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TN: Wrong Assumptions About Middle East

TN: Wrong Assumptions About Middle East

The following claims have attained quasi-canonical status in Washington: The presence of US forces in the Islamic world contributes to regional stability and enhances US influence; the Persian Gulf constitutes a vital US national security interest; Egypt and Saudi Arabia are valued and valuable American allies; the interests of the United States and Israel align; and, terrorism poses an existential threat that the United States must defeat. Subjected to even casual scrutiny, none of the five will stand up.

WP: America’s Prospects Promising

WP: America’s Prospects Promising

Many believe that the American economy has some inherent advantages over its major competitors — a more flexible structure, stronger entrepreneurial traditions and a more demographically vibrant society. Along comes a fascinating new book that says you ain’t seen nothing yet. Peter Zeihan’s “The Accidental Superpower” begins with geography, pointing out that the United States is the world’s largest consumer market for a reason: its rivers.

MDC: Hagel Was To Cut Military

MDC: Hagel Was To Cut Military

As the Pentagon absorbed the shock of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s unexpected resignation Monday, another realization set in: Neither Hagel’s departure, just like those of his two predecessors, nor the arrival of his successor promises major changes in the administration’s approach to national security policy. The U.S. military still will be tasked with degrading and destroying the Islamic State with minimal involvement of ground troops.

DS: Interview with Kissinger

DS: Interview with Kissinger

Henry Kissinger is the most famous and most divisive secretary of state the US has ever had. In an interview, he discusses his new book exploring the crises of our time, from Syria to Ukraine, and the limits of American power. He says he acted in accordance with his convictions in Vietnam.

FA: Pentagon Adapting to Globalization

FA: Pentagon Adapting to Globalization

In late 2013, Google announced that it had acquired Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics company best known for creating BigDog, a four-legged robot that can accompany soldiers into rough terrain. Much of the resulting hype focused on the Internet giant and when it might start making various types of robots. What was good news for Google, however, represented a major loss for the U.S. Department of Defense.

AJ: Palestinians Remind World of Their Own Wall

AJ: Palestinians Remind World of Their Own Wall

Palestinian youth have dug a hole in Israel’s separation wall with the Palestinian territories, as a symbolic gesture to mark 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Palestinians refer to the current wall separating the West Bank from Israel as the “apartheid wall”. The International Committee of the Red Cross stated that the Israeli barrier “causes serious humanitarian and legal problems” and goes “far beyond what is permissible for an occupying power”.

TG: Obama’s Free Pass On ISIS War

TG: Obama’s Free Pass On ISIS War

We have entered the fourth official month of the latest war without end in the Middle East, and the Obama administration has suddenly doubled America’s troop presence in Iraq – yet there is no approved declaration of war in sight. The so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels receiving millions in weapons are now being defeated, and those same weapons are ending up in the hands of al-Qaida – yet there is no public sign of dialing back in the fight against the Islamic State.

FA: Operation Sigmund Freud

FA: Operation Sigmund Freud

The cessation of major combat operations is often followed by a long period of asymmetric war, in which success can not be achieved through traditional combat. In this new phase of warfare, psychology’s core competencies of understanding individual and group behavior—of both the enemy and one’s own forces—then become the key to success.

PS: Years of Living Tactically

PS: Years of Living Tactically

We have been living in an illusion. For years, the world has believed that the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar order would be peaceful, orderly, and steady, with new players like China, Brazil, and Turkey adapting to the existing multilateral framework in a natural, harmonious way. How wrong we were. The reason for this failure is simple: the West has allowed short-term tactical concerns to impede the development of a long-term strategic vision.

DS: Freedom vs Stability

DS: Freedom vs Stability

There are many reasons to be gratified by the end of a dictatorship. It means that a criminal is no longer in a position of power, and there’s the prospect that democracy could take root in its stead. Some people also believe that anything is better than despotism. But the last decade has shown that there is something worse than dictatorship, worse than the absence of freedom, worse than oppression: civil war and chaos.

HP: Obama Urged to Release Torture Report

HP: Obama Urged to Release Torture Report

Twelve Nobel Peace Prize winners penned an open letter to President Barack Obama urging his administration to release a U.S. Senate report on the CIA’s use of torture. The laureates spoke out sharply against any use of torture, but said that the U.S.’ tactics were particularly troubling. Advocates have been urging the White House for months to no avail to make the report public.

AJA: ISIL’s New Recruits

AJA: ISIL’s New Recruits

United States-led airstrikes in Syria have killed nearly 500 ISIL fighters since attacks were launched last month. While coalition forces continue to shell ISIL targets, it appears that the armed group is quickly replenishing its ranks. In August – during the lead-up to U.S.-led strikes – the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 6,000 new recruits had joined ISIL in July alone.

