U.S. Army recruits receives wait for further in-processing after receiving their initial haircuts during basic combat training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Jan. 16, 2008 (U.S. Air Force photo by Sr. Airman Micky M. Bazaldua).

Since the creation of the all-volunteer force in 1973, finding enough high-quality recruits has been a constant challenge for the U.S. military. It became a bit easier after the Sept. 11 attacks, as patriotism and anger inspired many new volunteers to sign up, and after the global financial crisis, when the shortage of jobs led many young people to consider the military as an opportunity for social mobility. When there are no pressing threats to national security and the economy is on a steady keel, however, military recruiting becomes harder. What’s more, social and demographic trends suggest that it is […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with other officials before resuming talks over Iran's nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 16, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

With negotiations for a deal on Iran’s nuclear program getting down to the wire, differences between the U.S. and Israel have come to the fore, highlighted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial speech to the U.S. Congress in early March. It would be a mistake to reduce these differences to the personal animosity reported to exist between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama. As Steven Metz explained in his WPR column last week, they have more to do with America and Israel’s different strategic cultures. But they also reflect how the dramatic changes in the Middle East’s geopolitical landscape […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during an anti-imperialist rally with state oil and electric workers at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

Venezuela is one country where U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama had struck the right tone—until a few weeks ago. A diplomatic miscalculation by Washington has strengthened the repressive Venezuelan regime and derailed the Obama administration’s campaign to bolster ties with Latin American nations after December’s landmark reopening of relations with Cuba. Amid the urgent foreign policy challenges from the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere, the Venezuela debacle has unfolded mostly below the radar. But for those who have watched closely, it seems like a once-successful policy taking a sharply damaging turn. The unraveling of Venezuela’s economy, institutions and […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif before their advisers resumed negotiations about the future of Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 20, 2015 (State Department photo).

Will there be a draft of a final agreement to end the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program by the self-imposed deadline at the end of this month? Moreover, is such an agreement a good idea? How one answers these questions depends on one’s perception and tolerance of risk. Is it better to take a chance on what might turn out to be a flawed agreement, or to walk away from the talks even if this increases the chance of military action? For both Iran and the United States, it depends upon which of the following scenarios is seen as the […]

New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, March 23, 2012 (photo by Flickr user yuwenmemon licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license).

Earlier this month, a professor from New York University was barred from entering the United Arab Emirates, where the school recently opened a new campus, after he criticized the country’s labor practices. In an email interview, Stephen Wilkins, director of the integrated doctoral program in business and management at Plymouth University and the former director for professional management programs at Dubai University College, discussed the challenges facing satellite campuses of Western universities. WPR: What are the motivations for establishing satellite campuses of Western universities in places like China and the Persian Gulf, both for the schools and the host countries? […]

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif walks into another negotiating meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

As negotiators in the Iran nuclear talks strive to meet the March 31 deadline for a framework agreement, which is supposed to be followed by a more detailed implementation package by June, critical external players like Israel and the U.S. Congress have been expressing loud opposition to a deal that they perceive as too lenient on Tehran. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’ expression last week of similar concerns highlights the fact that differences exist even among the six powers—the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China—that are negotiating with Iran. In this context, the quiet if conditional support offered by […]

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos speaks to police officers during an event to launch a Christmas security plan, Bogota, Colombia, Dec. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

When Juan Manuel Santos became president of Colombia in August 2010, it was clear he had one overriding aim: to end his country’s longstanding internal armed conflict, chiefly with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Re-elected to a second term last June, Santos now appears to be in the final stretch toward reaching a peace agreement with the FARC. Talks in Havana between government negotiators and FARC leadership have advanced enough for some victims of the conflict and an array of military officials to have joined the negotiations. In addition, Santos managed to get the United States to name […]

The U.N. Security Council meeting on the Middle East situation, including the Palestinian question, New York, Dec. 15, 2014 (U.N. photo by Mark Garten).

U.S. President Barack Obama’s ability to influence the future of American foreign policy is inevitably shrinking as he approaches the end of his second term. But as president, he still has enormous leverage over the direction of United Nations diplomacy. In the next few weeks or months, Obama could dump two exceptionally sensitive tasks on the U.N.: finding a new way out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and monitoring an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. If the U.N. can successfully accomplish either of these things, the organization will receive a gigantic boost. If it fails on both, the long-term damage to […]

The Arctic oil-drilling rig Kulluk sits at the Vigor Shipyards in Seattle, May 25, 2012 (AP photo by Ted S. Warren).

The U.S. Department of the Interior is due to decide this week if Royal Dutch Shell can restart drilling for oil off the coast of Alaska after it was forced to shut down operations in 2012 over safety and environmental concerns. In an email interview, Robert Huebert, an associate professor at the University of Calgary, discussed Arctic drilling amid the slump in global oil prices. WPR: Who are the main parties interested in exploring Arctic hydrocarbon resources, and what projects are currently underway? Robert Huebert: Hydrocarbon development and exploration is occurring in the northern land and maritime regions of Canada, […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry holds a meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over Iran’s nuclear program, Lausanne, Switzerland, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Brian Snyder).

