Russia is trying to look tough at the U.N. Security Council this week, promising to reject a resolution backed by the European Union, the U.S. and the Arab League that calls for a political transition in Syria to end the violence there.* This is a new phase in Moscow’s efforts to defend its friend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which included blocking an earlier resolution in October that threatened U.N. sanctions against Damascus. Yet while Russia can use its veto power to paralyze the council again, the diplomatic battle over Syria has highlighted its weakness in global affairs. The U.N. serves […]

Pro-Gaddhafi Prisoners “Beaten With Chains”

Conditions in Libyan prisons have caused much controversy after Doctors Without Borders recently suspended its work in Misrata saying its medics were increasingly confronted with patients who suffered injuries caused by “torture” during questioning. World News Videos by NewsLook

Syrian Army Advances on Damascus

Syrian troops are continuing a bloody crackdown on rebel fighters around the capital city of Damascus as Arab League observers abandon their positions and seek refuge in their hotels. World News Videos by NewsLook

Who shall we bomb next? Pundits and commentators have begun to fall over themselves declaring the necessity of launching military campaigns against Syria and Iran — the former to prevent a humanitarian disaster and the latter to forestall the development of a nuclear weapon. The catalyst for this enthusiasm is the success of NATO’s aerial campaign in Libya, a war that apparently vindicated the long-standing promise of advanced, precision-guided airpower to cheaply and easily solve inconvenient political problems. Unfortunately, the rediscovered enthusiasm for intervention demonstrates only that the foreign policy punditocracy is committed to serially mislearning the lessons of airpower […]

Raw Video: Car Bombs Explode in Baghdad’s Sadr City

A wave of car bombings has hit Iraq’s capital, killing 14 people and wounding dozens more amid an escalating political crisis, a month after the US military withdrawal. World News Videos by NewsLook

Photo: U.S. Army soldiers rest during a mission in the Hindu Kush mountain range in the Parwan province of Afghanistan, January 2009 (U.S. Army photo by Scott Davis).

Is counterinsurgency dead, as some observers claim? Is it alive and well, as others have argued? Or is it, as still others maintain, merely evolving? One thing is certain. Once fashionable within the Washington beltway, counterinsurgency — or COIN, as it’s known — has come under withering criticism, as violence in Afghanistan escalates and the Pentagon tightens its belt. Many of counterinsurgency’s critics are convinced that the U.S. would do well to avoid such campaigns in the future. Who can blame them? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have extracted an ever-mounting toll in time, blood and treasure from a […]

Americans often assume that insurgency is a modern phenomenon, invented by Mao Zedong and refined by his emulators. The notion permeates official thinking, including Department of Defense definitions and doctrines. In reality, insurgency has existed ever since states and empires began attempting to impose their will on people too weak to resist with conventional military means. Indeed, counterinsurgency is a common function for most states and an inevitable one for empires. That said, the strategic significance of insurgency has ebbed and flowed over time. When the chance of direct conflict between great powers was high, insurgency became background noise in […]

The first page of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps’ Field Manual 3-24 (.pdf), entitled “Counterinsurgency,” states, “Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation-builders as well as warriors.” Authored in 2006 by Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the director of the CIA, and Lt. Gen. James F. Amos, currently the commandant of the Marine Corps, the manual essentially enshrined counterinsurgency as nation-building in U.S. military doctrine. This required U.S. soldiers and marines to undertake, in roughly proportionate measure, five tasks: safeguard the indigenous population, improve democratic governance, combat corruption, deliver economic projects and institute the rule of law […]

For the past several years, the widely accepted view among defense analysts had been that counterinsurgency, or COIN, represented the future of U.S. defense planning and operations. This consensus was initially driven by the belief that “effective COIN” had “won” the Iraq War, and later by the need, as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates put it, to fight “the wars we’re in.” Now things have become far less clear. Awareness has set in that the effects of the 2007-2008 “surge” in Iraq were only partial and, even at the time, only partly achieved by the shift toward conducting what we […]

Defense policy analysts and pundits are wasting ink arguing back and forth about whether or not counterinsurgency is dead or alive. The real debate — the one that risks getting lost in the noise about counterinsurgency’s vital signs — concerns the future of the U.S. Army. As the U.S. military ends its role in Iraq and winds down in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army, alone among the armed services, has no compelling narrative for how it fits into the nation’s defense. The questions today surrounding the future of counterinsurgency are no less intense than the debates over whether or not counterinsurgency […]

Yemen’s Saleh to Seek Treatment in U.S.

Outgoing Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has left his home nation to seek medical treatment in the U.S., while protesters call for justice against him despite immunity. World News Videos by NewsLook

If you look closely at the grainy pictures of anti-government protests in Syria, an intriguing symbol emerges: Protesters calling for the end to the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad are waving two different versions of the Syrian flag. It may seem like a small detail, but it points to deep divisions among anti-Assad forces — divisions that are keeping Syrians from coordinating their efforts, sending mixed signals to the international community and creating concerns about how well the fractured opposition’s leadership would be able to function if it toppled Assad and suddenly found itself having to build a new government. […]

Car Bomb Kills at Least Nine in Iraq’s Mosul

At least nine people were killed when a car bomb exploded on Monday inside a residential complex housing displaced Shi’ite Muslims in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. World News Videos by NewsLook

From its initial emergence as a British mandate following World War I, to the post-independence monarchy from 1932-1958, through the military coups that ushered in the rule of first the Baath Party in 1968 and then Saddam Hussein in 1979, external threats and internal tensions have characterized the history of Iraq. Now that all U.S. military forces have left the country, Iraq’s government once again faces the challenge of overcoming internal divisions, even as it becomes fully and solely responsible for Iraq’s security for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003. Iraqi leaders must manage these interrelated challenges […]

The Sept. 11 attacks made a household name out of al-Qaida, an organization whose existence had earlier concerned only intelligence professionals and a handful of journalists. As 2012 begins, al-Qaida has suffered a series of harsh blows, leading some to conclude that the once-predominant purveyor of terrorism and extremist ideology in much of the world has become a spent force, one without much of a future. To be sure, 2011 was a devastating year for the organization. But al-Qaida is not about to fade quietly into the sunset. Like a virus that mutates to survive its host’s most potent defenses, […]

Global Insider: Russia-Syria Relations

A Russian naval flotilla, including an aircraft carrier, left the Syrian port of Tartus Monday after a six-day call, described by the Russian government as a routine stop. In an email interview, Mark N. Katz, a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, discussed Russia-Syria relations. WPR: How committed is Russia to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and how deep are its contacts with other political actors in Syria? Mark N. Katz: Moscow had especially close relations with President Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafez — who ruled from 1970 until his death in 2000 — during the […]

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