Here at WPR, we don’t spend much time thinking about which of thearticles we publish will be most popular. But eyeballs are easier to quantifythan other more important measures. And we’d risk insulting our readersif we put no stock whatsoever in what they read most often. By the same token, it is an irony of online publishing that masses of first-time readers, clicking through from occasional links on heavily trafficked sites, can do more to shape statistics pertaining to popularity than that smaller group of core, loyal readers that it is the primary job of a publication like WPR to […]

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has faced challenging times before, but in recent months, Tehran has been confronted with one crisis after another. The threats of severe international sanctions over its nuclear program are mounting, just as domestic strife undermines the legitimacy of the regime. With its plate so full, why did Iran suddenly decide to taunt Iraq — a country with which it fought an eight-year war — by provocatively raising the Iranian flag on an Iraqi-controlled oil field? The answer may point to even more trouble on the horizon for Iran’s leaders. The startling news […]

More than 56 years after the end of the Korean War ushered in a long period of relative military isolation, South Korea is finally taking steps towards a regional security role commensurate with the country’s advanced economy. But South Korea’s rise as a military power is complicated by its domestic politics — and a belligerent North Korea. Despite a technologically advanced military and a Gross Domestic Product that, at just shy of $1 trillion, makes it the world’s 15th-wealthiest country, the Republic of Korea has rarely deployed troops outside its borders. In 1999, Seoul sent 400 soldiers to boost a […]

During his first visit to Moscow as NATO’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen outlined his vision of “a true strategic partnership” between Russia and NATO by 2020. Unfortunately, the Dec. 16-18 trip also highlighted persistent divisions between Russia and the West regarding NATO enlargement, Afghanistan, and other areas that present serious obstacles to Rasmussen’s roadmap. The high point of Rasmussen’s visit was the speech he delivered at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO). In addition to foreshadowing the agenda items that will likely dominate NATO-Russia discussions in coming months, Rasmussen’s remarks, entitled “NATO and Russia: Partners for the Future,” […]

If you thought the neocons were vanquished, disappearing along with theBush-Cheney administration, better think again. Their mindset stillanimates most of what the GOP offers in opposition to President BarackObama’s magical apology tour. For while the president won a Nobel PeacePrize for his heartfelt mea maxima culpa, Charles Krauthammer & Co. see no reason to surrender America’s two-decades-and-counting “era ofmaximum dominance” to the Chinese simply because Beijing holds the pinkslip on our national economy. First, some details. Atthe heart of this struggle lie two diametrically opposed views oftoday’s world: one that accepts globalization as the all-powerfulshaper of human destiny, and one […]

In discussing my proposal last week for a Sino-Indian Convention that would define 21st century spheres of influence in Central Asia, a colleague suggested that it was an idea that Otto von Bismarck would have been proud of. They didn’t mean it as a compliment. We think of Bismarck as a caricature of the old European warlord, peering through a monocled eye while croaking about decisions forged in “blood and iron.” Most of all, we see him as someone whose policies were designed for personal and imperial aggrandizement, not the betterment of the people. We distrust his approach to the […]

One aspect of the Obama administration’s foreign policy that has provoked condemnation across the political spectrum is its approach to human rights around the world. Critics have pointed to a visible tendency to relegate human rights to the background in dealing with offending nations, as Washington keeps its focus on what it deems more important objectives. With the volume of criticism rising, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered a detailed presentation of her — and presumably the administration’s — approach to human rights. Her speech at Georgetown University last Sunday offered a fascinating view inside the administration’s evolving philosophy. In […]

Two years after an unexpected surge in Dutch support for the Afghan war, the Netherlands has taken the first steps towards officially withdrawing from the NATO coalition in Afghanistan beginning in late 2010. A non-binding parliamentary decision in October rejecting an extension of the Dutch mission represents a striking break from the overall trend within NATO of deepening the alliance’s commitment to the eight-year-old war. The U.S. military is adding 30,000 troops to its current 70,000-strong force in Afghanistan, while the U.K., Italy and Poland — as well as non-NATO-members South Korea and Georgia — have also signaled their willingness […]

