How to Reform the U.S. Decision-Making Process

Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation and national security reform expert Jim Locher discuss how the chain of command that is described in the Goldwater-Nichols Act could be expanded to include inter-agency systems. Locher says that the White House is currently lacking an integrated effort between agencies that would allow departments to share expertise.

The term “lawfare” is increasingly used to characterize the pervasive role of law in the conduct of war, but there is nothing new about the concept. Law has always played a role in war, requiring that a pragmatic balance be struck between the necessities of war and the need to protect the innocent. The significance of this balance between military necessity and humane treatment under the law has never been more central to the credibility of U.S. military operations than it is today. The real question raised today is whether “lawfare” will come to define a fundamental distortion of this […]

After two days of high-profile meetings and deliberation last week, the G-20 managed to make official something everyone already knew: the United States and Europe can no longer effectively manage the whims of the global economy on their own. To that end, the group reached consensus on two major fronts: 1) the more diverse G-20 should effectively replace the Western-dominated G-8 as the world’s primary economic coordinating body; and, 2) voting power within the IMF should be reformed to give greater voice to emerging powers. Stop the presses, right? Yes and no. This is big news, but not necessarily new […]

Poland Embraces EU Defense

Poland has just announced its policy priorities for its EU presidency in 2011. And topping the list is EU defense, followed by energy security. Jean Quatremer claims it comes in response to the U.S. reversal on the missile defense system, and characterizes it as a “vĂ©ritable rĂ©volution.” The former is certainly possible, even likely. I’m less convinced by the latter. As Laura Chappell pointed out in her excellent WPR Strategic Posture Review for Poland, EU defense has occupied an increasingly prominent position in Poland’s national security calculations. The reason being, Poland prefers being actively involved in any security architecture that […]

Obama, Sarkozy, Brown on Iranian Nuclear Facility

U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nikolas Sarkozy, and U.K.Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the discovery of Iran’s covertnuclear facility at the G-20 economic conference in Pittsburgh.

Obama Administration’s Vision for the U.S.-China Relationship

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg delivers a keynote address on the Obama Administration’s vision for the future of the U.S.-China relationship at a conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security in Washington. Full transcript.

When the heads of state of the G-20 nations meet in Pittsburgh, Pa., later this week, it will mark nearly six months since the group’s previous meeting in London last April, and just over one year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers last September. At the time of the London Summit, the world was still in the throes of an unfolding crisis, leading the group to adopt a triage strategy. That amounted to essentially stopping the global economy and its credit markets from flat-lining. Accordingly, the major decision to come out of the April meeting was a $1.1 trillion global […]

America’s Nervous Allies Look for Post-Missile Defense Options

President Barack Obama’s rollback of the European-based ballistic missile defense system is a strategic blunder that will incentivize Russian intransigence at the negotiating table, erode relations with loyal U.S. allies in Central and Eastern Europe, and ultimately place the American homeland at greater risk. The about-face stands in a long line of similar American miscalculations on Russia and its leaders. Famously misreading his Soviet counterpart, Joseph Stalin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once mused, “If I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, [he] won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for […]

In his first major speech as the alliance’s new civilian head, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told an audience in Brussels that the time had come to revitalize security ties between Moscow and the Western alliance. Reflecting the speech’s hopeful title, “NATO and Russia: A New Beginning,” Rasmussen identified several possible areas for deeper collaboration. But the most newsworthy focus of his presentation was on ballistic missile defense (BMD). Rasmussen’s remarks came on the heels of U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement the previous day that his administration would suspend the U.S. missile defense systems planned for Poland and the […]

The decision by the Obama administration to drop the missile defense plan in Eastern Europe was based on a revised perception of Iran’s long-range missile threat. The move is bound to have multiple and contradictory effects on the thorny issue of Iran’s nuclear program, which is slated to be a central subject of multilateral discussions at the opening of the U.N.’s General Assembly this week, as well as at the G-20 gathering in Pittsburgh days later. Diminishing the threat perception of Iran’s missile program from previous assessments under the Bush administration is certainly conducive to the IAEA — that is, […]

CIA Chief Panetta on Afghanistan, Iran, Interrogation

In this interview with Gary Thomas of Voice of America, CIADirector Leon Panetta says President Hamid Karzai will in alllikelihood still emerge as the winner of the presidentialcontest in Afghanistan, even after contested votes are thrown out.Panetta also says there aredifferences among Iran’s leaders about whether to actually build anuclear bomb, and he talks about the CIA’s reaction to the U.S.attorney general’s investigation into interrogation techniques.

India-China Border Incidents

Depending on how close you have your ear to the ground, you might have picked up some buzzing about Chinese military incursions across the “Line of Actual Control” that comprises its vaguely defined border with India. The incursions have included a helicopter flyover, as well as an “Animal House”-type incident where Chinese soldiers apparently tagged stones on the Indian side of the line with “China” graffiti in red paint. But they occur in the context of a significant Chinese infrastructure buildup and militarization — one that has caused a good deal of concern in New Delhi — along its side […]

How young Somali immigrants searched for belonging, and found jihad. Last of a three-part series. (Part I) (Part II) Somali-American terror recruits have common roots in an impoverished, neglected and sometime oppressed immigrant community. Their feelings of impotence and isolation — and their desperate searches for structure — are not new. But for the most part, any violent impulses simmered under the surface until late 2006, when the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia gave American Somalis — and their kinsmen all over the world — a cause on which to hang their dissatisfaction. In December of that year, thousands of Ethiopian […]

The Case Against the U.S.-Colombia Base Agreement

Even given the charged history of U.S. interventions in Latin and South America, I admit to having been a bit perplexed by how widespread and concerted the regional opposition to the U.S.-Colombia base agreements has been. The deal involves U.S. forces using parts of Colombian bases, not constructing new ones. And the idea that U.S. forces would be involved in a cross-border aggression in South America seems a bit outdated, more the stuff of wild, anti-Yankee propaganda than a realistic forecast of what the bases will be used for. So when I received an e-mail from the Venezuelan Embassy with […]

Obama the Brazilian?

A little bit more on the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets announced by Brazilian President Lula da Silva alongside French President Nicolas Sarkozy, only to be semi-retracted pending final assessment of the competing tenders. Jean-Dominique Merchet passes on a Les Echos article (sub. req.) that sheds light on some of the backroom wrangling that went on. And it turns out U.S. President Barack Obama really went to the mat to get the Boeing F-16 offer back in the running. Merchet’s post, coming as it does from the French perspective, is titled, How Obama Tried to Shoot Down the […]

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s latest visit to Moscow resulted in a package of arms and energy deals that highlight the mutually beneficial nature of the current Russian-Venezuelan relationship. Facing declining purchases from traditional arms clients, such as India and especially China, Russia has sought to compensate by expanding arms sales to new markets, including in Latin America. For the most part, however, Russian sellers have not been able to achieve major successes, despite Latin American countries doubling the volume of weapons they purchased between the periods of 1999-2003 and 2004-2008. Although the share of Russian arms exports going to Latin […]

In January 2009, retired Gen. Mauro Tello Quiñones took command of a police unit charged with combating drug-related violence in the popular Mexican tourist destination of Cancún. The assignment lasted just one week. In early February, Tello and two aides were kidnapped and killed. Before murdering Tello, the assailants broke his arms and legs and tortured him for hours. The incident provoked shock across Mexico, with the governor of Quintana Roo state calling it “truly horrible.” Even by the standards of the violent drug war that has consumed Mexico of late, this crime stood out for its brazenness and brutality. […]

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