Lawrence F. Kaplan

Why Obama Is Right to Bomb ISIS
The Yazidi need our help, and they need it today
August 07, 2014

The Yazidi need our help, and they need it today.

Stop Saying Our Wars Are Over, Mr. President. They’re Not.
February 01, 2012

“In America, and in Iraq,” Vice President Joe Biden assured an audience in Baghdad last December, “the tide of war is receding.” For its callowness, this observation was noteworthy. (The tide of war was not receding from Iraq; Joe Biden was.) President Obama, introducing his plan to cut defense expenditures a few weeks later, offered up this analysis by way of justification: “The tide of war is receding.” Opponents of Obama’s foreign policy, unwilling to credit the president with coherence in any enterprise apart from campaigning for reelection, will get nothing from these words.

September 11 Was a Curse. Nothing More.
August 24, 2011

“I want to see some history!” So went Johnny Rotten’s desperate plea in 1977. But the front man for the Sex Pistols, cursed in so many ways, was not cursed with living in especially interesting times. We are. And, yes, it’s all been very adrenalizing, to the point of downright exhilaration and even mass delirium. But, for all the cheap speechifying about civic vigor and American cohesion, September 11 was a curse. Nothing more. In the direct aftermath of September 11, policy- and opinion-makers acted in ways that responded to multiple needs unrelated to that day.

The Bizarre, Strategically Bankrupt Evolution of the Parties’ Views on Defense Spending
July 12, 2011

The Obama administration has managed to upend the laws of ornithology. The simple fact of a Democratic commander-in-chief has transformed yesterday’s Republican hawks into today’s doves. No less miraculously, and certainly for no more high-minded reasons, Democratic doves have metamorphosed into something like hawks.  In both cases, however, the transformation has been less than complete.

Where Is the Ticker-Tape Parade?
May 30, 2011

From Iraq, I boarded an “Angel Flight”—a cargo plane that ferried the dead—back to Kuwait in 2006. As the C-130 taxied away into the night, there was the consolation that the bodies of the American soldiers would be washed, well-tended, buried with honors, and, eventually, memorialized along parade routes. The living, too, would surely be greeted with floats and hurrahs when they left behind Iraq’s rotten, sand-blown landscape. But, in fact, the parade routes have stayed quiet. Iraq veterans, apparently, merit neither bunting nor ticker tape. This is not as it should be.

To Be Sure…
May 03, 2011

Always listen for the “to be sure” line, the caveat that reveals we may be getting things backward, or at least getting ahead of the curve. In announcing the death of Osama bin Laden, President Obama wisely put the to-be-sure front and center: “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort.” Good. “We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.” Also good. But the point, so obvious as to be redundant the first time around, needs to be made to Americans in particular.

Open Wide
April 26, 2011

In 1992, the foreign minister of Luxembourg, Jacques Poos, declared that “the hour of Europe” had arrived. The minister pronounced this falsehood in relation to the catastrophe in Bosnia, where, he assured, the reach of Luxembourg and that of its European neighbors would soon put an end to the slaughter. The hour of Europe stretched across three sickening years, culminating in the spectacle of Dutch troops cuffed to lampposts and ending only when an American column of 70-ton tanks from the First Armored Division crossed the Danube. Fast forward to 2011.

More Questions Than Answers
March 22, 2011

Fittingly enough, the world’s first airstrike came exactly a century ago, on an autumn day in 1911. Eerily enough, it came in Libya, where, one day during the Italian-Turkish war of 1911-1912, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti flew his paper-thin Taube monoplane over a camp of Turks and Arabs, dropped four hand grenades (having pulled the pins out with his teeth), and generated headlines such as this: “AVIATOR LT. GAVOTTI THROWS BOMB ON ENEMY CAMP.

Failed Analogy
March 17, 2011

Those showers in Washington last week? That wasn’t rain. That was Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, and the other architects of post-war American foreign policy looking down and weeping on us. Or worse. The heirs and custodians of their tradition never sounded so thick. In place of George Kennan’s 8000-word Long Telegram about the Soviet Union, the Obama administration’s consultant and its former State Department policy planning chief, Anne-Marie Slaughter, issued a forceful tweet about Libya.

Engagement Ring
March 03, 2011

Oilmen have feelings, too. Take the industry executive who lobbied the White House last year to lift the ban on U.S. corporations doing business in Libya. When National Security Council officials rejected his plea, he broke down and wept. The Libyans, he sniffled, were a gentle people. They deserved better. White House officials offered him a tissue. That was then. If proponents of warmer relations with Libya are shedding tears today, they are tears of elation.

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