War and Peace
Syria’s civil war has been going on for more than two years. Seventy thousand people have been killed, most of them civilians. The situation seems to call for a robust international response. Yet as the United States learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, any large-scale military intervention in the Islamic world is more than likely to fail. But pressure is building for the United States to act, especially in the aftermath of what appears to be the use of chemical weapons by the regime.
Hitler's Philosophers addresses the question: Why did the most evil regime of modern times develop in a country so committed to higher learning and so culturally accomplished?
Perhaps because the cynicism that dominates contemporary political discourse militates against taking any politician’s words at face value, surprisingly little analysis is devoted to what President Obama actually says in his principal public addresses. Americans are so busy figuring him out, they have stopped hearing him.
At his 2009 inauguration, President Obama pledged to close Guantánamo within a year. Many of those imprisoned there have been held for more than a decade without facing any charges, and in recent months, an increasing number of desperate detainees have engaged in hunger strikes to call attention to their plight.
The blood runs cold when one fully appreciates how vulnerable Western policymakers are to slogans and magical thinking. The Reinhart-Rogoff case is the latest, and certainly will not be the last, in which the credulity and carelessness of experts wreak havoc among millions of ordinary people.
Margaret Thatcher and David Kuo represented two sides of the conservative disposition and two forms of the "conviction politics" for which the Iron Lady was known. Because of that, they have much to teach us about the debate we need now.
War is war and murder is murder. The law draws the distinction. The American armed drone is a weapons system of war, not of policemen. And even if it were a police weapon, the United States does not have a commission to police the world of its radicals, jihadists, and religious fanatics, although for too many years it has acted as if it did.
Virtually everyone in Latin America (and North America as well) has every reason to be thrilled with the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy. Still, there are some who continue to raise questions about his actions during Argentina's guerra sucia.
In winning election as Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio defied the papal pundits, even though they should have seen him coming. His rise marks the decisive shift within Roman Catholicism toward Latin America and the developing world.
Iran will be our next war, if neo-conservatives and certain advisers to the Obama administration have their way -- all acting with the support of the American public, which one might think has had enough of war, after nearly seventy years of it and gaining nothing.
Within a climate of fear, Stalin set out to build a new political and social order. The origins and character of this order in Poland, Hungary, and East Germany are the subject of Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain.
Are northern Mali and southern Algeria about to be declared the new front in the war on terror that still preoccupies the American political class and the foreign affairs community?
President Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel for defense secretary signals a repudiation of the aggressive foreign policy that has kept the United States fighting wars for over a decade.
'Argo' & 'Zero Dark Thirty'
That President Obama has shed any illusions about his unique gifts as a national healer will increase his capacity to help us leave behind many of the debates that have torn our political world asunder. Tempered by the struggles of his first term, he now seems more at ease declaring exactly what he is for and what he is seeking to achieve.
Little America is the best single book now available on a crucial phase of the American war in Afghanistan.
We are about to have a major foreign policy debate in the guise of a confirmation battle over Chuck Hagel's nomination as secretary of defense. President Obama should use this opportunity to stand up for his broader vision of how American power can be sustained and used.
The threat posed by weapons of mass destruction was infamously used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq. That's why clear evidence and a convincing argument must be presented before any action on Syria's chemical weapons.
When Israel wins its campaign to create a single, unchallenged Jewish state on all of the land given by the U.N. in 1948 to make parallel Jewish and Arab homelands, what happens to the Palestinian people left in the country?
President Obama's aggressive campaign of targeted killings against Al Qaeda and the Taliban is the source of bitter resentment toward the United States. Many legal questions about the deployment of drones outside a recognized war zone also remain in dispute. Is the United States establishing a dangerous precedent?
In our tendency to lay so much stress on the role of famous generals, we forget both the centrality of midlevel military leadership and the daily sacrifices and bravery of those in the enlisted ranks who carry out orders from on high.
Diminishing Influence, Fewer Options
As a method of war, unmanned drones are illegal and unconstitutional. But the two presidential candidates have each indicated a commitment to the continued use of drones for programmed unilateral killing of selected individuals in Muslim society.
The third debate added to the evidence that the United States is intellectually adrift when it comes to policies concerning the Middle East, and perhaps blundering into serious trouble with Russia and China.
Kennedy's keen awareness of the power of appearances helped him (and the rest of us) get through the Cuban Missile Crisis without a nuclear war—and without seeming to yield to nuclear blackmail.
Does Mitt Romney possess a serious understanding of American foreign relations, their past, their present, and the problems they will pose for a new administration?
