Foreign Policy Articles

Turkey's Syria Problem

Washington chides allies and rewards foes.
Feb 08, 2016
Istanbul Read more

A Dangerous Combination

In Algeria, a restive population and a failing strongman.
Feb 01, 2016

Two weeks ago, al Qaeda-linked jihadists attacked the Splendid Hotel in Burkina Faso and murdered 28 people, including an American missionary. It was the work of al Qaeda’s Algerian franchise, one of the world's deadliest jihadist groups, albeit one less known to Westerners. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is led by the one-eyed Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a charismatic terrorist who has evaded death and capture numerous times and in the process transformed AQIM into a major threat across West Africa. It's time we paid more attention to Belmokhtar and his jihadist gang—as well as to the troubled country that produced them.

 Read more

On Iran, Hillary Talks Tougher Than Obama, Kerry

6:57 PM, Jan 16, 2016

Hillary Clinton is talking tough on Iran. In a statement released to the press, the leading Democratic candidate took a tougher stance than President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry.

"I am greatly relieved by the safe return of American prisoners from Iran. Their families and our country have waited and prayed for this day to come," Clinton's statement reads.

"I also welcome the full implementation of the nuclear agreement, an important achievement of diplomacy backed by pressure. Implementation marks an important step forward in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has dismantled centrifuges, disabled a reactor, and shipped out almost all of its enriched uranium.

 Read more

Unabated Hostility

Jan 25, 2016

Early last Wednesday, Iran released the ten American sailors it had detained to coincide with President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. The administration understood clearly that the Iranians were both trying to ruin Obama's victory lap and sending a message—on the eve of implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—that Tehran will be calling the shots. So Obama made no mention of Iran's capturing 10 Americans during his speech: No way were the Iranians going to get a rise out of him on his day.

The administration would prefer to forget the incident entirely—along with a series of other hostile acts by Iran since the nuclear deal was signed in July.

 Read more

French Ambassador Rationalizes Iranian Belligerency

10:28 AM, Jan 03, 2016

Saturday the French ambassador to the United States Gerard Araud downplayed the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic facilities in Iran. Following the execution of controversial Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, Iranian mobs surely backed by the clerical regime set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and the kingdom's consulate in Iran's second-largest city, Mashad. In response to the destruction of diplomatic missions, the chief of France's diplomatic mission in Washington wrote that "Iran was obliged to react. Burning an embassy is spectacular but not war."

Araud articulated his bizarrely obtuse thesis during a Twitter exchange with Omri Ceren, the managing director for press at the Israel Project.

 Read more

Obama Acknowledges His Own 'Credibility' Gap

7:09 AM, Dec 21, 2015

President Obama acknowledged that he lacks "a little credibility" that his predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had to fight America's enemies. Obama made the remarks in an interview with National Public Radio.

Here's the question from NPR's Steve Inskeep: "I have been reading a history of part of the Cold War. Dwight Eisenhower was president, he's meeting his cabinet sometimes in this room where we're sitting. The Soviet Union has emerged as a major nuclear threat. The country is very worried at this point in the 1950s. But Eisenhower is convinced that they are not that strong, that the United States is stronger, that the U.S. will win if we just avoid a huge war.

 Read more

Hillary Praises ISIS Fight: 'We Now Finally Are Where We Need To Be'

10:08 PM, Dec 19, 2015

In tonight's Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton offered praised for the fight against ISIS:

"Look at these complex problems. I wish it could be either or; I wish we could say, yes, let's go destroy ISIS and let's let Assad continue to destroy Syria which creates more terrorists, more extremists by the minute. No. We now finally are where we need to be. We have a strategy and a commitment to go after ISIS which is a danger to us as well as the region and we finally have a UN Security Council resolution bringing the world together to go after a political transition in Syria. If the United States does not lead there is not another leader, there is a vacuum and we have to lead if we're going to be successful," said

 Read more

Donald Trump: I'm Greatly Honored by Putin's Endorsement, It's Terrific

8:01 AM, Dec 18, 2015

Donald Trump told Sean Hannity that he's "honored" by Vladimir Putin's endorsement of him:

"I think it's great. I think that's what should be happening, in his dislike for President Obama and it's a mutual thing is terrible, it's that's why you see all the conflict, all the problems, all the hatred. We should be able to work—we can't work with Russia that's not a good thing. And I'm greatly honored by his statement. I think it's terrific," Trump said last night.

 Read more

Why Winning in Ukraine Matters

Don't give up now.
Dec 28, 2015

It's said that hopeless causes are the only ones worth fighting for. At first blush, that's Ukraine. On a recent visit to Kiev, we heard account after account of the problems facing Ukraine, the two most serious being corruption and the ongoing conflict with Russia. Two doozies, to be sure.

Corruption is ubiquitous. Famously, Ukrainian oligarchs have stolen massive amounts of the country's wealth and used that wealth to control Ukraine's political order. But corruption is pervasive in daily life as well. It's not uncommon for university students to pay to take their exams, defend a thesis, or obtain their diploma.

