A drill in the biocontainment unit in Omaha, Neb., Oct. 28, 2006 (AP photo by Nati Harnik).

Delta Airlines Flight 217 leaves Leopold Senghor International Airport in Dakar each Wednesday at 11:15 AM, bound for New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. During the 8-hour, 25-minute flight, the plane’s passengers can enjoy a variety of movies, have a meal and take advantage of the plane’s WiFi connection in relative comfort. And any one of them could be carrying the Ebola virus to New York, extending the epidemic’s reach to North America. The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has prompted a wider discussion about the ability of the United States and other industrialized democracies to respond to […]

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Andrew Dacey reviews security checkpoints with Iraqi soldiers in the city of Abu Ghraib, Iraq, March 31, 2009 (U.S. Army photo).

Soon after the George W. Bush administration toppled Saddam Hussein, it became clear that Iraq was headed for a bitter conflict driven by Saddam’s politicization of sectarian and ethnic divisions and the lingering pathologies of his parasitic dictatorship. Thus, for the U.S., getting out of Iraq required the rebuilding of an Iraqi army that could maintain internal security. The U.S. military embraced this challenge, lavishing money and effort to create a new Iraqi army designed for the sort of effectiveness and apolitical professionalism that characterizes America’s armed forces. The raw material that U.S. military advisers and trainers had to work […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry poses with his Arab counterparts after a meeting with them in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 11, 2014 (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool).

In a Sept. 13 speech, President Barack Obama unveiled his strategy for dealing with the Islamic State group. “We will degrade and ultimately destroy” it, Obama said, “through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.” The strategy he outlined in the speech includes three components: U.S. airstrikes; increased support for militias and national militaries directly fighting the Islamic State group; and efforts to prevent the group from undertaking terrorist attacks against the U.S. or other nations. As always, Obama was careful, cautious and restrained, seeking an indirect and supporting role rather than the leading one. He ruled out large-scale American involvement […]

President Barack Obama speaks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

When President Barack Obama announced plans for calibrated U.S. air strikes in Iraq last week, he set off heated debates about the wisdom and chances for success of his strategy to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State group operating there and in neighboring Syria. This week, the White House announced another military deployment that, despite involving not air strikes but some 3,000 American boots on the ground, evinced barely a second glance: the medical humanitarian mission to West Africa to contain the ongoing outbreak of the Ebola virus there. The reason for the contrast in reactions is of course […]

French President Francois Hollande and Iraqi President Fouad Massoum during the opening of a conference on strategy against the Islamic State group, Paris, Sept. 15, 2014 (AP photo by Brendan Smialowski).

Much of the discussion around the strategy unveiled this past week by President Barack Obama to combat the Islamic State has focused on whether or not the administration will be able to successfully forge a “core coalition” of states to participate in the fight, and whether that grouping will be substantive or a largely ceremonial equivalent of the “coalition of the willing” assembled by George W. Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq. But the main proposition is largely accepted as a given: The United States can supply air power, intelligence assets and even training and equipment, but other coalition […]

In this undated file picture released Nov. 29, 2013, posted on the Facebook page of a militant group, members of Ahrar al-Sham brigade exercise in a training camp at unknown place in Syria (AP photo).

Last week, on Sept. 9, the entire leadership of one of Syria’s strongest rebel groups, Ahrar al-Sham, was killed in a blast during a secret meeting in Idlib, in northern Syria. A dozen of the deeply conservative Salafi movement’s leaders died in the attack, which some sources claim was a suicide bombing and others an airstrike by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. As the United States mobilizes an international coalition against the militants of the Islamic State group, with plans to train 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels, the attack could have domino effects across the conflict, especially among often-shifting rebel alliances. The killing […]

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter stands guard atop an armored vehicle at a combat outpost on the outskirts of Makhmour, Sept. 6, 2014 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

IRBIL, Iraq—As the United States is moving to broaden its war against militants of the so-called Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), perhaps its most important ally is the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of northern Iraq. The reasons are clear: In a region where states have either imploded or where stability flows largely from dynastic rule, the KRG is stable, its politics are in the main moderate and pro-Western and it holds regular elections. Yet the KRG has its own strategic agenda, some of which is potentially problematic. And under its democratic facade, […]

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter takes his position behind dirt barriers built along the front line with militants from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State, Mariam Bek village, Iraq, June 30, 2014 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces, armed and trained by NATO countries and backed by U.S. air support, form the vanguard of the international coalition’s ground operations in Iraq against the militants of the so-called Islamic State. But the Western support comes amid growing concern that the Kurds could use these arms and newly gained military know-how to secede from Iraq by force and form an independent Kurdish state once the Islamic State—also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—is defeated. NATO countries have explicitly conditioned their military support on the Kurds remaining in Iraq and cooperating with the […]

President Barack Obama salutes as he arrives on the South Lawn of the White House, Sept. 12, 2014 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Upon first taking office, Barack Obama promised that his presidency would be all about hope. He made this offer to foreigners as well as Americans. “The most powerful weapon in our arsenal is the hope of human beings,” he told the United Nations in 2009, arguing for “the confidence that conflicts can end and a new day can begin.” Five years on, Obama is fighting conflicts that stubbornly refuse to end, but he still has a potent diplomatic weapon. It is not hope, but fear. This might seem counterintuitive, since Obama is not perceived to be an especially frightening president. […]

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili makes a speech during Yulia Tymoshenko's party congress in Kiev, Ukraine, March 29, 2014 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).

