Paul Pillar

One Person, One Vote, One Time

An old fear about Islamist political parties entering government is that once in power, even if they had gained their position through democratic means, they would subvert democracy for the sake of maintaining power.  The U.S.

The Muddled Travel Ban

The Trump administration’s travel ban is in its third version, and it still does not respond convincingly to the ostensible need it was supposed to address.  The supposed purpose itself is unclear.  The latest version introduces additional confusion about the ostensible objective, even without getting into the real motivations behind it.

The Enduring Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

 

The following remarks were originally presented to the Worcester, MA World Affairs Council on September 19, 2017.

President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, whom the president has entrusted with, among many other things, searching for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, said regarding that task: “We don’t want a history lesson. How does that help us get peace? Let’s not focus on that. We’ve read enough books.”

Iran and the Nuclear Sunset Clauses

Opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), always has been filled with disingenuous arguments.  This reflects the fundamental illogic of the opponents’ position: if the agreement were to be junked, this would mean removing a panoply of restrictions on Iran and re-opening now-closed avenues to a nuclear weapon for the very country that the opponents constantly contend is a serious threat.  The principal sources of opposition have had little to do with terms of the agreement itself or with nuclear matters, even though the specte

Getting to Yes With North Korea

The new United Nations Security Council resolution on North Korea was mainly a U.S.-promoted show, even though it passed unanimously.  The principal story of the resolution concerned how severe a set of sanctions the United States could get enacted, and how much it needed to water down the resolution to get support from other members of the council and especially to avoid vetoes from China and Russia.  Press coverage of the council’s action and the diplomacy surrounding it was all about the extent of the sanctions, what they did

Storms in the Anthropocene and Post-Truth Epochs

The loss of respect for truth is one of the most consequential features of public affairs in American today.  The roots and causes of this tragic development are multiple.  The spread of social media and the related ability to spread untruths cheaply at the speed of electrons are parts of the story.  Another part is the phenomenon of fake news (real fake news, that is, not alleged fake news that is really real news that the alleger doesn’t welcome).

Haley's Dishonest Speech About the Iran Nuclear Agreement

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear program, is for Donald Trump one more of the Obama administration’s achievements to be trashed.  It goes alongside the Affordable Care Act, the Paris climate change agreement, and other measures (most recently the “dreamers” program involving children of illegal immigrants) as targets for trashing because fulfilling campaign rhetoric is given higher priority in the current administration than whether a program is

A President Without Purpose

Since early in last year’s election campaign, countless pages of commentary about Donald Trump’s presidency have taken the form that policy analysis about U.S. presidents and presidential candidates usually takes.  Purported policy objectives are identified, the basis for such objectives is discussed, and the likely strategy for attaining those objectives is explained.  Exegesis of speeches and remarks—and in Trump’s case, tweets—is performed to discern doctrine and direction.

The Safe Haven Notion

President Trump’s statement on Afghanistan has numerous shortcomings.  It portrays as a “new strategy” what is instead a familiar kicking of a can down the road.  It combines Trump’s habit of heaping blame on his predecessors with a warmed-over version of what those predecessors did in Afghanistan.  It declares a determination to “win” while leaving one guessing as to exactly what a win would mean in Afghanistan.  It fails to address underlying problems of governa

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