PS: China’s Silk Road Revival

PS: China’s Silk Road Revival

The phrase “Silk Road” evokes a romantic image – half history, half myth – of tented camel caravans winding their way across the trackless deserts and mountains of Central Asia. But the Silk Road is not just part of a fabled past; it is an important feature of China’s current foreign policy.

TG: The Truth About Evil

TG: The Truth About Evil

Liberal meliorists like to think that human life contains many things that are bad, some of which may never be entirely eliminated; but there is nothing that is intrinsically destructive or malevolent in human beings themselves – nothing, in other words, that corresponds to a traditional idea of evil. But another view is possible, and one that need make no call on theology. What has been described as evil in the past can be understood as a natural tendency to animosity and destruction, co-existing in human beings alongside tendencies to sympathy and cooperation.

FP: Much Ado About the Islamic State

FP: Much Ado About the Islamic State

Let’s take a step back from today’s lurid headlines and try to see the bigger picture. There’s a lot of nasty and vivid trouble out there in the world today, but not all of it is likely to matter very much beyond the immediate confines of the troubled region itself. Now, as always, the real challenge is figuring out which of today’s headlines really matter, which can be left to others, and which can be mostly ignored.

DS: The Extremist Trap

DS: The Extremist Trap

Among terrorists’ strategic goals is the unmasking of a state’s alleged evil side, which they purport to be fighting. This is the exactly the trap into which US President George W. Bush and his government stumbled. The US of today is not safer as a result — it is poorer. Liberal America, which was long a beacon for democracies around the world, including Germany’s, no longer exists. It is not a path we should follow.

NYT: ISIS Ammunition from US and China

NYT: ISIS Ammunition from US and China

In its campaign across northern Syria and Iraq, the jihadist group Islamic State has been using ammunition from the United States and other countries that have been supporting the regional security forces fighting the group, according to new field data gathered by a private arms-tracking organization. The data suggest that ammunition transferred into Syria and Iraq to help stabilize governments has instead passed from the governments to the jihadists, helping to fuel the Islamic State’s rise and persistent combat power.

HP: John Oliver On Drone Strikes

HP: John Oliver On Drone Strikes

If Barack Obama is concerned about the legacy of his presidency, he might want to take a look at Sunday’s episode of “Last Week Tonight.” Not thinking about drones is a luxury many people don’t have, a point made overwhelmingly clear by a clip of a 13-year-old Pakistani boy whose grandmother had been killed by a drone strike. In the clip, Zubair Rehman testifies that he no longer loves blue skies, he prefers grey skies. “The drones do not fly when the skies are grey.” That was enough for John Oliver. “When children from other countries are telling us that we’ve made them fear the sky,” he insisted, “it might be time to ask some hard questions.”

RE: War Without End

RE: War Without End

The usual markers of military victory don’t apply to the Syria war. The borders, combatants, allegiances, and military objectives in the Syrian war are too fluid to conform to our usual expectations. In bombing Syria, President Obama, who inherited this war, has made this war his war, the next president’s war, and our war. Today, tomorrow, and for as far as the eye can see. Perpetual war for perpetual peace.

PS: America’s Never-Ending War

PS: America’s Never-Ending War

It is official: US President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama is at war again. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq was so controversial that it fractured the global consensus to fight terror. After Obama took office, he sought to introduce a gentler, subtler tone. But the rhetorical shift did not translate into a change in strategy. America’s war on terror now risks becoming a permanent war against an expanding list of enemies – often inadvertently created by its own policies. It is time for the US to recognize that since it launched its war on terror, the scourge has only spread.

WP: China’s Creeping Invasion

WP: China’s Creeping Invasion

It looked like East Asia might be the place where the crumbling global order of the past quarter-century, centered on U.S. power and values, would face a decisive crisis. Instead, it was Vladimir Putin who launched a frontal military assault to stop the spread of Western influence and institutions to Ukraine, and the Islamic State that forced the U.S. retreat from foreign military commitments.

TG: American Fear Mongering Machine

TG: American Fear Mongering Machine

Did you know that the US government’s counterterrorism chief Matthew Olson said that “there’s no credible information” that ISIS is planning an attack on America and that there’s “no indication at this point of a cell of foreign fighters operating in the United States”? Probably not, because as the nation barrels towards yet another war in the Middle East and President Obama addresses the nation on the “offensive phase” of his military plan, mainstream media pundits and the usual uber-hawk politicians are busy trying to out-hyperbole each other over the threat ISIS poses to Americans. Thanks to this wall-to-wall fear mongering, a once war-weary public is now terrified. The administration openly admits it has no idea how long it will take, only that it won’t be quick. “It may take a year, it may take two years, it may take three years,” John Kerry said. He didn’t add, “it might take another 13”, but he might as well have.

NYT: Paths to War Haunt Obama

NYT: Paths to War Haunt Obama

Just hours before announcing an escalated campaign against Islamic extremists last week, the president invited a group of foreign policy experts and former government officials to dinner on Monday, and a separate group of columnists and magazine writers for a discussion on Wednesday afternoon. He reflected on the frenzied weeks leading up to the American invasion of Iraq a decade ago.

