During most of history, only those unlucky enough to be on the battlefield or in a sacked city experienced war. To understand armed conflict, the broader public relied on official pronouncements, soldiers’ stories and mythical narratives — none very reliable. With the spread of literacy and expansion of the popular press, this began to change. A new breed of journalists, war correspondents, followed armies to the very edge of battle. By the time of the American Civil War, stories from the front were often embellished with drawings and engravings. Photography, which had first been used to film military scenes in […]

As much as any country, the Democratic Republic of Congo has reason to blame its woes on outsiders. From the plunder of its rubber and ivory by Belgium’s King Leopold II to the West’s Cold War coziness with the notorious dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, the history of sub-Saharan Africa’s third-most-populous state is largely a tale of abuse by foreign powers. Today, the most relevant outside actor is arguably neighboring Rwanda, which has sponsored several rebellions on Congolese soil since it engineered Mobutu’s overthrow in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It’s no surprise, then, that after the M23 rebel […]

A wise and experienced Israeli friend still quite active in Israel’s public life once quipped that an Israeli politician can be just dead, or dead and buried. The former allows for rehabilitation and even rebirth — see Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon. The latter suggests a more permanent demise, such as Ehud Barak’s ambitions to become prime minister again. Nowhere is this notion, and the differentiation it allows, more apt than in considering the fate of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of all the prospective outcomes to the knotty problem of the much-too-promised land, the idea of two […]

As Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s recent eight-day campaign in Gaza, drew to a close, it seemed to many Israelis that their worst fears about the Arab uprisings had come to pass. An emboldened Hamas and its allies in Gaza launched an unprecedented number of mortars and missiles farther than ever before, putting more than half of Israel under fire. Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi and other Arab officials openly proclaimed solidarity with Israel’s enemy. While the final tally of Israeli casualties was fairly limited — six dead and more than 240 wounded — the panic was not. The cease-fire declaration, […]

As the Israeli general election of Jan. 22, 2013 draws near, the major question in Israeli politics is whether the campaign will be dominated by foreign policy and security concerns or domestic issues. Because of the recent history of Israel’s conflicts in Gaza and southern Lebanon, as well as recent shift in the regional landscape, an emphasis on security issues would help the incumbent government headed by Likud leader and prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. On the other hand, a focus on domestic issues, such as rising prices, an increase in income inequality, the unfairly shared burden of military service and […]

Managing defeat well is one of the greatest skills a diplomat can have. Historians have a special admiration for statesmen who have extracted their countries from failed wars. These diplomatic heroes include Talleyrand, who brilliantly defended French interests after the fall of Napoleon, and Henry Kissinger, who devised America’s exit from Vietnam. As Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, reflects on the challenges ahead in 2013, he may wonder if he will be able to manage the consequences of a lost war. For Lavrov, that lost war is the Syrian conflict. Although it has now claimed more than 40,000 lives, the […]

Syrian government forces have resorted to firing Scud ballistic missiles against rebel forces in recent weeks, according to media reports. In an email interview, Sean O’Connor, a contributor to IHS Jane’s and an expert in air defenses and strategic warfare, discussed Syria’s missile arsenal. WPR: What is the extent of Syria’s current missile arsenal, and what are its capabilities in terms of range and accuracy? Sean O’Connor: Prior to the beginning of hostilities within its borders, Syria maintained a well-stocked, if technologically limited, missile force. Syria obtained its first Scud-B missiles from the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s. At present, […]

RAS AL-AYN, Syria — The fighting between Syrian Arab rebels and a Kurdish militia that broke out in November in the northeastern Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn threatens to open up a chasm beneath a rebellion already charged with sectarian and ethnic overtones. The violence in Ras al-Ayn started when two Islamist groups attacked Syrian government forces in this small town on the Turkish border. Quickly defeated, the regime responded with airstrikes that sent the town’s entire population fleeing into Turkey. It is unclear who started the next phase of the battle, but in the following week dozens of militants […]

