More than four years after President Barack Obama’s 2009 Prague speech declared the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide, the nuclear landscape has become more complex and precarious and shows little sign of movement toward abolition. The so-called global zero initiative has arguably been overtaken by countervailing nuclear realities. Yet the administration remains mired in a Cold War paradigm, gearing up for more U.S.-Russia arms control. Instead, the Obama administration should focus on other components of its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review as priorities for advancing nonproliferation objectives. These include securing nuclear materials, institutionalizing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), capping […]

As the U.S. looks to the end of one phase of the war on terror, with military operations having ended in Iraq and currently winding down in Afghanistan, a new one is well underway, characterized by drone strikes and covert missions by special operations forces. In Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are battling serious challenges from Islamist terrorist groups. Meanwhile, in the Sahel, al-Qaida’s affiliates are carrying on the group’s ideology even as its central organization falters, with implications for the U.S. and Europe. This WPR Special Report examines the new fronts in the war on terror. Counterterrorism Containment Should Guide […]

The wars in Mali and Syria have followed very different trajectories over the past month. While Syria has become symbolic of international inaction, France’s use of force in Mali has shown that some Western governments are still willing to launch new interventions abroad. And while there have been no dramatic military shifts in Syria, French troops have pushed deep into northern Mali with growing speed. The crises also have very different geopolitical implications. The situation in Mali is the latest in a long series of French operations to stabilize its former colonies, although Paris enjoys an unusual level of African […]

It was odd to listen to foreign policy pundits comment on President Barack Obama’s inaugural address. Some announced that the administration had all but conceded that Iran will obtain a nuclear capability, and that Israel is being left out to dry. Others speculated that in his second term Obama will work to catalyze a broad-based Pacific alliance to counterbalance a rising China. There were those who argued that the second inaugural signals an expansion of the so-called drone war and use of special operations forces to deal with threats to the United States. Some read in Obama’s remarks a call […]

Marine Le Pen, center, far-right National Front candidate for France’s 2012 presidential election,  with her father Jean Marie Le Pen, right, after her speech during the traditional May Day march in Paris, May 1, 2012 (AP photo by Francois Mori).

Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. Political extremism has, in many places, become a kind of new normal. In most democratic political systems, whether firmly established or still early in their consolidations, we find parties deemed “extremist” by the mainstream that routinely enjoy sustained electoral success. These political parties espouse rejectionist philosophies, proffer illiberal policies and promote intolerance of targeted groups. They typically do this, however, while playing within the rules of the democratic game. Putatively extremist parties […]

The United Nations Security Council has had a lot of rebellions to worry about since 2013 began. Islamist insurgents in Mali launched a new offensive, provoking a military response by France. Tentative negotiations in the Central African Republic have persuaded rebels to pause their advance on the capital, Bangui, at least for now. There have been more fierce battles in Syria, extinguishing hopes for U.N. mediation there. While trying to keep track of these events, diplomats at the U.N. have also found time to debate military technology, peacekeeping and another unresolved rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Last […]

Are we seeing the opening of the third installment of President Barack Obama’s approach to national security? The first iteration, beginning in January 2009, was the attempt to deliberately channel the moderate realism of the George H.W. Bush administration. Obama reached across the aisle to invite Bob Gates to remain as secretary of defense and to recruit Gen. Jim Jones as the national security adviser. The administration backed away from the interventionist tendencies of its predecessor, downplayed the importance of democracy promotion and, borrowing a page from the playbook of former Secretary of State Jim Baker, concentrated efforts on pragmatic […]

The Arctic is melting faster than anyone predicted. The World Meteorological Organization announced that ice melt in the Arctic reached a new record in 2012 when an area of ice larger than the continental United States vanished between the months of March and September. The seasonal thaw contributed to a new record in regional shipping as well, with more vessels than ever hauling cargo between Europe and Asia across the top of the world. And international energy companies spent record time searching for oil and gas beneath the frigid waters. But in spite of these trends, the Arctic probably won’t […]

In Transition to Civilian Rule, Myanmar Can Learn From Chile

In a year marked by democratic setbacks, Myanmar emerged as an unlikely success story. After nearly half a century of military rule, rights to unionize and protest were restored; opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest; and censorship was eased. Remarkably, these reforms happened because of, rather than despite, longtime dictator Gen. Than Shwe, in particular his decision to hand power willingly over to President Thein Sein. Than Shwe’s voluntary retirement ensured a peaceful transition, but the circumstances of his departure present unique challenges for the quasi-civilian government that has succeeded the junta. The military maintains […]

World Citizen: Will Venezuela-Iran Links Survive Chávez?

