U.S. Foreign Policy Articles

The Realist Prism

Can Obama Count on ‘Coalition of the Willing’ to Fight Islamic State Group?

French President Francois Hollande and Iraqi President Fouad Massoum during the opening of a conference on strategy against the Islamic State group, Paris, Sept. 15, 2014 (AP photo by Brendan Smialowski).
By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

The apparent rule of thumb for U.S. military operations is to ensure dramatic results without U.S. casualties. So the U.S. provides the air force but others handle the ground game. If that is the case for the fight against the Islamic State group, however, there are some caveats in play. more

Strategic Horizons

Assessing Obama’s Legacy in National Security Policy

By Steven Metz
, , Column

Obama’s national security legacy will be an important benchmark for future American national security strategy. If seen as a success, it will serve as a model. If seen as a general failure, it will offer a warning. Therefore it is important to begin thinking about it now. more

The Politics of Advocacy: Setting and Vetting the Global Agenda

By Charli Carpenter
, , Feature

A U.N. conference this year on fully autonomous weapons, or “killer robots,” raises the question: Why do some issues and not others attract global policy attention? This article explores the channels through which humanitarian concerns are guided from grassroots activism to the highest levels of the international political agenda. more

Strategic Horizons

The Price of Defeating the Islamic State

By Steven Metz
, , Column

Destroying the Islamic State would be a very good thing. The danger is that American political leaders and strategic thinkers will reprise their tradition of overestimating U.S. power and underestimating the costs of destroying a fanatical transnational terrorist organization. more

Special Report

Zero Solutions: Challenges Mount for Erdogan's Turkey

By The Editors
, , Report

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s shift from the prime ministership to the presidency symbolizes a deeper shift for Turkey. While Erdogan has made progress towards peace with the Kurdish minority, he faces criticism for an increasingly autocratic ruling style, and Turkey’s international relations are under strain.

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Strategic Horizons

2016 Election Will Redraw Road Map for U.S. National Security

By Steven Metz
, , Column

The United States is at a transitional point in its national security strategy perhaps as crucial as the opening years of the Cold War. During the 2016 presidential campaign, debate about America’s role in the world will move into the limelight as differing visions within and between the Democratic and Republican parties clarify policy options and choices. For U.S. and global security, much will be at stake. more

U.S., India Seek to Move Defense Ties Beyond Arms Sales

By Saurav Jha
, , Briefing

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited India to sound out Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative, the “centerpiece” of the U.S.-India security relationship. To sustain ties with a new Indian government focused on leveraging weapons manufacturing for jobs, Washington realizes it must move beyond arms sales to co-development and co-production agreements. more

Strategic Horizons

The Rise of the Islamic State and the Evolution of Violent Extremism

By Steven Metz
, , Column

From Yemen to Africa, violent extremists are leaving al-Qaida-affiliated groups and joining the ultra-radical and violent movement now known as the Islamic State. This gives some worrisome hints about the future of extremism in the Islamic world. That the U.S. is attacking the Islamic State rather than al-Qaida shows militants exactly who Washington considers to be the largest threat. more

Diplomatic Fallout

U.S., Russia Duel Over Humanitarian Interventions in Iraq and Ukraine

By Richard Gowan
, , Column

There has been a lot of talk about humanitarian interventions over the past week. Russia has pressed for a “humanitarian mission” to the war zone in eastern Ukraine. While telling Russia to back off, the Obama administration has launched air strikes in Iraq against the forces of the Islamic State. The humanitarian case for American action is clear. It may nonetheless also have unwelcome consequences. more

The Realist Prism

Time Running Out for Obama to Reboot U.S. Foreign Policy

By Nikolas Gvosdev
, , Column

Are we on the verge of personnel shifts that will produce a national security team 4.0 for the Obama administration? The third iteration has enjoyed a particularly rough tenure, with public confidence in Obama's handling of national security diminishing as a result. The upcoming November midterm elections could prove decisive to what an Obama foreign policy agenda for the end of his presidency might look like. more

Kurds Ask for U.S. Support in Counteroffensive Against Islamic State

By Eric Auner
, , Trend Lines

With fighters associated with the Islamic State making advances against Kurdish areas in Iraq, the Kurdish peshmerga forces have mounted a counteroffensive. Officials in Iraq have called on the U.S. to aid the Kurds, saying it is the U.S.' "moral responsibility," while members of Congress have said air strikes are necessecary to avert “a humanitarian nightmare of unspeakable proportions.” more

World Citizen

ISIS Victories Over Kurds Demand New U.S. Policy on Iraq

By Frida Ghitis
, , Column

Last June, when Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, fell to ISIS, the consensus among international observers was that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian regime had undermined the Iraqi military’s unity, preparedness and willingness to fight. To be sure, Maliki’s governing approach has proved devastating for Iraq, but events of the past few days point to a much more ominous explanation. more

In Training Partner Militaries, U.S. Should Not Rush to ‘Do Something’ in Africa

By Michelle Sieff
, , Briefing

As African heads of state gather in Washington this week for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, the continent’s overall security progress shouldn’t obscure its ongoing challenges, including violent Islamist extremism. With the shift in U.S. counterterrorism strategy from direct to indirect action—training partner or indigenous troops—U.S. policymakers and the military must confront critical strategic and practical issues. more