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Just a quick word on some military procurment items that have been in my browser for a couple days: India wants a handful of stealth frigates, and is trying to figure out whether to build the first couple tubs domestically (high risk of technical screwups eating away the cost benefits) or abroad (political landmine, but reverse technology bonanza). Meanwhile, Israel is still interested in the F-22 Raptor stealth fighters. Combined with Japan’s and Australia’s interest, as well as that of certain elements in the Pentagon in keeping the production lines moving, this might get a technology-transfer-proof model in the works. […]

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I’d like to call your attention to WPR’s latest feature issue, The Age of Counterinsurgency, which just went live today. Regular readers of the blog know that I’ve got a particular interest in this subject. I think today’s feature issue should give you an idea why. Counterinsurgency doctrine, or COIN, represents the first rough draft of the dominant strategic vision that has emerged from the post-9/11 era: that failed and failing states represent the principal national security threat to the U.S. because of the safe haven they might provide to transnational terrorist networks, and that only a full-spectrum, whole-of-government approach […]

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Unofficial results from Sunday’s local elections suggest that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has suffered its first major electoral setback since the party was founded in August 2001. In the nationwide elections for provincial assemblies, the moderate Islamist AKP won 38.9 percent of the total vote, ahead of the nationalist Republican People’s Party (CHP) with 23.1 percent and the ultranationalist National Action Party (MHP) with 16.1 percent. However, the AKP’s overall vote was 7.7 percentage points down on the 46.6 percent it won in the last general election in July 2007, and lower than the […]

Internecine ideological battles have bedeviled the foreign policy of every U.S. administration in recent memory. Human rights liberals fought unsuccessfully with Cold Warriors for control of the Carter administration. New-right hardliners initially won the war for Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy soul but then lost it to George Schultz’s old-guard Republican realists. The Clinton administration became an altar on which liberal interventionists exorcised the Democratic Party’s Vietnam Syndrome demons. Most bitterly and most tragically, the first term of George W. Bush’s presidency demonstrated what happens when neoconservatives and their allies win more ideological contests than they lose. Barack Obama’s young presidency […]

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir certainly thumbed his nose at the International Criminal Court (ICC) with his whirlwind round of whistle-stops in Egypt, Eritrea and Libya last week. Now in a further bit of political theatre, he is in Doha, Qatar this week, along with most — but not all — of the leaders of the Arab League. Notably absent is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, who is still fuming with the Qataris over disagreements surrounding the recent Gaza crisis and also by the fact that the Iranians were invited. Al-Bashir’s presence in Doha will also be something of an embarrassment for […]

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Two more COIN-as-domestic-policing stories of note: The Naval Postgraduate School will be advising Salinas in that city’s anti-gang campaign (via Andrew Exum); and thanks to a combination of tough policing and community organizing, Compton is no longer the Capital CPT (via Matthew Yglesias). The former reinforces my suspicions that the military approach to counterinsurgency will find a sympathetic domestic law enforcement audience. The latter tempers the perceived threat by illustrating the ways in which the “smart power” approach to gangs and organized crime had already been formulated and applied before our current wars of counterinsurgency. In fact, back in 1997, […]

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I was thinking this morning about how a lot of the Obamaadministration’s initial foreign policy moves have amounted to lettinggo of unrealistic and counterproductive Bush administration demands –whether made of friends, partners or adversaries — that hadessentially trapped us into losing positions. Dialing backdemands on NATO allies in Afghanistan, shelving missiledefense to reset relations with Russia, dropping inflammatory rhetoricwith Iran(and I think ultimately moving the redline back from uranium enrichmentto preventing weaponization of the Iranian nuclear program): all ofthese represent areas where the Bush line could not be held, and whereletting go of them — something the Bush administration was […]

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Jason Sigger passes along a very timely post from Sven Ortmann questioning the emerging “hybrid warfare” groupthink meme. Ortmann provides historical examples that illustrate how warfare has always involved both regular and irregular aspects. I’d add that victory is always asymmetric, since it involves bypassing the strength of the enemy, and that military innovation has always been the result of finding responses to superior capacities or resources. Cavalry was initially an asymmetric response to the superiority of massed infantry; artillery evolved out of the need to reduce the advantage inherent to defending fortresses. If there’s a difference, it’s that today’s […]

