India-China Border Incidents

Depending on how close you have your ear to the ground, you might have picked up some buzzing about Chinese military incursions across the “Line of Actual Control” that comprises its vaguely defined border with India. The incursions have included a helicopter flyover, as well as an “Animal House”-type incident where Chinese soldiers apparently tagged stones on the Indian side of the line with “China” graffiti in red paint. But they occur in the context of a significant Chinese infrastructure buildup and militarization — one that has caused a good deal of concern in New Delhi — along its side […]

When I was in Ecuador two years ago, a businessman named Ivan excoriated me about the limits Washington placed on business that local fishing firms could do with the U.S. The conversation went on for a while, but when it ended, he promptly introduced me to his teenage daughter and pleaded with me to speak to her so that she could practice her English. In fact, she spoke eloquently and fluently, but the irony was no less striking: The gringos to the north offered little opportunity to Latin America, but the best chance for Ivan’s daughter to succeed — leaving […]

How young Somali immigrants searched for belonging, and found jihad. Last of a three-part series. (Part I) (Part II) Somali-American terror recruits have common roots in an impoverished, neglected and sometime oppressed immigrant community. Their feelings of impotence and isolation — and their desperate searches for structure — are not new. But for the most part, any violent impulses simmered under the surface until late 2006, when the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia gave American Somalis — and their kinsmen all over the world — a cause on which to hang their dissatisfaction. In December of that year, thousands of Ethiopian […]

Venezuela’s Russia Deal Raises Concerns About Regional Arms Race

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is leading a new diplomatic effort to strengthen ties with a set of distant partners. He signed a new billion-dollar arms deal with Russia, and has promised to ship gasoline to Iran to circumvent possible international sanctions. VOA’s Brian Wagner reports these moves have raised eyebrows in the Western Hemisphere, and especially in Washington.

When 200 tax inspectors made a surprise visit last week to the editorial offices of Clarin, one of Latin America’s largest newspaper and cable TV companies, it was clear that the simmering tensions between the media giant and Argentine President Cristina Fernandez had reached new heights. The day after the raid, the Clarin newspaper ran with the headline: “Official operation of intimidation against Clarin.” Regional press watchdogs and government critics were also quick to condemn the incident as an attack on press freedom in Argentina, part of what they claim is a wider campaign by the presidency to discredit and […]

The Case Against the U.S.-Colombia Base Agreement

Even given the charged history of U.S. interventions in Latin and South America, I admit to having been a bit perplexed by how widespread and concerted the regional opposition to the U.S.-Colombia base agreements has been. The deal involves U.S. forces using parts of Colombian bases, not constructing new ones. And the idea that U.S. forces would be involved in a cross-border aggression in South America seems a bit outdated, more the stuff of wild, anti-Yankee propaganda than a realistic forecast of what the bases will be used for. So when I received an e-mail from the Venezuelan Embassy with […]

Obama the Brazilian?

A little bit more on the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets announced by Brazilian President Lula da Silva alongside French President Nicolas Sarkozy, only to be semi-retracted pending final assessment of the competing tenders. Jean-Dominique Merchet passes on a Les Echos article (sub. req.) that sheds light on some of the backroom wrangling that went on. And it turns out U.S. President Barack Obama really went to the mat to get the Boeing F-16 offer back in the running. Merchet’s post, coming as it does from the French perspective, is titled, How Obama Tried to Shoot Down the […]

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s latest visit to Moscow resulted in a package of arms and energy deals that highlight the mutually beneficial nature of the current Russian-Venezuelan relationship. Facing declining purchases from traditional arms clients, such as India and especially China, Russia has sought to compensate by expanding arms sales to new markets, including in Latin America. For the most part, however, Russian sellers have not been able to achieve major successes, despite Latin American countries doubling the volume of weapons they purchased between the periods of 1999-2003 and 2004-2008. Although the share of Russian arms exports going to Latin […]

In January 2009, retired Gen. Mauro Tello Quiñones took command of a police unit charged with combating drug-related violence in the popular Mexican tourist destination of Cancún. The assignment lasted just one week. In early February, Tello and two aides were kidnapped and killed. Before murdering Tello, the assailants broke his arms and legs and tortured him for hours. The incident provoked shock across Mexico, with the governor of Quintana Roo state calling it “truly horrible.” Even by the standards of the violent drug war that has consumed Mexico of late, this crime stood out for its brazenness and brutality. […]

