Paul Pillar

Obama's Realism

Edward Luce in the Financial Times has a take on Barack Obama's foreign policy that is accurate and should be evident to all. But given the state of foreign policy discourse within American politics, perhaps it is not surprising that it falls to a longtime foreign observer of American policy and politics to make this particular observation. Luce states that as Mr.

Yemen and the American Impulse to Take Sides

A strong Manichean streak runs through American perceptions of the outside world.  That streak involves a habit of seeing all conflict and instability in binomial terms, a presumption that one of the perceived two sides is good and the other bad, and an urge to weigh in on the presumptively good side. The influence that these tendencies have had on U.S. policy has varied over time. The influence was readily apparent, for example, during the George W.

America's Not-So-Ultimate Weapon: Economic Warfare

The roots and manifestations of American exceptionalist thinking go way back. One of those manifestations is the use of economic measures as a weapon intended to coerce or deny. The specific thinking involved is that such measures employed by the United States, and even the United States alone, should be enough to induce or force change in other countries.

Fearing Success of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement

Those determined to kill any agreement with Iran have trotted out a succession of rationales for doing so but have kept their focus firmly fixed on the U.S. Congress. That is hardly surprising, given that both houses of Congress are now controlled by the anti-Obama party and Congress is where the lobby that acts on behalf of the right-wing government in Israel exerts its power most directly. There have been multiple legislative vehicles that the anti-agreement forces have tried to use.

Netanyahu's Latest Challenge to Obama

Faced with an unexpectedly tough electoral challenge, (at least according to Israeli opinion polls, however unreliable they later turned out to be) Benjamin Netanyahu in the closing days of his campaign decided that his best chance to stay in power would be to tack firmly to the Right—the hardest, narrowest, most intractable, and most prejudiced Right.

Why Nations (Including the U.S. and Iran) Comply With Their Agreements

Much of the latest discourse about a prospective nuclear agreement with Iran—with commentary on whether future U.S. presidents could renege on an agreement, on whether an agreement would be binding or non-binding, and so forth—reflects misconceptions on why nations observe international agreements to which they are party, and misconceptions even of the very nature of international agreements.

The Damage to U.S. Interests Abroad of Domestic Political Intemperance

Tom Cotton's sophomoric stunt of an open letter to the Iranians telling them not to have confidence in whatever the United States puts on the negotiating table has received the broad and swift condemnation it deserves. Some of the strong criticism has come from editorial pages and other sources of commentary that generally are not very friendly toward the Obama administration in general or even to its policies on Iran in particular.

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