Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivers remarks during the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, Calif., Nov. 7, 2015 (DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz).

Because of the entrenched, ossified interests and tribal structures within the Pentagon, major reforms to the Department of Defense and the military often originate in Congress. The gold-standard example of this historical pattern was the 1947 National Security Act, which merged the Department of War and the Department of the Navy to form the Department of Defense, headed by the newly created position of secretary of defense. The act also established the institutions of the National Security Council and Joint Chiefs of Staff. Not far behind was the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act, which reorganized the military’s chain […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi during a welcome ceremony at the Ministry of Defense, Baghdad, Iraq, April 18, 2016 (AP photo).

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to deploy an additional 250 special operations forces to Syria. The increase will bring the total number of U.S. ground troops there to 300, and comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s announcement that 200 more troops are also being sent to Iraq. Both deployments are part of the continuing U.S. war against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), but as the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria has continued to rise, it has raised fears that the United States is being sucked into another military quagmire in the […]

Oman's deputy prime minister, Fahd bin Mahmoud al-Said, President Barack Obama, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa at the GCC Summit, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 21, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

The readout from President Barack Obama’s trip last week to the Gulf reflects the ongoing strains in U.S. relations with the Gulf monarchs. Both sides share responsibility for the current state of affairs. And it will take time to shift perceptions in the region so that the ongoing cooperation that is taking place is viewed more positively. It is also worth considering the possibility that the growing independence of the Gulf Arab states and the redistribution of power in their relationship with Washington will have a long-term benefit that’s just hard to see right now. The coverage of Obama’s trip […]

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event, Maryland, April 20, 2016 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Despite intense efforts by the Republican establishment to stop Donald Trump from winning that party’s presidential nomination, there is a good chance that he’ll pull it off. Current polling data suggests that if he faces Democratic frontrunner and likely nominee Hillary Clinton in the November election it will be a landslide victory for the Democrats. But strange things can happen in open political systems. While a Trump presidency may be unlikely, it would have far-ranging repercussions, particularly for U.S. defense policy and the American military. While that much is clear, Trump is harder to gauge than any recent presidential candidate. […]

An F-35A at Mountain Home Air Force Base to conduct operational testing, Idaho, Feb. 8, 2016 (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Connor J. Marth).

Intellectual property: It sounds boring, but its protection has become one of the cornerstones of U.S. economic policy. And now, it may have an impact on how the Pentagon thinks about the future of technology. In recent years, the big push for international intellectual property protection came about through the concerted action of a group of powerful, well-connected American corporations. These corporations had determined that they could make a great deal of money—or at least stop the loss of a great deal of money—by putting crucial intellectual property protections into international law. Washington has embraced this idea, making intellectual property […]

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Penn State University, State College, Pa., April 19, 2016 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

In last week’s Democratic presidential debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders said something you don’t often hear in a U.S. presidential campaign. “We are going to have to treat the Palestinian people,” Sanders declared, “with respect and dignity.” Though Sanders prefaced his statement by assuring Democrats that he is “100 percent pro-Israel,” the statement seemed like a breath of fresh air compared to the one-sided tone that usually characterizes campaign rhetoric on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Indeed, it was only four years ago that then-Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich suggested that Palestinians are an “invented” people, while collectively characterizing them as “terrorists.” Indeed, […]

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his villa, Baghdad, April 8, 2016 (AP photo by Jonathan Ernst).

In the past five days, both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter have visited Iraq. The visits demonstrate the urgency with which Washington views the political crisis in Baghdad, against the backdrop of the Iraqi military’s stalled campaign against the so-called Islamic State. They also underscore how the Obama administration’s early plans to scale back America’s engagement in Iraq have come full circle: More troops and more political attention are now required. There’s no easy path to stability for Iraq, but some decentralization of power might help. The uptick in policy attention to Iraq […]

Iraqi security forces arrest a suspected ISIS fighter during an operation to regain control of Hit, Iraq, April 13, 2016 (AP photo by Khalid Mohammed).

When the leaders of the self-styled Islamic State (ISIS) take stock of their movement, they must like some of what they see. Affiliates of the group are cropping up across the Islamic world, and the organization has proved adept at recruiting or inspiring alienated young Muslims—many with criminal backgrounds—to commit murder in Europe and North America. But there are also things that must concern the group’s leaders. In the past few months, Iraqi and Kurdish forces have taken back 40 percent of the territory the Islamic State had conquered over the past two years. American airstrikes have killed 25,000 of […]

