U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, right, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speak at a press conference at the Pentagon on April 16, 2015 (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen).

When the U.S. Department of Defense released its latest cyber strategy last week, it laid more than just another brick in the edifice of cybersecurity that the government has been building for decades. Coming just a few weeks after President Barack Obama’s Executive Order setting out a policy framework for sanctioning malicious cyber actors, the new strategy marks a significant evolution in Washington’s understanding and approach to providing security in the digital age. That’s because it comes with a warning to potential adversaries: The United States will no longer only be reactive in its cyber defenses, as the Pentagon will […]

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice aboard Marine One en route to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England following the NATO Summit in Wales, Sept. 5, 2014 (Official White House photo by Pete Souza).

This past weekend, I had the privilege of taking part in the Harvard Extension School’s Crisis Game, a Cold War-era nuclear simulation involving some 30 graduate students and led by my colleague Tom Nichols. What was fascinating to observe was how even the prospect of a theoretical nuclear exchange was still capable of forcing a high degree of seriousness and focus among the participants, as various courses of action were debated and evaluated. Indeed, some of the participants themselves raised the question of whether U.S. national security policy today lacks the gravitas it appeared to have 30 years ago, particularly […]

People gather at the Place de Nation to ask for a civilian and democratic transition, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 2, 2014 (AP photo by Theo Renaut).

On the morning of Oct. 30, 2014, throngs of protesters overwhelmed security forces in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, and burned the National Assembly building, physically preventing deputies from voting to further extend President Blaise Compaore’s tenure. That “popular insurrection,” as almost everyone in Burkina Faso now calls it, continued into the next day, driving the authoritarian president out of the country after 27 years in power. Just over five months later, on April 7, under an interim government and with the assembly building still out of use, a new set of parliamentary deputies, including many former protesters, met in temporary […]

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko watches a military exercise of the Ukrainian armed forces in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine, April 25, 2015 (Presidential Press Service photo by Mykola Lazarenko via AP).

The average European leader probably lacks the number of brain cells required to process the sheer amount of bad news he or she currently receives on a daily basis. This is not because they are stupid, but because there is so much dire news to digest. In the past two weeks, over 1,000 migrants have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean; there has been fresh fighting in Ukraine; and the Greek government has careened toward total bankruptcy. The European Union has responded to this torrent of crises with a mixture of big talk, half-measures and fraying tempers. At a summit […]

A Pakistani Honor Guard at the Army’s Martyr’s Monument, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Jan. 21, 2010 (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison).

Last week, Pakistan agreed to send ships to help enforce a U.N.-approved arms embargo against Houthi rebels in Yemen, but declined a request by Saudi Arabia to send attack aircraft or troops to join the Saudi-led coalition there. In an email interview, Ayesha Siddiqa, an independent security analyst in Pakistan, discussed Pakistan’s military capabilities. WPR: What are the Pakistani military’s size, training priorities, capabilities and operational strengths? Ayesha Siddiqa: The Pakistani military is a volunteer force and the seventh-largest military in the world. It is primarily dedicated to conventional warfighting. There are 617,000 active duty personnel in the Pakistani military, […]

Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters regain control of the northern neighborhoods, after overnight heavy clashes with Islamic State group militants, Ramadi, Iraq, April 23, 2015 (AP photo).

When U.S. President Barack Obama announced his strategy for countering the so-called Islamic State (IS) last September, it was met with an immediate volley of criticism, most of it asserting that the president’s approach was too timid. Incensed by IS’ horrors, the critics called for large-scale American military action. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, demanded that the Obama administration “destroy” IS within 90 days. When told by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that this was impossible, Cruz issued a press release saying the general was wrong. Now that the 2016 presidential race has kicked off, […]

Meeting of NATO defense ministers, NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 5, 2015 (NATO photo).

Whether it was the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea of hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers desperate to enter European territory or the latest atrocities carried out by the Islamic State in their Libyan enclave, this week’s headlines could not have come at a worse time for the leadership of the North Atlantic alliance. Over the past year, NATO finally seemed on the verge of rediscovering a common purpose after two decades of trying out for different roles—a return to its original task of putting a brake on the westward spread of Russian influence and control from the Eurasian core into […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo, April 8, 2015 (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt).

Earlier this month, Ashton Carter concluded his first visit to the Asia-Pacific region since becoming U.S. secretary of defense. In Japan and South Korea, Carter delivered several speeches underscoring the region’s importance and explaining the logic of U.S. President Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia. Carter will return to visit Singapore and India in a few weeks, a sign of how pivotal a player he has quickly become in the administration’s policy of “rebalancing” America’s strategic priorities toward the region. Carter’s recent trip, which began April 7 and ended April 12, aimed to reassure the two countries he visited, Japan and […]

Afghan security personnel gather at the site of a suicide attack, Kabul, Afghanistan, April 10, 2015 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

Most days in March, pairs of young men mounted Honda 125 motorbikes to ride out of a mud-walled compound in the town of Muslimbagh, in Pakistan’s province of Baluchistan. Turbans wrapped around their faces to ward off the dust, they headed for the Afghan border, 50 miles away. These young men, recruits from the marginalized Pashtun communities of the borderlands, were riding off to be fighters for the Taliban. Most of their peers who have not taken up arms toil as casual laborers for the meagerest of pay. By joining a dilgai, or Taliban armed group, the young Pashtun men […]

U.N. peacekeepers from Niger stand at attention at the Niger Battalion Base, Ansongo, Mali, Feb. 25, 2015 (U.N. photo Marco Dormino).

