Ironically, the cyber-attack that shut down the Web sites of the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Trade Commission struck on Independence Day. Because as unsophisticated as the attacks were, they made it clear that the U.S. is as intertwined with its enemies as it is with its allies, in a newly emerging, little-understood, and rapidly evolving 21st-century terrain. In probing the future of American influence, it’s apparent now that cyberspace occupies a prominent place in an unwieldy battlefield known as the global commons. Michele Flournoy — who holds the position of undersecretary of defense for policy at the […]

WARDAK, Afghanistan — They used to call Afghanistan “the forgotten war.” They should rename it “the long war.” Not only because it’s been going on for eight years now, but because it’s going to have to go on even longer if the West is to achieve even measured success in this broken country. Wardak province, just west of the capital, Kabul, where I’ve spent the last three weeks with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, illustrates this perhaps even more powerfully than the country’s more war-ravaged areas in the south. For Wardak is not such a terrible place. This is […]

DILI, Timor-Leste — Security sector reform (SSR) is a vital part of state-building, especially in Timor-Leste, a country that came close to civil war in 2006. Significantly, though, few Timorese political leaders interviewed about the issue wanted to speak about one of the highest priorities for the U.N. Mission in Timor-Leste: completing — and, by extension, to some degree implementing — a comprehensive security sector review. Neither the review nor the overall role of the U.N. in SSR was raised in any of World Politics Review’s meetings with politicians in Timor-Leste. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Dili-based foreign diplomat […]

Few countries engage in internal debates with the passion and intensity that one finds in Israel. And no debate has engendered more intensity in Israel than the one over how to achieve peace with the Palestinians. Which makes it all the more striking that, today, Israelis have reached a quiet consensus on one key point: President Barack Obama needs to make some urgent changes to his Mideast push for peace. Just what exactly Obama should change is, of course, far from agreed. Washington may never satisfy the demands of Israelis on the extreme right who insist on keeping the West […]

The release last week of a European Commission report highly critical of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s progress in their efforts against corruption serves as a useful reminder that both Brussels and Ankara should exercise patience while negotiating Turkey’s European Union bid. The Bulgarian and Romanian cases demonstrate that both Europe and its potential members are best served by an exhaustive, deliberate accession process. Negotiations between Turkey and the EU have slowed recently due to increasing doubts in both Turkey and Europe about the wisdom of further expansion. Already suffering from “enlargement fatigue,” Europe has seen the economic crisis highlight its internal […]

President Barack Obama’s lofty pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons is off to a peculiar start. But the main reasons are not Kim Jong-il’s nuclear saber-rattling on the Korean peninsula, the centrifuges continuing to spin in Iran, or even the political and technical reasons that skeptics highlight to mock President Obama’s decision to recommit the U.S. to eliminating nuclear arsenals around the world. Instead, the twin Achilles’ heels of the “no nukes” quest are that patience, rather than urgency, is the prevailing attitude, and that the disarmament community has failed to engage youth movements as an antidote to the […]

Last August, the senior officer aboard the USS Kearsarge, a U.S. Navy ship deployed to Latin America, issued an unusual order. Capt. Frank Ponds ordered the hundreds of sailors, Marines, soldiers and airmen under his command to avoid using the term “troops” when describing themselves to Latin American reporters. The seemingly bizarre command reflects widespread concerns over the military’s escalating involvement in humanitarian missions all over the world. Kearsarge’s six-month cruise supporting hundreds of military and civilian doctors, engineers and aid workers in six countries, including Nicaragua and Colombia, was one result of that increased involvement. While the Pentagon characterizes […]

NATO officially launched the process of revamping its Strategic Concept this month. As of now, the alliance’s next mission statement is “a blank sheet of paper,” in the words of outgoing Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. But NATO’s recent pronouncements and current challenges offer plenty of guidance on how to fill the page. First, NATO nations must invest more in defense, and they must remember that theirs is, above all, a military alliance. As the secretary general observed, military operations are “NATO’s core business.” The U.S. spends about 4 percent of its GDP on defense, but only four other […]

