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 Most RecentForeign Policy Archive

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PARIS — The French invented modern revolution. When they get riled up, watch out! Compared to these fiery veteran revolutionaries, America's tea party movement is strictly dishwater decaf. I just managed to slip into the City of Light in between monster strikes by angry workers. Next Tuesday comes another massive strike that threatens to shut... Read More
This writer has been warning for years that US and NATO efforts to defeat resistance to Western occupation by Afghanistan's fierce Pashtun tribes would eventually lead to spreading the conflict into neighboring Pakistan, a nation of 175 million. We've seen it all before in Vietnam. It was then called, "mission creep." The focus of the... Read More
Bob Woodward, the investigative reporter of Watergate fame, has a new book, Obama's War, that gives new insights into the White House's struggle over Afghan War policy. Woodward's most interesting revelation: the US Central Intelligence Agency is operating a secret, 3,000-man Afghan mercenary force whose mission is assassinating Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. The hunter-killer force... Read More
Most Americans still have not figured out the difference between Shia and Sunni or Kurds. Or, for that matter, Bosnians and Kosovars. But the insatiable demands of our imperium keep plunging us into new, mysterious places and murky conflicts. Welcome to Kashmir, the divided Himalayan state that is world's longest-running and certainly most dangerous international... Read More
On 2 Sept, 2001, in a newspaper article, I wrote: "America's strategic and economic interests in the Mideast and Muslim world are being threatened by the agony in Palestine, which inevitably invites terrorist attacks against US citizens and property." The 9/11 attacks came nine days later. President Barack Obama is absolutely right to seek an... Read More
According to the UN, the vast floodwaters have affected 20 million Pakistanis. Over 1,500 people have died, 800,000 homes have been destroyed. Pakistan's government reports that 10% of this nation of 180 million is now destitute and 20% of Pakistan's land is submerged by the filthy, contaminated floodwaters. Two more waves of monsoon flooding are... Read More
The release over the Internet of 92,000 US military field reports from Afghanistan by WikiLeaks has sent official Washington into an uproar. The leak story dominates the talk of this town and has pushed chatter about the steady weakening of the Obama presidency into the background. The reports reveal the ugly underbelly of a war... Read More
LONDON — After days of torturous negotiations last week, David Cameron's Conservatives finally made a deal with Nick Clegg's center-left Liberal Democrats, and Great Britain finally had a government. As the late British politician Enoch Powell observed, "all political careers end in failure." Former PM Gordon Brown was quickly ousted from 10 Downing Street and... Read More
The crash on 10 April of an airliner carrying Poland's president, Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 of the nation's political, military and economic leaders, was a heart-rending tragedy. But for Poles, tragedy is a constant. Poland's epic, thousand-year history has always alternated between extremes of tragedy and triumph. The accident was especially bitter because... Read More
As Henry Kissinger once rightly observed, it is often more dangerous being America's ally than its enemy. Watching Washington's growing anger at Afghan president Hamid Karzai, one recalls the unhappy endings of such former US allies as South Vietnam's Diem, Iran's Shah, Indonesia's Suharto, Nicaragua's Somoza, and Pakistan's Zia ul-Haq. Washington has been loudly hinting... Read More
A fascinating scandal has erupted in Washington that is exposing the sordid underbelly of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. According to a New York Times investigation and other Washington sources, the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies have fielded covert mercenary networks in Afghanistan, Pakistan (AKA "Afpak"), and Iraq whose mission is to murder... Read More
After the astounding humiliation of Vice President Joseph Biden by Israel's rightwing government, that nation's premier newspaper, Ha'aretz, cited an old Hebrew saying, "Biden had to wipe spit off his face and say it was only rain." Before arriving in Israel, Biden had repeated President Obama's demand that Israel cease building new housing in East... Read More
NEW YORK — As if President Barack Obama did not have enough on his plate, he will shortly issue a Nuclear Posture Review — which is, in fact, a month overdue. Each new American president must by law review his nation's nuclear weapons and strategy. Accordingly, Nobel Peace Laureate Obama will decide what to do... Read More
NEW YORK — The blizzard that hit New York last week dumped 24 inches on the city and paralyzed almost all surface transport. But New York's subways, which were begun in 1904, kept on zipping along, heedless of the tempest above. The city's subways carry 5.2 million riders daily to 468 stations. The fabled D... Read More
To fete the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gleefully announced his nation will enrich uranium to 20%. The bombastic Ahmadinejad seems to delight in provoking howls of outrage from the West. They were not long in coming. Western media and politicians loudly denounced Iran's latest nuclear effort, claiming it would... Read More
Is it finally light at the end of the Afghan tunnel, or an oncoming express train? Total confusion erupted last week as the US, NATO, the UN and the Kabul government all issued differing views on new plans to end the nine year Afghan war by bombarding Taliban with tens of millions in cash instead... Read More
