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September 13, 2014


President Barack Obama’s speech on Wednesday marks the third major shift in United States counterterrorism strategy since 9/11, but it remains to be seen if the new approach will work better than the previous ones.

The first shift followed the 9/11 attacks, when George W. Bush launched what became known as the Global War on Terror. The main elements of this strategy included forcible regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq; mass deployment of US and allied ground forces to both countries; a global hunt for suspected Al Qaeda operatives and their incarceration in secret “black” prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency or in the US military facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” ordered by President Bush; and enormous growth in the domestic and foreign surveillance apparatus of the US and other Western countries.

The second shift occurred when Barack Obama took office. He had campaigned on ending the “dumb war” in Iraq and on con...

May 30, 2012

In the aftermath of the terrible murder of over 100 people in Houla, Syria, including dozens of children, Canada’s foreign minister John Baird joined a chorus of international protests against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. But Baird’s comments yesterday were puzzling:

"This weekend’s shocking attack merits the Security Council’s condemnation and much more. We call on the Council to take stronger diplomatic action. There must be repercussions for Assad’s refusal to implement the Security Council-endorsed Annan Peace Plan. We call on all Security Council members to come together and adopt strong measures—including economic sanctions—against the Syrian regime, to ensure that it fulfills its commitments and immediately stops the senseless slaughter of its own people."

The actions in Houla certainly merit Security Council condemnation, but Baird’s ideas about “stronger diplomatic action” and “repercussions” and “strong measures” seem to boil down to economic sanctions. When it come...

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Roland Paris
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

University of Ottawa

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