U.S. President Barack Obama and Argentine President Mauricio Macri during the State Dinner at the Centro Cultural Kirchner, Buenos Aires, March 23, 2016 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Argentina is the new darling of Latin America. Just over four months into his term, President Mauricio Macri is taking every step to put the welcome mat out for the international community, and the United States in particular. The Obama administration has reciprocated in kind. It’s a new era, and the future is bright for the bilateral relationship, as well as for Macri’s domestic standing. Gone are the days of antagonistic relations. Now, U.S.-Argentine relations are being advanced on multiple fronts—from trade facilitation to climate change and global health. Even before Obama’s state visit in late March, Washington had already […]

President Barack Obama and the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Harry Harris, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Honolulu, Hawaii, Dec. 19, 2015 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

The World War I-era French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau once famously declared that war is too important to be left to the generals. The same, it appears, can be said of admirals. Last week, the Navy Times ran a blockbuster story revealing that the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific, Adm. Harry Harris, and the combatant command he leads, U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), are not happy with the White House’s approach to dealing with China’s adventurism in the South China Sea. According to the Navy Times, Harris is “arguing behind closed doors for a more confrontational approach to counter […]

Chinese men next to a billboard with the word "Development" in the central business district, Beijing, China, Dec. 11, 2014 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

The rise of a global middle class has been one of globalization’s great victories, but the surge in income and consumption in the developing world may be more of a temporary anomaly than a long-term trajectory. Some developing countries have ridden a commodities super-cycle to middle-class status, but most never made it or were far too late with the investments that might have converted the boon into more sustainable growth paths. Commodities are cyclical, and the global middle class may prove to be so as well. From 2001 to 2011, there was an unprecedented surge in the number of people […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin at the opening of the Army-2015 international military show, Moscow, June 16, 2015 (AP photo by Ivan Sekretarev).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss the upcoming elections in Peru and Chad as well as the varying reactions to the Panama Papers around the globe. For the Report, Steven Metz joins us to talk about the concept of “limited war” and the differences in the U.S. and Russian approach to it. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles on WPR: In Peru’s ‘Chaotic’ Presidential Elections, It’s a Race for Second Place Deby Set to Keep Power in Chad Election, but Discontent Is Growing Reaction to the ‘Panama Papers’ Reveals […]

Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz during the Republican presidential debate at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Fla., March 10, 2016 (AP photo by Wilfredo Lee).

A specter is haunting American politics—the specter of terrorism. As the self-styled Islamic State added transnational terrorism to its repertoire, it inspired or directed terrorist attacks in both Europe and the United States. There will almost certainly be more attacks to come. The fear of those attacks is adding to the turmoil that already characterizes American politics and, combined with intense political partisanship, pushing the political system in some very dark directions. This is by design: The architects of terrorism deliberately stoke fear, using it to attain psychological effects that far exceed their actual ability to kill or destroy. They […]

The Panama City skyline, Panama, April 4, 2016 (AP photo by Arnulfo Franco).

AMSTERDAM—In the hours that followed the explosive revelations known as the Panama Papers, reverberations from the giant data drop were felt around the globe. After all, the 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca, leaked anonymously to International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, implicate rich and powerful people from practically every country on Earth as holders of offshore shell companies that are often used for tax evasion purposes. But while the power from the leaks to discredit prominent individuals extended across practically every nation and every system of government, reaction to the revelations was far from uniform. The differences […]

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally, Superior, Wis., April 4, 2016 (AP photo by Jim Mone).

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, is no fan of NATO. In recent weeks, he’s suggested that U.S. involvement in the alliance may need to be reduced. “NATO is costing us a fortune,” Trump said in an interview with the Washington Post, “and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.” At a town hall event sponsored by MSNBC, Trump went even further, declaring, “We don’t really need NATO in its current form. . . . [Y]ou have countries that are getting a free ride.” Now on one level, Trump is correct: […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov following talks on a cease-fire in Syria, Moscow, Russia, March 24, 2016 (AP photo by Alexander Nemenov).

Since assuming power in 1999, Russian President Vladimir Putin has used rising income from gas and oil exports not only to rebuild the Russian military from its post-Soviet nadir, but also to spur the evolution of new tactics and capabilities blending cyberwar, support to proxy forces, special operations and conventional operations. Like Washington, Moscow recognized that the primary security threat in the opening decades of the 21st century was not major conventional war but a complex web of state weakness, political extremism, terrorism, insurgency and transnational crime. Russia’s military interventions in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere demonstrate that Putin has […]

An unmanned U.S. Predator drone, Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2010 (AP photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth).

Drones have captured the imagination of popular culture and the attention of international law experts. Amazing access to real-time intelligence enables precision weaponry, but the same information can inhibit decision-makers from acting by raising the ethical and political costs of doing so. Legal scholars concede that international law has not yet caught up with this reality. The anguish that drones cause among decision-makers is the subject of the new movie “Eye in the Sky.” It focuses in particular on how the same data that make drones such potent weapons can paradoxically inhibit, even paralyze authorities who make life-and-death decisions. The […]

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