Last August, the senior officer aboard the USS Kearsarge, a U.S. Navy ship deployed to Latin America, issued an unusual order. Capt. Frank Ponds ordered the hundreds of sailors, Marines, soldiers and airmen under his command to avoid using the term “troops” when describing themselves to Latin American reporters. The seemingly bizarre command reflects widespread concerns over the military’s escalating involvement in humanitarian missions all over the world. Kearsarge’s six-month cruise supporting hundreds of military and civilian doctors, engineers and aid workers in six countries, including Nicaragua and Colombia, was one result of that increased involvement. While the Pentagon characterizes […]

Congo Videos a Call to Action

Enough’s RAISE Hope for Congo campaign is calling on the public to vote for a winner in its “Come Clean 4 Congo” video campaign. The contest is part of Enough’s larger bid to create a grassroots movement against genocide and crimes against humanity. Enough and partner Global Witness are spearheading a growing global movement to end the use of “conflict minerals” as a driver for conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “It’s time for death to lose and life to win. . . . We are consuming the Congo. . . . Help us gain traction and share that […]

A 30-ton Mi-26 helicopter, operated on a NATO contract by the Moldovan firm Pecotox Air, was hovering with a load of supplies near the town of Sangin in southern Afghanistan on July 14, when Taliban fighters fired on it with a rocket-propelled grenade. The crew of an accompanying helicopter saw the rocket sheer off the Mi-26’s tail boom, causing it to crash. All six Ukrainian crew members on board died, as did an Afghan boy on the ground. Less than a week later, on July 19, a civilian Mi-8 operated by a Russian company crashed at the NATO base in […]

Immigration as Cyclical Commuting

Thomas P.M. Barnett flags an article on a subject I’ve been keeping an eye on recently. According to the WSJ, global migration patterns have reversed, with immigrants increasingly returning to their countries of origin as a result of the global downturn, in addition to actual immigration slowing down. I’d initially expected the reverse to be true, at least in terms of the latter phenomenon. According to the WSJ, the reason why fewer people are setting out for the “lands of opportunity” is that they might just find more opportunity at home. I’ve been doing some reading recently on informal economies, […]

President Barack Obama’s speech before Ghana’s Parliament on July 11 marked his fourth major discourse on international affairs since taking office. Just as he did in Cairo little over a month ago, Obama outlined his vision of a region of the world — this time sub-Saharan Africa — and America’s role in it. Obama emphasized the need for more equal relations between the United States and Africa, a shift from patronage to partnership, and the importance of Africans taking responsibility for their own destiny. He lamented that “the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner.” […]

Is the long-predicted decline of Political Islam about to occur? Several French scholars, such as Gilles Keppel and Olivier Roy, have been making this argument since the early 1990s. The only trouble was a subsequent string of Islamist electoral victories that seemed to undermine their thesis. But in light of Islamist losses in recent elections in Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Bahrain, talk of the decline of Political Islam is reemerging. Influential Washington Post journalist David Ignatius recently wrote of a region-wide, anti-Islamist backlash whose central theme, according to a specialist he cited from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace […]

The ceremony last Feb. 12 at the commercial seaport in Mombasa, Kenya, was a surprising one. When the Ukrainian-owned merchant ship Faina sailed into port, five months after its capture by Somali pirates and a week after its release, the Kenyan government rolled out the red carpet. Civilian officials and military officers lined the pier, and armed guards patrolled, as Faina’s weary seafarers debarked. There were speeches and reluctant testimonies by Faina’s senior crew before the strange gathering came to a halting end. Hundreds of vessels had been seized by Somali pirates over the previous decade, and their releases had […]

Defiant Taylor Makes His Stand

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor, the first African head of state to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity, stepped up to the podium today at The Hague to begin his defense testimony. Like Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milosevic before him, Taylor struck a defiant posture, painting himself as a leader besieged by jealous countrymen and vindictive foreigners determined to control his country. “This whole case has been ‘Let’s Get Taylor!’ . . . People have me eating human beings,” the 61-year-old raged during an emotional appearance. Taylor faces charges — including murder, rape, sexual slavery and conscription of child […]

MONROVIA, Liberia — Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) released its conclusions last week, and though debate continues on a number of issues, the findings already produced some surprises. In particular, the inclusion of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the list of those recommended to be barred from Liberian politics for the next 30 years turned the most heads, both here and abroad. Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, is the darling of the international development community. Many see her as a rare ray of hope in a country, and region, where violence and corruption have for too […]

PALERMO, Italy — It’s a balmy morning in the Sicilian capital, and a dozen African men are lounging in the shade at the Missione di Speranza e Carita, a Church-run shelter that’s home to more than 500 immigrants. Though they are all recent arrivals to Italy, only some of the men have proper documents. They are waiting to speak with Brother Dario, a Catholic Friar and mission administrator, for help in finding employment. In addition to meals and a bed, the shelter provides vocational training to as many of its residents as it can handle. These days, however, accommodating new […]

Obama in Accra: Speech Fatigue

I’m going to offer a cranky, contrarian take on President Barack Obama’s speech in Accra on Saturday. This is the fourth “Speech” (cue the angelic choirs) from the Orator-in-Chief, and if you can’t tell from this post’s title and the preceeding sarcasm, I’ve admittedly got a case of speech fatigue. Part of it has to do with the fact that the speeches, taken together, reveal a certain Mad Libs formulaic construction, that goes something like this: In an interconnected world, what happens in [Insert: Host City] will impact the planet. [Insert: Demographic Constituency symbolized by Host City] has already contributed […]

WPR on France 24

World Politics Review managing editor Judah Grunstein appeared on France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week, on Friday to discuss the riots in Xinjiang, the G-8 summit and Obama’s visit to Kenya, along with Anthony Bellanger of Courrier International, Billie O’Kadameri of Radio France International, and Elie Masbounji of l’Orient le Jour. Part One can be seen here. Part Two can be seen here.

Zimbabwe Responds to Diamond Mine Furor

Zimbabwean authorities reportedly plan to withdraw the army from the Marange diamond-mining fields following a request by investigators from the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme to suspend production and exports from the area over security and rights concerns. As I noted in a previous post, human rights advocates have charged the army with murder, torture, coercion and endorsing the use of child labor in the area. Rights groups also claim that funds from the sale of Zimbabwean diamonds — estimated to be worth over $200 million a month — routinely make their way into the financial war chest of President Robert […]

It was a question worth killing over, in the minds of some Somali Islamic extremists. In May, Ahmed Omar Hashi, a reporter for Mogadishu’s Radio Shabelle asked Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to explain his country’s support for al-Shabab, the hardline Somali Islamic group. Afwerki explained that Eritrea only wanted to enable “Somali nationalists” in their efforts at “ensuring Somali unity, sovereignty and independence.” Just days prior to the interview, which took place in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, al-Shabab had launched a major assault on the Western-backed Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu. The attack came as moderate Islamist Sharif Sheikh […]

In a Time of Crisis In the past year, we have witnessed a global emergency, with the world experiencing the worst economic meltdownsince the 1930s. This crisis will not be a one-off. Over the next 20 years, we will be confronted with a series of systemic and interlocking risks that will cross national borders with alacrity. As a result, the divide between domestic and international policy will largely be erased. To carve out a strategic response to these risks requires huge effort. Our assumptions about the world were formed in another age and are ill-suited to contemporary challenges. The international […]