War games provide insights into the mind of the U.S. military, showing the types of conflicts it anticipates and what it might be ordered to do in them. While war games vary, almost all share one characteristic: They are based on a relatively short war or operation, sometimes followed by a lengthy period of stabilization. Few strategic war games think through American involvement in a long major war. This is not surprising. Throughout history, Americans have expected and planned for short wars. When Abraham Lincoln decided to forcefully stop the South’s secession, for instance, he initially asked for 90-day volunteers, […]

The confirmation process last week for David Barron, a former Obama administration lawyer nominated to the federal judiciary, reopened a debate about the justification for what has come to be known as the U.S. “targeted killing” program. But as the politics of the issue heat up, the administration and its critics seem to be relying on different interpretations of the terminology at the heart of the debate, and their underlying disagreement speaks to broader questions about the future of the American war on terror. For many critics of the administration’s approach to counterterrorism, the term “targeted killing” has come to […]

The mass kidnapping of schoolgirls by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram put an unwelcome spotlight on Nigeria. Though the attention is new, Nigeria’s security and governance deficits are not, with implications for the country’s domestic politics and regional influence. The United States and international partners have a role to play in assisting Nigeria, particularly in terms of improving security, but ultimately it is how Nigeria rises to the challenges it faces that will determine the course of its future. This special report reviews those challenges, and the responses to them, through recently published articles. Domestic Politics Nigeria’s Fault Lines […]

Less than a year ago, Armenia appeared well on its way to taking its first substantial step in years toward European integration. Negotiations with the European Union had been finalized, and all but minor details had been overcome for Yerevan’s initialing of an Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) with the European Union at the November 2013 Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. For the briefest of moments, Armenia looked ready to venture outside of the pro-Russia system within which it had long been firmly ensconced. But in early September, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan announced during […]

Policymakers, military leaders and members of Congress are making choices now that will determine the size and capability of the future U.S. military. Because of the government debt crisis, the armed forces are shrinking quickly and extensively, amplifying the long-term effects of any bad choices. As always, the downsizing process is political. No member of Congress wants to lose jobs in his or her district when a base closes or the military stops buying a locally made product. That said, Pentagon leaders, both civilian and uniformed, think more in terms of strategic factors, prioritizing capabilities by projecting what a future […]

Kachin leaders are intensifying calls for U.S. involvement in talks between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). At a meeting with State Department officials in Washington last month, Gen. Gun Maw, the KIO’s chief negotiator and deputy commander-in-chief of its military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), raised the possibility of the U.S. playing a more active role in resolving the decades-old Kachin conflict. Since the collapse of a 17-year cease-fire between the Myanmar government and the KIO in June 2011, hostilities have escalated dangerously. Several rounds of talks have taken place, but a breakthrough remains elusive. […]

Putin’s ‘New Cold War’ a Pale Shadow of the Original

Tensions between Moscow and Washington are nothing new, but the growing level of animosity and the dangerous escalation around the political turmoil in Ukraine have ended any remaining illusion that the U.S. and Russia could develop a partnership, working together without rancor toward common goals on the global stage. Now that Ukraine stands on the edge of civil war, with the two sides clearly delineated—one supported, even controlled, by Russia, the other backed by the U.S. and its Western allies—it looks as if the world has undergone a geopolitical backflip. The calendar seems to have been returned to something resembling […]

A year ago, as Boko Haram, the violent jihadist group from Nigeria’s north, expanded its operations, I argued that even though the Nigerian government had launched what seemed to be a serious military offensive, it continued to reject the sort of deep and serious reform needed to undercut support for extremism. Hence the United States should avoid offering anything other than modest, indirect help. Since then, Nigeria’s security situation has eroded further. In the words of Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Boko Haram has become “increasingly monstrous.” Approximately 500,000 Nigerians have fled the fighting between government […]

France’s announcement that it will reorganize its deployment of thousands of troops across the Sahel region of Africa came as a blow to early hopes that security could be swiftly restored in northern Mali after last year’s Operation Serval. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said on May 8 that despite assurances in 2013 that his country’s military intervention in Mali would be over in a matter of months, 1,000 French troops will now remain in the country, down from what are thought to be about 1,600 French troops at present. A further 3,000 will be based in three other […]

Over the course of the past year, there has been a cascade of African-led initiatives to increase security cooperation in the Sahel and Maghreb regions. While such initiatives are a function of the enduring imperative for states there to develop a more robust regional response to counter nonstate transnational threats, such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other violent extremist organizations, Sahel and Maghreb states may yet struggle to let go of some of the baggage that had impeded previous regional cooperation efforts. Prior to the 2012-2013 Mali crisis, mistrust among regional partners had hampered efforts to convince […]

No matter whether the crisis in Ukraine begins to de-escalate in the coming days, Vladimir Putin, with his 19th century outlook, has demonstrated the hollowness of the West’s 21st century approach to Euro-Atlantic security. The twin pillars of the European security establishment—NATO and the EU—have been unable to respond effectively because their assumptions about the nature of conflict and the burdens that members ought to bear to provide for the common defense, formed out of the experiences of the mid-to-late 20th century, have not been updated. For all the exalted talk about NATO as the mailed fist of the West, […]

Even while U.S. troops are still disengaging from combat in Afghanistan, the American military is hard at work distilling lessons from its long, costly counterinsurgency campaigns of the past decade. Two new counterinsurgency doctrine manuals—a joint one released last November and an updated Army/Marine Corps publication that will hit the streets in the next few days—provide a window into what lessons the military drew from Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet both are also important for what they do not or cannot address. Military doctrine institutionalizes the recent experience of the armed forces and identifies “best practices” for future operations. That the […]

One of the effects of the Western military drawdown from Afghanistan has been to strengthen Russian-Indian security ties. Whereas New Delhi has tried in recent years to diversity its defense relationships, including by seeking out better ties with the United States, the need to prevent the pro-Pakistani Taliban from returning to power in Afghanistan has given a second wind to its security alignment with Moscow. Until now, their mutual engagement regarding Afghanistan was mostly diplomatic. But media reports have now emerged of a new arms-transfer arrangement in which India will buy weapons from Russia for delivery to the Afghan military […]

As British troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the U.K. must make hard choices ahead of its forthcoming Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR), due for release in the months following the U.K.’s May 2015 general election. Yet efforts to realign Britain’s defense strategy as part of this process are likely to be constrained once again by financial considerations and the need to maintain continuity in certain areas. Overcoming these tensions will therefore require sound judgment in the coming months. Otherwise, Britain could be left with a strategically incoherent defense posture insufficient to meet the demands of the post-Afghanistan operating environment. The […]

“Russia, whatever they’re doing right now, is not the Soviet Union,” said Washington Democratic Rep. Adam Smith yesterday at a discussion of the U.S. defense budget. Although most of his congressional colleagues would likely agree with that statement, there is no consensus on Capitol Hill about how to respond to a crisis in Ukraine that appears to leave the United States with few options. And while the differences in large part follow party lines, internal divisions within each camp have also surfaced. Democrats appear to generally support, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, the Obama administration’s approach of gradually increasing pressure […]