The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have one of the most formidable and durable military alliances in the world. This alliance has preserved peace and stability in Northeast Asia and ensured nuclear restraint among Asian powers. It has weathered extreme domestic unpopularity in South Korea and pressures in Washington to reduce U.S. overseas defense obligations. During the lifetime of this military alliance, the junior partner has transformed from a war-battered, backward military dictatorship into a prosperous democracy with the world’s most-wired population and one of the world’s largest economies. Most American and Korean strategists agree that the […]

WPR on Russia Today

World Politics Review editor-in-chief and publisher Hampton Stephens appeared yesterday on Russia Today to discuss the upcoming G20 summit in London and its likely impact on the global financial crisis. The interview can be found here.

WPR Feature Issue: The Age of COIN

I’d like to call your attention to WPR’s latest feature issue, The Age of Counterinsurgency, which just went live today. Regular readers of the blog know that I’ve got a particular interest in this subject. I think today’s feature issue should give you an idea why. Counterinsurgency doctrine, or COIN, represents the first rough draft of the dominant strategic vision that has emerged from the post-9/11 era: that failed and failing states represent the principal national security threat to the U.S. because of the safe haven they might provide to transnational terrorist networks, and that only a full-spectrum, whole-of-government approach […]

Photo Feature: The FARC’s Last Stand

While reporting her WPR feature story, The FARC’s Last Stand, Anastasia Moloney visited La Macarena, a mountainous jungle region in Colombia’s southern province of Meta. The rebel guerillas have turned the difficult terrain into their final stronghold in their efforts to withstand Colombia’s increasingly effective counterinsurgency campaign. A bird’s eye view of the Macarena jungle (Anastasia Moloney). Colombia’s elite counterinsurgency OMEGA force (Anastasia Moloney). Soldiers on patrol in Macarena (Anastasia Moloney). Soldiers on patrol in Macarena (Anastasia Moloney). Brig. Gen. Alejandro Navas, commander of OMEGA forces (Anastasia Moloney).

Internecine ideological battles have bedeviled the foreign policy of every U.S. administration in recent memory. Human rights liberals fought unsuccessfully with Cold Warriors for control of the Carter administration. New-right hardliners initially won the war for Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy soul but then lost it to George Schultz’s old-guard Republican realists. The Clinton administration became an altar on which liberal interventionists exorcised the Democratic Party’s Vietnam Syndrome demons. Most bitterly and most tragically, the first term of George W. Bush’s presidency demonstrated what happens when neoconservatives and their allies win more ideological contests than they lose. Barack Obama’s young presidency […]

LA MACARENA, Colombia — Seen from the air, the sweeping mountains of the Macarena jungle in Colombia’s southern province of Meta stretch interminably towards the hazy horizon. The muddy Guayabero River snakes through this green land of deep canyons and forested valleys. It is here that Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), clings to its last stronghold. Colombia’s southern provinces are the front line in the U.S.-backed counterinsurgency campaign against the guerrillas, the site of daily clashes between government troops and the FARC. Looking down from above on the rugged mountainous terrain, it is clear […]

WASHINGTON — Last week, the Obama administration announced a new interagency initiative involving the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, designed to put a stop to the drug-fueled violence that has swept the northern parts of Mexico in recent months. Among the initiatives, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice officials — with their Mexican counterparts — will confront the criminal enterprises that traffic drugs, arms and cash across the border. Many in Washington welcomed the invigorated strategy, and rightly so: Increased and effective cooperation between the U.S. and its southern neighbor is long overdue. Bush administration policies combining […]

JUAREZ, Mexico — In the past few months, the U.S. Army, attorney general, and various politicians have issued grave warnings about the atrocities taking place south of the Mexican border. They tend to describe a war that Mexico, because of deeply ingrained corruption, is incapable of containing on its own. But in one of Mexico’s deadliest cities the murder rate has recently plummeted, largely due to federal military intervention and an ambitious anti-corruption campaign. Following a spate of brutal killings early this year, media reports depicted Juarez as a war zone, a city on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. […]

More Domestic COIN

Two more COIN-as-domestic-policing stories of note: The Naval Postgraduate School will be advising Salinas in that city’s anti-gang campaign (via Andrew Exum); and thanks to a combination of tough policing and community organizing, Compton is no longer the Capital CPT (via Matthew Yglesias). The former reinforces my suspicions that the military approach to counterinsurgency will find a sympathetic domestic law enforcement audience. The latter tempers the perceived threat by illustrating the ways in which the “smart power” approach to gangs and organized crime had already been formulated and applied before our current wars of counterinsurgency. In fact, back in 1997, […]

