Cuba became the 54th national government to accede to the U.N.’s Nuclear Terrorism Convention on June 17, in a move meant to burnish the island nation’s counterterrorist credentials, which have been contested by the United States and other foreign governments. In depositing Havana’s instrument of accession to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, as the convention is formally known, the Cuban mission to the U.N. issued a statement affirming the Cuban government’s “irrevocable commitment to the fight against terrorism under in all its forms and manifestations.” The Cuban government also exploited the occasion to contest […]

Back before the Iraq surge, “military operations other than war” — a now-antiquated term referring to non-traditional warfare — were treated as “lesser includeds,” filed deep under subsections of big-war plans, doctrine, and acquisition strategies. Today, by contrast, the U.S. national security establishment is increasingly embracing what I like to call the “greater inclusive” paradigm, which recognizes our military’s rising quotient of such operations, not as some rare exception, but rather as the new rule. Thanks to Iraq and now Afghanistan-Pakistan, the military no longer assumes that any force constructed and trained for big wars can automatically handle the “other […]

Like beauty, the value of the United Nations lies in the eye of the beholder. Case in point, David Rothkopf’s recent screed on against the world’s largest multilateral organization, the latest in a long line of vitriolic — and largely misinformed — attacks on the institution. Only a few years ago, John Bolton, at the time the U.S. ambassador to the body, declared that lopping 10 floors off the secretariat would make little difference in its operation. Superfluous or not, those 10 floors managed to survive Bolton’s U.N. tenure largely unscathed. Although Rothkopf’s rant, too, will likely dissolve away […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Barack Obama’s election as U.S. president last November signaled a defeat not only for his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, but also for the outgoing Bush administration’s strongest hemispheric ally, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe. When George W. Bush left office, Uribe lost his strongest ally for the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, whose ratification is one of Uribe’s key foreign policy goals. Uribe will now travel to Washington next Monday, June 29, to try to wrench a firm commitment from President Obama to push the deal through a hostile Congress. But Colombia’s continued human rights violations and an […]

NATO Drives Sweden’s Defense Shifts

Interesting to note, as Nicolas Gros-Verheyde does, that the current evolution in Sweden’s military doctrine — including the adoption of a professional, non-conscripted force, and the distinction between neutrality and passivity — is driven by its desire to become more compatible with NATO forces in anticipation of eventually adhering to the alliance. As Gros-Verheyde has pointed out previously, Sweden is a strong proponent of EU defense. It has already identified developing the Union’s crisis-management capacity, in both political and military terms, as a central plank of its EU presidency, which begins on July 1. But when it comes to what […]

U.S. Warming to Child Rights Convention

Obama administration officials say efforts are underway to get the U.S. signed on to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The treaty, which allows countries to sign on in whole or in part, affirms that children have the basic rights to education, health care and protection from abuse. Every U.N. member except the U.S. and Somalia has ratified it. The Clinton administration signed it in 1995 but never submitted the treaty to the Senate for approval, amid warnings from senators that the motion would fail to achieve the two-thirds majority needed. Opponents charge the treaty would […]

Kyrgyzstan’s Manas Ploy, Redux

According to Defense News, the only real change at the Manas base supplying the Afghanistan war will be in its name: instead of calling it an air base, it will now be called an transit corridor. Besides the nomenclature, though, the military activities, mainly basing tankers for refueling missions, will continue. According to RIA Novosti, Russia’s okay with the sleight of hand, with President Dmitry Medvedev calling the “transit center” a contribution to the fight against the joint terrorist threat. The fact that the lease was only extended for a year strongly suggests we haven’t heard the last of this. […]

The political turmoil in Iran has brought new meaning to the maxim, “All politics is local.” In the age of disappearing distances, the fallout from rigged vote-counting in Tehran, Shiraz or Esfahan presents local challenges and opportunities to politicians in Fort Wayne, Beirut or Tel Aviv. Just as authorities in Tehran prove incapable of stopping the flow of information out of the country, the impact of Iran’s post-election crisis has also spilled across its borders, becoming an event with domestic repercussions around the globe. In the West, the crisis in Iran has created a platform on which politicians can stand […]

COIN in Kabul (and in Washington)

