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Politics

Preparing our Middle East partners to fight their own battles

FORT POLK, La. -- In training exercises in a mock Afghan village constructed here on a base amid swampland, the U.S. Army is applying the military lesson of the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq: Help your partners beat the enemy, but don't try to do the fighting yourself.

Letting others fight the battle hasn't been the American ...Read more

The Trump-Russia collusion investigation is far from a 'witch hunt'

WASHINGTON -- "Does this concern you at all?" asks a tart email message from a Trump supporter who wonders why the mainstream media doesn't take a closer look at allegations that the Justice Department's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election has been tainted by bias.

It's a fair question. President Trump has made very serious ...Read more

North Korean nuclear crisis will resume after Olympics

WASHINGTON -- Sometimes diplomacy is the art of going in two directions at once, and the Trump administration seems to have chosen that sweet spot of ambiguity, for now, in managing its continuing confrontation with North Korea.

President Trump has paused his "Little Rocket Man" rhetoric and boasts about the size of his own nuclear button. He's...Read more

White House pushes to combat covert Chinese influence

WASHINGTON -- A little-noticed passage in the Trump administration's national-security strategy released last month previewed a new push to combat Chinese influence operations that affect American universities, think tanks, movie studios and news organizations.

The investigations by Congress and the FBI into Russian meddling in the 2016 ...Read more

The Iranian people are showing their deep hunger for change

WASHINGTON -- After visiting Tehran in 2013, I wrote that the Iranian capital seemed suspended somewhere between Pyongyang and Los Angeles. We've seen this past week how passionately Iranians want the latter, not the former -- as they denounced their impoverished garrison state and demanded a prosperous, modern future.

Asking whether Iran's ...Read more

Trump is right to tell Iran that the world is watching

WASHINGTON -- Think of the Iranian uprising as a bottom-up revolt by people who feel they've been ignored by a corrupt elite. The issues and the faces in the street are very different from those of the populist movements that swept America and Europe in 2016, but you sense a resonance: "Make Iran Great Again" and "Iran First."

This revolt ...Read more

Trump's divisiveness puts America at risk

WASHINGTON -- Looking for perspective on this past year and the one ahead, I turned to several of the nation's most experienced former military commanders. One of them put it bluntly: America is so divided politically at home that we are becoming vulnerable to our adversaries abroad.

America, these retired military leaders fear, is so divided ...Read more

Study reveals small but powerful Iran cyber threat

WASHINGTON -- When it comes to cyberweapons, America is an elephant and Iran is a flea. Still, a flea can be a persistent nuisance, especially for the unprotected.

Iran's cyber capability is the focus of a detailed new study called "Iran's Cyber Threat," to be published soon by Collin Anderson and Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for ...Read more

The Pentagon's puzzles for 2018

WASHINGTON -- As Vice President Pence fawningly praised Donald Trump's achievements at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, the camera caught Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shuffling his papers, adjusting his water glass and fidgeting in his seat until the adulatory speech ended.

As this year winds down, Mattis remains the good soldier, seated at Trump's...Read more

U.N. envoy finds North Korea reluctant to enter nuclear talks

WASHINGTON -- A senior U.N. envoy who visited Pyongyang this month carrying a pressing appeal for diplomacy was told by his North Korean hosts that it was "too early" for steps that might ease the confrontation over their nuclear program.

"There was no sense of urgency" among North Korean officials, said one source familiar with the Dec. 5-9 ...Read more

Trump may decry the Russia investigation, but the trail of evidence is long

WASHINGTON -- President Trump's recent denunciations of the Russia investigation recall the famous legal advice: "If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell."

Trump shouted out his defense earlier this month: "What has been...Read more

The GOP's mad dash to pass a tax bill proves that haste makes waste

WASHINGTON -- Of all the follies of 2017, the most tawdry may be the GOP's headlong rush to pass a tax bill that even its proponents don't understand. What's especially sad is that otherwise sensible Republicans seem to be capitulating to the tax-cut frenzy.

Political desperation is the mother of this legislation. Despite Republican control of ...Read more

Despite Trump's rancor for the global system, the world economy is surging

WASHINGTON -- A year ago, with the election of a U.S. president who had fulminated against the international trade and financial systems, some analysts worried that the engine of global prosperity might soon be sputtering. But that's not what happened.

The global economy has surged forward this year, significantly outperforming expectations. As...Read more

Can the U.S. stop North Korea from becoming a nuclear power?

WASHINGTON -- The U.S.-North Korea confrontation is nearing another tense inflection point, with North Korea signaling that it could be ready for negotiations with Washington soon, even as it moves toward becoming a full nuclear-weapons power.

When such diplomatic standoffs get resolved, it's often by allowing each country to claim it's ...Read more

State Department shift would signal more hawkish foreign policy

WASHINGTON -- The bad marriage of President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seems to be nearing an end, probably to the relief of both. The question is how the new national-security team that appears to be coming will change American policy.

Tillerson for months has been a target of bad-mouthing from the White House, reflecting Trump...Read more

As America steps back from the global stage, China pursues a starring role

WASHINGTON -- The friendly words exchanged between Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping this month softened the edge of a Chinese economic and military buildup that a recent study commissioned by the Pentagon described as "perhaps the most ambitious grand strategy undertaken by a single nation-state in modern times."

At the Beijing summit on Nov. 9,...Read more

How to protect against fake 'facts'

WASHINGTON -- Amid the slithering mess of problems that emerged in 2017, the one that bothers me most is that people don't seem to know what's true anymore. "Facts" this year got put in quotation marks.

All the other political difficulties of the Donald Trump era are subsumed in this one. If we aren't sure what's true, how can we act to make ...Read more

A beleaguered Tillerson is still at the table

WASHINGTON -- A funny thing happened to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the way to the exit door: He didn't leave. He may be "Dead Man Walking," as many Washington analysts assume. Yet he's still pursuing the same list of quiet but mostly correct diplomatic goals as when took the job 10 months ago.

Tillerson has had a catastrophically bad ...Read more

Saudi political explosions risk collateral damage

WASHINGTON -- Nearly two weeks after the double political explosion that rocked Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to be doing damage control in ways that may help stabilize Saudi Arabia and the region.

The first bombshell was the Nov. 4 arrest on corruption charges of 201 prominent Saudis, including princes and government ...Read more

As Trump returns from Asia, America retreats from the world

WASHINGTON -- As President Trump ends his Asia trip, he might sum up the 12-day journey with a revision of the remark attributed to Julius Caesar: Veni, vidi, blandivi. I came, I saw, I flattered.

Trump's trip was closer to a pilgrimage than a projection of power. The president rarely explained details of U.S. policy. Instead, he mostly ...Read more

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