An operator controlled robot is run through an obstacle course in a "robot rodeo" at the New York State Preparedness Training Center in Oriskany, NY, June 24, 2015 (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Harley Jelis).

The U.S. Navy and Air Force have begun preliminary work on developing a sixth-generation unmanned fighter. In an email interview, Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and co-author of “Ghost Fleet,” discussed the next generation in U.S. military technology. WPR: What are some of the already operational next-generation U.S. military technologies that emerged from, or were accelerated by, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Peter Singer: In some ways you can think of Iraq and Afghanistan as akin to World War I, where a number of science fiction-like technologies made their bones. Back then it […]

Protesters hold a sign during a rally to take down the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse, Columbia, S.C., June 23, 2015 (AP photo by Rainier Ehrhardt).

Even though the United States was founded on the idea that all people have inalienable rights, applying that principle to all Americans has been a long, still-incomplete struggle played out in multiple arenas, including the U.S. military. Over the past 75 years, the armed forces have been used to advance this cause several times. Presidents found the military a valuable tool in the expansion of rights and the construction of a more unified society because it could be ordered to accept change to an extent that the rest of society could not. The military also tended to judge its members […]

Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends a ceremony at the Diwan royal palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Yoan Valat).

The release of tens of thousands of diplomatic cables that Wikileaks says it obtained from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry have added detail and color to long suspected Saudi behavior in the Middle East. Mostly, that means money and how Riyadh wields it. Samir Geagea, a Lebanese politician who is a vocal critic of Syrian President of Bashar al-Assad—and a staunch defender in the Lebanese media of Saudi Arabia—begged for more money from Riyadh to support his flailing political party and former Christian militia, the Lebanese Forces. The Saudi ambassador in Beirut wrote favorably back to Riyadh that Geagea “expressed readiness […]

A Kurdish peshmerga fighter fires a weapon towards an Islamic State Group position, overlooking the town of Sinjar, northern Iraq, Jan. 29, 2015 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

SINJAR, Iraqi Kurdistan—The crash of the incoming mortar came from way behind the Kurdish lines; the shells were landing in the rear. Yet the excited and somewhat fearful commotion among the peshmerga fighters was instant. Men were looking through the peek holes at the Islamic State (IS) lines a few hundred yards away, trying to locate the mortar. Kurdish officers were on the phone, calling for a coalition airstrike. The warplane soon came roaring in, but by then the mortar had disappeared among the houses. A second coalition jet targeted an IS fighting unit—the next, a tank. The Kurds rely […]

The U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) conducts a training exercise in riot control for its peacekeepers in Juba, South Sudan, May 7, 2015 (U.N. photo by JC McIlwaine).

Policy papers from the United Nations rarely make for scintillating reading. Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released “Uniting Our Strengths for Peace,” a new report by an expert panel on the future of peace operations. Running to over 90 pages and full of familiar bromides such as “the universal legitimacy of the United Nations is one of its greatest strengths,” this does not at first glance seem like an exceptionally enticing text. On closer inspection, it proves to be a subtly subversive summary of what is wrong with peace operations, and indeed the entire U.N., today. Ban convened the panel […]

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale looks through binoculars during a live-fire demonstration of advanced TOW-II missile, Taybeh, Lebanon, June 10, 2015 (AP photo by Bilal Hussein).

Last week, the Lebanese army tested advanced TOW-II missiles, its newest weapon supplied by the United States. The live-fire demonstration took place at an army base in the Baalbek region, not far from the Syrian border. In late May, the U.S. agreed to provide more than 200 of the anti-tank guided missiles and dozens of launchers, at a cost of over $10 million, to help guard Lebanon’s border from Islamist militants and the threat of spillover from Syria’s civil war. Lebanese soldiers have come under attack by militants near the Syrian border in the past two years, including from the […]

Rohingya migrants sit in their room at a temporary shelter, Bayeun, Aceh Province, Indonesia, June 1, 2015 (AP photo by Binsar Bakkara).

Over the past month, Myanmar’s multiple domestic crises have spilled over its borders and into South and Southeast Asia, setting back the country’s reforms just before Myanmar’s highly anticipated national elections this fall. Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence and discrimination in western Myanmar have attracted the most global news coverage. Their plight in rickety boats with little food or water has sparked international calls for Myanmar’s government to take stronger measures to end discrimination against the Rohingya and address the crisis at its source. But the flight of the Rohingya is just one issue undermining Myanmar’s stability. Fighting has flared again […]

Hezbollah fighters stand guard during a rally commemorating "Liberation Day," which marks the withdrawal of the Israeli army from southern Lebanon in 2000, Nabatiyeh, Lebanon, May 24, 2015 (AP photo by Mohammed Zaatari).

The political change heralded by the 2010-2011 wave of protests across the Middle East and North Africa known as the Arab Spring never reached Lebanon, but the small Mediterranean country of 4 million has been suffering from the repercussions of those momentous events ever since. To the north, fighters and goods are still being smuggled to embattled Syria. To the northeast, a war of attrition is underway with Islamist militants, who have already seized vast swathes of territory from northern Syria and Iraq. To the south, there is the ever-volatile border with Israel. Indeed, in all directions, Lebanon’s fate is […]

Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, June 9, 2015 (Wang Zhao, Pool photo via AP).

