As the Libya operation enters what appears to be its final phase, the debate is only beginning as to what it portends for the future of U.S. policy and the international system as a whole. The course of events in Libya over the past months validates what I have termed the “just enough” doctrine. The Obama administration successfully resisted pressure — from Libyan rebels, European allies and domestic critics alike — to increase the U.S. role in order to achieve a faster outcome in Libya. If that doctrine takes on greater coherence, it could strengthen the arguments for limited, targeted […]

President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines surprised many when he covertly met Murad Ibrahim, the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in Tokyo on August 4. The meeting was a clear step forward in a peace process that has haltingly dragged on for some 14 years. Yet the ripple effects it generated exemplify the intractability of the Moro issue and have added a new sense of urgency to the process. Although the content of the meeting remains unreported, it is generally agreed that the event was at least a useful trust-building exercise between warring parties struggling to overcome […]

The future of Libya was never terribly important to the U.S. That has now changed. Under the rule of the flamboyant Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Tripoli managed to garner a lot of attention, but, in fact, the country had only marginal strategic importance to the West. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted as much soon after the U.S. agreed to join a NATO effort on the side of the rebels seeking to topple the regime. Once NATO launched its operation in Libya, however, the stakes for Washington suddenly grew. And now more than ever, with Gadhafi out of power, Libya has […]

Out of the Spotlight, Tunisia’s Revolution Struggles

With the world’s spotlight now shining on the climactic events in Libya, the struggle for meaningful transformation in neighboring Tunisia, whose authoritarian president was ousted by demonstrations some eight months ago, has largely been left in the dark. Tunisia’s youth uprising has widely been credited with sparking the greater Arab Spring. But the nation has yet to form an assembly to reform its constitution, and its economy has suffered increasingly this summer amid a near collapse in the nation’s tourism industry. There is, however, reason to feel optimistic, according to Emad Shahin, a Middle East specialist at Notre Dame’s Kroc […]

Foreign Reporters Trapped in Libya Hotel

Around 40 foreigners — most of them journalists — are now trapped inside the Rixos hotel in Tripoli. They are being guarded by pro-Gaddafi gunmen and are unable to leave the hotel to cover the latest events.

With the breaking of Libya’s many-month stalemate, the end of a 42-year reign of megalomaniacal tyranny has arrived. As the rebels attempt to consolidate power in Tripoli, however, what lies ahead for Libya as a nation and for the foreign powers that paved the way for Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster remains far from certain. Key to the future of a viable Libya will be law, stabilization and reconstruction so that civil society can be re-established swiftly. After four decades of inequity, revenge will be hard to avoid. Nonetheless, Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) has emphasized to rebel fighters that retribution against […]

Over the past few days, Libyan rebels supported by NATO airstrikes have seized most of Tripoli. The rebels’ apparent military success has quieted, at least for the moment, many critics of NATO’s military strategy in Libya. While a full account of the lessons learned from the conflict must await the writing of a full history — not to mention the end of the actual war — the events of the past few days demand a degree of re-evaluation of how the campaign was conducted. Indeed, this column has offered several critiques of NATO’s performance, including commentary on the dubious legality […]

Following a violent struggle for control of two checkpoints on the Kosovo-Serbia border, the immediate danger of an escalating crisis has been averted. But the cost has been to reinforce the message that violence delivers results. On the night of July 25, Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci sent special police to seize a pair of border posts in the country’s lawless, Serb-dominated north, resulting in the death of one Kosovo Albanian police officer and injuries to four others. The police withdrew under fierce resistance from the locals, leaving Kosovo Serbs barricading roads to prevent their return. Others torched one of […]

Despite the jubilation that followed South Sudan’s largely peaceful vote for independence in January, relations with northern Sudan have since deteriorated. In May, just weeks ahead of South Sudan’s July 9 independence day, the Sudanese army occupied the contested Abyei border region. In response, the United Nations Security Council authorized a peacekeeping mission, UNIFSA, to monitor the border and protect civilians there. On Aug. 4, four Ethiopian peacekeepers deployed with UNIFSA were killed after their vehicle struck a landmine in Abyei. Three of the soldiers reportedly died from their injuries after a United Nations medical evacuation helicopter was delayed three […]

As the Republican-controlled House advances its legislative agenda, U.S. civilian assistance to Pakistan looks likely to be one of the early casualties. In addition to new conditions on assistance to Pakistan, approved by two House panels, White House officials expect that the overall aid package is likely to shrink as well. But before lawmakers cut aid to Islamabad, they should consider the role it plays in realizing long-term U.S. interests. The Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009, more commonly known as the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, tripled financial assistance to Pakistan’s civilian institutions by pledging $1.5 billion annually for five years. […]

Despite numerous statements by Philippine and U.S. authorities over the past few years highlighting progress in the fight against terrorism, recent events in the southernmost corner of the Philippines show that the battle there is far from won. On Aug. 1, seven Philippine marines were killed — five of them beheaded or mutilated — and 21 others wounded after being ambushed by some 300 alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Patikul, in the Sulu Archipelago. Unconfirmed reports say that 11 ASG members were also killed in the fighting. The ASG, often labeled a local terrorist group, has […]

Dadaab, Kenya: The World’s Largest Refugee Camp

Many Somalis, starving and searching for safety, are risking their lives, crossing into Kenya and taking up residence in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. This video by no comment TV shows images from inside the camp.

The latest crisis in Kosovo, which erupted in late-July, seems to be abating after a NATO-brokered deal between Belgrade and Pristina. However, the incident focused attention on the region’s most-recent frozen conflict: Kosovo’s north. The crisis followed the decision of the government in Pristina to impose a trade ban on goods from Serbia, in belated retaliation for Serbia’s 2008 ban on imports from Kosovo after its declaration of independence. Serbia does not recognize Kosovo’s independence and still considers it to be an integral part of its territory. Most of the international community, under U.S. leadership, has recognized Kosovo as an […]

Of all the uprisings underway in the Middle East, none has the immediate potential to tilt the regional balance of power to the degree that Syria’s does. Under the Assad dynasty, Damascus has played a pivotal role in determining the relative strength of rival powers. Now, with the government of President Bashar al-Assad under pressure from its own people and with the brutality of the regime’s repression raising a popular outcry throughout the world, the principal powers in the Middle East are maneuvering to solidify their positions and reinforce their claim to regional leadership. Mideast powers are moving their chess […]

Expanded CIA Role in Drug War Could Impact Mexican Election

With the U.S. expanding the role of CIA operatives and possibly private security contractors in Mexico’s drug war, there were reports this week that both countries are intent on circumventing Mexican laws that prohibit foreign military and police from operating inside the country. That Mexican President Felipe Calderón would openly embrace such a strategy is “not entirely surprising,” says Hal Brands, a historian at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, who notes that Mexican laws have long left the country in an awkward position when it comes to seeking security assistance from its northern neighbor. “The problem is that […]

The downing of a Chinook helicopter carrying 31 Americans on Sunday graphically highlighted the continuing costs of fighting the war in Afghanistan. The presence of Navy SEALs among the dead made an emotional connection with the May killing of Osama bin Laden almost inevitable. The logic of that connection, though, has largely remained implicit: With bin Laden now dead, how long should the United States continue to accept the loss its very best in Afghanistan? Ending wars can be very difficult, even when the strategic ends of a war no longer justify the costs incurred. For the U.S. in Afghanistan, […]

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