Ilan Goldenberg

Ilan Goldenberg is the policy director at the National Security Network.

Recent Articles

Obama's Foreign Policy at 100

Obama has reprioritized U.S. interests and the strategies used to achieve them.

For the first 100 days of Barack Obama's presidency, coverage of his foreign policy has focused primarily on his dramatic diplomatic gestures and the overwhelmingly positive response he has received from foreign publics and leaders. It feels good to see an American leader being treated as a hero instead of pariah. On a more substantive level, restoring our prestige has real benefits -- cooperation is easier when having a close relationship with the President of the United States is a political boon and not a liability (Just ask Gordon Brown and Tony Blair). But diplomacy is only a means to an end . What is much more significant are some of the early changes the president has made in how he prioritizes U.S. interests and the strategies used to achieve them. Below, the Prospect considers four of the major changes to U.S. foreign policy made by President Obama in his first 100 days. Putting terrorism in its proper place. The president has restructured our priorities so that terrorism is...

Obama's Middle East Chess Game

Obama's early Middle East strategy is about generating favorable options through diplomacy.

What are we to make of the flurry of Middle East diplomacy that has accompanied the first 50 days of Barack Obama's presidency? The critics will naturally argue it is more of the same or too much too fast . But what the president's team appears to be doing is playing a careful game of diplomatic chess. And as any chess player knows, the opening is about properly positioning your pieces to generate as many opportunities as possible as you head into the middle and end game. Rather than maximize flexibility, President George W. Bush's Middle East policies boxed in the United States. The invasion of Iraq undermined U.S. credibility in the region, causing some of our closest allies to question both our intentions and competence. The reckless saber rattling toward Iran and Syria closed the door on cooperation on issues of common interest. Bush's "war on terror" and his references to a "crusade" against terrorism convinced much of the world's Muslim population that the United States was at...

How to Score the Foreign Policy Debate

Has your attention been tied up sorting out the numbers on that $700 billion bailout package? Ilan Goldenberg walks you through how to score Friday's debate.

A year ago, with Gen. Petraeus having just testified in Washington and the Iraq War still at the center of the political universe, it would have been hard to imagine national security playing second fiddle in the presidential election. But with the events of the past two weeks, it has become clear that barring a major foreign-policy crisis, the economy will dominate the remainder of the campaign. The subject of this Friday's presidential debate -- national security -- seems distant and removed. A little blip in what is otherwise an economic tsunami. Nonetheless, if the Bush presidency has taught us anything, it has taught us that understanding a candidate's philosophy on the matters of war and peace matters. The stakes for the candidates tonight may not be as high as one would have expected a few months ago, but they are still high. John McCain's candidacy is premised on his experience and national-security prowess. In poll after poll he holds a substantial point lead on the question...

Why McCain Should Embrace Withdrawal

The United States must listen to the Iraqi government's demands or risk endangering the gains that have been made during the past 18 months.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's support for a timetable for the withdrawal of American combat forces has created a political firestorm in the United States with most of the commentary focused on how his statements reinforce Barack Obama's policies. John McCain and other proponents of a continued large U.S. presence in Iraq have dismissed Maliki's position as unimportant, arguing that it is "only" the result of the domestic political pressures inside Iraq. McCain is right that this is ultimately about Iraqi domestic politics. But insurgencies and counterinsurgency strategies are, at their very core, all about domestic politics. A close study of the Army's own Counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine suggests that the Maliki government's position should be recognized as an important and positive development. It signals the beginning of the end of the Iraq War as the American military takes on an increasingly smaller role while handing off more responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces...

Talking to Iran Is Not So Controversial

Don't look now but there is a broad consensus on what the next administration should do about Iran.

If two years ago you were to tell me that the Democratic presidential nominee would make engaging with Iran a central element of his campaign, I would have thought you were joking. After all, talking to a country that has historically enjoyed a favorability rating of a whopping 10 percent in the United States and has a president known for his anti-Western rhetoric probably isn't going to be all that popular. Not to mention the fact that the most substantive interaction Americans have had with Iran over the last 30 years involved watching blindfolded hostages and burning American flags on their television screens. Yet incredibly, in a feat that defies conventional wisdom, Barack Obama is more than just holding his own against John McCain. When it comes to Iran he has the American public and most foreign-policy experts squarely behind him. Obama's position is that we should be willing to engage in direct talks with the Iranian regime and offer them a choice: greater economic incentives...