Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivers remarks during the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, Calif., Nov. 7, 2015 (DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz).

Because of the entrenched, ossified interests and tribal structures within the Pentagon, major reforms to the Department of Defense and the military often originate in Congress. The gold-standard example of this historical pattern was the 1947 National Security Act, which merged the Department of War and the Department of the Navy to form the Department of Defense, headed by the newly created position of secretary of defense. The act also established the institutions of the National Security Council and Joint Chiefs of Staff. Not far behind was the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act, which reorganized the military’s chain […]

Members of the neurosurgery team at Mulago National Referral Hospital, Kampala, Uganda (AP photo by Rebecca Vassie).

In mid-April, a spokesperson for the Ugandan government admitted that the country’s only functioning cancer treatment machine had broken earlier that month. The radiotherapy machine, donated by China to Uganda in 1995 and housed at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, is now considered beyond repair. While the government did acquire a second radiotherapy machine in 2013, it has not been operational because of delays in allocating 30 billion shillings—just shy of $9 million—to construct a new building to house it. The funding delay has lifted, but the machine won’t be up and running for at least six months. The government has […]

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung delivers a speech next to General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong during the opening ceremony of the Communist Party of Vietnam's 12th Congress, Hanoi, Vietnam, Jan. 21, 2016 (Pool Photo by Hoang Dinh Nam via AP).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and host Peter Dörrie discuss the recent violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, the U.N.’s cease-fire monitoring capabilities, and West Africa’s regional anti-Boko Haram force. For the Report, David Brown joins us to discuss leadership struggles, prospects for economic growth, and the fight against corruption in Vietnam. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant articles from WPR: Why Nagorno-Karabakh’s Conflict Turned Hot—and Could Again It’s Time for the U.N. to Refresh Its Neglected Cease-Fire Monitoring Skills West Africa’s Regional Force Against Boko Haram Is a Political Prop Can Vietnam’s New Leadership Deliver on […]

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launches the SNP's Manifesto at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Edinburgh, Scotland, April 20, 2016 (Rex Features via AP Images).

According to the latest poll, released Wednesday, on the British referendum on European Union membership, 45 percent of Britons are in favor of remaining in the EU, while 38 percent are in favor of leaving. While the “remain” camp maintains a significant lead, support for the so-called Brexit is growing, with the “leave” campaign gaining 2 percent in the past month. In Scotland, the story is different. According to the same poll, over 56 percent of Scots want to remain in the EU. Pro-EU sentiment in Scotland has been consistent over the past eight months, with some polls putting support […]

South Korean President Park Geun-hye delivers a speech at Gyeryongdae, South Korea's main military compound, Gyeryong, March 4, 2016 (Pool photo by Chung Sung-Jun via AP).

South Korea’s ruling conservative Saenuri Party is looking for answers after a crushing loss earlier this month in legislative elections. Led by President Park Geun-hye, the Saenuri Party managed to win only 122 of the National Assembly’s 300 seats, falling far short of the majority that many predicted. The opposition fared well, with the liberal Minjoo Party winning 123 seats and the left-wing People’s Party winning 38 seats. The National Assembly is now effectively deadlocked, with opposition parties controlling Park’s ability to pass legislation. Her party’s loss is a stunning reversal and will reshape the political landscape in South Korea […]

Migrants behind a fence at the Nizip refugee camp, Gaziantep province, southeastern Turkey, April 23, 2016 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

There has been no shortage of criticism of Europe’s response to the worsening refugee crisis that first escalated in 2015. In January, Denmark passed a law authorizing the government to seize assets from asylum-seekers. Poland and Slovakia announced they would only accept Christian refugees from Syria. And a recent deal between the European Union and Turkey has come under fire over questions about its legality. The deal allows Greece to return “all new irregular migrants” to Turkey; in exchange, for every migrant settled in Turkey, one Syrian already in Turkey will be resettled in the EU. Immediately after the deal’s […]

Egyptians protest against Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's decision to hand over control of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, Cairo, Egypt, April 15, 2016 (AP photo by Amr Nabil).

Two years ago, the Egyptian people spared no adjective in praise of their savior, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who in turn framed his lightning-fast rise to power as an expression of the people’s will. When he was named defense minister in 2012 by Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader elected Egypt’s president that year, el-Sisi vowed to keep the military out of politics. But the general, with strong popular support, eventually overthrew Morsi in 2013. He then retired his military post and announced he was running for president, winning in a landslide the following year. But now the honeymoon is over. The […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during a rally at Miraflores presidential palace, Caracas, April 14, 2016 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

A series of crises at home, including a new plan to ration electricity, are not the only issues facing Venezuela. Abroad, the regional coalition forged by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is starting to unravel. The ongoing impeachment saga of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and the possible departure of her Worker’s Party from power are the latest in a series of developments that has complicated Venezuela’s international relations for Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro. In November, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s chosen successor lost Argentina’s presidential election, ending more than a decade of Kirchnerism, which found common cause with Venezuela’s leftist […]

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi during a welcome ceremony at the Ministry of Defense, Baghdad, Iraq, April 18, 2016 (AP photo).

