The Knowns and the Unknowns
April 20, 2012
Sometime in the early 1970s I had an illuminating conversation with an expert on Soviet affairs.
Several people are calling the Supreme Court sessions on the Affordable Care Act the most important since Bush v. Gore. The case is certainly critically important to the fate of the law, and with it the future of health care, the federal budget, and perhaps the U.S. economy. But you know what’s not riding on the Court’s decision, despite plenty of hype? The 2012 election. The truth is that the decision in this case will likely have little or no effect on Obama v. Romney. There are two reasons for this. First, most events have much less staying power than we expect they do.
Afghanistan Reconsidered: What the U.S. Should Do Now
March 22, 2012
Back in July of 2010, TNR asked nine experts to explore what the United States should do next in Afghanistan. In the twenty months since that symposium, much has changed. Tragic developments—such as the downing of a military helicopter that claimed 38 Americans and the recent massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant—have stoked widespread discontent with the current course of action, and have many rethinking their commitments to the mission.
A Former Military Psychologist on the Afghanistan Massacre
March 20, 2012
The horrific and surreal rampage allegedly committed last week in Kandahar by Sergeant Robert Bales, which resulted in the deaths of 16 Afghan civilians, has turned many Americans into amateur psychologists. This is natural: We all desperately want answers for how such a terrible thing could have happened. But the real answers are unlikely to be very satisfying. As a former active duty Army psychologist who spent 27 months in Iraq taking care of soldiers, I can attest that the oldest tropes about warfare are true: Combat is destructive; deployment in a warzone is enormously stressful.
According to documents taken from his compound and obtained by the Washington Post, Osama bin Laden “commanded his network to organize special cells in Afghanistan and Pakistan to attack the aircraft of President Obama and Gen. David H. Petraeus.” The documents indicate that bin Laden had a specific person in mind for the job: Pakistani terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri. According to administration officials, the plan never got very far. But who was Ilyas Kashmiri? A March 2011 report on Sunni militancy in India gives some perspective.
The Thought Police
March 14, 2012
Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom WorldwideBy Paul Marshall and Nina Shea (Oxford University Press, 448 pp., $35) I.
Obama’s New Old Defense Strategy
March 14, 2012
When President Obama unveiled his military budget earlier this year, it was clear that he was essentially putting a new defense strategy on the table. The Pentagon’s plan called for the ranks of the active-duty Army to be reduced from 570,000 to 490,000 troops over five years. The Marine Corps, meanwhile, was supposed to shrink from 202,000 to 182,000. At the same time, drones were a high priority in the budget—not surprising, given that Obama has ordered about five times as many drone attacks as his predecessor.
Obama’s ‘Hawkish’ Foreign Policy? If Only It Were So.
February 16, 2012
A New Republic blogger last week pronounced the president’s foreign policy record “hawkish.” This is especially odd, given Barack Obama’s ongoing attempt at persuading himself and the world that he had altered the model of international relations so that it now worked by talk and suasion. This is probably how his enthusiasts—and young enthusiasts, especially—still experience him. Illusions die hard. But even Obama can no longer be wholly persuaded by this, his own fantasy.
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.
State of the Union - As Prepared
January 24, 2012
THE WHITE HOUSE Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery State of the Union Address: “An America Built to Last” Tuesday, January 24th, 2012 As Prepared for Delivery – Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans: Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq.