Paul Pillar

Don't Take Sides in Other People's Quarrels

The recent intensification of Saudi-Iranian tension also has intensified the all-too-habitual urge, in debate about U.S. foreign policy, to take sides in other nations' conflicts even in the absence of any treaty obligations to do so or good U.S.-centered reasons to do so. That urge has multiple sources. Some may be common to humankind in general, growing out of ancient life amid warring tribes and clans. Other sources are more specific to Americans and are related to an American tendency to view the world in Manichean good-vs.-evil terms.

U.S. Intelligence Ought to Target Israel

An article in the Wall Street Journal about what the journalists describe as U.S. interception of communications of Israeli leaders has caused a stir, especially among those habitually quickest to leap to the defense of Israeli policies. We in the public do now know how much of the article's content is true; it represents one stream of reporting by one newspaper's correspondents.

Get Over It: Iran Will Have Missiles

There are several important things to understand about ballistic missiles and Iran, beyond the fact that this topic has become one of the latest on which those who want Iran to be an ostracized and feared pariah forever, and who still want to kill the agreement to restrict Iran's nuclear program, have seized.

Fantasies of a Liberal Interventionist

Ill-fated U.S. military adventures abroad have had various fathers, even though some of those fathers have tried to disavow paternity once the problems became apparent. Neoconservatives figure prominently in this story, especially given that one of the most costly misadventures in recent times, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was a distinctly neocon project.

Iran and the Misdirected New Visa Rules

The Obama administration has expressed its intention to make a needed correction, albeit only a partial one, to a badly flawed and misdirected piece of legislation that was an emotional response to fears about terrorism and that will do little or nothing to achieve its stated objective.

ISIS and the Take-Out Myth

The perceptions and the politics in the United States regarding the use of military force against the so-called Islamic State or ISIS are now clear and well-established. The issue has become a classic case of those without the responsibilities of office seizing on a matter of public fear and concern and lambasting those with such responsibilities for not doing more, with the lambasters enjoying the luxury of not having to develop specific and well-thought-out measures and not having to consider the costs, risks, effectiveness, and consequences of any such measures.

Meager Prospects for the Muslim Counterterrorist Alliance

The leaders of Saudi Arabia in particular, but also several other participants in the 34-nation anti-terrorism coalition that the Saudis put together and was announced this week, want to tell us that they are against terrorism and that they are pulling their weight in opposing it. Beyond such messaging, this new group of states—which mostly are Muslim-majority nations and all of which are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—is unlikely to amount to much.

Moving Ahead with the Climate Change Agreement

The principal significance of the Paris agreement on retarding climate change is its universality: the concurrence of all the nations in the world regarding the need for action to slow and then reverse the man-made heating of the planet. Continued differences of view based on differences of economic and developmental status have taken a back seat, more than they ever have before, to enlistment in the common cause to protect the planet's livability.

Playground Dares and the Labeling of Terrorism

One of the more inane memes in current rhetoric in the United States about terrorism is that President Obama supposedly isn't recognizing terrorist threats for what they are because he does not utter a certain phrase in talking about them. In an interview this week, for example, Ted Cruz slammed the president's recent address to the nation about terrorism because he did not use the label “radical Islamic terrorism”.

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