• Getting the Nukes Out of Turkey: A How-To Guide

    Almost as soon as Turkish troops began their invasion of Syria, old debates resurfaced about whether or not the United States should withdraw the roughly 50 B61 nuclear gravity bombs at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey also began resurfacing. Unlike in years prior, however, this time such a move may actually be in the offing. Pulling the nuclear weapons out of Turkey may seem like a bold step, but the United States has been reducing the number of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and consolidating the remaining ones at ever fewer bases since the end of the Cold War.

  • Russian Theater: How to Respond to Moscow’s Return to the African Stage

    Russia is preparing to launch its first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on Oct. 24. The Russia-Africa Summit is the latest in a series of maneuvers by the Kremlin to present an image of a resurgent Russia in Africa. Judd Devermont writes that Russia’s return, even while at times ham-fisted and amateurish, does pose a threat to U.S. interests. The United States should resist the temptation to elevate Russia’s standing in Africa: It should focus on countering Moscow’s expansion and closing down its malign activities in Africa, instead of wasting time and energy framing Russia’s return as part of ‘great power competition.’”

  • U.S. Nuclear Weapons at Incirlik Air Base, in effect, “Erdogan’s hostages”: U.S. Official

    Trump announced his hasty decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria in a series of Tweets on Sunday, following a phone call with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – despite months of warnings from the Pentagon, the NSC, the U.S. intelligence community, and the Department of State. As a result, no plans were made to deal with the fifty or so tactical nuclear weapons kept under U.S. control at the Incirlik Air Base in south-central Turkey, which the United States shares with Turkey. One official told the New York Times that the nuclear bombs at the base were now effectively Erdogan’s hostages.

  • Can American Values Survive in a Chinese World?

    The People’s Republic of China bounds from strength to strength. Every year sees increases in its wealth and power relative to the world. But what do its leaders hope to achieve with their newfound clout? Jonathan D. T. Ward’s book China’s Vision of Victory traces the Chinese desire to shape the future of all mankind (not just the East Asian part of it) to a national myth taught to schoolchildren across China. According to this narrative, China was once the center of the world; China was the mother of invention, the seat of global wealth, and the beacon of civilization. This is China’s natural role in the world order—a role disrupted by the “century of humiliation” between the Opium Wars and World War II, when China suffered at the hands of foreign powers. But now that age of suffering is over. China’s destiny, according to its leaders, is to reclaim its natural perch as the leading force of human civilization. Tanner Greer writes that these global ambitions raises serious questions for the United States – questions which go beyond whether Americans will be willing to live in a world where China is the supreme economic and military power. The “hardest question may be whether we are willing to live in a world where dominant economic and military power is wielded by an insecure regime whose leaders believe that the same authoritarian techniques used to control enemies within their society must be used to surveil, coerce, and corrupt those enemies outside it.”

  • Why Undermining the Kurds Could Hurt U.S. relations with Allies

    Commenting on President Trump’s precipitous decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, Duke University’s Professor Peter Feaver said that “When the president makes a decision in this fashion, abruptly flip-flopping from a settled interagency process, ignoring the earnest advice of virtually all of his own national security advisers and breaking with all of his political supporters except the most extreme isolationist fringe of the party, then he magnifies the risk to him and to the country.” Feaver noted that the consequences of Trump’s impulsive decision could hurt relationships with allies down the road. Most leaders help the United States if they think we will aid them later. But that depends on leaders trusting the U.S. will return the favor, he said. “In the real world, most political actors try to balance short- and long-term interests, and see value in, for instance, helping the United States today in the hopes of being helped by the United States tomorrow. That depends on trusting the United States to do likewise. President Trump’s actions have undermined that trust and made it that much harder to build effective coalitions the next time.”

  • Turkey’s Syria Assault Halts the Fight Against ISIS

    The Trump administration’s abrupt decision to pull out of Syria has, as expected, led to a pause in the fight against the Islamic State. Leaders of the SDF, the mostly Kurdish group that has done the bulk of the fighting on the ground in Syria, culminating in the defeat of the group’s so-called caliphate earlier this year, said that Kurdish fighters are being reassigned from counterterrorism missions – including guarding more than 10,000 ISIS fighters in detention camps – to the battle against Turkish incursions. The decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the border region, paving the way for Turkey to launch a catastrophic assault on the Kurds, is “the worst foreign policy decision since the Iraq war,” the senior administration official said.

  • The United States Is Done Caring About Syria

    The Syria Study Group (SSG) is a bipartisan commission charged by Congress with “examining and making recommendations on the military and diplomatic strategy of the United States with respect to the conflict in Syria.” It published its report on 24 September. The report details five serious threats the conflict within Syria holds for U.S. national security: First, the self-declared Islamic State remains potent, well resourced, and ideologically committed to achieving its goals despite the pounding it has taken over the last five years. Second, Iran’s presence in Syria threatens a wider regional war, given the shadow war between the Israelis and Iranians in the seams of the conflict. Third, if U.S. foreign policy is destined to be shaped by great-power competition, then Russia is using Syria to build influence at the expense of the United States. Fourth, the violence that Bashar al-Assad and his supporters have unleashed on Syria has had far-reaching effects, including the political destabilization of Europe. The members of the study group recommend that the United States should reverse its plans for a military withdrawal in northeastern Syria and focus on stabilization efforts in that area – but Steven Cook writes that “At a level of abstraction, what the authors recommend is eminently reasonable. But given the political context in which they have been offered, most of them were dead before the report was published.” “America should not stand idly by,” the report’s authors urge, but as “they readily acknowledge, America will almost certainly do just that, perfectly reflecting the transition underway in U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East,” Cook writes.