Ojai, California — Here in normally arid southern California, we've just endured a week of torrential rains, tornados, flash floods, and mud slides. Some roads have even turned to rivers in the great western monsoon. But these tempests are nothing compared to last week's electoral storm that greeted President Barack Obama's first anniversary in office.... Read More
To better understand why Osama bin Laden is so far winning his struggle to oust the western powers from the Muslim world, let us go back to 1986, when I was covering the anti-Soviet war in then almost unknown Afghanistan. I called on the grandly titled "Afghan Information Center" in Peshawar, Pakistan. Peshawar was a... Read More
America is beset by airport chaos after a 23-year-old Nigerian tried to bring down a Northwest-Delta flight to Detroit with an underwear explosive device (UED). To update the good Doctor Johnson's bon mot about 18th-century maritime voyages, air travel will now offer all the joys of Supermax prisons, plus a chance to crash, or be... Read More
Washington is finally getting some of the democracy it has long been calling for in Pakistan. The result is a disaster for US "Afpak" policy. The Obama administration is fast discovering that its man in Islamabad, President Asif Ali Zardari, may be an even bigger ethical and managerial liability than its overseer in Kabul, President... Read More
President Barack Obama has missed two sterling opportunities to wind down the ugly Afghan morass he inherited from George W. Bush. First, Obama could have hit the pause button on the war when he first took office. A thorough evaluation should have been done at that time. Second, during all the heavy-duty strategy meetings over... Read More
A frequently heard complaint on the Old Right is that American foreign policy has changed for the worst because of the neoconservative ascendancy in public affairs. Supposedly there was a time when sober white Anglo-Saxon Protestants or other staid types were running Foggy Bottom, or wherever US foreign policy was made. These embodiments of prudence,... Read More
PARIS — Not so long ago, Hamid Karzai, the US-installed president of Afghanistan, used to be hailed by Washington and the US media as a noble democrat and statesman. But as things in Afghanistan went from bad to worse, and Taliban gained strength and popularity, Washington directed its ire at Karzai, who had almost no... Read More
PARIS — Armistice Day is always a very solemn event here in Paris and across France. Even the weather provides a dramatic backdrop: dark, thick, low-lying clouds and rain showers add to the aura of wartime loss and tragedy. But this year's ceremony held special significance. Last week, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh... Read More
In 1975, physicist Andrei Sakharov and a group of fellow Soviet academicians warned the Kremlin leadership that unless the nation's ruinous defense spending was slashed and funds refocused on modernizing the nation's decrepit, obsolete industrial base and its wretched state agriculture, the Soviet Union would collapse by 1990. Their grim warning was prescient. Twenty years... Read More
Henry Kissinger once sarcastically asked whom he should call in Europe if the world caught fire. However nasty, Henry the K was right. At the time, the EU had no recognizable chief. That has been the EU's problem since birth. The EU's power and identity were fragmented between its vast, Kafkaesque Brussels bureaucracy, the European... Read More
Here we go again with more political theater in war-ravaged Afghanistan. The last vote, held in August, was so blatantly rigged that Washington put a gun to the head of its Afghan client, Hamid Karzai, and forced him into the humiliation of holding a runoff vote in November against rival Abdullah Abdullah. As Henry Kissinger... Read More
President Barack Obama and Congress are wrestling with widening the war in Afghanistan. After eight years of military operations costing US $236 billion, the US commander in Afghanistan just warned of the threat of "failure," aka defeat. Truth is war's first casualty. The Afghan War's biggest untruth is, "we've got to fight terrorists over there... Read More
The confusion over Iran's nuclear program mounts as accusations and denials intensify. In an effort to browbeat Iran into nuclear submission, the US, Britain and France staged a bravura performance of political theater last week by claiming to have just "discovered" a secret Iran uranium enrichment plant near Qum. On cue, a carefully orchestrated media... Read More
Those growing numbers of foreign policy critics who have been claiming that the Obama administration is simply George W. Bush's third term were confounded last week as the new president put the kibosh on one of Bush's most beloved and most dimwitted projects. Obama's welcome cancellation of Bush's proposed antiballistic missile system (ABM) based in... Read More
Muammar Qaddafi has used up twelve of his nine lives, but he still keeps going strong. He came to power — with some help from CIA it is whispered — in a 1969 coup against Libya's doddering, British-run puppet king, Idris. Forty years in power in the Mideast is a remarkable feat. President Ronald Reagan... Read More
An election held under the guns of a foreign occupation army cannot be called legitimate or democratic. That's a basic tenet of international law. Nevertheless, the US and its NATO allies have been lauding last week's faux presidential elections in Afghanistan as both a sign of growing support for Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government and the... Read More
This week's presidential election in Afghanistan will be an elaborate piece of political theater designed to show increasingly uneasy Western voters that progress is being made in the war-torn nation after seven years of US-led occupation. Most Afghans already believe they know who will win the vote: the candidate chosen by the United States and... Read More
It's hard to think of Bill Clinton as a white knight, but last week he rescued two damsels in distress in a brilliant "coup de theatre." North Korea's jailing of the two American female journalists who had foolishly entered their forbidden nation last March set off a remarkable chain of diplomatic events, culminating in President... Read More
