MORE MONEY FOR PAKISTAN — There was good news for Pakistan and bad news for India from Washington this week. Pakistan, which has done a poor job of suppressing Taliban and al-Qaida incursions into Afghanistan at a cost of American and NATO lives, is likely to have an extra $5 billion of the U.S. taxpayers’ money lavished on it in extra aid. This one-time grant would be in addition to the $1.5 billion annual package over ten years now awaiting passage through congress. Meanwhile, the Indian media has interpreted a statement in President Obama’s first address to Congress on Tuesday […]

Second of a three-part series. Part I can be found here. Part III can be found here. BAYAMO, Cuba — Tropi Crema isn’t like ice cream parlors found elsewhere in the world. Most days, only a single flavor is available, advertised on a board by the entrance, and there’s often a line to get in. Still, for many residents of this tidy city in eastern Cuba, it’s irresistible. One recent afternoon, two middle-aged women sat at the long, crowded counter. Between them they ordered 12 scoops of chocolate ice cream and two pieces of coconut cake. Here and there, along […]

Of foreign policy’s dirtiest words, which do Americans least like to hear: war or state-building? That is the question the Obama administration now has to ask itself about Afpakia, the most volatile swath of South Asia. Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer, is a failed state. Pakistan, chronically unstable, possesses dozens of nuclear weapons. India, the regional power, would typically stabilize all of this, but it has been at war with Pakistan, on and off, for the last six decades. As the new administration in Washington contemplates an Afpakia strategy, at first glance nearly everyone seems to agree on the […]

First of a three-part series. Part II can be found here. Part III can be found here. HAVANA, Cuba — Arriving in Cuba this time felt different straight away. The airport, where I arrived on a flight from Cancún crammed with Cubans and their purchases, was hassle-free. No tour operators solicited me; no cabbies assailed me. It was the same in touristy Old Havana. Ten years before, on my last visit, I couldn’t walk a few steps without having cigars or a lobster dinner pressed on me. This time, whether in the leafy, mansion-studded Vedado section, the shopping arcades near […]

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The IAEA just released its latest report on Iran’s nuclear program (available here for download as a .pdf file via Arms Control Wonk), and if the past is any indication, expect the accompanying spin and analysis to be a bit misleading. According to the actual report, the IAEA essentially determined that Iran has continued running the centrifuges it already has online and has added some more, and that the efficiency of the centrifuges already online has improved. The Iranians, meanwhile, once again refused to allow the more rigorous and transparent inspections mandated by the Additional Protocol, used a loophole to […]

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Last week’s parliamentary elections in Israel saw the country take a collective step to the right, but it is incorrect to conclude, as conventional wisdom seems to be doing, that the vote marks the end of peace efforts. Instead, the elections could take those efforts in a different — and possibly even fruitful — direction: Israel’s next government could end up playing down the Palestinian track in favor of a major push to reach a peace agreement with Syria. Negotiations to form a new government are just getting started, and there is no certainty about how they will conclude. The […]

Many Americans believe that Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress will lower defense spending and restrain the militaristic foreign policy it underwrites. The coming years should destroy that myth. America’s overly aggressive and fiscally reckless defense policy will survive the Democratic majority. The Obama administration inherits runaway defense spending and leadership of a military that wants more. Non-war or base defense spending will be more than $515 billion in fiscal year 2009. Adjusting for inflation, that’s 40 percent higher than the defense budget when George W. Bush took office. Add the wars, nuclear weapons research, veterans, and homeland […]

In January, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated a new national security strategy entailing closer cooperation between the State Department, the military, government and civilian humanitarian agencies, and foreign allies. “Smart power,” she called it. Just a month later, U.S. smart power is becoming a reality in one of the world’s most troubled regions. Off the coast of Somalia, a country that hasn’t had a functional government in 18 years, a Navy-led international humanitarian and training mission has joined a new, firepower-heavy counterpiracy fleet, while State Department negotiators play a key supporting role. What has emerged is a complex, sophisticated […]

