Last week, at West Point, President Barack Obama sounded a familiar theme that all recent U.S. presidents have lamented, when he said, “The burdens of this century cannot fall on our soldiers alone. It also cannot fall on American shoulders alone.” Obama also reiterated time-honored propositions in his promise to “be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well,” and his desire “to build new partnerships, and shape stronger international standards and institutions.” The just-released 2010 National Security Strategy of the United States continues this approach, declaring, “Alliances are force multipliers: through multinational cooperation and coordination, […]

MITROVICA, Kosovo — Back in 2003, when U.S. officials optimistically predicted that American forces would be “greeted as liberators” by the Iraqi people, their minds probably conjured images of the mass euphoria that welcomed NATO troops to Kosovo in 1999. During that war, cheering Kosovar Albanians chanted “NATO, NATO!!” as the U.S.-led military force entered the territory after pushing out Serbian forces with a 78-day bombardment. A NATO-led peacekeeping force known as KFOR has remained here ever since, helping the fledgling country get on its feet. But NATO, facing demanding commitments in Afghanistan and potentially elsewhere, is itching to pull […]

Last week, the group of experts assisting with the drafting of NATO’s new Strategic Concept released their final report, entitled “NATO 2020: Assured Security, Dynamic Engagement.” In anticipation of the planned Strategic Concept, which is scheduled for approval at this November’s NATO heads-of-state summit in Lisbon, the experts’ report recommends how the alliance should define its purpose, nature, and fundamental security tasks in the contemporary and future security environment. Since last fall, the 12-member group, led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, has convened a series of public and private meetings in various countries to discuss international security […]

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If you’re looking for insight into the lessons learned from the global financial crisis, you could do a lot worse than this Walter Russell Mead essay. Mead nails down a bunch of thoughts that have been swirling in my head recently, that I haven’t had the time or the talent to express as articulately. In particular, the idea that the Battle of Financial Markets, as he calls the initial stage of the crisis, has now given way to the Battle of State Finance. By that he means that the global economy’s theoretic backstop — i.e., the state’s capacity to rescue […]

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If you haven’t read Thomas P.M. Barnett’s latest WPR column, I recommend you do. It’s as thoughtful and thought-provoking a take on President Barack Obama’s domestic and international political horizons as any I’ve read recently. That’s mainly because Barnett neither dismisses nor exaggerates his targets, whether they be Obama’s accomplishments or failures, or the populist backlash to some of the latter. It’s not so much a critique of Obama, as it is an assessment of how his skills and shorcomings fit in structurally to the tasks at hand. As someone whose natural approach to problem-solving is to toss away everything […]

As somebody who voted for President Barack Obama, I am surprised to find myself believing that he is slated to be — and more so, should be — a one-term president, a possibility that Obama himself has already broached publicly. It’s not any one thing he has or hasn’t done that has led me to this admittedly premature conclusion. Rather, it’s a growing realization that everything Obama brings to the table in terms of both deeds and vision suggests that history will judge him to be a transitional figure. He is a much-needed leveling-off from Bush-Cheney’s nosebleed-inducing foreign policy trajectory, […]

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To no one’s surprise, least of all the European Union, Britain’s new foreign secretary, William Hague, opted to visit Washington before setting foot in Brussels. There were several reasons why the Washington trip had priority. One was to reassure the Obama administration on the coalition’s continued commitment to the Afghan conflict. The Liberal Democrat Party, with its left-of-center roots, is viewed somewhat warily in Washington. The party opposed the Iraq war, but views the Afghan war with qualified acceptance. But as strong Europeanists, the Liberal Democrats are less enthusiastic about being tied too closely to the United States. Prior to […]

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President Obama and Mexican President Calderón held a joint press conference during Calderón’s state visit. Obama said that the two discussed a broad range of issues and initiatives while giving special focus to immigration and a shared drug cartel problem.

For the first time since American and Soviet missiles silently faced off across the vast, icy expanse of their northernmost Arctic territories during the Cold War, the Arctic is again becoming a strategic concern. As global climate change forces both permanent and seasonal sea ice to recede, the world is gaining what amounts to a brand new ocean — one that has never been fished, rarely navigated, and has waters that are thought to be rich with natural resources. In 2009, the United States Geological Survey estimated that the Arctic contains over 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic […]

During Britain’s recent parliamentary elections, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg argued that the U.K. should scrap the proposed “like-for-like” replacement of its submarine-based nuclear deterrent, known as Trident, with a similar modernized system. As a possible alternative, Clegg’s party has suggested fitting Britain’s Astute-class submarines with nuclear cruise missiles, or in the event of a crisis, arming these same submarines with Trident missiles. Although such proposals may lead to financial savings, they are deeply flawed and could have far-reaching strategic and political implications for both the United Kingdom and its NATO allies. With Clegg now part of Prime Minister David […]

At a recent NATO foreign ministers meeting in Tallinn, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States would not withdraw its tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) from Europe in the near-term future. Clinton also said that these weapons should only be drawn down if done so simultaneously with similar Russian systems. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen echoed these sentiments and stated that U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe are an integral part of the alliance’s deterrent. But in addition to being increasingly unpopular among U.S. allies, the estimated 150-200 U.S. TNWs in Europe (.pdf) also lack military utility and […]

Wired magazine’s May cover presents Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, while the accompanying article salutes the “hacker culture” that “conquered the world.” Amid the political paralysis we now witness in Washington, it’s a timely reminder of how all the top talent of the Boomer generation went into business and technology, while the dregs went into politics. Don’t believe me? Try to imagine a politics-oriented magazine offering a similar cover: You couldn’t get more than half of America to agree upon a single Boomer politician of Gates’ historic stature. Boomer business leaders and technologists rebooted the world, playing seminal roles in […]

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a searing, accusatory speech against the West at the United Nations yesterday, causing many nations — such as France, the U.K. and the U.S. — to walk out before he was done speaking. Ahmadinejad talked about the West’s culpability for the escalation of the international arms race.

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I once again had the pleasure of appearing on France 24’s week-in-review program last Friday, “The World This Week,” along with IHT Executive Editor Alison Smales, RFI’s Philip Turle and the Sunday Telegraph’s Anne-Elizabeth Moutet. The subjects were the U.K. election, the Greek Debt Crisis, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to China. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here. I’ll also, once again, take the opportunity to add some subsequent thoughts that the discussion triggered. With regard to the British elections, I can’t make any predictions […]

President Barack Obama’s multipronged approach to minimizing nuclear risks — embodied in the simultaneous roll out of the Nuclear Posture Review, the START follow-on treaty with Russia, and the Nuclear Security Summit — is nothing if not ambitious. Taken together, these steps mark a potential turning-point for U.S. nuclear strategy by reducing the role of nuclear weapons and by prioritizing efforts to lock down weapons-usable material, clamping down on nuclear terrorism, and strengthening international rules against proliferation. As the Nuclear Posture Review puts it, “Changes in the nuclear threat environment have altered the hierarchy of our nuclear concerns and strategic […]