Syrian rebels from the “Al-Qasas Brigade” or “Justice Brigade” run through an olive grove to avoid Syrian Army snipers, Oct. 20, 2012 (photo by Flickr user syriafreedom licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license).

U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategy to counter the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq has three central components: pressuring the Iraqi government to change its policies that fuel support for IS and to rebuild its military; conducting U.S. airstrikes to weaken IS and prevent it from gaining an outright military victory; and training and equipping militias to fight IS on the ground, including Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syrian rebels. All of these components are shaky to one extent or another, but the third is the most precarious of all, reflecting the Obama administration’s desperate effort to balance […]

Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the U.N., United Nations, New York, Sept. 19, 2014 (U.N. photo by Amanda Voisard).

Editor’s note: Due to travel, Richard Gowan’s column will appear Wednesday this week. Vladimir Putin and Samantha Power both grumbled about the state of the international system last week. It is hard to know who is the more displeased. The Russian president told foreign dignitaries that American policy toward the United Nations and international law threatened to make the whole system “worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition.” But the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., embarking on a tour of the Ebola-ridden countries of West Africa, targeted other states for not fulfilling promises to fight the disease. Too many […]

U.S., Australian and Chinese service members disembark from an Australian Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter at a remote landing zone in Northern Territory, Australia, Oct. 12, 2014 (DoD photo by Cpl. Jake Sims, Australian Defense Force).

Earlier this month, Australian, U.S. and Chinese troops took part in a survival training exercise in northern Australia. In an email interview, Benjamin Schreer, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, discussed Australia’s military and strategic partnerships. WPR: What is the extent of Australia’s military engagement, in terms of joint exercises and dialogue, with China? Benjamin Schreer: In recent years, Australia’s military engagement with China has gradually increased. In 2012 both countries agreed on a “strategic partnership,” which included a commitment for an annual high-level dialogue. In September, the second Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue was held in Sydney. […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo in Washington, D.C., Oct. 24, 2014 (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz).

The first so-called 2+2 meeting of the U.S. and South Korean foreign and defense ministers since Park Geun-hye became South Korea’s president took place last week in Washington. At the meeting, the two sides reaffirmed their global partnership and also made progress in walking back a commitment to transfer wartime command from U.S. to South Korean forces by the end of next year. However, South Korea and the United States have yet to overcome their differences regarding missile defense and how to counter North Korea’s new missile capabilities. After years of tense talks on the issue between the two countries, […]

President Barack Obama walks over to greet people after arriving in the snow at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester, N.H., March 1, 2012 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Editor’s note: Due to travel, Richard Gowan’s column will appear Wednesday this week. Nikolas Gvosdev’s column will appear Monday. How three presidents—Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin—and one institution—the European Union—grapple with and navigate the political challenges they will face this winter will have a profound impact in shaping global politics in the years to come. The decisions that are taken, or deferred, will determine whether current assumptions about the international order are reconfirmed or discarded. Those assumptions include the belief that most countries, including the rising and resurgent powers, still prioritize their relationships with Washington over bonding together […]

President Ronald Reagan with Caspar Weinberger, George Shultz, Ed Meese and Don Regan, Nov. 25, 1986 (White House photo from the Ronald Reagan Library).

In the early 1980s, U.S. military strategy had lost its bearings. Rocked by a decade of bloody, expensive and divisive counterinsurgency in Vietnam, Americans could not agree on how to use their military in a way that would both promote the national interest and reflect national values. Under the Reagan administration, the U.S. began to shake off this malaise. In a 1984 speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Caspar Weinberger, Reagan’s secretary of defense, suggested a set of tests or principles to guide the use of the American military: vital national interests must be at stake; the U.S. […]

Oil pumps work at sunset in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain, Oct. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Hasan Jamali).

Oil occupies a special place in the world of international trade and in the public lore. No other commodity carries the political, strategic and tactical power of petroleum. Since it became the world’s primary fuel less than two centuries ago, oil has played a major role in shaping world events, triggering trade embargoes and colonial wars, making and breaking political alliances and always offering a justification, real or imagined, for international conflicts. It’s hardly surprising, then, that the recent precipitous drop in global oil prices has generated a flurry of conspiracy theories. Speculation about “the real cause” behind the current […]

President Barack Obama arrives to vote early in the midterm elections, Oct. 20, 2014, Chicago, Ill. (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Traditionally, U.S. midterm elections have been referenda on how a president has managed domestic affairs, a vote of confidence or rejection of his various policy choices. International events, however, can emerge as issues in the campaign to the extent that they indicate whether the country is moving in the right or the wrong direction. In 2006, for instance, the Bush administration’s mismanagement of the Iraq War became a factor in the recapture of both houses of Congress by the Democrats because it was put forth alongside domestic disasters—such as the handling of Hurricane Katrina—as part of an effective campaign slogan […]

Members of the U.N. investigation team take samples from the ground to test for chemicals in the Damascus countryside of Zamalka, Syria, Aug. 29, 2013 (AP Photo/Local Committee of Arbeen).

