The results of Pakistan’s parliamentary elections provide a genuine opportunity for Pakistan and the United States to rebalance their relationship. For Pakistan, they are a chance to re-establish representative government. For the United States, they are a chance to demonstrate support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions. And for both countries, they are an opportunity to initiate a much healthier long-term relationship. Despite his recent appeals to European and American audiences for support, the Musharraf era is over. President Pervez Musharraf once could claim to rule Pakistan with the support of the public, the Army and the Americans, but not anymore. His […]

As the Russian government strongly condemns Kosovo’s declaration of independence, Russia’s independent media voices are reacting with ambivalence to the dispute between their country and most of its Western interlocutors. Among reporters who maintain some distance from the Kremlin, the general tone is one of disillusionment with the West and concern about the condition of the international system, rather than full endorsement of the Russian government’s position. On the one hand, there is a widespread sense that intemperate expressions of anger by Russian officials do the country no favors. In “Rogozin Threatens NATO” (Gazeta.ru, Feb. 22), Natalia Kuklina quotes Dmitrii […]

Last week, the U.S.-led Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) had nothing but praise for Shiite theocrat-wannabe Moqtada al-Sadr. Prefacing his name with “al-Sayyid” (the Honorable), the United States acknowledged al-Sadr’s legitimacy in the Iraqi political scene as U.S. commanders warmly embraced his decision to maintain a ceasefire between his roughly 60,000-strong illegal militia (Jaish al-Mahdi or JAM) and Iraqi government and coalition forces. With a tenuous domestic political situation in Iraq, the United States had no choice but to shake hands with the devil. Without question, the short-term effects of the U.S. surge strategy have been highly positive: significant reductions of violence […]

DENPASAR, Indonesia — When the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney, visited the camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Feb. 19, she made modern history. In fact, the last time the highest American official stationed in the country talked directly with the Moros was in the early 20th century, during the American colonial period in the Philippines. Moro is the term used to define the native Muslims and tribal people who reside in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. The MILF is the Philippines’ largest Islamic rebel group and the one spearheading the decades long fight for […]

A debate is raging in Israel over what to do to stop the relentless attacks on Israeli civilians launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza. On Wednesday, 30 rockets slammed into Israel, killing a college student and injuring several others. Just a few days earlier, another barrage into the beleaguered town of Sderot injured a mother, her baby and her 10-year-old son, whose arm was partially severed by the blast. A couple of weeks before that, an 8-year-old Israeli boy lost his leg to a rocket attack from Gaza. The urgency of the problem is clear, but the search for a solution poses […]

The headlong rush in many parts of the world to replace oil with biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) illustrates how the best of intentions can run afoul of the law of unintended consequences. While positive effects have been elusive — and, in fact, are unlikely with current policies — starvation and malnourishment are becoming worse among the poorest of the poor. The European Union has announced that it wants to replace 10 percent of its oil consumption with biofuels by 2020. President George W. Bush announced last year a goal of replacing 15 percent of domestic gasoline use with biofuels over […]

GULU, Uganda — After one-and-a-half years of rocky peace talks between the government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), northern Ugandans are cautiously courting freedom. Although many internally displaced people are still sleeping in the camps they’ve called home for about a decade now, they’re beginning to move furniture and farming tools back to their village homes. Meanwhile, in the northern town of Gulu, new hotels and apartment buildings are being constructed and buses are now leaving for Kampala, the southern capital, at 11 p.m. (A late-night trip was unthinkable just three years ago, when rebels could be […]

SEOUL, South Korea — The world-renowned New York Philharmonic has added another country to its list of international concert stops. On Tuesday, America’s oldest orchestra played to a full house at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre in North Korea. But the real star of the show, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, was nowhere to be seen. There had been speculation that Kim, who is said to be a music aficionado, might show up at least during the intermission. The philharmonic’s repertoire for the evening included Antonin Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” and George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” The 105-member orchestra […]

