Russia and Eastern Europe, Security

The Ukraine Crisis Is an Opportunity to Reshape U.S.-Russia Diplomacy

Heading into its second year in office, the Biden administration has been hit hard by rising inflation, another pandemic variant and a stalled agenda in Congress. As it struggles to salvage things, the administration can little afford a major international conflict—especially after finally winding down the 20-year fiasco in Afghanistan. That’s precisely the risk in… Continue reading The Ukraine Crisis Is an Opportunity to Reshape U.S.-Russia Diplomacy

Security

Working for a Real Mad Man

When he was trying to win the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon famously told his chief of staff that he wanted Communist leaders—in the Soviet Union, in North Vietnam—to think that the U.S. president was a mad man, that he was capable of doing pretty much anything up to and including the use of nuclear weapons.… Continue reading Working for a Real Mad Man

Human Rights, Security

Netanyahu Soldiers On

When Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister for the second time in March 2009, it was not long after Israel had conducted three weeks of sustained air attacks on the enclave of Gaza. More than 1,100 Palestinians died in that campaign. About a dozen Israelis also perished, four from friendly fire, the rest from rockets coming… Continue reading Netanyahu Soldiers On

Security

America Hacks Itself

America has a serious infrastructure problem. Maybe when I say that what comes to mind are all the potholes on your street. Or the dismal state of public transportation in your city. Or crumbling bridges all over the country. But that’s so twentieth century of you. America’s most urgent infrastructure vulnerability is largely invisible and unlikely… Continue reading America Hacks Itself

Security

Afghanistan’s Green Future

Everyone has a different Doomsday scenario for Afghanistan once U.S. and NATO troops withdraw by September 11. The Taliban will take over and reimpose their repressive social agenda. Al-Qaeda will multiply rapidly and again become a global threat. Rival warlords will split apart the country. Another wave of Afghan refugees will overwhelm Europe. And then… Continue reading Afghanistan’s Green Future

Security

We Need a Coronavirus Truce

During World War I, soldiers all along the Western front held a series of informal truces in December 1914 to commemorate Christmas. It was early in the war, and opposition had not yet hardened into implacable enmity. The military command, caught by surprise, could not impose complete battlefield discipline. An estimated 100,000 British and German… Continue reading We Need a Coronavirus Truce

Security, US Foreign Policy

Soldiers Who Fight War

One of the enduring myths connected to the Vietnam War is that the U.S. military could have won the war if the politicians and protestors back in Washington didn’t somehow handicap the generals. When George H. W. Bush launched the first Gulf War in 1990, for instance, he said that “this will not be another… Continue reading Soldiers Who Fight War

Security, US Foreign Policy

Trump’s Endless Wars

Donald Trump loves to talk about ending the endless U.S. wars that he inherited as president. He tweets about it. He endlessly criticizes his predecessors for their martial mistakes. But like the old saw about the weather, Trump talks a whole lot about endless wars but doesn’t do anything about them. Just this month, he… Continue reading Trump’s Endless Wars

Security

A Farewell to Arms Control?

My first trip to Washington, DC to do something other than protest on the streets was to interview for a Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship, which brings young people to the nation’s capital to work on arms control and disarmament. It was 1987, around the time that Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range… Continue reading A Farewell to Arms Control?

Korea, Security

North Korea: Nukes vs. War?

Nuclear weapons have held the world hostage for more than 70 years. Although they possess terrifying power and the world has come close to nuclear war on several occasions, these weapons have only been used twice, in 1945, by the United States against Japan. Advocates of deterrence believe that nuclear weapons actually kept the peace… Continue reading North Korea: Nukes vs. War?

Russia and Eastern Europe, Security

The New New Cold War

When an epoch ends, as the Cold War did between 1989 and 1991, it takes some time to come up with a name for the new order. For some years, the world lived in a “post-Cold War” era. That phrase was supposed to capture the optimism of a new beginning as well as the uncertainty… Continue reading The New New Cold War

Security

The Fall of the House of ISIS

The Middle East today is enduring a replay of World War II — with the Islamic State in the role of Nazi Germany. Having seized much of Europe and parts of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany reached the peak of its expansion by the fall of 1942. Then, stopped at Stalingrad and unable to overwhelm… Continue reading The Fall of the House of ISIS

Books, Fiction, Security, Uncategorized

A Fairy Tale from 2050

Once upon a time, long, long ago, I testified before the great assembly of our land. When I describe this event to children today, it really does sound to them like a fairy tale. Once upon a time — a time before the world splintered into a million pieces and America became its current disunited… Continue reading A Fairy Tale from 2050

