The Pentagon Goes Hybrid

The early leaks on the Quadrennial Defense Review are all going the “COIN-hybrid war” crowd’s way. Essentially, this represents an ideal of versatility and adaptability up and down the military food chain, with the same units being able to blow things up, build them up and keep civilians safe while doing so. And so long as that kind of approach doesn’t degrade our ability to go big, which is the big concern of the haters, or tempt us into interventionist hubris, which is the big concern of the doubters, it’s an intellectually attractive ideal. Of course, like all ideals, it […]

China’s global priorities might not match up that well with those of your average American policymaker. But they do match up quite well with President Obama’s agenda. That’s the sense I got after spending last week in Shanghai with a bevy of China’s top foreign affairs academics. Although the workshop I attended was focused on U.S.-Chinese relations, there was no shortage of side conversation on the post-election meltdown unfolding in Iran. And nothing I heard in terms of the Chinese sense of priorities bore any resemblance to what you see these days in American newspaper headlines. As during the Cold […]

Defense Budget

You win some: After a rancorous argument over missile defense, Democrats on theHouse Armed Services Committee voted June 16 to limit the number ofmissile interceptor silos in Alaska to 30, scrapping 14 more that wereplanned when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. Then they voted not to increase spending on the years-late, billions-over-budget airborne laser. Or to spend $400 million on a missile defense site in Europe. You lose some: After more than 16 hours of squabbling over the 2010 defense budget,weary committee members voted 31-30 at 2:30 a.m. to keep the F-22program alive by making a $369 million […]

Clinton’s Elbow Grease

I’ve been thinking for a while that Hillary Clinton has really been all class since she took over as secretary of state, dispelling just about every disparaging thing said about her during the presidential campaign. No sense of privilege or entitlement, just good, old-fashioned hard work. Apparently, it took a broken elbow to slow her down, and the first thing she did was issue a statement expressing her appreciation to the hospital staff that treated her. I know 2012 is a long ways off, but if she keeps going like this, she’s liable to end up with a pretty formidable […]

In Iran, hundreds of thousands of citizens are bravely defying state laws barring protest, with reports emerging of students and demonstrators being beaten and even shot. President Barack Obama has muted his response so far, taking note of the violence, while taking pains not to feed historical Iranian perceptions of U.S. meddling. Some have criticized him for not taking a stronger stand, echoing widespread charges that Obama downplays human rights more generally in his foreign policy approach. The critics are right: Obama has prioritized stability and the shoring up of U.S. power over the vocal advocacy of human rights. But […]

The U.S. men’s hockey team pounces on goalie Jim Craig after a 4-3 victory against the Soviet Union in a medal round match at the the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., Feb. 22, 1980 (AP file photo).

I actually had the idea for this post last week. But the news that members of the Iranian soccer team wore green wristbands during their World Cup qualifier against South Korea to signal their support for opposition protests back home made it even more timely. So the following is a list of the Top 5 all-time sporting events with international relations overtones. It's admittedly U.S.-centric, both in choice of matches and sports, meaning that if you're looking for cricket matches that changed the shape of global history, you'll have to look elsewhere. Rankings are based on a combination of drama, […]

It has been a rough go for the dollar of late. The global financial crisis coupled with concerns about soaring U.S. deficits have caused several of the world’s major holders of American debt to question the greenback’s continued role as the leading international reserve currency. Roughly one-third of the U.S. Treasury debt held by foreign countries lies in the BRIC economies — Brazil, Russia, India, and China — who met in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Tuesday for the group’s first full-format summit. Ultimately, the meeting did not result in what some had speculated: a specific call for a shift away from […]

To mark a visit by Swedish parliamentarians to the U.S. Navy command ship Mount Whitney, the destroyer Forrest Sherman flew a huge Swedish flag and blared music by the Swedish pop band ABBA from its loudspeakers. It was a moment of levity that belied the deadly serious politics underlying a 12-day, Baltic military exercise. BALTOPS 2009, involving 11 European nations and the U.S., risks provoking Russia, at a time when the Obama administration is working hard to restore U.S.-Russian relations. When the annual exercise was conceived in the 1970s, it focused on preparing NATO nations and their allies for war […]

