• ArgumentThe Surest Way to Lose to China Is to Disparage Expertise

    In the White House, university halls, and op-eds pages, experts are under siege. Oriana Skylar Mastro writes that President Trump calls them “terrible,” and so it is little surprise that most of the individuals driving his China policy are not China specialists, do not speak Mandarin, and have little in-country experience.

  • Argument: Icebreaker gapThe Icebreaker Gap Doesn’t Mean America is Losing in the Arctic

    A warming Arctic is potentially creating a colder regional security environment. Exchanges of whiskey and schnapps may have been sufficient for the Canadians and Danes, as they have done over the disputed Hans Island — but may not be enough as new contentious issues emerge. Paul C. Avey writes that there are growing worries that a region long characterized by international cooperation will no longer enjoy that exceptional status.

  • Perspective: The TroublesWhy a 1972 Northern Ireland Murder Matters So Much to Historians

    In a recent decision, a court in Northern Ireland ruled that evidence from an oral history project could not be considered in a 1972 murder case, clearing 82-year-old Ivor Bell of soliciting the killing of Jean McConville. Evidence from the Belfast Project, an oral history of Northern Ireland’s Troubles, indicated Bell and other members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) kidnapped and murdered McConville because they incorrectly believed she had provided information to the British Army about IRA activity in Belfast. This evidence played an important role in Bell’s indictment and trial in the McConville case. This ordeal strained the relationship between legal justice and historical truth, Donald M. Beaudette and Laura Weinstein write. “Though in court, lawyers, judges and juries assess the guilt of alleged offenders according to well-honed rules of evidence and interpretations of the law, assessing historical truth is more complex,” they write. They argue that scholars “can and must write and speak more broadly about how historical interpretation works, so citizens are better equipped to understand that the dominant interpretation of history is not the only one, nor is it necessarily the correct one.”

  • IranWest Has No Response to Iran’s Increasing Dominance of the Middle East

    A new, detailed study says that over the past forty years Iran has built a network of nonstate alliances which has allowed it to turn the balance of “effective” power in the region “in its favor.” In a report released today (7 November), the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) says the United States and its regional allies retain superiority in conventional forces over Iran, but that Iran has been able to counter both the U.S. military superiority and the ever-more-severe economic sanctions imposed on Iran by building “networks of influence” with proxies which allow Tehran to have a major influence over the affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.

  • Perspective: Oligarchs, populists, and the EU The Money Farmers: How Oligarchs and Populists Milk the E.U. for Millions

    Before 1990, under Communism, farmers in the rich-soil fields west Budapest were growing wheat and corn for a government that had stolen their land. The New York Times reports that today, their children toil for new overlords, a group of oligarchs and political patrons who have annexed the land through opaque deals with the Hungarian government of Victor Orban. “Every year, the 28-country bloc pays out $65 billion in farm subsidies intended to support farmers around the Continent and keep rural communities alive. But across Hungary and much of Central and Eastern Europe, the bulk goes to a connected and powerful few. re is a twist: these land barons are financed and emboldened by the European Union.” The Times adds: “Europe’s farm program, a system that was instrumental in forming the European Union, is now being exploited by the same antidemocratic forces that threaten the bloc from within.”

  • ArgumentsHow a Weaponized Dollar Could Backfire

    United States foreign policy under President Donald Trump continues to run counter to America’s traditional post-war objectives. Should the U.S. carelessly relinquish leadership of the global multilateral order, the dollar might eventually lose its own long-standing primacy.

  • Perspective: NukesGetting the Nukes Out of Turkey: A How-To Guide

    Almost as soon as Turkish troops began their invasion of Syria, old debates resurfaced about whether or not the United States should withdraw the roughly 50 B61 nuclear gravity bombs at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey also began resurfacing. Unlike in years prior, however, this time such a move may actually be in the offing. Pulling the nuclear weapons out of Turkey may seem like a bold step, but the United States has been reducing the number of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe and consolidating the remaining ones at ever fewer bases since the end of the Cold War.

  • Perspective: Into AfricaRussian Theater: How to Respond to Moscow’s Return to the African Stage

    Russia is preparing to launch its first Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi on Oct. 24. The Russia-Africa Summit is the latest in a series of maneuvers by the Kremlin to present an image of a resurgent Russia in Africa. Judd Devermont writes that Russia’s return, even while at times ham-fisted and amateurish, does pose a threat to U.S. interests. The United States should resist the temptation to elevate Russia’s standing in Africa: It should focus on countering Moscow’s expansion and closing down its malign activities in Africa, instead of wasting time and energy framing Russia’s return as part of ‘great power competition.’”

  • Nuclear weaponsU.S. Nuclear Weapons at Incirlik Air Base, in effect, “Erdogan’s hostages”: U.S. Official

    Trump announced his hasty decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria in a series of Tweets on Sunday, following a phone call with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – despite months of warnings from the Pentagon, the NSC, the U.S. intelligence community, and the Department of State. As a result, no plans were made to deal with the fifty or so tactical nuclear weapons kept under U.S. control at the Incirlik Air Base in south-central Turkey, which the United States shares with Turkey. One official told the New York Times that the nuclear bombs at the base were now effectively Erdogan’s hostages.

  • Perspective: China syndromeCan American Values Survive in a Chinese World?