Andrew Exum is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and author of the influential counterinsurgency blog Abu Muqawama. He just returned from a month in Afghanistan, where he took part in recently appointed U.S. and Coalition commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s 60-day review of strategy and operations. He graciously agreed to talk with WPR Managing Editor Judah Grunstein about his impressions from his trip. The views expressed here are his own, and do not reflect any U.S. government or military position, nor the views of the CNAS. The following is an edited and abridged transcript of the […]

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her first official trip abroad to Asia in March 2009, insiders in both New Delhi and Washington were privately critical that she neglected to include India in her itinerary. With her now-completed inaugural visit to India, Clinton’s broad mission was to show that the administration of President Barack Obama is just as serious about a strategic partnership with New Delhi as the previous one under George W. Bush. But strengthening the U.S.-India bilateral relationship is just one part of the equation, even if, to be sure, there is much work to be done […]

Thanks to the assets and strategy developed during the past decade, the United States has thus far effectively managed the swine flu (H1N1) threat. The resources, plans, and authority now at the federal government’s disposal have enabled it to respond to a major health crisis that caused more serious problems in other countries. The Bush administration left a robust toolkit for the Obama team, which for its part has used it well. Cooperation among federal, state, local, private, and other important actors has been effective in distributing public face masks, implementing mass inoculation campaigns, and taking other timely responses. At […]

Last February, the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction published a comprehensive 456-page historical analysis of the Iraq reconstruction experience entitled, “Hard Lessons.” The IG, Stuart Bowen — who was there from the beginning, assuming the post actually before the invasion — was kind enough to send me a copy this week. Having now read it, I must say it’s an incredible piece of data collection and analysis, even if, in my opinion, its concluding optimism about the U.S. government’s recent efforts to better prepare itself for the next “Iraq” — already upon us in the form […]

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While the U.S. military remains preoccupied with ongoing operations in the Middle East, competition brewing in the South China Sea risks greater conflict if not properly managed. Two recent maritime incidents in the region involving the Chinese and American navies are manifestations of ongoing jockeying between the two powers, and are a reminder that subtle shifts in power have put new areas of Asia into play. In March, Chinese naval vessels harassed an American reconnaissance ship, the U.S.N.S. Impeccable, 75 miles off the coast of Hainan island, and in June, a Chinese submarine stalking a U.S. Navy destroyer collided with […]

The 10th Mountain Division has recently deployed to Afghanistan’s Wardak province in an effort to apply U.S. counterinsurgency tactics to the region 30 miles west of Kabul. Although security has improved since they arrived, American and Coalition efforts still face significant challenges. Insurgent attacks, mainly mortar and roadside explosive devices, remain a threat. The performance of Afghan police and army units — a central component of U.S. and Coalition strategy — is markedly improved but still leaves much to be desired. And winning the trust and allegiance of Afghan villagers, in particular among the Pashtun, is a daily struggle, often […]

Last week, while I was busy writing about two fascinating scenarios for the future of U.S. influence, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was delivering the latest in a long line of brilliant speeches, this time in Chicago. In it, he nailed down exactly the kinds of concrete changes that must happen in order to retool the institutions of American foreign policy for the radical challenges of the next two decades. The speech underscored that, even as Gates emerged victorious this week from a Washington budget battle, there’s a more massive challenge looming. At first glance, the battle in Washington was […]

Editor’s note: Balint Szlanko’s WPR Photo Feature that accompanies today’s reporter’s notebook can be found here. WARDAK, Afghanistan — It was always going to be hard to get the Afghans — and especially the Pashtuns, the ethnic base of the Taliban — to cooperate with the corrupt and incompetent Afghan government in Kabul. One of the biggest tests, perhaps, is the effort to get people to join the recently established Afghan Police Protection Force (APPF), an armed neighborhood watch that is being piloted in Wardak province, before it is extended to other parts of the country. Setting up and arming […]

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