This week, followers of a radical Sunni cleric fought for two days with Lebanese security forces in the southern city of Sidon, in clashes that reportedly killed 18 soldiers and up to 40 of the cleric’s followers. In an email interview, Oren Barak, associate professor of political science and international relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explained the Lebanese armed forces’ position within Lebanese society and its efforts to maintain stability amid spillover from Syria’s civil war. WPR: What is the Lebanese army’s position within Lebanon’s factional society, and who does it answer to? Oren Barak: The Lebanese armed […]

This month, there were reports that Ukraine was considering seeking arms deals with both Mexico and Turkey. In an email interview, Taras Kuzio, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and an expert in Ukrainian security and politics, explained the recent history and current state of Ukraine’s arms industry. WPR: Who are the main buyers of Ukrainian arms, and in which categories of arms? Taras Kuzio: Developing countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, countries in the Middle East and former Soviet client states are the main buyers of Ukrainian arms. The main products are light […]

When U.S. Vice President Joe Biden took to the podium at last February’s Munich Security Conference, he decided to err on the side of caution. Washington’s strategic shift toward Asia, Biden said, would have no impact on the thriving relationship between the United States and Europe. This was music to the ears of Europeans in the packed banquet hall of the Bayerische Hof Hotel. Biden’s words were clearly aimed at reassuring Europe that despite some difficulties, the trans-Atlantic relationship was intact. Biden said that America and Europe had never been so close. The relationship was alive and well. Nothing could […]

When Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, appointed his Cabinet, he decided to keep two major portfolios for himself: foreign affairs and defense. The move was widely interpreted as emanating from the civil-military imbalance that defines decision-making on foreign and security policy in Pakistan. Senior members of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) explained that Sharif wanted to prevent the kind of “misunderstandings” between the prime minister and the military on matters of foreign affairs that had occurred in the past, and added, “We’ve been dominated by the military for decades. And they still think they are superior to the […]

Can regional powers replace the U.S. and Europe in policing perennial trouble spots such as the Middle East and West Africa? Or are their own weaknesses going to create new problems for the West? Recent events in Turkey and Nigeria have illustrated the dilemmas involved. Both countries have faced very different internal security challenges in recent months. Nigeria has tried to extirpate the Boko Haram Islamist rebel group with a major military offensive in the northeast of the country. Turkey has made a mess of handling widespread public protests stemming from arguments over a popular park in Istanbul. These episodes […]

A recent reshuffle of Uganda’s military command by longtime President Yoweri Museveni installed into the leadership a new generation of younger, more loyal officers effectively headed by Museveni’s son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba. The move is seen as aimed to strengthen Museveni’s grip on an army that has recently appeared to lack discipline due to growing displeasure within its senior ranks. But it also left the president as the sole remaining high-ranking member of the group that captured power a quarter-century ago. Museveni now rules, without any obvious challenger, a very tense country. The mainstream opposition, including the Forum for Democratic […]

With the U.S. slowly defining its drone policy, and with drones receiving increasing attention among European defense policymakers due to the recent military operations in Libya and Mali, Europe is laying out its own concerns over the ethics of drone use. Though much of the debate focuses on the use of armed drones for strikes, as conducted by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, drones are also useful for surveillance and intelligence gathering, in both military and civilian policing operations. For instance, Frontex, the European Union border agency, has expressed interest in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to […]

For more than 50 years, U.S. national security strategy has undergone cycles of strategic retrenchment and renewal. After World War II, the United States rapidly demobilized, giving the Soviet Union and its proxies like North Korea an opening for armed aggression. By the end of the Truman administration, America had begun an extensive military buildup and a significant expansion of its alliances and security commitments. Another round of retrenchment came after Vietnam; once again, renewal followed. Under the leadership of President Ronald Reagan, defense spending increased, and the military fielded an array of new weapons systems and developed innovative doctrine […]

