Robert Farley

Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, University of Kentucky. He contributes to the blogs Lawyers, Guns, and Money and TAPPED.

Recent Articles


Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made clear that the United States Navy would not take steps to shoot down any North Korean ballistic missiles launched over the next week. North Korea is carrying out clear preparations for such a launch, under the argument that it is deploying a satellite. Japan, which also has sea-based ballistic missile defense capability, also appears unlikely to destroy the North Korean vehicle, unless the missile malfunctions and heads toward Japan. To back up naval capabilities, Patriot air defense batteries have been deployed on Okinawa and around Tokyo. Gates is dealing with this in an altogether sensible fashion. The North Korean missile launch is legally tricky, and a plausible argument could be developed that would provide cause for the US or Japan to shoot the missile down. However, simply because legal arguments can be marshaled doesn't mean that they should be. The test is fairly harmless in and of itself, and shooting down the missile would...


Internal political developments in the Czech Republic may affect the Obama administration's calculations on missile defense, and on economic stimulus. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek lost a no-confidence vote in parliament yesterday, possibly forcing his resignation. Topolanek has been an advocate of deploying a US anti-ballistic missile system on Czech territory, but the rest of the Czech political class is rather less enthusiastic; Topolanek decided not to push for ratification of the treaties necessary for the missile defense system out of fear that he would lose those votes. This morning, Topolanek further complicated the situation by announcing that President Obama's stimulus measures "will undermine the stability of the global financial market," and represented a "way to hell." The Czech Republic currently holds the rotating Presidency of the European Union, giving Topolanek's comments an unusually high profile. The Obama administration has pushed for more vigorous European...


Word came out a few weeks ago that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force was building a contingency plan to shoot down any North Korean ballistic missiles that might threaten Japanese territory. Japanese destroyers have the same anti-ballistic missile (ABM) capabilities as U.S. destroyers, and the North Korean satellite launch would provide an almost unique opportunity to test the system in real-life conditions. Simply promising to shoot the missile down also gave Japan the opportunity to flex its military muscle in the region. The North Korean reaction to this news was predictably hostile, both to the prospect of outside interference with the launch, and to the notion that the missile would accidentally land in Japan. Noah Shachtman now notes that the U.S. has deployed one anti-ballistic missile capable destroyer to the region, perhaps indicating that we'd like to get in on the game. The success or failure of the ship-borne anti-ballistic missile system could have wide-ranging...


An interlocutor has taken issue with this post , arguing that there were a clear series of connections between al-Qaeda and the ICU prior to 2006, and thus that the United States was entirely justified in supporting Ethiopia's drive for regional hegemony counterterrorism operation in Somalia. A few words on this are in order... The phrase "connection" does a lot of work in conversations about terrorism. Hezbollah has connections with Iran, as does Hamas. Various Palestinian political organizations had connections with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Al-Qaeda had connections with the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia. Al-Qaeda may have connections with Iran, and the most fevered neocons still argue that al-Qaeda had connections with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The first problem is that the word "connection" doesn't do justice to the multiplicity of relationships that are being invoked here; advising, sponsoring, undertaking benevolent neutrality toward, and actively conspiring with can all be included...


Osama Bin Laden has released an audio tape denouncing Somali President Shariff Sheikh Ahmed , and calling for Somalis to resist the new government's rule. Shariff Sheikh Ahmed is formerly the head of the Islamic Courts Union, which Ethiopia overthrew in 2006 with American assistance. The United States was concerned that the ICU was closely associated with Al Qaeda, and that it might harbor terrorists. Bin Laden's tape is either an elaborate ruse to make the Bush administration look incomparably stupid, or further evidence that the Bush administration was incomparably stupid. --Robert Farley