Last week, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) issued a report calling for sweeping changes in the international financial and monetary order. Arguing for a reduced role for the dollar, the report advocated for a global reserve bank with the power to issue its own currency, to monitor its members’ national exchange rates, and to prop up or push down their currencies. In other words, UNCTAD is making the case for a global central bank. The U.N. is not alone in calling for such a move. Since the eruption of the global financial crisis last fall and […]

‘You Lie’: Not Quite the House of Commons

Inevitably, Republican South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson’s heckling of President Obama on Wednesday, and other shouted remarks reported by (among others) Dana Milbank in the Washington Post drew comparisons with the habitual rowdiness that British prime ministers face in the House of Commons. To many commentators it recalled the political theater of a Tony Blair or — for those with longer memories — a Margaret Thatcher deftly handling members’ questions despite the barrage of catcalls and shouted remarks. The session takes its toll. This correspondent, who once worked briefly for Prime Minister Thatcher, can report that after the cut and […]

Stumbling Through the Post-9/11 Era

Reading about Margaret Thatcher conveying security assurances to Mikhail Gorbachev two months before the Berlin Wall fell, I couldn’t help but think that the Cold War, from start to finish, was a mindboggling achievement of Western statesmanship. On the fly and with the survival of humankind hanging in the balance, a generation of political leadership crafted a stable security architecture largely from scratch. Thatcher and George H.W. Bush’s instinctive management of the Soviet Union’s death throes in what Andrew Sullivan calls “brutally realist fashion” was the culmination of that remarkable effort. But it’s important to remember, too, that there were […]

As adaptive and creative as the United States claims to be, one would think that, eight years after 9/11, the foreign policy establishment would have come up with a workable way to communicate its strategic message to the rest of the world. It hasn’t. Call it the $10 billion bungle, because that’s a reliable estimate of how much the U.S. has spent since 9/11 on the effort. Bringing the dilemma to the fore is a scathing indictment issued by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen in the latest issue of Joint Forces Quarterly. Mullen’s broadside goes […]

How young Somali immigrants searched for belonging, and found jihad. Second of a three-part series. (Part I )(Part III) When 26-year-old Shirwa Ahmed, a Somali-born immigrant living in Minnesota, blew himself up in Puntland, Somalia, on Oct. 29 last year, he became the very first American suicide bomber, and a harbinger of a looming crisis. Ahmed sneaked into Somalia in late 2007, followed by potentially scores of other young Minnesotan Somali-Americans. Since the first wave of “travelers,” as they are known, left America, Minnesota has become a quiet battleground. The miniature, homegrown war on terror has pitted government authorities and […]

NATO Will Survive Afghanistan

James Joyner tackles one of the more irritating refrains used to argue for the need to succeed in Afghanistan — namely, the claim that NATO’s credibility will not survive failure there. I’d add that to the extent that NATO tried to reinvent itself as an alliance that would project force in out-of-theater operations, there’s a kernel of truth to the claim that Afghanistan has damaged its credibility. But it’s not so much success or failure in Afghanistan that are to blame, but rather NATO’s dismal failure to create a unified chain of command with uniform rules of engagement of the […]

Sarko the Brazilian: Not So Fast!

It looks like the deal for Brazil to buy 36 French Rafale fighter jets might not be as final as Brazilian President Lula da Silva made it out to be. To begin with, there’s the little technicality, raised by the miffed Air Force command, that its final analysis of the three competing craft (Boeing’s F-18 and Saab’s Gripen, in addition to the Dassault Rafale) isn’t due until late-October. Deviating from that schedule, says Jean-Dominique Merchet, could open the door to legal challenges by the competition. It also risked stepping on some toes in the Brazilian legislature by bypassing the defense […]

In the asymmetric wars that have characterized the post-9/11 conflict horizon, our adversaries have been unable to challenge U.S. control of the skies. Now used primarily for close air support and the hauling of gear and supplies for ground troops, the U.S. Air Force has been left to wonder whether its pilots will ever again be called upon to perform their most prestigious of missions — air-to-air combat. As a result, the Air Force has been actively looking for new missions. It has bought hundreds of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), machines that have proven invaluable to ground forces fighting in […]

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