According to the United Nations, today marks the birth of the world’s 7 billionth person, an event sure to cause great angst among the many surviving Malthusians who still believe that humanity’s ingenuity and the planet’s resources are both finite. But thanks to globalization’s continued advance and the modernization it enables, roughly four-fifths of humans live in societies with falling birth rates and half live in societies featuring lower than replacement-rate fertility. So we now know that the trajectory of global population growth will proceed somewhat more slowly toward our eighth and ninth billions, and that we may never reach […]

In my WPR column two weeks ago, I argued that a key challenge facing U.S. policymakers in the coming decade was in defining how the U.S. “should prioritize its interests, commitments and partnerships.” A number of recent articles and reports suggest that a broad consensus is indeed emerging, and that when it comes to U.S. foreign policy priorities, all roads lead to Asia. In his own WPR column this week, Thomas P.M. Barnett notes that “regional integration in East Asia depends on an American security presence,” a conclusion that many of the participants at a recent trilateral Korea-Japan-U.S. security dialogue […]

Last March, in a remote monastery in China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, a young Tibetan monk lit the spark that started a quiet but dramatic new revolt against Chinese rule in Tibet. The 20-year-old Phuntsog set himself on fire and later died of his wounds. His death subsequently triggered a wave of self-immolations among Tibetans, which has persisted despite China’s blunt efforts to smother the largely silent uprising. Compared to the boisterous protests unfolding throughout the world, the actions in the tiny town of Aba (Ngaba in Tibetan) near the border of the so-called Tibetan Autonomous Region are receiving minimal […]

The battle to define the lessons of the Western intervention in Libya began almost as soon as the first Tomahawk missiles started hitting that country’s air defense network back in March. Many of the arguments have focused on the viability of the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine of international humanitarian intervention and how it might apply to such countries as Bahrain or Syria. However, defense analysts also subjected the military character of the campaign to scrutiny, with some now suggesting the fight in Libya indicates that airpower has finally fulfilled its decisive promise, having matured to the extent that it can […]

Turkey’s ongoing military operation on both sides of its border with Iraq highlights the recurring problem confronting the Turkish government and military in their fight against Kurdish terrorists: The insurgents’ area of operations, like the Kurdish population itself, straddles Turkey’s borders with Iraq, Iran and Syria. The governments of all four countries share an interest in suppressing Kurdish separatism and violence, but each has at times also found Kurdish terrorism to be a useful tool to pressure the others. This transnational component to the problem means that the current Turkish military operation, which followed coordinated attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ […]

As part of a “big think” forecast project commissioned by an intelligence community sponsor, I’ve begun to think about the future geography of global security. As often with this kind of project, I find myself falling into list-making mode as I contemplate slides for the brief. So here are nine big structural issues that I think any such presentation must include – Regional integration in East Asia depends on an American security presence. Virtually every country in East Asia is realistically planning for eventual absorption into a regional economic scheme structured around behemoth China, while quietly scheming to balance that […]

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An unfortunate legacy of America’s “sole superpower” status is the tendency to over-emphasize Washington’s agency in shaping the global environment and downplay the role of others. For instance, the Obama administration deserves a great deal of credit in changing the tone of the U.S.-Russia relationship. But also critical to the reset’s success were Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election, which took that country off the European geopolitical chessboard, and the ongoing instability in Pakistan, which made the Northern Distribution Network more vital to supplying the military mission in Afghanistan. It may sound like a truism, but it is one that U.S. policymakers […]

When Israeli officials confirmed they had reached a deal with Hamas that would result in the freeing of the captured soldier Gilad Shalit, the reaction in the country was one of joy mixed with a heavy dose of apprehension. Israel had no good choices left when it agreed to make the lop-sided trade, which involved the release of more than a 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, many of them serving sentences for involvement in horrific terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. And yet, the widely held view is that the deal, while compelling on humanitarian grounds, will not only bring […]

