One of the most intriguing aspects of the new political dynamics of the Arab Middle East is the decision by the tiny Gulf kingdom of Qatar to throw its full support behind the controversial Muslim Brotherhood in the contest for the future of the region. The choice by a monarchy to support a populist movement always looked like a gamble. But now, two years into what some still call the Arab Spring, with Egypt’s Brotherhood-dominated government scrambling to keep the country from spinning out of its control, the bet by Qatar’s emir looks riskier than ever. Evidence of Qatar’s backing […]

For decades U.S. security policy has followed two distinct tracks. In Europe, the Pacific Rim and the Middle East, the extent of American national interests and the possibility of aggression by hostile states led to a direct approach with formal security treaties and the stationing of U.S. forces. In places like Latin America, Africa and, more recently, Central Asia, U.S. strategy was indirect, focusing on security assistance and the provision of advice and training. Partnerships were the coin of the realm. The idea was that other country’s militaries, helped by the United States, would take responsibility for security in their […]

Though Russian oil production continues to rise and is currently approaching Soviet-era levels, forecasts predict it will soon peak and then decline, causing potential problems both for global oil importers and the Russian government’s budget. Averting this decline will require applying more-advanced production techniques to existing fields and exploiting new ones in the Arctic Ocean and elsewhere. Russia’s oil companies will be unable to accomplish this transformation on their own, however. To do so, they will need to secure greater foreign investment and partnerships offering more-advanced technologies and the exposure to better management skills. The benefits of increased foreign investment […]

The wars in Mali and Syria have followed very different trajectories over the past month. While Syria has become symbolic of international inaction, France’s use of force in Mali has shown that some Western governments are still willing to launch new interventions abroad. And while there have been no dramatic military shifts in Syria, French troops have pushed deep into northern Mali with growing speed. The crises also have very different geopolitical implications. The situation in Mali is the latest in a long series of French operations to stabilize its former colonies, although Paris enjoys an unusual level of African […]

It was odd to listen to foreign policy pundits comment on President Barack Obama’s inaugural address. Some announced that the administration had all but conceded that Iran will obtain a nuclear capability, and that Israel is being left out to dry. Others speculated that in his second term Obama will work to catalyze a broad-based Pacific alliance to counterbalance a rising China. There were those who argued that the second inaugural signals an expansion of the so-called drone war and use of special operations forces to deal with threats to the United States. Some read in Obama’s remarks a call […]

The outcome of Tuesday’s elections in Israel proved disappointing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was hoping to come away with an even stronger coalition after he formed an alliance between his Likud party and the right-wing Israel Beiteynu (“Israel is Our Home”). And yet, despite the disappointment, Netanyahu managed to retain the top job, just as everyone was sure he would. It would have taken a miracle, and not a small one, the pollsters said, for a leftist candidate to become prime minister. The only unknowns ahead of the vote were the margin of victory and the shape of […]

Today all conflicts have cascading effects, quickly engulfing neighboring states and, if unchecked, entire regions. They cause humanitarian disasters, refugee problems and sometimes ecological decay while abetting the spread of extremism, crime and disorder. The expanding violence in the Saharan region is a perfect example. Tragically, North Africa has joined the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Yemen and Somalia as one of the world’s most dangerous places. All of these conflicts share a pathology: Extremists associated with or inspired by al-Qaida blend with and exacerbate existing tensions based on ethnicity, sect, clan, race or personal patronage, making old conflicts even more deadly. The […]

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President Barack Obama begins his second term with a new national security team in the making. It now looks like most if not all his key nominees will secure Senate confirmation in coming months, with Sen. John Kerry at State, former Sen. Chuck Hagel at Defense and White House counterterrorism czar John Brennan at the CIA. Though some have described Obama’s new “team of friends” as representing an inward-looking impulse, world events may not permit that. As in his first term, Obama will probably again face a gap between his preferred goals and strategies — focusing on Asia and rebuilding […]

