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March 28, 2011 08:47 AM

Bottom line: we just don't know where this is going. Every one of these countries is very different, from traditional states to made-up ones. One thing is very true. This is the great test of the foreign policy lessons we should have learned from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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February 8, 2011 07:52 AM

It's early still to see through the smoke of the Egyptian protests, but three possible futures for Egypt are beginning to emerge. The first, that the Mubarak regime will emerge unscathed from the protests, is probably unlikely. There's no question that the government has been shaken, but also growing evidence that it is successfully containing the protests, to the point that support for disruptive change will begin to slip away in favor of stability and some moderate reforms. The worst option for everybody -- that the government will fall and Egypt will go through some kind of tumultuous revolutionary change -- also now seems unlikely. The Army has remained rock-steady and it increasingly appears that, outside parts of Cairo and Alexandria, the protests have not made a measurable difference. So fears that radical Islamists -- and the Muslim Brotherhood -- will have an opportunity to dominate some kind of Russian-revolution scenario now seem unfounded.

It's most possible now that the government and the protesters will arrive at some kinds of compromises over great

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December 6, 2010 08:48 AM

Hope you don't mind me coming back like this -- in a hurry, and just want to make a few points.

First, the armed services follow orders. It's certainly OK for the service chiefs to voice their opinions, and I think buried in their comments is a plea that we drop the ban in a measured way. But if Congress ends the law, they'll comply. And if a straight soldier refuses to fight alongside a gay one, then he should be punished in whatever way is appropriate under the UCMJ. The services don't get to debate about their makeup--if they were, they'd still be an all-white-male organization.

I don't get the "breaking point" argument; I'm obviously retired now and not in a unit preparing for deployment, but my experience tells me that troops in combat, or getting ready to go to combat, really have other things to think about.

Whether the Dems try to cram this bill through Congress in the lame-duck session obviously has little to do with the merits of the argument, but rather the political wisdom of trying to force a bill through before their authority dimini

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April 19, 2010 10:33 AM

U.S. and South Korean responses must be measured on a number of factors. There are three scenarios that seem to me to be important. First is the possibility that this was an accident not involving North Korea at all. Ships of war all carry explosives enough to sink themselves, and whether internally-carried explosives did this should be determinable by the investigation; internal explosions obviously have different "signatures" than internal ones. Additionally, she could have been sunk by mines left over from the Korean War of the early 'fifties. The fact that the South Korean reaction mentioned that possibility almost immediately indicates, to me at least, that the threat has been known to exist in those waters. Second is the chance that she was sunk by a rogue North Korean commander. The North has had its problems with military forces armed to the teeth and conditioned to react aggressively when opportunity comes up. Third, the attack could have been ordered by the North Korean government, which currently denies

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April 5, 2010 09:21 AM

On one level, American leaders can be forgiven for their impatience at Karzai; American troops (and our allies) are being killed to give his country a chance for air, American treasure is propping him up. Why can't we demand some accountability? Well, the short-term answer is whether we want him to be president, and be perceived as president, or not. We can't have it two ways. It's one thing to press him, quietly and forcefully, to undertake reforms. It's another to scold him in public, as if Obama had to fly over there and bring him to heel. This is a man, corrupt or not, of action; who was a guerrilla leader who allied himself early with us when our success was in doubt; whose life is constantly in danger, not only from his open enemies, but from the unknown ones as well. Whose hold on power is constant triangulation, the outcome of which is literally life or death. He may in fact be over his head, he may be -- is -- too tolerant of corruption. But he's what we have. Why publicly humiliate him? This gets to a larger problem I have

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March 8, 2010 07:40 AM

As we all know, Secretary Gates is just the latest in a long line of Secretaries of Defense to ask the Europeans to get serious about their own defense. Even when the Warsaw Pact was at the door, there was considerable angst on this side over NATO defense contributions.

But any longtime observer of the Alliance should be pleasantly surprised that it's held together as well as it has, and that we will shortly have 50,000 NATO troops alongside ours in Afghanistan. Even if many of them operate under instructions that keep them on the combat sidelines, they represent manpower and resources that we or the Afghans would have to replace were they not there. And lest we forget, some of them -- notably but not exclusively the Brits and the Canadians -- have fought hard and have taken heavy losses; that is especially true for Canada and its excellent, if underequipped, forces. The transition of NATO from an exclusively static alliance to an expeditionary one is remarkable, and would have been laughingly dismissed twenty years ago. The new challenges the Alliance faces -- among t

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