Sri Lankan ethnic Tamil women sit holding placards with portraits of their missing relatives as they protest outside a railway station in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 6, 2015 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

JAFFNA, Sri Lanka—More than eight years have passed since Sri Lanka declared the end of its nearly three-decade long civil war. Since then, the small island-nation in the Indian Ocean has made significant progress. The country has remained mostly peaceful; tourists have started arriving in droves; and investors, especially from China, have started pouring billions into Sri Lanka, given its strategic location. And yet Sri Lanka’s march toward a stable, peaceful and prosperous future is threatened by two closely related problems: its hesitant approach to dealing with the events of the past, and its reluctance to tackle emerging tensions. In […]

French President Emmanuel Macron, center right, and Burkina Faso’s president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, center left, wave during a visit to a school in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 28 , 2017 (AP photo by Ahmed Yempabou Ouoba).

After a first six months spent focused on matters domestic and European, French President Emmanuel Macron has begun to travel farther afield. He is in West Africa this week, having arrived yesterday in Burkina Faso and continuing on to Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. Earlier this month he traveled to the Persian Gulf for a planned visit to the United Arab Emirates, making an unplanned stopover in Saudi Arabia on his way back to Paris. In West Africa, Macron will try, as all new French presidents must, to reset a relationship burdened by the historical legacy of colonial exploitation and postcolonial […]

Soccer fans in Saudi Arabia cheer as they hold up pictures of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a 2018 World Cup qualifying match in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 5, 2017 (AP photo).

The drama surrounding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues to captivate policy communities around the world. Is MBS, as the upstart royal is known, a genuine reformer or a reckless and ambitious young leader who has more power than he has wisdom? He is strongly identified with Saudi Arabia’s costly war in neighboring Yemen, the nearly six-month diplomatic standoff with Qatar and the geopolitical struggle with Iran. At home, he has spearheaded ambitious plans to open up social space, reinvent the political system and adapt the kingdom’s economic strategies for a changing world energy landscape. The rise of MBS […]

The United Nations Security Council votes to pass a new sanctions resolution against North Korea during a meeting at U.N. headquarters, New York, Sept. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Jason DeCrow).

Some political battles seem so obviously over and done with that you can forget that the losing side’s grievances are still important. I discovered this because of a comment I made in a recent interview for a German website: that “discussions of Security Council reform are dead” at the United Nations. This is not quite true, technically speaking. Diplomats do continue to hold periodic meetings on ideas to change the council’s composition and rules. But nobody actually believes that these are going anywhere, so it seemed safe to write off the whole process almost in passing. Once the interview was […]

French President Emmanuel Macron greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, July 12, 2017 (AP photo by Michel Euler).

Negotiations to form a coalition government in Germany broke down this week, leaving Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the country, in a state of suspended animation two months after an inconclusive general election. The possible ways forward include Merkel continuing as chancellor at the head of a minority government, or new elections. Opinion polls, however, suggest that a fresh round of voting would do nothing to significantly alter the electoral outcome or resolve the current impasse, opening what could be an extended period of political uncertainty in a country long known for its stability. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union suffered a drop […]

The Puerto Rican National Guard delivers food and water brought via helicopter to victims of Hurricane Maria, to the San Lorenzo neighborhood of Morovis, Puerto Rico, Oct. 7, 2017 (AP photo by Ramon Espinosa).

This week, many Americans savor the seasonal culinary delights of Thanksgiving, while around the world, food insecurity is on the rise, particularly in places suffering from conflict or acute climate disruptions. The Saudi-led blockade of Yemen is being investigated by the United Nations as a war crime. Across the globe in Puerto Rico, it took a celebrity chef, Jose Andres, to help respond to critical food needs after Hurricane Maria, cooking whatever was available locally for a population without electricity or sufficient support from the U.S. government. The implications for policymakers cover a gamut of issues around food security, from […]

Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov raises his hand to vote against a resolution condemning Syria’s use of chemical weapons, U.N. headquarters, New York, April 12, 2017 (AP photo by Bebeto Matthews).

It is Cold War time at the United Nations again. Last week, Russia caused diplomatic uproar by vetoing not one, but two Security Council resolutions extending a U.N. investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Moscow is angry with the investigators for accusing the Syrian regime of using sarin gas and chlorine bombs. Russia has now used its veto 11 times to block resolutions over the Syrian war since 2011, four of them this year. Every veto sparks a ritualistic bout of outrage in the Security Council. All sides seemed especially tetchy last week. Nikki Haley, the U.S. […]

A U.S. Marine major walks past a line of soldiers from the Uganda People’s Defense Force as they engage in weapons training at the Singo facility in Kakola, Uganda, April 30, 2012 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

The United States has always been a reluctant superpower. While most political leaders and observers have believed that promoting security around the world benefits the United States, the public has to be sold on the idea of global activism. Among other things, this makes it important to control the costs of involvement in distant places without direct ties to the United States, particularly U.S. military casualties. This has been done in two ways: by relying on security partners to bear the brunt of deterring and fighting adversaries, and by sustaining an advanced U.S. military to overmatch enemies when it does […]

Nationalists burn flares during a march to mark Poland’s Independence Day, Warsaw, Nov. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Czarek Sokolowski). The march suggests Poland is at risk of becoming the European capital of xenophobia.

