Rarely a week passes without a grim new article, op-ed or newspaper story warning us that al-Qaida is mounting a comeback. Retired U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane, for instance, recently declared that al-Qaida is “seeking to take advantage of the opportunities posed by revolutionary change throughout the Middle East” and is “on the rise.” Writing for the Wall Street Journal, the RAND Corporation’s Seth Jones argued that, with the Obama administration turning its attention to the Asia-Pacific region, al-Qaida is pushing into the political vacuum created by the Arab Spring and “riding a resurgent wave as its affiliates engage in […]

In the most recent presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney attempted to tap into a deep-rooted fear among the American public of instability in the Middle East, and in particular the concern that any resulting oil supply disruption would spike oil prices and trigger a recession. The concern is historically based: Past recessions have been caused or accelerated by such crises, including the 1973 oil embargo, the 1979 Iranian revolution and the 1980 outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war. Contrary to received wisdom, however, the chance of an oil crisis caused by a hard-to-manage oil disruption has decreased substantially since the […]

This past week’s 44th annual U.S.-South Korea Security Consultative meeting chaired by South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta provides an opportunity to benchmark the health of the alliance at a moment when at least one of the presidential administrations, that of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, is certain to leave office soon. At their meeting, the two countries’ defense establishments agreed to continue transitioning wartime operational command responsibilities to the South Korean military, retain 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea, expand U.S.-South Korea cooperation in new areas such as outer space and the cyber […]

On Monday, during the final presidential debate, President Barack Obama proclaimed that his defense budgets were “driven by strategy. [They’re] not driven by politics.” In theory, Obama is correct. Defense budgeting is supposed to be a rational exercise that assesses threats and needs, and then fills in the gaps. As Sean Sullivan, a leading expert on defense resource allocation issues at the Naval War College, told me in a conversation on the subject, “Defense planning processes are specifically designed to use strategy as guidance for force programming and budget decisions, thereby linking the ends with the means.” In practice, however, […]

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As a general rule, foreign policy issues do not significantly impact U.S. presidential elections. And if public opinion polls are any indication, this year is no exception, with surveys consistently showing little interest among American voters for foreign policy. Nonetheless, there are several reasons why yesterday’s foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney could matter more, perhaps a lot more, than is traditionally the case. In what is a very close race, the previous two debates appeared to have had an impact on voters’ intentions. Indeed, the first debate proved decisive in allowing Romney to […]

The U.S. and Peru are renegotiating their long-standing defense cooperation treaty, as announced by the countries’ defense chiefs in a joint press conference in Lima earlier this month. In an email interview, Louis Goodman, the dean emeritus of the American University School of International Service, discussed U.S.-Peru defense cooperation. WPR: What is the extent of present-day defense cooperation between the U.S. and Peru? Louis Goodman: The United States and Peru have strong cooperative relations, which have been enhanced in recent years. Signatories of the 1947 hemisphere-wide Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, which commits parties to mutual defense, the two nations […]

With the endgame near for large-scale U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, Americans have already begun to debate the broader implications of the conflict. Many have painted it as a failure, even a strategic fiasco. But it is not. Given the dynamics of the conflict and its wider strategic context, Afghanistan should be considered a win, albeit one that came at a much greater cost than was necessary. In the emotional turmoil following the Sept. 11 attacks, there was little consideration of the ultimate strategic goals of a U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan. The focus was instead on destroying al-Qaida and […]

The debate over U.S. drone strikes against militants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has risen in intensity over the past few weeks, following a highly critical report on the strikes’ impact on the region’s civilian population as well as last week’s anti-drone “peace march” to the FATA. However, the focus on drones is unhelpful and legitimizes a narrative that mischaracterizes the real problems in Pakistan. The use of drones is a reaction to militancy that is the product of historical and systemic failures in governance in Pakistan. By making drones the focus of attention, Pakistani institutions can evade […]

During a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Moscow earlier this week, the two sides announced that Iraq has signed contracts to purchase up to $4.2 billion worth of Russian weaponry. The news was quickly followed by a diplomatic contretemps between Russia and Turkey, when a Syrian Airlines plane that had departed Moscow for Damascus was forced to land in Ankara. The Turkish government subsequently announced that the ostensibly civilian flight had been carrying military equipment. Combined with the news that a visit by President Vladimir Putin to Turkey scheduled for this coming Monday had been postponed, it […]

