Obsolete Trade-offs

Matthew Yglesias flags this remark by Randy Scheunemann, John McCain’s top foreign policy aide, in the context of an interview on Georgia and U.S.-Russia relations: Well, I think first of all the administration has said very clearly and publicly that there will be no trade-offs. Trade-offs like that are kind of a relic of a bygone era of power politics. Yglesias then responds with a pretty heavy dose of snark: That’s right, he thinks the entire process of bargaining for mutual advantage that lies at the core of diplomacy — and, indeed, of almost all constructive human interaction — is […]

Public Diplomacy 101

Score one for the public diplomacy guys: the U.S. Soccer Federation just formally invited the Iranian national team for a pair of friendly tune-up matches this summer. This is the sort of quiet stuff that can sometimes go a long way, because when it comes to information ops, the old saw applies: Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? Seeing is believing, and that’s why exchange programs are so effective at dispelling the kind of misinformation about America that has formed the basis of so many anti-American narratives around the globe. In the same vein, last […]

The WPR Archives: The World Food Crisis

The global crisis arising from skyrocketing food prices is suddenly all over the front pages. On Sunday, for example, the Washington Post began a series on the issue. And this morning comes news that the U.N. is establishing a task force with the goal of raising $755 million in additional funds for the World Food Program. WPR has been tracking this issue for several months, so given the current attention to it in the mainstream press, we thought we would highlight three commentary pieces from our archives that examine various aspects of rising food prices. First, back in December, the […]

Syria’s Perennial Diplomacy Ruse

On Friday in World Politics Review, Frida Ghitis explained why talks of peace between Syria and Israel are merely a show meant in fact to prolong the status quo: There was a time when peace between Israel and Syria was a fairly simple problem to solve. That time is now past. Israel will not relinquish the Golan to a country that is closely allied with another nation, Iran, which calls for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” And Assad will not easily push away the one country, Iran, on which it can rely to ensure his hold on power. […]

Belarusian Cyber Attack

A press release from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: (Prague, Czech Republic – April 28, 2008) -An attack of unprecedented scale and intensity is under way against the Internet sites of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Belarus Service and more than half a dozen other RFE/RL language broadcasting sites. The cyber warfare started at 8 AM Prague time (2 AM EST), Saturday, April 26, and is ongoing. Known as “Denial of Service,” or DOS, it slows web traffic to a standstill by bombarding the system with bogus requests it has to consider and then deny. The brunt of the attack is aimed […]

Petraeus: Clearly Qualified to Lead CENTCOM

Just wanted to jump in here to comment on the question Judah raised about Petraeus’ qualifications to be leader of CENTCOM. The use of the word “temerity” in wondering why no one has so far questioned Petraeus’ qualifications for the CENTCOM job is appropriate. Another, less cynical, less political, way of saying that “the only real qualification Petraeus seems to have for the jobis to have offered President Bush a fortuitous tactical approach thatcoincided perfectly with Bush’s political needs” is to say that Petraeus main qualification for the job is in finding a way to turn around a war that […]

Missile Defense’s Proponents

Last week I flagged a severe drubbing that missile defense took at a Congressional Oversight Subcommittee hearing. In the interests of fair play, I thought I should link to a hearing that took place the following day at the House Armed Services Committee, where missile defense proponents from the DoD, including Missile Defense Agency head Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, testified on its behalf. The kindest thing I can find to say about missile defense, globally speaking, is that the advances made in short- and midrange in-theater defense technologies (the Patriot and Aegis systems, for instance) seem promising and worth pursuing. […]

Military Intervention: Agreeing to Agree

Sam Roggeveen ups the ante in our “furious agreement,” and points out that regardless of what conclusions ought to be drawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s clear from global defense expenditures that the consensus has formed around expanding expeditionary forces. In other words, expect more, rather than less, military intervention. At the risk of escalating our agreement even more, I’d add that in addition to the amphibious vessels (that increasingly serve as logistical support centers for expeditionary forces) and the NATO/EU A400M airlift initiative that Roggeveen mentioned, I also heard whispers recently of an EU initiative to increase tactical and […]

