Just as the turning of the leaves heralds the arrival of winter’s chill, so too are there unmistakable signs whenever a summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization draws near. The media is filled with commentary about “NATO’s crisis,” while statements percolate forth from the alliance’s capitals about NATO’s clear purpose for the 21st century. This is a yearly ritual, with the proclamations of alliance unity and cohesion that inevitably accompany any NATO summit having similarly acquired a totemic quality. When the meeting is over, reality catches up with the vision that has been so ardently reaffirmed. The same issues […]

Efforts to save the newly revived peace process between Israelis and Palestinians have moved into a feverish phase with only days left before an Arab League summit that could declare the process dead. The negotiations, sponsored by the Obama administration, are on life support just weeks after their birth. Palestinian negotiators refused to continue talks with Israel unless the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to extend a moratorium on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, which expired on Sept. 26. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition strongly disliked the original 10-month freeze, and it would likely oppose another extension — […]

Last Friday, Wikileaks released a huge trove of documents on U.S. conduct of the war in Iraq. The release was conducted in collaboration with the New York Times, the Guardian, Channel 4, Al Jazeera, and Der Spiegel, and consisted mostly of U.S. military incident reports. Early reaction has concentrated much more on the substance of the material than on criticism of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. In part because of improvements in redaction policies, but also because negative revelations about the Iraq War are no longer as controversial as criticism of the ongoing Afghanistan conflict, attacks on Wikileaks have been more […]

Now that Russian President Dimity Medvedev has committed to attending next month’s NATO summit in Lisbon, allied leaders need to finalize the negotiating package they will present to the Russian government at the event. NATO and Russia agree on many important security issues, such as the need to counter maritime piracy, while they differ on others, including Medvedev’s proposed European Security Treaty and further NATO expansion. Some of their most significant disagreements lie in the realm of nonproliferation and arms control, with the three most divisive issues in this area concerning Iran’s emerging nuclear weapons capability, the alliance’s missile defense […]

The Nobel Committee’s decision to award jailed Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo the 2010 Peace Prize came just days before China’s Communist Party elite anointed political princeling Xi Jinping as President Hu Jintao’s clear successor, highlighting the two Chinas that now seem to be passing one another like ships in the night. One China is propelled from below by a coastal workforce that is increasingly self-confident in its skills and accomplishments and growing income. The other, larger China is managed from above by political leaders who increasingly worry over the nation’s social stability as they grow more self-defensive in their […]

Are the Palestinians preparing their own version of the “Kosovo gambit” through a unilateral declaration of independence in the event that U.S.-sponsored peace talks falter? While the United States has insisted for years that the Kosovo case was sui generis — a unique situation that set no precedent for resolving frozen conflicts anywhere else in the world — the Palestinian leadership appears to be ignoring that memo. Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, last week bluntly stated that it is time to “declare the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, […]

When the Nobel committee selected Liu Xiaobo as the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, the distinction brought unwanted attention to China. For obvious reasons, Beijing did not want the world honoring a man who has dedicated decades to challenging the country’s political system. But Beijing, in fact, seems uncomfortable with any kind of attention. Earlier this year, when the Chinese economy overtook Japan’s to become the second-largest in the world, Chinese officials seemed determined to downplay what is by any measure an impressive achievement, declaring that the rising Chinese powerhouse remains “a developing country.” To be sure, China […]

In June, Rolling Stone helped bring down Gen. Stanley McChrystal by publishing “The Runaway General,” a Michael Hastings article depicting McChrystal’s staff as contemptuous of civilian authority. Last month, Bob Woodward’s “Obama’s Wars” suggested that the uniformed military had boxed President Barack Obama into an escalation of the Afghanistan War. In tandem, the publications re-awakened concerns about the health of civil-military relations in the United States. Although the military has not directly challenged civilian authority, some observers worried that contempt in the ranks and the effort to control policy in Afghanistan could spell trouble for civilian supremacy. The Winter 2010 […]