Last month, Georgian prosecutors filed charges against former President Mikheil Saakashvili for misallocating public funds while in office. These were only the latest in a series of allegations against Saakashvili this summer, including the charges that the former president exceeded his authority in cracking down on a mass demonstration and ordering the police to raid a TV station in 2007. Saakashvili—who in recent months has steered clear of Georgia—has accused the government, led by the Georgian Dream party that defeated his United National Movement at the polls in 2012, of political motives. The U.S. State Department has voiced concern over […]

President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Cross Hall in the White House in Washington, Sept. 10, 2014 (AP photo by Saul Loeb).

Scholars and pundits have built careers writing about the national security legacy of American presidents. How they do so is important, because every president’s perceived legacy influences candidates and elected leaders who come later. Take, for instance, the consensus that Jimmy Carter’s national security policy was a failure. For years candidates and leaders have rejected any ideas or even rhetoric that seems “Carteresque.” By contrast, Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy is generally considered a success. Hence candidates and leaders since his time, particularly within the GOP, have modeled their national security positions on his. In a very real sense, presidential legacy […]

U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, OSCE Chairperson Didier Burkhalter at the NATO summit in Wales, Sept. 5, 2014 (NATO photo).

Last week’s NATO summit in Wales was a mixed bag, with the alliance marking strong progress on some fronts but proving less successful on others. Nevertheless, the fact that the summit took place under such heavy scrutiny highlights NATO’s resurgence from an alliance that many in recent years claimed had lost its relevance in meeting Europe’s security challenges. The summit’s immediate focus was on reaffirming alliance solidarity against Russian aggression. President Barack Obama’s major speech in Estonia shortly before the summit helped set the stage by making clear that the United States was committed to the defense of that country, […]

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots rally in London, April 23, 2013 (Photo by Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

In April 2013, outside the steps of Parliament in London, a group of nongovernmental organizations launched a new campaign to ban the use of fully autonomous weapons. Political entrepreneurs calling themselves the International Committee for Robot Arms Control had been raising concern over this issue since 2004, but their calls for a killer robot ban had been virtually ignored by the advocacy community. Things changed dramatically in 2012 when the well-known NGO Human Rights Watch published a report calling for such a ban. Within a month, nine well-known human security organizations had joined the steering committee for a new campaign. […]

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, Wales, Sept. 5, 2014 (AP photo by Jon Super).

There was fighting talk at last week’s NATO summit in Wales. The alliance’s leaders pulled few punches in criticizing Russia’s actions in Ukraine and agreed on plans to counter future provocations by Moscow. The U.S. corralled a posse of its allies to coordinate the fight in Iraq against the Islamic State. After a summer characterized by global turbulence and ill-concealed uncertainty in both the U.S. and Europe over how to react, the summit signaled that the West has some sense of shared purpose. Yet it will take more than a decent conference to restore the Western powers’ vim and vigor. […]

Fighters of the Islamic State waving the group's flag from a damaged display of a government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, Raqqa, Syria, photo post Aug. 27, 2014 (AP photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group).

Washington is rife with calls to destroy the so-called Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The combination of far-reaching ambition, tactical skill, money, weaponry and depraved barbarity make the group a pressing, even unprecedented, security threat. Like al-Qaida a decade ago, the Islamic State has woven together a dangerous network, this one composed of fat-cat Gulf funders, angry young Western Muslims struggling with inner demons, local Sunni Arabs angered by repression from the governments in Damascus and Baghdad, violence-obsessed jihadists from across the Islamic world and former Baathists still bitter over losing power. As […]

Panama's police officers cross the Coello river during a training course in San Luis, Colombia, Dec. 2, 2009 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

Last month, Colombia signed a deal with the European Union on crisis management and counterinsurgency cooperation. In an email interview, Arlene Beth Tickner, professor at the University of the Andes in Colombia, discussed Colombia’s military cooperation. WPR: How extensive is Colombia’s military cooperation, and what countries are its main military partners? Arlene Beth Tickner: Since the mid-2000s, Colombia has received increasing numbers of requests for security cooperation from governments of distinct ideological stripes throughout Latin America and other parts of the globe. Between 2009 and 2013 alone, it provided police and military training to nearly 22,000 individuals from 47 different […]

Photo: Indonesian president-elect and Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo in Jakarta, Indonesia, Aug. 12, 2014 (AP photo by Achmad Ibrahim).

A pillar of Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo’s campaign was an emphasis on strengthening the country’s identity as a “maritime nation” and becoming what he called a “global maritime nexus.” By giving his acceptance speech the night the official election results were announced onboard a traditional schooner in Jakarta’s main port, Jokowi, as he is universally known, demonstrated the importance he attaches to this vision, which was also prominent in his campaign’s 41-page “Vision Mission” statement. In comments since the election in July, Jokowi has called for the establishment of a maritime ministry and even waded into international waters by saying […]

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