Last February, the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction published a comprehensive 456-page historical analysis of the Iraq reconstruction experience entitled, “Hard Lessons.” The IG, Stuart Bowen — who was there from the beginning, assuming the post actually before the invasion — was kind enough to send me a copy this week. Having now read it, I must say it’s an incredible piece of data collection and analysis, even if, in my opinion, its concluding optimism about the U.S. government’s recent efforts to better prepare itself for the next “Iraq” — already upon us in the form […]

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Six months after he ascended to the presidency of the United States, Barack Obama can point to a distinct new tone in American foreign policy and the start of a discernible makeover of the country’s image around the globe. When it comes to specific achievements in the international arena, however, the administration does not have much to show, so far. The transformation of America’s global standing had already started even before the president moved into his new Pennsylvania Avenue address on Jan. 20. Two factors triggered the process. First, Obama replaced a man who had become extraordinarily unpopular throughout most […]

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For anyone who enters the site through the blog, I very strongly urge you to take a look at the new WPR feature issue, Back to the Future, that just went live today. It’s a really fascinating examination by three insightful foreign policy voices of the continued relevance of some tried-and-true, but nevertheless abandoned, foreign policy approaches from America’s recent history. Michael Cohen explains why the Powell Doctrine is more appropriate today than ever.Eugene Gholz examines how the Nixon Doctrine could be applied to address America’s current strategic challenges. And Robert Litwak discusses why Containment is as valid an approach […]

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Lots of attention given to this initial Obama-Gates victory over Senate pork on the F-22. Less to the Gates announcement that the Army will temporarily add 22K troops over the next three fiscal years. For everyone keeping score at home, that’s on top of the 65K for the Army and 27K for the Marine Corps already budgeted for, which itself is on top of the transformation of the Army Reserve (205K) from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve. That’s a lot of extra boots that are, one imagines, meant to be put on the ground.Max Bergmann is a good […]

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In July 1969, President Richard Nixon dealt with Cold War triumph and adversity in quick succession. On July 24, he met the Apollo 11 astronauts on their return from the moon landing, a highly symbolic American victory in the space race. On the next day, at a press conference in Guam, he tried to adapt U.S. foreign policy to the pressures of the Vietnam War, which were stretching the military’s ability to meet America’s global commitments. He resisted calls to withdraw American ground forces from Vietnam immediately, and searched for a way to reinvigorate U.S. alliances around the world, hoping […]

Photo: Official portrait of Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for whom the Powell Doctrine was named (Department of Defense photo by Russell Roederer).

Editor’s note: The following article is one of 30 that we’ve selected from our archives to celebrate World Politics Review’s 15th anniversary. You can find the full collection here. Once upon a time, there was a grand and influential foreign policy doctrine. It was based on some traditional notions about U.S. statecraft that placed severe constraints on when America went to war. It asserted that when the United States used military force, it must do so in decisive fashion and only in the service of vital national interests.* For any military action, it counseled the dispassionate weighing of costs and benefits, […]

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According to McClatchy (via Friday Lunch Club), no quid and no quo regarding yesterday’s release of the five Iranian detainees in Iraq. In fact, U.S. forces handed them over to Iraqi authorities despite misgivings. This is a case where Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is flexing some muscle in his newly “autonomous” relationship with the U.S. That, of course, is to be expected, and to the extent that it hastens realistic expectations Stateside for U.S.-Iraq relations moving forward, it is a good thing. Michael Wahid Hanna’s WPR Briefing was especially insightful on that subject. But those who will point to […]

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I’d thought of the five Iranians detained in Iraq a few weeks back, in the aftermath of the Iranian elections. It occurred to me then that liberating them would be a way to offer a concrete goodwill gesture to Tehran, thereby providing a bit more liberty of action in terms of offering moral support to the Iranian opposition. According to the Washington Post and the Times of London, they were released today as part of the detainee-release agreement with Baghdad. Kevin Sullivan wonders if it’s the quid for Iran’s quo of releasing some of the protestors who had been detained […]

The United States took an important step yesterday toward leaving Iraq by moving combat troops out of Iraqi population centers in anticipation of the June 30 deadline specified in the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). This redeployment has focused attention on Iraq’s current security situation and triggered stepped-up efforts by insurgents to undermine the symbolic importance of the transition, by launching attacks generally aimed at Shiite civilians. It has also provided fodder for those in the United States who wish todelay withdrawal. However, looking at Iraq solely through the prism of short-term security trends clouds thinking about how the […]