“Modern warfare is evolving rapidly,” warned the introduction to the Obama administration’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, “leading to increasingly contested battlespace in the air, sea, and space domains—as well as cyberspace.” U.S. attempts to erect effective cyberdefenses are, however, facing significant challenges. This is due both to the nature of the threat, which can affect a vast array of critical networks with little or no warning, and to political dynamics in the United States. The Justice Department’s recent indictment of five Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers accused of hacking U.S. companies is only the most recent sign that previous […]

War games provide insights into the mind of the U.S. military, showing the types of conflicts it anticipates and what it might be ordered to do in them. While war games vary, almost all share one characteristic: They are based on a relatively short war or operation, sometimes followed by a lengthy period of stabilization. Few strategic war games think through American involvement in a long major war. This is not surprising. Throughout history, Americans have expected and planned for short wars. When Abraham Lincoln decided to forcefully stop the South’s secession, for instance, he initially asked for 90-day volunteers, […]

The confirmation process last week for David Barron, a former Obama administration lawyer nominated to the federal judiciary, reopened a debate about the justification for what has come to be known as the U.S. “targeted killing” program. But as the politics of the issue heat up, the administration and its critics seem to be relying on different interpretations of the terminology at the heart of the debate, and their underlying disagreement speaks to broader questions about the future of the American war on terror. For many critics of the administration’s approach to counterterrorism, the term “targeted killing” has come to […]

I had the opportunity to spend part of last week in Russia, giving a talk at the Moscow Carnegie Center on U.S.-Russia security cooperation after Ukraine, and attending the third annual Moscow International Security Conference, organized by the Russian Defense Ministry. The difference between the two audiences was striking: The talk at Carnegie attracted mostly members of the liberal intelligentsia eager to manage the Ukraine crisis in a way that preserves U.S.-Russian cooperation in some areas; in contrast, the Russians who addressed the conference, including top officials of the Russian Foreign and Defense Ministries as well as the armed services, […]

In the aftermath of the Indian elections, President Barack Obama expressed his desire for rejuvenating the U.S. relationship with India, which is still seen as a linchpin for America’s rebalance to Asia. But at present Obama is not scheduled to meet with India’s newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, until the East Asia summit in Myanmar in November, and again at the G-20 conclave later that month in Brisbane, Australia. But if last year’s G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg is any guide, the U.S. president will have a full dance card at these two multilateral meetings and will not, in […]

Policymakers, military leaders and members of Congress are making choices now that will determine the size and capability of the future U.S. military. Because of the government debt crisis, the armed forces are shrinking quickly and extensively, amplifying the long-term effects of any bad choices. As always, the downsizing process is political. No member of Congress wants to lose jobs in his or her district when a base closes or the military stops buying a locally made product. That said, Pentagon leaders, both civilian and uniformed, think more in terms of strategic factors, prioritizing capabilities by projecting what a future […]

The dynamics of triangular interaction among South Korea, Japan and China have constituted a central security paradox in Northeast Asia since the late 19th century, with South Korea cursed by its geographical position at the conflux of great power interests in the region. But the division of the Korean Peninsula and the aftereffects of Cold War rivalry, replaced in the post-Cold War world by the U.S.-North Korea nuclear standoff, have served both to obscure Sino-Japanese tensions over the Korean Peninsula, and to spur periodic trilateral and multilateral cooperation aimed at resolving the regional Cold War hangover caused by Korea’s division. […]

Last week’s visit of Gen. Fang Fenghui, China’s highest-ranking military officer, to the United States both testified to the improvement in bilateral military relations and highlighted the continuing differences between these two military powers. Fang, the chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff, initially spent two days in San Diego, where he met the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, and toured the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, a littoral combat ship and the regional Marine Corps Recruit Depot. He then traveled to Washington to meet with his U.S. counterpart and official host, Chairman […]

As the diplomatic showdown between the United States and Russia drags on, both governments are seeking ways to exert leverage and impose costs on each other. This is having consequences for areas of longer-term cooperation between the two countries. One of these areas is space. Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister in charge of Russia’s space program as well as its defense industry—and a target of U.S. sanctions—announced new limits on space cooperation with the United States at a press conference last week. Rogozin said Russia would not cooperate with the United States on the International Space Station (ISS) after […]

