What Osama bin Laden's Death Means
May 02, 2011

A first cut. Sorry if it's nothing earth-shattering. In descending order of importance: 1. For the world, the death of bin Laden provides important momentum for the United States and a brake on the prestige of al Qaeda. People around the world knew that bin Laden had defied the might of the American military and intelligence services, and this fact made the United States look impotent. That has been corrected, better late than never. Opposing the United States will seem like a slightly worse idea than it did before tonight. 2.

Liberalism's Bumper Sticker Problem
April 28, 2011

Ryan Lizza's latest must-read New Yorker piece is framed as the story of President Obama's abandonment of the doctrine of foreign policy realism and adoption of "consequentialism." It's filled with a lot of reporting that doesn't really advance that narrative but is really interesting anyway.

Inside the Intervention
April 01, 2011

Strategy is a strange beast. Up close—as it is unfolding—even a good strategy can appear muddled, confused, and indecisive. Its logic only becomes clear over time. President Obama’s Libya strategy demonstrates this. It has drawn howls of criticism from across the political spectrum, most of the “muddled, confused, and indecisive” variant.

Spring Trap

The public uprisings spreading like wildfire from Tunisia to the Persian Gulf have been referred to collectively as the “Arab Spring.” But in fact, as the Obama administration crafts its policy responses, it should strive to avoid this unifying narrative, lest it obscure the unique challenges faced by each country, as well as the distinctive ramifications that each uprising has for U.S. interests.

Sphinx, Lies, and Audiotape
March 26, 2011

Cairo, Egypt -- On a hot July evening this past summer, toward the end of our interview, Aref Desouki, vice-chair of a faction of the liberal Ghad Party, suddenly got defensive. After dodging questions about Egyptian State Security’s infiltration of his party, the bespectacled, cane-carrying mathematics professor wanted to emphasize that political conspiracies aren’t unique to Egypt. “You are controlled in the U.S. by an underground government,” he said, completely seriously. “A secret government that is related to the Zionists and the Jewish-Christian Zionists.

How The New Yorker Supported The Iraq War
March 04, 2011

Current Biography's feature on Rick Hertzberg covers mostly familiar (to me) ground. But this recounting of the magazine's debate over the Iraq War seems pretty interesting: A week before the start of the war with Iraq--which the administration claimed had so-called weapons of mass destruction--Hertzberg wrote for the New Yorker (March 17, 2003), "Both among those who, on balance, support the coming war and among those who, on balance, oppose it are a great many who hold their views in fear and trembling, haunted by the suspicion that the other side might be right after all. . . .

Should the CIA Turn Against Pakistan's Spies?
December 26, 2010

The recent chief-of-station (COS) cover-shredding brouhaha between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate marks an ironic and possibly important shift in the historic affection that Langley has had for Pakistan’s premiere intelligence service.

Wikileaks and the Cyberwars to Come
December 14, 2010

The childish panic that has swept the policy establishment over the past few weeks over the Wikileaks revelations themselves will soon subside.

Breaking Away
December 08, 2010

It is difficult, in these partisan times, to find any common ground in the debate over U.S. counterterrorism policy. But, on one matter, there seems to be almost uniform agreement: that President Obama has largely continued President Bush’s security policies.

Don't Mess With Yemen
November 04, 2010

Not so long ago, few Americans, very much including policy wonks and military officers, knew anything about Yemen. Government officials couldn’t even find it on a map, though it was right there, sprawling across the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Yet over the past year or so, a flood of reports were splashed across America's front pages, cautioning that Yemen was on the verge of being transformed into the next Afghanistan—a place where Al Qaeda could live, train, even thrive and plot with impunity. On Christmas day 2009, a Yemeni trained terrorist tried to detonate a U.S.