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  • Originally published 05/25/2014

    Putting Ukraine in Its Place

    From the current debates you’d never know what matters more: Russia’s land grab, Iran’s nuclear program, or China’s territorial claims. How America stopped thinking strategically.

  • Originally published 02/15/2014

    Obama's Hollow Promises Abroad

    As U.S. credibility and stature diminish in world affairs, the American president and his secretaries of state and defense engage in eloquent denial.

  • Originally published 08/23/2013

    Daniel Pipes: Obama's Foreign Fiasco

    It's a privilege to be an American who works on foreign policy, as I have done since the late 1970s, participating in a small way in the grand project of finding my country's place in the world. But now, under Barack Obama, decisions made in Washington have dramatically shrunk in importance. It's unsettling and dismaying. And no longer a privilege.

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    James Traub: The Tea Party’s Path to Irrelevance

    James Traub, a columnist at foreignpolicy.com, is writing a biography of John Quincy Adams.WASHINGTON — THE Tea Party has a new crusade: preventing illegal immigrants from gaining citizenship, which they say is giving amnesty to lawbreakers. Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, recently told Politico that his members were “more upset about the amnesty bill than they were about Obamacare.”...Tea Partyers often style themselves as disciples of Thomas Jefferson, the high apostle of limited government. But by taking the ramparts against immigration, the movement is following a trajectory that looks less like the glorious arc of Jefferson’s Republican Party than the suicidal path of Jefferson’s great rivals, the long-forgotten Federalists, who also refused to accept the inexorable changes of American demography.The Federalists began as the faction that supported the new Constitution, with its “federal” framework, rather than the existing model of a loose “confederation” of states. They were the national party, claiming to represent the interests of the entire country.

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Kirk Spitzer: Shinzo Abe, The Wild Card

    Kirk Spitzer is a Tokyo-based freelance writer and former defense correspondent for USA Today and CBS News. TOKYO — Japanese voters are almost certain to give Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) an overwhelming victory in upper house elections on July 21. The election so far has focused largely on economic recovery -- and for once there's hope on the horizon. Abe's aggressive program of monetary easing and government spending has begun to jolt the economy out of nearly two decades of deflation and stagnation. The prime minister, who's been operating with only the lower house of the Diet backing him, is looking to regain a majority in the upper house to help push through his "third arrow" of structural reforms....

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Michael Fullilove: Obama Needs an FDR-Like Foreign Policy Pivot

    Michael Fullilove is executive director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, and author of "Rendezvous With Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America Into the War and Into the World."President Obama's most important foreign policy initiative is his attempt to "pivot" away from the Middle East and toward Asia.Yet in Asia, some are starting to wonder whether the pivot was last year's story. The new secretary of State, John F. Kerry, is rarely sighted in the region. The military elements of the rebalance are underwhelming. Some of the main proponents of the pivot have left government. And U.S. policymakers are still drawn to the Middle East like iron filings to a magnet.One reason for the sluggishness of the shift is that it is remarkably difficult to pivot a country as large and diverse as the United States. Arguably, the last successful pivot took place from 1939 to 1941, between the outbreak of the European fighting and the U.S. entry into the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. During this period, America transformed itself from a nervous, isolationist, middle power into an outward-looking global leader.

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Conrad Black: Obama’s Failing Foreign Policy

    Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, A Matter of Principle, and the recently published Flight of the Eagle: The Grand Strategies That Brought America from Colonial Dependence to World Leadership. He can be reached at cbletters@gmail.com.

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Victor Davis Hanson: The Mood of 1980

    NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals is just out from Bloomsbury BooksNext year could be a frightening one, in the fashion of 1979–80.The developing circumstances of our withdrawal from Afghanistan conjure up Vietnam 1975, with all the refugees, reprisals, humiliation, and emboldened enemies on the horizon, though this time there is no coastline for a flotilla of boat people to launch from. The Obama administration is debating no-fly zones over Syria; more likely, it will have the same discussion over Afghanistan soon, once the Taliban drops the diplomatic veneer and comes back into town.Because of the failure to negotiate a single residual base in Iraq, Iran has appropriated a vast air corridor to the Middle East. John Kerry speaks sonorously to Russia and China, but apparently assumes that diplomacy follows gentlemanly New England yacht protocols, the right of way given to the more sober, judicious, and pontificating....

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    Richard N. Haass: America Can Take a Breather. And It Should.

