Laura Secor

Laura Secor is a freelance author living in New York.

Recent Articles

Big-Think Central

In adopting neoconservatism as its grand strategy, the Bush administration took a breathtaking gamble. It broke from the conventional foreign-policy wisdom of both parties, cleaving to an aggressive but idealistic new vision of America's role in the world. The strategy would either succeed spectacularly, touching off the promised domino effect of freedom in the Middle East, or fail spectacularly, forcing a chastened, bloodied withdrawal from Iraq and a significantly weakened American hand against other foes. Have the neoconservatives, with their uncompromising talk and use of force, succeeded in bringing the most humane of American values to a hostile region? Or have we crashed into the hard limits of American power just as we attempted to display its invincibility? Recent grass-roots activity in Lebanon points in one direction; the ongoing Iraqi insurgency in the other. I brought these questions to four grand strategists, two liberal and two conservative, at the foreign-policy...

Top Gun

War and the American Presidency By Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. • Norton • 224 pages • $23.95 America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism By Anatol Lieven • Oxford University Press • 304 pages • $30.00 It has become a cliché to hurl back at President George W. Bush his statement as a candidate in 2000 that the United States would be resented abroad for arrogance but welcomed for humility. Four years later, with America deeply resented abroad and bitterly divided at home as a result of the policies Bush has followed, little, it would seem, remains to be said on this score. But two new books criticizing the hubris and messianism of Bush's foreign policy are both well worth reading -- one for its eloquence, the other for its rigor, originality, and fresh perspective. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., the eminent American political historian and a onetime aide to President John F. Kennedy, has issued a slim new volume with a stentorian title. War and the American Presidency consists...

The Talking Cure

Presidential hopeful John Kerry seems in many ways the perfect foreign-policy foil to President George W. Bush. Educated partly in Switzerland and fluent in French, Kerry is the son of a diplomat who worked intensively with U.S. allies during the early Cold War. And so Kerry inherited the vision of a world rife with complexity and susceptible to reason--one where the power of diplomacy was an article of faith, even while military solutions couldn't be discounted. Kerry touts a “bold, progressive internationalism” in his foreign-policy speeches, and in his statements on Iraq, he has all but promised a return to the multilateralist, institution-based foreign policy so many Democratic strategists deem vital to U.S. security. That diplomacy and alliances are essential tools in the pursuit of the national interest, and that military muscle is to be avoided except in the case of last resort, were once simple truisms of the bipartisan, realist foreign-policy establishment. Today, however, a...

Diplomatic Dissent

Last Wednesday, a group of 26 former senior diplomats and military commanders spoke out against the foreign policy of the Bush administration. Their statement did not explicitly endorse Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign, but it called for Bush's ouster in November. The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, made headlines more than anything for its bipartisan composition and for its inclusion of career military and diplomatic officials who specialize in regions of particular strategic sensitivity. Among the signatories are Charles Freeman, ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush; Stansfield Turner, head of the CIA under President Carter; Joseph P. Hoar, commander of forces in the Middle East under Bush Sr.; William J. Crowe, ambassador to Britain under Clinton and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan; and Jack F. Matlock, ambassador to the Soviet Union under Reagan and Bush Sr. TAP caught up with the...

Ballot Insecurity

Six months ago, the question on the lips of most critics of the occupation of Iraq was one that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani had posed: Why not hold elections by June 30? At the time, the U.S.–led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) claimed that it was just not possible. The United Nations agreed. And so all parties settled for an appointed interim government and a January 2005 election date. But with security deteriorating, the need for a legitimately representative Iraqi government grows more urgent every day. Critics of the transition plan -- including Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee -- are once more asking why it shouldn't be possible to speed Iraq down the path to representative government. What exactly must be, and what exactly can be, accomplished before Iraqis can go to the polls? In the past, the most commonly cited reasons for delaying elections were logistical. Iraq had no voter rolls, and electoral laws were needed to...

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