With the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe, the ice that covers the Arctic Circle continues to dwindle. Recent estimates suggest that the area will experience ice-free summers by 2030. Until now, the United States has largely avoided the frantic race for control of northern waters. But with the pace of the thaw exceeding expectations, the Navy has launched a strategic plan, the Naval Arctic Roadmap (.pdf), to maximize the U.S. stake in the Arctic. The plan was written by the newly launched Navy Task Force on Climate Change (TFCC), created last May amid growing […]

PHNOM PENH — The trial of a Khmer Rouge prison commandant who oversaw the deaths of at least 12,000 people has wrapped up. But in his final statement, Kang Guek Eav, also known as Duch, stunned the court by asking for an acquittal. It was a complete about-face from a desperate man who had acknowledged he was guilty of crimes against humanity and breaches of the Geneva Conventions, although claiming he acted under orders and amid fear of retribution. The three Cambodian and two international judges declined the request and ended the trial. Sentencing is expected early next year. In […]

“Rebalancing” has been the watchword of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy to date: rebalancing the global economy between East and West, rebalancing domestic needs and foreign responsibilities, and — soon enough — rebalancing the international security burden among the world’s great powers. One number explains why that last rebalancing is necessary: It costs the United States $1 million a year to keep a soldier inside a theater of operations such as Afghanistan. The math is easy enough: For every thousand troops, the price comes out to $1 billion a year. So when the president announces, as he’s expected to do […]

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In May, I raised concerns that the “first steps” taken by President Barack Obama had given the administration some “breathing room” in terms of deliverables. No one expected back then that Washington would be moving on key initiatives. It was understood that the new team needed to get settled: The first hundred days is not a good time for breakthroughs. But six months later, it still doesn’t seem like a good time for them. At the Guadalajara summit in August, any effort to move forward on a series of important issues dealing with North America — trade, energy security, coping […]

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have ranged over the years from coolly cordial to openly hostile. After all, the two countries see themselves as rivals in the quest for regional influence and for leadership of the Muslim world. They have very different histories and conflicting political ideologies, and they stand on opposing sides of the Shiite-Sunni divide. In recent months, strains in the relationship have greatly intensified. Today, the differences between Tehran and Riyadh have brought the neighbors dangerously close to open confrontation. How serious is the crisis? Consider the recent headline in the respected pan-Arab newspaper Alsharq al-Awsat: […]

In hosting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this week for the first state visit of his administration, President Barack Obama can claim to be taking India seriously as a partner and rising power. But Indian doubts remain. U.S.-India relations are currently drifting, rather than surging forward as they had been for a decade. Bilateral ties developed an unprecedented intimacy under President George W. Bush, capped by an agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation that required both countries to take considerable political risks and overcome stubborn international opposition. Building on work begun by President Bill Clinton, Bush and his Indian counterparts unshackled […]

Amazonian countries, it seems, will have one chance and one chance only to work out a common negotiating position ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit next month. It will come in the form of a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 26, organized by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Perhapsreaching a regional agreement was seen as a formality, one so uncontroversial that even the feuding presidents of Colombia and Venezuela would join in. After all, the Amazon rain forest is a single ecosystem, and all the Amazonian countries emphasize the urgent need for its conservation. There is also broad […]

President Barack Obama failed to wring any concessions from China in his maiden voyage to Beijing last week. But the disappointing visit is only a symptom of the Obama administration’s dysfunctional and poorly conceived China policy, which, though well-intentioned, threatens to undermine U.S. objectives and wreck its global image. Dubbed “strategic reassurance,” the policy envisions a tacit bargain whereby the United States mollifies Chinese fears of containment, while Beijing assuages U.S. concerns about its global intentions and shoulders more international responsibilities. But so far, the policy has confounded more than clarified. Some China watchers wonder where Obama will strike the […]

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Two years after its formation, a controversial military program to embed civilian social scientists inside combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan is scrambling to recover from a string of crises. How the so-called “Human Terrain System” responds to a spate of combat deaths and a disastrous employee pay cut will determine whether the program survives in its current form. Human Terrain System, headquartered at Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas, is the brainchild of Montgomery McFate, a Harvard- and Yale-trained anthropologist. In a series of journal articles(.pdf) in 2005, McFate outlined the basic shape of what would become HTS. […]

