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Stephen D. Biddle

Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy

Expertise

U.S. national security policy; military strategy and the conduct of war; technology in modern warfare; recent operations in the war on terror.

Programs

National Security and Defense Program

Bio

Stephen D. Biddle is adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. Before joining CFR in January 2006, he held the Elihu Root chair in military studies at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) and has held teaching and research posts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA); Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (BCSIA); and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Office of National Security Programs.

Dr. Biddle's book Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton University Press, 2004) has won four prizes, including the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Award Silver Medal for 2005, and the 2005 Huntington Prize from the Harvard University Olin Institute for Strategic Studies. His other publications include articles in Foreign Affairs, International Security, Survival, The Journal of Politics, The Journal of Strategic Studies, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Security Studies, The New Republic, The American Interest, The National Interest, Orbis, Contemporary Security Policy, Defense Analysis, Joint Force Quarterly, and Military Operations Research; shorter pieces on military topics in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun, International Herald Tribune, Suddeutsche Zeitung, The Guardian, and Defense News; various chapters in edited volumes; and 31 IDA, SSI, and NATO reports.

He has served as a member of the Defense Policy Board and has presented testimony before congressional committees on issues relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, force planning, conventional net assessment, and European arms control. He served on General Stanley McChrystal's Initial Strategic Assessment Team in Kabul in 2009, on General David Petraeus's Joint Strategic Assessment Team in Baghdad in 2007, and as a senior adviser to General Petraeus's Central Command Assessment Team in Washington, DC, in 2008-09. He holds an appointment as adjunct associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University.

Dr. Biddle's research has won Barchi, Rist, and Impact Prizes from the Military Operations Research Society. He was awarded the U.S. Army Superior Civilian Service Medal in 2003 and again in 2006, and was presented with the U.S. Army Commander's Award for Public Service in Baghdad in 2007. He holds AB (1981), MPP (1985), and PhD (public policy, 1992) degrees, all from Harvard University.

Featured Publications

All Publications

Op-Ed

Not Quite Ready to Go Home

Authors: Stephen D. Biddle, Michael E. O'Hanlon, and Kenneth M. Pollack
New York Times

“Having recently returned from a research trip to Iraq, we are convinced that a total withdrawal of combat troops any time soon would be unwise,” write Stephen Biddle, Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack. Although recent success in Iraq has prompted more calls for withdrawal, a continued American presence is needed to preserve the fragile peace in that country.

See more in Iraq; Conflict Assessment

Testimony

War Termination in Afghanistan

Author: Stephen D. Biddle

In his testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa & Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Stephen Biddle argues that short term success in Afghanistan is less important than the United States' ability to secure its long term interests beyond 2014.

See more in Afghanistan; Wars and Warfare

Testimony

Assessing the Case for Striking Syria

Author: Stephen D. Biddle

In his testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security, Stephen Biddle acknowledges that neither the case for nor against using force in Syria is without serious costs and risks. He evaluates the five main goals an attack might be designed to achieve: deterring further CW use and upholding norms against the employment of such weapons; preserving U.S. credibility; enabling a negotiated settlement to the war; toppling Assad and his government; and ending the humanitarian crisis by saving civilian lives.

See more in Syria; Homeland Security

Events

Roundtable on U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy

Director: Stephen D. Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy
October 2006—Present

This roundtable series focuses on issues that influence U.S. defense policy, such as the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, civil-military relations, and debates about the transformation of the U.S. military and the future of warfare. It is made possible by the generous support of Roger Hertog.

CFR Events

Conference Call ⁄ New York

What to Do About Iraq

Panelists:

Stephen D. Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University, Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Meghan L. O'Sullivan, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs and Director of the Geopolitics of Energy Project, Harvard Kennedy School

Presider:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
June 18, 2014 12:00-1:00 p.m. - Conference Call

This meeting is on the record.

