July 18, 2016

Book Review, Superpower: Three Choices for America's Role in the World, by Ian Bremmer

It is common in any discussion of U.S. foreign policy to hear laments about our current lack of a “strategy.” Whether looking back at Iraq and Afghanistan, assessing options to deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Syria, or projecting the relationship with a rising China, foreign policy hands of all political bents consistently harp on the refrain that we do not have a national strategy. Ian Bremmer, the founder and president of the Eurasia Group, captures this problem neatly in his new book, Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World. He positions himself squarely in the critic’s camp, but he does not limit his negative assessment to the current administration. Rather, he sees this lack of coherent American foreign policy strategy as stemming from the end of the Cold War. And he is not out only to criticize. His goal is to push the conversation forward and begin what he views as an essential debate for determining America’s future.

July 18, 2016

Book Review, Terreur dans l'Hexagone: Genèse du djihad français , By Gilles Kepel, with Antoine Jardin Gallimard

Terror in the Hexagon is a frightening and authoritative work written for France and, by extension, for the United States. It presents a detailed analysis of the interaction of French society and political Islam over the past decade. This interactional element is of critical importance because, unlike most works on the rise of jihad, this study understands its growth in France as a dynamic between the host population and its leaders and those of the foreign immigrants.

July 18, 2016

Assessing and Addressing Russian Revanchism

The West has been slow to recognize the dangers posed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revisionist policies. At the Wales Summit in September of 2014, NATO identified the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a “grave threat” to its members. While expressing great concern about and condemning Russia’s aggressive policy in Ukraine—and noting the various steps taken to deal with the challenges of that policy—the Alliance declined to characterize Russia as even a threat. Indeed, although the Summit statement spoke of the need to provide “assurances” to Allies in Eastern Europe, it did not speak of deterring the Kremlin.

July 12, 2016

NATO in Context: Geopolitics and the Problem of Russian Power

Since the end of the Cold War, the question “Whither NATO—and why?” has come up regularly, especially in the United States. This is not an idle question nor one that can simply be dismissed. If anything, it is remarkable that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization still exists a quarter-century after the key reason for its creation—the widely shared perception of a political, strategic, and military threat from the Soviet Union—ceased to exist. To be sure, there is now renewed challenge from the Soviet Union’s principal successor state, the Russian Federation. From the beginning of the 1990s, however, until the Russian seizure of Crimea in 2014, a span of nearly 25 years, the argument could have been made that there was no need for continuing the Western alliance that did so much to contain Soviet power and the Warsaw Pact and that played a significant role in the dissolution of both. Many people did argue just this point, both in the United States and elsewhere, but they were never in the majority (or at least they never prevailed in public and parliamentary debate). The reasons for NATO’s continued existence are important to understand, including to provide a basis for considering its future and, more precisely, the tasks it should be asked to perform and its very character as an alliance of sovereign states spanning the two sides of the Atlantic.1

May 24, 2016



May 24, 2016

What Should We Have Learned by Now? Enduring Lessons from Thirty Years of Conflict and Transition

Ten years ago, when Michael Miklaucic and I began studying the impact of power structures on conflict and transition, we started with the proposition that formal power is only one dimension of state building and stabilization. We believed that governance capacity and legitimacy stem from a complex interplay of formal, informal, and illicit power. How governments come to grips with each is a powerful indicator of whether a nation state can function in partnership with its population and within the rule of law.

May 24, 2016

CHAPTER 17 A Granular Approach to Combating Corruption and Illicit Power Structures

In postconflict and fragile states, corruption is always a core challenge to stability. The impact of corruption on efforts to establish rule of law and to create or restore stable economic markets is clear and well documented.1 Simply stated, corruption is the abuse of public authority for private gain. While the definition may be clear, the appropriate international responses to prevent and counter corruption are anything but. Meanwhile, illicit power structures continue to employ corruption and benefit from the lack of coherent measures to combat it.

May 24, 2016

CHAPTER 16 Security Sector Reconstruction in Post-Conflict: The Lessons from Timor-Leste

As history makes clear, illicit power arises wherever there is a vacuum of security, justice, and accountable governance. In response, over the past 15 years, the international community has increasingly begun to apply security sector reform (SSR) activities in postconflict countries. Usually done under UN auspices, SSR is an effort to reestablish the rule of law and mitigate the instability and lawlessness caused by dysfunction in the security sector following political transition or conflict. SSR has been recognized as a crucial element of peacebuilding operations worldwide.1 Timor-Leste was long regarded as an ideal setting for UN-led peacebuilding. After managing to establish a local police force and security governance institutions, it was held up as an example of successful externally led security sector transformation.

May 24, 2016

CHAPTER 15 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Intelligence-Led Policing

The term “intelligence-led policing” (ILP) has been in use at least since the 1990s, and its origins trace back even further, to the early 1970s. The term shows up everywhere in plans, policies, and procedures for transition from foreign intervention to domestic operations in enforcing the rule of law. And yet, most planners and policymakers have little practical understanding of what ILP means, what it looks like when it works, and what it takes to build sustainable, civilian-led ILP capability within the host nation’s security and justice system. Intelligence-led policing is critical to a state’s ability to check the rise of illicit power and control illicit organizations and activities where they already exist. Thus, a solid understanding of the principles behind illicit power, and of the capacity required to conduct it, is key. This chapter intends to fill our own ILP knowledge gaps so that planners and implementers alike will understand its impact and ask the right questions when assessing need, capacity, and risk.

May 24, 2016

CHAPTER 14 Make It Matter: Ten Rules for Institutional Development that Works

The preceding chapters show how illicit actors function as primary roadblocks in the path to peace. Illicit power structures emerge and are energized in the vacuum left by the chaos of war, civil upheaval, subregional disorder, and the attendant destabilization. First to go during conflict are the legitimate power bases that arise from the legal framework of the state. Constitutions, laws, and codes of criminal procedure, even vehicular codes, fall by the wayside as the channels of power disbursement are upended and the relevant, legally appointed leaders abandon their posts. Courts are looted, and judicial officers withdraw in fear as tribally and self-appointed power grabbers dictate the law. Police institutions are taken over by militias that impersonate the actual police, usurping the legitimate power of the state to enrich themselves and their criminal organizations. Prisons become the locus for illegal detention at best, and torture and extrajudicial executions at worst.