A new report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has shed light on one of most important developments in the international arms trade market of the past 10 years: the decline in Russian arms sales to China. While diplomatic relations between the two powers remain relatively strong, their trade in arms has collapsed since the middle of the last decade. The cause of this collapse stems not from any substantial political conflict between the two, but rather from “ordinary” tensions that afflict great power relations. While the greatest immediate impact of this development will be felt by Russia and […]

Last week, on a study trip to Turkey for U.S. foreign policy specialists sponsored by the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON), I traveled to Ankara, Hatay and Istanbul to meet with government officials, academic and think tank experts and business leaders. While there, we discussed many issues, including the remarkable health of the Turkish economy, the domestic political scene, the increased tolerance for expressions of Kurdish and Islamist identities, and Turkey’s relations with other countries. But perhaps the overarching theme tying all these issues together for us was the “Whither Turkey” question. For decades the Republic of […]

There exists within the Pentagon an unshakeable line of reasoning that says the Chinese military threat to the United States in Asia is profound and growing, that the most likely great-power war conflict will be over Taiwan or the South China Sea, and that the primary trigger will be China’s burgeoning — and uncontrollable — nationalism. Objectively, China’s military capabilities are certainly growing dramatically, but our conventional wisdom tends to break down in the structural plausibility of the scenarios. That’s why the firm belief that rampant nationalism will trigger an eventual conflict becomes so crucial, especially when considered in combination […]

In her WPR column yesterday, Frida Ghitis noted that the global chessboard is being “reset” as countries re-examine longstanding partnerships and alliances, both formal and informal, in the face of broad geopolitical changes taking place today. “As a result,” wrote Ghitis, “the coming months and years will bring about a recasting of important strategic links, some of which have been part of the global landscape for decades.” The evidence of this transformation can be found across the Middle East and South Asia, as a result of the Arab uprisings, but also due to the Afghanistan War, which has strained U.S. […]

With a variety of major political and military events unfolding across Asia and the Middle East, many countries are re-examining longstanding formal and informal partnerships and alliances. As a result, the coming months and years will bring about a recasting of important strategic links, some of which have been part of the global landscape for decades. The combined effect of America’s war in Afghanistan, its fight against Muslim extremists inside Pakistan and the ongoing Arab uprisings are prompting a fundamental rethinking of some of the bilateral and multilateral ties that have served as the bedrock of international affairs in recent […]

Is the world about to see a “drone race” among the United States, China and several other major powers? Writing in the New York Times, Scott Shane argued that just such an arms race is already happening and that it is largely a result of the widespread use of drones in a counterterror role by the United States. Shane suggests that an international norm of drone usage is developing around how the United States has decided to employ drones. In the future, we may expect that China, Russia and India will employ advanced drone technologies against similar enemies, perhaps in […]

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin followed up his unsurprising Sept. 24 declaration that he would again seek the presidency with a more surprising call: to create what he called a “Eurasian Union.” In a rare and lengthy newspaper piece published on Oct. 4, Putin announced his desire for Russia to again lead a multinational bloc of tightly bound, former Soviet republics. But major obstacles stand in the way of Putin’s project, and the prospects of a new Eurasian Union emerging anytime soon in the former Soviet space are small. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the influential Kommersant newspaper that […]

“Resource wars” enthusiasts worldwide have a new — and unexpected — poster child: “zero problems with neighbors” Turkey. The Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is beside itself over Israel’s recent moves to cooperate with Cyprus on surveying its Eastern Mediterranean seabed for possible natural gas deposits thought to be lying adjacent to the reserves discovered last year off the coast of Haifa. I told Reuters last week that the mounting war of words between Turkey and Israel, which includes some clear military preparations, amounts to a “storm in a teacup.” But other respected experts quoted in the […]

The decision this week by Russia and China to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for its use of violence against its domestic opponents has attracted much attention — and opprobrium. What has generated less discussion is the fact that the three states of the IBSA bloc — India, Brazil and South Africa — abstained from the vote. But their unwillingness to support the resolution has clear implications both for the future of the “responsibility to protect” doctrine as well as for America’s own relationships with the rising democracies of the South. […]

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