In a recent World Politics Review article, U.S. Army Col. Gian Gentile declared that COIN is “dead” as the motivating intellectual concept for the U.S. Army. Although combat continues in Afghanistan, to some extent guided by the precepts set forth in the Army’s “Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency,” Gentile argues that the inability of COIN doctrine to produce a definitive outcome in Afghanistan, along with the end of fighting in Iraq, serves to render the school of thought obsolete. Indeed, Gentile argues that the Army should abandon the “search for lessons of strategic value from the past 10 years of counterinsurgency […]

On Nov. 23, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned NATO that it needs to address Moscow’s security concerns over its plans for European ballistic missile defense (BMD) or face renewed confrontation. Although Medvedev’s declaration, made in a special televised announcement, may have been designed to boost his party’s fortunes in next week’s parliamentary elections, his position is a widely held one within the Russian government. And since he listed a series of demands that, while not unreasonable, cannot be met by NATO governments, the next Russian and American presidential terms will probably see renewed battling over the BMD issue. Medvedev recalled […]

It is hard to think of a period in the past five decades in which this country was more painfully bereft of national leadership than it currently finds itself. On one side we have an increasingly isolated president who, as Edward Luce opined recently, “prefers to campaign than govern.” On the other is a House-controlling GOP that, in the words of Thomas Friedman, “has gone nuts.” What’s more, the highly negative campaign that 2012 is shaping up to be will secure no governing mandate for the eventual winner, meaning that things are likely to get far worse. The result will […]

President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Australia highlighted, in a very deliberate way, a decision to shift U.S. attention and resources away from the Middle East and toward East Asia. Obama’s remarks to the Australian Parliament, combined with his announcement of a new basing agreement at Darwin, on Australia’s northern coast, framed several days of discussions on the role that the United States would play in Asian power politics. Sam Roggeveen of the Lowy Institute of International Politics, an Australian foreign policy think tank, suggested that Obama’s speech in Canberra was as important and consequential as the Cairo speech of […]

In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington last Friday, Viktor Ivanov, the director of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), laid out an ambitious agenda for increased Russia-U.S. cooperation in several counternarcotics areas, characterized by “new thinking” on a variety of issues. Ivanov, who stopped in Washington after attending the fifth meeting of the Counternarcotics Working Group of the U.S.-Russia Presidential Commission in Chicago, proposed creating an integrated command for counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan that would include representatives from the FSKN, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force […]

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Thanks to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the two wars they spawned, it seemed like the near entirety of President George W. Bush’s two terms in office were characterized by efforts to define, harness and exploit fear. Despite living in the most peaceful, prosperous and predictable period in world history, Americans became convinced that they faced an unending era of war, impoverishment and chaos. That muddled mindset put us painfully out of touch with the rest of the planet. Enter then-Sen. Barack Obama, whose masterful presidential campaign in 2008 spoke openly and honestly about healing that growing rift. […]

Nairobi’s Operation Linda Nchi, or Protect the Country, was launched in October as a counterterrorism measure after kidnappings of foreign tourists and aid workers inside of Kenya were linked to the Somalian militant group al-Shabaab. For a country that has seen lucrative tourism revenues, especially from cruise ship visits, dry up in the wake of the instability emanating from Somalia, the abductions were the last straw. But an unintended side benefit of the intervention has been its impact on piracy. In the face of the military operation, with Kenyan army units pushing up toward the port of Kismayo, Somali pirate […]

The order that structured the Arab Middle East for the past several decades is now coming apart, giving way to a new power landscape in the region. The new topography of strength is still very much a work in progress, but it is not too early to ask which countries are emerging as the most powerful and influential. This is a matter of importance not only to the states in the region. For centuries the Arab world has been the epicenter of regional and global struggles, and the ongoing changes it is currently undergoing pose a vital question for actors […]

