U.S. Army tanks during joint U.S.-South Korea military drills near the border with North Korea, Pocheon, South Korea, April 26, 2017 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Since 1986 every U.S. president has been required by law to prepare an annual National Security Strategy. This report is intended to explain to Congress and the American public what the president plans to do to promote U.S. national interests, and to provide guidance for the government agencies that implement security policy. While the requirement to produce an annual National Security Strategy was well-intentioned, the results have been uneven. Few presidents have produced the report every year. Most of them have simply recapitulated presidential talking points and listed what the administration considered its major accomplishments. In practice the National Security […]

Iranian troops march during a parade marking National Army Day in front of the mausoleum of the country's first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, April 18, 2017 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

The sudden return to tough talk about Iran by the Trump administration makes one wonder if it has a deeper strategy to realize Trump’s campaign promises about the nuclear deal, as well as to address Iran’s destabilizing regional activities. The signals about Iran can be read several ways: pressure to deliver on that national security priority as the 100-day milestone approaches; discomfort with the routine bureaucratic declaration that Iran is actually complying with the nuclear agreement; or a more ambitious and disturbing goal of provoking Iran into a more open confrontation. For many weeks, it looked like Iran was on […]

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On Dec. 17, 1972, American astronaut Eugene Cernan paused to look up at Earth. At over 240,000 miles away it was small enough to be blotted out by an outstretched thumb. A few moments later he would enter the lunar lander, close the hatch and blast off to begin Apollo 17’s journey back to Earth. Cernan was the last person to leave footprints on the moon. Since then, humans have never ventured farther than 240 miles from Earth’s surface, let alone return to its only natural satellite. History has come to judge the Apollo program as a freak alignment of […]

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a Security Council meeting on Syria, New York, April 7, 2017 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

Busy and serious people know only two types of working lunch. There are pleasant but time-consuming lunches they would prefer to skip, and then there are tedious ones they desperately wish to avoid. Today, ambassadors serving on the U.N. Security Council will endure a third category of business luncheon: One that will at best be eventful but nerve-rattling, and at worst could hasten the collapse of international diplomacy. The council is visiting Washington, where it will lunch with U.S. President Donald Trump. What could possibly go wrong? The U.S. has held the rotating presidency of the Security Council in April, […]

South Korean protesters hold images of U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally denouncing U.S. policy on North Korea, Seoul, South Korea, April 12, 2017 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Throughout its history, much of American foreign policy has been built on “doctrines” associated with the president who developed them. The Monroe Doctrine indicated that the United States would oppose additional European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere. The Eisenhower and Carter Doctrines stressed the importance to U.S. vital national interests of the Middle East and the free flow of its energy. The Nixon Doctrine pledged U.S. support to nations fighting communism, but said that America would not do it for them. The George W. Bush Doctrine committed U.S. military power to pre-empting and preventing transnational terrorism. Over the past two […]

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, accompanied by President Donald Trump, speaks at a news conference in the East Room at the White House, Washington, April 12, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

In the information age, we can all access more information than we can absorb, so the choices we make about what sources to trust may make us dumber, not smarter. U.S. President Donald Trump is a prime example of a very casual approach to accessing information, more often from social media rather than subject-matter experts, whose influence on public policy is declining. As a result, leaders are more likely to make poor choices in responding to the international challenges they face. Watching Trump abruptly change his positions as he is exposed to more authoritative information about world problems is illustrative […]

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, pauses while speaking to the media during a press briefing, Washington, April 11, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Without admitting it, U.S. President Donald Trump largely continued his predecessor’s military policy in the Middle East during the opening months of his administration. Like Barack Obama, Trump relied on American airpower and special operations forces to strike directly at the self-styled Islamic State, while deploying other U.S. military units to support local forces battling the extremists. But after a grotesque chemical attack on a Syrian village by the military of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Trump ordered a retaliatory cruise missile strike against the air base from which the chemical attack was launched. Suddenly a policy that once seemed so […]

President Donald Trump surrounded by members of his Cabinet in the Oval Office after signing an executive order on reorganizing the executive branch, Washington, March 13, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

As world leaders gather this Sunday in Dakar, Senegal, for the 2019 Summit for Global Cooperation, U.S. President Donald Trump will be spending the weekend alone at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Though Trump proclaimed on Twitter that he’d rather be golfing than listening to “windbags” deliver “meaningless speeches,” according to numerous reports he was not even invited to the gathering. Two years ago, Trump took office promising to upend the world order, famously putting “America First” to make the country “great again.” Given how irrelevant he has since become on the global stage, it’s hard to recall the degree to which […]

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at Mar-a-Lago after the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria, Palm Beach, Fla., April 6, 2017 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

Throughout the Cold War, the United States wrestled with the “friendly dictator” dilemma. Americans had long believed that democracy was not only the most just political system, but also the only one that could remain stable over time. Dictators might impose order for a while, but eventually the natural urge for freedom led to their downfall. Under the right conditions, a dictator’s demise could be relatively peaceful. At other times, though, it sparked a dangerous paroxysm of violence. Even so, Cold War-era American policymakers accepted and even embraced friendly dictators. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the problem was […]

A Samsung Galaxy S5 at the Mobile World Congress, Barcelona, Spain, Feb. 25, 2014 (AP photo by Manu Fernandez).

On Monday, President Donald Trump signed a congressional resolution to overturn internet privacy protections adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under President Barack Obama. Broadband internet service providers will now remain authorized to track and sell customers’ online data without obtaining explicit consent from consumers—a practice that Obama’s policy would have blocked had it taken effect in December 2017 as planned. Trump’s move honors longstanding Republican opposition to the Obama-era rules, approved in October, which would have applied to providers like Verizon and Comcast but not internet companies like Google and Facebook, which are regulated by the Federal Trade […]

President Donald Trump greets Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, at the White House, Washington, April 3, 2017 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Guest columnist Nikolas Gvosdev is filling in for Judah Grunstein this week. President Donald Trump’s meeting at the White House on Monday with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi gave the clearest indication yet of how the Trump administration plans to conduct American foreign policy. One of the most striking elements of el-Sisi’s visit was how the Trump team, in contrast to its predecessors in the Obama administration, decided to pursue a very focused, prioritized agenda. President Barack Obama found himself caught amid the push and pull of contradictory impulses and interests when it came to the U.S. relationship with Egypt. El-Sisi […]