Combating Proliferation: Strategic Intelligence and Security Policy

Proflieration, Threats

Combating Proliferation: Strategic Intelligence and Security Policy

The intelligence community’s flawed assessment of Iraq’s weapons systems―and the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in part based on those assessments―illustrates the political and policy challenges of combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In this comprehensive assessment, defense policy specialists Jason Ellis and Geoffrey Kiefer find disturbing trends in both the collection and analysis of intelligence and in its use in the development and implementation of security policy.

Analyzing a broad range of recent case studies―Pakistan’s development of nuclear weapons, North Korea’s defiance of U.N. watchdogs, Russia’s transfer of nuclear and missile technology to Iran and China’s to Pakistan, the Soviet biological warfare program, weapons inspections in Iraq, and others―the authors find that intelligence collection and analysis relating to WMD proliferation are becoming more difficult, that policy toward rogue states and regional allies requires difficult tradeoffs, and that using military action to fight nuclear proliferation presents intractable operational challenges.

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America in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy

Diplomacy, Policies

America in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy

In approaching his ambitious subject, Zoellick combines a practitioner’s wisdom, gleaned from half a dozen jobs in senior government posts, with scholarly research and deep knowledge of how Washington works. The book is not quite what the title promises, instead offering a highly selective retelling of notable incidents in U.S. diplomacy. The rationale for what Zoellick includes and omits is not always clear.

His chapters on the pathbreaking contributions of three secretaries of state—Elihu Root, who served under President Theodore Roosevelt and championed international law, Charles Evans Hughes, who served in the 1920s and secured agreements on arms control, and Cordell Hull, who served under President Franklin Roosevelt and helped lay the groundwork for the postwar liberal order—are particularly interesting, as is his treatment of the science administrator Vannevar Bush, whose work under Roosevelt during World War II laid the foundation for later U.S. preeminence in science and technology.

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For the Sake of Justice

Justice, Policies

For the Sake of Justice

In 1993, Stephen Breyer, then the chief justice for the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, was hit by a car while riding his bike. He suffered a few broken ribs and a punctured lung. Despite the accident, Breyer left his hospital bed just a few days later and traveled to the White House to interview with President Bill Clinton about an opening on the US Supreme Court.

The interview didn’t go as Breyer might have hoped. Clinton ended up choosing Ruth Bader Ginsburg to fill the vacancy left by Byron White’s retirement. But a year later, another Supreme Court justice retired: Harry Blackmun. Blackmun, of course, was the conservative Nixon appointee who famously became a liberal stalwart on the bench. It was Blackmun who wrote the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, which, I’m sure, is not something Nixon had in mind when he appointed him.

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What are the real reasons behind the New Cold War?

China, Demographic, Russia, State War, Threats

What are the real reasons behind the New Cold War?

The announcement on April 15 by President Biden that this administration was expelling 10 Kremlin diplomats and imposing new sanctions for alleged Russian interference in the 2020 U.S. elections–to which Russia replied with a tit for tat–came just days after the Pentagon conducted military drills in the South China Sea. These actions were but the latest escalation of aggressive posturing as Washington ramps up its “New Cold War” against Russia and China, pushing the world dangerously towards international political and military conflagration.

Most observers attribute this US-instigated war to rivalry and competition over hegemony and international economic control. These factors are important, but there is a bigger picture that has been largely overlooked of what is driving this process: the crisis of global capitalism.

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The Politics of Post-Pandemic Education

Education, Policies

The Politics of Post-Pandemic Education

Spring break usually means a giddy escape from the classroom for children across America. This year, however, the millions of students who have not set foot in a classroom since last spring are celebrating by closing their laptops for a few days. Many of these students have no prospect of returning to class anytime soon — and their pandemic-shuttered schools have become the focus of an ugly battle among teachers’ unions, school boards, parents, and elected officials about how, and when, they should reopen.

As the politics of reopening have grown increasingly antagonistic and personal,[1] the pandemic is blurring partisan and racial cleavages around public education and creating new coalitions that could remain powerful players in local education politics. At stake is the fate of our public education system itself.

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The Cold War’s Lessons for U.S.-China Diplomacy

Diplomacy, Policies

The Cold War’s Lessons for U.S.-China Diplomacy

In 1948, President Harry Truman’s diplomats approached representatives of Joseph Stalin with an offer to discuss the many issues dividing the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Soviet dictator responded with a simple “ha ha,” and 40 years of Cold War ensued.

That episode seemed newly resonant earlier this month, when a meeting between American and Chinese officials in Alaska turned into a televised airing of grievances. This tussle in the tundra signaled that there will be no “reset” between Washington and Beijing; a period of high-tempo competition is upon us. But Cold War history shows that diplomacy can still play a critical role, if U.S. officials view negotiation as a tool of competition rather than a replacement for it.

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Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (Nation Books)

Terrorism, Threats

Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (Nation Books)

When Gore Vidal’s recent New York Times bestseller Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace was published, the Los Angeles Times described Vidal as the last defender of the American republic. In Dreaming War, Vidal continues this defense by confronting the Cheney-Bush junta head on in a series of devastating essays that demolish the lies American Empire lives by, unveiling a counter-history that traces the origins of America’s current imperial ambitions to the experience of World War Two and the post-war Truman doctrine.

And now, with the Cheney-Bush leading us into permanent war, Vidal asks whose interests are served by this doctrine of pre-emptive war? Was Afghanistan turned to rubble to avenge the 3,000 slaughtered on September 11? Or was “the unlovely Osama chosen on aesthetic grounds to be the frightening logo for our long contemplated invasion and conquest of Afghanistan?” After all he was abruptly replaced with Saddam Hussein once the Taliban were overthrown.

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Statecraft: And How to Restore America’s Standing in the World

Diplomacy, Policies

Statecraft: And How to Restore America’s Standing in the World

How did it come to pass that, not so long after 9/11 brought the free world to our side, U.S. foreign policy is in a shambles? In this thought-provoking book, the renowned peace negotiator Dennis Ross argues that the Bush administration’s problems stem from its inability to use the tools of statecraft–diplomatic, economic, and military–to advance our interests.

Statecraft is as old as politics: Plato wrote about it, Machiavelli practiced it. After the demise of Communism, some predicted that statecraft would wither away. But Ross explains that in the globalized world–with its fluid borders, terrorist networks, and violent unrest–statecraft is necessary simply to keep the pea

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The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib

Other Atrocities, Threats

The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib

The Torture Papers document the so-called ‘torture memos’ and reports which US government officials wrote to prepare the way for, and to document, coercive interrogation and torture in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib. These documents present for the first time a compilation of materials that prior to publication have existed only piecemeal in the public domain.

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