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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014
The limits of blame in the Middle East (10/21/14)
Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East, are in the midst of conflicts over belief and borders. The march of the Islamic State continues, threatening Baghdad and beyond. In this context, identity and loyalty become existential questions, as young men decide whether to enlist under the black flags of the Islamic State, or serve in the armies and militias of their nations...
The Islamic State, terror and the Muslim world (09/30/14)
The Obama administration is leading a multi-front offensive against the Islamic State (IS), a terrorist movement in the Middle East that has seized large areas of both Iraq and Syria, in the name of re-establishing a single caliphate -- a government combining religious and political authority -- over all Muslims...
A look at the ISIS conflict (09/16/14)
President Obama finally decided on a strategy this week against the Islamic State (IS) -- the terrorist movement that occupies vast areas of northern Iraq and eastern Syria. There is little that was new in this announcement, but for a president who has done much to avoid committing U.S. forces against the Islamic State, or in support of defending allies in the Middle East, it was a welcome change...
Piracy in the Indian Ocean: Perils on the high seas (08/26/14)
In the Disney version of piracy, buccaneers such as Jack Sparrow -- Captain Jack Sparrow -- claim to be ruffians and rebels, but in practice it is mostly their hearts that are made of gold, not their treasure. While they do sail, and occasionally fight British ships, or raid coastal towns, their crimes are minimal, and in the end they show courage and goodness that would have been shocking to the actual pirates of the Caribbean...
Checking Russia in Ukraine: A new path (08/12/14)
The pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine have proved themselves militarily incompetent, continuing to lose ground to the Ukrainian military and, through their shoot-down of Malaysia's MH17 aircraft, united U.S. and European opinion more strongly against Vladimir Putin than did his brazen seizure of the Crimean Peninsula...
Missing an opportunity with Morocco, Western Sahara (07/22/14)
The Obama administration has been very engaged in North Africa, from the president's 2009 Cairo speech to the policy of "leading from behind" during the Libyan Revolution of 2011. These efforts have had limited success, with some spectacular failures, but the region remains of great importance to the United States, given its geography and resources...
Learning to love the World Cup (07/08/14)
The United States should be proud of its distinctive sporting tradition, with American football nearly ours alone, and only a handful of other nations serious about baseball, basketball and hockey. Even so, the World Cup provides us with an opportunity to consider reasons why the rest of the world, or at least most of it, is far more engaged with a sport that so far has not caught fire in the United States...
Embracing the Kurdish option? (06/24/14)
In the midst of the dramatic gains by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, some Americans familiar with the region, among whom I would count myself, are beginning to question not just the failures of the Obama administration that contributed to these circumstances. Might there be opportunity in Iraq's catastrophe to revisit what seemed a settled issue? Is it time to support an independent state for the Kurds?...
The welcome persistence of monarchy (06/10/14)
The United States of America was founded as a result of a rebellion against monarchy -- specifically, excessive taxes and infringements on liberty by King George III. Throughout its history, the U.S. has tended to favor republican movements and states, from supporting the independence movements against Spain in the early 19th century to casting World War I (after the abdication of the Russian czar) as a war against autocracy...
Democracies in the Middle East with monarchies (05/20/14)
The Middle East has been uncharacteristically unstable for much of the last five years. The Arab Spring, the Syrian Civil War, the rise of violence against civilians in Iraq, a resurgent al-Qaida, and the unrest in Libya since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Kaddafi, are the more notable examples of this tumult...
The Umbrage Doctrine (09/24/13)
During the recent Syrian imbroglio, in which President Obama threatened to attack Syria, then begged Congress to stop him, then thanked Vladimir Putin for rescuing the regime in Damascus, an interesting discussion emerged over international law. The administration argued that, despite there being no Syrian threat against the United States, no attack on U.S. ...
