Second in a two-part series. Click here to read Part I on the scope of the terrorist threat. LONDON — Simmering concern over the abuse of Britain’s post-9/11 anti-terrorist legislation turned to public outrage last month, when nine anti-terrorist officers used their expanded powers to raid the home, parliamentary office and constituency headquarters of senior opposition Conservative legislator, Damian Green. Green was arrested and questioned for nine hours on suspicion of “aiding and abetting, counseling or procuring misconduct in a public office.” It is an offense that carries a life sentence and that, if rigorously applied, would consign many journalists […]

For the first time in modern history, the Chinese navy is deploying a task force on an active maritime mission beyond the Pacific Ocean that could involve combat operations. Beijing’s unprecedented decision to join the anti-piracy fleet off Somalia’s coast resulted from a pragmatic assessment of the likely net security benefits to China from the deployment. The international community, including the United States, should likewise approach the issue from a hardheaded perspective. On Dec. 26, 2008, two destroyers and a supply ship of the South China Sea Fleet departed from the Yalong Bay naval base at Sanya, on Hainan Island, […]

MOMBASA, Kenya — In November, the port of Merka in southern Somalia, previously held by the U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) alliance, was captured without a fight by soldiers of the rival Islamic Courts Union (ICU). In the aftermath of Merka’s fall, the U.N. worried that the ICU might halt aid shipments to the starving country. Those fears proved premature, but ultimately accurate. Last week, further advances by the Islamic Courts threatened to disrupt incoming food convoys. Merka’s fall was a watershed event for this nation of 8 million that hasn’t had a functional central government since a brutal civil […]

GLOBAL EFFORT ON BEHALF OF DETAINED CHINESE DISSIDENT — Over 160 Nobel laureates, writers and academics sent an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao via the internet last week urging him to release intellectual Liu Xiaobo, who was taken from his home by security officers Dec. 8 and has not been heard from since. Liu, a literary critic and head of the Independent Chinese PEN Center that advocates for free speech, was a leading signatory and mover behind the document, “Charter 08.” The charter was a public call for greater reform and accountability of the Chinese Communist Party, including […]

Most of the early analysis of President George W. Bush’s Latin American legacy concentrates on his failure to engage the region despite early promises to “look south.” But the emphasis on the outgoing administration’s general neglect of Latin America has diverted attention from the strong alliance that has developed between the United States and Colombia. That alliance is based largely on Plan Colombia, an initiative signed in the late 1990s by former Presidents Bill Clinton and AndrĂ©s Pastrana to combat drug production and trafficking and the criminal organizations that control supply, as well as to stem the flow of illegal […]

Third of a three-part series. Click here to read Part I, and here to read Part II. COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — In a career spent fighting the Tamil Tigers, Gen. Gerry de Silva (ret.), a former commander of the Sri Lankan army, learned a thing or two about information warfare. In campaigns in the north of the island, time and again he found himself confronting disinformation among the Tamil population. “It’s a disinformation program even to their own people, to their own cadre,” he told World Politics Review in an interview at his family’s home in the Cinnamon Gardens neighborhood […]

Summer has kicked into high gear in the Southern Hemisphere, but that doesn’t mean the economic clouds moving ominously across global markets have only darkened skies in the North. Even in sunny Brazil, where beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema are bustling with tanned soccer players, forecasters say the economy will slow down sharply. Economic downturns almost always mean slides in approval ratings for governments. Why, then, is Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva enjoying what may just be the highest approval rating of any president on earth? Lula — as he is chummily known by all Brazilians — is […]

MOMBASA, Kenya — Kenya won a quiet but significant victory over Somali pirates that have waged a devastating campaign against its maritime economy when a judge at the Mombasa federal court formally charged eight Somali pirates with felonies under Kenyan law on Dec. 11. The eight men were captured by the British Royal Navy in November while trying to hijack a Danish merchant ship near the Yemeni coast. The Dec. 11 hearing was brief. The defense requested more time to prepare, and the case was promptly deferred until January. But the fact that it wasn’t dismissed outright represents a major […]

