Countering Putin

It’s one thing to act as one thinks a great power would act. It’s another to be acknowledged as a great power. Vladimir Putin thinks a great power would freely take a bite of a neighbor’s land, intervene on behalf of a client, and flaunt its cruise missiles. But the real prize is negotiating with other great powers over spheres of interest. The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

But the great powers, particularly the United States, are not cooperating. Read More

Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy and the Washington Playbook

Jeffrey Goldberg has written an outstanding summary of President Barack Obama’s approach to foreign policy. Goldberg deserves much credit for conveying ideas that he does not fully agree with. The picture agrees closely with the one I have been building in my mind from observing Obama’s actions and speeches. So much so that I withdrew an article I had written from consideration at another publication because what Goldberg wrote made my speculations obsolete. I agree with Paul Pillar’s summary of the article’s high points. Read More

Russian And American Interests In Syria

Realist political thought is said to focus on national interests. But you wouldn’t know that from recent commentary, like Stephen Walt’s piece touting Vladimir Putin as a master strategist and Barack Obama as bumbler. Or Edward Luttwak’s paen to Putin’s strategic brilliance. Both Walt and Luttwak are regarded as being of the realist foreign policy school, but neither seems to consider national interests. Rather, they focus on – well, both articles are conceptual messes, so it’s hard to tell what they are focusing on. But it’s not national interests, unless you define national interest, as many are doing these days, in terms of the nebulous “reputation.” Read More