U.S. Marines during the NATO-led Trident Juncture 15 exercise, Pinheiro Da Cruz, Praia Da Raposa Beach, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015 (United States Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Long).

The U.S. military is increasingly ill-suited for today’s complex, interconnected and transparent security environment. It was designed to fight major wars against the military forces of other nations, yet never does so. Despite the best intentions of its architects, the U.S. military is a “kluge”—a combination of sometimes compatible, sometimes mismatched parts cobbled together. It works, but not as effectively or efficiently as it should. The United States could gain much from reorganizing its military to better reflect today’s security environment but this is easier said than done. The obstacles to deep change are powerful: There is so much tradition, […]

Supporters cheer top opposition presidential candidate Mauricio Macri in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Jorge Saenz).

Latin America is reaching a quiet but remarkable turning point, one that, though occurring without much fanfare, has significant historical resonance. This past weekend, voters in several Latin American countries participated in national and local elections, and the process unfolded for the most part peacefully. That in itself is an achievement. But what is most noteworthy is that the outcomes of the elections were decided by the actual votes cast, and by extension the voters, rather than by fraud or violence. That, of course, is how democracy is supposed to work, but it is not always the case. When viewed […]

Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau at his first official news conference, Ottawa, Oct. 20, 2015 (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP).

In a surprise last week, Canada’s Liberal Party won an overall majority in the federal election, gaining a clear mandate to form a new government led by party leader Justin Trudeau, the new prime minister-designate. Voters’ predominant concerns were the economy and moving on politically from Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper—not national security or foreign policy. However, Trudeau, Harper and the New Democratic Party’s Thomas Mulcair still clashed on a number of issues throughout the campaign related to Canada’s national and international security policies, including how to tackle terrorism, the refugee crisis and drug policy. Will Trudeau now follow through […]

U.S. soldiers in the Nawa Valley, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2014 (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston).

A few years ago Afghanistan seemed on the path to success. The economy was doing relatively well. The Taliban were losing ground to Afghan security forces, the U.S. military and units from other partner nations. The new president, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, seemed more willing to tackle Afghanistan’s deep political problems than Hamid Karzai, his erratic predecessor. By all indications, things were looking up. Sadly this has proven to be an illusion. Ghani has not gotten a handle on Afghanistan’s crippling corruption, cronyism and ethnic strife. The country will not be able to function without massive economic assistance far into the […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the Residence of the Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations, New York City, Oct. 1, 2015 (State Department photo).

On July 20, Colombia’s peace talks with the FARC guerrilla group emerged from what was hopefully their roughest patch. With daily episodes of combat between FARC militants and the Colombian army, June was the most violent month in Colombia since peace talks began in October 2012. Then, in late July, at the strong urging of foreign diplomats accompanying the talks, the FARC declared a new unilateral cease-fire, and both sides said they would dedicate themselves to making it bilateral. The three months since then have been the least violent that Colombia has experienced since 1975. The July truce and de-escalation […]

U.S. President Barack Obama walks off of Marine One after returning from a trip to West Virginia, the White House, Washington, Oct. 21, 2015 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The latest edition of the New York Times Magazine featured a cover story that aimed to challenge the generally accepted narrative of how the U.S. found and killed Osama bin Laden. The article by Jonathan Mahler centered on an alternative version of events by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. In Hersh’s telling, the story we have heard from the Obama administration and retold by a number of books and movies essentially amounts to a vast cover-up. In exploring the controversy, Mahler focuses more on the hunt for the bin Laden story than on the hunt for bin Laden—that is, on […]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders during the Democratic presidential debate, Las Vegas, Oct. 13, 2015 (AP photo by John Locher).

When you’re a global superpower with worldwide interests and responsibilities, it’s hard to come up with a very short list of priorities that will set the agenda and organize the bureaucracy. But that’s just what presidential candidates—and sometimes policymakers—have to do when trying to convince voters of the wisdom of their national security to-do lists. In recent days, we heard just such an exercise from the Democratic presidential candidates, as well as a variation of it from Secretary of State John Kerry. At last week’s debate, when asked to name “the greatest national security threat to the United States,” the […]

A Syrian Kurdish sniper looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Kobani, Jan. 30, 2015 (AP photo).

Whenever it seems that the war in Syria can’t get more tragic and dangerous, it does. That conflict has already created the worst humanitarian disaster of a young century and empowered the barbaric self-declared Islamic State. And it could become worse. The Obama administration has avoided an entangling involvement, instead providing refugee aid and supporting some of the less repellent rebel groups, in the hopes that the combatants conclude that an outright military victory is out of reach and accept a power-sharing arrangement. That was a long shot from the beginning and became even less likely as the hatred between […]

Soldiers prepare a simulated casualty for transport as a UH-60 medevac helicopter lands nearby during live-fire training, Tactical Base Gamberi in eastern Afghanistan, July 2, 2015 (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Charles Emmons).

