Chester A. Crocker

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History has often shown that military victories do not automatically translate into political success. This is true in the recent military victory of French and government of Mali forces in their fight against radical Islamist insurgents who tried to seize power in the North African nation. The small victory in Mali is just the beginning of what will likely be a very long struggle for control of the Sahel — the trans-Saharan badlands that stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

We all know now that President George W. Bush was premature when he said in 2003 that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” as he stood in front of a banner reading “Mission Accomplished.”…  Seguir leyendo »

Faltering Middle East peace talks need a jolt. And Washington does has a powerful potential prod: taking a firm stand on how to end the conflict.

An American declaration of principles — carefully crafted and properly marketed — could spark a debate and thereby change the political calculus for leaders. As a mediator and a world power, one of America’s strongest assets is the ability to legitimize ideas and then rally others in support. A central role for the U.S. in this conflict must be to define the zone of negotiability.

This does not mean imposing peace. Rather, it would be a statement of the basic principles the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Obama will have a hard time achieving his foreign policy goals until he masters some key terms and better manages the expectations they convey. Given the furor that will surround the news of America’s readiness to hold talks with Iran, he could start with “engagement” — one of the trickiest terms in the policy lexicon.

The Obama administration has used this term to contrast its approach with its predecessor’s resistance to talking with adversaries and troublemakers. His critics show that they misunderstand the concept of engagement when they ridicule it as making nice with nasty or hostile regimes.

Let’s get a few things straight.…  Seguir leyendo »