One thing I’ve discovered from writing columns over the years is that they’re a great way to elicit invitations to sit down and talk with various players in the national security establishment. All you have to do is mention somebody’s office and you’re likely to get an e-mail from their public affairs officer eager to set your thinking straight. And so it was last week that I had the chance to converse with Ambassador John Herbst, three years in the job now as the State Department’s Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. I earned the invitation by describing the CRS job […]

Among the more than 20 top posts at the State Department that have yet to be filled is the director of foreign assistance. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice created the post in 2006 to consolidate responsibility for the country’s nearly $30 billion foreign aid budget. What follows is a letter to the still-to-be-named nominee. To the incoming director of foreign assistance, As you well know, for more than six decades, foreign aid has played an indispensable role in the conduct of the United States’ foreign affairs. Today, 154 countries benefit from some kind of financial assistance. Along with defense […]

President Barack Obama came to power with a not-so-secret plan to reshape the Middle East. His team envisioned a fundamental realignment in the region, with an eye towards resolving a host of longstanding conflicts that made it a global focal point of political instability. A key element of that plan centered on one country: Syria. By reconstituting Washington’s relationship with Damascus, the reasoning went, Obama would manage to radiate improvements outward to a host of regional disputes. Seven months into the Obama administration, Washington’s efforts to pry Syria from its tight alliance with Iran and persuade it to start working […]

article card

In August 2008, Russia and Georgia fought a brief, bloody war over Georgia’s pro-Russian region of South Ossetia. After hundreds of casualties, Georgia withdrew its forces, essentially ceding the breakaway province to Russia. Moscow’s overall aim was to ensure “that Russia’s power is respected both within and outside the post-Soviet space,” according to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert Hamilton, a fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. While the bulk of the fighting in South Ossetia pitted tanks against tanks and infantry against infantry, the conflict also featured sophisticated propaganda efforts, on both sides. Russian and Georgian […]

The U.S. Cyber-Consequences Unit has recently issued a report documenting how Russia supplemented its conventional war against Georgia last August with a massive, well-integrated and pre-planned information warfare campaign against Georgia’s Internet structure. The techniques were so successful that the unit has restricted distribution of the full report to U.S. government and certain other Internet security professionals. Only the executive summary (pdf) has been made available to the public. The U.S. Cyber-Consequences Unit is independent, non-profit research institute affiliated with the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The report’s main author, John Bumgarner, directs research at the […]

When the global financial crisis struck roughly a year ago, the blogosphere was ablaze with all sorts of scary predictions of, and commentary regarding, ensuing conflict and wars — a rerun of the Great Depression leading to world war, as it were. Now, as global economic news brightens and recovery — surprisingly led by China and emerging markets — is the talk of the day, it’s interesting to look back over the past year and realize how globalization’s first truly worldwide recession has had virtually no impact whatsoever on the international security landscape. None of the more than three-dozen ongoing […]

In one of the most quoted aphorisms in international relations, the Prussian political philosopher Carl von Clausewitz said that “war is merely a continuation of politics.” In other words, for every war that has been waged, we can point to political aims underpinning its waging. Take some recent examples. In large part, the 1991 Persian Gulf war was about exerting power: It sought to prevent an invasion of Saudi Arabia and oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait. However, in Vietnam, the end goal was political influence: The war was fought to keep the south from falling to the communists. The examples […]

The small piece of land on the eastern Mediterranean known as the Gaza strip has seen its share of violence over the decades, with a series of conflicts fought along its narrow alley ways and on its sandy beaches. The latest round of fighting, gun battles that left two dozen men dead last weekend in a mosque in southern Gaza , opened yet another chapter in Gaza ‘s troubled history. Unlike other recent clashes, the fighting this time did not pit Israelis against Palestinians. It did not involve loyalists of the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas competing for power. […]

On Thursday morning, a bomb exploded in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, injuring a British soldier. Two days later, the soldier died at a hospital in Great Britain. He was the 200th U.K. fatality in the eight-year-old Afghanistan war. British newspapers marked the milestone with a flurry of grim news reports. And in short order, fighting claimed four more British troops. Great Britain has around 9,000 troops in Afghanistan — the biggest national contingent, after the U.S. British forces are concentrated in the restive south, especially in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates […]

