Ironically, the cyber-attack that shut down the Web sites of the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Trade Commission struck on Independence Day. Because as unsophisticated as the attacks were, they made it clear that the U.S. is as intertwined with its enemies as it is with its allies, in a newly emerging, little-understood, and rapidly evolving 21st-century terrain. In probing the future of American influence, it’s apparent now that cyberspace occupies a prominent place in an unwieldy battlefield known as the global commons. Michele Flournoy — who holds the position of undersecretary of defense for policy at the […]

WARDAK, Afghanistan — They used to call Afghanistan “the forgotten war.” They should rename it “the long war.” Not only because it’s been going on for eight years now, but because it’s going to have to go on even longer if the West is to achieve even measured success in this broken country. Wardak province, just west of the capital, Kabul, where I’ve spent the last three weeks with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, illustrates this perhaps even more powerfully than the country’s more war-ravaged areas in the south. For Wardak is not such a terrible place. This is […]

Few countries engage in internal debates with the passion and intensity that one finds in Israel. And no debate has engendered more intensity in Israel than the one over how to achieve peace with the Palestinians. Which makes it all the more striking that, today, Israelis have reached a quiet consensus on one key point: President Barack Obama needs to make some urgent changes to his Mideast push for peace. Just what exactly Obama should change is, of course, far from agreed. Washington may never satisfy the demands of Israelis on the extreme right who insist on keeping the West […]

Last August, the senior officer aboard the USS Kearsarge, a U.S. Navy ship deployed to Latin America, issued an unusual order. Capt. Frank Ponds ordered the hundreds of sailors, Marines, soldiers and airmen under his command to avoid using the term “troops” when describing themselves to Latin American reporters. The seemingly bizarre command reflects widespread concerns over the military’s escalating involvement in humanitarian missions all over the world. Kearsarge’s six-month cruise supporting hundreds of military and civilian doctors, engineers and aid workers in six countries, including Nicaragua and Colombia, was one result of that increased involvement. While the Pentagon characterizes […]

Andrew Exum is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and author of the influential counterinsurgency blog Abu Muqawama. He just returned from a month in Afghanistan, where he took part in recently appointed U.S. and Coalition commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 60-day review of strategy and operations. He graciously agreed to talk with WPR Managing Editor Judah Grunstein about his impressions from his trip. The views expressed here are his own, and do not reflect any U.S. government or military position, nor the views of the CNAS. The following is an edited and abridged transcript of the […]

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her first official trip abroad to Asia in March 2009, insiders in both New Delhi and Washington were privately critical that she neglected to include India in her itinerary. With her now-completed inaugural visit to India, Clinton’s broad mission was to show that the administration of President Barack Obama is just as serious about a strategic partnership with New Delhi as the previous one under George W. Bush. But strengthening the U.S.-India bilateral relationship is just one part of the equation, even if, to be sure, there is much work to be done […]

Last February, the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction published a comprehensive 456-page historical analysis of the Iraq reconstruction experience entitled, “Hard Lessons.” The IG, Stuart Bowen — who was there from the beginning, assuming the post actually before the invasion — was kind enough to send me a copy this week. Having now read it, I must say it’s an incredible piece of data collection and analysis, even if, in my opinion, its concluding optimism about the U.S. government’s recent efforts to better prepare itself for the next “Iraq” — already upon us in the form […]

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While the U.S. military remains preoccupied with ongoing operations in the Middle East, competition brewing in the South China Sea risks greater conflict if not properly managed. Two recent maritime incidents in the region involving the Chinese and American navies are manifestations of ongoing jockeying between the two powers, and are a reminder that subtle shifts in power have put new areas of Asia into play. In March, Chinese naval vessels harassed an American reconnaissance ship, the U.S.N.S. Impeccable, 75 miles off the coast of Hainan island, and in June, a Chinese submarine stalking a U.S. Navy destroyer collided with […]