 Read more

The Two Sides of Ted Cruz

12:43 AM, Dec 15, 2015
Despite the impression you might get if you take seriously the overheated rhetoric of presidential campaigns, the junior senator from Texas, who has a shot at the Republican nomination, is not a clone of the junior senator from Kentucky, who does not. Read more

Obama Releases Dangerous Jihadists - Then Misleads Country About It

11:13 AM, Dec 14, 2015

President Barack Obama says his administration will continue releasing terrorists from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, so long as those released are less dangerous than the jihadists currently fighting against the U.S. and its interests.

The bizarre argument comes in a new interview with Olivier Knox of Yahoo! News and is one of several comments in their discussion that reinforces the president's stubborn nonchalance on issues related to jihad. Obama also shrugs off concerns about recidivism of former Guantanamo detainees, suggesting that only a "handful" of former detainees have returned to the fight and claiming that only "low-level" terrorists have been released from the detention facility. Both claims

 Read more

Sasse: Washington Ignores 'We Are at War'

8:01 AM, Dec 09, 2015

Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, went to the Senate floor yesterday evening to explain that the U.S. is engaged in a war with radical Islam. "We are at war," Sasse said. "Washington ignores what it cannot escape."

The fact that Washington ignores the war means a presidential candidate who focuses on it can do well, Sasse suggested. "[B]efore another person in this body – or in the national media – stands up to scold the American people about how they could possibly entertain voting for candidate x or y, perhaps we should look in the mirror at why so many of our people are running to demagoguing leaders.

 Read more

Republican Senator Delivers Rebuttal to Obama from San Bernardino

'We are most certainly though at war with militant Islam. We are at war with the violent Islam. We are at war with jihadi Islam.'
7:01 AM, Dec 07, 2015

Ben Sasse, a Republican U.S. senator from Nebraska, went to San Bernardino last night to deliver a rebuttal to President Obama's speech to the nation on terrorism.

Sasse argues that the U.S. was attacked "Because we're an open society, we're a free society, and our enemies hate freedom." And that we are at war.

"We are most certainly though at war with militant Islam. We are at war with the violent Islam. We are at war with jihadi Islam. We are not at war with all Muslims. We're not at war with Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan who want the American dream for their kids. But we are at war with those who believe that they will kill in the name of religion."

But, Sasse explains, "We are not at war with terrorism,

 Read more

Obama Blames Gun Laws After Terror Attack

8:29 AM, Dec 05, 2015

President Obama used the terror attack in California this week to push gun control. In his weekly address, Obama called the massacre an "act of terror" but then pivoted to talking about American gun laws.

"We know that the killers in San Bernardino used military-style assault weapons—weapons of war—to kill as many people as they could. It's another tragic reminder that here in America it's way too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun," Obama said in his weekly address.

"For example, right now, people on the No-Fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane. If you're too dangerous to board a plane, you're too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun. And so I'm calling on

 Read more

Christie Debates Cruz on Real Threat Facing America

11:04 AM, Dec 04, 2015

In his interview with the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, New Jersey governor Chris Christie explains that the Obama administration has got it wrong. "Iran is a greater threat than ISIS. If you're prioritizing the threats, which a president has to do, then I think that Iran is a greater threat than ISIS," said Christie. "I believe Iran is moving toward obtaining a nuclear weapon. I have no proof at this point that ISIS is moving toward obtaining weapons of mass destruction."

The Republican presidential candidate who has taken some criticism for being a little weak on foreign policy has hit the nail right on the head. The Islamic Republic is the clear and present danger.

 Read more

'Our Man in Moscow'

8:33 AM, Dec 04, 2015

In an article for Mosaic, Michael Doran writes:

The jihadists struck Paris on November 13. On that Friday the 13th, the band on stage in the Bataclan theater, where 89 people were murdered, was Eagles of Death Metal. The song it was playing was "Kiss of the Devil." The details sound like something out of Hollywood, but the horror was deadly real. In total, the terrorists would murder 130 people, the vast majority in the prime of their lives.

The multiple massacre left France reeling, vulnerable, and also deeply confused—but not about the nature of the operation. Islamic State (IS) took responsibility for the attacks, which were clearly another spillover from the Syrian civil war.

 Read more

Cruz: 'This Nation Needs a Wartime President to Defend It'

Ted Cruz, cautious hawk.
10:41 AM, Dec 03, 2015

Texas senator Ted Cruz kicked off Thursday's Republican Jewish Coalition presidential forum in Washington with a speech filled with applause lines that revved up the crowd.

Cruz focused primarily on national security and foreign policy, touting his record in the Senate and displaying his knack for rhetorical bombs. It went over well with the audience.

His biggest round of applause came when he made a pledge about the nuclear deal with Iran. "If I am elected president, I have pledged in my very first day in office to rip to shreds this catastrophic deal," he said. Audience members cheered and stood in their seats.

