The Skeptics

How America Should Respond to North Korea in 5 Steps

As Washington debates how best to respond to North Korea's fourth nuclear test, it is worth remembering that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been a troublesome actor since its formation in 1948. In that year the Soviet Union placed a young anti-Japanese guerrilla, Kim Il-sung, in charge of what had been its occupation zone on the Korean peninsula after Japan’s surrender.

When Will China Realize Its Taiwan Strategy Failed?

After nearly eight years of merciful quiescence, the Taiwan issue threatens again to become a source of dangerous turbulence. Angry demonstrations by young Taiwanese over the past year, charging that the government of lame-duck President Ma Ying-jeou has been too accommodating toward Beijing, is one prominent indication of trouble.

Round 2 of the Iran Deal Debate in America Has Begun

On September 15, 2015, the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy achievement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, survived a bruising and partisan fight in the U.S. Congress. Millions of dollars in lobbying from special interest groups and advocacy organizations devoted to scuttling the Iranian nuclear deal proved to be insufficient to derail the administration’s own lobbying effort on Capitol Hill.

We Defeat ISIS. Then What?

A consensus has emerged in the American political community (throughout both its GOP and Democratic branches) that the United States can and should obliterate ISIS. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) assumption that inflicting a crushing defeat on the terrorist organization will solve most of our major problems in the region. For realists, this creates an eerie sense of déjà vu. We have encountered such unrealistic, often downright magical, thinking all too often before, with extremely unpleasant results.

What Difference Will 10,000 Troops Make in Afghanistan?

It has been a common refrain since America’s armored bashing of Saddam Hussein in Desert Storm that the United States has the greatest military in the history of the world. Aside from being questionable in its accuracy, this hubristic belief among American political leaders and opinion makers reveals a deeply flawed understanding of what combat power can actually achieve. It also exposes a troubling difficulty many have with understanding the difference between strategy and tactics.