    The People’s Republic of China bounds from strength to strength. Every year sees increases in its wealth and power relative to the world. But what do its leaders hope to achieve with their newfound clout? Jonathan D. T. Ward’s book China’s Vision of Victory traces the Chinese desire to shape the future of all mankind (not just the East Asian part of it) to a national myth taught to schoolchildren across China. According to this narrative, China was once the center of the world; China was the mother of invention, the seat of global wealth, and the beacon of civilization. This is China’s natural role in the world order—a role disrupted by the “century of humiliation” between the Opium Wars and World War II, when China suffered at the hands of foreign powers. But now that age of suffering is over. China’s destiny, according to its leaders, is to reclaim its natural perch as the leading force of human civilization. Tanner Greer writes that these global ambitions raises serious questions for the United States – questions which go beyond whether Americans will be willing to live in a world where China is the supreme economic and military power. The “hardest question may be whether we are willing to live in a world where dominant economic and military power is wielded by an insecure regime whose leaders believe that the same authoritarian techniques used to control enemies within their society must be used to surveil, coerce, and corrupt those enemies outside it.”

  • PerspectiveWhy Undermining the Kurds Could Hurt U.S. relations with Allies

    Commenting on President Trump’s precipitous decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, Duke University’s Professor Peter Feaver said that “When the president makes a decision in this fashion, abruptly flip-flopping from a settled interagency process, ignoring the earnest advice of virtually all of his own national security advisers and breaking with all of his political supporters except the most extreme isolationist fringe of the party, then he magnifies the risk to him and to the country.” Feaver noted that the consequences of Trump’s impulsive decision could hurt relationships with allies down the road. Most leaders help the United States if they think we will aid them later. But that depends on leaders trusting the U.S. will return the favor, he said. “In the real world, most political actors try to balance short- and long-term interests, and see value in, for instance, helping the United States today in the hopes of being helped by the United States tomorrow. That depends on trusting the United States to do likewise. President Trump’s actions have undermined that trust and made it that much harder to build effective coalitions the next time.”

  • PerspectiveTurkey’s Syria Assault Halts the Fight Against ISIS

    The Trump administration’s abrupt decision to pull out of Syria has, as expected, led to a pause in the fight against the Islamic State. Leaders of the SDF, the mostly Kurdish group that has done the bulk of the fighting on the ground in Syria, culminating in the defeat of the group’s so-called caliphate earlier this year, said that Kurdish fighters are being reassigned from counterterrorism missions – including guarding more than 10,000 ISIS fighters in detention camps – to the battle against Turkish incursions. The decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the border region, paving the way for Turkey to launch a catastrophic assault on the Kurds, is “the worst foreign policy decision since the Iraq war,” the senior administration official said.

  • Perspective: Syria withdrawalThe United States Is Done Caring About Syria

    The Syria Study Group (SSG) is a bipartisan commission charged by Congress with “examining and making recommendations on the military and diplomatic strategy of the United States with respect to the conflict in Syria.” It published its report on 24 September. The report details five serious threats the conflict within Syria holds for U.S. national security: First, the self-declared Islamic State remains potent, well resourced, and ideologically committed to achieving its goals despite the pounding it has taken over the last five years. Second, Iran’s presence in Syria threatens a wider regional war, given the shadow war between the Israelis and Iranians in the seams of the conflict. Third, if U.S. foreign policy is destined to be shaped by great-power competition, then Russia is using Syria to build influence at the expense of the United States. Fourth, the violence that Bashar al-Assad and his supporters have unleashed on Syria has had far-reaching effects, including the political destabilization of Europe. The members of the study group recommend that the United States should reverse its plans for a military withdrawal in northeastern Syria and focus on stabilization efforts in that area – but Steven Cook writes that “At a level of abstraction, what the authors recommend is eminently reasonable. But given the political context in which they have been offered, most of them were dead before the report was published.” “America should not stand idly by,” the report’s authors urge, but as “they readily acknowledge, America will almost certainly do just that, perfectly reflecting the transition underway in U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East,” Cook writes.

  • Perspective: Syria withdrawalWill Abandoning the Kurds Result in the Mass Release of Islamic State Fighters?

    In a series of tweets Monday morning, President Donald Trump, following a phone call with Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, announced the United States would withdraw its remaining forces from northern Syria, and that he had given a green light to Turkey to enter Syria to deal with Kurdish forces there. These forces had been instrumental in helping the United States defeat the Islamist State in Syria, and are now holding about 11,000 ISIS fighters – about 2,000 of them foreign fighters – in thirty detention centers. The Kurdish forces are regarded as terrorists by Turkey. Robert Chesney writes that the White House statement, issued after Trump’s tweets, “treats [the problem of the ISIS detainees] in a way that is far more alarming than comforting”: “It is possible that all this hand-wringing will prove unwarranted. Perhaps Turkey’s military incursion will be limited, leaving the Kurds capable and willing to continue detaining Islamic State fighters. Perhaps vast numbers of the detainees will be dispatched to Iraq for prosecution after all (a much-touted plan a year ago, about which little has surfaced since). Perhaps Turkey will somehow gain control of and maintain detention operations. Anything is possible. But none of that seems likely. More likely, the biggest beneficiary of all this will be the Islamic State.”

  • Perspective: Economic sanctionsTrump’s Use of Sanctions Is Nothing Like Obama’s

    Two and a half years into Donald Trump’s presidency, there is no doubt that economic sanctions are his administration’s foreign-policy weapon of choice. From China to Iran to Venezuela, sanctions and other coercive economic tools are central to Trump’s maximum pressure campaigns against U.S. adversaries. But he is not only rolling out sanctions more aggressively than his predecessors: He is also using them in new ways. Have Trump’s sanctions worked to advance U.S. national security interests? Peter Harrell writes in Foreign Policy that the record so far is mixed, but that the use of economic sanctions as a policy tool should be informed by history. “Studies of sanctions suggest that they are successful in causing regime change or other major policy changes only about one-third of the time.” Harrell writes. “Regimes have historically shown a significant capacity to dig in and resist economic pressure while letting their people suffer if they deem it necessary for regime survival.”