Earlier this month, the Pentagon issued a directive (.pdf) raising “irregular warfare” (IW) to the same level of importance as conventional battles. The December 2008 directive defines IW as operations to fight terrorists and insurgents, enhance the defense capacity of foreign governments, and promote stability in conflict-prone regions. It asserts that it is now Department of Defense policy “to recognize that IW is as strategically important as traditional warfare.” Although the U.S. armed forces have long performed these tasks, most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military has often done so only with great reluctance. The Pentagon developed considerable expertise […]

The Weak Link

It looks like when it comes to extending the Afghanistan War into Pakistan, the Taliban have beaten us to the punch. The problem of safe havens has now metastasized into a problem of securing supply lines. Of course, that’s when military planners start getting nervous. Here’s hoping the Obama administration balances what’s right and what’s necessary with what’s possible.

SOLEMN REMEMBRANCES, HOPE MARK DECLARATION ANNIVERSARY — The world community marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, with calls for stronger international institutions and remembrances of those around the world currently deprived of their rights. The U.N. General Assembly awarded the 2008 U.N. Prizes in the Field of Human Rights to several individuals, including slain Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto and former U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, as well as to the group Human Rights Watch. Meanwhile, critics slammed the U.N. and the world community for their failures to address […]

F-22: Ain’t Buying It

I mentioned my email correspondence with Sam Roggeveen, editor of the Interpeter. Here’s a note he sent me regarding a recent post on the increasingly endangered F-22 procurement program: You raise the possibility that US stimulus spending might find its way to the arms industry and that items like the F-22 will be offered toJapan and Australia. I really wouldn’t worry too much. Arms spending may be stimulatory inthe US, because it is domestic spending. But although Japan andAustralia are not as hard hit by the global financial crisis as the US,it is biting, so both countries will want to […]

Looking Back on ’68

If you haven’t made the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter blog a regular stop on your daily internet commute, I highly recommend that you do. And I don’t say that simply because I’ve struck up a collegial email correspondence with the blog’s editor, Sam Roggeveen (of which more later). The Interpreter’s contributors are all insightful analysts of not only Australia and Asia, but of America and the world as well. They offer a neighborhood perspective on the Asian Century ahead, and the kind of frank opinions of America’s role in the world that only a close and trusted friend can provide. And […]

While many observers of U.S. foreign policy have in recent years lamented the state of U.S. public diplomacy, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is widely seen as a bright spot amid a dim post-Cold War record of communicating and promoting U.S. values and interests to the world outside the United States. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty serves as a “surrogate” free press in countries around the world where such doesn’t exist, charged with promoting “democratic values and institutions by disseminating factual information and ideas,” as its mission statement puts it. Through the Internet and over the radio, RFE/RL broadcasts in 28 languages […]

Kim’s French Doctor Confirms Stroke

It turns out Kim Jong Il really did suffer a stroke in October, according to François-Xavier Roux, the French doctor who treated him, as quoted by Le Figaro: Kim Jong Il was the victim of a stroke, but he was not operated on. He’s doing better now. The photos that were just released seem to me to be current and authentic. It seems to me that Kim Jong Il is running North Korea. I can’t say any more, I’m constrained by medical confidentiality and state secrecy. (Translated from the original French.) The Kims apparently have a long history of seeking […]

Regionalism and the Fragmentation of Power

I’ve been thinking a lot about regional approaches the last few days, ever since this sentence from David Axe’s WPR piece on the India-Pakistan rivalry set off some bells and whistles: The State Department’s approach to Centraland South Asia is still based on what [the RAND Corporation’s Seth Jones] called a “Westphalian” model,with U.S. ambassadors in each country pursuing separate, strictlynational strategies. “State’s responses tend to be more diplomacywithin country, instead of at regional level.” “Ideally, therewould be a White House position that is much moreregional[ly-focused],” Jones said. “It’s been floated by some in theObama campaign.” The way in which […]

Brussels Terror Cell Arrested

Last week in her regular WPR column, World Citizen, Frida Ghitis presciently called attention to the threat that Pakistani-based terrorist networks pose to Europe. Today, police in Brussels arrested what is being reported as an al-Qaida linked terrorist cell after one of the fourteen people under surveillance, who had arrived last week from either Pakistan or Afghanistan, recorded a last testament video and bid farewell to his family. The arrests come on the eve of an EU heads of state summit, and although the police are unsure whether the summit was targeted, the risk it posed led them to accelerate […]