An annual march on Poland’s Independence Day has become a magnet for ultranationalists from across Europe. In 2017, the march drew 60,000 neo-fascists into the streets. If a major European country becomes a hub of far-right radicalism and xenophobia, the ramifications for Europe and the West would be damaging. On Nov. 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I, Poland celebrates its national Independence Day. This year, the most popular of the many events held that day took on a shocking tone, capturing the world’s attention and raising a sense of alarm. While most of the observances unfolded […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping after attending a business event at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China, Nov. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

I suspect I speak for many close observers of international affairs when I express my frustration with the sheer repetitiveness of trying to decipher signal from noise amid the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump’s lengthy jaunt through Asia is the latest case in point. On the one hand, he managed to reassure many observers by staying “on-script” through much of the trip, although defining success as avoiding any public displays of pique—rather than securing any concrete deliverables—is a sign of how low the bar has now been set for Trump. On the other, he did […]

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Three recent stories about U.S. intelligence offer insights into how the massive effort to collect and interpret data about threats to the United States has performed over the past few years, and how that effort must increasingly deal with challenges from technology, bad actors and even from political leaders. The first story is about the planned release of old U.S. intelligence documents, which are straightforward enough. The second is the publicly acknowledged damage done to American signals intelligence from hacking or leaking. The third, and perhaps most troubling, is President Donald Trump’s startling statement while overseas in Asia that he […]

United Nations peacekeepers from Niger patrol the streets of Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Jan. 10, 2011 (AP photo by Rebecca Blackwell).

United Nations peacekeepers have a branding problem. The blue helmets, once much-admired symbols of international cooperation, are now routinely associated with venality and incompetence. Regular allegations of sexual abuse have tarnished their reputation, and U.N. forces have struggled to manage surges of violence in trouble spots such as South Sudan. The U.N. has not yet properly come to terms with well-attested claims that Nepali peacekeepers introduced cholera to Haiti, killing thousands. As a result, media reports about peacekeepers now start from the presumption that U.N. personnel are a problem rather than a solution to major crises. U.N. officials wearily note […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking at the plenary session of the annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, Sochi, Russia, Oct. 19, 2017 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

When World War II ended in 1945, the United States hoped that wartime cooperation with the Soviet Union would continue. The dream of then-President Franklin Roosevelt was for an enduring partnership of the victorious great powers acting together to prevent future world wars. But this was not to be. Whether ideological differences between the Soviet Union and the United States doomed postwar cooperation from the start, or the idea was deliberately sabotaged by Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, Washington and Moscow were soon locked in the Cold War. The United States—new to great power statecraft and global leadership—did not know initially […]

A Houthi sniper keeps watch over a rally to mark the third anniversary of the Houthis’ takeover of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, Sept. 21, 2017 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

Now that the self-described Islamic State has all but lost its caliphate in Iraq and Syria, leaving the term “state” as a relic in its name, many people may be breathing a sigh of relief, anticipating a reduction in the gruesome violence that inundated social media and occupied global strategists in recent years. But those hopes could be dashed. There is a high probability that even more violence is ahead. The drums of war are pounding in the Middle East and beyond, and the chance that a new war will start in the near future is far from negligible. For […]

Children wave U.S. and Chinese flags as President Donald Trump arrives at the airport in Beijing, China, Nov. 8, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

A year ago today, Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election stunned observers in the U.S. and around the world. During the campaign, Trump had repeatedly violated the norms of acceptable behavior by a mainstream political candidate, with no apparent cost. He also questioned the conventional wisdom and broad bipartisan consensus that had underpinned U.S. foreign policy since as far back as the start of the Cold War, particularly with regard to America’s global role and alliances. In the immediate aftermath of the surprise result, Trump’s election raised several questions. Coming on the heels of the Brexit referendum and […]

U.S. President Donald Trump listens to South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a joint news conference at the Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 7, 2017 (AP photo Andrew Harnik).

North Korea looms large on U.S. President Donald Trump’s agenda during his nearly two weeks in Asia. Compared to discussions on trade and economics, and Trump’s handling of his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and a now-likely one with Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats have the gravest consequence for regional and global security. With Trump, the North Korea crisis appears to be playing out on several, sometimes-contradictory levels. His national security officials hold out proposals for diplomatic contact, or military options short of full-scale war, while the president opts for brash messages to intimidate […]

Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump react as they watch the election results during Trump's election night rally in New York, Nov. 8, 2016 (AP photo by John Locher).

Anyone who comments on politics should take time off in the coming days to reflect on their mistakes and imperfections. This week marks the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, an event that highlighted the weaknesses of the commenting classes. Prior to election night, almost all observers believed Trump could not win. After he did so, analysts and editorialists churned out confused, panicked and lame pieces about what he would do in power. While pundits claim to forecast the political future, they often perform poorly in the face of unexpected twists. Scott Malcolmson, an editor […]

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