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to deploy an additional 250 special operations forces to Syria. The increase will bring the total number of U.S. ground troops there to 300, and comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s announcement that 200 more troops are also being sent to Iraq. Both deployments are part of the continuing U.S. war against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), but as the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria has continued to rise, it has raised fears that the United States is being sucked into another military quagmire in the […]

Austrian Freedom Party presidential candidate Norbert Hofer, right, during a news conference with party head Heinz-Christian Strache, Vienna, Austria, March 14, 2016 (AP photo by Ronald Zak).

In the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, Norbert Hofer, the candidate from the far-right Freedom Party, came in first place with 36 percent of the vote; Alexander Van der Bellen, former chairman of the Green Party who ran as an independent, came in second with 20 percent. In an email interview, Thomas Meyer, an assistant professor at the University of Vienna, discussed the elections and the state of politics in Austria. WPR: What explains the failure of the centrist People’s Party and the center-left Social Democrats to make it into the second round of presidential elections, and what […]

Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc pay tribute to Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi, Vietnam, March 21, 2016 (AP photo by Tran Van Minh).

For most of 2015, it looked as though Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam’s prime minister since 2006, would succeed in his audacious bid to succeed Nguyen Phu Trong as the head of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). In the end, however, he was outmaneuvered in skirmishes over party rules, and undone by a whispering campaign that painted him as a dangerous opportunist. The contest was over even before the party’s 12th Congress convened on Jan. 21, 2016. Contrary to the dominant narrative in international media coverage, the showdown in Hanoi had very little to do with how to handle ties […]

Oman's deputy prime minister, Fahd bin Mahmoud al-Said, President Barack Obama, Saudi Arabia's King Salman, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa at the GCC Summit, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 21, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

The readout from President Barack Obama’s trip last week to the Gulf reflects the ongoing strains in U.S. relations with the Gulf monarchs. Both sides share responsibility for the current state of affairs. And it will take time to shift perceptions in the region so that the ongoing cooperation that is taking place is viewed more positively. It is also worth considering the possibility that the growing independence of the Gulf Arab states and the redistribution of power in their relationship with Washington will have a long-term benefit that’s just hard to see right now. The coverage of Obama’s trip […]

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power with Multinational Joint Task Force Commander Maj. Gen. Lamidi Adeosun at its headquarters, N'Djamena, Chad, April 20, 2016 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In March, the small West African nation of Benin announced that it would contribute 150 soldiers to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNTJF), a West African coalition whose main mission is to fight the militant group Boko Haram. The task force has approximately 9,000 total troops, but nevertheless it is primarily a political prop rather than an integrated military outfit. The region’s national militaries largely pursue their own campaigns, while the optics of regional integration serve a political purpose: They explicitly support narratives about so-called African solutions to African problems, yet implicitly facilitate greater Western involvement in the fight against […]

A girl passes by a vandalized campaign poster featuring Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic with the slogan: "Strongly against corruption," Belgrade, Serbia, March 15, 2014 (AP photo by Darko Vojinovic).

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing WPR series on the impact of corruption and various countries’ efforts to combat it. Last week, Serbian police arrested 49 people, including officials from several government ministries and state-run businesses, on allegations of corruption, as part of a larger anti-graft campaign. In an email interview, Petrus C. van Duyne, a professor emeritus at Tilburg University, discussed Serbia’s fight against corruption. WPR: How big a problem is corruption, both low- and government-level, in Serbia, and to the degree it is one, how does it manifest itself in daily life? Petrus C. van […]

Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk leaves parliament after his resignation, Kiev, April 14, 2016 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).

Earlier this month, in a nonbinding referendum, Dutch voters firmly rejected a treaty that would establish closer ties between the European Union and Ukraine. The Netherlands currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and for Prime Minister Mark Rutte, a supporter of the treaty, the vote was a clear rebuke. The Netherlands, like many other countries across Europe, is in the midst of a populist backlash against European integration in general. Referendum voters also expressed discontent with migration and economic regulation, echoing sentiments held everywhere from France to Hungary. But the referendum also reflected discontent with Ukraine itself. More than two […]

A Russian soldier on guard in front of a Russian ground attack jet parked at Hemeimeem air base, Syria, March 4, 2016 (AP photo by Pavel Golovkin).

The words “cease-fire monitoring” are unlikely to create ripples of excitement in a group of military officers or civilian security specialists. Ambitious soldiers hanker after kinetic action, not observing static peace lines. Professional peacemakers associate tending to cease-fires with an outdated, Cold War-era approach to conflict management. This is unfortunate. Making simple cease-fires work is hard, and it seems that neither big powers nor international organizations are much good at it. Over the past week, the cessation of hostilities in Syria has lurched toward collapse, as violence escalated around Aleppo. It may be remarkable that the lull in fighting, which […]

Karabakh Armenian soldiers near a howitzer in Hadrut province, Nagorno-Karabakh, April 5, 2016 (Photolure photo by Albert Khachatryan via AP).

The recent bout of intense fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan along the so-called line of contact near the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh should be seen not as an isolated flashpoint, but as the culmination of years of escalating tensions. The regional economic downturn and ongoing tensions between Russia and Turkey only add to the conflict’s volatility. The four days of fighting in early April between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces was the largest eruption of hostilities since the cease-fire to the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1994, which left Armenian forces in control of the landlocked mountainous region, as well as much of […]

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