Small steps key to effective immigration reform (09/12/13)
President Obama can no longer lead the United States through immigration reform. His focus on other priorities, including his own re-election and Obamacare, has robbed him of time and necessary political capital. The president's inexplicable refusal to build relationships, not just with Republican leaders, but even within his own party, has left him with few on Capitol Hill willing to work with the administration...
King's legacy more than monuments (08/28/13)
Fifty years ago today, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was the scene for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The struggle for civil rights, and discourse over what that means, continues to this day. In a happy development, the conflict is now not whether the goal should be pursued, but by what means this can be a nation in which we can "make justice a reality for all of God's children."...
Unlikely partners, prospects in newest Middle East peace process (08/08/13)
In the film "Dumb and Dumber," Jim Carrey's character of Lloyd Christmas, upon being told by his love interest that their chances of a relationship were not "one in a hundred," but instead "more like one out of a million," responded: "So you're telling me there's a chance ... YEAH!"...
Australia: The Anchor of the Pacific (07/18/13)
Australia is the indispensable ally of the United States on the western reaches of the Pacific Rim. The two nations have a greater commonality of interests, with less capacity for unnecessary entanglements than any other regional treaty partners. From its origins as a British colony, later as commonwealth of the United Kingdom, and more recently as a fully independent state, Australia has played a modest role in global politics, but a disproportionally large one in its region...
The second Egyptian revolution (07/11/13)
In early 2011, President Obama made clear that Hosni Mubarak, the long-term president of Egypt, and a staunch U.S. ally, had to surrender power in the face of mass public protests. Regional experts, including the Saudi and Jordanian governments, warned that Mubarak's ouster and the quick elections demanded by the U.S. would lead to victories for the Muslim Brotherhood...
Intervention in Syria: Three imperatives (06/20/13)
The Obama administration announced in recent days that it will begin arming Syrian rebels as they struggle to overturn the dictatorship of Bashar Assad and his Baathist state. While it is true that this military aid likely will be meager and is starting more than two years after major resistance began, it is still in the interests of the United States to participate indirectly in this war...
Russia and its allies: The reward of loyalty (06/06/13)
During the early 1980s, one of President Ronald Reagan's national security team was complaining to a more seasoned diplomat about the western Europeans, bemoaning their low levels of military spending, risk-averse approach to the USSR, and reluctance to support bold U.S. moves...
Afghanistan: Lessons from the British Empire (05/23/13)
In the 19th century, Central Asia was the scene of a struggle for dominance between the British and Russian Empires, a conflict that became known as "The Great Game." Each of the major powers vied for tribal influence, military bases, trade agreements and cultural influence across a complex region of conflicting loyalties, warring ethnic groups and few resources...
North Korea: Mitigating the Kims (05/09/13)
Korea, during the long centuries when it was a united monarchy, was known as the "shrimp among whales," hemmed in by the more powerful states of Japan, China and Russia. Relatively weak, it has been able to maintain at least its territorial integrity by relying on the protection of one of its stronger neighbors...
Not just nuclear weapons: Iran's emerging influence (04/18/13)
Iran's political, religious and military leaders are preparing for a future in which their policies are no longer constrained by Western economic sanctions, meaning either they intend to abandon their nuclear weapons program -- a move that seems unlikely -- or they expect to develop the ability to field these weapons in the near term, without carrying out the final step...
Corruption, civil service and capitalism (12/13/12)
When I visited Tangier, Morocco, in 1994, I was struck by the entrepreneurial spirit of everyone I encountered -- from boys offering guided tours, to old men selling mint tea, to rug merchants hawking their wares in cramped shops. Each presented me with -- in French, Spanish and English -- a "special deal," a "tourist offer" or whatever enticement they thought might distinguish what they had from the hundreds of others providing essentially identical goods and services...
An introduction to the inequality of nations (12/06/12)
It's a common theme, repeated in the media and by political figures, that since the end of the Cold War, the United States remains "the world's only superpower." Given the frequency of that statement, it is worth considering its significance and, more broadly, to identify the comparisons this term might imply when examining the rest of the world...
