The first hundred days is an artificial benchmark for assessing presidential performance. In foreign policy, Barack Obama has not had time to do much, and the moves he has made have yet to produce clear consequences. He has, however, set a tone. It is reminiscent of the approach George W. Bush proposed in his 2000 campaign debate with Al Gore when he said, “If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us. If we’re a humble nation . . . they’ll welcome us.” Whether Mr. Bush’s foreign policy would have embodied that prescription had Osama bin Laden’s minions not struck the […]

No president could restructure U.S. national security strategy in 100 days. It is possible to announce new strategic concepts and goals, and to make some time-urgent changes. In practice, however, it takes months to translate strategic concepts into detailed plans and budgets, and even the most urgent actions take time to implement. A major restructuring of U.S. procurement or military end strength can take several years to implement, and the same is true of any major reorganization of a key department and the interagency process. Changing America’s Image That said, having inherited one of the worst presidential legacies of the […]

Obama’s First Steps: What Comes After the ‘Listening Phase’?

President Barack Obama entered office with such an inflated cloud of expectations hanging over his head that it is not surprising that some are criticizing him now for his “failures.” After a mere 100 or so days in office, why hasn’t he solved the global financial crisis, reversed global warming and brought peace to the Middle East? On the other hand, some of his partisans are wont to claim major foreign policy successes for the new administration because of the president’s personal popularity and the tumultuous acclaim he has received during his overseas visits. Yet during his first few months […]

Half Measures for Afghanistan

President Obama’s plan to send 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan — in addition to 17,000 previously announced — was apparently a compromise between his political advisors and his military ones. Described as a “down-payment” option on future commitments once the Iraq draw-down is completed, this measure seems designed to buy time in the hope that Afghan President Karzai, who is meeting with President Obama on Wednesday, will get his army and his government in good enough shape to effectively engage with the Taliban and their allies. The Washington consensus seems once again to be that the U.S. is not engaged […]

Two Sides of the COIN

Looks like the Chinese have been paying attention to U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine, because construction of this hydroelectric station as part of a poverty-relief program in Xianjing, home to a Muslim insurgency, is certainly sound “hearts and minds” practice. Looks like the U.S. military’s evangelical community in Bagram hasn’t been paying attention to U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine, because distributing Bibles and planning conversion strategies in Afghanistan, home to a Muslim insurgency, is certainly not sound “hearts and minds” practice.

COIN in Kapisa, Six Weeks Later

Back in March, Joshua Foust wrote a WPR feature article (sub. req.) examining counterinsurgency in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan. Today, over at his haunts, he follows up on some more recent developments. I liked this quote from a Stars and Stripes article he cites: “When you can conduct your operations without shooting any bullets,it’s a good criteria of success,” said Col. Nicolas Le Nen, the Frenchcommander. Reason for cautious optimism, which is good news. If nothing else, Afghanistan will have done wonders for mutual respect between the U.S. and French militaries, because from what I’ve read, there’s quite a bit […]

The top item at President Barack Obama’s two-day mini-summit with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani leader Asif Ali Zardari at the White House this week will be “cooperation.” The agenda is also likely to include a pile of other challenges now facing South Asia — like the 40 percent spike in civilian deaths in Afghanistan last year, the popular backlash in Pakistan against the United States’ use of drone missile attacks, and the floor-to-ceiling corruption that pervades President Karzai’s government. With all that to talk about, maybe the summit should last the whole week. Because the three men would […]

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Thailand calls itself the Land of Smiles, and is known for its tropical beaches, beautiful mountains, good food and friendly people. But that may soon change. While the happy-go-lucky image of Thailand may be hard for many to shake, political observers — and the government — are beginning to take the possibility of a civil war much more seriously. On April 21, Jakrapob Penkair — a key leader of the opposition United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) and reputedly the man behind this month’s violent protests in Bangkok and Pattaya — announced in a BBC […]

France-China Thaw

I’m not sure exactly what went down at the side meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the London G-20 summit. But it seems like it must have been one wildly successful pow wow. Last week, the two countries signed a string of — yup, you guessed it — nuclear deals. This past week, former President Jacques Chirac — a noted sinophile who once corrected a Chinese museum curator about the details of an antique vase on display — visited Beijing, and was greeted with a Chinese call to “boost the China-France comprehensive strategic partnership.” […]

ERITREAN AUTHORITIES ACCUSED OF MASS ABUSES: Eritrean authorities have turned the small country in northeast Africa into a prison for the country’s 4 million residents, Human Rights Watch charged in a 95-page report (.pdf) released April 16. According to the report, the Eritrean government has orchestrated a multiyear campaign characterized by serious human rights violations that include arbitrary arrests, torture, dismal detention conditions and prolonged military conscription. The government has placed rigid restrictions on a host of other social, political and religious rights, and dissent is not tolerated. “Eritrea has become one of the most closed and repressive states in […]

Strategic Posture Review: Australia

Get a .pdf version of this report. Australia sits within two geostrategic landscapes: It is an active member of the global Anglo-American alliance, while also being part of the Asia-Pacific region. In the past, Australia’s cultural, political and economic referents linked it closely to Britain and the United States. In terms of security, Australia was historically “protected” by the British Empire. With the empire’s rapid unraveling from 1942 onward, followed by Britain’s realignment with Europe, Australia sought protection from the United States. However, Australia is also geographically part of the Asia Pacific. While Australia was able to isolate itself from […]

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