When the global financial contagion kicked in last fall, the blogosphere was quick to predict that a sharp uptick in global instability would soon follow. While we’re not out of the woods yet, it’s interesting to note just how little instability — and not yet a single war — has actually resulted from the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression. Run a Google search for “global instability” and you’ll get 23 million hits. But when it comes to actual conflicts, the world is humming along at a level that reflects the steady decline in wars — by 60 […]

EU-China Summit and EU Soft Power

Also of note this week was the EU-China summit, which seems to have gone a bit smoother than the EU-Russia summit I mentioned. One predictable point of contention was the EU’s insistence on human rights concerns (Tibet, Burma), to which Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao replied, in so many, Mind your own business. That they will, of course. Still, what caught my eye is how much weight the EU’s much-derided soft power really carries, after all. Not necessarily in the realm of human rights, where Wen could basically send it packing, but in the power of its market to exert a […]

For more than half a century, the United States has held the reins of the world’s most powerful economic institutions. By design, Washington has long dominated decision-making at both the International Monetary Fund and at the World Bank — responsible, respectively, for big loans to states and economic development. At the same time, domestic institutions within the U.S., like the Treasury Department, have also exerted significant influence in the economies of foreign lands. The ideology underpinning much of this leverage — based on free markets and limited government intervention — was for a long time known formally as the Washington […]

Since the eruption of the global financial crisis last fall, the world’s three largest economies — the United States, Japan, and China — have become very generous toward countries in need of cash, opening up a bevy of new bilateral currency swap arrangements. At first glance, this may seem to be a positive example of great-power cooperation in the face of a collective threat: The world’s economic powers are working together to provide liquidity to a global economy dying of thirst. A closer look, however, reveals that the intentions of the parties in question may be far more self-interested than […]

At the London G-20 Summit in April, British prime minister and host Gordon Brown asserted that “The Washington Consensus is over.” With the struggling U.S. economy pulling much of the world down with it, the “Anglo-Saxon model” is now deemed flawed. Dirigiste tendencies are in, with U.S. President Barack Obama embracing a government-funded “stimulus” package whose numbers are well in excess of his high-spending predecessor. Washington itself is moving away from the formula — consisting of fiscal discipline, market-set interest rates, competitive exchange rates, liberalisation of trade and investment regimes, deregulation and privatisation — to which it lent its name. […]

Behind the Karzai-Khalilzad Alliance Rumors

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported this week that a political deal was under discussion between Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and Zalmay Khalilzad — the former U.S. ambassador successively to Kabul, Baghdad, and the United Nations, and until recently a possible, if undeclared, contender for the Afghan presidency. The talks centered on Khalilzad, an Afghan by birth, being appointed to a non-elected post described as chief executive officer, to put sinew into Karzai’s weak, inefficient, and — from Washington’s point of view — unreliable government. Both Karzai’s office in Kabul and Khalilzad himself at once denied […]

The International Monetary Fund has been reinvigorated by the global economic crisis. While the added resources it has been given has attracted attention, the IMF has also responded to the challenge of the crisis by overhauling conditionality. So far, reforms have been announced to meet the needs of middle-income developing countries, with those designed for lower-income countries slated to be adopted this summer. But a review of the reforms to date suggests that low-income countries can expect to enjoy unprecedented bargaining leverage over the fund in coming years. At the London G-20 summit in April, the leaders of the world’s […]

Pakistan’s Submarine War Against the Taliban

Just when Pakistan was beginning to get serious about its counterinsurgency efforts against the domestic Taliban in Swat and FATA, the German national security council put the kibosh on a previously approved Pakistani purchase of three German submarines. The Germans cited concerns about the stability of the Pakistani government, while ignoring the submarines’ central role in fighting off the Taliban threat. . . . Oh, wait. Maybe the subs weren’t meant for the Taliban, after all. Hmmm. I wonder who they were meant for? Seriously, Pakistani strategic calculations have not changed, and quite frankly, it’s hard to argue with them. […]

300 Guys. In Pakistan

Rob over at Arabic Media Shack has made this point a few times recently, and it’s one worth repeating. When people — like me — say, “Al-Qaida is in Pakistan,” just what do we mean? We need numbers. Like how many people? After all,wouldn’tknowing the exact number offighters tell us something about thestrategic significance of the threat? 50 would obviouslybe lesssignificant than 400; 2,000 would definitely be moreworryingthan500. But how come we never hear this question being asked?There is one exception that I noticed recently. John Mueller, writing in this month’s issue of Foreign Affairs, putsthe number of people in […]

