The U.S. intelligence community recently completed its first National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the implications of global climate change for U.S. security. Although the report remains classified, senior intelligence officials have begun presenting its major findings in Congress and at various think tanks. Most media commentary covered the findings of the NIE, but not the more interesting process by which the conclusions were reached. By the admission of the person in charge of the effort — Thomas Fingar, deputy director of National Intelligence for Analysis and Chairman of the national Intelligence Council — the climate change topic presents serious methodological […]

HISTORICAL NOTE — Many of the 200,000 or so Germans who thronged the Tiergarten in Berlin to listen to Barack Obama may see him as another John F. Kennedy, but Obama didn’t yield to the same temptation of throwing a German phrase into his speech — and getting it slightly wrong. In 1963, when Kennedy spoke at the Berlin Wall, Berliners roared their approval when the president said he identified with them, even if his historic phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” translates as “I am a doughnut.” What Kennedy meant to say was “Ich bin einer Berliner.” Twenty-four years later […]

On July 14, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), presented “evidence showing that Sudanese President, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir committed the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur.” The motives of the Sudanese head of state were “above all, political,” the prosecutor declared. He used the “alibi” of counterinsurgency in order to try “to end the history of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa people.” In fact, “his intent was genocide.” Let us leave aside the assessment that Gen. al-Bashir’s motives were “political” in nature, which seems to constitute an aggravating factor in the […]

NAIROBI, Kenya — Since Sen. Barack Obama early last month secured the Democratic nomination for U.S. president, Obama fever, already widespread, has become an epidemic in this country where the senator’s father was born. “Everyone now claims that he or she is a cousin of the senator,” said Tom Ombaka, a businessman in Kisumu, the lakeside city where many of Obama’s relatives make their homes. “I have met more than 60 people since Obama won endorsement to run for the presidency . . . who claim they are the senator’s blood relatives.” Even Kenya’s Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, has hopped […]

N’DJAMENA, Chad — They usually come at night, to the sprawling refugee camps in eastern Chad along the border with Sudan. Recruiters for Chad-based rebel groups, which are locked in bloody combat with Khartoum and its militia proxies in Sudan’s Darfur region, sometimes simply show up at the camps and new recruits, many of them still boys, come to them voluntarily. But when there’s a shortage of volunteers, the recruiters might resort to force, according to aid workers in eastern Chad. The aid workers, who spoke to World Politics Review on conditions of anonymity owing to the sensitivity of the […]

On Friday, July 11, senior British and American leaders denounced China and Russia for vetoing a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution that would have imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his closest supporters for using violence and other manipulations during last month’s presidential elections. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, criticized Moscow and Beijing for having sided “with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe.” In his remarks to the council after the vote, Khalilzad observed that, “The u-turn in the Russian position is particularly surprising and disturbing.” Khalilzad then made the stinging comment that, “The […]

Some of the most important moments in modern diplomacy live on in photography. That’s why this weekend French President Nicolas Sarkozy — in the presence of news photographers — made sure to simultaneously grab the hands of the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian Authority President and triumphantly stand as the link between the two. The image, symbolizing the power of diplomacy to bring enemies together could have made history, except that we had seen it countless times before. That was just one of the problems with Sarkozy’s weekend summit of Mediterranean nations, a gathering filled with potential, but light […]

GORE, Chad — The U.N.’s main refugee agency is expanding its work in southern Chad, adding programs for impoverished local villagers in order to head off conflict between locals and a growing population of Central African refugees. The programs, administered by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and partner aid groups, include aid to farmers and herders. The idea, according to Serge Male, UNHCR’s representative to Chad, is to ensure that the local population never have less than the refugees they host. “We cannot provide more to refugees if the local population does not benefit to some extent,” Male told […]

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ARUSHA, Tanzania — If you turn over your camera and passport, stroll through the airport-style metal detector, continue on past the weary clerks and anxious lawyers in the courtyard, and enter the fourth floor chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda — occupying, for a decade now, a conference center-turned-U.N. compound here — you can listen to the still-unfolding tales of the horrific genocide that killed 800,000 people. Though few Americans are likely aware of it, the wheels of international justice at the ICTR — a red-headed stepchild to its counterpart in the Hague — are still in spin. […]

FRENCH CONNECTION — France’s six-month presidency of the European Union, which began July 1, got an expected prestige boost last week with the release of Ingrid Betancourt from her six-year captivity in the hands of Colombian FARC terrorists. France played no part in the daring rescue operation: the significant supporting role belonged to the United States. But it was to Paris, not Washington, that Betancourt dashed within 24 hours after her release; and the next day footage showed her in the arms of President Nicolas Sarokozy, not President Bush. Betancourt had French family connections and is “culturally” French by background. […]

Nigerian author Wole Soyinka — the first African to win the Nobel prize in literature — famously described the Organization of African Unity (OAU) as a “collaborative club of perpetual self-preservation.” Part of the reason the continental body re-branded itself as the African Union (AU) in 2001 was to distance itself from the days when the most brutal of dictators took a break from killing the opposition and stealing state funds to mingle with colleagues in fancy hotels. As the African Union summit in Egypt closed July 1, its failure to take any serious action on Mugabe’s crumbling Zimbabwe was […]

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The German printing company supplying many of Zimbabwe’s new banknotes has agreed to halt shipments after a “political and moral assessment.” Supposedly, high level pressure from the German government contributed to the move. Without new paper money, the question is what will happen next in Zimbabwe’s economic crisis. Might a reduced money supply actually slow the country’s 165,000 percent inflation? If it did, who would this help more, average citizens, or the Mugabe-connected elite? Any economists or Zimbabwe experts out there want to weigh in?

IRIBA, Chad — Four years after some quarter-million people fled ethnic cleansing in Sudan’s Darfur province for the relative safety of eastern Chad, one of the world’s most persistent humanitarian crises shows no signs of letting up. Indeed, there are signs that Darfuri refugees are in Chad to stay, despite acute shortages of water, firewood and food. Today the Darfuri refugees are housed in a dozen U.N.-administered camps that, over time, have become more like permanent towns and less like the squalid tent cities of popular conception. But appearances can be deceiving: Despite seeming self-sufficient on the surface, the camps […]

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South African President Thabo Mbeki’s coddling of Robert Mugabe over these last years, culminating in his recent efforts at useless “quiet diplomacy,” has been an incredibly pathetic and maddening spectacle. The standard explanations about Mbeki’s and other Southern Africanleaders’ coddling of the monster in Harare point to the fact that these leaders were brothers-in-arms in anti-colonial liberation struggles. But the explanations usually stop there, as if loyalty alone, devoid of any self-interest, would be enough to explain the toleration of Mugabe’s crimes. This kind of explanation seems especially insufficient when one realizes the positive political consequences, in terms of international […]

Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga is accused of committing some truly awful crimes. Forcibly conscripting children as young as 10 into the brutal, tribal combat of eastern Congo tops the list, which is why he was turned over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague in 2006. Lubanga’s trial was supposed to be the ICC’s first case and its first test. But with the trial now indefinitely delayed due to prosecutorial misconduct, the ICC has failed the test. No one should be surprised by this. The problems with the ICC’s ability to try the Lubanga case stem from the prosecution’s […]