The Skeptics

Western Whining Won't Stop North Korea's Nukes

Washington has long told the rest of the world what to do. But the world usually pays little attention. When ignored, U.S. officials typically talk tougher and louder, with no better result.

This approach describes American policy toward North Korea. It would be better for Washington to say nothing than to frantically denounce every provocation. The United States and its allies typically respond with angry complaints and empty threats, which only encourages the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to provoke again.

Trump and Obama: On Foreign Policy, Two Peas in a Pod

There are two lines of effort in the current campaign against Republican nominee Donald Trump. First, his Democratic opponents stigmatize him as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s lackey, as someone who would be ready to appease the aggressor in the Kremlin. Second, they contrast him with Barack Obama, a supposed Russia skeptic, and let’s-get-tough-with-Putin Hillary Clinton. These attacks should make sense only to someone who has been under coma in the last eight years. In fact, Trump’s differences on foreign policy with Obama are as much style as substance.

Realism's Gaping Blind Spots—And How to Fix Them

Although it has a hoary past, going back to Machiavelli and Hobbes, in its most recent incarnation, “realism” was devised as an explanatory tool primarily by American scholars of international relations and practitioners of diplomacy in the Cold War era, thus reflecting the primary concerns of its epoch. This era ended with the demise of the Soviet Union and the retrenchment of Russian power. The explanatory power of the American version of realism, which, as will be discussed, limited even during the Cold War period, was seriously undermined by the end of it.

If China Doesn't Like THAAD, It Should Squeeze North Korea

Beijing is agitated about the decision by the United States and South Korea to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system. Although the principal impetus for the THAAD deployment seems to have been North Korea’s increasingly erratic and provocative behavior, Chinese leaders suspect that the system is at least indirectly aimed at their country.

How Bush's Bad Idea that Turkey Could Join the EU Bombed

It was 2004, and the geopolitical chess pieces were positioned very differently from how they are today. Back then, Turkey wanted to join the European Union, Great Britain thought that that was a magnificent idea and France was skeptical. Oddest of all, the most vocal advocacy for Turkish accession and democratic reform came from an unlikely alliance of then-president George W. Bush and then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The High Costs and Limited Benefits of America’s Alliances

The United States stands at the center of a far flung global alliance system, which commits it to defend the security of countries rich and poor, great and small, liberal and illiberal. The principal U.S. formal alliances are the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S.-Japan security treaty, the Republic of Korea Treaty, and the Australia-New Zealand (ANZUS) treaty. The United States has less formal relationships with Israel and several Arab states, and many others around the world. The foreign-policy establishment insists that all of these alliances are central to our security.

Is Primacy Overrated?

Power can be both absolute and relative. A state's absolute power can increase while its relative power declines; or its absolute power can diminish while its relative power increases. I suspect the United States will be in the second situation in the twenty-first century. America's ability to influence world events will increasingly diminish, but the power of other great states and blocs of states will diminish even further, leaving America in relative terms more powerful than before, to less and less effect.