What do policymakers have to read in order to be “informed” on international affairs — or just to be thought of as informed? The question, which Daniel Drezner posed yesterday, is more than just a theoretical exercise, as every summer the Patterson School assigns a list of seven or eight books on international affairs to its new and returning students. Summer reading lists are not uncommon in academia, in both graduate and undergraduate programs. Many universities assign one or more books to give faculty and new students a common intellectual foundation. The Patterson list has a twofold purpose. The first […]

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With drone attacks, CIA activities and a lack of progress in Afghanistan widening the rift between the United States and Pakistan, the delicate counterterrorism alliance forged between the two after Sept. 11 is coming under increasing scrutiny. “It’s a mistake to presume the U.S. and Pakistan were ever entirely on the same page,” says Stephen Tankel a visiting scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Tankel, who spoke with Trend Lines this morning, explains that, initially, the U.S. was rather narrowly focused on targeting al-Qaida, and was careful not to push then-Pakistani […]

The Obama administration has been criticized in recent weeks for its soft response to the suppression of the uprising in Bahrain. The mild diplomatic protest by the U.S. to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s violent crackdown on Shiite pro-democracy protesters stands in sharp contrast to U.S. reactions to Arab uprisings in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. The Obama administration has justified its tolerance of the Bahraini crackdown in the context of Iran-U.S. rivalries in the Persian Gulf. The argument made directly or indirectly by American diplomats is that if Bahrain’s Shiite majority ousts the ruling family, Iran will gain […]

The Obama administration has begun talks with Afghanistan designed to quell the Karzai government’s fears about being abandoned by the West come 2014. Those talks are said to involve negotiations for long-term basing of U.S. troops involved in training Afghan security forces and supporting future counterterrorism operations. This can be seen as a realistic course of action, given our continuing lack of success in nation-building there, as well as our inability — although perhaps unwillingness is a better term — to erect some regional security architecture that might replace our presence. But there are good reasons to question this course. […]

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The Libyan intervention is now reaching an inflection point, with the limited initial commitment of force apparently incapable of achieving the expressed — and universally desired — strategic outcome of driving Moammar Gadhafi from power. As a result, Britain and France will send small teams of military advisers in an effort to improve the rebels’ fighting capability, and the U.S. has decided to commit UAV drones to the intervention. But neither measure is likely to have a rapidly decisive impact on the fighting, which has now devolved into a war of attrition that neither side seems poised to win, which […]

The Obama administration’s reluctant involvement in the Libya operation recalls the Biblical adage, “One man sows, another reaps.” The United States agreed to undertake the heavy lifting needed to get the air campaign started, in particular handling the precision strikes to disable Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, suppress some of his heavy weapon capabilities and target the very centers of his regime’s power in Tripoli. But the understanding was that responsibility would subsequently be transferred onto the shoulders of others: the Libyan rebels, our NATO allies and other partners. In every speech and statement, President Barack Obama was quite clear that […]

On April 5, the Obama administration delivered a stark evaluation of Pakistan’s counterterrorism campaign to Congress, stating that “there remains no clear path toward defeating the insurgency” (.pdf) festering in the country’s northwestern regions. Over the past decade, militants have killed thousands of Pakistani civilians and wreaked devastation on the country’s fragile economy. And since 2001, 2,575 Pakistani soldiers have been killed in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations. Why, then, have Pakistan’s leaders failed to develop a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy? It is true that Pakistan has made important progress against militancy in recent years. Starting in mid-2009, the army began a […]

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The potential long-term impact of the Libya intervention has more to do with changing people’s thinking than with changing the reality on the ground in Libya. The past 40 years have already demonstrated that the West can manage the discrete problem represented by Moammar Gadhafi. What it cannot handle is the aggregate problem represented by a continuation of the status quo, both in the broader region but also in the shifting geopolitical landscape beyond it. By highlighting a number of major shortcomings in that status quo, the Libyan intervention just might be the wake-up call needed to generate a more […]

Does the United States have a special responsibility to manage international affairs? This question has come to inform much of the debate about the role that the U.S. is currently playing in military operations over Libya. Glenn Greenwald of Salon has argued that the idea that the United States has the right to intervene in the internal politics of other countries has its source in a widespread acceptance of American Exceptionalism, the notion that the United States is different, special and privileged compared to other nations. Writing from a realist perspective, Stephen Walt echoed this claim, arguing that both neoconservatives […]

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In March, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot and killed two men rumored to be agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, was released in return for a $2 million payment to the victims’ families. In an email interview, Shaun Gregory, a professor at Bradford University and director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit there, discussed relations between the CIA and ISI. WPR: What are the main areas of cooperation — and mistrust — between the CIA and ISI? Shaun Gregory: The interests of the CIA and ISI most closely converge around the fight against al-Qaida as well as […]