U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande arrive at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, Le Bourget, France, Nov. 30, 2015 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

In the wake of this month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande has cast himself as a fierce war leader, promising to take revenge on the self-declared Islamic State for the atrocities. Yet while he has ratcheted up airstrikes in Syria, he also needs to strike some major diplomatic bargains to shore up France’s global position. Last week, the French president was in both Washington and Moscow trying to secure a global deal on the Syrian war. Now he is back in Paris to kick off final talks on a potentially even trickier international agreement over climate change. […]

Belgian soldiers patrol in the center of Brussels, Nov. 20, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Only hours after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, several politicians in France and elsewhere in Europe, as well as numerous commentators, placed blame on the European Union and its open-border Schengen zone, with some even calling for a breakup of the union or their own country’s withdrawal from it. However, to contain and mitigate terrorism most effectively, France and other European countries need more bilateral and multilateral cooperation, not less, from intelligence sharing to cracking down on arms smuggling. Shortly after the Paris attacks, the head of France’s right-wing National Front party, Marine Le Pen, expressed her “concern” about […]

Flowers are put in a window shattered by a bullet in the Nov. 13 attacks, Paris, France, Nov. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Peter Dejong).

As observers around the world watched chaos unfold in Paris on Nov. 13, many were struck by the attackers’ use of Kalashnikov assault rifles in the bloodbath. How, given France’s strict gun laws, did the attackers manage to procure military-grade weapons so easily? Where are these heavy weapons coming from? Those same questions were asked in January, when gunmen armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher killed 12 at the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and another armed with a submachine gun and an assault rifle killed four at a kosher supermarket. In 2012, Mohamed Merah […]

A World Food Programme aircraft drops bags of food supplies, Bentiu, South Sudan, Oct. 21. 2015 (U.N. photo by Isaac Billy).

Two competing narratives about the future of international conflict management are currently making the rounds at the United Nations. To simplify, one argues that military responses to security threats rarely work, and that instead we should invest more in diplomatic and economic approaches, as well as in conflict prevention, even if these only deliver results slowly. The other, roughly speaking, contends that terrorism is too pervasive now to waste time on diplomacy and development that would be better spent killing some bad guys. Nobody working in or around the U.N. would be quite so blunt in public. But last week, […]

Airmen prepare a MQ-9 Reaper during an exercise at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., May 15, 2014 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nadine Barclay).

Immediately after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande declared the coordinated attacks as “an act of war.” France did not need such a provocation, however. It had already been involved in U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria against the self-proclaimed Islamic State for six weeks, and in Iraq since September 2014. The question now is where and how it might escalate its involvement militarily. The United States stated that it stands by France and will assist in whatever way necessary. That raises the question of whether U.S. assistance will include arming France’s unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Vienna, Austria, Nov. 14, 2015 (State Department Photo).

Desperate times call for desperate conflict-management measures. This weekend, at talks on Syria convened in Vienna at the behest of Russia and the U.S., diplomats called for Damascus and mainstream opposition groups to agree to a national cease-fire, in parallel with continued offensives against the self-declared Islamic State and al-Qaida-affiliated fighters. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council pledged to back a “U.N. endorsed ceasefire monitoring mission in those parts of the country where monitors would not come under threat of attacks from terrorists.” Will this be a case of “the third time’s the charm” for peacekeeping […]

Leaders of the BRICS at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

The ascent of Narendra Modi to India’s premiership last year was thought to have provided New Delhi with a leader who could propel its rise to great power status. But after nearly a year and a half in power, those expectations have proved to be overly optimistic. Modi has yet to graduate into a statesman and demonstrate an ability to calibrate the use of soft and hard power to realize India’s potential. Both domestically and in foreign policy, Modi has too often favored confrontation and heavy-handed tactics over magnanimity and diplomacy. When Modi has succeeded, it has been when he […]

A woman carrying flowers in front of the Carillon cafe and Petit Cambodge restaurant, Paris, France, Nov. 14, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Killing sprees at six locations in Paris on Friday left at least 129 people dead and many more injured, with the city reeling after its second terrorist attack of 2015. The self-proclaimed Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the massacre, which it declared was in retaliation for the French air-strike campaign against the group in Syria. President Francois Hollande vowed to be “unforgiving with the barbarians” of the group, and French jets bombed the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa. The United States also upped its military campaign in Syria, attacking hundreds of trucks used to smuggle crude oil, […]

Mullah Mohammed Rasool, the newly-elected leader of a breakaway faction of the Taliban, speaks during a gathering, Farah province, Afghanistan, Nov. 3, 2015 (AP photo).

Often counterinsurgency is less about a government forcefully imposing its will on insurgents than it is about seizing fleeting opportunities. Timing matters greatly: Doing the right thing at the wrong time usually has little effect; the same action taken when circumstances are more favorable can pay off. The first phase of the Iraq insurgency is a perfect example. What is called the American “surge” only worked because it coincided with several other developments that opened a window of opportunity for success. These included the fact that many Sunni Arabs had become disillusioned with the insurgency; that Iran and its Iraqi […]

Senegalese soldiers practice live fire maneuvers during an AFRICOM training exercise, Senegal, June 19, 2014 (U.S. Army Africa photo by Staff Sgt. Donna Davis).