FIDEL’S FAMILY MATTERS — If Fidel Castro had wanted to establish a dynasty he has the sons to do it, although none — as far as is known — holds government or party office. The least visible is oldest son Fidelito, a Moscow-trained physicist now around 58, and totally out of the limelight. Cuban exile circles in Miami say two other siblings, Alexander and Alexis, are both cameramen. Then there’s Alejandro (El Comandante apparently has a thing about Alexander the Great) the computer programmer, Antonio the orthopedic surgeon, and the youngest, Angel, occupation unknown. Fidelito’s mother is Marta Diaz-Balart, whom […]

On the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar frontier, the chungi system is alive and well. One of the most unnecessary legacies of British colonialism, no less than five kilometers of trucks — those colorfully decorated and melodically horned belching beasts, overloaded with everything from steel beams to sacks of flour — sit idle, waiting to show their permits, sales tax chits, and other sheaves of documents to corrupt officers. My mother and I are on a nostalgic road trip from Delhi to Calcutta, driving on both emperor Akbar’s famed Grand Trunk road and its newest incarnation, the much touted “Quadrangle” project of major […]

It was easy on Feb. 17, as an American, to celebrate the victory of the underdog. Many Americans, the ones who follow international affairs at all, watched celebrating Kosovo Albanians on the streets of Pristina and New York City with excitement and yes, even some pride. As Kosovars waved gigantic American flags on Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina and stopped traffic in Times Square wearing “Thank You America” jackets, it was natural to smile and think that maybe the United States had done something right for a change. It was also easy on Thursday to watch the burning of the […]

The U.S. Army is slated to publish a new operations manual this month that equates achieving success in stability operations with winning offensive and defensive battles. The new Army manual is in line with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ vision for military transformation. In a speech delivered last November at Kansas State University, Secretary Gates stressed the need to balance military force with political and economic resources in order to “integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad.” Gates added that the experience of recent years, as well as his decades of public […]

NOBEL LAUREATES CALL FOR ACTION ON BURMA — Eight other Nobel laureates joined with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu earlier this month to call for an international arms embargo, supported by the United Nations Security Council, against Burma’s military junta. Despite international anger and pressure to reform in the wake of the regime’s October 2007 violent crackdown on demonstrations led by Burma’s monks, the ruling junta has largely continued with business as usual – denying basic human rights to Burmese citizens. Several countries, including China, Russia and India, continue to sell military equipment and arms to the regime. “Despite decades […]

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FRANCE: THE ‘BANLIEUES’ VOTE FOR THE RIGHT? — Municipal elections are upcoming in France in the next weeks. A front-page headline on the subject in the Feb. 17-18 of the daily Le Monde would undoubtedly shock many readers of traditional English-language new sources. “Municipal Elections,” it reads, “Banlieues on the Right, Downtown on the Left.” Banlieues on the Right? The very word “banlieues” became widely-known to English speakers last year not only on account of the violence with which the outskirts of France’s major urban centers are regularly afflicted, but also because of the supposed hatred of their residents for […]

Making a choice among great works of art is, no doubt, a fool’s errand. And yet, this weekend billions of us will turn our eyes to the unofficially anointed top competition for the best films in the world, Hollywood’s Academy Awards, better known by their anthropomorphic name: the Oscars. In honor of this weekend’s awards event, I decided to take a look through the history of cinema, in search of the best films on world politics. A fool’s errand it was, trying to narrow down a long history of moviemaking into just a dozen great movies. But I persevered. The […]

A U.S. warship prowling the Pacific Ocean has officially ushered in the Missile Defense Age, firing an SM-3 missile-killing rocket to destroy a satellite tumbling toward Earth. “The intercept occurred, and we’re very confident we hit the satellite,” Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calmly reported. Like the Rocket Age, which terrified Americans when Sputnik orbited the globe and then transfixed the world when Armstrong took his giant leap on the lunar surface; like the Jet Age, which turned the skies over Korea into a killing field and then opened the way to inexpensive, high-speed […]

Under normal circumstances, it’s nearly impossible to get countries to restrict the use of widely available weapons that are seen as militarily advantageous. At the moment, however, two groups of countries are competing to sharply cut back on one type armament that humanitarian groups claim pose a particular danger to civilians in war zones: cluster munitions. Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse smaller submunitions over broad areas. These grenades or bomblets, sometimes numbering as many as 600 submunitions from a single munition, can fail to detonate immediately yet maim or kill if disturbed later. Officials of […]

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