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

Concern Trolling Iran

The conservative take on Iran has never been genuinely interested in what Iranians think or in the well-being of the Iranian people.

A woman holding a photo taken during clashes following election results in Iran, as she takes part in a demonstration near the Iranian embassy in Paris on June 22. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Conservative hawks, who just a few weeks ago were eager to drop bombs on Iran, have not hesitated to take advantage of the recent political unrest to launch criticisms on President Barack Obama for being insufficiently concerned with the welfare of the Iranian people. In its most extreme guises, this criticism has taken the form of National Review writers accusing Obama of having an active preference for tyranny. Victor Davis Hanson alleges that Obama is "almost more at ease with virulent anti-Westerners." Andy McCarthy deems Obama "steeped in Leftist ideology, fueled in anger and resentment" and thus eager to embrace theocracy. However, McCarthy continues, the president recognizes that it "would have been political suicide to issue a statement supportive of the mullahs" and thus chose to mask his hidden pro-dictatorship views behind a veneer of calm and restraint. These are outliers (though they were published on the Web site of the right's flagship publication), but toned-down...

Is Iran's Election America's Problem?

The theft of Iran's presidential election raises more foreign-policy implications than any clean result could have.

The closely watched Iranian election campaign came to a close over the weekend on what was probably the least-likely of possible outcomes: a decisive win for incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad apparently driven by widespread fraud . Subsequently, protests and riots broke out in the streets, met in turn by a closing of ranks in the regime and a crackdown by security forces. As the voting unfolded, the natural impulse was to view the election through the lens of American foreign policy. In turn, it seemed important to observe that Iranian politics has a logic of its own and that in Iran, as in most countries, pedestrian concerns about the quality of life dominate most elections. The most important issue in the Iranian campaign was identical to the most important issue in every country around the world for the past year -- the devastating global recession. Indeed, the campaign itself didn't have very clear implications for U.S. policy. Ahmadinejad is in most ways a classic right-winger, a...

The Sound of Settling

Right-wing hawks and Israeli officials are savaging Obama for his condemnation of settlement expansion. But is there any good reason for the president to back down from his stance?

Every American president for decades has officially said that the United States is opposed to the construction of Israeli "settlements" in occupied Palestinian land. But such opposition has almost always come with wink-and-nod approval of continued settlement activity. Thus, even at the height of the Oslo Accords and the peace process and even under the governance of center-left Labor prime ministers, settlements continued to expand with little public criticism from the United States. The loophole of choice has been the notion of "natural growth," the idea that a given settlement's development due to increases in family size doesn't "really" constitute expansion. Obama's innovation has been to say—clearly, calmly, repeatedly, publicly, and privately—that this excuse is not good enough. Given the enormous gap in power between the United States and Israel, a country with a population smaller than New York City and less economic output than Alabama, the resultant contest of wills between...

The North Korea Conundrum

How do you solve a problem like Korea? With great difficulty.

Protesters burn portraits of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during a rally in Seoul on May 25 after North Korea's announcement that it had conducted its second nuclear test. (AP Photo)
Ever since North Korea's nuclear test on May 24, I've been sporadically humming "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Korea?" to myself while trying to devise an answer to the question in time for my column deadline. But I've got nothing. As Andrew Grotto, a colleague of mine at the Center for American Progress, points out , there are some additional sanctions that could be applied to North Korea, but not by the United States. China could impose a total energy embargo that could potentially cause the North Korean state to collapse. But China doesn't want North Korea to collapse. And to tell the truth, neither does South Korea, and nor do we. Realistically, North Korea's belligerence looks like a problem that can’t be solved. Instead, we’re going to have to try to manage it -- minimizing the harm North Korea can do while acknowledging that a lasting solution is unlikely to emerge until there’s a change of leadership in Pyongyang. More aggressive strategies, like urging sharply punitive...

The Next Tax Revolt

It's time for progressives to stop pretending that raising taxes on only the very rich will be sufficient to fund an ambitious agenda.

It's doubtful anyone has ever enjoyed paying taxes. In most developed democracies, taxation is a necessary evil that finances the services that make for a fair and dynamic society. Taxes let people take risks with their lives, guarantee a financially secure retirement, educate children, keep our roads drivable, pay police, and help ensure that the benefits of prosperity are broadly shared. But starting in the late 1970s, political entrepreneurs on the right helped launch a broad "tax revolt" that completely changed the public's view of taxation. Before, higher taxes were a price that one might or might not want to pay in order to finance an expenditure. After, taxes became an unmitigated evil, and "to do that, you'd have to raise taxes" became an unanswerable objection to any policy endeavor. Progressive governance efforts came to be centered on trying to find ways to disguise expenditures as "tax credits," with new spending financed by making cuts in other areas. To some, Barack...