The Economics of COIN

I’ve written before about the macroeconomics of a counterinsurgency-based security posture, and specifically how COIN resembles a transfer of wealth, as compared to WWII, a.k.a. the “public works program” that ultimately got us out of the Great Depression. Andrew Exum of Abu Muqawama obliquely makes a similar point in a post titled “When Guns = Butter”: This is a genuine conundrum.Does one, in an effort to trim the budget, cancel the F/A-22 program?Or does one, in the midst of a severe recession, keep what has become afederal jobs program? In addition to trimming the budget, the justification for cutting the […]

Governing Ungoverned Spaces

Bernard Finel makes a number of good pointsover at the New Atlanticist about the Bush administration’s successfulcounterterrorism policies that nonetheless do not reduce terrorism. Inparticular, he argues that the emphasis on state sponsorship of terrorgroups tends to equate the agendas of the various actors, ignoring howstates that do fund or train terror groups usually do so for pragmaticrather than ideological reasons, often to find the groups they’vesponsored ultimately escaping their control. Finel argues thatwe should instead concentrate on the spaces beyond states’ control thatare exploited by terrorist groups as operational bases: Seven years after 9/11 we still do not have […]

First of a three-part series. COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — In the silent, low-res imagery of the closed-circuit video footage that rapidly spread across YouTube, the young Tamil woman appears unafraid, even poised. Wrapped in a crisp sari, hair in a tight bun, she waits across the desk from the political secretary of a Sri Lankan minister. But something, almost imperceptible in the footage, goes wrong. So as a dozen people go about their business behind her, the woman rises from her chair, tugs at her bra and explodes, her torso vaporized in a C4 blast that kills her and the […]

The Cold Peace

I don’t have too much time to develop this thought, so I’ll treat it like an actual blog post and just toss it out there. Scanning today’s most stubborn foreign policy challenges, I’m struck by how many of them are either deferred maintenance on unresolved post-Cold War arrangements or direct legacies of Cold War policies. The Russia-Georgia conflict driving so much tension in U.S.-Russia relations, for instance, is a result of the “frozen conflict” approach to the thorny details of a final status agreement on the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The terrorist threat emanating out of the Afghan/Pakistani FATA […]

Zardari’s Case for India-Pakistan Rapprochement

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari makes a compelling case for restraint and regional cooperation in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks in a NY Times op-ed, although I had a multi-stage reaction to the following passage, in particular: The world worked to exploit religion against the Soviet Union inAfghanistan by empowering the most fanatic extremists as an instrumentof destruction of a superpower. The strategy worked, but its legacy wasthe creation of an extremist militia with its own dynamic. What at first seemed like a disingenuous gloss on Pakistan’s instrumentalization of the Taliban on second reading seemed to put the longer […]

Unlike his week-long trip to South America in late November, peripatetic Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s recent two-day visit to India attracted little notice in Washington — and for good reason. The Russian and Indian governments did sign important agreements, but none that marked any fundamental transformation in their bilateral relations, or that directed it in ways that threaten American security interests. If anything, the trip highlighted the fact that countering terrorism in South Asia is a shared goal of Russian, American, and regional officials, thereby raising the possibility of enhanced Russian-American security cooperation in this important area. This was Medvedev’s […]

The commando-style terror attack in Mumbai, India, that claimed nearly 200 lives in late November highlights the ongoing danger Islamic extremists pose to even the most developed democracy in South Asia. The attack — and the diplomatic maneuvering in its wake — also casts light on the increasingly important network of relationships between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. These four countries — three of them nuclear states — will likely decide the future of South Asia in an era of terrorism, coalition warfare and national rapprochement. The U.S.-led “war on terror,” which has seen scores of nations deploy […]

In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, attention has increasingly focused on Pakistan and the troubling, if opaque, links between its military intelligence apparatus and Islamic terrorist groups. But despite the very real risk of a widening of the regional war already underway in Afghanistan, the problems emanating from Pakistani soil defy military solutions. In a WPR Spotlight, we examine The Pakistan Problem. In Four Countries’ Relations Will Decide Region’s Future, David Axe examines the complicated dynamics at play between Pakistan, its two neighbors, India and Afghanistan, and the United States. In Advisers’ Views Provide Clues to Obama Approach Seth […]

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