Paul Pillar

ISIS and the Take-Out Myth

The perceptions and the politics in the United States regarding the use of military force against the so-called Islamic State or ISIS are now clear and well-established. The issue has become a classic case of those without the responsibilities of office seizing on a matter of public fear and concern and lambasting those with such responsibilities for not doing more, with the lambasters enjoying the luxury of not having to develop specific and well-thought-out measures and not having to consider the costs, risks, effectiveness, and consequences of any such measures.

Meager Prospects for the Muslim Counterterrorist Alliance

The leaders of Saudi Arabia in particular, but also several other participants in the 34-nation anti-terrorism coalition that the Saudis put together and was announced this week, want to tell us that they are against terrorism and that they are pulling their weight in opposing it. Beyond such messaging, this new group of states—which mostly are Muslim-majority nations and all of which are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—is unlikely to amount to much.

Moving Ahead with the Climate Change Agreement

The principal significance of the Paris agreement on retarding climate change is its universality: the concurrence of all the nations in the world regarding the need for action to slow and then reverse the man-made heating of the planet. Continued differences of view based on differences of economic and developmental status have taken a back seat, more than they ever have before, to enlistment in the common cause to protect the planet's livability.

Playground Dares and the Labeling of Terrorism

One of the more inane memes in current rhetoric in the United States about terrorism is that President Obama supposedly isn't recognizing terrorist threats for what they are because he does not utter a certain phrase in talking about them. In an interview this week, for example, Ted Cruz slammed the president's recent address to the nation about terrorism because he did not use the label “radical Islamic terrorism”.

The Military Impulse and Hysteria Over ISIS

Emotional and ill-focused reaction to the latest mass shooting in the United States, coupled with misguided but unfortunately well-entrenched ways of thinking about terrorism and counterterrorism, along with a political campaign featuring jingoistic appeals, is increasing the pressure on the U.S. administration to embark on costly and counterproductive new endeavors in the Middle East.

It's Time to Discuss Geoengineering

Some observers of the climate conference in Paris, and of the preparations leading up to it, sense a greater degree of seriousness and commitment than they saw at earlier international gatherings on climate change. That's encouraging, although it remains to be seen what agreement, if any, will emerge from this conference now that the top leaders have given their speeches and gone home.

Terrorism in Colorado and Paris

The lethal armed attack by a troublesome drifter against a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs brings to mind two insufficiently recognized patterns about political violence and specifically terrorism, and how such violence tends to get treated in public debate and public policy. One concerns the politicization and inconsistency with which such violence is or is not actively countered and not just verbally condemned, and often with which the T-word is applied at all.

American Nativism and the Newest Surge in Xenophobia

A couple of days ago President Obama made an appropriate refinement to how he describes the discriminatory and xenophobic tendencies that have become all too obvious in debate and posturing in the United States on issues related to Syria, ISIS, the Paris attacks, and refugees. A week earlier at a press conference in Turkey, in expressing dismay at how “those who have taken on leadership” in the party of George W. Bush ignore how Mr.

The Amateurish Attacks in Paris

A strong tendency in the wake of major terrorist attacks is to associate the impact the event has on our own fears and thoughts (which generally are correlated with the number of Westerners who died in the incident) with the level of skill and sophistication of the attackers. The skill and sophistication in turn tend to be thought of as associated with the size and strength of some foreign organization that sponsored the attackers.