Last week, while I was busy writing about two fascinating scenarios for the future of U.S. influence, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was delivering the latest in a long line of brilliant speeches, this time in Chicago. In it, he nailed down exactly the kinds of concrete changes that must happen in order to retool the institutions of American foreign policy for the radical challenges of the next two decades. The speech underscored that, even as Gates emerged victorious this week from a Washington budget battle, there’s a more massive challenge looming. At first glance, the battle in Washington was […]

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Six months after he ascended to the presidency of the United States, Barack Obama can point to a distinct new tone in American foreign policy and the start of a discernible makeover of the country’s image around the globe. When it comes to specific achievements in the international arena, however, the administration does not have much to show, so far. The transformation of America’s global standing had already started even before the president moved into his new Pennsylvania Avenue address on Jan. 20. Two factors triggered the process. First, Obama replaced a man who had become extraordinarily unpopular throughout most […]

The aftermath of Iran’s June 12 presidential election — and in particular, the violent repression of opposition protests — has brought the Obama administration’s stated goal of engaging with the Iranian regime into question. Even if President Barack Obama decides to follow through with efforts to engage Tehran, many observers anticipate that the Iranian leadership will take an even tougher approach to negotiations over its nuclear program. The U.S. has not ruled out the possibility of military strikes to induce Iran to abandon its presumed goal of acquiring nuclear weapons, should diplomacy and sanctions fail. And a more recalcitrant Iranian […]

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 10 seems like a long overdue project for the State Department, which has lost ground in recent decades to the Department of Defense in steering U.S. foreign policy. But although initiating a review is a valuable undertaking, some observers say it will likely produce underwhelming results — for Clinton, for the State Department, and for U.S. foreign policy itself. Clinton’s plan is modeled on the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). Mandated by Congress in 1996, the QDR is a study that outlines the […]

Upon taking office in January 2009, in addition to inheriting ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Barack Obama also inherited twin nuclear crises with North Korea and Iran. North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May 2009, while Iran continues to flout U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring the suspension of its uranium enrichment program, which the United States and other countries believe is central to Tehran’s clandestine effort to acquire nuclear weapons. The nuclear crises are playing out against the backdrop of potentially significant societal developments in both countries. In North Korea, a stroke reportedly suffered by Kim […]

Photo: Official portrait of Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for whom the Powell Doctrine was named (Department of Defense photo by Russell Roederer).

Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. Once upon a time, there was a grand and influential foreign policy doctrine. It was based on some traditional notions about U.S. statecraft that placed severe constraints on when America went to war. It asserted that when the United States used military force, it must do so in decisive fashion and only in the service of vital national interests.* For any military action, it counseled the dispassionate weighing of costs and benefits, […]

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In July 1969, President Richard Nixon dealt with Cold War triumph and adversity in quick succession. On July 24, he met the Apollo 11 astronauts on their return from the moon landing, a highly symbolic American victory in the space race. On the next day, at a press conference in Guam, he tried to adapt U.S. foreign policy to the pressures of the Vietnam War, which were stretching the military’s ability to meet America’s global commitments. He resisted calls to withdraw American ground forces from Vietnam immediately, and searched for a way to reinvigorate U.S. alliances around the world, hoping […]

NEW DELHI — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s five-day trip to India marked the formal launch of a full-fledged bilateral exchange between Washington and New Delhi, one that will set the tone for the trajectory of India’s future engagement with the Obama administration. As expected, Clinton’s agenda covered the five pillars of the Indo-U.S. relationship: defense cooperation, science and technology, energy and climate change, education and trade. But the visit left the impression that it was crafted to be more symbolic than substantial, leading many to believe that Clinton was working according to a script, rather than as a much-vaunted […]

Has Washington forgotten about India? After increased engagement and improved bilateral ties under two successive American presidents, several commentators have wondered if President Barack Obama is undervaluing relations with New Delhi. With the new administration’s attention centered on developing a partnership with China, stabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan, re-engaging Russia, and containing Iran and North Korea, it’s unclear whether India will be a strategic priority for the United States. That Washington has been primarily focused on the U.S.-China relationship is understandable. Leadership from today’s superpower and tomorrow’s great power are seen as essential for addressing transnational threats. U.S. Secretary of State […]

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