Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category


By Conrad Black

American soldiers clearing a Japanese bunker near Buna, New Guinea, in 1942.

American soldiers clearing a Japanese bunker near Buna, New Guinea, in 1942.

It is generally recognized that the United States is steadily withdrawing from several areas of the world where it has had a large military presence for many years, especially the Middle East, Western Europe, and parts of the Far East.

It is, in fact, engaged in a broad strategic retreat. But this must not be misconstrued as the collapse or permanent decline of that country. It remains an extremely rich nation, with the most productive workforce in the history of the world, and a relatively motivated and overwhelmingly patriotic population. The great majority of Americans are proud of their country and are capable of fighting and sacrificing for it in a plausible cause. Courage is valued and revered; and the performance of the United States armed forces in recent wars has been exemplary.

The United States has never been an aggressive power. Only when the Germans insanely attacked American commercial shipping on the high seas did the United States enter World War I, just as Russia was defeated and left the war. The Americans provided the final margin of victory for the beleaguered French, British and Italians (who took 4-million war dead and nearly 7-million wounded between them). The Americans then turned their back on Wilsonian internationalism and their president’s League of Nations, and emerged from isolation only once Franklin D. Roosevelt, who spoke German and French and knew Europe well, and whose family’s fortune was earned in the Far East, concluded that the United States alone could keep the British Commonwealth in the war, ensure Stalin did not make a separate peace with Hitler (as he attempted to do with the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939), and prevent Japan from overrunning the entire Western Pacific and Far East.

As America led the Allies to victory, Roosevelt developed atomic weapons and founded the United Nations to convince his countrymen that the world was a safer place than they had formerly thought — and to have an international cover for the exercise of America’s dominant post-war influence in the world, as Britain and its Dominions, and the Latin American countries, could all be reasonably assumed to vote with the United States in a permanent American-led majority. Read more…

As published by the National Post on August 3, 2013.


By Robert D. Kaplan


For over two years, the civil war in Syria has been synonymous with cries of moral urgency. Do Something! shout those who demand the United States intervene militarily to set the situation there to rights, even as the battle lines now comprise hundreds of regime and rebel groupings and the rebels have started fighting each other. Well, then, shout the moral interventionists, if only we had intervened earlier!

Syria is not unique. Before Syria, humanitarians in 2011 demanded military intervention in Libya, even though the regime of Muammar Qaddafi had given up its nuclear program and had been cooperating for years with Western intelligence agencies. In fact, the United States and France did lead an intervention, and Libya today is barely a state, with Tripoli less a capital than the weak point of imperial-like arbitration for far-flung militias, tribes, and clans, while nearby Saharan entities are in greater disarray because of weapons flooding out of Libya.

The 1990s were full of calls for humanitarian intervention: in Rwanda, which tragically went unheeded; and in Bosnia and Kosovo where interventions, while belated, were by and large successful. Free from the realpolitik necessities of the Cold War, humanitarians have in the past two decades tried to reduce foreign policy to an aspect of genocide prevention. Indeed, the Nazi Holocaust is only one lifetime removed from our own—a nanosecond in human history—and so post–Cold War foreign policy now rightly exists in the shadow of it. The codified upshot has been R2P: the “Responsibility to Protect,” the mantra of humanitarians.

But American foreign policy cannot merely be defined by R2P and Never Again! Statesmen can only rarely be concerned with humanitarian interventions and protecting human rights to the exclusion of other considerations. The United States, like any nation—but especially because it is a great power—simply has interests that do not always cohere with its values. That is tragic, but it is a tragedy that has to be embraced and accepted. Read more…

As published by The National Interest on August 1, 2013.


By Max Boot

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed through August 9.

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed through August 9.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, President Obama repeatedly claimed that al-Qaeda had been “decimated” and “on the path to defeat.” That makes it a little curious that the State Department is now forced to close temporarily its diplomatic missions across the Middle East and North Africa and to issue a global travel alert to U.S. citizens warning of a potential attack by al-Qaeda.