Security

New Trump, Old Bottles

It didn’t take long for Donald Trump to discover that U.S. foreign policy is about as easy to turn around as a warship in dry dock. Despite any number of promises to shake things up — during the election and even in his first days as president — Trump is falling back on some very… Continue reading New Trump, Old Bottles

Security

Trump Is from Mars

So, let me see if I’ve got this right. North Korea has been pushing its ally China to rein in the United States. Pyongyang is worried that Washington is about to launch a preemptive attack, so it has tried to use whatever minimal amount of influence it has to persuade China to use its considerable… Continue reading Trump Is from Mars

Security

Making America Mediocre Again

The first signs of decline are physical. Citizens don’t grow as tall. They don’t live as long. They start killing each other in large numbers. Sounds like the post-mortem for a society that disappeared long ago, a conclusion that archaeologists deliver after sifting through bone fragments and pottery shards. Why, the puzzled scholars ask, did… Continue reading Making America Mediocre Again

Security

Colombia: Disturbing the Peace

The nuclear deal with Iran never went before the American people for an up-or-down vote. Nor did it require two-thirds support of the Senate, since it wasn’t technically a treaty. The effort to roll back Iran’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for the elimination of some sanctions faced a much more modest hurdle. It had… Continue reading Colombia: Disturbing the Peace

Security

Drones and Blowback

The targeted assassination of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour last weekend wasn’t just another drone strike. First of all, it was conducted by the U.S. military, not the CIA, which has orchestrated nearly all drone strikes in Pakistan. Second, it didn’t take place in Afghanistan or in the so-called lawless tribal region of Pakistan… Continue reading Drones and Blowback

Asia, China, Security

Asia Smiles for the Cameras

It wasn’t long ago that certain pundits were predicting war in Asia. Back in the spring, the conflict over the South China Sea was heating up as China sparred with Vietnam over an oil exploration rig and with the Philippines over disputed reefs. Japan and China, meanwhile, were butting heads over a string of uninhabited rocks in… Continue reading Asia Smiles for the Cameras

Europe, Security

NATO: Rebellion in the Ranks?

Vladimir Putin, the wily strategist of Russian revanchism, is well on his way to reconstructing the Warsaw Pact. That, at least, is what the pundits of The Washington Post are making it out to seem. Last week, Jackson Diehl penned a column on how Putin has driven a wedge between NATO and its easternmost members. Anne Applebaum, meanwhile, pins the… Continue reading NATO: Rebellion in the Ranks?

Security, US Foreign Policy

Barack Obama and the Will to Fight

The Obama administration has admitted that it misjudged the extremists who set up the Islamic State in chunks of territory torn from Iraq and Syria. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, confessed that his analysts underestimated the “will to fight” of the jihadists. He also linked it to intelligence failures of the past, such as similar… Continue reading Barack Obama and the Will to Fight

Asia, Security

East Asia: A Farewell to Arms

(written with Emanuel Pastreich) East Asia faces an enormous number of challenges. The countries of the region clash over territory, argue over history, compete for diminishing natural resources, and dispute the balance of power along the Pacific Rim. In response to all these challenges, the United States has offered a one-size-fits-all approach: free trade and… Continue reading East Asia: A Farewell to Arms

Russia and Eastern Europe, Security, US Foreign Policy

The Cold War Never Died

In ’89, it looked as though the war had finally ended. For five decades the conflict had ground on, and both sides had grown weary of it all. There had been previous pauses in the hostilities, even a détente or two, but this truce looked permanent. Sure, there were still tensions after ’89, and a… Continue reading The Cold War Never Died

China, Security

Is China’s Rise Still Peaceful?

Last month I visited Ningxia province, in China’s northwest. It is a relatively poor region, with a large Muslim population, a considerable stretch of desert, and a growing petrochemical industry. It is far from the unrest of Xinjiang province to the west and the maritime disputes of the South China Sea to the east. Ningxia… Continue reading Is China’s Rise Still Peaceful?

Security, Uncategorized

Guys with Guns

Back in the 1950s, the far right-wing John Birch Society worried that Communists were secretly behind the fluoridation of the American drinking water. This particular conspiracy theory probably would have vanished into collective amnesia if it hadn’t been so pointedly satirized—and thus immortalized—in the film Dr. Strangelove. I have to say, however, that I am tempted by such crackpot… Continue reading Guys with Guns