World

The Limits of American Power: Judging Obama's Foreign Policy

The Bush administration taught us the folly of overreach, but America simply can't exit the world stage. The dangers are too great.

AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo U.S. Army soldiers salute American flags at a ceremony at Camp Liberty in Baghdad on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . W hen I was young, a mantra among progressives was that America had to stop operating as global policeman. Vietnam was the signal episode of arrogant and ultimately self-defeating American overreach. But there were plenty of other cases of the U.S. government doing the bidding of oil companies and banana barons, and blithely overthrowing left-democratic governments as well as outright communists (or driving nationalist reformers into the arms of communists.) As the late Phil Ochs tauntingly sang, " We're the cops of the world. " Or as Randy Newman mordantly put it, " Let's drop the big one and see what happens. " At the same time, I viewed myself as sensible left. I was the guy at the Moratorium demonstrations of the late 1960s and early 1970s (actually covering them for Pacifica) hoping to make...

A Bright Spot In Obama's Foreign Policy: Iran. Yes, Iran

With a glimmer of success on the horizon, Obama's critics are predicting the apocalypse.

U.S. State Department
U.S. State Department Photo U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry disembarks from his plane after traveling from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Vienna, Austria, on July 13, 2014 for allied talks with Iran about its nuclear program. W ho would’ve ever thought that the Iranian nuclear program—that’s the Iranian nuclear program —would be the bright spot in President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, the place where things were looking up? But that’s the situation we find ourselves in, with talks between Iran and the U.S. and it partners in the p5+1 (the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council—U.S., U.K., France, Russia, and China, plus Germany) having achieved serious progress. This past Sunday was the end of the six-month interim period laid out in the agreement last November in Geneva. The parties agreed to a four-month extension of the talks in order to try and reach a comprehensive agreement. The State Department released a fact sheet on the extension’s terms, noting that Iran had...

Hillary for Liberals: A Conversation With Walter Shapiro

AP Photo/Randy Snyder
AP Photo/Justin Hayworth Campaign buttons are ready for distribution at an Iowa kickoff event for the national Ready for Hillary group led by Craig Smith, senior adviser to the Ready for Hillary group, in Des Moines, Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014. Ready for Hillary is a so-called super PAC building a national network to benefit Clinton if she decides to seek the presidency in 2016. The gathering of Iowa Democrats included the state chairs of both Clinton and President Barack Obama's 2008 campaigns. A s a reporter and columnist for Time , Newsweek , the Washington Post , USA Today , Esquire , Salon , and other publications, Walter Shapiro has covered nine presidential elections and the nation’s politics for four decades. He is currently a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and a lecturer in political science at Yale while he finishes a book about his great-uncle, a vaudevillian and con man who once swindled Hitler. Shapiro is also an accomplished Hillary-...

On Israel, Looking for Hope In a Sea of Bad Faith and Despair

NASA/Wikimedia Commons
I f you don't have mixed feelings about what's going on in Gaza, there's something seriously wrong with you. As Gershom Gorenberg says in his piece today, in a war, both sides can be wrong, and that's the case now. So how do we find a way to think and talk about this conflict when our natural impulse is to take a side? Complicating things even further is the fact that the people who do think that there's no ambiguity here range from the morally infantile to the unspeakably ghastly, and no matter what you say you'll find yourself on the same side as some of them, if only for a moment . On one hand you've got prominent conservatives trooping to the convention of Christians United For Israel (no fewer than five U.S. senators, plus A-list pundits like Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol), where they bow down before the group's leader, the demented pre-millenialist televangelist John Hagee, and proclaim that God smiles every time a bomb falls on Gaza. On the other you've got anti-Semites...

This Is Your Brain on War: A Dispatch From Jerusalem

Why both sides in the Gaza conflict saw irrational decisions as reasonable

AP Photo/Hatem Moussa
AP Photo/Hatem Moussa Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, as Israeli airstrikes pummeled a wide range of locations along the coastal area and diplomatic efforts intensified to end the two-week war. A s I write, the livestream from Gaza of news about death continues. If I give a casualty count, it may be outdated before I finish typing it. It won't include those Palestinians—civilians and Hamas fighters—who may be buried in rubble in the Sajaiya neighborhood of Gaza City, which the Israeli army has invaded in search of rockets and of tunnels leading into Israel. Nor will it include recent deaths of Israeli soldiers; the military often delays such announcements for hours. Collapsing under the weight of the Gaza reports is whatever initial support Israel had in the West as its cities came under rocket fire. The same reports have fed criticism of Hamas in the Arab world. The war isn't a hurricane; it didn't happen by itself...