PS: Let Mid-East Govern Itself

PS: Let Mid-East Govern Itself

After decades of cynical and often secret interventions by the US, Britain, France, Russia, and other outside powers, the Middle East’s political institutions are based largely on corruption, sectarian politics, and brute force. The damage in Libya, Gaza, Syria, and Iraq demands that a political solution be found within the region, not imposed from the outside.

NYT: GOP Candidates Have No Int’l Credentials

NYT: GOP Candidates Have No Int’l Credentials

As President Obama prepares to announce his strategy on Wednesday for combating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, there is no shortage of condemnation from Republicans like Mr. Paul, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Jindal, who are considering running for president in 2016. Yet they, like almost every Republican who might try to succeed Mr. Obama, have a common résumé gap: foreign policy experience.

TG: ISIS and Modern Western Philosophy

TG: ISIS and Modern Western Philosophy

Over recent weeks there has been a constant background noise suggesting that Islamic State (Isis) and its ideology are some sort of throwback to a distant past.It needs to be said very clearly: contemporary jihadism is not a return to the past. It is a modern, anti-traditional ideology with a very significant debt to western political history and culture. Central to ISIS’s programme is its claim to Muslim heritage. Part of countering this requires understanding the contemporary sources of its ideology and its violence.

NYT: Foreign Influence in Think Tanks

NYT: Foreign Influence in Think Tanks

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington and it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom. The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments and have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, perhaps in violation of federal law.

FA: Ukraine Crisis Is West’s Fault

FA: Ukraine Crisis Is West’s Fault

The United States and its European allies now face a choice on Ukraine. They can continue their current policy, which will exacerbate hostilities with Russia and devastate Ukraine in the process — a scenario in which everyone would come out a loser. Or they can switch gears and work to create a prosperous but neutral Ukraine, one that does not threaten Russia and allows the West to repair its relations with Moscow.

RE: US v ISIS Better Right Than Fast

RE: US v ISIS Better Right Than Fast

In the aftermath of IS’s many outrages against Americans, Iraqis and Syrians alike, the urge to action is natural and proper, as it was after 9/11. Some experts plausibly argue that U.S. policies toward Iraq and Syria contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. The greatest care is needed in developing strategy for a region that has been so consistently defiant of U.S. intentions and is now in so fluid a state.

DS: NATO Hardliners

DS: NATO Hardliners

Merkel’s relations with Putin are considered to be closer than those enjoyed by most other Western leader with the Russian president. Yet positive outcomes from those ties have been nonexistent. The crisis has reached the point the chancellor wanted to avoid all costs — the point where military logic replaces diplomatic efforts. Within NATO, pressure is growing on Merkel to change her approach.

PS: Fragmentation of Bretton Woods

PS: Fragmentation of Bretton Woods

The world has changed considerably since political leaders from the 44 Allied countries met in 1944 in Bretton Woods to create the institutional framework for the post-World War II economic and monetary order. What has not changed in the last 70 years is the need for strong multilateral institutions. Yet national political support for the Bretton Woods institutions seems to have reached an all-time low, undermining the global economy’s ability to meet its potential and contributing to geopolitical insecurity.

NYT: Why We Fight Wars

NYT: Why We Fight Wars

A century has passed since the start of World War I, which many people at the time declared was “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, wars just kept happening. And with the headlines from Ukraine getting scarier by the day, this seems like a good time to ask why. One answer is that leaders may not understand the arithmetic. The larger problem, however, is that governments all too often gain politically from war, even if the war in question makes no sense in terms of national interests.

TN: Clinton Echoes Neocons

TN: Clinton Echoes Neocons

For months, Christie Watch has chronicled Hillary Clinton’s hawkish, even neoconservative-influenced views on foreign policy. During her tenure as secretary of state, from the inside, she argued consistently—usually in alliance with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—for polices that were almost universally more hawkish than President Obama seemed to favor, sometimes succeeding in getting her way and sometimes not.

DS: Gaza Youth Radicalization

DS: Gaza Youth Radicalization

Above all else, the recent Gaza conflict has demonstrated that there is no military solution to the problem. Every confrontation in recent years, each new round of reciprocal killings, has pushed more people to the radical fringes. There is no way around the need to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip, and it is in Israel’s interest to recognize that imperative.

FA: Consequences of Air Strikes in Iraq

FA: Consequences of Air Strikes in Iraq

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized limited air strikes on militants in Iraq to stop their advance toward Erbil, where a number of U.S. diplomats, civilians, and military personnel reside. He also promised to send aid to refugees fleeing the militants’ advance. Air strikes are undoubtedly necessary for the narrow purposes stipulated by Obama. But they will have a wide range of unintended consequences — some relatively manageable, others less so.

