The debate about U.S. targeted killing policy has become repetitive and familiar. The policy’s proponents argue that the precision and accuracy of drones keep civilian casualties to a minimum, and that drones are the most viable tool in fighting an asymmetric war, particularly in places that are off-limits to U.S. troops. Opponents of drone strikes argue that civilian casualties are much higher than U.S. government estimates, and that the policy is counterproductive because it leads to the radicalization of a new generation of terrorists. The number of civilian casualties from drone strikes is perhaps the most complicated of these questions, […]

Hondurans will vote Sunday, Nov. 24, in a presidential election that polls suggest is too close to call. U.S. interests are plainly at stake, but this has less to do with the individual who may end up being elected than with the legitimacy of the election itself and how the new president, once in office, chooses to govern. In what should be a clarifying and unifying election, the electorate instead is polarized, and at least three of the leading candidates are each convinced they will win. Official results may not be known for a week or more after the election; […]

Did the liberal international order get a little less liberal last week? Western diplomats and human rights activists faced an accumulation of challenges across the United Nations system. On Tuesday, the General Assembly elected a clutch of repressive regimes—including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam—to the Human Rights Council. On Friday, African countries forced a showdown in the Security Council over the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) pursuit of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto for stirring up election-related violence in 2007, accusing the U.N. of disrespect for Africa. To pessimistic observers, these developments are symptomatic of a […]

China is moving to ease restrictions on its one-child policy, Chinese policymakers announced Friday. The new rules will allow parents who are themselves only children to have two children. Therese Hesketh told WPR in August that changes to the policy were seen in China as inevitable: The policy has achieved its original goal of reducing population growth and lifting many out of poverty. It has also become an anachronism as freedoms have increased in many areas of life; as growing wealth means many can afford the fines; and as China becomes a key player in the global community and can […]

This week, the Philippines announced it would investigate reports of worker abuse in Saudi Arabia, while last month, Ethiopia imposed a six-month ban on its workers traveling to Saudia Arabia, citing worsening labor conditions. In an email interview, Zahra Babar, assistant director for research at the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University’s school of foreign service in Qatar, explained efforts to address the conditions of migrant workers in the Persian Gulf states. WPR: What are the main countries of origin for migrant labor in the Gulf states, and what industries do they work in? Zahra Babar: Current […]

The eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) took a turn toward peace today as M23 rebels reportedly gave up their 20-month insurgency. The Congolese army, re-engineered after a humiliating defeat by the rebels last year, pushed the M23 out of its remaining strongholds with help from a precedent-setting U.N. intervention brigade and an intensive new focus on the conflict by the U.S. and other international actors. But as Anthony Gambino wrote in a WPR briefing in July, ending the M23’s fight is only one step in a much larger process: The key question now is whether the international community has […]

On Jan. 21, 2009, President Barack Obama pledged to close the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The announcement’s timing and setting highlighted its importance. On just his second day in office, and flanked by former generals and admirals, the president had made it a top priority to shut the U.S. prison that had become synonymous with human rights abuses and lawlessness. That same day, Obama issued an order banning torture and closing secret CIA “black sites” in an effort to align America’s fight against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups with due process and the rule of law. Obama […]

Introduction: A Climate of Fear Every democracy must wrestle with the dilemma of ensuring security for its citizens, while at the same time protecting their liberty and privacy. Since 1975, when the U.S. Senate’s Church Committee, led by Sen. Frank Church, investigated media revelations about domestic spying by the CIA, the United States, more than any other nation in history, has been attempting to find an effective response to this dilemma: a workable equilibrium between the activities of secret agencies, on one hand, and the proper measures of accountability necessary to prevent them from overstepping the boundaries of law and […]

The deaths by drowning of more than 350 people on Oct. 3 as they tried to reach Europe from Libya unleashed a wave of sympathy and horror on both sides of the Mediterranean for the victims and for Lampedusa, the small island stepping-stone to Italy from North Africa. Six days later, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso traveled to Lampedusa to reassure the people of the island, and the European Union, that something would be done to prevent further tragedies and to assist those who bear the burden of migrant arrivals. Also present was […]

The World Health Organization confirmed this week that there has been an outbreak of polio in Syria, where war has devastated the health care system and there is little hope of doing much to stop the spread of infectious disease. Trend Lines spoke with three experts about the issues of restricted access, the targeting of health care workers and the inability to move people and supplies across borders. “This is clear evidence of the collapse of the health care system in Syria and the terrible humanitarian consequences,” said Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement, explaining that […]