North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in cross the military demarcation line in the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, April 27, 2018 (Korea summit press pool photo via AP).

Is the United Nations finally adapting to an Asian century? This week, Security Council ambassadors are visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar to investigate the suffering of the Rohingya. In doing so, they are facing up to one of the U.N.’s most significant failures of recent years. Both U.N. officials on the ground and council members in New York vacillated over how to respond to the ethnic cleansing campaign of Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya Muslim minorities in mid-2017. This weekend, the council saw the results of that failure when they visited a refugee camp that houses half a million of the […]

A South Korean news magazine features front cover photos of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Seoul, South Korea, April 23, 2018 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Peace processes are always excruciatingly complex, in part because peacemaking is rarely just a matter of making peace. Power politics almost always gets in the way. Two particularly difficult cases that currently loom over international politics are heading in strikingly different directions. Multilateral efforts to end the Syrian war are grotesquely stalled. North and South Korea, by contrast, are hurtling toward peace with an almost indecent haste. The two cases offer very different visions of the future of major power cooperation and conflict, and above all the continuing role of America as a global peacemaker. Since the end of the […]

Al-Shabab fighters march with their weapons during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 17, 2011 (AP photo by Mohamed Sheikh Nor).

On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump said that to defeat the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the United States had to “take out their families.” As president, his attitude hasn’t changed. According to an account in The Washington Post, Trump was shown footage of a CIA drone strike in which the operators had refrained from firing “until the target had wandered away from a house with his family inside.” Trump reportedly asked, “Why did you wait?” Collective punishment is not only morally depraved, it is also illegal and counterproductive. But while Trump’s drone comments rightfully deserve scrutiny, most reactions to them […]

President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House about the United States’ military response to Syria’s reported chemical weapons attack, Washington, April 13, 2018 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

In the horrible days following the 9/11 attacks, America’s full attention was on punishing the culprits and reinforcing its defenses against terrorism. While these tasks clearly had to take priority, the attacks also demonstrated that the United States needed to decide whether its 18th-century Constitution was adequate for national defense in the 21st century. Yet this issue still has yet to receive the consideration that it deserves. Although the United States has poured immense effort, money and blood into the fight against transnational extremism and dramatically augmented homeland security, it has not assessed its constitutional framework for national defense. But […]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lock hands during a group photo, Ankara, Turkey, April 4, 2018 (Pool photo  by Tolga Bozoglu via AP).

One of the more intriguing aspects of the enormously complicated war in Syria is the position of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose allegiance and convictions appear to shift with developments on the ground. Two weeks ago, Erdogan hosted a summit meeting in Ankara to discuss Syria’s future. For a photo-op, he literally joined hands with the presidents of Russia and Iran, the main backers of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whom Erdogan not long ago was still condemning as a “terrorist” and the roadblock to peace in Syria. It was a gesture, it seemed, that Moscow, Tehran and Ankara now […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stands in front of a map of Syria and Iraq during a news conference at the Pentagon, May 19, 2017 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Iraq has the potential to help bridge current regional divides in the Arab world and establish a functional model of equilibrium, which is why it should remain central to U.S. Middle East policy. As it approaches parliamentary elections next month, Iraq is not poised for either a major political transformation or massive security improvements. Instead, as a U.S. official who has worked on Iraq for many years has often noted to me, “Iraq is like a cancer patient, but a patient that we have some idea how to treat.” Despite that prognosis, the country should still be at the center […]

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and U.N. Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix stand together at a U.N. peacekeeping conference, Vancouver, Canada, November 15, 2017 (The Canadian Press photo by Darryl Dyck).

In mid-March, Canada announced it would be sending 250 troops and six helicopters on a 12-month deployment to support the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, which is considered the deadliest peacekeeping mission in the world. Since 2013, 162 troops from the U.N. mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, have been killed by al-Qaida and other extremists. Canada’s involvement in international peacekeeping has lagged in recent years, but shortly after taking office in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised that his government would commit 600 troops to U.N. peacekeeping missions. In an email interview, Simon Palamar, a research fellow on […]

Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, left, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attend a press conference at the end of the Arab summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, April 15, 2018 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

The early reactions of Syria’s neighbors to the joint strikes by the United States, France and the United Kingdom on three chemical weapons-related facilities last Friday night fell into familiar patterns. As the reality of the very limited nature of the attack sinks in, expect the full range of responses, capturing the deep ambivalence in the Middle East toward American power. Most countries in the region resent excessive demonstrations of what they see as American arrogance, but they miss American force when it is not there. Some even hoped in vain that the strikes would signal a new willingness for […]

China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ma Zhaoxu, speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, New York, April 13, 2018 (AP photo by Julie Jacobson).

The 105 cruise missiles that the United States, France and the United Kingdom fired at Syria late last week, in response to another suspected chemical weapons attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, deepened the divide between Western powers and Russia over how to approach the next stage of Syria’s war. But amid divisions playing out both at the United Nations and on the ground in Syria, China sits in a precarious and uniquely advantageous position. As an actor that strictly denounces the use of chemical weapons and upholds the principle of nonintervention, Beijing condemned both the chemical attack outside Damascus […]

Opposition demonstrators block the entrance of an underground carriage during a protest against former Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s potential move to the prime minister’s seat, Yerevan, April 16, 2018 (PAN Photo via AP).