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It’s not often that a U.S. official defends Iran at an international forum. But U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman did just that at the sixth annual Manama Dialogue, a regional security conference organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies held in Bahrain on Dec. 11-13. Feltman deflected charges by the Yemeni and Saudi governments that Iran was providing military assistance to Houthi rebels operating along the Yemeni-Saudi border. Meanwhile, at the same conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki provided the most detailed counteroffer to date from Tehran regarding proposals that Iran exchange its […]

Last week, I noted that the GOP’s defense hawks have taken to accusing President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats of exploiting America’s health care crisis to further their long-term “plot” to curtail defense spending — and, by extension, our nation’s capacity for military interventions abroad. The implied beneficiary of this “unilateral surrender”? Why, the Chinese, of course, who’d thereby be left free to conquer the developing world in their unending quest to secure raw materials. But a funny thing happened on the way to China’s presumed domination of the world’s natural resources: It ran into the same core problem that […]

While Afghanistan has often been touted as the crucible for the regeneration of the Western alliance, it also offers another opportunity for the United States: a means to promote a stabilizing modus vivendi between India and China. In his recent WPR Briefing on China’s stake in containing Pakistani militants, Michael Kugelman observed, “Pakistan’s instability threatens the security of China’s citizens, its government and its energy imports,” particularly when it comes to the “combustible province of Baluchistan.” He notes, “Whenever China has demanded something of Islamabad, the latter has often complied.” And in surveying the Indian strategic view of Afghanistan, Dan […]

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Throughout history, the most transparent and blunt expression of international power has involved the projection of military force. Over the years, other forms of power have gained importance, with the concept of “soft power” — or the ability to peacefully persuade and attract other nations to acquiesce to a country’s will — recently gaining prominence as an alternative to traditional “hard power.” But for countries without the luxury of the large military budgets that fuel hard power or the massive cultural and economic assets that underpin soft power, a third way has emerged as a path to global influence. Call […]

A fanatical rebel group formed in northern Uganda in the 1980s has spread to become what one U.S. general labeled a “transnational” threat, prompting the U.S. and various East African nations to work together to defeat the group. The international cooperation is the fruit of years of delicate planning by U.S. officials. The Lord’s Resistance Army, founded by Ugandan Joseph Kuny in 1986, aims to establish a Christian theocratic government in East Africa. But the group’s brutal methods — torture, abduction and rape — belie its religious roots. From Uganda, the LRA spread into neighboring Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo […]

The current annual summit between the governments of India and Russia, scheduled to last from Dec. 6-8, testifies to the continuing shared interests between both countries. Russian and Indian policymakers still pursue many common objectives while having few divergent ones. Yet, ongoing improvements in India’s relations with Western countries, especially the United States, present challenges to Russian policymakers as they strive to maintain Russia’s position as India’s most important strategic partner. A few days before arriving in Moscow, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a lengthy interview with Russian media outlets in which he lavished praise on Russia. Calling their […]

Conservative voices are being raised against what defense hawks consider to be the Democrats’ ulterior motive in addressing health care in America: a none-too-subtle long-term plot to curtail U.S. defense spending and thus render our military forces as strategically impotent as those of our NATO allies. This charge is at once hypocritical and correct, but not for the dark reasons ascribed to the Obama administration. Instead, the Democrats’ implied plot to rebalance domestic versus foreign spending merely responds to America’s demographic trends, while revealing — quite uncomfortably, for defense hawks — the shifting correlation of forces across the global security […]

The president and his national security team have outlined an ambitious strategy for Afghanistan. But if they hope to meet their July 2011 target date for the beginning of a U.S. drawdown, they will have to navigate some unavoidable roadblocks along the way. The first — and most pressing — is the continued weakness of the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Some commentators have written that the withdrawal of presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah from the second round of elections this past fall has cleared the way for Karzai — with U.S. support and aid — to begin necessary reforms. […]

Every few months, Israelis undergo an emotionally wrenching experience, with one family in particular experiencing it on a level no other could comprehend. With cruel regularity, the local and international media announce the imminent release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, captured by Palestinian operatives more than three years ago. Once again, there is word that negotiations between the Israeli government and Hamas, the Islamic organization that governs Gaza, are on the verge of bringing an end to Shalit’s captivity. With the help of German and Egyptian intermediaries, the two sides may soon conduct a trade. Israel could free perhaps as many […]

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