Lessons Hidden in Afghanistan

April 10, 2012 by

What should be striking about the reported news out of Afghanistan lately is the extent to which the headlines have been about tragic, non-military events. Korans were defaced and a U.S. servicemember is suspected of murdering seventeen Afghan civilians. These acts have both had a profound, negative impact on U.S.-Afghan relations and, by extension, have put our troops and our mission in Afghanistan in greater jeopardy.

See You in Nuclear Tehran

April 6, 2012 by

If someone wanted to back out of the April 13-14 meeting between Iran and the P5+1 group of international mediators to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, here is an excuse – Tehran has suddenly asked to move the venue from Istanbul to Baghdad. Now the question is whether the key participant in the talks, the United States, wants talks to go forward and why. On the one hand, one gets the impression that the Obama administration considers any form of communication with Tehran to be distasteful and would like to have an excuse to back out of talks. But, on the other hand, failing to produce any results is no good either.

The Foreign Policy President?

April 3, 2012 by

Elections are decided by economics. Voters respond to pocketbook issues and are swayed by the huge sums that candidates lavish on advertising. Foreign policy issues, by contrast, are what the British call “noises off,” those sounds from off-stage that you hear occasionally to punctuate the main actions, sounds like exploding bombs and the distant cries of suffering people. According to recent polling, global issues barely register at all with Americans right now.

Russia, America, and the Best Three Years

March 27, 2012 by

During a meeting with his American counterpart Barack Obama in Seoul, President Dmitry Medvedev made a striking comment, calling the past three years “probably the best three years in Russian-U.S. relations in the past decade.” What made these years so remarkable? Perhaps it was that, for the first time in a long time, Russian and American diplomats made a genuine effort to bring their countries closer together. And it doesn’t matter that the results were mixed.

Kony 2012 and the Case of the Invisible Media

March 25, 2012 by

Much has been said about Invisible Children’s video campaign to rally awareness towards the atrocities of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. But more important is what Kony 2012 means in our ongoing relationship with viral news events. It’s time to uncloak the “invisible” social media.

Commentary: The Credible Conservative

March 25, 2012 by

Following the primary election held in Louisiana on Saturday one thing is abundantly clear; the race for the Republican Party presidential nomination is a two-man race. Though Rick Santorum was the big winner in Louisiana, Romney played well in Peoria on Tuesday with his equally impressive victory in Illinois. Neither candidate gained a majority of votes cast in either contest, but their wins were decisive. The other presidential candidates on the ballots were walloped.

Can Jim Yong Kim Reinvent the World Bank?

March 24, 2012 by

Jim Yong Kim - a public health expert, president of Dartmouth College and astute rapper - is the US government’s candidate for the presidency of the World Bank. As Dani Rodrik, a development expert at Harvard University, summed it up this morning, “it’s nice to see that Obama can still surprise us.” Will the new candidate, who was not on anybody’s shortlist for the position, be able to reinvent the World Bank?

Bombings in Iraq a Sign of Deep Domestic Problems

March 23, 2012 by

When US President Obama announced the end of America’s involvement in Iraq, he deliberately did not claim victory. But he did say, when welcoming the last contingent of combat troops home in October last year, that the war in Iraq was over. For Americans, Australians and the media in both countries, that may be how the situation is seen. Iraqis could be excused for disagreeing.

International Criminal Court: Successes and Failures of the Past and Goals for the Future

March 23, 2012 by

In 1998, a groundbreaking idea turned into reality, and 50 years of debate ended as the first International Criminal Court (ICC) was established as a result of the Rome Statute. This judicial body took shape and created the foundation of a permanent court to prosecute persons that committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Why Kony 2012 Fails

March 22, 2012 by

From Twitter trending to the front page of The New York Times to public statements by the White House and the Pentagon, the Kony 2012 campaign has shown the power of social media to affect U.S. public debate. But it has also demonstrated the dangers posed by oversimplification in an age when policy is made in the 24-hour news cycle. This has proven especially so on issues concerning Africa where, lacking historical context, over-simplistic media framing can quickly take root and lead to problematic policy “solutions.”

Disengagement the Best Engagement for North Korea

March 21, 2012 by

It took a record one month for U.S.-North Korean talks over a food for nuclear freeze swap to fall into the all too common war of words where Pyongyang threatens with war against the U.S. and South Korea. And while admittedly this game of hot and cold isn’t anything new, what’s different this time is the record speed in which it happened.

Video: U.S. Commanders brief Congress on Afghanistan

March 21, 2012 by

Gen. John Allen and Defense Department Policy Undersecretary James Miller testified on Tuesday in front of the House Armed Services Committee on updates on the Afghan War following the alleged tragic shooting of 16 civilians by an American soldier. Congress is seeking updates from commanders on the ground in Afghanistan on a war that is increasingly unpopular after a decade of fighting.

Polling Shows Little Support for Syrian Intervention

March 20, 2012 by

Despite strenuous efforts by prominent neo-conservatives and other hawks, a war-weary U.S. public is clearly very leery of any armed intervention in what many experts believe is rapidly becoming a civil war in Syria, according to recent polls. In a survey released last week, the Pew Research Center found that only 25 percent of respondents said they believed the U.S. has a “responsibility to do something” about the year-old violence in Syria.

Iraq and the Limits of U.S. Power

March 19, 2012 by

“Washington has lost a valuable opportunity to nurture and support a key counterweight to Iranian influence among Shiites in the Arab world,” lament Danielle Pletka and Gary Schmitt of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute in an op-ed for the Washington Post. They subsequently call on the Obama administration to bulk up its already grossly overloaded staff at the gigantic U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

On Power and Delusions of Grandeur

March 18, 2012 by

First the video of United States Marines urinating on bodies of Afghans who had been killed. Then the revelation that copies of the Quran had been burned at Bagram Air Base, which also serves as an American prison camp in Afghanistan. Nearly thirty Afghans and several NATO troops died in the violent reaction. And as I mentioned in my column of March 4, the BBC Kabul correspondent described these events, and the violent public reaction to them, as the tipping point for NATO in the Afghan War.

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