Every day seems to bring news of another nation slipping into political crisis. With Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Egypt and a host of others still not close to restoring stability, Venezuela and Ukraine have followed them into chaos. It’s hard to know what nation will next fall off the cliff, but it’s a sure bet that some will. Democratization was the most important strategic megatrend of the 1990s, but today it has been dethroned by pervasive, persistent and deep political turbulence, as both old dictatorships and new democracies prove unable to meet the mounting demands of a young […]

The Venezuelan opposition has shifted gears and is steering down a new path, carrying a message that the country is crumbling and there is no time to wait for change. The decision to take a much more confrontational approach comes in an environment of growing popular discontent, with an accelerating downward economic spiral and increasingly harsh living conditions under the rule of the late Hugo Chavez’s hand-picked successor, President Nicolas Maduro. The move by the opposition is a calculated gamble. It could provoke a much harsher crackdown from the regime, creating an even deeper chasm between the two sides of […]

Editor’s note: This is the last of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series examined each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. You can find the Series Introduction here, Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here and Part V here. In 2001, the Taliban were thought to be all but defeated with the fall of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, little more than a month after the U.S. launched its first airstrikes on […]

Photo: A North Korean soldier stands guard at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Aug. 11, 2011 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bryanna Poulin).

Why does the North Korean regime still exist, and how much longer will it last? These questions have been asked continuously for nearly a quarter-century, since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the People’s Republic of Mongolia and the Soviet Union itself over the following two years. In July 1994, North Korea’s founding leader, Kim Il Sung, died, and soon thereafter North Korea entered a period of famine that lasted three years and killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of North Korean citizens. Yet the regime carried on, […]

The Iranian revolution of 1979 that overthrew the last ruler of the Pahlavi dynasty was one of the largest mass movements of the 20th century. This massive “participation explosion,” however, did not culminate in the creation of a democracy. The Islamic Republic that replaced the absolute monarchy was an authoritarian populist theocracy that began to consolidate its power very rapidly in the aftermath of the revolution, liquidating all the major opposition to its monopolization of political power. With the revolution having run its course, the political behavior of the Islamic Republic vacillates between pragmatism and revolutionary idealism, maintaining ideological adherence […]

When Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s leader of more than 20 years, died in August 2012, many anticipated significant and potentially destabilizing change. Past political transitions in Addis Ababa had been violent and settled at the barrel of the gun, so the precedents were worrisome. Meles’ eulogies emphasized his individual brilliance and his personal role in bringing development to the modern Ethiopian state. What would happen with the strongman gone? Could the strong and effective authoritarian developmental party-state engineered under Meles’ leadership sustain itself without him? Instead of instability, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) quickly moved Deputy Prime Minister […]

Myanmar took on the chairmanship of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Jan. 1, assuming this high-profile role at an important time for the regional bloc. Its ambitious integration program is gathering steam, though political turmoil—particularly in Thailand—and internal divisions over how to deal with China’s economic influence present formidable challenges to the group’s cohesion. Not surprisingly, then, the theme of Myanmar’s chairmanship is “moving forward in unity toward a peaceful and prosperous community.” But Myanmar’s chairmanship also comes at a critical time for the country itself, having only recently emerged from international isolation. Domestically, much attention […]

The general consensus in the Western media is that the Sochi Olympics have been a diplomatic failure for Russian President Vladimir Putin. If the Winter Games were supposed to be the coming out party for a Russia resurgent two decades after the Soviet collapse, then the deliberate decision by several European and American leaders—including Barack Obama, David Cameron and Francois Hollande—to skip attending the Olympiad in tacit protest of Russian policies, particularly on gay rights, spoiled those plans. The Russian response has been that the Sochi games have broken all records for the attendance of world leaders at the Winter […]

Last month, the New York Times documented the conditions of India’s relief camps for internally displaced people, some of which appear to be becoming permanent settlements. In an email interview, Sanjib Baruah, a professor of political studies at Bard College, explained the causes of and responses to internal displacement in India. WPR: Where are the major communities of internally displaced persons in India, and what caused their displacement? Sanjib Baruah: IDPs in India are forced to leave their homes because of (a) ethnic and sectarian violence, and (b) armed conflicts or insurgencies. Recent incidents of ethnic and sectarian violence include […]

After Michael McFaul, the current U.S. ambassador to Russia, announced that he would be stepping down from his post after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, lobbying began quickly for the president to send an openly gay replacement to represent the United States in Moscow. The Human Rights Campaign, the leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender special interest organization in the U.S., argues that such a step “would send a vital message to the world that America’s belief in international human rights is as strong as ever” and “would give LGBT Russians a hopeful diplomatic role model to look to […]

In recent weeks, the State Department has begun a new push on Sri Lankan human rights issues in the aftermath of that country’s decades-long war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which came to an end in May 2009. This push will likely include a new resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council, the third such resolution in recent years, intended to pressure the government of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Sri Lankan government’s final push against LTTE-held territory, in the north of the country, resulted in the defeat of the group. But international observers criticized […]

What was widely expected to be an electoral victory last July for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has turned into a prolonged political impasse, as the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) has refused to recognize the election results due to what it calls massive fraud. While continuing to boycott the National Assembly, the CNRP—which won 44.4 percent of votes and 55 seats, compared to the CPP’s 48.8 percent and 68 seats—has led a series of mass protests with three demands: an independent investigation into the alleged electoral fraud with the participation of the United Nations and civil society […]