Learning from the Barbary Pirates

Amidst all the angst and astonishment about those wild and crazy Somali pirates, we seem to have forgotten that we’ve been through this movie before. It was more than two centuries ago when Muslim pirates were, after England, perhaps the most serious foreign threat bedeviling the new American republic. And the policy response too, is instructive today, though the issues raised are more complex.

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The National Intelligence Council’s "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World," released on November 20, poses a fascinating variety of alternate futures. 

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Barack Obama: Al Qaeda’s Ideological Challenge

Chief Al Qaeda ideologue Ayman al-Zawahiri gave a good indicator of the current status of his organization’s ideological appeal when Al Qaeda released a video last week.

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Terrorism Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Speaking to the Atlantic Council last Thursday, CIA director Michael Hayden declared that, "although Al-Qaeda has suffered serious setbacks, it remains a determined and adaptive enemy" and vowed that, while the American people have grown naturally complacent about the threat, he and his colleagues remain vigilant every day, motivated by the fact that the country "never faced an enemy so committed to our destruction."

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Global Trends 2025 - National Intelligence Council

One of the more provocative projections in the NIC's "Global Trends 2025" report is a prediction of the end of U.S. dominance in world affairs.

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"What can be done about the growing threat of Somali piracy in the Gulf of Aden?" seems to be the question of the week.  Saturday's seizure of the Saudi ship Sirius Star, an oil tanker carrying about $100 million worth of cargo, set off a wave of pirate activity this week, culminating with news that an Indian frigate sank a pirate vessel late Tuesday.

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Thomas Fingar, the chair of the National Intelligence Council, spoke to the Atlantic Council tonight on the release of "Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World."

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The latest seizure of a Saudi oil tanker by Somali pirates presents an opportunity to improve relations between Russia and NATO. Russia's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has called for an international ground military operation to better combat rampant piracy in the region. "It's up to the European Union, NATO and others to launch a coastal land operation to eliminate the pirates…naval action alone will not be enough to liquidate the threat of piracy."  Rogozin is right: there are limits to providing armed escorts or security teams for merchant ships. 

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Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, speaking at the Atlantic Council today, declared that Russia's justification for invading Georgia, that it was defending its friends abroad, is one that has been used by Russian autocrats for centuries to justify a doctrine of imperialism.

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General David D. McKiernan

During his address this evening to the Atlantic Council, ISAF commander General David McKiernan emphasized the many positive trends in Afghanistan, noting that he preferred a "Glass Half Full" view. 

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