TG: Crimes Against Humanity in Gaza

TG: Crimes Against Humanity in Gaza

Late last week, the White House decried Israel’s attack on a UN school in Gaza as “totally unacceptable” and “totally indefensible”, then proceeded to approve $225m in funding for its Iron Dome. On Monday, the US state department went further, calling the airstrikes upon a UN school “disgraceful” – and yet America provides Israel with more than $3.1bn every year, restocking the ability of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) to hit more schools, and to wage total war against an imprisoned people, because of their nationality.

WP: US Business Expanding in Africa

WP: US Business Expanding in Africa

Hoping in part to expand U.S. business presence in African markets, the Obama administration is hosting a three-day summit this week attended by nearly 50 African heads of state, the first gathering of its kind. Fueled by the consumption demands of a growing young middle-class, the African private sector is, unevenly yet surely, on the rise. But although the United States is still the leader in foreign direct investment in African economies, China surpassed the United States as Africa’s biggest trading partner in 2009.

DS: Danger to Israel Comes from Within

DS: Danger to Israel Comes from Within

Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, but left behind death and destruction. Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz tells SPIEGEL that her country is gripped by fear and is becoming increasingly suspicious of democracy. Eva Illouz was born in Morocco and grew up in Sarcelles, near Paris. She is a professor of sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She researches the relationship between emotions, economy and communication and has written several books including “Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation,” which was published in English last year.

DS: The Children of War

DS: The Children of War

Ahmed is hungry. Eyes closed, he clutches his mother’s breast and drinks, oblivious to everything around him. He ignores the rattling of the ceiling fan, dangling precariously. And he doesn’t notice the dull thuds that cause the walls to shake and his mother, Marwat al-Asasma, to cringe. Sometimes his body trembles, and he balls his tiny hands into fists. Her son now weighs a little over three kilograms (6.6 lbs.), says al-Asasma, 18, and he is healthy and gaining weight. She sounds as if she can hardly believe what she is saying. Ahmed is just over two weeks old — born in the night when the Israelis sent their first tanks to the Gaza Strip border. Ahmed is both a child of the war and one of its victims. Ten days after he was born, he lost his father, his grandparents and his home. His mother doesn’t know how much is left of the family house. She remembers only dust and smoke, but is trying to forget even that.

BIJ: Afghanistan 1000+ Drone Strikes

BIJ: Afghanistan 1000+ Drone Strikes

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and others have used open sources – media reports, court affidavits, NGO reports and independent field investigations – to piece together a strike-by-strike picture of more than 450 strikes in the US’s covert campaigns, revealing at least 2,681 reported deaths, including 480 people or more who are described as civilians.

CIGI: West Watching the World Burn

CIGI: West Watching the World Burn

Putin has fanned the flames of war in Ukraine, first by invading and annexing the Crimean peninsula, and then by supporting Donetsk and Luhansk separatists by directly providing them with weapons and military advisers at worst, or, at best, letting Russian “war tourists” cross the Russian-Ukrainian border. While the Kremlin provoked the war in Ukraine, and threw fuel on the fire, the rest of the world gave Vladimir Putin very little reason to change his course of action.

MJ: Tracking US Weapons

MJ: Tracking US Weapons

Over the last decade, the United States has provided hundreds of thousands of small arms to the Afghan security forces. But the US and its Afghan counterparts are doing an inadequate job of tracking these weapons increasing the likelihood that they could wind up in the hands of the resurgent Taliban, which has recently made key military advances that are threatening Afghanistan’s fragile stability.

PEW: Global Attitudes Towards US

PEW: Global Attitudes Towards US

Revelations about the scope of American electronic surveillance efforts have generated headlines around the world over the past year. And a new Pew Research Center survey finds widespread global opposition to U.S. eavesdropping and a decline in the view that the U.S. respects the personal freedoms of its people. But in most countries there is little evidence this opposition has severely harmed America’s overall image.

BI: Harmonization of US Security and Climate Goals

BI: Harmonization of US Security and Climate Goals

Climate change poses a significant risk to national security. The U.S. has multiple tools at its disposal to mitigate the impacts of energy supply disruptions, help countries enhance their own energy security and mitigate global climate change. We will need to use all the tools in our tool kit to meet the energy and security challenges we face today. Congress can support the State Department’s role in energy diplomacy, expand our technical assistance programs, and consider energy exports in advancing energy security and promoting lower carbon fuels.

CIGI: US Losing Friends It Needs Most

CIGI: US Losing Friends It Needs Most

Foreign policy is like gardening, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, more than once remarked. And it begins, he pointed out, by making sure that relations with America’s neighbors, key allies, and friends remain regularly and well-tended. It is an axiom of foreign policy that the Obama administration is ignoring to its own detriment. U.S. relations with Germany – Europe’s economic and political juggernaut – have sunk to an all-time low. The health of U.S. relations with key allies is not much better across the Pacific.