    Richard N. Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author, most recently, of “Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America’s House in Order.”THE United States is currently enjoying an unprecedented respite in the foreign policy arena — a temporary relief from the normal rigors of history that allows us to take stock at home and abroad.It may seem outlandish to claim that we’re in the midst of a lull, given that America faces a civil war in Syria, an Iran that seems to be seeking nuclear weapons, an irresponsible North Korea that already possesses them, continuing threats from terrorists, a rising China and rapid climate change.Yet the United States enjoys a respite all the same. For the three and a half centuries of the modern international era, great powers have almost always confronted rivals determined to defeat them and replace the global order they worked to bring about. In the last century, this process unfolded three times. The results were violent, costly and dangerous, and included two world wars and a cold war....

  • Originally published 05/30/2013

    Marci Shore: The Banality of Merkel

    Marci Shore is associate professor of history at Yale University. She is the author, most recently, of A Taste of Ashes: The Afterlife of Totalitarianism in Eastern Europe.“In West Germany people know barely anything about thirty-five years of my life,” Angela Merkel, today the powerful prime minister of a unified Germany, said in a 2004 interview. This quote now serves as the epigraph for a new book by two German journalists, Günther Lachmann and Ralf Georg Reuth, about the East German origins of the German chancellor. The authors of Das erste Leben der Angela M. (“The First Life of Angela M.”) wish to impress upon their readers that Angela Merkel, who lived those first thirty-five years of her life in the communist German Democratic Republic, was more deeply a part of that society than had previously been appreciated.

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Joseph Nye: Do Presidents Really Steer Foreign Policy?

    Joseph S. Nye Jr. is a University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard. This article and the accompanying sidebar are adapted from his upcoming book, Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era.The 21st century began with an extraordinary imbalance in world power. The United States was the only country able to project military force globally; it represented more than a quarter of the world economy, and had the world’s leading soft-power resources in its universities and entertainment industry. America’s primacy appeared well established.Americans seemed to like this situation. In the 2012 presidential campaign, both major-party candidates insisted that American power was not in decline, and vowed that they would maintain American primacy. But how much are such promises within the ability of presidents to keep? Was presidential leadership ever essential to the establishment of American primacy, or was that primacy an accident of history that would have occurred regardless of who occupied the Oval Office?

  • Originally published 05/23/2013

    Historian William Z. Slany, RIP

    William Z. Slany, the former Historian of the Department of State and a champion of efforts to declassify the secret history of U.S. foreign policy, passed away earlier this month.Dr. Slany served in the State Department’s Office of the Historian for 42 years, and was The Historian for the last 18 of those years, until his retirement from the Department in September 2000, according to a notice circulated by David H. Herschler, the Deputy Historian of the State Department.In his capacity as Historian of the Department, Dr. Slany helped prepare 16 volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States series, the official documentary record of U.S. foreign policy, and he oversaw the publication of 125 FRUS volumes.  He led an interagency study to prepare a two volume account of “Nazi gold” and other stolen assets from World War II.  He participated in the development and implementation of the 1991 statute that formally required the State Department to present a “thorough, accurate, and reliable” record of U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic history....

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Victor Davis Hanson: An Irrelevant Middle East

    Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, The Savior Generals, will appear this month from Bloomsbury Press. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com.Since antiquity, the Middle East has been the trading nexus of three continents — Asia, Europe, and Africa — and the vibrant birthplace of three of the world’s great religions.Middle Eastern influence rose again in the 19th century when the Suez Canal turned the once-dead-end eastern Mediterranean Sea into a sea highway from Europe to Asia.With the 20th-century development of large gas and oil supplies in the Persian Gulf and North Africa, an Arab-led OPEC more or less dictated the foreign policy of thirsty oil importers like the United States and Europe. No wonder U.S. Central Command has remained America’s military-command hot spot.

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    Rosa Brooks: Would Machiavelli Have Drawn a Red Line?

    Rosa Brooks is a law professor at Georgetown University and a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation. She served as a counselor to the U.S. defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011 and previously served as a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department. Her weekly column runs every Wednesday and is accompanied by a blog, By Other Means.In days of yore, diplomats were diplomatic. Or so, at least, I am led to believe by fiction and film: Fictional diplomats are erudite, conniving, and suave, treating allies and enemies alike with the same elegant courtesy, even while arranging the most sophisticated betrayals.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Louis René Beres: What's to Blame for America's Senseless Wars?

