Category: The American Interest

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Avoiding Europe’s Mistakes

The two jihadist attacks in Brussels on March 22, which killed 32 people and injured 300 others, have changed the tenor of European media commentary.  While many editorialists have routinely bewailed “alienation” among Muslim youths and warned against “Islamophobia” and

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Syria: Time for Maturity

A successful strategist is able to balance costs and benefits in the attainment of clearly defined objectives.  This task demands prioritizing: Primary and secondary political goals need to be articulated, and military resources allocated accordingly.

The Obama administration’s strategy for

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The Iran Deal in Context

On July 14, in Vienna, the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany, and the European Union signed a 109-page Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran.  The Islamic republic has accepted a comprehensive set of international, legally mandated, and

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Bumpy BRICS Road

Until a year ago it had seemed that BRICS, the association of five emerging economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—was morphing from a loose economic alliance into a geopolitical force willing and able to challenge the global order.  Its

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An Unhinged World

A few years after he was removed from office in 1890, Otto von Bismarck remarked that “Europe today is a powder keg, and the leaders are like men smoking in an arsenal.”  At present, the Iron Chancellor’s dictum is applicable

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The Third Muslim Invasion

They came in the early eighth century across the Straits of Gibraltar, unleashing terror and carnage across Iberia “like a desolating storm.”  They were stopped deep inside today’s France, at Tours, by Charles Martel in 732.  They kept attacking Europe

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Israel’s House Divided

In the aftermath of Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral victory last March, the “two-state solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict is off the table for the foreseeable future.  Netanyahu’s public disavowal of the two-state formula (despite his subsequent denials) was not a last-minute

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A Jihadist Victory

The claim propagated in the Western corporate media that the “March for Unity” in Paris on January 11 symbolized a victory of “freedom of speech” over “extremism” is wrong.  The attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket, and particularly

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Putin’s Uneasy Balancing Act

“Putin, the master of the game, controls all the pieces on the chessboard and carefully divides up the areas of power,” writes influential French columnist Christine Ockrent in her most recent book, Les Oligarques.  Her view is shared by

Rudderless at the Pentagon
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Rudderless at the Pentagon

Chuck Hagel’s abrupt departure from the Pentagon on November 24 became inevitable after weeks of disagreement with the White House over strategy against the Islamic State (IS).  The split had become public a month earlier, when Hagel’s blunt two-page memorandum

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Another Unwinnable War

Two months after the beginning of the U.S. bombing campaign against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and one month after President Obama announced his strategy for fighting the group, the area under jihadist control continues to expand.  In the

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Staying Out of Another War

In the final days of August the stage seemed set for a major escalation of America’s air war against the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL).  The operation, which started with limited tactical strikes between Mosul and

Strategic Blunders
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Strategic Blunders

It has been a summer of major strategic blunders by the United States and Russia over Ukraine and by the United States in the Middle East, where the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, now renamed simply the Islamic

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A Joint Criminal Conspiracy

The Great War started 100 years ago this August.  The most tragic event in human history, that war destroyed a vibrant, magnificently creative civilization.  A prosperous and well-ordered world was shattered forever.  New killing machines that only a generation earlier

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A Big Deal

“This is the biggest contract in the history of the gas sector of the former USSR,” Vladimir Putin said after the $400 billion agreement to supply Russian natural gas to China was signed in Shanghai on May 21.  It is

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The Folly of Overreach

To a casual observer it might seem that President Barack Obama’s four-nation tour of East Asia, which took him to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines, came at a time of America’s undisputed global predominance.  The visit strengthened existing

Moscow Rules
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Moscow Rules

Spending the first three days of spring in snowy Moscow, especially after being in balmy Yalta and Sevastopol, is not my idea of fun.  It is useful, however, when you write on foreign affairs and there’s a first-rate crisis under

Eastern Approaches
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Eastern Approaches

In April 1904, Scottish geographer Halford Mackinder gave a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society.  His paper, “The Geographical Pivot of History,” caused a sensation and marked the birth of geopolitics as an autonomous discipline.  According to Mackinder, control over

In Praise of Geopolitics
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In Praise of Geopolitics

The noun geopolitics and the adjective geopolitical are increasingly present in media discourse on world affairs.  In principle, this is a good thing.  Relating political power to the immutable imperatives of space and resources is essential to an analysis of

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A Vanishing Nation

Uit die blou van onse hemel
uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
waar die kranse antwoord gee.

When in 1918 Cornelis Jacobus Langen­hoven wrote “Die Stem” (“The Voice”), the poem that became South Africa’s

Global Security Challenges in 2014
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Global Security Challenges in 2014

The year ahead is likely to bring unforeseen foreign-policy challenges.  Two years ago nobody anticipated the “Arab Spring,” and that phenomenon’s causes, significance, and future developments are still a matter of dispute.  The North Korean regime is fundamentally less stable

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An Uncertain Asian Pivot

Nicholas Spykman died 70 years ago, more than two years before Japan’s defeat, but his analysis of America’s role in the world, and the challenges she will face in the Far East, sounds almost prophetic today.  The Dutch-born Yale professor

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A Failure of Intelligence

“Al Qaeda is on the run, Osama bin Laden is dead,” President Obama announced at a rally in Des Moines on the eve of last year’s presidential election.

