One thing I’ve discovered from writing columns over the years is that they’re a great way to elicit invitations to sit down and talk with various players in the national security establishment. All you have to do is mention somebody’s office and you’re likely to get an e-mail from their public affairs officer eager to set your thinking straight. And so it was last week that I had the chance to converse with Ambassador John Herbst, three years in the job now as the State Department’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. I earned the invitation by describing the CRS job […]

Among the more than 20 top posts at the State Department that have yet to be filled is the director of foreign assistance. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice created the post in 2006 to consolidate responsibility for the country’s nearly $30 billion foreign aid budget. What follows is a letter to the still-to-be-named nominee. To the incoming director of foreign assistance, As you well know, for more than six decades, foreign aid has played an indispensable role in the conduct of the United States’ foreign affairs. Today, 154 countries benefit from some kind of financial assistance. Along with defense […]

In his address during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue late last month in Washington, President Barack Obama personally appealed to the visiting senior Chinese officials for assistance in achieving his nuclear nonproliferation agenda. Based on the speech Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made on Aug. 12 at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, it appears that his message was only partly received. Yang made clear that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would provide only limited assistance with respect to several of the most important U.S. goals. President Obama stressed the need for concerted action with respect to curbing the […]

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MEXICO CITY — Francisco Morelos Borja, the Michoacan president of the governing National Action Party (PAN) shifted from side to side, nervously looking at his aides and then the door of the nondescript restaurant in the town of Quiroga. “If you don’t open the door to [the drug traffickers], no problem. The difficulty comes when you open the door and have relations with them,” he said during our interview back in November 2007. “I can only make sure [members of the PAN] don’t open the door. . . . Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.” Nearly two years on, and […]

TORONTO — Canada is regarded as a refugee’s paradise. Indeed, the federal government never misses an opportunity to tout the country’s ever increasing immigrant population, thanks to annual record-breaking admittance of foreigners. Last year, 519,722 newcomers were admitted, a 21 percent increase from the previous year’s 429,649. This has been the trend since the turn of the millennium, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. However, a breakdown of the numbers reveals that 247,202 of those admitted last year were landed immigrants, 193,061 were temporary foreign workers and 79,459 were foreign students. Refugee numbers are rarely included in the annual statistics. […]

The American defense community has properly reacted with nonchalance to the appearance of two Russian nuclear-powered submarines off the U.S. East Coast. Neither the submarines nor the rest of the Russian Navy presently represent a major threat to the United States. In a formal statement, the U.S. Northern Command confirmed the subs’ unusual presence, but pointed out they remained outside U.S. territorial waters and engaged in legally permissible transit and other non-threatening activities. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell later explained that, “So long as they are operating in international waters, as, frankly, we do around the world, and are behaving in […]

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Globalization, this piece from 2point6billion reminds us, has regional escape valves when the rules get tougher to negotiate at the global level. I think the attractiveness of regional common markets will also be reinforced as shipping costs rise due to energy scarcity. And even if buying useless bric-a-brac from countries with cheap labor costs halfway across the world continues to make for a cheaper bottom line, eventually rationing in terms of national security priorities will kick in. Interestingly, while the EU and China-ASEAN free markets seem like win-win situations for all the economies involved, the U.S. attempt to extend NAFTA-CAFTA […]

President Barack Obama’s praiseworthy effort to establish a bipartisan national security team, epitomized by his decision to maintain Robert Gates as secretary of defense, continued with his and Gates’ appointment of Kenneth A. Myers III as the new director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Myers previously worked on the personal staff of Sen. Richard Lugar, who himself has a long history of reaching across the aisle to build bipartisan coalitions on behalf of various national security initiatives. Along with then-Sen. Sam Nunn, Lugar helped launch the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program at the Defense Department in 1991. In […]

To get a sense of what “complex operations” are, one need look no further than the kind of wars the U.S. fights when it intervenes overseas today. Unlike the total wars of the past, in which the U.S. military battled the national army of an enemy state, today’s struggles for security, stabilization, peace-building, reconstruction, and development in the most fragile states around the world are engaged by several different departments of the U.S. government. That’s it in a nutshell. But clearly, describing it is far easier than doing it. When you listen to how the best minds that are thinking […]

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Arms Control under Obama and Medvedev Since assuming office in late January 2009, President Barack Obama and his senior foreign policy advisers have resurrected the traditional approach toward Russian-American strategic arms control negotiations pursued by U.S. administrations during the 1990s. After an initial internal review and successful talks between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on March 6, the Obama administration decided to attempt to negotiate a new strategic arms control agreement before the existing START accord expires on Dec. 5, 2009. At their July 6-7 summit in Moscow, Obama and […]

These are nerve-racking times at the Pentagon. For “Big War” adherents, Iraq is not looking like the “one off” that many hoped it would be, as Afghanistan-Pakistan appears to be, if anything, an even harder slog. None of the dominant Big War scenarios are looking good, now that Iran is ever closer to nuclear deterrence, North Korea ever closer to collapse, and Taiwan ever closer to a peace deal with Beijing. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, meanwhile, is locking in a more balanced take on small wars versus large, and the serious Leviathan budget-cutting has begun. Clearly, a tipping point […]