7 Foreign Policy Crises That Show Republicans Prefer Disaster to Solutions

AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File
AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File In this April 25, 2013, file photo former Vice President Dick Cheney participates in the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. In an interview Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, Cheney said Republicans need to look to a new generation of leaders as the party deals with poor approval ratings following a 16-day partial-government shutdown. He said Republicans need to have "first-class" candidates and look to its strategy and a new generation. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . I t's hard to recall a time when the world presented more crises with fewer easy solutions. And for the Republicans, all of these woes have a common genesis: Ostensible American weakness projected by Barack Obama. People in the Middle East, former Vice President Dick Cheney recently said , "are absolutely convinced that the American capacity to lead and influence in that part of the world has been dramatically reduced by this president." He added...

Are the Media Reporting the Gaza War Fairly?

From the Israeli army's twitter feed.
Are the media finally getting the Israeli-Palestinian story right? It's a difficult question to answer, particularly when it would be hard to agree on what "right" means. But it does look like we're seeing and hearing more about what's happening to Palestinian civilians than we have in previous flare-ups of this endless conflict. That's what Benjamin Wallace-Wells argues in a piece saying that Israel is losing the PR war in the American media: Earlier this month, the IDF's twitter feed had been full of images of besieged Israelis. But by this weekend Israel was so clearly losing the public relations war that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu complained to reporters, tersely, that Hamas uses "telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause." If Netanyahu is so bothered by how dead Palestinians look on television then he should stop killing so many of them. But his complaint is in itself a concession. The story of the conflict between Israel and Palestine looks a little bit different...

Moral Responsibility and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Flickr/andlun1
A s Israel begins a ground invasion of Gaza in which hundreds of civilians will almost certainly be killed and the endless misery of the people who live there will only intensify, we haven't actually seen much debate about the subject here in the U.S. There's plenty of news about it, but unlike most issues, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is one we don't actually argue about much. There aren't dueling op-eds in every paper the way there are when even a country Americans care far less about, like Ukraine, works its way into our attention. There are many reasons for that, not least of which is the absurdly constrained debate we have over the topic of Israel. But I suspect that the relative quiet is in part because in a debate where even casting the two sides as equivalent is portrayed as a betrayal of Israel (you'll notice, for instance, that the White House is careful to say, again and again, that Israel has a right to defend itself, but you'll hear them say that the...

Argentina's Loss to Germany Nothing Compared to Financial Rout By U.S.

As Merkel starves ailing European economies, SCOTUS is doing worse to Argentina's.

AP Photo/J Pat Carter
AP Photo/Jorge Saenz Argentina soccer fans watch in disbelief the final World Cup match between Argentina and Germany on an outdoor television screen set up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Mario Goetze volleyed in the winning goal in extra time to give Germany its fourth World Cup title with a 1-0 victory over Argentina. I f there were poetic justice in the world, Argentina would have beaten Germany in the last three minutes of World Cup play instead of vice versa. Germany represents everything that's wrong with the world financial system. Argentina is the epic case of countries whose economies are screwed by policies championed by Germany—and, unfortunately, by the United States, as well. Let me explain. When financial abuses crashed the global economic system in 2007-2008, there were two urgent needs, One was drastic reform to prevent the collapse from wreaking further havoc on the world's most damaged economies. The other was to clean up the banking system so...

Alabama Steelworkers Fight for Their Jobs, Threatened By Korea Trade Ruling

The steel industry is under attack by the selling or “dumping” of foreign steel, says the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Alliance for American Manufacturing
Alliance for American Manufacturing Approximately 1,000 supporters of steelworker jobs turned out Monday, June 16 at a rally at the U.S. Steel facilities in Fairfield. The author works for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which works in partnership with the United Steelworkers and other petitioners to the Department of Commerce for an appeal of the department's February ruling in favor of South Korea's steel industry. S tanding high atop Red Mountain overlooking the city of Birmingham, Alabama, is a statue known as the Vulcan. It is the symbol of this scrappy southern city, reminding people of Birmingham’s roots in the iron and steel industries. A depiction of the ancient Roman god of the fire and forge, it is, at fifty-six feet tall, the largest iron statue in the world, and the seventh-tallest, free-standing statue in the United States. While it may not dominate the landscape the way the 125-foot “Christ the Redeemer” statue does in Rio de Janeiro, it is a similar symbolic,...