In late March, Jane’s reported that Angola would soon receive the first batch of Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets as part of an ongoing military modernization program that kicked off four years ago. The modernization program aims to boost the number of troops in service and renew Angola’s military hardware in order to improve the operational capabilities of its armed forces. But when it was launched, resource-rich Angola was awash in oil revenue. The drop in global oil prices since last summer raises questions about the sustainability of Angola’s military modernization, as a growing economic crisis has already forced the […]

The Russian navy ship Smolny, with about 400 Russian sailors aboard, leaves the port of Saint-Nazaire, France, Dec.18, 2014 (AP photo by Laetitia Notarianni).

Russia has been skillfully using its ground forces to support pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine and keep NATO guessing over Russian intentions in that country, the Baltic states and Moldova. In addition, Moscow’s air force has for the first time since the Cold War sustained a high tempo of operations in NATO’s vicinity for more than a year. But the revival of the Russian navy has been another key element of Moscow’s use of military force to press its great power status. Naval considerations were actually a major factor driving Moscow’s insistence on maintaining control over Crimea. The naval base at […]

Estonian army scouts practice defensive maneuvers during Exercise Steadfast Javelin, May 11, 2015 (NATO photo).

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that the United States is seriously considering stationing hundreds of American troops, along with heavy weaponry, in the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Baltics, all of which are former Soviet republics bordering Russia as well as members of the European Union and NATO, have found themselves in an increasingly vulnerable position since Russia began intervening militarily in Ukraine last year. All three are home to large Russian-speaking minorities, whose controversial status could serve as justification for a Russian attack. In recent months, NATO and Russia have been staging military drills […]

Supporters of Pakistani religious parties rally to support the Saudi Arabian government in Karachi, Pakistan, May 8, 2015 (AP photo by Fareed Khan).

Among the many challenges Saudi Arabia has faced in recent months, one has come as a particularly unexpected disappointment: the cooling of relations between the desert kingdom and one of the main recipients of its largesse, Pakistan. For decades Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed a robust friendship with significant strategic and financial ramifications. But suddenly, Islamabad appears to feel much less warmly disposed toward its wealthy Arab friend. The change came as a blast of cold air in April, when the Pakistani parliament voted unanimously to rebuff a Saudi request for troops and equipment to help its war against […]

U.S. soldier congratulates Iraqi army trainees on their graduation from a six-week training course at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 13, 2015 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire).

This week marks one year since the so-called Islamic State (IS) took control of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The fall of Mosul forced Iraq back onto U.S. President Barack Obama’s agenda and prompted a re-examination of the U.S. policy toward IS. Just yesterday, the White House announced that up to 450 additional U.S. troops will be deployed to train Iraqi forces and help in the fight against the group. World Politics Review partnered with the Global Dispatches podcast to present this interview with WPR columnist Steven Metz on the evolving U.S. strategy against IS. Speaking with host Mark […]

Internally displaced children are seen standing at the gate of their camp, Juba, South Sudan, Feb. 6, 2015 (U.N. photo by JC McIlwaine).

South Sudan’s army today claimed that it repelled an attack by rebels allied with former Vice President Riek Machar and regained control of several areas in Unity state from rebel forces. In an email interview, J. Peter Pham, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, discussed the status of the fighting and and its economic and humanitarian effects. WPR: What is the current status of fighting between government forces and rebel groups, and among rebels groups, and what are the obstacles to a political resolution? J. Peter Pham: South Sudan is in the midst of its annual rainy season, […]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at a meeting with service chiefs, Abuja, Nigeria, June 2, 2015 (AP photo by Bayo Omoboriowo).

A series of bombings allegedly carried out by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria during the final weekend of May, just as newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari was being sworn into office, were a grim reminder of the pressing security challenge the jihadi group still poses to Nigeria and its neighbors. Yet the attacks should not obscure the magnitude of Boko Haram’s recent defeats. Over the course of a few months, Boko Haram has reportedly lost nearly all of the over 18,000 square miles in northeastern Nigeria that it controlled in early January 2015. While reliable data on Boko Haram casualties […]

A Moroccan peacekeeper serving with the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) escorts a U.N. delegation in Bambari, Central Africa Republic (U.N. photo by Catianne Tijerina).

Do peacekeepers do more harm than good? An appalling abuse scandal has come to overshadow the two parallel peace operations, led by France and the United Nations, currently based in the Central African Republic (CAR). There is credible evidence that French troops made local children commit sex acts as entertainment. The U.N. appears to have, at the very best, mishandled its investigation of these crimes. To make matters worse, the U.N. announced last week that it is investigating further claims of abuse by its one of its own personnel in CAR. There are also claims that African peacekeepers were responsible […]

Islamic State militants pass by a convoy, Tel Abyad, northeast Syria, May 4, 2015 (Militant website via AP).

It’s not hard to understand what motivates local Iraqis and Syrians to fight for the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). Most believe they are defending their community, Sunni Arabs, against repression from the Alawite-dominated Syrian dictatorship or the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. But the motives of the estimated 20,000 foreign fighters that have joined IS are more complex, tied to deep psychological factors that make them less amenable to political solutions and more difficult to address. Every insurgent movement includes people with diverse motives. Yet the counterinsurgency doctrine of the United States and its NATO partners gravitates to political and economic grievances, […]

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