Last week, Khalid Masood, a British-born convert to Islam with a long criminal record, plowed a vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge and then stabbed a policeman before being killed by other police. Unsurprisingly, the self-styled Islamic State claimed responsibility. Whether the group actually had any involvement with Masood was irrelevant, since his religious-tinged violence fit its narrative. As usual the America media was flooded with commentators asserting that the London attack once again demonstrated that violent jihadism is not a distortion of Islam but its true essence. The Westminster attack, they claimed, was just one […]
Last Sunday, Russians did something they had not done in years: They took to the streets by the tens of thousands. In a wave of mostly unauthorized protests in about 100 different cities, crowds defied government restrictions and risked arrest in order to challenge the status quo. The protests’ principal organizer, Alexey Navalny, was arrested, as were more than a thousand other demonstrators. It was an impressive show of force by an opposition movement that had seemed all but completely crushed by the increasingly undemocratic government of President Vladimir Putin. The weekend protests were the largest in Russia since demonstrations […]
Just last weekend, the European Union turned 60, marking the milestone with a leaders’ summit in Rome, where the treaty that launched the bloc’s first iteration was signed in 1957. In that time, the original economic community of six founding members grew to become a common market with elements of shared sovereignty joining 28 countries. Or make that 27. Today, British Prime Minister Theresa May, who did not join the festivities in Rome, formally notified Brussels of the U.K.’s intention to leave the union. By triggering Article 50 of the EU’s current treaty, she opens a two-year negotiating period that […]
Are Iraq and the U.S. Ready to Win the Peace After the Liberation of Mosul?
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Washington last week, and the Trump administration greeted him by approving more troops for the fight to retake Mosul and defeat the so-called Islamic State. The Iraqi government, for all its flaws, is taking the needed risks to regain control of its territory, and its leaders know that political reconciliation is vital. The Trump administration, for its part, is focused on winning the war. What remains to be seen is whether Washington will devote the necessary resources to winning the peace, and whether the Iraqis have a plan for doing so that the U.S. […]
Here are two excerpts from relatively recent remarks by U.S. officials on United Nations peacekeeping. One is from the Obama administration. One is from a Trump appointee. Can you work out which is which? Exhibit A: “If you look at the peace missions in Africa, it has been devastating to see the sexual exploitation, the fraud, the abuse that’s happening. And we have to acknowledge that some countries are contributing troops because they are making money off that.” Exhibit B: “Examples abound of peacekeepers not fulfilling their rudimentary responsibilities, such as not responding when citizens only five miles away from […]
Guest columnist Nikolas Gvosdev is filling in for Steven Metz this week. As the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump enters its third month in office, it is quite striking how conventional its approach to geopolitics has been in practice. Overblown fears that Trump, after his inauguration, would summon his Russian and Chinese counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, to a secret conclave at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, roll out a map of the world, and start negotiating spheres of influence have not materialized. Instead, the United States has continued with its mission to reinforce the eastern flank of […]
That high-level corruption is a serious problem in much of the world is no surprise. But when the Odebrecht case—a massive corruption scandal, possibly even the largest ever uncovered anywhere—burst onto the front pages of newspapers in nearly a dozen Latin American countries, it raised an important question: Is the uncovering and prosecution of major cases of graft a good sign or a bad one? Is it evidence that corruption is even more widespread than anyone knew and becoming worse? Or is it proof that the age of endemic corruption is coming to an end? The wrongdoing at Odebrecht, a […]
It’s no secret that President Donald Trump, like all of his recent predecessors, thinks America’s NATO allies have been free-riding on Washington’s largesse and should contribute more to their own security. In the familiar terms of NATO alliance management, that is understood to mean meeting the target of budgeting 2 percent of GDP for national defense. Set in 2006, that benchmark is currently met by only four other alliance members—one of them being tiny Estonia—with a fifth, France, falling just short. But last week, at a news conference following his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump went further than […]
Is Iran Actually Losing Ground in the Shifting Geopolitics of the Middle East?
