced by the failed Christmas Day airliner bombing plot as a post-9/11, “Pavlovian response.” But there’s more to the conditioned behavior than just the push for a massive, whole-of-government intervention in a country linked to an attempted domestic terrorist attack, and in which al-Qaida has a presence. A second factor at play is the tendency of the U.S. government — and indeed, of the entire political establishment — to dart from crisis to crisis, pouring time, treasure and resources into responding to the headlines of the […]

India continues to burnish its international image with initiatives like Brand India, a public-private campaign whose stated mission is to “build positive perceptions of India globally.” But when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh acknowledged the country’s undernourished children as a “national shame,” it highlighted how India’s economic success co-exists with its persistently high rates for hunger, malnutrition, and income poverty. According to the World Bank, 46 percent of Indian children below the age of five are underweight, and the World Food Program says that 230 million Indians are living with hunger. Clearly India’s robust 8 percent growth in GDP does […]

article card

In “The United States of Africa,” the Djibouti-born novelist Abdourahman Waberi imagines a topsy-turvy world where a sorry stream of refugees flows from the squalor of Europe and America to escape poverty in the prosperous United States of Africa. Like an African Voltaire, Waberi uses the weapon of satire to raze a Western myth that has come to imprison Africans: that of the eternal African victim. Ironically, this myth of African victimhood emerged in Western political thought at the same moment that Africa achieved political liberation. As the French writer Pascal Bruckner trenchantly described in “The Tears of the White […]

In 1980, the controversial U.S. diplomat for Africa, Chester Crocker, memorably described South Africa as a “magnet for one-dimensional minds.” The accuracy of that assertion has been confirmed over the course of the post-1994 democratic era, during which mood swings among both the commentariat and the wider populace have caused South Africa to be viewed from several, radically contrasting, but ultimately one-dimensional perspectives. Between 1994 and 1999, under the presidency of Nelson Mandela, South Africa was routinely described as a “miracle,” a country that had somehow managed to navigate the treacherous waters of the transition from apartheid, while putting in […]

Introduction In recent years, Ghana has made impressive progress with regards to socio-economic and political development. This has lead to contemporary Western media and international donors portraying the country not merely as a success story, but as a model for Africa. While some elections in Africa have been followed by violent conflicts and other political struggles, Ghana has held five relatively peaceful and successful national elections between 1992 and 2008, including two that resulted in an alternation of power between parties. In particular, to the extent that the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) lost the December 2008 presidential election by […]