Category Archives: Defense Policy

Defend Taiwan Now, or Lose it Forever

Why die for Taiwan? This is a question that will soon be asked by Western skeptics of competition with the People’s Republic of China. Continue reading

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Needed: A league of democracies

Times of trial have a way of revealing essential truths about the human condition. The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the ferocious appetite among people everywhere not only for freedom but for order and the common good.

Our present global crisis offers an opportunity to come to grips with the uncomfortable truth that our current social order is unsustainable. At risk is the postwar order as we know it–characterized by the ascent of democracy, the spread of market economics, and the suppression of geopolitical competition. Continue reading

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Cold War Now or Hot War Later

One might have expected the COVID-19 crisis to produce an inflection point at which agreement was finally reached about the menace presented by China’s regime. However, more than a few political figures and intellectuals remain unconvinced. Writing in Reason, Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, announces that “there is no China crisis.”

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China Being Wrong Doesn’t Make Trump Right

Trump’s retreat from global responsibility has enabled China’s malevolence

For those with eyes to see, there can be no doubt that the negligence and corruption of the People’s Republic of China are chiefly responsible for the pandemic that is cutting a swath through the world. The Chinese authorities responded to the outbreak by deliberately lying about the disease and punishing doctors and disappearing journalists who told the truth about it. The result has been a pathogen that hit the world at full force instead of being prevented or at least arrested in first the weeks after it erupted. Continue reading

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Sanders’s Indifferent City on a Hill

In the months since the outbreak of a deadly global pandemic, Americans have rediscovered the world outside. None of the contenders vying for the presidency in 2020 has articulated a particularly coherent or ambitious global role for America. But the only candidate who seems to understand at least that foreign policy is not a dispensable part of American politics is Joe Biden. It is possible that the appearance of a lethal virus incubated in the wet markets of Wuhan has persuaded voters in the Democratic primaries that Biden is the only viable option in a world of such bleak possibilities. Continue reading

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None Dare Call It Peace

Trump’s scuttle from Afghanistan will bring tyranny and terror

After the Taliban was forcibly removed from power in the autumn of 2001, Christopher Hitchens declared that the United States had “just succeeded in bombing a country out of the stone age.” For years before America’s intervention, Afghanistan had been appallingly maimed and beggared by the harsh imposition of Islamic law under the rule of an austere clan of religious “students.” The Pashtun tribesman who comprised this squalid regime issued from innumerable madrassas (Islamic theology schools) and had been weaned on a rigid interpretation of sharia.

The Taliban wore long beards and black turbans, and the most pronounced feature of their backward state was a pure abhorrence of femininity. Afghan girls and women were subjected to the worst imaginable repression and enslavement and torture. They were thwarted from every educational pursuit and their social presence was effectively erased by the burqa. The mullahs were sworn enemies of modernity, and they banned nearly every form of entertainment and culture, including music, philosophy, and kite-flying. It was little surprise that the theocratic fascists of al Qaeda, waging an escalating war upon American interests and eventually American civil society, would find safe harbor under their tyrannical dominion. Continue reading

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The Art of the Sell-out

Trump’s deal with the Taliban is a blunder and a betrayal

“And this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.” So observes Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as he casts his gaze on the teeming shipyards of the Thames.

Afghanistan, a land of brigandage and squalor, has long qualified as such a dark place, even before being pulverized by decades of war and blighted by theocratic authorities that used to be–and, with the agreement just struck between the United States and the Taliban, may again become–one of the foulest regimes on earth. Continue reading

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Time to Rescue Idlib

The last chance to save America’s honor in Syria

As these lines are being written, countless people trapped in Idlib Province may be drawing their last breaths. The last rebel-held stronghold in Syria, situated near the Turkish frontier, is the target of a lethal ground offensive by Syrian government forces, buttressed by nearly uncontested Russian airpower. The most tenacious and tragic uprising in the Great Arab Revolts that broke out against the prevailing regional order a decade ago is on the verge of being snuffed out.

The country’s excruciating death agony has been slowed in recent days by Turkey’s counteroffensive against the Syrian regime. Turkish armor is at present the only impediment to a bloodbath that would see Idlib enter the ranks of place-names in the modern world that have become hallmarks of human suffering and human barbarity: Stalingrad, Phnom Penh, Hama, Halabja, Kabgayi, Srebrencia, Hodeida, and, more recently, Aleppo.

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Democracy Disarmed

A Sanders presidency would leave the forces of democracy without an arsenal

On December 29, 1940 President Roosevelt delivered a radio broadcast in which he pledged to supply “the instruments of war” to an embattled Europe struggling “for their liberty and for our security.” At that dark hour, Roosevelt declared the task for America was to be “the great arsenal of democracy.” 

It requires an extraordinary leap of faith to imagine a figure as reactionary and provincial as Bernie Sanders standing in this muscular tradition of liberal internationalism. Continue reading

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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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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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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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A righteous strike—But an ominous one

The Hellfire missile that dispatched Qasem Soleimani has been a mighty long time in coming. At the direction of the American president, a drone strike outside the Baghdad airport has killed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander and another senior Iranian-linked figure in Baghdad, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia commander. Continue reading

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