In examining possible approaches to Iran policy in my last several columns, I concluded that “focusing on deterrence in the short run while increasing efforts to promote regime modification — by internal means — over the long haul” might end up being the most effective one. Some of the feedback I received suggested that I was being too pessimistic about current efforts to bring about a new round of punitive sanctions on Iran, and that there were signs that even Russia and China were moving closer to the U.S. position. Those hopes received a serious setback on Thursday, when Russia […]

As much as a military effort, the war against al-Qaida has been a battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. At one time, many Muslims admired al-Qaida for its brazen opposition to Western domination, and many Westerners feared that the organization might draw Muslim communities into a civilizational war with the West. Immediately after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, it was not always clear how that battle for Muslim hearts and minds would end up. But with the passage of time, we now have a good idea. Al-Qaida has lost. And as a result, in an […]

With the United States currently fighting two wars abroad and facing a health care crisis and an economy on life-support at home, Pentagon officials are hoping to meet a looming threat to America’s future global dominance — not to mention national security — by boosting capacity in elementary school classrooms across the nation. In January, the Pentagon approved a proposal by their risk-taking research agency, DARPA, to invest $45 million into efforts to increase enrollment in computing, science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs (CS-STEM). To do so, DARPA wants to develop extracurricular initiatives to target and engage elementary aged kids, […]

If you want to get an early read on the ultimate success or failure of the Obama administration’s policies for the Middle East, keep an eye on Syria. From the earliest days of the administration, even before it assumed power, its planned strategy for dealing with a number of conflicts in the region has included changing Syria’s behavior. After all, Damascus has not only complicated life for U.S. forces in Iraq, it has also proven over the years to be an important ally of the Iranian regime and a key partner of radical militant organizations in Lebanon and Gaza. Syria […]

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is playing a crucial role in sustaining the alliance’s Afghan mission, encouraging allied governments and publics alike during his transatlantic travels to appreciate the perspectives of their partners as well as the value of NATO as an institution. Consistent with that, among the objectives of his trip to Washington this week was to remind Americans of how extensively other NATO countries have collaborated in support of U.S. security objectives. In addition to meeting with media and U.S. officials, Rasmussen was also in Washington to participate in a seminar held to advise the Group of Experts […]

Drilling got underway this week off the still-disputed Falkland Islands, as an oil platform belonging to Desire Petroleum, a British company founded in 1996 for the specific purpose of oil and gas exploration in the North Falkland Basin, began operations on Feb. 22. The drilling, which is expected to last 30 days, marks the culmination of weeks of intense sparring between the Argentine and British governments over oil rights and shipping lanes in the South Atlantic. As the exploration progresses, the diplomatic battle between Argentina and the U.K. rages on. Tensions have been mounting since Feb. 16, when Argentine President […]

For U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, Haiti was a wake-up call. In the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and left millions homeless on the island nation, the U.S. military deployed tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen to help with aid efforts. Pottenger, commander of the Navy’s nearly four-year-old Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), which oversees coastal forces, realized that almost all her 10 divisions had sent people to Haiti. “Every one of my capabilities has a piece of the action down there,” Pottenger told World Politics Review. […]

On Feb. 16, following decades of disruption, Turkey and Iraq restored a rail link running from the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to Gaziantep in southern Turkey, via Syria. The move is a concrete illustration of Turkey’s increased efforts to develop commercial ties with Iraq, initiatives that Ankara has in turn used to establish a platform upon which it can deepen its diplomatic role and limit destabilizing spillover effects from its volatile neighbor. The strategy has paid off, as demonstrated by the recent visits to Ankara of a host of Iraqi political players — including ‘Ammar al-Hakim, Humam Hammoudi and […]

Following a trend that has become depressingly familiar in West Africa over the past 18 months, army officers seized power in Niger on Feb. 18, removing President Mamadou Tandja from office. The coup ends a political crisis that began last year, when Tandja used a popular referendum to try to indefinitely prolong his term beyond its December 2009 limit. Despite the immediate condemnation of the coup by various international bodies, including the African Union and the United States, there was a sense that Tandja got what he deserved. His machinations last year to ram through legislation that not only prolonged […]

