Campaign Against Music as Torture Seeks U.S. Artists

A British-based campaign aimed at ending the use of loud music by U.S. interrogators as a means of exerting psychological influence over detainees is reaching across the pond in an effort to bring American musical icons Bruce Springsteen and Eminem on board. A diverse group of mostly British artists and musicians has already joined the “Zero dB” campaign, launched last December by Reprieve — a legal charity that is representing more than two dozen Guantanamo detainees. U.S interrogators have been using the music — pumped into cells at extremely loud levels for as much as 20 hours a day, for […]

The International Monetary Fund has been reinvigorated by the global economic crisis. While the added resources it has been given has attracted attention, the IMF has also responded to the challenge of the crisis by overhauling conditionality. So far, reforms have been announced to meet the needs of middle-income developing countries, with those designed for lower-income countries slated to be adopted this summer. But a review of the reforms to date suggests that low-income countries can expect to enjoy unprecedented bargaining leverage over the fund in coming years. At the London G-20 summit in April, the leaders of the world’s […]

Venezuela’s Humble Pie

When it comes to humble pie, there’s enough to go around for everyone these days. This time it’s Venezuela’s turn. Notice how, with Venezuelan largesse drying up, Brazil and Argentina look east to China, but the smaller, more vulnerable countries still look north to Washington. The devil you know beats one you don’t? The big winner here is Brazil, though, which once again demonstrates the superiority of the Latin American progressive left, as opposed to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s inflammatory brand of populist left. Notice that Brazilian President Lula da Silva definitively ruled out a third term, meaning that Brazil’s […]

Terrorism’s Real Targets

A random thought I had in connection to the torture memos and the Bush administration’s response to 9/11 in general: The real danger of terrorism isn’t so much that it might succeed in terrorizing a country’s citizens. After all, people face all sorts of known — yet unpredictable — risks in many aspects of daily life. Prevalent violent crime, for instance, can have the same random effect on people’s lives as terrorist strikes, thereby leaving them with the same sentiment of lingering dread and uncertainty. The real danger of terrorism is if it succeeds in terrorizing a country’s leaders. That’s […]

Germany’s policy of engagement and partnership with Russia is rooted in the German experience within Europe. If economic interdependence and integration could transform Germany after both World War II and the Cold War, so German thinking goes, then it might also transform Russia. Nevertheless, nearly 20 years after the end of the Cold War, Germany’s efforts — as well as those of Europe and the U.S. — to transform and integrate Russia have failed. Over the past decade, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has forcefully rejected integration with the West, predicating its desire for a return to great power status on expanded […]

More so than that of other countries, the foreign policy pursued by the Federal Republic of Germany displays deep historical fractures and discontinuities. This reflects the country’s profound identity crisis in the aftermath of the twin disasters of National Socialism and the Second World War. The failure of German hegemonism and power politics after 1870-71, culminating in the unique crimes of the National Socialist dictatorship, underscored the country’s need for a radical break with its old nationalist and militaristic past, and resulted in a renunciation of traditional power politics. Key features of German foreign policy since 1945 include a culture […]

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Over 400 members of Colombia’s armed forces have been detained for allegedly taking part in extrajudicial killings of civilians in the last two years, according to the country’s attorney general’s office. An ongoing probe into human rights abuses in the Colombian army, known locally as the “false positives” scandal, continues to unfold following the recent arrests of more military personnel. The arrests involve charges that security forces murdered civilians and then passed them off as guerrillas killed in combat in order to inflate rebel body counts. Offers of work were used to lure the young and poor […]

Last week I gave a plenary address to the Joint Warfighting Conference 2009 — the annual East Coast naval extravaganza co-sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). This mega-conference opened my eyes to just how much things have changed inside our naval forces thanks to the ongoing long war against violent extremism. To give you an idea of the ground covered, I have to take you back almost 17 years. That’s when the Department of the Navy came out with its post-Cold War strategic white paper entitled, “. . . From […]

Music Diplomacy

Today’s selection comes from a band, Maná, that I first heard while in Ecuador, back in 1996. During the same trip, training manuals from the Army’s School of the Americas — the elite U.S. military academy for Latin American officers — made headlines for seeming to condone torture. Ironically, the manuals had been pulled from use in 1991 by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney for violating U.S. policy. This song comes off of the album, Sueños Liquidos, that came out just after I got back from that trip, and I remember the impact it had on me at the time. […]