U.S. military forces are taking a more active role in combating the Boko Haram insurgency that has killed more than 30,000 people since its outbreak in 2009 and spread from northeastern Nigeria to neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad. The move is consistent with the general U.S. approach to security on the African continent, which leans heavily on enabling local forces to combat terrorist groups, but which has failed to stem a rise in Islamist violence in recent years. President Barack Obama notified Congress in mid-October that he had ordered 300 military personnel into northern Cameroon to support reconnaissance flights of […]

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar's National League for Democracy, at party headquarters, Yangon, Myanmar, Nov. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Mark Baker).

This past Sunday, Myanmar’s people voted in their first true national elections in 25 years. The last national elections, in 1990, were essentially annulled by the junta that ruled Myanmar from 1962 until launching a transition to civilian rule in 2011. Unlike in 1990, this time many of Myanmar’s people believed that the election results would be upheld, leading to the country’s first democratically elected government in five decades. On election day, the mood in many towns and cities was exuberant, and voters came to the polls in huge numbers—according to one estimate by election officials, some 80 percent of […]

Thailand's Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn hosts a ceremony at Ratchapakdi Park in Hua Hin, south of Bangkok, Thailand, Sept. 26, 2015 (AP photo by Mark Baker).

Nearly a year and a half since a bloodless coup brought a military junta to power in Thailand for the 12th time in its history, the Southeast Asian country remains mired in uncertainty, with its political outlook hanging in the balance and its economy deeply troubled. Politically, the transition back to an elected government that the generals had promised is nowhere in sight. In May 2014, just a week after the coup, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared in his first public address that the ruling junta would move toward elections in a year and three months. But that deadline has […]

A Russian war plane at Hemeimeem airbase, Syria, Oct. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Vladimir Isachenkov).

As Russian warplanes continue to attack targets in Syria, the apparent decisiveness of Moscow’s actions, at least in the view of some observers, has obscured an important reality: the poor readiness of Russia’s accident-prone military, which could increase the risk of an error with significant political or military consequences. The United States and Russia have been engaged in so-called deconfliction talks to prevent accidental contact or clashes between American and Russian jets in the skies above Syria. But as a reportedly errant cruise missile strike in the early days of Russia’s intervention showed, along with Russian planes consistently breaching Turkish […]

African Union forces during the Amani Africa II exercise, Nov. 8, 2015 (Photo from the South African Government Communication and Information System).

Last month, 5,400 troops from across Africa participated in a military exercise in South Africa, the last joint exercise before the African Standby Force becomes fully operational. In an email interview, Gilbert Khadiagala, a professor of international relations at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, discussed the state of multilateral security cooperation in Africa. WPR: What are the planned objectives for African multinational security cooperation, in terms of institutional architecture and force structures, and where do those plans currently stand in terms of implementation? Gilbert Khadiagala: The African Union’s (AU) Peace and Security Architecture includes the creation of […]

President Juan Manuel Santos at a military base where he spoke to and shook hands with soldiers who took part in the operation that led to the death of the top leader of the FARC, Popayan, Colombia, Nov. 5, 2011 (AP photo by Carlos Julio Martinez).

After an uptick in violence in June threatened peace talks between Colombia and the country’s largestguerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, progress since July, when the FARC reinstated its cease-fire, led both sides to declare recently that a final deal was close at hand. But even if an agreement is reached, challenges to establishing a sustainable peace will persist, both for Colombia and its international partners. All of the articles linked below are free for non-subscribers until Nov. 19. The Road to a Deal: Since negotiations began in October 2012, the peace talks have divided Colombians, […]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testifies before the House Benghazi Committee in Washington, Oct. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Several weeks ago, Hillary Clinton spent 11 hours testifying before a congressional committee about the deaths of four Americans, including the then-U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012. For anyone watching this spectacle, little new was gleaned, except for the fact that Clinton is a remarkably disciplined politician—and that whatever threat the GOP’s Benghazi obsession might have posed to her presidential prospects in 2016 is effectively over. What would have been of far greater interest, to both policy analysts and voters, is a look back on the U.S. decision to intervene in Libya, which Clinton strongly supported. […]

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza is sworn in for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, Aug. 20, 2015 (AP photo by Gildas Ngingo).

Three months after Burundi held its third elections since the end of its long civil war, violence has only deepened in the country. July’s fraught presidential vote took place in an environment tainted by government crackdowns and fear, and there has been an alarming upsurge in arrests, detentions and killings, with bodies found almost daily in the streets of Bujumbura, the capital. On Monday, President Pierre Nkurunziza warned that Burundians must give up any illegal firearms by Saturday, or risk being “dealt with as enemies of the nation.” Burundi had already descended into crisis in April, following the announcement of […]

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