The Case for a Populace-Centric Engagement

Unfortunately we experienced a weird server glitch which forced us to remove the “anchor” article for the current biweekly WPR feature issue, The Al-Qaeda We Don’t Know. But I’d like to plug the articles again, in case you haven’t gotten to them yet: Nathan Field’s The Limits of the Counterterrorism Approach, on how defining al-Qaida by its tactics exaggerates its prospects for strategic success. Joe Kirschke’s AQIM, the North African Franchise, on the nature — and limits — of the threat posed by al-Qaida’s North African franchise. Brian Glyn Williams’ The 055 Brigade, on al-Qaida’s little-known conventional fighting brigade in […]

WPR Stays a Step Ahead

A handful of stories we’ve brought you recently in WPR are back in the news. Last month, Dorian Merina reported for WPR on a controversial and divisive anti-pornography bill under consideration in Indonesia. Today the IHT reports that the bill was passed into law. A few weeks back, Christina Madden reported for WPR on the Andean Trade Preferences Act that was recently signed into law. Yesterday McClatchy reportedthat the Bush administration’s subsequent suspension of Bolivia’sprivileges under that act will enter into effect today. Finally, the NYTimes has two articles today that cover familiar ground for regular WPRreaders: the first on […]

Al-Qaida Makes a Statement on U.S. Election

Terrorism analyst and translator Laura Mansfield reports that al-Qaida has made an “official statement of policy regarding the 2008 U.S. election” on a jihadist Internet forum. The statement: . . . is a ringing “anti-endorsement” for the Republican Party. The “anti-endorsement,” posted on the jihadist forums a week before the Election Day 2008, was included towards the end of the message. The message, from Al Qaeda leader (and Bagram prison escapee) Abu Yahya al Libi, was a Khutba or sermon delivered in honor of the Eid al Fitre holiday. Unlike 2004, when Bin Laden referenced both candidates by name, but […]

In the Long Run. . .

. . .Keynes was right. According to a new report,at the rate we’re consuming the earth’s resources, we’ll need twoplanets by the year 2030. The authors cleverly call it an “ecological creditcrunch.” My cosmological worldview isn’t so species-centric as to be terriblyconcerned about the planet Earth. When people say we must save theplanet, what they’re really saying is we’ve got to save ourwelves. Theplanet did just fine without us for billions of years. And while it’s awonderfully beautiful place that we really ought to take better careof, it will do just fine without us, too. But just for the sake […]

COIN and Moral Hazard in Democracies

In response to a post a few weeks back on the economics of COIN, WPR reader and Northwestern University professor Jon Caverley directed my attention to some related work he’s done (.pdf) on the question of why democracies choose to wage counterinsurgencies, despite firepower-heavy military doctrines that are ill-suited to winning them. Caverley uses a process analysis of the Vietnam War to argue that: . . .capitalized military doctrine results in a condition of moral hazard for the average voter, shifting the costs away from the median voter and leading a democratic state to pursue attempts at military coercion whose […]

A decade ago, when Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America, the world reacted with immediate, nearly unlimited generosity. Two weeks after that disaster, the U.S. already had pledged $263 million. Soon thereafter, Sweden hosted an international pledging conference that produced pledges of $9 billion to rebuild smarter and better. By contrast, in barely three weeks beginning in mid-August, four hurricanes — Fay, Gustav, Hannah and Ike — lashed Haiti and the Caribbean, and the international response has been eerily muted. In Haiti, roads are still blocked, bridges are down, and the country’s agricultural heartland is flooded. More than 800 were killed, […]

Subprime Society

Forgive me for flagging this lede from a Turkish Daily News rundown of global markets’ response to the massive, coordinated bailout plans: Hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money flooding into the veins of the global financial system prove insufficient, as global markets continue their decline. Stock markets, including the Istanbul Stock Exchange, are hit hard, as the evaporation of worldwide equity value reaches $25 trillion. Depressing, I know, but it’s that last part that caught my eye. When people talk about value evaporating, they have a tendency to confuse theoretical value with real value. But a decline in […]

Asymmetric Football

How can you not like the A-11 offense? Definitely in the spirit of its time. Hopefully they won’t come up with a rule change to ban it. Of course, I’m still waiting for them to bring back limited substitutions to make the game interesting again. As an added football bonus, check out this video — filmed off a television screen — of Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem before a Raiders-Cowboys game, circa 1974. Talk about a time capsule: Marvin Gaye, Tom Landry and John Madden in the same clip. For obvious reasons, Gaye’s 1983 NBA All-Star game anthem gets […]

Middle Powers and Regional Answers

I call it Middle Power Mojo. Nikolas Gvosdev calls it Regional Problems, Regional Answers. The only real difference is that in addition to the coincidental benefits Gvosdev identifies, I believe that with some strategic ingenuity (ie. dovetailing with middle powers that have similar but not identical interests), we could manage to actively exploit the regional answers to our advantage. The relative decline of American dominance does not necessarily mean automatic reversals for American interests. It just means we have to find new ways of getting what we want. But we’re America. We can do innovation.