France has been at war in Mali for just more than a week, and though you might not know it from much of the media coverage, France is winning. This fact has been overlooked in a good deal of commentary on the fighting for three reasons. First, the Islamist rebels the French set out to fight have proved surprisingly resourceful. Second, the Malian army has turned out to be hopeless. Finally, the seizure and murder of Western oil workers in Algeria by a group associated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has shown that the Islamists have some strategic depth. […]

We are rapidly approaching the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. For some politicians, their initial stance on the war is something they might prefer to overlook. It will be interesting to see, for instance, if, during their nomination hearings, either Secretary of State-designate John Kerry or Secretary of Defense-designate Chuck Hagel is asked whether they still stand by their yea vote in October 2002 to give President George W. Bush the authorization to pursue military action against Saddam Hussein. For others, the inevitable retrospectives will fall into one of several predictable categories. Some will attempt to […]

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s efforts to portray an image of moderation for himself, for the Muslim Brotherhood and for Egypt under the Brotherhood’s rule threaten to come undone once again. This time, the curtain has been drawn back by a spate of video clips of the former Muslim Brotherhood leader making bluntly anti-Semitic statements. The statements cannot be dismissed as old rants from an over-enthusiastic young radical. They are recent, dating to just a few months before the January 2011 uprising that ultimately brought Morsi and his political allies in the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt. If Morsi wants […]

Last week’s meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai felt like a last desperate attempt to salvage a crumbling marriage: With the relationship clearly dying, the two sides quibbled over the pace of U.S. disengagement and the extent of future American aid and assistance. But as U.S. involvement in Afghanistan winds down, Americans should already be thinking about what they can learn from their longest war. U.S. national security strategy, as I explained in my book “Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy,” is shaped by the lessons drawn, rightly or wrongly, from previous conflicts, wars […]

Russia’s next-generation nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN), equipped with the new Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), officially entered service with the Russian navy’s Northern Fleet on Jan. 10. Christened the Yuri Dolgoruky, this first Borey-class sub was under construction at the Sevmash shipbuilding company from 1996 to 2008. The ship had originally been intended to carry the much larger Bark SLBM. When the Bark’s development problems led the Russian governmentto abandon it in favor of the smaller Bulava, Russian shipbuilders had to redesign the entire Borey class to accommodate the Bulava — before the missile had even moved beyond the drawing […]

The United Nations Security Council has had a lot of rebellions to worry about since 2013 began. Islamist insurgents in Mali launched a new offensive, provoking a military response by France. Tentative negotiations in the Central African Republic have persuaded rebels to pause their advance on the capital, Bangui, at least for now. There have been more fierce battles in Syria, extinguishing hopes for U.N. mediation there. While trying to keep track of these events, diplomats at the U.N. have also found time to debate military technology, peacekeeping and another unresolved rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Last […]

Are we seeing the opening of the third installment of President Barack Obama’s approach to national security? The first iteration, beginning in January 2009, was the attempt to deliberately channel the moderate realism of the George H.W. Bush administration. Obama reached across the aisle to invite Bob Gates to remain as secretary of defense and to recruit Gen. Jim Jones as the national security adviser. The administration backed away from the interventionist tendencies of its predecessor, downplayed the importance of democracy promotion and, borrowing a page from the playbook of former Secretary of State Jim Baker, concentrated efforts on pragmatic […]

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Today, Jan. 10, was the day when Hugo Chávez was scheduled to be sworn in for the fourth time as Venezuela’s president. Instead, he is lying in a Cuban hospital, suffering serious complications from cancer surgery, and the country’s legislature, dominated by the president’s loyalists, has delayed the ceremony indefinitely. As Venezuelans grapple with the political uncertainty created by Chávez’s precarious health, the prospect of a post-Chávez era poses complex choices for a number of other countries, not least among them, the United States. During almost 14 years in office, Chávez made anti-Americanism the cornerstone of his foreign policy, working […]

While teaching at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in the 1980s, I once heard a confused student officer from a foreign country say, “I’ll never understand your military. Not only does your navy have an army, but your navy’s army has an air force.” By navy’s army, he meant the U.S. Marine Corps, which is larger than most armies and possesses an air component far bigger than most air forces. This observation drew chuckles from the foreign officer’s fellow American students, but it raised an important issue: Does the United States need two separate ground forces in […]

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