Afghanistan is rightly called "the graveyard of empires." We should call the Mideast "the tomb of peacemakers." In this troubled part of the world, real peace is as elusive and rarely-seen as the white Arabian gazelle. So we observe, with an abundance of caution, President Barack Obama's long-awaited Mideast peace offensive. Many of the administration's... Read More
The New York Times just prudishly denounced Italy's fun-loving prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, as "an aging Lothario." That's the same newspaper that applauded President George Bush's trumped-up war against Iraq that left up to one million dead and four million refugees. So what did the wicked Berlusconi do? Romping and frolicking with numerous young women... Read More
The new CIA director, Leon Panetta, has just informed the US Congress he canceled a secret operation to assassinate al-Qaida leaders. Panetta said the campaign was authorized soon after 9/11 by the Bush White House, but had not yet become operational in 2009. I respect Panetta, but his claim is not credible. The US has... Read More
President Barack Obama's visit to Moscow last week raised some very important questions about US-Russian relations and national security. Given the media's constant threat-mongering, it's easy to forget that America's most important national security concern is not Iran, Iraq, al-Qaida, Taliban, Afghanistan, or North Korea, whose unloved "Dear Leader" appears terminally ill. It is Russia,... Read More
Republicans need Ron Paul's honesty
Republican Congressman Ron Paul became a hero to many Americans last year when he ran for president against the political establishment. The 11-term Texas congressman is the most respected and admired American politician around the world after President Barack Obama. Rep. Paul is a vocal critic of what he calls reckless deficit spending, "welfare" for... Read More
WASHINGTON — We keep making the mistake of dealing with each new foreign crisis as a distinct and unique event, rather than as part of a historical-political continuum. Here is a sad example: In 1982, my old friend and Georgetown University Foreign Service School classmate, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, was executed in Tehran after mounting a failed... Read More
WASHINGTON — Iran's political crisis continues to blaze. It's still impossible to say which leaders or factions will emerge victorious, but one thing is certain: the earthquake in the Islamic Republic is shaking the Mideast and deeply confusing everyone, including the US government. Highlighting the complexity of this crisis, Meir Dagan, the head of Israel's... Read More
Athens, Greece — President Barack Obama came into office with an enormous reservoir of goodwill in the Muslim world. This was an asset no amount of American money or making nice could buy. But in recent weeks, he seems to have squandered a large part of this bounty. After eight years of relentless hostility by... Read More
PARIS — The Tamil Tigers fought to the last ditch — or, more precisely, a section of swampy beach along Sri Lanka's Northeast coast. The bloody end of Sri Lanka's 26-year-old civil war is tragic and appalling. But it may also have been the only way to end that nation's bitter civil war. Large numbers... Read More
PARIS — The US keeps kicking hornet's nests around the globe and wondering why it continues getting stung. The latest example: Pakistan's once beautiful Swat Valley has been turned into a battlefield. Last week, Pakistan finally bowed to Washington's angry demands to unleash its military against rebellious Pashtun tribesmen of Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) —... Read More
PARIS — The worldly French and British who are taught history and read books are looking with wry amusement and some pity on the Americans who are now gripped by a renewed bout of Taliban terror. About ten days ago, a bunch of lightly-armed Pashtun tribesmen rode down from the Malakand region on motorbikes and... Read More
Nations that use torture disgrace themselves. Armed forces and police that torture inevitably become brutalized and corrupted. "Limited" use of torture quickly becomes generalized. "Information" obtained by torture is mostly unreliable. I learned these truths over fifty years covering dirty "pacification" wars, from Algeria to Indochina, Central and South America, southern Africa, the Mideast, Afghanistan,... Read More
There are a lot of unhappy campers at the Pentagon right now. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates chose last week to present a controversial new budget that will affect the course of US foreign and military policy for decades to come. Furious debate has raged in the Pentagon over the future and mission of US... Read More
President Barack Obama has now taken full ownership of the Afghanistan War. Gone are Washington's pretenses that a western "coalition" was waging this conflict. Gone, too, is the comic book term, "war on terrorism," replaced by the Orwellian sobriquet, "overseas contingency operations." Obama's announcement last week of deeper US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan —... Read More
The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Or are they? That depends on whom you ask. President Dimitri Medvedev announced last Tuesday that Russia would modernize its large but decrepit armed forces, starting in 2011. New nuclear and conventional weapons systems will be acquired, but there will also be large cuts in Russia's 1,027,000... Read More
The White House publicly humiliated US National Intelligence Director, Adm. Dennis Blair last week by forcing him to cancel appointing veteran diplomat Charles W. Freeman Jr. as the chairman of the National Intelligence Council, one of the nation's most important national security posts. The National Intelligence Council chairman's job is to assemble all reports from... Read More