Conventional wisdom now claims that America is in decline. In its report, “A Transformed World,” the National Intelligence Council predicts that in the next 15 years, the United States will be a “less dominant power.” Fareed Zakaria calls it “the rise of the rest.” Parag Khanna argues that in many places, “America is no longer viewed as a provider of security but rather of insecurity,” which allows China and Europe to exert competing imperial influence. And Paul Kennedy, who wrote about the perils of imperial overstretch in The Rise and Fall of Great Powers more than 20 years ago, just […]

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“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2008. Reports of the demise of the Westphalian system are premature, but the shifting of the relative balance of power between states, threats to states, and the populaces these threats emerge from is undeniable. A “populace-centric” approach to foreign policy would recognize the emergence and enduring nature of popular power, and free U.S. interests from becoming mired in fleeting governments or threats. The Westphalian system […]

On July 12, 2006, highly-trained Hezbollah militants managed to kill several Israeli soldiers and kidnap two others in a carefully coordinated raid into Israel near the Lebanese village of Ayta ash-Shabb. Ever since Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah had sought to kidnap Israeli soldiers in order to then exchange them for Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. The 2006 operation was the first time since an initial effort in 2000, though, that it succeeded. The raid, whose fire and withdrawal plan suggested careful planning and rehearsals, was executed without the knowledge of the government of Lebanon. Even Hezbollah’s […]

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The U.S. government’s map of the Middle East is changing. Long dominated by the Arab-Israeli conflict, U.S. conceptions of the Middle East are drifting eastward, increasingly centering in the Persian Gulf and coming to envelop the mountains and plains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Seen this way, the U.S. purpose in the region far transcends the need to resolve historical conflicts. The problems of the Middle East now encompass some of the most important challenges to U.S. power and influence in the world. The signs are subtle but no less clear. In his interview last month with al-Arabiya television, President Obama […]

Recent news reports indicate that the Obama administration is having second thoughts about whether it wants to double the size of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. The president has directed the Pentagon to think very clearly about the specific strategy and purposes involved with any troop increase. Independent defense experts continue to debate the wisdom of applying a variant of the troop surge policy that has apparently stabilized the security situation in Iraq to Afghanistan, with its very different local conditions. One weighty constraint on the proposed force increases concerns logistics. Recent developments in Pakistan and Central Asia in […]

According to a recent article in Global Security Newswire, President Barack Obama might seek an international agreement to limit weapons in space, reversing Bush administration policy. As noted on the White House Web site, the new administration is calling for “a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites.” The president’s position on this issue is impractical and dangerous. Proponents of the ban argue that because the U.S. has the most space-based assets to lose in a future space war, it also has the greatest interest in restricting the use of space to peaceful purposes. An international […]

In a television interview in late January with the Arab network Al Arabiya, President Barack Obama raised the issue of talks with Iran as part of a public diplomacy campaign directed towards the Middle East and Islamic worlds. Obama has a huge task ahead of him should he attempt to break the 30-year American-Iranian deadlock, but the payoff could be significant. While such a breakthrough won’t solve all the problems in the Middle East, rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran has the potential to positively impact on the precarious situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on the security […]

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This is perhaps the most important change in U.S. foreign policy by the Obama administration so far. Good policy starts with a rational process, and the new system that National Security Adviser James Jones outlines in his interview with the Washington Post closely mirrors the recommendations of many of those experts who have examined how to build a better-functioning national security policymaking process. Here, for example, is our own Richard Weitz summarizing the findings of the Project on National Security Reform, a nonpartisan organization funded by Congress, foundations and the private sector: Interagency cooperation remains possible at the tactical level […]

SKOPJE, Macedonia — As unpleasant as it may be for Europe to hear, the stabilization of the Balkans during its painful transition in the 1990s was made possible by the United States. Although America initially stayed out of the conflicts that followed the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the fighting ultimately stopped only after President Bill Clinton summoned the warring parties to Dayton in 1995. When Kosovo started looking like the next chapter in the region’s bloody history, it was again the U.S. that took decisive action, with Europe happy to support Washington’s lead. And finally, the U.S. made the final call […]

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