Today, Jan. 10, was the day when Hugo Chávez was scheduled to be sworn in for the fourth time as Venezuela’s president. Instead, he is lying in a Cuban hospital, suffering serious complications from cancer surgery, and the country’s legislature, dominated by the president’s loyalists, has delayed the ceremony indefinitely. As Venezuelans grapple with the political uncertainty created by Chávez’s precarious health, the prospect of a post-Chávez era poses complex choices for a number of other countries, not least among them, the United States. During almost 14 years in office, Chávez made anti-Americanism the cornerstone of his foreign policy, working […]

A Pakistani soldier was killed earlier today near the Line of Control (LOC), the de facto border dividing the disputed Kashmir region between India and Pakistan. The incident follows the death of two Indian soldiers and another Pakistani soldier in the same area in the past week. Over the past five days, a series of cease-fire violations and deadly border clashes has led to rising tensions between India and Pakistan, threatening to reverse a recent trend of cooperation between these two countries, which have fought over Kashmir since their partition. “The incursion of troops across the LOC is an escalation,” […]

While teaching at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in the 1980s, I once heard a confused student officer from a foreign country say, “I’ll never understand your military. Not only does your navy have an army, but your navy’s army has an air force.” By navy’s army, he meant the U.S. Marine Corps, which is larger than most armies and possesses an air component far bigger than most air forces. This observation drew chuckles from the foreign officer’s fellow American students, but it raised an important issue: Does the United States need two separate ground forces in […]

After a year of intense diplomatic brinkmanship over the management of maritime disputes in the South China Sea, Cambodia passed the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the tiny kingdom of Brunei on Jan. 1. Recent years have witnessed a dramatic escalation in territorial disputes between China, on one hand, and a number of Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines and Vietnam on the other. However, the past year in particular marked a major deterioration in regional relations, due in no small part to the failure of ASEAN, under Cambodia’s watch, to adopt a […]

In mid-December, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff made her first official visit to France amid speculation that the French-made Rafale might beat out competition from the U.S. and Sweden for a Brazilian fighter jet tender. In an email interview, Antonio Ramalho, an expert on Brazil-European Union relations at Brasilia University, explained the obstacles and opportunities facing the France-Brazil bilateral relationship. WPR: With new presidents in office in both countries, what are the main opportunities and obstacles facing the bilateral relationship? Antonio Ramalho: The main opportunities relate to their common views regarding the role of government in actively promoting economic growth through […]

More by accident than by design, 2013 is shaping up to be the most consequential year for U.S. trade policy since 2001, when China joined the World Trade Organization and the star-crossed Doha Round was launched. By the end of this year, negotiations could be completed on the first trans-Pacific free trade agreement in history, and talks should be well underway on a trans-Atlantic deal between the United States and the European Union. At the same time, new WTO negotiations will begin on a broad agreement to liberalize trade in service industries such as consulting, banking, insurance and architecture, and […]

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s meetings this week in Washington should help resolve some of the key issues that will determine his country’s fate and the U.S. role in it. These include how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 and also how rapidly those leaving will depart. The Afghan-U.S. discussions should also help resolve uncertainties concerning peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban and their foreign backers as well as how Karzai will transfer power to his duly elected successor in 2014. Above all, the meetings will make evident the limits of American power in a land that has […]

Many Africans had big — and unrealistic — expectations about the amount of attention they would receive from the United States during President Barack Obama’s first term. The administration’s approach to Africa was relatively low key compared with the Bush presidency’s flurry of big-ticket initiatives on health, development and security, which included the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom). Obama was also less personally engaged on the continent than his predecessor, only setting foot in sub-Saharan African for a few hours, very early in his term, to […]

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