Paul Pillar

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”.

The Military Impulse and Hysteria Over ISIS

Emotional and ill-focused reaction to the latest mass shooting in the United States, coupled with misguided but unfortunately well-entrenched ways of thinking about terrorism and counterterrorism, along with a political campaign featuring jingoistic appeals, is increasing the pressure on the U.S. administration to embark on costly and counterproductive new endeavors in the Middle East.

It's Time to Discuss Geoengineering

Some observers of the climate conference in Paris, and of the preparations leading up to it, sense a greater degree of seriousness and commitment than they saw at earlier international gatherings on climate change. That's encouraging, although it remains to be seen what agreement, if any, will emerge from this conference now that the top leaders have given their speeches and gone home.

Terrorism in Colorado and Paris

The lethal armed attack by a troublesome drifter against a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs brings to mind two insufficiently recognized patterns about political violence and specifically terrorism, and how such violence tends to get treated in public debate and public policy. One concerns the politicization and inconsistency with which such violence is or is not actively countered and not just verbally condemned, and often with which the T-word is applied at all.

American Nativism and the Newest Surge in Xenophobia

A couple of days ago President Obama made an appropriate refinement to how he describes the discriminatory and xenophobic tendencies that have become all too obvious in debate and posturing in the United States on issues related to Syria, ISIS, the Paris attacks, and refugees. A week earlier at a press conference in Turkey, in expressing dismay at how “those who have taken on leadership” in the party of George W. Bush ignore how Mr.

The Amateurish Attacks in Paris

A strong tendency in the wake of major terrorist attacks is to associate the impact the event has on our own fears and thoughts (which generally are correlated with the number of Westerners who died in the incident) with the level of skill and sophistication of the attackers. The skill and sophistication in turn tend to be thought of as associated with the size and strength of some foreign organization that sponsored the attackers.

The Folly of an Expanded U.S. War in Syria

President Obama has repeatedly made adjustments to what he probably considered privately to have been the best U.S. policy toward armed conflicts overseas, as he has had to cope with the pressures from public discourse in Washington, to count his available political capital, and to decide which political battles to fight at home while also deciding which military battles the United States should fight abroad. He has adjusted too much in the view of some of his critics on the left, who have not been happy about the extension of the U.S.

The Paris Attacks and the Demand for Action

As usual after a terrorist event as salient and jarring as the attacks in Paris, instant analysis and exhortation have gotten well ahead of the availability of information about the genesis of the attacks. A claim statement, a general pronouncement by the French president, and the few investigative tidbits that have become public so far are not nearly enough to reach sound conclusions about exactly where and how this operation was conceived, prepared, and directed, and thus what the most appropriate policy responses to it will be.

The Gulf Arabs Slip Out of Dodge

With little notice and no fanfare, although the New York Times mentioned it the other day, the Gulf Arab states have withdrawn from significant participation in the war in Syria. This move involves in particular the air forces of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These are some of the same Arab governments that screamed long and loud about the need to do more in Syria.

Pages