How much danger would Iranian nuclear weapons pose to the world? This question animates the debate over whether the threat of the Iranian nuclear program is worth robust sanctions or a preventive military attack. Nuclear weapons are by their nature alarming, and the Iranian regime says and does a lot of alarming things. But how useful are nuclear weapons, even to a state with bad intentions? How much do they change tactical and strategic behavior? For devices capable of destroying cities and killing millions, the answer is surprisingly murky. States sometimes have excellent reasons for developing nuclear weapons. Countries that […]

Despite expectations, the 10th Meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) held in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Nov. 7, 2011, did not announce the addition of any new full members or full observers. The SCO governments have repeatedly claimed that they need more time to establish the rules and procedures to govern new members. In reality, the existing members have proven unable to overcome their differences regarding which countries should receive membership or observer status. Indeed, some appear to fear that membership enlargement would weaken rather than strengthen the organization. Clearly the SCO remains stuck in […]

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report on Iran’s nuclear program surprised no one, even as it created the usual flurry of op-eds championing preventative “next steps.” As I’ve been saying for the past half-decade, there are none. Once the U.S. went into both Iraq and Afghanistan, the question went from being, “How do we prevent Iran from getting the Bomb?” to “How do we handle Iran’s Bomb?” That shift represents neither defeatism nor appeasement. Rather, it reflects a realistic analysis of America’s strategic options. With that in mind, here are 20 reasons why Iran’s successful pursuit of the Bomb […]

The latest IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear program is a particularly bad piece of news for an Obama administration that is already coping with other brushfires in the Middle East. If President Barack Obama is re-elected next year, then Iran will very likely cross the nuclear finish line on his watch. Given the “musical chairs” nature of U.S. politics, where the person left standing when the music stops loses, the blame for Tehran getting the bomb will fall squarely on Obama’s shoulders, even though one could quite fairly apportion a fair share to the Clinton and Bush administrations. Since 2009, […]

During a time of turmoil in many of the world’s regions, one corner of the globe is receiving little attention — a sign that things are going rather well there despite the audible commotion elsewhere. South America, a continent that for decades made unwelcome news, has settled into a steady, if not exactly sedate pace of progress. To be sure, the Southern Cone is not free of problems — far from it. But compared to the atmosphere of crisis stalking the developed West, or the political upheaval battering the Middle East, it looks downright placid and, dare we say, promisingly […]

Under what circumstances could the United States and China go to war? A recently released RAND report (.pdf) examined this question and unsurprisingly concluded that war between the two countries was improbable, even while identifying North Korea and Taiwan as the two most likely flashpoints. The report found that a war with China was improbable because the costs in any scenario would be virtually incalculable, in large part because it might induce a global financial collapse. Nevertheless, U.S. and Chinese military strategists will continue long-term planning for war scenarios against one another, with a time horizon of up to 50 […]

According to media reports, the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessment of Iran’s nuclear program due out this week will find that Iran has made considerable progress in developing a nuclear weapons capacity despite international sanctions, cyber attacks and other impediments. As a result, Iran will soon be in the position to develop nuclear weapons should its leaders decide to pursue them. The IAEA assessment will reportedly provide three new revelations about Iran’s program. First, it will confirm that Iran has resumed its research and development of a nuclear warhead. That contrasts with the 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, […]

No credible international affairs specialist would contend that the 2012 presidential election will hinge on U.S. foreign policy, given the state of the U.S. economy and the widespread social anger that one sees bubbling up across the country. What’s more, Americans — if not Beltway partisan pundits — have achieved a certain sense of consensus on foreign policy under President Barack Obama, whose leadership has displayed a palpable “give them what they want” dynamic that reflects his desire to keep overseas issues on the back burner while he focuses on domestic ones. That last part should not be mistaken for […]

Scarcely was the ink dry on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s interview with Time magazine in which she extolled U.S. global leadership than the Palestinian bid for membership in UNESCO called into question the secretary’s optimistic appraisal of American influence around the world. Despite the claims of some pundits that a cabal of U.N. bureaucrats somehow engineered Palestine’s admission as a full member state of the organization, the ultimate responsibility lies squarely with the governments that cast their votes in Paris on Monday. Given the importance and sensitivity of the Palestinian question, it is highly unlikely that UNESCO ambassadors were […]

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