Politics, Moderate



How Russia Created "Facts on the Ground" in Syria

WASHINGTON -- Russia's expanded role in the Middle East has been hiding in plain sight for months. And the Obama administration, eager for Moscow's diplomatic help, all but invited it. Now that Russian jets and tanks have arrived in Syria, this intervention doesn't look so benign.

"These are facts on the ground," warns John McLaughlin, former ...Read more

A New Misadventure for Putin?

WASHINGTON -- Between the lines of President Obama's comments on Syria at the United Nations Monday, you could hear a sad admission of failure: The U.S. hasn't been able to organize a winning strategy to deal with the Islamic State. Maybe we should let Russian President Vladimir Putin try his hand.

Obama's speech had two signature comments. The...Read more

The Power of The Pope

WASHINGTON -- Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in America this week the same way, making a slow descent down an airplane ramp toward a waiting entourage. Watching the two, you couldn't help wondering: Which man is more powerful in the world today?

Francis is arguably the dominant figure, despite the old crack about how many...Read more

An Ally Poised to Strike the Islamic State

WASHINGTON -- While the Obama administration haggles over its Syria strategy, a Kurdish militia that claims more than 25,000 battle-hardened fighters is poised several dozen miles north of the Islamic State's capital of Raqqa -- ready to roll toward the extremists' sanctuary.

U.S. special operations forces have been providing air support, ...Read more

Can Trump Buy a Foreign Policy?

WASHINGTON -- Maybe Donald Trump plans to buy a foreign policy. Because based on the CNN Republican presidential debate, he doesn't seem to have one of his own -- other than forming what sounds like a kind of "dictators' club" with the big guys from Russia and China.

As for the other Republican candidates in Wednesday night's debate, they ...Read more

Can Trump Buy a Foreign Policy?

WASHINGTON -- Maybe Donald Trump plans to buy a foreign policy. Because based on the CNN Republican presidential debate, he doesn't seem to have one of his own -- other than forming what sounds like a kind of "dictators' club" with the big guys from Russia and China.

As for the other Republican candidates in Wednesday night's debate, they ...Read more

Iran Deal is a Huge Win for Obama

WASHINGTON -- The political circus surrounding the Iran nuclear deal shouldn't obscure the fact that President Obama won an enormous victory in negotiating the agreement and mustering the necessary congressional votes to sustain it. It's the most determined, strategic success of his presidency.

Republican presidential candidates have denounced ...Read more

The Fog of Foreign Policy

WASHINGTON -- Dean Acheson, who is often seen as one of the great American secretaries of state, wrote in the final chapter of his memoir, "Present at the Creation," about what he called "the struggle through illusion to policy."

So many things that he and his colleagues had believed about geopolitics were wrong, Acheson explained. "Only slowly...Read more

The Son Who Would Be King?

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's meeting last Friday with Saudi Arabia's King Salman came as U.S. officials are anxiously watching a potential succession rivalry between the king's ambitious young son and the crown prince who is a longtime intelligence partner of the U.S.

Salman, 79, was accompanied in his meeting at the White House by his son ...Read more

Netanyahu's Next Step

WASHINGTON -- What does Israel do now that President Obama has won the congressional votes needed to implement an Iran nuclear agreement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as "a stunning historic mistake"?

This was always the danger of Netanyahu's unyielding rhetorical stand against the Iran deal, and his politically divisive ...Read more

Our Stake In the Future and the Past

WASHINGTON -- Why should people care about the past or the future? That may sound like a perverse question, but it's at the center of two recent stories -- one involving the Islamic State's destruction of antiquities at Palmyra in Syria, and the other a presidential warning about damage to the planet decades hence.

The unpleasant, amoral ...Read more

The Clinton 'Scandal' That Isn't

WASHINGTON -- Does Hillary Clinton have a serious legal problem because she may have transmitted classified information on her private email server? After talking with a half-dozen knowledgeable lawyers, I think this "scandal" is overstated. Using the server was a self-inflicted wound by Clinton, but it's not something a prosecutor would take to...Read more

The 'Division 30' Debacle

WASHINGTON -- America's botched effort last month to support a Syrian moderate rebel group known as "Division 30" was a chain of errors that recalls, in a small way, the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco.

The Division 30 debacle has some clear and disturbing lessons: The rebels weren't well prepared for their mission, and they had poor intelligence about...Read more

Trump, an American Putin?

WASHINGTON -- He promises to restore his country's greatness, without offering a specific plan. He uses crude, vulgar expressions that make him sound like an ordinary guy, even though he's a billionaire. He's a narcissist who craves media attention. And for all his obvious shortcomings, he's very popular.

Who am I referring to? Russian ...Read more

Turkey's Kurdish Leader Blasts Erdogan

WASHINGTON -- Turkey's political tensions were sharply evident Thursday, as the country's leading Kurdish politician accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of "supporting ISIS" in the past. He claimed Erdogan wants early elections as part of a strategy of "attacking the Kurdish movement" and reversing its recent political gains.

Selahattin ...Read more

Our Endless Quest For The Perfect Wave

WASHINGTON -- Escapism has a special lure this summer, if you're saturated with Islamic State atrocities, the Iran nuclear deal and Donald Trump's presidential campaign. As relief from such weighty matters, I can recommend a magnificently escapist book about surfing called "Barbarian Days."

Subtitled "A Surfing Life," the book is a memoir by ...Read more

The American President On Edge

WASHINGTON -- Can an American president make big, historic changes in the country's direction with a relatively narrow base of political support? That was the challenge President Obama faced when he pushed health care reform through Congress, and it's the same problem he faces now in trying to win support for a breakthrough nuclear deal with ...Read more

A Strategy Forms to Combat the Islamic State

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. and its allies, after several years of missteps, finally seem to be framing a strategy for combating the Islamic State militarily in Syria, even as they continue to pursue a political settlement with Damascus.

The Syrian nightmare is far from over, and supporters of President Bashar al-Assad continue to insist that the ...Read more

The New Era of the Lone Wolf

WASHINGTON -- "He acknowledged the truth, he gives [allegiance], the order has been given, his heart beats, he accepts, butterflies kick in. ... The target is given, the anticipation is over, a sense of relief."

With this stream-of-consciousness narrative, an Islamic State fighter using the name of Abu Abdullah Britani posted this call May 10 ...Read more

Our Next Iranian Challenge

WASHINGTON -- The shrill Republican attacks on the Iran nuclear deal are an embarrassment. Most global leaders share President Obama's view that the agreement is preferable to any realistic alternative. It's a diplomatic achievement that reinforces U.S. leadership, rather than undermining it. The damage to America would come from knee-jerk ...Read more

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