  • Will Abandoning the Kurds Result in the Mass Release of Islamic State Fighters?

    In a series of tweets Monday morning, President Donald Trump, following a phone call with Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, announced the United States would withdraw its remaining forces from northern Syria, and that he had given a green light to Turkey to enter Syria to deal with Kurdish forces there. These forces had been instrumental in helping the United States defeat the Islamist State in Syria, and are now holding about 11,000 ISIS fighters – about 2,000 of them foreign fighters – in thirty detention centers. The Kurdish forces are regarded as terrorists by Turkey. Robert Chesney writes that the White House statement, issued after Trump’s tweets, “treats [the problem of the ISIS detainees] in a way that is far more alarming than comforting”: “It is possible that all this hand-wringing will prove unwarranted. Perhaps Turkey’s military incursion will be limited, leaving the Kurds capable and willing to continue detaining Islamic State fighters. Perhaps vast numbers of the detainees will be dispatched to Iraq for prosecution after all (a much-touted plan a year ago, about which little has surfaced since). Perhaps Turkey will somehow gain control of and maintain detention operations. Anything is possible. But none of that seems likely. More likely, the biggest beneficiary of all this will be the Islamic State.”

  • Trump’s Use of Sanctions Is Nothing Like Obama’s

    Two and a half years into Donald Trump’s presidency, there is no doubt that economic sanctions are his administration’s foreign-policy weapon of choice. From China to Iran to Venezuela, sanctions and other coercive economic tools are central to Trump’s maximum pressure campaigns against U.S. adversaries. But he is not only rolling out sanctions more aggressively than his predecessors: He is also using them in new ways. Have Trump’s sanctions worked to advance U.S. national security interests? Peter Harrell writes in Foreign Policy that the record so far is mixed, but that the use of economic sanctions as a policy tool should be informed by history. “Studies of sanctions suggest that they are successful in causing regime change or other major policy changes only about one-third of the time.” Harrell writes. “Regimes have historically shown a significant capacity to dig in and resist economic pressure while letting their people suffer if they deem it necessary for regime survival.”

  • Guyana: Ethnic Politics and a Coming Oil Bonanza

    Guyana’s president David Granger on Wednesday announced that the earliest day for the delayed parliamentary elections will be 2 March 2020, around the time that ExxonMobil plans to launch offshore oil production which will transform the country’s economy. The ruling People’s National Congress (PNC) party faces a tough challenge from the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP), which runs on a platform that promises to toughen the terms of the large oil production contract.

  • Pesticides May Have Caused Cuban “Sonic Weapon” Symptoms

    A strange illness affecting the brains of Canadian and U.S. diplomats in their countries’ embassies in Havana may have been caused by exposure to pesticides, a new study says. From late 2016 to late 2017, some 40 U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana suffered brain damage, and exhibited a range of unusual symptoms, including hearing and vision complications, dizziness, fatigue, disorientation, and headaches. The U.S. government claimed that the diplomats had been attacked by some sort of secret sonic weapon, but a new Canadian study says that the cause was likely an exposure to low-dose exposure to neurotoxins, such as those used in commercial pesticides. From late 2016 to late 2017, Cuban health authorities engaged in an intensive fumigation campaign to block the spread of the Zika virus.

  • New EU Office Criticized by Liberals, NGOs as Conveying a "Xenophobic Message"

    EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen was accused by liberal and leftist members of the European Parliament, and by several international organizations, of creating a new position which conveys a xenophobic message. The new office – the official name is The Office for Protecting Our European Way of Life — has been the subject of bitter criticized within Brussels and throughout the EU. von der Leyen defended he decision saying: “Our European way of life is holding up our values,” she told reporters. “The beauty of the dignity of every single human being is one of the most precious values.”

  • The Shocking Paper Predicting the End of Democracy

    Democracy is hard work. And as society’s “elites”—experts and public figures who help those around them navigate the heavy responsibilities that come with self-rule—have increasingly been sidelined, citizens have proved ill equipped cognitively and emotionally to run a well-functioning democracy. As a consequence, the center has collapsed and millions of frustrated and angst-filled voters have turned in desperation to right-wing populists, says Professor Shawn Rosenberg. His prediction? “In well-established democracies like the United States, democratic governance will continue its inexorable decline and will eventually fail.”

  • In a World of Cyber Threats, the Push for Cyber Peace is Growing

    Digital conflict and military action are increasingly intertwined, and civilian targets – private businesses and everyday internet users alike – are vulnerable in the digital crossfire. But there are forces at work trying to promote peace online. It will be a tough challenge.

  • The Once and Future Threat of Nuclear Weapon Testing

    The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the central security instrument of the United States and the world community. It is based on a strategic bargain between the five nuclear weapon states in the NPT (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) and the 185 non-nuclear-weapon parties to the treaty. The current worldwide moratorium on nuclear weapon testing and the intended ultimate conversion of that ban to legally binding treaty status by bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) into force are essential to the long-term viability of this strategic bargain.