Backtracking on earlier plans for a withdrawal of U.S. forces, President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the United States will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through 2016, before reducing the number to 5,500 by early 2017. “While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” Obama said during the announcement at the White House. The Obama administration originally planned to cut the number of U.S. soldiers in half by next year, eventually leaving 1,000 troops stationed at the U.S. embassy in Kabul by early 2017. But it changed course with the Taliban’s […]

Guarani Indian men hold a meeting on opening up nature reserves to gas exploration, Iviyeca, Bolivia, June 26, 2015 (AP photo by Juan Karita).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of falling oil and commodities prices on resource-exporting countries. Bolivian President Evo Morales has overseen remarkable economic growth since he took office in 2006, and last year the economy grew by 5.4 percent, thanks in large part to exports of gas and other natural resources. In an email interview, Jean-Paul Faguet, professor of the political economy of development at the London School of Economics, discussed Bolivia’s economy and its dependence on commodities. WPR: How effectively has the Bolivian government used the past decade’s commodity boom to […]

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he leaves Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, Oct. 12, 2015 (AP photo by Denis Poroy).

President Barack Obama’s interview Sunday evening with Steve Kroft of the CBS News program “60 Minutes” offered a revealing insight into the foreign policy mindset of the Washington Beltway—not due to anything that Obama said, but rather due to the questions posed to him by Kroft. When asking about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military interventions in Ukraine and Syria, Kroft directly challenged Obama. “You said a year ago,” said Kroft, “that the United States . . . leads. We’re the indispensable nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.” Obama tried, in vain, to point out that Putin’s moves […]

UNASUR foreign ministers at a press conference at the end the UNASUR regional foreign ministers meeting to discuss the situation in Venezuela, Quito, Ecuador, March 14, 2015 (AP photo by Dolores Ochoa).

Despite its short existence, the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has already developed into an important tool of South American crisis management. It assumed a leadership role in de-escalating the ongoing border dispute between Venezuela and Colombia, following earlier efforts to diffuse regional crises—again between Venezuela and Colombia but also between Colombia and Ecuador and in Bolivia. It has generally done so without taking sides or holding leaders to account when they ignore established regional norms. In large part this is due to the fact that UNASUR gives priority to the absolute sovereignty of its member states, rather than […]

New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair at a campaign event at the Palais des Congres, Montreal, Canada, Oct. 9, 2015 (photo by Flickr user Anne Campagne licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license).

Canada votes on Monday, and the latest polls show the centrist Liberal Party with a slight lead over the ruling Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party. In an email interview, Brian Tanguay, professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, discussed what is a stake in Canada’s elections. WPR: What explains the emergence of the New Democratic Party (NDP) as a national political contender, and why have its prospects faded recently? Brian Tanguay: In the early days of this very long campaign, most polls indicated that the NDP would, for a second straight election, sweep Quebec—a phenomenon known as the […]

U.S. soldiers engage Taliban forces during a halt to repair a disabled vehicle near the village of Allah Say, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2007 (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel).

In the traumatic months after the Sept. 11 attacks, American policymakers decided that the conflict with transnational extremism demanded an aggressive response. This made perfect sense: To go on the offensive as soon as possible is the American way. In the new conflict with al-Qaida and other extremists, the United Stated intended to fight them over there to avoid having to fight them here, as then-President George W. Bush put it. However appealing this might have been to the angry American public, there were challenges putting it into practice. To undertake a global offensive against extremists, the United States needed […]

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim talks with other invited guests following President Enrique Pena Nieto's third state of the nation address at the National Palace, Mexico City, Sept. 2, 2015 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

Mexico’s cartels are known for their violence and ruthlessness, the control they exert over the drug trade and for Hollywood-esque escapes from so-called high-security prisons. But not much is known or even acknowledged outside the country about another network exerting significant power and doing its own damage to the country: an economic cartel that enjoys market domination in major sectors of the economy, beneficial treatment from the authorities and whose fortunes have skyrocketed at the expense of ordinary Mexicans. A new bi-annual report by Coneval, a Mexican government agency evaluating social policies, should raise the alarm. It showed that Mexico’s […]

Eurocopter executive Olivier Lambert and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, after signing an agreement, with French President Francois Hollande and Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Paris, June 24, 2015 (AP photo by Remy de la Mauviniere).

France’s increasingly close rapport with Saudi Arabia under President Francois Hollande has incensed some of his critics, who label him a hypocrite for touting a human rights agenda while maintaining cozy ties with the oil-rich Gulf nation notorious for public executions and beatings. Just recently, Riyadh stoked international outrage over news that 20-year-old Ali al-Nimr, arrested four years ago during anti-government protests—along with hundreds of other, mostly Shiite protesters in the city of Qatif—would be sentenced to death. Although France has not been particularly outspoken on Saudi Arabia’s frequent executions—175 in 12 months, according to an Amnesty International report from […]

Cuban President Raul Castro encourages Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and commander the FARC, Timoleon Jimenez, known as Timochenko, to shake hands, Havana, Cuba, Sept. 23, 2015 (AP photo by Desmond Boylan).

In the final countdown to the announcement of the winner of the world’s most prestigious award, the Nobel Peace Prize, the buzz is growing around two Latin American men. One is Argentine-born Pope Francis, whose unconventional style has made waves across the globe. The other is Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, whose efforts to forge a peace deal with Marxist rebels are already winning him accolades around the world, but remain controversial at home. On Sept. 23, while the world was enthralled by the papal visit to the U.S., Colombians who follow Santos on Twitter found an unexpected message from […]

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