Libyan children wave national flags as they look out over Tahrir Square, during the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Benghazi, Libya, Feb, 17, 2013 (AP photo by Mohammad Hannon).

Libya is a mess and rapidly getting worse. It is a “failed state ravaged by civil war, and a magnet for al-Qaida and Islamic State (IS) recruits,” as Christopher Chivvis put it— “Somalia on the Mediterranean.” The principle victims are Libyans themselves. After suffering through decades of Moammar Gadhafi’s dictatorship, they now face a future that is, in many ways, even worse. But the danger spreads outward. Gadhafi’s weapons have been used to arm extremists across Africa, dragging other nations like Mali toward the abyss. Libya probably has more IS fighters than any place outside Syria, and they now threaten […]

NATO troops take part in the military parade to mark Estonia’s Independence Day near the Russian border, Narva, Estonia, Feb. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Liis Treimann).

The latest cease-fire between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine remains tenuous, but there are some signs it may hold for now. Kiev withdrew heavy artillery from the front today as the Russian ruble rallied for the first time since its collapse in December, prompted both by the cease-fire and by a rebound in global oil prices. While Russia’s economic outlook remains grim, with Western sanctions still in place, Russian President Vladimir Putin can claim some measure of victory after a year of interventions in Ukraine. Meanwhile, to the north, the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—are faced […]

A Libyan soldier wakes his comrade in Al Ajaylat, 75 miles west of Tripoli, Libya, Feb. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Mohamed Ben Khalifa).

Four years after the revolution began to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi’s regime with NATO’s help, and amid a worsening civil war, Libya today faces a new and very real threat: militants affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State (IS). Even though Libya has no religious divisions that IS can exploit to establish a foothold, the country’s ongoing political crisis, armed conflict and security vacuum provide a fertile environment for IS to expand its influence to Europe’s doorstep. The Islamic State’s senior leadership in Libya is made up of foreign fighters from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who were dispatched to Libya by […]

Ukrainian troops wave as they ride on an armored vehicle near Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine, Feb. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Evgeniy Maloletka).

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a roundtable in New York sponsored by the Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development on the question of whether the West and Russia have entered into a new Cold War. My sense of pessimism that it now seems impossible to get relations between Russia and the West back on track was reinforced by listening to the exchanges. Even if the present cease-fire holds in Ukraine and succeeds in halting open warfare, the effect will only be temporary. Any sort of long-term settlement seems to be beyond reach. Neither Russia nor […]

The entrance to Camp 5 and Camp 6 at the U.S. military’s Guantanamo Bay detention center, which President Barack Obama has pledged to close amid opposition in Congress, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, June 7, 2014 (AP photo by Ben Fox).

When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, there were 680 prisoners being held in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Today, there are 122. As The Associated Press has reported, that is “less than half the number when [U.S. President Barack] Obama took office, and the fewest since 10 days after the U.S. began shipping al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, shackled and clad in orange jumpsuits, to the base on Jan. 11, 2002.” A slow trickle of prisoner releases has steadily picked up over the last year and a half, and especially in recent months, as part of a policy […]

Honor guards stand at the Pentagon Memorial on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks at the Pentagon, Arlington, VA, Sept. 11, 2011 (AP photo by Charles Dharapak).

For almost a decade now, since the publication of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s brilliant, discursive rumination “The Black Swan,” conventional wisdom has held that the biggest threats to strategy—in national security as well as areas like finance—come from sudden and unexpected events. A black swan, as Taleb named such an event, is at its core both a shock and a surprise. It is an “outlier,” Taleb writes, “as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility.” He goes on to claim that such events are the engines of history. “A […]

Libyan soldiers take a break from fighting with militants on the frontline in Al Ajaylat, 75 miles west of Tripoli, Libya, Feb. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Mohamed Ben Khalifa).

Just how bad is Europe’s strategic situation? Over the past week, senior European politicians and officials have piled up dire predictions about the continent’s security. Italy’s foreign minister called for a United Nations peacekeeping force to halt Libya’s collapse into violence “before it’s too late.” The French defense minister attacked other European Union states for failing to do enough against terrorist groups in Africa. NATO’s deputy military commander warned that Russian forces could launch an assault aimed at seizing territory from an alliance member similar to its operations in Ukraine, sparking an “existential”—meaning nuclear—war. This all sounds rather like panic. […]

Shiite militia fighters sing anti-Islamic State group songs on the frontline near Kirkuk, Iraq, Feb. 15, 2015 (AP photo by Emad Matti).