AJA: Germany and the US

AJA: Germany and the US

On July 10, the German government demanded the immediate departure of the head of the CIA mission in Berlin. Such demands are not unusual, even between ostensible allies. What is unusual is that it was publicly announced and with much fanfare. What accounts for what some are already calling an unprecedented breach in relations between the US and Germany? The problem is structural and is not due to the passing mistakes and stupidity of those in power in the United States.

NYT: Reining in the Drones

NYT: Reining in the Drones

For all the slick technology, there are grave moral and legal questions going unanswered in the government’s use of armed drones to kill people considered terrorist threats. The problems involving these secretive executions are ably underlined by a bipartisan panel of military and intelligence veterans who warn in a new report that without adequate controls and public accountability, the United States could be on a “slippery slope” into a form of perpetual warfare that invites other nations to follow suit and never explain themselves.

WP: NSA Spying 90% on Ordinary People

WP: NSA Spying 90% on Ordinary People

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks. Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. The material, provided by Snowden to The Washington Post spans President Obama’s first term, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.

NYT: Drone War Without End

NYT: Drone War Without End

The Obama administration’s embrace of targeted killings using armed drones risks putting the United States on a “slippery slope” into perpetual war and sets a dangerous precedent for lethal operations that other countries might adopt in the future, according to a report by a bipartisan panel that includes several former senior intelligence and military officials.

NYT: Don’t Ignore Syria for Iraq

NYT: Don’t Ignore Syria for Iraq

President Obama should be asking the same question in Iraq and Syria. What course of action will be best, in the short and the long term, for the Iraqi and Syrian people? What course of action will be most likely to stop the violence and misery they experience on a daily basis? What course of action will give them the best chance of peace, prosperity and a decent government?

BBC: Global Refugee Crisis

BBC: Global Refugee Crisis

The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two, the UN says. Large numbers of refugees and IDPs fleeing to new areas inevitably put a strain on resources, and can even destabilise a host country and the burden of caring for refugees is increasingly falling on the countries with the least resources.

DS: Syria Another Somalia

DS: Syria Another Somalia

Interview with UN Peace Envoy Brahimi: ‘Syria Will Become Another Somalia’ – For almost two years, Lakhdar Brahimi sought to bring peace to Syria. But in May, the United Nations special envoy stepped down. He speaks with SPIEGEL about the stubbornness of Syrian President Assad, the mistakes of the West and the dangers presented by Islamic radicals.

AN: US Surveillance State

AN: US Surveillance State

Policy must assure the security of state authority and concentrations of domestic power, defending them from a frightening enemy: the domestic population. Information about the enemy makes a critical contribution to controlling it. Obama’s contributions have reached unprecedented levels.

FA: Treacherous Triangle

FA: Treacherous Triangle

Putin’s trip to China could mark the start of a new era in U.S.-Russian-Chinese relations, the trilateral relationship that dominated the final decades of the Cold War and is now making a comeback. After Russia’s aggression in Crimea, Moscow and Washington are locked in conflict. Beijing has thus become the new fulcrum, the power most able to play one side off the other.

BI: Energy Fueling a New Order?

BI: Energy Fueling a New Order?

The paper “Fueling a New Order? The New Geopolitical and Security Consequences of Energy” examines impacts of the major transformation in international energy markets that has begun. The United States is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer and is on track to become the dominant player in global energy markets. China is in place to surpass the United States in its scale of oil imports, and has already edged out the U.S. in carbon emissions.

RE: US Made Putin Problem Worse

RE: US Made Putin Problem Worse

Years of escalating protests by Putin made it clear he believed the West was surrounding him with hostile neighbors. And for centuries, Russian leaders have viewed a friendly Ukraine as vital to Moscow’s defense. Demonizing Putin reflected the continued failure of American officials to recognize Russia’s power, interest and importance. It is vital for Washington and Moscow to end a destructive pattern of careless American action followed by Russian overreaction.

PS: The West’s Financial Arsenal

PS: The West’s Financial Arsenal

The revolution in Ukraine and Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea have generated a serious security crisis in Europe. But, with Western leaders testing a new kind of financial warfare, the situation could become even more dangerous. In 1911, instead of being an alternative to war, the financial arms race made war more likely – as it may well be doing with Russia today.

NYT: Cuba Social Media Project

NYT: Cuba Social Media Project

A Twitter-like social media site created and financed by the United States Agency for International Development for use in Cuba was not a covert attempt to overthrow the government, the agency’s top official told members of Congress during a hearing on Tuesday.

AN: US Warp Speed Decline

AN: US Warp Speed Decline

If America needed a reminder that it is fast becoming a second-rate nation, and that every economic policy of the Republican Party is wrongheaded, it got one this week with the release of the Social Progress Index (SPI). America’s rapid descent into impoverished nation status is the inevitable result of unchecked corporate capitalism. By every measure, we look like a broken banana republic. In The World As It Is, Chris Hedges writes, “Our anemic democracy will be replaced with a robust national police state. The elite will withdraw into heavily guarded gated communities where they will have access to security, goods, and services that cannot be afforded by the rest of us. Tens of millions of people, brutally controlled, will live in perpetual poverty.”

