Posts Tagged

Military

Photograph of old presidential campaign buttons

The president’s recent diagnosis with Covid-19 sent the US presidential election race into a tailspin. As Donald Trump and Joe Biden jockey to regain control of the media narrative at a crucial phase of the campaign, speculation about a possible “October surprise” is widespread. Today, the term refers to any news story that breaks late in an election cycle and has the potential to affect the outcome of the election. Yet its origins are firmly rooted in foreign policy. In particular, the phrase describes a sitting president’s alleged propensity to manipulate events to boost their electoral prospects. The president’s recent tweet calling for all remaining US forces in Afghanistan to return home by Christmas has fueled suspicions that Trump is playing politics …
Photograph of George Bush sitting at a table with advisors including Dick Cheney and Colin Powell surrounding him.

U.S. presidents have powerful political incentives to think twice before escalating a conflict in the lead-up to an election. Recent events in the Gulf suggest that President Trump is no exception when it comes to avoiding the commitment of “boots on the ground” in an election year. As both commander-in-chief and holder of the highest elected office, presidents must carefully weigh the political consequences of any decision regarding military strategy. Since voters tend to bear the brunt of the human and financial costs of war, decisions to send additional U.S. forces into combat are often fraught with risk of consequent reprisal at the ballot box.  In my recent article in International Security, I explore how these electoral pressures affected decision-making during the Iraq War. …

In a farewell speech to Colombia’s armed forces last year just prior to leaving office, ex-president Juan Manuel Santos boasted: “Today we have the best armed forces in our history.” Proudly, he added: “We’re a global reference!” And indeed, it seems as though Colombia had opened a new chapter. Since the 2016 peace accords with the country’s largest guerrilla organisation, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the nation appears to be on an uphill climb.  With the FARC at the negotiation table, the story goes, the country was finally able to look ahead and dedicate its resources to transition and reconstruction: the reintegration of former combatants, the redistribution of formerly occupied territories, and the recovery of an economy weakened by decades …

Evo Morales, president of Bolivia since 2006, resigned on November 10 following weeks of demonstrations triggered by a disputed election in October. Morales won the election amid allegations that the result was rigged in his favour. The turning point in Morales’s departure from office was the intervention of Williams Kaliman, commander of the Bolivian armed forces. Speaking at a press conference, Kaliman urged Morales to resign “for the good of our Bolivia”. Morales has since gone into exile in Mexico and the manner of his departure has sparked passionate debate about whether it was tantamount to a military coup. Two years ago this month, the Zimbabwean military placed former President Robert Mugabe under house arrest. Subsequently, SB Moyo, a major …

In terms of material military power, India does not lag far behind the traditional materially powerful states. The country ranks among the top in terms of the size of and investments in its army, air force, and navy. Furthermore, in 1998, India revealed to the world that it possessed nuclear weapons. Yet, while India has sufficient material power to be categorized as a powerful state, the country does not always think and act like a materially powerful state. For India, more material power has not been necessarily enough to ensure greater international influence. Thus far, India can be accused of ‘arming without aiming’ in its quest for greater international influence. India’s Material Powers India’s raw military power is impressive. The …

After much speculation about the future of the Japanese Navy, it was announced in early December that the Izumo-class helicopter carriers will be converted to aircraft carriers.  This will require a substantial reconstruction of the two ships as well as the purchase of F‑35B fighter jets to comprise the carriers’ airwings. It is likely that 100 additional F-35 aircraft will be ordered to further bulk up Japanese aerial capabilities. This change is important for three reasons, firstly, Japan has not operated aircraft carriers since World War Two, secondly, they are being commissioned to contest increasing Chinese control of the northwest Pacific, and thirdly, because aircraft carriers are also under construction in the United States, Britain, China and India. We appear …

Since 1998 I have been carrying out applied research with colleagues and African organisations with survivors of sexual violence and torture. This research argues that sexual violence perpetrated in conflict and post-conflict settings causes devastating effects to individuals as well as whole communities. It results in extensive damage to survivors’ psychological, reproductive and gynaecological health. Ongoing research reveals that more women and girl-children survive conflicts than are killed; yet with tremendous wounds to their bodies and minds; assaults on their dignity, their feelings of self-worth and their future. In contrast, there are rarely consequences for the perpetrators. Applied research carried out in Uganda, Liberia and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo with colleagues and African organisations, argues that sexual violence is not solely a war crime and although extremely prevalent during conflicts, my research argues it has contaminated the post-conflict domestic sphere with high levels of community-perpetrated domestic violence and rape, particularly against young girls. Survivors’ shame and stigma is exacerbated by severe social rejection, particularly for women and girls who become pregnant from rape, former abductees and those with AIDS and HIV infection. Many resultant physical and mental health problems are not treatable by the grossly over-stretched and under-resourced health care systems. Capacity building within primary health care and justice services needs to address psychological trauma, increase resilience and recovery through support groups, trauma counselling and improvement to mental health policies. It is vitally important that service providers (who have also often experienced human rights abuses) are assisted to develop peer support and supervision groups and receive culturally sensitive training in supporting traumatised survivors and their children born from rape. In conjunction with greater protection for their work, and regular salaries this would assist to prevent ‘burn out’.

There is a tendency, even among scholars, to view civil wars as involving two actors—the “government” and “rebels.” This presumption likely arises because historical civil wars that have received the most attention—such as the American and Chinese civil wars—were generally fought between two recognized, organized combatants. Yet, many civil wars (both historical and modern) involve more than two actors. Take the current civil war in Syria. The Syrian government battles a series of rebel groups that generate a large number of acronyms—ISIS, SLA, SIF, and so on—and that frequently fight amongst themselves. These groups often seek to form coalitions to coordinate their opposition, but the coalitions are unstable and have difficulty controlling their constituent parts. The Syrian conflict also has a large level of external involvement, with the government receiving direct military support from Iran and Hezbollah plus a large number of additional external states and non-state actors seeking to turn the course of the war. The Syrian opposition’s fragmentation is extreme, but the multiparty nature of the conflict is by no means unique. In fact, many of the wars that have received the most international attention in recent decades—such as in Afghanistan, Columbia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, the Palestinian conflict in Israel, the Darfuri war in Sudan, and Somalia—have involved several rebel groups and significant external involvement.