As the father of 2-year-old twin daughters, I often find myself thinking about how international politics and foreign policy will play out across their lives. Of course, parents aren’t the only “institutions” that wonder about the possibility of forecasting and shaping the future. Governments, international organizations and companies make huge investments of both lives and money based on expectations with time horizons of 10, 20 and even 50 years. Nimitz-class aircraft carriers have been in service for more than 30 years and may serve for another 40. The United States is currently wrestling, in a very public manner, with the […]

China the Likely Winner In U.S. Debt Impasse

With the Obama administration and Republican congressional leaders locked in an impasse over the U.S. debt ceiling, U.S. diplomats are trying to convince China there is nothing serious to worry about: The debt ceiling will soon be raised, and America will not default on its foreign-held loans. That is reassuring news for China, which by some estimates is holding hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. Treasury bonds. But if the political gridlock in Washington has been the cause of some economic jitters in Beijing, it is generally understood that the U.S. default crisis is politically generated and will, one […]

There is no faster route to second-tier great power status than for an actual or aspiring superpower to fight a crippling conflict with another country from those same ranks. Moreover, if history is any guide, the glass ceiling that results is a permanent one: This was the fate of imperial Britain, imperial Japan and Germany — both imperial and Nazi — in the first half of the 20th century, and the same was true for Soviet Russia in the second half of the century, despite Moscow’s conflict with the West being a cold one. The lesson is an important one […]

Depending on your perspective, the original “Red Dawn,” released in 1984, was either a coming-of-age milestone or a crime against the medium of cinema. The movie pitted a high school football team in rural Colorado against the better part of a Soviet airborne brigade, the former led by Patrick Swayze and the latter led, for some reason, by a Cuban colonel. Not surprisingly for an American film, the Americans do quite well, although they are eventually overwhelmed by the firepower of Soviet helicopter gunships. Later this year, a remake of “Red Dawn” will hit the screens in the United States. […]

One sign of how good relations between Russia and the United States have become is that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spent three days in high-level meetings in Washington without attracting much attention from the American news media. Bilateral ties may finally be evolving, at least for now, into a more mature, almost normal relationship between two great powers sharing common interests as well as limited areas of disagreement. Lavrov discussed a range of important issues with his American interlocutors, including Libya, Syria, Iran, Korea, Afghanistan, South Sudan, terrorism, the Israel-Palestine peace process, the United Nations and even Alaska and […]

WPR on France 24: The World Last Week

I had the pleasure of participating in France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week, last Friday. The other panelists were Paris Match’s RĂ©gis Le Sommelier, France 24’s Annette Young and Global Post’s Mildrade Cherfils. Topics included the News of the World scandal, the U.S. and European debt crises, and the Libya war. Part one can be seen here. Part two can be seen here.

Americans today are enjoying the most peaceful period, on a per capita basis, in human history, with virtually all of the remaining mass violence in the system occurring not between organized militaries, but rather sub- and transnationally — that is, within nation-states and across their borders. The frequency, length and lethality of conflicts are all down from Cold War highs, despite the growth in both numbers of countries and world population. Nonetheless, most Americans continue to have extremely misdirected fears and impressions regarding the global security landscape. We see a world of wars and believe them all to be of […]

Here lies the space shuttle. She kept the U.S. human spaceflight program alive after the euphoria of the Apollo missions. She led the way to reusable space flight. She provided jobs for armies of engineers and technicians. She also made human spaceflight seem routine — and in the end, that’s what killed her. But as with the retirement of the Apollo program — which was accompanied by less hand-wringing and fewer tears shed than that of the shuttle — it is time, not to mourn the shuttle’s passing, but to support the innovation that NASA and, more importantly, American industry […]

Drone War Expands to Somalia

The announcement this week of a Somali terror suspect’s transfer to U.S. federal court came just after reports of the U.S. drone war’s expansion into Somalia. Both developments highlight the growing U.S. counterterrorism interest in Somalia and raise questions about how it might be expected to impact the country’s 20-year-old civil war. “American strategy in Somalia has not always matched up with the reality on the ground, and at the moment the reality is shifting very quickly there,” says David Axe, an independent correspondent and World Politics Review contributor who has reported from Somalia. A leading concern for the U.S. […]

The Realist Prism: Countdown Begins on NATO-Russia BMD Deal

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has set a timer in motion for resolving the outstanding differences between the North Atlantic alliance and Russia over a proposed ballistic missile defense system in Europe. Since the architecture for this shield is expected to be finalized at the May 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, Rogozin said that time is running out to determine what role, if any, Russia will play in the system. “Our current dialogue on missile defense is very difficult,” Rogozin said, “but we must finally either agree or disagree by the end of this year.” If not, Rogozin warns […]

The Republican Party’s increasing divisions on foreign policy have now moved beyond Tea Party-inspired financial grumbling to find their way into the race for the GOP presidential nomination. Could the party’s 2012 nomination turn on foreign policy? If so, it would echo the 2008 Democratic primary campaign, in which foreign policy played an unusually strong role: Barack Obama is president of the United States today in large part because he opposed the Iraq War in 2003, compared to Hillary Clinton, who had been in favor of the war. However, supporters of a noninterventionist turn in the GOP are likely to […]

A stalemate has set in between President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress over the president’s authority to initiate and continue combat operations against Libya. This should surprise no one. The limits on the president’s constitutional authority to wage war are as uncertain today as they were when the Constitution was ratified. Complicating this uncertainty is that pesky law passed by Congress in 1973 over President Richard Nixon’s veto: the War Powers Resolution (WPR). Enacted in response to the widespread belief that it had become far too easy for a president to commit the nation to war, the WPR sought […]

Robert Gates could boast a remarkable public service career when he retired from the Pentagon on July 1. In addition to his other contributions, Gates was the only defense secretary to have overseen two different wars serving under two presidents of two different parties. His solid if low-key Republican credentials and reputation as a prudent hawk helped depoliticize national security issues during and well beyond the presidential transition from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. These qualities also helped Obama avoid the kinds of problems experienced by President Bill Clinton, the previous Democratic president whose clashes with senior military officers […]

Happy Fourth of July

“Other states indicate themselves in their deputies . . . . but the genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors . . . but always most in the common people. Their manners speech dress friendships — the freshness and candor of their physiognomy — the picturesque looseness of their carriage . . . their deathless attachment to freedom — their aversion to anything indecorous or soft or mean — the practical acknowledgment of […]