Prior focus: Global Views

The Myth of Entangling Alliances

US President Harry Truman signing the North Atlantic Treaty on 24 August, 1949. Image: Abbie Rowe/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 9 June 2015.

For the first 165 years of its history, the United States did not form any alliances besides the one it signed with France during the Revolutionary War. Instead, U.S. leaders followed George Washington’s advice to “steer clear of permanent alliance with any portion of the foreign world,” a recommendation subsequently enshrined in Thomas Jefferson’s inaugural pledge: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.” » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

Is Wildlife Trafficking a National Security Threat?

Confiscated illegal animal products at JFK airport. Image: Steve Hildebrand/Wikimedia

This article was originally published on 10 June 2015 by New Security Beat, a blog run by the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) at the Wilson Center.

Trafficking of illegal wildlife goods is quickly becoming one of the most lucrative illicit businesses in the world. With growing demand in Asia, an industry that was once fed by isolated, small-scale poaching incidents is now run by well-organized, transnational criminal networks, similar to narcotics and guns. The Obama administration labeled wildlife trafficking as a national priority in 2013 and released a National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking in 2014. A detailed implementation plan for the strategy followed this year, identifying key steps and implementing agencies to help end trafficking in the United States and abroad. » More

Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

Clausewitz in Orbit: Spacepower Theory and Strategic Education

Artistic depiction of an anti-satellite weapon of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Defence-In-Depth on June 10, 2015.

The politics of war and peace in space is an overlooked field. Space is a quiet and lonely place in war studies – despite space systems performing critical infrastructure roles in war, peace, politics, economics, and nuclear stability. In the mid-1990s John Sheldon and Colin Gray bemoaned the fact that there is no ‘Mahan for space.’ Neither writer apparently considered the possibility that they had answered their own plea, or in other words, that there is a Mahan for space: it’s Alfred Thayer Mahan. The 19th century navalist is one of a constellation of strategic theorists (such as Clausewitz, Castex, Corbett, to name the most prominent) whose work I am applying to create a spacepower theory intended to inform the diverse strategic problems conflict in this new medium might pose. » More

Prior focus: Global Views

Peace in an Age of Terrorism: Can the AU Achieve Vision 2020?

The flag of the African Union. Image: wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 12 June 2015.

A Solemn Declaration at the 50th anniversary of the African Union (AU) in 2013 outlined the vision to ‘end all wars in Africa by 2020′. However, prospects for ‘silencing the guns’ are fast eroding. With only five years remaining, no significant progress has been made.

The success of Vision 2020 is also crucial for achieving Agenda 2063 – the AU’s ambitious development plan that seeks to transform Africa into a prosperous, integrated, well-governed and peaceful continent by 2063.

Achieving Vision 2020 depends on Africa’s ability to successfully tackle the root causes of conflicts, putting an end to impunity and eradicating piracy, and also whether it manages to combat extremism, armed rebellions, terrorism, transnational organised crime and cybercrime. The AU is yet to roll out a comprehensive plan with targeted deadlines on how to eliminate these issues at various levels. This raises concerns about how serious the organisation is about accomplishing what many would see as an impossible task. » More

Prior focus: Our Perspectives

The International Dimension of Tunisia’s Success Story

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter with Tunisian President Caid Essebsi at the Pentagon, 21 May 2015.

Tunisia’s transition process remains one of the few bright spots of the Arab Spring. While the transitions initiated in Egypt, Libya and Yemen have experienced numerous setbacks and repeated outbursts of violence, if not outright civil war, Tunisia appears to be well on its way to securing a genuine democratic space for itself. This view is shared, for example, by the latest Freedom in the World Report, which ranks Tunisia as the first ‘free’ country in North Africa since Freedom House began its worldwide assessments of political rights and civil liberties in 1972.

Although there is a fast-growing body of research that attempts to explain Tunisia’s comparatively smooth democratic transition, the Western media has not been as upbeat. Most analysts have focused on the challenges Tunisia faces, including the instability being generated by neighboring Libya and the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As a result, other important aspects of Tunisia’s external relations, particularly those that have had positive implications for its transition, have gone unnoticed.

Most importantly, Tunisia’s new political order appears to have benefitted substantially from the staunch support of those external actors who have the most leverage over the country. In contrast, those with a more critical attitude towards the transition have largely lacked the ability to influence the trajectory of the transition in less positive ways. These circumstances are far from accidental, by the way. They’re the consequence of the country’s history. » More

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