Defense Priorities, September 10, 2021
America’s war in Afghanistan exhibits the danger of prolonging a combat mission past the point where its objective can be clearly defined and verifiably achieved, even when a record of success to date makes the cost of continuing into the future appear to be low.
Foreign Affairs, September 9, 2021 (with Joshua Shifrinson)
The Biden who terminated the United States’ longest war has been hiding in plain sight. Throughout his career, Biden has put the pragmatic pursuit of national security over foreign policy orthodoxy. For more than a decade, that calculus has made him a critic of regime-change wars and other efforts to promote American values by military force.
Foreign Policy, September 8, 2021
It is finally possible to say, 20 years later, that 9/11 has shattered the U.S. pretension to global indispensability.
The New York Times, August 25, 2021
The responsibility to declare war rightly belongs to Congress, and if Congress keeps passing the buck, then Mr. Biden, his successor or the voting public ought to insist that it fulfill its obligations. Otherwise, a lone individual will continue to direct the largest military the world has ever seen, while 333 million Americans fight, pay, and mostly watch our wars unfold.
New York Magazine, August 19, 2021
The very concept of “engagement” across borders has been corrupted to prize coercion and to scorn constructive cooperation. This moment demands a wholesale change in how the United States conceives of international engagement, both to meet immediate crises and to recast American foreign policy thereafter.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 18, 2021
What is unfolding in Afghanistan is so tragic that it ought to represent the worst possible outcome. And yet, one alternative was worse still: continuing the U.S. war effort. That would have meant sending more U.S. service members to kill and be killed for the sole purpose of slowing the Afghan government’s defeat.
The Washington Post, August 18, 2021
You don’t get to lose a war and expect the result to look like you’ve won it. That is the terrible truth that the collapse of the Afghan government has proved but that some in Washington continue to refuse to accept.
The Washington Post, August 1, 2021, B1-3
After decades of massive and routinized killing sold as virtue, Trump at least recognized that U.S. warmaking looked like liberation principally to a small cadre in Washington.
Prospect, August/September 2021, 66-73
Spectacular ambitions produced interminable conflict. Shock and awe yielded to endless war. The very bid for indispensability left Americans doubting both their power in the world and their status as an example to it.
The New York Times, June 14, 2021
It’s time for Americans to recover their critical faculties when they hear “NATO,” a military alliance that cements European division, bombs the Middle East, burdens the United States and risks great-power war — of which Americans should want no part.
The Nation, June 7, 2021
In an age of climate change and pandemic disease—universal dangers with differential impacts—an effective internationalism will respect the genuine interests of nations but redefine and then harness them.
Aufbau, June 4, 2021, 6-8
Die 1940 entwickelte Doktrin militärischer Dominanz bleibt Grundlage der amerikanischen Aussenpolitik. Ein Umdenken wäre längst überfällig. Ob Joe Biden als Präsident dazu willens ist, erscheint unklar.
The Guardian, April 19, 2021 (with Adam Weinstein)
Now the Taliban is poised to take the offensive and could target Americans on the way out. Whether that happens or not, one thing is certain: those who got the United States into its quintessential forever war will do their utmost to block the exit.
Foreign Policy, April 16, 2021
President Biden has not just decided to withdraw all U.S. troops, scrapping his campaign plan to leave residual forces behind. He has also delivered a methodical debunking of the forever-war mindset that has prevailed for decades. After the United States ends one endless war, what might come next?
The New York Times, February 24, 2021, A23
What matters is whether the Biden administration will actually make America — No. 1 in armed force and arms dealing — less violent in the world. In that regard, Biden’s larger vision, of the United States dividing the globe into subordinate allies and multiplying adversaries, and shouldering the burdens toward both, remains troubling, no matter how high-minded his rhetoric or diplomatic his actions.
Foreign Affairs, January 25, 2021
The Biden administration enters office intending to restore American primacy, not preside over its destruction. Yet realities will intrude. As Biden addresses urgent priorities in his early days — repairing democracy at home, ending a mass-killing pandemic, averting climate chaos, rescuing U.S. diplomacy — he will find, if he takes a hard look, that the burdens of primacy contradict his own goals at every turn.
The Guardian, December 22, 2020 (with David Adler)
The commanding crises of our century cannot be found in the conflict between countries. Instead, they are common among them. The American people will be secured not by any “complete victory” over external adversaries but by a sustained commitment to improve life in the US and cooperate as a partner across traditional boundaries of U.S. diplomacy.
Foreign Policy, November 25, 2020 (with Benjamin H. Friedman)
As he left office, President Barack Obama criticized what he called “the Washington playbook” for reflexively prescribing “militarized responses” to world events. Obama was right then and is only more so today. Overextended abroad, the United States has urgent needs at home, starting with recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. But the old playbook will invariably reappear, given its popularity among foreign-policy hands and, more fundamentally, the temptation U.S. power creates to meddle and boss others around. When this happens, the Biden administration will need to be ready to say no — no to unnecessary wars and no to further U.S. military overstretch.
