Houthi rebels hold up their weapons as they chant slogans at the residence of a military commander of the Houthi militant group destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike, Sanaa, Yemen, April 28, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Since the first Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen in late March, aimed at dislodging the Zaydi Shiite Houthi movement from the towns and cities they hold across the country, a number of competing and contradictory narratives have emerged. Who, exactly, is fighting whom? What are their aims? And who is winning on the ground? Thanks to sporadic coverage of the ongoing military offensive and a lack of substantive reporting from the ground, these questions have remained largely unanswered. Yet several things have become clearer. First, the bombing campaign alone will not allow the Saudis to meet their strategic goals in Yemen […]

U.S. soldiers participate in a training mission with Iraqi army soldiers outside Baghdad, Iraq, May 27, 2015 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

As the conflict with the so-called Islamic State (IS) swings back and forth, one thing is increasingly clear: Even if Iraq survives the fight intact, there is no chance it will ever return to the pre-war status quo where the government in Baghdad controls the entire nation. Neither the Kurds nor Sunni Arabs will trust the Shiite-dominated central government to protect them. The newly empowered Shiite militia leaders also will cling to their autonomy from Baghdad. If Iraq holds together at all, it will have a titular national government in the capital while regional potentates actually run the place. Local […]

Israeli soldiers march during training in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, near the border with Syria, March 9, 2015 (AP photo by Ariel Schalit).

Israel and Syria have never been friends, but the two countries settled on a tense but mostly peaceful modus vivendi since their last face-to-face confrontation in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Despite their continuing enmity, the Israeli-Syrian border became one of relatively predictable calm. That has been true for decades, even if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad actively sided with Israel’s most committed foes, helping the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. In the past few years, however, the region’s strategic landscape has changed drastically, particularly with regard to Syria’s ongoing civil war. For Israel, that has introduced an extremely complicated security dilemma. […]

Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, interpreter Paul Otto Gustav Schmidt and British Prime Minister Neville Chamerlain, Munich, Germany, Sept. 29, 1938 (German Federal Archives photo).

The Nobel-winning author William Faulkner once famously wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” While Faulkner’s insight applies to a wide array of human affairs, it has become something of a professional hazard for foreign policy pundits. There is perhaps no field of public policy more regularly misdescribed and misrepresented by false historical analogies than international affairs. It’s a problem that exists across the political spectrum—both for hawks, who view any willingness to utilize diplomacy or deal with nefarious regimes as another Munich and any reluctance to use military force as a concession to tyrants; and for […]

U.S. door gunners in H-21 Shawnee gunships look for a suspected Viet Cong guerrilla who ran to a foxhole from the sampan on the Mekong Delta river bank, Jan. 17, 1964 (AP photo by Horst Faas).

As Iraq devolved into insurgency in 2004, the Washington policy community was filled with ominous warnings of “another Vietnam.” The war in Vietnam was, after all, America’s benchmark for counterinsurgency and hung like a dark cloud over every debate on U.S. national security policy during the height of the Iraq War. But it soon seemed that the Vietnam analogy did not apply to Iraq. After a careful assessment, Jeffrey Record and Andrew Terrill, both widely published national security experts, concluded as early as May 2004 that “the differences between the two conflicts greatly outnumber the similarities.” Soon references to Vietnam […]

U.S. Army soldiers stroll past two bronze busts of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the Green Zone in Baghdad, March 20, 2009 (AP photo by Hadi Mizban).

More than 12 years after the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq, it seems we’re no closer to learning the lessons of what may be the most ill-conceived war in American history. Case in point: the current debate playing out on the U.S. presidential campaign trail over whether it was a good idea for the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003. Recently, U.S. politicians—primarily Republicans—have been twisting themselves into knots trying to rationalize then-President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war. “Based on what we know now” about Iraq’s lack of weapons of mass destruction, they argue, […]

Smoke rises after a Saudi-led airstrike hit a site believed to be one of the largest weapons depot on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen, May 19, 2015 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Last week’s cease-fire in Yemen proved as shaky as many expected, and after it promptly expired Sunday evening, Saudi airstrikes resumed across the country, targeting Houthi rebels as well as forces loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The five-day “humanitarian pause” in fighting coincided with the visit to the United States by the architects of Saudi Arabia’s war on Houthi rebels in Yemen—the recently elevated Crown Prince Mohamed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. Both were at Camp David last week for a summit with fellow Gulf Cooperation Council leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama. The […]

Demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they wave the group’s flags in front of the provincial government headquarters, Mosul, Iraq, June 16, 2014 (AP photo).

In seeking to explain the recruiting success of the so-called Islamic State (IS), Western analysts tend to view the group through the lens of its most provocative acts: staged executions, destruction of heritage sites and calls to bring about the “End of Days.” Yet while its Western enemies are preoccupied parsing the allure of its spectacular savagery and zealous apocalyptic ideology, IS is carefully cultivating a parallel appeal to its core Arab constituency, not through shock and awe but through routine and accomplishment. The brand that IS media most regularly markets to inhabitants of IS-controlled territory and supporters is that […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Moscow, Russia, May 10, 2015 (Official Kremlin photo).