Joshua Foust highlights the disconnect between the public COINspeak surrounding Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s appointment to run the Afghanistan war and the private KILLspeak surrounding his appointment to run the Afghanistan war: [W]hile publicly McChrystal says everything rightabout being population-centric and all that, very few, and I mean thisseriously, VERY few of the groundpounders within USFOR-A are gettingexcited about finally executing a proper counterinsurgency. Instead,all the excitement is about “finally” being able to “take the fight tothe enemy,” “now we get to kick some ass,” and similar sentiments. In other words, at least a large number of soldiers, both within andwithout […]

Third Round of START Talks

Third-round talks between the U.S. and Russia started yesterday in Geneva with the goal of working toward a replacement treaty for the existing Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), due to expire in December. The hope is to reach consensus on the agreement before President Barack Obama’s upcoming state visit to Russia in early July, so that interim results can be jointly announced then. The current round of talks could prove to be more challenging than the first two, though, due to a Kremlin statement released on Saturday linking progress in the talks to the planned U.S. missile-defense system in Eastern […]

Europe Feels Tremors from Berlusconi’s Earthquake Diplomacy

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s two-hour White House session last week raised eyebrows in the capitals of Europe. There is always a thinly veiled race among Europe’s leaders to be the first in Washington when a new president takes over. Although Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown was already the first to visit President Barack Obama’s White House, the Italian made it there ahead of the two leaders who share the heavy lifting in Europe: French President Nicolas Sarokozy, who has been fishing for months for such a meeting with Obama in the U.S. capital, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who […]

Blood Diamonds and Conflict Minerals Exact Heavy Price

As the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme kicks off a three-day meeting today in Namibia, rights advocates are questioning the efficacy of the system designed to prevent diamonds from conflict areas from reaching international markets. To combat the widespread illicit trade in blood diamonds, campaigners charge, the Process must find better monitoring mechanisms to address non-compliance, corruption, smuggling and human rights abuses in diamonds fields. “The clock is running out on Kimberley Process credibility,” said Annie Dunnebacke of Global Witness, one of the groups behind the original 1990s blood diamond campaign. “The work it was set up to do is vital […]

The Pentagon Goes Hybrid

The early leaks on the Quadrennial Defense Review are all going the “COIN-hybrid war” crowd’s way. Essentially, this represents an ideal of versatility and adaptability up and down the military food chain, with the same units being able to blow things up, build them up and keep civilians safe while doing so. And so long as that kind of approach doesn’t degrade our ability to go big, which is the big concern of the haters, or tempt us into interventionist hubris, which is the big concern of the doubters, it’s an intellectually attractive ideal. Of course, like all ideals, it […]

Foundations are stepping up their engagement in Sub-Sahara Africa. But will that fundamentally alter the dynamics on the ground? When Warren Buffett donated $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a few years ago, many observers heralded the arrival of a new age of private philanthropy in the Carnegie and Rockefeller tradition. Particular attention has been paid in recent years to the growing engagement of philanthropic foundations in international development, and especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Enthusiasts have pointed out that foundations offer a new and significant source of financing for development, with the potential to outstrip official development […]

China’s global priorities might not match up that well with those of your average American policymaker. But they do match up quite well with President Obama’s agenda. That’s the sense I got after spending last week in Shanghai with a bevy of China’s top foreign affairs academics. Although the workshop I attended was focused on U.S.-Chinese relations, there was no shortage of side conversation on the post-election meltdown unfolding in Iran. And nothing I heard in terms of the Chinese sense of priorities bore any resemblance to what you see these days in American newspaper headlines. As during the Cold […]

Defense Budget

You win some: After a rancorous argument over missile defense, Democrats on theHouse Armed Services Committee voted June 16 to limit the number ofmissile interceptor silos in Alaska to 30, scrapping 14 more that wereplanned when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. Then they voted not to increase spending on the years-late, billions-over-budget airborne laser. Or to spend $400 million on a missile defense site in Europe. You lose some: After more than 16 hours of squabbling over the 2010 defense budget,weary committee members voted 31-30 at 2:30 a.m. to keep the F-22program alive by making a $369 million […]

Clinton’s Elbow Grease

I’ve been thinking for a while that Hillary Clinton has really been all class since she took over as secretary of state, dispelling just about every disparaging thing said about her during the presidential campaign. No sense of privilege or entitlement, just good, old-fashioned hard work. Apparently, it took a broken elbow to slow her down, and the first thing she did was issue a statement expressing her appreciation to the hospital staff that treated her. I know 2012 is a long ways off, but if she keeps going like this, she’s liable to end up with a pretty formidable […]

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