The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have one of the most formidable and durable military alliances in the world. This alliance has preserved peace and stability in Northeast Asia and ensured nuclear restraint among Asian powers. It has weathered extreme domestic unpopularity in South Korea and pressures in Washington to reduce U.S. overseas defense obligations. During the lifetime of this military alliance, the junior partner has transformed from a war-battered, backward military dictatorship into a prosperous democracy with the world’s most-wired population and one of the world’s largest economies. Most American and Korean strategists agree that the […]

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While reporting her WPR feature story, The FARC’s Last Stand, Anastasia Moloney visited La Macarena, a mountainous jungle region in Colombia’s southern province of Meta. The rebel guerillas have turned the difficult terrain into their final stronghold in their efforts to withstand Colombia’s increasingly effective counterinsurgency campaign. A bird’s eye view of the Macarena jungle (Anastasia Moloney). Colombia’s elite counterinsurgency OMEGA force (Anastasia Moloney). Soldiers on patrol in Macarena (Anastasia Moloney). Soldiers on patrol in Macarena (Anastasia Moloney). Brig. Gen. Alejandro Navas, commander of OMEGA forces (Anastasia Moloney).

On March 25, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) released its annual Military Power of the People’s Republic of China (.pdf) report. Despite the recent change in White House occupants, the text resembles the department’s previous Chinese military power reports, suggesting that holdovers from the Bush administration supervised its composition. As required by the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual report assesses the current and likely future military capabilities, doctrine, strategies, and operational concepts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The U.S. and other foreign officials have repeatedly complained about the severe constraints on transparency that the Chinese […]

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Unofficial results from Sunday’s local elections suggest that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has suffered its first major electoral setback since the party was founded in August 2001. In the nationwide elections for provincial assemblies, the moderate Islamist AKP won 38.9 percent of the total vote, ahead of the nationalist Republican People’s Party (CHP) with 23.1 percent and the ultranationalist National Action Party (MHP) with 16.1 percent. However, the AKP’s overall vote was 7.7 percentage points down on the 46.6 percent it won in the last general election in July 2007, and lower than the […]

LA MACARENA, Colombia — Seen from the air, the sweeping mountains of the Macarena jungle in Colombia’s southern province of Meta stretch interminably towards the hazy horizon. The muddy Guayabero River snakes through this green land of deep canyons and forested valleys. It is here that Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), clings to its last stronghold. Colombia’s southern provinces are the front line in the U.S.-backed counterinsurgency campaign against the guerrillas, the site of daily clashes between government troops and the FARC. Looking down from above on the rugged mountainous terrain, it is clear […]

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Standing on the HESCO barriers that ring Forward Operating Base Morales-Frazier in Kapisa Province, just north of Kabul, one can see three enormous, beautiful valleys. To the north lies the Nijrab, whose “fingers” are home to a mainly Tajik population, with some Pashtun areas. To the east sits Afghanya Valley, which hosts Pashtuns in its lower half and Pashai in its upper half. And to the south is Tagab Valley, an almost entirely Pashtun area that has become famous for its entrenched insurgency. FOB Morales-Frazier, the soldiers it hosts, and the area it stands watch over […]

Internecine ideological battles have bedeviled the foreign policy of every U.S. administration in recent memory. Human rights liberals fought unsuccessfully with Cold Warriors for control of the Carter administration. New-right hardliners initially won the war for Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy soul but then lost it to George Schultz’s old-guard Republican realists. The Clinton administration became an altar on which liberal interventionists exorcised the Democratic Party’s Vietnam Syndrome demons. Most bitterly and most tragically, the first term of George W. Bush’s presidency demonstrated what happens when neoconservatives and their allies win more ideological contests than they lose. Barack Obama’s young presidency […]

WASHINGTON — Last week, the Obama administration announced a new interagency initiative involving the government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, designed to put a stop to the drug-fueled violence that has swept the northern parts of Mexico in recent months. Among the initiatives, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice officials — with their Mexican counterparts — will confront the criminal enterprises that traffic drugs, arms and cash across the border. Many in Washington welcomed the invigorated strategy, and rightly so: Increased and effective cooperation between the U.S. and its southern neighbor is long overdue. Bush administration policies combining […]