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Roundtable Meeting

The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces

Speaker:

Linda Robinson, Senior International Policy Analyst, RAND Corporation

Presider:

Stephen D. Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy
April 15, 2013

This meeting is on the record.

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Academic Conference Call

U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan

Speaker:

Stephen D. Biddle, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
September 17, 2009

This meeting is not for attribution.

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General Meeting

The President's Inbox: The Greater Middle East

Speakers:

Stephen D. Biddle, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations, Steven A. Cook, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Gary Samore, Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations
January 23, 2009 12:00-12:30 p.m. - Lunch Reception
12:30-1:30 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

Foreign Affairs Live: A Discussion on Iraqi Futures

Speakers:

Stephen D. Biddle, Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations, Steven N. Simon, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

James F. Hoge Jr., Peter G. Peterson Chair and Editor, Foreign Affairs
September 8, 2008 5:30-6:00 p.m. - Reception
6:00-7:00 p.m. - Meeting
7:00-8:00 p.m. - Cocktail Reception

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting ⁄ Washington

Iraq: The Way Forward - Assessing Iraqization

Speaker:

Stephen D. Biddle, Senior Fellow, Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Jane Arraf, Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow, Council on Foregin Relations; Former Baghdad Bureau Chief, CNN
March 20, 2006

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting ⁄ New York

Iraq Three Years After the Invasion

Speakers:

Stephen D. Biddle, Senior Fellow, Defense Policy, Council on Foreign Relations and winner of the 2005 Huntington Prize from Harvard University Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Noah R. Feldman, Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations and Professor of Law, New York University School of Law, Steven Simon, Senior Fellow, Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Jane Arraf, Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations and former CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief
March 1, 2006

This meeting is not for attribution.

ListenWatch

Press/Panels

Radio Interview

Afghanistan after 2014

Dr. Stephen Biddle discusses President Obama's second-term challenges in South Asia on Warren Olney's "To the Point" program.

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Radio Interview

Massacre in Afghanistan

Stephen Biddle discusses how the killing of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. serviceman will affect the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

Defense Spending and the Deficit Debate

Lawmakers are considering sharp cuts to defense spending as part of mandated deficit-reduction efforts. This Backgrounder discusses the effects of such major cuts and implications for U.S. military strategy.

The Taliban in Afghanistan

Ten years after being toppled from power in Kabul, the Taliban remains resilient in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and complicates U.S. efforts to wind down the Afghan war.

Security Jitters in Afghanistan

Recent Taliban attacks in Kabul have undermined Afghan confidence in local security forces and cast new doubt on a sustainable transition from U.S.-led efforts, analysts say.

Ten Lessons Since the 9/11 Attacks

Which policies have worked and which ones need work ten years after the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history? CFR experts examine ten issues that have preoccupied U.S.

Tremors from 'AfPak' Border

Heightened cross-border tensions and militant activity underscore the possible risks to the region as the United States prepares for its phased troop pullout from Afghanistan.

A Longer, Lighter Afghan Presence

President Obama should have used his speech on the Afghanistan troop drawdown to confirm the long-term commitment of U.S. forces in the region, to signal an enduring, robust U.S. presence in troubled South Asia, says CFR's Stephen Biddle.

Video Interview

Deepening Troubles in U.S.-Pakistan Ties

Tensions appear to be growing between the United States and Pakistan, even as leaders of both countries continue to stress the value of their partnership in the aftermath of the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Video Interview

U.S. Policy in Afghanistan After Bin Laden

While U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan won't be directly affected, bin Laden's death could result in an expedited draw-down schedule, leaving the country open to a Taliban takeover and leading to upheaval in Pakistan, says CFR's Stephen Biddle.

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Video Interview

The U.S. Strategy In Afghanistan And Pakistan

CFR Senior Fellow For Defense Policy Stephen Biddle and CFR Senior Fellow For India, Pakistan, And South Asia, Daniel Markey, discuss the new methods the U.S. may have to employ in both Afghanistan and Pakistan after the recent killing of Osama bin Laden.

