Let’s get this out of the way first: President Donald Trump didn’t actually say the words “red line.” In fact, he, his National Security Advisor, and his Secretary of State say so many different things that it can be hard to tell whether there are red lines, let alone where they are.
In August 2012, President Barack Obama explicitly laid down a red line to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria: Move chemical weapons around, and we will strike. A few days later, Assad brutally killed over a thousand people in Ghouta with sarin. Congress and allied nations were reluctant to back a military strike in response. But then Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offered another response: Syria would join the Chemical Weapons Convention and give up its stock of chemical weapons and the means to make more. Read More
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