JUAREZ, Mexico — In the past few months, the U.S. Army, attorney general, and various politicians have issued grave warnings about the atrocities taking place south of the Mexican border. They tend to describe a war that Mexico, because of deeply ingrained corruption, is incapable of containing on its own. But in one of Mexico’s deadliest cities the murder rate has recently plummeted, largely due to federal military intervention and an ambitious anti-corruption campaign. Following a spate of brutal killings early this year, media reports depicted Juarez as a war zone, a city on the verge of a humanitarian crisis. […]

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After seven years in Afghanistan, it’s back to basics. On Friday, President Barack Obama unveiled the results of his comprehensive and long-awaited policy review of the U.S. war strategy in South and Central Asia. Reining in what has become a discombobulated mission, he asked outright, “What is our purpose in Afghanistan?” He then went on to answer his own question: Our purpose is the pursuit of al-Qaida and its leadership, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. There is little surprise in that decision. Likewise, the new way forward offered few unexpected headlines. The strategy will focus on an approach to […]

MILAN, Italy — ZAPATERO’S DEJA VU: The Italian general commanding part of a multinational NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo learned from a newspaper story last week that he was losing 620 of his troops. They were the Spanish forces under his command, which Spain’s defense minister announced would be pulling out by the summer. The Italian press reported Madrid’s handling of the withdrawal decision as a breach of good manners, but the general was in good company. Turns out Defense Minsiter Carme Chacon and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero even failed to notify members of the Spanish government. The […]

WASHINGTON — The new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that the Obama administration unveiled today reflects a policy consensus that has been more than a year in the making. It is only recently, however, that the U.S. government has begun to take the lead in developing and implementing this new strategy. In the waning days of the Bush administration, U.S. allies — most notably the British government — as well as foreign policy wonks at think tanks in Washington and elsewhere began formulating an alternative policy for an Afghanistan war effort that had begun going downhill in the latter half […]

In his seminal essay the “Twenty-Seven Articles,” T.E. Lawrence wrote that “a bad start is difficult to atone for” in an insurgency or counterinsurgency effort. As the Obama administration prepares a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, it is learning that lesson all too well. For more than seven years, Afghanistan has been the neglected war, impaired by insufficient resources, troops, planning and oversight. Facing a resurgent Taliban, the administration now has no choice but to chart a new path. Some of the president’s strongest supporters are urging him to scale down U.S. ambitions in the country. They contend […]

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — With opposition rallies across Kyrgyzstan planned for today, the government of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has taken calculated measures to avoid a repetition of the Tulip Revolution that swept his predecessor, Askar Akayev, from power almost four years ago to the day, on March 25, 2005. Disillusionment with the current administration is widespread among political observers and the public at large, and is arguably as strong now as opposition to Akayev was four years ago. But experts predict that the demonstrations will achieve relatively little, even as many worry they may be the last chance for the opposition […]

On her recent Asian tour, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made Jakarta a key stop. The move signaled a new direction for American foreign policy in the region following that of the Bush administration — which was accused by critics of having neglected Southeast Asia, and of having alienated Indonesians with its military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. While insiders and policy wonks might point out that the U.S. and Indonesia worked well together on counterterrorism issues during the Bush era — successfully undermining Jemaah Islamiyah, for instance — the perception lingers that Washington did not regard Indonesia, and […]

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No one ever accused Israel of having a boring political scene. True to form, its next prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, pulled a rabbit out of a hat and, in one dramatic move, transformed the shape of his incoming administration. A government that was expected to empower a narrow right-wing coalition will now include the leftist Labor party. As a result, the incoming government will look much more palatable to the international community as well as to Palestinians. In addition, Netanyahu hopes, his coalition will prove much more stable and durable. Netanyahu, a former prime minister and leader of the rightist […]

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A smart, sensible essay from Ilan Goldenberg at Democracy Arsenal arguing for a Middle Path in Afghanistan, well worth a read. I think my biggest objection is that he’s proposing a Buddhist solution for an Islamic country. Other than that, it’s hard to argue with it. There are really no attractive options in Afghanistan. The maximalist approach assumes unlimited resources and political will, and the minimalist approach probably underestimates what a determined America can accomplish. As Goldenberg points out, the risk of a middle path is that it will be just enough to accomplish nothing. But it also might give […]

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