Recent developments in Syria are evidence that the U.S. and the West allowed too much time to pass before using their influence to affect the outcome of the conflict. The choices were never easy, and the possibility that Western efforts could make the situation worse always existed. But the recent scramble to sort out the good from the bad among the rebels seeking to overthrow the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shows just how dangerous the conflict has become from the point of view of Washington and Europe, to say nothing of Syrians who wish for a future free […]

Soldiers who carried out a coup in Mali earlier this year ousted Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra on Tuesday, placing Diarra under house arrest and forcing his resignation. While the interim president has named a new prime minister, this abrupt change in leadership has drawn international attention to the military’s continuing grip on the country and called into question plans for an intervention to retake northern Mali from radical Islamists. In an email interview, Paul Melly, an associate fellow in the Africa Program at Chatham House, told Trend Lines the ouster “undermines the constitutional legitimacy and political cover for intervention” […]

In early 2012, as large-scale U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ended and the conflict with al-Qaida took on a different shape, President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued new strategic guidance to redefine America’s defense priorities (.pdf). One of the most important ideas in the document was a renewed emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region. This was, in part, a recognition that the United States needed greater strategic focus in order to cut defense costs. But it also reflected the fact that the Asia-Pacific region is home not only to the world’s most rapidly growing economies […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s long-serving president, has emerged as the central mediator of the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, orchestrating the withdrawal of rebel troops from the key Congolese city of Goma and hosting peace talks between the rebel leaders and the Congolese government. By coordinating all stages of the process, Museveni has reaffirmed his position as East Africa’s key power broker — a status that until recently appeared to be slipping. In October, Reuters published details of a leaked U.N. Security Council Group of Experts report alleging Ugandan and Rwandan support for M23, the […]

Editor’s note: Richard Gowan will be writing the Continentalist column for the month of December. Does Lakhdar Brahimi have any good options for ending the Syrian war? Brahimi has served as the United Nations-Arab League envoy to Syria for more than three months, having been chosen to replace Kofi Annan in August. Unlike Annan, who tried to mediate a resolution to the conflict under constant media scrutiny, Brahimi has adopted a low profile. But like Annan, he has struggled to find a way to bring the regime and rebels together. Brahimi’s sole significant public initiative to date was an effort […]

The recent Gaza conflict and the negotiations that eventually led to a cease-fire on Nov. 21 highlight some of the shifts currently taking place in the Middle East, particularly in Hamas’ relations with Qatar, Turkey and Egypt. These shifts represent a considerable challenge for the U.S. as it attempts to facilitate democratic transitions in the region while maintaining long-standing partnerships. In early November, Qatari Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani became the first head of state to visit Gaza since Hamas took over the territory in a short but violent 2007 civil war with its rival Fatah. But if al-Thani’s […]

A meeting of the Kimberley Process in New York last week concluded without agreement on redefining the term “conflict diamond.” But if the American chairwoman, Gillian Milovanovic, failed in this key endeavor, she can at least claim some measure of success in ensuring that the process was not completely derailed by its persistent and deep divisions. The World Diamond Council estimates the world’s diamond trade to be worth $13 billion annually, employing approximately 10 million people. The Kimberley Process was established in 2003 in response to diamond-funded conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to […]

In 2006, the United Nations created the Human Rights Council to replace the discredited Commission on Human Rights. Among the numerous mechanisms the U.N. gave the council to promote and protect human rights is the ability to call ad-hoc special sessions when needed. These special sessions, when used against states, are an important tool for “naming and shaming” perpetrators of human rights violations and may, on occasion, precipitate movement at the Security Council. Through the first five years of its existence, the council held 18 special sessions, or almost four per year. That pace slowed down in 2012, however, during […]

There is practically no space left on the Middle East’s geopolitical plate for another conflict. Like it or not, however, the long-simmering animosity between Iraq’s central government and the country’s Kurdish minority is reaching a boiling point. The conflict has recently heated up dangerously, and it shows no sign of cooling down. Like so many other crises in the region, the tensions between Iraq’s Arabs and its Kurdish population find echoes in the complicated political realities of neighboring countries. Syria, home to a large Kurdish minority, is engulfed by an all-out civil war. Meanwhile, Turkey is grappling with its own […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 181 2 Last