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Video Interview

Forging a Four-Sided Afghan Deal

The Taliban needs to be convinced of a firm U.S. commitment in Afghanistan before it will negotiate a settlement, says CFR's Stephen Biddle, and any deal will have to also involve the Pakistani, U.S., and Afghan governments.

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Video Interview

The Road to Negotiations in Afghanistan

Increased military pressure and reassurances by the United States that it will not pull out of Afghanistan in July 2011 are keys to successful negotiations with the Taliban, says CFR's Max Boot.

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Video Interview

Combating Afghanistan's 'Malign Governance'

Crucial to the success of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is dealing with the country's "predatory misgovernance," says CFR's Stephen Biddle. Targeting U.S. contracting practices is a good place to start, he says.

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Video Interview

Afghanistan's National Security Forces

The growth and strengthening of Afghanistan's domestic security forces is seen as key to an eventual U.S. exit, but some analysts caution that progress will remain slow.

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Video Interview

New Guard, Old Policy in Afghanistan

In replacing General Stanley McChrystal with General David Petraeus, a well-known counterinsurgency strategist, President Obama is betting that new leadership and old policy will equal victory in Afghanistan.

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Video Interview

Fear and Uncertainty in Afghanistan

While senior military officials are urging support for Afghanistan operations, Afghans are fearful about the Kandahar offensive and uncertain about U.S. plans to start withdrawing troops in July 2011, says CFR's Stephen Biddle.

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Video Interview

Obama's NSS: Promise and Pitfalls

President Obama's first National Security Strategy departs from Bush administration doctrine by redefining the war against terror groups and embracing multilateralism, and may expect too much from global partners, say CFR experts in an analytical roundup.

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Video Interview

How to Gauge Karzai's U.S. Visit

After months of harsh words, the White House's conciliatory tone during the Afghan president's visit was calibrated to encourage Karzai to behave more like a "wartime leader and less like an innocent bystander," says CFR's Stephen Biddle.

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Video Interview

Afghanistan Success Hinges on Karzai Reforms

Two key issues in Afghanistan are whether President Hamid Karzai will implement reforms and whether the American public is willing to invest the time it will take for a successful counterinsurgency, says CFR defense expert Stephen Biddle.

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Video Interview

Obama's Withdrawal Date a Controversial Gambit

CFR's top defense policy expert Stephen Biddle says President Obama's announcement of a date for U.S. forces to begin withdrawing from Afghanistan could draw fire from wary Democrats, but also conveys that the U.S. "is uncomfortable with long stays."

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Video Interview

U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan

Stephen Biddle and Kim Barker discuss U.S. strategy in Afghanistan in light of the release of General McChrystal's Afghan strategy report.

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Video Interview

Academic Conference Call: U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan

Listen to Stephen Biddle, CFR's senior fellow for defense policy, discuss U.S. policy toward Afghanistan in light of his recent trip to Afghanistan as a member of General Stanley A. McChrystal's strategic assessment group, as part of CFR's Academic Conference Call series.Learn more about CFR's Academic Initiative.

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Video Interview

Governing Afghanistan

Regardless of the victor in this week's Afghan presidential elections, some analysts say Western forces must remain committed to the counterinsurgency effort to strengthen the state against a growing Taliban threat.

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Video Interview

A Shaky Iraq's Sovereign Step

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities was a relatively easy benchmark to meet, analysts say. Many are unsure whether the country can withstand a complete U.S. pullout in less than two years.

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Video Interview

Assessing the New Command in Afghanistan

The replacement of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan with a counterinsurgency expert could shift momentum, but CFR's Stephen Biddle says it might also anger Afghans who oppose U.S. special operations tactics.

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Video Interview

Winning the Information War in Afghanistan and Pakistan

President Obama has made "strategic communications" an essential part of his move to boost the military and nation-building effort in Afghanistan. But experts say countering Taliban messaging will take technology, speed, and demonstrated success in providing security.