Diplomacy Still the Least Bad Option
New Violence Threatens Christianity's Ancient Roots
Republicans and Democrats wrap some portion of their party’s identity and self-image in the conflict over national-security policy. But at this point the script is nonsense, masking a remarkable common ground between the parties on the legal and policy issues surrounding terrorism.
A new suit challenges President Obama's 2012 National Defense Authorization Act on the definition of "support" for terrorism, and the possible expansion of presidential power beyond constitutional limits.
Afghanistan and Iraq remain awkward and troubling topics for both political parties.
Neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan seem close to the hawkish ideology that gave the United States its military deployments in Asia and Central Asia. But they seem to have no clear intellectual position at all, which is to say that they might easily become the instruments of others with aggressive ideologies of their own.
Catholic folks committed to the idea of a “presumption against war” and the practices of “peacebuilding” may well take note: on this front, Stanley Hauerwas' book is a noteworthy and welcome achievement.
It was not supposed to end this way. Although President Barack Obama deserves credit for bringing an end to the war in Iraq that he inherited, if he had had his wishes, thousands of U.S. troops would nevertheless have remained stationed in Iraq indefinitely.
The Afghan government's order a week ago to the U.S. to close its prison at Bagram Air Base near Kabul, where it holds unidentified prisoners, came as a shock to Washington, although President Karzai has before asked the U.S. to cease operations because of what he considered infringements upon Afghan sovereignty.
Should the president of the United States be able to authorize the assassination of a U.S. citizen anywhere in the world without telling the public why—or even acknowledging that he has done so? The question is not theoretical. On September 30 a missile fired from an unmanned drone aircraft operated by the CIA killed two American citizens in Yemen.
Peacebuilding is the fruit of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, an affiliation of scholars, practitioners, and institutions. It is concrete, pastoral, conceptually challenging, and provides many practical suggestions.
Thinking clearly about a slogan & a slur
Befitting its subject, The Longest War is a very long book, a comprehensive examination of the struggle that began slowly and surreptitiously in the early 1990s and continued—at least until Osama bin Laden’s killing.
Letter from Iran
Coming of age in East Germany
Undoubtedly, in the killing of Osama bin Laden, a certain kind of justice was done, and the relief and satisfaction felt by many of the families of those murdered at bin Laden’s direction cannot be denied. Yet questions about the circumstances of bin Laden’s death remain.
There was much in Obama’s speech announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden—and in the scenes of chanting and jubilant flag-waving across the country that followed—that ought to give Christians, and not only pacifists such as myself, great pause.
Yes & no
The afterlife of cluster bombs
According to the Department of Defense, 41,829 U.S. soldiers had been seriously wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan as of December 20, 2010. But while the media routinely report war fatalities, the huge numbers of wounded usually go unmentioned.
Never before have people in the Middle East mobilized in such vast numbers to shake off the chains of autocracy. Whether Egypt and Tunisia succeed in creating genuinely democratic societies remains to be seen—but already we can identify important lessons.
Whatever one’s political commitments, facing the question of Iraqi civilian deaths as honestly and objectively as possible is both an intellectual and a moral imperative.
What's our end game in Afghanistan?
Does the president have the legal authority to order the killing of a U.S. citizen?
Africa's slavery system survives
What was Pius XII's opinion of the Jews?
Let us contemplate the joys of being in the political opposition when unemployment in your state tops 10 percent.
Andrew Bacevich is a prolific writer whose many books constitute one of the best accounts we have of the distortions brought to American life by our childlike dependence on the security war-making seems to offer but never quite delivers.
Letter from Sierra Leone
By insisting that "it's time to turn the page," the president was talking about more than Iraq. He was also trying to turn the page on a particularly rough period for the Democrats and for his presidency.
During his recent tour of TV news programs, Petraeus suggested that sending troops home a year from now might be premature. Defense Secretary Gates then intervened to say that the promise given the president in 2009 by the military would be kept. Who's right?
The prospect of giving Afghanistan a functioning and competent democratic government and a new and functional army is slight. That was what the counterinsurgency doctrine drafted by Gen. Petraeus was supposed to do. It has rarely succeeded.
It's not yet time to withdraw from Afghanistan.
From the archives: our editorial decrying the bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki
General McChrystal gets out just in time
American arms spending is supposed to make Americans safe from its problems, but that is not working. Congressional attempts to reduce military spending over the years have consistently failed because military spending is a politically irresistible cause, even when the results are irrational.
A general's tasks involve executing policies made by the commander-in-chief, plotting strategy and winning wars—not playing politics in the media to get at civilian rivals inside the government.
From the archives (1993): the debate over gays in the military