Music Diplomacy

Today’s selection gets the nod as much for the fact that I’m pretty damn impressed with myself for having found it as for its beauty. All I had to go on was a vague memory of a lyric about an old Indian canoeing down the river in the jungle, and that it was written and performed by Ruben Blades. Somehow I managed to not only identify the song, but find a brilliantly grainy video of Blades performing it with what seems like the Fania All Stars. The song always got me nostalgiac for the time I spent in the Ecuadoran […]

MILAN, Italy — ZAPATERO’S DEJA VU: The Italian general commanding part of a multinational NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo learned from a newspaper story last week that he was losing 620 of his troops. They were the Spanish forces under his command, which Spain’s defense minister announced would be pulling out by the summer. The Italian press reported Madrid’s handling of the withdrawal decision as a breach of good manners, but the general was in good company. Turns out Defense Minsiter Carme Chacon and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero even failed to notify members of the Spanish government. The […]

Irregular Warfare: Back to Basics Training

Jason Sigger passes along a very timely post from Sven Ortmann questioning the emerging “hybrid warfare” groupthink meme. Ortmann provides historical examples that illustrate how warfare has always involved both regular and irregular aspects. I’d add that victory is always asymmetric, since it involves bypassing the strength of the enemy, and that military innovation has always been the result of finding responses to superior capacities or resources. Cavalry was initially an asymmetric response to the superiority of massed infantry; artillery evolved out of the need to reduce the advantage inherent to defending fortresses. If there’s a difference, it’s that today’s […]

COIN and Cops

Earlier this month, I dashed off two posts (here and here) about the risk of counterinsurgency tactics used in Iraq making their way into domestic law enforcement. As I wrote at the time: Without goingoverboard or adopting a paranoid posture, I fear the integration ofcivilian policing with counterinsurgency campaigns will have a levelingeffect on both. That’s better for counterinsurgency campaigns than itis for civilian policing. Here’s Andrew Exum over at Abu Muqawama today: I just read in the newspaper that a fourth Oakland police officerhas died after being taken off of life support. A reader fromCalifornia wrote in a few […]

France: Outside Edition

Art Goldhammer also flags French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s double dis at the London G-20 summit: Both U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao have nixed sideline meetings. Here’s Goldhammer: With no promise of domestic improvement, Sarkozy may well covet asplashy international occasion to demonstrate his indispensability, butthe dice haven’t been rolling his way since he stepped down from the EUpresidency. In all fairness to Sarkozy, his prime minister, Fran├žois Fillon (who probably shouldn’t be left out of the 2012 “presidentiable” sweeptakes) just met with Obama’s vice president, Joseph Biden, yesterday in Washington, and the two presidents are scheduled […]

U.S.-China Naval Incident: A Chinese Perspective

Editor’s note: The following is an unsolicited response to the World Politics Review Briefing, “An Impeccable U.S.-China Incident at Sea.” As both a newsand analysis journal, WPR recognizes that some articles it publisheswill provoke differences of opinion and disagreements ofinterpretation. Our commitment is to airing all sides of acontested issue, so long as they are respectfully expressed.On March 10, 2009, the U.S. Navy surveillance ship Impeccable intruded into Chinese jurisdictional waters, inducing a confrontation with five Chinese ships. The incident raised tension in the South China Sea, which has been the site of international confrontations recently. According to the Chinese […]

A 2008 report entitled “World at Risk” garnered global headlines when it warned that, “It is more likely than not that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013.” The report (.pdf), issued by a bipartisan committee established by the U.S. Congress, argued that biological rather than nuclear weapons presents the greatest near-term international terrorism danger. The warnings of the U.S. Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism were underscored by subsequent media reports that dozens of members of Al-Qaida in the Lands of the […]

A Europeanized NATO

This DefenseNews write-up of British Defense Minister John Hutton’s speech at the CSIS last week is revealing for a number of reasons. At first glance, Hutton’s prescription for a expansive NATO mission might seem to be at odds with France’s vision for an expansive EU defense mission, and therefore a preview of the battles to come over the alliance’s strategic vision. But what’s interesting is how the British and French broader strategic visions converge on the importance of forward defense (Afghanistan), rapid reaction capacity, and the need for a stronger European voice in its own security: The United States has […]

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