Less than a year later it is evident that, contrary to Obama’s

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A Tale of Two Islamists

Two waves of popular protests against Islamist regimes, one in Turkey and the other in Egypt, have produced notably different outcomes.  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has weathered the storm, while President Mohamed Morsi was removed from office by the

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Syria: Avoiding Another Quagmire

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee last April, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned of the potential consequences of U.S. military involvement in the Syrian conflict.  It could hinder humanitarian relief operations, he said, embroil the United States in

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A Scandalous Presidency

“Unfortunately you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all of our problems,” President Barack Obama told students at Ohio State on May 5.

Some

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Obama, Relationship Therapist

The House of Peers, throughout the war,
Did nothing in particular,

and did it very well.

W.S. Gilbert’s lines from Iolanthe seem applicable to President Barack Oba­ma’s four-day Middle East trip, which ended on March 23.  The tour was a

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In Praise of Nuclear Proliferation

Much nonsense has been spewed following North Korea’s third nuclear test on February 12.  Outgoing Pentagon chief Leon Panetta declared that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are a “serious threat” to the United States.  “I don’t know how you come up

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Second-Time Charms

Second-term U.S. presidents tend to focus more on world affairs than on domestic issues, for good or for ill.  In January 1957, Dwight Eisenhower authorized the commitment of U.S. forces “to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence”

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Managing the Quagmire

Twenty years ago Leon Hadar published Quagmire: America in the Middle East, an eloquent plea for U.S. disengagement from the region.  He warned that American leaders had neither the knowledge nor the power to manage long-standing disputes involving faraway

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One Crisis Averted

Barack Obama’s re-election, while socially, culturally, and morally disastrous for the country, may prove the lesser of two evils when it comes to foreign policy, according to some pundits.  Perhaps, but only because Obama’s primary focus is on irreversibly changing

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The Blowback

On September 24 I embarked on a week-long tour of Tunisia, hoping to learn more on the aftermath of last year’s revolution and the state of political play ahead of the elections, which are due before the year’s end.  The

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Grand Strategy Revisited

In an election campaign dominated by domestic issues, foreign themes have appeared as isolated snippets.  Questions regarding what to do about Syria or Iran, or how to manage relations with China and Russia, produce stock responses unrelated to the broad

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Worst Secretary of State in History

Attending a “holiday party” at the State Department in December 2010, President Obama congratulated himself on appointing Hillary Clinton and declared that “there’s a consensus building that [she] may be one of the best secretaries of state we’ve ever had

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NATO’s Pointless Summit

NATO leaders concluded a two-day summit in Chicago on May 21, with the pending withdrawal from Afghanistan dominating the proceedings.  According to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, two other items dominated the agenda: The alliance will continue to expand

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Rumors of War Receding

This column was written on Orthodox Easter, but the reminder that Christ is risen is not the only reason for its upbeat tone.  There is good news on several foreign fronts, making a major new war less likely today than

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An American Revolution

On January 17—less than 24 hours after presenting his credentials—the new U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, met with a group of Russian opposition figures, “civil-society activists,” and street-demonstration leaders at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.  It was a

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Inventing the European Union

The rhetoric of “Europe” in its recognizably modern form dates back to the Thirty Years’ War.  After all that they had done to each other between 1618 and 1648, Europeans were rightly embarrassed to talk of “Christendom” as a serious

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Avoiding the Iranian Debacle

It takes neither  unique intellectual brilliance nor supernaturally honed intuitive skills to predict the consequences of hazardous foreign-policy moves.  On numerous occasions over the past decade and a half, I have advised against U.S. military interventions not because of my

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Russian Reset in Peril

For all its many faults, the Obama administration has scored one notable success: It has done significantly better than its recent Republican and Democratic predecessors in normalizing relations with Russia.  Washington’s visceral antagonism toward Moscow needed to be replaced by

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Running On Empty

All imperial projects eventually come to grief.  The causes, time spans, and forms of decline differ from one great power to the next and from one century to another, but they all have in common one important feature: At some

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Lessons of Libya

Liberal interventionists and their neoconservative twins on both sides of the Atlantic were jubilant as Libyan rebels took Tripoli.  From now on, “The right question for the United States and its allies isn’t whether to help oppressed people fight for

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Arabian Fall

In the U.S. mainstream media, the developments that have followed the misnamed “Arab Spring” have been curiously underreported.  The reason seems clear: In recent weeks those developments have taken a clear turn away from Western-style democracy, pluralism, tolerance, respect for

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Time for Disengagment

“I’ve spent my entire adult life with the United States as a superpower, and one that had no compunction about spending what it took to sustain that position,” outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Newsweek on June 19.  “[F]rankly I

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A Speech of No Consequence

All too many speeches by major political figures are heralded as historic in advance of delivery yet prove to be irrelevant in the grand-strategic scheme of things.  Churchill’s “we shall fight on the beaches” address in the wake of Dunkirk,

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Our Interest in Turkey

Trying to spread democracy in the Middle East has always been a bad idea.  The quagmire in Iraq is largely thanks to George W. Bush and his team extending the original mission from depriving Saddam of his (nonexistent) weapons of