Paul Pillar

Getting to Yes With North Korea

The new United Nations Security Council resolution on North Korea was mainly a U.S.-promoted show, even though it passed unanimously.  The principal story of the resolution concerned how severe a set of sanctions the United States could get enacted, and how much it needed to water down the resolution to get support from other members of the council and especially to avoid vetoes from China and Russia.  Press coverage of the council’s action and the diplomacy surrounding it was all about the extent of the sanctions, what they did

Storms in the Anthropocene and Post-Truth Epochs

The loss of respect for truth is one of the most consequential features of public affairs in American today.  The roots and causes of this tragic development are multiple.  The spread of social media and the related ability to spread untruths cheaply at the speed of electrons are parts of the story.  Another part is the phenomenon of fake news (real fake news, that is, not alleged fake news that is really real news that the alleger doesn’t welcome).

Haley's Dishonest Speech About the Iran Nuclear Agreement

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement that limits Iran’s nuclear program, is for Donald Trump one more of the Obama administration’s achievements to be trashed.  It goes alongside the Affordable Care Act, the Paris climate change agreement, and other measures (most recently the “dreamers” program involving children of illegal immigrants) as targets for trashing because fulfilling campaign rhetoric is given higher priority in the current administration than whether a program is

A President Without Purpose

Since early in last year’s election campaign, countless pages of commentary about Donald Trump’s presidency have taken the form that policy analysis about U.S. presidents and presidential candidates usually takes.  Purported policy objectives are identified, the basis for such objectives is discussed, and the likely strategy for attaining those objectives is explained.  Exegesis of speeches and remarks—and in Trump’s case, tweets—is performed to discern doctrine and direction.

The Safe Haven Notion

President Trump’s statement on Afghanistan has numerous shortcomings.  It portrays as a “new strategy” what is instead a familiar kicking of a can down the road.  It combines Trump’s habit of heaping blame on his predecessors with a warmed-over version of what those predecessors did in Afghanistan.  It declares a determination to “win” while leaving one guessing as to exactly what a win would mean in Afghanistan.  It fails to address underlying problems of governa

Netanyahu's Priorities and U.S. Responses

Recently I wrote about the two-sided Saudi policy on Iran, in which Riyadh sees good reason to take quiet steps to reduce tension with its neighbor across the Persian Gulf while still making alarm about a supposed Iranian threat the basis for keeping the United States tied to its side.  But Saudi Arabia (along with its partners in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain) is not the only party in the region to exploit an anti-Iran theme as a basis for retaining U.S.

Why the Adults are Not Reining in Trump

Optimism has repeatedly been expressed, especially after any qualified and respected person has been appointed to a senior position in the current administration, that the “adults in the room” will check the excesses and compensate for the deficiencies of a blatantly unqualified president.  Hope placed on the four-star shoulders of John Kelly as he assumed duties of White House chief of staff is a recent example.

Hezbollah and the Simplistic School of Counterterrorism

Last month President Trump made a joint appearance at the White House with a visiting head of government, during which Trump spoke of the visitor’s country being “on the front lines in the fight against” an organization that is part of that same country’s governing coalition.  The visitor was Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the organization was Hezbollah.  Members of Hezbollah are ministers in Hariri’s cabinet.  Hezbollah has the fourth largest b

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