The New York Times, October 16, 2020, A29
Eighty years ago, as it prepared to enter World War II, the United States made a fateful choice not only to pursue military supremacy but also to sustain it long into the future. This decision, tragic even then, has become immobilizing now. It has caused America’s leaders to see armed dominance as the only way the United States can relate to the world.
The New Yorker, October 1, 2020
As the war on terror loses its emotive force, American leaders cast fellow-citizens as akin to foreign enemies. Senators call for an “overwhelming show of force” against protesters with the knee-jerk zeal once reserved for distant peoples. Endless war has not merely come home; endless war increasingly is home. American politics has taken on the qualities of American wars.
New Statesman, September 23, 2020, 13-14
This year, for the first time ever, the presidential nominees of both major parties are promising to end the “endless” or “forever” wars in which they acknowledge their nation to be engaged.
The Guardian, August 18, 2020
Biden is not the future of the Democratic party, and everyone knows it, including him. Those who seek realism and restraint in military affairs, and peaceful engagement on common challenges, should see his potential administration as an invitation.
Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica, Julio-Septiembre 2020, 137-146
La estrategia de Washington posterior a la Guerra Fría ha fracasado. Estados Unidos debe abandonar la cruzada por la primacía armamentista en aras de proteger el planeta y crear más oportunidades para más personas.
RealClear Defense, July 22, 2020
Because their leaders prize armed dominance, the American people are unsafe where they live and work.
The New York Times, May 11, 2020, A27 (with Rachel Esplin Odell)
Decades from today, the pandemic should be remembered as the crucible of effective international cooperation against 21st-century threats. So far, it looks more like we are choosing to make the threats worse and create new perils.
Foreign Affairs, March/April 2020, 19-29
Washington’s post–Cold War strategy has failed. The United States should abandon the quest for armed primacy in favor of protecting the planet and creating more opportunity for more people. It needs a grand strategy for the many.
Responsible Statecraft, March 9, 2020
Biden offers a proudly restorationist foreign policy. His main pitch is to bring back U.S. global “leadership” after its supposed Trumpian aberration, rather than to deliver what the American people need and increasingly demand: a clean break from decades of policy failure, to which Biden himself has contributed.
Responsible Statecraft, January 7, 2020
Donald Trump’s Iran policy — the current policy of the United States — is driven by a thirst for vengeance and domination. Of course Trump has no coherent strategy, makes slipshod decisions, and flouts the law. That is the point.
The Washington Post, December 15, 2019, B1-2 (with Samuel Moyn)
There is a reason the quagmire in Afghanistan, despite costing thousands of lives and $2 trillion, has failed to shock Americans into action: The United States for decades has made peace look unimaginable or unobtainable. We have normalized war.
Quincy Institute video
Foreign Policy, October 18, 2019 (with Trita Parsi)
Trump and his interventionist critics share a fatal flaw. They fetishize armed force as the acid test of U.S. engagement and influence. As a result, both sides treat the deployment or removal of troops as the only act that really matters. And they denigrate the one tool that’s actually capable of resolving conflicts and comporting with U.S. interests: diplomacy.
The New York Times, September 15, 2019, SR7
Like the demand to tame the 1 percent, or the insistence that black lives matter, ending endless war sounds commonsensical but its implications are transformational. It requires more than bringing ground troops home from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. American war-making will persist so long as the United States continues to seek military dominance across the globe. Dominance, assumed to ensure peace, in fact guarantees war.
The Washington Post, August 30, 2019
Might there exist a choice besides armed domination or total isolation? The American people have heard enough from those who dismiss as “isolationist” anyone who objects to the use of force. If it remains impermissible to oppose war anywhere, the United States will end up waging war everywhere.
The Guardian, July 1, 2019 (with Mark Hannah)
Democrats need to articulate a positive vision that combines peaceful engagement with military restraint — an American internationalism fit for the 21st century. Otherwise Trump’s nativist pitch will stand alone as the alternative to establishment platitudes.
The New York Times, June 9, 2019, SR4
Led by President Trump, Washington is swiftly and decisively turning against the world’s No. 2 power. That could be disastrous.
The New Republic, April 2019, 10-11
Trump and the establishment are one in assuming that the United States must maintain global military dominance, regardless of circumstances, forever. It is long past time to question this assumption.
The New York Times, February 26, 2019
Foreign policy hands are putting forward something like opposite diagnoses of America’s failure and opposite prescriptions for the future. One camp holds that the United States erred by coddling China and Russia, and urges a new competition against these great power rivals. The other camp, which says the United States has been too belligerent and ambitious around the world, counsels restraint, not another crusade against grand enemies.