In his address during the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue late last month in Washington, President Barack Obama personally appealed to the visiting senior Chinese officials for assistance in achieving his nuclear nonproliferation agenda. Based on the speech Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made on Aug. 12 at the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament, it appears that his message was only partly received. Yang made clear that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would provide only limited assistance with respect to several of the most important U.S. goals. President Obama stressed the need for concerted action with respect to curbing the […]

We hear a lot of talk nowadays about the structural imbalance in global trade: namely, the West needs to spend less and export more (Germany excluded) and the East needs to export less and spend more (China especially). What we don’t talk about much are the structural deficits that currently stand in the way of rising Asia’s collective ascension to the role of established third pillar of global order. Instead, we place too much hope on China’s unique abilities to scale that mountain on its own, while simultaneously fearing that Beijing’s resulting ambitions will ultimately prove globally destabilizing. Ever since […]

Will the White House approve even more troops for Afghanistan? As Gen. Stanley McChrystal reevaluates the war strategy, he has reportedly considered as many as 30,000 more, and he’s making a strong case. So much that an interview with the Wall Street Journal resulted in a front page headline declaring the, “Taliban Now Winning.” But the troop numbers don’t tell the whole story. Or, the story doesn’t tell all the troop numbers. Almost all counts circulated these days consist of “boots on the ground” assessments. Only, as a single measure, boots on the ground is only a part of the […]

article card

Fatah, the party that dominates the Palestinian Authority, just held its first official gathering in 20 years andsome reportsclaimed the conference produced a strong commitment to peace and reconciliation within a rejuvenated organization. The reality is not quite as rosy. The Fatah that emerged from this event has a chance of strengthening its standing against Hamas, and there is a possibility, however remote, that some of the new faces in the leadership can start the scrubbing required to clean up the party’s reputation as a den of corrupt politicians living the high life on international aid — a reputation highlighted […]

In July, the Israeli navy — a force mostly confined to the eastern Mediterranean — sent three of its most powerful warships through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea. A Dolphin-class diesel-powered submarine passed through the canal on July 3. Two Sa’ar 5-class corvettes followed, 10 days later. The ships trained alongside Egyptian forces, then returned to Israel by mid-July. It was the largest long-range naval deployment in recent history for the 5,500-strong Israeli navy, and the first since 2005 for an Israeli sub. The naval deployments are part of a wide range of activities meant to reinforce Israel’s […]

The American defense community has properly reacted with nonchalance to the appearance of two Russian nuclear-powered submarines off the U.S. East Coast. Neither the submarines nor the rest of the Russian Navy presently represent a major threat to the United States. In a formal statement, the U.S. Northern Command confirmed the subs’ unusual presence, but pointed out they remained outside U.S. territorial waters and engaged in legally permissible transit and other non-threatening activities. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell later explained that, “So long as they are operating in international waters, as, frankly, we do around the world, and are behaving in […]

U.S. plans to expand its military presence in Colombia have elicited predictable condemnations from anti-American elements in South America, but also concern from friends who see them as encroachment from our ongoing “war on drugs.” Similarly, in another part of the world, Africa Command boss Gen. “Kip” Ward’s repeated assurances that the United States isn’t interested in setting up bases on the continent remains a tough sell, given the new regional combatant command’s explicit mission to expand U.S. military cooperation there. Critics are quick to call every new American boot on the ground “imperial overstretch,” or “empire.” But as often […]

If July represents the first results of the Afghanistan surge, the portrait is sobering. With 75 troops killed, it was the deadliest month for the coalition since the war began. The British, who have about 9,000 soldiers in the country, were hit particularly hard, with eight soldiers killed in less than 24 hours recently. The painful news sounded political echoes in London. The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee announced last week that “avoidable mistakes” have been part of a deficient strategy, leading to mission creep. It singled out the U.K.’s anti-poppy campaign, in particular, as a “poisoned chalice.” All […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 211 2 Last