US Domestic Policy, US Foreign Policy

George W. Bush Was a Disaster — But Trump Was Worse

In 2021, over 140 historians participated in the C-SPAN evaluation of American presidents. The rankings haven’t changed much in two decades. The reputations of Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson, and Grover Cleveland have declined. Ulysses Grant’s approval rating has risen. And George W. Bush moved from 36th place in 2009 to 29th in 2021 — just… Continue reading George W. Bush Was a Disaster — But Trump Was Worse

US Foreign Policy

The UN Crisis

Jair Bolsonaro gave a speech at the UN General Assembly this month. It was full of the usual misstatements and exaggerations for which the Brazilian leader has become notorious. But the most noteworthy part of the speech had nothing to do with its contents. It was Bolsonaro’s refusal of take a COVID-19 vaccine, despite New… Continue reading The UN Crisis

US Foreign Policy

The Handcuffing of Joe Biden

The far right would like to impeach Joe Biden, kick him out of the White House, perhaps even throw him in jail. “Lock him up” has been a predictable chant at Trump rallies going back to before the 2020 election. Even Republicans in Congress have joined this chorus. Bipartisanship? As Donald Trump would say in… Continue reading The Handcuffing of Joe Biden

US Foreign Policy

Did 9/11 Change Everything?

Twenty years ago, the United States sustained the first substantial attacks on the mainland since the War of 1812. It was a collective shock to all Americans who believed their country to be impregnable. The Cold War had produced the existential dread of a nuclear attack, but that always lurked in the realm of the… Continue reading Did 9/11 Change Everything?

US Foreign Policy

The Spread of Global Hate

One insidious way to torture the detainees at Guantanamo was to blast music at them at all hours. The mixtape, which included everything from Metallica to the Meow Mix jingle, was intended to disorient the captives and impress upon them the futility of resistance. It worked: this soundtrack from hell did indeed break several inmates.… Continue reading The Spread of Global Hate

US Foreign Policy

International Law Uncancelled

When the loony right gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference back in February, the theme of the Trump-heavy gathering was “America Uncanceled.” Speaker after speaker railed against “political correctness” in American culture, from “woke mobs” to “censorship” in the mainstream news media. Incredibly, they tried to transform so-called cancel culture into the single greatest… Continue reading International Law Uncancelled

US Foreign Policy

Is the Long War Finally Ending

In October 1944, with the end of World War II in sight, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin passed a note back and forth to each other at a conference in Moscow. On the piece of paper, Churchill had assigned percentages to several Eastern European countries. Stalin amended the numbers, and Churchill agreed. The deal remained… Continue reading Is the Long War Finally Ending

US Foreign Policy

Painting the World Green

Once upon a time, a rich hypochondriac was complaining about pains in his head and stomach. He consulted a wise man who pointed out that the root of the problem lay somewhere else: in the man’s eyes. To resolve the persistent headache and stomachache, the sage suggested focusing on just one color in the surrounding… Continue reading Painting the World Green

US Foreign Policy

The U.S. Senate Is a Global Problem

Watching the Senate conduct the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump brought back a flood of memories from high school. I distinctly remember an earlier incarnation of those Trump-friendly Republican senators taking up their positions at the back of class to snicker, yawn ostentatiously, and otherwise disrupt the serious, well-researched presentations of their fellow students.… Continue reading The U.S. Senate Is a Global Problem

US Foreign Policy

America: The Unreliable Superpower

The nightmare is over. The vanquished beast has crawled back to Mar-a-Lago to lick his wounds. The heroes are hard at work repairing the damage. As America returns to the international stage, the world heaves a collective sigh of relief. That, at least, is the story the incoming Biden administration is telling. “America is back,… Continue reading America: The Unreliable Superpower

US Foreign Policy

Szitsky Krik

In Season One of the wildly popular TV series Szitsky Krik, viewers thrilled to see the delicious comeuppance of a former U.S. president and his once-glamorous wife Melania. Having ruthlessly climbed over people to become the most powerful couple in the world, Donny and Melania are abruptly stripped of their political influence within months of… Continue reading Szitsky Krik

Books, Non-Fiction, US Foreign Policy

The Pandemic Pivot

If the current pandemic is a test of the global emergency response system, the international community is flunking big time. It has done just about everything wrong, from the failure to contain the virus early on to the lack of effective coordination thereafter. As the predicted second wave begins to build — the world is… Continue reading The Pandemic Pivot

US Foreign Policy

The Problem of Surplus White Men

The problem of America today is the problem of white men. Who lies at the intersection of guns, right-wing fanaticism, pandemic and climate change denialism? Who ensures that racism continues to course through the lifeblood of the country? Who stands in the way of gender equality? Who supports foreign wars and the military-industrial complex? Who… Continue reading The Problem of Surplus White Men