The Guardian, February 16, 2019 (with Trita Parsi)
Democratic voters seek genuine alternatives, not the continuation of a one-party DC elite that assumes its right to rule and rules badly to boot. But the Democratic establishment is moving in the opposite direction.
Foreign Policy, February 4, 2019 (with Trita Parsi)
Over the past six months, Democratic politicians and experts have repeatedly urged this most impulsive and unprincipled of presidents to undertake more international conflict, not less. As progressives seek to develop a new foreign policy, they should reject the party’s drift toward belligerence and rescue diplomacy from Trump and the Democratic establishment alike.
The New York Review of Books, January 2, 2019
Trump has forced neoconservatives to decide, for the first time, whether they are more against “totalitarianism” or “globalism.” If anti-totalitarians take Trump to be perverting what they hold dear, anti-globalist neocons have found in Trump a kindred spirit and vehicle for power.
War on the Rocks, August 6, 2018
Despite claiming a seven-decade pedigree, the defense of the “liberal order” is surprisingly vulnerable to attack from each side, for it offers a nationalism that dares not to speak its name, and an internationalism afraid to walk the talk.
The Washington Post, June 6, 2018
Normality is the wrong yardstick, analytically and politically. “This is not normal” offers a false diagnosis and sorry comfort that Trump came from nowhere and will revert there soon. It disarms his critics from taking full measure of the problem and developing adequate solutions.
The New York Times, March 11, 2018, SR7 (with Thomas Meaney)
Democracy requires experts but it also requires something from them: that they facilitate public debate and respect the ultimate power of the electorate to set the aims of the nation. By rallying behind the lowest common denominator of “anything but Trump,” they are disengaging the public’s discontent, pulling up the drawbridge until the next election. In that sense, Donald Trump is not the only one who might be called an isolationist.
The New York Times, July 23, 2017, SR1-2
Like it or not, the emerging Trump doctrine has deep roots in American tradition. Six months in, the time has come for advocates of American world leadership to own up to a fact: Donald Trump is one of you.
The New York Times, April 10, 2017, A21 (with Samuel Moyn)
After Vietnam, the American people recognized an American catastrophe. They embarked on a sustained period of self-reflection and policy evolution. Despite the tumult and excesses of that era, vocal disagreement at least reflected a determination to put things right. Mr. Trump’s victory indicates that when we lived through our own disaster, we failed to reckon with the past and paved the way for an even more terrifying future.
Foreign Affairs, April 5, 2017 (with Daniel Bessner)
For too long, foreign policy experts have isolated themselves from the public. Confined to the coastal cities, experts have failed to engage citizens where they live and work. Worse, experts typically tell the public what must be done instead of presenting multiple options from which the public can choose. They thereby deny ordinary people their due as the ultimate decision-makers in a democracy. No wonder the public is showing the back of its hand, refusing to take experts seriously.
The Washington Post, February 17, 2017, B2
Trump is no isolationist, whether caricatured or actual. Rather than seeking to withdraw from the world, he vows to exploit it. Far from limiting the area of war, he threatens ruthless violence against globe-spanning adversaries and glorifies martial victory. In short, the president is a militarist.
Foreign Affairs, January 3, 2017
Trump has already distinguished himself in one dramatic respect. He may be the first president to take office who explicitly rejects American exceptionalism.
The Nation, May 28, 2012, 27-31 (with Thomas Meaney)
Is there a single, overarching purpose, much less strategy, around which a world power should orient everything it does? Certainly, if an all-consuming threat truly exists, but otherwise grand strategy becomes a recipe for simplifying the world and magnifying threats—in which case the best “grand strategy” may be no grand strategy.
Dissent, October 11, 2010 (with Thomas Meaney)
Obama and America are disenchanted today less because they have different values within the American political spectrum than because they have different orientations toward politics as a whole. More than any American president within memory, Barack Obama embodies the “ethic of responsibility” identified by the sociologist Max Weber in his lecture Politics as a Vocation. Obama weighs possible consequences carefully and tries to produce the best result. This comes in contrast to the “ethic of ultimate ends” favored by large swaths of the American public.
The Utopian, Vol. 6, March 26, 2010
If we believe there is a duty to stop genocide, it matters only whether there is genocide. We need think no further. Genocide must be stopped. States must act. All competing values are trumped; politics is adjourned. Never mind what the consequences of a mission to stop genocide might be. No matter if intervention, however intended, seems more likely to do harm than good. Merely inquiring about consequences is subversive. It denies the duty to intervene. For if you think outcomes matter, you have to entertain the possibility that, on reflection, the most humane way to act might fall short of stopping genocide. It might even be to do nothing at all.
Harvard International Review, June 17, 2009
The impulse to confront evil is not the same as the impulse to help. It undermines humanitarianism by fixating on wrongdoers, distracting from victims. It injects a moralism that makes matters of implementation seem beside the point, and a judgmentalism that chokes off understanding of genocide’s political and strategic causes.