With many U.S. allies bracing for imminent cuts to defense budgets, and with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates engaged in a campaign against profligate spending at the Pentagon, the military reserve components — which frequently suffer disproportionately from reductions in defense spending — might make for a tempting target. But cutting back on these crucial elements of modern Western militaries would be a mistake with significant operational consequences. As in other countries, the U.S. military reserve structure reflects the nation’s distinct historical origins, security requirements, and constitutional principles. But the U.S. Department of Defense is unique in possessing seven major […]

It is hard for most Americans to fathom why the U.S. military should be involved in either Afghanistan or northwest Pakistan for anything other than the targeting of terrorist networks. And since drones can do most of that dirty work, few feel it is vital to engage in the long and difficult task of nation-building in that part of the world. These are distant, backward places whose sheer disconnectedness relegates them to the dustbin of globalization, and nothing more. If only that were true. But as globetrotting journalist Robert D. Kaplan makes eminently clear in his new book, “Monsoon: The […]

In advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to India next month, the administration is sending signals about great and wondrous changes ahead in the Indo-American relationship. But in reading Lalit K. Jha’s dispatch from Washington, a term I have come to dread in foreign policy rhetoric made its predictable appearance: Obama’s visit is supposed to herald the establishment of a “true strategic partnership.” “Strategic partnership” entered the U.S. diplomatic lexicon as a way to find a halfway house between those countries that are formal American allies — especially those for whom this status is a matter of treaty and Congressional […]

While Western diplomats and sanctions-enforcers ply their trade to pressure Iran into stopping its uranium enrichment, much of the Middle East is already preparing for war. Headlines might focus on United Nations resolutions initiated by Western powers, or on fiery speeches delivered by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But just a few hundred miles from Tehran, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf have launched a race to arm themselves with an urgency and intensity reminiscent of America’s defense build-up prior to its entry into World War II. The magnitude of the weapons purchases is nothing short of astounding and the […]

A multinational flotilla of warships has been assembled off the coast of Somalia to do what warships have done for as long as navies have existed: fight pirates. However, the combined efforts of France, Britain, Russia, China, India, the United States, and others have not sufficed to prevent the pirates from targeting ships across the breadth of the Indian Ocean. In much the same way that poorly equipped insurgents are resisting U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, impoverished Somalis continue to frustrate the great naval powers. Indeed, counterpiracy and counterinsurgency share a common frailty: Both lack good metrics for evaluating success, […]

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Few would have expected it to be possible a few months ago, but Kyrgyzstan managed to hold a free, fair, and surprisingly non-violent and trouble-free parliamentary election this weekend. In an assessment widely shared by regional experts, David Trilling, writing at EurasiaNet, concluded, “Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary elections couldn’t have gone better.” Turnout exceeded 50 percent of the country’s 2.8 million eligible voters and produced sharply divided results that will force political leaders to compromise to form a coalition government. Five political parties, out of the 29 that participated, overcame the 5 percent threshold required to receive seats in the 120-member parliament. […]

After having cooperated to an unprecedented degree — on stimulus spending and new bank rules, for instance — to avoid a global meltdown these past two years, the world’s major economies now appear ready to turn on one another with truly self-destructive vengeance. Poorly informed Americans are increasingly convinced that free trade pacts — and not our uniquely high corporate tax rates — are responsible for sending jobs overseas, and they want to see China punished with tariffs on its imports for its undervalued currency. With China’s neighbors intervening heavily to keep their own currencies from rising too high in […]

Reports surfaced this week that the Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban has agreed to commence negotiations with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in an effort to reach a political settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan. The development, reportedly the result of intensive lobbying by Saudi Arabia, raises the question of whether any sort of workable Afghan power-sharing deal is possible. Some opinion polling data from Pashtun-dominated provinces in Afghanistan suggest that there is popular support for reaching such an arrangement. But could the United States accept a negotiated end to the fighting that includes some degree of […]

Some of the most distressing aspects of human behavior have endured stubbornly throughout history. To name just one example, human beings continue to inflict unspeakable horrors on other human beings in the course of combat. It is, indeed, a well-established fact that war is hell. But there is one feature of warfare, well-documented and generally accepted as unavoidable since biblical times, that is now coming under increasing scrutiny and facing a well-organized pushback: the use of rape as a weapon of war. As David Axe just reported for WPR from Congo, a growing number of organizations are now focusing their […]

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