Tag Archives: national security

Foreign Policy and USIP’s PeaceGame | A Discussion SIM focusing on Northern Nigeria



Take a look at the simulation #PeaceGame run by the US Institute for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine. The camerawork isn’t so great but the concept is interesting–sort of like a group discussion on a critical issue–but without (too many) dilatory motions:

From where does the first spark of what becomes violent extremism come? Is it poverty and lack of economic opportunity, or the twisting of religious doctrine to meet less than holy ends, or simmering frustration with political corruption and disenfranchisement?


… we’re asking some of the best minds we could find what the international community might do to about the economic and political drivers stoking the fire of Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group that has found infamy for its campaign of brutal murder, kidnapping, and intimidation in Nigeria.


So how does this work? We’ve assigned our assembled experts roles to play, from international organizations, to local leaders, to Boko Haram itself, and told them to fight it out in search of the best possible solution, based on their self-interests in two scenarios. Then they’ll break character and talk about what happened and why.

via Watch Live: Foreign Policy and USIP’s PeaceGame |.

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Miller on the Myths: Why Its Not Obama’s Fault

Aaron David Miller explains five “fictions we have to stop telling ourselves” to keep in mind when we analyze why we are in Syria/Iraq,  how we can be effective, and more importantly, what is really possible.

We’re clearly not yet on the verge of plunging into another pointless Americanasaurus charge much like the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

But last night’s airstrikes in Syria do represent an important escalation and expansion of the war against the Islamic State (IS) and other jihadist forces. And it’s imperative that we bring additional clarity to the problem of coordinating ends and means, and defining what our goals are, to avoid such an eventuality. Mission creep usually results from a certain amount of hysteria, a lack of clarity or confusion in goals, and, most complicating, a miscalculation of the means at our disposal with which to achieve those goals.

via Americanasaurus and the March to War in Syria.

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Diplomats Have Been Dropping Their Pens and Waving Guns – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com

In this discussion, “Foggy Bottom and the Fog of War” several observers explore what is gained or lost when the secretary of defense takes a back seat to the secretary of state in pursuing military interventions.

  • Should we follow Samantha Power’s lead and “weaponize human rights?”
  • Do career incentives for the use of force skew Washington policy for the worse?
  • Did Presidential dysfunction, resulting in the marginalization of Sec State Colin Powell undermine the Powell Doctrine–limiting the use of force except for in extraordinary circumstances–as Christopher O’Sullivan notes?
  • Is the State Department as an institution incapable of designing, owning, and implementing strategic? Should we have a stronger, better developed diplomatic core, as Kori Schake suggests?
  • Do you agree that Vietnam is the “anti-diplomacy” example, where DOD tried (and failed) to be diplomats, under Robert S. McNamara’s leadership.  (This notion is illustrated in the brilliant doc, The Fog of War.)
  • via Diplomats Have Been Dropping Their Pens and Waving Guns – Room for Debate – NYTimes.com.
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Booklist | Evan Thomas Looks at Eisenhower – NYTimes.com

Evan Thomas’s ‘Ike’s Bluff’ Looks at Eisenhower - NYTimes.com

A new look at Eisenhower highlights a key negotiation skill–the bluff.

As he explains it: “His ability to save the world from nuclear Armageddon entirely depended on his ability to convince America’s enemies — and his own followers — that he was willing to use nuclear weapons. This was a bluff of epic proportions.”

via Evan Thomas’s ‘Ike’s Bluff’ Looks at Eisenhower – NYTimes.com.

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Ambassador Jack Pritchard’s 13 Leadership Principles

Time to recognize a real American hero who stood up to both Kim Jong Il as well as John Bolton (in departmental in-fighting).

The Korean Economic Institute will bid farewell to former Ambassador Jack Pritchard, a distinguished  former U.S. diplomat who worked in both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations and understands the Koreas.  He served as the deputy chief negotiator for the Four party Peace Talks and is a former U.S. Army officer.

He offered 13 leadership principles, modeled on Colin Powell’s idea that you need to keep your core principles at hand in the hard work of training leaders:

  1. Listen;
  2. Articulate your vision;
  3. Commit to the personal and professional development of all subordinates;
  4. Loyalty is a two-way proposition: you can’t expect it if you don’t show it;
  5. Value character above skill; you can teach skill, you cannot teach character;
  6. Emphasize and encourage Team Work: the organization is not better served by the best qualified people who do not work well together;
  7. Push creativity over business as usual;
  8. Give responsibility, but require accountability;
  9. Publicly praise good performance; downplay reflected praise;
  10. Encourage use of an Open Door policy: turn full attention to any subordinate when they come in – announced or unannounced – if at all possible.  They are your number one priority at that moment;
  11. Lead by example:  take physical ownership of office facilities – water the plants, clean the carpet, arrange the furniture.  Knowing your attention to detail inspires ownership in others;
  12. Be on time to meetings: respect others’ time;
  13. Seek to rehabilitate sub-standard performers in a positive way before seeking remedies with negative consequences.

via A Farewell Message from KEI President Jack Pritchard | The Peninsula.