Iraq is an artificial creation cobbled together from provinces of the old Ottoman Empire by outsiders. The ethnic groups and religious sects that live there were not always mortal enemies, but there was an undercurrent of enmity among them that turned malignant when Saddam Hussein imposed a murderous domination by his group, the Sunni Arabs. When the United States waded into Iraq, it hoped that this precarious political entity could hang on in part as a barrier to Iran. After the removal of Saddam in 2003, Washington encouraged Baghdad to develop an inclusive government balancing the interests of its component […]

Egyptians, mostly Christians, during a protest against the Islamic State for the execution of Egyptian Coptic Christians, Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

The latest installment of horror delivered by the propaganda machine of the so-called Islamic State (IS) confirmed one of the terrorist group’s principal strategies, the evidence of which has been gradually emerging as IS captures territory, seizes hostages and carries out barbaric acts that are promptly disseminated for publicity purposes. A video released Sunday showed the execution of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians captured by IS members in Libya over the past few months. The Egyptians appear marching single-file on the beach, wearing the familiar orange jumpsuits worn by hostages in previous IS videos, as their captors lead them to their […]

Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil dancers from Northern Province perform during Independence Day celebrations, Colombo, Sri Lanka, Feb. 4, 2015 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

Editor’s note: It came to our attention after this report was published that it contained several passages closely resembling or directly duplicating previously published work by other authors, as well as previously published work by the author. After initially amending the report to include the missing attributions, we subsequently decided to remove the article. WPR regrets the error, and we apologize to the authors concerned and our readers.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi makes a statement after militants in Libya affiliated with the Islamic State released a grisly video showing the beheading of several Egyptian Coptic Christians, Feb. 16, 2015 (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency).

Days after ordering airstrikes on targets of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in eastern Libya, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi may be in hot water with his Gulf Arab patrons—not over the strikes, but for comments made in their aftermath by an Egyptian official at the Arab League. On Thursday, the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) backed Qatar’s decision to withdraw its ambassador from Cairo after Egypt’s representative to the Arab League accused Doha of supporting “terrorism” in Libya. The accusation came during an Arab League debate on Egypt’s actions in Libya; Qatar’s representative had apparently raised some reservations. […]

NATO headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 8, 2015 (NATO photo).

This past weekend, militants in Libya aligned with the so-called Islamic State (IS) brutally executed 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians they had captured. As the victims’ blood flowed into the Mediterranean Sea, their executioner declared, “We will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission.” Even as most of Europe’s attention remains focused on the east and the fighting in Ukraine, the horrific murders highlight the threat the continent faces to the south. They also serve as yet another reminder, if one were necessary, that the operation to depose former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, once praised as a successful example of the responsibility to […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attend a meeting during the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 7, 2015 (AP photo by Matthias Schrader).

The fate of the latest cease-fire in Ukraine remains precarious, and even if the current truce unexpectedly endures, a lasting settlement to the Ukraine conflict will still prove elusive given the players’ conflicting strategic aims. Russia wants to keep Ukraine weak and divided, while the Ukrainian government—backed by the United States—wants to rule a reunified country, to include Russian-occupied Crimea. For their part, many Europeans would seem content with almost any settlement that ended the fighting and the sanctions they have imposed on Russia. But despite these differences, the truce might buy time for progress on other measures that would […]

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, Sen. Jack Reed and Sen. James Inhofe prepare to vote on the nomination of Ashton Carter to be the Pentagon chief, Feb. 10, 2015, Washington (AP photo by J. Scott Applewhite).

When Americans think of civil-military relations, what jumps to mind is the interaction of the armed services and the executive branch of government. This relationship is central to American democracy, but also relatively straightforward. The Constitution makes the president the commander-in-chief of the military, and commissioned officers serve “at the pleasure of the president.” Officers follow the president’s orders or are fired. Yet as Mackubin Thomas Owens points out, “Those who neglect the congressional role in American civil-military relations are missing an important element.” In many ways, this is a more complicated relationship, since it lacks the clear chain of […]

Jordanian King Abdullah II talks with Safi al-Kaseasbeh, father of slain Jordanian pilot Lt. Moaz al-Kassasbeh, Karak, Jordan, Feb. 5, 2015 (AP photo by Nasser Nasser).

The picture blew across the Internet like a hot wind in the desert. It showed King Abdullah II of Jordan wearing combat fatigues, staring deeply into the camera, his chest cinched with parachute straps, his hands clad in black gloves, barely resisting the impulse to clench into fists. In the viral aftermath of the posting on the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s official Facebook page, the rumor spread that the king was personally flying combat missions against the so-called Islamic State (IS). The palace denied it, but social media users refused to believe the fabrication and continued repeating the claim: After […]

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, center, claps as Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, left, shakes hands with Senate President Franklin Drilon, Manila, Philippines, Sept. 10, 2014 (AP photo by Aaron Favila).

The political fallout of a botched police raid in the southern Philippines continues to dominate international headlines and threaten the country’s burgeoning peace process with southern rebels. Forty-four police officers and 18 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) lost their lives in the township of Mamasapano after what its mayor called a “misencounter” during a police operation to capture Zulkifli bin Hir—a senior leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network with suspected ties to the MILF. The incident represents the largest single loss of life by Philippine police officers in recent history, and has significant political ramifications for […]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at the Munich Security Conference, Feb. 7, 2015 (Munich Security Conference photo).

Last weekend’s Munich Security Conference vividly illustrated the conflict in both vision and values between Russia and the West. The Russian delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, pushed a narrative of Western triumphalism, Russian victimization and the likelihood of further confrontation unless the West satisfied Russian grievances. The American and European leaders at Munich, despite their differences in emphasis and tone as well as over the question of supplying arms to Ukraine, were united in challenging this narrative, portraying a Russia that is clearly violating international norms. Lavrov denied the accusation made by many Western speakers at the conference […]

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