On Sept. 12, after months of negotiations, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, a historically low-profile international institution, announced that its participants had agreed to new international minimum capital standards for banks. Scheduled to be phased in carefully over the next eight years, the new agreement — informally referred to as Basel III — represents the most significant set of international financial regulations to emerge since the onset of the global financial crisis. Yet, to succeed, Basel III depends entirely on national governments voluntarily following through on implementing and maintaining the new standards. As a result, distributional consequences across countries […]

Compared to their predecessors of three or four decades ago, U.S. national security officials are thinking in new terms, about new categories of threats. To an unprecedented degree, they must monitor the social, political, economic and psychological trends and processes that will determine the security environment in the years ahead. The kinds of things they are likely to worry about include the factors that will encourage Pakistan to take more aggressive action against militants or impede it from doing so; the conditions under which narco-violence could threaten the stability of Mexico; the likely lifespan of Tehran’s theocracy; the causes and […]

The U.S. government is making significant progress in its understanding of the cyber threat to U.S. national security, as demonstrated by a recent article in Foreign Affairs magazine by the deputy secretary of defense, William J. Lynn. The article also provides useful insights into government programs and capabilities to counter this threat, as well as the role of U.S. intelligence in helping the public and private sectors step up to this emerging national security challenge. More is needed, however, in terms of understanding what’s at stake in cybersecurity, improving intelligence regarding adversaries’ capabilities, intentions and activities, and creating the mechanisms […]

The changes to the U.S. intelligence community (IC) effected after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States were the most comprehensive in decades. Intelligence reformers sought to restructure the IC to make it more flexible and integrated, to improve the sharing of information both horizontally between federal agencies and vertically between Washington and state and local bodies, and to expand the capabilities at the IC’s disposal. The reforms have achieved important progress in some areas. But a series of high-profile incidents and revelations — including repeated turnover in the position of director of national intelligence, media exposés by […]

USAID Administrator Raj Shah on U.S. Development Strategy

USAID Administrator Raj Shah talks with former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth (D-Colo.) on how the Obama administration thinks about the “third D” in U.S. foreign policy: development. The discussion at the 92nd Street Y in New York Sept. 23 occurred the same day that Obama delivered a speech to the UN General Assembly that heavily emphasized development as a component of U.S. foreign policy. Watch live streaming video from mashable at livestream.com

U.S. Brings Aid into 20th Century

Yesterday, in response to the Obama administration’s announcement that it was “changing the way we do business” on development, I remarked on Twitter that it is more likely “changing the way we do bureaucratic infighting on development.” It was a bit snide, I admit, as is the title of this post. And it bears noting that aid advocates have applauded the changes. But really, my expertise on international aid and development comes from having spent some time visiting with development workers of various nationalities while travelling in Ecuador back in 1993 and 1996. Which is to say, I have no […]

Turkey as Test Case of U.S. Approach to Regionalism

The theory behind Turkey’s foreign policy, as summed up by Turkish academic-turned-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, is the “zero problems with neighbors” policy. As such, Turkey has put increasing effort into resolving longstanding tensions in its regional relations. The results have admittedly been spotty. Bilateral ties with Syria, Iran and Kurdish Iraq are notable successes. The rapprochement with Armenia is still a work in progress. The historic friendship with Israel has suffered dramatically from Turkey’s decision to take a more vocal position on the question of Gaza. But in theory, it’s a great approach to 21st century foreign policy, which is […]

The Long Tail of the Beijing Olympics

From Judy Dempsey, describing China’s increasing reach in Eastern Europe: From the Baltic states to the Balkans, Chinese companies, flush with money, are buying real estate and competing for public infrastructure contracts, especially as Poland and Ukraine work at breakneck speed to jointly play host to the 2012 European soccer championship. I’d already seen some suggestion that Brazil was also turning to China for expertise and support in advance of hosting the World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016. The 2008 Beijing Olympics were seen at the time through the prism of soft power — China’s coming out party. […]

Russia Reverses Decision on Sale of Air Defense Systems to Iran

Responding to UN sanctions on Iran, Russia has reportedly reversed a 2007 decision to sell Russian-made S-300 air defense systems to Iran. The delivery was previously postponed. “The repeated rumors and confusion regarding a possible sale indicate that Russian policymakers are divided over the issue,” Richard Weitz wrote in his March 2009 WPR column, “Russia, Iran, Washington Battle Over S-300s.” “It also illustrates the degree of mistrust between the Russian and Iranian national security communities over the subject of bilateral arms transfers in general, and disagreement over the extent to which Moscow should support Iranian defense aspirations over American and […]

