The verdict is in: There will be no honeymoon for Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. Many analysts were struck by the nonverbal cues in the two leaders’ body language after their first meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, earlier this month. The era of close, warm interpersonal relations between Russian and American presidents, dating back to “Boris and Bill” in the 1990s, has officially come to a close. With both Putin and Obama disinclined to even parrot the motions of friendship before the television cameras, an opportunity beckons to sweep away the “feel good” […]

On Sunday, an old Army friend sent me a note to let me know that an officer with whom we both served had died in Afghanistan. I first fought in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, so the fact that friends are still fighting and dying there more than 10 years later gave me pause. Despite President Barack Obama’s promise to reverse the neglect of the Afghanistan War that had marked his predecessor’s time in office, most of the United States is eager to forget the war. So it will be interesting to see the reception that greets Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s […]

The G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, proved to be far from a diplomatic triumph for U.S. President Barack Obama. Coming on the heels of previous lackluster international gatherings this year — the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, the NATO summit in Chicago and the G-8 meeting at Camp David — it raises the question of whether Washington’s ability to lead in the global system has been compromised. Obama has eschewed attending the Rio+20 “Green Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, a wise choice given that the meeting is also not likely to produce any dramatic breakthroughs. Some of the […]

As President Barack Obama’s first term in office draws to a close, attention has naturally turned to assessing his foreign policy record over the past four years. And while partisan debates in the run-up to November’s election are certain to feature more caricature than reasoned argument, even nonpartisan observers diverge when it comes to Obama’s foreign policy legacy to date, as recent articles by George Packer, Conor Friedersdorf and Daniel Larison demonstrate. The challenge is less identifying Obama’s successes and failures than determining the costs of the trade-offs he has made. Broadly speaking, the Obama team’s clearest policy successes have […]

Think tank analyst is one of those jobs that can be hard to explain to friends and relatives. Taken together, Washington’s many international affairs institutes could be described as the American foreign policy “industry.” This industry is sustained by a branch of American philanthropy that takes a keen interest in how the United States carries out its special global role. And the role of the analysts who work in this industry is to scrutinize the myriad official actions of the world’s governments, with an eye not only to explaining them, but to influencing them as well. As a matter of […]

The United States military is expanding its secret intelligence operations across the African continent, according to an article in the Washington Post. The article explains that close to a dozen air bases have been set up over the past five years. The aircraft that fly in and out of these air bases are equipped with surveillance equipment and disguised as private planes. These operations will only intensify as the U.S. continues to fight a “growing shadow war” against militants in the region. Describing how the United States Africa Command, or Africom, has grown in size and scope in recent years, […]

Speaking at the Naval War College’s Current Strategy Forum this week, Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group and author of the recently published “Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World,” argued that we are living through a period of “creative destruction” of the post-World War II global architecture. The problem, however, is that no single state currently possess the necessary preponderance of resources to be able to construct a new global system, as the U.S. was able to do in the aftermath of World War II. This is not to argue that the United States […]

A few weeks ago, when I started this series of columns on the perils of the special operationalization of U.S. national security policy, I briefly argued that U.S. special operations forces are often not as good as they or their commanders believe them to be. I worried about a young Special Forces officer with six months of Arabic convincing himself he was “Sir Richard Burton in a green beret.” Some of my friends in the U.S. Army Special Forces demanded to know why I was picking on them, while others suggested my own service in the 75th Ranger Regiment explained […]

In late-April, according to reporting by the New York Times, the U.S. Congress did something remarkable: It said no to U.S. Special Operations Command. Asked by the command for new authorities to train security forces from Africa to the Middle East, a confused legislative branch, backed by the State Department and the rest of the U.S. military, denied the request. The request itself, though, reveals something of the ambitions harbored by the command. With its confidence boosted by operational successes and the esteem in which it is held, the command is marketing its units as the weapon of choice for […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made news this weekend when he announced that the U.S. Navy would move the bulk of its fleet to the Pacific in coming years as part of the Obama administration’s military rebalancing program. But the declaration should have come as no surprise, as the Pentagon has been increasing the share of its assets in the Pacific for several years already. Panetta was attending the 11th International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit, widely known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore. In his speech, Panetta emphasized that the United States, after a decade of […]

With budgetary constraints looming and global priorities shifting, the U.S. military is in the process of pursuing leaner and more adaptive ways to achieve U.S. national security objectives around the globe. This effort is in accordance with the Department of Defense’s (DOD) 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance (.pdf), which recognizes the need for the military to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region and sustain its focus on the Middle East, while maintaining current defense commitments in other parts of the world. One of the new approaches being developed is the Regionally Aligned Brigade concept, through which each regional combatant command (COCOM) would […]

In the run-up to Sept. 11, 2001, the CIA and the 15 other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community were increasingly preoccupied by the terrorist threat emanating from the Middle East. The previous decade had represented a long and difficult transition for U.S. intelligence from the requirements of Cold War espionage and denied-area tradecraft as well as the more brutal operational tasks associated with helping the Afghan mujahedeen chase the Soviets from Afghanistan. Al-Qaida’s brutal attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Dar-es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998 and on the USS Cole in 2000 had already raised the alarm. But […]

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the hostilities that historically divided the Cold War’s political and military opponents have cooled, but a heightened intensity in espionage has become evident as well. New antagonists have surfaced as old enemies seemingly became allies; nonstate actors occasionally have become as dangerous and influential as nations with standing armies; and the computer and satellite have replaced lapel cameras and microfilm stashed in shoe heels as preferred methods of espionage. Predictably, the playing field of global espionage has become more sophisticated as well. Cyberspace and outer space have become espionage battlegrounds where fortunes are […]

In recent years, cyberattacks against the governments and business entities of economically developed and technologically advanced nations have proliferated, with the purpose of such attacks increasingly turning toward economic information collection and industrial espionage. As adversaries have expanded their computer network operations, the use of new venues for intrusions has increased, and the increasing use of portable devices that connect to the Internet and other networks will only create new opportunities for malicious actors to conduct espionage. Meanwhile, the trend among both corporations and government organizations toward the pooling of information processing and storage will present even greater challenges to […]

The Obama administration, supported by the U.S. military, is currently trying to negotiate an International Space Code of Conduct to protect the space environment. To gain support for the effort, the administration will have to overcome objections from some members of Congress, who often cite the ambitious and supposedly aggressive nature of Chinese space activities as the reason why the U.S. should not agree to international accords regarding space. The United States has the most space assets in orbit — and is the most dependent on them — but it is not the only country with space capabilities. Sustaining the […]

In the aftermath of the massacre in Houla, Syria, pressure is mounting on the Obama administration to become more directly involved in efforts to remove the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The problem for U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security team is that there is no clear, safe course of action: Intervening or staying out of the conflict both carry their own sets of risks. Let’s start with the “knowns” that would have to guide any American decision. The first is that Russia, backed by China, will not allow the United Nations Security Council to give its imprimatur to […]

As unveiled in a recent Washington Post article, the Defense Advanced Research Protection Agency, or DARPA, is working to improve U.S. military operations in cyberspace with a project known as Plan X. The Defense Department agency is seeking proposals this summer for the effort, which aims to create an advanced cyberspace map as well as a system capable of launching cyberattacks and withstanding counterattacks. Chris Bronk, a fellow in information technology policy at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, told Trend Lines that Plan X reveals how DARPA is moving toward a more agile form of research […]