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FSA rebels cleaning their AK47s

The Moral Minimum in Arming Rebels

June 11, 2013

The debate about whether to arm the Syrian rebels is centered around the question which groups are “good” rebels (those who favor democratic regimes and the United States) or “bad” rebels (various kinds of jihadists). The Obama administration is widely reported to be reluctant to aid Syrian rebels due to the difficulty of identifying “leaders who are committed to a unified, democratic Syria that respects minority rights” as opposed to “militants who might turn them against Western interests.” In Dissent, Michael Walzer finds that his readers “would be happy to see the victory of Syrians who have been studying John Stuart Mill or who take their cue from Swedish social democracy,” which he warns is not going to happen.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Israeli President Peres (left) and Palestinian President Abbas (right)

What John Kerry Can Learn From John F. Kennedy

June 06, 2013

“Some say that it is useless to speak of peace… until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must reexamine our own attitudes, as individuals and as a Nation, for our attitude is as essential as theirs,” said former President John F. Kennedy as he stood at American University on June 10, 1963. The rarely discussed reset of U.S.-Soviet relationship that followed Kennedy’s speech has significant implications when it comes to both present-day U.S.-China relations and the restarted Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Richard N Haass speaks to the Microsoft Political Action Committee

The Realism of Richard Haass

May 31, 2013

Richard Haass’s new book, Foreign Policy Begins at Home, should delight realists. His strong case that we should put our own house in order is neither isolationist nor declinist. On the contrary, he persuasively shows that United States continues to be the indispensable nation: as he puts it, if the United States will not provide leadership for the world order, no other nation stands ready to take over. Nor is there a contradiction between focusing on shoring up the nation at home and its international role. To maintain its status in the world, the United States must have a strong economy, polity and society.

The Danger of Overcorrecting on Terror

May 29, 2013

In a speech last week at the National Defense University, President Obama made clear that he is moving to the left. This will mean more transparency and Congressional oversight of his high flying drone program, new ways to close Gitmo, and cutting the list of terrorist groups that may be hit. Last week, he promoted a shield for journalists who publish state secrets—a shield against the kind of government inquiry that his attorney general just carried out in collecting the phone records of the Associated Press. And Obama has already vastly reduced the number of drone hits.

Charge American Terrorists With Treason

May 24, 2013

When Boston bombing conspirator Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured, the event brought up–again–questions about the proper legal procedures for perpetrators of terrorism, particularly when those terrorists who are American citizens. Several conservative senators rushed to suggest that Tsarnaev be designated an “enemy combatant,” which would allow for the suspension of his habeas corpus rights and the relaxation of what are otherwise Constitutional rights to due process and, by extension, certain rules of evidence and so forth. Meanwhile, it has long been the position of many on the left that the strongest statement of American values should be to try terrorists as ordinary criminals, with all the Constitution rights to which ordinary criminals are entitled.

Obama’s Brief

May 22, 2013

The president is either moping or muttering defensively about the abuses by the IRS and the tragedy of Benghazi. And to mollify the media about the alleged overreach of capturing the AP’s phone records, he has offered to promote a legal shield for the media. As I see it, if he wakes up tomorrow and is willing to speak up, there are a few things he could fairly state.

Why It Should Be Harder to Impeach a President

May 16, 2013

The odds are that confirmed abuses (by the IRS), debatable ones (in the capture of AP phone records), and drummed up ones (the Benghazi “cover up”) will continue to roil Washington for months to co

The Liberal Narrative Is Broken, and Only Populism Can Fix It

May 08, 2013

The liberal narrative is not working.

Telling the American people that the government is not the devil that the GOP makes it out to be — that it is full of good people who bring you Social Security, Medicare, air-traffic controllers, and park rangers — is getting us no more than some flexibility in allocating an unduly tight budget. It is time to go populist.

Soft Syria Response Worse Than Inaction

May 06, 2013

A weak or irrelevant response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria may be even worse than inaction.

Everything Libertarians and Liberals Get Wrong About Drones

April 30, 2013

Seven factoids about drones — the new cause célèbre of libertarians and select liberals — cannot stay aloft.

The Risk of Blurring the Red Lines

April 26, 2013

The Obama administration is ignoring two of the most elementary rules of the use of power: First of all, the more credible threats are, the less power one needs to marshal (and hence less one needs to spend on building it up), and the less often power needs to be actually exercised. Second, every time one makes a threat, one is tested twice: will it bring about the desired outcome? And will it build up or diminish the credibility of one’s power

The Gun Debate I Lost

April 24, 2013

During the opening rounds of a gun debate in London, beamed globally by Google Plus, I thought I was doing quite well. I started by telling the audience, brought together by Intelligence Squared, that I recently was showing off photos of my grandchildren in a doctor’s waiting room, when they brought tears the eyes of a grandma sitting next to me. She told me, “My grandson was cleaning his gun, and he killed his father.” Think about it for a moment. Poof, one life was lost, a child lost his father, there is a terrible guilt, and the grandmother has to live with a grandson she hates and loves. Now, multiply this thirty-two thousand times, eleven times more people than we lost in the World Trade Center attacks which traumatized the nation, six times more than we lost total in the war in Iraq, and you see we’re talking about a very, very serious problems. We’re not talking about the quality of the Duchesses’ hats, or even organic food. We’re talking about a huge amount of life lost each year.

The Reasonable Interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

April 23, 2013

There is something very commendable and seriously troubling in the calls by the so called “responsible media,” the ACLU, and select liberals to preserve the rights of the surviving Boston Marathon

Time for New Paradigms

April 18, 2013

It is easy to understand why so many mavens are trying desperately to conceptualize cyber warfare, drones and transnational terrorists in yesterday’s terms. However, the dissonance has grown to a point where we are forced to look for new concepts and principles rather than try in vain to fit a new reality into obsolete paradigms. We often act like someone who can’t squeeze a size-fourteen foot into a size-nine boot—and would rather cut off the toes than find a larger pair.

Israel — 65 Years Ago

April 15, 2013

Sixty-five years ago it was far from obvious that Israel would survive; it was even far from obvious that a Jewish state would be created in the first place.