U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, right, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speak at a press conference at the Pentagon on April 16, 2015 (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen).

When the U.S. Department of Defense released its latest cyber strategy last week, it laid more than just another brick in the edifice of cybersecurity that the government has been building for decades. Coming just a few weeks after President Barack Obama’s Executive Order setting out a policy framework for sanctioning malicious cyber actors, the new strategy marks a significant evolution in Washington’s understanding and approach to providing security in the digital age. That’s because it comes with a warning to potential adversaries: The United States will no longer only be reactive in its cyber defenses, as the Pentagon will […]

Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia receive a package of humanitarian services, April 1, 2015 (European Union photo by Malini Morzaria).

Throughout history, one way the world has learned about severe political and humanitarian crises in remote locations is from unexpectedly large flows of refugees. When massive numbers of people decide to take enormous risks to escape the country of their birth, leaving their possessions and their loved ones behind, it is a sign of crisis—and often a portent of worse things to come. That’s why the recent tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea, where thousands of would-be refugees have drowned seeking to reach Europe’s shores, are calling urgent attention to a seldom-mentioned crisis: the quiet catastrophe in Eritrea. The most shocking […]

People watch machinery used to dig in search or survivors at a collapsed illegal gold mine in Santander de Quilichao, southern Colombia, May 1, 2014 (AP Photo/Oswaldo Paez, El Pais).

The head of the United Nations refugee agency in Colombia recently told Reuters that illegal mining and drug-fueled gang violence will continue to displace citizens, even if a peace deal is signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). In an email interview, Juan F. Vargas, a professor of economics at the University of Rosario in Bogota, discussed the impacts of illegal mining in Colombia. WPR: How widespread is illegal mining in Colombia, and who are the main groups profiting from it? Juan F. Vargas: Illegal mining is quite widespread in Colombia and is present along the Pacific coast […]

U.S. President Barack Obama talks with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice aboard Marine One en route to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England following the NATO Summit in Wales, Sept. 5, 2014 (Official White House photo by Pete Souza).

This past weekend, I had the privilege of taking part in the Harvard Extension School’s Crisis Game, a Cold War-era nuclear simulation involving some 30 graduate students and led by my colleague Tom Nichols. What was fascinating to observe was how even the prospect of a theoretical nuclear exchange was still capable of forcing a high degree of seriousness and focus among the participants, as various courses of action were debated and evaluated. Indeed, some of the participants themselves raised the question of whether U.S. national security policy today lacks the gravitas it appeared to have 30 years ago, particularly […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, left, and Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin attend the launch of the Malaysian Education Blue Print, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 7, 2015 (AP photo by Joshua Paul).

Since the end of 2014, Malaysians, normally living in one of the most stable countries in Asia, have witnessed an extraordinary political spectacle. Although the same ruling coalition has run Malaysia since independence five decades ago, 89-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently launched a fusillade of public attacks on the current prime minister, Najib Razak, his longtime political protégé. In articles and in speeches, Mahathir has accused Najib of allowing vast sums to disappear from 1MDB, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund; of evading questions about the suspicious murder of a Mongolian translator who allegedly had information about corruption in […]

Palestinian Hamas supporters protest an Egyptian court ruling that declared Hamas a terrorist organization, Gaza City, March 1, 2015 (AP photo by Khalil Hamra).

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Iran has transferred tens of millions of dollars to Hamas’ military wing over recent months in an effort to revive ties. In an email interview, Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, discussed Hamas’ internal divisions. WPR: What are the key areas of dissension between Hamas’ Gaza-based leadership and its foreign-based leadership? Nathan Thrall: Hamas’ primary challenge over the past several years has been navigating a rapidly changing regional landscape characterized by growing Sunni-Shiite sectarianism, as well as by intra-Sunni fighting. Hamas is a Sunni organization connected to the […]

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner smiles as she arrives at Vnukovo government airport outside Moscow, Russia, April 21, 2015 (AP photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko).

After a 12-year run, Kirchnerismo is nearing its end in Argentina. The next president, who will assume office in December after general elections in October, will inherit a country ready for a course correction—if not a complete change. There is no easy fix to the many ingrained political, economic and social problems that have befallen Argentina over the course of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s eight years in power, which followed the four-year presidency of her late husband, Nestor Kirchner. Still, great promise is the age-old tale in Argentina, and by putting a few key policies in place, the next […]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), U.N. headquarters, New York, April 27, 2015 (U.N. photo by Loey Felipe).

The monthlong 2015 review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which began yesterday, will put a spotlight on a number of priority issues on the nonproliferation agenda. Of these, the potential deal between Iran and the P5+1—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany—on Tehran’s nuclear program, which would bring Iran back into compliance with its NPT obligations, is likely to attract the most attention. However, the current arms control stalemate among the U.S., Russia and China, which has endured since the previous NPT review conference in 2010, will also shape the conference’s outcome. This stalemate results from […]

Nigerians protest against government corruption and the removal of a fuel subsidy, Lagos, Nigeria, Jan. 9, 2012 (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, File).