As the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program careen toward the finish line, tensions between U.S President Barack Obama’s administration and Israel remain high. The inability of the United States and Israel to reconcile their positions is not, as some critics contend, the result of Obama’s wavering commitment to Israel’s defense, but of two enduring and deep peculiarities of U.S. strategy: first, its expansiveness, and second, America’s uniquely idealistic strategic culture. These shape not only U.S. cooperation with Israel but also U.S. security partnerships around the world. Unlike Israel, the U.S. has far-ranging, interconnected global concerns. How the U.S. deals with […]

Thousands of demonstrators take part in a protest against the government of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff in front of the Brazilian National Congress in Brasilia, March 15, 2015 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

Dilma Rousseff has faced worse. Nothing that happens to her as president of Brazil could compare with the physical pain inflicted on her by professional torturers from the military dictatorship she fought to topple as a young revolutionary. But now that she is the one holding power, she is facing an avalanche of troubles, including the wrath of the people, the perils of a global economy and the stubbornly uncooperative forces of nature. Sadly for Rousseff, all signs indicate her problems are only about to grow worse. The dire signals started emerging a long time ago. But the evidence that […]

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa waves to supporters during a rally in Banos, Ecuador, April 13, 2007 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

Rafael Correa, a left-leaning academic turned populist politician, has dominated Ecuadorian politics since 2007. He won three presidential elections and has consistently maintained popularity rates of over 50 percent. His movement, the Alliance for a Proud and Sovereign Homeland, controls the legislature. The judiciary and all institutions of horizontal accountability are in the hands of his lieutenants. At the time of this writing, Ecuador’s National Assembly, as the congress was renamed, is modifying Ecuador’s 20th constitution, enacted during Correa’s term, to allow for his permanent re-election. According to Correa, his regime is promoting a better democracy that is advancing social […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcome ceremony for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting, Beijing, China, Nov. 11, 2014 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

How do the crisis in Ukraine and the political situation in Russia look when viewed through the prism of Chinese media? The familiar Western narrative of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a dictator responsible for destabilizing Ukraine and snuffing out domestic dissent takes on a far different coloring. The appeal of the Chinese version of events elsewhere in the world could help explain why U.S. and Western efforts to marginalize Putin and Russia on the world stage have met with little success. At the Naval War College on Monday, Christopher Marsh, professor of national security and strategic studies at the […]

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff leaves at the end of a government ceremony at the Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil, March 16, 2015 (AP photo by Eraldo Peres).

2015 has already been a very difficult year for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. After a hard-fought re-election last October, the most competitive in the past two decades, Rousseff is now confronted with the need to implement meaningful fiscal adjustments amid declining approval ratings and popular unrest, after hundreds of thousands took to the streets in protest Sunday. The series of negative developments since her re-election has been dramatic but is likely to get even worse, with Rousseff in the eye of a political perfect storm. The scandal and ongoing investigations surrounding state-controlled oil giant Petrobras are the biggest concern, having […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a Victory Day parade in Sevastopol, Crimea, May 9, 2014 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

On March 10, at a regular session of the Joint Consultative Group of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, the Russian delegation declared that Moscow was suspending its further participation in the group’s meetings. With the declaration, Russia completed its de facto withdrawal from the most comprehensive conventional arms control treaty in history—one that took decades to negotiate and was a symbol of the end of the Cold War. But the effects of that withdrawal are mostly symbolic, since the treaty has been doubly overtaken by events: The Cold War is long over, and Russia already stopped complying with […]

Samantha Power, United States Permanent Representative to the U.N., briefs the press, United Nations, New York, Sept. 30, 2014 (U.N. photo by Kim Haughton).

The United States sent its European allies some stern signals about their obligations to the American-led international order last week. On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power visited Brussels, where she warned NATO members to halt their “dangerous” defense cuts and called on European powers to offer more troops to United Nations peace operations. Power argued that European armies, which currently provide less than 10 percent of all U.N. peacekeepers worldwide, could have a “momentum-shifting” impact on beleaguered blue helmet missions in trouble spots such as South Sudan. Instead, she underlined, “European countries have drawn back from peacekeeping,” […]

A multinational group of paratroopers exit a C-130 H3 aircraft over a drop zone during Exercise Flintlock 2014, Agadez, Niger, March 2, 2015  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist).

In the modern security environment, insurgency is the strategy of choice for violent extremists. Even so, the United States insists on clinging to an outdated concept of insurgency steeped more in the anti-colonial struggles of the Cold War than the fluid battlefields where movements like the self-declared Islamic State (IS), Boko Haram and the al-Qaida affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa lurk. During the Cold War, the most dangerous insurgencies blended a leftist ideology with nationalism. This combination gave revolutionary insurgency its reach, appealing to more supporters and recruits than either leftism or nationalism alone could have done. […]

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