Last month, Armenia’s National Assembly elected onetime Prime Minister Armen Sarkissian as the country’s next president, replacing the long-tenured Serzh Sargsyan as head of state. It was the first presidential election since a 2015 constitutional referendum that was designed to shift power in Armenia from the presidency to parliament and, mainly, the prime minister. For the first time, Armenia’s president was selected by the National Assembly, rather than by popular vote. While presidential votes have typically been contentious affairs in Armenia, Sarkissian’s election was initially met with comparative shrugs, and not just because the real power will now shift to […]

Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., Vassily Nebenzia, left, watches as the ambassadors of Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States vote on a resolution at a Security Council meeting on Syria, April 14, 2018 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

The United Nations Security Council needs some quiet time. The past week was the most fraught in the council’s recent history, as the U.S. and its friends went all-out to shame Russia over its Syrian ally’s use of chemical weapons in Douma. The Russians responded with a furious barrage of denials, accusing the Westerners of whipping up the controversy to justify a military response. The two sides met almost daily to berate each other in baroque terms, with U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley claiming the Russians’ hands were “covered in the blood of Syrian children.” By the end of the week, […]

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jamie Jarrard thanks Manbij Military Council commander Muhammed Abu Adeel during a visit to a small outpost near the town of Manbij, Syria, Feb. 7, 2018 (AP photo by Susannah George).

A little more than a year into his administration, President Donald Trump is facing a major decision on America’s next steps in Syria. His predecessor, Barack Obama, first sent U.S. troops into the country’s civil war to help local opposition forces defeat the self-styled Islamic State. Trump then increased the number of U.S. forces on the ground there. But now that the Islamic State has been driven back in Syria, losing much of the territory it once claimed as its “caliphate,” Trump has indicated that he might withdraw U.S. forces “very soon.” Officials in the Pentagon advocate a different approach. […]

A U.S. soldier sits on an armored vehicle on a road leading to the tense front line with Turkish-backed fighters in Manbij, northern Syria, April 4, 2018 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

U.S. President Donald Trump has promised that Syria, Russia and Iran will pay a price for the latest use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria’s brutal civil war. But if he does decide to carry out punitive strikes for the chemical attack in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma, they will do little to satisfy advocates for a more forceful U.S. involvement on humanitarian grounds. Nor are they likely to deter future outrages, if the missile strike Trump ordered last year after a previous use of chemical weapons is any indication. More importantly, they will leave unresolved the geopolitical […]

An indigenous man stands in front of a banner depicting former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, Warista, Bolivia, Sept. 20, 2006 (AP photo by Juan Karita).

After six days of deliberation, a jury in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, last week declared Bolivia’s former president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, and defense minister, Carlos Sanchez Berzain, guilty under U.S. law of extrajudicial killings committed in Bolivia 15 years ago. Damages of $10 million were awarded to the case’s eight plaintiffs, who all lost family members during the 2003 security crackdown on protests in Bolivia over a proposed natural gas pipeline running to Chile. Both Sanchez de Lozada and Sanchez Berzain have been living in exile in the United States since they fled Bolivia after the violence in what became […]

Rohingya refugees watch a Malaysian delegation visiting their refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Jan. 27, 2018 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

When the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis barreled into a sleepy coastal town in southern Bangladesh last August, the prime minister in Dhaka pledged that her impoverished country would go without food if that was what it took to help the Rohingya fleeing violence from the army in Myanmar. Almost nine months later, that welcome is starting to wear thin as the exodus far exceeds past influxes of Rohingya refugees and settles into a prolonged, seemingly intractable situation, taxing one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated countries. Bangladesh, no stranger to the Myanmar military’s paroxysms of ethno-nationalist violence, has […]

Egyptian students chant slogans during a protest against the cancellation of high school exams, Cairo, Egypt, June 27, 2016 (AP photo by Ahmed Abd El Latif).

Population growth in the Middle East has created a variety of challenges for governments, but especially how to integrate so many young people into the economy. Failing to come up with a solution could have severe ramifications, though. A baby boom in Egypt since 2011 has added 11 million people to a population that is now approaching 100 million, according to Bloomberg. With a quarter of Egyptians between the ages of 18 and 29 unemployed, and an increasing number of young people entering a labor market that is ill-equipped to absorb them, many experts are raising concerns. Egypt isn’t alone. […]

A Syrian boy rides his bike through the destruction of the once rebel-held Jalloum neighborhood in eastern Aleppo, Syria, Jan. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Carl von Clausewitz, the eminent 19th-century Prussian military theorist, believed war could best be understood as the interplay of three powerful forces: hatred, rationality that focuses hatred on political objectives, and chance. Chance made war unpredictable, but rationality, by making killing a means to an end rather than purely an act of hatred, kept it from becoming even more violent than it otherwise might be. This perspective reflected Clausewitz’s personal experience in the Napoleonic Wars. At that time, the military strategists of Europe’s great powers attempted to avoid killing civilians whenever possible, at least when fighting each other. Although the […]

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