In Defense of Drones

October 24, 2013

Amnesty International has just issued a report that is highly critical of the use of drones by the United States. Its main concern is the great number of civilian casualties that these strikes cause – the so-called collateral damage. There is considerable disagreement among observers about the extent of these casualties. Amnesty International relies on local people, who are keen to call attention to them. Whatever the actual number, though, they deserve careful consideration.

President Obama and President Xi Jinping

MAR or War?

October 17, 2013

In a recent post for The Diplomat, Michael Haas describes my suggestion that the U.S. and China draw on Mutually Assured Restraint (MAR) to avoid falling into the Thucydides Trap, as “constructive” but subject to major criticism.

President Rouhani

Iran Opening: Keep It Simple

October 15, 2013

Will someone explain why they consider the policy issues raised by Iran’s recent move much of an issue, a subject that needs much deliberating? Unlike Syria, where it is difficult to know with whom to side, and Egypt—where no one seems to have any good suggestions– the situation with Iran seems abundantly clear.

Daniel Kahneman

A Proposal for Humble Decision Making

October 11, 2013

In his 2011 best-selling book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman summarizes the findings of Behavioral Economics, which show that people cannot make rational decisions. Our brains are hardwired to process information poorly and draw wrong conclusions.

Supreme Court at dusk

Will the Court Pull All Stops?

October 07, 2013

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the core, remaining limits on campaign contributions — the individual caps — should be struck down in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Given the Court’s conservative majority and that the same Roberts Court recently put an end to caps on what corporations and labor unions can donate (in Citizens United) — one should expect the worst: allowing those with deep pockets to use unlimited amounts of money to sway politicians.

Chinese Military

For a New Sino-American Relationship

September 23, 2013

To avoid the United States and China falling into the Thucydides trap, both nations will be served if they embrace a strategy of Mutually Assured Restraint (MAR). Political scientists argue that since the days of the ancient Greeks, when a new power arises and the old superpower does not yield ground quick enough — wars ensue. However, the record shows that there are no historical Iron Laws.

Obama walking with President Xi

MAR: A Model for US-China Relations

September 20, 2013

The United States and China, as well as the international community, would benefit significantly if both powers adopted a strategy of Mutually Assured Restraint (MAR). It would help them to move away from the current distrust both sides exhibit in their dealings with each other, cap the military build up, reduce the risks of unintended conflagrations, allow both nations to dedicate more resources to urgent domestic needs, and increase collaborations in many matters that concern both powers.

Missile Launching

Air-Sea Battle: A Dangerous Way to Deal With China

September 03, 2013

On the face of it, the Pentagon’s Air-Sea Battle plan makes eminently good sense; it is a clear response to a clear challenge. China has been developing a whole slew of weapons (especially anti-ship missiles) over the past two decades that are of great concern to the U.S. military.

Egyptian Election Protests

Secularism Can Save Egypt

August 13, 2013

Elections, the favorite American tool for democratization, until they turn out badly as in the Gaza strip, are widely viewed as the way out of the current impasse in Egypt. But they are most likely to leave one of the major camps—and both are important—deeply alienated. What Egypt should focus on instead is the formulation of a new constitution, employing it as an opportunity to seek a basic understanding about the future of the regime to which both sides can subscribe.

Individual protesting for the rights of whistle blowers

The Case for Keeping Whistleblowers Nervous

August 08, 2013

In its coverage of the government’s investigation into national-security leaks, the media have forfeited any claim to professional objectivity. News reports are loaded with editorializing terms such as “aggressive [anti-leak] policy,” “sweeping subpoenas,” and “fishing expedition.” And while editorials are full of sound and fury, condemning these and earlier investigations as “outrageous,” “threatening,” and Nixonian, voices on the other side are much less frequently heard.

Al Kuds, Jerusalem, Palestine

An Israeli-Palestinian Commonwealth?

July 23, 2013

Secretary John Kerry is reported to making progress in restarting the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Typing on a computer keyboard

Unorthodox Questions About Leaks

July 17, 2013

Most everybody is up in arms over the recent revelations about government snooping and the Obama administration’s investigation of the media to find the leakers. These investigations, the media reports, “chill” its sources and prevent it from doing its job–keeping the public informed. Well, if you’ll bear with me for a moment, I have some questions about this whole ball of wax.

"Tahrir Square during Friday of Departure" by (Mona sosh)

Demonstration Democracy

July 05, 2013

Many are asking why people in democratic regimes are taking to the streets. The topic should attract attention. After all, democratic theory assumes that if people are dissatisfied with their government, they will get a new one via the ballot box. But whether in Brazil, Turkey or many other democracies, people are instead protesting. Moreover, all too frequently what start as a peaceful demonstrations turn into violent confrontations with the police or other demonstrators.

Chief of Naval Operations speaks at the Brookings Institute about the Air-Sea Battle concept

Preparing to Go to War With China

July 02, 2013

If you have never heard of the Air-Sea Battle (ASB) concept, you are in the good company of most Americans. Since 2009 the Pentagon has been fleshing out this operational concept, which prepares the United States, among other contingencies, for an all-out war with China. You may say, “Wait a moment; surely the military has a contingency plan for everything, even for an alien invasion” — and you would be correct. Air-Sea Battle, however, is moving beyond the contingency phase to implementation, including force restructuring and significant budget allocation.

Aftermath of Tornado in Moore, Ok

The Libertarian Alamo

June 20, 2013

The horrible tragedy in Moore, Oklahoma reminds one that libertarians are people who like gambles in which heads, they rake it in; tails, you pay. They object to government regulations, even those of local municipalities, that would require residents in tornado-prone areas to include a life-saving “safe room” in their homes — objecting even to requirements that these rooms be included in schools. They then proceed to complain bitterly when federal aid for cleaning up and rebuilding their homes is delayed.