President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and others watch as the remains of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, are returned to Dover Air Force Base, Del., Aug. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

At first glance, the tenacity of vaccine nationalism and the shambolic U.S. departure from Afghanistan appear to be completely unrelated. And yet they both expose the moral costs of a world dominated by sovereign states that consistently place narrow national interest above the ethical imperative of alleviating the suffering of strangers.  This is hardly a news flash. The question of how governments should square their duties to their own citizens with their obligations to those in other countries is an inherent and recurrent ethical quandary in international relations. It is at the heart of debates over humanitarian intervention, foreign aid, […]

A destroyed tank by the side of the road in western Tigray, Ethiopia, May 1, 2021 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Millions of people in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region are currently at risk of famine, a situation brought on by the government’s invasion of the region last fall after a long-running political dispute, as well as an unofficial blockade imposed on Tigray since June by federal troops, allied Eritrean forces and ethnic militias. Throughout the conflict, reports of unspeakable atrocities have been a near-daily occurrence, and the warring parties appear more resolved than ever to seek victory on the battlefield.  With no end in sight to the fighting, it’s time for the U.S. to accept that its efforts to coax the […]

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., August 26, 2021 (Photo by Oliver Contreras for Sipa USA via AP Images).

Debacle. That is the only right and proper way to describe President Joe Biden’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Biden lost every point he’s dropped in national polling this week entirely of his own accord, and history will not be any kinder to his foreign policy legacy. Most Americans might agree with the White House decision to exit Afghanistan. Regardless, August 2021 will remain an indelible stain on the United States’ reputation.  That was already the case before yesterday’s horrific suicide bombing outside Kabul’s international airport, which left at least 100 dead, including 13 U.S. servicemembers, and 150 injured, according to the latest […]

President Joe Biden pauses as he listens to a question about the bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 13 U.S. service members, Washington, Aug. 26, 2021 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. By now, the shock of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan has begun to wear off. But the outrage over the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation of Western civilians and Afghan nationals at risk of Taliban retaliation seems to have only risen this week, even as the airlift gathered pace. That outrage turned to horror Thursday, when […]

National Guard soldiers block access to a road in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz state, Mexico, Aug. 30, 2019 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

The United States and Mexico have experienced a significant number of setbacks in their security cooperation over the past year. Although policy differences, mutual accusations of wrongdoing and a degree of distrust have always been inherent aspects of the bilateral relationship, U.S. and Mexican administrations since the late 1990s had generally found ways to work together on the principal issues affecting them. This pragmatic approach was severely tested during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, particularly after the populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, became president of Mexico in December 2018.  With Trump out of office, AMLO […]

Farmers in a drought-stricken field in Changfeng county, Hefei city, Anhui province, China, Oct. 20, 2019 (Imaginechina via AP Images).

This month’s harrowing report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has particularly disquieting implications for the world’s poor. Global warming and associated biodiversity loss will hinder progress toward each of the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, a set of 17 internationally agreed objectives for advancing global prosperity, social welfare and environmental conservation through the end of the decade. COVID-19 has already dealt these aspirations a massive blow. But these pandemic setbacks pale in comparison to the long-term challenges that climate change presents for meeting and exceeding basic human needs, and placing developing countries on the path toward sustained—and sustainable—growth. United Nations member states unanimously endorsed the […]

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In an address to the nation in early July, President Joe Biden suggested that one of the factors leading him to withdraw all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan was the “need to focus on shoring up America’s core strengths to meet the strategic competition with China and other nations that is really going to determine our future.” For the past several years, the zeitgeist in Washington has been all about great power competition, or the need to prepare for potential conflict with countries the United States considers “near-peer” adversaries—namely Russia and China, but to a lesser extent, Iran and North Korea as well. The […]

Afghan security personnel arrive at the site of an explosion targeting a United Nations vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The images of humanitarian chaos and the deteriorating situation for women after the swift Taliban takeover of Kabul have left the international community grasping for options. In the face of Afghan women’s desperate pleas for support, women’s rights NGOs in the United States recently called for a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. There is no question that such an operation, if mounted earlier, would have been beneficial to Afghan civilians and particularly to women. As David Cortright and I have written before, and as much scholarly research shows, U.N. peacekeeping operations work better than Western counterinsurgencies at maintaining durable peace, […]

The first plane with returnees from Afghanistan arrives in Spain with 53 people, five of them Spanish and the rest Afghans who have collaborated with the Spanish government and their families, Madrid, Spain, Aug. 19, 2021 (Photo by Juan Carlos Rojas for A