Will President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court alter American foreign policy? It’s a question not many have bothered asking. Instead, the lion’s share of speculation about Obama’s pick has focused on the wealth of women candidates available and the hot-button domestic issues — like abortion, gay marriage and gun rights — likely to face the court in coming years. Obama himself explained early on that he is less interested in a candidate’s devotion to abstract legal theories and more in a justice who thinks about “[h]ow our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives.” Finally, the Supreme […]

Strategic Sufficiency vs. Restraint

Matt Stone takes a Stephen Walt idea and runs with it, coming up with what he calls “strategic sufficiency”: [O]nce we agree on an operationalprinciple or principles . . . wemust do exactly the minimum necessary to achieve a strategicallysufficient outcome; any outlay beyond the minimum necessary will onlyrob resources from other theaters where those resources could beemployed with a better marginal return on investment. This is an economist’s way of thinking about foreign policy: resourcesare scarce; therefore maximize the return on any resources we employ.”Resources” can be thought of as troops on the ground, brains in theWhite House, the […]

BARCELONA, Spain — As the once-vibrant Spanish economy plunges deeper into recession, the government of Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is struggling to staunch the country’s skyrocketing jobless rate. And among the first casualties is Spain’s famously lenient immigration policy. With employers shedding jobs at a record pace, Spain’s unemployment rate has nearly doubled over the past year to 17.4 percent, the highest in the European Union. More than 4 million Spanish workers are now unemployed, and that number is expected to reach 5 million by 2010 (.pdf). One million Spanish families now have no source of income, […]

Revisioning NATO’s Core Missions

I’d like to flag this testimony by Daniel Hamilton (.pdf) to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on NATO’s strategic vision moving forward. It’s a nicely nuanced take on what is often portrayed — and here I include myself among the guilty — as an either/or affair. The strength of Hamilton’s approach is to distinguish between NATO’s “home” and “away” roles, then further distinguish between where it should lead, where it should support, and where it should selectively do one or the other on all of the core missions on both sides of the ledger (p. 3). That’s followed by […]

The world continues to hold its breath over a swine flu that, while perhaps slowing, is still likely to kill in the low hundreds and remains balanced on the edge of a true pandemic. Although only a mere 2-3,000 cases have — so far — been recorded worldwide (80 percent of them in co-sources Mexico and America), this variant of H1N1 influenza penetrated dozens of nations and all mass-populated regions of the globe in a matter of days — a truly humbling reminder of how globalization enhances mankind’s epidemiological interdependency. Has the media overreacted? It’s possible that round-the-clock coverage in […]

Mexican Politics in the Time of Swine Flu

TORREÓN, Mexico — Just as love persisted in García Márquez’s masterpiece set during the 19th century cholera outbreaks, politics has not gone on hiatus during the swine flu epidemic that continues to threaten Mexico. While the political consequences of the outbreak have yet to fully crystallize, it’s clear that the episode has the potential to scramble the electoral calculus ahead of this summer’s elections. The entire lower house of Congress as well as a handful of governorships and state legislatures will be chosen on July 5. President Felipe Calderón’s allies and adversaries are competing to define his government’s reaction to […]

A newly issued U.S. Army field manual has put people on notice: Video games are serious training tools. In its first revision since 9/11, the U.S. Army field manual for Training and Full Spectrum Operations mentions gaming 32 times, describing it as as a key ingredient in replicating “an actual operational environment.” Released in December 2008, the new doctrine is another reminder of how gaming is rapidly redefining military recruitment and training. The push to use games as a recruiting tool dates back to 2002, when the Army released “America’s Army” — a free, downloadable video game that gave people […]

PUERTO NUEVO, Ecuador — Camaraderie may be the key to military morale, but the 24 Ecuadorian troops traveling towards the Colombian border by helicopter maintain an eerie quiet. The Amazonian jungle stretches out below, apparently undisturbed but for the odd small farm or oil well. But appearances in the jungle can be deceiving. Under the foliage, invisible from the air, are FARC guerrilla bases and cocaine laboratories. The soldiers’ mission over a five-day patrol covering around 25 kilometers will be to find and destroy them. “It’s a reality,” says Gen. Fabián Narváez, the commander of Ecuadorian forces in the border […]

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