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Video Interview

Breaking the Stalemate in Afghanistan

The evolving strategy in Afghanistan includes seventeen thousand more U.S. troops and plans to outbid the Taliban for the loyalty of their tribal allies on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. But Gen. David McKiernan, commander of the effort, says no plan defined in purely military terms can succeed.

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Video Interview

A Costly Exit from Iraq

President Obama says ending the war in Iraq will require a new definition of victory, and experts add that the United States should expect no peace dividend in its budget anytime soon.

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Video Interview

Iraq and Afghanistan: Tough Balancing Act for Obama

Stephen Biddle, a senior defense and counterterrorism analyst, says that President Obama's schedule for reducing and then ending the U.S. deployment in Iraq "is a reasonable compromise between several conflicting demands."

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Video Interview

Finding a Place for the ‘Sons of Iraq’

The Sunni awakening movement and the Sons of Iraq security forces it inspired helped restore peace. Iraq's long-term stability could hinge on keeping the movement satiated, experts say.

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Video Interview

Foreign Affairs Live: A Discussion of Iraqi Futures

With violence down and U.S. troop deaths at their lowest point since the Iraq war began, military analysts are in near-agreement that Iraq is more secure today. But CFR's Stephen Biddle and Steven Simon disagree on how to ensure stability continues. They discuss their views during this inaugural Foreign Affairs Live debate.

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Video Interview

A Freeze in the Surge

Military and political leaders debate the United States' future troop commitments to Iraq and the extent to which 'victory' can ever be defined there.

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Video Interview

Petraeus, Crocker Gird for Assault on the Hill

The top U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Iraq will tell Congress of security improvements and scattered political progress, but many lawmakers want to hear an exit strategy.

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Video Interview

A Long Road in Iraq

The Iraq war has confounded and surprised U.S. policymakers over five years, and is expected to remain a challenge for a new administration.

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Video Interview

State and Local Officials Conference Call with Stephen Biddle

Listen to Stephen Biddle, CFR senior fellow for defense policy, provide an update on the current situation in Iraq and examine the political and military implications of U.S. policy options going forward as part of CFR's State and Local Officials Conference Call Series. This call was made possible in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Learn more about CFR's State and Local Officials Initiative.

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Testimony

Iraq after the Surge

Stephen Biddle testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on the reduction in violence in Iraq and the continued U.S. troop presence.

Video Interview

Iraq Surge’s Mixed Messages

On the anniversary of President Bush's surge plan for Iraq, some analysts question how lasting its progress will prove.

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Video Interview

Progress, Without Politics

U.S. military progress in Iraq is affecting U.S. public opinion, but progress reconciling Iraq's feuding ethnic factions has proven elusive

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Video Interview

Refugees Return but Concerns Linger

Iraqi refugees are returning home after years of war, leading Iraqi and U.S. officials to talk of a corner turned. But millions more remain abroad and unconvinced.

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Video Interview

A Mixed Picture from Iraq

A new assessment on the war presents a "mixed bag," as Iraqis fail to meet many benchmarks but security in Baghdad appears to be improving. The debate in Washington, meanwhile, remains polarized.

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Video Interview

Sorting Fact from Violence in Iraq

Amid reports the U.S military is arming Sunni factions, some experts say the "surge" has proven ineffective as sectarian violence returns to previous levels.

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Video Interview

An Iraq Plan Unfolds

President Bush's plan to secure Baghdad faces a number of obstacles: a war-weary American public, a resistant Iraqi government, and an entrenched sectarian dispute.

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Video Interview

Bush’s Baghdad Plan

President Bush's new "surge" plan to clear and hold Baghdad's neighborhoods faces a tough challenge from high levels of sectarian violence.

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Video Interview

Iraq’s Other Embeds: Advisers

Whatever emerges from the current review of U.S. Iraq policy, embedding more U.S. military advisers with Iraqi forces will be a vital component. But can this training effort help secure Iraq?