I carry a plastic chair over to sit with Pastor Samuel Tewogbola outside his house in the southern Nigerian town of Igarra. The family goat wanders past us, nosing the earth. It’s November 2014, and I am doing preliminary research for a future book. Tewogbola is a fire-and-brimstone preacher—43 years in a hard-line Pentecostal church. When I arrived with my friend Esther, his daughter, he made us all kneel in his doorway while he intoned thanks to Jesus for our safe journey. We’re philosophizing, talking about what makes up good human character, and about money—how money is used to buy […]

European Union Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager announces antitrust charges against Google, Brussels, Belgium, April 15, 2015 (EU Commission photo).

The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, brought antitrust charges against Google earlier this month, alleging that the U.S. tech giant manipulated its search engine to favor its comparison-shopping service, Google Shopping. The commission also expanded an investigation into whether Google forced manufacturers of Android mobile phones and tablets to use other Google services. The commission sent its “Statement of Objections,” outlining its allegations against the company, on April 15. Google now has 10 months to respond, and can either choose to settle and propose concessions to appease European regulators, or take the case to court. Either […]

People gather at the Place de Nation to ask for a civilian and democratic transition, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Nov. 2, 2014 (AP photo by Theo Renaut).

On the morning of Oct. 30, 2014, throngs of protesters overwhelmed security forces in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, and burned the National Assembly building, physically preventing deputies from voting to further extend President Blaise Compaore’s tenure. That “popular insurrection,” as almost everyone in Burkina Faso now calls it, continued into the next day, driving the authoritarian president out of the country after 27 years in power. Just over five months later, on April 7, under an interim government and with the assembly building still out of use, a new set of parliamentary deputies, including many former protesters, met in temporary […]

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko watches a military exercise of the Ukrainian armed forces in Mykolaiv region, Ukraine, April 25, 2015 (Presidential Press Service photo by Mykola Lazarenko via AP).

The average European leader probably lacks the number of brain cells required to process the sheer amount of bad news he or she currently receives on a daily basis. This is not because they are stupid, but because there is so much dire news to digest. In the past two weeks, over 1,000 migrants have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean; there has been fresh fighting in Ukraine; and the Greek government has careened toward total bankruptcy. The European Union has responded to this torrent of crises with a mixture of big talk, half-measures and fraying tempers. At a summit […]

A Pakistani Honor Guard at the Army’s Martyr’s Monument, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Jan. 21, 2010 (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison).

Last week, Pakistan agreed to send ships to help enforce a U.N.-approved arms embargo against Houthi rebels in Yemen, but declined a request by Saudi Arabia to send attack aircraft or troops to join the Saudi-led coalition there. In an email interview, Ayesha Siddiqa, an independent security analyst in Pakistan, discussed Pakistan’s military capabilities. WPR: What are the Pakistani military’s size, training priorities, capabilities and operational strengths? Ayesha Siddiqa: The Pakistani military is a volunteer force and the seventh-largest military in the world. It is primarily dedicated to conventional warfighting. There are 617,000 active duty personnel in the Pakistani military, […]

Yemeni women pray during a rally marking the third anniversary of the revolution, Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 7, 2014 (AP photo by Hani Mohammed).

When Kawkab Althaibani demonstrated in Change Square in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, during the 2011 protests against then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, her heart, she recalls, “was full of hope.” Today, six weeks after Houthi militias surrounded her house in Sanaa looking for her husband, an outspoken critic of the group, she is in Istanbul, where she fled the insecurity of Yemen’s civil war to seek asylum for her and her family. Althaibani is just one of many Yemeni women who once believed that the 2011 uprising was the harbinger of a more moderate, more inclusive and peaceful Yemen. Despite violence from […]

Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters regain control of the northern neighborhoods, after overnight heavy clashes with Islamic State group militants, Ramadi, Iraq, April 23, 2015 (AP photo).

When U.S. President Barack Obama announced his strategy for countering the so-called Islamic State (IS) last September, it was met with an immediate volley of criticism, most of it asserting that the president’s approach was too timid. Incensed by IS’ horrors, the critics called for large-scale American military action. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, demanded that the Obama administration “destroy” IS within 90 days. When told by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that this was impossible, Cruz issued a press release saying the general was wrong. Now that the 2016 presidential race has kicked off, […]

A man holds a poster reading “We Stand against Xenophobia” during a protest against recent attacks on immigrants, Johannesburg, South Africa, April 23, 2015 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

Last week, a wave of xenophobic violence struck two of South Africa’s largest cities, Johannesburg and Durban. Mobs torched foreign-owned shops and killed seven people in the country’s worst attacks against foreigners since 2008, when over 60 people were killed in similar incidents. The localized unrest quickly became a regional crisis, as multiple African governments issued angry statements on behalf of their citizens, millions of whom have migrated to South Africa in search of economic opportunity since the end of apartheid. South African President Jacob Zuma has been scrambling to respond; so far he has deployed the army to quell […]

A Pakistani police officer walks pasts billboards showing pictures of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Islamabad, Pakistan, April 19, 2015 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

When Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pakistan this week, the reception was something to behold. The welcoming committee greeted him in midair, with eight Pakistani fighter jets in formation solemnly escorting the Chinese leader’s plane from the moment he crossed into Pakistani airspace. It was one more dramatic element underscoring the significance of a visit during which both sides were remarkably unrestrained in their exuberance. Islamabad was dotted with photographs of Xi and signs proclaiming that “Pakistan-China friendship is higher than mountains, deeper than Oceans, sweeter than honey, and stronger than steel.” Xi reciprocated, declaring that he feels as […]

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