First in a two-part series. Part two will appear next Wednesday. LONDON — In the aftermath of the Mumbai slaughter, Britain has increased pressure on Pakistan to deal decisively with the radicalization of young Muslims in its Saudi-funded madrassas and in the al-Qaida training camps that flourish in the lawless tribal areas along its porous border with Afghanistan. Britain has cause for concern. On a visit to Islamabad this month, Prime Minister Gordon Brown revealed that more than 20 serious terrorist plots against Britain — about three-quarters of the active plots currently monitored by Britain’s MI5 intelligence service — are […]

When Hillary Clinton arrives at Foggy Bottom, she will inherit a State Department that has been slowly dismantled, disenfranchised, and demoralized for two decades. Recent budget increases and talk of “transformational diplomacy” cannot hide the reality that the department is a shadow of the powerful organization that helped bring down the Soviet Union. In choosing to accept a Cabinet post, Clinton has clearly indicated that she believes the path to her political legacy lies in the halls of Foggy Bottom. Ironically, in order to establish this legacy, Clinton will have to return to Capitol Hill. The problems Clinton will encounter […]

On Dec. 20, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov complained that the Bush administration’s insistence on limiting the number of operational nuclear warheads, instead of the number of strategic bombers and missiles capable of delivering them, was the “main problem” preventing a new Russian-American strategic arms control agreement. The question of how to treat long-range strategic delivery systems equipped with conventional warheads, and the extent to which they should be limited by any new arms control agreement, continues to separate the American and Russian negotiating positions. U.S. officials have been seeking an accord that provides both Washington and Moscow with […]

When Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20, his foreign policy will almost certainly be consumed by the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet Obama would do well to pay equal attention to a third ongoing insurgency, one that is currently more violent than the war in Iraq and possibly more threatening to American interests. This insurgency is raging not half a world away in the Middle East, but just across America’s southern frontier in Mexico. Since 2006, Mexico has descended into a multifaceted narco-insurgency. Well-armed and well-funded cartels are viciously fighting the government and one another over control of […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — Rumors abound about Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group that has terrorized northern Uganda for the past 20 years and now is thought to be active in Congo, Sudan and Chad. Some of them are stock rumors regularly applied to rebel leaders: that he’s bullet proof, for instance, or that he speaks with spirits for guidance. And then there are a few more unusual ones: that among his rumored several dozen children with more than several dozen wives, one son is named George Bush, while another is named Salim Saleh, after the […]

PEACE MISSION — According to a soon-to-be published book on the history of U.S.-Vatican relations, President George Bush told an emissary of Pope John Paul II in early March 2003 that Jesus was guiding him in deciding whether to invade Iraq. Cardinal Pio Laghi, a senior Vatican diplomat, had come to Washington with a last-minute appeal from the pope to avert an American attack on Iraq. According to the cardinal’s own account, quoted in “Parallel Empires: The Vatican and the United States — Two Centuries of Alliance and Conflict,” his meeting with Bush in the Oval Office began with the […]

Second of a three-part series. Click here to read Part I. COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — No one understands the importance of Sri Lanka’s information war quite like N. Vithyatharan, an editor whose two Tamil-language newspapers — one in the northern peninsula of Jaffna, the other in Colombo — are “continuously targeted by pro-government forces.” Vithyatharan is a small man with a listing walk that suggests heavy burdens. During a visit to his Colombo office, he related how in May 2006, on the night before international press freedom day, five masked gunmen shot up the Jaffna compound of the newspaper there, […]

With 2008 drawing to a close, I decided to look back at the year’s columns and update some stories where important developments have occurred. The stark, if obvious, realization arising from this review is that world politics is shaped by people — people of all kinds: smart, stupid, brave, crafty, or cowardly. But behind every movement, trend and event stand individuals, whose actions shape the course of history. We can easily lose sight of that fact when we focus on the larger picture of global events. In places such as Yemen, Iraq, Israel, and beyond, history-makers do not stand still. […]

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By signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) at a ceremony in Oslo earlier this month, 94 countries took bold action to end the use of highly indiscriminate weapons that have maimed or killed tens of thousands of civilians. Meanwhile, a separate international effort that would set less restrictive limitations on cluster munitions may be near collapse. It is time for hold-out countries, especially the United States, to join the emerging international norm and commit to the CCM. Initially designed for use against tank divisions and other mass troop movements, cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, and artillery shells that disperse […]

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