As the Libya operation enters what appears to be its final phase, the debate is only beginning as to what it portends for the future of U.S. policy and the international system as a whole. The course of events in Libya over the past months validates what I have termed the “just enough” doctrine. The Obama administration successfully resisted pressure — from Libyan rebels, European allies and domestic critics alike — to increase the U.S. role in order to achieve a faster outcome in Libya. If that doctrine takes on greater coherence, it could strengthen the arguments for limited, targeted […]

The future of Libya was never terribly important to the U.S. That has now changed. Under the rule of the flamboyant Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Tripoli managed to garner a lot of attention, but, in fact, the country had only marginal strategic importance to the West. Then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted as much soon after the U.S. agreed to join a NATO effort on the side of the rebels seeking to topple the regime. Once NATO launched its operation in Libya, however, the stakes for Washington suddenly grew. And now more than ever, with Gadhafi out of power, Libya has […]

Over the past few days, Libyan rebels supported by NATO airstrikes have seized most of Tripoli. The rebels’ apparent military success has quieted, at least for the moment, many critics of NATO’s military strategy in Libya. While a full account of the lessons learned from the conflict must await the writing of a full history — not to mention the end of the actual war — the events of the past few days demand a degree of re-evaluation of how the campaign was conducted. Indeed, this column has offered several critiques of NATO’s performance, including commentary on the dubious legality […]

The first public showings of post-Soviet Russian-made aircraft were held last week at Russia’s recently completed International Aviation & Space Salon exhibition, known as MAKS-2011 and held at Zhukovsky airfield outside Moscow. More than 400,000 visitors attended the five-day biennial aviation event, at which hundreds of aerospace firms were represented, including many foreign ones. The exhibition shed considerable light on the revival of Russian military aviation as it attempts to break free from lingering Soviet-era constraints. Until a few years ago, Russian aerospace companies struggled to keep Soviet-era weapons platforms operational through upgrades. The Russian military-industrial complex rarely produced any […]

Ian Bremmer, the founder and head of Eurasia Group (for which I work as an analyst), has argued that we are living in a “G-Zero” world, or one in which there is no genuine great-power leadership. From the perspective of political science, it is hard to disagree, as anyone reading a newspaper these days can attest. Still, the historian in me says this situation cannot last for too long. My reasoning here has nothing to do with the global correlation of military force, since thanks to globalization’s emerging middle class, “butter” will inevitably emerge as the winner over “guns.” Instead, […]

It is amusing to hear U.S. politicians of all ideological stripes sounding like classic libertarians as they proclaim that, in these times of fiscal austerity, the United States should no longer act as the “world’s policeman” and that other countries should be contributing “their fair share” to global security. Nevertheless, the many studies undertaken by the fellows of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, detailing how the United States can shift to becoming an “offshore balancer,” thereby reducing its footprint around the world, and how our European and East Asian allies can afford to do more in the service […]

Amid the anxiety and devastation of the London riots, there was one brief comic interlude, when the government of Iran urged British authorities to use restraint in dealing with protesters. The appeal was bitterly amusing, of course, because of the brutal tactics Tehran used to put down protests in 2009. Police in London managed to end the rioting using traditional crowd-control methods. But then, in the wake of a public outcry over the disturbances and the disappointing performance of the police, British Prime Minister David Cameron made a highly controversial proposal: Next time, he suggested, the government might choke off […]

The biggest defense news from the past week concerned the beginning of sea trials for China’s first aircraft carrier, Varyag. A former Soviet/Ukrainian hulk and the sister ship of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, Varyag finally set sail after a long process of refurbishment. The ship, which may now go by the name Shi Lang, will likely only serve as a training carrier, but her embarkation on trials has generated great consternation among observers of the Asian naval scene. Officials from both the United States and Japan have asked China to explain its need for an aircraft carrier, as […]

article card

In thinking about how to support the twin goals of deterrence and assurance, the Obama administration has been struggling with how best to integrate U.S. nuclear weapons, conventional forces and missile defenses into a coherent strategic posture. Now budgetary pressures are making the trade-offs involved in striking the necessary balance for such an initiative even sharper. These three military tools interact in complex ways. Nuclear forces are very powerful but for the most part unusable due to their destructiveness and the taboo associated with their use. Their main value is therefore to deter adversaries and reassure allies, thereby helping to […]

