North Atlantic Treaty Organization
You may remember that during the president’s first trip abroad he spent two days in Turkey. A little much, I thought. After all, a presidential visit is something of a gift to the host country’s government. And why did Ankara deserve such a gift? Well, it didn’t. First of all, in 2003, it had barred American troop movement through Iraq from the north. I don’t know exactly how many U.S. deaths accrued because of this ban. But sober estimates tell us that as many as 500 soldiers may have been killed because of the restriction.
What Are Nukes Good For?
April 07, 2010
The nuclear order seems to be falling apart. Gone is the uneasy balance between the cold war superpowers. We now face a slew of new nuclear actors. North Korea has reprocessed enough plutonium for perhaps ten bombs, in addition to the two it has already tested. Iran’s centrifuge program seems poised to produce weapons-grade uranium. And Syria was apparently constructing a clandestine nuclear facility, before it was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in 2007. It’s not just enemies that pose a problem.
Russia Markets Mini-Nukes To The World
March 18, 2010
In The New York Times today, Andrew Kramer has a fascinating piece about how Russia's nuclear industry is trying to promote small reactors—similar to those used to power Soviet-era subs—as a source of cheap low-carbon power for the rest of the world. Here's the upside: [O]nce the science is perfected, such reactors are potentially far less costly to build per unit of electricity generated than traditional nuclear power plants.
The American Awakening
March 01, 2010
In The Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan By Seth G. Jones (W.W. Norton, 414 pp., $27.95) I. With the war in Afghanistan hanging in the balance, it is useful, if a little sad, to recall just how complete the American-led victory was in the autumn of 2001. By December, the Taliban had vanished from Kabul, Kandahar, and much of the countryside. Afghans celebrated by flinging their turbans and dancing in the streets. They dug up TV sets, wrapped in plastic, from hiding places in their gardens.
Response To Andrew Sullivan
February 26, 2010
Andrew Sullivan has a lengthy reply to my post, which categorically stated that he’s not an anti-Semite, but which also took sharp issue with his views on the Middle East. I truly regret that my colleague impugned Andrew’s motives. I like Andrew a great deal, and like him I believe in debating politics –sharply, at times – without impinging on friendships. My basic take is that Andrew was a simplistic supporter of Israel and has become a simplistic critic. In response, he argues that world events have changed his mind.
Terrorists Without Borders
February 23, 2010
Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field Edited by Antonio Giustozzi (Columbia University Press, 318 pp., $40) My Life with the Taliban By Abdul Salam Zaeef Edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn (Columbia University Press, 331 pp., $29.95) After several hours of driving down one of the two-lane asphalt roads that wind through Pakistan’s tribal areas, our kidnappers entered the territory of Baitullah Mehsud, the widely feared leader of the Pakistani Taliban. It was the middle of March in 2009.
The Accountable Presidency
February 01, 2010
Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush By John Yoo (Kaplan, 544 pp., $29.95) Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State By Garry Wills (Penguin, 288 pp., $27.95) I. In December 2008, Chris Wallace asked Vice President Cheney, “If the president, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Cheney’s answer included a reference to a military authority that President Bush did not exercise.
Dealing With the Taliban
January 25, 2010
British PM Gordon Brown said today that this week's international conference on Afghanistan is likely to endorse an effort at some kind of reconciliation with the Taliban. Stories like this and this make me doubt it can happen beyond the level of rank-and-file mercenaries; we're not going to see Mullah Omar in the Karzai cabinet anytime soon. The biggest problem is that the Taliban rightly think that they have the upper hand at the moment, and thus don't have much incentive to trade guns for politics.
January 05, 2010
KIEV–Like many Ukrainian politicians, prime minister and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko relies on fortune-tellers and TV psychics to bolster her embattled spirit.
January 04, 2010
On the night of December 1, shortly after Barack Obama announced plans to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, retired Lt. Colonel John Nagl appeared on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.” Maddow was dismayed by Obama’s new plan, which she called “massive escalation,” but, when she introduced Nagl, a counterinsurgency expert who has long called for a greater U.S. commitment to Afghanistan--even if it means raising taxes and expanding the military--she was surprisingly friendly.