When Thai security forces recently raided the offices of the Working Group on Justice for Peace (WGJP) in the country’s insurgency-torn south, it may have been business-as-usual for a military with a checkered human rights record. But a report released last week by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) shows this is part of a disturbing global trend. The report (.pdf), “Assessing Damage, Urging Actions: Report of the Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights,” argues that the Bush administration’s post-9/11 “war paradigm” has led to a globalization of extraordinary legal measures which result in an unprecedented corrosive […]

Water Balloon Bona Fides

On a side note, Jari also raises another very important question: Have you guys ever actually handled a balloon full of water? The answer to this is yes. In fact, as a senior at Hunter College H.S., I participated in a water balloon attack against the neighboring Lycée Français that is the stuff of legend. (Anyone who has ever gone to school in the near vicinity of a Lycée Français needs no explanation for why we organized this attack.) As water balloon attacks go, it was massive, involving four large cardboard cartons full of them, and a dozen or so […]

On Feb. 12, Iraq became the latest country to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. The country’s entry was especially important in light of the widespread use of chemical weapons by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against his foreign and domestic enemies. Under Hussein, Iraq developed a major chemical weapons industry. During the 1980s, the regime killed thousands of people by repeatedly employing chemical weapons against both Iranian troops during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War and its domestic opponents, most infamously in the March 1988 mustard gas attacks on the Kurdish village of Halabja. With Iraq’s entry, the CWC (as the Convention […]

As Western financial sectors reeled during 2007 and 2008, Asian and Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) offered some succor, administering exotic medicine to banks poisoned by subprime toxins. These White Knights cast a dark shadow, however, as questions — and fears — were raised about the political influence that, for instance, a Chinese government presence on the board of Barclays Bank might represent. The focus has shifted recently. Plummeting oil prices and declining demand for imports by contracting U.S, European and Japanese markets undercut the vast revenue base the SWFs were drawing upon. Now SWFs are writing off untold […]

The Threat From, Yes, Canada

InsideDefense.com reports that the U.S. military is nervous about Canada: Military officials believe Canadian immigration policies are creating a “favorable” environment for what the U.S. government deems to be potential terrorists seeking entry into the United States from the north, according to an internal briefing crafted by a U.S. Northern Command joint task force. Officials at the Joint Task Force-North believe a “large population” of so-called special-interest aliens, or SIAs, in Eastern Canada presents the “greatest potential for foreign terrorists’ access to the homeland,” according to a Jan. 15 briefing available on the organization’s Web site until recently.

The Financial Crisis and Regional Integration

This is a thought that I’m going to try to develop more over time. But this Ralph Peters takedown of the EU’s response to the financial crisis (via today’s WPR Media Roundup) is a good place to start. Over the past ten years, there have been twin trends towards integration, in some ways parallel but in many others overlapping: globalization and regional mulitlateral organizations. Both have created economic and political forces that transcend the traditional limits of state sovereignty. (See Samuel Makinda’s WPR feature article for a discussion of regional integration and state sovereignty.) As the global financial crisis has […]

First of a three-part series. Part II can be found here. Part III can be found here. HAVANA, Cuba — Arriving in Cuba this time felt different straight away. The airport, where I arrived on a flight from Cancún crammed with Cubans and their purchases, was hassle-free. No tour operators solicited me; no cabbies assailed me. It was the same in touristy Old Havana. Ten years before, on my last visit, I couldn’t walk a few steps without having cigars or a lobster dinner pressed on me. This time, whether in the leafy, mansion-studded Vedado section, the shopping arcades near […]

Sarkozy’s NATO Strategy

Those sneaky French. Just when you think you can trust them, they turn around and stab you in the back and do exactly what they’ve been saying they’d do. Okay, cheap shot, because Judy Dempsey’s piece on Sarkozy’s NATO-EU defense grand bargain doesn’t exhibit any of the paranoia usually on display in American analysis of France’s EU defense ambitions. Two things, though. This isn’t quite true: But most of Europe has no stomach for tough missions like Afghanistan. It has not supported France in playing a bigger role in Africa. The Europeans do not want to spend more on defense, […]

