Category: National Security

Women Responding to War

by Roberta Cohen

Whatever would Aristophanes, the Greek playwright of antiquity, think of the new US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary, Women, War and Peace? In his play Lysistrata performed in the fifth century B.C., Aristophanes depicted women tired of war and angry over its devastation of their and their families’ lives, uniting marching, occupying the Acropolis and withholding themselves to force men to the negotiating table. They triumph: the warring parties sign a peace agreement and the women propose some of its terms. For Aristophanes and his Greek audiences, women in war did not have to be victims but rather potentially powerful agents of change.

Fast forward twenty-five centuries to the US PBS documentary whose five riveting segments also show that when women join hands, they can rise above enormous odds in wartime. Here is some of what they achieved:  

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The Era of American Dominance is Coming to a Close

by Andrew J. Bacevich

The “postwar world” brought into existence as a consequence of World War II is coming to an end. A major redistribution of global power is underway.

In every aspect of human existence, change is a constant.  Yet change that actually matters occurs only rarely.  Even then, except in retrospect, genuinely transformative change is difficult to identify.  By attributing cosmic significance to every novelty and declaring every unexpected event a revolution, self-assigned interpreters of the contemporary scene — politicians and pundits above all — exacerbate the problem of distinguishing between the trivial and the non-trivial.  

Did 9/11 “change everything”?  For a brief period after September 2001, the answer to that question seemed self-evident: of course it did, with massive and irrevocable implications.  A mere decade later, the verdict appears less clear.  Today, the vast majority of Americans live their lives as if the events of 9/11 had never occurred.  When it comes to leaving a mark on the American way of life, the likes of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have long since eclipsed Osama bin Laden.  (Whether the legacies of Jobs and Zuckerberg will prove other than transitory also remains to be seen.)  Anyone claiming to divine the existence of genuinely Big Change Happening Now should, therefore, do so with a sense of modesty and circumspection, recognizing the possibility that unfolding events may reveal a different story. 

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War and Drugs in Afghanistan

by Vanda Felbab-Brown

Since 2001, Afghanistan has become synonymous with the term “narcostate” and the associated spread of crime and illegality. Though the Afghan drug economy peaked in 2007 and 2008, cultivation this year still amounted to 325,000 acres, and the potential production of opium reached 6,400 tons (.pdf). Narcotics production and counternarcotics policies in Afghanistan are of critical importance not only for drug control there and worldwide, but also for the security, reconstruction and rule of law efforts in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, many of the counternarcotics policies adopted during most of the past decade not only failed to reduce the size and scope of the illicit economy in Afghanistan, but also had serious counterproductive effects on the other objectives of peace, state-building and economic reconstruction.

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Preventing a Syrian Civil War

by Salman Shaikh

Last week, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Syria, dealing a blow to the stability of the country and its neighbors. The double veto could even lead to civil war.

The inability of the Security Council to act has created a dangerous political vacuum, sending a clear message to President Bashar al-Assad that he can continue to kill with impunity and signaling to Syrian protesters that they are on their own.

While Russia and China have emphasized dialogue over confrontation and are proposing a more “balanced” resolution, the reality is that the Syrian street has been explicitly calling for the fall of the Assad regime for months.

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Sober reflections on ten long years in Afghanistan

by James Dunn

The tenth anniversary of yet another distant military engagement finds most Australians rather war-weary. We have had a number of these engagements since the end of World War II, but most have been in distant places and their significance did not impact on the daily lives of most Australians. Neither the Korean Conflict nor the Vietnam War was particularly popular, and our troops got little public gratitude for what they had been through until years later. What it means is that Australian forces have been involved in one conflict or another for most of the time since the end of WWII, including the Malayan Emergency and, most recently, East Timor. And like our involvement with the Bush-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, our part in the major conflicts of this so-called post-war period has mostly involved providing willing support to our American ally in situations that posed no strategic threat to this country. I should add, however, that Australian forces have served the UN in a number of conflicts, usually with little recognition at home.

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