A series of recent media reports have refocused attention on chemical weapons and highlighted the threat presented by their possible use by terrorists. Stories about the so-called Islamic State (IS) seizing the remains of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons stockpile in Iraq; the large number of abandoned chemical weapons that U.S soldiers discovered during the post-Saddam occupation of Iraq; and the continued cases of chemicals being used as weapons of war in Syria have all generated concern and alarm. But they also highlight the ways in which the international chemical weapons regime must be updated to reflect the current nature of […]

Two UH-60 Blackhawks assigned to U.S. Army Europe’s 12th Combat Aviation Brigade on approach to pick up soldiers during a mission rehearsal exercise (Photo by SPC. Glenn M. Anderson).

Since the U.S. Army left Iraq and began withdrawing from Afghanistan, it has struggled mightily to reinvent itself and convince Congress and administration policymakers to preserve much of its force structure. This has been an uphill battle. For many Americans, the Army has become synonymous with counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the U.S. doesn’t expect to fight a major land war with another nation, it was easy—if incorrect—to conclude that it no longer needs a large Army. This forced military leaders and national security experts who believe in the enduring importance of land power to appeal for preserving Army […]

Chinese workers walk past the No.1 reactor at the Ningde Nuclear Power Plant in Ningde city, Fujian province, China, April 18, 2013 (Imaginechina via AP Images).

As it enters middle age, the nuclear energy industry is facing a question common at this stage of life: Does it still have exciting possibilities for growth, or are its best days behind it? Optimists who see nuclear energy as an appealing low-carbon option for combating climate change praise its stability and reliability over decades of operating experience, as well as the cheapness and reliability of uranium fuel supplies. Organizations like the International Energy Agency foresee substantial increases in nuclear-generated electricity over the next few decades, with the number of nuclear plants worldwide—currently at roughly 400—perhaps doubling or tripling. Yet, […]

Smoke rises from a fire in Kobani, Syria as seen from Mursitpinar on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, Oct. 15, 2014 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

Just as the United States thought it had made progress convincing Turkey to help fight the so-called Islamic State (IS)—particularly in the current battle for Kobani, the Kurdish town near Turkey’s border with Syria—Ankara came out with a rather disconcerting announcement. Turkish warplanes, officials said, had launched bombing raids, but they had struck Kurdish guerrillas in Turkey, not IS. The bombing raids against Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey did not directly change the balance in Kobani, but their timing was a particularly brazen defiance of international pressure. The U.S.-led effort to “degrade and destroy” IS has put a harsh spotlight […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Oct. 13, 2014, Cairo, Egypt (State Department photo).

“The New Egypt” wants New York City to know that it is open for business. Coinciding with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s arrival in New York last month for the U.N. General Assembly meeting, billboards appeared on the sides of buses, the roofs of buildings and a huge Nasdaq video screen in Times Square, promoting Egypt’s “Peace, Prosperity and Growth,” over a Pyramid-centered mash-up of Pharaonic temples and the Suez Canal. An Egyptian businessman whom el-Sissi had in tow reportedly paid for the campaign. Weeks later, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cairo for a Gaza donors’ conference, […]

Fighters of the Islamic State waving the group’s flag from a damaged display of a government fighter jet following the battle for the Tabqa air base, Raqqa, Syria, photo post Aug. 27, 2014 (AP photo/ Raqqa Media Center of the Islamic State group).

The elusive unicorns wandering the forests of America’s Middle East policy are the so-called moderates who will battle the extremists on behalf of the Western world. There is a touching faith among many parts of the U.S. foreign policy establishment in the existence of these moderates, who simply require sustained U.S. support in order to step forward out of the shadows of the stagnant status quo regimes and extremist movements that dominate the region. These moderates, according to this rosy view, can already field a disciplined and effective fighting force. But better yet, they can also be trained quickly and […]

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, front left, welcomes Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera during an honor cordon at the Pentagon, July 11, 2014 (AP photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta).

On Oct. 8, after a year of intense effort, the Japanese and U.S. governments released an interim progress report on planned revisions to the guidelines framing their militaries’ respective roles in the joint defense of Japan. The report does not identify specific threats or discuss detailed scenarios for joint military operations, but it does provide a series of principles guiding the revisions and lists some types of cooperative activities they will cover. These principles and examples make clear that the two countries plan to expand the range of possible operations both geographically and functionally. The two governments’ foreign and defense […]

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Oct. 1, 2014 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

Jens Stoltenberg, former prime minister of Norway, assumed the position of secretary-general of NATO on Oct. 1. He takes over the job at an important juncture for NATO: With the drawdown in Afghanistan and tensions with Russia running high over Ukraine, there are many questions about the alliance’s future. “Being secretary-general of NATO is one of the most difficult jobs in international diplomacy,” Jorge Benitez, director of NATOSource at the Atlantic Council, says in an email interview. “Most national leaders find it hard to manage the many competing interests of their domestic political systems. The secretary-general of NATO has to […]

President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the NATO summit at Celtic Manor, Newport, Wales, Sept. 5, 2014 (AP photo by Charles Dharapak).

Over the next decade, the United States may play a smaller role in the management of global security, hold steady on its current course or even try returning to the halcyon days of unipolarity. But as Sun Tzu, the great philosopher of war, wrote, a military commander who tries to be strong everywhere ends up being strong nowhere. That also applies to grand strategy. So whatever course American strategy takes, the U.S. must have regional partners. While everyone recognizes that the U.S. must lean heavily on others, it can be easy to forget that strategic partnerships come in several varieties. […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 251 2 Last