Tag Archives: Bush

Iraq: Would we choose war again?

By Graham Allison If we had known then what we know now, would we choose war again? In the real world, foreign policy-making often requires hard choices, sometimes between bad and worse.  After the fact, even the most objective analysts … Continue reading >

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“Wretched Excesses” among responses to 9/11: Richard Clarke

The Power Problem: Part of a series of views on lessons learned in the exercise of American power in the decade since 9/11. Richard A. Clarke, who was the White House counter-terrorism adviser on Sept. 11, 2001, offers a withering … Continue reading >

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Libya: matching goals with means

There is no question that Libya would be better off without Qaddafi. The more poignant question is whether his removal warrants more extensive use of American power and action – and whether the United States is willing to bear further responsibility for what comes after Qaddafi.

Just weeks into the intervention, the lack of clear goals is already muddying the waters and further complicating an already complex situation. Most Americans, and presumably nearly all Libyans, interpreted President Obama’s statement that it is time for Qaddafi to go not as an indication of the president’s personal preferences, but as a declaration of U.S. policy. President Obama is not the first U.S. president to call for a regime’s removal, but to be unwilling to commit extensive U.S. resources to the purpose. Nor is he the first U.S. president to hold a more ambitious goal toward a recalcitrant regime than the United Nations or U.S. allies. President Clinton made regime change an explicit American objective vis-à-vis Iraq in the 1990s, even while the international community was focused on disarmament. President Reagan, for a time, openly called for regime change in Libya in the 1980s, later softening this stance.

But President Obama’s disconnect between rhetoric and actions is likely harder for Americans to process, given that the United States and its allies are already involved openly and militarily in a hot civil war. Under these circumstances, it is harder for the Obama administration to embrace the goal of regime change, but to be unwilling to do more to advance it in the face of what many perceive as open opportunities to do so. Some people will see the Obama administration as already half-pregnant with the Libyan opposition fetus. Continue reading >

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Eight lessons for Obama from Iraq and Afghanistan

Last week, President Obama made a compelling case for why he authorized force in Libya.  In doing so, he sought to assure the American people that this intervention was prudent and bore no resemblance to the controversial and costly wars … Continue reading >

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Disagreeing with Joe Nye

As a colleague who has been learning from Joe Nye for many years, I join the chorus applauding his latest in a string of pearls of wisdom about power in international affairs.  The Future of Power is a must-read.  Imaginatively, judiciously, Joe tours the horizon of current debates and offers thoughtful, policy-relevant advice.

From questions about the rise of China and decline of the U.S., to cyberspace and changing metrics of power in 21st century international affairs, he advances the debate.

With so much to agree with, what’s to disagree?  While my major difference is more one of emphasis than fundamentals, let me overstate it for the sake of clarity.  Consider the core question: what is the single biggest threat to American power and security today?

Interestingly, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has answered this question unambiguously.  As Mullen has stated on several occasions, his considered judgment is that “the single biggest threat to American national security is our debt.”  By debt he means not only the current mountain of nearly $14 trillion of gross federal debt that has accumulated mostly over the past decade, but also the current trajectory that will add an additional $1.5 trillion this year, and even worse, embedded trendlines in spending and taxing that are undermining America’s balance sheet.

In the words of our colleague Larry Summers, who just returned from Washington: “Is there not something odd about the world’s greatest power being the world’s greatest debtor?”

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