Critics of the New START treaty charge that, if ratified, it would constrain U.S. missile defense plans. Whether or not the treaty’s non-binding preamble supports their argument, the broader question regarding the future of missile defense is an important one. Missile defenses bolster deterrence and strengthen the security of U.S. allies, giving them a significant role to play in a fluid and dynamic contemporary security environment. But regardless of the New START treaty, the Obama administration will have to limit U.S. missile defense plans if it wishes to remain credibly committed to future arms reduction agreements with Russia, as well […]

In June of this year, the United States Navy published the 2010 Naval Operations Concept (.pdf) (NOC), designed as the operational fulfillment of the Cooperative Maritime Strategy (.pdf) (CS-21) released in 2007. The 112-page NOC is an elaboration of the concepts set forth in the 20-page Cooperative Strategy, with detailed discussion of how the missions laid forth in the earlier document can be accomplished with the forces available to the United States Navy. CS-21 itself is a curious document. Deceptively modest, it was developed as the Navy’s strategic answer to the post-Cold War environment. But whether intentionally, as some have […]

Maritime issues have risen to the forefront of current regional security concerns in Asia. Indeed, many emerging non-traditional security concerns such as proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), maritime terrorism, piracy, safety and security of sea lines of communication, smuggling (of arms, drugs and humans), illegal fishing and marine pollution are all essentially maritime issues. Some of them provide opportunities for multilateral maritime security cooperation when supporting factors coincide and are mutually reinforcing. The cooperative anti-piracy effort off the coast of Somalia, the loose and fragile 2002 ASEAN Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, […]

Clinton’s Speech: Obama Likes Europe. Really.

Perhaps because there was so much to digest in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s review of the Obama administration’s foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington on Wednesday, her olive branch to Europe has been largely overlooked. Yet some members of her distinguished audience did a double take when she said, “President Obama and I have reached out to strengthen both our bilateral and multilateral ties in Europe. And the post-Lisbon EU is developing an expanded global role and our relationship is growing and changing as a result. . . .. There is no doubt that a […]

In U.S. domestic politics, which demands that presidential administrations pursue policies with near-instantaneous results, the biblical adage, “One sows, another reaps,” is anathema. As a result, President Barack Obama is not only under growing pressure to demonstrate results to a skeptical American electorate months before the 2010 midterm elections, he also needs to chalk up a series of successes to buoy his 2012 re-election campaign. Fortunately, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pithily noted during her last visit to Georgia, the United States is able to walk and chew gum at the same time. This logic also applies to the […]

In his April 2009 Prague speech, President Barack Obama ambitiously pledged to “secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” The goal is driven by the need to ensure that terrorists never obtain a nuclear weapon or materials usable for a nuclear device, and its urgency cannot be overstated. Twenty countries are believed to possess bomb-grade nuclear material that is not secure. While fissile material security is usually associated with developing countries, developed countries such as the U.S. must also take additional steps to safeguard their own nuclear materials. What’s more, despite a myriad of national laws […]

Losing Afghanistan 101: A Four-Part Video Op-ed

In this four-part video opinion series on Afghanistan, WPR contributor David Axe examines obstacles to NATO and U.S. victory in Afghanistan. These include terrain, a culture of corruption, the agrarian nature of the economy, and the technology employed by U.S. and NATO forces, he argues. -o- Lesson I: Terrain -o- Lesson II: Culture of Corruption -o- Lesson III: Thinking Like a Farmer -o- Lesson IV: Technology

The Iraqi insurgents moved fast. Piling into the back of a civilian pick-up truck, they weaved through the western Iraqi city of Ramadi until they were within a few miles of the local American base. The truck halted, and the insurgents spilled out. In just seconds, they set up a mortar and fired at least one shell toward the base. Seconds later they were speeding to safety, their vehicle hidden in the city’s traffic. The round arced over the earthen wall surrounding the U.S. base and struck Capt. Eric Allton, a 34-year-old from Idaho. Allton died instantly. Hundreds of Americans […]

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