The Petraeus Principle

What’s clear so far about the Petraeus CENTCOM announcement is that all anyone can do right now is speculate on what impact this will all have. But while answers will only come with time, the fundamental questions are shaping up pretty quickly. According to Abu Muqawama they boil down to how Gen. Petraeus’ experiences in Iraq are going to influence his regional vision in general, his approach to Iran in particular, and his ability to make detached decisions about how to distribute scarce resources between the two theaters of war now under his command. Tom Barnett, on the other hand, […]

Forget Lipstick on a Pig, Make Jihadists Look Still Uglier

As a follow-on to Judah’s post about U.S. information operations and public diplomacy, particularly his discussion of the difficulty of making U.S. foreign policy, or the United States in general, look swell to an audience that to a certain extent is pre-disposed to oppose it, I wanted to flag again something I linked to back in January: this Washington Post op-ed by Gary Anderson. Anderson has some interesting advice for how to deal with the “lipstick on a pig” phenomenon, as Judah calls it. Essentially, he says, we should forget about charm campaigns focused on bolstering the U.S. image and […]

Carter’s Quest for Mideast Peace

When Jimmy Carter was recently praised for bringing “honesty and pragmatism to the Middle East,” it wasn’t anybody in Washington or Jerusalem who expressed appreciation for Carter’s meetings with Hamas representatives during his latest trip to the region. The praise came instead from Gaza, via the Washington Post, which gave Mahmoud al-Zahar, the “foreign minister” of Hamas, the opportunity to outline the group’s views on peace in the Middle East. But as an editorial printed opposite to Zahar’s piece noted, Zahar left little doubt that Hamas has no interest in a negotiated peace. Indeed, the uncompromising stance expressed by Zahar […]

Information Ops: It’s Not All Bad News

It’s become something of a truism that the outcome of the struggle against what for simplicity’s sake I’ll call Jihadist terrorism (you’ll understand shortly) depends in large part on driving a wedge between terrorists and the broader Muslim world that does not support their tactics. And the consensus has it that not only are we losing the information operations (IO) battle for hearts and minds in the Muslim world, but that we’re at an inherent disadvantage in the “war of ideas” because our tradition of a free press hamstrings us when faced with an enemy that can not only control […]

The Case Against Military Activism

The Lowy Interpreter’s Sam Roggeveen takes me to task for too quickly dismissing the efficacy of military intervention here. But I think his post brushes aside some pretty significant considerations that argue against his conclusion that “. . .the relative success of military solutions does encourage greater dependence on it.” To begin with, Roggeveen distinguishes between the “brilliant successes” of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, and the costly quagmires of the post-invasion counterinsurgencies. My argument is precisely that the tempting successes of the former, which are indisputable, led us to ignore the predictable (and predicted) dangers of the latter. Here, […]

Strong Stuff from U.S. Defense Secretary Gates

In replacing Donald Rumsfeld, who as defense secretary often seemed to embrace the bull-in-a-china-shop style of leadership, Defense Secretary Robert Gates no doubt has been a more calming presence for the Pentagon’s military and civilian employees. While Gates may be a less confrontational and unassuming leader than the brash, often arrogant, suffer-no-fools Rumsfeld, however, he has proven that he is no less of an iconoclastic thinker. While Rumsfeld’s ideas about transforming the military to a lighter, quicker, more expeditionary force did not serve him well in specific application to post-invasion Iraq, however, Gates has had the benefit of the lessons […]

The Limits of Military Power

There’s a discussion this week over at TPMCafe of Matthew Yglesias’ imminently available book, Heads in the Sand. It focuses on Yglesias’ vision of a “liberal internationalism,” by which he means the forward leaning diplomatic engagement, under the auspices of a multi-lateral system of institutions and laws, that characterized American foreign policy throughout the Cold War. Specifically, on his blog, Yglesias has targeted the use of pre-emptive war as an effective non-proliferation strategy. I call attention to it not only because it’s an interesting discussion, but also because it folds in nicely with this short monograph (.pdf) by Carl Connetta, […]

African States Turn Back Chinese Weapons Bound for Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s African neighbors have generally been feckless in their past relations with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. But facilitating the transport of a shipload of Chinese weapons likely to be used by the Mugabe regime in a bloody crackdown aimed at holding onto power after being voted out of office is apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Chinese ship An Yue Jiang has already been turned away from South Africa and Mozambique. The United States is also involved in the effort: U.S. intelligence agencies are tracking the vessel, the An Yue Jiang, and American diplomats have been instructed […]

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