Is it time for NATO to begin wrapping up its Libya operation? The observance of Ramadan will begin in a few days, and even though Islamic tradition permits those involved in combat to be exempted from the requirements of the fast, most analysts expect a dramatic slowdown in major combat operations on the part of both pro-Gadhafi and anti-government forces during August. While NATO spokesmen have indicated that sorties will continue to be flown during the holiday, the pace of combat will lessen. This, in turn, may reinforce conditions on the ground, which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff […]

Few political leaders in power today have harnessed the power of the media as effectively — and as personally — as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. From the moment he took office, Chávez deployed himself across existing platforms, using every available communications resource to present himself, his ideology and his policies directly to the public. Now, as his idiosyncratic rule runs up against limitations imposed by serious health problems, Chávez has found that the latest in modern communications technology, social media, is a most useful tool. Chávez is becoming the Twitter President, issuing a continuous stream of 140-character opinions and dictates […]

As the father of 2-year-old twin daughters, I often find myself thinking about how international politics and foreign policy will play out across their lives. Of course, parents aren’t the only “institutions” that wonder about the possibility of forecasting and shaping the future. Governments, international organizations and companies make huge investments of both lives and money based on expectations with time horizons of 10, 20 and even 50 years. Nimitz-class aircraft carriers have been in service for more than 30 years and may serve for another 40. The United States is currently wrestling, in a very public manner, with the […]

Matthew C. DuPée’s WPR briefing last week on Afghanistan’s counternarcotics efforts skillfully analyzes how U.S, U.N. and Afghan policies are failing to achieve an enduring reduction in the country’s opium production. Now neighboring governments, especially Russia, are growing increasingly worried that NATO’s withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan will force them to confront the problem largely by themselves. At present, the main threat Russia faces from Afghanistan comes in the form of Afghan narcotics exports. According to the United Nations, Russians are consuming much of the recent surge in Afghan narcotics production, which has occurred despite stagnant or even declining […]

There is no faster route to second-tier great power status than for an actual or aspiring superpower to fight a crippling conflict with another country from those same ranks. Moreover, if history is any guide, the glass ceiling that results is a permanent one: This was the fate of imperial Britain, imperial Japan and Germany — both imperial and Nazi — in the first half of the 20th century, and the same was true for Soviet Russia in the second half of the century, despite Moscow’s conflict with the West being a cold one. The lesson is an important one […]

Most experts believe that one of the most catastrophic mistakes made during the U.S. occupation of Iraq was the decision to disband the Iraqi armed forces in May 2003. The question is not merely of interest to historians and those writing “after-action” reports on the Iraq invasion. After all, other Iraq-style regimes — most notably in Syria, Libya and North Korea — are likely to fall in the near future. In all three states, the armed forces are part and parcel of the longstanding political order, and there will be those arguing for their complete dissolution in order to sweep […]

When pro-democracy protesters took on President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, watching from his perch in Lebanon, could hardly contain his glee. Arab demonstrators were taking on yet another Sunni dictator who was hostile to Hezbollah. At the time, the Arab Spring looked like good news to the Iran-backed Shiite militants. But the popular revolts did not stop with Hezbollah’s foes. Now that an uprising next door threatens the rule of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, one of Hezbollah’s principal patrons, Hezbollah is starting to look less steady. As the wave of popular unrest washes across the region, […]

Depending on your perspective, the original “Red Dawn,” released in 1984, was either a coming-of-age milestone or a crime against the medium of cinema. The movie pitted a high school football team in rural Colorado against the better part of a Soviet airborne brigade, the former led by Patrick Swayze and the latter led, for some reason, by a Cuban colonel. Not surprisingly for an American film, the Americans do quite well, although they are eventually overwhelmed by the firepower of Soviet helicopter gunships. Later this year, a remake of “Red Dawn” will hit the screens in the United States. […]

