The 2003 Iraq war split the Security Council, but the United Nations ultimately sustained only limited long-term damage from the incident. In the 11 years since the fall of Saddam Hussein, the council has passed over 600 resolutions on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear program to African conflicts. Now the U.N. faces another war in Iraq, at a time when its overall credibility may be in greater danger than it was in 2003. The Security Council has played an exceedingly minor role during the past month’s crisis in Iraq. After the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria […]

How to best explain Vladimir Putin’s zigzags on Ukraine? Over the past few months, spokesmen and leading officials have confidently made statements about Russian policy only to have the Russian leader suddenly change course. It can be quite confusing for analysts and commentators to assess Russia’s true intentions—and makes Putin look dangerously unpredictable. Putin’s long-term goals are clear: to prevent Ukraine’s full integration into the Euro-Atlantic world; to preserve some semblance of Ukraine’s former position as a neutral intermediary and buffer between Russia and the West; and to retain Russia’s special relationship with the country, particularly its southern and eastern […]

As extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria march on Baghdad and much of the Iraqi army runs away, there has been a torrent of writing from national security experts, journalists and pundits. This made it easy to miss an important story by Greg Jaffe and Kevin Mauer about American military veterans struggling to understand why the government and military that they worked so hard to create in Iraq has failed so miserably. This is more than simply soul searching: As Jaffe and Mauer noted, the outcome of this debate could have far reaching implications for the future […]

When the Obama administration took control of U.S. foreign policy in 2009, it undertook to mitigate what it considered the damage wrought by the George W. Bush team. The Iraq War was to be wound down, although, as it happens, more or less along the timeline laid down by the previous president. Afghanistan, the forgotten war, was to be quickly turned around by a judicious application of U.S resources and attention. A deft wielding of diplomacy would end the standoff with Iran, “reset” relations with Russia and bring China into a new dialogue to solve global problems. After the massive […]

At the beginning of the space age, the United States “had a vision of space as infinite” said Clay Moltz of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School during recent remarks at the Stimson Center. In the intervening decades, as U.S. activities in space have expanded and the number of space-faring nations has increased, the usable orbits around earth have become crowded. To manage this state of affairs, the United States has sought to expand international cooperation in space, partly with an eye toward protecting the space assets of U.S. companies, scientists and troops fighting on the ground. Of particular concern are […]

When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched its blitzkrieg assault on Iraq, it suddenly put the entire country in play, threatening its very existence. The rapid territorial gains by the ultra-extremist Sunni militant group put enormous pressure on the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But it is not only Maliki who faces difficult and urgent choices. The Iraqi crisis is also a pressing challenge for U.S. President Barack Obama. As Obama and his advisers survey the disastrous scene, examining the possible scenarios that could emerge from the crisis and weighing the options for Washington, all […]

For years Iraq has been a deeply troubled nation spiraling deeper and deeper into sectarian violence. The primary causes were Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s exclusion of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs from power and his politicization of the Iraqi military, which the United States expended so much money and effort to build. Then sparks from Syria’s civil war leapt back across the border to ignite Iraq’s political tinderbox. Yet even the most pessimistic observers did not foresee the events of the past two weeks, as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—a jihadist movement so violent and extreme that al-Qaida disavowed […]

Since hosting a meeting last September to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the start of Six-Party Talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, China has stepped up shuttle diplomacy with the aim of resuming those negotiations. The result so far has been a virtual merry-go-round of periodic consultations among the respective chief delegates to the talks in Pyongyang, Beijing, Washington, Tokyo, Moscow and Seoul, but there has been no discernible progress toward resumption of the multilateral talks. On the contrary, rather than forging the consensus necessary to draw North Korea back into substantive multilateral negotiations, the process appears to […]

The United States has “a willing partner in the next Afghan president, whichever one it is,” said Supreme Allied Commander Europe Gen. Philip Breedlove last week. He said he was “extremely confident” that Afghanistan and the United States would be able to reach an agreement to keep in Afghanistan the 9,800 U.S. troops slated to remain there past the end of the year, when the NATO-led mission in the country officially ends. But the U.S. footprint in the country is shrinking, and if Breedlove’s confidence is misplaced, the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan could soon go to zero. The U.S. […]