Only a few months ago it was the conventional view that regional dynamics in the Middle East were working in Iran’s favor. By this account, Tehran was accumulating growing influence through its direct or indirect involvement in the region’s crises and conflicts, buoyed by the confidence born of sanctions relief after the nuclear agreement with the international community. But the picture is not so clear today. In fact, other regional trends involving Russia, the new administration in Washington, and Israel might be converging to put Iran on its back foot. The geopolitics of the Middle East are moving too fast […]
If you want to write about the United Nations these days, you need a thick skin. The Trump administration’s decision to cut funding to the U.N. in its first proposed federal budget, announced last week, has unleashed a vitriolic argument in the U.S. about the organization and its values. This is not new. The American left and right have long debated the U.N. in heated terms, often with little reference to what it really does. This debate last peaked a decade ago, after the Security Council refused to endorse the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The darker corners of American bookstores […]
Why Military Action Against North Korea Is the Worst Option—and Possibly Necessary
The threat from North Korea to the United States, the Asia-Pacific region, and the global economy is growing rapidly. For decades the dynasty of Kim family dictators has used military provocation to fend off external pressure. Over the past decade, this took a particularly ominous turn as Pyongyang added a nuclear capability to its massive conventional military force. Today the erratic aggression of Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s current dictator, is pushing the danger to ever greater heights, backed by a growing nuclear arsenal and ballistic missile capability. When North Korea first tested an atomic device in 2006, the United […]
It’s no secret why the global media converged on the Netherlands to cover Wednesday’s parliamentary elections. All eyes were on the small European country not because the world has great interest in Dutch politics, but because the elections looked like the third test for an emerging populist movement that had already scored victories in the United Kingdom with the Brexit vote and in the United States with the presidential election of Donald Trump. It fell to the Dutch, then, to erect a barrier to stop nationalist, anti-immigrant populists from winning three contests in a row. But advocates of moderate, inclusive […]
The row between Turkey and the Netherlands over a banned political rally by Turkish immigrants in Rotterdam has now escalated into a diplomatic crisis that threatens Turkey’s relations with the European Union. Like Germany had done days before, the Netherlands cited a threat to public order as the reason for banning the rally last week. The demonstration had been called to show support for Turkish constitutional reforms that would create an executive presidency, strengthening President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian grip on power. In addition to banning the gathering, Dutch authorities turned back the airplane carrying Turkey’s foreign minister to […]
Is Tillerson to Blame for Foggy Bottom’s Funk, or Is It Deeper Institutional Issues?
It’s abundantly clear that the State Department is underperforming. The quiet demeanor of the new secretary of state, Rex Tillerson; the vacancies in nearly all the second- and third-tier positions; and the intention of the White House to curtail State’s capacity to be an effective player in national security have converged to marginalize this key institution. Can one conclude that Tillerson is complicit in this shift of fortunes, or are there underlying problems that matter more than the man at the top? As Trump’s approach to foreign policy evolves, the concerns about the role of the State Department—and the new […]
Is China going to pass up an opportunity to reshape the international order? Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. appears to be distancing itself from its established role as leader of the global system. Many excitable pundits and even sober diplomats have speculated that Beijing could fill the vacuum America is creating. I have to confess to being one of the excitable ones. I argued in December that Chinese President Xi Jinping could counter Trump “by seizing the initiative on issues including climate change and free trade.” At the time, Trump—then the president-elect—threatened to punish the United Nations for a […]
When U.S. Republicans gathered to nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate at the party’s national convention last July, one of the many apocalyptic speeches they heard came from a man with a Dutch accent, bearing stark warnings from Europe: Geert Wilders, with his trademark bleached blonde bouffant, delivered a message that resonated with crowds accustomed to hearing Trump’s ominous worldview. “The situation in Europe today is worse than ever,” Wilders announced. “Europe, as a matter of fact, is collapsing, is imploding, is exploding. We have terror attacks by the Jihadis almost every week.” Wilders, a member of the Dutch […]
Seventy years ago, a new world order emerged from the ashes of World War II. It never worked perfectly; there were still wars between and within nations. But the system did help prevent large-scale, great-power conflict and provide a rules-based process for interaction between nations. Now it may be dying. The United States was not the sole inventor of the post-WW II order, but Washington was its primary architect. But the new order did not take the shape that U.S. leaders expected. As WW II ended, Americans thought that the victorious allied powers would manage world order in concert. When […]