Historic treaty ushers in long-anticipated era of U.S. southward expansion. AUSTIN, Texas — Meeting in the New Texas statehouse on the 195th anniversary of Texas’ declaration of independence from Mexico, official representatives from the Tejas Confederation, the Northern Alliance of Mexican States, and the United States government signed a comprehensive treaty that will immediately “re-admit” the Tejas states of El Norte and Gulfland to the American union, and submit to Congress formal pleas for new statehood on behalf of all five Northern Alliance members — Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Nuevo Leon. If all Alliance members are ultimately accepted […]

JAKARTA, Indonesia — As a country often referred to as an example of a moderate Muslim-majority state in the region, Malaysia has been raising eyebrows worldwide lately. A string of incidents has recently underlined tensions between the Muslim majority and the Christian and Hindu minorities, and otherwise painted the country with more Islamic colors. These have included Muslims protesting against Hindu temples by parading in front of one carrying a cow’s head; fathers converting their children to Islam without informing the mother; housewives sentenced to whippings for daring to drink a beer; and pop concerts being banned. But more worrisome […]

The Berlin Wall was quite literally the prop on which the entire Soviet security structure for Europe rested. When it fell, Moscow’s continuing illusions that Eastern Europe could somehow be maintained as a belt of neutral states separating the Russian heartland from the West collapsed like a house of cards. And yet the edifice had appeared so solid, so permanent. In the euphoria that followed the fall of the Wall — and which was again on display during the 20th anniversary celebrations — we forget that prior to 1989, the division of Europe into two blocs, East and West, was […]

Describing the changes taking place in the world after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Henry Kissinger once declared that the unification of Germany would be more important than the integration of the European Union, the fall of the Soviet Union more important than the unification of Germany, and the rise of India and China more important than the fall of the Soviet Union. He was right. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of the Asian superpowers has been the most important factor in world politics. It is also the single trend most responsible for the increasing […]

Last week, the European Union (EU) filled the two new positions established by the recently ratified Lisbon Treaty — president of the European Council and EU high representative for common foreign and security policy. Most of the press coverage following the appointments has focused on the personalities of the individuals selected for the jobs. But this preoccupation with personalities risks obscuring the more profound implications of the EU’s first steps toward implementing the treaty’s provisions. Commentators have generally disparaged the selection of Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy as president and Britain’s EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton as foreign policy […]

Since August, the Yemeni government has been engaged in an offensive against insurgents in Yemen’s northern Saada region — the sixth it has waged there since June 2004. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has long accused Tehran of aiding the Houthi rebels, portraying the local conflict as part of a larger regional struggle against Iran. Earlier this month, that conflict escalated dramatically when Saudi Arabia bombed Houthi positions along the Saudi-Yemeni border, following a Houthi attack on Saudi border guards. While evidence of direct Iranian involvement remains questionable, Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of Iran’s General Staff recently remarked, “Saudi Arabia’s effort to […]

For nearly three decades, there were few certainties about the global order as starkly tangible as the Berlin Wall. Cutting off East from West both literally and figuratively, it was the most important stitch in the Iron Curtain, and even on the eve of its collapse in the fall of 1989, few could imagine a world without it or the potentially apocalyptic divisions it represented. Yet when the Wall finally fell, eventually taking all of Soviet communism with it, a new set of certainties about the global political and economic order was born. And none has been more pervasive or […]

We are on the verge of repeating a pair of mistakes we made two decades ago, literally across the world from the scene of our errors in 1989. One lesson of the fall of the Berlin Wall was that states, or empires, can be much weaker than they appear. The revelation of Soviet vulnerability caught many American policymakers flat-footed. Another lesson was that careful strategic thinking is necessary for the United States to exploit shifts in the balance of power. While there were some successes in navigating the emergence of a post-communist Russia and independent former Soviet republics, the United […]

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