Remember the age of globalization, if you can. The world was flat. High finance was king. Swelling economic prosperity had lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. Capitalism, in a variety of configurations, stretched from one end of the earth to the other. Even individual states were fading in importance, and the threat of a great-power war had all but come to an end. How quickly that utopia has been shattered. In short, the world is very much round again. Investment banking has collapsed. The global financial crisis is elbowing the poor aside. Corruption and rampant irresponsibility have resulted in […]

Music Diplomacy

I actually owned today’s Music Diplomacy selection in a store-bought, second-hand cassette version, back when I was living in L.A. and all I had was a tape player in the ’81 Oldsmobile Delta 88 that I drove around town. For all of you newbies, cassette tapes were an analog music-deliveryformat about the same size as aniPod, only instead of holding 3,000 songs, they held about 30 (if you were lucky). Primitive, I know, especially for 1998, but Leon Russell slowly unwinding from one spool of a cassette to the other seems somehow more appropriate than ole Leon captured in the […]

COIN’s Impact on Strategic Policy

If you’ve been following the “COIN will breed COIN” debate, check out these posts by Andrew Exum, Matthew Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman. If you haven’t, check them out anyway. It’s an interesting discussion of whether in makingCOIN a doctrinal focus of operations, the U.S. military will be tempted to intervene in counterinsurgencies of choice. It’s a subject I’ve written about often over the past 18 months. If anything has reassured me that my worries weren’t warranted, it’s been Secretary of Defense Bob Gates’ emphasis on “strategic balance.” Exum’s insistence that COIN practitioners are not necessarily COIN enthusiasts rings true, too. […]

Last of a three-part series. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here. An accompanying photo feature is here.SANTIAGO, Cuba — While standing trial in the early 1950s for his initial, failed attempt to overthrow the Cuban government, Fidel Castro famously declared: “History will absolve me.” Ever since, he has manipulated, rewritten and exploited history to advance his political ends. Castro’s use of history as a propaganda tool was underscored this week after two prominent, relatively young Cuban politicians were abruptly demoted. In a surprising shake-up, Vice President Carlos Lage and Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque […]

COIN Needs Cops

Yesterday I dashed off a post expressing concern that COIN’s low-intensity, population-centric tactics might eventually make their way into domestic policing via returning vets. Today at Small Wars Journal, Ben Fitzgerald and Scott Brady discuss the need for domestic policing to make its way into COIN’s low-intensity, population-centric tactics via deployed civilian law enforcement officers: From a military perspective, the value of law enforcement may be seenas enhancing the military’s conduct of population centric operationsthrough improved patrolling techniques, investigation, communityengagement, graduated use of force etc. Separate to the militaryperspective is the potential to deploy civilian law enforcementpersonnel to essentially perform […]

Photo Feature: Cuba Poised Between Past and Future

Many of the images we have of Cuba remain frozen in time. But with the periodo especial — or special period, triggered by the early 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union and the disappearance of its generous subsidies — now behind it, the island has not stopped evolving. Marcelo Ballvé traveled to Cuba last December, just before the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, and documented the trip for World Politics Review. This Photo Feature accompanies his three-part series. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here. Part III can be found here. […]

The Revolution Will Not Be Telecommed

Andrew Sullivan featured this T-Mobile ad, which is basically the first commercial usage of a “spontaneous” flash mob (at least that I’ve seen). My first reaction to the ad’s conceit, “Life’s for Sharing,” was that what was being portrayed — and shared — wasn’t life, but a carefully contrived and planned commercial. Then it occurred to me that the flash mobs on which the ad is based are just as carefully contrived and planned as the ad itself. Given my reading habits lately, and my natural apocalyptic streak, the train of thought then led to the ways in which the […]

Globalization’s High-Water Mark

Even before the global financial crisis, I’d been pointing out the various possibilities for a globalization backlash. It seemed pretty likely that opposition to the enormous transfer of wealth from developed to developing countries would eventually be couched in regulatory concerns, whether social or environmental. The global downturn is likely to accelerate that process, and spread it to emerging-emerging commerce as well. As an illustration, India just relaxed a recent outright ban on Chinese toys, limiting it instead to products not covered by global certification agencies. That provides the necessary cover for now. But while all economists are voters, not […]

Emerging Powers vs. Immerging Powers

I had some vague thoughts swirling around the cranium, and a French word I ran across in some weekend reading helped crystallize them: s’immerger, which means to immerse oneself, but also to submerge oneself. The word corresponds to the English immerge, which I hadn’t realized existed. (That rumbling sound you hear is my Shakespearian-scholar and Greek- and Latin-speaking grandfather rolling over in his grave.) It immediately made me think of President Obama’s Camp Lejeune speech, which put the withdrawal from Iraq in the context of a regional diplomatic fabric. The same approach informs the regional approach to the Afghanistan War, […]

The war looks eerily familiar: beheadings, assassinations of police and public officials, terrorized businesspeople, extorted schoolteachers, and in five years more than 230 American civilians dead in the crossfire. All this could easily describe the battle in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but the reality is closer to home, where an increasingly gruesome and threatening war is threatening to boil over the United States’ southern border with Mexico. Summing up decades of policy, three former Latin American heads of state last week declared, “The war on drugs has failed.” Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of […]

NASA image by Robert Simmon showing the dropping water level of the Dead Sea. The image was created using Landsat data from the United States Geological Survey.

For millennia, the Dead Sea has been fed by the sweet waters of the Jordan River while losing only pure water to relentless evaporation. The collected salts left behind have resulted in an inhospitably briny lake eight times saltier than the sea, topped by a thin layer of the Jordan’s relatively less-dense fresh water. The differing salinity levels between the river and the lake kept the Dead Sea in a perpetually layered state, even while the lake’s overall water level remained fairly constant, since evaporation from the lake’s surface occurs at roughly the rate of the natural flow of the […]

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