    Louis Rene Beres is a professor of International Law at Purdue University. Born in Zurich, Switzerland at the end of World War II, he is the author of many major books and articles dealing with world politics, law, literature, and philosophy.Where there were great military actions, there lies whitening now the jawbone of an ass.–Saint-John PerseI am in Vietnam, wondering just how any U.S. president could ever have imagined a purposeful American war in this part of the world. My considerable wonderment has as much to do with the obvious vacancy of 1960s and 1970s-era conceptual justifications (Vietnam as a threatened "domino" was the preferred metaphor) as with patently overwhelming operational difficulties. Notwithstanding the carefully cultivated and contrived images of an indispensable conflict, this was a war that never had a single defensible raison d'etre, and that never displayed any conceivable way of being won.Never.Lately, it was Iraq, although now already officially ended, at least for us. In Afghanistan, a war is still ongoing, even for us. Allegedly, at least for us, the Afghan war will soon be over. For the Afghans, however, it will be status quo ante bellum.At best.

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Aaron David Miller: How Geography Explains the United States

    Aaron David Miller is vice president for new initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. His forthcoming book is titled Can America Have Another Great President?. "Reality Check," his column for ForeignPolicy.com, runs weekly.Do Americans have a worldview? And is there a central organizing principle that explains it? To frame the question in Tolkienesque terms: Might there be one explanation that rules them all?I think there is.Sigmund Freud argued that in the human enterprise, anatomy is destiny. In the affairs of nations, geography -- what it wills, demands, and bestows -- is destiny too.It can't explain everything, to be sure. Britain and Japan are both island nations. That might explain their reliance on naval power and even their imperial aspirations. But what accounts for their fundamentally different histories? Other factors are clearly at play, including culture, religion, and what nature bestows or denies in resources. Fortune, along with the random circumstances it brings, pushes them in different directions.

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Sergey Radchenko: Mao and Stalin, Xi and Putin

    Sergey Radchenko is a lecturer at the University of Nottingham, based at the University's China campus in Ningbo, China. He is the author of Two Suns in the Heavens: the Sino-Soviet Struggle for Supremacy, 1962-67 and the forthcoming Unwanted Visionaries: Soviet Failure in Asia at the end of the Cold War. Original declassified documents for this article are provided through the Digital Archive of the History and Public Policy Program at the Wilson Center. In December 1949, Mao Zedong traveled to Moscow, for his first trip abroad. Three months earlier, perched high above a crowd of thousands in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Mao had announced the founding of the People's Republic of China. The nascent country was yet unformed, and Mao thought it important to ensure that New China would stand on the right side of history: the Communist side. In this, Mao needed Joseph Stalin's blessing and Soviet help.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    Macau: China's Unlikely Bridge to the Lusophone

    The view from Macau Fortaleza do Monte. Credit: Wiki Commons.One of the most memorable dates I have ever had was on the walls of a seventeenth-century fort. Located on a small lush hill in the middle of a Chinese city, in the September rain you could see and smell the warm waters of the tropical ocean. The cannons evoke the first Iberian intrusions into Asia, when southern European sailors -- essentially pirates or middlemen plying the lucrative trade between much larger Asian countries -- were the first Europeans to set foot in the country. To the south the powerful Malay sultanate of Melaka, a tributary state of the Ming, was the first to fall. Further east the Portuguese attempt to proselytize Japan -- resisted violently by the archipelago's warrior rulers -- also left deep marks on that country’s history. In Macau, the latest addition to China’s territory, Asia's mostly forgotten encounter with Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries finds beautiful expression in the city's forts and baroque architecture.

  • Originally published 03/22/2013

    Ron Radosh: Why Conservatives Should be Critical of Obama’s Middle Eastern Policy, But No Longer Attack Him as an Enemy of Israel

    Ron Radosh is a PJ Media columnist and Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute.I, along with other supporters of Israel, have for the past few years rightfully been critical of President Obama and his position on the Middle East, beginning with his disastrous Cairo speech and his misguided decision to combine a wooing of the Arab world with a decision to put U.S. pressure first and foremost on Israel. Particularly, Obama chose to make settlements the most important issue regarding the peace process.The major change during his two days in Israel was a decisive shift in approach, which many of his ardent supporters have been loath to acknowledge. This shift was succinctly pointed out by veteran foreign affairs analyst Leslie Gelb:

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    James Joyner: Washington's Losing Streak

    James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.As we approach the tenth anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq on March 20, it's worth reflecting on the fact that it has been nearly seventy years since America's last successful major war.On August 15, 1945, known as Victory Over Japan Day or V-J Day, the Japanese unconditionally surrendered, marking the end of the Second World War and establishing the United States as a superpower. Since that day, the United States has lost three major wars—Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq—and is counting down the months until its loss in Afghanistan.To be sure, we won the Cold War, which was surely more important than those four combined. But that was fundamentally a contest of political systems and economies. We wouldn't have prevailed without a powerful military and a great military alliance with NATO. But it wasn't a war in a literal sense—and we lost the two major wars (Korea and Vietnam) waged as part of it....

