Paul Pillar

The Guantanamo Political Game

The national disgrace that is the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay is still in operation largely because of another familiar national disgrace, which is partisan gamesmanship. At his press conference this week President Obama stated accurately the multiple reasons, which include significant political damage to U.S.

Syria and WMD Inconsistency in the Middle East

Once again people are getting spun up over elusive details about what a Middle Eastern regime is or is not doing regarding unconventional weapons. Participants in public debates over policy get seized with questions such as the significance of a soil sample or whether certain victims of Syria's civil war had dilated pupils.

The Iraqi Civil War, Round Two

The most prominent civil wars in recent years have not started with a clear, firing-on-Fort-Sumter beginning. Instead they have been slid into as protests grow, confrontations between the regime and an opposition become more physical, and the government's use of lethal force is increasingly matched by oppositionists firing back.

The Backdoor-to-War Resolution

Members of Congress, as we all know, are fond of making political gestures to play to whatever audience they are trying to play to. In private conversation members can be quite candid about this and will exhibit a bifurcated approach to their jobs in which the world of gesture-making is divorced from the world of sound policy-making.

The Post-Terrorist Incident Drill

Reactions to the bombs at the Boston Marathon have quickly fallen into a familiar pattern. It is as if there were a manual that politicians, journalists and others involved in the reacting pull off the shelf after any terrorist attack to help them script their comments and their questions. There are, first of all, ritual denunciations that use a well-worn vocabulary.