Last week, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) issued a report calling for sweeping changes in the international financial and monetary order. Arguing for a reduced role for the dollar, the report advocated for a global reserve bank with the power to issue its own currency, to monitor its members’ national exchange rates, and to prop up or push down their currencies. In other words, UNCTAD is making the case for a global central bank. The U.N. is not alone in calling for such a move. Since the eruption of the global financial crisis last fall and […]

‘You Lie’: Not Quite the House of Commons

Inevitably, Republican South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson’s heckling of President Obama on Wednesday, and other shouted remarks reported by (among others) Dana Milbank in the Washington Post drew comparisons with the habitual rowdiness that British prime ministers face in the House of Commons. To many commentators it recalled the political theater of a Tony Blair or — for those with longer memories — a Margaret Thatcher deftly handling members’ questions despite the barrage of catcalls and shouted remarks. The session takes its toll. This correspondent, who once worked briefly for Prime Minister Thatcher, can report that after the cut and […]

Stumbling Through the Post-9/11 Era

Reading about Margaret Thatcher conveying security assurances to Mikhail Gorbachev two months before the Berlin Wall fell, I couldn’t help but think that the Cold War, from start to finish, was a mindboggling achievement of Western statesmanship. On the fly and with the survival of humankind hanging in the balance, a generation of political leadership crafted a stable security architecture largely from scratch. Thatcher and George H.W. Bush’s instinctive management of the Soviet Union’s death throes in what Andrew Sullivan calls “brutally realist fashion” was the culmination of that remarkable effort. But it’s important to remember, too, that there were […]

As adaptive and creative as the United States claims to be, one would think that, eight years after 9/11, the foreign policy establishment would have come up with a workable way to communicate its strategic message to the rest of the world. It hasn’t. Call it the $10 billion bungle, because that’s a reliable estimate of how much the U.S. has spent since 9/11 on the effort. Bringing the dilemma to the fore is a scathing indictment issued by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen in the latest issue of Joint Forces Quarterly. Mullen’s broadside goes […]

How young Somali immigrants searched for belonging, and found jihad. Second of a three-part series. (Part I )(Part III) When 26-year-old Shirwa Ahmed, a Somali-born immigrant living in Minnesota, blew himself up in Puntland, Somalia, on Oct. 29 last year, he became the very first American suicide bomber, and a harbinger of a looming crisis. Ahmed sneaked into Somalia in late 2007, followed by potentially scores of other young Minnesotan Somali-Americans. Since the first wave of “travelers,” as they are known, left America, Minnesota has become a quiet battleground. The miniature, homegrown war on terror has pitted government authorities and […]

NATO Will Survive Afghanistan

James Joyner tackles one of the more irritating refrains used to argue for the need to succeed in Afghanistan — namely, the claim that NATO’s credibility will not survive failure there. I’d add that to the extent that NATO tried to reinvent itself as an alliance that would project force in out-of-theater operations, there’s a kernel of truth to the claim that Afghanistan has damaged its credibility. But it’s not so much success or failure in Afghanistan that are to blame, but rather NATO’s dismal failure to create a unified chain of command with uniform rules of engagement of the […]

Sarko the Brazilian: Not So Fast!

It looks like the deal for Brazil to buy 36 French Rafale fighter jets might not be as final as Brazilian President Lula da Silva made it out to be. To begin with, there’s the little technicality, raised by the miffed Air Force command, that its final analysis of the three competing craft (Boeing’s F-18 and Saab’s Gripen, in addition to the Dassault Rafale) isn’t due until late-October. Deviating from that schedule, says Jean-Dominique Merchet, could open the door to legal challenges by the competition. It also risked stepping on some toes in the Brazilian legislature by bypassing the defense […]

In the asymmetric wars that have characterized the post-9/11 conflict horizon, our adversaries have been unable to challenge U.S. control of the skies. Now used primarily for close air support and the hauling of gear and supplies for ground troops, the U.S. Air Force has been left to wonder whether its pilots will ever again be called upon to perform their most prestigious of missions — air-to-air combat. As a result, the Air Force has been actively looking for new missions. It has bought hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), machines that have proven invaluable to ground forces fighting in […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, Jan. 16, 2016 ( (Kevin Lamarque/Pool via AP).

The problem with withholding diplomatic relations to punish countries and change their behavior is that it usually doesn't work. In the meantime, the absence of relations robs America of a key diplomatic skill and the ability to intervene in a crisis. In recent years, many American officials have regarded withholding diplomatic relations as a way to punish countries for actions ranging from human rights abuses, to failure to abide by international law, to specific treaty violations and acts of war. But state-to-state relations among nations provide an essential framework for the conduct of foreign relations. Having no relations, and the […]

A study by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that U.S. arms sales surged last year, despite the worst global economic downturn in decades. (UPDATE: WPR subscribers can download the CRS report here.) In 2008, U.S. arms dealers signed new weapons contracts worth approximately $37.8 billion, a considerable increase from previous years. The surge was remarkable given that the total volume of new arms orders in 2008, $55.2 billion, was billions of dollars below the comparable figures for 2007 and 2006. The United States also fortified its position as the leading arms-exporting country. Last year, the volume of global defense […]

How young Somali immigrants to the U.S. searched for belonging, and found jihad. First of a three-part series. (Part II) (Part III) On Oct. 29 last year, Shirwa Ahmed drove a car full of explosives up to a government compound in Puntland, a region of northern Somalia, and blew himself up. The blast — apparently orchestrated by al-Shabab, an Islamic militant group with ties to al-Qaida — was part of a coordinated attack in two cities that killed more than 20 people. A BBC reporter described body parts flying through the air. The attackers were “not from Puntland,” said Adde […]

Anthony Zinni on a New National Security Strategy

In an interivew with Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation,former CENTCOM Commander Gen. Anthony Zinni discusses the wars in Iraqand Afghanistan, the perils of special envoys, and why Obama needs anational security strategy.

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