Paul Pillar

The Denigration of Bureaucracy

A worthwhile take on the U.S. government bureaucracy is offered in an op ed by Paul Verkuil, former president of William and Mary and chair of the Administrative Conference of the United States. Verkuil's piece begins by referring to some of what Donald Trump has said about reducing the federal bureaucracy, but more broadly it is a response to the very widely held attitude that with regard to that work force, less is better.

Relations with Saudi Arabia are Risky as Well as Confused

Mainly because of domestic American politics and the workings of the U.S. Congress, everyone has a right to be confused about U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia, including the Saudis themselves. The first Congressional override of any veto by President Barack Obama has come on the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA); Saudi Arabia is the obvious, if unstated, target of this legislation, which permits private lawsuits against foreign governments on grounds of alleged involvement in acts of terrorism.

The Difficult Domestic Politics of Climate Change

Going into the first televised joint appearance (commonly called a debate) of the two major party presidential nominees, the 2016 election campaign has given disturbingly little attention to the looming long-term catastrophe represented by climate change. Certainly the issue deserves much more attention as measured by the relative intrinsic importance of topics that do get discussed. This includes not only diversionary topics such as Hillary Clinton's emails but also real policy issues such as ones involving the political future of Syria.

Don't Try to Imitate the Russians in Syria

Among the latest in the Washington Post editorial page's unrelenting drumbeat of criticism on Syria—which often does not make clear exactly what the United States should be doing there, except that whatever it does should involve more military force than it is using now—is a signed column by deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl, who says President Obama ought to emulate Vladimir Putin.

Our Hardliners Are Still Helping Iran's Hardliners

The unrelenting urge among American politicians to keep punishing Iran—or more precisely, to be seen supporting steps with that objective—continues to work against sensible statecraft and U.S. interests in multiple respects. One of those respects concerns how measures taken by the United States affect political competition within Iran.

Going All In With Netanyahu

The Republican Party and Republican candidates have been moving over the past few years ever more fully into the embrace of Israel's right-wing government, even more than American politicians in general do. This trend has been apparent notwithstanding the traditional preference of AIPAC, the core of the Israel lobby, to keep its support bipartisan so that its influence on U.S. policy will not be largely dependent on the success of only one U.S. party.

The Legacy of 9/11, 15 Years Later

In thinking about the significance and consequences, a decade and a half later, of the terrorist attacks known as 9/11, it is best to begin with what the attacks did not mean—despite what voluminous commentary ever since the event might lead one to believe. The attacks did not mark a major change in security threats faced by the United States or anyone else. Americans were not suddenly more in danger on September 12, 2001 than they had been on September 10, even though the reactions of many Americans would suggest that they were.

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