Following World War II, the United States reluctantly became a global superpower. By the end of the Cold War, Americans had so taken to the exercise of power that they found it unthinkable to be anything but a superpower. Preserving that status shifted from a necessary evil to an explicit objective. But now what was once unthinkable is back on the table. For the first time in decades, many Americans are questioning whether the United States wants to or even can remain a global superpower. In some ways, the United States has always been ill-equipped to orchestrate the international security […]

U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent trip through East Asia was only the latest reminder of the growing economic and geopolitical influence of the region’s rising powers. Now more firmly installed, the governments in China, Japan and South Korea have each begun to put their stamps on their countries’ strategies, as each country confronts the challenges posed by its neighbors and by relations with the United States. This special report examines the dynamic geopolitics of East Asia through articles published in the past 18 months. Regional Perspectives China’s Slowing Growth May Help Rebalance Regional RoleBy Iain MillsAug. 12, 2013 Beating Expectations, […]

In addition to imposing more Western sanctions on Russia and rotating more U.S. troops into Europe, the U.S. and its NATO allies are considering increasing U.S. ballistic missile defenses (BMD) based in NATO’s European member states as part of their response to Russian actions in Ukraine. Moscow clearly hates these U.S. systems, and placing them near Russia is sure to capture Moscow’s attention. A few weeks ago, a pair of Russian warplanes “buzzed” a U.S. missile defense ship that was on patrol in the Black Sea. That said, the U.S. missile defense response needs to be nuanced to yield net […]

President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia this past week seemed to push the “legacy” cliche button in the minds of editors everywhere. I’ve lost track of how many times I was asked about it, and, embarrassingly, the question took me by surprise the first several times. We’re still six months from the midterms, after all. For right now, at least, a more interesting question to ask might be: In national security and foreign policy, how has Obama set the stage so that he and his team can construct a legacy over the next two years? Presidential administrations always deny that […]

If a national security policy is to be worth more than the paper it is printed on, it needs to serve as a guide to making tough policy choices by outlining priorities and indicating where trade-offs may have to be made. But controversies around two long-standing U.S. strategic objectives show how poorly strategy is guiding current policy. These objectives are to develop a new and deeper partnership between the United States and India and to open up new sources of energy in the Western Hemisphere to decrease U.S. dependence on overseas sources. One secondary impact of these strategies would be […]

The geopolitics surrounding the crisis in Venezuela captures the new normal of inter-American relations. The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), a regional South American body created in 2008, has stepped up its involvement and, through a three-member delegation of Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador’s foreign ministers, is playing a prominent role in fostering dialogue. Meanwhile, the United States, though keen to shape the post-Chavez trajectory of Venezuela, is in the background, unsure of how to make a constructive impact. This unfolding episode serves as further reminder that U.S. foreign policy toward South America remains largely unsettled. Washington’s preferences do not […]

When a book about economics rises to the No. 1 spot on the bestseller list, it says as much about society as it does about the book. That’s why the explosive rise of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” by Thomas Piketty, is so revealing and why the book will become a self-reinforcing phenomenon likely to carve a deep mark in the political landscape. Piketty’s work, on its own, is an important and impressive accomplishment. But the fact that it has been welcomed so enthusiastically by such a wide spectrum of the population proves that it has hit a nerve. Because […]

Three decades after the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States continues to augment Taiwan’s military capabilities—recent discussions have raised the possibility of the U.S. helping Taiwan to acquire U.S.-made frigates and a new indigenous type of diesel submarines. But China’s rising military capabilities place the island in an increasingly vulnerable position. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would authorize the sale of four Perry-class frigates to Taiwan. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ed Royce, called Taiwan “a beacon of hope and democracy in a part of the world that still yearns for the basic […]