Netanyahu's Dangerous Posture on Kidnapped Israelis Could Lead to Conflagration

Photo by Tali Mayer/NurPhoto/Sipa USA via AP Images
Photo by Tali Mayer/NurPhoto/Sipa USA via AP Images A mass prayer for the release of three Jewish teenagers, believed to have been snatched from an area between the Israeli occupied West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Hebron while hitchhiking, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 15, 2014. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Islamist Hamas movement of kidnapping three teenagers on the third day of a massive West Bank manhunt for the missing youths. Update, July 1, 1:30 p.m. Israel time (6:30 a.m. EDT): Israeli troops and security agents yesterday afternoon found the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens buried in open country north of Hebron in the West Bank. The manhunt for the two alleged murderers, Hamas activists from Hebron, continues. From the information released so far, it appears that the kidnappers did intend to keep live hostages. But when one of the boys dialed the police and whispered, "We've been kidnapped," their abductors killed them...

Why China Has Strikes Without Unions

AP Photo/Vincent Yu
Protesters from labor organizations hold banners and placards during a protest to support workers on strike at Yue Yuen Industrial ( Holdings ) Ltd, at an Adidas office at a shopping mall in Hong Kong, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Workers on strike at a Chinese factory owned by the world's largest maker of athletic shoes had rejected management's latest offer in a labor dispute that crimped production for brands such as Nike and Adidas. H an Dongfang believes that China’s workers may one day compel the country’s Communist Party to actually become social-democratic. I’m not sure if that makes Han the most credulous of China’s democracy activists or the canniest strategist now working to democratize that nation. I am sure, however, that he’s had more successes than anyone else in empowering Chinese workers. Speaking last week to a Washington conclave sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute, Han recounted the victories that striking Chinese workers have won over the past four years. In...

Epic! Cheney Made to Answer to Paul Waldman's Assessment of Iraq Record

Fox News
Fox News host Megyn Kelly yesterday put former Vice President Dick Cheney on the spot, reading to him the words of Prospect Contributing Editor Paul Waldman, and demanding a response. In his other gig at the Washington Post , Waldman wrote a searing assessment of Cheney's recent attack on President Barack Obama's Iraq policy, offered in a Wall Street Journal op-ed he co-authored with his daughter, Liz, who served in the Bush administration's State Department. In her interview of Dick and Liz Cheney, Kelly read this bit from Waldman's WaPo post : There is not a single person in America...who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney. And now, as the cascade of misery and death and chaos he did so much to unleash rages anew, Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it’s all someone else’s fault... Then she asked, "The suggestion is that you caused this mess, Mr. Vice President. What say you?" As related...

Israel Elects a One-State President

Newly elected President Reuven Rivlin may mistakenly be seen as a symbol of new and surprising support for the idea that the only possible democratic outcome for Israelis and Palestinians is a binational state. But the one-staters of the right aren't at all interested in binationalism.

AP Photo/Dan Balilty
AP Photo/Dan Balilty Israeli presidential candidates and former ministers Meir Shitrit, center right, and Reuven Rivlin, center left, hug during the presidential election at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Tuesday, June, 10, 2014. The Israeli parliament selected Reuven Rivlin as the country's next president to succeed the outgoing Shimon Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who brought the position international prestige. R ubi Rivlin, who was elected president of Israel on Tuesday, isn't a stereotypical hardline rightist. To start with, he's not grim. As a talk-show guest, he out-jokes the host. Besides that, as speaker of parliament during the term before this one, he regularly refused to play ball with his own Likud Party and other parties of the right. He did his best to block bills aimed against human-rights groups, the Arab minority and free speech. He accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of trying to undermine parliamentary democracy. All the same, Rivlin...

Why Did Bowe Bergdahl Walk Away?

The former prisoner of war may be no hero, but his walking into the night armed with only a knife raises questions about his state of mind.

AP Photo/Voice Of Jihad Website via AP video
AP Photo/Voice Of Jihad Website via AP video In this image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Website, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl sits in a vehicle guarded by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban have released a video showing the handover of Bergdahl to U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan. The video, emailed to media on Wednesday, shows Bergdahl in traditional Afghan clothing sitting in a pickup truck parked on a hillside. More than a dozen Taliban fighters with machine guns stand around the truck and on the hillside. O ne question seems absent from the countless hours of coverage and debate surrounding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity: Why did he walk away? Those attacking Bergdahl and his family liberally cite Michael Hasting’s 2012 Rolling Stone article detailing the circumstance that led up to the Army Private walking off his base in rural Afghanistan. To wit, MSNBC host...

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