Photo: ASEAN foreign ministers, Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Aug. 9, 2014 (AP photo by Gemunu Amarasinghe).

Last month, amid the latest round of Asian regional summits in Myanmar, the United States called for a freeze in provocative acts in disputed areas in the South China Sea. While the move signaled Washington’s willingness to counter China’s growing maritime assertiveness, U.S. policy faces several structural challenges that could undermine the effectiveness of easing tensions in the South China Sea. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry put it at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Naypyitaw on Aug. 9, the freeze’s main objective is to manage competing territorial claims in the South China Sea by encouraging the six claimant […]

President Barack Obama takes questions about the economy, Iraq, and Ukraine at the White House in Washington, Aug. 28, 2014 (AP photo Charles Dharapak).

In responding to press queries last week about how the United States plans to tackle the threat from the Islamic State—also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS—President Barack Obama used an unfortunate choice of words in responding, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” The answer implied that Washington had been caught flat-flooted by the rapid deterioration of events in Iraq and was struggling to craft a response. In reality, whole segments of the U.S. government’s national security apparatus are devoted to strategic planning. With regard to the Islamic State crisis, options have been in development […]

An Islamist flag flaps in the main square in Maan, southwest of Amman, Jordan, July 4, 2014 (AP photo by Raad Adayleh).

In a security sweep last week, Jordanian authorities arrested 40 suspected members of the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the al-Qaida-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front. The crackdown came as U.S. President Barack Obama called for a regional coalition in the fight against the Islamic State. In any such coalition, the Obama administration would rely on Jordan, a small but crucial Middle East partner, for intelligence and surveillance help in Syria. Jordan is treading lightly, balancing its support of U.S. security policy with the threat of homegrown Islamist militancy and […]

Flags of member nations outside NATO headquarters in Brussels, Aug. 29, 2014 (AP photo by Olivier Matthys).

Despite the recent prominence given to the issue of NATO’s membership enlargement, the alliance seems destined for at least the next few years to focus on broadening and deepening its partnerships with nonmember countries and other international institutions. NATO has developed an extensive partnership program since the Cold War and now has some two dozen official national partners, while developing ties with more countries as well as international institutions. Partners contribute capabilities, money and legitimacy to NATO activities. They have provided thousands of ground troops to NATO operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans, air capabilities in Libya and support to […]

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