Many Americans believe that Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress will lower defense spending and restrain the militaristic foreign policy it underwrites. The coming years should destroy that myth. America’s overly aggressive and fiscally reckless defense policy will survive the Democratic majority. The Obama administration inherits runaway defense spending and leadership of a military that wants more. Non-war or base defense spending will be more than $515 billion in fiscal year 2009. Adjusting for inflation, that’s 40 percent higher than the defense budget when George W. Bush took office. Add the wars, nuclear weapons research, veterans, and homeland […]

This article is based on the book, “Organizing for a Complex World: Developing Tomorrow’s Defense and Net-Centric Systems,” recently published by the CSIS Press. Programs such as the Army’s Future Combat System, the Coast Guard’s Integrated Deepwater System program and the FAA’s Next Generation Air Traffic System are far more ambitious than any previously attempted. They combine groundbreaking technologies to create large, network-centric systems-of-systems with unprecedented capabilities. But such ambition brings unparalleled complexity, making these programs susceptible to cost overruns, schedule slippages and performance shortfalls. In recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (pdf), Secretary of Defense Robert Gates […]

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

The situation in Guadeloupe has a number of particularities that make it a not-very-ideal reference to other poor places in the world. As an island, the cost of foodstuffs and necessities remains high despite the recent drop in global commodity prices. But it’s hard to read about the month-long general strike there taking a violent turn without thinking about the potential for generalized instability as a result of the global economic downturn: The strike also is exposing racial and class tensions on islands wherea largely white elite, many the descendants of colonial settlers, makesup only 1 percent of the population […]

Inventory Glut

I try to avoid wading into the field of economics, where a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, and a lot of knowledge doesn’t seem to help matters much these days either. But I recall from the distant fog of a high school term paper that one of the initial complicating factors in the onset of the Great Depression was the buildup of inventory. I’d understood that the recent advances in communications technology, along with more efficient production and delivery systems, had largely streamlined inventories to be more responsive to real-time demand. But this WaPo article suggests that […]

Conventional wisdom now claims that America is in decline. In its report, “A Transformed World,” the National Intelligence Council predicts that in the next 15 years, the United States will be a “less dominant power.” Fareed Zakaria calls it “the rise of the rest.” Parag Khanna argues that in many places, “America is no longer viewed as a provider of security but rather of insecurity,” which allows China and Europe to exert competing imperial influence. And Paul Kennedy, who wrote about the perils of imperial overstretch in The Rise and Fall of Great Powers more than 20 years ago, just […]

State sovereignty can be likened to a living organism. It casts off meanings, sometimes splits, and reunites as it evolves in response to changing global values. Over the years, those global values and the subsequent meanings of sovereignty have often reflected the interests and preferences of hegemonic states. While a superpower like the United States cannot change the meaning or interpretation of sovereignty on its own, its political, economic, and military muscle give it a greater chance of mobilizing resources and support to influence the direction of the new meaning than a smaller country. States, multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and […]

Babe Ruth, COIN Pioneer

This Economist article on how major league sports remains pretty much recession-proof sent me looking for Babe Ruth’s famous quote in response to a reporter informing him that the salary he was holding out for in 1930 — $80,000 — was $5,000 more than then-President Herbert Hoover made: What the hell has Hoover got to do with it? Besides, I had a better year than he did. What I didn’t realize was that Ruth, in addition to being an economist, was also a counterinsurgency theorist: It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up. Especially if they’ve got the […]


After Obama, Khatami? Not so fast, says Geoffrey Kemp writing at the National Interest: Khatami represents the smiling face of Iranian reformers. He is knownas a “moderate,” primarily because he has a more lax attitude towardssocial issues, such as women’s dress. But on the fundamentals of theIranian Revolution he is a hard-liner. . . . . . . There is no indication at this point that the nuclear program will slowdown under a Khatami presidency. Those who welcome the announcement ofhis candidacy are correct that it will lead to an exciting presidentialrace. But those who think it will change the […]

Sarkozy in Baghdad

Just saw on the news that French President Nicolas Sarkozy made a surprise stop in Baghdad, accompanied by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Defense Minister Hervé Morin. (No shoes for Nicolas, apparently.) Obviously there are some contracts — especially defense contracts — to be gained, so the visit isn’t selfless. But I couldn’t help but think this is part of the French effort to get President Obama to walk back the tough love on NATO troop increases for Afghanistan. According to Le Figaro, Sarkozy is the first Western head of state not part of the invading coalition to visit Iraq. […]

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