Vladimir Putin has a busy social schedule these days. The Russian president looked a little isolated on May 9, when world leaders largely stayed away from the immense military parade he organized in Moscow to commemorate the end of World War II. But Chinese President Xi Jinping was among the few who did attend, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel went to Moscow for talks one day after the celebrations. Putin has had little time to recover from his big party. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited him in Sochi to talk about Ukraine and Syria. Washington followed […]

U.S. President Barack Obama greets Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Washington, May 13, 2015 (AP photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

Among the many challenges facing President Barack Obama and U.S. officials meeting with Gulf Arab leaders this week, one has abruptly climbed to near the top of the agenda: taking the measure of the rising star of the Saudi firmament, King Salman’s son Prince Mohammed bin Salman. When the delegates from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)—which comprises Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman—gather at the presidential retreat of Camp David for the already troubled summit, U.S. officials will channel a significant portion of their energy toward Prince Mohammed. They will be hoping to develop ties […]

Demonstrators climb aboard a military truck as they celebrate what they perceive to be an attempted military coup d’etat, Bujumbura, Burundi, May 13, 2015 (AP photo by Berthier Mugiraneza).

Burundi is in the midst of a deepening political crisis that has many observers worried about the prospects of mass violence. Dozens of people have been killed and tens of thousands of people have fled in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Godefroid Niyombare launched a coup attempt against President Pierre Nkurunziza. World Politics Review partnered with the Global Dispatches podcast to produce this interview with WPR contributor Jonathan W. Rosen on the situation in the East African country. Rosen, speaking from Kigali, Rwanda, where he is reporting on the evolving situation, is interviewed by Global Dispatches host Mark Leon […]

1

Japan’s postwar constitution, promulgated in 1947 under U.S. occupation, has shaped the country’s international role ever since. But now that may be changing. Since assuming office for the second time in December 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has implemented a rapid succession of security policy reforms. Abe’s efforts to refocus Japan’s attention on its defense needs and adopt policies that have long been seen as taboo have drawn global attention. Japan’s immediate neighbors have decried these reforms, citing their still sensitive World War II-era memories of a very different Japanese military. South Korea has been especially critical of Abe’s […]

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to journalists on the crisis in Yemen, U.N. Headquarters, New York, April 9, 2015 (U.N. photo by Evan Schneider).

Last week, the United Nations was thrust back into the center of international crisis management in the Arab world. In Geneva, U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura kicked off new consultations on the Syrian conflict. In New York, European diplomats worked on a Security Council resolution authorizing military measures against people-smugglers in Libya. Yemen’s government-in-exile called on the council to authorize a full-scale intervention by ground forces in its country to defeat the Houthi rebel group, which has endured six weeks of Saudi-led airstrikes. Does all this activity imply that the U.N. is still a useful mechanism for debating war and […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman at the Royal Court, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 7, 2015 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Last week, Saudi Arabia’s new monarch, King Salman, replaced Crown Prince Muqrin—who had been chosen by Salman’s predecessor, the late King Abdullah—with 55-year-old Mohamed bin Nayef as next in line to the throne. He also installed his own 29-year-old son, Mohamed bin Salman, as deputy crown prince. The royal shuffle was presented by palace loyalists as an attempt to stabilize Saudi succession for the next few decades, consolidate power and inject what King Salman seems to believe is a greater sense of stability in the kingdom’s internal affairs. But it also marks an important shift in the monarchy’s trajectory. Although […]

British Prime Minister David Cameron walks by French President Francois Hollande during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, March 19, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Would you rather follow David Cameron or Francois Hollande into battle? The British prime minister and the French president have both had to navigate a steady stream of small wars, and both face criticism for their responses. Cameron was an early advocate for the international intervention in Libya in 2011, but stands accused of mishandling its chaotic aftermath. Hollande won praise for sending troops to stem the conflicts in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013, but France has struggled to extract itself from either of its turbulent former colonies. The two leaders’ decisions have been under particular […]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad speaks with Syrian troops during his visit to the front line in the eastern Damascus district of Jobar, Syria, Dec. 31, 2014 (AP Photo/SANA).

Last week, the value of Syria’s currency hit a record low against the dollar. On the black market in Damascus, dealers told Reuters, a dollar cost as much as 315 Syrian pounds. That wasn’t even as bad as other parts of Syria, where the currency traded for as much as 328 pounds to a dollar—a precipitous spike since the start of the year, when the rate hung around 220 pounds to the dollar. In 2011, when the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began, it was around 47 pounds. The collapsing currency was the latest sign of the Assad regime’s […]

Then-French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Libya’s then-National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil and British Prime Minister David Cameron visit Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 15, 2011 (AP photo by Stefan Rousseau).

Deciding whether to remove a dictator by force has long been a vexing problem for American policymakers. With the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, many dictators fell with little direct U.S. involvement. But that simply weeded out the herd, leaving the most ruthless and hardened, like Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Kim dynasty in North Korea and the Assad dynasty in Syria. After the attacks of 9/11 and U.S. President George W. Bush’s “global war on terror,” they, too, were in America’s sights to one extent or another. The insurgency in Iraq should […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 181 2 Last