MORE MONEY FOR PAKISTAN — There was good news for Pakistan and bad news for India from Washington this week. Pakistan, which has done a poor job of suppressing Taliban and al-Qaida incursions into Afghanistan at a cost of American and NATO lives, is likely to have an extra $5 billion of the U.S. taxpayers’ money lavished on it in extra aid. This one-time grant would be in addition to the $1.5 billion annual package over ten years now awaiting passage through congress. Meanwhile, the Indian media has interpreted a statement in President Obama’s first address to Congress on Tuesday […]

As I made my way to Iraq in 2003 to cover the unfolding operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein, I spent many hours speaking to pro-democracy and women’s rights activists in Kuwait. Back then, Kuwaiti activists held high hopes for positive change. Kuwaiti women had spent years fighting for the right to vote and run for office. If democracy came to Iraq, they assured me, it would give a push to their own agenda and bring them closer to success. Pro-democracy pioneer Lullwah al-Mullah told me, “Iraq is the country of Arab culture. It is the country of Islamic culture.” A […]

On Feb. 12, Iraq became the latest country to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. The country’s entry was especially important in light of the widespread use of chemical weapons by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein against his foreign and domestic enemies. Under Hussein, Iraq developed a major chemical weapons industry. During the 1980s, the regime killed thousands of people by repeatedly employing chemical weapons against both Iranian troops during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War and its domestic opponents, most infamously in the March 1988 mustard gas attacks on the Kurdish village of Halabja. With Iraq’s entry, the CWC (as the Convention […]

Of foreign policy’s dirtiest words, which do Americans least like to hear: war or state-building? That is the question the Obama administration now has to ask itself about Afpakia, the most volatile swath of South Asia. Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer, is a failed state. Pakistan, chronically unstable, possesses dozens of nuclear weapons. India, the regional power, would typically stabilize all of this, but it has been at war with Pakistan, on and off, for the last six decades. As the new administration in Washington contemplates an Afpakia strategy, at first glance nearly everyone seems to agree on the […]

CHILDREN APPEAL FOR END TO CHILD SOLDIER USE — Children from more than 100 countries recently appealed to world leaders to do more to end to the use of children as combatants in armed conflicts. Despite international protocols preventing the practice, an estimated 250,000 children around the globe are fighting as soldiers. Former child soldiers and young activists personally delivered their plea in the form of a petition featuring 250,000 red handprints to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Feb. 12, the fifth anniversary of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child soldiers are still […]

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Last week’s parliamentary elections in Israel saw the country take a collective step to the right, but it is incorrect to conclude, as conventional wisdom seems to be doing, that the vote marks the end of peace efforts. Instead, the elections could take those efforts in a different — and possibly even fruitful — direction: Israel’s next government could end up playing down the Palestinian track in favor of a major push to reach a peace agreement with Syria. Negotiations to form a new government are just getting started, and there is no certainty about how they will conclude. The […]

In January, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated a new national security strategy entailing closer cooperation between the State Department, the military, government and civilian humanitarian agencies, and foreign allies. “Smart power,” she called it. Just a month later, U.S. smart power is becoming a reality in one of the world’s most troubled regions. Off the coast of Somalia, a country that hasn’t had a functional government in 18 years, a Navy-led international humanitarian and training mission has joined a new, firepower-heavy counterpiracy fleet, while State Department negotiators play a key supporting role. What has emerged is a complex, sophisticated […]

Russia’s foreign arms sales recently had another banner year, breaking all post-Soviet records, causing Moscow policymakers to celebrate. Meeting with the Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation with Foreign States on Feb. 10, President Dmitry Medvedev reported that the value of Russian weapons exports in 2008 exceeded $8.35 billion, up from $7.4 billion in 2007, also a record. On Feb. 12, Alexander Fomin, deputy director of the Federal Service on Military-Technical Cooperation, said that Russia planned to export $8.5 billion of arms in 2009. On Feb. 16, Nikolai Dimidyuk, special programs director for Rosoboronexport, Russia’s arms export monopoly, announced that the company […]