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Video Interview

Which Way Forward on Iraq?

President Bush says he will weigh the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group with in-house reports from the National Security Council, State Department, and Pentagon before moving forward on Iraq.

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Video Interview

Foreign Affairs Again Ranked Most Influential of All Media by U.S. Opinion-Leader Study

Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations since 1922, has again been ranked #1 in influence by U.S. opinion leaders in a recent national study conducted by Erdos & Morgan, the premier business-to-business research firm. The findings place Foreign Affairs ahead of all media, both print and broadcast, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist, and the Washington Post.

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Video Interview

Saving Iraq

With congressional elections looming, U.S. voters on both sides of the aisle are calling for alternate solutions to resolve the Iraqi crisis, restore peace and stability, and return U.S. soldiers home.

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Video Interview

Averting Civil War in Iraq

The sectarian fighting in Iraq can now be characterized as a civil war, experts say. But what does that mean for U.S. policy?

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Video Interview

A Unified 'Front' on Iraq

Prime Minister Maliki tells the U.S. Congress that Iraq is a "front line" in the global struggle against terrorism. Maliki and Bush agree more troops will be sent to Baghdad as part of a fresh strategy to put down rising sectarian violence.

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Video Interview

Iraq: Thinking About the Exit

Talks of reconciliation with insurgents and a planned pullout of U.S. forces have experts and officials abuzz with end-game solutions to the war in Iraq.

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Video Interview

Measuring Progress in Iraq

Iraq's government has made some headway in its first few weeks, though talk of a turning point may be premature. With America's casualty rate climbing and Iraqi infrastructure still subpar, many are asking: How does the U.S. define success?

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Video Interview

Iraq Timetable Debate Resurfaces

Partisan maneuvering in both houses of the U.S. Congress dominated debates over Iraq, with Senate Democrats this week poised to propose a measure on "phased redeployment" of U.S. troops.

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Video Interview

China's Military 'Threat'

The annual Pentagon report on China's military power cites increased defense spending as a threat to the stability of Asia, and contends Beijing could potentially threaten the United States. But some critics say the Defense Department is hyping the China threat to justify its own massive spending.

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Video Interview

Bush, Blair, and Iraq

President Bush and British leader Tony Blair met Thursday to discuss a full agenda, from Iran to Afghanistan to trade and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But all of it is overshadowed by their leading role in the Iraq war.

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Video Interview

On Iraq, General Discontent

In the face of mounting calls for his resignation, the secretary of defense is hanging tough. President Bush reiterates his support for Rumsfeld as the secretary defends his leadership of the Iraq war against attacks from retired senior military commanders.

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Video Interview

Iraq Strategy Draws Fire

The U.S. postwar military strategy in Iraq has been a lightning rod for criticism, but there are fresh signs military officials may be getting the message.

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Video Interview

U.S. Military Strategy in Iraq

With all the talk of drawing down U.S. forces in Iraq, the U.S. military is quietly adopting a strategy that gets more U.S. soldiers onto the streets to interact with Iraqi locals and forces. Experts say this strategy will be successful at securing Iraq in the long run, even though it puts troops at greater risk in the short run.

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Video Interview

Shifting Tactics in Iraq

U.S. casualties in Iraq have been declining in recent months. Yet this is more a product of changing strategies among U.S. and insurgent forces than a sign of calm setting in.

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Video Interview

Downturn in U.S.-Shiite Relations

Washington's opposition to the Shiites' nomination for premier highlights the growing strain in U.S.-Shiite relations. The reaction from Baghdad suggests U.S. influence in Iraq may be on the wane.

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Panel

CFR Roundtable on the Quadrennial Defense Review

Stephen Biddle discusses the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review. He argues that it avoids making difficult trade-offs between a high-tech, capital-intensive, speed-oriented military intended primarily for waging major combat operations and a lower-tech, labor-intensive, lower-capital military intended for low intensity conflict and counterinsurgencies.

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