In a revealing quirk of history, the crisis in Iraq caused by the sudden onslaught of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) can help us better understand possible scenarios for Afghanistan moving forward. Despite their many differences, both countries are exposing the consequences of America’s decreased leverage combined with the rising but often mutually competing influence of other powers. Notwithstanding the desire of both Iraqi and U.S. leaders to keep U.S. forces in Iraq beyond 2011 in order to train and equip Iraq’s still developing security forces, domestic political opposition in both countries combined with flawed diplomatic negotiations […]

Editor’s note: This is Heather Hurlburt’s final “Full-Spectrum Diplomacy” column at World Politics Review. We’d like to thank her for filling in for Richard Gowan, who will be returning next week, and look forward to featuring her work in WPR in the future. This is going to be a rough week for Americans, who like their politics simple and their geopolitics even simpler. Give us plucky honest underdogs for good guys, nasty corrupt villains for bad guys, open-field battles where everyone shoots straight, and we are the most generous people on Earth. Really. Though the U.S. ranked 19th in government […]

Rising tensions in Asia, as highlighted at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue, have brought to the surface fault lines between Australia’s foreign affairs and defense strategies. With a foreign affairs focus on “economic diplomacy,” Australia has struggled to reassure its largest trading partner, China, that the deeper military ties it forged with Japan and the U.S. this week in no way represent a threat. The Shangri-La Dialogue was notable this year for heated exchanges between China, Japan and the United States. The 28-nation Asia Security Summit, hosted annually in Singapore by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, is usually carefully scripted […]

Over the past two years, whenever Russia has undertaken steps in the international arena that the United States disapproves of, there has been a predictable response in Washington: a parade of somber-faced U.S. officials solemnly warning Moscow that its actions are opposed by the “international community” and that Russia risks isolation by its policy choices. Indeed, #RussiaIsolated has become the hashtag of choice in the State Department’s social media arsenal. Certainly, the U.S. has had some successes in turning the hashtag into reality: winning some symbolic votes at the United Nations; getting a coalition of states to impose limited sanctions […]

While the Obama administration’s new climate regulations target carbon emissions from power plants, they are also setting the stage for negotiations on a global climate pact scheduled for next year. On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the “Clean Power Plan,” which aims to cut carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by 30 percent compared to 2005 levels. “Although we limit pollutants like mercury, sulfur and arsenic,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy in remarks announcing the new rules, “there are no limits on carbon pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest source” of such pollution. Ultimately, she […]

The election of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi as president of Egypt will further inflame the jihadist insurgency that took off after the Egyptian military removed Mohamed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, from power in 2013. If history is any guide, el-Sisi, a former general, will hold tightly to power, justifying it as the only way to protect Egypt’s security, thus repeating a common pattern across Africa and the Middle East as elections lead to de facto dictatorships with a few trappings of democracy. Invariably this will further anger and radicalize the Islamist opposition, empowering the extremists who believe that the […]

Lax oversight. Deregulation. “Shadow banking.” These are some likely responses an expert might give if asked what caused the 2008 financial crisis. In the years since the meltdown, there has consolidated in the public consciousness an image of the pre-crisis global financial system as a sort of Wild West, where greedy bankers, rather than reckless outlaws, operated with impunity, causing irreparable social harm. But there is now a new sheriff in town, with the letters “U.S.A.” boldly emblazoned on its badge. Determined to impose order on a once “lawless” system, the U.S. Federal Reserve and Justice Department are unilaterally playing […]

Underneath the politicking, exaggeration and sensationalism, the angry national conversations about wait times for veterans’ health care, on the one hand, and the alleged transgressions of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, on the other, have offered a clear window into some rough realities of military life. Americans have learned a number of things in recent days that, judging by the evidence, we would rather not know. The release of audits of the workings of the Veterans’ Administration confirmed that too often whole branches of government charged with meeting our commitment to care for veterans have resorted to deception and dishonesty instead of […]

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