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Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

It’s one of the most persistent cliches of foreign-policy commentary, particularly since it’s an assertion that’s basically impossible to disprove. Here are some things that have been described, in various terms, as the greatest threat to U.S. national security or the American way of life in the past few months:

A “lone-wolf” terrorist attack – President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama – Gov. Rick Perry

China’s nuclear arsenal – Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

The national debt – Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen

The economic crisis – Retired Adm. Dennis Blair

Nuclear terrorism – Former Vice President Dick Cheney

Yemen – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

“Homegrown terror” – U.S. National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter

Cyber attacks –  FBI Director James Mueller

Iran – 63 percent of Americans

The Haqqani Network – Christiane Amanpour

Global warming – Sen. Barbara Boxer

Central American drug gangs – Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield

The radical secular socialist machine – Newt Gingrich

Obamacare – Rick Santorum

Electromagnetic Pulse weapons – EMPact America

The homosexual agenda – The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer

via Can anyone agree on what America’s ‘greatest threat’ is? | FP Passport.

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How Much is a Life Worth?

In a “very, very difficult” prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel that sidelines Mahmoud Abbas, the relative value of each countries’  citizens is revealed.   If you are an Israeli, more than 1,000 Palestinians can equal your freedom–at least in this agreement.  What are the factors and context for this deal?  How does it compare to past trades?

Many aspects of the agreement were not revealed, including the names of important Palestinian prisoners expected to be released. But Israeli journalists said after an intelligence briefing that Marwan Barghouti, a top leader of the Fatah group sentenced to five life terms and seen as a possible successor to Mr. Abbas, would not be freed. Mr. Meshal said that the total would be 1,027, among them 315 prisoners serving life sentences and 27 women.

via Israel Reaches Deal With Hamas to Free Gilad Shalit – NYTimes.com.

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Thinking Hard about 9/11 and Iraq Ten Years Later

In the era after 9/11 and the debate preceding and following the US entry into Iraq a lot of arguments flew.  One distinctive aspect of the media was its near unanimity in support of the goals of George W Bush’s administration.  (A panel of BYU faculty were among the less-known voices expressing concern.)

In “A Free-for-All on a Decade of War” the Times Magazine offers a post-9/11 debate on what was learned with some influential foreign policy voices that you should know:  Michael Ignatieff, David Rieff, James Traub, Paul Berman and Ian Buruma.

Example – RIEFF: I find it extraordinary that Paul can say these wars were necessary! There was no Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia presence in Iraq when we overthrew Saddam Hussein — — this is pure Cheney, 1% solution stuff. They came AFTER we invaded. I have nothing against the use of force against Al Qaeda (say in the Sahel). But surely the costs of these wars vastly outweigh whatever benefits there are.

But the more important question is: Why we should be meddling in the first place? Is it our business to decide who rules in Afghanistan? Beyond that, if we are talking about the Arab Spring, I advise caution. It  may well be that the Muslim Brotherhood is the principal beneficiary of Tahrir Square, not the democrats. In any case, there are real economic issues that nothing in the Arab Spring addresses or promises to resolve.

via A Free-for-All on a Decade of War – NYTimes.com.

Another voice that is worth listening to is Phillip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission.

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In Libya, Islamists’ Growing Sway Raises Questions – NYTimes.com

What will the new government look like?  Small glimpses are starting to emerge.

The growing influence of Islamists in Libya raises hard questions about the ultimate character of the government and society that will rise in place of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s autocracy. The United States and Libya’s new leaders say the Islamists, a well-organized group in a mostly moderate country, are sending signals that they are dedicated to democratic pluralism. They say there is no reason to doubt the Islamists’ sincerity.

via In Libya, Islamists’ Growing Sway Raises Questions – NYTimes.com.

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Negotiating New START

Does a bi-partisan consensus in foreign policy, the way that the U.S. was governed with much success during the Cold War and a mirror of most public opinion (unless you favor Howard Zinn’s interpretation), returned?  In the end, the Senate did the right thing at the right time–in spite of political inclinations.  How did they do it?  Josh Rogin at FP breaks it down, including the final Republican strategy to hold off until the newly elected lawmakers arrive (which didn’t work, btw).

And why did the argument to delay — made by McConnell, Kyl, Inhofe,  McCain, Graham, and others — fail to convince the almost dozen Senate Republicans who will vote for New START?

Samuel Charap, fellow at the Center for American Progress, said the ordeal should be a lesson in tactics. “On initiatives that have clear bipartisan support, hardball works,” he said.

Inhofe had a different take on why his argument didn’t win the day. “Because we’re just not that persuasive,” he said.

via The Cable | FOREIGN POLICY.

Meanwhile, if you are wondering what’s under the hood, Danger Room helps explain–as well as provide the answer to the question of what about the more clear and present danger of tactical nukes–which are still deployed in Western Europe (U.S.) and near Eastern European borders (Russia):

In other words, if anyone wants a follow-on treaty for limiting tactical nuclear weapons, that’s got to wait for another treaty. And the only way to get the Russians to agree to another treaty is to ratify this one.

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