Recently, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey released a document entitled, “Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020,” (.pdf) known by its milspeak acronym CCJO. At first glance, this might not seem noteworthy. After all, the U.S. military churns out concepts and doctrine on a regular basis, most of which only interest the military itself, the defense industry and perhaps security geeks. But the new CCJO is different. American security strategy and the U.S. military are undergoing a major transition, and this document provides an important window into what the armed forces expect to do […]

Former President Barack Obama and former Chinese President Hu Jintao at the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Nov. 12, 2011 (AP photo by Charles Dharapak).

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. At their conventions last month, both the Republican and Democratic parties declared that the United States is not in decline. The very fact that they felt compelled to deny such a claim, however, reveals the degree to which the issue has become part of the domestic political debate over America’s role in the world. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has cited the high rate of unemployment (above 8 percent) and slow economic growth […]

The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a report yesterday titled, “Afghanistan: The Long, Hard Road to the 2014 Transition.” Although the report focuses on the political problems that Afghanistan faces, the country’s security, economic and diplomatic challenges are perhaps even more serious. According to the ICG, “Afghanistan is hurtling toward a devastating political crisis as the government prepares to take full control of security in 2014.” The group’s senior Afghanistan analyst, Candace Rondeaux, details how the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) are “overwhelmed and underprepared for the transition,” even as Afghan President Hamid Karzai “seems more interested in perpetuating his […]

In late-September, Mayor Mike Bell of Toledo, Ohio, a city of 290,000 about an hour’s drive south of Detroit, hosted a three-day conference for more than 200 Chinese business executives. Like many other cities across the manufacturing belt of the U.S. Midwest, Toledo has suffered over the past decade, during which some 50,000 jobs disappeared and its population fell by nearly 10 percent. But the depressed local real estate prices that accompanied the downturn have attracted new buyers from an unexpected place: While overall Chinese investment in the United States remains tiny, over the past year one Chinese group spent […]

Last month, the Russian government ordered the U.S. Agency for International Development, the aid-administering arm of the U.S. State Department, to cease operations in Russia. In an email interview, Daniel Treisman, a professor of political science at UCLA, discussed Russia’s ejection of USAID. WPR: What is the motivation behind Russia’s ejection of USAID? Daniel Treisman: The closing of USAID’s Russian office is just the latest in a series of moves on the part of the Kremlin aimed at weakening the political opposition and obstructing its efforts to forge a nationwide coalition behind democratic reforms. Other moves include the toughening of […]

It is an article of faith among American conservatives that Russian President Vladimir Putin is rooting for U.S. President Barack Obama to win the U.S. presidential election next month, and that if Republican nominee Mitt Romney were to take up residence in the White House in January 2013, it would be a major setback for the Kremlin. This is based, in part, on the assessment that Obama has been too willing to compromise with Moscow, but it also fits into a larger narrative of “weakness” supposedly displayed by the current administration, beginning with the whole notion that U.S.-Russia relations could […]

No bilateral relationship is likely to have a more significant impact on U.S. security than America’s relationship with China. How relations between Washington and Beijing will evolve as China becomes increasingly powerful and assertive remains uncertain. Some U.S. political leaders and policy experts believe that if the United States actively attempts to contain or limit China’s rise, it will stoke antagonism that could be avoided with a more adept strategy and conciliatory approach. The goal, this group believes, should be to allow China to assume a leading role in the existing political and security system to discourage Beijing from challenging […]

Last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta paid the first visit by a U.S. defense secretary to New Zealand in 30 years. Panetta’s trip is just the latest in a string of bilateral moves between Wellington and Washington over the past few years to ease old restrictions and find new ways to work together in the Asia-Pacific region, all in an effort to translate their elevated “strategic partnership” into enhanced cooperation. Formal defense ties between New Zealand and the United States began in 1951, when along with Australia they formed the ANZUS military alliance. But the relationship fractured in 1987, […]