Stephen Holmes

Stephen Holmes teaches at NYU School of Law and is the author of The Matador's Cape: America's Reckless Response to Terror.

Recent Articles

Why We Need Europe

Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order By Robert Kagan, Knopf, 112 pages, $18.00 France and Germany's refusal to accept the Bush administration's definition of the Iraqi threat has made shockingly visible the decade-long weakening of the Atlantic alliance. Robert Kagan looks behind such wars of words to discover why, after the end of the Cold War, Europeans and Americans "understand each other less and less." Unbelievable as it may sound, his thesis is that Europeans and Americans have trouble coordinating their foreign policies because Europeans are utopian and deluded and Americans are tough-minded and unafraid to look reality in the face. He first advanced this unusual claim in an essay published in the summer of 2002, which he has now updated and expanded into a book. That essay quickly became a sensation among European diplomats and policy-makers. But how did a conservative American polemicist such as Kagan manage to provoke such storms of soul searching...

What Russia Teaches Us Now

Metastasizing organized crime, massive tax evasion, unregulated sales of missiles--the people of Russia and the world now have more to fear from the breakdown of the Russian state than from its power. Why liberty itself depends on competent government.

F or half a century, the Soviet Union was not only our principal military adversary. It was also our ideological and moral "other." Both left and right in America defended their competing visions of a liberal society in reaction to the Stalinist nightmare. In this sense, the Cold War profoundly shaped our public philosophy. Indeed, we might say that the Cold War was our public philosophy. The demanding contest with Soviet communism guided how we thought about the core principles underlying our basic institutions. For liberalism was, or appeared to be, totalitarianism turned inside out. What features of the American creed did this master contrast lead us to stress? Freedom of speech and the press, first of all, and freedom of conscience, for these were cruelly repressed under Moscow's sway. In the same spirit, Americans underscored the freedom of movement, the right to form private associations, the right to a fair trial, and the right to vote in competitive elections where incumbents...

Managing the Rage

As the fog lifts from the September 11 attacks, the FBI and CIA are presumably honing in on the identity and aims of the people behind the plot. An organizational explanation focused on conspiratorial networks will be easier for us to accept than a broader sociological one, since anyone who draws attention to the "root causes" of anti-American hostility in the Islamic world risks sounding like an apologist for the terrorists. We need to deepen our understanding of anti-American rage, however, not so much because it lay behind the plot as because it lies ahead of it. As Osama bin Laden hinted in his pretaped "response" to U.S. military operations, the September 11 atrocities may have been a carefully laid trap. Indeed, subsequent events suggest that they were designed to provoke an indiscriminate U.S. retaliation that would bring Arab and Islamic publics to a boil and destabilize America's allies throughout the Middle East. If such a scenario were to unfold, the initial stakes would be...

Focus on Iraq

The terrorists who attacked New York and Washington on September 11th were not trying to make a point. They were trying to provoke a foolish reaction. They hoped to lure the United States into the kind of poorly targeted retaliation that would destabilize our allies in the Islamic world and recruit more foot soldiers into the campaign to "free" the holy lands. Our response will be successful only if we avoid the trap they have cruelly laid. Does our apparent strategy of punishing "states that harbor terrorists" live up to this demanding standard? It sounds plausible at first. Since we cannot get directly at the diffuse and amorphous terrorist networks themselves, we should exert pressure where we can, namely against those governments who tolerate terrorists on their territory as well as those who directly sponsor it. But there are some problems with addressing our efforts against "states that harbor terrorism." For one thing, interpreted literally, culprits include Germany and Canada...

The Liberal Idea

Textbooks tell us that a great gap separates classical from modern liberalism—James Madison from Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some conservatives say modern liberals betrayed the earlier tradition, and some progressives agree. But the continuities are fundamental, as is evident from a careful analysis of five key ideas: state power, interests, rights, democracy, and welfare.

Liberalism looms prominent in contemporary debates -- in this journal and elsewhere. But the term, however ubiquitous, remains elusive. By some, it is treated with cruel derision; by others, with breathtaking sanctimoniousness. A few writers, such as Alasdair MacIntyre or Christopher Lasch, finger liberalism as the source of all our miseries; others, such as Milton Friedman, preach that our most painful problems would be solved if we returned to liberalism in a pure and uncorrupted form. Some argue that the United States is a radiant monument to the liberal ideas of its Founders. Others retort that our society has evolved in unexpected ways and that stale eighteenth-century principles have become largely irrelevant to twentieth-century problems. Such postures are exhilarating. But they do not help us understand what liberalism was or how it has changed. One claim about liberalism, common in textbooks, is that a major discontinuity divides classical from twentieth-century liberals --...

Pages