The Inadequacy of Progressive Foreign Policy

Sanders’s foreign policy would likely be impotent or incoherent (or both)

Throughout the course of the primary campaign, Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist, has made the most ample possible use out of being an insurgent in a Democratic party to which he did not even belong until the day before yesterday. The old Democratic guard (that not so long ago styled itself “New Democrats”) has returned the favor by scrambling to prevent Sanders from seizing the party’s reins and instituting a socialist takeover. Their efforts are increasingly reminiscent of the dash among Republican regulars in the winter and spring of 2016 to halt Trump’s far-fetched primary campaign, and may well meet with a similar fate. Continue reading

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The Ignoble Presidency

The danger of an imperial presidency has usually been exaggerated; the peril lies not in its power but in the character of its person

In the modern era, the specter of the imperial presidency has stirred the most excitable—what Hamilton called, in Federalist No. 1, “over-scrupulous”—anxiety at various points along the political spectrum. Beginning with the Vietnam war and gathering special force in the post-9/11 era, the public has been encouraged by the national elite to fear nearly every exercise of executive power taken in defense of the nation’s interests or against the enemies of civilization. Continue reading

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For What It’s Worth

As long as America remains committed to its ideals and interests, it will have a stake in the Middle East

It is no secret that Americans have renounced the flurry of ambition and exertion that marked U.S. foreign and national security policy after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most Americans’ emotional stake in foreign intervention began to wane as America’s expeditions in the Greater Middle East proved more costly and protracted than anticipated. Public interest declined further with the financial crisis of 2008, and the sluggish economic recovery that followed. The Obama presidency signaled its design to constrain America’s role on the world stage, heeding the public’s unwillingness to pay the price of international leadership.

Nowhere has the reduction of American power and presence been more keenly felt and lamented than in the broader Middle East. Without the active maintenance of America’s leading role, the chaotic region has been left to find its own balance of power, with horrifying consequences. Continue reading

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Impeachment is Partisan—and Justified

The partisan nature of impeachment is a scandal (for Republicans)

The impeachment trial of the president will soon be over, almost certainly with the Senate acquitting Mr. Trump on charges that he abused the powers of his office. But the effects of this doomed impeachment will linger long after the votes have been tallied in the world’s most deliberative body—a distinction, it must be said, to which the degenerate Senate has not remotely lived up. It is already apparent that this scandal, and the unprecedented arguments employed to inure the country to the president’s squalid misconduct, will disfigure America’s constitutional order, and the cause of republican government, for years to come.

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To the Best of His Ability?

The presidency is occupied by an unprincipled rogue who defiles the office and diminishes its authority 

Historians will marvel at the wreckage to the conservative cause piled up high in our time by an administration claiming, without serious challenge, the banner of the Republican party. What most catches the eye is not ostensible conservatives’ abandonment of free trade principle or their newfound contempt for international alliances, lamentable as these tergiversations have been. The truest betrayal on the right in this time has rather been at once more grave and more elemental: the jettisoning of the understanding of—or at any rate the concern for—the role of character in a republic.

It wasn’t so long ago that a typical Republican might have been expected to snort with derision at any suggestion that character does not matter in high public office. This profoundly republican position now sits awkwardly in a party that struggles to say a disobliging word about Donald Trump. Continue reading

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Iran’s Permanent Revolution

Iranians’ revolt against the Islamic republic is here to stay

Iran, said President Carter in 1978, “is an island of stability in one of the most troubled areas of the world.” It didn’t take long for this confident avowal to prove erroneous. Just over a year later, Iran’s shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, would be forced into exile, with a clutch of hysterical mullahs led by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini taking his place. Iran’s vaunted stability turned out to be a mirage, and the Islamic revolution has been a source of trouble in the region ever since.

A little more than 40 years later a similar conviction has taken hold regarding the staying power of the regime seated in Tehran. This fashionable fatalism claims that, whatever its problems or the designs of its enemies, the Islamic republic is here to stay.

But there is ground for skepticism about this reigning complacency, and not only because the stability of an autocratic government is fiendishly difficult to gauge. Continue reading

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A Pyrrhic Victory?

Justice was served to Soleimani, but its strategic payoff is uncertain

In my latest article I registered deep ambivalence concerning last week’s operation that eliminated Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s chief imperial strategist whose career was devoted to the violent export of the Islamist revolution. The dilemma at hand is that the Islamic republic is manifestly incompatible with a civilized order in the Middle East while President Trump’s deranged character is incompatible with inspired or effective U.S. global leadership. Continue reading

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