Paul Pillar

Foreign Conduct as a Response to U.S. Policy

Psychologists have observed that most of us favor a self-serving way of explaining the good and bad conduct of others with whom we interact. While we are quite comfortable with attributing some of the good to our own benign influence, we attribute all of the bad to the other person's character and refuse to accept that our own conduct may have influenced what the other person is doing. This phenomenon arises frequently in foreign affairs. It is common with, for example, American perceptions of anti-U.S. international terrorism.

Why, and How, Congress Should Enact an AUMF

The request by a U.S. Army captain to a federal court for a declaratory judgment about his constitutional duties regarding going to war is the latest reminder of the unsatisfactory situation in which the United States is engaged in military operations in multiple overseas locales without any authorization other than a couple of outdated and obsolete Congressional resolutions whose relevance is questionable at best. Of the many ways in which the U.S.

Illusion Meets Reality in the Green Zone

The temporary takeover of the Iraqi parliament building and other facilities in the fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad by followers of Muqtada al-Sadr was a demonstration not only of current fractures in Iraqi politics but also of a recurring American misconception about the application of military force on behalf of political objectives. Military force is, as Clausewitz teaches us, a tool to be employed on behalf of political objectives, but the misconceptions begin when faith is placed in the ability of military force to solve problems that are still more political than military.

The False Impasse Over Aid to Israel

With most stalemated international negotiations, the reasons for both the impasse and the continuation of talks are easy to understand. A range of possible agreed outcomes exists, with some more favorable to one party and some more favorable to the other, and with each side naturally trying to get as good a deal as it can. For each party, there is at least some possible agreement that would be better than no agreement at all. The parties keep bargaining because each would lose something if they failed to reach an agreement.

Trouble Brewing in Egypt

With U.S. attention toward the Middle East being recently focused on such matters as warfare in Syria and Iraq and on the relationship with Saudi Arabia, little attention span is left over for the relationship with the most populous Arab nation. But developments in Egypt have, in multiple respects, significant capacity for creating attention-grabbing problems for Washington in addition to problems to which Egypt already is contributing in significant though less salient ways.

U.S. Sanctions Spite Europe, Not Just Iran

Evidence continues to mount on how lopsided has been the implementation so far of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a.k.a. the Iran nuclear agreement, with Iran's rigorous carrying out of its obligations regarding its nuclear program being unmatched by the sort of financial and commercial opening to Iran that was a fundamental part of the bargain that was struck. The extensive and complicated U.S.-imposed sanctions are still the chief impediment to implementation, thus continuing to demonstrate how U.S.

Hillary the Hawk

Mark Landler has an interesting extended article in the New York Times about how Hillary Clinton came to views about the use of military force that have made her, in Landler's words, “the last true hawk left” in this year's presidential race.

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