Conventional wisdom now claims that America is in decline. In its report, “A Transformed World,” the National Intelligence Council predicts that in the next 15 years, the United States will be a “less dominant power.” Fareed Zakaria calls it “the rise of the rest.” Parag Khanna argues that in many places, “America is no longer viewed as a provider of security but rather of insecurity,” which allows China and Europe to exert competing imperial influence. And Paul Kennedy, who wrote about the perils of imperial overstretch in The Rise and Fall of Great Powers more than 20 years ago, just […]

INTEL CHIEF SIGNALS CHANGE — Adm. Dennis Blair, President Obama’s new director of national intelligence, has lost no time living up to his reputation as a hard-driving boss. The intelligence community has been at work since last December compiling the 2009 Annual Threat Assessment, which the new director submitted to Congress Thursday. According to a well-informed source, when Blair arrived to take up his post some days ago, the finished draft was handed to him, but to almost everyone’s consternation he rejected it. Intel officers had to scramble to produce a new version shifting the emphasis from terrorism to the […]

Israelis went to the polls to clarify a confusing political situation. What emerged was an even more unclear picture, with all parties performing less well than they expected and several declaring victory even if no one won. After the two leading contenders for the top spot declared themselves the winners, it is now up to the president to decide who will officially receive the order to go forth and form a government. Even that part of the process, which is usually not contentious, is now controversial. At the latest count, Kadima, the party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, looked set […]

Recent news reports indicate that the Obama administration is having second thoughts about whether it wants to double the size of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. The president has directed the Pentagon to think very clearly about the specific strategy and purposes involved with any troop increase. Independent defense experts continue to debate the wisdom of applying a variant of the troop surge policy that has apparently stabilized the security situation in Iraq to Afghanistan, with its very different local conditions. One weighty constraint on the proposed force increases concerns logistics. Recent developments in Pakistan and Central Asia in […]

ROHINGYA FIND MORE CRUELTY AFTER FLIGHT FROM BURMA — Thailand’s indifferent and criminal response to the plight of hundreds of Rohingya refugees has stunned the human rights community and highlights the world’s continued failure to effectively protect the rights of refugee and asylum seekers. In the course of the last month, three boatloads of Rohingya males have washed ashore in Indonesia and India telling similar tales of beatings and abandonment by Thai authorities. Thailand has admitted rounding up the men and dragging them out to sea, but says its army did not torture them, and supplied food and water. Over […]

The idea of a single, united “Arab World” has never moved very far beyond the realm of wishful thinking. The history of the Middle East comes filled with countless chapters on intra-Arab warfare and numerous tomes on political enmity and intrigue pitting Arab states against each other. From the earliest days of Islam, when the Sunni-Shiite divide tore the believers apart, to the late 20th century, when conflicts such as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and subsequent U.S.-led counterattack divided Arab loyalties, unity has proven elusive. At times, it was possible to downplay the split. Now, however, all pretenses have […]

It has been a whirlwind two weeks for one of the world’s most chaotic countries. Since the last week of January, Somalia has seen the collapse of the U.S.- and U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government and major advances by Islamic insurgents. But the TFG’s rout morphed into a modest triumph when the body elected a new, moderate president-in-exile, amid the promise of peace mediation by Islamic clerics. The catalyst for all of these moves was the seeming final withdrawal of Ethiopian troops following two years of bloody occupation. In recent months the Ethiopians had consolidated their positions in Mogadishu and the […]

The Chinese government recently released a white paper on national defense, continuing its trend of publishing documents that provide additional details about the evolving nature of Beijing’s defense programs as well as their underlying justifications. Nonetheless, the information still pales in comparison to that made available by the U.S. Department of Defense on the Internet. Except for a few classified “black programs,” the department gives independent researchers (and foreign governments) substantial information about the characteristics of current and planned defense policy and weapons programs. “China’s National Defense in 2008” contains the usual stock phrases found in the other security white […]