In “The Imperial Presidency: Drone Power and Congressional Oversight,” Michael Cohen argues persuasively that the U.S. Congress has abdicated its constitutional and statutory responsibility to reign in the executive branch in matters of national security policy. Then again, few who have been paying attention this past decade — some would say, the past several decades — need much convincing on that point. Yet, while I agree with Cohen that we desperately need Congress to do its job here as a matter of principle, it’s far from clear that it would change our policy. Cohen cites the extraordinary decision to kill […]

In the month since Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran published “Little America,” his brutal review of the U.S. and allied war effort in Afghanistan, it has been interesting to observe the reactions from the various tribes of the Beltway. No one escapes criticism in Chandrasekaran’s narrative, this columnist included, but the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Marine Corps come under especially heavy fire. The reaction from the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. military as a whole has been to add the book and its criticisms to the list of lessons that need […]

In the traumatic months after the attacks of Sept. 11, the United States struggled to understand the new world it faced and to redirect its security strategy away from “rogue states” relying on conventional military power to the shadowy and ambiguous terrorist threat. Some components of the new strategy, such as augmented homeland security and increased assistance to partner states, were obvious and fell easily into place. How to use U.S. military power in an offensive way against terrorism was not so clear. The initial reaction of the Bush administration reflected the old saw that when all one has is […]

On Sept. 30, 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki was riding in a convoy in northern Yemen’s al-Jawf province with several other suspected members of the terrorist group al-Qaida. Awlaki, a Yemeni cleric, had long been on a so-called kill list of terrorist leaders targeted by the U.S. government for elimination. On that day, two Predator drones operating in the skies above fired seven Hellfire missiles, killing Awlaki and, among others, a colleague named Samir Khan. In itself, the killing was simply another skirmish in the 10-year U.S.-led war on terror, which since Sept. 11, 2001, has stretched from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the […]

Thanks to the Obama administration’s aggressive use of classified leaks to the press, we are encouraged to believe that President Barack Obama has engineered a revolutionary shift in both America’s geopolitical priorities and our military means of pursuing those ends. As re-election sales jobs go, it presses lukewarm-button issues, but it does so ably. But since foreign policy has never been the president’s focus, we should in turn recognize these maneuvers for what they truly are: an accommodation with inescapable domestic realities, one that at best postpones and at worst sabotages America’s needed geostrategic adjustment to a world co-managed with […]

On Nov. 3, 2002, America began its campaign of targeted killings in nonbattlefield settings. After a year-long manhunt, a fusion of human intelligence assets and signals intercepts pinpointed Abu Ali al-Harithi, an operational planner in the al-Qaida cell that had bombed the USS Cole in 2002, driving in a Toyota SUV in Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia. A CIA-controlled Predator drone climbed into position, maneuvered its nose downward and fired a single Hellfire missile, which destroyed the SUV and killed al-Harithi, along with four other Yemenis and Ahmed Hijazi, a naturalized U.S. citizen and ringleader of an alleged […]

On Monday, a U.S. Navy refueling ship in the Persian Gulf opened fire on what turned out to be a fishing boat, killing one Indian man and wounding three others after they ignored several warnings to stop their rapid approach. While the U.S. has offered condolences to the families of the fishermen, it has suggested that the use of force was justified, particularly in the context of a Navy that is more wary than ever of the dangers small boats can pose to large ships. “Starting with the USS Cole attack, the U.S. Navy came to recognize that there were […]

A few weeks ago, a couple of articles appeared in two Israeli newspapers — Israel Hayom and Maariv — criticizing U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. At first glance, there was nothing terribly significant about the articles. After all, one can hardly open a newspaper in any language these days without reading a criticism of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. I have written several myself in these pages. But what stood out about these two articles is that they were written by people working for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As such, they represented a departure from a historical norm on both sides […]

In its just-released final audit report (.pdf), the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Funds (SIGIR) last week warned that billions of U.S. dollars may have been wasted or misappropriated in the process of reconstructing Iraq. While reports of waste surfaced early in the post-invasion occupation of Iraq, problems have also plagued the transition since 2010 from a military- to a civilian-led U.S. mission in Iraq. Many of those shortcomings came to light during a recent hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to assess the interagency effort in Iraq now that all U.S. combat […]

This past week, during an unannounced visit to Kabul, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the Obama administration had designated Afghanistan a “major non-NATO ally.” Though the status does not carry with it any sort of legal expectation that the United States will consider an attack against Afghanistan as an attack on the U.S., it is one of the most significant designations in America’s diplomatic arsenal in terms of upgrading a bilateral relationship outside a formal treaty of alliance. Most reports indicate that this status was granted to Afghanistan to reassure the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai […]

Last week, I made the argument that the crisis in civil-military relations in the United States is not actually much of a crisis after all. By any reasonable measure, civil-military relations in the United States are actually remarkably healthy. This week, though, I will highlight those areas where there are problems — and propose ways forward. To begin, both political parties have contributed to the problems the United States faces with respect to civil-military relations, as have both the U.S. military and the civilians it serves. In other words, all sides deserve some of the blame for several disturbing trends. […]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Mongolia on Monday on the second day of her Asia tour intended to boost U.S. economic engagement with the region. She praised the Asian country as a model of democracy and called it an “inspiration.” By visiting Mongolia, Clinton aimed to put to rest the idea that democracy is a Western ideal in conflict with Asian values, explained Stephen Noerper, senior vice president of the Korea Society. “It provided the U.S. with an opportunity to acknowledge and congratulate Mongolia on its path toward democracy and to quietly acknowledge the fragility of that and […]

In June, Morocco requested $1 billion in U.S.-funded upgrades to 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks. In an email interview, Yahia H. Zoubir, a professor of international relations and international management and the director of research in geopolitics at Euromed Management in Marseilles, France, discussed U.S.-Morocco defense relations. WPR: What is the historical background of U.S.-Morocco defense relations, and how have they evolved? Yahia H. Zoubir: The United States considers Morocco a friend and ally, with formal relations dating from the 1787 Treaty of Marrakech, the oldest unbroken treaty in U.S. foreign relations. Foreign military assistance to Morocco began immediately after Morocco’s […]

During his recent visit to New Delhi, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta highlighted the evolution of the annual Indo-U.S. naval war game Malabar from a passing exercise for the two navies’ ships into a full-scale engagement across all functional areas of naval warfare. Indeed, the steadily increasing complexity of Indo-U.S. naval force coordination has been a standout feature of an otherwise interest-driven relationship, suggesting Washington increasingly sees India as the western hinge of the U.S. pivot to Asia, with the U.S. Navy backstopping the shift from the Pacific. However, before the Indo-U.S. entente on the seas becomes a full-blown condominium, […]

There are two simultaneous and contradictory trends occurring right now in the international system. The first is the diffusion of power, as reflected by the displacement of the old Group of Seven, which at its founding in the 1970s comprised the bulk of the world’s productive capacity, by the Group of 20, where there is no longer one dominant power capable of driving the global agenda. The second is the reality that the United States still far outstrips any other one state or group of states in terms of capabilities, ranging from the power of its currency to its ability […]

Last week, I noted one of the ironies of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan since 2009: From the perspective of civil-military relations, the process worked. Regardless of one’s opinion of the Obama administration’s strategy in Afghanistan and despite the high degree to which the U.S. government and its allies have struggled to implement that strategy, the division of labor between civilian officials and military officers in formulating the strategy itself functioned more or less according to design. In light of the reaction the column generated, I’d like to examine civil-military relations in the United States more broadly. Today, I will […]

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