Kenyan Justice for Somalian Pirates

In addition to all the middling naval powers that have been able to send publicity-generating patrols to the region, Kenya seems to be the big winner from the Somalia piracy crisis. After Britain and the U.S., the EU has now finalized an extradition accord (French language, via Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, English-language report here) so that pirates captured by its naval mission can be transferred to the Kenyan authorities, rather than simply released. Kenya, in effect, will function as a proxy for the non-existant Somalian criminal justice system. David Axe covered the impact Somalian piracy has had on Kenya, as well as […]

Cutting Western Aid to Africa

I’m probably wading blindly into a charged debate here, but Dambisa Moyo makes a compelling case against Western aid to Africa. When I was backpacking around Ecuador on a shoe-string budget fifteen years ago, I had the good fortune to meet a network of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers who put me up and showed me around their projects. A few years later, I was able to repeat the experience with a more respectable budget that allowed me to actually rent a room from a group of Belgian development workers. It was pretty obvious both times that the major beneficiaries of […]

CHILDREN APPEAL FOR END TO CHILD SOLDIER USE — Children from more than 100 countries recently appealed to world leaders to do more to end to the use of children as combatants in armed conflicts. Despite international protocols preventing the practice, an estimated 250,000 children around the globe are fighting as soldiers. Former child soldiers and young activists personally delivered their plea in the form of a petition featuring 250,000 red handprints to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Feb. 12, the fifth anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child soldiers are still […]

What We See When We Look at China

Tom Ricks flags a Chinese “soft power” bridge-building project in Africa and worries about Chinese military contractors: . . . Bridges don’t bother me somuch. What really worries me is the day when Beijing starts deploying “private securitycontractors” to African countries, in part because that might be when theprecedents established by the U.S. government in Iraq come back to haunt us.Among other things, Chinese mercenariesare gonna be much cheaper than their American counterparts — and also are likelyto be even cozier with their own government back home. Now, Ricks is right when he says, previously, that “China is serious about […]

In January, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated a new national security strategy entailing closer cooperation between the State Department, the military, government and civilian humanitarian agencies, and foreign allies. “Smart power,” she called it. Just a month later, U.S. smart power is becoming a reality in one of the world’s most troubled regions. Off the coast of Somalia, a country that hasn’t had a functional government in 18 years, a Navy-led international humanitarian and training mission has joined a new, firepower-heavy counterpiracy fleet, while State Department negotiators play a key supporting role. What has emerged is a complex, sophisticated […]

State sovereignty can be likened to a living organism. It casts off meanings, sometimes splits, and reunites as it evolves in response to changing global values. Over the years, those global values and the subsequent meanings of sovereignty have often reflected the interests and preferences of hegemonic states. While a superpower like the United States cannot change the meaning or interpretation of sovereignty on its own, its political, economic, and military muscle give it a greater chance of mobilizing resources and support to influence the direction of the new meaning than a smaller country. States, multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and […]


“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2008. Reports of the demise of the Westphalian system are premature, but the shifting of the relative balance of power between states, threats to states, and the populaces these threats emerge from is undeniable. A “populace-centric” approach to foreign policy would recognize the emergence and enduring nature of popular power, and free U.S. interests from becoming mired in fleeting governments or threats. The Westphalian system […]

China’s Strategic Savvy

I thought I’d follow up Richard Weitz’s and JD Yuan’s China twofer from Tuesday with a handful of news items I’ve flagged over the past few days: First (via DefenseNews), China doubled the amount of its attack sub patrols last year to the (non-alarming) new total of 12. Still, in combination with the modernization of its missile capabilities (also via DefenseNews), it confirms China’s strategic emphasis on theater denial: Whatconcerns U.S. defense circles is the increasingly flexibility andaccuracy of China’s ballistic missile arsenal, including theintroduction of mobile launchers, maneuvering warheads, improved targetsensors, and command and control, [Loren Thompson, chief operating […]

It has been a whirlwind two weeks for one of the world’s most chaotic countries. Since the last week of January, Somalia has seen the collapse of the U.S.- and U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government and major advances by Islamic insurgents. But the TFG’s rout morphed into a modest triumph when the body elected a new, moderate president-in-exile, amid the promise of peace mediation by Islamic clerics. The catalyst for all of these moves was the seeming final withdrawal of Ethiopian troops following two years of bloody occupation. In recent months the Ethiopians had consolidated their positions in Mogadishu and the […]

Can Obama Take No for an Answer?

In his WPR feature article from last November, A Grand Strategy Agenda for the Next President, Thomas PM Barnett defined President Obama’s challenge as leaving enough space between the security demands America makes of targeted nations and the “safe harbor” security guarantees it is willing to grant them so as to create the room for diplomatic maneuvering. Under the Bush administration, the lack of wiggle room between the two amounted to a demand for capitulation, and created standoffs everywhere. The Bush administration’s response was a campaign of diplomatic and economic isolation (Syria and Iran), or else confrontation (Russia) with similar […]

Global Troop Shortage

One of the reasons a significant number of American and British roadblocks to EU defense have been cleared in recent years is that, quite simply, there are more crisis zones than troops to go around. And since an EU defense force is more palatable, politically speaking, than a French force in both Africa and Lebanon, the peacekeeping missions deployed to Chad and Lebanon came under the EU flag. But the story behind those deployments wasn’t only about who didn’t oppose them. It had a lot to do with who supported them as well. Ireland’s participation in Chad was notable because […]