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. International attention has remained focused on Afghanistan this week, where the U.S. along with its NATO allies continued efforts to evacuate their nationals as well as Afghan civilians at risk of retribution from the Taliban. Although the situation remains chaotic and volatile, it has so far not deteriorated in the week since the Taliban […]

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The swift return of the Taliban to power has sparked panic in Afghanistan and sent shockwaves around the world. With U.S. military forces taking control of the Kabul airport and the evacuation of foreign nationals and thousands of Afghans proceeding, important questions loom about the future of Afghanistan and the impact of the convulsive events that unfolded over the past few days. Here are some of the major unknowns going forward, the answers to which, as they emerge over the coming weeks, months and years, will determine how exactly the radical group’s return will reshape the country, the region and, […]

Then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger speaking with an elderly Afghan refugee during his visit to an Afghan refugee village in northwest Pakistan, Oct. 1, 1983 (AP photo by Moin Ban).

In October 1983, during a visit to New York City from West Africa, where I had recently begun a career as a foreign correspondent, I stood in my uncle’s kitchen and took in the evening news over a drink before dinner. The main story that night was the visit by then-President Ronald Reagan’s secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, to Pakistan. Weinberger traveled to that country’s border with Afghanistan and there, at the Khyber Pass, vowed that U.S. support for Afghan insurgents would bring down the Soviet-backed government in power in Kabul at the time. “I want you to know that […]

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint that was previously manned by American troops near the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021 (AP photo).

A full accounting of the costs of the United States’ failed intervention in Afghanistan will take years or even decades. But judging from the reactions from overseas to the past week’s events, the debacle has already taken a significant toll on America’s credibility. Justifiably or not, President Joe Biden’s insistence on a complete military drawdown, despite the growing warning signs throughout the summer of a Taliban takeover, has prompted U.S. allies and partners to question whether Washington will uphold its security commitments elsewhere in the world.  From Europe to East Asia to the Middle East, a key takeaway from the […]

Work in progress on an outdoor observation deck on the 30 Hudson Yards office building in New York, March 8, 2019 (AP photo by Mark Lennihan).

Ever since the first cities emerged as a form of human settlement, urbanites have pondered their future. Plato’s “Republic,” written 2,400 years ago and still read on college campuses today, put forth a vision of Kallipolis, a beautiful “just” city-state run by a philosopher king who prioritized the “power of knowledge,” but who nevertheless resembles a benevolent dictator. A millennium and a half later, Thomas More’s landmark “Utopia” imagined a peaceful island metropolis where citizens would share goods and meals, learn a given trade and worship freely—albeit while also enslaving people, though many believe the inclusion of slavery was more ironic […]

Flames from the Dixie Fire consume a home in the Indian Falls community of Plumas County, California, July 24, 2021 (AP photo by Noah Berger).

The most recent assessment report on the state of climate science, released last week by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, or IPCC, eliminates any remaining shred of doubt about the anthropogenic origins of global warming, calling the evidence of human activity’s responsibility “unequivocal.” The report also identifies how quickly humanity needs to slash emissions to avoid catastrophe, given the accumulated stock of greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere. Under any conceivable scenario, average temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come. The magnitude of that rise is up to us. Unfortunately, the window to prevent massive dislocation […]

President Joe Biden, right, meets with former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, left, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 25, 2021 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it.  The return of Taliban rule to Afghanistan 20 years after the group’s ouster by a U.S.-led coalition came as a great shock, first and foremost to the Afghan population. Its many flaws notwithstanding, the now-dissolved, Western-backed Afghan central government allowed Afghans to live under a considerably less repressive system than […]

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrives to attend the Central and South Asia 2021 conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, July 16, 2021 (AP photo).

If we are to believe American intelligence assessments leaked this week, it is only a matter of time before Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, falls to the Taliban. Judging by the worrying news from several of my Afghan friends and colleagues who are now all clamoring to get out of the country, it could even be a couple of weeks. For some, it’s shocking to think that the city of roughly 5 million at the center of the country’s heartland could soon be the next to fall, after the Taliban’s aggressively swift push to seize control of provincial capitals in the north.  But for close […]

Afghan security personnel work at the site of a powerful explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 3, 2021 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul)

This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. This week, the Taliban continued its offensive, which has now overrun 11 provincial capitals in Afghanistan, including in parts of the country outside of the group’s historical base of support. Today’s Weekly Wrap-Up recaps and distills several WPR articles from the past week, including three that take a closer look at the roots of the Afghan army’s […]

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