DS: Kremlin and the Crimea

DS: Kremlin and the Crimea

The EU and US have come down hard on Russia for its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. But from the perspective of the Kremlin, it is the West that has painted Putin into a corner. And the Russian president will do what it takes to free himself.

BI: Putin’s Art of Offensive Defense

BI: Putin’s Art of Offensive Defense

In part one of her series on Vladimir Putin’s thinking, Fiona Hill examines the building blocks of Putin’s political and international thought. In part two she examines the Russian leader’s beliefs about foreign policy and the threats that face Russia. In part three she examines the messages his Ukrainian play is sending to international actors.

NC: US and Ukraine

NC: US and Ukraine

Washington cannot realistically do any more in response to Russian troops seizing Crimea in 2014 in the name of protecting Russian lives and Russian bases than Moscow could do in response to U.S. troops seizing Panama in 1989 in the name of protecting American lives and American bases.

FA: Putin’s Own Goal

FA: Putin’s Own Goal

It would be a mistake to overestimate Putin or Russia, or to underestimate how badly his gambit in Ukraine could turn out for him. Finding a way out of this crisis requires an understanding both of why Putin instigated it and of how it will affect his rule.

NYT: Sovereignty v Self-Rule

NYT: Sovereignty v Self-Rule

The Kosovars’ secession from Serbia drove a deep wedge between the United States and Russia that soured relations for years. Washington supported Kosovo’s bid for independence while Moscow saw it as an infringement of Serbia’s sovereignty. Now 15 years later, the former Cold War rivals again find themselves at odds, but this time they have effectively switched sides.

BIJ: Covert Drone War

BIJ: Covert Drone War

A UN counter-terrorism expert has published the second report of his year-long investigation into drone strikes. The report, by British lawyer Ben Emmerson QC, identifies 30 attacks between 2006 and 2013 that show sufficient indications of civilian deaths to demand a ‘public explanation of the circumstances and the justification for the use of deadly force’ under international law.

BI: State of the Int’l Order

BI: State of the Int’l Order

The State of the International Order report assesses international cooperation in the economic, diplomatic and security realms five years after the global financial crisis and over a decade after the invasion of Iraq. In gauging the state of the order, we ask two questions: What are the material realities shaping the options faced by the great powers? What are the issue-by-issue interactions that are revealing or shaping the content of great power relations, and international order more generally?

RE: Putin’s Anti-Olympic Creed

RE: Putin’s Anti-Olympic Creed

Suddenly, the winter games that Putin hosted have given way to his penchant for using armed force in what is beginning to look like a 21st-century version of the Great Game. This is the second time in six years that Putin has exerted Russian hard power to intimidate a neighboring country.

DS: Century of Violence

DS: Century of Violence

World War I may have ended in 1918, but the violence it triggered in the Middle East still hasn’t come to an end. Arbitrary borders drawn by self-interested imperial powers have left a legacy that the region has not been able to overcome. No group of countries, particularly given their small sizes, has seen so many wars, civil wars, overthrows and terrorist attacks in recent decades. To understand how this historical anomaly came to pass, several factors must be considered: the region’s depressing history prior to World War I, the failure of the Arab elite and the continual intervention by the superpowers thereafter, the role of political Islam, the discovery of oil, the founding of Israel and the Cold War.

AJA: Indonesia and Climate Change Deniers

AJA: Indonesia and Climate Change Deniers

Climate change may be the world’s “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction, and urgent global action is needed to combat it, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday, comparing those who deny its existence or question its causes to people who insist the earth is flat.

NYT: Spying on Law Firms

NYT: Spying on Law Firms

An American law firm was monitored while representing a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States. The disclosure is of particular interest because lawyers in the United States with clients overseas have expressed growing concern that their confidential communications could be compromised by such surveillance.

TG: Orwell a Terrorist?

TG: Orwell a Terrorist?

If George Orwell were to return from the Spanish civil war today, he would be arrested under the Terrorism Act 2006. If convicted of fighting abroad with a “political, ideological, religious or racial motive” he would face a maximum sentence of life in prison, but not, strangely, if he possessed a financial motive. Far from it: such motives are now eminently respectable. You can even obtain a City & Guilds qualification as a naval mercenary. Sorry, “maritime security operative”. As long as you don’t care whom you kill or why, you’re exempt from the law. But what clearer case could there be of the “use or threat of action … designed to influence the government … for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause” than the war with Iraq?

IISS: Strategic Survey 2013

IISS: Strategic Survey 2013

The next year will be a year of living tactically. However, there are developments on the horizon of potential strategic consequence that will call out for larger, more coordinated, designs. In their absence, the sense that we live in a state of sublimated strategic anarchy will persist.

