Paul Pillar

An Invalid Reason to Rescue Mali

Here we go again—another unstable Muslim-majority country wracked by violence and the excesses of Islamic extremists, and another round of anguishing over what the United States can do to keep the extremists from gaining more ground. We have been through this, or are still going through this, in Afghanistan, in northwest Pakistan, and in Yemen.

A Revived Radicalism

A public discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations last week was concerned with identifying particular trouble spots and troublesome issues around the world that are apt to demand policy attention during 2013. One of the speakers, David Gordon of the Eurasia Group, mentioned in passing that an issue he was not worried about this year was radicalism in developed countries. He did not specify what variety of radicalism; probably most in the room simply assumed he was referring to the Islamist variety.

Iran and the Fallacy of Saber-Rattling

Among several broadly held misconceptions about Iran is that to get Iranians to make concessions we want them to make at the negotiating table the United States must credibly threaten to inflict dire harm on them—specifically, with military force—if they do not make the concessions.

Lasting Effects of the Hagel Nomination Saga

Chuck Hagel's chances to become secretary of defense seem to be on the rise, with the biggest reason being the White House finally changing his status from prospective nominee to nominee, and as such getting fully behind him rather than holding him up as a balloon to be shot at. Just as the implications of the entire saga surrounding this nomination include far more than who will head the Department of Defense, so too will the broader enduring effects be shaped by more than the outcome of the vote on the nomination in the Senate.

More Fences

If it is possible to invest in companies that supply fencing material to the Israel government, they should be rated a “buy”. Likewise with any companies that make the components of the barriers that Israel sometimes calls fences but are actually more like walls.

Go Away, Tea Party

It is irresponsible to help create a mess and then to walk away and expect someone else to clean it up. That's true whether the mess is a spill in the kitchen or something comparably sticky, smelly or hazardous in deliberations in Congress.

They Oughta Do Something

A plebeian plaint one sometimes hears about annoyances in a local community—say, some chronic traffic trouble spot—is that “they” ought to correct the problem. The “they” presumably means someone in a position of governmental authority with the power to take action on the problem in question.

Have They No Decency?

I was born just early enough to have some faint but direct memories of the stain on American history that became known as McCarthyism. One recollection is of my parents watching on television in 1954 substantial portions of the Army-McCarthy hearings, which was the first Congressional inquiry to be nationally televised.