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Just when it looked like Russia and the United States were about to finalize the terms of a bilateral nuclear arms reduction agreement to replace the START I Treaty that expired last December, their longstanding bilateral missile defense dispute has exploded again. The latest crisis arose after the president of Romania, apparently for domestic political reasons, gratuitously revealed that his government would allow the United States to station ground-based interceptor missiles on Romanian territory. A week later, Bulgarian officials confirmed that they, too, were contemplating hosting U.S. missile interceptors, although no formal talks had begun. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov […]

The recent election loss of Sri Lankan opposition candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka underlines the island’s failure to build on its recently achieved peace, while his subsequent detention brought to light a threat to its democracy. Now, upcoming parliamentary elections, slated for April 8, represent the country’s last chance to build an opposition that can bring the ethnic grievances that drove Sri Lanka’s civil war into the political arena, while also maintaining a stable multiparty democracy. Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa wasted little time in using his commanding electoral victory over Fonseka to consolidate his power. Shortly after the election, Fonseka was […]

We Americans tend to have an overly inflated sense of our place in this world. If there is an enemy, we must defeat it. If a global challenge looms, we must lead the way forward. When somebody reaches for a weapon, we must strike before they can use it (against us, naturally). And should we fail to do so, we would be to blame for whatever tragedy might result. That’s not to say that our sense of global responsibility doesn’t have deep and logical roots. Armed with the world’s largest gun after World War II, we set about creating an […]

KAMPALA, Uganda — Ranging over hills that slope gracefully down into Lake Victoria, Kampala is arguably one of the more beautiful capitals in Africa. But the city’s beauty not only belies the numbing poverty in which most of Uganda’s residents find themselves, it also masks the country’s ugly politics. Case in point: The outcome of Uganda’s 2011 presidential election is a foregone conclusion, and no one — whether Uganda’s electoral commission, its legions of international donors, or the investors in its newly discovered oil fields — is likely to do anything about it. President Yoweri Museveni rose to power in […]

Latin America’s major economies avoided the brunt of the global financial crisis, except for Mexico, whose 7 percent contraction in 2009 represented the region’s worst decline. The drop-off was primarily traceable to America’s recession: More than 80 percent of Mexico’s exports go to the U.S., and its major sources of foreign reserves — oil, remittances and tourism — depend heavily upon consumption north of the border. The loss of tourism revenues due to ongoing drug violence within Mexico and the emergence of H1N1 didn’t help matters. This year, as the panic subsides, Mexico’s economy is expected to return to positive […]

Pundits and politicians alike have been making a number of predictions of late about Iran’s future trajectory. To the extent that the scenarios they are outlining serve to justify the policy options they propose and endorse, it may be useful to step back and examine the logic that guides them. After all, many of the assumptions that drove our approach to Iraq policy in the run-up to our invasion of that country were based on intellectual quicksand that would not have stood up to closer scrutiny — among them, the idea that a post-Saddam Iraq would recognize Israel and become […]

There were no bright explosions lighting up the horizon, but this week’s coordinated deployment of U.S. diplomats as well as military, intelligence and political leaders — all warning of dire consequences for a defiant Iranian regime — amounted to an Obama-style re-enactment of the Shock and Awe tactics made famous during the opening salvo of the war in Iraq. The tactically synchronized detonations of tough talk were accompanied by a loud blast from Washington, where one administration official openly considered the possibility of regime change in Iran. But it was the Middle East that saw a swarm of high-ranking members […]

Like a storyline out of a classical tragedy, the euro is being punished for the sins of Greece. The Hellenic Republic’s massive debt has shaken market confidence in the common currency and led to a volatile month in its exchange rate. Feeling increasing pressure to intervene, European policymakers have been forced to weigh what is best for the euro against what public opinion will tolerate. For now, none of the choices are appealing. Nonetheless, a decision must be made, and as this game of “financial chicken” unfolds, the only thing certain about the outcome is that no one is likely […]

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