In examining possible approaches to Iran policy in my last several columns, I concluded that “focusing on deterrence in the short run while increasing efforts to promote regime modification — by internal means — over the long haul” might end up being the most effective one. Some of the feedback I received suggested that I was being too pessimistic about current efforts to bring about a new round of punitive sanctions on Iran, and that there were signs that even Russia and China were moving closer to the U.S. position. Those hopes received a serious setback on Thursday, when Russia […]

With the United States currently fighting two wars abroad and facing a health care crisis and an economy on life-support at home, Pentagon officials are hoping to meet a looming threat to America’s future global dominance — not to mention national security — by boosting capacity in elementary school classrooms across the nation. In January, the Pentagon approved a proposal by their risk-taking research agency, DARPA, to invest $45 million into efforts to increase enrollment in computing, science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs (CS-STEM). To do so, DARPA wants to develop extracurricular initiatives to target and engage elementary aged kids, […]

Noted without Comment

I’m playing around with this as a way to link to items I’ve read and have little to add to, but that don’t overlap with the Off the Radar turf. – Investment banks (read: Goldman Sachs) have been making money coming and going on Greece’s debt. Jean Quatremer has been covering this for a few weeks, but delicately because few people are willing to go on record. The target, according to Quatremer, is not Greece, but the euro. Lots of Soros wannabe’s out there. – If uranium is the new oil, Kazakhstan is the new Persian Gulf, complete with all […]

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is playing a crucial role in sustaining the alliance’s Afghan mission, encouraging allied governments and publics alike during his transatlantic travels to appreciate the perspectives of their partners as well as the value of NATO as an institution. Consistent with that, among the objectives of his trip to Washington this week was to remind Americans of how extensively other NATO countries have collaborated in support of U.S. security objectives. In addition to meeting with media and U.S. officials, Rasmussen was also in Washington to participate in a seminar held to advise the Group of Experts […]

Civilian Casualties Under Fire in Afghanistan

Afghan officials are continuing to raise concerns over a recent wave of civilian casualties. Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen attributes these errors to be in great part due to difficult terrain and an enemy that is known to mingle with civilians making differentiation difficult. At the end of the day, Mullen said, “war is ugly.”

U.S.-China: The View from Australia

One curious aspect of the Stateside discussion of the U.S.-China relationship is how rarely it takes into consideration how things look from the perspective of our friends and allies in the neighborhood. So we hear about the need to balance, hedge and integrate in order to maintain regional stability, but often our friends in the region — Australia, Japan and South Korea, in particular — are portrayed as mere pawns on our chess board, without real concerns and interests of their own. That’s particularly shortsighted at a time when Japan is actively seeking to recalibrate its foreign policy posture, and […]

The recent election loss of Sri Lankan opposition candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka underlines the island’s failure to build on its recently achieved peace, while his subsequent detention brought to light a threat to its democracy. Now, upcoming parliamentary elections, slated for April 8, represent the country’s last chance to build an opposition that can bring the ethnic grievances that drove Sri Lanka’s civil war into the political arena, while also maintaining a stable multiparty democracy. Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa wasted little time in using his commanding electoral victory over Fonseka to consolidate his power. Shortly after the election, Fonseka was […]

We Americans tend to have an overly inflated sense of our place in this world. If there is an enemy, we must defeat it. If a global challenge looms, we must lead the way forward. When somebody reaches for a weapon, we must strike before they can use it (against us, naturally). And should we fail to do so, we would be to blame for whatever tragedy might result. That’s not to say that our sense of global responsibility doesn’t have deep and logical roots. Armed with the world’s largest gun after World War II, we set about creating an […]

The Marjah Focus

As NATO forces move deeper into their Marjah offensive, WorldFocus speaks with Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute about what this new strategy might mean for the the future of Afghanistan. He said, “I have no doubt that we will be able to clear the area,” in reference to Marjah. His uncertainty is with handing over security detail to Afghan forces.

Dalai Lama Speaks After White House Visit

After visiting the White House in a low-key capacity — as to not make any further waves with an already agitated Beijing — the Dalai Lama greeted reporters and gave his impressions on the talk, referring broadly to ideas of compassion and tolerance.

The QDR & China

I’m glad to see I’m not alone in this reading of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, although I found the anti-access section of the report a bit more explicit with regard to China than did Defense News’ Wendell Minnick. Nevertheless, the QDR’s very obvious references to improving capacity vis à vis China struck me as perhaps an even more significant change from the 2006 version than the emphasis on COIN and stability ops, which was already to a large degree there four years ago. Conventional war has not been downgraded, it’s just being planned at even more of a distance, […]

What’s in a Name, IR Edition

How many people out of the 6 billion who now populate planet earth do you think consider “the naming of the body of water between the Koreas and Japan” a “contentious issue”? It’s impossible to say for sure, but it’s a safe bet that it tops out at about 49 million, and I’d wager it’s significantly less than that. Nevertheless, the Northeast Asian History Foundation has historical maps in hand to support Korea’s claim, made to the Ninth Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names in 2007, that what is now called the Sea of Japan should instead be called […]

Strategic Capture in Afghanistan Leaves Questions About Taliban Structure

As the Marjah offensive progresses, the alleged capture of resistance leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan has raised questions about the structure of the Taliban and how it would recover from a significant loss of leadership. Judy Woodruff speaks with Afghanistan political experts Seth Jones, Thomas Johnson and Steve Coll. “The key issue will be negotiating with the key power brokers in the Marjah area,” Jones says.

Patchy Welcome for U.N. Envoy in Burma

As United Nations envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana arrived in Burma today to begin a review of the country’s reform progress, authorities reportedly rolled out an unusually patchy welcome mat. On the one hand, days before the visit, authorities released Tin Oo, deputy head of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy, ending seven years of imprisonment and house arrest. And the 83-year-old’s vow to immediately resume his political activities didn’t result in any immediate retribution. On the other hand, opposition leaders told the Associated Press that on the following day, authorities sentenced four women to two years imprisonment with […]

African Telecom: Strategic Communications

Normally I’d have bookmarked this kind of item for an “Off the Radar” post. But for a variety of what seem like obvious, if intuitive and somewhat intangible reasons, I’m elevating major telecom transactions to “On the Radar” status, alongside weapons sales, nuclear agreements, gas and oil deals and the like. In this case, that’s partly because it’s an Indian telecom company, Bharti Airtel, buying Kuwait-based Zain’s African operations, to the tune of a $10.7 billion purchase price. (The deal has yet to be finalized, pending due diligence.) This is significant for a few reasons. First, as Thomas P.M. Barnett […]

NEW DELHI — After a freeze on bilateral dialogue of more than a year, New Delhi’s proposed talks with Islamabad at the foreign secretary level, now scheduled for Feb. 25, have invited diverse reactions. India’s previous refusal to engage with its neighbor in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attack of Nov. 26, 2008, was meant to pressure Islamabad to both prosecute the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage and offer unambiguous commitments to crack down on terrorism. The scars from the Mumbai attack, which left 170 people dead, have not yet healed. Nor has Pakistan done anything substantive to assuage […]

The last two weeks have seen a mixed message from Beijing regarding U.S.-Chinese military ties. The ambiguous signals are indicative of China’s continuing fixation on Taiwan and its uncertainty regarding its place among world powers. In January, the U.S. moved forward on a long-delayed, $6.4 billion arms deal for Taiwan that includes assault helicopters, surface-to-air missiles and mine-hunting vessels. The deal had initially been approved by the Bush administration in 2008, but the new administration under President Barack Obama was slow to issue the individual contracts necessary to provide the weapons. Under the terms of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, […]

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