William Galston

William A. Galston is a senior fellow and Ezra K. Zilkha Chair in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Recent Articles

The Democracy Solution

Not long after George W. Bush delivered his June 2002 speech severing relations with Yasir Arafat, a White House reporter wondered whether Natan Sharansky had become one of the president's speechwriters. By the time of President Bush's second inaugural, in January 2005, reporters no longer had to guess at Sharansky's influence. The previous November, the president had received the refusenik-turned-politician at the White House for a lengthy discussion. “If you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy, read Natan Sharansky's book,” the president later told The Washington Times . Sharansky's argument that terrorism can be fought only by expanding global freedom, Bush said, is “part of my presidential DNA.” Like the president, Sharansky is sure that “ all peoples desire to be free.” In one sense, he is right: As we are discovering the hard way in Iraq and should have known from the start, no peoples wish to be ruled by outsiders. Nationalism's power is rooted in this drive for...

Perils of Preemptive War

O n June 1 at West Point, President George W. Bush set forth a new doctrine for U.S. security policy. The successful strategies of the Cold War era, he declared, are ill suited to national defense in the 21st century. Deterrence means nothing against terrorist networks; containment will not thwart unbalanced dictators possessing weapons of mass destruction. We cannot afford to wait until we are attacked. In today's circumstances, Americans must be ready to take "preemptive action" to defend our lives and liberties. On Aug. 26, Vice President Dick Cheney forcefully applied this new doctrine to Iraq. Saddam Hussein, he stated, is bolstering the country's chemical and biological capabilities and is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons. "What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat," he declared, "is to give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness ... Deliverable weapons of mass destrction in the hands of a terror network or murderous dictator or the two working together...

Unsolved Mysteries: The Tocqueville Files II

UNSOLVED MYSTERIES The Tocqueville Files II " Won't You Be My Neighbor ," by William A. Galston " The Downside of Social Capital ," by Alejandro Portes and Patricia Landolt

Unsolved Mysteries: The Tocqueville Files II

B owling Alone" was published in January 1995. Seldom has a thesis moved so quickly from scholarly obscurity to conventional wisdom. By January 1996 the Washington Post was featuring a six-part series of front-page articles on the decline of trust, and Beltway pundits had learned the vocabulary of social capital. While the debate over the accuracy and adequacy of Putnam's measures of civic engagement rages on in academia, it seems all but concluded elsewhere. Putnam's argument has touched a nerve. Most Americans believe that during the past 40 years, important aspects of their society have changed for the worse. That belief is itself one of the dominant political facts of our time. Under stand ing and responding to it is one of the key tasks facing those who wish to build a new progressive coalition. Of course this new em phasis on civil society can be hi jacked: on the right, as a battering ram against government; on the left, as a vehicle for reopening the battles of the 1960s...

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