Will the Syrian government and its opponents ever sit down for negotiations in Geneva? It has been more than a month since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced plans for a peace conference in the Swiss city. There were suggestions that the meeting could happen in May or June. But it has been pushed back repeatedly, while Russia and the U.S. appear to be edging closer to a full-scale proxy war in Syria. The promise of talks in Geneva may even have made the conflict worse. When Kerry met Lavrov in Moscow in […]

The Obama administration yesterday announced that it would provide military assistance to Syrian rebels, after having concluded that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against opposition fighters in the ongoing civil war. The move comes after months of criticism of the administration, from both left and right, for its apparent fecklessness with regard to the ongoing civil war in Syria. Washington ought to have been doing more to protect the Syrian populace from the repressions of the Baathist dictatorship, cry the liberal interventionists. The president’s “inaction” has strengthened America’s foes and disheartens its allies, argue […]

Strategic Horizons: After NSA Leaks, ‘Trust but Verify’ Applies to U.S. Government

The day after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York City and Washington, I wrote in my notebook, “The big question of the next few years will be whether an 18th-century Constitution is adequate for security in the 21st century. The nation will have a huge debate on this.” As it turned out, I was correct on the first assertion. When drafting the Constitution, America’s Founding Fathers could not have anticipated the intense connectivity of the modern world, where catastrophes of any kind have cascading effects both tangible and psychological. They could not anticipate the existence of small cells […]

There was heavy fighting last week between the Malian army and separatists belonging to the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a Tuareg separatist group fighting for autonomy in northern Mali from a stronghold in the city of Kidal. This week, a Malian government delegation reached an agreement with the Tuareg rebels. The cease-fire deal “in principle” would allow the elections scheduled for July 28 to take place in the disputed region. But the experts who spoke with Trend Lines do not expect that any lasting solutions to the demands of the Tuaregs, rebels who have refused to […]

National security policy can resemble the fashion industry. A defense strategy that is in vogue in one era can fall out of fashion, only to come back into style, perhaps in slightly different form, at a later date. So it is with deterrence. This strategy was central during the Cold War, but 9/11 convinced many people that deterrence was no longer useful. In the years after, however, interest in deterrence revived as scholars and government officials sought ways to adapt it to meet contemporary threats. This deterrence revival is a mixed blessing. Just as it was during the Cold War, […]

Collective defense is a coordinated response to a common security problem by two or more countries. The core of collective defense is political: a commitment by different nations to come to each other’s aid if attacked. Existing collective security arrangements for the U.S. and its allies were designed for one kind of threat. Now they must deal with others, including new threats, if they are to remain relevant to national security. In particular, the U.S. and its allies agree that it would be useful to extend collective defense arrangements against potential cyberattacks, but implementation has proven difficult because of the […]

Following World War II, the United States hoped that global security could be managed collaboratively by the victorious allies using a network of international organizations, particularly the newly created United Nations. But it quickly became clear that the Soviet Union would be an adversary, not a partner. Initially, U.S. policymakers disagreed on how to respond to the mounting Soviet threat. Great power strategy was new to Americans, something they had to learn on the fly. Neither placating nor threatening Moscow seemed to work. In 1946, Department of State official George Kennan, an astute student of statecraft and history, offered a […]

This weekend’s informal U.S.-China summit in California had several key objectives: personal trust building between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping; halting the negative momentum in bilateral relations; reducing tensions regarding disputed issues; and signaling to domestic and international audiences that the United States and China can work together. But the main objective—and outcome—of the meeting was mutual reassurance. The summit resulted in only general statements and did not achieve specific policy commitments. But it came at a very early date in China’s domestic political cycle, just three months after the completion of Beijing’s power transition. […]

U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent speech on America’s use of drones in the conflict with al-Qaida and its affiliates marked his administration’s first real attempt to explain a program that has generated much domestic criticism and international outcry. By contrast, few have taken notice of Brazil’s increasing use of surveillance drones, which it has been dispatching over its vast borderlands in an effort to control illegal immigration, contraband and smuggling. So far, Brazil’s drone initiative has not generated as much political controversy as Obama’s program. Nevertheless, President Dilma Rousseff’s administration must tread lightly lest it offend bordering nations that carefully […]

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