Question Everything

In his weekly installment of Under the Influence today, WPR columnist Andrew Bast argues that in formulating foreign policy, no received wisdom, no matter how seemingly sound, or how widely accepted, should escape scrutiny. That principal is lately being practiced by a number of iconoclasts within the U.S. foreign policy establishment, who are making it a point to question the most sacred cows of U.S. strategy: A growing number of experts are arguing that the core assumptions underlying American foreign policy are backed by scant evidence, or are simply fallacious. Most shocking is that these are not fringe crackpots out […]

Torture: No ‘Legal’ Process Will Heal Us

Brilliant post, Judah. I was nodding my head as I read in hearty agreement, until the final two paragraphs, that is. It would be nice to believe that a clean, orderly, non-partisan legal process run out of Congress or by some Congressionally appointed body could get to the bottom of all this and cleanse our collective conscience about past uses of torture. But, I don’t think that’s possible. The debate that resulted from the actions of even the most well-intentioned investigative body on torture would probably not ultimately be about torture at all, but would end up being about settling […]

While I Was Gone

I’m a bit too jet lagged to do any coherent blogging today, and truth be told, I haven’t done more than glance at the news this past week. But I’d like to thank Matt Eckel and Matt Dupuis for keeping things lively here while I was gone. I’m a big admirer of their work, and it was a relief to be able to step away knowing that things would be in such good hands, and that I wouldn’t be missed. Thanks, guys. Not even a scratch on the bumper. Make sure to bookmark their site, Foreign Policy Watch, or add […]

The Israeli Right Revisited

I appreciate WPR giving me one last bit of space to respond to some of Petra Marquardt-Bigman’s critiques of my recent post on the assumptions that underlie the policy orientation of the Israeli right. Ms. Marquardt-Bigman makes some important points, and on reading her criticism I realized that there are probably a few clarifications I should make. First off, I realize that the Israeli right is fairly ideologically heterogeneous, made up of people who arrive at a variety of conclusions for an even wider variety of reasons. I did not mean to imply in my last post that Beres’s views […]

Wrong Assumptions About the Israeli Right

I hope no one will accuse me of defending the extreme Israeli right if I take issue with some of the observations that Matt Eckel offered in his recent WPR blog post, “The Assumptions of the Israeli Right.” Eckel incorrectly assumes that the views expressed in a Jerusalem Post op-ed by Louis René Beres are representative of the broader Israeli right. He then bases the sweeping claim that “Israeli leaders . . . pursue policies manifestly contrary to the long-term interests of their country” on this assumption. In fact, however, the Beres article presents the case against a Palestinian state […]

There He Goes Again

Last week, Frida Ghitis wrote this in her WPR column on the U.N. conference on racism in Durban: As for the official U.N. meeting, deciding whether to attend has become even more complicated for the U.S. now that Iran’s Ahmadinejad says that he, too, will sit in. The Iranian announcement of his trip mentioned the “racist policies of the Zionist regime,” offering a preview of what Ahmadinejad may say during his turn at the microphone. For U.S. diplomats, sitting in the same room with the Iranian president offers a tempting but risky opportunity to interact with Iran. The move represents […]

Israel’s Poker Face

TEL AVIV — There are three new cards in Israel’s game of chance and opportunity with its enemies. The first is the “bomb Iran” card, the second is the “Hezbollah smack-down” card and the third is new Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. In recent days the Israeli press has been all over Hezbollah’s actions along the Israeli/Egyptianborder, where agents of the self-styled Party of God have been allegedly using resource-starved Bedouins to smuggle guns and money into Gaza. There have also been reports of Hezbollah drug smuggling operations into Israel along the Lebanese border. From Israel’s point of view, Iran’s ayatollah’s […]

Looking for Engagement with Iran?