Kachin leaders are intensifying calls for U.S. involvement in talks between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). At a meeting with State Department officials in Washington last month, Gen. Gun Maw, the KIO’s chief negotiator and deputy commander-in-chief of its military wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), raised the possibility of the U.S. playing a more active role in resolving the decades-old Kachin conflict. Since the collapse of a 17-year cease-fire between the Myanmar government and the KIO in June 2011, hostilities have escalated dangerously. Several rounds of talks have taken place, but a breakthrough remains elusive. […]

A year ago this week, President Barack Obama spoke at the National Defense University, where he laid out a vision for how the United States would—slowly—move away from the paradigm of war in confronting the threat posed by terrorism. Every war America has fought, Obama reminded us, has come to an end. So must the war footing, if not the struggle, against global terrorism. What’s happened since then? The State Department’s annual assessment of terrorist networks says terrorist attacks on Americans have continued to decline, with just 16 U.S. citizen fatalities last year. U.S. drone strikes targeting terrorists have also […]

While most Americans have been absorbed over the past month in the usual medley of celebrity scandals, from Donald Sterling’s racist comments to Jay Z’s family troubles, the Obama administration has quietly hinted at two changes in its approach to U.S. foreign policy that, if followed to their logical conclusion, signal a major reorientation in how Washington plans to conduct international affairs. The first, in response to the crisis in Ukraine, has been, as Peter Baker of the New York Times described it, to develop “an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment” for dealing with Russia. The […]

Uruguayan President Jose “Pepe” Mujica’s May 12 meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington was an important if belated step in the right direction for U.S. engagement with South America, reconfirming to a frequently skeptical region the importance that the United States places on building relationships with leaders from across the political spectrum. Since his election in 2009, the former guerrilla fighter has guided Uruguay as a democratic leftist more interested in results than ideology. Certainly, the successful effort last year to legalize the sale and distribution of marijuana and Mujica’s purposeful outreach to Cuba are among the topics that […]

Putin’s ‘New Cold War’ a Pale Shadow of the Original

Tensions between Moscow and Washington are nothing new, but the growing level of animosity and the dangerous escalation around the political turmoil in Ukraine have ended any remaining illusion that the U.S. and Russia could develop a partnership, working together without rancor toward common goals on the global stage. Now that Ukraine stands on the edge of civil war, with the two sides clearly delineated—one supported, even controlled, by Russia, the other backed by the U.S. and its Western allies—it looks as if the world has undergone a geopolitical backflip. The calendar seems to have been returned to something resembling […]

Last week, Thailand’s Constitutional Court forced Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down. The decision, linked with her removal of the country’s security chief in 2011, has intensified the ongoing showdown that has gripped Thai politics and heightened uncertainty for the future of a key U.S. partnership in Southeast Asia. Yingluck is only the most recent Thai prime minister connected to influential exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra—she is his sister—to have been removed by the courts since he himself was ousted in a 2006 coup. The events leave the United States in an awkward position with few options to […]

A year ago, as Boko Haram, the violent jihadist group from Nigeria’s north, expanded its operations, I argued that even though the Nigerian government had launched what seemed to be a serious military offensive, it continued to reject the sort of deep and serious reform needed to undercut support for extremism. Hence the United States should avoid offering anything other than modest, indirect help. Since then, Nigeria’s security situation has eroded further. In the words of Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Boko Haram has become “increasingly monstrous.” Approximately 500,000 Nigerians have fled the fighting between government […]

As the U.S. considers how to help Nigeria rescue some 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by the militant group Boko Haram a month ago, domestic political attention is turning to the question of what the U.S. could have done ahead of time. In particular, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come under fire for declining to add Boko Haram to the State Department’s list of designated foreign terrorist organizations, or FTO list. The implication is that the U.S. had an opportunity to prevent the kidnapping, and that the FTO list would have helped. Secretary of State John Kerry did eventually add […]

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