Seven hundred pages of George Kennan’s diaries have just been published, and though I have not read them, David Greenberg’s review in the New Republic gives us dilettantes some of the highlights—and at times the lowlights—of the entries that cover the years from 1916 to 2004. Greenberg focuses on a fact that historians knew, but which the public by and large does not: Kennan was, by the standards of our age and, more importantly, by the standard of his own, a bigot. “As a 28-year-old Foreign Service officer,” writes Greenberg, “[Kennan] remains convinced that the world’s problems are ‘essentially biological.’” […]

On a 10-day trip through Asia that ended last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel sought to build military ties with allies and partners involved in the U.S. rebalance to the region. He also reached out to China, the presumptive main U.S. competitor in the region, and announced the need for a “new model” of military-to-military relations between the two nations. As with other aspects of the U.S.-China relationship, military ties between the two countries are underdeveloped, and China remains wary of U.S. intentions. But the Obama administration, which has its own worries about China, appears to believe that […]

Of all the choices America made, all the things that went wrong and all the suffering endured in the years after 9/11, Americans have been more united in wanting to close the book on torture than on anything else. Both in wanting it stopped—they disapproved of it by a 3-to-1 margin when it was disclosed in 2005 and nominated two presidential candidates in 2008 who wanted it banned—but also in wanting it forgotten. The Obama administration has done its best to oblige on both counts. On his second day in office, flanked by more than a dozen military leaders, President […]

Americans are having a hard time coming to terms with the effect of National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks and the damage they have done to America’s status in the world. In part, U.S. leaders do not want to admit that the leaks were merely the final straw for the growing discontent with American global leadership that predated Snowden and has many causes, including failure in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global economic crisis that spread from Wall Street. The unipolar moment was never popular—the leaks confirm that it is over. Snowden’s material has been shaped to portray […]

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, retired Gen. Keith Alexander, who recently stepped down as head of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, expressed misgivings about America’s deterrent posture in cyberspace. In particular, he raised concerns about the lack of a threshold that, when crossed by cyberattackers, would prompt a U.S. response. According to Alexander, “The question is, when do we act? That’s a policy decision. . . . What we don’t want to do is let it get to the point where we find out, ‘OK, that was unacceptable,’ and we didn’t […]

Russian actions toward Ukraine have injected new urgency, and partisan vitriol, into the debate over U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems in Europe. Missile defense has been a locus of intense ideological divisions since the announcement of Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative in 1983. Although the issue has receded somewhat in recent years, statements from some GOP lawmakers indicate it may once again become a prominent source of partisan tension. But beneath the surface, many of the most fundamental issues relating to U.S. missile defense plans appear to have become politically uncontroversial, even as technical experts continue […]

Petro Symonenko, the Communist Party deputy who was attacked earlier this week as he addressed the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, raised some uncomfortable points that Western policymakers need to consider about their response to the crisis in Ukraine. Symonenko aroused the ire of deputies from the nationalist Svoboda party by noting that some of those protesting the government of now-deposed President Viktor Yanukovych, including Svoboda activists, had used what might be termed improper methods—including storming buildings and breaking into armories—that are now being utilized by those who in turn do not recognize the authority of the interim government. By driving Yanukovych […]

From the start of John Kerry’s push for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians, nobody except the secretary of state held very high hopes for success. Kerry declared confidently he expected a comprehensive deal, a “final status agreement over the course of the next nine months.” Everyone else responded to his optimism with little more than a benign smile. Eight months later, what the parties have reached instead of an agreement is a deep impasse. The inevitable question arises: What’s next? The nine-month period concludes at the end of April, and negotiations have produced what seemed almost impossible: a […]

While Americans debate when and where the United States should use drones to strike at insurgents and terrorists who cannot be reached by other means, they may be overlooking an important trend: the move to supply a targeted killing capability to allied nations. This began when the Bush administration decided to provide technology and advice to help the government of Colombia kill the leaders of its narco-insurgency. Today, the U.S. military is also helping the armed forces of Yemen field systems for the targeted killing of anti-government extremists associated with al-Qaida. This is the beginning of a trend, as more […]

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