WPR Feature: Future Face of Conflict

Sam Roggeveen and Mark O’Neil have a little back and forth and back again exchange over at The Lowy Interpreter, about whether or not the Army’s recently released Stability Operations field manual represents what Sam calls the ascendancy of “small wars” in U.S. military doctrine. It just so happens WPR’s current feature articles include a piece by Jack Kem, of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, on the Stability Ops manual. Kem puts it into the context of doctrine’s purpose in the U.S. Army, and talks of a “doctrinal renaissance” that is being driven by the new […]

Dept. of Self-Promotion

At the risk of tooting our own horn, I’d just like to point out a couple of stories in the news today that WPR has been out ahead on. The IHT reports on the impasse in the negotiations over the Zimbabwe unity government, a story we brought to you on Friday. The NY Times reports on developments in the North Korea nuclear program talks, all discussed in detail by Richard Weitz in his regular column last Tuesday. And Diplomatic Courier has a piece on the Turkey-Armenia rapprochement, a story we reported on three weeks ago. I imagine you don’t need […]

Somali Pirates to Get $8 Million?

Those Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter carrying Russian arms to South Sudan via Kenya may soon get paid for their treachery, and handsomely, the New York Times reports: After sticky negotiations, which several people involved likened to bazaar-style haggling, a deal seemed to be close in which the pirates would be paid millions of dollars and the ship would be freed. “The pirates and the ship owners have agreed on around $8 million,” said Ahmed Omar, a businessman in Xarardheere, a notorious pirate den on the coast of Somalia. “The ship may be freed today or tomorrow.” Maritime […]

Global Perception and the Financial Crisis

A few weeks ago, a colleague asked me what I thought about “the American financial crisis.” I told him I didn’t think it would stay American for very long. “No,” he said. “Our banking system isn’t exposed to all that subrpime stuff.” If it isn’t obvious already, my colleague isn’t an economist. Nor am I, for that matter, but what’s becoming clear is that not only is the Eurozone pretty well-exposed to the toxic mess of the credit crisis, the ECB has fewer tools to deal with it than the Fed. That’s what makes the failure of this weekend’s EU […]

Russia, Brazil Lead Worldwide Equities Plunge

Global stock markets plunged precipitously today, as fears of a global credit squeeze and recession continued. The U.S. Dow Jones and NASDAQ indexes were down about 7 and 8 percent, respectively, as of this writing, at 3 p.m. in Washington. But the U.S. plunge looked relatively minor next to the performance of equities in Brazil and Russia, which were the two biggest laggers among world markets. Brazil’s BOVESPA index was down more than 12 percent as of this writing, and Russia’s MICEX index dropped an astonishing 18 percent, even though trading was halted three times during Monday’s session. Why the […]

Who Needs Presidents?

Melinda Brouwer at U.S. Diplomacy flags a series of conversations the Council on Foreign Relations hosted with various heads of state and diplomacy during the opening of the UN General Assembly: Those distinguished leaders include: Ali Babacan, Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs; Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina; Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine; Alvaro Uribe, President of Colombia; Sergey V. Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation; Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile; and David Miliband, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, United Kingdom. Brouwer’s got excerpts from the interviews, as well as all the individual links to […]

Balance and Modesty in America’s Military Posture

Matthew E. Valkovic and Brian M. Burton pen a Small Wars Journal op-ed that pushes back a bit against Andrew Bacevich’s recent Atlantic piece on the Army’s internal “COIN vs. Conventional” doctrinal debates. You have to gather some momentum in order to influence an institution as massive and resistant to change as the U.S. Army, especially in the immediate aftermath of the violently imposed transformation of the Rumsfeld era. Add the immediacy, very eloquently expressed by Abu Muqawama, of watching your fellow soldiers die and I think the conviction of the COIN “crusaders,” as Bacevich characterizes them, becomes very understandable. […]

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