Matthew Yglesias

Matthew Yglesias is a senior editor at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a former Prospect staff writer, and the author of Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats.

Recent Articles

Sea Change of Japan?

Thanks to a landslide victory for Japan's opposition party, the United States' relationship with its Asian ally just became rather unpredictable.

On Sunday, Japanese citizens went to the polls and did something that would be banal in any other long-running democracy. Weary of recession, they voted in droves against the party in power and delivered a massive victory to the opposition. This happens all the time. Except, that is, in Japan where it's never really happened. For over 50 years, the Liberal Democratic Party has enjoyed a political monopoly, excepting a brief run in 1993-1994 when an unstable opposition coalition held power for about a year before the LDP cracked its ranks. This time, it's different. The opposition Democratic Party has a huge post-election majority in the lower house of the Diet and already enjoyed control of the less-powerful upper house. Now, they look set to have a real chance at shaking things up in Japan. In turn, America's Asia-watchers are left wondering whether the election results will shake things up in the U.S.-Japanese relationship, too. The alliance between the United States and Japan...

Fragments of the Afghan State

Today, Afghans cast their votes under the threat of violence. But even if the election goes smoothly, one day's outcome should not be mistaken for sustained, effective governance.

An election official prepares ballots for members of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police at a polling place in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Today, Afghans head to the polls fearing attack from Taliban forces who've labeled the process a "program of the crusaders." Most likely, Taliban efforts to derail the voting will fail, and incumbent President Hamid Karzai will stay in office. A smooth election, if it happens, should provide a morale boost for an Obama administration that's lately been struggling with grim assessments of Afghanistan's political situation. But even given a best-case scenario, no election result should distract from the United States' desperate need to frame realistic objectives in Afghanistan. The threat of election-day violence should not be downplayed, especially in light of Tuesday's suicide bombing in Kabul. Still, one consequence of the Bush administration's mishandling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that the U.S. military has gotten quite adept at handling emergency election security under challenging circumstances. Dire predictions were made about the security situation around...

A Scheme Out of Gas

Hawks are lobbying hard for a gasoline embargo against Iran. Too bad such a sanction just won't work.

In the city of Bandar Abbas, an Iranian vendor fills gasoline for a customer. (AP Photo)
The great Iran policy debate landed this week back on the longstanding notion that the international community might ban gasoline exports to Iran. Legislation along these lines is being pushed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on the Hill, and David Sanger reported in Monday's New York Times that the administration is discussing the potential sanction with congressional leaders, Israel, and European allies. This, hawks hope, will provide enough coercion to make Iran do what they want without the need for military aggression. Why this particular notion has such a grip on the minds of hawks isn't totally clear to me, but I suppose the idea is that there's something amusingly ironic about using gasoline as a weapon against a major oil exporter. Iran, you see, is rich in oil but poor in oil refineries and consequently imports the majority of its refined petroleum products, including gasoline. Prevent the export of gasoline to Iran and prices will rise, likely forcing...

Something About Airplanes

The move to cut funding for the F-22 program is more than just a victory for common sense over defense pork.

(Wikicommons)
Overshadowed during this week's continuing debate about health care was a crucially important step in Congress: The United States Senate voted 58-40 in favor of an amendment to strip funding for the F-22 fighter plane out of the Department of Defense Appropriations bill. The F-22 program is a Cold War relic aimed at producing extremely expensive air superiority fighters to combat the nonexistent next generation of Soviet planes. Putting an end to it and redirecting funds to personnel and unconventional warfare was a signature move of the Obama administration's initial Pentagon budget request. The program, however, has powerful friends in Congress, particularly among members who represent states and districts where the plane is produced. And not coincidentally, defense contractors have tended to ensure that production facilities are located so as to be particularly appealing to those with seats on the relevant committees. Thus, despite the Pentagon's decision not to request money, the...

Small Steps Toward a Nuke-Free World

Obama's visit to Russia may have been drama-free, but it wasn't uneventful.

In the international arena, cooperation is good and conflict is bad. Unfortunately, conflict is also dramatic , and leaders who engage in it tend to get attention while instances of cooperation often pass unnoticed. A president who fights a war makes the history books; wars avoided are rarely commented on. So it's worth taking time to note that despite -- or, rather, because of -- the lack of drama during this week's presidential trip to Russia, something hugely important happened: A deal on steep bilateral reductions in nuclear weapons has made the world a much safer place. The lack of drama is, itself, a noteworthy turn of events. Ever since Vladimir Putin's leadership and high oil prices allowed Russia to regain the state capacity it largely lost in the 1990s, the United States and Russia have had some persistent differences of perspective. Most notably, the U.S. wants to see the former Soviet republics treated like real independent states. Russia, by contrast, looks at its so-...

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