Strategic Ambiguity Fail: When ‘All Options’ Are Not on the Table

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden smile during their statement to the media at the Presidential Administration Building in Kiev, Ukraine, Nov. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden smile during their statement to the media at the Presidential Administration Building in Kiev, Ukraine, Nov. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Efrem Lukatsky).
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I have a modest proposal: I would like to see all U.S. government representatives cease and desist from any further use of the phrase, “all options are on the table.” Initially, these six words did serve a useful purpose: During a crisis situation, assuming an administration practiced strict message discipline without being beset by leaks and second-guessing by anonymous officials in the media, they introduced sufficient doubt among adversaries and challengers as to what the U.S. response might actually be—raising the possibility that the United States might choose to react more forcefully than anticipated. Over the past few years, however, […]

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