Well, my time here is up. Judah should be back in the driver’s seat before long and I’ll be back to my regular home on the Web. It’s been a pleasure filling in for Judah over the last week, and my partner in crime, Matt Eckel, and I thank both him and Hampton for having us here at World Politics Review. We had a great week and a lot of fun, and invite readers to keep up with our regular musings at the link above. In the meantime, I have one piece of advice for the Obama administration: if you’re […]

The Assumptions of the Israeli Right

I ran across this interesting op-ed in the Jerusalem Post by Louis René Beres this morning, and received my weekly reminder of the utterly unhinged assumptions under which many on the Israeli right operate.* The piece’s basic point is that even a disarmed, toothless Palestinian state would be dangerous to Israel, because prevailing international law would allow it to wriggle out of any commitments it made to being a disarmed entity, thus allowing it to pose a threat to Israel. The point, which Beres makes more or less explicitly, is that nothing less than permanent Israeli control over Palestinian populations […]

To Engage Iran

Stephen Walt has a post up this afternoon reacting to a report from John Tirman at MIT, which suggests that rather than try to change the dynamic of U.S.-Iranian relations in an incremental fashion, as seems to be the current thinking of the Administration, U.S. leaders would do well to try a grander, more dramatic approach. Tirman basically argues that the obstacles to improving the relationship between Washington and Tehran are as much about process as they are about a stark divergence of interests (though such conflicts certainly exist), and that a dramatic move by American leaders, analogous to Nixon’s […]

The Theory-Policy Divide

Dan Drezner links to this op-ed by Joseph Nye in Monday’s Washington Post, which bemoans the growing gap between national security policy and IR scholarship, saying: While important American scholars such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski took high-level foreign policy positions in the past, that path has tended to be a one-way street. Not many top-ranked scholars of international relations are going into government, and even fewer return to contribute to academic theory. The 2008 Teaching, Research and International Policy (TRIP) poll, by the Institute for Theory and Practice in International Relations, showed that of the 25 scholars rated […]

Notes From Israel

TEL AVIV — This Passover season, Israel is facing the economic downturn just like the rest of the world, but there is one group that is feeling no pain: the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In 2009, according to Haaretz columnist Reuven Pedatzur, the defenders of the Jewish State will spend more than $15 Billion (with almost $3 Billion from Uncle Sam), an amount that is close to 10 percent of Israeli GDP. By contrast, Europe and the United States spend less than 4 percent. Israeli critics of this extravagant spending say that to call any defense funding wasteful in the […]

What is Motivating Pyongyang This Week?

North Korea’s statement yesterday that it intended to restart its dormant nuclear program and withdraw from the Six-Party Talks is fairly unambiguous: Second, there would be no need to hold six-party talks which the DPRK has attended. Now that the six-party talks have turned into a platform for infringing upon the sovereignty of the DPRK and seeking to force the DPRK to disarm itself and bring down the system in it the DPRK will never participate in the talks any longer nor it will be bound to any agreement of the six-party talks.Third, the DPRK will bolster its nuclear deterrent […]

Piracy and Grievances

Up until now I have avoided addressing the issue of piracy off the coast of East Africa. I’ve done this both because it’s not a personal area of focus, and because the coverage of the issue, both in the mainstream media and the blogosphere, has been extremely heavy – arguably heavier than the issue merits. I’m not saying that the disruption of a major strategic waterway doesn’t matter. It does. Still, compared with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a global financial and economic crisis, the creeping disaster of climate change and nuclear proliferation, this is a second-tier problem getting first-tier […]

Asia, Economic Stimulus and Military Spending

Joe Hung has an interesting piece in the China Post about the possibility that Japan, spurred by recent provocations from North Korea as well as a desire to inject fiscal stimulus into its flagging economy, might begin throwing off some of the chains that constrain its military development. The piece is heavy with baggage from the era of Japanese expansion during the Depression and Second World War, and as such strikes a bit of a discordant note to Western ears; however, the political and economic discourse of this economic crisis has been heavy with references to the experiences of the […]

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