The new Iron Domino (11/29/12)
In the aftermath of South Vietnam's fall to communist North Vietnam in 1975, the Domino Theory -- that Saigon's collapse would lead to communist victories across the region -- proved semi-accurate. Two other states, Laos and Cambodia, also fell to communism. However, this was the end of the cascade as the Kingdom of Thailand defeated the red tide, becoming known for its resistance as the "Iron Domino."...
Obama's foreign policy opportunity (11/15/12)
On March 26, President Obama whispered to Russia's president, Dmitri Medvedev, that the U.S. election, once completed, would provide him with more "flexibility" in negotiations with Moscow. Now that he has won a convincing re-election, Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to make good on that promise of progress...
The Presidential difference: China, the Middle East and trade (10/18/12)
With the prospect of Mitt Romney being elected president seeming increasingly likely, it would be appropriate to consider ways in which a Romney/Ryan administration would be demonstrably different from Obama/Biden. On three key issues -- China, the Middle East, and free trade agreements -- we should expect dramatic changes in January 2013 should the Republicans win...
Colin Powell and me (10/04/12)
In June and July 1989, I was an Army ROTC cadet, struggling at Fort Lewis, Wash., to complete six weeks of Advanced Camp training. This was the capstone experience at the time before commissioning as a second lieutenant. In almost every category -- physical fitness, weapons qualification and inspections -- I was at or below average in my training platoon...
Containing China: The surprising alliance (09/20/12)
Several years ago, in his best-selling book "The Clash of Civilizations," political scientist Samuel Huntington argued that the future of Asia would be characterized by rising Chinese dominance, at the head of coalition of nations, drawn to Beijing by its economic, cultural and military power...
The quiet rebirth of Christianity (09/06/12)
For many years, journalists have referred to Islam as the "world's fastest growing religion." While statistics of faith practices are difficult to verify, in absolute terms Islam has enjoyed many years of measurable growth at or near 2 percent, compared to just under that for Christianity...
American sea power in the 21st century (08/23/12)
The U.S. Navy is the indispensable guarantor of our nation's overseas interests, the branch of the armed forces most compatible with our individual liberties, and the clearest means of rapidly asserting our international strength and asynchronous military superiority. For these reasons, funding for the navy ships, systems and personnel should be considered "first among equals" in our military spending, especially under our current budgetary crisis...
The imperative of exploring space (08/09/12)
There are plenty of reasons to oppose space exploration. The missions are costly and, when involving astronauts, dangerous. We have many unmet needs in our own country, with deficits larger than ever. Even so, space beckons, with the real possibility for not only providing practical benefits to humanity but also expanding our vision of what it means to be human...
'Betting against America' hypocrisy (07/26/12)
Recent Democratic attacks against Mitt Romney, denouncing him as someone who has been "betting against America," are hypocritical, eager as the Obama administration is to surrender U.S. sovereignty through agreements such as the Law of the Sea Treaty, as well as to providing foreign aid to anti-American regimes. Even more, this campaign tactic risks alienating our allies, hurting global markets and reviving protectionism against foreign trade...
The International Criminal Court and the rule of tyrants (07/12/12)
In 2010, I visited the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands. Sitting less than 10 feet from me, albeit on the other side of a soundproof and ballistic-resistant glass wall, was Radovan Karadzic, an accused Bosnian Serb war criminal finally arrested in 2008. ...
Syria and the best of bad options (06/28/12)
The increasingly catastrophic conflict in Syria has led many world leaders -- from members of Congress to diplomats in the Arab League -- to call for a robust international intervention, along the lines of the NATO-led air campaign that helped topple Libya's Muammar Qadhafi...
No crisis for Canada (06/14/12)
For all of the grumbling about the global financial crisis, with anemic growth in the U.S. and Europe and concerns about inflation and investment bubbles in China, there is one nation that has seemed immune to this stagnation: Canada. American and European leaders could learn from this example of liberty, and the economic growth that has accompanied it...
