Robert Farley

Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, University of Kentucky. He contributes to the blogs Lawyers, Guns, and Money and TAPPED.

Recent Articles

How to Negotiate With North Korea

Reaching an accord with North Korea on nuclear-weapons development was a difficult proposition even before the recent revelations.

South Korean firefighters inspect destroyed houses on Yeonpyeong Island, where two civilians were found dead after a North Korean artillery attack. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
On Sunday, The New York Times revealed that North Korea had invited Siegfried Hecker, an American nuclear scientist, to visit the nuclear facility at Yongbyon. The North Koreans showed Hecker a new uranium-enrichment facility, previously unknown to the United States. In technical terms , the uranium-enrichment facility means that North Korea can pursue a two-track nuclear-weapons program. North Korea's previous nuclear devices were constructed using plutonium harvested from the reactor at Yongbyon. North Korea possessed only a limited amount of plutonium, meaning that there was a ceiling on the number of weapons the Democratic People's Republic of Korea could construct. The development of an alternative uranium program has the potential to expand the DPRK's capability of making nuclear-weapons. The existence of a uranium-enrichment program parallel to North Korea's plutonium efforts had been hinted at since 2002. North Korea had intermittently denied the existence of such a program...

The Stark Reality of Defense Contracting

A summer blockbuster tackles disputes endemic to the military-industrial complex.

Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man. (Paramount Pictures)
In Iron Man 2 , billionaire industrialist Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) risks billion-dollar pieces of equipment to impress guests at a birthday party -- a big mistake for a defense contractor. After all, Stark's reckless debauchery provides the perfect pretext for the U.S. government to take away his Iron Man suit. Explosions, tattoos, and Scarlett Johansson notwithstanding, the disputes between Tony Stark and his antagonists revolve around ownership of the rights to the Iron Man technology. Iron Man 2 is the most expensive movie ever made about an intellectual property dispute. Comic-book writer Stan Lee envisioned Iron Man as the quintessential figure of American capitalism, a member in good standing of the military-industrial complex who fought both the Viet Cong and the Soviet super-villain consortium Crimson Dynamo. If Lee's goal was to have Iron Man fight against a country that failed to recognize individual property rights, then Iron Man 2 ironically achieves that. Because...

Why Did the Nuclear Posture Review Bomb?

Until our national security bureaucracy recognizes that the world has changed, our grand strategic thinking will continue to disappoint.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, speaks during a press conference on the Nuclear Posture Review at the Pentagon April 6, 2010. (DoD/Chad J. McNeeley)
On Tuesday, the Department of Defense released the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), setting forth the government's position on the procurement and use of nuclear weapons. But unfortunately for the Obama administration, no one seemed particularly thrilled with it. The NPR arrives on the heels of the recent successful START negotiations with Russia and of President Barack Obama's expressed preference for the abolition of all nuclear weapons. Obama's NPR shifts attention away from confrontation with China and Russia and toward the threat of nuclear terrorism and regional rogue states. While it marks a departure from the Bush administration's aggressive theories of nuclear-weapons use, arms-control advocates are disappointed that the NPR takes only hesitant steps toward a non-nuclear future. Conservatives are outraged at the move toward a "no first use" policy against states that attack the U.S. with chemical and biological weapons. They're also displeased by the rejection of new nuclear-...

An End to the "Long War"

The current Quadrennial Defense Review underscores the stark contrast between Obama's and Bush's visions for U.S. military engagement.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates walk from the Oval Office, May 18, 2009. (White House Photo/Pete Souza)
On Monday, the Obama administration released a pair of critical documents indicating the path it intends to take on military and defense issues. One of these documents was the budget for fiscal year 2011, which calls for an increase in defense spending as well as the restructuring of a couple of major weapons programs. The other document was the Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR. Every four years, the Department of Defense reports to Congress on its long-term strategic and procurement plans. The QDR gives the White House the opportunity to both lay the tracks of future equipment procurement and to make a statement about its strategic orientation. Developed under the supervision of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the 2010 QDR eschews grand strategic theory in favor of a concrete approach to fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of developing a vision for the application of U.S. military power and weaving a narrative around it, the 2010 QDR concentrates on the lessons...


The New York Times has an article this morning on Gwendolyn and Kendall Myers , who allegedly stole information and sent it to Cuba over the course of 20 years. Kendall Myers worked for the State Department (with a high level security clearance), and Gwendolyn Myers helped transfer stolen data to Cuban agents. The strongest argument in support of the government’s case may have been made by the Myerses themselves. In the 40-page complaint they are quoted telling an undercover F.B.I. agent how much they admired Fidel Castro , how they sent secret dispatches to Havana over short-wave radio, dropped packages to handlers in shopping carts at local grocery stores, traveled across Latin America to meet with Cuban agents and used false documents to travel to Havana for an evening with Mr. Castro. The Myerses might as well have been invented by conservatives concerned about left-wing activity in the United States government. The article reports that they held a romanticized view of the...