Most of the early analysis of President George W. Bush’s Latin American legacy concentrates on his failure to engage the region despite early promises to “look south.” But the emphasis on the outgoing administration’s general neglect of Latin America has diverted attention from the strong alliance that has developed between the United States and Colombia. That alliance is based largely on Plan Colombia, an initiative signed in the late 1990s by former Presidents Bill Clinton and AndrĂ©s Pastrana to combat drug production and trafficking and the criminal organizations that control supply, as well as to stem the flow of illegal […]

When Hillary Clinton arrives at Foggy Bottom, she will inherit a State Department that has been slowly dismantled, disenfranchised, and demoralized for two decades. Recent budget increases and talk of “transformational diplomacy” cannot hide the reality that the department is a shadow of the powerful organization that helped bring down the Soviet Union. In choosing to accept a Cabinet post, Clinton has clearly indicated that she believes the path to her political legacy lies in the halls of Foggy Bottom. Ironically, in order to establish this legacy, Clinton will have to return to Capitol Hill. The problems Clinton will encounter […]

On Dec. 20, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov complained that the Bush administration’s insistence on limiting the number of operational nuclear warheads, instead of the number of strategic bombers and missiles capable of delivering them, was the “main problem” preventing a new Russian-American strategic arms control agreement. The question of how to treat long-range strategic delivery systems equipped with conventional warheads, and the extent to which they should be limited by any new arms control agreement, continues to separate the American and Russian negotiating positions. U.S. officials have been seeking an accord that provides both Washington and Moscow with […]

The attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing war in Afghanistan did not start the new “Great Game” in Central Asia. Local governments had already grasped the Islamist threat, as well as Russia’s neo-imperial longings to dominate the region. Central Asia’s great energy stakes, meanwhile, had already determined American resistance to Moscow’s policy. However those events undoubtedly imparted a pronounced military aspect to the great power rivalry for political influence and energy access there. Since 2001, the U.S., Russia, Germany, France and India have all acquired local military bases, and their uses or potential missions have grown in importance (although France’s […]

When Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20, his foreign policy will almost certainly be consumed by the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet Obama would do well to pay equal attention to a third ongoing insurgency, one that is currently more violent than the war in Iraq and possibly more threatening to American interests. This insurgency is raging not half a world away in the Middle East, but just across America’s southern frontier in Mexico. Since 2006, Mexico has descended into a multifaceted narco-insurgency. Well-armed and well-funded cartels are viciously fighting the government and one another over control of […]

In the new geostrategic “Great Game” between Russia and the West over the future of Caspian and Central Asian energy resources, the prize resembles a set of traditional matreshka Russian dolls. The outermost doll represents the three nations bordering the Caspian itself — Azerbaijan, , Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. In the middle of the collection is Uzbekistan, the most populous of the new Central Asian nations. The innermost doll consists of the two most easterly “Stans,” Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, rich in hydroelectric potential, but relatively poor in hydrocarbons. As prizes go, it is certainly a tempting one. The Caspian’s 143,244 square […]

To discuss human rights in Central Asia without resorting to stereotype is a difficult prospect. The area’s strategic value is unquestioned. Energy rich, at the nexus of Russia, China, Iran, and Pakistan, quite literally the heartland of the continent, Central Asia remains vitally important to every great power on the planet. That very importance has led some to turn the region’s human rights record into a vehicle for promoting their own interests — distorting reality in the process. While it would be impossible for any Western country to approach Central Asia without taking heed of its many human rights issues, […]

TOKYO — The residents of Obama, Japan, might have celebrated the election of their town’s namesake as the next president of the United States, but many Japanese remain apprehensive about what the change in leadership will mean for their country’s most important ally. Doubts over the state of relations with the United States were evident in a Kyodo News survey this month, which showed that a record 28 percent of Japanese view the relationship between the two countries as “not good.” “Primarily this is about Iraq, North Korea and the financial crisis,” says Masashi Nishihara, president of the Research Institute […]

