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

Ready to START

The amount of work that has gone into ratifying the New START should make us very pessimistic about the larger outlook for American diplomacy and non-proliferation efforts.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
An update of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty -- or "New START" to its friends -- looks likely to be ratified by the United States Senate this week. Unfortunately, even if it does pass, the drama thus far should make one very pessimistic about the larger outlook for American diplomacy and nonproliferation efforts. Simply put, START was supposed to be the easy lift. The START vote is a huge deal on its own terms, but that's primarily because the implications of not ratifying the treaty are enormous. The treaty was negotiated because the original START, negotiated by President Ronald Regan and signed by President George H.W. Bush, was expiring. Without a new treaty in place, the United States has no mechanism for verifying the status of Russia's nuclear arsenal. Russia, conversely, can't do any monitoring of our own facilities. If the United States has a secret plan to conduct a massive strategic arms buildup and launch a sneak attack on Russia, this is excellent news. If not, then...

The Last Statesman

Richard Holbrooke represents a bygone era when America was represented primarily by diplomats, not generals.

Richard Holbrooke, who died unexpectedly this week after suffering a tear in his aorta, was a celebrity diplomat whose name was known to everyone who followed politics and foreign policy. He was unique. Not only in the sense that "celebrity" and "diplomat" rarely go together but that he managed to attain such prominence in American foreign policy without ever reaching the rank of secretary of state or national security adviser. He was deeply involved with every Democratic president and in every presidential campaign since Jimmy Carter's, a fixture to such an extent that his involvement in Barack Obama's administration was taken as a given, the only question being the exact nature of the role. The line in Hillary Clinton's official statement after his passing -- that he was "one of a kind -- a true statesman" -- has the distinct virtue of being true. Indeed, in some ways Holbrooke seems almost like the last statesman, a figure plucked from a time when diplomacy really mattered and...

Republicans Call for War

Emboldened by midterm gains, Republicans return to Bush's hawkish approach to dealing with Iran.

Sen. Lindsey Graham at a press conference in Jerusalem (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
The release this week of former President George W. Bush's memoirs is a welcome reminder of how American foreign policy has changed for the better since the good old days of launching wars for no reason. Unfortunately, Sen. Lindsey Graham of North Carolina doesn't seem to have caught up on his reading. Instead, at a Nov. 6 conclave in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he came out swinging in favor of a new war. The target: Iran. The goal: to "neuter the regime." War proponents seem to have realized that the massive downsides involved in launching a war are scaring people off. So Graham's rhetorical tack was to acknowledge the risks and then sweep them away with a confusing metaphor. "If you take military action," he said, "you do open up Pandora's box. But if you let them get a weapon, you empty Pandora's box." What exactly that means is difficult to say. The argument rests, as do all hawkish takes on Iran that I've heard, on the logical chasm between taking military action and Iranian non-...

The Wrong Political Game

The administration didn't lose a game of political daring -- it failed to pay attention to the economy.

Barack Obama campaigning for Democrats in Providence, Rhode Island on Monday (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Heading into a likely series of midterm-election defeats, Democratic incumbents would do well to remember two points -- large losses were likely inevitable, and insofar as they were avoidable, the party has only itself to blame for not handling the economy better. Conventional wisdom is likely to disagree with both claims. Jonathan Martin wrote in Politico Monday that Democratic leaders' growing criticisms of the flood of anonymous money into the midterm elections is morphing away from being a campaign gambit into "a main talking point to explain -- and fend off the recriminations over -- what many Washington Democrats assume will be a brutal election night." On the right, of course, Democratic losses will be spun as demonstrating that true Americans march to the tune of the Tea Party drum. Among the establishment, the results will be spun as showing what all election results are said to show -- that Democrats are too far left and need to move to the middle. The truth is simpler. The...

Inside the Bubble

Despite the headlines, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has little impact on most Israelis' everyday lives.

Construction in the Palestinian city of Ramallah (Flickr/Radikale Venstre)
It's pure hubris to visit a country for a week and think you've obtained deep insights into the region's complicated sociopolitical issues, so I won't pretend that my recent trip to Israel and Palestine transformed my understanding of the conflict. It did, however, reinforce the thesis of Karl Vick's recent and mildly controversial Time cover story, "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace." Many of the Israelis who are aware of the article reacted strongly against its title because they're deeply invested in a narrative in which the Jews have always been the ones offering compromise and the Arabs have been the ones to reject it. Vick's core point, however, is one that Israelis eagerly confirm: Despite the international community's continued obsession with the Palestinian question, it has little practical impact on mainstream Israelis' everyday lives. The successful crushing of the Second Intifada in the early 2000s has created a dynamic in which most Israelis neither fear Palestinian...

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