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No one ever accused Israel of having a boring political scene. True to form, its next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, pulled a rabbit out of a hat and, in one dramatic move, transformed the shape of his incoming administration. A government that was expected to empower a narrow right-wing coalition will now include the leftist Labor party. As a result, the incoming government will look much more palatable to the international community as well as to Palestinians. In addition, Netanyahu hopes, his coalition will prove much more stable and durable. Netanyahu, a former prime minister and leader of the rightist […]

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A few weeks back, I argued that the U.S. military’s emphasis on stability operations might not lead to increased counterinsurgency wars of choice, but speculated about ways in which it would almost certainly impact policymakers’ strategic vision. Here is the first item on that list: 1) An emphasis onstability as the strategic objective of American foreign policy. Thisis largely consistent with America’s historical emphasis, primarily dueto the benefits of stability to trade and commerce. But with failedstates now being perceived as a national security threat vector, thatwill probably increase. The downside is that promoting stability, ifpushed to an extreme, can […]

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Earlier this month, I dashed off two posts (here and here) about the risk of counterinsurgency tactics used in Iraq making their way into domestic law enforcement. As I wrote at the time: Without goingoverboard or adopting a paranoid posture, I fear the integration ofcivilian policing with counterinsurgency campaigns will have a levelingeffect on both. That’s better for counterinsurgency campaigns than itis for civilian policing. Here’s Andrew Exum over at Abu Muqawama today: I just read in the newspaper that a fourth Oakland police officerhas died after being taken off of life support. A reader fromCalifornia wrote in a few […]

Karim Sadjadpour is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a leading researcher on Iran. The following interview originally appeared on CEIP’s Web site. Why did President Barack Obama choose this occasion [the New Year holiday of Nowruz] for his video message to Iran? Karim Sadjadpour: It’s very thoughtful timing. In acknowledging Nowruz, President Obama showed the Iranian people that he has an appreciation for their culture and history. In Dubai, the reaction among the huge Iranian expat community has been overwhelmingly and universally positive. Was there anything about the tone and language of Obama’s remarks that […]

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In many ways, Stephen Metz’s recent Small Wars Journal post is an echo of the ongoing debate over whether the ascendancy of counterinsurgency doctrine in the U.S. military will lead to a strategic shift towards more counterinsurgency wars of choice. COIN practitioners have argued that the enormous costs and complexities of counterinsurgency combined with the limited chances of success argue against widespread use. Their mantra is, Don’t confuse tactics with strategy. Metz, though, gives anecdotal evidence to the effect that the COIN focus on stabilizing states has already crept into the strategic assumptions of military futurists. He questions counterinsurgency not […]

Almost as soon as President Barack Obama took office, a chorus of commentators began to demand the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, in the hopes of ushering in a fundamental change in U.S. policy: ending the so called “war on terror” and the preventive detention regime, exemplified by the facility, that it had spawned. If one of President Obama’s first national security decisions was to order the closure of the facility within one year, the president’s decision was more symbolic than substantive. Contrary to the expectations of many Bush critics, nothing in that order would end the […]

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President Barack Obama makes a video for the Iranian government and people, saying, “Happy New Year, guys. I’m willing to talk if you’re willing to change your behavior.” The Iranian government says, “Thanks, but we’re kind of busy organizing an Af-Pak summit of our own. Oh, and by the way, Syria’s still our friend, and no, we won’t forego domestic uranium enrichment, especially if it’s that loser, Gordon Brown, who asks us to. Anyway, thanks again for the New Year’s wishes. When you’re ready to actually change some policies of your own, you know where to find us.” Of note […]

News that former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, hailed as a reformer, would challenge sitting hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in upcoming elections proved oddly short-lived. Just five weeks after sparking jubilation among his supporters by proclaiming his candidacy, the 65-year-old cleric poured cold water on the celebrations with the announcement that he had decided to withdraw, opening a minuscule new window into the mysterious machinations of Iran’s unique brand of theocratic democracy. Iranians, and the rest of the world, are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the June voting to see if Ahmadinejad will manage to stay in power. The electoral process […]

Up to $1.7 billion a year in oil money is set to flow into impoverished Cambodia, where 35 percent of the population lives under $1 a day and where this year’s national budget is only $1.8 billion. Yet in a country ranking a dismal 166 out of 180 on Transparency International’s annual corruption rankings, allegations of nepotism and cronyism are already surfacing around the country’s nascent oil sector, set to start production in 2012. Critics, like London-based watchdog Global Witness, claim the makings of a “resource curse” are in place, wherein a political elite will siphon profits that should be […]

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