When hundreds of thousands of Darfuri refugees flooded across the Chad-Sudan border in 2003, fleeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing orchestrated by the Sudanese government and its militia proxies, the U.N. and various aid groups raced to help. Humanitarian workers built a vast and sophisticated network of refugee camps to house as many as 300,000 people. The European Union and, later, the U.N. deployed peacekeepers to protect the camps. By 2008, the refugee camps in eastern Chad had become a self-contained society, one of the biggest and seemingly most permanent in all the world. It was also a major reason […]

The first official visit of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to Washington last week offers a convenient opportunity to assess the current Russian-U.S. relationship. Since assuming office, one of the priorities of U.S. President Barack Obama and his foreign policy team has been to improve ties with Russia and other foreign governments that had become alienated from the United States. Relations between Washington and Moscow became especially strained in 2007 and 2008 following the acute confrontations that arose over the planned U.S. missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia’s August 2008 War with Georgia, and other issues. Despite […]

China’s spreading labor unrest is rightfully portrayed in the Western press as an immense challenge to that country’s status as the “world’s factory floor.” But to Beijing’s bosses, it’s likewise a tool for addressing rising income inequality, which is why the Communist Party has remained most reticent to address it head on. Such a hands-off approach carries additional dangers, however, the most prominent being that, once emerging labor activists get a taste for pressing their collective demands, China’s political leaders could find themselves riding a Solidarnosc-like trade-union tiger that’s not easily tamed. China has long suffered isolated sparks of labor […]

Are the deck chairs being reshuffled on the Titanic that is the Afghan war? First, Afghan President Hamid Karzai forced the resignations of his interior minister, Hanif Atmar, and the head of his intelligence services, Amrullah Saleh. Next, the U.K. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles, went on indefinite leave, turning over his post to his deputy. Now, in the aftermath of the infamous Rolling Stone profile, U.S. President Barack Obama has removed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus. What is interesting to note, of course, […]

A recent headline in Britain’s Sunday Times must have sent blood pressure readings soaring on both sides of the gulf known on one side as the Persian Gulf and on the other as the Arabian Gulf: “Saudi Arabia gives Israel clear skies to attack Iranian nuclear sites.” Had Riyadh really struck a deal with the Jewish state, making it easier for Israeli jets to pound Iranian targets? The Times quoted anonymous “defense sources in the Gulf” who maintained that the kingdom had gone as far as to conduct practice drills in which its air defenses would stand down, allowing flights […]

On Feb. 11, 2008, gunfire erupted across Dili, the capital of East Timor, as rebels under disgruntled former army officer Alfredo Reinado unleashed separate attacks against the country’s president and prime minister. President Jose Ramos-Horta, who a year earlier had won the country’s first presidential election since gaining independence in 2002, was shot and wounded. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao escaped injury. Reinado and another rebel died when government guards fired back on the attackers. The government of East Timor, also known as Timor Leste, declared a state of emergency after the attack. Two years later, it’s clear that the assassination […]

As if to provide yet one more piece of evidence of the Afghan tragedy, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report yesterday showing the devastating effects of domestically produced opium on Afghanistan’s own population. It complements other studies (.pdf) that have highlighted the suffering that Afghan opium, heroin, and other opiates cause in other countries. Taken together, the reports make it clear that solving the Afghan drug challenge will require a comprehensive multilateral approach. Yesterday’s UNODC report (.pdf), entitled “Drug Use in Afghanistan: 2009 Survey,” confirms a pattern seen in the international evolution of the […]

As the senior managing director of a technology firm that employs algorithms in their most complex forms, I spend a lot of time trying to explain, via nature-centric analogies, how these formulae work. The most cutting-edge algorithms are known as “genetic algorithms,” because they self-adapt their “recipes” through interactions with a wider environment of stimuli, thereby approximating evolutionary responses found in nature. The hardest part about explaining that to people comes from overcoming their bias toward unnatural silicon solutions, as opposed to the carbon-based pathways of discovery and adaptation through failure that define our human existence. Oddly enough, people tend […]

