Paul Pillar

The Anti-ISIS Campaign: Beware the Seeds of Escalation

The wisdom of any application of military force will involve much more than the goals initially laid out and the resources initially applied to achieve those goals. Those initial conditions are only a snapshot in time of what is inevitably a dynamic process. History has repeatedly shown that overseas military endeavors have a way of becoming something much different from what they began as.

Good Regional Vibrations from a Nuclear Deal with Iran

The negotiations between Iran and the consortium known as the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany) about the future of Iran's nuclear program are inching back into the news after being largely obscured by other diplomatic tasks and events over the past couple of months. The two sides will be fully engaged in the talks during the remainder of this month, in anticipation of a late-November target date for completing a deal.

The Blurred Lines of Religious Zealotry

Last week I commented on the unhelpful habit of throwing everything Islamist, no matter how extreme or moderate, into a single conceptual bucket and writing off the whole lot as incorrigible adversaries. That habit entails a gross misunderstanding of events and conflicts in the Middle East, and has the more specific harm of aiding extreme groups at the expense of moderate ones.

We Have Met the Source of Questionable Strategy and He Is Us

The voluminous commentary about President Obama's speech on going after ISIS reflects the usual mixture of genuine policy analysis and pursuit of political agendas. A prevalent misdirection exhibited both by those politically opposed to this particular president and those who support him, as well as by many of those who are neutral, is to assume that the strategy laid out in the speech is primarily the product of Barack Obama's thinking and preferences. It isn't.

The Latest Cost of Islamophobia

Richard Cheney spoke to Republican Congressmen at the Capitol Hill Club the other day, giving them a sort of pep talk on the importance of maintaining a Cheneyite view of the world and not letting the guy in the White House be seen as taking the lead in confronting ISIS, the feared terrorist group of the moment. Mr.

Realism Versus Political Correctness in Opposing ISIS

As President Obama prepares for a speech in which he will describe his strategy for countering the group commonly known as ISIS, officials in his administration are preparing public expectations by saying the effort against ISIS may take three years to “complete.” Maybe the preparation is intended to dampen anticipation of rapid results, but it probably also is designed to cushion any sticker-shock reaction from people who will hear in the speech an effort that i

Israel's Nuclear Weapons: Widely Suspected Unmentionables

Some things, or possible things, are important enough that we would be foolish to presume or pretend that they do not exist even if we lack any official confirmation or acknowledgment that they in fact exist. One such possible thing is of high importance to security issues in the Middle East. Almost everyone outside of government who writes or speaks about these issues takes as a given that Israel has long had an arsenal of nuclear weapons. No Israeli government, however, has ever said publicly that Israel has such weapons, and neither has the U.S.

Intervention in Libya, and It Wasn't American

Within the past week the United Arab Emirates, aided by Egypt, conducted airstrikes against Islamist militias in Libya. The targeted forces are among the contestants in the surging turmoil and civil warfare in Libya. The airstrikes do not appear to be part of a large and bold new initiative by Egypt and the UAE, which did not even publicly acknowledge what they had done. Nonetheless the strikes were, as an anonymous U.S. official put it, not constructive.

ISIS in Perspective

Americans, following a long tradition of finding monsters overseas to destroy, are now focusing their attention and their energy on a relatively new one: the group variously known as ISIS or ISIL or the Islamic State. The group has become a major disruptive factor in the already disrupted internal affairs of Iraq and Syria, and it is legitimately a significant object of concern for U.S. policy as far as instability and radicalism in the Middle East are concerned. The outsized role that this group has come to play in discourse about U.S.

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