Egypt's dilemma: The professor or the pilot? (05/31/12)
Egyptians will vote June 16 and 17 in a runoff election to determine their next president. The two candidates are unexpected beneficiaries of a divided electorate, disqualifications of more popular candidates and better organization among several key constituencies. ...
Undoing destiny: Greece and the future of the European Union (05/17/12)
In 490 and again in 480 B.C., the warring Greek city-states, who had for centuries proven unable to unite, rallied together against a hated aggressor, the mighty Persian Empire. Spartans, Athenians and other Greeks rallied on land and at sea and achieved stunning victories against vast Persian forces...
Breaking faith: President Obama, the Falklands and the United Kingdom (05/03/12)
We have clear evidence, again, demonstrating why President Obama has held fewer news conferences than any other contemporary president. Without a teleprompter and speechwriters, Barack Obama can make listeners nostalgic for the rhetorical agility of George W. ...
Veterans in a war-weary America (04/12/12)
The Iraq War is over, with the last U.S. forces withdrawn at the end of 2011. American and allied forces continue to fight in Afghanistan, but the Obama administration has signaled it intends to end that mission beginning in 2014. After more than 10 years of the War on Terror, however, the United States is on the downward slope in this global military engagement...
Restoring worker freedom in the federal workforce (03/22/12)
Unions are an indispensable part of the private sector, but unfortunately many federal employees, while not forced to join unions, work under conditions in which unions have a disproportionate voice. Federal employee unions cannot strike or negotiate over wages or benefits, which are set by Congress, but increasing numbers of federal employees are governed by collective bargaining agreements that grant wide latitude to unions...
Intervention in Syria: Opportunity and peril (03/08/12)
In recent days, key U.S. senators, including John McCain and Joe Lieberman, have called for airstrikes against the Syrian regime, as well as direct aid to opposition groups. This would replicate the tactics used to terminate the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi, an enticing prospect given the brutality of Bashar Assad, the regime's support for terrorism, and its alliances with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah -- a rogue's gallery of anti-Americanism...
The danger of enabling Iran (02/23/12)
One of the ironies of international politics is that the best way to ensure war is to prepare for peace. Nations that have attempted to achieve peace through noble sentiments (or Nobel Prizes) can count on their enemies disregarding these naive hopes...
The case for a strong Congress (02/09/12)
Congress is an easy target; frustration with bipartisan failure is at an all-time high, with Capitol Hill's approval ratings lower than that of an Occupy Wall Streeter at a Chamber of Commerce dinner. Presidential candidates routinely rail against Congress, with President Obama's re-election campaign based on the (fortunate) refusal of Congress to impose even more spending, higher taxes and greater regulation...
Chemical weapons and the U.S.: The welcome end of an era (01/26/12)
While in most cases nations should not abandon viable weapons systems, Americans should welcome the recent news that the U.S. has destroyed the last stocks of chemical weapons stored at the Deseret Chemical Depot in Utah. This follows news of several years ago that the U.S. military had finished incinerating similar weapons at Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas...
Fear unfounded: Civil liberties and the 2012 Defense Authorization Act (01/12/12)
If Congress passed a law for collegiate sporting events, stating that "air horns could under no circumstances be played or employed to produce sounds in or near collegiate sporting events, whether intercollegiate or intramural," we would conclude that NCAA football games would be safe from the earsplitting devices...
The rise of a strong India (12/29/11)
While the past decade has brought forth many negative developments in the world, from the brutal attacks of 9/11 to Russia's revived assertiveness to the increasing military power of China, there is at least one strategic change that has been positive: the rise of a strong India, with a free market, growing military power and a convergence of interests with the United States...
The European debt crisis: Lessons for the United States (12/08/11)
Europeans are worried and not just about the current debt crisis but over the future of the European Union and its currency, the euro. Headlines across Europe include ominous warnings about the potential collapse of their market for sovereign debt -- the money borrowed by countries to cover their budget deficits...