In his April 5 disarmament speech in Prague, President Barack Obama endorsed constructing “a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation.” An international uranium fuel bank seeks to address one of the fundamental problems with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) — namely, that it allows countries to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies that they can then rapidly convert from civilian to military use. According to the most common interpretation of the treaty, states can develop extensive uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing capabilities while a member in […]

Obama’s Plan to Corner the Uranium Market

It was reported this week in the Boston Globe that President Barack Obama, as part of a broad nuclear arms reduction initiative, will call for the creation of an international supply house for uranium that will be open to nations that want to pursue peaceful nuclear power projects, but denied to anyone wishing to make a bomb. While not specifically aimed at nuclear “rogues” Iran or North Korea, the idea is obviously meant to put to the test their claims, at least in Iran’s case, that their nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful. According to an unnamed administration official quoted in […]

A few days after President Barack Obama stood on the podium at Cairo University sending a message of reconciliation to Muslims around the world, voters in Lebanon went to the polls and delivered a stunning blow to Hezbollah, the so-called Party of God. The victory by the U.S.-backed March 14 against the Iran-backed March 8 alliance came as a surprise to just about everyone. Since Lebanon is a microcosm of the Middle East, the vote had important regional resonance. But Lebanon is also a Rorschach test, so interpretations of the results reflected the multiplicity of views about what the most […]

Throughout the developing world, the post-Cold War era has seen the emergence of increasingly powerful and violent criminal organizations, often referred to as “third-generation gangs.” These groups have exploited the major international trends of the past 20 years — including economic and financial integration, innovations in communication technology, the prevalence of weak and failed states, and a thriving global arms trade — to seize control over a myriad of illicit commercial networks. They now use violence and corruption to undermine the governments that oppose them. Latin America has proven particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon. The region has porous borders and […]

MEXICO CITY — Federal officials used the word “historic” to describe the May 26 arrests of 28 local officials, including 10 mayors, in the western state of Michoacán. Those detained were allegedly linked to La Familia, a drug cartel known for running extortion rackets, producing methamphetamines and corrupting municipal governments. Opposition politicians and some political observers, meanwhile, expressed disquiet with the arrests and questioned their timing. The sting operation — which netted mayors from the three main parties, including a pair from President Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party (PAN) — came barely five weeks before the July 5 midterm legislative […]

Oil Industry Drilled Over Human Rights

Royal Dutch Shell agreed Monday to pay $15.5 million in an out-of-court settlement, in compensation to families of Nigerian victims of alleged human rights abuses committed by the company in the 1990s. The move came just days before a New York court was scheduled to hear the case and despite company claims of no wrongdoing. Ten Nigerian plaintiffs, including the son and brother of slain writer/activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, brought suit against the oil giant over the execution of eight anti-Shell environmental activists by Nigeria’s military rulers in 1995. The suit was filed in U.S. courts under a 200-year-old law that […]

French Name NATO Command Post

The chief of staff of the French Air Force, Gen. Stéfane Abrial, has just been nominated to the commanding officer position for NATO’s Allied Command Transformation (via Jean-Dominique Merchet). The command is one of two that France secured in return for fully reintegrating NATO’s military command. Three quick thoughts. First, according to his official bio (.pdf), Abrial spent a year as a student officer back in ’73 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and another at the Air War College at Maxwell AFB in ’91. He’s also spent some time at NATO headquarters in Brussels. So part of this assignment […]

Much remains uncertain regarding the nuclear arms control treaty currently being negotiated by the Russian and American governments. But the parties have evidently decided not to try to address “non-strategic” nuclear weapons in the agreement. When asked about the issue at an April 6 conference on nonproliferation, two U.S. and Russian officials intimately involved in the negotiations said they favored excluding the issue from the immediate START follow-on talks. The latest Russian-American negotiating session that occurred last week in Geneva appears to confirm this decision. Rose Gottemoeller, the new assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance and the chief […]

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Last January, a group of World Bank scientists withdrew from the Guarani aquifer region in South America, after almost nine years spent elaborating a detailed picture of the water table there. Located beneath the surface of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, the Guarani is not only the world’s third-largest aquifer. It is also the only uncontaminated one of those three. With a volume of almost 55,000 cubic kilometers, it could supply drinking water to the world’s entire population for 200 years. The aquifer’s four countries decided not to renew the World Bank’s investigation license, which had […]

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