Cuba became the 54th national government to accede to the U.N.’s Nuclear Terrorism Convention on June 17, in a move meant to burnish the island nation’s counterterrorist credentials, which have been contested by the United States and other foreign governments. In depositing Havana’s instrument of accession to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, as the convention is formally known, the Cuban mission to the U.N. issued a statement affirming the Cuban government’s “irrevocable commitment to the fight against terrorism under in all its forms and manifestations.” The Cuban government also exploited the occasion to contest […]

Back before the Iraq surge, “military operations other than war” — a now-antiquated term referring to non-traditional warfare — were treated as “lesser includeds,” filed deep under subsections of big-war plans, doctrine, and acquisition strategies. Today, by contrast, the U.S. national security establishment is increasingly embracing what I like to call the “greater inclusive” paradigm, which recognizes our military’s rising quotient of such operations, not as some rare exception, but rather as the new rule. Thanks to Iraq and now Afghanistan-Pakistan, the military no longer assumes that any force constructed and trained for big wars can automatically handle the “other […]

Like beauty, the value of the United Nations lies in the eye of the beholder. Case in point, David Rothkopf’s recent screed on ForeignPolicy.com against the world’s largest multilateral organization, the latest in a long line of vitriolic — and largely misinformed — attacks on the institution. Only a few years ago, John Bolton, at the time the U.S. ambassador to the body, declared that lopping 10 floors off the secretariat would make little difference in its operation. Superfluous or not, those 10 floors managed to survive Bolton’s U.N. tenure largely unscathed. Although Rothkopf’s rant, too, will likely dissolve away […]

The political turmoil in Iran has brought new meaning to the maxim, “All politics is local.” In the age of disappearing distances, the fallout from rigged vote-counting in Tehran, Shiraz or Esfahan presents local challenges and opportunities to politicians in Fort Wayne, Beirut or Tel Aviv. Just as authorities in Tehran prove incapable of stopping the flow of information out of the country, the impact of Iran’s post-election crisis has also spilled across its borders, becoming an event with domestic repercussions around the globe. In the West, the crisis in Iran has created a platform on which politicians can stand […]

Omar Bongo, the 73-year-old president of Gabon, in West Africa, died of natural causes on June 8, after 42 years in office. He was the world’s longest-serving, elected head of state, as well as one of its wealthiest — having carefully tailored the nation’s laws to both keep himself in office and fatten his many foreign bank accounts. Bongo left behind a country so accustomed to his rule that his death sparked a nationwide security clamp-down . . . as well as a furious scramble, by his scores of close relatives, to pilfer Bongo’s stashes of cash and to position […]

Chinese and Russian leaders meet frequently, but last week was special. President Hu Jintao of China and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia conferred three times over the course of four days — at the June 15-16 Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Yekaterinburg, then later on June 16 at the first-ever heads-of-state meeting of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), and again afterwards when Hu made a state visit to Moscow from June 16-18. Hu’s visit helped mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Moscow and Beijing. It coincided with the signing of over 40 […]

China’s global priorities might not match up that well with those of your average American policymaker. But they do match up quite well with President Obama’s agenda. That’s the sense I got after spending last week in Shanghai with a bevy of China’s top foreign affairs academics. Although the workshop I attended was focused on U.S.-Chinese relations, there was no shortage of side conversation on the post-election meltdown unfolding in Iran. And nothing I heard in terms of the Chinese sense of priorities bore any resemblance to what you see these days in American newspaper headlines. As during the Cold […]

Winning American wars these days is four parts politics and just one part fighting. Contemporary military doctrine — counterinsurgency and stability operations — tasks soldiers, on the whole, with state-building. Victory, or at least success, means building from the bottom up, rather than destroying from the top down. But because conditions on the ground are so delicate, for the one part of warfare that remains fighting, there’s no room for error. With Gen. Stanley McChrystal taking charge of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan on Monday, warfighting is on everyone’s minds. McChrystal has been appointed to command the Afghanistan war […]

OSLO, Norway — President Barack Obama’s effort to forge peace between Israelis and Palestinians has taken an unexpectedly dangerous turn. Obama campaigned on a promise to start working for peace in the Middle East from the earliest days of his presidency. He kept his word, but he unwittingly unleashed a new round of diplomacy that is unfolding on the public airwaves, breaking with one of the most fundamental and indispensable tenets of diplomacy. Instead of allowing the parties to quietly negotiate their most politically sensitive differences, Obama has set the tone for grand speeches made before large audiences. This is […]