Cruz earned cheers for his characterization of the current stakes. "I believe this nation needs a

 Read more

Liberal Sanctimony

Nov 30, 2015

It would be an interesting exercise to trace the history of the word sanctimony. In its original derivation from the Latin sanctimonia, it seems to have had the straightforward sense of sanctity or sacredness. But centuries ago, it took on its current meaning—of pretended or affected or hypocritical holiness. Already in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure Lucio remarks on “the sanctimonious pirate, that went to sea with the Ten Commandments, but scraped one out of the table”—i.e., that thou shalt not steal.

 Read more

Former DIA Head: Investigation of Manipulated Intel Should Start at White House

7:22 AM, Nov 24, 2015

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) during President Obama's tenure, went on the Kelly File last night to talk about the possible manipulation of ISIS intelligence. He said the investigation should "start at the top. Where intelligence starts and stops is at the White House."

 Read more

New GOP Ad: 'Can Leaders Like These Keep Us Safe?'

11:51 AM, Nov 23, 2015

A new ad from the Republican National Committee goes after Democrats on foreign policy. The ad--titled "Can Leaders Like These Keep Us Safe?"--includes voiceovers from Hillary Clinton, President Obama, and John Kerry.

In the ad, the RNC plays a clip of Clinton saying the fight against ISIS "cannot be an American fight,"  and avoiding use of the term "radical Islam." President Obama says ISIS isn't gaining strength. 

The ad ends with the question, "Can leaders like these keep us safe?"

 Read more

The Dayton Accords at 20

But there’s little to celebrate.
Nov 23, 2015

The Dayton accords, formally signed in December 1995, have reached their twentieth anniversary. Dayton is commonly portrayed as a “peace agreement” for war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina and an outstanding achievement of Bill Clinton’s administration. The accords were an achievement; the war ended. Yet close scrutiny reveals a shabby aftermath. 

 Read more

America and Britain, BFF?

We need to rekindle this relationship.
Nov 23, 2015

At the end of World War II, a gifted young British expert on Russia named Thomas Brimelow—later ambassador to Poland, but at the time reporting from Moscow—ventured that what the Soviet Union respected most about Great Britain was “our ability to collect friends.” Indeed, having allies in this world matters if you want to advance your agenda. Of the many things a new American president will need to do in 2017, one is to begin repairing America’s relations with our key allies. Start with the United Kingdom.

 Read more

Obama Vows to Destroy ISIS and Take Their Land

9:04 AM, Nov 22, 2015

President Barack Obama is beginning to use tougher rhetoric when discussing ISIS. The leader of the free world, today at a press conference at the Ritz Carlton in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, vowed to destory ISIS and to take the land they are currently occupying. 

 Read more

O'Malley Slags Hillary for Foreign Policy Approach

3:38 PM, Nov 20, 2015

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley slagged Hillary Clinton for her foreign policy approach:

 Read more

Al Qaeda Hasn't Been Neutralized

11:52 AM, Nov 20, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry believes that al Qaeda’s “top leadership” has been “neutralize[d]” as “an effective force.” He made the claim while discussing the administration’s strategy, or lack thereof, for combating the Islamic State (ISIS), which is al Qaeda’s jihadist rival. Kerry believes that the U.S. and its allies can finish off ISIS quicker than al Qaeda. There’s just one problem: It is not true that al Qaeda or its top leaders have been “neutralize[d].”

 Read more

Kerry: Al Qaeda Is 'Neutralized'

7:10 AM, Nov 20, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that al Qaeda has been neutralized -- and that he hopes ISIS will be neutralized "much faster." Kerry made the claim to a group of reporters:

 Read more

An Existential Threat

4:10 PM, Nov 19, 2015

One of the most durable arguments for not responding as forcefully as possible to al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and jihadi groups in general is that they do not pose an “existential” threat to America.  Indeed, this lies at the core of the Obama administration’s strategy for the Middle East.  As the president told

 Read more

BHL: 'So It's War'

2:15 PM, Nov 17, 2015

Bernard-Henri Lévy has written an intelligent and forceful, if somewhat grandiloquent, piece on Paris and its implications. Highlights:

So it’s war.

A new kind of war. A war with and without borders, with and without states, a war doubly new because it blends the non-territorial model of al-Qaeda with the old territorial paradigm to which Islamic State has returned.

But a war all the same.

 Read more

Not the Hour for Nimble Power

4:04 PM, Nov 16, 2015

Like the Bourbons, Barack Obama and his national security advisers have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.  They have not forgotten that they were first elected in 2008 to “end” Middle East wars, and the administration’s response to the attacks in Paris last week reveals that they have yet to learn any different.

 Read more

An Iraqi Abroad

Ahmad Chalabi, 1944-2015.
Nov 16, 2015

Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, my friend Ahmad Chalabi would often carry fat tomes about America’s occupations of Germany and Japan. An Iraqi exile after 1958 who lived mainly in London and Georgetown and maintained an off-and-on, love-hate relationship with Western intelligence agencies, he was blessed with a voracious, curious, and sensitive mind. He had a prodigious memory, too, and was well-schooled beyond mathematics, in which he held a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. But knowledge ultimately failed Chalabi.

 Read more