NEW DELHI — The unexpected landslide victory of the Congress Party in India’s general elections has unshackled the incoming government from the tricky task of managing its earlier coalition for political survival, especially the rabidly anti-American Left parties. There is little doubt that the team of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, all-powerful Congress party president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi — who led the election campaign — will look to firm up some of their earlier aims, given the near-majority and stability that the party and its allies now command. In fact, the new government can no longer offer […]

War is Boring: In Afghanistan, U.S. Experiments Again with Local Militias

U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan have established an experimental security force drawn from local Afghan fighters, in a bid to better provide the street-level security that has proved instrumental to defeating entrenched insurgencies. Despite tens of thousands of incoming American reinforcements, most Afghan districts still do not have a permanent troop presence to defend against Taliban incursions. The new Afghan Public Protection Force “enables respected young men of local communities to become public protectors,” said U.S. Army training officer Capt. Marco Lyons. But the force, currently operating only in Wardak province, just south of the capital of Kabul, risks […]

COIN of the Realm

Time constraints this week force me to actually blog, instead of posting my usual long-form essays to the blog page. So quickly, a few thoughts on the Celeste Ward op-ed in the WaPo over the weekend, which Andrew Exum flagged. The question of the Surge narrative is central to Ward’s piece, which amounts to a critical corrective to the COIN “fad.” But I found this the more interesting thread: It still isn’t clear to me that what we faced in Iraq was aninsurgency. There were many different conflicts raging simultaneously:anti-occupation movements, struggles among and between ethno-sectariangroups, the presence of foreign […]

Feature Issue: Germany, the Reluctant Power

In case you haven’t noticed, the latest WPR Feature Issue just went live. It’s a multifaceted look at, Germany, the great power that somehow isn’t. I’ve got a hunch this is going to be one of those timely features, not necessarily in media cycle as measured by days or months, but in historical cycles as measured in years and decades. For a variety of historical and political reasons, many of them clear and others less obvious, Germany has carved out a unique place for itself in the international arena, emphasizing non-militarism and multilateralism. But with the very multilateral order on […]

During a three-day visit to Japan last week, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin pushed commercial deals and received an honorary degree from Tokyo University for his efforts to improve Russian-Japanese ties (as well as for his knowledge of judo, in which he holds a black belt). But as expected, the Russian and Japanese governments made little progress in resolving their territorial dispute over four islands that Russia seized from Japan at the end of World War II. The dispute over the islands — the Russians call them the Southern Kurils, while the Japanese refer to them as their Northern Territories […]

MARDAN, Pakistan — Zeeshan Khan, a 17-year-old engineering student, says he knows who Pakistanis blame for what has become the largest migration in their country’s history. “These people are coming due to the bombing,” he said, gesturing to the thousands of refugees milling around the Mardan refugee camp. “Due to the jet artillery, the F-16s, the heavy weapons. All our houses are destroyed.” More than 900,000 people have left their homes in and around Swat valley in the last few weeks, adding to a total of 1.4 million people displaced so far by fighting between the Pakistani Army and militants. […]

Last week, officials in Gong’an county in China’s Hubei province were forced to withdraw an order issued in March requiring civil servants to smoke at least 230,000 packs of locally produced cigarettes each year, or else face a fine if they failed to meet their targets. The order was withdrawn not due to intervention from the central government in Beijing, but rather due to overwhelming public outrage, demonstrating how so often in China, the farcical corruption of many local officials is held in check only by the decency and common sense of ordinary citizens. Although this short drama was absurd […]

Running Out of Fingers

Richard Haass on his policy differences within the Bush administration: I argued for a new Iran policy and lost. I argued for a diplomaticapproach to North Korea and lost. I argued for a serious approach tothe Palestinian issue and lost. I wanted to deal with Syria, and I loston that. I also didn’t understand the allergy to internationalinstitutions. At some point, you run out of fingers to add up yourdisagreements. From an interview on wars of necessity vs. wars of choice over at Real Clear World. Interestingly, Haass obliquely underlines the disconnect between strategic objectives and resources that has plagued […]

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