News of al-Qaeda’s imminent demise was, it seems, greatly exaggerated. In fact, while the terrorist network has suffered substantial losses, including of course the loss of its co-founder, Osama bin Laden, it has displayed dismaying resilience. Far from going out of business, al-Qaeda has spread, via its regional affiliates, to North Africa (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), the Persian Gulf region (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula), and Iraq and Syria (al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

The North African affiliate was behind the temporary takeover of northern Mali and, in all likelihood, the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya; the Arabian affiliate has plotted attacks on the American homeland and American interests abroad and made substantial inroads in Yemen; and the Iraq/Syria branch has set off more bombs in Iraq than at any time since 2008 and freed hundreds of its confederates from Abu Ghraib prison, while also emerging as the strongest single force within the Syrian rebel movement. Read more…

As published by Commentary Magazine on August 4, 2013.


By  Harry Kazianis


Over the last several months, an interesting debate has occurred concerning the future of American grand strategy. What defined such ideas during the roughly half century struggle between the USSR and the United States was the doctrine popularly known as containment. America and its allies attempted to constrain Moscow and its communist partners across economic, political and military domains. At times, tensions flared with many fearing such a stance could lead to World War III, and even a nuclear holocaust.

Today, a new bipolar competition is taking shape. While not a global chess match for influence or a new “Cold War” as some theorize,  the United States and the People’s Republic of China faceoff in a competitive contest in the Asia-Pacific and larger Indo-Pacific region. In November 2011 in a now famous long form op-ed in Foreign Policy, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out American’s strategy of a “pivot” to Asia. Chinese pundits and media have panned the pivot or now respun “rebalance” as a blatant attempt to contain China’s rise.  One Chinese professor even remarked, “The pivot is a very stupid choice… the United States has achieved nothing and only annoyed China. China can’t be contained.”

I agree — unless China makes the choice to contain itself.

Clearly Beijing has interconnected itself into the global economy and international system with enormous success. U.S. – China bilateral trade stood at a jaw-dropping US$536 billion last year. China is now the second largest economy in the world. With an expanding middle class, it is also expected to become the world’s largest energy importer. Indeed, the nature of today’s interlinked global financial system serves as the ultimate insurance policy against any U.S.-led containment strategy.

Yet, despite China’s growing economic integration, it seems leaders in Beijing have been doing a pretty good job of creating a regional environment that is wary of its intentions.  China has made a number of controversial strategic moves that have alarmed the international community. The result has been an ever increasing number of nations looking to each other as well as the United States out of fear that China’s rise could have dangerous consequences for their own national interests. Read more…

As published by The Diplomat on July 29, 2013.


By Zachary C. Shirkey


By most accounts the United States will soon shift from being the world’s largest importer of petroleum to being a major global exporter.

This will result from greatly increased domestic discovery and production of petroleum combined with growing energy efficiency and expanded use of U.S.-produced natural gas. While this profound energy transition is bound to have large implications for both the American and global economies, what will its impact be on U.S. foreign policy, especially towards the Middle East? Perhaps, surprisingly, energy independence will not have a large effect on American foreign policy towards this area of the globe.

The Middle East has been a vital area of U.S. foreign policy since the early decades of the Cold War. While this owed in part to America’s global policy of containing the Soviet Union, the region’s petroleum reserves have always been one of the major reasons for U.S. interest. Indeed, the United States’ presence in the Middle East has only increased in the decades since the end of the Cold War.

However, if the United States is no longer dependent on oil imports, might not its interest in the region wane?

Though growing energy independence seemingly would allow the United States to vastly reduce its role in the Middle East, this is unlikely. Despite temptations and pressures to recede from the region, the United States will continue to have a vital interest in maintaining stable global energy markets and in countering security threats emanating from that part of the world.

The case for shifting U.S. attention and resources from the Middle East is straightforward. Both Latin America and especially Asia are growing in economic and strategic importance and will demand greater American engagement. This has already been reflected in the Obama administration’s “Pivot to Asia.” Given that American foreign-policy resources are limited, for these other regions to receive a bigger share, other locations have to receive less. While Europe is a candidate for less attention, growing U.S. energy supplies make the Middle East a candidate as well. Simply put, energy independence seemingly eliminates the main reason for U.S. policy makers to concern themselves with the Middle East. Indeed, to the extent that U.S. policy has created enmity in the region, lowering America’s profile could have significant benefits, such as reducing popular support for groups such as Al Qaeda. Read more…

As published by The National Interest on July 29, 2013.

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