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

Risky Business

The Chinese-goods tariff bill currently in Congress is a bad solution to the very real problem of the dollar's value.

(Flickr/Robert Scoble)
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed one of the last significant measures likely to be debated in the 111th Congress, a bill threatening to slap tariffs on Chinese-made goods unless China allows its currency to rise in value. The bill's prospects in the Senate are unclear, but it has its advocates, including New York's Chuck Schumer who complained Tuesday that the Obama administration's approach to the issue is nothing but "more talking … despite the fact that years of meetings and discussions with Chinese officials in an effort to persuade China to float its currency have repeatedly failed to produce lasting, meaningful results." As a political gesture, this is pretty good. The public wants to see action on unemployment. But job-creating "stimulus" has become unpopular, so a nice piece of legislation blaming foreigners for our problems makes a lot of sense. Even better, the currency-value issue is a real problem. Unfortunately, Congress' proposed solution is risky...

Neither Shrinking Nor Rethinking

The Defense Department's announcement on reining in defense spending outlined efforts that aren't nearly as substantive as they need to be.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates (White House/Pete Souza)
At a press conference Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Undersecretary Ashton Carter unveiled some long-awaited details about their politically bold effort to rein in defense costs. But these measures, though worth undertaking, aren't really "cuts" as they are often described. Instead, what’s been announced is an ambitious campaign to improve the efficiency of the Pentagon’s contracting practice in order to free up more funds for the Defense Department to spend on other things. This is a good idea as far as it goes, but it mostly serves to illustrate the limits of the Obama administration’s approach to defense spending. The measures emphasize changing the structure of contracts to avoid massive cost overruns. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Carter explained his view that "with the right incentives, profitability and productivity can go together." That means giving contractors financial rewards if they find ways to lower prices, in effect agreeing to...

The War's End

Obama's policy of disengagement succeeded as spectacularly as Bush's policy of invasion failed.

U.S. Army soldiers outside an Iraqi police station during a joint operation with Iraqi security forces, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
America's military misadventure in Iraq comes to an end this week, with Tuesday's official declaration of an end to combat operations and a handover of authority to the Iraqi government. It's a strange end -- neither victory nor defeat -- to a war made all the stranger since it's not entirely clear what's ending here. Combat troops will be gone, but tens of thousands of other troops will remain for at least 18 months. These are armed soldiers in a still-violent environment, and thus there may well be combat. A perhaps true end for the war is currently scheduled for December of 2011 when all troops are set to be withdrawn. Still, nobody knows for sure what will happen if Iraqi leaders fail to reach a peaceful accord on how to form a new governing coalition. But to the extent to which this "end" to the war is in part a product of political spin, it's also a clear demonstration of the fact that the Obama administration's policy of disengagement has succeeded as spectacularly as the Bush...

Revisiting the Cuba Failure

Obama's easing of travel restrictions on Cuba is a reminder that U.S.-Cuban relations are a massive, decades-long case study in the limits of conservative foreign policy.

U.S. visitors in Havana during a trip to look for tourist destinations in Cuba. (AP Photo/Jose Goitia)
In April 2009, as one of its first foreign-policy initiatives, the Obama administration relaxed restrictions on travel to Cuba, making it possible for Cuban Americans to visit relatives and send remittances. Remarkably, however, this still left restrictions on U.S.-Cuba travel tighter than they'd been under the Clinton administration, as if the Cold War against communism had somehow become more important in the 21st century. This week, the administration leaked its intention to change this by reversing the Bush administration's restrictions on "people to people" visits by religious, academic, and cultural groups. It's a welcome step, but the arguments in its favor merely highlight the larger truth about Cuba: The entire policy is a massive, decades-long case study in policy failure. Standing in the way of more robust reform is a cocktail of ethnic politics and conservative ideology. The changes in the works are opposed by Cuban American politicians -- mostly Republicans, but also...

How to Make a Liberal Foreign Policy

The use of American military power threatens to split the liberal movement.

U.S. Army Spc. Kon Im moves through an open-air market in Baqubah, Iraq. (U.S. Army Photo/Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall)
The American Prospect was founded 20 years ago, giving it a birth date that coincides nicely with the end of post-Cold War American foreign policy. "It is a conceit of new publications that their appearance coincides with an historic change," wrote Paul Starr in the magazine's debut issue, "by good fortune, ours does." And he was right. A set of international issues that had dominated national politics for decades -- détente, containment, and deterrence -- vanished from the scene, and a new era began. Unlike in the previous 25 years, American liberals have managed to disagree about national security without it tearing the movement apart. But it's also been a time when, to a much greater extent than on domestic policy, liberalism has shown a tendency to flail ineptly and to have real trouble articulating where we have to take the country. Huge progress has been made on this in recent years. But a fundamental gap between hawks and doves remains, and the problematic situation in...