One sign of how good relations between Russia and the United States have become is that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spent three days in high-level meetings in Washington without attracting much attention from the American news media. Bilateral ties may finally be evolving, at least for now, into a more mature, almost normal relationship between two great powers sharing common interests as well as limited areas of disagreement. Lavrov discussed a range of important issues with his American interlocutors, including Libya, Syria, Iran, Korea, Afghanistan, South Sudan, terrorism, the Israel-Palestine peace process, the United Nations and even Alaska and […]

Americans today are enjoying the most peaceful period, on a per capita basis, in human history, with virtually all of the remaining mass violence in the system occurring not between organized militaries, but rather sub- and transnationally — that is, within nation-states and across their borders. The frequency, length and lethality of conflicts are all down from Cold War highs, despite the growth in both numbers of countries and world population. Nonetheless, most Americans continue to have extremely misdirected fears and impressions regarding the global security landscape. We see a world of wars and believe them all to be of […]

The Obama administration’s decision to begin a process of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan was predicated on the assumption that the U.S. and NATO mission in that country had successfully set it on a “glide path” toward an acceptable level of stability. While always acknowledging the fragility and reversibility of progress achieved to date, there was increasing confidence that, especially after the elimination of Osama bin Laden, the U.S. had turned a corner in Afghanistan. The assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, or AWK, throws all of this into doubt. Whether his killer in fact acted on orders of the Taliban, or […]

A century ago, Argentina was one of the world’s richest countries. Since then, Buenos Aires has given the world a primer on how to derail, disrupt and mismanage economic growth, with successive governments finding new and creative ways to stop prosperity in its tracks. Now President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner is adding a page to the nation’s playbook, and this time, the main theme is deliberate denial of reality. With the specter of inflation threatening to overheat and burn Argentina’s economic recovery, Fernandez enacted a most peculiar strategy to combat the problem: denying there is one. In recent years, the […]

On Saturday, South Sudan achieved formal independence from the central Sudanese government in Khartoum. The event was cause for considerable celebration as well as several rounds of expressions of concern from observers in Africa and the West. While the status quo was untenable, the prospects for South Sudan look far from bright. It lacks both a well-defined border with its hostile mother-state and control over much of its own territory, and appears to have minimal administrative, military or normative capacity. In other words, it’s a disaster waiting to happen. The bleak scenario facing Juba raises the question: What have we […]

With a territory as large as France, the Republic of South Sudan became the world’s 193rd independent country on July 9. But while the South Sudanese now have an independent state with vast natural resources, they have yet to build a nation out of some 50 different tribes with diverse languages, beliefs and other key characteristics. Many obstacles will impede progress toward this end, and the outcome depends primarily on the South Sudanese themselves. But the international community can make important contributions to help realize this goal. We in the United States know these challenges well. When Americans declared independence […]

The sense of ideological triumphalism with which China recently celebrated the 90th anniversary of Communist Party rule echoed a flood of recent books and analyses in the West that have readily embraced that same sentiment. Nevertheless, there is a growing mountain of evidence that suggests China’s “unprecedented” economic accomplishments are far less impressive than popularly imagined. And with the region’s “demographic dividend” already shifting from China to both India and Southeast Asia, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Beijing — and the world — is just one financial crisis away from finding the “superiority” of state capitalism revealed […]

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Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has set a timer in motion for resolving the outstanding differences between the North Atlantic alliance and Russia over a proposed ballistic missile defense system in Europe. Since the architecture for this shield is expected to be finalized at the May 2012 NATO summit in Chicago, Rogozin said that time is running out to determine what role, if any, Russia will play in the system. “Our current dialogue on missile defense is very difficult,” Rogozin said, “but we must finally either agree or disagree by the end of this year.” If not, Rogozin warns […]

When the generals in Myanmar orchestrated their pseudo-democratic pageant last November, the exercise was labeled a “sham” by most of the world. Some in the West, however, speculated that despite the deeply flawed elections, the long-ruling junta might still redeem itself and allow real democratic progress in the wake of the polls. So far, however, the optimists are being proven spectacularly wrong. In the months since the vote, the country has marched in the direction of civil war and intensified oppression rather than toward democratic reconciliation and real reform. The election may, in fact, have made matters worse. Myanmar’s new […]

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