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I was completing my doctoral dissertation on Warsaw Pact-Third World relations. I immediately understood that my time in Soviet studies was done. Why? Because I knew that Russia was full of brilliant political scientists who, once free to pursue their craft free of ideological constraints, would do a better job explaining things there than outsiders could. The generation of Russian scholars that emerged in the post-Soviet era proved me right, and none has consistently impressed more than Dmitri Trenin, who heads up the Moscow office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Trenin, […]

The riots this past week in the United Kingdom, coming on the heels of the terrorist attack in Norway last month, the protests in Greece and the tsunami and subsequent nuclear accident in Japan earlier this spring, should be a wake-up call to Europe and the rest of the developed world that it cannot ignore the domestic side of the national security equation. It is time to dispense with the hubris of thinking that natural disasters, civil unrest or terrorism produces instability only in countries like Haiti or Iraq. And as Reuters correspondent Peter Apps notes, while a massive police […]

Of all the uprisings underway in the Middle East, none has the immediate potential to tilt the regional balance of power to the degree that Syria’s does. Under the Assad dynasty, Damascus has played a pivotal role in determining the relative strength of rival powers. Now, with the government of President Bashar al-Assad under pressure from its own people and with the brutality of the regime’s repression raising a popular outcry throughout the world, the principal powers in the Middle East are maneuvering to solidify their positions and reinforce their claim to regional leadership. Mideast powers are moving their chess […]

The downing of a Chinook helicopter carrying 31 Americans on Sunday graphically highlighted the continuing costs of fighting the war in Afghanistan. The presence of Navy SEALs among the dead made an emotional connection with the May killing of Osama bin Laden almost inevitable. The logic of that connection, though, has largely remained implicit: With bin Laden now dead, how long should the United States continue to accept the loss its very best in Afghanistan? Ending wars can be very difficult, even when the strategic ends of a war no longer justify the costs incurred. For the U.S. in Afghanistan, […]

The State Department is currently planning to assume leadership of the U.S. mission in Iraq on Oct. 1, 2011. Yet, recent proposals in Congress to cut further the department’s budget for Iraq, following two reductions in planned spending last year, threaten to defeat a transition plan that, if not quite representing victory, offers the best hope of achieving an outcome acceptable to U.S. interests as well as to the Iraqi people. The planned handoff of the U.S. mission in Iraq from the Defense Department to State includes positioning some 17,000 political, economic and security personnel under the authority of the […]

This month’s debt-ceiling deal in Washington did little to quell the growing chorus of complaints around the world concerning America’s continued inability to live within its means. As those complaints invariably translate into corporate hedging, government self-defense strategies, credit rating drops — Standard and Poor’s is already in the bag — and market short-selling, the U.S. will most assuredly be made to feel the world’s mounting angst. This is both right and good, even as it is unlikely to change our path anytime soon: Until some internal political rebalancing occurs, America will invariably stick to its current cluster of painfully […]

While Washington lawmakers congratulate themselves for avoiding a default on U.S. government obligations by raising the debt ceiling at the proverbial 11th hour, and the halls of the Capitol ring with praise that the “system worked as intended,” the view from outside the Beltway is not so sanguine. Certainly, the U.S. has not fallen into the morass that bedeviled 18th-century Poland, where with a single negative vote, any member of the assembly could force its dissolution — and the nullification of all legislation passed during that session. But the inability of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the president […]

The new Middle East is very much a work in progress, but there is little question that the latest developments in that pivotal part of the world are making the stirring picture of freedom, democracy and secularism that so many had envisioned in the early days of the Arab Spring look more like a glassy mirage masking anti-liberal, anti-Western sentiment. As spring has given way to a boiling summer, most of the region’s revolutions have either stalled or moved in a direction that bears little resemblance to what progressive forces had initially hoped for. Not only have Arab liberals experienced […]

Showing 1 - 17 of 201 2 Last