To mark a visit by Swedish parliamentarians to the U.S. Navy command ship Mount Whitney, the destroyer Forrest Sherman flew a huge Swedish flag and blared music by the Swedish pop band ABBA from its loudspeakers. It was a moment of levity that belied the deadly serious politics underlying a 12-day, Baltic military exercise. BALTOPS 2009, involving 11 European nations and the U.S., risks provoking Russia, at a time when the Obama administration is working hard to restore U.S.-Russian relations. When the annual exercise was conceived in the 1970s, it focused on preparing NATO nations and their allies for war […]

In his April 5 disarmament speech in Prague, President Barack Obama endorsed constructing “a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation.” An international uranium fuel bank seeks to address one of the fundamental problems with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) — namely, that it allows countries to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies that they can then rapidly convert from civilian to military use. According to the most common interpretation of the treaty, states can develop extensive uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing capabilities while a member in […]

The skyrocketing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has generated intense debate about how useful they are against insurgent/terrorist networks. Some prominent counterinsurgency experts have decried the “siege mentality” among non-combatant locals caused by collateral damage from the drone strikes. But despite the charge that drones represent a technology (i.e., a means) in search of a strategy (i.e., end goals), there’s no question that: 1) drones are here to stay, and 2) they’re truly re-symmetricizing the battlefield in a much-needed manner. Over the past generation, warfare has dramatically downshifted, from the Cold War’s […]

President Barack Obama came into office ready to talk, and on many fronts he has already made good on his promise. He has directly addressed the Iranian people and opened channels to the government in Tehran. His address last week to the wider Muslim world was widely hailed as a success. And he exchanged a smiling handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Ch├ívez in April. Yet, apparently some situations demand a harder line. At the moment, one such situation is a North Korea poised to go nuclear. The item has thrust itself to the top of the president’s already overflowing agenda. […]

A few days after President Barack Obama stood on the podium at Cairo University sending a message of reconciliation to Muslims around the world, voters in Lebanon went to the polls and delivered a stunning blow to Hezbollah, the so-called Party of God. The victory by the U.S.-backed March 14 against the Iran-backed March 8 alliance came as a surprise to just about everyone. Since Lebanon is a microcosm of the Middle East, the vote had important regional resonance. But Lebanon is also a Rorschach test, so interpretations of the results reflected the multiplicity of views about what the most […]

War is Boring: Attacks on Somali Media Underscore Lawlessness

On Sunday, gunmen ambushed two of Somalia’s most respected journalists, while the two men were walking in Mogadishu’s Bakara market. Muktar Mohamed Hirabe, long-time director of Shabelle Radio, was killed; his companion Ahmed Omar Hashi, a senior producer for Shabelle, was wounded in the hand and stomach. On Monday, World Politics Review spoke to Hashi by phone, from his Mogadishu hospital. He said he didn’t know who was behind the attacks, or what their motive might have been. In recent years Somalia’s media has been targeted by all of the country’s warring parties, including criminal gangs, Islamic extremists from the […]

Much remains uncertain regarding the nuclear arms control treaty currently being negotiated by the Russian and American governments. But the parties have evidently decided not to try to address “non-strategic” nuclear weapons in the agreement. When asked about the issue at an April 6 conference on nonproliferation, two U.S. and Russian officials intimately involved in the negotiations said they favored excluding the issue from the immediate START follow-on talks. The latest Russian-American negotiating session that occurred last week in Geneva appears to confirm this decision. Rose Gottemoeller, the new assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance and the chief […]

As the World Health Organization agonizes over whether or not to declare the H1N1 flu virus an official pandemic, I can’t help but think of the American national security establishment’s continuing struggle over the definition of threat in a post-9/11 world. In both instances, we see institutions with worldwide responsibilities coming to grips with an increasingly interconnected global landscape. And although that global landscape, according to all the available data, suffers less catastrophe, it nonetheless appears to present far greater potential for such catastrophes to unfold with seemingly uncontrollable consequences. By “less catastrophe,” I mean that in a world of […]

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