The comrades we left behind (11/10/11)
The attention paid to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 this fall was well-deserved. Never in U.S. history were so many civilians deliberately killed by our nation's enemies, in this case radical Islamic jihadis dedicated to the destruction of the West. Two wars, more than 6,000 U.S. military casualties and severe changes in the way we travel and see the world are testament to the importance of that cruel event...
China's global strategy (10/13/11)
China not only is a strategic threat to the United States but has long-term plans to challenge us in every conceivable arena. With a massive defense buildup, ambitious space program and growing economic leverage, it will soon have the means to confront this nation at points of its choosing. ...
The bitter triangle (09/08/11)
The expulsion of Israel's ambassador to Turkey this month, as a Turkish protest over Israel's turning back of a "peace" flotilla headed for the Gaza Strip, is emblematic of a crisis. Turkey has also frozen military ties and defense contracts, potentially a multibillion-dollar decision. One of the world's unlikeliest alliances, between Israel and Turkey, appears frayed beyond repair...
What Osama bin Laden's killing means going forward (05/08/11)
By Dr. Wayne H. Bowen The killing of Osama bin Laden was an unequivocal victory for the United States, the West and the more than 90 percent of Muslims worldwide -- as measured in elections and polling -- who do not support global jihad. He was the most public enemy of western civilization, destroyed the World Trade Center, attacked the Pentagon, and inspired attacks by local al-Qaida affiliates throughout the world, killing tens of thousands, mostly Muslims. ...
Pearl Harbor's global impact (12/07/10)
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, followed by declarations of war against the United States by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy on Dec. 11, transformed the course of World War II, but not as the Axis expected. The Japanese hoped to cripple the U.S. ...
President Obama and Africa: The irony of neglect (04/14/10)
Six months after he took office, President Obama made a triumphant visit to Africa, stopping in Ghana on his way home from summits in Europe. His state visit, speeches and interviews with African media raised hopes that he would devote significant attention to its one billion people and 60-plus nations and territories...
The speech Obama should have given (12/16/09)
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, distinguished members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America and citizens of the world: I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations -- that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. ...
The Obama administration and three cautionary tales (09/06/09)
Over the past few months, as the debates over the stimulus package, health care reform and the deficit have intensified, the swastika, as it often does, has made an unwelcome reappearance. Protesters at congressional town hall meetings have equated some Democratic proposals to National Socialism, while some supporters of the president have denounced these same protesters as using Nazi-like tactics of intimidation. ...
Obama's opportunity in the Middle East (05/11/09)
It is easy to find reasons to be depressed about the Middle East: Iran seems on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. Hezbollah will likely win June's parliamentary elections in Lebanon. The Taliban rises again in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And a permanent Arab-Israeli peace seems at first glance to be more distant today than at any time since the first Intifada of the late 1980s...
Change tyrants can believe in (02/24/09)
The first month of the Obama administration has been disappointing for the cause of global freedom. In the midst of the media's focus on this nation's economic downturn, as well as the drama surrounding the seeming inability of many high-level Democrats to pay taxes, a quiet change has been occurring in U.S. foreign policy...
Struggle for survival: Israel responds to rocket attacks (01/06/09)
Imagine if, every day, six or seven rockets landed in the southwestern U.S. launched from northern Mexico. How would the U.S. media report on the destruction caused by these warheads as they plummeted from the sky into California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas?...
"Yes, we can" still be conservative (11/13/08)
By Wayne H. Bowen First, a confession: I like Barack Obama and wish him well as president. I heard him speak in person in Columbia, S.C., just days before that state's Democratic primary, and was moved by his words about the unfinished business of the American Dream. Among the Democratic presidential candidates, Obama had the most hopeful and uniting vision for the country...
Wayne Bowen
The Pen and the Sword
Wayne Bowen received his Ph.D. in history from Northwestern University, and is also an Army veteran.