Operation New Dawn. That is the name the U.S. military will give its operations in Iraq when U.S. military operations in that country end this September. Wait, what?
This March, the Obamas will touch down in the U.S. territory of Guam, en route to Australia and Indonesia. It’s a big deal for this tiny Pacific island seven-and-a-half hours by plane from Hawaii and, according to airport placards, “where America’s day begins.” Two senators from Guam, Judith P. Guthertz and Rory J. Respicio, have already written to ask the president “to meet a few of your fellow Americans,” instead of the typical orchestrated “pit stop” behind the gates of Andersen Air Force Base.
On January 31, an armed commando unit pulled up to a house in a working-class neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez on the Mexican side of the border with the United States. Inside the house, 60 teenagers were celebrating a friend’s birthday. Wielding high-caliber weapons, the commandos opened fire on the kids, robbed the house, then drove away from the scene — amid human cries, the scent of gunpowder, and the total absence of law enforcement officials.
Of all the world’s potential hotspots, one of the most unlikely is tucked into the folds of the Himalayas. This slice of ground is little more than frozen rock fields and soaring peaks that is decidedly short on people, resources, and oxygen. But for the past year this border area has been a worrisome source of friction between India and China, including incursions by Chinese troops, the wounding of several Indian border police, and a buildup of military forces on both sides.
President Barack Obama recently announced an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, outlining plans to send an additional 30,000 troops. In search of an “end game,” he also declared that the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan would end in the summer of 2011, though the administration has since stated this will be a long and slowly phased withdrawal. The additional troops — even had they been the 40,000 originally requested by General Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan — will be unable to score a military victory. Washington realizes that military force is not enough, particularly in the face of the loss of public support in the United States and the recent failure of democratic elections in Afghanistan. The end game will require a political settlement.
The October 3 debate between Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Delaware Senator Joe Biden was disturbing for those of us hoping for a more enlightened and honest foreign policy during the next four years. In its aftermath, pundits mainly focused on Palin’s failure to self-destruct and Biden’s relatively cogent arguments. Here’s an annotation of the foreign policy issues raised during the vice-presidential debate, which was packed with demonstrably false and misleading statements.
One battle rarely wins or loses a war, at least in the moment. Gettysburg crippled Lee’s army in 1863, but the Confederates fought on until 1865. Stalingrad broke the back of the German 6th Army, but it would be two-and-a-half years before the Russians took Berlin. War – particularly the modern variety – is a complex mixture of tactics, technology, and politics. Then there are the intangibles, like morale.
Five years ago the United States attacked and occupied Iraq. It has lost militarily, politically and morally. The end of the war may be in sight. But the consequences will endure, as will the deep-seated impulse among America’s leaders for global intervention without constraint.
The Pentagon ushered in the New Year with seemingly welcome news: IraqÂs security is improving. Attacks across the country fell 62% and, according to aid organization Iraqi Red Crescent, 20,000 Iraqi refugees returned home from Syria in December alone. The U.S. troop surge must be working. Even the Democratic opponents of President George BushÂs agenda in Iraq are befuddled by the news, unclear how to proceed.