TG: NSA Climate Talk Spying

TG: NSA Climate Talk Spying

Developing countries have reacted angrily to revelations that the United States spied on other governments at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden show how where world leaders including Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel failed to agree to a strong deal on climate change.

FA: Failed State Paradigm

FA: Failed State Paradigm

After a decade of conflict and effort with precious little to show for it the recent era of interventionist U.S. state building is drawing to a close. The decline of the state-building narrative reflects a more profound underlying truth: the obsession with weak states was always more of a mania than a sound strategic doctrine.

NYT: NSA Program is Illegal

NYT: NSA Program is Illegal

The Obama administration has portrayed the NSA’s bulk collection program as useful and lawful but an independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down. The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”

NC: Surveillance and Scandal

NC: Surveillance and Scandal

Washington has made a $1.2 trillion investment in a new apparatus of world power. To update Henry Stimson: in the age of the Internet, gentlemen don’t just read each other’s mail, they watch each other’s porn. Even if we think we have nothing to hide, all of us, whether world leaders or ordinary citizens, have good reason to be concerned.

DS: Germans May Investigate NSA

DS: Germans May Investigate NSA

Germany and the US appear to be edging closer to political confrontation. Germany’s Federal Prosecutor says there is sufficient evidence to open a politically explosive investigation into NSA spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. Under German law, the justice minister has the right to order the federal prosecutor to open legal proceedings.

BBC: American Apathy

BBC: American Apathy

American citizens have bought into the notion that the “war on terror” and “Islamic extremism” justify all means. Their acquiescence, if not active tolerance, is what allows Washington to operate above the law, from drones to routinely spying on the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the Spanish people, to name but a few of the targets.

AN: Obama and Haiti’s Minimum Wage

AN: Obama and Haiti’s Minimum Wage

The Obama Administration fought to keep the Haitian minimum wage to 31 cents an hour. Haiti passed a law in 2012 raising its minimum wage to 61 cents an hour. America corporations like Hanes and Levi Strauss vociferously objected, claiming such an increase would irreparably harm their business and profitability.

NC: Monsters of Our Own Creation

NC: Monsters of Our Own Creation

“We know everything but learn nothing” would be an honest slogan for the NSA, CIA and lesser-known spy agencies that specialize in leading us so dangerously astray. For all of their massive intrusion into the personal lives of individuals throughout the world, it is difficult to recall a time when the “intelligence” they collected provided such myopic policy insight.

DS: NSA Hacking Unit

DS: NSA Hacking Unit

The NSA’s TAO hacking unit is considered to be the intelligence agency’s top secret weapon. It maintains its own covert network, infiltrates computers around the world and even intercepts shipping deliveries to plant back doors in electronics ordered by those it is targeting.

FA: End of (Easy) Hypocrisy

FA: End of (Easy) Hypocrisy

One of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is. Yet as the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices — and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches.

NYT: Trans-Atlantic Trust

NYT: Trans-Atlantic Trust

Trans-Atlantic relations have reached a low point not seen since the Iraq war. In fact, the current crisis may be worse: Back then it was a question of policy disagreement; this time, it is a matter of broken trust and personal humiliation, the worst thing that can happen to a political leader.

NYT: White House on Spying

NYT: White House on Spying

The White House response on Monday to the expanding disclosures of American spying on foreign leaders, their governments and millions of their citizens was a pathetic mix of unsatisfying assurances about reviews under way, platitudes about the need for security in an insecure age, and the odd defense that the president didn’t know that American spies had tapped the German chancellor’s cellphone for 10 years. There has long been an understanding that international spying was done in pursuit of a concrete threat to national security. That Chancellor Merkel’s cellphone conversations could fall under that umbrella is an outgrowth of the post-9/11 decision by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that everyone is the enemy, and that anyone’s rights may be degraded in the name of national security.

IISS: The Eurasian Sea

IISS: The Eurasian Sea

Maritime disputes in Eastern Asia have been sending odd ripples of excitement through Western Europe for the past few years. Experts and policymakers claim that Europe cannot stay aloof. Maritime disputes in the East are, to be sure, a source of much uncertainty, and could escalate. But is this a reason for Europe to dive into the play pool of the Pacific powers? This question needs to be examined through a broad geopolitical prism.

BBC: Pilotless F-16 Jet

BBC: Pilotless F-16 Jet

Boeing has revealed that it has retrofitted retired fighter jets to turn them into drones and suggested that the innovation could ultimately be used to help train pilots, providing an adversary they could practise firing on. Boeing said that it had a total of six modified F-16s, and that the US military now planned to use some of them in live fire tests.

NoC: Obama and Cluster Bombs

NoC: Obama and Cluster Bombs

Obama would be standing on stronger ground in demanding that Syria’s government eliminate its stocks of poison gas if the US would sign onto the UN’s 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. He should order the US military to destroy its massive stockpiles of cluster weapons, and vow never to use them again.

