U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande arrive at the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, Le Bourget, France, Nov. 30, 2015 (AP photo by Christophe Ena).

In the wake of this month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande has cast himself as a fierce war leader, promising to take revenge on the self-declared Islamic State for the atrocities. Yet while he has ratcheted up airstrikes in Syria, he also needs to strike some major diplomatic bargains to shore up France’s global position. Last week, the French president was in both Washington and Moscow trying to secure a global deal on the Syrian war. Now he is back in Paris to kick off final talks on a potentially even trickier international agreement over climate change. […]

Cuban President Raul Castro and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto at a joint press conference, Merida, Mexico, Nov. 6, 2015 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

With his state visit to Mexico earlier this month, Raul Castro took a major step forward in rebuilding Cuba’s relations with the country in Latin America that is most important to the United States. For Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the summit marked the culmination of his efforts to repair relations with Cuba after a decade of antagonism precipitated by Mexico’s conservative governments led by the National Action Party, or PAN, beginning with the presidency of Vicente Fox from 2000 to 2006. Historically, Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, had maintained friendly relations with Cuba’s revolutionary government after 1959. […]

U.S. Admiral Bill Gortney and Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan during a panel at the Halifax International Security Forum, Nov. 20, 2015 (U.S. Embassy in Canada photo).

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia—The seventh annual Halifax International Security Forum, a mostly right-of-center gathering of mostly democratic states, covered the full suite of security problems confronting the world today. And whether talking about the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the nightmare of terrorism in Western capitals or the long-term challenges of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive revanchism and China’s increasingly assertive posture in Asia, anxieties were high. Across the spectrum, there was a yearning for more robust American leadership. The Halifax Forum was created in 2009 with support from Canada’s then-Conservative government as a vehicle to ensure a high-level dialogue with Washington. […]

A U.S. Marine fighter jet aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, Sept. 10, 2015 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

The conflict between the self-declared Islamic State and the civilized world has taken a chilling turn. While the extremists continue to fight both the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad and the government of Iraq, they now have also demonstrated a deadly commitment to transnational terrorism. In the past several weeks, the Islamic State has claimed credit for bombings in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Lebanon as well as for downing a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai. It apparently orchestrated Friday’s complex terrorist attack in Paris, attempted ones in Belgium and Germany, and has threatened to unleash terrorism in the United […]

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference, Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 16, 2015 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Like most people, watching the reports coming out of Paris on Friday night filled me with an ever-escalating set of emotions: shock, horror, revulsion and finally anger. It seems, however, that among the pundit class, one emotion above all is dominating: panic. And it’s creating a set of myths about what actually happened in Paris, and what the attacks mean, that could keep us from learning the necessary lessons from Friday’s horrors. Myth No. 1: America Is Next From the pages of Politico to the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” this argument has been made repeatedly since Friday night, and […]

Airmen prepare a MQ-9 Reaper during an exercise at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., May 15, 2014 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nadine Barclay).

Immediately after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande declared the coordinated attacks as “an act of war.” France did not need such a provocation, however. It had already been involved in U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria against the self-proclaimed Islamic State for six weeks, and in Iraq since September 2014. The question now is where and how it might escalate its involvement militarily. The United States stated that it stands by France and will assist in whatever way necessary. That raises the question of whether U.S. assistance will include arming France’s unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, and […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Vienna, Austria, Nov. 14, 2015 (State Department Photo).

Desperate times call for desperate conflict-management measures. This weekend, at talks on Syria convened in Vienna at the behest of Russia and the U.S., diplomats called for Damascus and mainstream opposition groups to agree to a national cease-fire, in parallel with continued offensives against the self-declared Islamic State and al-Qaida-affiliated fighters. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council pledged to back a “U.N. endorsed ceasefire monitoring mission in those parts of the country where monitors would not come under threat of attacks from terrorists.” Will this be a case of “the third time’s the charm” for peacekeeping […]

Senegalese soldiers practice live fire maneuvers during an AFRICOM training exercise, Senegal, June 19, 2014 (U.S. Army Africa photo by Staff Sgt. Donna Davis).

U.S. military forces are taking a more active role in combating the Boko Haram insurgency that has killed more than 30,000 people since its outbreak in 2009 and spread from northeastern Nigeria to neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad. The move is consistent with the general U.S. approach to security on the African continent, which leans heavily on enabling local forces to combat terrorist groups, but which has failed to stem a rise in Islamist violence in recent years. President Barack Obama notified Congress in mid-October that he had ordered 300 military personnel into northern Cameroon to support reconnaissance flights of […]

The U.S. flag flies on top of the U.S. embassy in front of the German Bundestag, Berlin, Oct. 25, 2013 (AP photo by Michael Sohn).

Two years ago, revelations that the National Security Agency had been spying on Germany’s leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, rocked the U.S-German bilateral relationship. “Hardly anything is as sensitive a subject to Merkel as the surveillance of her cellphone. It is her instrument of power,” wrote the newspaper Der Spiegel in a blockbuster story at the time, based in part on documents leaked by former NSA employee Edward Snowden. Merkel responded with particular anger to the allegations. “Spying among friends? That’s just not done,” she said in response to the story. “Now trust has to be rebuilt.” Merkel sent senior […]

Republican presidential candidates appear during the CNBC Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Colo., Oct. 28, 2015 (AP photo by Brennan Linsley).

With the U.S. presidential election only about a year away, no candidate for either party has laid out a comprehensive national security strategy or even a broad philosophy of America’s role in the world and the purpose of U.S. power. To the extent that national security has been raised at all, the presidential hopefuls are clamoring to appear the toughest, whether against the self-declared Islamic State, Iran or Russia, and to offer unqualified support for Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The candidates have talked of reviving America’s influence in the Middle East and restraining Russia, but they haven’t […]

President Juan Manuel Santos at a military base where he spoke to and shook hands with soldiers who took part in the operation that led to the death of the top leader of the FARC, Popayan, Colombia, Nov. 5, 2011 (AP photo by Carlos Julio Martinez).

After an uptick in violence in June threatened peace talks between Colombia and the country’s largestguerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, progress since July, when the FARC reinstated its cease-fire, led both sides to declare recently that a final deal was close at hand. But even if an agreement is reached, challenges to establishing a sustainable peace will persist, both for Colombia and its international partners. All of the articles linked below are free for non-subscribers until Nov. 19. The Road to a Deal: Since negotiations began in October 2012, the peace talks have divided Colombians, […]

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testifies before the House Benghazi Committee in Washington, Oct. 22, 2015 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Several weeks ago, Hillary Clinton spent 11 hours testifying before a congressional committee about the deaths of four Americans, including the then-U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012. For anyone watching this spectacle, little new was gleaned, except for the fact that Clinton is a remarkably disciplined politician—and that whatever threat the GOP’s Benghazi obsession might have posed to her presidential prospects in 2016 is effectively over. What would have been of far greater interest, to both policy analysts and voters, is a look back on the U.S. decision to intervene in Libya, which Clinton strongly supported. […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko after signing an agreement to create the Eurasian Economic Union, Astana, Kazakhstan, May 29, 2014 (AP photo by Mikhail Klimentyev).

The war in Afghanistan has been both a boon and curse for neighboring Central Asia. The conflict placed this sparsely populated region, long disconnected from the globalization taking place around its borders, on the front lines of the international community’s 15-year effort to stabilize Afghanistan. Central Asia became a staging point for coalition military forces, a transit corridor, a donor as well as a recipient of aid and at times a pawn in a larger strategic competition playing out between the United States and Russia. The region also found itself on the receiving end of Afghanistan’s noxious exports: extremism, drugs […]