YALA, Thailand — After more than five years, Thailand’s Muslim insurgency shows no signs of abating. But neither is there any sign of it expanding or joining the ranks of international terrorism. Instead it remains localized, which is where the Thai government hopes it will remain. Some security analysts had been concerned about the possibility of connections to al-Qaida-linked extremist groups, especially the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). JI was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people on the resort island, and is dedicated to establishing an Islamic state encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the southern Philippines and […]

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President Barack Obama’s presidential heroes are Lincoln and FDR, but if Afghanistan spins out of control, he is more likely to find himself compared to Lyndon B. Johnson. The latter’s major agenda of social change at home — the Great Society — was undercut by a war in Vietnam he couldn’t win. Like Johnson, Barack Obama came to the White House with the promise of social change — and a war in Afghanistan inherited from his predecessor that shows no signs of resolution. Recently, the New York Times reported that in June Obama invited a number of American historians to […]

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Ever since I got back from vacation, I’ve been putting off one unavoidable post. It has to do with Afghanistan, where the online debate seems to have shifted from tactics to strategy. Namely, does the U.S. have a vital strategic interest in Afghanistan-Pakistan that justifies our continued military presence there? I think I’ve been dreading formulating my thoughts on this one because in some ways, I think the theoretical debate is irrelevant. Until we’re operating in support of a credible and legitimate national government, until we have a unity of command that includes allies willing to fight and able to […]

TOKYO — Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) knew that this weekend’s general election was going to be tough. But despite consistently dismal polling, many members likely didn’t expect quite the pummeling they took. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) on Sunday romped to a landslide win, taking more than 300 seats in the 480-seat House of Representatives. The victory brought more than 50 years of almost uninterrupted rule by the LDP to a dramatic end, and has left the DPJ not only holding power for the first time, but also as the biggest party in both houses of […]

One thing I’ve discovered from writing columns over the years is that they’re a great way to elicit invitations to sit down and talk with various players in the national security establishment. All you have to do is mention somebody’s office and you’re likely to get an e-mail from their public affairs officer eager to set your thinking straight. And so it was last week that I had the chance to converse with Ambassador John Herbst, three years in the job now as the State Department’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. I earned the invitation by describing the CRS job […]

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Chinese authorities have launched a new voluntary system for organ donation in a bid to end the country’s much-criticized dependence on body parts from executed prisoners. Human rights advocates had long called for reform of the previous system, challenging it as ripe for abuses. Authorities are launching the new public donation system with massive public awareness campaigns in 10 cities and provinces before taking it nationwide. Authorities will reportedly pair up donors with recipients and operate a publicly available waiting list to promote fairness and transparency. Under the old system, China — which routinely executes more prisoners on a yearly […]

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Smartest thing I’ve read on NATO’s future strategic mission, not surprisingly by Zbigniew Brzezinski (via Thomas P.M. Barnett). A longer version of the essay also appears in the new issue of Foreign Affairs. Essentially, NATO uses partnerships with other regional security organizations (CSTO, SCO) to participate in out-of-region security challenges, thereby avoiding gathering mothballs in Europe. The added advantage is that it reduces Russian and Chinese anxiety over NATO encroaching into their neighborhoods when the need — or desire, in the case of Georgia and/or Ukraine — arises. It also allows for NATO involvement in regional security solutions in the […]

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Anand, commenting over at Joshua Foust’s Registan blog, comes up with about the best analysis I’ve seen of the strategic incoherence of our Afghanistan mess: There seem to be three different strategies . . . on three different planets: 1) Short-term “TRIAGE” or improvement in security (McChrystal, Abu Muqawama and most of the press).2) Medium-term Afghan capacity building (CSTC-A, OMLTs, TTs, civilian advisers to GIRoA civilian agencies).3) Long-term economic development (UNAMA’s planet, and the planet thatNGOs, Japan’s, India’s, Germany’s, EU’s and many other internationalaid agencies live on). Whence will the three planets meet? Outside of the improper usage of “whence,” […]

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Something funny happened after two weeks without reading a newspaper, looking at a computer screen or checking e-mail. In many ways, it felt like I “checked out” of the world. But in others, it also felt like I checked back into it. Part of it was looking out over the ocean, the horizon and, at night, the stars — as opposed to online news reports — to find out what would be driving events each day. But part of it was also reconnecting with a more concrete, grassroots experience, not so much of the world, but of my world. Focusing […]

The U.S. Cyber-Consequences Unit has recently issued a report documenting how Russia supplemented its conventional war against Georgia last August with a massive, well-integrated and pre-planned information warfare campaign against Georgia’s Internet structure. The techniques were so successful that the unit has restricted distribution of the full report to U.S. government and certain other Internet security professionals. Only the executive summary (pdf) has been made available to the public. The U.S. Cyber-Consequences Unit is independent, non-profit research institute affiliated with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The report’s main author, John Bumgarner, directs research at the […]

World Politics Review’s new special report on the Afghanistan warcompiles news, analysis and opinion from WPR’s pages to provide insightinto the situation on the ground, as well as the strategic questionsfaced by U.S. and coalition policymakers. Non-subscribers can purchase individual copies at the Scribd store, while subscribers can download the report free from our document center. Not a subscriber? Sign up for a four-month free trial. (The four-month trial offer expires Sept. 30). Below is the report’s table of contents: -Introduction from the WPR Editors -ABU MUQAWAMA ON AFGHANISTAN: AN IN­TERVIEW WITH ANDREW EXUMBY JUDAH GRUNSTEIN July 29, 2009 Policy […]

Editor’s Note: The following is a letter to the World Politics Review editor from Simon Shercliff, first secretary for foreign security and policy at the British Embassy in Washington. To the Editor: It’s important that I set the record straight on David Axe’s World Politics Review column entitled “Afghanistan Could Portend British Pull-out” and his subsequent and related blog post on Wired’s Danger Room, both of which wrongly argued that the 200th British soldier killed last week in Afghanistan could potentially weaken the U.K.’s resolve and long-term commitment to Afghanistan. No one can doubt the U.K.’s commitment to this mission. […]

In one of the most quoted aphorisms in international relations, the Prussian political philosopher Carl von Clausewitz said that “war is merely a continuation of politics.” In other words, for every war that has been waged, we can point to political aims underpinning its waging. Take some recent examples. In large part, the 1991 Persian Gulf war was about exerting power: It sought to prevent an invasion of Saudi Arabia and oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait. However, in Vietnam, the end goal was political influence: The war was fought to keep the south from falling to the communists. The examples […]

On Thursday morning, a bomb exploded in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, injuring a British soldier. Two days later, the soldier died at a hospital in Great Britain. He was the 200th U.K. fatality in the eight-year-old Afghanistan war. British newspapers marked the milestone with a flurry of grim news reports. And in short order, fighting claimed four more British troops. Great Britain has around 9,000 troops in Afghanistan — the biggest national contingent, after the U.S. British forces are concentrated in the restive south, especially in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates […]

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There is tremendous buzz about Afghanistan’s elections. Open up any op-ed page, and you can find countless articles about votes and democracy and Karzai not instantly winning, and whatever else. But what I don’t get is why anyone cares.Democratic elections usually rest on a few basic principles: a free and fair vote, an uncoerced selection of candidates, and an agreement by all parties to abide by the results. Afghanistan doesn’t quite qualify for any of these. *Take the idea of a free and fair vote. Pajhwok, an internationally-funded independent Afghan news service, has an entire news page set aside for […]

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