The United Nations is an organization that is willing to learn from failure. This is fortunate, because it fails quite a lot. The U.N. has absorbed the lessons of previous catastrophes, such as the Balkan wars and the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, and now deploys peacekeepers far more professionally than in that nightmarish era. In the near future, it will face a reckoning over more recent failures, as its efforts to bring peace to countries destabilized by the Arab revolutions—most notably in Syria but also in Libya, Yemen and Mali—have veered off course, costing thousands of lives in the […]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gestures during an interview with the BBC, Damascus, Syria, Feb. 10, 2015 (AP photo/SANA).

In late March, Syria’s northern provincial capital of Idlib fell to Islamist rebels. A week later, both the self-declared Islamic State (IS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, advanced into the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in a suburb just six miles south of central Damascus. Despite these setbacks for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, he has continued a choreographed international media campaign, going on French television for his latest interview with a Western news outlet so that he could present himself as the necessary partner for a political solution to Syria’s civil war, assert his strength and deny […]

Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division gather their equipment before boarding a CH-47F Chinook, Nawa Valley, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston).

For American defense professionals, the 1990s now seem like a distant dream. The United States was fresh off a stunning military victory over Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kuwait. The Soviet Union, long Washington’s bête noire, had crumbled. The American economy was robust, churning out important technological innovations one after another. In these halcyon times, U.S. military leaders and defense officials predicted that they would master what they called the “revolution in military affairs,” thereby attaining battlefield superiority over every possible enemy. Since the U.S. would be able to impose its will on opponents, there was little need to […]

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko meets with fired Dnipropetrovsk Gov. Ihor Kolomoysky, Kiev, Ukraine, March 25, 2015 (AP photo by Mikhail Palinchak).

On Wednesday, Ukrainian politician Oleh Kalashnikov was found dead with gunshot wounds in Kiev. The next day, the journalist and former politician Oles Buzyna was killed in a drive-by shooting outside his home in the capital. The two murders were just the latest in a string of deaths of leading Ukrainian opposition figures in recent months. Some of these may have been suicides, while others were clearly murders, but all of the dead were supporters of Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian client who was driven from power during the Maidan protests last year. Buzyna was an outspoken critic […]

Chinese HQ-9 missile launcher during China’s 60th anniversary parade, Beijing, China, Oct. 1, 2009 (photo by Wikimedia user Jian Kang licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license).

Earlier this month, Pakistan approved a deal to buy eight Chinese submarines, in what would be China’s largest-ever arms deal. In an email interview, Joseph E. Lin, a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed China’s defense exports. WPR: What are China’s main defense exports, and who are the biggest buyers of Chinese defense equipment? Joseph E. Lin: In the past, China’s primary defense exports were a combination of small arms and light armored vehicles, sold mostly to countries in Africa or the Middle East. In recent years, however, there has been a qualitative shift in […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo review a guard of honor prior to their meeting at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo, March 23, 2015 (AP photo by Koji Sasahara).

Last month, Japan and Indonesia signed a defense pact that covers capacity building, peacekeeping and equipment development. In an email interview, Zachary Abuza, principal of Southeast Asia Analytics, discussed Japan-Indonesia relations. WPR: What is the nature of the Japan-Indonesia bilateral relationship, and what is the extent of political, economic and defense ties? Zachary Abuza: Indonesia and Japan have close economic ties, with bilateral trade now amounting to over $50 billion a year. Japan is a major investor in Indonesia’s manufacturing sector, and it is the single largest provider of development assistance—more than $40 billion since 1960. Indonesia is also seeking […]

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang shake hands ahead of their meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, Dec. 15, 2014 (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexander Astafyev, Government Press Service).

Beginning in January and accelerating in the last week of March, senior State Department officials have been making high-profile speeches on U.S. interests and policies regarding Central Asia. The policy rollout culminated on March 31, when Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution on Washington’s long-term vision for Central Asia. Combined, the speeches offer insight into Washington’s approach to the resource-rich and highly contested region. As some observers have pointed out, one novel element of that approach is an explicit U.S. attempt to praise China’s growing presence in Central Asia, while condemning that […]

Russian air force helicopters fly over Red Square during a Victory Day parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2014 (AP photo by Denis Tyrin).

Russia’s military has experienced a remarkable recovery during the past decade. This is most evident in the success of Russia’s swift occupation of Crimea last year and ongoing support for separatist forces in eastern Ukraine. Equally impressive, if less visible, is the rebound of the country’s military-industrial complex, referred to by the Russian initials VPK, which suffered heavily from the break-up of the Soviet Union’s integrated defense industries and the Russian government’s budgetary difficulties during the 1990s. In its worst years, under former President Boris Yeltsin, the VPK was unable to manufacture more than a few weapons systems each year. […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 211 2 Last