Will the Deepwater Horizon disaster, already 2010’s best candidate for the most significant “black swan” event, have a similar, long-lasting geopolitical impact as the Three Mile Island accident 30 years ago? If that mishap had not occurred, it’s very likely that the United States would have a vastly different, and superior, position vis-à-vis energy independence today. The U.S. could have moved down a similar path to that of France, which generates most of its electricity — some 78 percent — from nuclear power plants. Some of the side benefits the French enjoy as a result include much cleaner skies, since […]

In the aftermath of its disastrous raid on the Mavi Marmara, part of a flotilla that tried to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, Israel has come under intense pressure to lift the embargo of the Hamas-run territory. The decision of how to handle Gaza under Hamas rule is an extraordinarily complicated one for many political, strategic and humanitarian reasons. In fact, there is one aspect of the embargo that many of its presumably peace-loving opponents fail to note: Ending the blockade of Gaza could kill the chances for peace. There is a reason why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas […]

The new space craft’s launch occurred without much fanfare. On April 22, the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B prototype roared into orbit atop a rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Some 15 years in development, the X-37’s technology, performance and purpose all are cloaked in mystery. Two months after the unmanned vehicle’s launch, it is still in orbit, performing its unspecified tasks behind the military’s veil of silence and ambiguity. That has caused concern among potential rivals of the U.S. The X-37, which looks like a quarter-scale Space Shuttle, is just 29 feet long from nose to tail and boasts […]

article card

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has become commonplace to write of a new “Great Game” in Central Asia, pitting Russia, China, and NATO countries led by the U.S in a race for influence and access to the region’s energy and other resources. But despite all the worries about the potential for international conflict, the distinctive feature of the current crisis in Kyrgyzstan is the reluctance of all the major powers to intervene there. The riots in southern Kyrgyzstan, which first broke out Thursday, have now left hundreds of dead and thousands of injured, according to the latest […]

A lot of national security experts would like a lot more fire — and firepower — from our president. Op-ed columnists across America worry that our friends no longer trust us and that our enemies no longer fear us. President Barack Obama’s quest for more-equitable burden-sharing among great powers seems to be getting us nowhere, so why bother with more-equitable benefit-sharing? But before attacking the Obama administration’s coolly rational — dare I say “lawyerly” — take on great-power politics, let’s first remember what got us to this point. Bush-Cheney’s “It’s better to be feared than respected” tear nearly tore up […]

The new Iran sanctions resolution cleared the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday by a vote of 12-2, with all five permanent members voting in favor. Does its passage represent a “diplomatic victory” for the Obama administration, as some have claimed? Or have the measures been so “watered down,” as others argue, that they are not likely to be effective in changing Iran’s course of action? And how significant is Russia’s apparent change of heart, ultimately supporting a fourth round of sanctions that it initially opposed? To answer those questions, the vote at Turtle Bay needs to be put into a […]

One year ago, the Iranian people shocked their rulers, and their rulers, in turn, horrified the world. When the Iranian regime announced an implausible landslide victory for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just hours after polls closed on the country’s June 12 presidential election, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Iranians spontaneously poured onto the streets. The regime responded with brutality, and the course of Iranian history was suddenly put into play. One year ago, it looked as though the ruling regime stood inches away from a gaping precipice. Experts all but proved (.pdf) that the government stole the elections, and the […]

article card

On Monday, an Afghan suicide bomber blew himself up outside a NATO police-training facility in Kandahar. The blast opened a hole in the wall that allowed two more suicide bombers to race into the compound. Afghan police opened fire, killing the two bombers before they could set off their explosives. In addition to the three bombers, one American trainer was killed and three police were injured. The attack was a reminder of the extreme dangers faced by Afghan security force trainees and their NATO instructors. The bombing also underscored the growing importance of Afghan security forces, nearly nine years into […]

Now that the G-20 multilateral format has taken the lead in managing the world economy, many commentators are eager to do away with its predecessor in that role, the Group of Eight (G-8). Such a focus, however, neglects the G-8’s important security functions. Since the 1980s, the group has given birth to major initiatives promoting global peace and security. The G-20 lacks the unique assets that have made the G-8 so effective in this area. The G-8 now includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. The absence of some of the […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 221 2 Last