  • Originally published 02/07/2013

    John Watkins: What Richard III Can Teach Us Today

    John Watkins is distinguished McKnight university professor of English and affiliate faculty in history at the University of Minnesota.I like the idea of the hunchbacked Richard III, newly exhumed from his final resting spot beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, visiting the Oval Office. You can imagine the late, unlamented English monarch exchanging pleasantries with U.S. President Barack Obama about horseback riding and complaining about what a pain it is to deal with the intolerable French. They might also exchange notes on the inevitable headaches of leadership -- though, in Obama's case, he's not likely to take his skeet-shooting gun and parachute into Helmand province to battle the Taliban.

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    David A. Bell: The War in Mali is a Reminder of France's Grand Malaise

    David A. Bell is Professor of History at Princeton University. Born in New York City in 1961, he received his A.B. from Harvard and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton.It remains to be seen whether France's military intervention in Mali will be considered a military success, but it already seems possible to count it a political one. The war has earned support from across the French political spectrum, President François Hollande has garnered acclaim for his leadership, and the French public broadly supports the country's stated humanitarian mission. The intervention recalls the days when “la grande nation” laid claim to an ambitious international role, particularly within its former colonial empire.But in today's France, this portrait of unity and resolve is actually something of an aberration. Far from expressing a confident sense of mission, the French public has recently been more inclined to a sense of decline, malaise, paralysis and crisis. And it is at least partially justified. 

  • Originally published 01/09/2013

    Using Cold War Tactics to Confront Iran

    Credit: Wiki Commons/HNN staff.As Americans seek to find an alternative to the stark and unappetizing choice of accepting Iran's rabid leadership having nuclear weapons or pre-emptively bombing its nuclear facilities, one analyst offers a credible third path. Interestingly, it's inspired by a long-ago policy toward a different foe -- the Reagan administration's ways of handling the Soviet Union -- yet this unlikely model offers a useful prototype.Abraham D. Sofaer, a former U.S. district judge and legal adviser to the State Department, now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argues in Taking On Iran: Strength, Diplomacy and the Iranian Threat (Hoover Institution, 2013) that since the fall of the shah during the Carter administration, Washington "has responded to Iranian aggression with ineffective sanctions and empty warnings and condemnations."

  • Originally published 07/27/2014

    In Foreign Affairs, Not Doing Anything is the Thing to Do

    The heartbreaking violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, and elsewhere carries many messages, but here’s one Americans shouldn’t miss: The United States — no matter who the president is — cannot manage world conflict. The corollary is that when a president tries to manage it,things will usually get worse. Foresight is always defective, and tragic unintended consequences will prevail.

  • Originally published 06/28/2014

    U.S.-Egyptian “Historic Partnership” Reeks with Hypocrisy

    Largely overshadowed by events in Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration is dropping its pretense at displeasure with the military junta in Egypt and restoring full support for the regime that so recently quashed the country’s faltering attempt at democracy.

  • Originally published 06/28/2014

    Smedley Butler and the Racket That Is War

    From 1898 to 1931, Smedley Darlington Butler was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. By the time he retired he had achieved what was then the corps’s highest rank, major general, and by the time he died in 1940, at 58, he had more decorations, including two medals of honor, than any other Marine.  He published a short book with the now-famous title War Is a Racket, for which he is best known today. Butler opened the book with these words:War is a racket. It always has been.

  • Originally published 06/18/2014

    The Noninterventionists Told You So

    Contrary to popular belief, there is no satisfaction in being able to say, “I told you so.” This is especially so with Iraq, where recent events are enough to sicken one’s stomach. Yet it still must be said: those who opposed the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in March 2003 — not to mention his father’s war on Iraq in 1991 and the sanctions enforced through the administration of Bill Clinton — were right.

  • Originally published 06/14/2014

    The Disaster That Is U.S. Foreign Policy

    We live in angry times. For evidence, turn on any news program. An awful lot of people, led by right-wing politicians and radio and TV entertainers, are angry at Barack Obama for trading five Taliban officials, who have been held for years without charge in the Guantánamo prison, for an American soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who apparently walked away from his outpost after having a change of heart about the Afghan war. The Right is apoplectic.