NoC: Kerry and Kissinger

NoC: Kerry and Kissinger

The Kerry-Kissinger meeting, and the public outcry against the proposed attack on Syria to which both men are publicly committed, should be viewed through the lens of another Sept. 11…1973. On that day, 40 years ago, the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was violently overthrown in a U.S.-backed coup.

FA: Stealth Multilateralism

FA: Stealth Multilateralism

The US Senate rejects multilateral treaties as if it were sport. The US still wields influence in the UN Security Council and in international financial and trade institutions, but when it comes to solving global problems beyond the old centers of diplomatic and economic power, the United States suffers the self-inflicted wound of diminishing relevance.

Lakoff: Metaphor and War

Lakoff: Metaphor and War

Metaphors are used in communicating policy, but also influence behavior through systemic causation. Conceptual metaphors and scenarios have real inferences that may or may not fit the world. America will act, or act by not acting. There will be real-world consequences in either case. From infanthood on we experience simple, direct causation. Systemic causation by contrast cannot be experienced directly, it has to be learned. To President Obama, “Syria” is not primarily about direct causation. It is about systemic causation as it affects the world as a whole. But the president has not made this clear, and he could not possibly do it in one speech, given that most people don’t viscerally react to systemic causation, and many don’t understand it at all. We need to keep track of the metaphors and scenarios we use so that we can better see the consequences of our actions.

Foreign Affairs: Ali Khamenei

Foreign Affairs: Ali Khamenei

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is Iran’s head of state, commander in chief, and top ideologue. His views are what will ultimately shape Iranian policy. Khamenei has always been critical of liberal democracy and thinks that capitalism and the West are in inevitable long-term decline. Nevertheless, he is not reflexively anti-Western or anti-American. He does not believe that the United States and the West are responsible for all of the Islamic world’s problems, that they must be destroyed, or that the Koran and sharia are by themselves sufficient to address the needs of the modern world. He considers science and progress to be “Western civilization’s truth,” and he wants the Iranian people to learn this truth. He is not a crazy, irrational, or reckless zealot searching for opportunities for aggression. But his deep-rooted views and intransigence are bound to make any negotiations with the West difficult and protracted, and any serious improvement in the relationship between Iran and the United States will have to be part of a major comprehensive deal involving significant concessions on both sides.

AlterNet: US & Chemical Warfare

AlterNet: US & Chemical Warfare

The United States has been a supplier, supporter and even employer of a wide range of weapons of mass destruction, including sarin gas. The Syrian government may or may not have done what the Obama administration is claiming but the United States has its own dark history with biological and chemicals weapons, which we ignore at our peril.

Economist: The Secret State

Economist: The Secret State

After the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, most Americans seemed content to pare back some civil liberties in return for potential security. But after revelations of widespread spying by the National Security Agency (NSA), and the harsh treatment and verdict handed down to Bradley Manning, American public opinion is shifting.

Stanford/NYU: Living Under Drones

Stanford/NYU: Living Under Drones

In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false. It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account.

AlterNet: US and Democracy

AlterNet: US and Democracy

American power is diminishing, as it has been in fact since its peak in 1945, but it’s still incomparable. And it’s dangerous. Obama’s remarkable global terror campaign and the limited, pathetic reaction to it in the West is one shocking example. And it is a campaign of international terrorism – by far the most extreme in the world.

Paddy Ashdown: Politician

Paddy Ashdown: Politician

After service as a Royal Marine and as an intelligence officer for the UK security services, Paddy Ashdown was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1983 to 2001, and leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 until 1999; later he was the international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006.

PS: Sino-EU Vision

PS: Sino-EU Vision

Many Europeans believe that China, one of the EU’s ten so-called strategic partners, behaves more like a competitor. And many Chinese, for whom the EU is just one of more than 70 strategic partners, complain that the EU’s policy toward China is more commercial than strategic. The time has come for the world’s largest developing country and largest bloc of developed countries to define and deepen their strategic partnership.

TD: Surveillance Blowback

TD: Surveillance Blowback

Within a decade, the U.S. will likely deploy an aerospace shield, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and even vaster, more omnipresent digital surveillance networks that will envelop the Earth in an electronic grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield, atomizing a single suspected terrorist, or monitoring millions of private lives at home and abroad.

NYT: Leak Crackdown

NYT: Leak Crackdown

Soon after President Obama appointed him director of national intelligence in 2009, Dennis C. Blair called for a tally of the number of government officials or employees who had been prosecuted for leaking national security secrets. In the previous four years, 153 cases had been referred to the Justice Department. Not one had led to an indictment.

IISS: 2012 Strategic Survey

IISS: 2012 Strategic Survey

Strategic Survey 2012: The Annual Review of World Affairs covers all the events and themes of the year region by region, and includes special essays on important policy issues: the implications of the cyber world for intelligence agencies; building cooperation in African defence; and the effectiveness of economic sanctions on Iran.

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