Earlier this month, the Pentagon issued a directive (.pdf) raising “irregular warfare” (IW) to the same level of importance as conventional battles. The December 2008 directive defines IW as operations to fight terrorists and insurgents, enhance the defense capacity of foreign governments, and promote stability in conflict-prone regions. It asserts that it is now Department of Defense policy “to recognize that IW is as strategically important as traditional warfare.” Although the U.S. armed forces have long performed these tasks, most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military has often done so only with great reluctance. The Pentagon developed considerable expertise […]

As President-elect Barack Obama’s national security team prepares to take office in January, the Turkish government is readying to outflank the U.S.’s Iran policy on a vast scale, having signed a milestone agreement in November to invest $12 billion in Iran’s energy sector. The move presents an immediate conflict between Washington’s efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its desire to wean Europe from Russian energy dependence. As a result, the Obama administration will be forced to choose between overhauling American efforts to isolate Iran or inviting a sour demonstration of America’s waning influence among close allies. As part of […]

Surrounded by unstable regimes and beset by national conflicts, the current Ethiopian government has long been preoccupied with containing any militant threat. In June, even as the country was gripped by its worst famine in 25 years, the government announced plans to increase its military budget by $50 million — to $400 million — just one week after appealing to the international community for assistance. As a result, in addition to deploying troops into Somalia for the past two years, and intermittently clashing with Eritrean troops along their northern border, Ethiopia’s military has also fought several internal conflicts in the […]

Unlike his week-long trip to South America in late November, peripatetic Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s recent two-day visit to India attracted little notice in Washington — and for good reason. The Russian and Indian governments did sign important agreements, but none that marked any fundamental transformation in their bilateral relations, or that directed it in ways that threaten American security interests. If anything, the trip highlighted the fact that countering terrorism in South Asia is a shared goal of Russian, American, and regional officials, thereby raising the possibility of enhanced Russian-American security cooperation in this important area. This was Medvedev’s […]

Ten years ago, Bruce Riedel sent a memo to his boss, then-President Bill Clinton. In it, he called Pakistan the most dangerous country in the world. A ticking time bomb. Riedel’s reasons were many. Armed with nuclear weapons, Pakistan sponsored terrorists, was awash in drugs and consistently teetered on the verge of war with neighboring India, its nuclear rival. Later, he called it a “hothouse of terror.” Today, little has changed and Riedel, reportedly tapped as President-elect Barack Obama’s Pakistan adviser, continues to bristle at the problems the nation of 165 million people poses for the United States. “All of […]

In August, the Pakistani army launched a full scale military offensive in the Bajaur agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Since then, fierce clashes have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of militants and the destruction of key Taliban strongholds. This forceful demonstration of Pakistani resolve is a positive change from past efforts. However, military operations will fail if they undermine the single most important principle for victory: winning the support of the local population. And currently Pakistan is not aiding the war-ravaged Pashtun tribes of the FATA. There is no doubt that significant force is required to […]

In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, attention has increasingly focused on Pakistan and the troubling, if opaque, links between its military intelligence apparatus and Islamic terrorist groups. But despite the very real risk of a widening of the regional war already underway in Afghanistan, the problems emanating from Pakistani soil defy military solutions. In a WPR Spotlight, we examine The Pakistan Problem. In Four Countries’ Relations Will Decide Region’s Future, David Axe examines the complicated dynamics at play between Pakistan, its two neighbors, India and Afghanistan, and the United States. In Advisers’ Views Provide Clues to Obama Approach Seth […]

Most Americans realize that President-elect Barack Obama will inherit the most disastrous economic and foreign policy legacy since FDR took charge of the Great Depression or Abraham Lincoln inherited a country on the brink of Civil War. America’s standing in the world is at a low ebb, even among our friends and allies. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left the U.S. military stretched to the breaking point. North Korea has tested nuclear weapons and proliferated nuclear technologies to Syria and other nations. Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear weapons state. Even if they were not occurring […]

Last week’s attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai focused the world’s attention on what some are already calling the latest front in the War on Terror. Many questions remain as to the attackers’ origins as well as what, if any, ties they had to Pakistani terror groups previously operating in Kashmir, global terrorist networks like al-Qaida and the Pakistani military intelligence service. Two WPR articles put the attacks in their regional context:Mumbai Attacks Complicate U.S. Regional Policy, by M.K. BhadrakumarMumbai Attacks Put Scrutiny on ISI, by Jayshree Bajoria.

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