On June 4, a missile fired from a pilotless U.S. drone reportedly killed Abu Yahya al-Libi, said to be al-Qaida’s second-in-command, in a remote region of Pakistan. Just over a year earlier, U.S. special forces stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, and shot him dead. In September 2011, a U.S. drone attack in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American radical Islamic cleric who had become an al-Qaida regional commander. Numerous other al-Qaida leaders have been killed in U.S. attacks in recent years. The Obama administration has made such decapitation attacks a central element in the U.S. struggle against al-Qaida and similar militant organizations. Read more
Posts tagged ‘Obama’
Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
This article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com
Justice Kennedy is often the deciding vote in divisive 5-4 decisions. A new nomination could strip him of this role and steer the court sharply left or right.
The president sworn in next January may have the opportunity, through a single appointment, to move the Supreme Court strongly in a conservative or liberal direction, with significant implications for some of the most controversial issues of this era far beyond the future of Roe v. Wade. Read more
By Kevin Ryan
(Brigadier General, US Army, Retiredand Executive Director for Research, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School)
Don’t get me wrong – I am pleased that the executive branch and defense establishment have developed a fresh expression of our national defense goals and strategy from the top down, as it should be. But let’s stop calling this new guidance a “strategic pivot” or a spectacular break from the past.
The new strategic defense guidance, announced at a Pentagon press conference on January 5th by the President, is primarily an apologia for having a smaller active duty Army and Marine Corps and a clear declaration that we have suspended our interest in conflicts the size of Afghanistan or larger. The guidance projects that our main areas of interest will be the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region. In the Middle East we’ll be “countering violent extremists and destabilizing threats” and in the Asia Pacific we’ll “maintain regional access and the ability to operate freely.” Read more
The Power Problem: First in a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. Comments from readers are welcome.
Was 9/11 a turning point in world history? It is too soon to be tell. After all, the lessons of World War I looked very different in 1939 than they did a mere decade after 1918.
As I argue in The Future of Power, one of the great powers shifts of this century is the increased empowerment of non-state actors, and 9/11 was a dramatic illustration of this long term trend. In 2001 an attack by non-state actors killed more Americans than a government attack did at Pearl Harbor in 1941. But this “privatization of war” was occurring before 9/11 and some American government reports in the 1990s even warned it was coming. Read more
President Obama’s careful, persistent policy on Libya has worked. The rebels are on the verge of a major victory. Libya’s cynical and brutal dictator, Muammar Qadhafi, has lost effective power and is on the run.
As I explained in an op-ed column in the Boston Globe today, while it is too early to brand this a complete victory for American policy, the rebel’s lightning advance over the past week is a vindication for President Obama’s decision to throw U.S. support behind NATO’s intervention in the Libyan civil war on behalf of the rebels. Facing harsh and often unwarranted criticism on the wisdom and constitutional basis of his policy, the President remained steady and focused on NATO’s six month air campaign to weaken Qadhafi’s forces and protect Libyan citizens. He asked Britain and France to lead NATO’s effort but provided essential and unique American capabilities at the start and end of the rebel advance from Benghazi to Tripoli. Read more
President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan has been described as a domestic political compromise between those who want a rapid drawdown and those who want more time. Foreign policy always rests on domestic compromises in a democracy, and the initial reaction appears to be that the speech has been a success – so far. But let’s engage in a thought experiment, and imagine a world without domestic politics. In such an imaginary world, what would be the right strategy?
As I argue in The Future of Power, a smart strategy for the U.S. in the 21st century would return to the wisdom of Dwight Eisenhower: strengthen the domestic economy and avoid involvement in a land war in Asia. Afghanistan violates both those considerations. Read more
At a Harvard Kennedy School conference last week, John Deutch, the former director of central intelligence and deputy secretary of defense who is now an institute professor at MIT, challenged his friend Joseph Nye to complete an unusual “assignment.” Nye — a former senior Pentagon official, a Harvard University distinguished service professor, and former dean of the Kennedy School — has now handed in his homework. We hope this kicks off a useful discussion among those concerned about governance in the United States. Readers are invited to use the comment form at the end of this post to contribute their views and join this debate.
My friend John Deutch has challenged me to explain the breakdown of governance in the United States and to identify what can be done about our capacity to deal with it.
The problems are real, but “breakdown” is too strong a word to describe them, and it is important to put current problems in historical perspective. The founders deliberately designed American government to be inefficient with checks, balances, and delays. As the joke goes, it was designed so King George could not rule over us — nor anyone else. Some argue that an inefficient 18th century design cannot cope with 21st century global problems like the rise of Asia or the transnational diffusion that I describe in The Future of Power. However, our inefficient system has coped with even greater problems in the past with only one serious breakdown a century and a half ago. Read more
Associate, Belfer Center International Security Program
In his speech on the Middle East on May 19th, President Obama put forward a sort of peace plan, without the name:
“The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
Toward the end of his speech, the President added the following clarification:
“Two wrenching and emotional issues remain: the future of Jerusalem and the future of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve these two issues.” Read more
The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum
By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
We must remain especially vigilant over the next weeks and months. There is likely to be a global spike in terrorist threats as al-Qaeda digs deep in increasingly desperate attempts to avenge their leader’s death and reestablish their relevance on the world stage.
Of most concern, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the presumptive new leader of the group, may try to make good on his 2008 promise to mount a mass casualty attack on US soil. Al-Qaeda’s ability to do so will depend on what concrete plans, if any, that they already have in motion; the group’s capacity is likely to continue diminishing over time. Read more
The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum
By Arnold Bogis
Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
This month the Obama Administration released Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 8 on National Preparedness. While arguments can be made both in favor and against this seeming reboot of the national effort to increase preparedness for natural disasters and terrorist attacks, what particularly puzzles me is the lack of attention, given existing homeland security models that include vigorous cooperation among jurisdictions and participation of non-traditional homeland security actors. These efforts can be models for the rest of the nation and often have been ongoing long before PDD-8 called for “facilitating an integrated, all-of-Nation, capabilities-based approach to preparedness.” Read more