US Foreign Policy

Trump’s Scorched-Earth Policy

It is a recent tradition among occupants of the White House, as they head out of office, to play a few practical jokes on their successors. The Clinton administration jesters, for instance, removed all the Ws from White House keyboards before handing over the keys to George W. Bush’s transition team. The Obama administration left… Continue reading Trump’s Scorched-Earth Policy

US Foreign Policy

Trump and the Troops

My father enlisted in the Army to fight in World War II. He was 19 or 20 years old, and he wanted to defeat the Nazis. He was one of a million other young Americans to sign up that year. But my father was also a fun-loving guy who played clarinet in a jazz band… Continue reading Trump and the Troops

US Domestic Policy, US Foreign Policy

The De-Trumpification of America

Let’s assume that Donald Trump loses the election in November. Yes, that’s a mighty big assumption, despite all the polls currently favoring the Democrats. If the economy begins to recover and the first wave of Covid-19 subsides (without a second wave striking), Donald Trump’s reelection prospects could improve greatly. The Republican Party has a huge… Continue reading The De-Trumpification of America

US Foreign Policy

Why Bolton Matters

Unreliable narrators are a staple of literature. Consider the delusional, self-serving narrator of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or the way Humbert Humbert used his cultured references and gorgeous prose to dress up his crimes in Nabokov’s Lolita. Now along comes John Bolton and his account of time served in the Trump administration as national security… Continue reading Why Bolton Matters

US Domestic Policy, US Foreign Policy

The Descent of America

Complaints about American decline have been commonplace since at least the Vietnam War era. In the late 1980s, declinism experienced an upsurge with the publication of The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, by Paul Kennedy, which warned of the dangers of imperial overstretch. Even America’s putative victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold… Continue reading The Descent of America

China, US Foreign Policy

Trump’s ‘Uncreative Destruction’ of the U.S.-China Relationship

Economists like to think of the wreckage caused by stock market downturns, widespread bankruptcies, and corporate downsizing as “creative destruction.” As it destroys the old and the dysfunctional, the capitalist system continually spurs innovation, much as a forest fire prepares the ground for new growth. Or so the representatives of the dismal science argue. Donald… Continue reading Trump’s ‘Uncreative Destruction’ of the U.S.-China Relationship

China, US Foreign Policy

Debunking Trump’s China Nonsense

Conspiracy theorists never let a crisis go to waste. When something truly terrible happens, the conspiracy theorist sets to work to determine the dark, hidden forces at work behind the scenes that have produced the crisis. Some people might see God or the Devil as the prime mover behind a catastrophe. Others throw up their… Continue reading Debunking Trump’s China Nonsense

US Foreign Policy

Trump Rex

In retrospect, it’s no surprise that, after the election of Donald Trump in 2016, dystopian fiction enjoyed a spike in popularity. However, novels like George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which soared on Amazon, would prove more horror stories than roadmaps. Like so many ominous sounds from a dark basement, they provided good scares but didn’t… Continue reading Trump Rex

US Foreign Policy

The Next Pandemic

Congress is already thinking about how to prevent the next pandemic. See how quickly Cory Booker (D-NJ) has teamed up with Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to write a letter calling for a global ban on “wet markets.” The current pandemic is reputed to have originated in a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. So,… Continue reading The Next Pandemic

Highlighted, US Foreign Policy

COVID-19 and the Global Economy, Inference

THE MODERN GLOBAL economy rests on the foundation of modern medicine. The transactions that sustain the global trade of goods and services require an implicit assurance that merchants and financiers are not infecting one another when they meet to conduct business. Economic globalization requires that the nodes of international distribution—ports, airline terminals, railway stations, intermodal hubs—do… Continue reading COVID-19 and the Global Economy, Inference

US Foreign Policy

The Politics of the Coronavirus

The far right thrives on fear. It’s no surprise, then, that it would use the latest pandemic, which has generated widespread panic, to bolster its own agenda. All of the hallmarks of the far right are in play during the current crisis. It has pushed to close borders. It has demonized foreigners and particularly border-crossers.… Continue reading The Politics of the Coronavirus

China, US Foreign Policy

What the Coronavirus Says About Us

A crisis, according to self-help and leadership books, reveals much about a person’s character. The same can be said of a nation’s character. Since the latest pandemic began to spread out of China in 2020, countries responded in very different ways to the challenge. There was ingenuity, inflexibility, incomprehension, and sheer incompetence. Diversity can be… Continue reading What the Coronavirus Says About Us

US Foreign Policy

The President as Political Hit Man

Donald Trump filed his paperwork to run for reelection only hours after his inauguration in January 2017, setting a presidential record, the first of his many dubious achievements. For a man who relished the adulation and bombast of campaigning, it should have surprised no one that he charged out of the starting gate so quickly… Continue reading The President as Political Hit Man