Children peer from a partially destroyed home, Aleppo, Syria, Feb. 11, 2016 (Komsomolskaya Pravda photo by Alexander Kots).

Should the United States use military means to try to stop Syrian and Russian forces from massacring the civilian population of Aleppo? If the answer to that question is no, then what level of atrocity is the U.S., and the world, willing to tolerate in Syria—and elsewhere—before intervening? The questions in isolation are relatively straightforward to answer. But when we consider them in tandem, the answers become mutually incompatible. This is the crux of the tragedy of the Syrian civil war for those not condemned to suffer its terrible consequences directly. At first glance, the case for intervening on humanitarian […]

Civilians sheltered in a United Nations base in Juba manned by Chinese peacekeepers, South Sudan, July 25, 2016 (AP photo by Jason Patinkin).

In August, reports emerged that South Sudanese soldiers had violently attacked foreign aid workers during a July rampage in the capital, Juba. They took hostages and raped several women at a hotel popular with foreigners, and also killed a local journalist. During the four-hour siege, those held captive at the Terrain Hotel repeatedly called for help to the United Nations peacekeeping force—stationed less than a mile down the road—and the U.S. embassy in Juba, but none came. Beyond the horrible violence the hostages endured, the attack reflected a litany of systemic failures to safeguard foreign aid workers who seem to […]

Opponents of the peace deal signed between the Colombian government and FARC rebels celebrate the results of the referendum on the peace accord, Bogota, Colombia, Oct. 2, 2016 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

On Sunday, Colombians narrowly rejected in a referendum a peace deal with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, raising questions about what the future holds for a country that has been fighting the guerrilla movement for 52 years. The insurgency—the longest war in the Americas—has left over 200,000 people dead and over 8 million displaced. Polls ahead of Sunday’s referendum predicted a two-to-one margin of victory for the peace deal, but the final tally showed 49.8 percent in favor of the deal and 50.2 against it. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leaders have said they […]

Cabins inside a hangar are used as a temporary emergency shelter for asylum-seekers, Berlin, Germany, Dec. 9, 2015 (AP photo by Markus Schreiber).

BERLIN, Germany—One year on from a historic wave of migration to Germany, a myriad of challenges remain. And the stakes are high, not only for Angela Merkel’s increasingly unpopular chancellorship. In July, the first Islamist-inspired attacks by asylum-seekers on German soil trained an international spotlight on the country’s efforts to integrate more than a million new arrivals. Last year’s chaotic scenes, which saw hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers and migrants cross German borders within a few months, have long since given way to a more sober approach. Responding to a perceived shift in public mood after foreigners attacked women in […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at the Presidential Palace, Kabul, Afghanistan, July 12, 2016 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

A “less is more” school of thought seems to be emerging in Western capitals where policymakers, public intellectuals and on-the-ground practitioners are trying to find ways to improve the outcomes of international interventions and post-conflict stabilization operations. It may be a fine-tuned judgment about the limited effectiveness and disappointing track record of past efforts, and also about the capacities of receiving countries to absorb aid and technical assistance. But it’s also an expression of the crisis of confidence in Western countries about their core activities to make the world a better place. Syria is the extreme example that raises doubts […]

Peacekeepers with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan on patrol close to Bor, South Sudan, Jan. 21, 2016 (U.N. photo by JC McIlwaine).

The race to be the new United Nations secretary-general is almost over. The winner may end up envying the losers. After much shadowboxing, the Security Council begins a decisive round of polls on Wednesday. For the first time in this year’s selection process, the five veto-wielding powers will use colored ballots to indicate those candidates they want to block. Most of the 10 contenders are likely to find they have no way forward. The front-runner remains former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, although Bulgarian EU official Kristalina Georgieva has shaken up the race by joining at the last second. But […]

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